Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekly Address: It’s Time for Congress to Help Responsible Homeowners

In this week’s address, President Obama explains his administration’s steps to help the housing market, including giving responsible homeowners a chance to save thousands of dollars every year by refinancing their mortgages, but he says we need Congress’s help to do more.

RIP: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, NY Times Publisher

Statement from President Obama

"Michelle and I were saddened today to hear about the passing of Arthur Sulzberger. Over the course of more than 30 years, Arthur helped transform the New York Times and secure its status as one of the most successful and respected newspapers in the world. He was a firm believer in the importance of a free and independent press - one that isn't afraid to seek the truth, hold those in power accountable, and tell the stories that need to be told. Arthur's legacy lives on in the newspaper he loved and the journalists he inspired. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo

"Today we mourn the loss of a true New Yorker and American, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, a respected businessman and publisher who built The New York Times into the globally renowned newspaper it is today. Mr. Sulzberger's life was one of service; as a young man he, along with so many others of his generation, answered the call of duty and joined the Armed Forces during World War II. Mr. Sulzberger changed the course of American history with his journalistic decisions, including publishing the Pentagon Papers, ultimately fulfilling the foremost task of the media to report the unfiltered truth to the American people. We will miss Mr. Sulzberger's integrity, unwavering commitment to the highest qualities of ethical journalism, as well as the role he played in the civic and social life of New York City and our nation. I send my condolences to his friends and family."

From The G-Man proudly salutes the amazing legacy and life of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, one of America's journalism trailblazers. 

Safety Measures Overhauled at NYRA Tracks

Changes Come as Task Force Report on Racehorse Health and Safety is Released

On September 28, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his office has received the findings and recommendations of the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety and that the state will undertake an unprecedented series of reforms to promote equine safety at New York racetracks. 

The Task Force was appointed at the request of the Governor's office following a spate of deaths at Aqueduct Racetrack during its winter meeting.

The Task Force was directed to review the circumstances involving the deaths, analyze the causes, and recommend any necessary action to prevent equine breakdowns at NYRA operated facilities.

The Task Force was also charged with examining horse claiming rules, veterinary procedures and drug use in order to promote equine safety.

"New York is committed to placing the health, safety and welfare of the equine athlete as the top priority of horseracing," Governor Cuomo said.

"As we bring accountability and responsible business practices to horseracing, these recommendations will be an integral part of a new and improved racing product. I have requested the Racing and Wagering Board to promptly adopt the changes identified by the Task Force to create a safety-conscious environment for racehorses. I sincerely thank the members of the Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety for their important work."

The Governor's actions include recommending a complete overhaul of NYRA's veterinary practices, the creation of an Equine Medical Director position within the state's racing regulatory body, strict prohibitions regarding medications, and new rules for claiming races.

Since the Task Force found that the inability of jockeys to communicate their concerns about the health of horses established an unacceptably elevated level of risk, the State will create an anonymous equine safety hotline to enable jockeys to report horse health concerns without fear of retribution.

Task Force Chairman Scott E. Palmer, VMD , said, "The Task Force has spent countless hours analyzing the circumstances of each equine death at Aqueduct. We found multiple factors that created a 'perfect storm' of conditions that caused these tragic breakdowns. We have produced realistic recommendations that will make a lasting difference in racehorse health and safety. We are proud of this report and thank Governor Cuomo for creating this Task Force."

“The recommendations put forth by this Task Force are strong and effective responses to the equine fatalities at Aqueduct. The Board stands ready to incorporate the full report into our policies and procedures,” noted Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John D. Sabini.

The Task Force found that while there was no single root cause for the Aqueduct fatalities, a combination of factors likely led to the increased rate of horse deaths.

These factors included: increased purses in claiming races that incentivized stakeholders to run substandard horses; the use of corticosteroids that may have limited the ability of veterinarians to identify pre-existing conditions that disposed horses to catastrophic injuries; a lack of protocols and inconsistencies in pre-race inspections and veterinary procedures; and mild weather on a track designed for harsher winters.

