New York State Legislators voted to give themselves a 29% pay raise, making them the highest paid state lawmakers in the country.  Members of the Assembly and State Senate will now be making a base salary of $142,000, a sizable increase over the $110,000 they were making.  That would send them racing ahead of state lawmakers in California, who are now the nation’s best-paid legislators with a yearly base pay of about $119,000, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New York State Senator George Borello said in a statement that “[The Democratic majorities’] attempt to buy political cover by instituting a ban on outside income won’t make Albany better, it will make it worse. With this ban, we will be discouraging enterprising, accomplished individuals with real-world experience from entering public service and moving closer to eradicating the ‘citizen legislator’ – that individual who serves, not for a hefty salary, but because they want to contribute to their state. The end result will be more ‘professional politicians’ and more out-of-touch policies that hurt New Yorkers.”  


Over 40 inches of snow hit Buffalo, causing power outages and stranding people in their homes.  At least 28 people have died due to storm related deaths, including exposure and natural causes.  Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz called it a “horrible situation” to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.  “I am aware of additional bodies that have been recovered and are being brought to our temporary morgue,” he said. “We’ve had so many bodies that various hospitals are full and we’re just having to go through and determine if the individuals have died from a blizzard-related death.” Looters have taken advantage of the chaos, ransacking a local Wal-Mart and other stores. New York State Troopers have been deployed to Buffalo to help with the clean-up, and volunteer teams from Long Island have gone as well.  


Fire in the engine room of a Staten Island Ferry forced nearly 900 passengers to be evacuated.  The vessel where the fire started was in upper New York Bay at the time, according to the FDNY, going from lower Manhattan to Staten Island. The NYC Department of Transportation said that the vessel, the Sandy Ground, had to be temporarily anchored near Bayonne, New Jersey, as the passengers were transferred to other transports. Videos showed lines of people wearing life jackets exiting the boat onto Coast Guard ships and a NY Waterway Ferry.  Five people were injured, with three being taken to the hospital. “The boat was driving, everything was smooth, and then a loud beeping started happening,” said Ivan McCall, a passenger on the boat from the Silver Lake area. “We all knew something was wrong, and then the police started scrambling around.” McCall said there was so much smoke at one point “you couldn’t even see your hands.”


Congressman-elect George Santos has been accused of lying about his previous employment, education, and family history.  The New York Times called Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to determine if Santos worked there, as he claimed, and determined that he had not worked for them.  Santos claims that he was “embellishing” his resume when a company called Link Bridge did business with the financial giants while he was a Vice President there.  Santos also admitted that he did not graduate from college, despite previously claiming that he has a degree from Baruch.  Other claims, like his Jewish heritage and his previous marriages, he says he never lied about.  The New York Attorney General’s office says it’s launching a probe into these allegations.  


The United States Military Academy at West Point will start removing Confederate symbols from its campus, including taking down a portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee dressed in his Confederate uniform from the academy’s library, officials said. Over the next year, West Point will also remove, relocate, modify or rename busts, memorials, streets and buildings named after Confederate figures as part of an October directive from the Department of Defense. Lt. Gen. Steven W. Gilland, the academy’s superintendent, said in a message on the academy’s website that the first stage of the removal process would begin during the holiday break. The academy plans to remove the portrait of Lee, as well as a stone bust of Lee, who was superintendent of West Point before he led the Confederate army, General Gilland said. The academy will also remove a triptych of bronze plaques that include Lee and other Confederate figures and an image of a hooded figure with the words “Ku Klux Klan” written below. These items would be placed in storage, the general said.




 President Joe Biden signed the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package that was passed by both Houses of Congress.  The legislation was unveiled in the Senate early Tuesday and boasts $858 billion in defense funding as well as $772.5 billion for non-defense “discretionary programs,” according to a summary and comes in at 4,155 pages. Lawmakers had around 48 hours to read the bill before voting on it.  Representative Dan Bishop tweeted out some portions of the bill, which include a prohibition for the Customs and Border Patrol to use funding to improve border security, over $400 million for border security in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman, and $65 million for Pacific coastal salmon recovery.  The Heritage Foundation issued their own list, which included $1.2 million for “LGBTQIA+ Pride Centers,” $477,000 for the Equity Institute in Rhode Island “to indoctrinate teachers with ‘antiracism virtual labs,’” and $3 million for the American LGBTQ+ Museum.  The bill gives an additional $45 billion in funding to Ukraine and NATO allies.  


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a visit to the White House and spoke in front of Congress in his first trip outside of Ukraine since Russia invaded last February.  Biden announced additional $1.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine during the visit, with the coveted Patriot missile systems as part of that package. Washington also plans to send Ukraine precision bomb kits to convert less sophisticated munitions into “smart bombs” that could help it target Russian defensive lines. Zelensky’s visit also comes as Congress approved another $45 billion in aid for Ukraine and NATO allies, deepening the commitment that has helped Kyiv’s forces inflict an unexpectedly bloody price on Putin’s forces. The decision on Patriots, which would satisfy a long-standing Ukrainian request, reflects a US process of matching its aid to the shifting strategy of Russia’s assault. The system would help Kyiv better counter Russia’s brutal missile attacks on cities and electricity installations, which it has mounted in an effective attempt to weaponize bitter winter weather to break the will of Ukrainian civilians.


A burst pipe at the Hilton at Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, forced over 800 Orthodox Jewish people to leave the hotel.  The event was part of an annual weekend-long gathering of 800 or so attendees who simply headed home early after sirens sounded near the end of Shabbos shortly after 5:30 p.m. The cold apparently had burst a pipe, which sent water through a ceiling while disabling the sprinkler system at the popular hotel off Tice Boulevard. All power and water were shut off, responders said.


Life expectancy in the United States has fallen to the lowest levels seen in 26 years, new federal data shows. Two new reports, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, found the death rate increased 5.3%, from 835.4 per 100,000 people to 879.7 per 100,000 in 2021. This means that life expectancy decreased in 2021 for the second year in a row to 76.4 years, down from 77 years in 2020, and is the lowest figure recorded since 1996.  The authors of the report said the drop was due to Covid-19 and drug overdose deaths.  Nearly 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, nearly 16% higher than the nearly 92,000 overdose deaths in 2020.


Former President Donald Trump’s tax returns were given to the media by Democratic members of the House of Representatives.  The documents show they reported negative income in four of the six years between 2015 and 2020. ​In three of those years — 2015, 2016 and 2017 –the Trumps reported income tax liability of just $750, a report from the House Ways and Means Committee revealed. The Democrat-controlled panel voted 24-16 along party lines to release the Trumps’ tax returns following a legal battle that began in 2016. The full release of the returns is expected in the coming days after all personal information is redacted from them.  Critics of the release call this move by the Democrats “unprecedented” and claim that it sets a new standard of releasing the tax information on political opponents when convenient. 





Israel donated 17 generators to Ukraine for use in the southeastern Kherson region, which has been largely plunged into darkness by Russian bombardment, according to Jerusalem’s embassy in Kyiv. As its invasion has ground to a halt in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance, Russia has systematically targeted Ukraine’s power infrastructure, leaving tens of thousands without electricity as winter sets in. The generators “will illuminate the darkness in Ukraine,” Israel’s mission in Kyiv said, echoing the theme of lights expelling darkness on Chanukah. They will be used to provide electricity to the hospitals and the water infrastructure in the Kherson area, which was badly hit by the war. Donation of the generators “is part of the humanitarian aid effort of the State of Israel to Ukraine since the beginning of the war in February of this year,” the embassy said.


Iran has arrested four cells tied to Israel’s Mossad spy agency that were planning to carry out terror attacks in the country. The intelligence ministry said in a statement that “relentless efforts” led to the arrest of all operatives before they could carry out their assaults. Reports did not specify how many people in total were detained. “The Zionist criminal regime, taking advantage of the recent riots over the past weeks in several parts of Iran, intended to conduct several hybrid terrorist operations by directing operative teams,” the ministry was quoted as saying. The ministry also said it has information about a Mossad “ringleader” in Europe that it will release in the near future, the Mehr news agency reported. Iran has been violently squelching protests that erupted throughout the country after the September death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in the custody of morality police. Hundreds of people have been killed, including members of the security forces, and over 10,000 arrested. At least two people have been executed.


China’s military sent 71 planes and 7 ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour display of force directed at the self-ruled island, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, after China expressed anger at Taiwan-related provisions in a U.S. annual defense spending bill. China’s military harassment of Taiwan, which it claims is its own territory, has intensified in recent years, and the Communist Party’s People’s Liberation Army has sent planes or ships toward the island on a near-daily basis. Between 6 a.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday, 47 of the Chinese planes crossed the median of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial boundary once tacitly accepted by both sides, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense. Among the planes China sent towards Taiwan were 18 J-16 fighter jets, 11 J-1 fighters, 6 Su-30 fighters and drones. Taiwan said it monitored the Chinese moves through its land-based missile systems, as well as on its own navy vessels.


Russian President Vladmir Putin says Russia will destroy US Patriot missiles in Ukraine that President Joe Biden promised to provide.  Putin said on Sunday he was “100 percent” confident that his forces would destroy the Pentagon’s most advanced air defense system. “Of course we will destroy it, 100 percent!” Putin said, referring to the Patriot missile battery in extracts of an interview aired on Russian television. Putin also claimed that Russia is ready for talks to end the war in Ukraine even as the country faced more attacks from Moscow — a clear sign that peace wasn’t imminent. Putin said in a state television interview, excerpts of which were released on Sunday afternoon that Russia is “prepared to negotiate some acceptable outcomes with all the participants of this process.” He said that “it’s not us who refuse talks, it’s them” — something the Kremlin has repeatedly stated in recent months as its 10-month old invasion kept losing momentum.

 By QJL Staff