Friday, November 30, 2012

West Wing Week: 11/30/12

This week, the National Christmas Tree arrived at the White House and holiday decorating got underway, while the President marked Small Business Saturday, and met with leaders of businesses large and small to discuss the importance of avoiding a middle class tax hike next year. He also welcomed the President-Elect of Mexico, his Cabinet, his science and technology council, and the 2012 American Nobel Laureates.

Vice President Biden Speaks at a Reception for Late Senator Warren Rudman

NYPD Officer: 'I Knew I Had to Help' Homeless Man

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Delta and JetBlue Drop Sandy Re-Booking Fees for Teachers

House Republicans rejected President Obama's plan to avoid the "fiscal cliff." Also, talks resumed in Calif. to end the strike that has shut down most of the nation's busiest port complex. Finally, Delta and JetBlue Airlines will drop flight change and re-booking fees for teachers and and families who had to change plans due to superstorm Sandy. Ashley Morrison reports.

Moyers Moment (2007): Benjamin Barber on Holiday Capitalism

Moyers & Company

Air Date: November 26, 2012
In this Moyers Moment from 2007, political theorist Benjamin Barber describes the holiday tradition of getting consumers to buy things they don't want or need.

Secretary Clinton on U.S. Foreign Policy

Air date: November 29, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about the foreign policy issues and trends likely to confront the U.S. during the year ahead. Of the Syrian civil war, she said that the Syrian opposition was “now capable of holding ground” and “better equipped” to bring the fight to the government, but stopped short of declaring the country at its “tipping point.” She also discussed the future of U.S. foreign policy and economic growth and Pacific Asia. In addition, she spoke about the various challenges in the Middle East, stating that the biggest challenge was getting “the big crises right.” 

'Post-Sandy Recovery: Legal and Tax Considerations'

Special Seminar Will be Hosted by Senator Addabbo and Assemblyman Goldfeder

Queens, NY – On Monday, December 3, New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and New York State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) will co-sponsor a seminar with local attorneys Brady & Marshak to discuss “Post-Sandy Recovery:  Legal and Tax Considerations.” 

Two sessions will be conducted: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m to 9 p.m. PS 146, located at 98-01 159th Avenue, Howard Beach, will serve as the host site.  Anyone interested in attending should contact Brady & Marshak at 718-738-8500.

The attorneys will cover important topics like recovering lost documents, navigating insurance claims,  and landlord/tenant issues -- commercial and residential.

Accountants Vincent Cervone and Dominick Maiorano will also be on hand to go over tax issues for homeowners and business owners.

For more information, call Senator Addabbo’s Middle Village office at 718-497-1630.

HSBC Jobs to be Retained Through PHH Mortgage Corp. Expansion

Up to $3 Million in State Funding Leverages $35 Million Private Investment

PHH Mortgage Corporation will move forward with a $35 million expansion plan in Amherst, Erie County that will retain 400 jobs that were in jeopardy of being lost after HSBC Bank announced major job reductions last year. 

To help facilitate the job retention and expansion, New York State will provide up to $3 million in incentives through Empire State Development, tied to both the retention of the 400 HSBC jobs as well as the creation of up to an additional 400 jobs at PHH Mortgage's Western New York facility.

As part of the agreement between HSBC Bank USA, N.A. (“HSBC”) and PHH Mortgage, HSBC will outsource its mortgage processing and servicing business to PHH, and transfer 400 former HSBC employees to PHH Mortgage. 

"Last year, when HSBC announced that they would cut thousands of jobs – including hundreds of positions here in New York – the state and our business community quickly stepped up to the plate to preserve the jobs at retail banks," Governor Cuomo said.

"Today's action by PHH Mortgage, assisted by up to $3 million in state resources as well as local support, is a big victory for Western New York, allowing 400 HSBC employees to keep their jobs and enable the potential hiring of hundreds more over the next years. This announcement demonstrates that New York State once again is open for businesses to grow and expand, and is another example of the state working in partnership with the private sector to leverage major investments and job creation."

”We are excited to partner with HSBC and thrilled to welcome many HSBC employees to the PHH Mortgage team,” stated David Tucker, President of PHH Mortgage.

“The outstanding workforce in Erie County is a key reason we decided to remain in this area, and as our relationship with HSBC thrives, we look forward to building on our presence. I would like to thank the State of New York and the Amherst Industrial Development Agency for welcoming PHH Mortgage and supporting our plans to do business here.”

PHH Mortgage had considered locations in other states to accommodate its future growth. After meeting with state and local officials, the company chose to locate to an approximately 100,000 square foot facility on Wehrle Drive in Amherst that will be built specifically for the company.

