Friday, July 17, 2015

'Veep Talk': Biden and Poroshenko Discuss MH17 Tragedy and Upcoming Elections

Vice President Joe Biden spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The Vice President congratulated President Poroshenko on the Rada’s decision yesterday to support proposals for constitutional reform and decentralization in accordance with Ukraine’s obligations under the Minsk agreements as well as the Rada’s passage of reform laws in keeping with Ukraine’s IMF and World Bank programs. The two leaders agreed on the importance and urgency of seeking justice for the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 exactly one year ago, and the Vice President pledged U.S. support for the joint efforts of the governments of Ukraine, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, and Belgium to seek justice in this case. The two leaders also discussed Ukraine’s plans to conduct local elections in October and noted the obligations of Russia and Russia-backed separatists to allow elections to be held throughout Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in accordance with Ukrainian law and in keeping with OSCE standards.

From The G-Man received the following at 6:45 p.m.

Vice President Biden spoke with Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said of Oman today to express his and President Obama’s gratitude for the Sultan’s support of the nuclear negotiations with Iran that resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Vice President also thanked the Sultan for Oman’s role in helping to advance a political settlement in Yemen. Both leaders pledged continued close cooperation between the United States and the Sultanate of Oman to advance regional peace and stability

Source: The White House Press Office

Nelson Mandela: The 25th Anniversary of His New York City Visit


This meeting, held in New York and chaired by Ted Koppel of ABC Networks, formed part Nelson Mandela's first visit to the USA immediately following his release after 27 years in prison.

Much of the meeting focused on Nelson Mandela's advocating of sanctions against Apartheid South Africa, his support for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as well as his close friendship with Yasser Arafat (of Palestine) and Fidel Castro (of Cuba).

It is important to note that this meeting took place in 1990, long before the world embraced Nelson Mandela or the ANC, yet, even then, Mandela stood firm and resolute on his and the ANC's policies even though it could have "hurt" his and the ANC's "image", for example his support for the Palestinian and Cuban people.

President Obama Meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir

Today, President Obama met in the Oval Office with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir to discuss a range of regional and bilateral issues.  They welcomed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between the P5+1, EU and Iran on July 14 which, once fully implemented, will effectively cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and verifiably ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful going forward.  Following on the Camp David meetings with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders, they discussed efforts underway to further enhance the close and long standing partnership between our two countries and build Saudi Arabia's security capabilities, noting that Secretary of Defense Carter’s visit to Saudi Arabia next week will advance those discussions.

They also reviewed efforts to jointly address and seek to resolve regional crises.  They discussed the urgency of stopping the fighting in Yemen and the importance of ensuring that assistance is reaching Yemenis in need through international humanitarian channels without any impediments or delays.  They discussed cooperation to reach a genuine political solution in Syria.  They also reaffirmed our mutual commitment to reinforce efforts to support Iraq and continue the coalition's work in the counter-ISIL campaign.  The President asked Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir to convey his best wishes to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Source: The White House Press Office

Dr. Jill Biden Travels to Seoul to Highlight Women’s Empowerment

Dr. Jill Biden is traveling to Seoul, Republic of Korea for her first stop on a four-country visit to Asia to engage government and civil society partners on issues related to economic empowerment and educational opportunities for women and girls. She will also participate in events in Japan as part of her Joining Forces initiative to support service members, veterans, and military families. Dr. Biden is joined by Catherine Russell, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues; Scot Marciel, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs; and Christie Vilsack, Senior Advisor for International Education, USAID.

Upon arrival in Seoul on Saturday, Dr. Biden will visit the Jinkwansa Temple, where she will meet with female monks and discuss the role they play in the lives of the community.

Later, Dr. Biden will meet with the Republic of Korea's Minister of Gender Equality and Family, H.E. Kim Hee-Jung, at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Following the meeting, Dr. Biden will deliver remarks at a reception hosted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, where she will highlight the power of education, the value of leadership roles and business opportunities for women in the workplace, and the importance of ensuring that women’s voices are heard in the political process.

On Sunday morning, Dr. Biden will depart Seoul, Republic of Korea en route Hanoi, Vietnam. 
Source: The White House Press Office 

Presidential Visit to El Reno Federal Correctional Institution

President Obama talked about his vision for reforming the criminal justice system and reducing the sentences of non-violent drug offenders. He delivered these brief remarks during a visit to El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. He was the first sitting president to visit a federal prison.

Hillary Clinton on Alzheimer's Disease

Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses Alzheimer's disease and caregiving at campaign stop in Dover, New Hampshire.

Clip created by MyC-SPAN user Christopher K Masak

Washington Journal: Paul Butler on Criminal Justice Reform

Georgetown University Professor of Law Paul Butler joins from New York City to discuss President Obama’s proposed reforms to the criminal justice system.

Source: C-Span 

CDC Alert Says Lyme Disease on the Move in 17 States

New Regulations to Strengthen Fight Against Synthetic Marijuana

Dangerous Drug Sent Nearly 2,000 New Yorkers
to Hospitals Between April 1 and June 30

Governor Andrew Cuomo today called for stronger Health Department regulations to combat the sale of synthetic cannabinoids in New York State. These dangerous, man-made compounds have resulted in a dramatic increase in hospital visits and poison control center calls. The sale and possession of dozens of synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts were banned by the Department of Health at the urging of Governor Cuomo in August, 2012. These new regulations will expand the existing list of banned substances to include new chemical compounds that drug producers have begun to make since 2012.

“This rash of medical emergencies is proof positive that these synthetic drugs are dangerous and a threat to public health,” Governor Cuomo said. “These new, stronger regulations will allow us to crack down on these harmful products and stop those who seek to skirt the law in order to sell these drugs and the misery that comes with them.”

Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as legal and typically consist of plant material coated by chemicals which are supposed to mimic THC, the active chemical compound in marijuana. Since 2012, the producers of synthetic cannabinoids have been attempting to skirt New York’s strict regulations by developing new chemicals not specifically identified in regulation. The new emergency regulations add two additional classes of compounds to the banned substances list, which potentially include hundreds of different hazardous chemicals and will be in effect upon approval by the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council and filing with the Department of State.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Synthetic marijuana poses a threat to the health and safety of all New Yorkers and we will continue to do all we can to get these drugs off the street. Too many people have fallen victim to synthetic marijuana. Updates to our regulations expand the chemical compounds banned in order to strengthen our fight against this illegal and dangerous industry.”

New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, “Synthetic cannabinoids can have dangerous and long-lasting effects on the brain. Symptoms often present as psychosis and erratic, potentially harmful behaviors. Those who smoke these man-made chemical concoctions can be in danger of hurting themselves or others while under their influence. These expanded regulations will help us identify these drugs and put a stop to the serious danger they present to New Yorkers.”

Over the past several months, hospitals and poison control centers have seen a dramatic increase in activity because of these drugs. From April 1 to June 30, New York State saw more than 1,900 emergency department visits and more than 680 poison control center calls due to reports of adverse health effects associated with synthetic cannabinoid use. This represents more than a tenfold increase over the same time period in 2014. Nationally, there have been 15 synthetic cannabinoid-related deaths reported to poison control centers during January through May 2015. No deaths have yet occurred in New York State.

In addition to these updated regulations, DOH and OASAS have continued to issue health advisories to hospitals, emergency departments, ICUs, urgent care centers, community health clinics, medical directors, nursing directors, and primary care providers in order to keep them updated on this growing public health threat, as well as provide information and resources that can be used when dealing with patients.

The dangerous drugs are marketed as incense, herbal mixtures, or potpourri in order to mask their true purpose. Street names for substances include Spice, K2, Green Giant, Smacked, Wicked X, AK-47, Geeked Up, Ninja, Caution, Red Giant, and Keisha Kole.

Users of the synthetic mixtures can never be certain in which ways the drugs will harm them, but users have experienced symptoms that include renal failure, death, agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, arrested heart rate, loss of consciousness and violent behavior. These effects can be similar to those of phencyclidine, or PCP.

