Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cuomo: 'Contaminated Water Leaked into the Groundwater at Indian Point Nuclear Facility'

  Statement by the Governor

“Yesterday I learned that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility. The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well’s radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent. The facility reports that the contamination has not migrated off site and as such does not pose an immediate threat to public health.

"Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat.

“This latest failure at Indian Point is unacceptable and I have directed Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to fully investigate this incident and employ all available measures, including working with Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, cause and potential impacts to the environment and public health.” 

The Governor’s letter directing Acting Commissioner Seggos and Commissioner Zucker to their begin investigation can be viewed here. The text of that letter is also available below:

Dear Commissioners Zucker and Seggos:

I am deeply concerned to have learned that radioactive tritium-contaminated water has recently leaked from operations at the Entergy Indian Point Energy Center (Indian Point) into groundwater at the site. This is not the first such release of radioactive water at Indian Point, nor is this the first time that Indian Point has experienced significant failure in its operation and maintenance. This failure continues to demonstrate that Indian Point cannot continue to operate in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment.

The levels of radioactivity reported this week are significantly higher than in past incidents. Three of forty monitoring wells registered alarming increases. In fact, one of the monitoring well increased nearly 65,000 percent from 12,300 picocuries per liter to over 8,000,000 picocuries per liter.

Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat. As such, I am directing you to fully investigate this incident and employ all available measures, including working with Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, its causes, its potential impacts to the environment and public health, and how the release can be contained. We need to identify whether this incident could have been avoided by exercising reasonable care. We also need to know how a recurrence of this episode can be avoided by specific steps that Entergy should be taking.

Please report back at the completion of the investigation.


Andrew Cuomo

Weekly Address: Doubling Our Clean Energy Funding to Address the Challenge of Climate Change

In this week’s address, the President discussed climate change and how the most ambitious climate agreement in history is creating private sector partnerships that are advancing the latest technologies in clean power.

Cuomo Announces Executive Actions Banning Coverage of Conversion Therapy

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced a series of comprehensive regulations to prevent the practice of so-called lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender “conversion therapy,” which has been deemed harmful to patients by a wide variety of leading medical and mental health professionals. Multi-agency regulations announced today ban public and private health care insurers from covering the practice in New York State, and also prohibit various mental health facilities across the state from conducting the practice on minors.

“Conversion therapy is a hateful and fundamentally flawed practice that is counter to everything this state stands for,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York has been at the forefront of acceptance and equality for the LGBT community for decades – and today we are continuing that legacy and leading by example. We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are.”

The New York State Department of Financial Services is issuing regulations barring New York insurers from providing coverage for conversion therapy given to an individual under the age of 18. Additionally, the New York State Department of Health is prohibiting coverage of conversion therapy under New York’s Medicaid program and the New York State Office of Mental Health is issuing regulations prohibiting facilities under its jurisdiction from providing conversion therapy treatment to minors.

Conversion therapy – which refers to therapy intended to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity – has been repudiated by many medical and professional organizations, including: the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Counseling Association; the American Psychiatric Association; the American Psychological Association; the American School Counselor Association; the National Association of School Psychologists; and the National Association of Social Workers.

Warren Seigel, MD, FAAP, Chair of the New York State Academy of Pediatrics, said: "Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming. The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as all major professional associations of health and mental health practitioners and child and adolescent development specialists in the United State have recognized this fact for nearly 40 years. We are very pleased by the actions announced today to help protect vulnerable gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth from discredited, sham and dangerous interventions. We applaud Governor Cuomo for his bold leadership on this issue.”

Ronald Bunce, Executive Director, LMSW, said: "The National Association of Social Workers - New York State has long condemned the use of “conversion” and/or “reparative” therapies. People seek mental health services for many reasons. Accordingly, it is fair to assume that lesbians and gay men seek therapy for the same reasons that heterosexual people do. However, the increase in media campaigns, often coupled with coercive messages from family and community members, has created an environment in which lesbians and gay men are often pressured to seek reparative or conversion therapies, which cannot and will not change sexual orientation. NASW’s National Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues believes that such treatment potentially leads to severe emotional damage, is contrary to data and should be banned."

Matthew A. Weissman, MD, MBA, FAAP Chief Medical Officer/VP of Medical Affairs, Community Healthcare Network, said: "As a practicing internist and pediatrician, I welcome the governor's initiative. All 90 health care providers at Community Healthcare Network, including 14 federally qualified health centers, aim to make all of our patients' sexual lives healthy and gratifying. All New Yorkers are entitled to a safe, welcoming atmosphere in which to receive their healthcare without any attempt to force change in their sexual identities."

