Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cuomo Issues Update on State's Response to Tugboat Accident and Fuel Spill on Hudson River

Weekly Address: The Legacy of Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan Funeral Service (Full Video)

A funeral service for former first lady Nancy Reagan was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Click here for video. 

Source: C-SPAN

President Obama Participates in South by Southwest Interactive Discussion

The President participates in South by Southwest Interactive to engage in a panel conversation about civic engagement in the 21st Century before an audience of creators, early adopters and entrepreneurs who are defining the future of our connected lives. This event was held at the Long Center for Performing Arts in Austin Texas.

U.S., South Korea Stage Assault Drill Amid Nuclear Threats from North

U.S. and South Korean troops staged a big amphibious landing exercise Saturday, storming simulated North Korean beach defenses amid and threats by Pyongyang to annihilate its enemies.

The landing and assault drills on South Korea's east coast were part of eight weeks of joint exercises between the allies which the South has said are the largest ever. The North has denounced the exercises as "nuclear war moves" and threatened to respond with an all-out offensive. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Secret Service Rushes Stage to Protect Donald Trump at Ohio Rally

A Donald Trump rally took a dramatic turn Saturday when a disturbance broke out behind him — causing Secret Service agents to jump on stage and form a wall around the candidate amid the commotion.

A campaign spokeswoman said that a man at the Dayton, Ohio, event "attempted to breach the secure buffer and was removed rapidly and professionally."

The suspect was identified as Thomas Dimassimo, and was charged with disorderly conduct and inducing panic — both misdemeanors, Chief Mike Etter of the Dayton Airport Police Department told NBC News.

Dimassimo jumped the bike racks and tried to climb onto the stage, but was stopped by Secret Service stationed there, Etter said. 

Click here for the full article.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to Visit the White House

President Obama will welcome Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny of Ireland to the White House on Tuesday, March 15th, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and to discuss issues of mutual concern. 

The United States and Ireland enjoy a strong relationship; deep cultural, historic, and people-to-people bonds; and a shared commitment to advancing global peace, security, and prosperity. 

In the morning, the Vice President will host the Taoiseach for breakfast at the Naval Observatory, and the President and Vice President will meet with the Taoiseach in the Oval Office. That afternoon, the President will host a reception to celebrate his eighth St. Patrick’s Day at the White House. During the reception, the President and Taoiseach will participate in the annual Shamrock ceremony started by President Truman. 

Also on March 15th, the Vice President will meet with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Northern Ireland at the White House to discuss the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements and progress being made toward building a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Northern Ireland. 

St. Patrick’s Day is being celebrated at the White House early this year as the Taoiseach must attend an important European Council meeting in Brussels on March 17th

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Veep Meet & Greet: His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan

The Vice President met yesterday with His Majesty King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan. The two leaders discussed our ongoing cooperation to defeat ISIL and promote a negotiated political settlement to the conflict in Syria. 

They also discussed current tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as opportunities for Jordan to increase its energy diversification. 

The Vice President reiterated the United States' unwavering commitment to Jordan's security and stability, and praised the ongoing military cooperation between the two countries. He also thanked His Majesty for Jordan's generosity in hosting over 635,000 registered Syrian refugees. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

Donald Trump News Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida

Former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump at a news conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

Click here for video. 

Source: C-SPAN

Iran Missle Test and its Potential Impact on the Nuclear Agreement

Foundation for Defense of Democracies Executive Director Mark Dubowitz discusses Iran’s launch of two ballistic missiles and how the test could affect the Iran nuclear agreement. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

State Department Briefing

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Discussion on U.S. Response to Zika Virus

Experts discuss the U.S. response to the Zika virus at a forum hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and the Harvard Global Health Institute. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

New York State Master Teacher Program Expanded

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced the expansion of the New York State Master Teacher Program. Launched in 2013, the initiative rewards the state's highest performing teachers to ensure the best and brightest stay in the classroom and share their expertise with peers and pre-service teachers. Additional funding will enable more outstanding secondary school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math teachers to join the existing statewide network of 623 Master Teachers.