New York State will provide up to $3 million in Excelsior tax credits while the Amherst IDA will provide an estimated $1,312,500 in sales tax savings.

The expansion project will begin in 2013 with PHH Mortgage occupying temporary space until the proposed facility is complete in the fourth quarter of 2013. 

Amherst IDA Executive Director James J. Allen noted, “Cooperation and confidentiality between several levels of elected government and agencies were critical to secure PHH Mortgage’s investment in the region. The Amherst IDA was pleased to partner with New York State, Erie County, the Town of Cheektowaga and Village of Depew on a project that highlights our competitive position of having a highly skilled workforce for prominent financial services companies like PHH Mortgage.”

In May 2012, it was announced that HSBC had entered into a strategic relationship with PHH Mortgage to manage its mortgage processing and servicing operations, which is currently located at a facility on Walden Avenue in Depew.

After extensive review, PHH determined that it could not remain at the present site and undertook a property search as it needed a larger facility to meet its expansion needs. PHH Mortgage projects the need for a large facility to house approximately 400 employees it will shift from Depew, once the transaction with HSBC is complete in 2013, along with plans to add additional new jobs in the future.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, “Creating additional jobs in the financial sector will create tremendous opportunities for the Western New York workforce. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, the state is working harder than ever to show companies like PHH Mortgage that New York State is the right place to invest and grow its business.” 

Today in History: November 30th

Pink Floyd releases its best-selling album "The Wall"; Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Dick Clark born; World Trade Organization's meeting met by 40-thousand protesters.

M23 to Withdraw from Goma

The leader of the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo has told Al Jazeera his men will leave their stronghold of Goma on Friday. The withdrawal is one of the conditions for talks with the government in Kinshasa. But few on the ground are convinced that the fighting is over. Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri reports.

Palestinians Celebrate U.N. Victory

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court say they will study what a Palestinian status upgrade at the UN will mean for future war crimes tribunals. It's one of the real implications for what's seen by many as a largely symbolic victory for the Palestinians. But for now, people in the West Bank and Gaza are celebrating, as Nadim Baba reports.

Mexico's Drug Wars Hurting Tourism

Mexico inaugurates a new president as it welcomes back a party that ruled the country for nearly 70 years. President Pina Nieto will also have to deal with a drug war that has killed more than 60,000 people. Acapulco was once top tourist destination, but as Al Jazeera's Rachel Levin reports, it has become the second deadliest city in Mexico.

U.S. Court Asked to Settle Gay Marriage Issue

The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are widely expected to decide in a private meeting to enter the legal fray raging over same-sex marriage. An announcement to take a case could come as early as Friday afternoon or Monday morning. Thirty-one of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage while Washington, D.C., and nine other states have legalized it. There is a growing demand to settle the matter on a nationwide scale. Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey reports.

Polar Ice Melt 'Accelerating'

A group of scientists has discovered that polar ice is melting three times faster than it was twenty years ago. More than 20 polar research teams that have been studying ice in Greenland and Antarctica say the melting is already causing sea levels to rise. Emma Hayward reports.

Wikileaks Founder 'Needs Medical Attention'

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is in urgent need of medical treatment and needs to be allowed to visit a hospital, according to officials at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Assange has been taking refuge in the building since June, in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning in relation to sexual assault allegations. He denies those allegations, and says that he is concerned that he could be further extradited from Sweden to the United States to face charges connected to the leaking of confidential US government and military information. Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports from London.

Deadly Cough Syrup Leaves 19 Dead in Lahore

At least 19 people have died after drinking toxic cough syrup in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. The deaths have raised questions over the poor regulation of the country's medical industry. Doctors in Lahore, for example, say that the number of drug inspectors there has remained the same for the last 40 years, despite a massive increase in the population during that time. Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports from Lahore.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

White House Briefs

The Showdown Over Susan Rice Continues

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U.N. Votes to Upgrade Palestinian Status

Overwhelming majority of states vote to give Palestinians non-member observer status, despite Israeli criticism.

Politics in Action: S. 3254


S. 3254 – National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013

(Sen. Levin, D-MI)

The Administration appreciates the Senate Armed Services Committee's continued support for our national defense and supports a large number of the provisions in S. 3254, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013, such as its support for both the base budget and for overseas contingency operations; the Administration's initiative to modernize the military retirement system; and authorities that enhance the Department of Defense's (DOD's) ability to operate in unconventional and irregular warfare, counter unconventional threats, or support contingency or stability operations.  However, while there are numerous areas of agreement with the Committee, the Administration has serious concerns with provisions that: (1) depart from the President's FY 2013 Budget request; (2) constrain the ability of the Armed Forces to carry out their missions consistent with the new defense strategy; and (3) limit key authorities of the Executive.  If the bill is presented to the President for approval in its current form, the President's senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill.  The Administration strongly supports the overall goals of this legislation and looks forward to working with the Congress to address these and other concerns, a number of which are outlined in more detail below, and eventually signing this important legislation.

