Saturday, May 14, 2016

Friday, May 13, 2016

Puerto Rico Confirms Birth Defect in Fetus With Zika

Puerto Rican health officials said Friday they had confirmed the territory's first confirmed case of microcephaly caused by the Zika virus.

The mosquito-borne virus is spreading across the island, and health experts fear there will be more cases of severe birth defects caused by Zika. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed it had tested tissue from the fetus and found the Zika virus.

"CDC has confirmed the first case of Zika virus disease in a fetus in Puerto Rico. CDC conducted the laboratory test that confirmed the diagnosis and has shared the results with the Puerto Rico Department of Health," the agency said in a statement. 

Note: This is a breaking news story, so check for updates. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News

Veep Talk: Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Groysman

The Vice President spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The Vice President welcomed the appointment of a new Prosecutor General as an important first step to bringing much-needed reform to the Office of the Prosecutor General. The Vice President also commended legislative changes that will set up an independent Office of the Inspector General in the Office of the Prosecutor General and allow prosecutions to begin against Yanukovych-era officials. The Vice President informed President Poroshenko that the United States was prepared to move forward with the signing of the third $1 billion loan guarantee agreement, which will support continued progress on Ukrainian reforms. The leaders also condemned the continued aggression by combined Russian/separatist forces against Ukraine, and agreed on the critical importance of accelerating progress on Minsk implementation by all sides.
The Vice President also spoke today with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. The Vice President commended Prime Minister Groysman on beginning his term by taking bold steps on reform, and the Prime Minister pledged to maintain reform momentum, with a focus on anti-corruption measures and fulfillment of Ukraine's reform commitments to the IMF. The leaders also condemned the continued aggression by combined Russian/separatist forces against Ukraine, and agreed on the critical importance of accelerating progress on Minsk implementation by all sides. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

Nordic Leaders White House Arrival Ceremony

President Obama and the First Lady welcomed the president of Finland along with the prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark to the White House for a summit. On their agenda were discussions on counterterrorism efforts, climate change, and nuclear security. 

In his remarks, President Obama talked about the cultural heritage and contributions of Nordic countries and the values they share with the U.S. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg also spoke. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Social Media and Background Checks

The government will soon start checking social media as part of a background check for employees seeking security clearance. Today/Friday White House Chief Information Officer Tony Scott testified on Capitol Hill before the House Oversight Subcommittees on Gov’t Operations & National Security. The new policy will allow the government to seek out public posts on Facebook and other social media, but not ask individuals for their private passwords. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

'If I Would've Been the Judge....' (The Sentencing of Sheldon Silver)

By Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz
District 32 Bronx County, New York

You should know that if I had been the judge who sentenced Sheldon Silver, I would not have sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

It is important for you to know that in my political life, I have been a conservative democrat, with pro-life, anti-gay marriage, anti-gambling, anti-mixed martial arts, and anti-marijuana positions.

Sheldon Silver was my worst nightmare because he stood for everything I was against. 

Me all know that Sheldon Silver was arrested, indicted, and found guilty of extortion, fraud and money laundering, but in all of my political life, I have not seen anyone who has done more for senior citizens, women's rights, unions, funding for health care for the poor and needy, funding for public school education, and social service programs for straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers.

I don’t know anyone who has fought harder in government for the legalization of gay marriage than Sheldon Silver.  Sometimes I think that Sheldon Silver even put aside his Jewish religious beliefs in order to help the liberal movement and its causes.

It is true that he violated the law, and he should be punished, but where are all of the people he has represented and done so much for?

Sheldon Silver has experienced a public stoning in the media. He was berated and paraded in handcuffs, and forced to experience humiliation. For such a powerful person, he was forced to endure tremendous public shame.

Sheldon Silver lost his license to practice law, and lost his title as Speaker of the Assembly. He was forced to pay a $1.75 million dollar fine and forfeit $5.3 million dollars. His family has been put through hell.

My prayer is for Sheldon Silver, who is also battling prostate cancer, and for his family. This is a very painful and difficult time for all of them.

We all know about Sheldon Silver’s miserable failings, but is everyone forgetting the good he has done for so many years? Where are all of the people he fought for? Where were all of the demonstrations and letters appealing to the judge for leniency before Sheldon Silver’s sentencing?

Sheldon Silver stood in the public arena and fought the good fight for liberal causes and rights, and I don’t see anyone who benefitted from those fights anywhere, but I do see a public pile-on to completely destroy any memory of any good Sheldon Silver ever did for them.

For the record, Sheldon SIlver's fights were not for me, not for my beliefs, and not for my conservative democratic ideals.

After all Sheldon Silver has gone through: after being publicly stoned, punished and practically destroyed, after being handcuffed and humiliated, after having to lose his law license, title and Assembly seat, after all of the money that he had to pay back, and after putting his family through shame, I cannot comprehend the sentence he received.

The judge sentenced Sheldon Silver, a 72-year sick old man to 12 years in prison.

I believe that after all of the punishment described above, a few years would have been enough. Why have him die in prison?  I have seen murderers receive less time in prison for their crime.... as I always say, God hates ugly.

I am Senator Reverend Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.

Trailblazers in Black History: John Coltrane

Merely mention the name John Coltrane and you’re likely to evoke a deeply emotional, often spiritual response from even the most casual jazz fan.

Born September 23, 1926 in Hamlet, North Carolina, John Coltrane was always surrounded by music. His father played several instruments sparking Coltrane’s study of E-flat horn and clarinet. While in high school, Coltrane’s musical influences shifted to the likes of Lester Young and Johnny Hodges prompting him to switch to alto saxophone. He continued his musical training in Philadelphia at Granoff Studios and the Ornstein School of Music. He was called to military service during WWII, where he performed in the U.S. Navy Band in Hawaii.

After the war, Coltrane began playing tenor saxophone with the Eddie "CleanHead" Vinson Band, and was later quoted as saying, "A wider area of listening opened up for me. There were many things that people like Hawk, and Ben and Tab Smith were doing in the ‘40’s that I didn’t understand, but that I felt emotionally." Prior to joining the Dizzy Gillespie band, Coltrane performed with Jimmy Heath where his passion for experimentation began to take shape. However, it was his work with the Miles Davis Quintet in 1958 that would lead to his own musical evolution. " Miles music gave me plenty of freedom," he once said. During that period, he became known for using the three-on-one chord approach, and what has been called the ‘sheets of sound,’ a method of playing multiple notes at one time. 

Click here for additional information. 


Saving Our Youth: The CSP Gang Prevention Program

The CSP Gang Prevention Program provides prevention and intervention services to at-risk youths, gang "wannabes", known gang members, the families of these youths, and the community. Working in cooperation with law enforcement, probation, courts, schools, churches, parents, and job and recreational programs the CSP Gang Prevention Program provides alternatives to gang involvement. Integral to the gang-related services are bilingual/bicultural staff members, and a sensitivity, without lending support to, gang territorial behaviors. Presently active in Huntington Beach, the program serves dozens of youths and their families annually. 

Click here for more information.


U.S. Gives Sweeping Guidance to Schools on Transgender Students

The Obama administration sent a letter Friday to every public school district in America warning them they should allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their chosen gender identity, or risk losing federal funding.

The sweeping guidance does not have the force of law but warns that schools that don't comply could face lawsuits or lose federal aid. The move ups the ante in the debate over bathroom laws, which are the subject of a highly charged lawsuit between North Carolina and the Department of Justice. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News 

FTG Note: National Action Network president Rev. Al Sharpton issued the following statement today regarding President Obama's directive. 

“Transgender rights are a civil right and the Administration's directive to schools is an important stand for ensuring that everyone is able to live free from discrimination. The fight for civil rights is not a selective endeavor, we are obliged to fight for equality for all – and we stand with the President as he forges ahead in the fight to protect the rights of all Americans. Some people have sowed fear and created hysteria for political expediency on this issue – that cannot be allowed to prevail. This issue may not affect you personally, but it is about far more than protecting transgender rights – it’s about freedom for all – and it’s for that reason we thank the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice for releasing a joint guidance to emphasize the need for this core civil right. 

Source: Mercury 

New Play Explores Life, Legacy of Slain Teen Trayvon Martin

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Trayvon Martin has often been in the thoughts of playwright and activist Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj in the four years since the 17-year-old unarmed black boy was shot and killed after a confrontation with neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

He has wondered about Martin's dreams, his life and the moments before he died.

Maharaj has channeled those thoughts into a two-hour play debuting Thursday at Philadelphia's New Freedom Theater. "The Ballad of Trayvon Martin," co-written with Thomas Soto, explores the idea of the dangerous consequences of being perceived as a threat for young, black boys and men through the lens of Martin, whose death in Sanford, Florida, on Feb. 26, 2012, was a galvanizing event for many black Americans and seen by some as the nascent origins of the Black Lives Matter movement underway across the country. 

Click here for the full article.

Journalists Arrested in Ferguson Settle Lawsuit With County

ST. LOUIS — Four journalists arrested during protests that followed the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson have settled their lawsuit against St. Louis County police, attorneys for both sides said Wednesday.

Details of the settlement were confidential, but a joint statement said that the county will adopt policy changes to address issues raised in the lawsuit. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Senate Strikes $1.1 Billion Bipartisan Deal to Pay for Zika Fight

The Senate has a bipartisan compromise deal to give President Barack Obama more than half the money he's asked for to fight the Zika virus, it was announced Thursday.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, and Washington's Patty Murray, a Democrat, brokered the deal that would allocate $1.1 billion in emergency funding to help states prepare for Zika's arrival when mosquito season starts and to fund research into the virus and its effects. 

The compromise will come in the form of an amendment to a spending bill up for a vote next week.

Two other amendments are also on offer: one that would give Obama his full $1.9 billion request, and one that would offer $1.1 billion, but not as emergency funding. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Strokes On the Rise Among Younger Adults, Study Finds

A new study has found that over 10 years, there has been a 44 percent increase in strokes for people aged 25 to 44 year olds, while strokes in those over 65 years old have decreased.

Navy Fires Commander Eric Rasch Over Iran's Detention of Sailors

The Navy has fired the commander of the 10 American sailors who entered Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf and were captured and held by Iran for about 15 hours.

In a statement Thursday, the Navy said it had lost confidence in Cmdr. Eric Rasch, who was the executive officer of the squadron that included the 10 sailors at the time of the January incident. He was responsible for the training and readiness of the more than 400 sailors in the unit.

A Navy official said Rasch failed to provide effective leadership, leading to a lack of oversight, complacency and failure to maintain standards in the unit. The official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity. 

Click here for the full article.

Nazi Guard Reinhold Hanning's Trial: Auschwitz Survivor Denied Voice

DETMOLD, Germany — An 88-year-old Auschwitz survivor who traveled from his home in California to Germany was denied the opportunity to testify at a former Nazi SS guard's trial Friday.

Joshua Kaufman, who lives in Los Angeles, had hoped to win permission to tell the court about how he removed bodies from gas chambers at the World War II death camp after victims had been killed with Zyklon B. 

Reinhold Hanning, 94, is on trial accused of being accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people. Although Hanning was not directly involved in any killings at Auschwitz, prosecutors accuse him of facilitating the slaughter in his capacity as a guard at the camp.

Around 1.2 million people — most of them Jews — were killed at the site, which is located in Poland. 

Click here for the full article.

Putin: Russia Will Consider Tackling NATO Missile Defense Threat

Russia is being forced to look for ways to neutralize threats to its national security due to deployment of the NATO anti-missile shield in Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after the alliance launched a missile defense site in Romania.

“Now, after the deployment of those anti-missile system elements, we’ll be forced to think about neutralizing developing threats to Russia’s security,” Putin said.

The US missile shield in Europe is a clear violation of Russian-American arms treaties, Putin said at a meeting with Russian military officials, adding that the anti-missile facilities can be easily re-purposed for firing short and mid-range missiles.

The US anti-missile shield in Europe is yet another step in increasing international tensions and launching a new arms race, he stressed. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Russia Today (RT)

Russian Editors Who Reported on Putin’s Circle Leave Their Jobs

Reuters, 13/05 15:44 CET

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Three top editors from Russia’s RBC media group, whose outlets have published disclosures about the commercial interests of people close to President Vladimir Putin, left their jobs on Friday after disagreements with the group’s management.

The group’s RBC newspaper has in the past few months angered the Kremlin by reporting on the business interests of Putin’s son-in-law and written in detail about people in Putin’s circle named in the leaked “Panama Papers” as having offshore firms.

“In recent times we have talked a lot about how to further develop RBC and in these conversations we couldn’t reach a consensus about some important questions so the decision was taken to part company,” Nikolai Molibog, the company’s general director, said in a statement. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: Euronews

More Refugees Now Arriving in Italy Than in Greece

By Natalie Huet | With AP, REUTERS

Source: Euronews

Top Hezbollah Commander Mustafa Badreddine Killed in Syria – Group Confirms

Source: Euronews

Martin Schulz: ‘The European Union is in a Dismal State’

By Isabelle Kumar

Source: Euronews

Brazil’s Interim President Wants to ‘Pacify’ and ‘Unify’ Country

Source: Euronews

US Activates Controversial Missile Shield in Romania

Source: Euronews

UK Central Bank Warns ‘Brexit Could Trigger Recession’

The Bank of England has stepped up its warnings about the economic risks if Britain votes to leave the European Union.

In his starkest statement yet UK central bank Governor Mark Carney said the economy would slow “materially”, even falling into recession, that the pound could lose value “sharply” and unemployment would probably rise.

He told reporters after a meeting of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee: “Material slowdown in growth, notable increase in inflation, that’s the MPC’s judgement. It’s a judgement not based on a whim, it is the judgement based on rigorous analysis and careful consideration. Of course there’s a range of possible scenarios around those directions which could possibly include a technical recession.”

A technical recession is two consecutive quarters of GDP decline. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Federal Charges Filed Against Michael Slager, S.C. Cop in Walter Scott Shooting

The South Carolina cop who was caught on a cellphone video shooting a fleeing motorist was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on a series of charges — including one that could result in a death penalty.
Michael Slager, who was fired by the North Charleston Police Department after last year's killing of Walter Scott, was indicted on charges of violating civil rights laws, using a firearm in committing a crime of violence, and obstructing justice in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man.

"This is historic," the Scott family's lawyer, Chris Stewart, said afterward. "What happened today is that the federal government says it stops now. Police brutality stops now."

Slager is white. Scott was black. And the message sent by the grand jury is not aimed at the good cops, Stewart said.  

Click here for the full article.