An owner of an establishment as well as any other person possessing, distributing, selling or offering for sale prohibited synthetic drugs in violation of the regulations is subject to criminal penalties including a fine up to $500 and/or up to 15 days in jail. Civil penalties include a fine up to $2,000 per violation. DOH continues to partner with the New York State Police and other law enforcement agencies to crack down on the use of these synthetic drugs as they evolve.

The proposed regulations are available in their entirety here.

If you are aware of locations where these products are being manufactured, sold, or distributed, please call the Synthetic Drug Hotline at 1-888-99-SALTS (1-888-997-2587). Additional information on synthetic cannabinoids is available here.

New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can call or text the State’s toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline, 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369). 

The HOPEline is staffed by trained clinicians who are ready to answer questions and offer treatment referrals. Additional resources are available through the NYS OASAS website here. A list of addiction treatment providers is available here.

"Flashback Friday": Dan Rather - George Bush Showdown

From 1988, a live interview showdown between CBS anchor Dan Rather and Vice President George Bush.

Trailblazers in Black History: The Tuskegee Airmen

Today in History: July 17th

Planned Parenthood Video Raises Question: Why Use Tissue From Fetuses?

Activists who released a video they say shows a Planned Parenthood doctor discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses have riled up abortion-rights opponents, with House Speaker John Boehner saying the case makes him want to "vomit" and Republican-controlled committees in Congress promising to investigate.

The political firestorm raises a question: Why would anyone use tissue from an aborted fetus?

It's because some scientists hope they might provide cures for a range of diseases from Parkinson's to crushed spinal cords.

A Source of Stem Cells

Cells from embryos and very early fetuses have properties that fully developed cells do not. What most researchers are after if they use fetal tissue are the stem cells.

The term "stem cell" is confusing because it encompasses many different types of cells. There are the embryonic stem cells, which come from days-old embryos and which have the power to morph into any type of cell in the body - blood, brain, bone or organ. They can be difficult to direct and there's a whole industry devoted to orchestrating the growth and development of these cells into desired tissue types.

Families of Aurora Shooting Victims React to Verdict

Families who lost loved ones in the Aurora shooting react to Thursday's guilty verdict.

President Obama Offers Remarks on Chattanooga Shooting

Chattanooga Gunman Was Not on Terrorism Radar, Officials Say

The gunman who opened fire on two military centers in Chattanooga Thursday, killing four Marines and critically wounding a Navy sailor, was not in any federal terrorism database and was not under investigation before he carried out the rampage, several officials told NBC News.

Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, was killed after spraying dozens of bullets at a military recruiting center then driving to a Navy-Marine training center seven miles away where he got out of his car and shot the Marines. A police officer was also wounded and was being treated in the hospital, officials said.

One of the slain Marines was identified Friday as Thomas Sullivan, 40, originally from Springfield, Massachusetts.

A motive in the attack is unclear, but the FBI is investigating a disturbing blog that may yield clues. The SITE Intelligence Group said Abdulazeez posted three days before the shooting that "life is short and bitter" and the Muslims should not let "the opportunity to submit to Allah ... pass you by." The blog has not been confirmed by NBC News. 

Full article and accompanying videos available here: Chattanooga Gunman 

Source: NBC News

Family of Woman Who Died in Texas Jail Question Cause of Death

Authorities say Sarah Bland, 28, who hanged herself in a Texas jail cell three days after a traffic stop led to her arrest.

Ebola Vaccine Trials Enter Phase II

Source: Euronews

France Remains on High Alert After Arrests of Would-Be Jihadists

Published July 16, 2015

Source: Euronews

German Parliament Votes in Favour of Greece Bailout Talks

Source: Euronews

Greece: Banks to Reopen on Monday as Cash Lifeline is Announced

Source: Euronews

Dozens of Eid Shoppers Killed in Gombe Market Blasts in Nigeria

Source: Euronews

New Video Released on Anniversary of MH17 Disaster

Source: Euronews

Will Constitutional Reform Stem the Fighting in the East of Ukraine?

Source: Euronews

2,700 Migrants Rescued in 24 Hours in Italy

Source: Euronews

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Obama Meets With Inmates at Federal Prison

President Obama meets with a small number of prisoners Thursday at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma.

