Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Luncheon and Coat Giveaway at Evangelical Crusade Christian Church

Source: Attorney Sanford A. Rubenstein 

Here Are the White House Visitor Records the Trump Administration Didn’t Want You to See

The Trump White House tried to block public access to visitor logs of five federal offices working directly for the president even though they were subject to public disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act. Property of the People, a Washington-based transparency group, successfully sued the administration to release the data and provided the documents to ProPublica. 

You can review the listing here

Source: ProPublica

Extreme Digital Vetting of Visitors to the U.S. Moves Forward Under a New Name

ICE officials have invited tech companies, including Microsoft, to develop algorithms that will track visa holders’ social media activity.

The Department of Immigration & Customs Enforcement is taking new steps in its plans for monitoring the social media accounts of applicants and holders of U.S. visas. At a tech industry conference last Thursday in Arlington, Virginia, ICE officials explained to software providers what they are seeking: algorithms that would assess potential threats posed by visa holders in the United States and conduct ongoing social media surveillance of those deemed high risk.

The comments provide the first clear blueprint for ICE’s proposed augmentation of its visa-vetting program. The initial announcement of the plans this summer, viewed as part of President Donald Trump’s calls for the “extreme vetting” of visitors from Muslim countries, stoked a public outcry from immigrants and civil liberties advocates. They argued that such a plan would discriminate against Muslim visitors and potentially place a huge number of individuals under watch.

ICE officials subsequently changed the program’s name to “Visa Lifecycle Vetting.” But, according to the ICE presentation, the goal of the initiative — enhanced monitoring of visa holders using social media — remains the same.

Speaking to a room of information-technology contractors, hosted by the Government Technology & Services Coalition, Louis Rodi, deputy assistant director of ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ National Security Program, said the agency needs a tool equipped with “risk-based matrices” to predict dangers posed by visa holders, with the social media of those considered a threat under continuous surveillance throughout their stay in the U.S.

“We have millions and millions and millions of people coming every year, and subsequently departing, so we have to be smart about it,” said Rodi to a room of representatives from companies like Microsoft, Accenture, Deloitte and Motorola Solutions. “And I’m sure there are tools out there that can help.”

Click here for the full article. 

Source: ProPublica

Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg

After ProPublica revealed last year that Facebook advertisers could target housing ads to whites only, the company announced it had built a system to spot and reject discriminatory ads. We retested and found major omissions.

by Julia Angwin, Ariana Tobin and Madeleine Varner

In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment or credit.

But our tests showed a significant lapse in the company’s monitoring of the rental market.

Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.

All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to publish any advertisement “with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Every single ad was approved within minutes.

The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters “interested in Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.” It was approved after 22 minutes.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: ProPublica

Trailblazers in Black History: Leslie Ann Peterson Esdaile Banks

This video was published on YouTube on October 20, 2011. 

Source: 2020VisualMedia

The 'I Am Woman' Series: Penny Marshall

This video was published on YouTube on January 11, 2016.

Source: FoundationINTERVIEWS

Caller Who Threatened Rep. Maxine Waters Faces Up To 10 Years In Prison If Convicted

Source: Roland S. Martin

The Uncounted: New York Times Finds US Airstrikes Kill Far More Iraqi Civilians Than Pentagon Admits

Source: Democracy Now!

FCC Moves to Gut Net Neutrality, Ignoring Public Support & Laws Upholding Equal Internet Access

Source: Democracy Now!

Republican Women in Alabama Begin to Turn on Roy Moore

The GOP Senate candidate was always divisive. Now he’s grown toxic. 

By Patricia Murphy

ANNISTON, Alabama—B.L. Shirley is a Republican woman from a Republican county who always—always—votes Republican. And yet, on a windy, grey morning last weekend, the Talladega, Alabama, retiree found herself in, of all places, a Democrat’s campaign office, wondering just what she could do to defeat the GOP candidate running for a seat in the U.S. Senate from her state.

“Roy Moore,” she said, when asked why she would go canvassing for Democrat Doug Jones before the special election on Dec. 12. “I think Roy Moore is an impostor. I am a Christian and I don’t want to be counted in his camp. He’s a divisive person.”

If Jones is to pull off a victory, it will be because women like Shirley knocked on doors, called neighbors, and worked to convince otherwise skeptical voters that his opponent is fundamentally unfit for the office he’s seeking. A few weeks ago, that seemed like a tall order. As the election nears, it no longer appears quite so improbable.

Allegations that Moore routinely pursued teenage girls and in some cases assaulted them when he was a single man in his thirties have caused Republican voters in Alabama to reassess their options. Some have decided to rally around the nominee. But others have recoiled, leaving Moore in real risk of losing his attempt to take over the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Daily Beast

Haitian Family 'Terrified' as Trump Administration Moves to End Protected Status

by Daniel Arkin

Just before bedtime on Monday night, Reginald Lysias sat his 6-year-old daughter down and told her something he knew would break her heart.

"I told her we have to go to Haiti," Lysias recalled. "She asked me, 'Why?' I told her that President Donald Trump doesn't want us to stay in the U.S."

The girl cried all night.

Lysias, a 40-year-old pastor at a Baptist church in Northern California, is one of as many as 60,000 Haitians living and working in the U.S. on a temporary residency program created after a catastrophic earthquake rocked the Caribbean nation in 2010. The Trump administration has announced that it plans to end "temporary protected status," or TPS, for those Haitians on July 22, 2019.

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News

More Remains of Sgt. La David Johnson, Killed in Niger Ambush, Recovered

Four weeks after his funeral, more remains of slain U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson have been identified, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.

The remains were retrieved from the spot near the village of Tongo Tongo, Niger, where Johnson and three other American soldiers were ambushed and killed on Oct. 4 by ISIS-linked militants. 

They were found during a Nov. 12 inspection of the site by a joint task force force of FBI and military investigators and later identified via DNA testing, Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.

“We can confirm that the Armed Forces Medical Examiner has positively identified these remains as those of Sgt. Johnson,” she said. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News

US Navy Aircraft Crashes Into Sea Near Japan

In Memoriam: David Cassidy

Source: CBS News

Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at Rally Opposing Republican Tax Plan

Source: NYC Mayor's Office

New York Cares: Holiday Toy, Coat and School Supply Drive Launched

A statewide holiday drive has been launched to benefit families in need across New York. Donations of new unwrapped toys, coats and school supplies are being sought to assist community-based organizations during the holiday giving season.

"New Yorkers are tough, but they are also kind and willing to step up to help those in need," Governor Cuomo said. "This holiday season I encourage all New Yorkers to continue this great tradition and share some of the joy of this season with the less fortunate among us."

The Office of General Services has set up drop-off locations across the state for businesses and individuals to bring the new unwrapped toys, coats and school supplies, which will be distributed to families in underserved communities throughout New York. The drop-off locations will be collecting donations from Monday, November 27 through Friday, December 15.

The drop-off locations are as follows:

Alfred E. Smith Building, 80 South Swan St., Albany
New York State Capitol, Washington Avenue, Albany
Empire State Plaza Main Concourse, Empire State Plaza, Albany
Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza, Albany
Agency Buildings 1,2,3,4 - Empire State Plaza, Albany
Legislative Office Building Empire State Plaza, Albany
Robert Abrams Building for Law and Justice Empire State Plaza, Albany
Swan Street Building, Core 2 and Core 3, Empire State Plaza, Albany
Harriman Campus Buildings 5, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 12 Harriman Campus, 1220 Washington Ave., Albany  
Ten Eyck Building, 40 North Pearl St., Albany
50 Wolf Road, Albany
625 Broadway, Albany
Hampton Plaza, 38-40 State St., Albany
44 Holland Ave., Albany
328 State St., Schenectady
Senator John J. Hughes State Office Building, 333 E. Washington St., Syracuse
Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., Watertown
Utica State Office Building, 207 Genesee St., Utica
Eleanor Roosevelt State Office Building, 4 Burnett Blvd., Poughkeepsie
Henderson-Smith State Office Building, 107 Broadway, Hornell
Binghamton State Office Building, 44 Hawley St., Binghamton
NYS State Police, 1155 Scottsville Rd. Rochester
Homer Folks Facility, 28 Hill Street Oneonta
Senator Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building, 65 Court St., Buffalo
Perry B. Duryea State Office Building, 250 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building, 163 West 125th St., New York City
Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building, 55 Hanson Place, Brooklyn

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

New Yorkers Encouraged to Exercise Caution While Shopping This Holiday Season

Governor Andrew Cuomo today urged New Yorkers to take steps to protect their personal and financial information during the upcoming holiday shopping season. While popular shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are known for their bargains, criminals often use these days to scam unwary consumers. New Yorkers should stay vigilant when shopping this year and make sure they are aware of the steps they need to take to avoid becoming a victim of these crimes.

"With more and more New Yorkers turning to online deals this holiday season, cyber criminals are looking for ways to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers using increasingly sophisticated tactics," Governor Cuomo said. "I encourage all New Yorkers to exercise diligence to protect themselves when shopping throughout the holidays and beyond."

In 2016, there were 20,205 identity theft complaints reported by consumers in New York State. According to the FBI's 2016 Internet Crime Report, New Yorkers claimed a total loss of over $106 million resulting from cyber-related crimes. To maximize the chances of securing great online deals, while minimizing online shopping risks, consumers should engage in safe online behavior. This holiday season, and all year long, keep the following tips in mind when purchasing online.

Black Friday shopping tips:

Take Note of the Purchase and Use Rules Related to Gift Cards -- Consumers should carefully review the terms and conditions of use prior to purchasing a gift certificate or card, including the imposition of various fees, especially 'dormancy fees' for non-use. Consumers should also check the card's expiration date and determine if there are any restrictions on the use of the gift card. They should be aware of the replacement policy in case it is lost or stolen.
Be Careful Purchasing Big Ticket Items -- When purchasing big ticket items, consumers should look for warranty coverage on the item; check out stock availability; and, evaluate financing options carefully. As consumers comb retail advertisements, they should take note of the fine print and the quantity of the product available at the advertised price, as well as whether rain checks are available.
Understand Layaway Plans -- Layaway plans vary by store. Consumers should make sure they read all of the terms in the contract and have their questions answered regarding the payment schedules, refund policies and penalties for missing a payment before moving forward with a layaway. A copy of the contract and a record of payments should be retained by the purchaser.
Read the Retailers Refund and Return Policy -- Consumers should review a store's refund policy before considering a purchase. If the store does not post a return policy, the law requires the store to accept a receipted return within 30 days of purchase. It is important to inquire whether the store imposes a re-stocking fee for returned merchandise and determine prior to purchase if the item can be returned for a refund or store credit only.
Avoid Credit Card Debt -- If not careful, holiday purchases may cost consumers more than what is on their receipt. Consumers are urged to avoid credit card debt by tracking their spending, being cognizant of credit card limits, stick to a realistic budget and verify receipts and reconcile them against their statement. In addition, consumers should refrain from using their credit card for cash advances. The fees and interest on such transactions are higher than for credit card purchases.  Always review your monthly credit card statements carefully to ensure that you are being billed for the correct dollar amount.

Cyber Monday Online Shopping Tips:

Do your Research.  Shop with merchants and websites you know and trust.  Check out the seller's reputation at the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any reviews that mention potential scams or problems.  Also, review the privacy policy of the merchant website and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used, and if it will be shared or sold to others.
Protect your Computer.  Keep your operating system and application software updated on all computers and mobile devices. Be sure to check that your anti-virus/anti-spyware software is running and receiving automatic updates. Confirm that your firewall is enabled.
Be Wary of Ads.  Avoid clicking on banner ads or pop-ups since they may link to a malicious website.  If you see an advertisement from a reputable brand for a deal or promotion that you are interested in, go to the company's website directly for more information.
Shop Safely.  Before making an online purchase, make sure the website uses secure technology.  Verify the web address begins with "HTTPS".  The "s" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.   Do not use public computers or public Wi-Fi for your online shopping.  Public computers may be compromised with malicious software that steals your credit card information when placing an online order.  Traffic on public wireless networks may also be intercepted by criminals to steal credit card numbers and other personal information.
Keep Documentation of your Order.  Save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the merchant.  Review your credit card statements to confirm that all charges are legitimate.  If you have unauthorized charges on your account, contact your credit card company immediately.

New York State Chief Information Officer Robert H. Samson said, "The convenience and ease of online shopping continues to draw in more consumers each holiday season. As online shopping grows, so too does the risk of theft, fraud and abuse by cyber criminals. There are many steps New Yorkers can take to protect themselves this holiday season, and I encourage everyone to be cautious when shopping online to safeguard their financial information." 

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "We all enjoy the thrill of nabbing a good online bargain, and Cyber Monday is an ideal time to find such deals.  Unfortunately, the holiday season is also the high season of identity thieves and scammers.  Thus, I encourage New Yorkers to protect their hard-earned dollars and follow the online shopping safety tips offered by the Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection."

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Extra Savings with NYS Sales Tax Exemption This Black Friday

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance today reminded bargain hunters and retailers that clothing and footwear items sold for less than $110 are exempt from New York State’s 4% sales tax. Several counties and New York City exempt these items from local sales tax as well.

In all, the New York State and available local exemptions provide consumers with more than $300 million in tax savings—and more than $1 billion annually.

“We don’t reserve our sales tax holidays for certain dates on the calendar,” said NYS Tax Department Acting Commissioner Nonie Manion. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving: every day is a sales tax holiday in New York State on qualifying clothing and footwear purchases, providing consumers more purchasing power during the holiday season and throughout the year.”

Shoppers statewide who make qualifying purchases don’t have to pay the 4% state sales tax.

In addition, Chautauqua, Chenango, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Hamilton, Tioga, and Wayne counties, as well as New York City, exempt clothing and footwear purchases under $110 from their local sales taxes.

This means an exemption for shoppers of nearly 9% in New York City and 8% in the eight participating counties. Even in counties that don’t offer the exemption, qualifying purchases will still be exempt from the 4% state sales tax, though the local sales tax (ranging from 3% to 4 7/8%) will be in effect.

The state exemption alone translates into about $900 million of savings annually. The combined amount from the state and local sales tax exemptions is more than $1 billion annually.

Serious savings for shoppers

For example, a mother in Brooklyn, shopping for her child in New York City, purchases a pair of sneakers for $100, two shirts at $40 each, and two pairs of $55 pants for a total cost of $290. She would have paid $25 in sales tax without the exemption.

Likewise, an uncle in Wayne County, shopping for his niece in Lyons, purchases three shirts at $20 each and a pair of $40 pants for a total of $100. The combined state and local sales tax exemptions on his purchase are $8.

Source: New York State Department of Taxation and Finance 

Happening in Harlem: Buy Black Friday

A Cultural Retail Experience in Support
of Business Owners and Vendors

Fashion * Wine Tasting * Food * Pop Art * Tai Chi Demo 

Door Prizes at 11am

11am to 8pm, November 24, 2017
ImageNation's RAW SPACE
(7th bet 121st & 122nd)
New York, NY 10027
Source: ImageNation 

More Than 160 Groups Give Thanks to Senator Chuck Schumer

Albany, NY—In this season of thanks, a group of community, state and national organizations sent an open letter to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today thanking him for putting the health and safety of our communities ahead of the White House’s pro-polluter policies. The “thank you” letter commended Senator Schumer for joining citizens, community leaders, and environmental leaders at an event in Lower Manhattan last month to firmly declare that he and his colleagues would fight to prevent any cuts to EPA’s budget.

The letter opened with a rebuke of the anti-people, anti-environment agenda that is pervasive in Washington, D.C. “With the Trump Administration and their allies in Congress working to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and rollback key environmental protections and safeguards that prevent people from getting sick and dying, it is gratifying to know that there are leaders in Washington standing up to prevent such recklessness.”

One of the signatories to the letter, Peter M. Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said: “The Trump administration’s efforts to gut EPA will undergo a reckoning, and it begins with lawmakers and citizens saying, ‘enough is enough.’ Senator Schumer’s battle cry is a rallying point for us all to Save the EPA. We won’t stop until the agency that protects us all is spared the recklessness of those that put polluter-friendly policies ahead of public health. We thank Senator Schumer for leading the fight in D.C. and urge all New York representatives to take the same stand.”

Another signatory to the letter, Eric Weltman, a Brooklyn-based organizer with Food & Water Watch, said: “Along with Senator Schumer, we’re drawing a line in the sand in opposition to any cuts to the EPA budget. The EPA is on the front lines of protecting our children from lead poisoning, asthma, and other health problems. The EPA’s mission is to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the climate we rely upon, and it needs more funding, not less.”

Underscoring the life and death consequences that communities face if the EPA is cut, the letter made it a point to thank Senator Schumer for recommitting to beat back the damaging proposals put forward by President Trump and the House leadership.

Text of the full letter can be accessed on-line here.  

Source: Environmental Advocates of New York

Trump's Rhetoric Making Tensions with North Korea Worse?

Source: Fox Business

Islamophobia in the USA

This report was published on YouTube on May 8, 2017.

Tunisians Disillusioned, Seven Years After Revolution

Source: FRANCE 24 English

Syria: On the Ground with Pro-Government Forces in Deir al-Zor

Source: FRANCE 24 English

Meet the 16-Year-Old Behind the Hijab Emoji

Source: FRANCE 24 English

Ratko Mladic Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

Source: FRANCE 24 English

Defection of North Korean Soldier Caught on Dramatic Video

Source: FRANCE 24 English

Lebanon: PM Saad Hariri Puts Resignation on Hold Pending Talks

Source: FRANCE 24 English

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sexual Misconduct Allegations Surround Representative John Conyers

DL Hughley Comments: Black Men Receive Longer Sentences Than White Men for the Same Crime

Source: MoorInfo

President Trump Speaks on Roy Moore, Putin

Source: PBS NewsHour

Six Companies Receive New York State Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Certification

The Office of General Services Commissioner today announced that the following six businesses have recently been certified by the Office of General Services’ (OGS) Division of Service-Disabled Veterans’ Business Development (DSDVBD): 

Spa City Brew Bus LLC, located in Ballston Spa, NY, provides charter and tour services.

Stratus Consulting Group Inc., located in Fayetteville, NY, is a consulting group focusing in professional staffing.

Pana-Breez Mechanical LLC, located in Hopewell Junction, NY, specializes in HVAC services.

Amalfi Enterprises Inc., located in Smithtown, NY, is a construction business specializing residential rehabilitation.

Atlantic First Industries Corporation, located in New Hyde Park, NY, is a heavy equipment dealer which also provides construction and recycling services.

Sarandrea Associates Group, located in Brooklyn, NY, provides environmental waste treatment and removal.

The Division was created by Governor Andrew Cuomo in May, 2014 with enactment of the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act. As of November 21, 2017, a total of 400 businesses have been certified.

The Act promotes and encourages participation of SDVOBs in NYS public procurements of public works, commodities, services and technology to foster and advance economic development in the State. 

More information on the program and the certification process can be found here

Source: The Office of General Services

Head of Clergy Group Pens Letter to Address Claims of Discrimination at IBEW Local 3

New York, NY - In the wake of reports of discrimination at union IBEW Local 3 in New York, Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, President of Mobilizing Preachers and Communities (MPAC), an organization of over 350 clergy members from across the state, sent a letter to the president of Local 3 requesting a meeting and more transparency about the claims. 

A news report on the allegations was published in New York's Amsterdam News. 

Here is the letter that was submitted.

November 21, 2017

John E. Marchell
158-11 Harry Van Arsdale, Ave
Flushing, New York 11365

Dear. Mr. Marchell:

We are writing today to express our deep concern about reports of racism and discrimination towards black members of IBEW Local 3. As a large and broad New York coalition of multidenominational faith leaders, we believe everyone, regardless of race, deserves a fair shot at success in New York City.

For some time we have been hearing that there is a disparity with the treatment of workers of color in IBEW Local 3 and according to the first-hand accounts reported in the New York Amsterdam News, black union members face a distinct disadvantage. The article explains that while black members are the second largest ethnicity after white members, fewer black union members are hired for supervisory roles and they are subject to a disproportionately large share of layoffs.

This disparity in treatment of black union members points to systematic issues within IBEW Local 3. The impact of this discrimination is far reaching for union members of color and their families. With fewer opportunities for advancement and increased likelihood of losing their job, people of color who are members of IBWE Local 3 face the brunt of the impact of economic downturns. This reverberates throughout our communities and perpetuates decades of racial injustice. It is a cycle that IBEW is either actively encouraging or willingly allowing to happen.

As interfaith clergy leaders of the New York Community, we urge IBEW Local 3 leadership to immediately halt these discriminatory practices and conduct a throughout review. Furthermore, we would like to request a meeting to openly discuss this issue.

Specifically, IBEW Local 3 must come clean about what’s going in the union.
·         How widespread is this discrimination?
·         Who is responsible for allowing this culture of racism to permeate the union?
·         What actions are being taken to hold responsible parties accountable?
·         What is the union doing to eliminate the disparities in opportunity afforded to black members and encourage the equal advancement of all members?
·         Has there been a "third party review" of your workforce development practices?

Across the state, our ministries practice and preach tolerance and acceptance as we work daily to raise up our communities. We strongly oppose discrimination and racial injustices that continue to plague our society. As the leaders of IBEW Local 3, you are responsible for creating a culture of inclusion and provide all of your members an equal opportunity to succeed in the workforce and fulfill the American dream.

We look forward to your prompt response.

Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green
President, Mobilizing Preachers and Communities (MPAC)

Source: Mercury

The Power of the Pen: Bills Signed into Law

On Tuesday, November 21, 2017, the President signed into law:

H.R. 194, the "Federal Agency Mail Management Act of 2017," which requires the General Services Administration to provide guidance and assistance to Federal agencies to ensure effective processing of the mail;

H.R. 1545, the "VA Prescription Data Accountability Act of 2017," which require the Department of Veterans Affairs to disclose information about covered individuals to State controlled substance monitoring programs to help to prevent misuse and diversion of prescription medications;

H.R. 1679, the "FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017," which requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure that the ongoing modernization of grant systems for the administration of disaster assistance include specified features to improve applicant accessibility and transparency; 

H.R. 3243, the "FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017," which extends and makes permanent several provisions of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA); and

H.R. 3949, the "Veterans Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform (VALOR) Act of 2017," which provides for the designation of State approving agencies for multi-state apprenticeship programs for purposes of the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs. 
Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Oval Office Chat: Vladimir V. Putin

President Trump today spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for more than one hour.  The presidents affirmed their support for the Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, issued at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit on November 11. Both presidents also stressed the importance of implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254, and supporting the U.N.-led Geneva Process to peacefully resolve the Syrian civil war, end the humanitarian crisis, allow displaced Syrians to return home, and ensure the stability of a unified Syria free of malign intervention and terrorist safe havens.

The two presidents affirmed the importance of fighting terrorism together throughout the Middle East and Central Asia and agreed to explore ways to further cooperate in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist organization.

President Trump and President Putin also discussed how to implement a lasting peace in Ukraine, and the need to continue international pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear weapon and missile programs.

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Over 900 Joint Counter Terrorism Exercises Completed in NY State

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Counter Terrorism completed more than 900 "Operation Safeguard" counter terrorism exercises in 2017 at businesses and organizations across the state to test their suspicious activity reporting programs and counter terrorism plans. This represents a 31 percent increase in the number of locations tested in 2016.

"Protecting New Yorkers is our top priority, and these critical counter terrorism exercises help to prepare the public for dangerous situations that threaten public safety across this state," Governor Cuomo said. "Now more than ever, I urge New Yorkers to report any suspicious activity that they see to law enforcement. If you see something, say something.

In response to the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Governor Cuomo directed the state's Office of Counterterrorism During his 2016 State of the State to increase the number of these exercises to better assess the ability of businesses throughout the state to recognize suspicious behavior and subsequently report it.

This year, more than 900 locations, including exercises at over 100 truck rental locations and five upstate airports, were assessed by nearly 100 law enforcement agencies and 350 personnel. Other locations included hardware stores, gun stores, large retailers, businesses that sell chemicals or components used in the construction of improvised explosive devices, hospitals, colleges and universities, transportation infrastructure, mass gathering sites and other locations that could be targeted by terrorists.

At each location, law enforcement personnel tested security protocols by engaging in "suspicious activity" such as searching for various chemicals and components used in improvised explosive devices, to determine if a business detected the nefarious activity and reported it. After each visit, homeland security, federal, state and local partners discussed the encounters with each location to point out successful actions and areas of improvement. In most instances, the activity was reported promptly and accurately, and when activity was not reported, follow up education by team members was well received and establishments visited said suspicious activity would likely be reported to law enforcement in the future.

Roger L. Parrino, Sr., Commissioner, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said, "We all have a role in reporting suspicious behavior and we all should take the time to notice unusual patterns and actions that don't fit in to our daily routines. While this is important 365 days of the year, this is especially important during the holidays when our guard is down and we are all preoccupied with the season's preparations. Be alert. Trust your instincts, if you see something, don't be afraid to say something. Don't be afraid to make the call."

State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "Law enforcement and first responders train and work together each day to prevent tragedies in our communities. We also look to the public to help us and do their part in the fight against terrorist attacks. We ask everyone to be aware, be alert, stay vigilant and report anything out of the ordinary. If you see something, say something. Information you share could save lives."

Special Agent in Charge Vadim D. Thomas, Federal Bureau of Investigation in Albany, said, "Experience has taught us that law enforcement and our communities must work together to identify actions that may involve terrorist related activity. We have seen numerous instances where information from the public leads to the identification of individuals and disruption of criminal activity. The more we can educate the public and test protocols, the safer our communities will be. I encourage the public to remain vigilant and advise law enforcement of any suspicious activity."

Anyone can report suspicious activity to the New York State Terrorism Tips Line by calling 1-866-SAFE-NYS (1-866-723-3697), or as a photo or written note via the SeeSend mobile app. Visit Safeguard New York to learn more about how to spot suspicious activity, as well as the state's "See Something, Say Something" campaign. One phone call from an alert citizen or employee of a business who witnesses suspicious activity could alert law enforcement to a terrorist plot in the making. 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Ellen Gilmer on the Keystone XL Pipeline

Gilmer spoke by phone about the decision by Nebraska regulators to approve a path for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and the legal challenges to come.

Source: C-SPAN