During its comprehensive examination, the Task Force found that NYRA's organizational veterinary structure was inherently conflicted by reporting to an entity (the Racing Office) whose function is inconsistent with deliberate and careful equine risk management practice.

Other structural shortcomings with NYRA's veterinary practice include: a lack of uniform protocols and procedures among track veterinarians, a failure to standardize risk factors to assess racehorses' fitness to run, and no uniformity in veterinary care recordkeeping or proper use of existing veterinary practice management software. 

The State Racing and Wagering Board and NYRA will be directed to take these actions:

Establish an Office of the Equine Medical Director to oversee horse safety 

Create an independent veterinary practice structure within NYRA which will put the health of the horses first and which reporting directly to the chief executive officer of NYRA 

Establish an anonymous reporting mechanism for jockeys to report health or safety violations without fear of reprisal

Prohibit Clenbuterol within 21 days of a race

Prohibit Methylprednisolone (DepoMedrol®) within 15 days of the date of a race 

Prohibiting all other intra-articular corticosteroids within seven days of a race

Prohibiting all other systemic corticosteroids within five days of a race

Requiring trainers to maintain and records of corticosteroid administrations and notify the Stewards in writing within 48 hours of all intra-articular corticosteroid administrations

Extending the claiming rule that voids claims in the event a claimed horse dies on the race track to make a claim voidable within 1 hour of the conclusion of a race if the horse is vanned off the track

Amending the economic proportionality claiming rule to allow a purse-to-claim ratio no greater than 1.6-to-1 

Requiring horse claimants be notified within 48 hours of any intra-articular administration of corticosteroids to the claimed horse in the 30 days prior to the race

Expanding out-of-competition drug testing to include corticosteroids and clenbuterol

Improving documentation of findings of fatal injuries, including the development of standard protocols for handling of horses sustaining fatal injuries 

Requiring testing laboratory accreditation 

Formalizing necropsy procedures

NYRA will also examine the possibility of installing of a synthetic surface on the inner track at Aqueduct. 

The members of the Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety are:

Chairman: Dr. Scott E. Palmer, the hospital director and staff surgeon at the New Jersey Equine Clinic, has served as a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). He currently serves as Chairman of the AAEP Racing Committee. Palmer has also been twice named “Veterinarian of the Year” by the New Jersey Association of Equine Practitioners. 

Jerry Bailey, a retired Hall of Fame jockey, is a seven-time Eclipse champion jockey who has won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes twice each, as well as five Breeders' Cup Classics. Bailey, who currently works as a television analyst, served as President of the Jockeys' Guild.

Alan Foreman, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Thoroughbred Horsemen's Associations, Inc., also serves as Vice Chairman of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium and as counsel to many horsemen's and racing industry organizations.

Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, previously led a pilot racehorse injury reporting project that became the Jockey Club's Equine Injury Database.

The report is available here.

The report's executive summary is available here. 

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Tenants PAC to Announce Endorsement of Addabbo

Organization Says Senator Has a "Solid Track Record of Protecting and Ensuring Affordable Housing" 

On October 1, at 1:00 pm, in front of several rent-controlled buildings at 60-40 Madison Street in Ridgewood, Queens, Tenants PAC will announce their endorsement of Senator Joseph Addabbo for his third term representing New York State’s 15th District.

Tenants PAC is a leading tenants-right group and the only organization in New York State devoted to addressing tenant concerns through the electoral process.

Mike McKee, a Tenants PAC board member, will attend and speak at the event. Other Tenants PAC members and local pro-tenant activists will also be in attendance.

McKee will discuss the ongoing need for affordable housing and what he describes as “Senator Addabbo’s solid record of protecting and ensuring affordable housing in the district.”

“Voters must realize the importance of having politicians like Senator Addabbo in office, who work for the people and are not in the pockets of real estate entities and pro-landlord organizations,” said McKee.