Detainee Matters:  The Administration strongly objects to section 1031's restrictions on the use of funds to transfer detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries.  When he signed past versions of this legislation, the President objected to the restrictions carried forward by section 1031, promised to work towards their repeal, and warned the Congress that the restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries would in certain circumstances interfere with constitutional responsibilities committed to the Executive Branch.  Since these restrictions have been on the books, they have limited the Executive's ability to manage military operations in an ongoing armed conflict, harmed the country's diplomatic relations with allies and counterterrorism partners, and provided no benefit whatsoever to our national security.  The Administration continues to believe that restricting the transfer of detainees to the custody of foreign countries in the context of an ongoing armed conflict interferes with the Executive's ability to make important foreign policy and national security determinations, and would in certain circumstances violate constitutional separation of powers principles.  The Administration also continues to oppose the prohibition on funding to construct, acquire or modify a detention facility in the United States to house any individual detained at Guantanamo, which shortsightedly constrains the options available to military and counterterrorism professionals to address evolving threats.  The restrictions carried forward by section 1031 were misguided when they were enacted and should not be renewed. 

TRICARE Fees and Co-Payments:  The Administration strongly encourages the Senate to adopt its requested TRICARE fee initiatives that seek to control the spiraling DOD health care costs while keeping retired beneficiaries' share of these costs well below the levels experienced when the TRICARE program was implemented in the mid-1990s.  The projected TRICARE savings of $1.8 billion in FY 2013 and $12.9 billion through FY 2017 are essential for DOD to successfully address rising personnel costs.  DOD needs these savings to balance and maintain investments for key defense priorities. 

Structure of the Air Force:  The Administration strongly objects to Title XVII, which would place limitations on funding to be used to divest, retire, or transfer units of the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve, in addition to creating a commission to study the appropriate makeup of the Air Force.  These provisions would force DOD to operate, sustain, and maintain aircraft that are in excess to national security requirements, as defined by the new defense strategy, and are not affordable in an austere budget environment. They also would impair the ability of the Secretary to manage the Department and, by retaining large numbers of under-resourced aircraft in the fleet in today's fiscally constrained environment, could contribute to a hollow force.

Reductions in Civilian and Contractor Workforce:  The Administration objects to section 341, which would reduce funding for the civilian and contractor workforce by a rate that is at least equal to the percentage of funding saved from the planned reductions in military personnel end strength.  This would require savings in the civilian and service contractor workforces in excess of $5 billion over planned savings through FY 2017.  The Administration believes the size of the civilian workforce should be determined based on workload and funding, not on arbitrary comparisons to the military.  To comply with this legislation, the Department would need to significantly divest workload and impose workforce caps.

Alternative Fuels:  The Administration strongly objects to sections 313 and 2823, which would limit DOD's ability to procure alternative fuels for military applications.  Section 313 is overly broad and has the potential to restrict investments by making price the sole factor in determining if DOD could use an alternative fuel, without any consideration of military capability, mission, or circumstances contributing to long-term energy security.  Section 2823 would limit DOD's ability to contribute to the development of a domestic capability to produce cost-competitive advanced drop-in biofuels at a commercial scale.  Such a capability, pursued in collaboration with the Departments of Agriculture and Energy, would help insulate the Nation, as well as the military, against potential supply disruptions.

Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS):  The Administration strongly objects to section 236, which would prohibit the use of funds for the MEADS program.  If the Congress does not appropriate FY 2013 funding, there is a high likelihood that this action would be perceived by our partners, Italy and Germany, as breaking our commitment under the Memorandum of Understanding.  This could harm our relationship with our allies on a much broader basis, including future multinational cooperative projects.  It also could prevent the completion of the agreed Proof of Concept activities, which would provide data archiving, analysis of testing, and software development necessary to harvest technology from U.S. and partner investments in MEADS.

Missile Defense:  The Administration appreciates the support for DOD's air and missile defense programs as well as support for the Government of Israel's Iron Dome rocket system.