“We created the Master Teacher Program to attract our best and brightest teachers to the classroom and strengthen the quality of our schools in communities across this state,” Governor Cuomo said. “By expanding this program we are giving more talented professionals in STEM education the opportunity to develop their careers and help lay the foundation for a world-class workforce. I encourage all of New York’s outstanding educators in these fields to apply to the Master Teachers program today.”

The Master Teacher Program is supported by SUNY campus partners in nine economic development regions and in partnership with Math for America in New York City. In addition, three regional programs (Central New York, Long Island, and Western New York) will host a pilot program to extend the Master Teacher Program to outstanding STEM teachers with training and expertise in working with English-language-learners and special education designated students.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said, “Our Master Teachers are truly leaders in STEM education, and their work is critical in inspiring more teachers to be experts, and thereby more students to have a higher understanding of STEM subjects. There is more work to do in bringing the Master Teacher program to communities across our state. I encourage our brightest teachers to join and apply today.”

The current 623 Master Teachers have an average teaching experience of 14 years. Representing nearly 300 school districts, they teach all levels of STEM courses at the middle and high school levels. Fifty Master Teachers have earned National Board Certification, a national recognition of the highest professional standards. Many of these individuals began their teaching career following successful professions in STEM fields, including careers as meteorologists, research scientists, and mechanical engineers.

To be eligible for application to the NYS Master Teacher Program, teachers must be certified New York State public school teachers in grades six through twelve. Teachers must have a minimum of four years of experience teaching STEM subjects and must spend at least 60 percent of their time in the classroom teaching STEM subjects.

Individuals that meet the above eligibility requirements and the following additional criteria are encouraged to apply for the pilot program being launched in the Central New York, Long Island, and Western New York regions: hold an extension certificate in bilingual education, or hold certification in English as a Second Language, or hold a dual certification in a content area and special education.

Master Teachers:

Receive a $15,000 stipend per year over 4 years for participation in the program (total compensation of $60,000 per Master Teacher).

Engage in peer mentoring and intensive content-oriented professional development opportunities throughout the academic year.

Work closely with pre-service and early career teachers to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers.

Attend required regular cohort meetings, participate in and lead several professional development sessions each year, and participate in the training of pre-service and early career educators as part of the Master Teacher program.

Additional information about the Master Teacher Program and the application requirements and process is available at

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

'Flashback Friday': The Sinking of the Titanic

Trailblazers in Black History: Eartha Kitt

Today in History: March 11th

'Kinder, Gentler GOP' on View at Debate Between Final Four Candidates

Ben Carson Endorses Donald Trump, Praises His 'Guts' And 'Energy'

Ben Carson, the former pediatric neurosurgeon who dropped out of the Republican presidential race last week, endorsed Donald Trump on Friday, praising his "guts" and "energy."

"There are two different Donald Trumps," Carson said at the billionaire's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. "There's the one you see on the stage and there's the one who is very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully. You can have a very good conversation with him. That's the Donald Trump that you're going to start seeing more and more of."

Trump agreed with that assessment.

"I probably do agree. There's the public version … it seems to have worked over my lifetime," he said. "I think it's different than the personal one." 

Click here for the full article.

Wounded Warrior Project Fires Top Two Executives Amid Reports of Lavish Spending

The top two executives at the prominent veterans charity Wounded Warrior Project have been fired amid allegations of extravagant spending on themselves and their employees.

The board of directors fired chief executive officer Steven Nardizzi and chief operating officer Al Giordano Thursday after an independent review found "some policies, procedures and controls at WWP have not kept pace with the organization's rapid growth in recent years and are in need of strengthening," according to a statement from the nonprofit sent to NBC News.

The charity, one of the largest in the nation for veterans, has been mired in controversy since January, when a CBS News investigation found many of its donations were going toward employees: $26 million on company conferences in 2014 alone, according to CBS News. 

Click here for the full report.

Source: NBC News

World's Oldest Man Is 112-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Israel Kristal

Talk about staying power.

Holocaust survivor Israel Kristal was confirmed by Guinness World Records on Friday as the planet's oldest living man, having graced the earth for 112 years and 178 days. 

"I don't know the secret for long life," Kristal, who lives in Haifa, Israel, told Guinness. "I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why. There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men than me who are no longer alive."   

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Greece: 42,000 Migrants and Counting as European Borders Stay Shut

Source: Euronews

Migrants Fight for Free Bread and Eggs at Greek-Macedonian Border

Source: Euronews

Anti-Migrant AfD Tipped for Success in Germany’s ‘Super Sunday’ Elections

Source: Euronews

Japan: Fukushima Wounds Still Deep, Five Years On

Source: Euronews

Serbia Hit by Widespread Flooding

By Catherine Hardy | With BALKANINSIGHT.COM

Source: Euronews

Angola’s Veteran President Dos Santos to Step Down in 2018

Source: Euronews

Arab League Picks Egypt’s Aboul-Gheit as New Chief with Middle East in Turmoil

Source: Euronews

Thursday, March 10, 2016

White House Arrival Ceremony for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

During official arrival ceremonies on the South Lawn, President Obama welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau to the White House as part of a state visit. Ceremonies included a review of the troops, playing of national anthems, a pass in review, and remarks by both leaders. 

Click here for video. 

President Obama Joint News Conference with Prime Minister Trudeau

The leaders responded to reporters' questions in a news conference in the White House Rose Garden. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN 

Roundtable on Demographics and Presidential Elections

Ruy Teixeira, with the Center for American Progress, and Karlyn Bowman, with the American Enterprise Institute, discuss demographic trends in presidential elections, as well as how racial diversity could impact the 2016 election. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Hearing on Federal Health Insurance Exchanges

Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CEO Kevin Counihan, and Wharton Business School Professor Scott Harrington testified at a hearing on the federal health insurance exchanges. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Pelosi Endorses Paid Family Leave Proposal

March 10, 2016, Manhattan - U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s paid family leave proposal and joined the “Strong Families, Strong New York” campaign to call for passage of the proposal this year.

Governors Cuomo, Shumlin and Hassan Urge EPA to Review Guidelines for Safe Drinking Water

Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont, and Governor Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire officially requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conduct a review of the best available science regarding perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in order to assess and ensure the safety of drinking water exposed to the contaminant. Additionally, the Governors called for full federal funding of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water Revolving Fund, which are critical tools for supporting state efforts to upgrade drinking water infrastructure.

These requests, which were made in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, can be viewed below:

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

We write as Governors whose states are all in the midst of addressing local drinking water contamination involving the federally unregulated chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). We are deeply concerned for the health and well-being of our communities grappling with this contaminant. In New York and New Hampshire, tests have indicated the presence of this chemical in public drinking water systems, and in New York and Vermont the chemical has been detected in several private wells. It is clear that PFOA contamination is not a state problem or a regional problem – it’s a national problem that requires federal guidelines and a consistent, science-based approach.

The EPA’s PFOA health advisory was recently lowered in one village in New York by the EPA’s Regional Office, though the higher advisory remains in the rest of the country. We urge the EPA, under your leadership, to expeditiously review the best available science on this contaminant, and provide uniform guidance to states that our health and environmental officials can use in assessing the safety of our drinking water. In addition, we seek your help and support for additional drinking water testing and analysis in communities exposed to PFOA.

We also are all strong supporters of full federal funding for water infrastructure. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is a critical tool for states to invest in modern and safe drinking water upgrades. Unfortunately, over the last six years funding for this program, and its companion Clean Water Revolving Fund, have been flat or declining. This comes even as the American Society of Civil Engineers points out massive gaps between our water infrastructure needs and our investment. We should invest more in both the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water Revolving Fund, and we look forward to working with you to make that happen.

We respectfully request your personal attention to the challenges created by PFOA contamination in our states. Consistency, accuracy, and uniformity are paramount. We look forward to your response and assistance as we work to identify the polluters responsible for this contamination, and hold them accountable for their actions. It is unacceptable to us that any community should have to be concerned about the safety of their drinking water. Families in our states are worried about potentially tragic short and long-term health impacts, not to mention the potential loss in property values for homes in affected areas. It has been our priority to ensure that residents are being provided clean and safe water immediately, and that our infrastructure be modernized to eliminate these concerns in the future.

