NASA’S New Astronaut Frank Rubio, Army Major, Fighter Pilot & Surgeon

NASA announced its newest class of astronauts. Out of a record setting 18,300 applicants. Only 12 people were selected to be members of the new class of space travelers. They’ll train for the next two years before becoming full-fledged astronauts, performing missions and going into space. Among the 12 amazingly qualified women and men chosen is Dr. Frank Rubio, a Salvadorian-American, born in Los Angeles and raised in Miami. Dr. Rubio is a Major in the U.S. Army, having flown over 1,100 hours as a Blackhawk Helicopter pilot (including 600 hours of combat), and as if that were not enough, the man is also a surgeon. All these impressive accomplishments at just 41 years of age, shows that Mr. Rubio has not wasted time. He’s also a member of an exclusive group of Latino astronauts at NASA, there have been just eleven Latino astronauts in total out of 350 chosen since Mercury 7 in 1959.

Dr. Francisco “Frank” Rubio was announced as one of the members of the newest class of NASA astronaut candidates.

“These women and men deserve our enthusiastic congratulations. Children all across the United States right now dream of being in their shoes someday. We here at NASA are excited to welcome them to the team and look forward to working with them to inspire the next generation of explorers.” –Said, Ellen Ochoa, Director of the Johnson Space Center

Vice President Spence gave the keynote speech and said: “You are the 12 that made it through. You have joined the elites. You are the best of us,”

 

Among the 12 are engineers, scientists, pilots, a Navy SEAL and two doctors. NASA stated “The talented women and men selected for the new astronaut class represent the diversity of America and the career paths that can lead to a place in America’s astronaut corps.”

 

DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION HUNTING TO CERTIFY MINORITY SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS

5,000 City-certified minority and women-owned businesses puts the Administration ahead of schedule to certifying 9,000 M/WBEs by 2019.

Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives and Citywide M/WBE Director Richard Buery today announced that the City has reached 5,000 City-certified Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs), meaning the Administration is ahead of schedule of reaching 9,000 City-certified M/WBEs by 2019.

The 5,000th City-certified M/WBE is a Bronx-based transportation firm owned by Miguel Cabrera who was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to the U.S. in 2009. After receiving his legal residency, Cabrera worked as a taxi driver and was later inspired to open his own transportation company in 2015. His company, MC Transportation, specializes in delivery services, commercial and residential moving services and construction waste and debris removal. Deputy Mayor Buery and key Administration officials focused on the M/WBE effort presented Miguel with his M/WBE certificate a letter from Mayor Bill de Blasio at a NYC Business Solutions Center in the Bronx. In the letter, the Mayor thanked Cabrera for making contributions to the local economy and highlighted the importance of having all New Yorkers participate in New York City’s economy.

“This City works best when all people – regardless of race, religion or ethnicity – have the resources they need to reach their full potential,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “My Administration is committed to providing those resources to business owners like Miguel, beginning with City-certification, as a way to help grow and sustain their business. I thank Miguel for establishing a Bronx-based firm, hiring locally and reinvesting in the community and congratulate him on being the 5000th City-certified M/WBE firm.”

“We know that with certification comes opportunity. By getting certified by the City as an M/WBE, businesses can access mentoring programs, workshops, networking opportunities and other programs that can help their businesses grow and win contracts with City agencies,” said Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives and Citywide M/WBE Director. “Today marks a critical milestone toward our goal of certifying 9,000 M/WBEs in the next three years. I would like to congratulate Miguel Cabrera, owner of Bronx-based MC Transportation, for being number 5,000!”

“I started my own business to become more independent and give back to my local community by hiring people from my neighborhood,” said Miguel Cabrera. “Working with the City and obtaining City certification can help grow and expand my business so that I can continue hiring locally. I look forward to using City business as a resource and visiting the Department of Small Business Services to learn how I can continue to manage a successful business. I also thank the de Blasio Administration for prioritizing minority and women-owned businesses.”

 

The de Blasio Administration encourages all M/WBEs interested in doing business with the City to apply for City-certification. City-certified M/WBEs have access to the latest contracting opportunities, are granted City resources that help them bid and successfully perform on City contracts, and are added to the M/WBE Online Directory where contractors and City agencies can proactively seek M/WBEs to do business with. M/WBEs interested in becoming City certified can visit nyc.gov/getcertified.

 

The Department of Small Business Services recently streamlined the applications for M/WBE certification and recertification to provide a more efficient path to getting certified while maintaining the integrity of the process. The new, user-friendly applications have 30 percent less paperwork and are simplified and sequenced to expedite the completion process. The City also created a separate simpler application for small businesses that are sole proprietors to make the application process more accessible and user-friendly. This will directly benefit women business owners across New York City since 90 percent of women-owned businesses across the United States are sole proprietors.

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In September of 2016, when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his certification goal, the Mayor also announced the goal of awarding 30 percent of the value of all City contracts to M/WBEs by 2021.

 

“City-certification is a resource that minority and women-owned businesses can utilize to help grow and sustain their business,” said Jonnel Doris, Senior Advisor and Director of the Mayor’s Office of M/WBEs. “I’m happy to see people like Miguel get certified and access all of the resources that come along with MWBE certification, and I congratulate him on being the 5,000th City-certified M/WBE. He embodies everything that makes this City great – the entrepreneurial spirit that this City welcomes from all walks of life to establish businesses and reinvest in local communities.”

 

“Minority and women-owned businesses play a vital role in our local economy, and I am proud to support Mayor de Blasio’s vision for investing in their success,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. “Today, we are excited to celebrate the 5,000th M/WBE that is certified with the City – and to do it here in the Bronx during City Hall In Your Borough. City contractors should reflect the rich talents and diversity of all of our people, and I’m glad that our agency is leading the way by getting more firms certified and connecting them with contracting opportunities.”

 

PROGRESS:

 

  • In 2015, the Mayor de Blasio established his OneNYC goal of awarding $16 billion to M/WBEs by 2025. The Administration has thus far awarded $3.54 billion dollars to M/WBEs putting the Administration on track to meeting the goal.

 

  • Since the beginning of the Administration, the City has seen a steady increase in the value of City contracts being awarded to M/WBEs. In FY 15, the utilization rate was 8 percent. That number later increased to over 14 percent in FY 16 and – in the first two quarters of FY17 – over $571 million was awarded to M/WBEs, representing an 18 percent utilization rate.

 

“Increasing M/WBE participation in the City’s procurement process has been a priority of my Administration from day one. I congratulate Mayor de Blasio and his Administration on reaching this important milestone. As we move forward, I will continue to work with stakeholders at all levels of government as well as the private sector to increase MWBE participation and strengthen this critical piece of our city’s economy,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

 

State Senator Marisol Alcantara said, “Incentivizing minority-owned and women-owned businesses is key to tackling income and wealth inequality in our society. By prioritizing these businesses for City contracts, the City of New York puts our values of diversity and equality into action. I am pleased at the continued success of this program and will continue to partner with the Mayor’s office to set this program on a firm footing for the future.”

 

State Senator James Sanders Jr. said, “Certainly, the city has come a long way to arrive at this point where it is certifying its 5,000th M/WBE. As the number of City-certified firms increases, so too will the chances that these businesses get a fair share of City contracts. As the newly appointed leader of the Senate Democratic Conference’s M/WBE Task Force, I believe we should be doing all we can to empower these entrepreneurs and level the playing field in a way that helps them realize their full potential. I look forward to the city certifying its next 5,000 M/WBEs very soon and meeting that 30 percent goal.”

 

“It is really remarkable for the City of New York to have reached the milestone of 5,000 City-certified M/WBEs ahead of schedule,” said Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, Chair of the Subcommittee on the Oversight of Minority and Business Owned Enterprises (MWBEs). “Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Commissioner Gregg Bishop, Senior Advisor.

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U.S. sent Latino Youth Travelers to Cuba in order to start Rebellion

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It sounds like something you would see on FX’s The Americans or something you’d read in the latest hottest young adult novel series like Divergent by Veronica Roth, but sometimes the absurd can be an item of truth.

Especially when it involves actual Latino youth becoming secret agents for the American government.

Recently, an Associated Press investigation revealed that the United States of America allegedly sent Latino youth from several Latin countries on covert missions into Cuba to stir the fire among Cubans in order to bring forth an anti-government revolt.

According to the Associated Press findings, over the last two years the U.S. Agency for International Development has sent nearly a dozen Latino youths from Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Peru to visit Cuba and were assigned potential targets to get close to in order to incite opposition against Cuba’s communist government currently being manned by Raul Castro.

The U.S. Agency for International Developmenta—or USAID—is an agency that has been tasked with providing economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States, and has been identified as the main orchestrator of this operation.

The operation started under President Barack Obama’s first term while Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State. The timing was deemed right because it could begin a “new beginning” with Cuba after decades of mistrust and a lack of understanding.

Disguised as a HIV prevention workshop Latino youth travelers where set-up to visit college campuses and made friends with students. What was to be a social conversation on HIV information and prevention, travelers were assigned to identify potential political activist, get close to them, and profile those who could eventually stir a movement against the Cuban government.

Despite the report, the USAID has stated that its main purpose is to be “ committed to balancing the realities of working in closed societies…with our commitment to transparency, and we continuously balance our commitment to transparency with the need for discretion in repressive environments.

However, the Latino youth program is just one incident among others in an effort to infiltrate Cuba.

Back in April, the Associated Press uncovered ZunZuneo which was an alleged U.S. secret Cuban Twitter project. The project was launched by USAID in 2009 and was established as a primitive social media network to be used under the noses of Cuban officials. The project was a way to increase the flow of information discreetly out of the country which is heavily restricted.

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The White House still faces questions on this project. Despite the discovered doings of USAID, the agency still pertains to being helpful rather than mischievous when it comes to their alleged secret undertakings.

USAID and the Obama administration are committed to supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future,” said the USAID, responding to questions written by the Associated Press, “USAID works with independent youth groups in Cuba on community service projects, public health, the arts and other opportunities to engage publicly, consistent with democracy programs worldwide.

Meanwhile, some hard questions are being asked regarding the safety of the Latino youth who took part in this program. Questions which have a ground as to why the operation remain active considering the 2009 arrest of an American contractor and an U.S international development professional, Alan Gross.

Back in December 2009, Gross, 65, was arrested and accused of committing crimes against the Cuban government for bringing in satellite phones and computer equipment without the government’s permission. Gross was also said to be working covertly on behalf of the U.S. government in setting up Internet access in the country.

Showing that they will imprison any foreigner believed to be acting in disinterest of their country, the continuation of the operation in Cuba has placed the USAID and their contractor Creative Associates International under a larger microscope. Documents have also been acquired by the Associated Press which claims that U.S. officials allegedly privately disclosed to their government contractors to consider halting the operation and the sending of Latino youth into Cuba after Gross’s arrests.

They arrested a contractor from another agency. That could be dangerous,” said one of traveler in a Skype message conversation between two Latino youth. “Thank God he’s not one of ours.

The message is said to have been in-relation to the arrest of Gross, and shows the continued activation of the program despite the arrest of contractor-agent and worry of some U.S. officials.

We value your safety,” said one senior USAID official, in an email obtained by the Associated Press to an official . “The guidance applies to ALL travelers to the island, not just American citizens.

But how prepared were these Latino youth who traveled to Cuba?

Out of the numerous participants who were interviewed by the Associated Press, one said that they were given a worthless 30-minute seminar that taught them how they could evade Cuban intelligence had they been suspected of their anti-government activities.

Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you,” read a memo that was obtained by the Associated Press said to be given to a Latino youth in-regards to being exposed, “Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.

In other documents obtained by the Associated Press there appeared to be no safety-net to aide inexperienced travelers had they been exposed as not being true tourists but rebellion-agitators.

Gross has served five years of a 15-year sentence in a prison on the island, and according to his attorney his physical and emotional health continues to deteriorate as he is still in prison.

The Associated Press also found that the travelers program had extensive measures to hide the Latino youth’s activities. The youth were given a set of codes in order to be used under particular situations like: “I have a headache” meant they are being suspected and monitored by Cuban authorities; “Your sister is ill” was a direct order to the Latino youth to cut their trip short.

To further evade Cuban authorities, Latino youth travelers had installed innocent-looking content onto their laptops which were to mask sensitive information that they were carrying. Also, they were required to use encrypted memory sticks to hide their files in-addition to sending out encrypted emails using a system. The encrypted emails, according to the Associated Press, were said to have a strong possibility of drawing suspicion.

In response to the discovery from the Associated Press that there were Latino youth travelers working for the U.S. government, a college student in Cuba

How would you feel if you offered your sincere friendship and received this kind of news?” said Hector Baranda, a college student from Cuba upon learning that he was befriended by a group of young traveling Venezuelans who were working for the U.S. government to do a profile on him.

In the claims made by the Associated Press some of the travelers who took part in this operation were paid about $5.41 an hour, which is an estimation that is way below the U.S. federal minimum wage which stands about $7.25 an hour.

Although the Associated Press has released this investigation on this operation, there are no indications that the Latino America travelers who visited Cuba were able to sway a pro-democracy movement on the island.

The story is still developing.

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Motivate Kids by Teaching Them ‘Life is a Business,’ Says Non-Profit Founder


Welfare may seem like a charitable measure for struggling families. But it’s a self-perpetuating trap when it becomes the only way of life parents know how to teach their children, who then know nothing else to teach their own children, says Virgil Brannon, founder of the non-profit I Am Vision Inc.

“Living on entitlements becomes a way of life for recipients when it’s handed down from one generation to the next because the family loses any tools it might have once had to forge a life based on self-discipline, achievement and challenging,” says Brannon, author of Democratic Coma (www.DemocraticComa.com).

“It’s no different from the child who grow up being given material thing he wants, along with excessive praise that’s not deserved. One child may be from a poor family and the other from an affluent family, but both are at risk for growing up without the skills necessary for success.”

Brannon’s non-profit organization mentors disadvantaged children, helping them develop the values, understanding and knowledge they need to be motivated and equipped to succeed. He has found that coaching children to manage their lives as they would a business helps them not only develop good habits and skills, it also teaches them some essential business lessons:

• Your life is your business: Our business is how we act, speak, the way we dress, how we treat ourselves and how we treat others. Like any other business, it is expected to grow and prosper and to do that, we must invest in it. Part of that is feeding the mind with the information needed to make good choices.

• The people you meet and the friends you make are your clientele: Treat all people with the respect you would any customer or potential customer. Our relationships can elevate us if people feel their treated fairly, honestly and with respect.

• The more you provide or produce, the more you advance: Business involves providing a service or product. Business people do not care about excuses; they care about what you have to offer them. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what color you are, if you have something they need – and a reputation for integrity — they will come to you for it.

• Your appearance means everything: You must look the part to get the part. The secret is to look as though you already have it to obtain what you want.

Parents should teach their children to be business-like and to think like a professional, Brannon says.

“That includes giving them the best education possible, including learning at home about history, civic duty and different cultures,” Brannon says. “In business, people are expected to display good manners and to communicate with others, from a firm handshake to looking others in the eye and speaking clearly and correctly.

“That is the most important investment we can make.”

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Successful Artist Are the Ultimate Entrepreneurs

Artists are the ultimate entrepreneurs. That’s why a trip to a museum is so inspiring for founders.

Who is more entrepreneurial than an artist?

They have new ideas. They meet resistance. They have to mobilize support. Half the time they don’t even know if they are going to succeed, and very few of them actually make it to the galleries of our major museums.

Last semester I took a group of Cornell students who attend my leadership seminar in New York City to the Museum of Modern Art. We started by strolling through a Van Gogh exhibit and proceeded to the fifth floor to see the Cezannes, the Seurats, compared the Braques and Picassos, marveled at the Chagalls, and were tranquilized by Monet’s Water Lilies.

Then we stood before Duchamps’ Bicycle Wheel. I tried to explain to the class the notion of “ready-made” and its importance to contemporary art. Some were buying it, some were not.

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We moved in front of a Pollock on the fifth floor. Now the conversation was less about art and more about “how did this stuff get on the wall?” We discussed Pollack’s energy and dynamism, but we kept coming back to one fundamental question: What is the difference between Pollack’s drips and the work of some unknown artist? In other words, how did these works get on the walls of the MoMA when others did not?

Perhaps, like any entrepreneur, it was the artist’s ability to focus and move an agenda. It was about being proactive, taking charge of your career, not being passive, moving things forward, and creating coalitions.

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Is the Crow of Elysium in ‘House of Cards’ Scene a Real Secret Society?

In the 5th, season, episode eight of “House of Cards” The Crow of Elysium is fictional, but it’s based on a real thing that’s just as bizarre as what we see on screen. The club a reference to the Bohemian Club, an actual all-man club consisting of many people of power, including some former U.S. presidents. They meet in a campground in Monte Rio, California for two weeks every July, they have a $25,000 membership fee.

While Frank Underwood’s club uses a crow as their mascot, the mascot of the Bohemian Club is an owl. Members gather before a 30-foot tall own statue made out of concrete, and for a while, the voice of club member Walter Cronkite was used to make it sound like the owl was talking. This same effect occurs in the House of Cards episode, as members gather before a large crow.

Every year, members of the Bohemian club perform what they refer to as the “Cremation of Care” ceremony, a theater production by club members, for club members.

The Club’s patron saint is John of Nepomuk, who was killed rather than revealing secrets of the queen. This is meant to represent the club’s desire to keep what goes on at their ceremonies a secret, although we know as much as we do because a number of people have infiltrated the club over the years.

As in the House of Cards episode, it is a fact that a lot of powerful people meet at the Bohemian Club, and they often discuss highly important issues. For instance, a planning meeting for the Manhattan Project took place at the Bohemian Club one year, according to The Washington Post. This is referenced in House of Cards, with it being said that members of the Crow of Elysium planned the Manhattan Project.

In general, though, club members are encouraged not to talk business, with their motto being “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here.” In other words, networking is discouraged. That seems to also be the case with the Crow of Elysium, as when Frank Underwood tries to talk politics, Mark Usher stops him, saying, “Ah, buzzing beez, buzzing bees,” apparently referencing the club’s variation on the “weaving spiders” phrase.

Some famous Bohemian Club members include George H. W. Bush, Clint Eastwood, Newt Gingrich, William Randolph Hearst, Herbert Hoover, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Theodore Roosevelt.

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Mom Losses Over 100 Lbs. After Painful Divorce & Cheating Husband

Betsy Ayala had struggled with her weight her whole life, weighing over 200 lbs. throughout her 20s.

After giving birth to her daughter in June 2013, Ayala, now 34, had reached 260 lbs. Even though her weight had reached a new high, Ayala wasn’t too concerned about her physical appearance at the time, as she began struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.

“My brother suggested that I try to eat better to feel better,” the Houston, Texas-based mom siad. “I had a newborn baby and I didn’t have the desire to cook, so I learned about Herbalife shakes and I gave it a shot. Slowly I started to feel better and I started losing weight even though that wasn’t my intention — my intention was to feel better overall through better nutrition.”

 

Ayala had lost about 30 lbs, when she discovered that her husband whom she had been dating since she was a teenager was cheating on her.

“At that point, my whole world fell apart,” she says. “we were trying to figure out if we could make our relationship work, but it ended up not working out. At that moment, I thought, ‘This is not going to define who I am. “ That drove me to make a permanent change in my life.”

 

Ayala wanted to move on with her life in a healthy way to not only feel better about herself, but to be a good example for her daughter.

“I wanted her to be proud of me and have an example of a strong mom that perseveres despite whatever happens, and have a happy life,” she says. “That moment was when I decided that I wasn’t going to be the same person I was before.”

In 2014, Ayala began making positive changes. She started working out despite never being active before and cleaned up her diet.

 

Today she is down 104gh lbs., and is committed to her healthy lifestyle, which includes a clean diet free of soda, junk food and processed food — with the exception of a cheat meal once a week — and six days of exercise every week.

“At the beginning it was hard, but it’s honestly not as hard as you think it is,” says Ayala of making major lifestyle changes while balancing being a mother. “Once you feel good and you make that change and you see how amazing it feels to feel good, it just becomes part of your life. For me, it’s second nature. I don’t question going to the gym — it’s part of what I do. And even eating right, it’s not, ‘Oh I have to eat healthy today.’ It’s part of my life now. I enjoy it.”

“I gave up certain things in my life that weren’t positive for myself, and replaced them with things like going to the gym,” she continues.

Ayala, who now works as an Herbalife wellness coach, says the best part of losing weight has been obtaining a more positive outlook on life.

“When you feel good and you’re good with yourself both mentally and physically, it changes your perspective on life,” she says. “When I go to the gym, I push myself to do things I couldn’t do before. It shifts your mindset — you become fearless because this one thing you thought you never could accomplish, now you’re able to do.”

Another rewarding aspect is being able to help others through her job as a wellness coach.

“Through my results, I’m able to help other people do the same thing,” says Ayala. “People approach me and say I’m inspiring, and I can’t even describe how rewarding that is for me.”

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Powerhouse Lawyer Ervin Gonzalez Found Dead In His Home In Suspected Suicide

One of  South Florida’s top civil litigator was found dead in his home on Thursday, and according to authorities, his passing is being investigated by police as a suicide

Ervin Gonzalez, a graduate of the University of Miami Law School, was a partner at Colson Hicks Eidson, where he played substantive roles in a number of high-profile cases, including but not limited to the BP oil spill class-action and the Chinese drywall multidistrict litigation. At the time of his death, Gonzalez had accumulated 33 verdicts of at least $1 million, many of them in the top verdicts in America. Gonzalez was also a leader in the legal community, having served as a member of the Florida Bar’s board of governors as well as its executive committee.

Dean Colson of Colson Hicks Eidson released this statement to the Southern District of Florida Blog after discovering that Gonzalez had passed:

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ervin A. Gonzalez, our beloved partner, friend and role model. Words cannot convey our grief, admiration, or affection for this pillar of our community. Our hearts and prayers go out to his wife Janice and his family and friends during this unfathomable time. A caring, warm, brilliant and masterful trial attorney, he set the standard for the profession in his compassion and vigorous advocacy for those who suffered grievances and injustices at the hands of others. He will be remembered for his intellect, skill and ability to befriend and defend the rights of people from all walks of life with a zest and dedication that was unrivaled. Ervin’s passing reminds all of us that mental illness can strike anyone regardless of how accomplished or content they might appear. Like the Ervin we all knew and loved, he valiantly fought this personal challenge with unmatched effort. He simply was unable to win his hardest and final trial. It pains us to know he was suffering so terribly beyond his control.

We here at Above the Law would like to extend our thoughts and sympathies to Ervin Gonzalez’s family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.

If you’re depressed and in need of help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Remember that you are loved, so please reach out if you need assistance, before it’s too late. Don’t become a statistic — seek help.

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CUNY Teams up With Other States on Equality Program

 

CUNY ISLG Working with Dallas, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tulsa to Measure and Track Equality Among Residents

The CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG), in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation and 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), announced the selection of five cities to receive support to develop a tool to track progress towards equality, helping decision makers craft more effective policies to assist communities in each city. This work will build on the model developed by ISLG to measure equality among diverse groups (e.g., racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, individuals with disabilities) in New York City. The NYC model measures equality across six broad areas, including economy, education, health, housing, justice, and services.

The selected cities—Dallas, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tulsa—will each work with ISLG to build a tool that prioritizes the needs of each city and will complement the comprehensive Resilience Strategies being developed or implemented as member cities of 100RC.

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The tool will include a number of specific indicators to measure disparities across various sectors and groups that will be identified by each site. ISLG will work with each city and the local community to solidify their priorities and determine which broad areas to focus on. ISLG and the partner cities will then determine a list of final indicators drawing from local data in each of these areas, and together, these indicators will provide practical means to assess progress—or lack of progress—over time and connect it to policy development.

ISLG Executive Director Michael Jacobson said, “We’re proud to expand our work with The Rockefeller Foundation to measure equality in five diverse cities across the country. At this critical time when there is increased scrutiny of local government policies and practices, it’s important for jurisdictions look closely at the data they have to really understand what’s going on, what’s working, and where improvement needs to be made. This work will go a long way towards helping jurisdictions do this in a thoughtful and transparent way.”

“Achieving greater equality within our cities has been one of the defining challenges of the last few years,” said Peter Madonia, Chief Operating Officer, The Rockefeller Foundation. “Policy makers are committed to addressing these disparities through public programs, but traditionally lack the data that allows them to better identify the problems and ultimately the most effective solutions. The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support CUNY in its efforts to help cities navigate the realities of these disparities so they can work towards policies that offer the greatest impact to achieving equality.”

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Otis Rolley, North America Regional Director for 100 Resilient Cities said, “Our cities agree that increasing equity is key to building resilience, and this tool will be critical in helping them understand where they need to focus their efforts. If cities better understand where they’re equitable and where they’re not, their leaders both inside and outside government can tailor programs and initiatives in the most efficient and effective way possible. The selected cities will not only work to improve equity in their cities, but by developing and piloting this tool, will be helping cities all over the world address this critical challenge.”

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said, “Notwithstanding the tremendous wealth and prosperity that Dallas has long enjoyed, many of our residents continue to struggle to provide for themselves and their families. If Dallas is to achieve her highest potential as a truly resilient 21st century city, we must strive to expand this abundance of opportunity to our most vulnerable residents. Through the good work of this partnership and the knowledge that we gain, Dallas will endeavor to build an equitable and just city that supports all of our residents in their success and nurtures our children to thrive.”

“The City of Oakland is excited to be part of this cohort of cities working alongside Rockefeller to ensure we are measuring equity outcomes, particularly around our housing and economic security work which are key pillars of our Resilient Oakland playbook,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “True equity is when our entire community has equal access to opportunities that enable them to attain their full potential. Resilience in the face of chronic stresses, such as housing affordability or long-term unemployment, cannot be achieved until we focus on building this equity.”

“Participating in this selected cohort of the Equality Indicators Project is a great opportunity to tie together many of the leading efforts locally to build equity across the City. Using CUNY’s framework will allow us to tailor a Pittsburgh based equity measurement tool,” said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.

“August of 2014 has become a defining moment for both St. Louis and our nation,” said Mayor Lyda Krewson of the City of Saint Louis. “The protests that began in Ferguson marched down the streets of nearly every major American city. As a result, St. Louis now stands at the forefront of the national conversation about equity and the debilitating racial disparities across our communities. What we’ve learned through this conversation is that real equity cannot be defined by merely one indicator, but rather many, and it is something that we have to work toward continuously and with intention. The CUNY Equality Indicators grant and our partnership with 100 Resilient Cities presents St. Louis with an unparalleled opportunity to collaborate with other leading cities and experts in order to better inform our local decisions and utilize data to drive the policies that will close our equity gaps.”

“This grant is another important national partnership for Tulsa as we work to ensure that no matter what area of town you live in, everyone has the same access to education and health needs that are vital to the quality of life of Tulsans,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “This grant will be an initial step in the use of data to address racial disparities that exist in Tulsa today.”

About the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance

The Equality Indicators are a project of the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG). The CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance bridges the gap between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to address the challenges and opportunities confronting government. ISLG works with government agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, philanthropic institutions, and the private sector, to improve public systems to produce better results that are worthy of public investment and trust. For more information, please visit equalityindicators.org and islg.cuny.edu.

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Americans flock to Latin America to live an upper-class lifestyle on $1,500 a month

To casual visitors, the colonial town of Cuenca in Ecuador looks like life in the past. With its cobbled streets, soaring cathedrals and bustling markets and has a lazy, old world charm effect.

But Cuenca is also on the cutting edge of a very modern trend: providing a safe haven for U.S. retirees who have found themselves unwilling — or unable — to live out their golden years at home.

The growing wave of ex-pat seniors and even not so senior folks is not only attracting notions about retirement in the hemisphere but reshaping the face of communities throughout the Americas. And the trend is expected to grow as waves of baby boomers exit the workforce ill-prepared for retirement.

There’s no accurate way to measure this, but the Social Security Administration was sending payments to 380,000 retired U.S. workers living abroad in 2014 — up 50 percent from a decade ago.

Records show that seniors are flocking to Canada, Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador from the United States.

 

Best known for the Galapagos and providing asylum in its London embassy to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuador is home to 2,850 retirees receiving benefits, according to the U.S. government. But that number doesn’t tell the full picture. The city of Cuenca recently conducted a census that found its municipality alone was home to almost 10,000 foreign retirees, most of them from North America.

In Cuenca, a city of about 350,000 people, there is a robust public transportation, an extensive museum network, solid healthcare and markets bursting with fresh fruits and produce. It’s a place where a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath apartment costs less than $400 a month. For about $1,500 a month, a couple can live a solidly upper-class lifestyle, dining out frequently and traveling. You can’t accomplish this in the United States.

Countries across the hemisphere are trying to woo U.S. retirees — and their pensions. Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, among others, try to make it as easy as possible to set up shop.

But city officials say Cuenca is something of an accidental hotspot.

“Cuenca never wanted to attract retirees,” said Ana Paulina Crespo, the director of international relations for the municipality. “In fact, we’re facing lots of problems over how to deal with a phenomenon that we aren’t responsible for creating.”

The city is trying to combat local fears that the retirees are both driving up land prices and bleeding the public healthcare system, she said. And the language barrier has become a source of local irritation. Some restaurants and even neighborhoods seem like English-only spaces.

Cuencanos are feeling like strangers in their own city,” she said.

Starting in about 2009, Cuenca became a viral sensation on retirement websites. International Living, an influential publication, ranked it the top ex-pat retirement site several years running. As newly arrived retirees began blogging, there was a snowball effect.

“The internet has changed everything,” said Dan Prescher, a senior editor at International Living who recently moved from Ecuador to Mexico to be closer to his family in the United States. “Now you can talk to ex-pats who are living the life in real time. It has lowered the research bar for those who are thinking about it.”

A full 73 percent of the retirees in Cuenca, according to the city’s survey, said they found out about the city via “best of” rankings online.

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Unbelievable: Federal Prosecutor Says New Focus On Drug Crimes Will Go After People Wearing ‘Heavy Gold And Chains’!!

 

A federal prosecutor said recently that the Department of Justice’s efforts under Jeff Sessions to aggressively prosecute drug crimes will target people wearing “heavy gold and chains.”

Attorney general Sessions gave a speech in Memphis where he touted his recent charging memo that rolls back former Attorney General Eric Holder’s policy to not charge many drug offenders with mandatory minimums.

“We know that drugs and crime go hand-in-hand. Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t file a lawsuit in court or call the cops-you collect it by the barrel of a gun,” Sessions said. “Unfortunately, even as violent crime has surged and overdose deaths have spiked, federal gun and drug prosecutions have fallen recent years. We will reverse that trend. This new charging and sentencing policy is a return to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress, it’s that simple.”

The National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys — an association representing federal prosecutors — held a conference call with reporters expressing their support for Sessions’ objective of going after drug crime offenders.

 

Larry Leiser, the president of the group and a current prosecutor, said that this will help “young people who see people in the community wearing heavy gold and chains and hot cars as a result of their participating in the distribution of these drugs, as opposed to going out and earning an honest living.” (yes he said this)

A reporter shouted that these remarks could be construed as racist and Leiser denied that is the case. “It’s intended to be just the reality that unfortunately there are many people in the minority communities that are caught up in this terrible blight of drugs,” he replied.

He said that mandatory minimums help “alleviate the pain and suffering that these drug traffickers perpetrate on their own.”

Leiser added that the drug “plague” affects all communities and pointed to the opioid and heroin epidemic are hitting white communities.

This Image, but more importantly these words are something that Sessions and his team should do something about…but they wont

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Commentary: Speak Spanish in public with pride — don’t let anyone silence you

Jennifer Acosta, 22, graduated from Duke University magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She was 1 year old when she came to the U.S. She graduated from Tenoroc High School in Lakeland in 2013. (Jennifer Acosta) Jennifer AcostaNew Voices columnist

I spent half of my life growing up in a predominantly Latino urban area of New Jersey. The other half, I lived in a predominantly white rural town in Central Florida. Existing in both of these spaces has taught me two things:

  • I am “not Latina enough” — whatever that means.
  • I am “too Latina” — again, whatever that means.

One thing’s for sure, though: I am a native Spanish speaker. In the era of Donald Trump, however, speaking Spanish may become more difficult, if not dangerous.

I just graduated as a psychology and global cultural studies student at Duke University. At Duke, I spent a lot of time thinking about identity and culture. I reflected a lot on how being a low-income, first-generation college student and first-generation Latina immigrant to the United States impacted my college experience.

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My experiences have shaped my identity, and my identity has shaped my experiences.

It has also shaped how I approached my studies: Because of my experiences, I became interested in conducting research on ethnic and racial identity development. This has led me to spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to belong to a particular group, what it means to be “Latina,” and what it is that makes up my “Latinidad” or my “Latinaness.”

Read full article here