Guns vs. Education

Since mass shootings have become such a frequent occurrence, it is no wonder Utica College located in Upstate New York sprang into action the minute they received threats from an individual, presently unidentified, who declared themselves armed with a weapon around on campus grounds. Utica College has approximately 5000 students who attend classes on campus and online. Due to the calamitous events that have transpired at about 11am Monday morning, all of these students as well as the staffs have been removed from campus grounds and are told to hang around safe places for the time being. The Utica College representatives have, in the meantime, called off all remaining classes and events for the day.

Around one o’clock past noon on Monday, Lieutenant Bryan Coromato of the Utica Police Department has updated the public in an email that states,

“This agency, along with other local, state, and federal agencies are on scene investigating the incident. At this time there is no substantiation to any reports of an active shooter or shots fired on the campus.”

A couple of hours following this incident, at 3 in the afternoon, Utica Police Department reassured the public of the lack of hostility that has been detected, in addition to the absence of physical forces and violence that has been reported through the platforms of social media such as Twitter. Nonetheless, they will continue this investigation to validate the authenticity of the threat in order to ensure the safety of the students as well as the staff.

Further updates about the incident can be found on the Utica College Twitter page.

While we are pleased to see this matter being handled with extreme precaution and severity, we cannot deny the inconvenience that it has ultimately caused to the people involved. A quick look through the search engine reveals the extent of people in distress. All things aside, this situation calls for a quick evaluation of the United States as a ‘first-world country’. Should a developed nation such as America be like this? Should people be in constant fear and distress for a possible massacre? Why aren’t we doing something to change that?

Politicians, news reporters and so forth are centering their attention on gun rights in relation to gun control only to waste away the time and effort with no tangible outcomes. The Second Amendment of the Constitution has safeguarded the right of the people to bear arms, so why do we insist on devoting all these resources to fight for a cause that we cannot win? Perhaps the states should better allocate these means towards a more promising approach, such as the gun reform package that has been proposed by the Senate of Florida State.

The notion of keeping teachers armed have been mocked and ridiculed on social media. It is important to take into consideration that those who are determined to execute their plans, will find a way to do so, despite of the rules and regulations that may restrict them temporarily. Hence, the enforcement of gun control does not guarantee the elimination of mass shootings whereas permitting the staffs and officials of schools or colleges will provide them with a promising self-defense line in times of need.

Furthermore, the Florida school shooting have illustrated the need for proper education, since shooters are no longer repeat offenders or hired assassins. They are the children who did not receive adequate care and attention from their role models. Take the Florida shooter for example, he has had an entire web page that described his aspirations to be a “shooter” as well as the refusal to attend class the morning of the shooting. All of this, however, was dismissed as a regular teenage defiance. Many children out there who are under foster care faces similar negligence and lack of sympathy by the adults around them. All of the aforementioned entities are aspects that could be improved with sufficient resources, and, in turn, eliminate these threats in the long run.

Featured Image via Flickr/skyandsea876

Centene to acquire Fidelis Care for $3.75 billion

Centene, the United States’ largest Medicaid managed care provider, announced Tuesday that it has reached a “definitive agreement” to acquire Fidelis care for $3.75 billion, USA Today reports. 

The deal is scheduled to close in early 2018. It awaits the approval of various New York regulators, who will, among other things, evaluate it for compliance with the NY Not-for-Profit Corporation Law.

With the acquisition, Centene expects to generate $60 billion in annual revenue in 2018 and $100 million in savings by 2019. The firm reported $40.6 billion in annual revenue in 2016. Based in St. Louis, the company ranks among the largest publicly held companies in Missouri in terms of revenue.

Centene hopes to maintain a debt-to-capital ratio of 40 percent in the 18 months following the acquisition.

Managed care providers like Centene and Fidelis Care function as intermediaries between federal and state governments—which fund Medicaid programs—and Medicaid beneficiaries. The State pays such companies a premium in exchange for providing the services to which a beneficiary is entitled. USA Today describes managed care providers as the “private market option for Medicaid recipients.”

Fidelis works with 70,000 health care providers to provide health insurance plans to 1.6 million New York residents. The company brought in $4.8 billion in revenue in the first six months of 2017, according to Centene’s announcement.

Centene serves more than 12.2 million members in 28 states, but prior to the Fidelis acquisition has no presence in New York state. The deal will give Centene a leadership position in that state’s managed care market, the second-largest such market in the nation, according to Centene’s statement. The company is already the leading Managed Care Organization (MCO) in the other three largest MCO markets in the country: California, Florida and Texas.

Centene partners with healthcare providers at the state level to offer care tailored toward the needs of a given community.

“We believe our over 30 years of experience, our local approach to the provision of healthcare, and our expertise and capabilities in caring for underserved populations will support the next generation of leadership in government programs in New York State,” said Michael F. Neidorff, chairman, president and CEO of Centene. “We look forward to partnering with the state of New York’s healthcare professionals as we continue to deliver on our mission of transforming the health of the community, one person at a time.”

Fidelis shares Centene’s emphasis on local involvement and affordable care for as many people as possible. The former company’s website says: “From the beginning, Fidelis Care has worked to be part of the social fabric of local communities, impacting people’s lives with one of the most basic human rights – access to quality, affordable health coverage and care.”

“Centene’s and Fidelis Care’s missions are fully aligned in terms of promoting health through high quality, accessible care and services for all and advocating for health policy that accords true dignity and respect for all people, especially the underserved,” says Neidorff.