Peter Meacher MD, Chief Medical Officer, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Family Physician, said: “So called conversion therapy not only doesn't work but it is extremely dangerous for LGBT people, with adverse outcomes from extreme mental distress and depression up to and including suicide. I have seen these adverse outcomes firsthand. The Governor's ban of this practice is a tremendous step forward in working toward health equity and justice for LGBT people.”

Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said: “By adhering to the recommendations of major medical organizations and banning these discredited and devastating therapies, New York is safeguarding the health and well-being of our state's youngest and most vulnerable LGBT citizens. The children of New York deserve to be shielded from this detrimental treatment that is rooted in archaic beliefs."

Commissioner of Mental Health Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan said: “Homosexuality, bisexuality, or living as transgender, are not mental disorders and they should not be treated as such. With our actions here today, we aim to protect the inalienable right of self-determination for New York youth, reducing the trauma this so-called treatment can produce in the LGBT community, and helping to end the stigma that has been associated with being LGBT for far too long.”

As part of today’s initiative, DFS, DOH, and OMH will take the following actions: 

DFS Insurance Coverage Ban on Conversion Therapy for Minors. Under new regulations DFS will issue (available here), New York insurers will be barred from providing reimbursement for conversion therapy services provided to an insured under the age of 18 years. In addition, such insurers are advised to inform participating behavioral health providers that conversion therapy should not be provided to minors and that the insurers will not provide reimbursement for such services. Additionally, as part of the insurers’ provider credentialing or application and re-credentialing processes, insurers are advised to require behavioral health providers to certify that they will not provide conversion therapy to minors or seek reimbursement from the insurer for such services. 

OMH Regulations Prohibiting Conversion Therapy for Minors. Under new regulations OMH will issue (available here), it will be unlawful for any mental health facility licensed, funded or operated by the New York State Office of Mental Health to provide conversion therapy to minors. Failure to comply with these new regulations could result in the revocation of license and/or funding for any entity found to have engaged in these practices. 

DOH Medicaid Ban on Conversion Therapy Coverage. The New York State Department of Health prohibits (notice available here) Medicaid coverage for conversion therapy, as Medicaid only covers care, services, and supplies necessary to prevent, diagnose, correct, or cure recognized medical conditions. Since there is no medical necessity for conversion therapy and because it has been repudiated and discredited by virtually every relevant medical and professional organization, Medicaid cannot cover it. 

Conversion therapy does not include counseling or therapy for an individual seeking to transition or transitioning from one gender to another gender, that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual or the facilitation of an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, provided that the counseling or therapy does not seek to change sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Friday, February 5, 2016

President Obama's Statement on the Economy

President Obama delivers a statement on the economy following today’s jobs report, which shows the unemployment rate down below five percent for the first time since 2008. Spokesman Josh Earnest then conducts his daily briefing. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Oval Office Chat: President Xi Jinping of China

The President today spoke by phone with President Xi Jinping of China to coordinate efforts in responding to North Korea's January 6 nuclear test.  Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Both leaders also conveyed that they will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapon state.  They agreed that North Korea's planned ballistic missile test would contravene multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and represent another provocative and destabilizing action.  Finally, the leaders emphasized the importance of a strong and united international response to North Korea's provocations, including through an impactful UN Security Council Resolution. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Cuomo and Mark-Viverito Announce Co-Naming of “Carey Gabay Way” in Brooklyn

Governor Andrew Cuomo, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, and members of the New York City Council today announced the co-naming of a portion of Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn as the “Carey Gabay Way.” The new co-named section runs between Willoughby and Myrtle Avenues in Brooklyn, and honors the life of Gabay, an attorney and public servant who was tragically killed as an innocent victim of gun violence in October at the age of 43.

“Carey lived by the belief that hard work and public service can make a difference in the world. He could have done anything with his talents, but he chose to give back to New York – and our state is a better place because of it,” said Governor Cuomo. “I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito and the members of the City Council for advancing this important tribute to Carey, and I encourage all New Yorkers to join us in following his example of service to one another. We will honor Carey’s life and legacy as we continue his work to build a stronger, safer and more inclusive New York for all.”

"The Council is proud to honor Carey Gabay, a tremendously dedicated public servant to New York," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "Carey represented the best that New York City has to offer, and lost his life while working on behalf of the community in Crown Heights. This co-naming will serve as a small, but enduring, tribute to his legacy as a proud son of Brooklyn who spent his life helping others.”

“Carey Gabay’s life was cut tragically short in an act of senseless violence – and the loss of this young life was a loss for our entire city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Gabay was a loyal public servant, beloved by his family and his community. We are proud to support this street renaming in honor of Gabay – a fitting tribute for a man who did so much to serve our neighborhoods.”

Carey grew up living in public housing and attending public school in the Bronx. After a successful high school career, he went on to graduate from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He had a longstanding commitment to public service and giving back to those around him, and while at Harvard University, he ran to become the president of his undergraduate student body. More recently, he worked as an Assistant Counsel to Governor Cuomo and later as First Deputy Counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation.

“It is truly fitting that as we celebrate Black History Month, the street co-naming proposals that I submitted to recognize Carey Gabay, Dean Derrick Griffith, and Reverend Clarence Norman, Sr., for their public service was passed today by the New York City Council. Through the practice of law, education, and ministry, these New Yorkers made an undeniable impact within the 35th Council District, which I proudly represent. I am proud that we can pay tribute to their legacies by placing street signs in their honor within the very communities they served in their lifetime,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The President Speaks at the Plan Colombia Reception

Published on YouTube on Feb 4, 2016.
President Obama speaks alongside President Santos of Colombia at the Plan Colombia Reception in the East Room of the White House.

Carly Fiorina Meet-and-Greet in Manchester, New Hampshire

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina holds a meet-and-greet with supporters at the Millyard Museum in Manchester, New Hampshire. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

New Hampshire Primary Polling

University of New Hampshire Survey Center Director Andrew Smith discusses polling ahead of next week’s New Hampshire primary, as well as the the state’s political history, electorate, and demographics. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Statement on the Employment Situation in January

WASHINGTON, DC – Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement today on the employment situation in January.

Summary: In January, the unemployment rate fell below 5 percent for the first time in eight years as the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record continued.

The unemployment rate reached 4.9 percent in January for the first time since February 2008, and the labor force participation rate has been essentially stable over the past year. Just two years ago, many economists expected the unemployment rate to remain above this level until 2020. Our businesses added 158,000 jobs in January, somewhat below the pace of recent months but well above the pace necessary to maintain a low and stable unemployment rate. Most importantly, wages rose 2.5 percent over the past year, and the 2.9-percent annualized pace over the past six months is the strongest since the recovery began. Nevertheless, more work remains to drive further job creation and faster wage growth, including passing the President’s new proposal for ambitious investments in 21st-century clean infrastructure, opening our exports to new markets with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and raising the minimum wage. 

You can view the statement HERE.

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary 

'Flashback Friday': Bernie Sanders Predicts Too Big to Fail (2/17/2000)

Published on YouTube on Jun 29, 2015.

Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) interrogates Alan Greenspan on economic policy - and warns of the dangers of bailouts. Eerily, eight years prior to the collapse on Wall Street and the Great Recession, Sanders and Greenspan debate about a "too big to fail" policy.

Trailblazers in Black History: Maurice White

Published on YouTube on Jul 5, 2013.

The following is a webisode featuring bonus material from Down the Rhodes: The Fender Rhodes Story. Please visit to order a copy of this historic documentary, brought to life through stories and performances from a remarkable cast of music notables. With an insider's look, we see how a war era rehabilitation tool developed into a major proponent of the electronic instrument movement, and became the most revolutionary electric piano of our time.

In Memoriam: Thank you for your remarkable contribution to American music, Mr. White. May you forever rest in peace. 


Today in History: February 5th

Bernie and Hillary Go Toe to Toe

National Museum of American History to Showcase Little Rock Nine Memorabilia

More than 20 objects tied to the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas during the Civil Rights Movement will be added to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

The memorabilia, which includes a yearbook, photographs, a graduation dress, a personal letter from President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a notice of suspension was donated by Minnijean Brown Trickey.

"These objects tell a rich and significant American education and civil rights story," Margaret Salazar-Porzio, a curator in the museum's home and community life division said in a statement released today. "Minnijean's donation provides texture to the experience of integration and segregation in the American South."

Click here for the full article, which includes photos. 

University of Central Florida Hack Exposes 63,000 SSN

A hack of the University of Central Florida's computer systems has exposed the private data of roughly 63,000 current and former students, staff and faculty members, the university announced on Thursday.

Law enforcement and a digital forensics firm are investigating the intrusion, which was detected in January, UCF President John C. Hitt said in a statement.

Hackers gained access to the personal information of current and former student-athletes and support staff as well as current and former university employees. The stolen info includes Social Security numbers but not credit card information, financial records, medical records or grades, Hitt said. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Concerns Raised Over Reported Rise in Crime Against Asian Americans in NYC

Members of New York's congressional delegation sent a letter to the New York Police Department (NYPD) expressing concern over what they say is a rise in crime against Asian Americans and urging the department to hire more Asian police officers. 

The letter, dated Feb. 3 and addressed to Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, said that "Asian/Pacific Islander" was the only category for which the percentage of victims increased for every type of crime. The data comes from yearly reports compiled by the NYPD between 2008 and 2014 that categorize victims, suspects and arrestees according to race or ethnicity.

"The rise in crime against the Asian-American community is very troubling," U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), who represents Queens where one-in-four residents is Asian, said in a statement. "We hope that after receiving our letter, the NYPD will determine why this is occurring and make every effort to combat this disturbing spike in criminal activity."

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News 

Turkish Court to Seek Life without Parole for Prominent Journalists

Reuters, 05/02 16:54 CET

ANKARA (Reuters) – Two prominent Turkish journalists will be charged with assisting terrorists and face life sentences without parole if convicted, their lawyers said, after they published video footage purporting to show the state intelligence agency helping to send weapons to Syria.

An Istanbul court accepted an indictment on Friday seeking life imprisonment for Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the secular Cumhuriyet newspaper, and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, who were arrested in November, lawyers for the two men said.

The case has drawn international condemnation and revived concern about press freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Click here for summary.

Source: Euronews

Special Report – Why Obama and Other Gun Control Advocates Own Stock in Firearms Makers

Reuters, 05/02 16:29 CET

By Tim McLaughlin and Peter Eisler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Barack Obama might seem an unlikely investor in the firearms industry. But the U.S. president, a fierce advocate for gun regulation, has money in a pension fund that holds stock in gun and ammunition companies.

Although Obama’s stake is minuscule, worth no more than $30, it reflects a much larger surge of investment.

The president is among millions of Americans buying into gun companies – often unwittingly – as mutual funds have increased such holdings to record levels, according to a Reuters analysis of institutional investment in firearms companies.

Since Obama was elected in 2009, mutual funds have raised their stakes to about $510 million from $30 million in the nation’s two largest gun manufacturers with publicly traded shares, Smith & Wesson Corp <SWHC.O> and Sturm, Ruger & Co <RGR.N>. That means such stocks are now common in retirement and college savings plans.

The influx has helped to boost both companies’ shares by more than 750 percent during the Obama presidency; each now has a market value of about $1 billion.

Beyond mutual funds, such investments also are held in the portfolios of hedge funds and public pension plans, which are harder to track.

The White House declined to comment on Obama’s holdings in the Illinois General Assembly’s pension plan, which he earned while serving in that state’s senate. The president has disclosed between $50,000 and $100,000 in the plan.

Other indirect investors in firearms companies include advocates for gun regulation in the U.S. Congress and several parents of children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut – site of the 2012 massacre of 20 students and six staff members. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Nazi Death Camp Guard to Stand Trial in Germany in April

Reuters, 05/02 15:53 CET

BERLIN (Reuters) – A 93-year-old former guard at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz will go on trial in Germany in April on charges of being an accessory to the murder of at least 1,075 people, a German court announced on Friday.

The accused was a member of the Nazi SS guard team at Auschwitz in occupied Poland from November 1942 to June 1943, a court spokesman in the western city of Hanau near Frankfurt said, adding that the man had been deemed fit for trial.

Although the former guard is not accused of having been directly involved in any killings, the prosecution’s office holds that he was aware of the camp’s function as a facility for mass murder. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Armed with New U.S. Money, NATO to Strengthen Russia Deterrence

Reuters, 05/02 15:51 CET

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Backed by an increase in U.S. military spending, NATO is planning its biggest build-up in eastern Europe since the Cold War to deter Russia but will reject Polish demands for permanent bases.

Worried since Russia’s seizure of Crimea that Moscow could rapidly invade Poland or the Baltic states, the Western military alliance wants to bolster defences on its eastern flank without provoking the Kremlin by stationing large forces permanently.

NATO defence ministers will next week begin outlining plans for a complex web of small eastern outposts, forces on rotation, regular war games and warehoused equipment ready for a rapid response force. That force includes air, maritime and special operations units of up to 40,000 personnel.

The allies are also expected to offer Moscow a renewed dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council, which has not met since 2014, about improved military transparency to avoid surprise events and misunderstandings, a senior NATO diplomat said. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews