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Cuomo Vows to Close Campaign Contribution Loophole. Again.

In New York, traditional corporations can donate a maximum of $5,000 to one or more candidates. But limited liability companies are treated like individuals, which means they can give as much as $60,800 to a candidate. If an entity wants to give more, it simply can simply create more LLC's — with each one giving up to $60,800. It's a loophole in the law that has lead to a proliferation of LLCs that allow entities to influence legislators. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has benefited from donations from LLCs, but he has also called for the closure of the loophole since his first race for governor in 2010. On Tuesday, with less than a month to go in the legislative session, he proposed a package of bills that would give LLCs the same status as traditional corporations. He has support from the State Assembly, but Republicans in the Senate were dismissive. Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan called it a red herring. He said abuse of the campaign contribution rules should be address with greater transparency and enforcement.

Complication Rate Climbing for Pregnancy and Delivery in NYC

Despite efforts to improve pre-natal care and hospital protocols for delivering babies safely, complication rates continue to climb for pregnant women bringing children into the world. The rate nationally nearly doubled from 1998 to 2009, from 74 to 129 per 10,000 deliveries — but that culminating rate is still well below what women experience in New York City. A new Health Department report looking at more recent years finds the local complication rate climbing from 197 to 253 between 2008 and 2012. Those scores are for what public health experts call "severe maternal morbidity" — a constellation of 25 different indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It includes emergency procedures that pregnant women undergo before, during and after childbirth, including blood transfusions and hysterectomies, and health conditions that emerge, including blood clots, kidney failure and respiratory distress. The report highlights the broad disparities in complication rates. Over the five-year study period, white women in the city had a rate of 127, while Latina women had a rate between 249 and 272, and black women had a rate of 387. The city's overall rate for 2008-2012 was around 240, but in its most dire neighborhoods — Brownsville and East Flatbush, in Brooklyn — the rate was almost 500. These deliveries also cost much more: about $15,700 versus $9,400 for uncomplicated births. That amounts to around $17 million annually, a cost disproportionately borne by taxpayers, since many of the women at the highest risk are on Medicaid or are uninsured. The report is vague on why severe maternal mortality is so high and why disparities are so wide in New York City. "There are likely many contributors to these disparities, including pre-conception health status, prevalence of obesity and other co-morbidities and access to care," the authors wrote. "Factors associated with poverty, such as inadequate housing, residential segregation and lower educational attainment, which disproportionately impact Black women, also increase risk . . . and racism and its attendant stresses, too, likely contribute to adverse maternal health outcomes." Part of the explanation for the much higher rates could also be better data collection, the authors wrote. They recommended broad public health remedies with few specifics: target the highest risk groups, improve women's overall health, monitor and measure group outcomes closely, research risk factors and after-the-fact impacts.

Opponents of Natural Gas Pipeline Urge Feds to Stop Expansion

Activists are calling on Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to do more to stop the Algonquin Incremental Market pipeline (AIM), a natural gas pipeline that would expand the width of an existing 26-inch pipeline that runs from southern New Jersey to Boston through the Hudson Valley, and within 100 feet of the Indian Point Nuclear power plant. Now, Gillibrand and Schumer are seeking to halt the project. Spectra Energy, which runs the pipeline, said in a statement it received approval for the expansion after a two-year review process, "that involved significant public participation." Additionally, it said, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission "confirmed in its Order on Rehearing the validity of its Certificate for the AIM Project as well as the findings of other federal and state agencies." In February, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the commission, which oversees interstate gas pipelines, to review its approval of the project. They declined his request. Spectra expects gas to be flowing through the new pipeline by November.

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What Happens After A Gang Takedown

The Eastchester Gardens housing project in the Bronx is home to 2,000 people, and it's where members of the 2Fly YGz gang operated before they were arrested in a massive gang takedown last month. Police and federal prosecutors said the 120 arrests constituted the largest gang takedown in city history. They said the suspects sold drugs and battled a rival gang, the Big Money Bosses, which led to at least eight murders over nine years. Some residents in Eastchester Gardens said they were happy that the raid happened. "I would be afraid to come out at certain times because I didn't know if I would hear a gunshot, or a fight would break out, or gangs would just come running from somewhere," said Pernice Osborne, 59, while out walking her yorkie. Another resident, who didn't want her name used, was swinging her grandson in the same playground where the 2Fly gang allegedly stashed weapons and dealt drugs. She said she used to avoid it. "I want my grandson to grow up in a good environment, drug-free," she said. "I'm glad to hear they got rid of these people. That's better for us." New York is safer than ever before. But there are still pockets of crime, many around housing projects dominated by crews, and Mayor de Blasio says that's what the NYPD is focused on: "the several thousand individuals who literally account for most of the true, intense violence." But in an age when young black men are seven times more likely to be in prison than their white counterparts, there's an undercurrent of anger when 120 young men of color in one community are all arrested at once. In surfaced in a recent meeting with the local cops, the city councilman and the Bronx District Attorney at Eastchester Gardens. "This would never happen in any other community but a minority community," said Joshua Whitlock, who lives in the complex. Another young man, Tarik Grand, complained about the lack of opportunities. "We got nothing out here. We got no jobs, we got no money," he said. "We're trying to survive. We're trying to live. And if we sell weed, I'm not saying that's the best thing in the world. But you're throwing us (in) the jail." The commanding officer of the 47th precinct in the North Bronx, Inspector Ruel Stephenson, told the residents that the victims have families, too. "Don't sit here and celebrate these people who are plaguing the streets," he said. "Don't wait until your son is shot in crossfire to be upset." A similar takedown played out in West Harlem two years ago, when 103 people were indicted. The majority of them were members of rival gangs at the Grant Houses and the nearby Manhattanville housing project. Ninety-seven of them pleaded guilty and four were convicted at trial for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy. "What you're trying to do is have an enforcement action that has a powerful, immediate effect on violence reduction," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. The number of assaults, robberies and shootings dropped following the raid, to the satisfaction of many residents. "You can wake up in the morning, go outside, sit on the bench ... and actually enjoy yourself without having to worry about gangs colliding," said Carlton Davis, the tenant rep at the Grant housing complex. Vance has also arranged for community programs. But this year crime in the two developments has ticked up again. Derrick Haynes, a community activist, said the gang leaders have been replaced. "Whenever you clean the top off, there's always underlings that are in line to try to take over," he said. The rivalry between the Grant and Manhattanville projects goes back decades. Haynes' brother was killed during one violent outburst in 1972. "The critical part to me is the after effect," said Haynes. "What happens after the raids?" He said more social services would help, especially during the summer. The NYPD is promising 20 more takedowns before July.

Read All About It: Free Newspaper Hawkers Go Silent

Standing in front of the Rockefeller Center subway turnstiles during rush hour one morning, Michael Thorpe acknowledges that his job isn't for everybody. "You gotta be on our feet, you gotta say the promotion, and you gotta be friendly," says the 50-year-old Washington Heights native, an amNY hawker for the last eight years. "If you're not friendly, then people are not gonna take the paper. And that's what really sells our paper." He flashes a smile, then quickly returns to proclaiming the day's headlines to scuttling commuters. "I get my joy from the people," he adds later. "Saying good morning, seeing the smiling faces. I love this job." But Thorpe might not have his job for much longer. Earlier this year, the MTA announced an agreement with the publishers of amNY and Metro — both free dailies — that prohibits these modern-day "newsies" from working in the subway, and allows the newspapers to place self-service metal racks stands in stations instead. The MTA argues that the hawkers contribute to excess trash in the stations, which is a continual struggle for the agency, and contributes to track fires. There were over 1,000 subway fires last year, according to a report from the MTA. This new agreement holds the newspapers accountable for the disposal of leftover papers at the end of each day. Metro has already begun to withdraw hawkers, while amNY is expected to follow, said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. (A spokesman for amNY wouldn't comment.) Though banned from the subway, the hawkers will continue to physically distribute newspapers in NJ Transit, LIRR and Metro- North stations, according to Metro's media kit.

This Week in Politics: Bernie Bros and the Fragility of White Men

This week, a political dogfight in Nevada led to harassment of party officials and threats of violence from supporters of Bernie Sanders. The candidate defended his frustrated supporters. The threats aimed at a party leader has been criticized even by Sanders supporters. "This critique has typically been aimed at white men in the Sanders camp, similar to the white men in Trump's camp," says Darnell Moore, a writer and host of The Movement on Mic.com. "They are rallying around this idea of the economic and political fragility of white men." Moore and WNYC's Andrea Bernstein discuss the week in politics with host David Furst.

REVIEW: Two Tragic Tales of Love

Two new Off-Broadway shows focus on love stories from the turn of the last century — stories that are profound, moving, and in the end, tragic. One's about the first lesbian kiss on Broadway. The other, about Oscar Wilde's doomed affair with the narcissistic Lord Alfred Douglas. WNYC theater critic Jennifer Vanasco talked to Weekend Edition Host David Furst about "Indecent," created by Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman and at Vineyard Theatre through June 12, and "The Judas Kiss" by David Hare and directed by Neil Armfield at BAM also through June 12.

Schools Scramble to Test Their Water after Newark Finds Lead

Schools across the tri-state region have been rushing to test their faucets and fountains since the revelation in March that lead contamination of drinking water was widespread in Newark Public Schools. The sudden surge in demand has environmental labs inundated with 500 to 600 water samples a days, causing major delays right as the public, and parents, clamor to know if the water the children drink every day is safe. "When we first contacted our engineer, we were told a 2-3 week turnaround time, but now we are looking at 6-8 weeks," said Hank Grishman, the superintendent of the Jericho School District on Long Island, which has received some, but not all, of its test results. There are no federal or state laws that require school districts to test for lead, unless they have their own water source distinct from the one that feeds the municipality. As a result, many districts have never tested their water. New York City went 10 years without testing an overwhelming majority of its public schools. Newark, which has been testing annually since 2003, was actually the exception in how much attention the district gave to the matter. On Long Island, where NBC 4 New York, WSHU Radio and WNYC have collaborated to report on the issue, more that two dozen school districts are trying to get their water tested. So far, our team has learned of 11 districts where at least one sample has had lead levels about the federal guideline of 15 parts per billion. They are Jericho, Bayport-Blue Port, Port Washington, Valley Stream 13, Valley Stream Central High School, Northport-East Northport (one sink), Elwood, Commack, Cold Spring Harbor, Locust Valley and Syosset. One of the two major environmental engineering companies on the island, Enviroscience, has found unsafe levels of lead in most of the schools it has tested. "Maybe 20 percent of those buildings are lead free," the company's president, Glen Neuschwender, said. "About 20 percent are extraordinarily high, and the rest are somewhere in the middle where we need to deal with two, three, four, five fixtures in a building that need to be replaced or permanently shut off." Lead is a neurotoxin. Occasional exposure is harmless, but repeatedly drinking contaminated water, especially for small children, can lead to developmental problems.

New York Area Vets React to Obama's Upcoming Trip to Vietnam

President Obama will visit Vietnam this weekend on his way to the G-7 Summit in Japan. Memories of the Vietnam War are stirred up for veterans whenever a U.S. president visits the land of their former enemy, which still holds the remains of missing American soldiers. Obama will be the third president to travel to the country, after Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Paul Shottenhamel, a rifle platoon leader in 1969 and 1970, said he supports the normalization of relations between the countries after their debilitating and drawn-out conflict, which officially lasted from 1955 to 1975. "It's well past the time to put all that stuff behind us, and that we should be working with the Vietnamese," he said before adding with a self-conscious laugh, "I almost said, South Vietnamese." It would've been an understandable error: when Shottenhamel was a soldier, the U.S. military was fighting alongside the South Vietnamese against communist North Vietnam. The country is now unified under a name that includes the words "Socialist Republic," and it enjoys an "official partnership" with the United States. Marsha Four, a nurse during the war, said she believes that partnership is constructive. "We need to have allies in different segments of the world. I think it's a good thing the president's going." But Four said there remain lingering issues. "There are certainly concerns that we as Vietnam veterans have in regard to some of the things that are still hanging for us around Vietnam." She meant the roughly 1,600 Americans who remain missing in action from the war. John Rowan, the president of Vietnam Veterans of America, shares those concerns. But he stressed that it's because of good relations that both countries are able to keep recovering remains. "We bring them information on their killed-in-action and we end up getting information about our MIAs," he said. President Obama will arrive in Vietnam on Sunday and stay through Wednesday.

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