New York City Council Passes Budget with $1 Billion in Cuts to NYPD

In addition, the police will see $352 million cut from overtime salaries and will cancel the hiring of 1,163 officers.

The New York City Council voted to pass an $88 billion budget just after midnight on Wednesday morning, in which funding for the NYPD was cut by roughly $1 billion.

Much of the NYPD budget cuts, at $349.5‬ million, were achieved by transferring certain police services to the authority of other agencies. Those include school safety officers, who are stationed at the city’s public schools and whose work will now fall under the purview of the city education department.

In addition, the police will see $352 million cut from overtime salaries and will cancel the hiring of 1,163 officers. The cuts were criticized by council members who said they did not go far enough, as well as elected officials who did not want the NYPD budget cut in the first place.

“My concern with this budget is not just about the $1 billion cut, but more about the NYPD’s culture,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D., Queens), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety that oversees the police department. “A $1 billion budget cut can’t address the racism that runs rampant in the NYPD.”

Commissioner Dermot Shea said that the City Council bowed to “mob rule” in cutting the police budge. Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D., Brooklyn) also spoke out against the NYPD cuts.

“Black folks want to be safe like everyone else, we just want to be respected,” Miller said. “We can’t allow folks from outside our community to lecture us about black lives and what we need in our communities.”

The city faces a roughly $9 billion budget shortfall because of business closures stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Bill de Blasio has insisted that cuts to the NYPD will not be detrimental to public safety, even as shootings have risen in the city since the beginning of 2020.

The mayor had two goals for this budget: maintain safety and invest in youth and our hardest-hit communities — all while facing the toughest fiscal situation the city has seen in decades,” de Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein told the New York Times. “We believe we presented a plan that accomplishes that mission and look forward to working with the Council to pass a budget that helps this city rebuild stronger


Powered by National Review

Facing crisis, Cuba calls on citizens to grow more of their own food

Nelson Piloto waters his garden in the courtyard of a temple belonging to the Afro Cuban Abakua brotherhood amid the spread of the coronavirus disease

HAVANA (Reuters) – In the courtyard of a temple belonging to the Abakua Afro-Cuban religious brotherhood in Havana, Nelson Piloto is pulling up the lawn to plant bell peppers and cassava in the face of Cuba’s looming food crisis.

Piloto, 40, says he is responding to the Communist government’s call for citizens to produce more of their own food, including in big cities, in whatever spaces they can find, from backyards to balconies.

Standing across from two giant ceiba trees that are considered sacred by many in Cuba, the temple usually resounds with ceremonies involving drumming, animal sacrifices and dance. But it sits empty now due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions on gatherings.

“I’m making the most of the earth,” said Piloto, leaning on his hoe.

Food security has lately risen to the top of the national agenda in Cuba, with countless news headlines and televised roundtable discussions dedicated to the topic.

“Cuba can and must develop its program of municipal self-sustainability definitively and with urgency, in the face of the obsessive and tightened U.S. blockade and the food crisis COVID-19 will leave,” José Ramón Machado Ventura, 89, deputy leader of the Cuban Communist Party, was quoted as saying by state-run media on Monday.

The Caribbean island imports roughly two-thirds of the food it consumes at a cost of around $2 billion annually, in addition to key farming supplies like fertilizer, machinery and animal feed.

But imports have nosedived in recent years as aid from ally Venezuela shrank following its economic implosion and U.S. President Donald Trump tightened the half century-old U.S. trade embargo.

That led first to shortages of imported food and then to drops in national agricultural production. Output of Cuban staples like rice, tomatoes and pork fell 18%, 13% and 8% respectively last year, according to data released this month.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has paralyzed the key tourism sector, has only exacerbated the situation.

“Today we Cubans have two big worries: COVID-19 and food. Both kill. We are flooded with scarcity,” said Yanet Montes, 51, leaving a popular Havana agricultural market with just a few mangoes.

She and others said the availability of produce at such markets was dwindling, with long lines for the most sought-after items like tarot root sometimes starting at dawn.

1990s SURVIVAL LESSONS

Leaders have appealed to Cubans to redeploy lessons learned during the so-called “Special Period,” the deep economic depression Cuba fell into after the 1991 collapse of former benefactor the Soviet Union.

Last year, they urged farmers to use oxen instead of tractors due to fuel scarcity.

The premium placed on fuel savings is one reason planning departments are now looking to expand organic farming in urban and suburban areas where goods can be sold directly.

Cuba became something of an organic farming pioneer in the 1990s, developing techniques like worm composting, soil conservation and the use of biopesticides, to replace imported supplies and large scale monoculture.

Havana now produces 18% of the agricultural produce it consumes, according to state run media.

Communist Party activists are signing up in some provinces to do voluntary work in the fields while authorities have distributed leaflets to neighborhood leaders in towns and cities on expanding family farming.

In a residential neighborhood in east Havana, Luis Ledesma asked his wife if he could tear up her flower beds so he could plant pumpkin, sweet potato, cassava, cucumber and chives.

“One of the things that is difficult to find these days is rice,” said the 61-year-old, who recently acquired five chickens and a cockerel and wants to install rabbit cages next. “But root vegetables can replace rice.”