Fidelis Care CEO Patrick J. Frawley says his company’s “mission and values” are its “foundation,” and that Centene shares those values.

According to a CBSNews report, The Archdiocese of New York, a key Fidelis backer, said the “uncertain regulatory environment” in the U.S. in part motivated the sale. Washington’s sluggishness in replacing the Affordable Care Act has been widely publicized. 

CBS further notes that the Archdiocese plans to use proceeds from the sale to establish a healthcare foundation that will “operate in conformity with Catholic values.”

Founded in Milwaukee in 1984, Centene has been publicly traded since December 2001. Its market capitalization is $14.2 billion.

As of 2:34 EST Monday, the company’s shares have risen 7.2 percent on news of the Fidelis acquisition.

Featured image via Pixabay

Village Voice to discontinue print publication, go digital

The Village Voice, the liberal, independent newspaper that has been a fixture in New York culture since the mid-20th century, announced Tuesday that it would discontinue its print publication, The New York Times reports. The paper will operate entirely online and will publish on a daily rather than a weekly basis.

The publication has not yet finalized the date of its final print edition, a spokeswoman told the Times.

The paper’s owner, Peter Barbey, who bought The Voice from Voice Media in October 2015, said in a statement that the decision to go paperless was an effort to keep up with the continued shift of media and its audience into the digital sphere.

Under Barbey’s leadership, the publication redesigned its website in 2015, and has since reported an increase in online traffic, the Times says.

The digitization, Barbey says, was also a response to readers’ desires to see Voice content more frequently. “Our audience,” wrote Barbey, per the Times, “…expects us to do what we do not just once a week, but every day, across a range of media.”

What is it, exactly, that the Voice does? It helps New Yorkers find everything from jobs to apartments to local music to phone sex. It offers political commentary, literary criticism, and descriptions of New York culture.

According to the Times, The Voice was “where many New Yorkers learned to be New Yorkers.”

Norman Mailer, Dan Wolf, and Ed Fancher founded the paper in 1955 in Greenwich Village. Since, the pages of The Voice have held the words of investigative reporters including Wayne Barrett and Jack Newfield, and music critics including Gary Giddins, Ellen Willis, and Robert Christgau. Nat Hentoff published a column in the Voice for more than 50 years.

Hilton Als, who has written for the New Yorker since 1994, and who won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2017, began his career at The Voice, as did novelist Colson Whitehead, who has won two Pulitzers for his fiction.

The paper has also published content by James Baldwin, E.E. Cummings, Allen Ginsberg, and a host of other notable writers.

The paper was sold until 1996 when management dropped the price in an effort to keep pace with competitors and to increase circulation. Then, Barbey notes, per the Times, “Craigslist was in its infancy, Google and Facebook weren’t yet glimmers in the eyes of their founders, and alternative weeklies — and newspapers everywhere — were still packed with classified advertising.”

Now, the Voice is making another change in an attempt to keep up with the industry. Some New Yorkers told the Times the Voice was already obsolete.  “You have Uber killing the taxi biz, are you going to lose sleep over The Village Voice?” said Paul Vezza, 60, the third generation owner of Astor Place Hairstylists. “No.”

Vezza remembers when hordes came into the shop every week just to pick up the most recent edition of the paper. He still keeps a stack of print copies of the Voice in his shop, but they remain mostly untouched, the Times says.

Alicia Johnson, a 46-year-old from Brooklyn, told the Times she hadn’t read anything in the Voice for a while. Still, she certainly hasn’t forgotten about it.

“That’s the iconic paper of this neighborhood,” she said. “If you are a New Yorker you should know that, period.”

Many New Yorkers, though, recognize the Village Voice by the red street corner boxes containing free copies of the paper. The recent announcement means those will be gone, and Johnson wonders how The Voice will capture the ears of New Yorkers without them.

But Barbey says that boxes or no boxes, weekly or daily, ink or pixels, the Voice will roar on.

“The most powerful thing about The Voice wasn’t that it was printed on newsprint or that it came out every week. It was that The Village Voice was alive, and that it changed in step with and reflected the times and the ever-evolving world around it,” Barbey said in a statement. “I want The Village Voice brand to represent that for a new generation of people — and for generations to come.”

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

Regional Planning Association proposes changes to public transit in New York

As New York commuters suffer through the complications, repairs and shutdowns at Penn Station this summer, the Regional Planning Association (RPA), a think tank dedicated to improving various aspects of life in the tri-state area, has proposed two projects to revitalize the region’s public transportation system, TheRealDeal reports. The plans would cost a combined $10 billion.

The RPA’s first plan suggests a new bus station in the basement of the Jacob K. Javits center. The blueprint includes pedestrian walkways from the new station to the No. 7 subway station in Hudson Yards. The organization estimates the cost at $3 billion.

According to the RPA, per TheRealDeal, the new station would increase capacity and alleviate the strain on the Port Authority bus terminal on West 42nd Street, so that it could be refurbished rather than replaced or rebuilt.

New York-based architecture firm Perkins Eastman first raised the notion of a basement terminal at the Javits Center last year. Port Authority nixed the plan but has since installed a new executive director, Rick Cotton.

“With the change of regime at the Port and the pushback over a bigger [42nd Street] bus terminal, there is also a sense that there has been a reset on the bus terminal that could welcome new ideas like this,” Scott Rechler, chairman of the RPA and the former vice-chairman of the Port Authority, told Crain’s. 

