Category Archives: News Gate

Back Stories: Congressional Career Of Jacob Javits

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — In today’s Back Story, former WCBS reporter Walt Wheeler remembers the congressional career of Jacob Javits.

Find more 50th anniversary Back Stories and other special features here, and be sure to follow the station on Facebook and Twitter

WCBS 880 50th Anniversary Photos: Political Guests

Wheeler covered the senator in the 1970s and ’80s.

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Repeal and Replace: The True Cost of Repealing Obamacare

Rural farmers and families, who, regardless of their politics, rely on Affordable Care Act coverage, have not been onstage much during the political theater of the effort to repeal Obamacare and pass the American Health Care Act. Their invisibility is symptomatic of a health care debate that seems driven by ideology and partisanship.

Hank Adcock’s family has farmed the rolling hills of this small town in Northern Alabama for more than a century. Adcock took over the farm from his father, who inherited it from his father. At 62, Adcock was planning to pass the 300 acres — where his family raises everything from peaches and plums to corn and tomatoes, along with 200 cows — to his two sons.

Then a brutal farming accident threatened to rip the farm from his family. As Adcock worked in the fields below his house on a summer day in 2015, he reached to clear a jam in the hay baler and his hand caught in its blades. Within minutes, the machine took two of his fingers and much of his palm.

In shock, bleeding, and alone, Adcock somehow worked the stick shift on his old 4×4 Sierra pickup with his mangled right hand and drove across his fields for help. Eventually, the bills for that help — the doctors, hospital care and medivac helicopter ride — exceeded $130,000. This would be enough to consume his family’s finances, and with them his farm.

In the end, Hank Adcock held onto his farm, with the help of an unexpected savior: the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often known as Obamacare. Six months before the accident, Adcock had purchased health insurance for the first time in his life — something the ACA made possible.

The coverage saved Adcock’s farm, he believes, because without it, he would have been forced to sell most of his acreage to pay his medical bills, leaving his two sons without enough land to make a living.

“It would just [have] been all over with,” Adcock recalled, as he sat on a bucket of hydraulic oil on the lip of his cavernous garage packed with tractors, engines suspended by chains, oil drums, parts, and mountains of tools. ACA “was the best thing that ever happened to us.”

The Adcock family’s story represents a stark reality that Republicans face as they work to replace the Affordable Care Act this spring. Calls to repeal and replace the act may make for good political theater, but theater does not necessarily reflect reality. Adcock lives in a county where 90 percent of voters supported Donald Trump, according to CNN, yet large numbers of his neighbors are signing up for Obamacare, he says.

These rural farmers and families, who, regardless of their politics, rely on ACA coverage, have not been onstage much during the political theater of the effort to repeal Obamacare and pass the American Health Care Act.

Their invisibility is symptomatic of a health care debate that seems driven by ideology and partisanship on both sides, not the voices and needs of the families with the greatest stake in the outcome.

In Nectar, and other rural towns in America, health care can be about keeping your family above the poverty line, and keeping your farm.

Hank Adcock knows the poverty line because he has lived near it. Until two years ago, he had never purchased health insurance because the monthly premiums ranged between $1,000 to $2,000, enough to eat half or nearly all of the $24,000 to $25,000 a year he often made farming 10 to 12 hours a day. With those premiums, the family would have had little left.

“What am I going to eat?” Adcock said. “What am I going to buy groceries with?”

With the Affordable Care Act, the premium for Adcock and his wife is $110 a month.

Under the plan proposed by House Republican leaders during the week of March 6, their premium would rise to roughly $1,150 a month, according to Doug Hoffman, an ACA navigator based in Birmingham.

Within 10 years, 24 more million people would be uninsured under the GOP plan than under current law, according to an analysis released on March 13 by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The plan also would cut the federal budget deficit by more than $300 billion over the same period, the office added.

Obamacare Catches on in Trump Country   

In this Republican stronghold, Adcock’s neighbors may sign up for Obamacare but they don’t admit it partly because of the political stigma attached to an act that is seen as President Barack Obama’s signature achievement, he says.

The stigma, though, may be starting to fade.

As word spread among Nectar’s roughly 350 residents that they could buy health insurance for as little as $110 a month, Doug Hoffman’s phone started ringing. When the region’s ACA navigator answered those calls he tried to dispel the stigma. He also explained that many companies pay much of the health care premiums for their workers.

“Look, you don’t have an employer picking up half of your health costs, so you are having to pay the full freight. That is just not fair,” Hoffman, a former finance director at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, told farmers. “I had people come in who weren’t going to take Obamacare…for political reasons.”

After talking it over, some farmers changed their minds and signed up, Hoffman says.

This shift in Nectar may help explain why the nation’s view of the Affordable Care Act appears to be shifting. A majority of people viewed the act favorably in four recent polls, including one by Fox News, The New York Times reported. At town hall meetings with members of Congress, voters are standing up in support of it.

Rural families in places like Nectar are the tip of a political iceberg Republicans are trying to avoid as they work to repeal the ACA. During the week of March 6, Republican leaders introduced their plan to replace Obamacare, one they say ushers in modern reforms and expands access to quality health care.

Hank Adcock's son, James, 17, left, loads feed onto a truck on his family's farm in Blount County, Alabama in February, 2017. (Photo: Mike Kane for Equal Voice News)Hank Adcock’s son, James, 17, left, loads feed onto a truck on his family’s farm in Blount County, Alabama in February, 2017. (Photo: Mike Kane for Equal Voice News)It was promptly greeted with opposition and skepticism among some Republicans and Democrats. There is rising concern the plan would hurt poorer families by raising their costs, including older adults who live a bit above the poverty line — people like Hank Adcock.

If Congress will listen, Adcock says, the problem is clear. Something has to be done about the cost of health care. The Affordable Care Act reflects one attempt to address that problem, and he worries that whatever replaces it will push coverage once again out of his reach.

“I am worried they are going to get it where we can’t afford it again,” Adcock said. “Use judgement. Look at all the costs…That’s what I had to do.”

Common Ground, Not a Southern Strategy

Alabama is a deep red state that has historically been divided along racial lines, a divide that has been deepened by the “Southern Strategy,” under which the Republican Party has appealed to white voters in ways that pitted them against Black residents.

These divisions flared last year, when Alabama’s state Legislature reversed the city of Birmingham’s move to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.  The state’s decision sparked an outcry and a lawsuit charging that the reversal disenfranchised the city’s Black voters.

Hank Adcock on his farm in Blount County, Alabama in February, 2017. (Photo: Mike Kane for Equal Voice News)Hank Adcock on his farm in Blount County, Alabama in February, 2017. (Photo: Mike Kane for Equal Voice News)But change comes, if sometimes slowly, to Alabama. Here as across the country, the kitchen-table issues that low-income families worry about — putting food on the table; finding a good job; paying for health care — are at the heart of that change.

These complex realities of family life blur the stark partisan lines that characterize political discourse. Whether they identify as “red” or as “blue,” families from disparate backgrounds want the same basic things, such as access to medical care at a price that doesn’t leave them struggling to find money to feed the kids.

“There are issues like health care and education and jobs that resonate across every race and identity,” Hoffman, the ACA navigator who helps people find and enroll in health care plans, said.

“Health care trumps politics and racial divisions out there.”

“The Hard Work Begins”

Nectar is a town of mostly modest brick houses, farms and double-wide trailers, where families earn a median income of $35,000 a year. It is Trump country, like the rest of this largely rural state, which Trump won with 63 percent of the vote in November.

“This is where it all began; remember that incredible rally we had?” Trump told supporters in Mobile, Alabama during his December post-election tour, The New York Times reported. “People said something going on there, right? That was the beginning.”

“Now, in a certain way, the hard work begins,” Trump told that same crowd, according to the Times.

Less than three months later, those words seem prescient — at least on health care, where promises to repeal Obamacare are colliding with the reality on the ground.

Since the ACA’s passage in 2010, Alabama’s rate of uninsured residents dropped from 18 percent to 11 percent, Doug Hoffman said, even though the state turned down federal funding to expand its Medicaid coverage.

In Nectar, only nine percent of residents lack health insurance, according to a 2015 Census estimate. [It is unclear how many residents rely on the Affordable Care Act].

Hank Adcock continues to grow peaches, tomatoes, plums and corn, and raise calves in the barn next to his house. He is continuing the long-honored work of running a family-led farm. He is slowed by age, though, particularly pain in his hips, and his two sons have taken over much of the work in the fields.

“I will do what I can to keep [the farm] here, because I realize he’s put a lot into it to keep it here for me and my brother to inherit one day,” said James Adcock, his 17-year-old son. “I am going to try to do all I can to keep it myself, and hopefully [pass it on] to my kids one day.”

As Congress prepares to replace the Affordable Care Act, Hank Adcock hopes whatever comes next doesn’t do away with the policies that allowed him to keep his farm in his family. He doesn’t really care who gets credit.

“Call it Obamacare, Trumpcare, just keep our health insurance,” he said.

Behind Neil Gorsuch’s Rhetoric, His Record Suggests Aggressive Judge Wedded to Conservative Agenda

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is heading back to Capitol Hill today for a second day of confirmation hearings. During Monday’s hearing, Democratic senators repeatedly criticized Gorsuch’s record, as well as their Republican counterparts for refusing to take up the nomination of President Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland, to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Neil Gorsuch has a long history of ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. For more, we speak with Ian Millhiser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and editor of ThinkProgress Justice. His recent piece is headlined “The Judge Gorsuch who spoke in the Senate today is nothing like the man who wrote his opinions.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is back on Capitol Hill today for day two of his confirmation hearing. Each senator on the Judiciary Committee will be allotted 30 minutes to question the federal judge, who was tapped by President Trump to fill the seat left vacant by Antonin Scalia’s death over a year ago. President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Scalia nearly a year ago, but Republicans refused to even hold hearings, fearing that Garland would tip the ideological balance of the court to the left. During opening statements on Monday, Democratic senators repeatedly criticized Gorsuch’s record and took aim at their Republican counterparts for refusing to take up the nomination of Garland last year. This is Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: Now, where do you fit in? When Hobby Lobby was in the Tenth Circuit, you held for a corporation having religious rights over its employees’ healthcare. Your record on corporate versus human litigants comes in by one count at 21 to two for corporations. Tellingly, big special interests and their front groups are spending millions of dollars in a dark money campaign to push your confirmation.

We have a predicament. In ordinary circumstances, you should enjoy the benefit of the doubt based on your qualifications. But several things have gone wrong that shift the benefit of the doubt. One, Justice Roberts sat in that very seat, told us he’d just call balls and strikes, and then led his five-person Republican majority on that activist five-to-four political shopping spree. Once burned, twice shy. Confirmation etiquette has been unhinged from the truth.

Two, Republican senators denied any semblance of due legislative process to our last nominee, one, I would say, even more qualified than you, and that’s saying something. Why go through the unprecedented political trouble to deny so qualified a judge even a hearing, if you don’t expect something more amenable to come down the pike? Those political expectations also color the benefit of the doubt.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. In his opening statement, Supreme Court justice nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch warned against judges being, quote, “secret legislators.”

JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: When I put on the robe, I’m also reminded that, under our Constitution, it’s for this body, the people’s representatives, to make new laws, for the executive to ensure those laws are faithfully executed, and for neutral and independent judges to apply the law in the people’s disputes. If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk, and those who came before the court would live in fear, never sure exactly what the law requires of them, except for the judges’ will. As Alexander Hamilton said, liberty can have nothing from — nothing to fear from judges who apply the law, but liberty has everything to fear if judges try to legislate, too.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch. To talk more about the judge, we’re joined by Ian Millhiser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, editor of ThinkProgress Justice, author of the book Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted.

So, Ian, we want to get your view of the first day of the hearing. The judge was not questioned. The senators just made their statements. But talk about what most — what you thought was most important that came out of yesterday’s hearing.

IAN MILLHISER: Sure. So, I was really struck by the difference between Judge Gorsuch’s rhetoric at the hearing and what I see in his record as a judge. Judge Gorsuch comes out of a tradition that’s become particularly prominent on the right since Barack Obama was sworn in, that calls for judges to be more active, more aggressive in pushing a conservative agenda, more hostile to agency regulation, more hostile to laws like the Affordable Care Act. And everything I see in Judge Gorsuch’s record suggests that he very much believes in that agenda. Whether you look at his Hobby Lobby decision, you look at his efforts to dismantle many of the powers that agencies like the EPA has, this looks like he’s going to be a very aggressive judge. So I was surprised to hear him talk about judicial modesty and not behaving like a super-legislator, because when I look at his record, I mean, modesty does not seem to be what he is interested in.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, let’s go back to part of Neil Gorsuch’s opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: In my decade on the bench, I’ve tried to treat all who come before me fairly and with respect and afford equal right to poor and rich. I’ve decided cases for Native Americans seeking to protect tribal lands, for class actions like one that ensured compensation for victims of a large nuclear waste pollution problem produced by corporations in Colorado. I’ve ruled for disabled students, for prisoners, for the accused, for workers alleging civil rights violations and for undocumented immigrants. Sometimes, too, I ruled against such persons. My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me, only a judgment about the law and the facts at issue in each particular case. A good judge can promise no more than that, and a good judge should guarantee no less, for a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is probably a pretty bad judge, stretching for policy results he prefers rather than those the law compels.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ian Millhiser, what about this, this particular — these particular words of Neil Gorsuch? And also, could you talk about — later on in the hearing, he also talked about his admiration for Justice Robert Jackson and how he compares to that former justice?

IAN MILLHISER: Sure. So, I mean, I think it is important to notice that — and Gorsuch is right about this, that judges tend to operate in broad — paint with broad ideological brushes or broad constitutional brushes, and not — you know, a bad judge is someone who looks at each individual case and figures out the result they want in that individual case. Gorsuch doesn’t seem like someone who does that.

What he does do, though, is he believes in a comprehensive, very conservative ideology, which will sometimes reach results that are good, but that very often reaches results that have very sweeping implications, that I, at least, think are pretty bad. You know, to give an example of that, there was a case involving an immigrant, someone who was sent back to Mexico, wanted to re-enter the United States and was very, very poorly treated by the federal government. And Gorsuch ruled in favor of this very mistreated immigrant. But in the process of doing so, he laid out a broad rule, which, if it were taken up by the Supreme Court, would make it very difficult for the EPA to operate, would make it very difficult for the Department of Labor to enact very — a number of regulations protecting workers, could potentially have implications for food safety and other areas of the law. So he painted with a broad brush, and the breadth of his opinion was broad enough to help this one immigrant. But it wasn’t — but it’s still a very comprehensively conservative decision that has much bigger implications that I think should be very frightening.

You asked about Justice Robert Jackson. You know, he praised Jackson in his hearing. Jackson is someone who’s associated very much with judicial restraint. And it was another example of Gorsuch trying to paint himself as the picture of judicial modesty. But again, I look at his record as a judge, and I just don’t see the modesty that he describes in his testimony there.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Utah’s Republican Senator Mike Lee.

SEN. MIKE LEE: You have the résumé of a Supreme Court justice. But I think what’s most impressive, and for our purposes what’s most important, about your career and about the approach you take to the law is your fierce independence from partisan influence and from any personal biases that you might otherwise be inclined to harbor.

AMY GOODMAN: During Monday’s hearing, several Democratic senators, including Dick Durbin of Illinois, talked about how Republicans blocked Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.

SEN. DICK DURBIN: The journey began with the untimely death of Justice Scalia in February of 2016. President Obama met his constitutionally required obligation by nominating Judge Merrick Garland to fill that vacancy in March of 2016. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced that for the first time in the history of the United States Senate he would refuse Judge Garland a hearing and a vote. He went further and said he would refuse to even meet with the judge. It was clear that Senator McConnell was making a political decision, hoping a Republican president would be elected. He was willing to ignore the tradition and precedent of the Senate, so that you could sit at this witness table today.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Senator Dick Durbin. Ian Millhiser, as we wrap up, in our next segment we’re going to be talking about the Federalist Society with New York Times reporter Eric Lipton, and its power in choosing judges and shaping the Trump judiciary, but what about what’s going to happen right now? It took over 320 days. Garland never had a hearing. They are talking about fast-tracking this to — when would be a vote?

IAN MILLHISER: I mean, we’re probably looking at a vote sometime in April. They want to get this done as quick as possible, so that something like, say, for example, an FBI investigation into the president of the United States doesn’t derail this confirmation. You know, Republicans know what’s at stake here. There’s a big gerrymandering case that’s going to be heard by the Supreme Court next term. There’s a bunch of cases involving the future of voter suppression laws in places like North Carolina. So these guys have done –

AMY GOODMAN: Travel ban.

