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December 23, 2014 / 1 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘New York State’

NY State’s Anti-Boycott Bill in Deep Freeze

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

The New York State Assembly has yanked, at least for the time being, a bill that would punish educational institutions that carry out academic boycotts, an action that is synonymous with a boycott of Israel.

The State Senate passed the bill last week, but the State Assembly’s Higher Education Committee has taken the proposal, even though it was amended to be less strict, off the table following protests by academics and legal experts.

On the surface, the bill seems like a glimmer of light in a twisted academic world of darkness. Its original version in the Senate would cut off funds from any institution that engages in an academic boycott, most notably the recent vote by the American Studies Association to boycott Israel because it allows and encourages Jews to live in Judea and Samaria.

The boycott defies all morals, logic and intelligence, so much so that dozens of higher education institutions have pulled out of the ASA. It always is more effective to win a war by fighting back instead of legislating it as illegal.

The New York State United Teachers union opposes the bill on grounds that it would “serve to regulate speech based on content and the message it conveys.”

Pro-Israel groups have protested academic boycotts because it stifles academic freedom and is aimed at schools simply because they receive money from a country whose policies the boycotter finds unacceptable. Many New York educators argue that the anti-boycott bill does exactly the same thing by punishing a school for its ideological positions.

The union’s memo of opposition states, “Withholding state aid from any college or university for speaking publicly about a country; or boycotting a country; or one of its higher education institutions; violates the First Amendment protection of speech. While we may not agree with, or even detest the content of an individual’s – or group of individual’s speech – they are free to express it. This is a fundamental tenet of our Constitution.

“Similarly, an academic institution has the right to participate in a boycott over issues of public concern regardless of whether we agree or not with the subject matter that the boycott addresses…..

“The enactment of this legislation would serve to regulate speech based on content and the message it conveys…. The bill is also unconstitutionally vague in that reasonable persons can’t know what is prohibited and what is not.”

Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, a co-sponsor of the bill and the chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said she removed it from the committee’s consideration because she felt that “we needed to take a longer look” and that the bill needs to be modified to deal the issue of academic freedom.

The general counsel for the City University of New York, Frederick P. Shaffer, said the bill “creates a dangerous precedent of legislative intrusion into the decisions of higher education institutions concerning academic matters.”

Boycotts, such as the campaign against Israel, may be carried out because of a twisted vision of the world. But the most effective antidote has been its failure.

The Boycott Israel campaign several years, which tried to convince people not buy anything from anywhere in Israel, fell flat on its face when people woke up to discover that their computer chips are made Israel, their disk on key was invented in Israel, and their generic pill or prescription drug against Multiple Sclerosis is made and sold by Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical.

BDS has been targeting SodaStream, which has a factory in the Judean Hills in “post-1967,” Israel, and so far has had little success.

Met Council Cleared for State Funding following Scandal

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty will be able to continue receiving New York State funds in the wake of the scandal that has seen its former CEO charged with stealing millions from the charity.

The New York State attorney general and comptroller announced Thursday that they had reached an agreement with the Met Council, a leading Jewish social services agency. The agreement, which coincides with two parallel agreements reached with city agencies, provides “assurance that Met Council is implementing critical reforms to prevent the misuse of public funds,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a press release.

Among the reforms the council agreed to are implementing enhanced governance and personnel policies, hiring a general counsel and chief compliance officer, engaging a new outside auditor, appointing at least two new independent board members to be approved by state and city officials, and training board members and key personnel yearly in ethics and nonprofit compliance.

The agreement notes that Met Council’s board has already conducted its own investigation and replaced certain senior management.

The agreement comes a week after New York State’s attorney general announced that one of former Met Council CEO William Rapfogel’s alleged co-conspirators pleaded guilty to grand larceny, money laundering and tax fraud.

Joseph Ross, who pleaded guilty last week, was the owner of Century Coverage, a Long Island insurance company that submitted inflated bills to the Met Council, allegedly sharing the extra money with Rapfogel and using some of it for campaign contributions to elected officials. Rapfogel, who had headed Met Council for more than 20 years, was fired from his post in August and arrested in September.

Lack of ‘Kosher Cop’ in New York a Problem for Kosher Consumers

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The departure of the head of the Kosher Law Enforcement Division of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has created a vacuum in which many consumers have charged that there are many incidents of misrepresentations of kosher foods.

KosherToday has learned that the Department is looking for a replacement for Rabbi Luzer Weis but that it has no plans to rehire the inspectors that were ousted in an ostensible budget move several years ago.

Sources say that while the Department is committed to staff the kosher division with an official, it hopes that some of the routine kosher law enforcement will be carried out by New York State health inspectors.

Observers note that the absence of the inspectors has allowed co-mingling of kosher and non-kosher items in aisles that are labeled as kosher. Some Orthodox Jewish organizations have been urging the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo “to put teeth back into kosher law enforcement.”

A Closer Look at Bill de Blasio’s Record

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Bill de Blasio, the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary for mayor, has been running his second television commercial of the campaign, titled “Dignity,” since Monday. Fact checking the ad, Michael Barbaro of the NY Times found it quite misleading. Mr. de Blasio argues he’s the only candidate pledging to end the way the Police Department carries out the stop-and-frisk tactic. The problem with that claim is that his opponents have all, in one way or another, pledged to reform it, too.



Nor is Mr. de Blasio, per his claim, the only candidate proposing an income tax on the rich to pay for education. John C. Liu, the city comptroller, has proposed raising the city’s marginal income tax to pay for after-school programs, among other things.

“Dropping the misleading word ‘only’ from several of his claims, or using it more carefully, would do wonders for the accuracy and credibility of his commercials,” Barbaro concludes.

Bill de Blasio’s exaggerating his role as an advocate for the issues he believes are at the top of voters’ concerns is nothing new. In fact, his record of representing the outer-boroughs, as he now promises not to let down any New Yorker, is far from exhilarating.

Back in 2001, when he first ran for City Council in the 39th district, Mr. de Blasio was examined for mismanagement and controversial ties that had put in question his credentials at the time. “[Bill de Blasio] carries a lot of baggage as well,” The Village Voice wrote in a profile on the race for council.

“De Blasio was elected to School Board 15 in 1999, and his tenure has been rocky. Many public school parents charge that de Blasio was stubbornly supportive of Frank DeStefano, the former superintendent of District 15 who resigned in the winter amid allegations of overspending and mismanagement. Reports first surfaced in the fall of 1999 that DeStefano had begun to run up big deficits, taking himself and other school officials on several expensive junkets costing a total of more than $100,000. One year later the school deficit topped $1 million, leading to the cancellation of a popular after-school reading program while DeStefano maintained an expensive car service.

“De Blasio still defends his decision to stick with DeStefano for as long as he did. “He was a visionary and a great educator, but he was a horrible communicator,” de Blasio says of DeStefano. “I was deeply concerned, but I was not going to make a final decision until I saw the evidence.” In the end, de Blasio says, “he could have made better decisions, but I don’t think the spending was wildly excessive. Both of my parents were victims of the McCarthy era. I do not take lightly the idea of ousting someone. You have to have the evidence.”

“De Blasio has also been linked to the flap over New Square, the Hasidic village in upstate New York that has been mired in pardon scandals. Candidate Clinton assiduously courted the small Rockland community last year, winning the town by the whopping margin of 1400 to 12. Six weeks after the election, Israel Spitzer, New Square’s deputy mayor, met with the Clintons at the White House, where pardons for four New Square civic leaders convicted of fraud were discussed. In January, Bill Clinton commuted their sentences, leading to a probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in which several Hillary Clinton campaign aides were called in for questioning. At a Manhattan fundraiser for de Blasio in December, Spitzer made a $2500 donation, the largest permitted under the city’s Campaign Finance Board. De Blasio refused to comment on that matter, including the issue of whether he was questioned by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. De Blasio would only offer this comment: “I’m waiting to hear what’s going to happen with that.”

in 2007 as councilman, Mr. de Blasio was lambasted for not living up to his promises and for a lackluster performance as representative of his district.  In a hard hitting piece by a local blogger named “Parden Me For Asking,” Mr. de Blasio was criticized for running a dysfunctional office and keeping himself distracted from the issues that mattered to the neighborhoods he represented, going back to his time he served on the Board of Education before his run for council.

Queens State Senator Charged with Bribery

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Six New York politicians, including Queens State Sen. Malcolm Smith, have been charged with bribery scheme aimed at placing Smith, a Democrat, as the Republican nominee for mayor.

Others who were charged include New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran, a Democrat from Queens, and Republican Party officials Vincent Tabone and Joseph Savino.

“A show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement, calling the charges “an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself.”

Smith and the other defendants are to appear in court on Tuesday to face six charges of fraud and conspiracy. Smith’s lawyer said that his client denies all the charges.

The Risk Of Allergies: Explaining Anaphylactic Shock

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

We hear it all the time: “This is a peanut-free facility, you can’t eat that peanut butter sandwich here!” A person may say, “So what? I am allergic to broccoli, it’s disgusting, keep it far from me.”

We all should realize that food and medication allergies are no laughing matter. Reactions can be so severe that they could lead to death.

Allergic reactions commonly manifest as runny nose, hives, itching, tingling, rashes, vomiting, stomach pain, swollen lips eyes or face, or sneezing and coughing. The most severe reaction is something called anaphylactic shock.

Anaphylaxis is a rapidly progressive allergic reaction that is potentially life threatening. Although there has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed as being at risk of anaphylaxis, deaths are rare. But deaths have occurred, and anaphylaxis is therefore regarded as a medical emergency.

The symptoms of anaphylactic shock could include difficult or noisy breathing, swelling of the tongue, swelling or tightness in the throat, difficulty talking, wheezing, persistent coughing, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and collapse. Young children who are going through anaphylactic shock may appear pale and floppy,

Food allergies are the most common triggers to an anaphylactic reaction. Nine foods cause 90 percent of food allergic reactions and can be common causes of anaphylaxis. These are:

peanuts

tree nuts (such as hazelnuts, cashews, almonds)

chicken eggs

cow’s milk

wheat

soybeans

fish

shellfish

sesame

People all over the world live with allergies that trigger anaphylaxis. Some less common food triggers are citrus fruits and vegetables. But any food can cause anaphylaxis. Children frequently outgrow allergies to milk, soy, and eggs, but peanut, tree nut, and fish allergies tend to last a lifetime.

Food allergens account for 30 percent of deaths caused by anaphylaxis. In extreme cases, anaphylaxis can occur from kissing someone who has eaten the offending allergen, or from the food vapor in the case of cooking shellfish.

Medications can also cause anaphylaxis. Penicillins, cephalosporins, aspirin, NSAIDs, antimalarials, anaesthetics, sedatives, antipsychotics, antihypertensives, intravenous contrast dye and the flu vaccine are among the substances that carry risk of severe allergic reaction. Penicillin is the most common medication to cause anaphylaxis. Serious reactions to penicillin occur about twice as frequently following intramuscular or IV administration than taking it by mouth.

In contrast to food anaphylaxis, drug anaphylaxis is characterized by a high frequency of heart failure and rapid onset (within minutes), especially in older people.

Latex products, especially natural latex, commonly found in gloves, balloons, baby bath toys, belts, elastic bands, erasers, gloves, and some shoes can trigger anaphylaxis in those who are sensitive. Synthetic latex appears to be less allergenic than natural latex. Some people with latex allergy will also have an allergy to certain foods such as avocados, bananas, chestnuts, and kiwi because of cross reactivity to latex.

Insect venom from bees, hornets, wasps, and fire ants can also cause anaphylactic shock. Stings are more likely to cause anaphylaxis than bites. Anaphylaxis to insect stings has occurred in three percent of adults and one percent of children who have been stung. These stings can be fatal even on the first reaction.

Exercise is a rare trigger, but is likely to happen in people sensitive to certain foods (e.g. wheat, celery, and cheese) or medications. If the allergen is taken before being physically active, it can cause anaphylaxis. Typical symptoms include extreme fatigue, warmth, red face, rashes or hives, occasionally progressing to swelling of the face, wheezing, upper airway obstruction and collapse.

Extremely uncommon triggers include exposure to airborne allergens (such as animal dander) and cold temperatures. Sometimes a specific cause cannot be identified and this condition is called idiopathic anaphylaxis.

How does Anaphylaxis Happen?

Allergies occur when the immune system (immunoglobulin cell type “E”) produces antibodies against substances in the environment (allergens). These immune system cells set off an inflammatory reaction. The inflammatory response is the cause for most allergic symptoms, especially the closing of the throat, redness and swelling of the skin.

Anaphylaxis can occur within minutes to hours after being exposed to the trigger.

How Anaphylaxis is Treated

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and anyone experiencing symptoms should call EMS (Hatzoloh or 911) right away to get medical treatment. Adults may be able to express a feeling of “something not being right.” But children may not be able to communicate that something is wrong. Parents, teachers and caregivers should be accustomed to keeping a wary eye on children who have severe allergies. An “allergy emergency plan” should be made a practiced to benefit a member of the family who might G-d forbid have an anaphylactic episode.

Beyond Church And State: School Vouchers And The Blaine Amendment

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Like clockwork, the question of school vouchers makes a prominent appearance whenever the media focus on a statewide election in New York, particularly one in a heavily Orthodox district. The latest chime was sounded during the battle between Lew Fidler and David Storobin to fill an open state senate seat; both promised constituents that they would make the fight for vouchers and tax education credits their priority. (Nearly a month after the election, a winner has still not been declared in the election.)

Jewish groups have been pushing this issue forward for years, hoping that vouchers will help ease the strain of tuition for Jewish families, who often have multiple children attending yeshiva day schools. They have been joined by Catholic groups and non-parochial organizations that favor “parental choice” – the buzzword for increased educational options for children.

But do vouchers have a legal leg to stand on in New York, or are all these campaign promises and advocacy efforts just a lot of talk?

The Blaine Amendment, which prohibits the use of state funds to aid religious schools, appears to be the main constitutional barrier. Drafted in the 1870s by an anti-Catholic U.S. senator, the amendment was intended to punish Catholics who wanted to pull out of the common schools, which at that time were predominantly Protestant-led, according to Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has worked with the Orthodox Union on the issue of vouchers.

The Blaine Amendment failed to get the requisite amount of votes to become a federal amendment, but was eventually adopted by nearly all 50 states, including New York, and fiercely restricts the amount and type of aid that states can provide to private schools.

But Maury Litwack, director of political affairs for the Orthodox Union, said the Blaine Amendment is not the real issue preventing school vouchers in New York.

Litwack and many other experts contend that it is less of a legal question than a political one, with the strong presence of the powerful teachers’ and public employee unions crowding out the possibility of advancing issues against their agenda.

“It’s a boogie-man issue in general – bring up vouchers and you get into state vs. church discussions when it should be much broader than that,” said Litwack. “The biggest problem is that [the Blaine Amendment] is used as a reason by legislature, more of a symbol by states to say ‘we can’t help you.’ It’s more of a public blockade than an actual constitutional problem.”

. It’s not that anyone has argued against it,” but legislators are aware of the political challenges.”]Richard Komer, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian public interest law firm, agrees: Political challenges in New York are harder than other states because unions arestronger here, he said.

Komer noted that New York is the home base for the American Federation for Teachers, one of the two major teachers’ unions in America. Public employee unions are very powerful as well in the state and have a lot of sway in the Democratic Party, he said.

“That’s why you don’t have [vouchers]” he said, “It’s not that anyone has argued against it,” but legislators are aware of the political challenges.

Komer said that Governor Andrew Cuomo made some quiet inquiries as to the constitutionality of vouchers in New York during his campaign, to which IJ responded that vouchers are constitutional in New York State.

Those that point to the political challenges in New York say that state courts have been quite liberal in interpreting the Blaine Amendment, especially in contrast to other states.

For example, non-public school students in New York receive aid in the form of school transportation, textbooks, and more recently get $330 in state aid under the Empire tax credit, Litwack pointed out. (Public school students receive this stipend as well.)

In contrast, states like Florida and Washington don’t provide funding for transportation. In Florida, where the Blaine Amendment has been interpreted very strictly by the courts, it’s been put on the ballot for repeal, he said.

“As long as a school voucher program includes making a genuine independent choice by the parents – in which they are making the decisions where the money is getting directed – it should be constitutional,” said Rassbach at the Becket Fund.

Komer echoed that sentiment. “It’s clear who the direct beneficiaries are – it’s the families who pay for this. Any benefits to the school are incidental,” and therefore constitutional, he said.

There are some, though, that do see the Blaine Amendment as a significant legal barrier.

Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Libery: "As long as a school voucher program includes making a genuine independent choice by the parents... it should be constitutional."

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/beyond-church-and-state-school-vouchers-and-the-blaine-amendment/2012/04/18/

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