The second proposal calls for the construction of two new tunnels that would run under the East River from Penn Station to Sunnyside Yards in Queens. Two tunnels are already in the works under the Hudson River as part of the $25 billion Gateway project.The RPA has dubbed its proposed tunnels “Gateway East.”

Were Gateway East implemented, Penn Station would become a “through station rather than a terminus for trains,” per Crain’s, thereby increasing train traffic by 138%, the RPA predicts. The organization estimates a cost in the neighborhood of $7 billion. The plan would require the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New Jersey Transit to expand their areas of service, even as the transport organizations struggle to fulfill their current obligations, Crain’s points out.

The public transportation proposals come as part of the RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan, a broad effort to improve economic productivity, environmental sustainability, and overall quality of life across the tri-state area. Part of the effort involves increasing low-income residents’ access to opportunities for education and employment. The improvements to the public transit system would catalyze that endeavor.

The organization holds that partisan politics stunt large-scale progress. “With more than 3,000 governmental entities in our region,” the RPA says in an overview of the plan, “policy making is fragmented.”

“…while other cities around the world are embracing innovation,” the report adds, “the New York metropolitan region has struggled to deliver major infrastructure projects in a timely and efficient manner. Public authorities have been hobbled by political disputes, eroding the public’s trust.”

So, the Fourth Plan strives to streamline long-term policy making by advocating cooperation. Advancement in areas like public transport, the RPA contends, would be more efficient if entities collaborated across political, geographic, and commercial divides.

The larger aim of the report on public transportation, then, is to “get public agencies to start planning together, rather than in fragmented efforts—buses here, trains over there,” RPA president Tom Wright says, per Crain’s.

Over the course of its almost century-long history, the RPA has issued three reports similar to the Fourth Regional Plan: one in 1929, one in 1960, and one in 1997. The plans have laid the groundwork for such things as the creation of the MTA, the creation of the Governor’s Island Park, and the preservation of wilderness areas.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

Disability Rights Advocacy Organization Files Class Action Suit Against Uber

On Tuesday, Disability Rights Advocates, on behalf of a litany of advocacy groups and individuals, filed a class action discrimination lawsuit against Uber in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court, Winnie Hu of The New York Times reports.

The suit claims Uber does not provide adequate service for passengers with disabilities. Of the 58,ooo Uber cars on New York City streets, it alleges, less than 100 are accessible, uberWAV vehicles, which are generally equipped with lift equipment and/or ramps. Moreover, such cars are routinely dispatched to service customers without disabilities.

As a result, wait times for customers who require UberWAV service are prohibitively long. Valerie Joseph, a wheelchair user who commutes from Queens to Brooklyn for her job, told The New York Times she no longer uses Uber, though the service would be useful to her.

“Even when an UberWAV vehicle is technically available,” the lawsuit says, “because so few exist, there are typically frequent and lengthy delays…[Therefore,] people who use wheelchairs and use UberWAV must contend with missed appointments, being late for events and other stress and inconvenience.”

The suit asks the court to order Uber to “develop and implement a remedial plan to ensure full and equal access to its services for riders who require accessible transportation.”

Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang argues that the company has already taken steps to do just that. Uber provides incentives to drivers of wheelchair accessible cars, including a $10 bonus for each completed trip and a reduced commission fee. The company proposed a 5 cent surcharge on luxury trips which would have gone to the state to be used to encourage other transportation companies to provide accessible options.

“Uber’s technology has expanded access to reliable transportation options for all riders,” Ms. Anfang said. “While there is certainly more work to be done, we will continue advocating for a solution that offers affordable, reliable transportation to those who need a wheelchair accessible vehicles.”

Plaintiffs have been successful in similar cases. In 2011, an advocacy organization called the Taxis for All Campaign sued New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission for failing to provide adequate access to disabled passengers. At that point, just under 2% of the city’s taxis could accommodate wheelchairs.

After a lengthy legal battle, the parties settled out of court in 2013. The TLC agreed to make 50% of its yellow taxis accessible by 2020.

In April, a similar class action suit was brought against the Metropolitan Transport Authority, claiming New York City’s subways were among the least accessible public transportation systems in the nation, The New York Times’ Eli Rosenberg reported in April. Rosenberg says “more than 75 percent of the city’s 472 subway stations do not have elevators, lifts or other methods that make them accessible for people who use wheelchairs, mobility devices or are otherwise unable to use stairs.”

The plaintiffs in that case did not request financial compensation, but asked the court to require the MTA to improve its elevator maintenance procedures and to develop a long-term plan to increase accessibility. No information was available concerning the current status of that case.

In September, the TLC will hold a public hearing regarding its separate proposal calling for stricter ADA compliance amongst For Hire Vehicle companies throughout the industry. “The change,” according to an official statement by the TLC, “would require all FHV [For Hire Vehicle] Bases to send 25% of their dispatched trips to wheelchair accessible vehicles.”

A host of accessibility-based lawsuits have come through New York’s legal system in the past year, and the city is poised to make great strides toward becoming one of the nation’s most accessible major cities, especially in the transportation arena.

If the class action suit against Uber is successful in New York, advocacy groups and disabled individuals throughout the country may bring similar suits against the mega-popular ride-hailing service. In fact, this suit could compel Uber to change its accessibility practices across the country.

