Schumer Hopes Sony Releases ‘The Interview’

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday said he hopes Sony Pictures finds a way to release “The Interview” following a prolonged hacking scandal that has been attributed to North Korea.

“The company said they are going to get this movie out,” Schumer said during a tour through upstate New York today. “They have to find willing distributors. I hope they do. I think we should not let North Korea intimidate us.”

The comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, portraying an assassination of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, was initially shelved by Sony after the computer hacking released thousands of sensitive and embarrassing emails.

Sony now says it plans to release the film, potentially through its streaming service Crackle.

There is some doubt that North Korea is actually behind the cyber attack, though today there are reports that Internet service is down throughout the country.

Schumer said the Sony case is an example of the need to strengthen cyber security, one he says that should be a bipartisan issue.

“It underscores how serious cyber security is,” he said. “If a country like North Korea can do such damage to Sony, imagine what other countries can do and maybe it could be to a company, it could be to a power structure. It could be to all kinds of things. This is an issue that’s not a partisan issue and it’s something we should be able to come together.”


Rep. Michael Grimm will reportedly plead guilty tomorrow to a felony charge of cheating on his taxes at a Manhattan restuarant he co-owned before entering Congress.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the murder of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos was a “direct spinoff of this issue” of the protests that have roiled the nation in recent weeks.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio called for protests and political debate over police tactics to be halted until the funerals for the two officers are held.

The Rev. Al Sharpton won’t heed de Blasio’s call, saying: “The regard for good police should not change and the need for those bad police to be held accountabile should not change. Those two things are non-negotiable.”

Cuomo said de Blasio ”is doing the best he can under very difficult circumstances to hear all sides of the matter.”

SBA President Ed Mullins did not appear for a scheduled interview on MSNBC this morning, and police union leaders will not speak “until further notice.”

Russell Simmons to PBA President Pat Lynch: “(T)here is no “war” that will be waged upon our communities by your, I mean OUR officers, there is no blood on anyone’s hands except those of the killer.”

A historical reminder: De Blasio isn’t the first NYC mayor with whom the police unions haven’t gotten along.

Former Gov. David Paterson said if protestors have “any respect” for the police, they should stand down during the funerals for Liu and Ramos.

…Paterson also offered de Blasio this advice: “Govern to all of the city,” and sit down with people whose viewpoints are “antithetical to yours.”

More than 225,000 New Yorkers have enrolled in a health insurance plan through the state’s exchange since Nov. 15, the Health Department announced.

The Lago Resort & Casino developers welcome the competition from a new Oneida Indian Nation plan to build a $20 million Wizard of Oz-themed casino, even though it could cut into their potential customer base.

In Cooperstown, Brewery Ommegang is pleased with Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking.

Rep. Tom Reed says the state should compensate landowners for the money they could have made from fracking.

The Cuomo girls are skiing with their mom, Kerry Kennedy.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer has visited all of New York’s 62 counties for the 16th year in a row.

Nn independent New York theater says that it will present a live reading of the script of “The Interview.”

The state should use nearly $2 billion of a bank settlement to help pay for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and his Westchester counterpart, Rob Astorino, said.

At least one major health system, Mount Sinai Health System, believes it can take part in an effective medical marijuana trial that provides cannabis to ill children in New York State.

More than 100,000 New Yorkers could potentially get hit with pension cuts in coming years, thanks to a provision that was tucked into Congress’ omnibus spending bill earlier this month.

The Clinton family took in Sting’s Broadway show over the weekend.

The new owners of the Skaneateles Lake home that was a favorite vacation spot of the Clintons have connections to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville empire.

The Huffington Post is planning to stop using AP stories while increasing its reporter headcount, gearing up for a relaunch and rolling out more international editions.

RIP Joe Cocker.

Q-Poll: NY Backs Fracking Ban, Won’t Trade Anything For A Legislative Pay Hike

Voters in New York back Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to prohibit high-volume hydrofracking in the state by a 30-percentage point margin, a Quinnipiac University poll released on Monday found.

The poll found Republicans are split on the issue, with 42 percent backing the ban and 40 percent opposing it. Democrats are most likely to be support the fracking ban by a margin of 67 percent to 11 percent.

Meanwhile, a majority of upstate voters support the ban, 56 percent to 20 percent, with a similar margin in New York City, the poll found. The fracking ban has the least support among suburban voters, where the ban has the backing of 52 percent of voters.

Cuomo’s administration last week moved to ban hydrofracking following a lengthy health review of the natural gas drilling process on humans.

The move came the same day a casino siting board decided against giving a license to any projects in the Southern Tier to construct a casino resort. With both fracking and casinos off the table for the economically troubled region, Cuomo has acknowledged that something must be done to help the area grow jobs.

What voters don’t want to see is a legislative pay hike, which would be the first salary bump for state lawmakers, earn a base $79,500.

The poll found, not surprisingly, that 82 percent of voters would oppose a pay increase for the Legislature, 15 percent backing such a move.

Cuomo has been sympathetic to the push for a salary hike, but has said he wants lawmakers to take up sweeping campaign finance and ethics reform in the process, including the public financing of political campaigns and limits on outside income for lawmakers.

But trading a pay hike for ethics legislation or even a faster minimum wage increase are not popular, the poll found.

Trading a minimum wage increase for a legislative pay raise is rated a “bad idea” by 70 percent of voters.

Ethics reform, including campaign finance law changes, in exchange for a pay raise still lacks support, with 57 percent of voters not backing that proposal.

The state’s minimum wage is set to increase to $8.75 by the start of the new year.

Cuomo himself has a 58 percent job approval rating, virtually unchanged from August when Quinnipiac last polled the question.

The Quinnipiac poll of 1,293 registered voters has a 2.7 percent margin of error and was conducted from Dec. 17 through Dec. 21.

122214 NY GOV + BP by Nick Reisman

Plan 2014 Coalition Pushes New Shoreline Regulations

From the Morning Memo:

The coalition of environmental advocates and elected officials that back changes to Lake Ontario shoreline regulations will reiterate their support for “Plan 2014″ in a news release later today.

The proposal, being billed as an update to the existing regulations, is aimed at managing the water levels on the great lake.

Supporters say that shifting to the new regulations will provide for a more natural water level and boost hydropower, but is opposed by elected officials who represent the southern shore of the lake.

The regulations must still be approved by the federal government, now under review by the Department of State.

Today the plan is getting a boost from Buffalo Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins.

“The Great Lakes represent one of our greatest natural resources providing extensive environmental benefits and economic opportunities,” said Higgins who is a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force. “Plan 2014 builds on existing efforts to restore, protect and enhance Great Lakes water and the communities that surround them.”

The proposal also has the backing of two North Country officials: Democratic Rep. Bill Owens and the Republican who is replacing him in Congress, Elise Stefanik.

“Plan 2014 is a pragmatic solution for the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario,” Owens said. “It balances the environment and the economy, and is based in hard science. It’s time to implement Plan 2014 and prevent the irreparable damage that will occur if we don’t act.”

The Plan 2014 campaign is primarily being organized by the Nature Conservancy in favor of the new regulations.

The move is opposed by Republican Rep. Chris Collins, who believes the new water levels will harm residents who live Orleans, Wayne and Niagara counties, with concerns centering around damaging shorelines and existing fortifications.

Lake Effect Snow Damage Hits $49M, Cuomo Says

Federal disaster aid will be available to counties across western New York and the Adirondacks that were impacted by the lake effect snowstorm that buried parts of the region last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced on Monday.

The cost of the damaged exceeded $49 million, triggering FEMA’s public assistance program that provides reimbursement for municipalities following a disaster, helping pay for debris removal, emergency measures such as road clearance and repair as well as the rebuilding of damaged infrastructure.

“This much needed assistance will help communities still recovering from last month’s extreme snowfall and ensure that they are prepared for the upcoming winter months,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In the face of this severe weather, New Yorkers from every corner of the state came together to help their neighbors in Western New York and the North Country in their time of need. I thank FEMA for recognizing the severity of this storm and for approving our request for aid.”

The impacted counties include Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Orleans, St. Lawrence.

For homeowners, loans of up to $200,000 are available to repair or replace damaged property.

Personal property can be recovered by renters and homeowners through loans of up to $40,000.

Cuomo Speaks With Sharpton, Police Labor Leaders

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke with the Rev. Al Shaprton as well as the leaders of the city’s police unions on Monday to urge calm following the deaths of two New York City police officers over the weekend.

Cuomo, who visited with the family of Officer Wenjian Liu, who alongside Officer Rafael Ramos was murdered on Saturday, said he hoped the heated debate over public safety could give way to city-wide unity.

“I don’t think the back and forth has been productive — overheated,” Cuomo said. “I think we need calm and peace and unity and then let’s have a productive conversation after the holidays. There’s no doubt that real questions need to be addressed.”

Cuomo said he spoke with PBA President Pat Lynch, Detectives’ Endowment Association President Michael Palladino and Ed Mullins, the president of Sergeants Benevolent Association as well as Sharpton.

“I understand the emotion, I understand the strong dialogue, I understand the feelings,” Cuomo said. “But now is the time for unity, now is the time for peace, now is the time for calm.”

The conversation come after Lynch blamed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for the officers’ deaths, saying the mayor’s office has “blood on its hands.”

Cuomo in a WNYC radio interview with Brian Lehrer this morning refused to take sides in the dispute and backed de Blasio’s handling of the situation.

Cuomo has been reiterating his call for peace after Ramos and Liu were shot inside of their patrol car in Brooklyn.

Cuomo visited with the Ramos family on Sunday in the wake of the shootings.

The governor has said he will continue to pursue criminal justice reforms, but wants to have a cooling off period this week.

Unshackle Upstate Hires New Executive Director

The Rochester-based business group Unshackle Upstate on Monday announced Greg Biryla will takeover as executive director, replacing Brian Sampson.

Biryla is coming from within the organization, having previously worked as the group’s director of development.

He also has ties to the state Senate, having worked as a communications aide to Republican Sen. Pat Gallivan.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead Unshackle Upstate and be a voice of advocacy and growth for Upstate New York,” Biryla said.. “The organization’s leadership team represents the industries and communities that drive the Upstate economy today and those that will lead it into the future. I could not ask for better partners. I’ve spent my entire life living in diverse Upstate communities and I strongly believe that if we continue to work together to achieve substantive change in Albany – lower taxes, less regulation and responsible spending – Upstate’s future is bright.”

Under Sampson, Unshackle Upstate wasn’t afraid to criticize Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, especially when it came to pushing tax cuts and regulatory reform.

Sampson left Unshackle earlier this year to become the president of the Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors and praised Biryla’s appointment.

“Having worked directly with Greg, I’m extremely confident in his abilities to lead and grow this organization,” Sampson said. “Unshackle Upstate and our supporters across the state will be well served by Greg’s knowledge, commitment and energy.”

Unshackle Upstate was founded as an advocacy arm of the Rochester Business Alliance, which is also undergoing a leadership change this month as retiring Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy takes the helm from outgoing president and CEO, Sandy Parker.

“Greg is a perfect fit for this opportunity,” Parker said in a statement. “He’s a lifelong Upstate New Yorker, he’s passionate about improving the Upstate economy and he understands how Albany works. I wish Greg all the best in his new role.”

Cuomo Calls For ‘Deep Breath’ Following Officer Deaths

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday called on New Yorkers to take a collective “deep breath” this week following the shooting deaths of two New York City police officers.

Cuomo, interviewed on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show this morning, called on protest leaders and police union officials to recognize this is a holiday week before moving on to a conversation about policing and public safety he pledged to have next yet.

“I think it’s time for a societal deep breath,” Cuomo said. “I think we need a cooling off period. This is a holy week, it’s Chanukah, it’s Christmas, we’re coming up to Kwanza. I think we should take this as a period of reflection and calm and peace and unity. Let’s grieve with Eric Garner’s family, let’s grieve with the Ramos family, let’s grieve with the Lius, but let’s bring a moment of peace and calm and then we can move on and have a rational conversation about what we have learned.”

