The decision by fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden to appear on TV with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a softball Q&A session was all part of the larger plan, says Snowden. Responding to critics who were skeptical of his participation in a propaganda event, Snowden writes in the the Guardian today, “I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticize the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive.” The idea was to get Putin lying on the record, which is in itself a noble accomplishment, according to Snowden.
The path to legality for "sharing economy" start-ups has gotten pretty well worn by now. First comes the stealth move into a new market, then comes the objection from industry trade groups who seize on some arcane law to declare the start-up illegal, then comes the crackdown and chest-puffing, then the start-up begins mobilizing an army of fans and sending out angry letters accusing trade groups of corruption, then the hearings and task forces, and finally, the eventual cake-splitting resolution. It's a nasty, time-consuming ritual, but it's become so routine that an entire cottage lobbying industry has blossomed to ease the process for companies like Uber.
Until recently, ad hoc rental platform AirBnB followed this model to a T in its quest to become legal in New York City. Then, something odd happened: Airbnb capitulated to the hotel industry, and the hotel industry kept on fighting.
After a two-year stalemate, the MTA and its largest union reached a new contract agreement that will raise wages by eight percent over five years, increase medical and dental benefits, and offer paid maternity and paternity leave. In concessions to the MTA, employees will contribute more toward health-care benefits and new hires won't receive full pay rates until they've been employed for five years. Governor Cuomo was asked to step in this week when the union threatened to strike, but if approved, the new deal means the subway will keep running and there won't be any fare increases (aside from the hikes already planned for 2015 and 2017).
Criminal justice reform is becoming a hot issue on the right, as some Republican governors, particularly in the South, have been earning praise for successfully implementing programs that encourage drug rehabilitation and cut prison costs. Since many likely 2016 candidates – including Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Rick Perry – have been speaking up about the issue lately, Chris Christie is trying to highlight his own accomplishments in New Jersey. On Thursday, Governor Christie signed a bill that would improve drug treatment programs in New Jersey correctional facilities, then swung by a conference in Jersey City on helping drug offenders re-enter society. "I’m pro-life and I believe strongly in the sanctity of life as do many of my conservative, fellow conservative governors," Christie said. "And I say to them, you know, it’s great to be pro-life but you need to be pro-life after they get out of the womb too."
At his campaign kickoff on Thursday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford thanked supporters for standing by him during the "rocky moments over the past year," and underscored his refusal to admit he has any addiction issues by giving everyone one free drink. Supporters could also score Rob Ford bobblehead dolls, but those cost $30 to $100 a pop. In case you're wondering, this isn't how they usually do things up north. The Toronto Star notes, "His main rivals, Olivia Chow and John Tory, chose much smaller venues for their events that did not feature a bagpipe entrance, a rock band, balloons, campaign memorabilia — for sale — or a firetruck with a banner 'Saving the taxpayers from getting burned.'"
On Thursday in Geneva, the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union reached an agreement to deescalate the situation in Ukraine, which Secretary of State John Kerry described as a first step in averting "a complete and total implosion" in the region. The deal calls for all sides to refrain from violent and provocative acts, for illegal groups to be disarmed, and for pro-Russian separatists to give up the buildings they seized in eastern Ukraine. Protesters who comply will be given amnesty, unless they're found guilty of capital crimes. Now the question is whether Russia will actually go along with the agreement, and President Obama sounded unconvinced. "My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days, but I don’t think, given past performance, that we can count on that," he said at a White House press conference.
The Horseless eCarriage was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show today, an old-timey and futuristic vehicle that animal activists and supporters of a horse-and-carriage ban hope could eventually replace the city's animal-powered carriages. The prototype was modeled after a turn-of-the-century touring car, complete with brass trim and other authentic period details. So, bringing you vintage New York sans the manure smell.
An unidentified social worker is suing her ex-boss, 53-year-old retired NYPD officer Michael Reingold, for repeatedly raping, assaulting, and harassing her when they worked together at the Bronx's Highbridge Woodycrest Center. According to the 20-page lawsuit, the 47-year-old woman was hired by Bronx Lebanon Hospital in July 2012 to care for AIDS patients at Highbridge Woodycrest. She says that she was suspicious of Reingold starting on the day he interviewed her for the job, when he allegedly said nasty things about his wife and told her, "You look much better in person than on your LinkedIn page." She says she took the position anyway because she needed the $70,000 salary.
Sure, Mr. Met is the best mascot in all of Major League Baseball but, to the people charged with protecting the President of the United States, he's just another threat. In a new memoir, A.J. Mass, who played the bobble-headed hero from 1994 to 1997, recalled a very stern warning he received when then–President Bill Clinton stopped by Shea Stadium during his tenure. "Now listen to me very carefully ... We have snipers all around the stadium, just in case something were to happen," a Secret Service agent told Mr. Met/Mass, who had hoped to get his photo taken with Clinton. "Like I said, do whatever it is you normally do. Nobody will bother you. But approach the president, and we go for the kill shot. Are we clear?" And, just in case it wasn't clear, the agent repeated the bit about the "kill shot." Mass attributed the agent's suspicion on his earlier failure to get part of his costume through the field's metal detector, but it's possible the guy was just a really hardcore Yankees fan.
President Obama held a press conference today to highlight the news that the new health insurance exchanges have not signed up 7 million customers, as previously believed. They’ve signed up 8 million. It turns out that lots of people who don’t have health insurance would rather have health insurance. Who knew?