Featured Image via Flickr/Mark Warner


Beyond the Runway: The Social Goings-On of New York Fashion Week: Mens

Todd Snyder and Raf Simmons, two renowned menswear designers who showcased their work at New York Fashion Week: Men’s this week, have made their livings putting at fashion shows. What turned heads Monday, though, Max Berlinger of The New York Times reports, was each man’s ability to put on a different kind of show: a party.

Immediately following Snyder’s fashion show Monday, the Cadillac House ceased to be a modeling venue and became a makeshift lounge of sorts. Spectator seating disappeared, paving the way for an army of waiters carrying trays filled with avocado, squid crostini, champagne, and vodka.

Snyder himself disappeared as well, just half an hour after the festivities commenced, bound by professional duty to fly to Italy. Still, a gaggle of devotees kept his scepter alive, sported pieces of clothing that bore the Todd Snyder name.

Most attendees wore “streetwear and preppier outfits,” Berlinger says. Sean O’Pry, one of today’s most prolific male models, donned an ensemble from the former category which consisted in part of a white Todd Snyder bomber jacket.

O’Pry, evidently, has been deployed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) as a sort of social media “ambassador” (Berlinger’s word). Berlinger points out that O’Pry, whom 612,000 people follow on Instagram, is aptly suited for the role. O’Pry himself, though, says he feels a little out of place.

“Honestly, it’s so crazy, I have no idea what I’m doing,” he told Berlinger, “but it’s a blast.”

Danny Miller, who stuck around for the revelry after Lewis Del Mar, the musical duo of which he forms half, finished playing as part of Snyder’s show, shared a similar sentiment.

““Whenever you’re performing in a space that’s so brightly lit, you feel very exposed,” he said. “What’s cool is all the models and the crew backstage. They’re very excited.”

Indeed, the bright lights, whether camera flashes or stage lights, can be a little disorienting at times. But one gets the feeling O’Pry and Miller don’t mind much. “After all,” as Berlinger says, “it was just friends.”

If Snyder’s party turned the Cadillac House into an upscale nightclub, Raf Simmons’ turned Bacaro, which Berlinger describes as “a cavelike Italian restaurant on the Lower East Side,” into an old fashioned rave. DJ Justin Strauss filled the epicurean “cave” with electronic music, and most people were too busy dancing to bother much with the plates of steak, risotto, and tiramisu offered.

According to Berlinger, most of the “revelers” wore “track suits and graphic T-shirts.” Much of the clothing on display was designed by Simmons. Simmons, the creative director of Calvin Klein, was not too shy to promote his own brand.

Simmons packed Bacaro with 100 friends, including Humberto Leon, a fashion designer based on the opposite coast; Hanne Gaby Odielle, a Belgian model; singer Lissy Trullie; Nic Galway of Adidas; actor Ashton Sanders; and 18-year-old social media phenom Luka Sabbat, who has over 180,000 Instagram followers and more than 60,000 Twitter followers, and whom The New York Times’ Guy Trebay has called “the coolest teenager on the internet.”

The gathering took place after what Berlinger calls a “Blade-Runner inspired” show by Simmons, which a standing crowd watched in a Chinatown back alley.

Sanders says of Simmons: “I think that Raf is a revolutionary in every way, man. He’s always been ahead of his time.”

Perhaps it is so, but Simmons is not so far ahead of his time that he can’t slow the clock down a little bit and enjoy some time with a few friends. It’s good to know that once the bright lights turn off, the runways become dance floors and the only lights to be seen are the kind under which people can dance.

New York Fashion Week: Reclaiming American Culture One Stitch at a Time

The American fashion industry is struggling. In the past year, a number of formerly iconic American clothing retailers have shut their doors. True Religion Apparel, Inc. became the latest casualty earlier this month.

Such brands are being pushed out of the market by foreign enterprises like H&M of Sweden and Spain’s Zara, which employ a “fast fashion” business model in which clothes move as quickly as possible from runways to store shelves so that companies can keep up with ever-changing consumer tastes.

But New York Fashion Week: Men’s, which kicked off Monday, may provide a much-needed spotlight that will reestablish US designers as major players in the global fashion scene. Over 65 fashion shows will take place throughout New York this week, showcasing the work of many young American designers eager to carve out space for themselves among fashion’s elite.

Many of the outfits showcased will be available on a “see now, buy now” basis, meaning viewers will be able to purchase them immediately. It is the ultimate in fast fashion: before a product even hits the shelves, a trend-setting consumer can have it in his/her hands.

Many designers are using New York Fashion Week as a platform by which to reclaim each of their unique American identities amidst a political climate they feel threatens to compromise those identities.

Julian Woodhouse, a renowned clothing designer who also happens to be a gay, African-American Army veteran, says much of the inspiration for his “Field Day” collection is born out of uneasiness with the political state of affairs in the USA.

“I called the collection ‘Field Day’,” he told Guy Trebay of the New York Times, “because I was feeling so heavy about political shifts.”

Said collection juxtaposes elements of traditional, conservative American culture against backdrops of chaos and disarray. In one outfit, a pair of suspenders is appended to a pair of cargo shorts and left hanging off of the model’s shoulder. Another outfit features “overalls with pegged ankles and bibs cut low for efficiency of escape,” Trebay reports.

The overalls could be taken as a symbol of outdated aspects of American culture, from which Woodhouse is inviting the viewer to escape. At the same time, Woodhouse’s African-American ancestors would have had far more pressing and concrete motivations for escaping from actual pairs of overalls.

Taofeek Abijako, an American of Nigerian descent, orchestrated a show that, in his words, demonstrates how “the African natives adopted European styles and made them their own.”

Abijako’s collection featured brightly colored, oversized clothing that Trebay says “[looked] as though borrowed from an older brother or else…pulled from the bottom of a prop trunk.”

Of course, African “natives” were forced to, in a sense, “borrow” European culture, but they also transformed it, made it fit them. So it’s not surprising that the baggy, belted trousers, are “tailored close to the leg” (Trebay’s words), for instance: they fit, even though they don’t.

Events like New York Fashion Week take place throughout the year in New York, London, Milan, Paris and Miami. Trebay admits that, from one perspective, the New York event is merely “continuation of a seemingly unending loop of clothes” going on tour throughout the world.

But in terms of the impact it could have on the American fashion industry and the American political situation, New York Fashion Week is uniquely American, just like the designers it showcases.

Hopefully, struggling American apparel companies are keeping an eye on the proceedings at New York Fashion Week, looking for cutting-edge designers who can launch their brands back to relevance. If not, maybe some of America’s political figures are keeping an ear tuned to the subtle undercurrents of social protest that run beneath each outfit.

New York Governor Signs Executive Order, Allocates $1 Billion for Renovation of Public Transportation

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will allocate an additional $1 billion toward the revitalization of public transit throughout the state, and ease environmental regulations and other red tape, which have hitherto impeded the effort.

Cuomo’s actions come in response to the mounting danger and inefficiency of New York’s public transportation. Only 63% of MTA subways have arrived on time in 2017. That figure represents a considerable drop since 2011 when 85% of subways arrived punctually.

The greater concern is the risk of derailment and other hazardous malfunctions; that risk is exacerbated by the age and disrepair of the subway infrastructure. Earlier this week, 34 people were injured when a train stopped too abruptly, causing two of its cars to derail.

According to Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Joe Lhota and interim executive director Ronnie Hakim,  “an improperly secured piece of replacement rail that was stored on the tracks” created the issue. Apparently, storing repair materials between tracks is a common practice on railroads across the country.

Allegedly, the mishap was caused entirely by human error and is in no way the result of faulty infrastructure.

However, the incident was sufficient to spur Governor Cuomo to take action to improve the transit system. In addition to supplementing the state’s public transport repair budget, Cuomo issued an executive order proclaiming a state of emergency for the MTA.

“We know the system is decaying, and we know it’s happening rapidly,” Cuomo said.

Under the executive order, the MTA is no longer required to submit environmental impact reports. The order also lifts a number of regulations which hindered the MTA’s ability to promptly hire contractors.

Suspension of such regulations is common practice in states of emergency like winter storms, said Cuomo’s legal counsel.

The order will expire in 30 days but can be continuously renewed as long as the Governor deems the public transit system to be in crisis. Considering the extent of the disrepair that plagues the subways in New York City, the state of emergency could persist for months, or years.

The MTA’s current budget of $32.5 billion, half of which is spent in New York City, is used to repair outdated infrastructure, update computer integration, and replace or restore subway cars.  The additional $1 billion accounts for a mere 3% increase in the MTA’s budget. Some wonder whether such a meager increase will have any substantial effect.

John Raskin, director of an advocacy group that represents users of New York’s public transportation,  urges the governor to “produce a credible plan to fix the subway, and…put together the billions of dollars we will need to make it happen.”

Notice the “s” on the end of “billions.”

Because the MTA’s budget is used to serve the entire state of New York, only half of the $1 billion sum will actually be spent in New York City.

The removal of the red tape that slows repair progress may be more impactful than the order’s financial aspect. At the same time, permitting the MTA to proceed without considering environmental consequences could bear unforeseen consequences in the future.

But as integral as public transportation is to the lifestyle of the average New Yorker, most locals in the city will likely be more than willing to overlook those “unforeseen consequences” if Cuomo’s executive order allows riders to board clean and orderly subways that run reliably and safely.

“The Governor has stopped ignoring the problem, which is a vital first step,” Raskin said.

Indeed. There may be some bumps, breakdowns, and bottlenecks along the way, but at least the train toward a better New York public transport experience has left the station.

New Study Shows Los Angeles Has the Worst Traffic in the World

According to a new report, congestion caused by cheap gas and a surging economy has cost U.S. motorists almost $300 billion last year. Out of the 1,064 cities studied by transportation analytics firm INRIX, Los Angeles had the worst traffic in the world.

The average driver in Los Angeles wasted 104 hours sitting in gridlock during the busiest commute times last year and lost about $2,408 per person in wasted fuel and productivity. Moscow had the second-worst congestion, followed closely by New York and San Francisco. Motorists in New York spent an average of 89 hours in traffic last year during peak periods. San Francisco drivers spent an average of 83 hours in traffic in 2016.

Senior economist at INRIX and co-author of the report Bob Pishue said, “Gas prices haven’t increased that much over the last year or two.” Cities like New York, San Fransisco, and Los Angeles saw a strong uptick in economic growth or productivity. According to Pishue, “Those kinds of factors, combined with an already strained road network leads to  increased congestion.”

The increasing amount of freight on the nation’s roads and highways will tend toward gridlock, despite the growing popularity of ride share services like Uber and Lyft that are working to reverse the decline in car pooling.

“With an economic recovery […] the movement of goods also puts a lot of strain on the roads,” Pishue continued, “So even if people reduce their driving a little bit, freight is still increasing.”

The report also highlights efforts to get traffic moving in the more congested municipalities. Los Angeles voters approved Measure M in November, a plan with a budget of $120 billion aimed at updating transit infrastructure. San Fransisco opened its Smart I-80 corridor in September, which may be helping keep traffic from getting worse. New York City continues to expand the new 2nd Avenue subway line, which will ultimately ferry more than 200,000 commuters a day.

“Those kinds of unique city challenges rely on big data, technology, [and] connectivity. That’s where these solutions lie, not necessarily in adding a lane to a big highway or building a big parking garage,” said Pishue.

Tiffany Gets Rid of Its CEO After Super Bowl

Before its Super Bowl ad could hit televisions around America, Tiffany & Co. replaced its Chief Executive Officer, Frederic Cumenal. It would seem the abrupt firing of Cumenal was due to the discouraging financial numbers possibly linking to poor holiday sales that lowered the stock.

Tiffany said that the company will be replacing Cumenal with former CEO Michael Kowalski who will only be taking over the position on an interim level. Cumenal ran the company since April 2015 and his absence in the company is preceded by the loss of the jewelry company’s top designer who left three weeks prior.

Tiffany had announced just last month that its design director Francesca Amfitheartrof was leaving the company. Not long after she departed from Tiffany, the company hired Reed Krakoff. Krakoff took over as the new artistic officer which gave him the job of overseeing jewelry and any luxury accessories.

Krakoff wasn’t the only new hire the company brought in. Tiffany hired in a replacement for chief financial officer Ralph Nicoletti, Mark Erceg. Nicoletti left the company in order to peruse the same position at Newell Brands.

During Cumenal’s time as CEO, not only were spending numbers drastically low but shares dropped by at least 6.6 percent not long after Kowalski retired back in 2015. This fall in shares is in comparison to the S&P 500s index of 12 percent.

Yet even though the low numbers proved disappointment, Cumenal’s departure of Tiffany might be an outward signal of internal problems the company might be having. Tiffany says it doesn’t expect the drop in percentage get any higher than the single digits. Tiffany also said that in the not so distant future it didn’t foresee any “significant improvement” where the economic problems are concerned.

In fact, Tiffany isn’t the only company to see a change in management. Ralf Lauren Corp. CEO Stefan Larsson left the company after a clash of creative opinion with the company’s namesake. A similar incident occurred when Barneys Chief Operating Office, Mark Lee, was replaced with Daniella Vitale. Even Givenchy’s creative director left the company.

Tiffany has been on the lookout for ways to bring in younger customers. The company has even added Lady Gaga as the new face of its jewelry and fashion collection. This Super Bowl Sunday marked off the beginning of the company’s new campaign. The ad with Lady Gaga was shot in black and white while Gaga spoke about her creativity and her rebellious streak.

Tiffany also says that this upcoming Valentine’s day is expected to be a top selling holiday for the company which in turn might boost up sales.

Deutsche Racks Up $630 million Over Russian Money-Laundering Scheme

It wasn’t too long ago that Deutsche Bank settled with U.S. Department of Justice for $7.2 billion under certain allegations of selling faulty mortgage securities. Now, the bank agreed to pay the United states and the UK $630 million for its failure to stop fraudulent trades made from Russia totaling an estimated $10 billion.

According to the accusations, the bank’s locations in Moscow, London and New York were part of a mirror trade scam between the years of 2011 and 2015. During that time, Russian blue-chip stock was purchased in rubles and sold for the same quantity at the same price through the banks London branch not long after. Russian blue-chip stock usually holds value around $2-$3 million. When it was cleared through the New York branch, for instance, the sellers almost always paid in U.S. dollars.

Because Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority found Deutsche Bank guilty of upholding sufficient anti-money laundering security during those years, the bank was fined 163 million pounds ($204 million).

The New York branch made similar moves, fining the bank $425 million saying “The bank missed numerous opportunities to detect, investigate and stop the scheme due to extensive compliance failures, allowing the scheme to continue for years.”

This will make the second largest settlement made by the bank as of late. It settled with the Department of Justice before the Obama administration left office. Deutsche Bank paid out $3.1 billion toward civil penalties and consumers under the settlement received $4.1 billion. Deutsche Banks settlement with the DOJ was quickly followed by the Swiss lender Credit Suisse, who had been accused by the DOJ of similar allegations.

As for the Russia settlement, Deutsche says it will continue to cooperate with regulators and authorities who are still holding their own investigations. It is also known that the DOJ settled with Deutsche not too long ago, it is not part of the Russia settlement.

Deutsche is settling things with its own employees. Through an investigation last September, the bank noted that the staff who had been involved in the scheme were promptly terminated. The bank found it wise to drop back on its investment activities made in Russia.

It was found that traders with Deutsche Bank’s Moscow branch started the scheme. The majority of the trades were made by a single party who acted as both sides of the transaction.

Irina Vitjaz Returns to New York Fashion Week

Once again, the Council of Aspiring American Fashion Designers (CAAFD) and iFashion Network will bring in a host of new talent from all over the globe. New York Fashion Week is much awaited by all. Designers display their work for fans and celebrities who can’t wait to watch, wear, and admire such hard work and dedication.

One of the returning designers to the February 2017 New York Fashion Week is Irina Vitjaz. Vitjaz is known for her work in Austria and Europe, but debuted a new line in New York Fashion Week last year. Resk ‘Que, noted fashion guru, will also be producing this season’s show, which marks Irina’s second show in a row working with Resk ‘Que.

The Austria native is a genius of her time and started her career in fashion at a young age. Since her work appeared at MQ Vienna Fashion Week, Vitjaz has gained the reputation of an international fashion icon.

In the past, her work has featured sheer designs and even flowing skirts that instantly captures the attention of her audience. Some have even described her style as elegant and extravagant. Vitjaz gathers inspiration from different cities spanning across the globe and makes it wholly her own.

As fashion week in New York quickly approaches fans and designers anticipate what new designs Irina Vitjaz will bring to the United States.

Bill Gates Speaks on Climate Change

Climate change can be quite a controversial topic. Some might even call it a myth. Yet Bill Gates recently warned against the effects of global warming.

Along with billionaire friend Warren Buffett, the Microsoft co-founder held a Q&A with some students at Columbia University on Friday. Gates pushed for alternative and innovational methods to produce clean energy.

Among other things, Gates said that it would greatly benefit the planet to obtain cheap, reliable, and clean energy.

Back in December, Gates said that he and a few other investors would put at least $1 billion in a fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Breakthrough Energy Ventures is a fund that seeks to further the development of energy that is not only affordable but will greenhouse gasses on a global level.

During the question and answer session with the students, Gates admitted that even though he wasn’t sure what Trump’s plans are on the subject but has hope for the future.

Gates said, “Certain topics are so complicated like climate change that to really get a broad understanding is a bit difficult and particularly when people take that complexity and create uncertainty about it”

Largest Offshore Wind Farm To Be Built Off Long Island

The Long Island Power Authority approved the country’s biggest offshore wind farm on Wednesday in order to meet the growing demand in the Hamptons for energy. The wind farm is set to be built between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

The farm is the first of several planned by developer Deepwater Wind. It will be in a 256-square-mile parcel, with room for 200 turbines. As many as 15 turbines, leased from the federal government, will generate enough energy to power 50,000 average homes in all.

Thomas Falcone, chief executive of the power authority, said to a crowd before the vote, “It is the largest project to date, but it will not be the last project.” This approval comes a month after the country’s only other working offshore energy farm, also a Deepwater project, began providing customers energy from the grid. This project is located in Rhode Island state water off Block Island.

This project signals the nation’s turn toward new, lower-carbon source of electricity. The effort to mainstream this energy has been invigorated by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s goal to get half of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said “This project will not only provide a new, reliable source of clean energy but will also create high-paying jobs, continue our efforts to combat climate change and help preserve our environment.”

The project was initially projected to cost $1 billion but has now been adjusted to $740 million. Jeff Grybowski, Deepwater’s chief executive, plans to finance the project with loans and equity investments.

Before the project can begin, however, developers must study and map the ocean floor to determine where and how to anchor every turbine. Then, they must obtain federal and state permits. In order to start transmitting power by the end of 2022, Deepwater must start construction no later than 2020.

$1.04 Billion Investment Lead by GIC

With the new year comes new conquests for companies and businesses. Many are selling their companies in order to better satisfy not only customers but shareholders. Some companies are joining together in order to further their profit because isn’t the age old saying “two heads are better than one?”

Singapore wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd and Paramount Group have come together to obtain tower 60 Wall Street located in downtown Manhattan. The joint purchase is estimated at around $1.04 billion.

GIC holds around 95 percent shares in JV, which says it will pay $640 per square foot for the tower that reaches 47 stories. The tower I current location for the U.S. headquarters of Deutsche Bank.

GIC earned the reputation as one of the more established investors in real estates around the world. That statement is backed up by the company’s 350 property investments that span throughout 40 countries. Included in those numbers are assets in Japan, the UK, Australia, and the Time Warner Center in New York.

Pharmaceutical Company Pays $100 Million

After accusations of engaging in anti-competitive behavior over an infantile spasm medication, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals will pay $100 million in a lawsuit settlement. The drug in question is H.P. Acthar Gel. Acthar Gel sold for $40 a vial when owned by Questcor.
Mallinckrodt obtained Questcor in 2014. After the acquisition, Mallinckrodt raised the list price of the drug to $34,000 a vial. What drew the Federal Trade Commission in was the fact that Athcar Gel had “limited direct competition” and the $1 billion Mallinckrodt gained in revenue during 2015. While Mallinckrodt isn’t the only company to drastically raise prices, this is just one case in which the rise in drugs cost attempted to prevent competition.
FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez commented on the situation saying, “Questcor took advantage of its monopoly to repeatedly raise the price of Acthar. We charge that, to maintain its monopoly pricing, it acquired the rights to its greatest competitive threat, a synthetic version of Acthar, to forestall future competition.”
According to the lawsuit, there is a similar drug sold outside of the United States. Novartis sold a drug called Synacthen Depot. It isn’t the same as Acthar but treats infantile spasms. The lawsuit claims that when Novartis attempted to sell rights to the drug in the U.S., Questcor outbid other companies by $135 million. This was probably to eradicate the “nascent competitive threat” that Synacthen Depot presented.
Attorney generals of Maryland, Texas, Washington, Alaska, and New York joined the FTC in the lawsuit. Part of the settlement Mallinckrodt agreed to, says the pharmaceutical company has to license Synacthen to an FTC-approved competitor.
In a statement, Mallinckrodt defended its actions by saying, “We continue to strongly disagree with allegations outlined in the FTC’s complaint, believing that key claims are unsupported and even contradicted by scientific data and market facts, and appear to be inconsistent with the views of the FDA.”