Police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenijan Liu were shot to death in an ambush on Saturday, with the shooter eventually taking his own life.

The shootings come after weeks of protests following a grand jury’s vote to not indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Cuomo, who met with the Ramos family on Sunday, reiterated his call for calm in the city.

“Right now I’m calling on everyone — all the leaders involved — to join me in calling for a time for peace and unity and reflection and let’s go to the funerals, let’s join with the families in grieving, let’s honor the Holy Week and bring calm to the city,” Cuomo said.

The governor added that he plans to pursue criminal justice reforms that he had initially proposed in the wake of the Garner grand jury decision, but said there needs to be a “productive dialogue” in the wake of the Ramos and Liu deaths.

Cuomo’s comments come as the relationship between Mayor Bill de Blasio and police union leader Pat Lynch has rapidly deteriorated.

Lynch on Saturday blamed de Blasio for the officers’ deaths and some police officers turned their backs on the mayor when he arrived at a hospital to receive an update on the situation.

Cuomo refused to take sides in the fight between Lynch and de Blasio.

“I think Mayor de Blasio is doing the best he can under very difficult circumstances to hear all sides of the conversation,” he said.

Lynch, meanwhile, “reflects the feelings and represents the police officers,” Cuomo said.

“I’m going to ask him to join with me and other leaders across the city and let’s respect the Ramos family, the Garner family, this Holy Week, and let’s bring the temperature down, the rhetoric down,” he added.


What’s Next For Criminal Justice Reform?

From the Morning Memo:

The ambush-style shootings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Saturday were largely met with shock among New York’s elected officials.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for calm after meeting with the Ramos family on Sunday. He did not answer a question on what the impact the officers’ deaths will have on his stated support for criminal justice reforms, which include putting body cameras on some police officers, increased transparency for grand juries and potentially a special prosecutor’s office to handle brutality cases involving the police.

Instead, Cuomo said now is the time to honor the fallen officers.

“Let’s bring the temperature down,” the governor said outside of the Ramos household. “Let’s have more dialogue, more reflection and less emotion in general.”

Cuomo is ending the year with a powder keg of emotion in New York City, however, that had been building since the chokehold death of Eric Garner by a New York City police officer, Daniel Pantaleo.

A Staten Island grand jury voted to no indict Pantaleo last month, setting off a wave of protests across the city and country, which had been compounded by a Missouri grand jury only days earlier not indicating a police officer in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

But the Ramos and Liu deaths appear to have galvanized a counter backlash to the protests, with supporters of law enforcement pointing to the rhetoric in the last several weeks as being anti-cop.

Before taking his own life, the man who shot Ramos and Liu posted on social media that he was going to specifically target police officers in New York City.

Republicans in Albany seemed to be in little mood to take up criminal justice changes, even as Cuomo calls for a “soup-to-nuts” review of the system.

Now Republican state lawmakers have proposed legislation of their own, including requiring patrol cars have bullet-proof glass.

The proposal from Assemblymembers Jim Tedisco, Nicole Malliotakis and Sens. Marty Golden and Phil Boyle would be paid for out of the state’s $5 billion surplus drawn from windfall financial settlements.

“If it is good enough for high-ranking government officials and dignitaries to ride around in cars with bullet-proof glass, then it should be for our cops who put their lives on the line and are being tracked down and murdered like prey,” Tedisco said in a statement. “We are proposing state legislation to begin to retrofit all law enforcement vehicles in New York State with the best protective bullet proof glass for all windows.”

Much of Republicans’ ire, meanwhile, was focused on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Police officers have felt criticized by de Blasio, who has said he is fearful of his son Dante, who is black, when it comes to interacting with law enforcement.

The union was also angered when de Blasio used the word “alleged” to describe an assault on a police officer by protestors.

Now outgoing Sen. Greg Ball, ever provocative, used the occasion take another swipe at de Blasio.

“In a matter of months this Mayor has taken the city back nearly 50 years,” Ball said. “Today, our NYPD and other law enforcement and emergency responders have walking targets on their backs and are in grave danger. Mince no words. The Mayor is directly responsible for their safety or lack thereof. This Mayor brings all new meaning to ‘I didn’t know you could stack s— that high’. Don’t wait for him to act New York. Take peaceful and effective action now, and in the coming months, to hold him accountable. This man needs to go. Never forget.”

And Republican former Gov. George Pataki, who is mulling a run for president in 2016, also knocked de Blasio via Twitter:

“Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordeblasio.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 9:15 a.m., the US Postal Service’s Operation Santa rings the Nasdaq Stock Market opening bell; Nasdaq MarketSite, 4 Times Square, 43rd Street and Broadway, Broadcast Studio, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro presides over graduation ceremony for 73 paramedics and 114 Emergency York College-City University of New York, 94-20 Guy R Brewer Blvd., Queens.

At noon, Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale leads a prayer service and memorial for two police officers who were gunned down in Brooklyn; outside 50th Precinct, 3450 Kingsbridge Ave., Bronx.

Also at noon, the New York State Gaming Commission meets, Empire State Development Corporation, 37th floor conference room, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., Rep. Nita Lowey, Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco III and other community activists and law enforcement hold a press conference to highlight drunk driving prevention and enforcement during the holiday season, Rockland County Sheriff’s Office, 55 New Hempstead Rd., New City.

At 1:15 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will speak at the Police Athletic League December luncheon about strengthening the bond between police and the community, 320 Park Ave., Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., a candlelight vigil and toy drive is held on the 20th anniversary of the police chokehold death of Anthony Baez Jr.; 6 Anthony Baez Pl., between 181st & 182nd Streets, near Jerome and Walton streets, the Bronx.


Faced with the first targeted killings of New York City police officers in years, police leaders ratcheted up precautions for their vast patrol force on Sunday as officials described the predatory final movements of a gunman bent on killing officers.

The gunman who killed the two officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, was estranged from his own family — with his mother terrified that her disturbed son would explode into violence. He shot and wounded his former girlfriend in Baltimore before traveling to NYC.

Brinsley has a long criminal record in Georgia and Ohio and expressed his anger at police and government in “rants” on social media. His family is Muslim, but the NYPD found no indication that he was religious or that the slaying was motivated by religion.

Brinsley approached people on the street moments before opening fire and asked them to follow him on Instagram, then told them to “watch what I’m going to do,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

Boyce highlighted the role of two Con Edison workers who witnessed the shooting and chased after Brinsley until police officers caught up with him on the subway platform, saying: “We can’t thank those two individuals enough.”

Officer Rafael Ramos had just celebrated his 40th birthday on Dec. 9. Officer Wenjian Liu recently got married at the Bensonhurst home he and his wife shared with his parents.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to the Ramos family’s Brooklyn home yesterday, visiting with the slain officer’s widow and two sons. “It’s just unimaginable, there are no words,” the governor said after spending an hour inside. He spoke with Liu’s widow by phone because she was too distraught to see him in person.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Rep. Greg Meeks, a Queens Democrat, said it’s unfair to blame NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and US Attorney General Eric Holder for the deaths of Liu and Ramos.

Former Gov. George Pataki disagreed, saying on Twitter that the murders were a “predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric” by de Blasio and Holder.

De Blasio prayed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday. Reporters were told to leave the church early for a nearby news conference with the mayor, but de Blasio left after the service and ignored questions as he hopped into an SUV.

A spokesman said the mayor, who isn’t a practicing Catholic, attended Mass because he wanted to “emphasize themes of unity and togetherness and support for the families of these officers.”

The deaths of Liu and Ramos has emboldened police and their supporters to lash out at weeks of nationwide protest and criticism that they say have left officers more vulnerable.

Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said de Blasio “ran an anti-police campaign last year” and set off the “latest firestorm” with his comments about training his biracial son, Dante, about how to interact with officers.

The Rev. Al Sharpton called for peace and revealed he has received death threats from people blaming him and the mayor for the deaths of Ramos and Liu. As proof, Sharpton publicly played a voicemail threat left on his cell phone, which he reported to the FBI.

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