Monthly Archives: January 2018

Chuck Schumer is taking his big spending boost for Donald Trump’s border wall off the table.

The Senate minority leader, through an aide, informed the White House that he was retracting the offer he made last week to give Trump well north of the $1.6 billion in wall funding Trump had asked for this year, according to two Democrats. And now they say Trump will simply not get a better deal than that on his signature campaign promise.

Schumer “took it off,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “He called the White House yesterday and said it’s over.”

After the publication of this story, a spokesman clarified that the wall offer was retracted Sunday, rather than Monday. Schumer told reporters that he withdrew his suggestion, offered midday Friday, because it was meant to be part of a broader package that would have averted a government shutdown.

“The thought was that we could come to an agreement that afternoon, the president would announce his support, and the Senate and the House would get it done and it would be on the president’s desk,” Schumer said Tuesday. “He didn’t do that. So we’re going to have to start on a new basis and so the wall offer is off the table.”

In the now-famous cheeseburger summit last Friday with Trump, Schumer offered a large increase in border wall spending as a condition for a broader deal to help Dreamers. But after that offer was rebuffed — prompting the three-day government shutdown — the president has now “missed an opportunity to get the wall,” one Democratic aide said.

Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said Tuesday that the Schumer offer “never existed.”

“You can’t rescind money you never really offered in the first place,” he said on Fox News.

But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) refuted that, saying the offer Schumer made to Trump totaled roughly $25 billion. A spokesman for Schumer declined to confirm that figure.

Some key Republicans — including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a key GOP immigration negotiator — had already considered using the promise of border wall funding totaling more than $1.6 billion to lure more conservative votes. A Dreamer plan written by a bipartisan group of six senators, including Flake, had included Trump’s $1.6 billion request as part of a broader, $2.7 billion border security package.

“Sen. Schumer’s already indicated that he would go for more. Republicans will go for more,” Flake said. “It’s just how much more we can get from the Democrats.”

Republicans aligned with Trump are unlikely to go for any bill that does not offer a major boost in border wall funding, given the president’s strong feelings about the issue. Moreover, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he was skeptical of Schumer’s recollection of the meeting and the border wall offer anyway.

“They claim that some crazy deal was made,” Cotton said of Democrats. “And then when we say no deal was made, they accuse Republicans and the president of reneging.”

But providing border wall money could also push away more liberal Democrats, who prefer to completely restart negotiations rather than start from any existing bill, even a bipartisan one like the proposal written by Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“Discussions were had coming up to Friday night are interesting for context,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). But now, he said, “we start from a blank sheet of paper.”

Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.

Marco Rubio on Friday January 19, 2018 voted in favor of a budget bill that excludes Dreamers after much pressure from President Donald Trump.

WASHINGTON – As lawmakers grapple with the complex issue of immigration and the fate of nearly 800,000 “DREAMers,” one voice seems conspicuously missing from the effort: Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Florida Republican was an original member of the “Gang of Eight,” the bipartisan group of senators that crafted the last comprehensive immigration bill in 2013. It passed the Senate but died when the GOP-controlled House refused to take it up.

But Rubio has not been involved in the latest immigration overhaul effort which is now starting to take shape on Capitol Hill at the prodding of President Trump.

Five of the original “Gang of Eight,” and one new Republican senator, are now the focus of attention on Capitol Hill and they announced Thursday they have the framework of a deal. Members of the group presented an outline to President Trump Thursday, who did not endorse the plan.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said there is no deal yet, but “we still think we can get there.” It is also not clear House Republicans are interested in accepting the work of a bipartisan Senate working group.

“We have a proposal in principle that we’re sharing with our colleagues and I think there’s gonna be a lot of interest,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who went to the White House Thursday. “I think that will matter to the president.”

Rubio downplays his absence from the various groups working on the issue, pointing out he does not sit on the Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration legislation. And he’s encouraged others are getting involved, in hopes that it forges a broader solution both parties can get behind.

“I’m glad that there are some new voices involved in this,” he told reporters Wednesday, pointing to GOP Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Thom Tillis of North Carolina who had been in some negotiations, though are not part of the bipartisan group of six. “That’s a positive development.”

What Rubio didn’t mention was the heat he took from Tea Party stalwarts for getting involved in a bill four years ago that would have provided a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The effort landed him on the cover of Time Magazine with the heading “The Republican Savior,” no doubt further rankling conservatives.

Some of those conservative activists never forgave him even after he endorsed a border-security-first approach proposed in the House, saying his support of what they viewed as “amnesty” in the Senate bill was a betrayal they wouldn’t forget.

When he ran for president in 2016, they didn’t. Instead, many opted for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and billionaire Donald Trump, according to exit polls in states such as Alabama, Idaho, Michigan and Mississippi among others.

“There’s a lot of grassroots conservatives that refuse to forgive him on the Gang of Eight stuff on the last go around,” said David Bozell, president of the conservative organization ForAmerica.

Bozell said that the issue wasn’t that Rubio tried to come up with a solution, but rather that he failed to sell it to conservatives. And, Bozell adds, his fellow Republicans abandoned him.

Some Capitol Hill Republicans deciding how far to go on immigration now are looking back at Rubio’s experience as a cautionary tale.

“Sen. Rubio’s fall from political favor came from prioritizing getting an immigration deal passed over getting a deal that was good for American wage-earners and communities,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA which is a group that advocates for reduction in legal immigration. “Others in a rush to pass another amnesty at almost any cost should be chastened by the Rubio story. “

Rubio still believes in finding a solution for those immigrants, especially the DREAMers who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents and view this country as their only home.

The latest congressional effort to solve the immigration issue was prompted by President Trump’s September announcement that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in March and begin wholesale deportations. Trump gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution for immigrants covered by DACA, which was an executive action by former president Barack Obama.

“I’ve long supported doing something on that front,” Rubio said last month. “And really the debate in the Republican Conference is not whether to do something about it. I think the debate is what to do about it, how to do it. That’s a shift from where we might have been two, four, six years ago. And I think that’s true of the White House too, generally.”

But the debate regarding what provisions should be included in an immigration bill has pitted immigration hawks against more moderate members, of both parties — the same division that doomed the “Gang of Eight” compromise in 2013.

In addition to Graham, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., are former “Gang of Eight” members of the bipartisan group that claims to have the framework of a deal.  Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who is also moderate on immigration has also been involved, rounding the group to six.

Durbin, the Senate’s second most powerful Democrat, is one of the most vocal proponents of a deal to protect DACA recipients. He’s also a member of a separate bipartisan group which includes Texas Sen. John Cornyn (the second ranking Republican in the Senate), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a Republican, and his Democratic counterpart, Steny Hoyer, of Maryland.

On Wednesday a group of conservative House Republicans released an immigration bill, known as Securing America’s Future Act, that included DACA protections on a renewable three-year basis. In exchange, the bill included a lengthy list of both internal and external immigration enforcement provisions and reduced overall immigration levels by 25%.

A statement from the White House said the legislation “would accomplish the President’s core priorities for the American people.”

But House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would not commit to bringing that bill to the House floor for a vote. Instead, he said it’s a “constructive” effort.

“It’s important that we start putting ideas on the table,” Ryan added.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, one of the bill’s co-sponsors and a hard-line conservative, told reporters that the Securing America’s Future Act would be the only way legislation that included DACA protections would be able to pass the House of Representatives.

Unlike the Senate, which requires bipartisan compromise to pass legislation with 60 votes, the House can pass all-Republican legislation if most members stick together.

Labrador dismissed the bipartisan talks with the former “Gang of Eight” members as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

“You do know what the definition of insanity is right?” Labrador said. “We have a Republican president in the White House who made his entire campaign about border security so to use the same process that they used under a Democratic president … that would be just completely futile in the House.”

Contributing: AP

BUFFALO, NY (January 18, 2018) – Persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia undergo changes in the brain that will affect their ability to communicate, including limiting the ability to speak. The Alzheimer’s Association WNY Chapter is offering a free educational program aimed at helping bridge the communication gap that is inevitable as the disease progresses.

“Effective Communication Strategies” is a one-hour program offering verbal and non-verbal strategies for caregivers to more effectively understand and communicate with their loved one. The office of United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, at 742 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo will host the program at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 20, 2018. Registration for this no-cost program is strongly encouraged by calling the Chapter at 1.800.272.3900.

Vista pública ante la JSF contó con altos funcionarios del gobierno actual y de la anterior administración.

(San Juan) Las autoridades de Puerto Rico admitieron el viernes varias fallas al revelar las causas de la crisis económica que tiene al territorio en recesión desde hace 11 años, en momentos en que una junta de supervisión fiscal está exigiendo más transparencia sobre las finanzas de la isla.

Las autoridades revelaron que durante décadas, no se sabía cuántas cuentas bancarias tenía el gobierno, que las agencias públicas usaban uno de cuatro sistemas distintos de contabilidad y que los contratistas del gobierno cobraban más cuando no se les pagaba a tiempo.

El director de la agencia fiscal de Puerto Rico, Gerardo Portela, dijo que una auditoría aun en curso halló $6,800 millones en cuentas oficiales. Destacó que de esos fondos, $4,300 millones de dólares no se pueden usar debido a restricciones financieras.

Enfatizó además que las compañías de electricidad de la isla están en peligro de quedarse pronto sin fondos.

Las expresiones surgieron durante una vista pública ante la Junta de Supervisión Fiscal celebrada hoy en el Centro de Convenciones de Miramar para discutir la liquidez del gobierno de Puerto Rico y todas sus instrumentalidades.

A la audiencia comparecieron altos funcionarios de gobierno de esta administración y bajo la anterior de Alejandro García Padilla.

Hubo dos paneles, y en el primero participará Gerardo Portela Franco, director ejecutivo de Autoridad de Asesoría Financiera y Agencia Fiscal (AAFAF); Pedro Soto Vélez, principal oficial financiero de AAFAF; Raúl Maldonado Gautier, secretario de Hacienda; José I. Marrero Rosado, director ejecutivo, Oficina Gerencia y Presupuesto (OGP); Francisco Peña Montañez, secretario auxiliar de Hacienda (Manejo de Efectivo); y Antonio Tejera, Contralor de la Universidad e Puerto Rico (UPR).

En el segundo panel participará Melba Acosta-Febo, expresidenta del Banco Gubernamental de Fomento (BGF), el exsecretario de Hacienda Juan C. Zaragoza; y los exdirectores de la Oficina de Gerencia y Presupuesto (OGP) Luis F. Cruz Batista y Carlos Rivas Quiñones.

The Community Leaders Awards recognize individuals/organizations in WNY who have made significant contributions to this region through their involvement in volunteer activities and/or their special achievements in specific areas of community and professional life. These individuals/organizations exemplify the NFJC core mission of promoting goodwill,understanding, respect, and trust.

This year’s luncheon will be held at Noon on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at the Buffalo Convention Center.

Some of this year’s honorees are our own:
Crystal Rodriguez, Esq., Chief Diversity Officer, City of Buffalo
Denise Goñez-Santos and Deacon Miguel Santos (Director of the Erie 1 BOCES Regional Bilingual Education Network and National Grid Consumer Advocate, respectively)
Sharon Osorio Mentkowski, FBI Community Outreach Specialist
Principal John Starkey, Lafayette International Community High School
For more information and tickets visit: http://nfjcwny.org/communityleaders.html

Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Development Consortium – Career Navigator Program February 26 – March 2, 2018

A highly intensive training program for professional and semi-professional level job search. http://www.career-navigator.org/index.html

Jump start your job search with this 5-day interactive, strategic approach to proactively managing your future.

· Learn techniques that will get your message out to the people that make the hiring decisions.

· Navigate the obstacles and challenges of the changing economy and learn the new rules of job search.

· Master the ability to successfully transition into new directions of employment and control future employment paths.

· Discover the increased power of working in teams, led by certified career professionals.

Who should attend Career Navigator? Professionals and/or Semi-professionals who:

· Have been unemployed, or looking for a job for an extended period of time.

· Are not satisfied with the progress of their job search.

· Want support in identifying new search strategies, tools and techniques.

Agenda: Day 1: Defining Strengths Day 2: Search Strategies Day 3: Branding and Marketing Day 4: Communication and Decision Making Day 5: Goal Setting and Accountability

In order to attend this 5-day training program, you must be:

* Registered with the Buffalo and Erie County One-Stop System * Meet eligibility requirements as a “Dislocated Worker” * Be able to attend all 5 days

Note – If you’re currently employed, you’re not eligible to participate in this program.

Upcoming Class –

February 26 – March 2, 2018

Buffalo Employment & Training Center

77 Goodell St.

Buffalo, NY 14203 Workshop 3 8:30am – 4:30pm

If you have additional questions contact:

Phyllis DePronio at: 716-819-9845 ext. 119 (pdepronio@wdcinc.org) email is the best means of communication with Career Navigator in the subject line

CAREER NAVIGATOR

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

DISLOCATED WORKER

An individual shall be eligible to participate in the Career Navigator, if he meets the following WIA Dislocated Worker requirements:

The applicant has provided the appropriate verification to verify:

• Citizenship or Eligible to Work Verification

• Selective Service Registrant (if applicable)

• Proof of Age

AND

Meets the definition and provides a verifiable source for one of the following categories:

• Terminated/Laid Off; Eligible for UC and Unlikely to Return to Previous Industry Occupation

• Permanent Plan Closure/Substantial Layoff

• General Announcement of Closure

• Formerly Self-Employed/Currently Unemployed

• Displaced Homemaker

The Buffalo-based bank chain announced Thursday it will be raising the starting hourly wage to $14 to $16 based on region. A bank spokesman said he couldn’t provide which pay rate Western New York employees would get or the company’s previous starting wage.

The raises will begin taking effect in February and will be fully phased in by mid-year.

Locally, Bank of America is paying a minimum hourly wage of $15.00

M&T is citing the “improvements in after-tax revenue” from the federal tax overhaul for the raise, which it says will be a $25 million investment once fully implemented.

The bank joins a list of more than a dozen companies, including Wal-Mart, Bank of America and Apple, that are pledging to invest federal tax savings in payroll.

The pledged raises also come at a time of low employment and rising minimum wages. The minimum wage for upstate New York increased from $9.70 to $10.40 at the end of 2017, and will continue to rise annually until hitting $12.50 at the start of 2021.

The company also pledged to begin offering employees 40 paid hours per year to participate in volunteer or employee group resource activities.

“At M&T, we have a long tradition of working to be the best bank we can be for our employees, customers and communities,” René F. Jones, M&T chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “The success of our company is driven by the vitality of the communities in which we operate and our team’s tireless commitment to excellence in all that they do. We are pleased to recognize our colleagues and our communities in a manner which will support sustainable growth and ultimately benefit our customers and shareholders.”

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

All of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because Mueller’s investigation is confidential and mostly involves classified information.

A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined comment.

Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference. McClatchy reported a year ago that a multi-agency U.S. law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s intervention, begun even before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, initially included a focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to boost Trump, but little has been said about that possibility in recent months.

The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

During the campaign, Trump was an outspoken advocate of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, at one point drawing a hail of criticism by suggesting that, if Clinton were elected, gun rights advocates could stop her from winning confirmation of liberal Supreme Court justices who support gun control laws.

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” Trump said at a rally in August 2016. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Spanish authorities tag Torshin for money laundering

Torshin, a leading figure in Putin’s party, has been implicated in money laundering by judicial authorities in Spain, as Bloomberg News first revealed in 2016. Spanish investigators alleged in an almost 500-page internal report that Torshin, who was then a senator, capitalized on his government role to assist mobsters laundering funds through Spanish properties and banks, Bloomberg reported

A summary obtained by McClatchy of the still-secret report links Torshin to Russian money laundering and describes him as a godfather in a major Russian criminal organization called Taganskaya.

Investigators for three congressional committees probing Russia’s 2016 operations also have shown interest in Torshin, a lifetime NRA member who has attended several of its annual conventions. At the group’s meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, Torshin spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the group’s national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an earlier-than-usual NRA presidential endorsement.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the investigation.

The NRA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Torshin could not be reached for comment, and emails to the Russian central bank seeking comment from Torshin and the bank elicited no response.

Mueller’s investigation has been edging closer to Trump’s inner circle. This week, The New York Times reported that Mueller had negotiated an agreement under which Steve Bannon, who was recently ousted from his post as a senior White House adviser, would fully respond to questions about the Trump campaign. Bannon headed the campaign over its final weeks.

Since taking over the investigation last May, Mueller has secured guilty pleas from two former Trump aides, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, both of whom agreed to cooperate with prosecutors; and criminal charges against two other top campaign figures, former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.

He claims the president was simply going through the motions to honor MLK

By: AP

Martin Luther King Jr.’s son is claiming that President Trump was simply going through the motions when he signed a proclamation in honor the civil rights leader.

Martin Luther King III said that the president doesn’t have credibility to speak on matters regarding MLK following remarks Trump made regarding immigration from countries in Africa, referring to them as ‘s***holes’.

‘When you make a statement like you made yesterday, the question is: ‘Do you even understand why we have a Martin Luther King holiday?’ King told the news reporter at a press conference.

‘Today he’s doing what the script told him to do. Yesterday caused him to lose any level of credibility. You can talk about Martin Luther King. But the hope is you would hear and embrace what he had to say.’

Trump’s remarks have been criticized across the political spectrum, yet the president still called MLK a ‘great American hero’.

‘Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God,’ Trump said.

MLK’s signature speech is his ‘I Have a Dream’ address. MLK III referred to his father’s words while reflecting on the state of the nation.

‘We are not further away from the dream, but we are still quite a ways away,’ King said. ‘We are a divided nation. We are segregated in some regards. We still need to address racism. We are still are a racial society, but the majority of people do not harbor racist feelings.’

 

New York State still owes $4.2 billion to public schools, most of it to schools in low-income communities of color!

The executive budget that Gov. Cuomo is about to issue flouts the constitutional right of all students in New York State to the opportunity for a sound basic education in two significant ways.

First, the governor’s proposal would provide an increase of only $428 million in basic foundation aid for schools statewide. That’s less than 3.9% of the current $4.3 billion gap between the amounts appropriated for the current year and the amounts called for in the foundation-aid formula the state adopted in 2007 to ensure fair and adequate education funding after the Court of Appeals’ decisions in the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity litigation.

Second, the governor is proposing to eliminate the foundation-aid formula effective fiscal year 2019 — and apparently return the state to the unconstrained system of political dealmaking that the Court of Appeals specifically held to be unconstitutional in its 2003 CFE opinion.

(His administration says that’s not what he’s doing, but the technical language clearly indicates that starting in 2019 school districts will be guaranteed only the amount they received the previous year, there would be no formula to justify and provide further increases, and any additional funding would depend on the year-to-year discretionary decisions of the governor and the Legislature.)

In the CFE case, the court determined that for decades, annual state aid for education had been determined without regard to actual student needs through political wheeling and dealing. The court then held that state funding for education must be determined on a systematic basis that would “align funding with need,” be based on the “actual costs” of providing students the opportunity for a sound basic education and ensure that every school has sufficient resources.

The foundation-aid formula adopted in 2007 — which has not been fully funded since 2009 — was responsive to that call.

It is true that elements of the current foundation aid formula may be out of date and in need of revision. However, to change the current formula in conformance with constitutional requirements, the state would need to institute a valid new cost analysis to determine actual current costs and develop a new, equitable distribution formula. It cannot simply revert to determining educational allocations through political dealmaking, with no regard for the adequacy of funding levels or relative student need.

Paul Francis, a member of the governor’s staff, wrote in an op-ed last year that the Court of Appeals CFE ruling at this point is merely “symbolism” and has no lasting significance. This is constitutional nonsense. CFE was not a one-time ruling issued solely to remedy the inadequate funding levels the court had found in the New York public schools at the time of the trial. Like other major pronouncements of constitutional rights, the opinions were definitive, enduring and highly significant legal proclamations that elucidated precisely the state’s continuing constitutional obligations to all of its school children.

Francis also argued that in 2006 the Court of Appeals “codified” a very low funding level that has now been met. This is not the case. The Court of Appeals in its 2006 opinion made clear that the governor and the Legislature, and not the court, had the responsibility to determine the actual cost level. What the court did at that time was to order the governor and the Legislature to overcome promptly an impasse they had reached in their attempts to comply with the court’s orders.

The court indicated that it would accept any reasonable figure the governor and the legislature agreed to within a range that included both the low number that Gov. George Pataki had advocated at the time and a much higher number that the lower courts had endorsed. Gov. Spitzer and the Legislature did overcome the impasse; in doing so, they adopted the foundation aid formula that produced funding levels at the high end of the range largely because they gave significantly greater weight to the needs of low-income students and English language learners than had Gov. Pataki.

Unless and until the State goes through a meaningful process to determine the current actual cost of providing a sound basic education and develops a new, equitable distribution formula, it is constitutionally required to continue to provide school districts the amounts called for in the foundation formula.

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