Replacement Project for Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building:  The Administration strongly objects to section 3111, which would require construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility to begin in 2013.  The Departments of Defense and Energy agree that, in light of today's fiscal environment, CMRR can be deferred for at least five years, and funds reallocated to support higher priority nuclear weapons goals.  An interim strategy will be implemented to provide adequate support to plutonium pit manufacturing and storage needs until a long-term solution can be implemented.  Further, S. 3254 would require funding for the CMRR in FY 2013 to be taken from other National Nuclear Security Administration priorities, creating undue risks for other parts of the program, including delays to critical infrastructure modernization, underfunding operations of the nuclear complex, and curtailing science, engineering, and key nonproliferation initiatives.  Finally, section 3111 specifies an operational date but caps total funding at the low end of the agency estimate, which may not be achievable.

Limitation on Reimbursement of the Government of Pakistan:  The Administration strongly objects to the certification requirements in section 1216.  These certification requirements – some of which require the Secretary of Defense to certify Pakistani cooperation on issues outside of his purview – are proposed at a particularly sensitive time and would severely constrict DOD's ability to respond to emergent war-time coalition support requirements, putting at risk the success of our campaign in Afghanistan. 

Cybersecurity:  The Administration objects to sections 925 and 929.  The provisions significantly limit the Administration's flexibility by specifying technical choices that do not allow the National Security Agency to most effectively execute its mission and take advantage of the economic and technological advantages of cloud and next generation technologies.  In particular, section 929 would, in effect, deny the use of an open source project for DOD and establish a dangerous precedent for the use of open source in general.

Unrequested Authorizations:  The Administration objects to the unrequested authorizations for the advance procurement of additional F/A-18E/F Navy fighter aircraft and for unneeded upgrades to the M-1 Abrams tank.  Funding these items in this fiscally-constrained environment would divert scarce resources away from more important defense programs.

Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq (OSC-I):  The Administration appreciates the Committee's full funding for the OSC-I.  However, section 1212 does not include the Administration's requested language that authorizes the OSC-I to conduct critical training and assisting activities for Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Counter-terrorism Service (CTS) personnel.  This authority is needed to continue supporting the Government of Iraq's efforts to address Iraqi Ministry of Defense and CTS capability gaps, which was authorized through the Iraqi Security Forces Fund.

Requirements and Limitations for Suspensions and Debarment Officials:  The Administration objects to section 881, which would impose an identical organizational structure and set of duties for each of the suspension and debarment programs operated by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).  The proposed restrictions would unnecessarily force DOD to make disruptive and costly changes to its existing programs – especially at the Army and DLA –that already are among the most active and effective in the Federal government in protecting taxpayers from fraud, waste, and abuse.  DOD should be allowed to retain the discretion to appropriately tailor its suspension and debarment programs so that they may operate in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Military Construction Funding for Guam:  The Administration strongly objects to the limitations imposed by section 2208 on the obligation and expenditure of United States and Government of Japan funds to implement the realignment of the U.S. Marine Corps units from Okinawa, to which the United States remains steadfastly committed.  The provision would unnecessarily restrict the ability and flexibility of the President to execute our foreign and defense policies with our ally, Japan.  In April 2012, the United States and Japan announced a new plan to implement the realignment of U.S. forces from Okinawa to Guam.  Prohibiting the use of funds could adversely impact the United States' ability to move forward on the new plan.  Additionally and separate from the section 2208 restrictions, the Administration has serious concerns over the lack of authorization of appropriations for essential upgrades to the fuel pipeline from Apra Harbor to Andersen AB, theater-wide strategic capability.  The reduction of $233 million would impede the implementation of our new defense strategy, which calls for an increased focus on the Asia-Pacific region. 

Electro-Optical Imagery:  The Administration objects to section 930, which would require the Administration to sustain the commercial imagery program through FY 2013 at a funding level that is significantly above the President's request.  The plan reflected in the President's Budget results in an approximately 50 percent cost reduction while keeping about 75 percent of the planned capacity growth.  This option represents the best value for the government.

Incremental Funding:  The Administration strongly objects to the use of incremental funding for the Space-Based Infrared System satellites and the VIRGINIA class attack submarine because incremental funding undermines program stability and cost discipline.  Although the Administration supports the underlying programs, the requested full funding and advance appropriations is preferred.

Military Personnel:  The Administration appreciates the inclusion of the requested 1.7 percent military pay raise and the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.   However, congressional support for the Administration's force management proposals is also critical.  Maintaining readiness, while responsibly reducing our force structure, will be a major challenge in the years ahead.  Enacting the force management proposals, which will provide a key tool in achieving the necessary force drawdown, will give DOD flexibility to create a more agile force, ensure DOD retains the right skills, and preserves the morale of the all-volunteer force.

