Saturday, February 2, 2019

A 'Bittersweet' Moment: Court Says VA Was Wrong in Denying Vietnam Veterans Benefits

by Beena Raghavendran

Tens of thousands of Navy veterans didn’t set foot in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but spent their time on ships patrolling the waters surrounding the country. And for decades, that distinction — exactly where they put their feet — made all the difference.

Veterans with “boots on the ground” were eligible for benefits if they had an illness connected to exposure to the toxic chemical Agent Orange, which was sprayed as a defoliant during the war. Veterans on ships in inland waters, such as rivers, also could get benefits. But those who were on ships farther away weren’t compensated, even if they had the same illnesses and believed they had the same exposure. The chemicals could have washed into the sea, where Navy ships were distilling water for their own uses — like showering, washing clothes and making food.

That is poised to change as a result of a court ruling this week.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in a 9-2 decision, ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs was wrong to deny benefits to those dubbed “Blue Water” Navy veterans. Previous court opinions had backed the VA. This could affect up to 90,000 people who served.

In 2015 and 2016, ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot wrote about the struggle of the Blue Water Navy veterans, as well as other Vietnam veterans and their families trying to get benefits they feel they are owed. In light of this week’s court ruling, we checked back with some of the Blue Water veterans we featured in our stories to hear what the decision means to them.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: ProPublica

Entire Industries Are Being Blacklisted by Insurers Over #MeToo Liability

Sixteen months into #MeToo, companies seeking sexual harassment insurance are facing intense scrutiny from insurers — a trend that could put pressure on firms to institute organizational change.

A recent report, authored by an insurance industry consultant, reveals new measures that insurers are taking to mitigate the risks of writing harassment policies, including decisions to exclude entire industries from their portfolios.

The increased vigilance comes as harassment complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are on the rise, perhaps sparked by the wave of #MeToo revelations. The EEOC received 7,609 sexual harassment charges in its 2018 fiscal year, up nearly 14 percent from 2017. These numbers don’t include an unknown number of complaints settled by victims who never contacted the federal regulator.

Ten of the 32 insurance companies polled by Richard S. Betterley, publisher of the Betterley Report, said they were not underwriting the legal industry. Financial firms, including brokers, investment banks, and venture capital operations landed on the prohibited lists of eight insurers. Seven insurers said they’d blacklisted companies in the entertainment industry. Betterley shared a copy of his report, completed in December, exclusively with The Intercept and Type Investigations.

Betterley reached out to the biggest companies offering what is called “employment practices liability insurance,” or EPLI, which covers sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and other employee claims. Among the companies responding to Betterley’s survey were AIG, Chubb, The Hartford, and Travelers.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Intercept_

NYPD PBA President: 'Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo Did Nothing Wrong and Should Not Be on Trial...'

On January 31, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch issued the following statement regarding preliminary hearings in the disciplinary case against P.O. Daniel Pantaleo. 

“Today, lawyers on both sides of the disciplinary case submitted witness lists and argued legal points for a trial that simply should not be happening. The basic facts of this case are that the officers were sent to arrest Mr. Garner on complaints from the community. He had been warned to cease his illegal activities the week before and chose to ignore the warning, so letting him go was not an option. When the police officers attempted to handcuff Mr. Garner, he refused to comply and pushed them away on several occasions. He resisted because he did not want to be arrested again. The officers involved did not hit with their fists or batons, nor did they draw their weapons to gain compliance. Mr. Garner was taken to the ground using the minimum amount of force by employing a maneuver taught in the police academy that has been used countless times with no negative physical impact on the arrestees. That maneuver has been mislabeled a ‘chokehold’ by the uninformed and by activists. The autopsy report demonstrates that it was not a chokehold. Unfortunately, Mr. Garner’s extremely poor health and severely compromised cardiovascular system resulted in his tragic demise. Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo did nothing wrong and should not be on trial for doing his job the way he was trained to do it.”


The Mumia Abu-Jamal Case: 100 More Boxes Found in Storage Unit, DA Appeals Judge Tucker's Order

A stunning turn of events has hope for Mumia’s freedom rising.

Shortly after the discovery of six previously unreleased boxes (from Mumia’s original 1982 trial), the District Attorney has revealed that the storage unit contained an additional 100+ boxes.  These boxes have not yet been inventoried and could contain key evidence in many other cases.