Bitcoin Receives New License

Coinbase, the world’s largest bitcoin company, received permission from the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) for virtual currency and money transmitter license.
The superintendent of DFS Maria Vullo made the announcement Monday. In her statement, she commented on her hope that DFS would continue “New York’s long record of being responsive to technological innovation.”
Coinbase offers its users a selection of services that range from selling and sending to receiving and storing bitcoin. However, the company remains under the strict watch of the DFS. The DFS led a review of every aspect of Coinbase. DFS went over applications, cyber security policies, anti-money laundering, and even consumer protection.
On the other hand, Coinbase isn’t the only company to receive a transmitter license from the Department of Financial services. The DFS gave license to Ripple and Circle Internet Financial. Gemini Trust Company obtained a trust charter from the DFS as well.
When Coinbase CEO and co-founder, Brian Armstrong, commented on the situation, he said, “At Coinbase, our first priority is to ensure that we operate the most secure and compliant digital currency exchange in the world.”

Rise In Gas Prices to Hit The U.S.

When it comes to gas prices in 2017, Mexico isn’t the only country that’s in for a shock. It’s estimated that consumers in the U.S. are going to pay 36 cents more for gas this year. In total, they’ll be shelling out $52 billion more this year than in 2016.

GasBuddy, a company that monitors gas prices, foresees the average price for gas going up to $2.65 per gallon. Last year’s average price was only $2.49 per gallon. In 2016 United States motorists paid $39 billion less than what they did in 2015. This year, however, can see an estimated $355 billion spent in gas in the U.S.

As winter fades into summer its more likely that the spike in price will be 30-60 cents. The highest increase likely to occur the end of winter an beginning of spring. The peak of prices will rise around May. Some cities like New York, Chicago, and Seattle will see gas prices rise to $3 per gallon.

Petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, Patrick DeHaan, says that “The list of factors being mixed into the yearly forecast has never been larger. This year will see a new administration take over, perhaps the most oil-friendly in some time, and with so many unknowns in regards to policy changes, we’ll be keeping a keen eye on such along with taxation changes.”

Federal and state tax modifications, weather and refinery maintenance have the probability to affect the fluctuation of retail gas prices. The price consumers pay for gas continues to grow into a large controversy. Gregg Lakoski, senior petroleum analyst believes that being able to predict what direction the prices will take helps “everyone save money, even when prices are climbing.”

Gas Tax on the Rise for 2017

With a new year, there’s always a promise of new beginnings and a fresh start, however, one thing motorists won’t be looking forward to is the upcoming rise in gas tax. Dozens of states will be raising their gas taxes in 2017.

Large increases will be seen in states like Michigan, which already has a gas tax of 30.54 cents per gallon. Michigan’s gas tax will rise by 7.3 cents per gallon. Nebraska will also see an surge to its current 27.7 cents per gallon by 1.5 cents per gallon. That state of Pennsylvania holds the highest gas tax in the U.S. with 50.4 cents per gallon and will see an increase by 7.9 cents per gallon.

As per the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, not all states will see a large increase in tax or any at all. States like North Carolina, Indiana, Florida and Georgia will only see a rise by a few pennies per gallon. New York and West Virginia will in fact have a reduction in gas tax. New York will drop by 0.8 cents per gallon and West Virginia by 1 cent per gallon.

For Alaska, who hasn’t had a gas tax increase since 1970, there’s a high possibility the state will see a triple in its cents per gallon in the next few years as stated by Governor Bill Walker earlier in December. Therefore, their current rate of 8 cents per gallon would double by July of 2017, then add another 8 cents around the same time in 2018.

The spike in gas taxes isn’t without warrant. Since may voters were in favor of many construction and transportation projects that total an estimated $200 billion, the only option for funding these endeavors is raising sales and property tax.

However, as part of their new year’s resolution state legislatures plan to put gas taxes on the table for a lengthy discussion. Let’s hope that unlike some of us, they keep their resolution.

Airbnb Finally Playing Nice?

Airbnb and their policies haven’t earned the company much favor with cities. The company had to go as far as suing New York and San Francisco.

Airbnb sued New York City after the state’s governor made it illegal to rent out a space for thirty days without the owner of said space being there. San Francisco was sued by the company due to the fact that the city has a law stating homeowners need to register their property with the federal government before listing their homes for rental. Somehow though the company seems to be trying to make things right, starting off with New Orleans.

Recently the company created a set of guidelines that will better aid in the cooperation between them and the city of New Orleans. Airbnb agreed to provide the city’s government with names of home owners including their address. The hosts would then in turn register and obtain permits, with the city, for leasing out their homes.

The company agreed to collect taxes on short-term hotel stays and even cap the number of days homeowners can rent out their houses. In order to sooth the hotel industry, Airbnb also conceded to end rentals in the French Quarter. These are compromises that Airbnb would have clearly rejected in the past but is more than willing to work with the city of New Orleans to enforce these agreements.

Airbnb’s new change in demeanor when it comes to New Orleans may be a new change for the company to make things right with other cities along with settling the lawsuits with New York and San Francisco. According to the New York Times Laura Spanjian, public policy manager for Airbnb, said, “This is just the beginning. We need to make sure that the rules work and that the city can enforce them, but we want this to be a model going forward.”