Some Cuba observers are cautiously hopeful the crisis will push the government to reform its agricultural model which, like the rest of the economy, remains heavily centralized.

“Nothing good can come from the combination of monopoly of supplies, monopoly of distribution and distorted prices,” said Cuban economist Pedro Monreal.

The government has hinted recently at a possible reform of the vast state network responsible for purchasing and distributing most farm output, which has come under fire for wasting crops and disincentiving production.

Another Cuban economist, Omar Everleny, said the government should free farmers altogether from this monopoly, allowing them to find their own ways to sell produce and import their own equipment.

“I have the impression in the next few months we will see new reforms,” he said.

Come what may, some Cubans like sustainable agriculture enthusiast Marnia Briones hope the country won’t lose the habits that have arisen from this and previous crises, which some have termed its “green revolution”.

“It’s great more people are planting but it cannot just be when there is a crisis,” said the Havana-based artist. “It should be fomented as a healthier lifestyle for the whole of humanity.”

Mitch McConnell says Russia should not rejoin G-7

Mitch McConnell split with President Trump Tuesday on whether Russia should be allowed back into the G-7 — roundly rejecting the move, which has been repeatedly pitched by the commander in chief.

“Absolutely not,” the Senate majority leader told reporters at the Capitol.

Trump said last month that he wanted to expand the number of countries that take part in the next meeting, including Russia, which had been bounced by the Group of Eight after invading and annexing Crimea in 2014 and backing rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The president spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin this month, and according to a White House readout, they “discussed progress toward convening the G-7.

McConnell (R-Ky.) had already said in 2018 that Russia should not be allowed back in after Trump floated allowing it back in, and many Democrats agreed.

Trump called it “common sense” to invite Russia given that the country is generally among the topics discussed by member nations.

“It’s not a question of what he’s done, it’s a question of common sense,” Trump said about Putin.

“We have a G-7, he’s not there. Half of the meeting is devoted to Russia and he’s not there.”

Trump had also said he would postpone a G-7 summit he had hoped to hold this summer until September or later and expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea and India.

“I’m postponing it because I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump said, adding that the current members — including most major US allies — were a “very outdated group of countries.

McConnell’s comment came after reports that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to militants in Afghanistan for killing coalition and Americans forces.

The Kentucky Republican downplayed those reports.

“It appears as if this is not a conclusion that’s been reached to such a level that might have even made it to the top,” McConnell told reporters about the US intelligence findings and whether Trump was aware of them.


Powered by News Corp

Trump calls Queen Elizabeth to wish her belated happy birthday


President Trump Queen Elizabeth
WireImage via Getty Images
President Trump spoke with Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday and wished her a belated happy 94th birthday, the White House said.

The rare royal phone call occurred more than two months after the queen’s birthday in April, and the queen’s office said it was part of a series of calls to world leaders.

“The president wished the Queen a happy birthday, marking 94 extraordinary years,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an initial statement revealing the call.

Trump also expressed his condolences for the more than 43,000 British coronavirus pandemic victims, Deere said.

The pair “discussed close cooperation on defeating the virus and reopening global economies,” Deere said, and “reaffirmed that the United States and United Kingdom stand together in our special relationship and will emerge from this trying time stronger than ever before.”

In a statement hours later, the royal family’s press office placed a different emphasis on the conversation.

“Today, The Queen spoke to President Trump by telephone from Windsor Castle ahead of Independence Day in the United States on the 4th July,” the UK office said.

“The telephone call is the latest in a series Her Majesty has held with world leaders in recent months, including President [Emmanuel] Macron [of France], Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern [of New Zealand], Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [of Canada] and Prime Minister Scott Morrison [of Australia].”

Trump has met with the queen three times as president, including a July 2018 visit to Windsor Castle.

Trump often remarks approvingly of the long-reigning monarch, and this year took to Twitter to declare that her grandson Prince Harry would not be getting taxpayer-funded security in the US after ditching his royal duties.

“I am a great friend and admirer of the Queen & the United Kingdom,” Trump tweeted in March. “It was reported that Harry and Meghan, who left the Kingdom, would reside permanently in Canada. Now they have left Canada for the U.S. however, the U.S. will not pay for their security protection. They must pay!”


Powered by News Corp

Cirque du Soleil files bankruptcy


Ottawa, Jun 30 (Prensa Latina) Cirque du Soleil, one of the most renowned circus in the world, filed bankruptcy, due to the spreading of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, Canadian media reported on Tuesday.

The members of the company, known for their acrobatic shows, announced the layoffs of more than 3,000 people before being restructured, for which it counts on two funds of 17 million euros each to compensate the staff and contractors.

The Montreal-based company confirmed a debt of 800 million euros and blamed it on the global health crisis for the interruption and forced closure of shows as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it said in an official communiqué.

Cirque du Soleil has been a very successful and profitable organization for 36 years; however, we have acted decisively to protect the future of the company due to the lack of income since the forced closure, President Daniel Lamarre said.

The circus, which operated more than 40 shows worldwide, will allow clients to keep their tickets for future shows, while rescue plans are put in place with the participation of the investors from Canada, China and the United States.


Powered by Plenglish