IAN MILLHISER: Travel ban, right. I mean, these guys have done a great deal to manipulate the way that our elections are held, and make it easier for Republicans and harder for Democrats. And if the Supreme Court takes that away from them — and if Merrick Garland had been confirmed, it’s likely that the Supreme Court would say, “No more of that. You don’t get to manipulate elections anymore” — Republicans would be in a very difficult position. So they want this guy confirmed fast, because they want their conservative majority that’s going to protect these laws that allow them to manipulate how our elections are held.

AMY GOODMAN: Ian Millhiser, we want to thank you for being with us.

IAN MILLHISER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re certainly going to check back with you, senior fellow at the Center of American Progress Action Fund, editor of ThinkProgress Justice. We’ll link to your piece, “The Judge Gorsuch who spoke in the Senate today is nothing like the man who wrote his opinions.” Ian is the author of the book Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted.

When we come back, New York Times reporter Eric Lipton on the Federalist Society, particularly its vice president, [Leonard Leo], who is on leave now, coordinating the whole presentation of Justice Gorsuch. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.

Wrong Way Driver On I-95 Caught On Dashcam Video

ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A wrong way driver barreling through heavy traffic on a local major highway was captured by another driver’s dashcam.

Drivers coming off I-95 in Secaucus, N.J. were in disbelief at the video that shows a truck going the wrong way down that same road Sunday night.

“These are things you don’t expect to happen,” Carlos Narvas of Jersey City said.

As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reports, the entire ordeal was caught by a dash camera in Harrison resident Adam Zurek’s car just south of Newark Liberty International Airport as he was heading north.

“All of a sudden the brake lights lit up in front of me and everyone slowed down from 70 miles an hour down to ten maybe,” he said. “He passed right by my driver side door.”

Zurek said he decided to install the camera after he captured cell phone video a few years ago of a driver going the wrong way on a highway in Pennsylvania. In that video, you can see a police officer pull up alongside the wayward driver just after he starts recording.

In Sunday’s case, Zurek says he called 911.

“Once he drove by I just kept wondering about what was going to happen,” he said.

New Jersey State Police say what happened was a head on collision. The driver of the Ford F-150, 68=year-old Luis Hernandez, hit a Honda Civic near Elizabeth. Two people were injured in the crash, and Hernandez has been charged with DWI and assault.

“I just can’t imagine being intoxicated that much where you’re driving at thousands of headlights coming towards you,” Zurek said.

State police are still trying to determine where Hernandez got on I-95 going the wrong way.

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Sources: Suspects Sought For Shattering Door At Bronx Mosque

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying two suspects in connection to a likely criminal mischief incident at a mosque in the Bronx.

Police say on March 17 around 8:00 p.m., the two males were seen walking in front of 911 Longwood Ave before one of them threw a stick at the glass door, breaking the glass.

Sources tell CBS2 that about 20 members of the Masjid Salam Mosque were in prayer service when they heard the sound of the glass shattering and found the front door smashed.

The Imam reviewed surveillance video which showed the two suspects peer through the window before throwing the stick at the door, causing $250 worth of damage according to sources.

The suspects were seen leaving the area on foot in opposite directions, according to police.

The incident is being investigated as a possible bias crime, however sources say it appears to be a case of criminal mischief at this point.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74682). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

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French presidential debate: Le Pen comes under fire from rivals

Emmanuel Macron, the Front National leader’s main rival in the contest, was subdued – until Le Pen attacked him

France’s main presidential candidates rounded on the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen in the first televised debate on Monday night, with the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron accusing her of lying and seeking to divide the country.

The three-and-a-half-hour live debate between the top five candidates saw Le Pen and Macron repeatedly exchange verbal blows. At the start of the debate, Macron, the 39-year-old former economy minister who has never run for election before, seemed subdued, perhaps more used to making speeches alone on stage than debating rivals. But when Le Pen accused him of being in favour of the burkini, a full-body swimsuit worn by Muslim women that created weeks of controversy in France last summer when some mayors banned it from beaches, Macron exploded.

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