Mumia’s attorneys have access to the first set of six boxes, but there has been no report, yet, on what evidence has been found and whether it can be used to argue for a new trial. 

At the same time the District Attorney was informing the court of this serious prosecutorial misconduct, they also filed a notice to appeal Judge Leon Tucker’s late December order reinstating Mumia’s direct appeals before the PA Supreme Court.

Remember, this order was the very first time in 37 years that a Philadelphia judge had granted Mumia relief.  The order DA Larry Krasner is trying to block, is literally a path to freedom that would allow Mumia to reopen his direct state appeals.  Krasner’s reason: This ruling opens the door for relief- not just for Mumia but hundreds of others. To quote their press statement of 1-30-19. There will be “sweeping and, in our view, problematic, implications for a large volume of cases” if relief is granted for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

You heard that right.  If Tucker's ruling that Castille was fundamentally biased in violation of the PA Judicial Canons is upheld, then, hundreds of others similarly victimized by PA Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille could get relief. Okay, so why is Krasner appealing? Justice requires that the status quo is rocked. And guess what Larry- Castille is part of the problem. You may have cozied up to him, and put him on your transition advisory board, but Lord have mercy he is part of the problem.  

This follows in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court condemnation of Castille and the PA Court system for a fundamental violation of defendant's due process rights. Ron Castille was determined in all of his cases to be the prosecutor, the judge, and then if allowed the executioner. His exact words, which are echoed throughout the Pennsylvania judiciary were “I know I could be fair”.   

Now why is Mumia’s case so important? "Philadelphia is up south". It is ground zero for over incarceration and injustice.  In Philadelphia Mumia Abu-Jamal's case is the proverbial “3rd rail.” If he gets relief- it is a whole new ballgame. Power will have fundamentally shifted. Securing his freedom will take revealing and exposing decades of police, prosecutorial, and judicial corruption.

That is exactly what is at stake.   Here is the current context:

Larry Krasner, a civil rights attorney, a big "L" liberal, was popularly elected the District Attorney in a landslide, and took office in early 2018. His mandate: change the culture of injustice in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Police force, 6600 members strong, have grown fat on decades of brutality and corruption. This is still Frank Rizzo's department. Day in and day out, scandal after scandal, appears on the front pages of the Philadelphia newspapers. It is a predominantly white police force as occupying army. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Five see every reform, every plea for justice, as threatening the core of their “business as usual”. John McNesby President of Lodge Five would be a laughable character- if he wasn’t so brutally dangerous.  See today paper for instance!  

Frankly, the Common Pleas Court Judges are no different. While fewer in number and of a different class, they are also desperate to maintain “business as usual” at the Juanita Kidd Criminal Justice Center. They are completely “comfortable” with the system designed to use of poor bodies as fuel. It is shocking how judges and lawyers in that building justify this deeply disturbing system of grinding punishment that is routinely rocked by police and prosecutorial scandals. Did it really take Meek Mill’s victimization for the world to see what it is like on the ground in Philadelphia?  And have you noticed that nothing has changed, Meek is still chained to probation system.

"It is especially important for those who have offered critical support of Krasner and positive changes he has made to speak out against this. We cannot be silent when a self-styled "progressive" sides with the reactionary and racist fraternal order of police to continue an ignoble and corrupt frame-up. That his office has implemented many positive changes makes it all the more important that he hears loud and clear that this maneuver is unacceptable. Free Mumia. This is not over by a long shot. It will not be until he is free," said Abolitionist Law Center Attorney, Bret Grote.

If you want to raise your voice, email DA Krasner at

A Modern-Day Lynching?: 'Always in Season' Looks at 2014 Hanging in NC....

This report was published on YouTube on February 1.

Jussie Smolett Breaks His Silence After He Was Assaulted in Chicago

Calls for Virginia Governor to Resign Amid Blackface Scandal

This report was published on YouTube on February 1.

(Bonus Report) 

Senator Cory Booker Announces His 2020 Presidential Bid

This report was published on YouTube on February 1.

Gallup Poll Reveals Americans Are Losing Trust in Government

This report was published on YouTube on February 1.

