Saturday, December 15, 2012

Increased Frequency of U.S. Mass Shootings


Al Jazeera speaks to Mark Follman, Senior Editor at Mother Jones magazine, where he leads research on mass shootings in the United States. Speaking to Al Jazeera's Sami Zeidan from Indianapolis, Indiana, Follman said the frequency of mass shootings have increased in the US and that "it's been a record year in terms of casualties" with seven shootings in 2012. Follman, who researched 61 mass shootings, said 35 of the cases were murder-suicides. Another seven shooters died in police shootouts, often referred to as "suicide by cop", trends that he says highlight the fact that "the vast majority of these people have serious mental health problems". Though he said politicians will often say the immediate aftermath of a shooting is not the time to debate the nation's gun control policy, Follman said "accessibility to weapons is obviously a key factor to this problem". He referred to "a wave of state gun laws that have made gun restrictions looser and looser".

Vigils for U.S. School Shooting Victims


Thousands gathered at a spontaneous service for the victims of a school shooting in the U.S. state of Connecticut that left at least 26 dead, including 20 children as young as five. Police were called to Sandy Hook Elementary School after a man believed to be in his twenties walked in, pulled a ski mask over his face and started shooting. The shooter was found dead inside. It's been reported he had at least two guns by his side. Al Jazeera's Cath Turner reports from Newtown.

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed into Law


Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 6156

On Friday, December 14, 2012, the President signed into law:

H.R. 6156, the "Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012," which authorizes the President to extend to Russia and Moldova Permanent Normal Trade Relations and to sanction persons who are responsible for gross violations of human rights in Russia.

FEMA Extends Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program in New York



Checkout Date of January 12, 2013 Will Allow Families to Have Shelter During the Holiday Season

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), at the request of the state of New York, has approved a four-week extension to the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, which allows eligible survivors from Hurricane Sandy, who cannot return to their homes, to stay in participating hotels or motels.

The new extension will allow applicants to remain in participating hotels during the holiday season. FEMA will call applicants eligible for the extension to notify them of the extended four-week period and the checkout date of Jan. 12, 2013.

"This much-needed extension will allow families who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy to have a place to stay throughout the holiday season," Governor Cuomo said. 

"We will continue to work together with city and federal partners to help those displaced by this devastating storm find housing solutions."

This is a short-term program that places families in hotels in areas with significant rental shortages. Families can stay in area hotels for a short time while they work toward a housing plan. 

"Our top priority is to help get people into rental units and longer term housing as fast as we can," stated FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Michael F. Byrne.

"We recognize that the holidays can be an emotional time for disaster survivors and this extension will provide with immediate shelter through the season." 

To be eligible for TSA, survivors must first apply for federal assistance through FEMA by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov 

You can also registering via smartphone or tablet by using the FEMA app or going to http://m.fema.gov/ or by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) (TTY 800-462-7585). 

For 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362. 

Canada's Indigenous Groups Hold Nationwide Protests


Indigenous groups in Canada are holding nationwide protests while one prominent chief has gone on hunger strike. They want the government to honor long-standing treaties that affect access to housing, food and education. Al Jazeera's Daniel Lak reports.

Syrian Protesters Say 'Assad is the Terrorist'


Thousands of Syrians took to the streets, criticizing Washington for blacklisting a rebel group and saying that it was President Bashar al-Assad who was a "terrorist". The protesters on Friday demonstrated under the slogan: "There is no terrorism in Syria except that of Assad." The U.S. was hoping to marginalize Jubhat al-Nusra when it labelled it a terrorist organisation. Instead, the group has gained popularity, especially in the villages and towns of Syria. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Idlib province in northern the country.

Israeli FM Resigns After Indictment


Israel's foreign minister has resigned after prosecutors charged him with breach of trust. Avigdor Leiberman's exit from government could have an impact on parliamentary polls set for next month. Al Jazeera's Gerald Tan reports.

Kenya Orders Refugees to Leave Cities


Kenya has ordered all refugees in the country to one of two refugee camps in, Dadaab and Kakuma, and has halted the registration of all other refugees in the country. The move comes after intelligence information surfaced that armed Somali group, al-Shabab has been offering a bounty for the killing of security officials in the country - as well as a rise in a spate of attacks in major cities of the country. This drastic move is hoped to curb the attacks but it will also place greater strain of the refugee camps, which are already over capacity with more than 500,000 people in Dadaab. Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri reports from Nairobi.

Former Policeman Charged in Russia Journalist Murder


Six years after the murder of human rights activist and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, former policeman Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was jailed for 11 years for his part in the murder. He had admitted to supplying the gun that killed Politskovskaya, but the mastermind behind the killing is still unknown. Al Jazeera's Richard Martin reports.

British Guantanamo Detainee to Sue U.K. for Defamation


The last British resident held in Guantanamo Bay detention center is suing the UK intelligence services for defamation. Shaker Aamer has been held without charge or trial for nearly eleven years. He has been cleared for release by the U.S. administration but remains in prison. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports from London.

Philippines Storm Leaves Children Traumatized


The United Nations has said that up to two million children may have been affected by Typhoon Bopha, which struck the southern Philippines more than 10 days ago Many of the young survivors have lost members of their family and now live in cramped, temporary accommodation. Aid organizaitions in the country have stepped in to help traumatized children. Al Jazeera's Florence Looi reports from the town of New Bataan in southern Philippines.

Friday, December 14, 2012

New York's Governor Directs Flags to Half-Staff


Statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff on Saturday, December 15, 2012 in honor of the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, CT.

"I join with my fellow New Yorkers in mourning the loss of the innocent lives that were taken in today’s shooting,” Governor Cuomo said.

“I extend my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the victims, as well as the residents of Newtown.”

Nightmare in Newtown

(Click on the image to enlarge.) 

From The G-Man
Opting to Wait for Official Confirmations Before Reporting

With numerous reports on the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut being corrected or updated on a constant basis, From The G-Man has made the decision to refrain from publishing anymore news regarding the tragedy until the reports have been officially confirmed by law enforcement officials or representatives closely aligned with the case.

Over the next few days and weeks, a tremendous amount of information will be obtained on the alleged shooter, his victims, and a motive. Therefore, this news site believes it would be in the public's best interest if From The G-Man simply waited and reported the facts once they are released by those closely involved with the investigation.

Thank you! 

"The G-Man" 

Image obtained from http://community.becomeanex.org 

Artwork credit: "Jonathan"

President Obama Makes a Statement on the Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

West Wing Week: 12/14/12



This week, the First Family attended the annual Christmas in Washington concert, the Vice President talked #My2k over lunch with middle-class Americans and attended the Army Navy football game with Dr. Biden, while the President signed the Child Protection Act into law, visited the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant, joined conference calls with Latino leaders and Mayors, and invited regional television reporters to the White House for a series of interviews.

Hanukkah at the White House 2012

President Obama Speaks on the Ongoing Response to Hurricane Sandy

Obama, Boehner Have "Frank" Encounter at White House



Air date: December 14, 2012

President Obama and Speaker Boehner met for almost an hour to discuss the "fiscal cliff," but they did not reach an agreement. CBS News' Bill Plante reports.

Mickey Edwards on How Conservatives Have Lost Their Way



Moyers & Company

Air Date: December 7, 2012
Former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards, a founding father of modern conservative politics, explains how the conservative movement abandoned its principles.

Tax Season and the Fiscal Cliff


Air date: December 14, 2012

Nina Olson talked about some of the consequences for taxpayers if President Obama and Congress cannot agree on a compromise to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” Other topics included the alternative minimum tax, her job at the IRS as a taxpayer advocate, and the top issues for the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate in 2013. 

Today in History: December 14th

Susan Rice Drops out of Secretary of State Race


The leading candidate to succeed Hillary Clinton as U.S. Secretary of State has dropped out of the race. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice had been heavily criticized over the response to the attack on the US consulate in Libya. Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports.

U.S. to Send Patriot Missile Batteries to Turkey


The United States as well as two other Nato members, the Netherlands and Germany, is to send two Patriot missile batteries to Turkey. While Patriot missile has long been a part of Turkey's defence plans, they hope that these new plans by the US and three other Nato members will bolster their efforts to ward off attacks from Syria. The move come as Russian officials denied that they think the Syrian opposition fighters might win the conflict. Al Jazeera's Dominic Kane reports.

Russia Says Syrian Rebels May be Victorious


For the first time since the war in Syria began, Bashar Al Assad's strongest ally is suggesting that rebel fighters may prevail. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister has said the Syrian government is losing control of more territory. And he added that preparations are underway to evacuate Russian citizens IF it becomes necessary. His comments were immediately welcomed by the US State Department. The comments come as at least 16 people are killed in a car bomb blast southwest of the capital, Damascus. Robin Forrestier-Walker has more from Moscow.

