Monday, March 28, 2011

New York State Plans To Cut All Funds That Support The Homeless Youth in New York

via Huffington Post

Parents, we tuck our children in safely each night, giving them a kiss on their forehead, saying "sweet dreams" and telling them how much we love them. Some of us do this each night and rarely think of children without a parent, without a kiss, or without a place to sleep. However, the grim reality is that there are millions of homeless American children. On April 1 Governor Cuomo plans to cut all funding for programs in New York State working to house and support homeless children and youth, potentially sending thousands of children back onto the streets. We want the people of New York State to stop Governor Cuomo from cutting funds that house, support, and advocate for our homeless children and youth.

The United States has over 1.5 million homeless children, some studies suggest up to as many as 2.8 million. According to The National Center on Family Homelessness, New York State is currently ranked the 12th worst state in the nation with over 45,000 homeless youth, over 18,000 of those under the age of 6. The state is plagued with inadequate policy and planning efforts as it relates to child homelessness. While Cuomo intends to cut the funding going to these organizations there is a major need to increase it. Not only is it un-American, but it's inhumane to sit back and watch these children be thrown back onto the streets with little to no support. It is critical to act now, every voice matters.

New York State has funded programs through the Runaway Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) since 1978. Funding has provided youth shelters, outreach, crisis intervention, case management, basic needs such as food and clothing and many other services for homeless youth across the state.

In 2007, the state was supporting services for approximately 70 programs with an appropriation of $6.8 million. Between 2007 and 2010, the amount was reduced 30 percent due to state budget problems, to the current $4.7 million. "It is not possible to cut any further and still maintain safe services. Programs are already turning away the increasing number of youth who are ending up homeless," says Margo Hirsch, Executive Director at the Empire State Coalition.

"Governor Andrew Cuomo recently took office and he is already poised to make one of the most disastrous political decisions in New York State history," said Aaron Wrench, Operations Director for Forsaken Generation. In the proposed budget expected to be finalized by April 1, 2011 the Governor has proposed all funding to the RHYA (Runaway Homeless Youth Act) to be cut. The NYS Assembly and Senate have passed a budget slashing 50% to the RHYA which would reduce funding to $2.4 million, but if Governor Cuomo has his way, all of the funding will be cut.

These cuts will throw thousands of New York children out onto the streets robbing them of shelter beds and a chance at rebuilding their lives. A study done by the United States Justice Department stated that 1 in 3 homeless teens that are on the street will be forced into prostitution within only 48 hours. If these cuts are made and children are forced back out onto the streets, the results will be catastrophic.

Since the funding has been provided through the RHYA, it has enabled the identification, assistance, housing, and stabilization of tens of thousands of homeless children each year. "These programs turn young people's lives around by providing shelter; re-connecting them with family, where appropriate; teaching them how to live independently; connecting them with education and employment; and overall fostering their growth at becoming successful adults," said Andrew Peters, Associate Executive Director for the Long Island Crisis Center.

New York should be a model for opportunity and a place where the people and the government support one another to succeed in life and to be responsible citizens. To cut all funding to these programs can potentially have grave consequences. Children that are forced to the streets are at extremely high risk of sexual exploitation, violence, drug abuse, health risks, as well as significant educational challenges.

Over the summer of 2010, a shelter in Brooklyn, New York took in two 12-year-old twin boys, Brad and John, with a plan of placing them together in the foster care system. Their home situation was unsafe and the shelter system was the only option for keeping them together.

Throughout the thirty days that Brad and John stayed at the shelter they ate a well balanced diet, showed signs of improved health through regular physical activity, improved their education levels through the summer tutoring program, and both learned to swim through staff instruction. "For the twins, the shelter was the only place they could safely go until their long-term living situation could be stabilized. It was a much needed oasis in the desert of turmoil that was their lives," said Margo Hirsch. Leah, who was fourteen years old upon entering a shelter, was an abused child who was being hurt almost daily. "I had no one to turn to, no one would listen, and no safe place to go," says Leah.

Through a community member she had met, Leah found a shelter that she could call home. A safe, caring place where there was no worry of abuse. Leah said that, "for the first time in my life, I realize that not everyone is out to hurt me."

Leah, Brad and John are just a few out of thousands of young people who will be impacted by the decision of New York State to make drastic budget cuts designed to help homeless children.

Time is of the essence since a budget could be finalized within a matter of days. As residents of New York State you can voice your opposition to these proposed cuts. We urge you to please contact the following people.

Please call the officials below to voice your disapproval:

- Governor Andrew Cuomo (518) 474-8390
- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (518) 455-3791
- Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (518) 455-3171
- Senator Joseph Robach (877) 854-2687

You can also visit and follow the links to also contact these representatives via an online contact form. You will also find Twitter and Facebook links to some of these representatives as well. We encourage you to communicate with them in every way possible.

Reporter Locked In Closet At Vice President Biden Fundraiser

An aide to Vice President Joe Biden has apologised to a reporter who was locked in a closet for hours after he was invited to cover a Florida political fundraiser because they did not want him talking with the guests.

Spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said the decision to hold local reporter Scott Powers there was a 'mistake'.

And she claimed an inexperienced staffer had put Powers in the closet instead of a 'hotel room' as was their normal practice.

As the unaware $500-a-head invitees dined on caprese crostini with oven-dried mozzarella and basil, rosemary flatbread with grapes honey and gorgonzola cheese, grilled chicken Caesar and garden vegetable wraps, last week, the veteran reporter was locked away.

The Orlando Sentinel reporter was ushered into the closet inside wealthy property developer Alan Ginsburg’s Winter Park mansion, after being told that Joe Biden and Senator Bill Nelson had not yet arrived.

They were due to speak to the audience to raise money for the 2012 elections.

He was told he could only come out when the politicians were ready to give their speeches.

Powers told The Drudge Report: ‘When I'd stick my head out, they'd say, “Not yet. We'll let you know when you can come out.”’

After 90 minutes he was allowed out to hear Biden and Nelson speak for 35 minutes, before being taken back to the closet for the remainder of the event.

From inside his temporary prison Powers emailed his office from his cell phone: ‘Sounds like a nice party.’

When Ginsburg – who has supported both Democrat and Republican candidates in the past – learnt of the treatment that took place in his house, he called the reporter.

Powers said: ‘[Ginsburg] said he had no idea they'd put me in a closet and was very sorry.

‘He said he was just following their lead and was extremely embarrassed by the whole thing.’

Today Ms Alexander followed suit.

She said Power has accepted her 'unequivocal apology' made shortly after the fundraiser.

'This was the unfortunate mistake of an inexperienced staffer and the vice president's office has made sure it will never happen again,' she said.

She said pool reporters are usually given 'hotel rooms' when the Vice President speaks at private homes.

She explained that the closet was chosen because of its 'close proximity' to the room where Mr Biden was speaking, and that it had a table and chair where the reporter could work, as well as open space.

But she clarified: 'A hotel room, however, should not be a storage room'.

Some guests were shocked by the Vice President’s staff.

One emailed the paper saying: ‘I was in attendance at the Fundraiser and enjoyed a nice lunch.

‘If I had known there was a reporter stuffed in the closet, I would have been compelled to stand up and demand answers.

‘I would also like to know if this is actually legal to treat people like caged animals. I’m disgusted by these actions.’

Florida state law says kidnapping entails ‘forcibly, secretly or by threat confining, abducting or imprisoning another person against her or his will and without lawful authority.’

Powers said of his treatment: ‘It was frustrating and annoying that I was not given a chance to do my job fully and properly.

‘This was an extreme, and extremely inappropriate way of handling the press… it was essentially a rude and uncomfortable way to treat a reporter.’

He attempted to play down his treatment calling it ‘hardly unusual or shocking’ and confirmed that he received an apology from Ginsburg.

But he said the Vice President’s staff emailed him an apology which ‘I found far less satisfying than Ginsburg’s.’

Church Raising Awarness Of Porn Addiction

Should churches bring attention to pornography during their services? Pastor Jeremy Geerdes thinks so.

Pornography is a multi-million-dollar industry that results in ruined lives and broken homes. Pastor Geerdes knows people whose lives have been affected by this addiction, so he took a courageous step in holding Porn Sunday at Debra Heights Wesleyan Church in Des Moines, Iowa.

The idea behind National Porn Sunday originated with Triple X Church, an organization aimed at ministry to persons directly involved in the adult entertainment industry.

“Pornography is one of those elephants that hides in plain sight in too many churches, including ours,” says Pastor Jeremy. Triple X reports that 47 percent of Christians report that porn is a major problem in the home.

“We need to address matters which are relevant to the world in which we live,” he says. “Sometimes it’s easy to study Jesus and talk theology without ever really impacting real life.”

Craig Gross, founder of Triple X Church, presented via video three practical steps to escape porn addiction: confess it to Jesus, confess it to someone else, and clean it up. Pastor Jeremy hoped change would come about after addressing the issue through hosting Porn Sunday.

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States Move Forward In Passing Bills Limiting Abortions

NEW YORK | Dozens of bills are advancing through statehouses nationwide that would put an array of new obstacles — legal, financial and psychological — in the paths of women seeking abortions.

The tactics vary: Mandatory sonograms and pro-life counseling, sweeping limits on insurance coverage, bans on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. To pro-choice activists, they add up to the biggest political threat since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, which legalized abortion nationwide.

“It’s just this total onslaught,” said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state legislation for the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization that supports abortion rights.

What’s different this year is not the raw number of anti-abortion bills, but the fact that many of the toughest, most substantive measures have a good chance of passage due to gains by conservative Republicans in last year’s legislative and gubernatorial elections. On Tuesday, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law a bill that imposes a longest-in-the-nation waiting period of three days before women may have an abortion — and also requires them to undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortions.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented level of bills that would have a serious impact on women’s access to abortion services that very possibly could become law,” said Rachel Sussman, senior policy analyst for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

On the other side, pro-life strategists such as Mary Spaulding Balch of the National Right to Life Committee have been scrambling to keep up with legislative developments. “Until the bills get on the governors’ desks, it’s premature to claim victory. But it’s moving faster than it has in previous years. … We’re very pleased with the progress thus far,” she said.

In a number of states, lawmakers are considering bills that would ban elective abortions after 20 or 21 weeks of pregnancy. These measures are modeled after a law approved last year in Nebraska that was based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks.

The Idaho Senate approved one such bill Wednesday. Similar bills have made progress this session in Kansas and Oklahoma.Link

In Ohio, there has been a hearing on an even tougher measure that would outlaw abortions after the first medically detectable heartbeat — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. At that hearing, two pregnant women underwent ultrasounds so lawmakers could see and hear the fetal hearts.

The Ohio bill and the bans on abortions after 20 weeks are direct challenges to the legal status quo, based on Supreme Court rulings that permit abortions up to the point of a fetus’s viability — approximately 24 weeks — and allow states to impose restrictions for abortions after that stage.

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Ron Paul Says Dept. Of Education Wants To Indoctrinate Children

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ron Paul warned a group of home schooling advocates on Wednesday that officials at the Department of Education are trying to “indoctrinate” their children.

“They don’t educate our kids, they indoctrinate our kids,” the Texas congressman said of federal education efforts. “It’s a propaganda machine.”

Paul, who's considering a second White House bid in as many cycles, cast the many home schoolers in the crowd as something akin to a merry band of rebels against federal overreach. “What I’ve seen from you is an effort to counteract the propaganda machine."

Paul said the concerns expressed about children who are home schooled have been overblown and contended that the kids who really have a problem are those who grow up in the public system.

“In public education they’re intimidated to be conformists and individuals taught at home are very adapted to expressing what they believe,” he said.

Paul also credited home schoolers — many of whom, he conceded, supported his 2008 presidential campaign — for fostering an appreciation of the Constitution and the founding documents.

“The best thing that has come out of the home school movement is the respect you’re teaching about the rule of law and our Constitution,” he said.

Paul’s speech Wednesday came after a rally encouraging less government regulation of home schooling at the state capital that attracted roughly 1,000 on a cold and windy day in Des Moines.

PETA Wants Bible Text Changed So That Animals Are Not Called "It" Any Longer

PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is calling for a more animal-friendly update to the Bible.

The group is asking translators of the New International Version (NIV) to remove what it calls "speciesist" language and refer to animals as "he" or "she" instead of "it."

The NIV is a popular translation of the Christian Bible. An updated translation was released this month. The translators said 95% of the 1984 translation remains the same. But the committee of scholars made a move to be more gender-inclusive in their translation into English from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. According to the Committee on Bible Translation's website:

In general, much more often than not ... "People” and "humans” (and "human beings”) were widely used for Greek and Hebrew masculine forms referring to both men and women. ... "Ancestors” was regularly preferred to "forefathers” unless a specific, limited reference to the patriarchs or to another all-male group is intended.

PETA is hoping the move toward greater gender inclusiveness will continue toward animals as well.

“When the Bible moves toward inclusively in one area ... it wasn’t much of a stretch to suggest they move toward inclusively in this area," Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vice president for policy, told CNN.

Friedrich, a practicing Roman Catholic, said, "Language matters. Calling an animal 'it' denies them something. They are beloved by God. They glorify God."

“God’s covenant is with humans and animals. God cares about animals," Friedrich said. "I would think that’s a rather unanimous opinion among biblical scholars today, where that might not have been the case 200 years ago.”

Friedrich, who is also a vegan and suggests the Bible promotes vegetarianism, puts a religious face on PETA's ethical arguments.

“What happens in slaughterhouses mocks God,” he said. People know intuitively that "animals are 'who' not 'what.' ... Acknowledging it would better align our practices with our beliefs.”

David Berger, the dean of Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel graduate school of Jewish studies, said making the shift in English PETA is requesting would be difficult given the nature of ancient Hebrew.

“In Hebrew all nouns are gender-specific. So the noun for chair is masculine and the noun for earth is feminine. There’s simply no such thing as a neutral noun," Berger told CNN. “It’s unusual to have a noun that would indicate the sex of the animal.”

“In Proverbs it says, 'Look at the ant oh lazy person. See its ways,' " Berger said, quoting the English transition from the book of Proverbs. "In Hebrew it’s 'see her ways.' That's because the word for ant in Hebrew happens to be female. It’s not intended to exclude male ants as far as I know. It’s just an accident the Hebrew word happens to be feminine.”

He said that verse and many others are not intended to single out one sex or the other of the animals.

"It’s a little bit misleading given the fact in English the gender of the pronoun means something. It refers to the masculinity of the person or the animal that’s being referred to. In Hebrew in most cases its just sort of an accident of the masculine or feminine of the pronoun to which it referred," Berger said.

David Lyle Jeffrey, a distinguished professor of literature and the humanities at Baylor University, teaches about ancient texts and the Bible's relationship to literature and the arts.

“I agree with their contention that God cares for all of creation," Jeffrey said. "It is true that we have a responsibility to reflect that affection.

"In gender-inclusive Bible translation the generic terms for humankind, let's say, are then replaced with an emphasis on he or she. Instead of the generic he, you say he and she. I don’t quite see how that would work with animals," Jeffery said.

"Do we need to know the gender of the lion Samson slew? What would it give us there?" he said. "You could try to specify that, but you would be doing so entirely inventively if you did. It's not in the original language. ... Nothing is made of it in the story."

Read More From CNN Blog

Doctors Warn Teens Could Suffer From Facebook Depression

CHICAGO (AP) — Add “Facebook depression” to potential harms linked with social media, an influential doctors’ group warns, referring to a condition it says may affect troubled teens who obsess over the online site.


Researchers disagree on whether it’s simply an extension of depression some kids feel in other circumstances, or a distinct condition linked with using the online site.

But there are unique aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.

With in-your-face friends’ tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.


It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O’Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of what’s really going on. Online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context.

The guidelines urge pediatricians to encourage parents to talk with their kids about online use and to be aware of Facebook depression, cyberbullying, sexting and other online risks.

They were published online Monday in Pediatrics.

Read More From CBS Boston

Media Matters Possibly Breaking The Law In It's "War" On Fox News

Media Matters, the George Soros-backed legion of liberal agit-prop shock troops based in the nation's capital, has declared war on Fox News, and in the process quite possibly stepped across the line of legality.

David Brock, MM's founder, was quoted Saturday by Politico promising that his organization is mounting "guerrila warfare and sabotage" against Fox News, which he said "is not a news organization. It is the de facto leader of the GOP, and it is long past time that it is treated as such by the media, elected officials and the public.”

To that end, Brock told Politico that MM will “focus on [News Corp. CEO Rupert] Murdoch and trying to disrupt his commercial interests ..." Murdoch is the founder of Fox News and a media titan with newspaper, broadcast, Internet and other media countries around the world.

There is nothing in the Politico article to suggest that Brock, who was paid just under $300,000 in 2009, according to the group's most recently available tax return, plans to ask the IRS to change his organization's tax status as a 501(C)(3) tax-exempt educational foundation.

Being a C3 puts MM in the non-profit, non-commercial sector, and it also bars the organzation from participating in partisan political activity. This new, more aggressive stance, however, appears to run directly counter to the government's requirements for maintaining a C3 tax status.

Since Brock classifies Fox News as the "leader" of the Republican Party, by his own description he is involving his organization in a partisan battle. High-priced K Street lawyers can probably find a federal judge or a sympathetic IRS bureaucrat willing to either look the other way or accept some sort of MM rationale such as that it is merely providing educational information about a partisan group.

But in the IRS application for 501(C)(3) tax-exempt educational foundation status, Section VIII, Question I asks the applicant: "Do you support or oppose candidates in political campaigns in any way?" (Emphasis added).

Under Brock's definition of Fox News, it appears he is setting MM on a course of actively opposing all Republican candidates. Brandon Kiser at The Right Sphere blog argues that this new statement of MM's mission means it must change its tax status.

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Abercrombie and Fitch Selling Padded Bikini's To 7 Year Olds

(CNN) -- No stranger to controversy, U.S. retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has come under fire for offering a push-up bikini top to young girls.

Its "Ashley" bikini -- described as "padded" and a "push-up" -- was posted on the Abercrombie Kids website earlier this week.

The company declined to comment Saturday but noted it has since updated the description of its bikini online.

The product is now being offered as a padded, "striped triangle." Bottoms are sold separately.

"How is this okay for a second-grader?" asked Rebecca Odes in a recent post on the Babble parenting blog.

"Playing at sexy is an inevitable and important part of growing up. But there's a difference between exploring these ideas on your own and having them sold to you in a children's catalog," she wrote.

Gail Dines, a sociology professor at Wheelock College in Boston, similarly slammed the top, saying it would encourage girls to think about themselves in a sexual way before they are ready.

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