National Language Service Corps:  The Administration has concerns with section 941 and looks forward to working with the Congress to address those concerns.

Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health:  The Administration supports section 711, which would include the rape and incest exception to the general prohibition on using appropriated funds to perform abortions under section 1093(a) of Title 10.  The inclusion would make this provision consistent with other major abortion funding restrictions in Federal law.  In addition, the Administration supports the restoration of policy to ensure that servicewomen and military dependents – including servicewomen stationed overseas – have the ability to obtain abortion services using their own, private funds.

A number of the bill's provisions raise additional constitutional concerns, including separation of powers.  The Administration also looks forward to working with the Congress to address these and other concerns.

Obama, Romney Have Lunch at the White House

Discussed America's Leadership Role in the World

This afternoon, President Obama and Governor Romney visited for an hour over lunch in the Private Dining Room adjacent to the Oval Office.  

Governor Romney congratulated the President for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years. 

The focus of their discussion was on America's leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future.  

They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.  

Their lunch menu included white turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad.  

Actions Taken to Expedite Sandy-Related Insurance Claims

DFS to Publish Online Report Cards Detailing Each Insurance Company’s Performance

After meeting with top insurance company executives this week, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a series of measures to expedite the payment of claims for New Yorkers affected by Hurricane Sandy and launched a new online report card system,, to hold insurance companies accountable.

At the Governor’s direction, the Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued a new regulation that will cut by more than half the amount of time insurers have to send adjusters to homes and businesses to inspect claims, thereby helping consumers receive their payments sooner.

In addition, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order that will allow for expedited, temporary licenses to be issued to qualified out-of-state public insurance adjusters, increasing the number of adjusters available to New York consumers to help get their claim settlements faster.

Finally, at the Governor’s direction, the DFS will publish report cards assessing insurance companies’ performance in responding to the disaster and paying claims. The report cards will be published on a new website,, which the Governor launched today. The website will be updated regularly.

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it is vital that New Yorkers receive their claim settlements as soon as possible, so that they can rebuild their homes, businesses and lives,” said Governor Cuomo.

“There simply is no substitute for speed when it comes to insurance payouts after a storm. We must do everything possible to make sure we hold insurance companies accountable to their customers. Today’s actions do just that.”

Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services, added, “The performance of insurance companies after a storm like Sandy is incredibly important. Homeowners and businesses have the right to know how their insurers are performing and how quickly the companies are handling claims.”

Governor Cuomo also announced today that, at his direction, DFS Superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky will continue the moratorium barring insurance companies from cancelling or terminating homeowners’ and small business owners’ insurance policies in storm stricken areas for any reason, including non-payment of premiums, for an additional 21 days through December 15.

This executive order and moratorium applies to residents and business owners in Bronx, Kings, Nassau New York, Orange, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties. 

The Governor’s order also extends the time the Superintendent may deny applications by licensed mortgage bankers or registered mortgage brokers to open branch offices and temporarily suspends a requirement involving community development investments.

Launches Online Report Card System of Insurance Companies

At the Governor’s direction, DFS Superintendent Lawsky launched an online report card system concerning insurance companies who are operating in the areas that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. This action will hold insurance companies accountable to consumers and allow New Yorkers to see the performance of their insurance company compared to other companies.

The report cards will be published on the DFS website and will be frequently updated. They will be available today at

Among other criteria, insurance companies will be graded on: number of claims and dollar amount of claims; average time for an adjuster to inspect; number of claims closed with and without payment so far; amount of claims paid so far; total number of consumer complaints; and the number of complaints as a percentage of number of claims.

DFS will be publishing report cards on the following companies: Nationwide, Liberty Mutual, Hartford, FM Global, Allstate, Chartis/AIG, State Farm, USAA, Utica National, Zurich, Metropolitan, Narraganset Bay Insurance Company, QBE, Arch, New York Central Mutual, Amtrust Financial, Travelers, Tower, Adirondack Insurance Exchange, Chubb, GEICO, Andover, Assurant and NYPIUA.

New Regulation to Speed Up Timeframe for Claim Investigation

The new regulation issued by Governor Cuomo will shorten the timeframe in which insurers must send an adjuster to inspect a claim. This action will help insurance companies process the claims faster and pay out claims to consumers sooner.

Starting today, the new regulation will require insurance companies to start investigating claims in six business days after the claim is made to the insurer, rather than 15 business days under current rules.

The new rule applies to Storm Sandy. In addition, the regulation makes clear that to protect health and safety, other than for policies issued under the national flood insurance program, claimants can commence immediate repairs to heating systems, hot water systems, and necessary electrical connections, as well as exterior windows, exterior doors, and, for minor permanent repairs, exterior walls, in order to enable properties to retain heat.