'Walking Dead's' David Morrissey Helps Save Desperate Refugees

"The Walking Dead" actor David Morrissey spoke to NBC News on Thursday about his work helping save the lives of desperate refugees arriving on the shores of southern Europe.

Morrisey, who played the Governor on the hit AMC series, gave the interview after a trip to the Greek island of Lesvos with the United Nations' Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, which involved a day on the water with the local life guard.

California's Drought is Worst In Over a Century, Analysis Shows

From the half-million acres of parched and idle farmland to the swaths of receding reservoirs, the signs of California's historic drought are obvious.

Less obvious is just how historic the ongoing drought actually is when compared with previous dry spells in the Golden State's history.

A CNBC analysis of annual Palmer Drought Severity Index recordings, founded by meteorologist Wayne Palmer as a way to factor in both precipitation and temperature to track soil moisture, shows the nearly four-year drought is in fact the worst in over a century. The PDSI is used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as its main drought index. 

Click on the graph to increase its size.
A PDSI recording of 0 reflects normal conditions, while -1 is considered to be the official drought threshold. Any recording of -4 and below signifies extreme drought.  

Full article and accompanying video available here: California Drought

Source: NBC News

President Obama on the Occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr

Michelle and I would like to extend our warmest wishes to Muslims in the United States and around the world celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr. As Muslims mark the end of the month, they are reminded that Ramadan is a time to reflect spiritually, build communally, and aid those in need. While Eid marks the end of Ramadan, it marks a new beginning for each individual – a reason to celebrate and express gratitude on this holiday.

For millions of Muslims, the morning of Eid is marked with the call to prayer echoing through cities and towns across the globe. Millions of people head to local mosques for special Eid prayers followed by festive gatherings, gift exchanges, and feasts among friends, neighbors and families. The diversity of traditions paint the vibrant images we see from around the world capturing the spirit and excitement of Eid – colorful dresses or white garments decorating the masses of people standing in lines for prayer, lanterns and ornaments lighting up bazaars and neighborhoods, intricate henna designs painted on hands of young girls and women, and an abundance of delectable foods and aromatic cuisines.

As Muslim Americans celebrate Eid across America, the holiday is a reminder to every American of the importance of respecting those of all faiths and beliefs. This past year New York City Public Schools announced adding Eid to their official school calendars alongside Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays – an acknowledgement of the great diversity and inclusiveness that adds to the richness of our nation. During this year’s White House Iftar, I had the opportunity to meet inspiring young Muslim Americans who are leading efforts for greater understanding and unity across diverse communities. Following the Iftar, one of the young attendees helped spearhead an effort that raised more than $75,000 for the churches burned in the wake of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Americans of all faiths and beliefs must stand together to protect our democracy and strengthen our country as a whole.

Michelle and I hope today brings joy to all of your homes, both here in the U.S. and around the world. From my family to yours, Eid Mubarak! 
Source: The White House Press Office

The President Launches ConnectHome Initiative

President Obama traveled to Durant, Oklahoma to launch ConnectHome, an initiative to bring high-speed Internet access to low-income communities.

Vice President Biden to Travel to Colorado and California

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Tuesday, July 21st through Thursday, July 23rd, the Vice President will travel to Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, California; and San Francisco, California to participate in a series of events focusing on the economy.  

Source: The White House Press Office

Statewide Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation and Abuse in New York

10-Agency Joint Task Force to Investigate and Focus on 14 Industries including Day Laborers, Farm, Domestic, Restaurant and Car Wash Workers

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced a first-of-its-kind statewide Task Force to root out worker exploitation issues in multiple industries in New York State. Building on the Governor’s groundbreaking initiative to protect workers in the nail salon industry, the Task Force will identify and halt illegal practices in more industries across the state. The Task Force is composed of 10 State agencies including the Department of State, Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture and Markets, and will work in partnership with an advisory committee that is charged with providing legislative, regulatory and administrative recommendations. The Governor made the announcement while in the Bronx signing legislation to protect and support nail salon workers in New York.