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NYS Division of Human Rights to Hold Special Conference

Discussion Will Focus on Employment Rights for People with Disabilities 

On October 2, in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the New York State Division of Human Rights will sponsor a conference to explore one of the most pressing issues affecting people with disabilities – their efforts to find employment.

Panelists will discuss emerging trends and cases as well as the employment of persons with mental and developmental impairments.

One panel, which includes a person with disabilities, will take a look at success stories.

Potential employees will be able to identify opportunities and employers will learn how to find resources to improve hiring and retention. 

The free conference, which will be available via webcast, is being co-sponsored by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and will be held at The Strong’s National Museum of Play at One Manhattan Square Drive, Rochester, New York. The conference will take place from 9 am to 5 pm. 

Call  (518) 474-2705 for more information. 

Canal Corporation Announces “Canal Ambassadors”

Camillus Volunteers First to Enroll

SYRACUSE – Volunteers from Erie Canal Park in Camillus were designated New York State’s first “Canal Ambassadors,” the New York State Canal Corporation announced today.

The Canal Ambassador Program will enlist volunteers across New York State to help canal communities welcome tourists, maintain parks and waterfronts, give tours of historic facilities, and offer services at festivals and events.

Volunteers who sign up and qualify for the program receive a certificate designating them as a Canal Ambassador and a shirt to identify them as participants in the program.

Howard P. Milstein, Chairman of the Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation, said, “As New Yorkers, we are proud of our heritage, history, and tradition of hospitality. Nowhere is this pride more evident than in the spirit of volunteerism found in Camillus. Our first Ambassadors here set a standard to inspire even more volunteers statewide to become involved in their canalside communities.”

Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “The innovative Canal Ambassador program will help New Yorkers become more invested in and connected with the waterway which made New York the Empire State. We are grateful for the support and hard work of these volunteers”

David W. Beebe, D.D.S., founder and director of the Camillus Erie Canal Park, said, “I commend the Canal Corporation for developing this new program that recognizes the efforts of these volunteers who work tirelessly to keep the Erie Canal Park in tip-top shape.”

Established is 1972, Camillus Canal Park includes a replica of an Erie Canal store, a fully restored Erie Canal aqueduct over Nine Mile Creek, and other exhibits and attractions. Staffed by volunteers, the park offers visitors a variety of informational and entertaining opportunities ranging from more than 10 miles of scenic wooded paths and walkways, to boat rides along the historic Erie Canal.

Click here to register as a Canal Ambassador.

For more information about the Camillus Erie Canal Park, click here

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Friday, September 28, 2012

USA Track and Field Team Encourages Kids To Run!

Treasury Department Responds to President Obama's Ralls Corporation Decision

U.S. Treasury Building

"The Wind Farm Sites are All Within or in the Vicinity of Restricted Air Space...."

WASHINGTON – As chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the U.S. Department of the Treasury today issued the following statement about the President’s decision regarding Ralls Corporation:

The President issued an order prohibiting the acquisition and ownership of four wind farm project companies by Ralls Corporation, its owners, its subsidiaries, and its affiliates.  The order directs Ralls Corporation to divest its interest in the wind farm project companies that it acquired earlier this year, and to take other actions related to the divestment.  Ralls Corporation is owned by Chinese nationals, and is affiliated with a Chinese construction equipment company that manufactures wind turbines.  The wind farm sites are all within or in the vicinity of restricted air space at Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility Boardman in Oregon.

The President took this action pursuant to section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended by the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 (“section 721”). Section 721 authorizes the President to suspend or prohibit certain acquisitions of U.S. businesses by foreign persons where he finds that there is credible evidence that the foreign interest exercising control might take action that threatens to impair national security, and where provisions of law other than section 721 and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act do not provide adequate and appropriate authority to protect national security in the matter under review.

The President’s action demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to protecting national security while maintaining the United States’ longstanding policy on open investment.  The President exercises his authority under section 721 with a focus on national security concerns and is committed to ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all foreign investors.  The Administration will continue to ensure that the United States remains the most attractive place for businesses to locate, invest, grow, and create jobs. The President’s decision is specific to this transaction and is not a precedent with regard to any other foreign direct investment from China or any other country.

The President’s decision took into consideration the factors described in subsection 721(f), as appropriate, and the recommendation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) that he issue an order prohibiting this transaction.  CFIUS is an interagency committee whose purpose is to review transactions that could result in the control of a U.S. business by a foreign person in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States.  In assessing the transaction’s impact on national security, CFIUS conducted both a 30-day, first-stage review, and an additional 45-day, second-stage investigation.  CFIUS’s detailed analysis took into account all relevant national security factors, including those elements enumerated in section 721.  CFIUS also received a thorough analysis of the threat posed by this transaction from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as required by section 721.

CFIUS is chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury and includes as members the Secretaries of State, Defense, Commerce, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the U.S. Trade Representative.  The Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Labor participate as non-voting, ex-officio members.

Service Members Sue Defense Secretary Over Alleged Military Rapes

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Victims Say the Military Did Not Take Their Accusations Seriously

In an exclusive report by Jesse Ellison, "The Daily Beast" writer states the following:

"Nineteen former and current U.S. military service members sued Leon Panetta and former secretaries of defense Friday alleging civil rights violations—stemming from sexual assault accusations they say were not taken seriously by the military."

The complete Daily Beast article can be read here.

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Oval Office Chat Session: Obama and Netanyahu

President Reaffirms U.S. Commitment to Israel

President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke today as part of their regular consultations, and to follow up on Secretary Clinton’s meeting with the Prime Minister.  

The President and Prime Minister discussed a range of security issues, and the President reaffirmed his and our country’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.  

The two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  

The Prime Minister welcomed President Obama’s commitment before the United Nations General Assembly to do what we must to achieve that goal.  

The two leaders took note of the close cooperation and coordination between the Governments of the United States and Israel regarding the threat posed by Iran – its nuclear program, proliferation, and support for terrorism – and agreed to continue their regular consultations on this issue going forward.  

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed Into Law

Statement by the Press Secretary on H.J. Res. 117, S. 3245, S. 3552 and S. 3625

On Friday, September 28, 2012, the President signed into law:

H.J. Res. 117, which provides fiscal year 2013 appropriations for continuing projects and activities of the Federal Government through Wednesday, March 27, 2013;

S. 3245, which extends to September 30, 2015, the expiration dates of key requirements of four immigration programs administered by the Department of Homeland Security:  the EB-5 Regional Center Program; the E-Verify Program; the Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker Program; and the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program; and

S. 3552, the "Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2012," which reauthorizes and modifies fee collection provisions and related authorities in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

S. 3625, which delays requirement, with certain exceptions, that financial disclosure forms of employees of the Executive and Legislative Branches be made available on official websites until December 8, 2012; and specifies that, beginning January 1, 2013, periodic transaction reports of Legislative and Executive Branch employees must include transactions of their spouses or dependent children. 

Malmö Jewish Community Center Firebombed

Simon Wiesenthal Center Calls for Permanent Police Presence at Malmö Jewish Institutions and Other Endangered Communities Across Europe

Paris, 28 September 2012

An explosion occurred last night, after midnight, at the Malmö Jewish Community Center. The exact circumstances are currently under investigation.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center expresses its solidarity with the 700-member Jewish community and its Rabbi, who has been incessantly targeted.

Rabbi Kesselman and his children have been physically and verbally assaulted some fifteen times in the last year. This Yom Kippur, his newly purchased car was vandalized with engravings including "Palestina".

Subsequent to a firebombing of the synagogue, assaults on a pro-Israel demonstration and a series of other anti-Semitic incidents, the Wiesenthal Center met in December 2011 in Malmö with the Mayor, law enforcement officials, the Jewish community and Muslim and Roma leaders.

The Centre's Associate Dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper and its Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, also met with Swedish Justice Minister, Beatrice Ask in Stockholm, (pictured) seeking a commitment to providing physical security for Jewish institutions. 

The Centre also advised the Minister that - due to the continued provocations of Malmö Mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, in constantly introducing the Middle East conflict into local discourse and thereby exacerbating tensions among the 70,000 Muslim community - it was imposing a travel advisory on Malmö. 

Samuels, in March 2011, accompanied President Obama's Special Envoy on Anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, to meetings with Muslim and other minority leaders in the city. 

At a Malmö University conference on hate crime, Samuels also explained, "The Center's concern that Malmö had become a microcosm of contemporary threat to Jews, and serves as a case model for anti-Semitic hate-mongering beyond Sweden."

The Center felt vindicated in that physical security of the synagogue is now partly provided by the central government in Stockholm. "Yet the Mayor's continued indifference, the ban on cameras due to privacy considerations and the lack of a police presence has not prevented this new attack. The Wiesenthal Centre was now again appealing to Stockholm to provide permanent police surveillance as in other endangered communities across Europe."

The explosion was apparently heard several blocks away and cracked the bullet-proof main door of the Jewish Community Center. "Such damage required sufficient expertise to fabricate a device that, though primitive, sets a precedent for more sophisticated explosives.

"We are grateful that, this time, there were no casualties and understand that two suspects have been detained. We are monitoring the situation and, especially, the reaction of the Mayor. Whether it was Ahmadinejad's Yom Kippur hate-speech at the United Nations or local sentiment fed by Islamist or other racist websites, we await rigorous condemnation and expressions of sympathy from Muslim leaders and a prompt prosecution of the perpetrators. In the meantime, the Center's travel advisory remains in place," concluded Samuels.

Editor's note: In May, From The G-Man published a news story that shed light on the racial upheaval engulfing the Swedish city of Malmö. The article can be read here.

West Wing Week: 09/28/12

This week, the First Lady spoke at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Dinner, We the People turned one year old, and the President addressed the UN General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative.

NBC News Team: Where the Race is Headed

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'60 Minutes' Preview: The Longest War

September 27, 2012 6:51 PM
Eleven years after 9/11, Lara Logan talks to the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen and to Hamid Karzai, the country's president, in frank interviews about what is, and what is not, working in the war.

Polls: Romney Lagging in Key States

CBS News political director John Dickerson talks to Norah O'Donnell about recent polls, the impact of the upcoming presidential debates, and how early voting affects the candidates.

Elections for Sale

Posted: September 26, 2012
Bill Moyers and Trevor Potter discuss how American elections are bought and sold, who covers the cost, and how the rest of us pay the price.

Prime Minister Netanyahu United Nations General Assembly Address

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He called for global action against Iran's nuclear program and said the world had until the next summer to stop weapons development. He used a diagram of a cartoon-like bomb to show the progress Iran had made, saying it had already completed the first stage of uranium enrichment. He then he pulled out a red marker and drew a red line across what he said was a threshold Iran was approaching and which Israel could not tolerate.

Top Newsy Headlines: NFL Refs Get Standing Ovation

Sources:HLNFox NewsCNNBBC 

By Nathan Byrne

Anchor: Logan Tittle

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Anti-Islam Filmmaker Arrested for Breaking Probation

Los Angeles TimesThe Smoking Gun 

By Zach Toombs

Anchor: Zach Toombs

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Minneapolis Workplace Shooting Kills At Least 5


By Charles McKeague

Anchor: Logan Tittle

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Today in History: September 28th

Highlights of this day in history: Ariel Sharon visits Jerusalem's Temple Mount; The American Revolution's last battle begins; William the Conqueror invades England; First round-the-world flight ends; Jazz great Miles Davis dies. (Sept. 28)

Netanyahu Warns UN of Iranian Threat

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, has warned the United Nations that Iran is nearly 90 per cent complete in its efforts towards developing a nuclear weapon. As a visual aid, Netanyahu used a cartoon illustration to draw what he called a "red line" on the Islamic Republic's atomic programme. Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Spain Unveils 2013 Austerity Budget

Spain has announced its austerity budget for 2013, against a backdrop of a falling economy and 25 per cent unemployment rate. Madrid is expected to outline a further $50bn worth of savings, tax rises, and structural reforms. Al Jazeera's Simon McGregor-Wood reports from Madrid.

Vietnamese Scientists Seek Bird Flu Vaccine

Scientists in Vietnam are trying to develop a vaccine for poultry, to fight a new strain of bird flu. The disease is spreading quickly among ducks and chickens. So far there have been no human infections. Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay reports from Hanoi.

How Somalia is Addressing its Challenges

Kenyan and Somali troops have taken control of parts of the last al-Shabab stronghold in Somalia's port city of Kismayo. Earlier, the United Nations called for continued support of Mogadishu's new government. Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey sat down with Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the Horn of Africa country's prime minister, to discuss the challenges facing Somalia.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kabul - A City of Hope and Fear

With the U.S. set to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in 2014, what does the future hold for the country's capital?

Camillus Park Volunteers To Be Named First 'Canal Ambassadors'

Responsibilities Will Include Welcoming Tourists and Conducting Tours

New York - Volunteers at the Erie Canal Park in Camillus will be designated as the first “Canal Ambassadors” at an event at 11:30 a.m. Friday, September 28.

Canal Ambassadors will be designated across the state by the New York State Canal Corporation to help canal communities welcome tourists, maintain parks and waterfronts, and give tours of historic facilities, and volunteer at festivals and events.

Contact John Callaghan at (518) 265-9079 for more information.

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Cuomo Touts First Year of Property Tax Cap as Successful

"It is Clear That the Property Tax Cap Has Been a Tremendous Success..."

A report has been released on the first year of the state's property tax cap. The report found that in the cap's first year, it succeeded in holding average property tax growth to 2 percent – 40 percent less than the previous ten-year average. 

"The promise of a new New York was based on a simple idea: to return our state government to the people of this state and to the taxpayers," Governor Cuomo said.

"For years, out of control spending drove property taxes higher and higher, forcing families and businesses out of our state. New York had no future as the tax capital of the nation, and last year people in all corners of the state came together to help us put in place the property tax cap which empowers communities to take control of their own spending and tax levies. One year later, it is clear that the property tax cap has been a tremendous success, saving hard-earned money for New York families while ensuring that local governments learn to do more with less."

When the Governor took office, local property taxes were higher in New York than anywhere else in the country.

The median property tax paid by a homeowner in New York ($4,090) was twice the national median ($2,043), and when property taxes were accounted as a percentage of home value— thirteen of the fifteen highest-taxing counties in the country were in New York. 

Recognizing that rapid growth in already-high property taxes was fueling New York's negative tax climate reputation and driving families and businesses from the state, the Governor introduced the state's first-ever property tax cap shortly after taking office, and it passed the Legislature in June 2011.

The cap limits increases in school and local property taxes to two percent a year, or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, with narrow limited exemptions. 

Carefully constructed based on lessons learned from other states, the cap empowers citizens to scrutinize the taxes that they have to pay and take control of local spending decisions and tax levies. 

The report issued today revealed that out of 3,077 local governments and school districts reporting a proposed levy in the past year, 84 percent reported a levy within the capped amount. Other highlights of the report include:

642 of 678 or 95 percent of school districts stayed within the cap. 

1,944 of 2,399 or 81 percent of local governments that reported a proposed levy stayed within the cap.

The cap has helped encourage school boards to propose lower tax increases. According to the report, 92.8 percent of school districts presented voters with budgets that were at or below allowable tax levy increases under the cap.

Of these, 99.2 percent were approved by the voters on the initial vote.

The cap also increased voter participation and communication between school boards and the voters. Fifty-two districts proposed budgets that exceeded the tax cap and required a 60 percent "supermajority" to pass. Of those 52 districts, 33 passed their budgets on first vote, and 18 others received approval on revote after reducing their proposed budgets. 

The data collected for the report show that local governments and school districts have begun a course toward more sustainable property tax growth. Even those school districts and local governments that elected to override the cap had proposed tax levies that were below average rates of increase for the past decades. 

Through increased public participation in the budget process, the cap has encouraged local governments to explore all avenues of reform and efficiency before they increase the local levy. 

The full report is available here.

16,000 New Yorkers Use New Voter Registration Website

Nearly 6,000 First-Time Voters Used Secure MyDMV Service

More than 16,000 New Yorkers – including almost 6,000 first-time voters – have used the Department of Motor Vehicle’s (DMV) new online voter registration service, according to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The initiative, announced August 16, streamlines DMV services by allowing New Yorkers -- for the first time ever -- to apply to register to vote, or update their address or party enrollment, through a secure online site.

To date, more than 16,000 New Yorkers have used the online system to register to vote or to change their address or party enrollment. Now, when processing any license transaction at DMV, customers may complete a voter registration application using the payment terminal devices that are used to swipe debit or credit cards.

This process, which started on August 7, will expand to every DMV office in the state next week.

"There is no doubt that this new initiative is helping New Yorkers become active participants in their government,” said Governor Cuomo.

“With election season upon us, it is more critical than ever that we eliminate any obstacles to voter registration and facilitate the process so that as many people as possible have a say in our democracy. New York State will continue to make government work more effectively and efficiently, so that it can better serve the people in the 21st century.”

The website can be found at and can be used by any New Yorker with a driver’s license or non-driver ID.

New York is ranked 47th in the nation in voter registration, with less than 64% of eligible residents registered to vote. 

The new system, which will also include digitized voter registration at electronic VeriFone terminals at New York’s 129 DMV locations, replaced the vast majority of paper forms and is designed to help centralize the digital transmission of voter registration applications and minimize errors in the system.

The measure is expected to save New York State more than $270,000 a year and more than $350,000 a year for the county Boards of Election (BOE).

In 2013, the MyDMV service will electronically transmit all voter information to the county Boards of Elections, significantly reducing entry times for those BOEs. 

The Governor’s office is currently working with other “motor voter” agencies to develop on-line registration options where possible, particularly for non-drivers. 

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'I Welcome the Historic Agreement That Was Reached Today...'

Statement by the President on the Deal Between Sudan and South Sudan

I welcome the historic agreement that was reached today between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan on a number of critical issues. This agreement breaks new ground in support of the international vision of two viable states at peace with each other, and represents substantial progress in resolving the outstanding security and economic issues between Sudan and South Sudan. The Sudanese and South Sudanese people who have suffered greatly through decades of conflict deserve the benefits of a lasting peace – a peace that can only be achieved through continued dialogue and negotiation, sustained implementation of the agreements reached to date, and steadfast work to resolve remaining issues.

I commend the resolute efforts of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, led by President Thabo Mbeki, for its leadership in shepherding this agreement. I also commend those international partners who have contributed to this peace process, particularly the chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union, and the United Nations.

The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan have chosen to take another important step on the path away from conflict toward a future in which their citizens can live in dignity, security, and prosperity. The United States is committed to working with both countries as they implement these agreements and as they seek to resolve those issues that remain outstanding.  We are hopeful that today’s deal can help spur broader progress on resolving the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, securing unfettered international humanitarian access in those areas, and bringing peace to Darfur.

Sudan and South Sudan Sign Landmark Deal

Sudan and South Sudan have signed an agreement on trade and security that should allow the resumption of oil exports. Oil is the main source of income for both countries - and has brought them to the brink of war. The Presidents of the two countries, South Sudan's Salva Kiir and Sudan's Omar al-Bashir signed the deal in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.   Imran Khan reports.

Panetta: Military's Struggle to Prosecute Rape is an 'Outrage'

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Editor's note: The word "failure", which was originally posted in this NBC News headline, has been replaced with the word "struggle". From The G-Man posted this story with the  original headline, but it has been altered to reflect the change made by NBC News.