Saturday, December 26, 2015

President Obama Speaks to Troops at Marine Corps Base Hawaii

On Christmas Day, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited servicemembers and military families at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and thanked them for their dedication and sacrifices.

Statement by the President and the First Lady on Kwanzaa

Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to families across the country celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season. Today begins a week-long celebration of African-American heritage and culture through family and community festivities. Kwanzaa’s seven principles – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith are also shared values that bind us as Americans. And in the spirit of the season, we reflect on the blessings of the past year and commit to building a brighter future for all our children. As families, friends, and neighbors come together today to light the Kinara, our family sends our best wishes for a happy and healthy new year. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

KT and Me: A Kwanzaa Family Special

Produced in 2001, KT & Me: A Kwanzaa Family Special is the first movie about the celebration of Kwanzaa. A troubled boy learns the meaning of the festival and the value of family with help from a magical animated friend named Kwanzaa Teddy.
Executive Producer: Ken Watts, Producer: Jeff Sherwood, Original Score by Jacques Lesure. Directed by Norvell Rose.
KT and Me is a registered trademark property of KT Productions LLC.

Happy Kwanzaa from State Senator James Sanders Jr.

I would like to extend my warmest thoughts and wishes to those observing the holiday of Kwanzaa, a celebration of family, community and culture.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa represent some of the values that many of us hold dear — Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.

As you light the Kinara in the spirit of Umoja, or unity, may you be blessed with good health and happiness that continues throughout the holiday and into the new year.

Source: The Office of New York State Senator James Sanders, Jr. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gun Violence and Public Health

Panelists talked about the access to guns by high-risk people such as criminals and the mentally ill. Speakers included gun violence prevention advocates and the U.S. attorney from South Carolina.

“Reducing Gun Violence: A Risk Based Approach” was a panel at the day-long symposium “Moving from Crisis to Action: A Public Health Approach to Reducing Gun Violence” held at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. The event marked the six-month anniversary of a mass shooting at the church in which a gunman killed nine people.

The discussion was originally broadcast on December 4, 2015. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Discussion on Direct Action and Protest

Panelists talked about the history and use of direct action as a means of non-violent protest. Topics included the Keystone XL pipeline, the Black Lives Matter movement, housing evictions, rising tuition, and nuclear power. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Immigration Policy and Counterterrorism

Panelists, including former CIA Director Michael Hayden, discuss possible changes to immigration policy following the Paris terrorist attacks and the San Bernardino shooting, as well as the intelligence community’s role in screening refugees. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Minority Parties in Congress

Matthew Green discusses his book, Underdog Politics: the Minority Party in the U.S. House of Representatives, in which he examines the power wielded by minority parties in Congress. He also gave an overview of the past year in Congress. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

NYS Tax Department Highlights Benefits of New York’s 529 College Savings Program

New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Jerry Boone today encouraged New Yorkers to open a New York State 529 College Savings Plan. The program enables taxpayers to save for the costs of college education for themselves, a child, grandchild, family member or friend and potentially enjoy some tax savings. To take advantage of the deduction on their 2015 tax returns, New Yorkers must enroll in the 529 Plan and make a contribution to their 529 accounts by December 31, 2015.
“Education is always a sound investment,” said Commissioner Boone. “With the rising cost of tuition and textbooks, the 529 College Savings Program helps make higher education more affordable for college students while offering valuable tax benefits to the 529 account owners who provide additional financial support.”
“Studies have suggested that having even a small amount of savings designated for college positively impacts college enrollment and graduation, particularly among children from low- and moderate-income families,” said Higher Education Services Corporation Acting President, Elsa Magee. “HESC joins Commissioner Boone and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance in encouraging New Yorkers to invest in the educational future of a young person in your life this year by opening or contributing to a 529 account.”
Last year, New Yorkers deducted more than $1.5 billion in 529 College Savings Plan contributions on their personal income tax returns. That accounted for a direct savings of $70 million to taxpayers.
New York State taxpayers who own 529 accounts can deduct up to $5,000 of contributions to those accounts on their state income tax returns each year. A married couple filing jointly can deduct up to $5,000 each for a total of $10,000. It’s important to note that the amount deducted may be subject to recapture in certain circumstances such as rollovers to another state's plan or nonqualified withdrawals .  
Although contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes, all earnings on contributions in the account grow tax free. Withdrawals aren’t taxed either, as long as the money is used to pay for qualifying college-related expenses such as tuition, textbooks, and room and board.
An account can be opened for as little as $25, and there’s no monthly or yearly minimum. Setting up automatic payroll deduction makes it even easier to contribute to the College Savings Plan account.
Anyone can create an account – parents, grandparents, family, or friends. The plan offers a variety of investment choices as well.
Visit the following links for more information:

Source: New York State Department of Taxation and Finance

Trailblazers in Black History: Gregory Hines

Gregory Oliver Hines (February 14, 1946 – August 9, 2003) was an American dancer, actor, singer and choreographer.

Hines was born in New York City, the son of Alma Iola (Lawless) and Maurice Robert Hines, a dancer, musician, and actor. Hines began tapping when he was two years old, and began dancing semi-professionally at the age of five. Since then, he and his older brother Maurice performed together, studying with choreographer Henry LeTang. Gregory and Maurice also learned from veteran tap dancers such as Howard Sims and The Nicholas Brothers whenever they performed in the same venues.

The two brothers were known as "The Hines Kids", making nightclub appearances, and later as "The Hines Brothers". When their father joined the act as a drummer, the name changed again in 1963 to "Hines, Hines, and Dad".

More information on the legacy and life of Mr. Hines is available here

Source: Wikipedia

Today in History: December 24th

The Year in Pictures: 2015

See the most powerful images of the year. 

Click here to view all 50 images.

Source: NBC News

Your Data at Risk: 2015 Was a Year Full of Memorable Hacks

The seemingly endless string of headline-grabbing cyberattacks this past year reinforced the notion that hacks have increasingly become a part of digital life — and no person or organization is immune.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, more than 750 breaches were reported in 2015 through late December, exposing nearly 178 million records. From government to tech, health care to entertainment, data thieves left no sector untouched.

"It may be that 2015 is the year cyberattacks got personal. For most people, it isn't shocking anymore when their credit card data gets stolen," said Hugh Thompson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of information security company Blue Coat Systems.

"In 2016 we are likely to see even more attacker resources being poured into tools, tactics and skills to steal digital information and disrupt services — wherever they are." 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Audio Reveals Taser Requested in Laquan McDonald Shooting

In the weeks since shooting video showing the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released, there have been questions as to why officers didn’t use a Taser to subdue McDonald rather than deadly force.

Radio calls obtained by NBC5 through a Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday reveal that very question was also asked just moments before the shooting. 

Click here for the full article and audio/video.

Source: NBC 5 (Chicago)

'Schindler of Congo' Marrion P'Udongo Is Now in Need of Saving

He's been dubbed the "Schindler of Congo" for acts of heroism, but now he's the one in need of saving.
Pastor Marrion P'Udongo earned his nickname for saving nearly 100 people from murderous militiamen in 2003 — but that was only one of his many acts of courage.

He's gone into the bush to coax out child soldiers, helped scores of rape victims secure medical treatment, fed and clothed inmates in Congo's most notorious prison and helps run an orphanage for children impacted by his nation's decades-long war. 

But today, the man also known simply as "pastor" to many spends his days hooked up to a dialysis machine and praying for a miracle.  

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News

Central African Republic Postpones Pivotal Elections

Reuters, 24/12 17:19 CET

BANGUI (Reuters) – Crucial elections scheduled to take place in the Central African Republic on Sunday have been postponed by three days until Dec. 30, Prime Minster Mahamat Kamoun said on Thursday.

The polls are meant to restore democratic rule after mainly Muslim rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation in early 2013, provoking reprisals from Christian militias that triggered a cycle of inter-religious killings.

Kamoun said the postponement was needed because ballots had arrived late and poll workers still needed to receive training. 

Click here for summary.

Source: Euronews

U.S.-Backed Alliance Pushes Towards Islamic State-Held Dam in Northern Syria

Reuters, 24/12 17:11 CET

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian Kurds and Arab rebel groups advanced towards a dam in northern Syria held by Islamic State fighters on Thursday, in an assault aimed at capturing the militants’ stronghold of Raqqa, rebels and a monitor said.

They said the push by fighters of the Democratic Forces of Syria, which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia and an Arab tribal alliance, had brought them within 20 km of the Tishreen Dam, one of three major dams on the Euphrates River.

Further south of the dam that still supplies power to large areas in northern Syria is the even larger Baath Dam. Its power plant, under militant control, feeds much of the territory under Islamic State and is 22 km (15 miles) upstream from Raqqa. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews 

U.S. Held Secret Communications with Syrian Government – WSJ

Reuters, 24/12 15:34 CET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials held secret communications with members of President Bashar al-Assad’s government to try to limit violence in Syria, and explored ways to encourage a military coup in 2011 as the civil war got under way, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

American intelligence officials identified army officers belonging to Assad’s minority Alawite sect who could lead a coup, but they found few weak spots to exploit, the Journal said, citing interviews with more than two dozen people, including current and former U.S. officials. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Iran Calls China to Join the Fight Against the Islamic State

Reuters, 24/12 15:09 CET

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
DUBAI (Reuters) – China should play a more active role in fighting Islamic State, a senior figure in a body that advises Iran’s Supreme Leader said on Thursday, according to the country’s Fars news agency.

China relies on the Middle East for oil supplies, but tends to leave diplomacy there to other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Britain, France and Russia. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: Euronews

Russia Rejects Human Rights Report Which Accuses it of Possible War Crimes in Syria

Source: Euronews

Bethlehem: Christmas in the Birthplace of Christianity

Source: Euronews

UK and Others Issue Security Warning to Nationals in Sanlitun, Beijing

Source: Euronews

Afghan Authorities Deny Sangin Has Fallen to Taliban

Source: Euronews

Iraqi Forces Claim the Battle for Ramadi is Almost Won

Source: Euronews

At Least 25 Killed in Saudi Hospital Fire

Source: Euronews

UN Security Council Backs Libya Unity Government

Source: Euronews

Erdogan Vows to Continue Fight Against PKK

Source: Euronews

Four Nuclear Reactors to Reopen in Japan

Source: Euronews

Oil Industry’s Pain is the US Motorist’s Gain


It may not do much to reduce air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions – it’s certainly not helped the oil industry – but low fuel prices are a boon to motorists.

In the US petrol prices on average have dropped below two dollars a gallon for the first time since 2009 – down an estimated 64 cents a gallon compared to last year. 

Click here for summary and video.

Source: Euronews

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

President Obama's Statement on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing.  Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.

In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL. 

We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations.  As the old Christmas carol reminds us:

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

The Life and Presidency of George H.W. Bush

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham and former President George W. Bush talked about the life of America’s 41st president, George H.W. Bush. Mr. Meacham is the author of Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. He talked about his own career and the differences between writing books about dead presidents and living presidents and about working with former President George H.W. Bush on the biography. He discussed the former president’s diaries and letters. They discussed the career of the 41st president, including how he became the ambassador to the United Nations, his political career in Texas, and his relationship with President Nixon as the chair of the Republican National Committee. They also talked about council he gave to his son at key moments in his own presidency.

This was an Author Event in the George W. Bush Institute auditorium at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Jobs and the Economy in 2015

New York Times Economics Reporter Nelson Schwartz spoke by phone about jobs and the economy in 2015, as well as how Americans view the overall economy and their own personal financial situation. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Inequality in the U.S. Banking System

Author Mehrsa Baradaran discusses her book, How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy, in which she argues there are two banking systems in the U.S. - one for the poor and one for everyone else. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

C-SPAN Accused of ‘Mainstreaming Islamist Organizations While Willfully Marginalizing’ Reformists

( – The leader of an umbrella group of moderate Islamic organizations is troubled by C-SPAN's decision not to cover its launch event at the National Press Club earlier this month, when on Monday the public affairs network provided live coverage to another Muslim event – highlighting “Islamophobia” – at the same venue. 

Click here for the full article. 


In Memoriam: Staff Sgt. Louis Michael Bonacasa


Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 24, 2015 in honor of a New York Air National Guard member who died in Afghanistan on Monday, Dec. 21. 

Staff Sgt. Louis Michael Bonacasa died of wounds suffered when his patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber. Also among those killed in the attack was Technical Sgt. Joseph Lemm. Both were members of the 105th Base Defense Squadron, which is an element of the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base at Newburgh, N.Y.

“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and fellow servicemen of Staff Sgt. Bonacasa,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will join his loved ones in honoring his valor, leadership and service to this great nation. His sacrifice will be remembered with gratitude.”

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

From The G-Man salutes Staff Sgt. Louis Michael Bonacasa’s dedication and service to the country with the following video. May his family, friends and fellow soldiers find some measure of comfort in the days to come….and may he forever rest in peace. 


Four New Yorkers to Be Honored for Heroic Efforts During Boating Rescue

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced the presentation of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Award of Commendation and the State Parks’ Recreational Boating Lifesaving Award to William Deak, Jason Deak, Justin Deak and Michael Laduca of West Islip, NY.

The awards were presented in recognition of the group’s heroic efforts to save a family of five as their boat was rapidly sinking in the Great South Bay off the coast of Long Island in August, 2015.

“In the face of danger, the Deak Family and Mr. Laduca showed tremendous courage in risking their lives to protect others. It is this type of selflessness and bravery that embodies the spirit of New York and the qualities for which we stand,” Governor Cuomo said. “These men are heroes and I commend each of them for their valiant actions.”

“I applaud the heroic actions of William, Jason, Justin and Michael. Their quick and selfless action led to the saving of five lives,” State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said. “All boaters should be prepared while out on the water for any emergency and the best start is to always wear a life jacket. Thanks to these heroes this was a happy ending but if they were not nearby and close enough to see this emergency, this could have instead led to a very tragic ending.”

William Deak, 46, was heading towards the Bay Shore Marina with his sons Jason Deak, 21, and Justin Deak, 24, along with family friend Michael Laduca, 24, when they noticed a sinking boat on the Bay and its five occupants in the water struggling to stay afloat. Immediately recognizing the emergency, William called 911 as both Jason and Michael jumped into the bay, without hesitation, to aid the family of five clinging for their lives. As Justin carefully maneuvered the boat, Jason and Michael guided everyone to William who was able to pull the entire family to safety.

The NASBLA Award of Commendation is bestowed on individuals in recognition of their heroism and those who have risked their lives to save others involved in a recreational boating incident. Since 2008, the honor has been awarded to only fourteen New Yorkers. The last award presented to a New Yorker was an Ulster Park man in 2013. The New York State Parks’ Marine Services Bureau gives the Recreational Boating Lifesaving Award in recognition of the ultimate boating Good Samaritan who comes to the aid of another boater in life threatening distress. It has also been awarded only fourteen times since 2008.

State Parks and the United States Coast Guard strongly recommend wearing a life jacket while boating, especially during the winter when cold temperatures can quickly lead to death. The agencies also recommend that all boaters properly equip and carry essential safety gear, signaling devices and whistles; inform others with a general destination and expected return time; take a boating safety course; and always refrain from mixing alcohol with boating. Boaters are reminded that state law requires a life jacket to be worn on any watercraft less than 21-feet in length from November 1 through May 1.

The New York State Parks Marine Services Bureau oversees the state’s safe boating programs, including boating safety education classes that help nearly 20,000 people annually become safer boaters. For more information about boating safety and marine recreation, please visit 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo