NEW YORK NEWS
Nurses at two of New York City’s largest hospitals have gone on strike. Union officials failed to reach tentative agreements with hospital administrators in a dispute over pay and staffing levels. The walkout involves as many as 3,500 nurses at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and about 3,600 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Seven other hospitals were able to reach tentative agreements to prevent strikes. At these hospitals, patients are likely to see disruptions in emergency rooms, childbirth, and other areas of care. “The entire New York City Labor Movement stands with our nurses, who are courageously taking action against dangerous understaffing that threatens the safety of their patients,” AFL-CIO New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez remarked. “The decision to go on strike is never an easy one, particularly for workers who care so deeply about the patients and communities they serve. But hospital executives created this crisis by failing to hire, train, and retain nurses while at the same time treating themselves to extravagant compensation packages. Now it’s time for them to fix what they’ve broken.”
Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, who is an Orthodox Jew representing areas of Brooklyn, was appointed Assistant Majority Whip by NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Eichenstein, who has been a vocal critic of the media’s treatment of Orthodox Jews, has been in office since 2019. “I am proud to have appointed Assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein to serve as Assistant Majority Whip for the Assembly Majority,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “He is a valued member of the Assembly and will be an asset to our leadership team. It is critical to me that our team be representative of the communities we serve, and I look forward to working with Assemblymember Eichenstein to lead New York forward in the term ahead.” As Assistant Majority Whip, Assemblyman Eichenstein will focus on bringing together our diverse and multifaceted communities throughout New York State.
Hillary Clinton was named professor of practice at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. The former Secretary of State tweeted in response to the news that she was “thrilled” to join. “Columbia’s commitment to educating the next generation of policy leaders — and helping to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges — resonates personally with me. Thrilled to join this community,” Clinton said. The announcement came from the Dean of SIPA, Keren Yarki-Milo. “Secretary Clinton, who served as U.S. secretary of state, U.S. senator from New York, First Lady of the United States, and is a longtime activist and volunteer, is one of the world’s foremost experts on public policy and international affairs. She is a remarkable leader who has been on the front lines of virtually every critical challenge facing our world today — from the global fight to save democracy, her advocacy for women’s rights, and her staunch defense of marginalized people everywhere. She now brings her leadership and expertise to SIPA as we seek to prepare the next generation of global policy leaders and advance our role as a critical partner and resource for current practitioners and stakeholders looking for solutions to today’s challenges.”
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has been released from the hospital after a week-long stay following a cardiac arrest on the field of the Bills-Bengals game. Hamlin released a statement on Twitter: “Headed home to Buffalo today with a lot of love on my heart,” he wrote. “Watching the world come together around me on Sunday was truly an amazing feeling. The same love you all have shown me is the same love that I plan to put back into the world n more. Bigger than football!” Doctors who treated Hamlin said the Bills safety was moved to a hospital in Buffalo, an uplifting sign of the remarkable progress he has made a week after going into cardiac arrest and having to be resuscitated on the field during a game in Cincinnati.
Coinbase, a publicly traded cryptocurrency trading exchange based in the United States, settled with the New York State Department of Financial Services. The $50 million fine was levied after financial regulators found that it let customers open accounts without conducting sufficient background checks, in violation of anti-money-laundering laws. The settlement also requires Coinbase to invest another $50 million into its own compliance program, which is supposed to prevent drug traffickers, sellers of child pornography, and other potential lawbreakers from opening accounts with the exchange. “We found failures that really warranted putting in place an independent monitor rather than wait for a settlement,” Adrienne A. Harris, New York State’s superintendent of financial services, said in an interview. “We have been very outspoken about illicit financing concerns in the space. It is why our framework holds crypto companies to the same standard as for banks.”
California Republican Kevin McCarthy has been elected Speaker of the House after 15 votes by a very fractious Republican caucus. Nineteen members of the House Freedom Caucus held up the election of McCarthy until a number of concessions were given. Among the ones publicized are a Southern Border Security Plan, a budget that stops an increase in the debt ceiling and holds Senate accountable, an end to all Covid mandates and funding, a Select Committee to investigate weaponization of government organizations like the FBI, a vote on Term Limits, a minimum of 72 hours to read a bill, single-subject bills, and others. “I hope one thing is clear after this week: I will never give up. I will never give up for you, the American people,” McCarthy said. “And I will never give up on keeping our commitment to America.”
The Justice Department is reviewing a batch of potentially classified documents found in the Washington office space of President Joe Biden’s former institute, the White House said Monday. Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered as Biden’s personal attorneys were clearing out the offices of the Penn Biden Center, where the president kept an office after he left the vice presidency in 2017 until shortly before he launched his 2020 presidential campaign in 2019. The documents were found on Nov. 2, 2022. The finding of these classified documents is reminiscent of when federal officials raided former President Trump’s personal residence at Mar-a-Lago and found documents that were requested by the National Archives. The major difference between the two cases is that then-Vice-President Joe Biden did not have the power to declassify documents.
The House of Representatives passed a new rules package that overhauls the way it functions. The rules were part of the key demands of the Freedom Caucus when they were negotiating with Kevin McCarthy. With a 220-213 vote, the new rules will by putting up more barriers to congressional spending and creating a more deliberate process for passing legislation. Only one Republican, Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, voted against it. Some of the new rules include the end of proxy voting, a Pelosi-era rule that allowed members to vote when not physically present. This also includes a return to a “Cut-As-You-Go” policy that says legislation cannot be considered if it increases mandatory spending over a 5- or 10-year period. This “CUTGO” policy requires bills that call for new spending to find offsetting spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget – an ambitious new curb on federal spending, part of the GOP’s effort to stop piling on trillions of dollars in new debt each year. Pushing for those changes were Roy, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and freshman congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), who said last week at the Capitol the changes will be “transformational, and it will outlast every person in this room.”
Layoffs across multiple sectors have been announced at major companies. Amazon announced that it will be cutting 18,000 jobs from its 1.5-million-person workforce. Analysts say that many of these jobs were from pandemic increases in the home delivery market, which has waned since the economy re-opened. Salesforce is laying off as much as 10% of its workforce, with CEO Marc Benioff claiming, “We hired too many people.” Goldman Sachs is expecting to lay off 3,200 people, around 6.5% of its workforce, as Wall Street is preparing for a tough year in 2023, after 2022 was the worst year on the market since 2008. Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange, is cutting about a fifth of its workforce, or 950 jobs, as it looks to preserve cash during the crypto market downturn. This follows an 18% workforce cut from last June. “With perfect hindsight, looking back, we should have done more,” CEO Brian Armstrong told CNBC in a phone interview. “The best you can do is react quickly once information becomes available, and that’s what we’re doing in this case.”
The Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy produced jobs at a slower but still comfortable rate at the end of 2022. Employers added 223,000 jobs in December, in line with expectations although the smallest gain since Biden took office. Higher interest rates and changing consumer habits downshifted the labor market without bringing it to a halt. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5 percent, back to its level from early 2020, which matched a low last seen in 1969. The Labor Department report also said that the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in more than three months last week, reflecting a still-robust job market despite the Federal Reserve’s efforts to cool the economy and bring down decades-high inflation. Applications for unemployment aid for the week ending Dec. 31 fell by 19,000 to 204,000.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of over-the-counter abortion pills. This was the finalization of a rule change that the Biden administration partially implemented the change last year, announcing it would no longer enforce a long-standing requirement that women pick up the medicine in person. The pills will now be available to many more pharmacies, including large chains and mail-order companies. The change could expand access at both brick-and-mortar stores and online pharmacies. Women can get a prescription via telehealth consultation with a health professional, and then receive the pills through the mail, where permitted by law. This will likely set up a massive legal battle in several states when abortion laws differ, as the legality of sending drugs that are legal in some states and not others is taken up by the judicial system.
The Department of Energy reported that the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline ultimately resulted in fewer jobs, but was “inconclusive” on the impact on consumer prices. The cancellation of the pipeline was done on President Biden’s first day in office. The report indicated that the construction period would have had between 16,000 and 60,000 jobs, with 50 permanent jobs once the pipeline was operational. The new assessment was announced by the offices of Republican Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and James Risch (R-Idaho). “The Department of Energy finally admitted to the worst kept secret about the Keystone Pipeline: President Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline sacrificed thousands of American jobs,” Risch said in a written statement.
Brazil saw the storming of its nation’s Congress and presidential offices by thousands of supporters of the former president, Jair Bolsonaro. The breach comes after Bolsonaro repeatedly attacked the integrity of the country’s recent presidential elections, in which Bolsonaro lost to leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula was inaugurated last week. The demonstrators overran security barriers, climbed on roofs, and vandalized the buildings, in scenes reminiscent of similar protests in Brazil in 2017 and 2013. Bolsonaro, who has been hiding out in Florida in recent weeks, has not yet made any comments condemning the incident. “This absurd attempt to impose their will by force will not prevail,” said Justice Minister Flavio Dino on his Twitter account. “The government of the Federal District has ensured there will be reinforcements. And the forces at our disposal are at work.”
Israel’s Security Cabinet is withholding $39 million from the Palestinian Authority and transferring the funds instead to a compensation program for the families of Israeli victims of Palestinian militant attacks. This is part of a series of punitive steps against the Palestinian leadership in retaliation for Palestinians pushing the U.N.’s highest judicial body to give its opinion on the Israeli “occupation.” It comes a week after the United Nations General Assembly voted to approve a resolution requesting that the International Court of Justice intervene and render an opinion on the legality of Israeli policies. Israel’s Security Cabinet described the Palestinian Authority’s request to the U.N. as a decision to wage political and legal war against the State of Israel. “The current government will not sit idly by in the face of this war and will respond as necessary,” it said. Other steps include a deduction of revenue Israel typically transfers to the cash-strapped PA a sum equal to the amount the authority paid last year to families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict, including militants implicated in attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian leadership describes the payments as necessary social welfare, while Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund incentivizes violence. Israel’s withheld funds threaten to exacerbate the PA’s fiscal woes. The Security Cabinet also targeted Palestinian officials directly, saying it would deny benefits to VIPs who are leading the political and legal war against Israel. Top PA officials receive Israeli permits that allow them to travel easily in and out of the West Bank, unlike ordinary Palestinians.
Oman’s parliament voted to criminalize any relations or interactions with “the Zionist entity.” This comes a few years after Oman was expected to be next in line after Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to sign onto the Abraham Accords normalization agreements with Israel. While the exact details have not been made public, the new law seems to be broadly applied. “The brothers, Your Excellencies, looked at the development taking place, whether it was technical, cultural, economic or sports, and proposed additional amendments that include severing any economic, sports or cultural relations and prohibiting dealing in any way or means, whether it was a real meeting, an electronic meeting or something else,” said Yaqoub Al-Harithi, vice president of the Omani parliament, about the bill, according to Oman’s WAF news agency.