Executive Order To Expedite Claims

The Governor’s executive order will authorize qualified, out-of-state public adjusters, whose job is to advocate on behalf of homeowners, to obtain temporary licenses to work in the state. Currently there are more than 16,800 out-of-state adjusters who have received temporary licenses to work on behalf of insurance companies, which more than double the amount of adjusters working for insurers in New York State.

DFS has been allowing more insurance adjusters to operate in the state so that insurance companies will be able to assess and pay out claims in a timelier manner and help New Yorkers affected by Hurricane Sandy rebuild.

The new order will allow the licensing of temporary public adjusters, who work on behalf of a policyholder to negotiate a claims settlement on the consumer’s behalf.

To qualify, out-of-state public adjusters must: apply for a temporary license with DFS; have a valid insurance license that has not been revoked in the last 10 years; have not been convicted of or plead guilty to any crime in the U.S. in the last 10 years; and have not been accused of fraud or unethical conduct in the U.S. in the last 10 years.

DFS Offering Insurance Assistance

Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services, announced representatives of the Department of Financial Services will be at five locations in New York City and Long Island to offer help to homeowners, renters and business owners with insurance-related issues stemming from damage caused by Storm Sandy.

The Department’s representatives will be available to meet with residents inside the agency’s Mobile Command Center, which will be stationed at these locations:

Suffolk County: Friday, Nov. 30 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lindenhurst Library, 1 Lee Ave. in Lindenhurst.

Queens: Saturday, Dec. 1 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fort Tilden Park, 1-119 Rockaway Point Blvd. in Breezy Point.

Brooklyn: Sunday, Dec. 2 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Coffey Park – Redhook, 85 Richards St.

Monday, Dec. 3 and Tuesday, Dec. 4 – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 2109 Gerritsen Ave. in Gerritsen Beach.

Staten Island: Wednesday, Dec. 5 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hurricane Relief Event at 4212 Hylan Blvd.

Department representatives will help citizens contact their insurers if they have been unable to do so and answer questions about homeowners’, renters’ and business owners’ insurance coverage.

Citizens unable to go to the Mobile Command Center are encouraged to call the Department's storm hotline (800) 339-1759 which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Insurance information is also available on the Department's website,

President Obama on Extending Tax Cuts for the Middle Class

'We Have Made Great Strides in Combating This Disease, and an AIDS-Free Generation is Within Sight'

Statement by the President on the Observance of World AIDS Day

This Saturday, December 1st, on World AIDS Day, we will come together as a global community to stand with people affected by HIV/AIDS, to remember those we have lost, and to renew our commitment to ending the pandemic once and for all.  We have made great strides in combating this disease, and an AIDS-free generation is within sight.  Here in the United States we are implementing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy and concentrating our efforts in communities where HIV rates are highest, including among gay men, Latinos, and African Americans. We are investing in comprehensive HIV prevention and care, including through the Affordable Care Act, to prevent infection and ensure that all people living with HIV have access to life-extending treatment.  Testing for HIV remains a top priority, and thanks to ongoing scientific advancements, finding out your HIV status has never been easier and treatment is more effective than ever. 

Today, I am pleased my Administration will make public new data that demonstrates we are on track to meet the ambitious treatment and prevention targets I announced on World AIDS Day a year ago.  As of today, we are treating over 5 million people with lifesaving medicines for AIDS, up from 1.7 million in 2008, and, as I pledged last year, we are on track to treat 6 million people by the end of 2013.  This year, we have also reached over 700,000 HIV-positive pregnant women with antiretroviral drugs that will prevent them from passing the virus to their children.  As we meet these new targets, we are joined by a growing number of countries and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who share our commitment to doing more so that more may live.  As we continue this important work with our partners around the world and here at home, let us remember the lives we have lost to AIDS, celebrate the progress we have made, and, together, recommit to ourselves to achieving our shared vision of an AIDS-free generation.

Image courtesy of

President Obama Holds a Cabinet Meeting

President Obama discusses the issues his cabinet will be working on in the coming weeks and months.

First Lady Previews the 2012 White House Holiday Decorations

First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes military families, including Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children, to the White House for the first viewing of the 2012 holiday decorations.

U.S. Brands Associated with Deadly Workshop Fire

Some famous American retail brands are now being associated with a deadly fire in Bangladesh. More than a hundred people died when a clothing factory burned to the ground last weekend. Caroline Malone reports.

White Supremacist Building New Compound in Idaho

Aryan Nations member Shaun Winkler is planning on building a new compound in the Hoodoo Mountains of Idaho to host white supremacist rituals and ceremonies. KREM's Ashley Korslien reports.