“If there is a state that is going to take a stand against worker exploitation, it is New York,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York offers a promise that our arms and hearts are open to those who come here to work and build a better future for themselves – and we will not tolerate worker exploitation, period. It’s not a Democratic or a Republican issue – it’s what we believe, and together we’re going to make this a reality.”

The multi-agency Task Force is a critical addition to New York's fight against worker exploitation and builds on the Governor's initiative protecting workers in nail salons. The Governor was joined today by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to sign legislation that helps protect nail salon employees from unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “The Assembly Majority has a long history of defending the rights of workers in every industry. In 2010 I was proud to have led the fight to give workers across this state a voice with the enactment of the Wage Theft Prevention Act. I am proud that today, we take that victory a step further and empower nail salon workers with the support, the oversight, and the knowledge they need to go to work each day in a safe environment and be paid fair wages for the labor they provide. Indeed, worker exploitation is pervasive problem across many industries. Governor Cuomo's Task Force will examine workers' rights and conditions across our state and I look forward to the recommendations.”

Senator Michael Venditto said: "This legislation strikes the right balance by protecting the employees of nail salons from exploitation as well as our consumers. It requires the registration of a new class of employees who are going to be called nail specialty trainees. By giving employees the proper training and protecting them from unsafe working conditions we can in turn give our consumers peace of mind.”

Assemblyman Ron Kim said: "I want to thank Governor Cuomo for stepping up to bring immediate improvements in the nail salon industry that provides tens of thousands of jobs to female immigrant workers. As the main sponsor of this three-way agreement in the Assembly, we worked non-stop for weeks to strike a fair balance in protecting workers, encouraging good operators, and rooting out bad owners. Governor Cuomo has been at the center of bringing legislators from all across this state to help working families, immigrant communities, and small business owners. He has shown great leadership in managing and leading the most diverse state in the nation. I look forward to working closely with him and his team on continuing to empower the exploitable workforces in the future.”

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said: “With the signing of this important legislation, New York is leading the way to end the mistreatment of workers in the nail salon industry. Just as important, we’re setting a precedent and taking steps forward through the creation of a Task Force to ensure that all workers are protected from exploitation. We thank the Governor for his leadership as well as the Senate and the Assembly for standing up for workers in the nail salon industry, and look forward to ensuring all workers are afforded the same dignity and respect on the job.”

Partnership for NYC President and CEO Kathryn Wylde said: “Governor Cuomo’s commitment to address conditions of worker exploitation is important to New York’s employers, most of who are committed to responsible treatment of workers. This task force offers an opportunity for the business community to help the Governor ensure that the laws, regulations and enforcement mechanisms are in place to prevent abuse of workers.”

32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa said: "We must protect workers in all facets of the economy, especially those who may be vulnerable to exploitation. Governor Cuomo is making clear that there is no room for malpractice among employers in the state, and those who violate the law will be subject to severe consequences. With these new laws to protect nail salon workers and a new task force to investigate exploitation across other industries, New York is moving forward in defense of unprotected workers.”

New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO President Vincent Alvarez said: "Today's announcement is a move to protect the rights and improve livelihoods of a segment of our workforce that is too often exploited. The creation of this task force sends a clear message that we will not tolerate worker mistreatment on any level. This is an example of the historic change that can be created through productive partnerships between the labor movement and government."

Retail Council President and CEO Ted Potrikus said: “One exploited worker is one too many, and today, we are taking important strides to ensure that no one in New York State is abused by their employer. From protecting nail salon workers with new laws, to launching a task force to investigate issues of exploitation in other industries, Governor Cuomo has been the strong, steadfast advocate for workers that we need. These actions will lead us to a safer and better state for employees across the spectrum.”

Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary Labarbera said: “For generations, the plight of abused workers went unnoticed – but no longer. Alongside Governor Cuomo and his new task force, we are giving a voice to those exploited workers and taking important steps to regulate industries that have for too long flown under the radar. The creation of this task force gives countless works hope for a brighter future, without unfair and inhumane business practices.”

NYCOSH Executive Director Charlene Obernauer said: “This legislation to protect nail salon workers is a great first step toward rooting out employers who abuse or disregard New York State’s labor laws, and the Governor’s new cross industry task force will keep that progress going for other workers as well. These actions by Governor Cuomo are moving closer to ensuring workers across the state –regardless of their industry –are paid in accordance with state law and treated with the dignity they deserve.”

Adhikaar Executive Director Luna Ranjit said: “Today is a great day for the cause of rights, dignity and safe working conditions for workers in New York State. From new laws to protect nail salon workers to the Governor’s new exploited worker task force, we are seeing important signs of progress from the Governor and his team. Now, nail salon employees can go to work knowing that they have rights to fair wages and humane conditions, and hopefully in the near future, every New Yorker can say the same.”

PowHer New York Founder Beverly Cooper Neufeld said: “When it became clear that exploitation and unsafe conditions were the norm for women who work in the nail salon industry, Governor Cuomo acted swiftly and decisively to put an end to that abuse. Now, with the announcement of this new task force, he’s acting preemptively to protect workers in other industries and rooting out problems before more damage can be done. The Governor’s leadership has once again placed New York at the forefront as an example for the rest of the nation to follow and we commend the Governor, the state legislature, and all the tireless advocates for taking this step to protect women and workers in New York.”

Minkwon Executive Director Grace Shim said: “With the successful passage of this bill, Governor Cuomo has shown that he is committed to protecting New York’s workers and working with many immigrant small business owners - so many of whom have come here to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones. We commend Governor Cuomo for his efforts to improve the industry throughout this state. We look forward to working closely with the Governor's new task force to build a better New York State for all.”

Make the Road Co-Executive Director Javier Valdes said: “Every worker should be treated with respect and dignity – which is why Governor Cuomo’s new task force is so important. By investigating cases of worker abuse and exploitation, the state can better crack down on businesses that take advantage of their employees. This will lead to a safer and better work environment, just as the new laws that the Governor signed today will do for nail salon workers, and we are proud to stand with the Governor in defending New York’s workers.”

Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation

The Task Force will begin by addressing issues that were discovered based on worker complaints directly to the State and referrals from advocacy organizations. Workers are often victimized through wage theft, human trafficking, retaliation, unsafe or unsanitary working conditions, unstable or unscheduled hours and illegal deductions for supplies, training or uniforms.

Anyone with information of suspected worker abuse should contact the Task Force Hotline at 1-888-469-7365. Callers can remain anonymous.

Enforcement efforts will focus on industries with the highest rates of employer non-compliance and where workers are least likely to come forward, for fear of retaliation. Specifically, industries were selected based on geographic or community isolation of the workforce within the industry, danger of the occupation based on reported death rates, state-wide investigator experiences, evaluation of high violation rates for complaints with a low number of complaints, prevalence of off the books employment by industry and statistics and percentage of the immigrant workforce in each industry. Initial target areas include industries such as:
· Nail Salons
· Farming
· Childcare
· Cleaning
· Home Health Care
· Laundry
· Restaurants
· Retail
· Construction
· Landscaping
· Car Washes
· Supermarkets
· Janitorial Services
· Truck and Waste Disposal Drivers

The Task Force will include representatives from state agencies including the Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of Health, Workers’ Compensation Board, Department of Tax and Finance, Department of Agriculture and Markets, Office of Children and Family Services, Office of Faith Based Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services and State Police. The agencies will have more than 700 investigators, including multilingual investigators who speak: Bengali, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Hindi, Haitian Creole, and Korean. Language access services will be available in all languages at all agencies.

The Task Force will work in partnership with an advisory committee that will meet monthly and is charged with providing legislative, regulatory and administrative recommendations to the administration. The committee will be charged with providing its first set of recommendations by December of this year to be considered for next year’s legislative session. Committee members include:

· Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU
· Esta Bigler, Cornell University ILR School
· Steve Choi, New York Immigration Coalition
· Anne Erickson, Empire Justice Center
· Hector Figueroa, 32BJ
· George Gresham, 1199
· Gary La Barbera, Trades
· Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union
· Dean Norton, Farm Bureau
· Lewis O. Papenfuse, Worker Justice Center
· Ted Potrikus, Retail Council of New York
· Javier Valdes and Deborah Axe, Make the Road New York
· Peter Ward, HTC
· Danny Wegman, Wegmans
· Kathy Wylde, NYC Partnership

Legislation to Protect Nail Salon Workers

Today, the Governor additionally signed legislation vital to protecting and supporting nail salon workers in New York. The bill was one of the Governor’s top priorities this legislative session and builds on the Governor's previous efforts to implement sweeping emergency regulations to protect the rights of workers in the industry.

The legislation signed today gives the Department of State the authority to shut down a business that is not following the law. The agency can cease unlicensed or uninsured activities and impose financial penalties at higher levels than was previously permitted in response to violations. In addition, unlicensed nail practitioners now have the ability to register with the state as trainees. This allows them to continue working while they study for their licensing exam, instead of solely relying on often prohibitively high-cost education program.

The legislation also implements new regulations for nail salons to address new bond and insurance requirements, improved personal protective equipment and required postings of any cease and desist notices that may be issued to a business found to be operating without a license and of a new Bill of Rights, available in 12 languages. Additionally, regulations are to be proposed with enhanced ventilation requirements and a review is under way of chemicals used in nails salons.

Included in the Governor's previous efforts include administrative changes to expand: availability of licensing exams through translations into in additional languages; access to free English classes; and availability of free training materials through the Department of State’s website.

Anyone with questions about nail salons or who is concerned about proper wages and safe working conditions should visit or contact the Task Force Hotline at (888) 469-7365. 

House Speaker Weekly Briefing

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) briefed reporters and responded to questions on his party’s legislative agenda.

Video link: HS Weekly Briefing 

Source: C-Span

House Minority Leader Weekly Briefing

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) briefed reporters and responded to questions on her party’s legislative agenda.

Video link: HML Weekly Meeting 

Source: C-Span

Hearing on the Role and Readiness of Federal Air Marshal Service

The Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security held a hearing on the Federal Air Marshal Service’s (FAMS) readiness for evolving threats. The witnesses were Roderick Allison, the director of FAMS, and Tim Canoll, the president of the Air Line Pilots Association. 

Video link: FAMS Hearing
Source: C-Span

Hearing on Fraud Detection on


Seto Bagdoyan, director of Forensic Audits at GAO, testified at a hearing on security concerns. The Website is the federally maintained portal through which taxpayers purchase health insurance plans via government exchanges created as part of the Affordable Care Act. Government Accountability Office reports had exposed potential weak points in the site, in particular relating to preventing fraud.

Source: C-Span

George H.W. Bush Hospitalized After Falling

The former president broke a bone in his neck after the incident at his home in Maine.

Trailblazers in Black History: Jesse Owens, Olympic Champion

Jesse Owens: Enduring Spirit chronicles the life and times of a Big Ten icon. This 30-minute documentary takes a look back at the trials and triumphs of one of Ohio State University's greatest athletes. Interviews featuring Bill Cosby, Archie Griffin, and Stephanie Hightower. 

This program debuted on the Big Ten Network on January 3, 2012.

Today in History: July 16th

Lyme Disease Is Spreading, Government Research Finds

Lyme disease is gradually spreading from the Northeast and becoming more common farther south and west, government researchers reported Wednesday.

A county-by-county look at the infections shows it's found in four times as many counties now as it was in 1993, a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

It's not clear why - experts say climate change, forest regrowth and the spread of deer might all be factors. What is clear is that many more people than before need to watch out for the ticks that carry the infection, CDC says.

"Over time, the number of counties identified as having high incidence of Lyme disease in the northeastern states increased more than 320 percent: from 43 (1993-1997) to 90 (1998-2002) to 130 (2003-2007) to 182 (2008-2012)," Kiersten Kugeler of the CDC's center in Forth Collins, Colorado, and colleagues write in their report. 

Full article available here: Lyme Disease Is Spreading

Source: NBC News

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu Hospitalized With 'Stubborn Infection'

South Africa's retired archbishop Desmond Tutu has been hospitalized for a persistent infection, according to relatives and his charity.

The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said the 83-year-old anti-apartheid campaigner is "receiving an intensive course of antibiotics to quell a stubborn infection."

"The Tutu family has been overwhelmed by the deluge of love and prayers … that have poured in following Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's hospitalization on Tuesday," it said.

Tutu previously has been treated for prostate cancer.

His daughter Mpho told reporters Thursday that her father is expected to remain in the hospital for several more days — but that the infection was not related to his cancer. 

Full article available here: Retired Archbishop Desmond TuTu....

Source: NBC News 

Caitlyn Jenner Receives ESPY Arthur Ashe Award for Courage

Caitlyn Jenner stood on a stage before some of the country's biggest sports stars and celebrities Wednesday and issued a challenge to accept transgender people for who they are.

"Trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect," Jenner said at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles Wednesday as she accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

One of the most celebrated Olympians of all time, the former Bruce Jenner told the athletes in the crowd that how they behave on transgender issues matters for thousands of young people who are transgender and struggling. She urged the athletes to promote acceptance.

"If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is, I can take it," she said. "But for the thousands of kids out there, coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn't have to take it." 

Full article available here: Caitlyn Jenner Receives ESPY

Source: NBC News 

#JusticeForSandy: Sandy Bland Death in Texas Jail Sparks Questions

Family and friends of a civil rights advocate found dead in a Texas jail have launched a campaign questioning the authorities' ruling of a suicide.

Sandra Bland was arrested after allegedly becoming combative during a routine traffic stop on Friday. She was found dead in her cell on Monday morning. 

The Waller County Sheriff's Office said the 28-year-old died "from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation," calling it a "tragic incident."

However, those who knew Bland don't believe she would have taken her own life. She had recently moved to the area, about 50 miles nortwest of Houston, and was due to start a new job Wednesday as a college outreach officer at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. 

Full article available here: Sandy Bland Death

Source: NBC News 

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Horrors Recalled, Undiminished

Source: Euronews

Greek Parliament Approves Tough Reforms Demanded by Brussels

Source: Euronews

Greece’s Syriza Party Revolt Leaves Tsipras Clinging to Power

Source: Euronews

Greece Needs the EU’s Help with the Migrant Crisis on its Doorstep

Source: Euronews

Unfreezing Iran’s Economy Could Benefit Everyone

Source: Euronews (July 15, 2015)

Eid: The Muslim World Prepares for the End of Ramadan

Source: Euronews

Exiled Yemen Government Sends Delegation Back to War-Torn Aden

Source: Euronews

Japan Lawmakers Approve Contentious Bills to Bolster Military Presence Abroad

Source: Euronews

MH17: A Year on and Still No Answers

Source: Euronews (July 15, 2015)

Taliban Leader Appears to Approve Peace Talks with Afghan Government

Source: Euronews (July 15, 2015)

French Security Forces Foil a Suspected Terror Attack on a Military Base

Source: Euronews (July 15, 2015)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Obama: Iran Nuke Deal Makes Our Country, World Safer

President Barack Obama fiercely defended the historic nuclear deal with Iran as he faced White House reporters Wednesday at a press conference.

"The bottom line is this. This nuclear deal meets the national security interest of the United States and our allies," the president said. "It prevents the most serious threat, Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would only make the other problems that Iran may cause even worse. That's why this deal makes our country and the world safer and more secure."

Six world powers, including the United States, reached the deal on Tuesday. It aims to limit Iran's nuclear capability in exchange for lifting punishing economic sanctions. Obama has said the deal eliminates every pathway to an Iranian nuclear weapon.

The president is also keenly aware that it will take work to convince U.S. lawmakers, especially those who have expressed deep skepticism, to support the agreement.

"I expect the debate to be robust, as it should be," the president said on Wednesday.

During the press conference, the president referred to notes and dissected point by point the type of criticism leveled at the deal since it was announced. He also said that critics of the deal have not presented a better alternative and indicated that he was ready for an engaged conversation on the matter.

"I suspect this is not the last we've heard of this debate," the president said. 

Full article and related videos here: Obama on Iran Nuke Deal 

Source: NBC News