Pompeo Accuses Russia of Violating INF Treaty

Israel Opens 'Apartheid Road' in Occupied West Bank

Iran Celebrates 40th Anniversary of 1978 Islamic Revolution

South Africa's Opposition EFF Rises in Polls

Syria War: Kurdish Fighters Battle ISIL in Its Last Controlled Area

Venezuela's Guaido Silent on Backing US Military Action

US to Pull Out of INF Treaty with Russia

90-Day Extension Granted on State Income Tax Payments for Federal Furloughed Workers

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has been directed to waive late payment penalties and suspend collection activities for 90 days after the April 15th income tax return filing deadline for furloughed federal workers. The Governor has also directed the State Department of Labor to accelerate and expand assistance for workers seeking unemployment insurance benefits, and directed the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to make public assistance benefits available for rent groceries, and utilities for furloughed workers. Additionally, the Governor signed legislation authorizing local governments to extend the deadlines of local property taxes for federal employees affected by the government shutdown.

"While the federal administration played politics with the livelihoods of thousands of workers, the State of New York is once again stepping up to help working families," Governor Cuomo said. "Many New Yorkers have state and local tax bills or installment payments due in the first few months of the year, and the actions we are taking today will provide badly needed relief for federal employees who were forced to miss paychecks because of the federal shutdown. We will always stand with the hardworking women and men of this state and continue to do everything in our power to fight back against Washington's attack on our people."

New York State took several actions to assist New Yorkers and mitigate the impact of the federal shutdown. On January 22, the Governor directed SUNY and CUNY to assist students impacted by the federal shutdown with college-related expenses. Under this direction, SUNY and CUNY postponed tuition and other related payments, and waived late fees and penalties for students who are federal employees, dependents of federal employees, and students dependent on loans from the federal government. In addition, to ensure K-12 students dependent on federal programs for school meals did not go hungry during the shutdown, the Governor called on the State Education Department to provide impacted students with free school meals through the No Student Goes Hungry program.

Under the legislation signed today, local governments and school districts responsible for property tax collections can authorize 90-day extensions of the deadlines for payments owed by furloughed or designated non-pay federal employees, or by their spouses or domestic partners, due to a lapse in discretionary appropriations by the federal government. This 90-day extension would begin upon the end of that lapse in federal appropriations, and interest and penalties would not accrue for unpaid taxes during the extension period.

Source: The Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

NYS Liberty Defense Project, Catholic Charities of NY Launch Platform to Expand Legal Services for Immigrants

New York State’s Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York today announced the formal launch of, a new platform to support Catholic Charities’ and the Liberty Defense Project’s Pro Bono program. This first-of-its-kind statewide project in New York identifies immigration cases through community legal clinics and refers them to volunteer legal representatives, increasing statewide access to free legal services for low-income and vulnerable immigrants.

The new online platform, funded by the Liberty Defense Project, gives volunteers the tools to competently and effectively assist the most vulnerable immigrants. The all-inclusive site provides volunteers with the ability to review available cases, sign up for short-term and case placement volunteer opportunities, learn more about the work of the Pro Bono Project and access a wealth of training materials and practice templates. The online volunteer portal comes with more than 100 practice tools and web-based trainings, with new materials added as needed.

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “The immigration issue is complex and becoming increasingly tinged with uncertainties for families trying to navigate the process. People need help and they need it now. This new tool will help countless immigrant families across New York State, and we are honored to partner with Catholic Charities to support this important resource. The Pro Bono Project is a smart, efficient program to get more legal aid in the pipeline to help those in dire need of assistance.”

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, said, “Catholic Charities is working to ensure that immigrants across New York have access to legal counsel and assistance to navigate a complex and often frustrating system. Our new Pro Bono Project mitigates the gap in immigrant representation throughout New York State by creating capacity through pro bono mentorship. Volunteers will be the helping hand that creates hope and guides them toward greater safety and security, to live their lives with a stronger, more stable foundation.”