Thank you. 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

2,696 Sewage Overflows into NY Waters Endanger Public Health

Albany – Environmental Advocates of New York has released a new report – Tapped Out: New York’s Clean Water in Peril – which documents sewage overflows and the rampant underreporting of such spills in New York State. The report also documents how underinvestment has lead to a crumbling infrastructure and increased sewage discharges in New York waterways.

A review of data published through the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in accordance with the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act of 2012, shows that between May 2013 and June 2015, 2,696 sewage overflows were reported.

While that figure is large, is it likely a fraction of the true number of overflows happening statewide. Data which demonstrates an inconsistent or outright lack of reporting includes:

85 percent of all reports failed to include spill volume.

58 percent of the 2,696 reported spills occurred in Erie County, pointing to severe underreporting in other regions statewide.

New York City, where an estimated 28 billion gallons of untreated sewage is discharged into New York Harbor annually, reported just 563,910 gallons (0.002 percent) to DEC.

The Capital Region, where an estimated 1.2 billion gallons is discharged into the Hudson River annually, reported just 1.2 million gallons over two years.

Long Island, where water quality issues are a strong concern, reported just 19 overflows – the lowest of any region statewide.

Liz Moran, water and natural resources associate at Environmental Advocates of New York, and author of Tapped Out, said, “There is a sacred bond between clean water and public health that is being broken. In 2012, state legislators passed the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, a common-sense law that says, knowing the public health dangers, if a sewage discharge occurs, the public must be immediately notified. A law like this is necessary due to the lack of investment in an aging and failing system which dumps tens of billions of gallons of raw sew­age into local waterbodies every year.”

She added, “Although what we found is that after 3.5 years, the law has not been fully implemented, lacks standardized reporting requirements, and that while these numbers seem staggering, they are likely a fraction of the true spills occurring statewide which go unreported. The experts at DEC, and wastewater operators, are doing everything they can with what they have – but cuts to agency resources and an ongoing lack of investment in clean water infrastructure is placing public health at risk.”

The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act took effect in May 2013. Nearly three years later, the DEC has yet to finalize regulations intended to provide standard reporting requirements for all communities – the lack of regulations is affecting the quality of the data that is in the Right to Know database.

Public Health Impacts
The public health dangers of untreated sewage include waterborne pathogens, parasites, and disease-causing organisms such as E. coli and Rotavirus. When overflows into local waterways occur – which are common when precipitation and sewage enter the same system, or when a system fails due to age – it leads to boil water alerts and waterbodies closing for recreation and human activity due to the potential for sickness and even death.

A 2013 analysis of water samples collected at New York beaches found that 13 percent exceeded the EPA’s Beach Action Value (BAV), which determines if a waterbody is safe for human activity.

Growing Infrastructure Needs - Water infrastructure needs in New York State are enormous – the DEC stated in a 2008 report, A Gathering Storm, that over the next twenty years $36 billion will need to be invested in our wastewater infrastructure for all of the necessary repairs and upgrades.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Watershed Needs Survey, New York State has the greatest documented wastewater infrastructure needs in the country, which includes the third highest investment need in the nation to reduce sewage overflows and stormwater pollution. And a 2014 report from the Office of the New York State Comptroller, Growing Cracks in the Foundation, found that there was an $800 million annual funding gap for sewer infrastructure needs.

Environmental Advocates’ Recommendations

Staff funding for DEC must be increased to ensure New York has enough cops on the beat to enforce laws and protect public health. The current shortcomings of the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act are the result of inadequate funding that would ensure communities are following consistent standards and have the technology available to accurately track and report discharges. Additionally, too few resources are available to DEC experts to finalize and implement current draft regulations.

Final Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act rules should include:

No exemptions for reporting. Every spill can endanger public health and should be subject to public notice as intended by lawmakers.

Proper notification of all potentially impacted communities should occur (such as those downriver), not only where the overflow happened.

Immediate reporting once a discharge is known.

A more robust public notification effort that includes alerts to local media.
Governor Cuomo and Legislators should invest at least $800 million annually in the New York State Water Infrastructure Investment Act of 2015 (NYSWIIA), a budget line created in the SFY2015-16 Budget. NYSWIIA must be permanently extended beyond its three-year life to create an ongoing commitment to clean water in New York State.

Source: Environmental Advocates of New York