Sandy May Have Shut Down Rockaway Businesses For Good

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Politics in Action: H.R. 6429


H.R. 6429 – STEM Jobs Act of 2012
(Rep. Smith, R-Texas, and 68 cosponsors)

The Administration values reforms to attract the next generation of highly-skilled immigrants, including legislation to attract and retain foreign students who graduate with advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees; however, the Administration opposes House passage of H.R. 6429.  This legislation, if enacted, would allocate immigrant visas for advanced graduates of a limited set of STEM degree programs, would offer a limited number of visas for families through the "V" nonimmigrant visa program, and would eliminate the long-standing Diversity Visa program that makes immigrant visas available to certain individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  

The Administration is deeply committed to building a 21st-century immigration system that meets the Nation's economic and security needs through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform.  As a part of immigration reform, the Administration strongly supports legislation to attract and retain foreign students who graduate with advanced STEM degrees, to establish a start-up visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs to start businesses and create jobs, and to reform the employment-based immigration system to better meet the needs of the U.S. economy.  However, the Administration does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the President's long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.

The Administration is encouraged that the Congress appears to be ready to begin serious debate on the need to fix our broken immigration system and looks forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans to enact a common-sense approach that includes reforms to the legal immigration system.  Such an approach must provide for attracting and retaining highly skilled immigrants and uniting Americans with their family members more quickly, as well as other important priorities such as establishing a pathway for undocumented individuals to earn their citizenship, holding employers accountable for breaking the law, and continuing efforts to strengthen the Nation's robust enforcement system.

Mitchell-Lama Development Will Remain Affordable for 35 More Years

Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, HUD Secretary Donovan and Wells Fargo Announce Closing on $621.5 Million Deal   

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced the closing of a $621.5 million loan to the Co-op City development in the Bronx.

The Federal, State and City governments announced that their respective agencies have collaborated to jointly insure the mortgage loan made by Wells Fargo Bank, which will refinance Co-op City’s existing debt at historically low interest rates.

Under the terms of the loan, Co-op City, the largest Mitchell-Lama co-op that first opened to the public in 1968, will remain affordable to residents for 35 more years. 

“If it were an actual incorporated city, Co-op City would be the twelfth largest in our state -- and so it is hard to exaggerate the critical role it has played for over 40 years in keeping housing in New York State and New York City affordable,” said Governor Cuomo.

“I am proud and grateful that all levels of government were able to work effectively together to secure a deal that protects the middle and low-income New Yorkers who call Co-op City home.”

“Keeping Co-op City affordable and viable is great news not just for current tenants but for thousands of Bronx residents who need inexpensive housing options,” stated Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

“We have a long-standing commitment to preserving affordable housing for this generation and for the generations to come – that’s why we’ve set an ambitious goal to finance the creation and preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units by the end of 2014 under the New Housing Marketplace Plan. Thanks to Governor Cuomo and HUD Secretary Donovan for their partnership on this important project.”

“This is about preserving affordable housing for the next generation of families living and working in one of the nation’s highest cost rental markets,” added HUD Secretary Donovan.

“Working closely with the State of New York and New York City, we’re making certain that working families have a decent and affordable place to call home while saving private owners of affordable housing significant money that they can reinvest back into their properties.”

Alan Wiener, Managing Director of Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital, noted, “Wells Fargo is a proud partner in financing, protecting and keeping Co-op City affordable for decades to come. Structuring such a deal was not easy, but like most of the valuable community-based development that Wells Fargo does, the results are incredibly rewarding. Because of today’s historically low interest rates, our refinancing of its current debt will save Co-op City and its residents more than $150 million over the 14 year remaining term of the current loan and eliminate refinancing risk should interest rates rise. Wells would like to once again thank the Governor, Mayor and Secretary for making this important deal possible.”

The Wells Fargo loan to RiverBay Corporation, which controls Co-op City, is the largest ever insured under HUD’s 223(f) program, which protects lenders against loss on mortgage defaults at multi-family rental properties.

It is also the first time the program has been applied to a co-operative development. The Mortgage Insurance Fund of the State of New York Mortgage Agency (MIF/SONYMA, within New York State Homes and Community Renewal, or HCR) and New York City’s Housing Development Corporation (HDC) will provide credit support with $55 million and $15 million coverage of the loan, respectively. 

Loan proceeds will be used to prepay Co-op City’s current mortgage and complete capital projects currently underway, and for the first time provides for additional new reserves to address future capital needs, as well as to fund ongoing maintenance.