Johannesburg Transforms from Dangerous to Changed City


The South African city of Johannesburg has, until recently, had a reputation of being a dangerous place. High levels of crime have made it a no-go area for many locals and tourists. But as Tania Page reports, new development projects are changing the city.

South Africa Trains New Leaders and Workers


On Sunday, South Africa's governing party, the African National Congress, will start the process of electing its top officials. President Jacob Zuma is likely to retain the top job, but this year the ANC is focused on training young leaders. As Tania Page reports, it's not the only organisation trying to address a skills shortage.

Chavez 'Recovering Well'


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is said to be recovering well after a fourth round of cancer surgery in Cuba. And back in Venezuela, where regional elections are looming, Chavez's political project is still very much in action. Teresa Bo has this report from Caracas.

India and Pakistan to Ratify New Visa Agreement


New rules ease restrictions for travelers between the two countries and aim to boost trade and business relations. Sushant Sareen is a consultant for the Pakistan Project at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, and joined Al Jazeera from New Delhi.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

White House Briefs

Social Security and the Fiscal Cliff


Air date: December 12, 2012

Stephen Ohlemacher talked about Social Security and its role in negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” and he responded to telephone calls and electronic communications. Topics included cost of living adjustments (COLA), the funding of Social Security and its solvency, and who receives it. 

Nancy Calo read news headlines from C-SPAN Radio at the end of the program. 

This program was part of a “Washington Journal” series looking at specific policy areas of the “fiscal cliff.” 

“Fiscal cliff” referred to the impending tax increases and sequestration budget cuts at the end of 2012 if Congress failed to reach a new budget agreement. "Sequestration," a legal procedure in which automatic budget cuts are triggered, was agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Today in History: December 12th

U.S. Analyst: Syria Scud Missiles 'A Profound Escalation'


Human Rights Watch has reported that the Syrian government has been using incendiary scud missiles against the opposition in the north of the country. The missiles contain highly flammable materials designed to cause severe burns. Speaking to Al Jazeera from Washington, Mark Perry, military and foreign affairs analyst, says the reports are "credible", but the use of the unmanned missiles is a "very desperate measure" by the forces of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. Perry, author of "Talking to Terrorists: Why America Must Engage with its Enemies", tells Al Jazeera's Tony Harris that the use of the missiles may be a sign that the Assad forces "are up against a wall" and running out of pilots or helicopters with which to fire back at the armed opposition. "If we want Assad overthrown, and we do, we're going to have to make the difficult choice of just saying 'let's do it'," he told Al Jazeera.

Protests as Michigan Passes 'Anti-Union' Law


Thousands of union workers and their supporters crowded into downtown Lansing - the capital of Michigan. A show of strength against so-called Right To Work legislation that would prohibit unions from forcing people to join and pay dues as a condition of employment. Al Jazeera's John Terrett reports from Lansing, Michigan.

Outrage Over Argentina Sex Slave Trial


Many in Argentina are expressing outrage after a court cleared 13 people accused of abducting a woman and forcing her into prostitution. The woman's mother, Susana Trimarco, launched a campaign after her disappearance 10 years ago which led to hundreds of women being rescued from sex slavery. Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher reports.

Unlicensed Practice of Law Now a Felony in New York



New Law Takes Effect November of 2013

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation that will make the unlicensed practice of law a class E felony. 

"We have no tolerance for scam artists who pose as lawyers and deceive New Yorkers in need of legal help," Governor Cuomo said.

"This new law will help hold accountable individuals who defraud New Yorkers by offering services they are not licensed to provide accountable. I thank the bill sponsors for their efforts on this important legislation."

For most professions licensed by New York State, unlicensed practice constitutes a class E felony but under current law, unlicensed practice of law constitutes a misdemeanor. The new law will make serious instances of unlicensed practice of law a felony.

The new law takes effect November 1, 2013.

Rockaway Peninsula Customers Granted Temporary Changes to Ease Transfers



 
Transfer Period Extended to 3 Hours in Some Cases 

In order to make traveling easier for riders between the Queens “mainland” and the Rockaway Peninsula, MTA Bus Company, New York City Transit and Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) have made the necessary software changes to allow three legged (one-fare) transfers and a three-hour transfer period between some buses and subways. 

Since Superstorm Sandy destroyed the A line connection to the Rockaway Peninsula, the MTA has provided free shuttle buses between the Howard Beach A station and Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue A station.

In addition, a free H shuttle train service was implemented between the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue and Beach 90th Street stations. 

Despite these two free services, many riders found themselves paying two fares because by the time a subway rider swiped onto a peninsula bus, more than the approximate two hour-transfer period had elapsed.

"The Rockaway peninsula was among the hardest hit areas in the region and we know that it will not be business as usual for some time to come. We hope that temporarily amending the transfer policy will make it easier to get around and make the trip more convenient for commuters," Governor Cuomo said.

Beginning this week, the transfer period for transfers from any subway station to the Q22, Q113, N31, N32 and N33 bus routes has been extended to three hours.

Also, three legged (one fare) transfers are now allowed on the following trips in both directions: Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn college 2,5 station/to the Q35/to the Q22, and Rockaway Boulevard A station/to the Q52 or Q53/to the Q22.

These changes will remain in place until normal A service to the Rockaways is completely restored, which is currently estimated to be an extended period of time.

Image courtesy of http://forgotten-ny.com.

Banks and Mortgage Services to Expedite Insurance Payments to Homeowners



Grace Period on Mortgage Payments Also Extended an Additional Three Months

Major banks and mortgage servicers will take action to expedite insurance payments to New York homeowners.

Currently, insurance claim checks must be endorsed by the banks or mortgage servicers before homeowners can cash them, causing frustrating delays at a time when the money is needed for home repairs or for living expenses.

These new actions will enable the insurance companies to get the money to homeowners faster.

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) has received numerous complaints from homeowners that servicers and banks have been imposing unusually stringent requirements before they will sign the checks.

This has resulted in unacceptable delays in releasing the money to New Yorkers in need. However, the new measures will allow homeowners to receive their money expeditiously. 

“Homeowners need help now and that’s why insurers are sending advance checks to meet their immediate needs,” said Governor Cuomo.

“Any delay in making these types of critical home repairs can mean the difference between a family being able to live safely in their home or remaining needlessly displaced for weeks or even months. I want to thank these banks and mortgage servicers’ for partnering with us and I call on all other banks and servicers to meet the standard set by their competitors.”

“Insurance payments are an essential part of people rebuilding their lives. We will continue to do everything we can to see that claims are processed promptly and homeowners and businesses receive all funds due to them so they can recover. It is good to see these banks and servicers stepping up to the plate to try and speed our State's recovery,” noted  Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services.

The Governor today also announced that the grace period on mortgage payments has been expanded for another three months. This additional time will allow New Yorkers affected by Hurricane Sandy to catch up on their payments without having to face collection agencies or a lowered credit score.

The Department of Financial Services has received numerous complaints from homeowners that servicers and banks have been imposing unusually stringent requirements before they will sign the advance checks, with the result that they have been unduly slow in releasing the money.

This is causing serious problems for many families who desperately need their insurance money both to live and to start making repairs. The measures announced today will allow more homeowners to receive their advance money promptly. 

Participating banks and servicers are: Bank of America, Citi Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase N.A., Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Apple Savings Bank, Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburg, Emigrant Savings Bank, Homeward Residential, M&T Bank, Nationstar, New York Community Bank, and Ocwen Loan Servicing

Banks and servicers are required to follow different rules imposed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and investors who own mortgage backed securities. In general, as a result of discussions with the Cuomo administration, institutions are offering the following types of relief:

The banks and servicers will now use as much discretion as they have under the rules to immediately move home repair funds to homeowners and their contractors.

Banks and servicers will immediately release any portion of insurance or relief funds designated for living expenses or the replacement of personal property and will immediately release any funds in excess of the unpaid loan balance.

If living expenses and personal property amounts are not itemized in the insurance or relief payment, banks and servicers will request that the insurer provide an itemization and will promptly release applicable funds.

Banks and servicers will not apply any portion of an insurance or relief check to mortgage payment arrears without the consent of either the homeowner or a federal government-sponsored enterprise such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Details may vary from institution to institution and are subject to investor and regulatory requirements. Borrowers should contact their individual banks or mortgage servicers for specifics.

In addition, some New Yorkers are finding that the three-month grace period on mortgage payments previously offered by banks and mortgage servicers is not long enough for them to get back on their feet.

At the urging of the Cuomo administration, banks and servicers will extend this period for up to another three months, for a total of six months post-storm for the following types of relief:

Postponement of foreclosures and evictions

Waiver of late fees on mortgage payments.

In some cases, based on a borrower's specific facts and circumstances, forbearance on mortgage payments where the borrower has been affected by the storm and is seeking relief.

Details may vary at different institutions and are subject to investor guidelines, so homeowners should check with the holder of their mortgage. At the end of the grace period, banks and servicers will institute a payment plan to permit homeowners to repay their missed payments over an extended period of time.

"We applaud Governor Cuomo and Superintendent Lawsky for taking the lead in working with the banking industry on this important issue and we are pleased to work with Governor in continuing to help homeowners during this difficult time," said Sanjiv Das, President and CEO of CitiMortgage.

Josh Zinner, Co-Director of NEDAP, an economic justice organization based in New York City, stated, “NEDAP commends the Cuomo Administration for working to ensure that mortgage servicers do not interfere with the full and expeditious payout of insurance proceeds to homeowners affected by the storm. We hope that every mortgage servicer doing business in the state will take all measures possible to avoid foreclosures, and to help communities hard hit by the storm to re-build.” 

“The grit and stamina of homeowners along Staten Island’s storm-ripped shoreline is astonishing, but they are weary. The hard physical work takes a toll, but so does red tape. The Department’s advocacy and the banks’ commitment to get insurance funds released quickly and give homeowners flexibility on their mortgage payments will help remove some of the burden for these people as they slowly put their lives back together,” added Margaret Becker, Co-director, Homeowner Defense Project, Staten Island Legal Services.

Image courtesy of http://www.clker.com.

'North Korea is Only Further Isolating Itself by Engaging in Such Provocative Acts'



National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor Responds to North Korea's Missile Launch

North Korea’s launch today—using ballistic missile technology despite express prohibitions by United Nations Security Council resolutions—is a highly provocative act that threatens regional security, directly violates United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, contravenes North Korea’s international obligations, and undermines the global non-proliferation regime. This action is yet another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and fully committed to the security of our allies in the region. Given this current threat to regional security, the United States will strengthen and increase our close coordination with allies and partners.

On April 16, 2012, the United Nations Security Council expressed its “determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further [North Korean] launch.”  In the hours and days ahead, the United States will work with its Six-Party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other UN member states to pursue appropriate action. The international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions have consequences. The international community continues to insist that North Korea live up to its commitments, adhere to its international obligations, and deal peacefully with its neighbors.

North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in such provocative acts. Devoting scarce resources to the development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons has not brought it security and acceptance by the international community—and never will. North Korea will only truly strengthen itself by abiding by international norms, living up to its commitments and international obligations, and working to feed its citizens, to educate its children, and to win the trust of its neighbors.

Details on the launch are available in this New York Times article.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

President Obama's Message to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit



U.S. government officials, investors, entrepreneurs, NGO leaders, and policy makers from more than 50 countries are gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for the third annual summit, which was created following President Obama's 2009 speech at Cairo University.

White House Briefs

House Debate on the Fiscal Cliff


Air date: December 11, 2012

House Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi spoke about negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff” impending tax increases and sequestration budget cuts at the end of 2012 if Congress failed to reach a new budget agreement.

Today in History: December 11th

Rival Rallies Held in Egypt Over Constitution


Thousands of supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi have been gathering on the streets of Cairo. They have also been staging demonstrations over the country's disputed draft constitution - which is due to be voted on in a referendum on Saturday. Al Jazeera's Rory Challands reports from Cairo.

Interview with Editor of ViewPoint Africa


London-based Ayo Johnson gives his views on the crisis in Mali, which has led to the resignation of Cheick Modibo Diarra as prime minister.

HSBC to Pay $1.9 Billion Money-Laundering Fine


It is the largest penalty ever paid out by a bank. HSBC will fork out nearly two billion dollars for funneling money for criminal networks. U.S. regulators found it also violated international sanctions by doing business with Iran and Cuba. But like all big banks accused of shady dealings in recent years, it's managed to keep its exectives out of prison. Al Jazeera's Charlie Angela has the latest.

Russia Bans U.S. Beef 'Over Diplomatic Row'


Russia's lower parliament appears to be retaliating against a US law that targets Russian officials accused of corruption. The Duma has already imposed restrictions on US pork and beef imports and is now considering a host of other punitive measures. A trade bill passed in the U.S. Senate on Friday will deny visas and freeze the assets of Russian officials linked to the death of a Russian whistleblower. Sergei Magnitsky uncovered evidence of a $230 million Russian tax fraud, but himself ended up accused of the crime. He died in suspicious circumstances in a Moscow jail in 2009. Russian health officials deny the ban on US meat is politically motivated. Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker reports from Moscow.

Philippine Typhoon Toll Passes 700


Hundreds of thousands of people are fighting for survival in the aftermath of Typhoon Bopha. The Philippine government is pleading for help from the private sector and the international community, with the situation there described as a race against time. From Compostela Valley, which is one of the worst affected areas, Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas reports.

U.K. Ties Lead to Northern Ireland Protests


Politicians in the U.K. are calling for calm after eight straight days of rioting in northern Ireland's capital Belfast. Crowds of UK loyalists turned violent after it was suggested the union flag might not be flown over Belfast's main civic building. The politician who suggested it had death threats as a result. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports from London

FEMA Disaster Assistance Deadline Extended



Residents of Thirteen Declared Counties May Apply Through January 28, 2013

The deadline for residents living in one of the thirteen disaster-declared counties to register for FEMA assistance has been extended to January 28, 2013. The previous deadline was December 31, 2012. 

Federal disaster assistance for individuals and families can include money for rental assistance, essential home repairs, personal property losses and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance.

Residents in the following counties are eligible for assistance: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Richmond, Rockland, Westchester, Suffolk, Queens, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Ulster.

"As we work to help communities get back on their feet, this extension will be a big help to New Yorkers who were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy," Governor Cuomo said.

"As we move into the holiday season and start the New Year, this extension will allow affected families and individuals extra time to apply for much-needed assistance to help rebuild and recover."

Individuals can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or via smartphone or tablet at m.fema.gov. 

Applicants may also call 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585. Applicants who use 7-1-1 Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS) may call800-621-3362.

The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.

74,000 Job Openings Listed on 'Jobs Express'


As Extended Unemployment Benefits Expire, Governor Urges Long-Term Unemployed to Apply

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced that Jobs Express, a website designed to help New Yorkers who are seeking employment, currently has more than 74,000 job openings available.

The site has helped more than 59,000 individuals find work since its October 2011 launch. As extended unemployment benefits expire for thousands of New Yorkers this month, the Governor urges long-term unemployed, now more than ever to apply for these jobs. 

"Jobs Express has been a resounding success for more than 59,000 formerly unemployed New Yorkers who were able to find a job," Governor Cuomo said.

"More than 4,600 employers across the state are hiring now and I urge all New Yorkers who are looking for work to visit Jobs Express." 

Currently 4,614 employers have 74,810 job vacancies available on Jobs Express. Since October 2011, when the Jobs Express site was launched, 5,843 employers who list their jobs on the site reported more than 59,586 new hires.

The Governor continues to encourage employers to use the proven results of Jobs Express to post new jobs and connect to skilled and ready to work New Yorkers.

With extended unemployment benefits expiring this week, jobseekers are encouraged to apply for these jobs which are in a wide range of entry level and professional fields and pay scale.

Jobseekers can also visit the Department of Labor’s 88 one-stop career centers for expert assistance in job interview preparation. 

“The Department of Labor has been our go-to source for our hiring needs for years. This year was a particularly busy one for us in the area of recruitment. We hired 29 new hourly employees in our facility and wanted to extend our thanks to the Department of Labor for their assistance in finding us great talent," added Kathie O’Mara, Associate Director of Human Resources at Apex Tool Group, LLC.

Kathy Watson, Director of Human Resources at Timeless Frames, Decor, and Expressions, stated, “Timeless Frames has developed a very strong, positive, working relationship with the Department of Labor over the past few years. We currently use Jobs Express to post all of our positions and with their assistance, have been able to fill many of our vacant positions. We plan to continue using this great service to give us a competitive advantage in our hiring efforts.”

The Jobs Express website takes thousands of jobs posted by employers and sorts them by region to help job seekers evaluate what industries are growing in their area and find out what opportunities are available in specific economic sectors.

To visit Jobs Express, go to http://www.labor.ny.gov/jobs/regional.shtm. 

Image courtesy of www.nysenate.gov.

Addabbo Named to Bipartisan Senate Task Force on Sandy Recovery


December 10th News Conference in Rockaway Also Featured Senate Leaders from Hard-Hit Districts

Queens, NY – New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), announced he is serving on the newly formed Bipartisan Task Force on Superstorm Sandy in the State Senate. 

Addabbo’s district was hard-hit by the October 29 storm, and residents from the Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach and most of the Rockaways are recovering from the devastation.

Addabbo estimates between 11,000 and 13,000 Rockaway residents are still without power, which is provided by LIPA.

The Task Force includes members from all three Senate conferences, who will tour damaged areas and hold hearings in the affected communities across the New York metropolitan region.

The December 10th news conference held in Rockaway on Beach 94th Street was the first joint appearance of Senate Democrats and Republicans with the Independent Democrat Conference (IDC).

The conference featured Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), IDC Leader Senator Jeff Klein (D-the Bronx/Westchester), along with Senators Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), co-chair of the task force; Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), co-chair of the Task Force; Lee Zeldin (R,C,I-Shirley), Jack Martins (R-Mineola), Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn), and Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn).

All of the leaders noted that their districts are still reeling in Sandy’s aftermath. The 10 task force members represent New York State’s hardest-hit areas, making them uniquely qualified to pinpoint those neighborhoods and businesses that need the most help.

Task force members who were not present at the Rockaway conference included Senator Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick), Senator-elect James Sanders (D-Queens), and Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland).

Addabbo stated, “As a third of my district still deals with the destruction of Sandy, I expect that the Senate Task Force for Superstorm Sandy will play a pivotal role in identifying the needs of the affected communities and ensure that the federal funds and resources the state receives will address those needs. I look forward to working with all my colleagues on the Task Force as we collectively move forward down the road to recovery." 

The new Bipartisan Senate Task Force is charged with undertaking some of the recovery’s biggest challenges.  As federal and state aid begins to materialize, the group will play a pivotal role in developing the short- and long-term plans that will help these communities get back on their feet.

The three main goals of the Bipartisan Senate Task Force for Hurricane Sandy Recovery are: identify areas most in need of recovery assistance; review rebuilding and storm-planning policies to remove roadblocks and ensure better  storm preparedness; and develop legislative solutions that will implement the forthcoming recommendations made by the New York State 2100 Commission, the New York State Respond Commission, and the New York State Ready Commission that was established by Governor Cuomo in November.

Addabbo noted that the first gathering of the task force members in Rockaway included touring the ravaged beachfront and destroyed boardwalk area. They also were given an update by the Queens Library on the status of rebuilding the local libraries.

During a round-table with community leaders, mold removal, the lack of electricity, the need to improve the City’s Rapid Repair Program, temporary housing, health issues, and financial assistance for homeowners, businesses, nonprofits and religious institutions were discussed, as well as the need to be better prepared for a future emergency situation with improved communication and services. 

The task force expects to submit written progress reports and assessments on the areas affected by Sandy. During the legislative session in 2013, it will submit its recommendations to Governor Cuomo.

Addabbo stated that similar opportunities to gather input from the residents regarding the needs of the community will continue over the coming weeks, including Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach.

The senator urges his constituents to forward their opinions to his main district office at 718-738-1111.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Demetra Adams: Opera's Shining Star



Gifted Soprano Discusses "Juniper Tree", Opera in the Mainstream, and the Importance of Music Education

THE G-MAN INTERVIEWS

Demetra Adams is a classically-trained singer, New York City resident, and an accomplished musical theater actress whose regional credits include Lilli in Carnival, Sonia in Godspell and Ensemble in Tommy.

A proud advocate of children’s education in art and music, Ms. Adams has had the opportunity to reach thousands of children and young adults through master classes, educational workshops and children’s opera performances while working with the Virginia Opera, Florida Grand Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera.

She is the winner of numerous awards including the Bel Canto Opera Competition, Josephine LiPuma Vocal Competition, Finalist  in the New Jersey Alliance of Performing Artists Vocal Competition, Margaret Hillis Study Grant and the Manhattan School of Music Merit Scholarship.

She joins us to discuss her career and role as “The Lovely Daughter” in the world premiere production of composer Josh Ollswang’s new opera “Juniper Tree”, which will open here in New York City on December 12th. 

If you would like more information about the singer or upcoming performances, 
click here.

The segment was directed, edited and written by Gary "The G-Man" Toms.