Patricia Gunning, Catholic Charities Pro Bono Volunteer Advocate, said, “I decided to volunteer with the Catholic Charities at a difficult time in my life. I had lost my job and was at a crossroad, trying to figure out next steps and feeling really down. I knew that I needed to step outside my comfort zone in order to grow and move toward the next step in my career. I went to one of the Community Legal Clinics and ended up taking my first case with the Pro Bono Project shortly after - helping a young girl who had been the victim of sexual abuse in the United States. Over time, I got to know her and her family and began to understand the breadth of issues facing undocumented individuals in a way that went way beyond the headlines. The experience helped me regain my footing, and at the same time helped them potentially gain a path to citizenship. I am learning a new area of the law and find it both personally and professionally rewarding.”

Every Pro Bono Project volunteer advocate will receive expert legal training and mentorship in each stage of a case and at each service event in which they choose to participate, so that each client will receive the highest quality assistance, in furtherance of Catholic Charities’ mission to recognize the dignity of each person and strive for a just and compassionate society.

Through the Pro Bono Project, Catholic Charities teaches volunteer advocates to:
Prepare affirmative asylum applications for individuals afraid to return to their homes; 
Litigate asylum cases for mothers and children fleeing gang violence in Central America; 
Help unaccompanied immigrant children obtain special humanitarian protection due to abuse, neglect or abandonment; 
Empower survivors of violence to find safety, stability, and status through US immigration laws designed to protect victims of crime, trafficking, and familial abuse; 
Assist immigrants to reunify with family members, both here and through overseas processing.

On the website, volunteers can simply choose to express their interest as well as search and review available cases that need legal representation. The Pro Bono Project recruits and engages volunteer attorneys in numerous ways including bi-monthly newsletters, building on existing law firm relationships as well as creating new partnerships with firms through outreach, engagement with local bar associations throughout New York State, and individual connectivity with private bar attorneys who express interest through a variety of channels, agency-wide. Private bar pro bono volunteer advocates’ (PBVAs) caseload will be approximately one to two cases per volunteer attorney, where firms will see more of a variance, on average, two to ten per firm.

To date, Catholic Charities has placed 105 pro bono cases with volunteer attorneys throughout New York State. Their Pro Bono Volunteer Advocate network has grown to more than 230 dedicated volunteer attorneys, and more than 600 New Yorkers reached out to Catholic Charities following the family separation crisis last summer to learn about how they could support efforts, including more than 265 attorneys expressing interest in joining the Pro Bono Project.

Source: The Department of State

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The House-Senate Committee Working on a Border Security Deal Meets for the First Time

The proceedings start at the 48:38 mark.

A War for Oil? Bolton Pushes Privatization of Venezuela’s Oil as U.S. Ratchets Up Pressure on Maduro

Democracy Now!: As the Trump administration continues its attempt to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, the U.S. has imposed a de facto embargo on oil from Venezuela’s state-run oil company. The new sanctions include exemptions for several U.S. firms, including Chevron and Halliburton, to allow them to continue working in Venezuela. We speak with prize-winning investigative journalist Allan Nairn about the push to privatize Venezuela’s oil.

Howard Schultz Vows He Won't Re-elect Trump in 2020

CNN: Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz explains to CNN's Poppy Harlow why he believes he can beat President Donald Trump in 2020 and responds to criticism from Democrats that his candidacy will help re-elect Trump.

DC Conference To Honor Ukraine's 'Heavenly Hundred'

Click on the image to increase its size.

The following was submitted by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). 

Dear Friends of Ukraine:

You are respectfully invited to attend a special upcoming conference, entitled, “The Story of the Heavenly Hundred”, marking the fifth anniversary of the culmination of the dramatic civil developments in Ukraine during the Revolution of Dignity.

To commemorate this historic anniversary, on February 8, from 11:00am-2:30pm, the Ukrainian American community, under the auspices of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), will host a half-day conference in Washington, D.C., to honor the Heavenly Hundred - Небесна Сотня – the brave heroes who gave their lives in defense of Ukraine.

Held in room 121 of the Cannon House Office Building of the United States Congress, the forum will be an opportunity to remember the tragic sacrifice of the Heavenly Hundred, the contribution they made for a freer Ukraine, and discuss the legacy of the Euromaidan activists and the Revolution of Dignity, as a whole.


The Story of the Heavenly Hundred will feature keynote speakers and two panel discussions:  “Witnesses to History” and “Aftermath to Sacrifice”, which will discuss the historical significance of those fateful days in February, five years ago, and the integral role the organized U.S. Ukrainian hromada/community has played to assist their homeland since 2014.

The complete program with a list of invited speakers is attached for your review.  Please note that seating is limited, therefore we encourage you to RSVP at your earliest convenience to assure participation. 

For further information, or to RSVP, kindly contact Michael Sawkiw, Jr, Director of the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS) either by phone at (202)547-0018 or by email at:

Click here to review the conference program.   
We hope you will join us for this important forum!

Feds Indict Powerful Philly Union Boss, Councilman, Others

Click here for details. 

Source: Associated Press

Inside the UAE's Secret Hacking Team of American Mercenaries

A Reuters Exclusive

Ex-NSA operatives reveal how they helped spy on targets for the Arab monarchy — dissidents, rival leaders and journalists.

Click here for details. 

Ex-IBM Executive Says She Was Told Not to Disclose Names of Employees Over Age 50 Who’d Been Laid Off

In sworn testimony filed recently as part of a class-action lawsuit against IBM, a former executive says she was ordered not to comply with a federal agency’s request that the company disclose the names of employees over 50 who’d been laid off from her business unit.

Catherine A. Rodgers, a vice president who was then IBM’s senior executive in Nevada, cited the order among several practices she said prompted her to warn IBM superiors the company was leaving itself open to allegations of age discrimination. She claims she was fired in 2017 because of her warnings.

Company spokesman Edward Barbini labeled Rodgers’ claims related to potential age discrimination “false,” adding that the reasons for her firing were “wholly unrelated to her allegations.” 

Rodgers’ affidavit was filed Jan. 17 as part of a lawsuit in federal district court in New York. The suit cites a March 2018 ProPublica story that IBM engaged in a strategy designed to, in the words of one internal company document, “correct seniority mix” by flouting or outflanking U.S. anti-age discrimination laws to force out tens of thousands of older workers in the five years through 2017 alone. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: ProPublica

Prisons Across the U.S. Are Quietly Building Databases of Incarcerated People’s Voice Prints

By George Joseph and Debbie Nathan

Roughly six months ago at New York’s Sing Sing prison, John Dukes says he was brought out with cellmates to meet a corrections counselor. He recalls her giving him a paper with some phrases and offering him a strange choice: He could go up to the phone and utter the phrases that an automated voice would ask him to read, or he could choose not to and lose his phone access altogether.

Dukes did not know why he was being asked to make this decision, but he felt troubled as he heard other men ahead of him speaking into the phone and repeating certain phrases from the sheets the counselors had given them.

“I was contemplating, ‘Should I do it? I don’t want my voice to be on this machine,’” he recalls. “But I still had to contact my family, even though I only had a few months left.”

So when it was his turn, he walked up to the phone, picked up the receiver, and followed a series of automated instructions. “It said, ‘Say this phrase, blah, blah, blah,’ and if you didn’t say it clearly, they would say, ‘Say this phrase again,’ like ‘cat’ or ‘I’m a citizen of the United States of America.’” Dukes said he repeated such phrases for a minute or two. The voice then told him the process was complete.

“Here’s another part of myself that I had to give away again in this prison system,” he remembers thinking as he walked back to the cell.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Intercept_

House Democrats Reintroduce Paycheck Fairness Act

Click here for video. 

Source: C-SPAN

Why Sen. Collins is 'Very Optimistic' About a Deal to Fund Border Security

This report was published on YouTube on January 29.

As Federal Employees Return to Work, IRS Needs Time to Run Smoothly Again

Life-Threatening Cold Hits Millions Across the US

Intel Chiefs Challenge Trump's Security Claims

Fyre Festival Investigation Sparks Conversation About Power of Influencers

'Empire' Star Attacked in Possible Hate Crime: Authorities

This report was published on YouTube on January 29.

Kenya Security on High Alert After al-Shabab Attack

Why China is Standing by Nicolas Maduro

Airbnb 'Profiting' from Illegal Israeli Settlements: Amnesty International

Philippines Church Bombing: Religious Leaders Show Solidarity

Bolsonaro's Strategic Alliance with Brazil's Evangelicals

Maduro ‘Ready’ for Talks with Venezuelan Opposition

'We Are Dealing with a Dictatorship', Venezuela's Guaido Says of Maduro

U.S. Intelligence Officials Warn of Chinese Threat

This report was published on YouTube on January 29.

Canada: Family Immigration Sponsorship Application Hit the Limit in 11 Minutes

This report was published on YouTube on January 29.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to Speak About Brexit

PM May Faces Questions in U.K. Parliament After Vote to Renegotiate Brexit 'Backstop'

Global News: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May takes questions in the House of Commons after British lawmakers voted to try to renegotiate the Brexit divorce agreement with the European Union to remove a contentious Irish border measure.

Monday, January 28, 2019

White House Conducts First Press Briefing in 41 Days

The Week Ahead in Washington

C-SPAN: Jason Dick and Sarah Ferris talked about the week ahead in Washington, including the latest on the government shutdown and border security.

This video may not play on certain browsers. Click here if you experience problems. 

CBO Director Keith Hall Says Debt is on Unsustainable Course

C-SPAN: Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Keith Hall spoke with reporters about the CBO’s budget and economic outlook for 2019 through 2029. “Debt is on an unsustainable course in CBO’s projections,” said Director Hall. In CBO projections, the deficit for 2019 is about $900 billion and exceeds $1 trillion each year beginning in 2022. Over the next ten years, the deficit is projected to be between about 4.1 percent and 4.7 percent of GDP, well above the average over the past 50 years, according to the report.  

This video may not play on certain browsers. Click here if you experience problems.

Federal Reserve to Re-examine U.S. Bank Stress Tests at July Conference

Click here for details. 

Source: Reuters

'Where’s My Roy Cohn?': Film Explores How Joseph McCarthy’s Ex-Aide Mentored Trump & Roger Stone

Trump Skeptical Lawmakers Will Reach Deal to Avert Second Shutdown

'I Expect to Be Acquitted and Vindicated': Roger Stone on Mueller Indictment

This report was published on YouTube on January 27.

Governing Across Party Lines in the Age of Trump

Ebola Patients Stranded by Violence in Democratic Republic of Congo

This report was published on YouTube on January 27.

17 Years Later: Could We Be Seeing Peace in Afghanistan?

Macron in Egypt: Human Rights and Terrorism Among Issues Discussed

UN Team Probing Jamal Khashoggi Killing Arrives in Turkey

Palestinians Lose Eviction Appeal in Jerusalem

France: 'Red Scarves' March Against 'Yellow vests' to Protest Violence

Brazil's Bolsonaro Sees First Hand the Devastation Following Dam Burst

Global News: President Jair Bolsonaro saw for himself the extent of the devastation in Brumadinho, Brazil on Saturday, after a dam released a torrent of mud earlier in the week, leaving a roughly 150-metre-wide wake of destruction. 

Brazilian firefighters said on Saturday that at least 34 people were killed, as rescuers continued to search for hundreds still missing.

Cuba Tornado: Residents Survey Damage After Rare Twister Tips Through Havana

Thousands of Fish Mysteriously Killed in Australia's Darling River

Kamala Harris Holds First Rally as 2020 Presidential Candidate (Full Coverage)

This report was published on YouTube on January 27. 

Global News: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris formally launches her campaign for president of the United States during a rally in her hometown of Oakland, Calif. 

Note: The event starts at the 6:15 mark.

Governor Cuomo Meets with Survivors and Child Victims Act Advocates

Earlier today, Governor Andrew Cuomo met with survivors and Child Victims Act advocates. The Child Victims Act is expected to pass later today in the legislature, and a 3-way agreement was reached on this legislation last week. Governor Cuomo has been a vocal advocate for the Child Victims Act for years, and included it as a key plank in his '2019 Justice Agenda' to be passed within the first 100 days of the 2019 Legislative Session. 

Source: The Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Mayor de Blasio Makes Announcement Regarding New York City's Lead Prevention

Funding Awarded for Animal Shelter Improvements Across NYS

Nearly $4.5 million has been awarded to 13 animal shelters and humane societies across the state through the New York State Companion Animal Capital Fund. The funding will support construction, renovation and expansion projects that will enhance animal care and health, and help ensure adoptions for New York's dogs and cats. This is the second round of the Companion Animal Capital Fund, the first state-funded program in the nation to support critical improvement projects at animal shelters.

"New York is proud to be home to the first program in the country dedicated to supporting local animal shelters and humane societies improve their facilities and better care for the animals they serve," Governor Cuomo said. "This continued funding will better equip facilities across the state to provide for the animals in their care, promote the health of both pets and people, and help to encourage adoptions."

Funded in the 2018-19 State Budget, the Companion Animal Capital Fund provides matching grants to shelters and humane societies to offset the costs associated with capital projects such as renovating dog kennels, improving medical facilities, or building more efficient shelters to reduce overall operational costs. Funds are also used to construct, renovate, rehabilitate, or acquire buildings or equipment needed to house, treat, and care for sheltered dogs and cats.

Click here for the full announcement.

Source: The Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Tech Monopolies Are Killing Journalism, Ocasio-Cortez Says

By Todd Haselton 

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the weekend sounded off on the layoffs that recently hit newsrooms of the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Gannett.

"The biggest threats to journalism right now are tech monopolies and concentration of ownership," Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter. "Healthy democracy requires high-quality journalism. Without a range of independent outlets and the revenue to sustain them, our democracy will continue to crumble."

Click here for the full article. 

Source: CNBC

Elite Law Firm’s All-White Partner Class Stirs Debate on Diversity

By Noam Scheiber and John Eligon

The post appeared on LinkedIn in early December: Paul, Weiss, one of the country’s most prominent and profitable law firms, said it was “pleased to announce” its new partner class.

In the image, 12 lawyers looked out at the world, grinning.

What followed, however, was nothing to smile about. In short order, people across the industry began to comment that all of the faces were white, and only one was a woman’s.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The New York Times 

Advocates Pushing Bill to Reduce School Suspensions They Say Unfairly Impacts Black Students

By Kenneth Lovett

ALBANY — Saying that black students are far more likely to be disciplined, a group of high school students and other advocates on Monday will call for passage of legislation to overhaul the school disciplinary rules.

The students, civil rights advocates, and legislators will be in Albany to push a bill that would ban the suspension of students from kindergarten through third grade, prohibit suspensions for minor infractions, and limit long-term suspensions to 20 days, down from 180.

The bill also urges alternatives to suspensions and would require schools to create a code of conduct for students, employees and visitors “that promote a safe and supportive learning environment.”

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The New York Daily News

NYS Set to Ban Teachers from Carrying Guns in School Under Sweeping Gun Control Measures

By Kenneth Lovett

ALBANY — New York would ban teachers from carrying guns in school under a broad gun control package set to pass the Legislature on Tuesday.

Following the 2018 Parkland, Fla. school shooting, President Trump and the NRA called for teachers and school staff to be armed.

Vice News recently reported that at least 466 districts across the country adopted policies to allow it.

New York wants to go the other way.

Click here for the full article.

Source: The New York Daily News 

Free Tax Filing Options Available Now

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance today announced the statewide opening of its free tax filing assistance sites. These locations are open to help eligible taxpayers electronically prepare and file their income tax returns, claiming potentially valuable credits owed to them. 

“Taxpayers with adjusted gross household incomes of $66,000 or less in 2018 may use free, user-friendly software at these sites to electronically prepare and file both their state and federal tax returns,” said Acting Commissioner Nonie Manion. “Eligible taxpayers don’t need to visit a site, though: they can also access and use the same free software anytime from their computer, smartphone, or tablet at”

Taxpayers can search Free File on the Tax Department website to be directed to the tax preparation software. Using the software can reduce filing errors that delay return processing and refunds. It also prevents valuable credits from being overlooked.

Tax Department experts will be available at each free tax assistance site to assist low- and middle-income New Yorkers through the filing process at no charge. At certain locations, they can assist taxpayers in multiple languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.

Partnership with colleges

The Tax Department is expanding its presence on college campuses across New York State this year. By partnering with seven different community colleges around New York State, the Tax Department is providing exclusive access to college students, faculty, and staff to electronically prepare and file their income tax returns for free.

A schedule of dates, times, and locations for all free filing sessions statewide is available Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) program.

Benefits of e-filing

E-filing is safer and more efficient than sending paper returns through the mail. About 92% of all personal income tax returns in New York State are electronically prepared and filed. All returns, whether filed electronically or on paper, undergo the same systematic review.

Related video

NYS fights refund fraud and identity theft

Source: New York State Department of Taxation and Finance