“The hard-working residents of Co-op City, uncertain about the long-term fiscal and physical health of their development, needed to know that their government was behind them. Today’s closing ensures that that is the case for many years to come,” said HCR Commissioner/CEO Darryl C. Towns.

Located in the Baychester section of the Bronx, Co-op City is situated on 330 acres located along the west bank of the Hutchinson River.

In addition to 35 residential structures, the site includes three shopping centers, a 25-acre educational park, eight parking garages, three elementary schools, two middle schools, a high school, a weather station, 14 gymnasiums, two swimming pools, 12 churches, six nursery schools and day care centers, four basketball courts, five baseball diamonds, numerous restaurants, and a power plant. 

New York State’s Mitchell-Lama Housing Program was first proposed by State Senator MacNeil Mitchell and Assemblyman Alfred Lama and was signed into law in 1955 by Governor William Averell Harriman.

Under the state’s Private Housing Finance Law, the program provided for the creation of affordable housing, both rental and co-operatively owned, for middle-income residents.
Developers received tax abatements and low-interest mortgages, subsidized by the federal, state, or New York City government.

In total, 269 housing developments with 105,000 units were developed with State aid under the Mitchell-Lama Program.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) consists of all the State's major housing and community renewal agencies, including the State of New York Mortgage Agency, the Affordable Housing Corporation, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the Housing Finance Agency, the Housing Trust Fund Corporation and others.

Since 2003, when Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan was launched, the NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has raised more than $6.7 billion in financing and contributed in excess of $1 billion in subsidy from corporate reserves for the creation or preservation of more than 60,000 affordable units in privately owned and managed multi-family affordable housing developments.

Free Mammograms Available in Woodhaven on December 1

Senator Addabbo poses with Multi-Diagnostic Services and American Italian Cancer Foundation staff during a mammography van visit to Woodhaven last year. (Click on image to enlarge.) 

Senator Addabbo: "Make an Appointment as a Holiday Gift to You and Your Family"

Queens, NY – On Saturday, December 1, between 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. in collaboration with the American Italian Cancer Foundation (AICF), is sponsoring a free Mobile Mammography Van with staff from Multi-Diagnostic Services (MDS.

The van will be stationed outside the Woodhaven Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 78-15 Jamaica Avenue, in Woodhaven.

Women ages 40 and over are urged to have a free screening for cancer and clinical breast exam. This is the 11th free mammography event the senator has coordinated for women in his district since October 2008. An appointment is necessary, so you are urged to place a toll free call to 1-877-628-9090.

“We know that early detection of breast cancer can save lives. Once again, I worked with the American Italian Cancer Foundation to bring their Mammogram Van to my district, offering free, vital health care services for women ages 40 and older, who have had no mammograms in the last 12 months, who either have no insurance, or are insured by Medicare, Medicaid or other health insurance, which will be billed for services,” explained Addabbo. 

For women without health insurance, services will be paid for by the Screening Partnerships of the New York State Cancer Services Program (NYS CSP) or through generous contributions by the American Italian Cancer Foundation’s donors.

“However, even insured women will not be charged a co-payment and will not receive a bill,” added the Senator. 

On the day of the Mammogram Van visit, women with Medicare, Medicaid, or other coverage provided by Medicare, Medicaid or almost any other health insurance must bring their membership card. 

For more details about the NYS CSP, call 866-442-CANCER (2262).

On the day of your appointment for a no-cost mammogram screening: wear a two-piece outfit; do not use any oil, powder, deodorant, or perfume in the breast, underarm or chest area; if you have Medicare, Medicaid or other health insurance, you must bring your card with you. 

In addition to a mammogram performed by a certified, licensed mammography technologist, professional medical services from Multi-Diagnostic Services (MDS) staff will include the following: 

Clinical breast exam and instruction in breast self-exam by a trained professional

Radiological interpretations performed by Board Certified Radiologists

Results will be sent to each woman and/or her doctor within 10 business days. You are urged to provide MDS staff with full name, address to send results to the doctor.

If you provide MDS staff with previous mammogram films, a comparison radiological study will be done, which in some cases eliminates the need for additional testing.

For more information about MDS, please call 1-877-628-9090. 

Senator Addabbo notes, “Give yourself and your loved ones an early holiday gift by making that appointment call for a free exam. I want to thank all the generous donors who have funded these American Italian Cancer Foundation’s Mobile Mammography screenings in my district: Avon Foundation Breast Health Outreach Program, National Breast Cancer Foundation, New York City Council, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, The Greater NYC Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, and the New York State Department of Health.”

Photo courtesy of the office of Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr.