Rashed Mian

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Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: [email protected] Twitter: rashedmian

Hillary Clinton Holds Off Sanders to Win New York Democratic Primary

Photo credit: Adam Schultz/Flickr

Pragmatism prevailed over idealism in New York’s Democratic primary race, with voters choosing establishment favorite Hillary Clinton over insurgent candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the spunky career politician who has given voice to thousands of young voters enamored with his calls for a political revolution.

This win puts New York’s former U.S. Senator another step closer toward making American history as the first woman elected president. But she still has a long way to go before Election Day arrives in November.

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The former U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration avoided an embarrassing defeat in her adopted state, where she was considered a double-digit favorite coming into Tuesday’s contest. Clinton’s victory also blunts Sanders’ momentum, as the Brooklyn native has come out on top in the previous seven out of eight primaries and caucuses.

The major networks predicted Clinton the winner about 45 minutes after the polls closed.

A total of 247 pledged delegates were up for grabs in the state. New York divvies up its delegates proportionally—meaning both candidates will earn a share of them. Even without a landslide victory, Clinton still enjoys a clear path to the nomination, with New York voters making her ascension even more likely. Before the primary, Clinton had 244 more pledged delegates than Sanders, according to the Associated Press estimates.

Clinton took the stage at Sheraton in Times Square to a loud ovation Tuesday night.

She thanked New York for sticking by her side during and promised to return the favor. Clinton also appeared to turn her attention toward the general election.

“To all those that supported Sen. Sanders: There’s much more that unites us than divides us,” Clinton said.

“The race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight,” a smiling Clinton added, prompting loud cheers from the boisterous crowd in Manhattan.

Sanders left New York early Tuesday to campaign in Pennsylvania and headed home to Vermont as the results were coming in.

The contest between Clinton and Sanders heated up once the pair began campaigning heavily in New York, with Clinton lashing out at Sanders for siding with gun manufacturers over families of gun-death victims who wanted to sue them as well as his inability to express how he’d break up the big banks. She also criticized his lack of foreign policy chops. Sanders, meanwhile, continued to attack Clinton for her ties to Wall Street and refusal to release transcripts of paid speeches to Goldman Sachs employees that netted her $675,000. He also called her out for being a late-comer to the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

As she put it recently, “It’s easy to diagnose our problems. It’s a lot harder to solve them.”

A once polite contest between two veteran Democratic politicians became just as contentious as the fight for the GOP nomination, minus the high-school insults, xenophobia and party in-fighting.

Their animosity toward one another became apparent last Thursday in New York City when the pair engaged in their eighth debate, their most combative verbal contest yet, where they sparred on virtually every issue. The “Brooklyn Brawl,” as some media outlets termed the debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, focused heavily on Wall Street malfeasance and the power of the gun lobby, and which of the two would be more effective at policing the two.

At the end of the day, it was Clinton’s pragmatic approach and her broad-based appeal among Democrats, particularly Baby Boomers and African Americans, that won out over the more vocal and unabashed Sanders crowd.

Clinton demonstrated her unique ability to connect personally with voters as she criss-crossed the state. In her only public campaign stop on Long Island, the former two-time U.S. Senator from New York was surrounded by families of victim’s of gun violence, including the daughter of the principal killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings. Voters at the event in Port Washington said they valued Clinton’s experience and thought she’d be the strongest candidate to take on whomever the Republicans nominate.

The chance to elect the first woman president also weighed heavily on some voters.

Clinton made an effort to reach out to African Americans, who have thus far favored her over Sanders by a wide margin in other parts of the country.

The Clinton machine also showed its might, eliciting the help of well-known surrogates to stump for her on Long Island, including former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who survived a gunshot to the head at a campaign appearance in 2011, and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. Former President Bill Clinton and the couple’s daughter Chelsea were also called upon last weekend to appeal to Long Island voters.

Sanders never stepped foot on Long Island proper but held several raucous events in New York City, where he was greeted by tens of thousands of supporters. His campaign said that Sanders’ rally last Sunday in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park was the largest of his campaign.

Political observers thought Sanders would do well to follow the blueprint former Democratic governor hopeful Zephyr Teachout used two years ago to put a scare into Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And to some extent he did, by calling for a nationwide ban on fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling technique that Teachout had railed against during her failed primary battle against Cuomo.

Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, also unleashed venom on Wall Street and repeated calls for a political revolution that would give Sanders the bully pulpit he’d need to create the kind of change he’s proposing.

Several polls have shown Clinton and Sanders in a virtual tie nationally, but for Sanders it may be too little too late. The Democrats hold their national convention in July in Philadelphia. To win the nomination, a candidate needs 2,383 delegates, including pledged and superdelegates, who can support either one. As of April 19, Clinton had 1,758 and Sanders had 1,076.

While party leadership may consider Clinton’s win a perfect time for Democrats to come together, Sanders’ ability to raise large sums of money through small, individual donations means he’s in it for the long run—as he’s promised.

The primary battle will remain on the East Coast for another week, as Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island open their polls, before it heads toward California—another state rich in delegates, 546 to be exact.

(Photo credit: Adam Schultz/Hillary for America on Flickr)

Donald Trump Wins NY Republican Primary

Donald Trump
Donald Trump speaks at Grumman Studios in Bethpage on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 (Long Island Press photo)

Hometown kid Donald Trump towered over his Republican rivals in the New York primary Tuesday, bolstering his lead as the GOP presidential front-runner and snapping a string of losses in smaller states that threatened to derail his anti-establishment campaign.

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The real estate mogul and ex-reality TV star’s victory was not unexpected, with various polls predicting that Trump would drub his closest rival, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and distant challenger, Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The only question was how wide the margin would be. A dominant showing by Trump could land him all 95 Republican delegates up for grabs in the state.

The Associated Press projected Trump the winner just as polls closed at 9 p.m.

“This has been an incredible evening, it’s been an incredible day and week,” Trump told his supporters at Trump Towers in Manhattan, emerging to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

“We don’t have much of a race anymore,” Trump said, adding, “It’s really nice to win the delegates with the votes.”

After the hotly contested primary shifted from Wisconsin to New York two weeks ago, there was no question it’d be an uphill climb for two of the contestants not named Trump.

On Long Island, Trump garnered endorsements from Republican political bosses in Nassau and Suffolk counties and from Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. The Republican delegate-leader attracted 12,000 people at a rally in Bethpage earlier this month and about 1,100 people at a smaller venue in Patchogue last week. Both events sparked outrage, with hundreds of demonstrators condemning Trump for anti-immigrant remarks, dubbing him a fascist and likening him to Hitler.

Trump, who grew up in wealthy Jamaica Estates, questioned his competitors’ sincerity as they stumped for votes in New York City, Long Island, the state capital and in upstate towns. He also trumpeted his New York roots. Trump lavished praise on the Sept. 11, 2001 “first responders” and talked about the horrors of that day. He decried Cruz for making his comment disparaging “New York values” and dismissed Kasich’s continued presence in the race.

Kasich appeared at two cable-TV town hall events in Nassau and Suffolk, but Cruz never made it to the Island, instead dispatching his wife Heidi to drum up support in Bellmore, Mineola and Melville. But Cruz wouldn’t be where he is in the race without the support of one prominent Long Islander, billionaire Renaissance Technologies hedge-fund operator Robert Mercer, who gave $11 million to a super PAC supporting the Texas Republican last year and hosted him at his exclusive Owl’s Nest estate in Head of the Harbor in Suffolk.

The tough-talking Trump was not without flubs, especially in the final stretch. While recalling the World Trade Center attacks nearly 15 years ago, Trump mistakenly referred to 9/11 as “7-Eleven,” which for any other candidate in the field would likely prove disastrous. But Trump’s campaign seems to be made of Teflon. He’s withstood tough criticism for his perceived xenophobic views on immigrants, especially Mexicans and Muslims. One of the more fascinating phenomena of this race is that the more establishment Republicans and the media challenge his statements, the more his supporters seem to embrace him.

When protesters infiltrate his rowdy speeches, they’re often jeered and heckled by the pro-Trump crowd as the candidate himself yells, “Get ‘em outta here!” Or when Trump laments what he perceives to be a “rigged” political system that serves to prop up party elites, his fans show bitter contempt for party big wigs who they feel have demonstrated little regard for their hardships, particularly since the Great Recession of 2008.

Despite calls to ban all Muslims from entering the US, his lack of empathy for Syrian refugees, and his incendiary remarks about Mexican immigrants, Trump has built up a healthy delegate lead, while seasoned Republican politicians competing for the nomination have failed miserably at fostering similar enthusiasm.

Yet there’s no guarantee that Trump can secure the nomination at the GOP’s July convention in Cleveland. Failure on Trump’s part to grab the 1,237 delegates he needs to become the party’s nominee could trigger a contested floor fight that could rip the party apart and make way for another candidate, perhaps Cruz or Kasich, to get the nod instead. If Trump is denied what he says is his due, he’s already predicted there would be riots at the convention.

Trump launched his campaign last June in true Trump fashion. With the Trump Tower lobby filled with spectators, he waved triumphantly to the crowd as he dramatically descended an escalator with his super model wife Melania in tow and then delivered a bombastic speech that gave birth to his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan and launched his chief campaign issue, building a giant wall that would prevent Mexicans from crossing the southern border and into the United States—and making Mexico pay for it.

At the time, many political observers saw Trump’s White House bid as some sort of marketing ploy to enhance his brand or a way for Trump to massage his massive ego.

Ten months later, Trump has built a strong base of supporters who are on the verge of giving him the nomination. New York has spoken. But a slew of other primary battles in states where Trump’s appeal may be less pronounced await.

For Once, Long Island Catches Presidential Primary Fever

John Kasich
Ohio Gov. John Kasich leaves an MSNBC-hosted town hall event in Jericho on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2016. Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

To appreciate just how bizarre it is that New York votes could prove crucial to deciding each party’s nominee in the presidential primary, consider what happened at an MSNBC-hosted town hall for John Kasich last week in Jericho.

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Seated a stone’s throw from the network’s cozy set inside historic Milleridge Inn was Jane Baum of Huntington, a proud “liberal Democrat” and Hillary Clinton supporter who would never consider voting for the Republican Ohio governor, even if New York’s closed primary voting rules allowed it.

Yet she decided to come out for the event anyway for the rare opportunity to see a presidential candidate stump for votes—an experience that New Englanders know well in the Granite State.

“I feel like I’m in living in New Hampshire right now,” Baum smiled.

She wasn’t the only Long Islander enjoying the presidential election-year frenzy. Some voters observing the primary fight from afar even sounded like seasoned operatives, offering armchair analyses.

“I think it’s a total crapshoot,” said Baum’s partner, Todd Kupferman, referring to the GOP’s national nominating convention to be held July in Cleveland.

Several rows behind them was retiree Audrey Schorr of Woodmere, who admitted to tuning into Fox News to stay on top of the primary season.

“I watch Greta, Bill, Megyn…” said Schorr, rattling off the conservative news channel’s weeknight lineup, as if they were her own children. She was attending the town hall with her son.

Now pulling for Kasich, who was about to go toe-to-toe with MSNBC mainstay Chris Matthews, Schorr said she admired Ben Carson, the retired brain surgeon who finally dropped out of the primary race after failing to make a dent. She was also a fan of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose delegate count remarkably has him still in third place despite his dropping out of the race more than a month ago after a humiliating home-state defeat. Schorr had nothing but kind words to say about Kasich.

“He’s utterly charming,” she said.

For Republican voters like Schorr, this presidential primary has been like a real-life Game of Thrones, with an abundance of Oval Office suitors careening toward the nomination.

At one point last year, 18 Republicans were competing for the nomination. Now only three remain—as reality TV star and real estate mogul Donald Trump leads both U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Kasich in the delegate count. An impressive showing in New York on April 19 could swing Trump’s seemingly narrow path to securing the 1,237 delegates he needs for the nomination.

Hillary Clinton Long Island
Hillary Clinton surrounded by family members of victim’s of gun violence during an event in Port Washington. Photo credit: By Michael Davidson for Hillary for America/Flickr

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Clinton has a 244-delegate advantage over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) going into Tuesday, not counting 400-plus super delegates who are expected to support her at the convention, at least on the first ballot. A win in New York could give Clinton a stranglehold on the nomination and provide much-needed momentum going into similar voting states like Rhode Island and Connecticut. But a surprise Sanders victory would give the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist eight wins in the last nine primaries or caucuses and set the stage for a bitter battle all the way to the party’s July convention.


“Normally New York is just the ATM on the political circuit.”


For many New Yorkers, this is the political equivalent of a 100-year storm. Usually at this point in the primary season, both parties are on the verge of coalescing around one candidate if they haven’t done so already. But this time, New York’s vote could swing the pendulum irreversibly in favor of the two leading contenders.

“In terms of presidential primaries, I don’t remember seeing this kind of activity and this kind of frenzied pace,” said Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, a Clinton supporter.

On Long Island alone, Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, have all made public appearances since the primary calendar turned from Wisconsin to New York two weeks ago. Sanders has not held an event on LI, preferring large rallies in liberal New York City, but his wife, Jane, did attend a canvassing effort with supporters in Farmingdale last week.

Jacobs said he couldn’t recall a presidential primary in which Democratic candidates actively campaigned on the Island.

On the other side of the aisle, Trump has held two events on LI, one of which attracted 12,000 supporters at Grumman Studios in Bethpage. Kasich engaged in two cable-TV town halls in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, giving voters an opportunity to more closely scrutinize the candidates. Cruz, who has been dogged by his off-putting “New York values” comment, has not stepped foot on the Island, but his wife, Heidi, campaigned in Mineola, Melville and Bellmore—although Ted made a few appearances in New York City.

For comparison, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the eventual Republican nominee in 2012, won all 95 delegates in New York without actually coming to the state because his main competitor at the time, ex-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), had already ended his campaign.

All five presidential candidates have been all over New York City and they’ve made an effort to criss-cross the entire state.

“Normally New York is just the ATM on the political circuit,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

The political climate is different this time around, however.

“New Yorkers get to feel a little bit like how voters in Iowa and New Hampshire feel,” he added. “We actually get to see and feel the candidates.”

Greenberg told the story of his 18-year-old daughter attending a Sanders rally at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany on the same day she saw Trump speak at the Times Union Center arena in the state capital. The week before that she turned out for a Clinton event.

“I think that’s really cool for New Yorkers,” Greenberg said. “For my daughter and for many others, it was a civics lesson. It was a chance to see history and to see the process in action. I think anytime we have that, that’s great.”

Some have pointed to the 1976 presidential primary, which came on the heels of President Richard Nixon’s resignation before he could get impeached in 1974, as the last time the New York primary mattered this much for both parties. Forty-years later, New York is back in play.

Leslie D. Feldman, a professor of political science at Hofstra University, considers the competitive primaries as a win for New York in general.

“This is the best thing that ever happened to New York because if we have the choice of Hillary Clinton or Trump, we get a president from New York, which is something that we haven’t had in decades,” Feldman said, noting that three of the five candidates have played up their New York roots.

“Doesn’t everyone in New York want a New York president?” she added.

Political observers have also speculated that primary fever could drive people to the polls, with Feldman predicting lines down the block.

In 2008, the last time both parties held presidential primaries, 36 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of Republicans turned out to vote in Nassau County. Turnout was significantly less in Suffolk, with roughly 19 percent of voters coming out for both parties.

Despite the political frenzy, Greenberg suspects turnout could fall short of 40 percent statewide, but he’s hoping for record turnouts.

No matter what happens, for two weeks New York was front and center in the political world, giving the rest of the nation a unique opportunity to see what it means for candidates to come face-to-face with voters here.

Just ask Kasich what’s it’s like to stump on LI. When the audience got a chance to challenge the Ohio governor directly at the MSNBC town hall, one skeptical voter was not buying the Ohio governor’s claims that he’s appealing to New York voters and questioned where the candidate was getting his information.

“Who told you that you’re all that popular?” the man said.

Only in New York.

New York Presidential Primary Voters’ Guide 2016

New York Primary
Presidential primary candidates are campaigning in New York ahead of the state's April 19 primary.

Long Island voters will head to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in an unusually pivotal primary election in New York State that could tip the balance of the race in favor of the Democratic and Republican front-runners.

Currently entangled in a bitter and at times scurrilous race for the Republican nomination are real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Dueling it out for the Democratic ticket are former Secretary of State and two-time U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist. As it stands, the convention delegate math favors Trump and Clinton, but both races are far from over.

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What’s remarkable is that New York voters can play such an important part in the process because by this point in previous primary seasons, the contest was essentially decided. This year’s race has already been unlike any in recent memory.

Take Trump’s campaign for starters. The former host of The Apprentice has said his share of incendiary comments. He’s pledged to ban an entire religious group from entering the country, employed a campaign manager who was arrested for grabbing a female reporter, openly discussed in a televised debate the size of his penis and said that women who had an abortion in a world where the procedure was illegal should be punished (before backtracking). Yet he is the Republican candidate leading the polls in New York.

Not to be outdone, Cruz, Trump’s closest rival, has talked about carpet-bombing ISIS, proposed that police conduct patrols of so-called Muslim communities and railed against “New York values.” So far, only two of his GOP colleagues have endorsed him: U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

Kasich, by contrast, has tried to portray himself as the adult in the bunch, but that’s hardly translated into success at the polls. Tellingly, a voter at an MSNBC-hosted town hall in Jericho the other day challenged Kasich, asking him, “Who told you that you’re all that popular?” The governor has only won his home state, which hosts the GOP convention in Cleveland this July, and he’s trailing Trump and Cruz in New York. In the battle for delegates, he is a distant fourth—he even trails Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who dropped out of the race more than a month ago.

Kasich is still trudging forward with the hope that neither Cruz nor Trump will reach the 1,237-delegate count necessary to clinch the nomination on the first ballot, giving party elites the chance to ignore the will of the people and pick who they want to be the GOP nominee. The downside is the risk that a floor fight—or worse—could split the party apart before November’s general election. But Kasich’s gamble has a better chance of paying off now that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), speaker of the House of Representatives, claimed he wouldn’t accept the party’s nomination if it came to that.

The race for the Democratic nomination has been less acrimonious, but that’s not to say that the two contestants aren’t digging in for a mud-slinging finish. Since the primary calendar shifted from Wisconsin to New York almost two weeks ago, Clinton and Sanders have traded their share of jabs, with the Senator from Vermont claiming Clinton is unqualified to be president because she voted in favor of the Iraq war, and Clinton hammering Sanders for his failure to clearly explain the specifics of his policy objectives and his opposition to the family members of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims being able to sue gun manufacturers. The pair also engaged in their most contentious debate yet Thursday in Brooklyn.

Clinton’s second campaign for the White House has also been dogged by questions about her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State and for giving private speeches to Goldman Sachs employees that netted her $675,000. The former first lady, chief diplomat and U.S. Senator has also had to deal with the suggestion that she’s untrustworthy. In a recent AP opinion poll, 55 percent rated her “unfavorable,” compared to 40 percent “favorable.” (For comparison’s sake, the AP poll found that Trump’s ratings were 69 percent “unfavorable” and 26 percent “favorable.)

Meanwhile, Sanders, who was pegged as a fringe candidate early on, has shown he has considerable staying power. He’s been able to outraise the seasoned Clinton political machine in recent months, with Sanders’ supporters pouring $44 million into his coffers in March alone—$15 million more than Clinton raised that same month. And he’s accomplished this while also railing against the influence of money in politics and the rise of super PACs—groups ostensibly unaffiliated with presidential campaigns that can spend unlimited amounts, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. But Sanders reportedly trails Clinton in New York by double-digits in the polls. His nuanced views on guns haven’t played too well in the Empire State, nor has his inability to explain how he’d actually break up the big banks and dispel concerns about his wavering support of Israel. All told, he’s provided his skeptics an opening to further question how his major policy proposals could ever be fulfilled.

So, here we are, Long Island. Two months have passed since the primaries officially got underway, and neither party has yet to coalesce around a single candidate. That’s why, for the first time in years, New York has a say in the matter. What say you, NY?


DEMOCRATS


Hillary Clinton

Photo credit: Adam Schultz/Flickr

Clinton adopted New York as her own after leaving the White House to begin her political career. New York elected Clinton to the U.S. Senate in 2000. Eight years later, she made her first bid for the White House but lost the primary to then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), who would later appoint his one-time rival as Secretary of State. Back on the trail again, Clinton must feel like she’s re-living a bad dream. Yet again, Clinton is facing off against a lesser-known candidate skilled at inspiring young people to engage in the political process. But this time her path to the nomination appears clearer. Clinton has touted her experience across all levels of government. She is campaigning to fight the gun lobby in order to pass “common sense” gun reform, address student loan debt, equal pay for women, build upon Obamacare and continue what she started internationally as the nation’s top diplomat. Clinton has received support from older middle-class Americans and minorities but has struggled to convince young people that she’d be their champion in the White House. Her supporters, however, believe Clinton has the experience needed to get the job done in Washington.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Campaign photo

The way this campaign is unfolding, it doesn’t appear likely that Sanders will be satisfied with a moral victory. Sanders, who was born in Brooklyn to an immigrant father, has done what many people thought impossible: outraise a candidate who has spent decades developing a political machine. Sanders has won seven of the last eight primary contests leading up to New York’s April 19 vote, and he continues to attract hundreds, if not thousands, to his spirited campaign rallies. The former mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and ex-Congressman, says his stance on several hot-button issues has remained the same throughout his political career. After serving 16 years in the House of Representatives, Sanders was elected in 2006 to the U.S. Senate, where he’s continued to fight for progressive causes. Sanders’ campaign has called for an end to institutional racism, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, reforming Wall Street, passing legislation that would essentially reverse the Citizens United decision, providing free public college to all Americans and transforming Obamacare into single-payer health insurance. Sanders has also pledged to protect the environment and reverse the negative effects of climate change. Despite his efforts, Sanders has been unable to crack Clinton’s solid support among African American voters, so he has relied upon the backing of white working class voters and Millennials.


REPUBLICANS


Donald Trump

Donald Trump
Donald Trump speaks at Grumman Studios in Bethpage on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 (Long Island Press photo)

We all knew he was an entertaining showman. But Trump has convinced his loyal supporters that he’s more than a reality TV star. The billionaire businessman has a tremendous following from voters who felt abandoned by the Republican Party and are dissatisfied with establishment politicians. The real estate mogul has made it tough at times to truly predict how he’d operate once in the White House. He was in favor of punishing women who underwent abortions if they were ruled illegal, but in response to a backlash of criticism he said he’d only punish the abortion providers. He said he’d bring back water-boarding torture of enemy combatants, but then said he wouldn’t force the military to break the law against war crimes. Where Trump has been consistent are his views on immigration. Trump wants to make it impossible for undocumented immigrants to enter America illegally by compelling Mexico to build a wall across the southern border. He is against allowing Syrian refugees from settling in the US. On top of that, he wants to ban all Muslims from coming into the country, and he has tossed around the controversial idea of placing all Muslims in a database. Trump has also called for trade reform with countries such as China, changing the tax code so businesses wouldn’t pay more than 15 percent of their income in taxes, while also eliminating federal taxes for anyone making less than $25,000 annually and repealing Obamacare. His detractors say he’s a modern day American fascist whose ill-conceived ideas would harm the country irreparably. His supporters, however, say he’s the only candidate with the guts to tell it like it is, bolster the military and strengthen the country at home and abroad. Or as his baseball cap puts it: “Make America great again.”

Ted Cruz

(Photo credit: Ted Cruz/Facebook)
(Photo credit: Ted Cruz/Facebook)

The U.S. Senator from Texas has billed himself as the only true Conservative in the race. Cruz, the son of a Cuban refugee father and an American mother, was elected to the Senate amid the Tea Party wave of November 2012, and he has been steadfast in his vision to defend the right to bear arms, to secure the Southern border and uphold “religious liberty.” Many voters may know Cruz as the guy who led a federal government shutdown in 2013 out of opposition to Obamacare, which even angered some of his Republican colleagues. He’s also called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) “a liar.” Cruz is unapologetic about rolling back the power of Uncle Sam and transferring it to individual states. Like Trump, Cruz’s campaign has not been without controversial comments. A star of Princeton University’s debate team when he was an undergraduate, Cruz said his plan to defeat the so-called Islamic State would be to “carpet bomb them into oblivion.” The term is used to describe indiscriminate attacks—which is outlawed by the Geneva Convention because it causes so many civilian casualties. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark,” he added, “but we’re going to find out.” After the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Cruz suggested that authorities here “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” to prevent radicalization, which also drew scrutiny and the ire of the Muslim American community. The Texas Senator believes that marriage is a union only between a man and a woman. As someone who is pro-life, he has advocated for defunding Planned Parenthood. He also wants to shrink the size of the federal government by eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

John Kasich

John Kasich
Ohio Gov. John Kasich leaves an MSNBC-hosted town hall event in Jericho on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2016. Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

The Ohio governor is trailing so far behind delegate-leader Donald Trump that there’s no reasonable expectation he’ll win the Republican nomination outright. Kasich, however, has other plans. By remaining in the race, Kasich wants to prevent Trump from reaching the 1,237-delegate count required to win the nod, thereby forcing a contested convention in Cleveland. Once there, anything can happen, or so he hopes. Kasich is banking on establishment Republicans to support him on the convention floor once delegates become unbound after the first round of voting. But there’s no guarantee Cruz and Kasich will be able to impede Trump’s path to the nomination. So Kasich is reaching out to moderate voters uncomfortable with Trump’s blustery approach and Cruz’s uber-Conservative views. On abortion, he said he would want Ohio to defund Planned Parenthood. Kasich is running on his record as a Congressman and a governor, his current position. Kasich has talked about giving more power to states and has pledged, if elected, to send Congress a plan within the first 100 days of his presidency to balance the federal budget, cut taxes and spur job creation. He also loves to talk about “electability”—telling voters that he’s essentially a shoe-in to win his home state of Ohio—a crucial swing state—in the general election. Kasich would also repeal Obamacare and replace it with a system that would lower costs without placing a burden on businesses.

Happy voting, LI!

Brother of Hate Crime Victim Condemns Trump in Patchogue

Trump protest Patchogue

The brother of slain Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero condemned Donald Trump’s fundraiser in Patchogue Thursday just blocks from where his brother was killed in a vicious hate crime nearly eight years ago, calling it a “slap in the face” to his community.

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Standing several yards from where his brother was fatally stabbed in 2008, a quivering and teary-eyed Joselo Lucero said his brother came to the United States seeking a better life. But instead of living out his dream, his life was taken by Joseph Conroy, a knife-wielding 17-year-old, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for manslaughter as a hate crime. Six others were convicted of lesser crimes.

“This is [not] easy for me,” a visibly emotional Joselo told about 100 people who came out for a vigil in memory of his brother. “This is a terrible day. How do you think I’m feeling with this? My mom died because of consequences with that. I don’t want something like this to ever happen. I hope—I hope this village take this message right, because for the last seven years I’ve tried to build this village, I tried to build this community, I tried to be a bridge in between my community and between the immigrants and between the local people.”

“But what [do] I have?” an anguished Joselo cried out, prompting tears from the crowd. “I have a slap in my face…Donald Trump came four blocks away. He uses the rhetoric against immigrants, he uses hate speech, he uses the power to humiliate women. Why do we allow him to do that?”

Lucero’s vigil attracted a diverse group of supporters, including several members of local clergy. The gathering was in response to Trump’s fundraiser with the Suffolk County Republican Committee at The Emporium, a local music venue. The event sparked outrage from members of the community because of Trump’s view on immigration.

There were multiple events throughout the day protesting Trump’s presence, including a demonstration about 50 yards away from The Emporium, where people chanted “Dump Trump,” “We say no to hate,” and “Long Island, united, will never be defeated!” A nearby venue also held a “Make America LOVE Again” concert that doubled as a fundraiser for a charity dedicated to Lucero.

This was Trump’s second LI appearance in as many weeks ahead of next Tuesday’s crucial presidential primary. Trump is the front-runner for the GOP nomination but he may not end up with enough votes to clinch the nomination outright, which is why the New York primary is so pivotal. Multiple polls show Trump with an insurmountable lead in New York.

There was little mention of the upcoming primary at Lucero’s vigil, however.

Joselo Lucero
Joselo Lucero, brother of hate crime victim Marcelo Lucero, called Trump’s visit in Patchogue a “slap in the face.” (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

Holding a sign that blared “Stand Against Racism,” Francisco Fuentes, an artist from Central Islip, said people in the community have serious concerns with Trump’s anti-immigrant message.

“It’s very important for the whole Spanish community to let them know they’re against any message of hate and racism,” Fuentes said through a translator.

Retired Rev. Al Ramirez credited Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri and others for helping the community heal after Lucero’s slaying. But he speculated that giving Trump a platform in Patchogue could derail hard-earned progress.

“There’s been a lot of progress made,” Ramirez told the Press. “You have to give credit to Paul Pontieri; I think he’s a made tremendous effort to create unity, greater understanding, bring people together…clearly, even the police department, I believe, has taken positive steps, [but] they still have a lot of work to do.”

“If they have taken, perhaps, eight steps forward,” he added, “what has just happened, has taken them seven steps back. They’re back in the beginning.”

Speaking at a microphone, Father Ron Richardson, a retired Roman Catholic priest, reminded everyone why they had come out on this sun-splashed day.

“His life was taken from him solely because he was an immigrant,” Richardson told the crowd congregating on Railroad Avenue.

Richardson lamented the divisiveness ripping through the US today, saying his hope for a more “supportive society” has been replaced with “a hardening of our collective hearts.”

Rabbi Steven Moss of B’nai’ Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale and chair of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission encouraged those gathered to stand united.

A vigil set up for Marcelo Lucero at the site of his slaying. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)
A vigil set up for Marcelo Lucero at the site of his slaying. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

“That piece of Earth, that concrete to my right is holy,” he said of the spot where Lucero was killed.

“Say no to violence, no to hate speech,” he added, before leading the crowd into a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

A more spirited rally took place down the street from The Emporium with protesters carrying signs comparing Trump to Hitler and raising banners that barked “Dump Trump.”

Unlike the demonstration in Bethpage last week, Thursday’s protest did not spark confrontations between those rallying against Trump and those supportive of his cause.

Standing along a police barricade, Cynthia Roethgen of Lindenhurst said she fears Trump’s message about immigrants could inflame tension.

“Sadly, I believe that we’ve had racism dampen down in this country, it never really went away, and he’s just ignited it again,” Roethgen said. “I don’t think that’s what we need.”

Roethgen said she has recently discussed Trump’s presidential run with two people from Germany who told her they are frightened by what they hear.

“This is reaching the world,” she said, “and he’s scaring a lot of people.”

Beth Rosato, a lifelong resident of Patchogue, said the community had come a long way since Lucero’s death only to have to relive it once again thanks to Trump.

“I think it’s either extremely insensitive or its extremely manipulative, and neither one of those things is right,” she said. “It’s a slap in the face to Patchogue. All the work everyone’s done to heal from the wounds and to have him come here, it’s not right.”

Before he gave his impassioned speech to scores of supporters, Joselo said he was hoping to leave people with a positive message.

As he walked through the parking lot, various people expressed sorrow for his loss, shook his hand and gave him a hug.

“It doesn’t matter where he came from,” he told the crowd of supporters. “He was my brother, he was my life, he was my father, he was my friend.”

Hillary Vows to Address Gun Violence in Her First Long Island Campaign Stop

Hillary Clinton Long Island
Hillary Clinton surrounded by family members of victim's of gun violence during an event in Port Washington. Photo credit: By Michael Davidson for Hillary for America/Flickr

With the New York State primary only one week away, Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop in Port Washington Monday to call for tougher gun legislation and vowed to take on the National Rifle Association, which she called “the most powerful lobby in Washington.”

The Landmark Theater on Main Street hosted the Democratic front-runner’s appearance, and welcomed scores of people who waited on a long line that wrapped around the block to see the former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York speak in person for her first official public event on Long Island ahead of next Tuesday’s primary. The venue was filled to capacity, with an estimated 450 people showing up to hear her.

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Joining Clinton on stage inside the intimate theater were five women who lost loved ones to gun violence, including the daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal killed in the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, as well as Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who served as the event’s moderator.

Long Islanders gave Clinton a rousing ovation when she was introduced by Israel, bouncing up from their seats to catch a glimpse of her. They found the smallest of windows to snap photos of the Democratic hopeful and they smiled broadly when she took her seat.

A young girl in the audience sounded almost breathless. “Oh my God, that’s her!” she gasped out loud. “That’s so cool!”

But the event quickly turned serious. The crowd grew silent as family members of murder victims told their heart-wrenching tales of living everyday with grief, dreams unfulfilled and lives lost.

Clinton began the afternoon with a customary appeal to local residents. “I’m happy to be here for any reason,” she said before she got to the heart of the matter.

Ninety people, she said, die each day from gun violence, which adds up to 33,000 victims annually. She put most of the blame on the NRA and less so on Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist from Vermont who is narrowly trailing her in the New York polls. During the campaign, she’s tried to draw a distinction between her position and Sanders on the gun issue. Here she did not hold back.

“What stands in the way is the most powerful lobby in Washington,” she told the audience. “None is as powerful and intimidating as the gun lobby.”

Clinton attempted to portray herself as a gun-safety crusader by contrasting her position with that of her opponent. Five times, she said, Sanders voted against the gun safety Brady Bill, and also voted in favor of a law that makes it difficult in some circumstances to sue gun manufacturers for negligence. The latter issue has picked up steam since the primary turned from Wisconsin to New York following Sanders’ now-infamous interview with the New York Daily News editorial board in which the senator said he doesn’t believe family members of Sandy Hook victims should be able to sue gun manufacturers.

Clinton proposed installing a comprehensive background check system that would allow for a lengthier period to scrutinize a potential gun buyer’s history and to close the so-called “gun show loophole.” As for the law that protects gun makers, Clinton said it was time to “reverse the gift that was given to the gun lobby.”

The far majority of the one-hour event was dedicated to the victims of gun violence.

Erica Lafferty, daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, told the horrific story of her mother running to the hallway after hearing a “pop, pop, pop, pop” that she recognized as gunshots. Seconds later she and the school psychologist were gunned down.

“For too many people victims of gun violence are nothing but a number,” the distraught daughter said.

Rita Kestenbaum, a Democrat who lost her bid last year for Hempstead Town Supervisor, called for gun legislation after remarking how her slain daughter’s shooter previously hinted at suicide before turning his weapon on Carol, her friend, and then himself.

“Instead of celebrating her 20’s, I’m burying my daughter,” Kestenbaum recounted. “I no longer have a daughter.”

Another woman spoke about the heartbreak of dealing with her nephew’s shooting death, and gun-safety advocate Natasha Christopher of Queens recalled getting a call that her son was shot. He died on his 15th birthday, about two weeks later.

Until recently Christopher was an undecided voter. “But I am with her now,” she said, referring to Clinton and prompting applause.

Last to speak was Sandy Phillips, mother of Jessica Ghawi, the 24-year-old sports reporter who was killed in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater rampage that killed 11 others. She told of Ghawi’s ill-fated luck to be at the scene of another shooting just six weeks earlier at a Toronto mall food court. But Ghawi, who had a terrible feeling that something was amiss, left the cafeteria just three minutes before gunfire rang out. Two people died that day.

But there was nowhere for Ghawi to go during the midnight opening of Batman’s “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20, 2012.

“They were trapped,” her mother said. “There was nothing they could do.”

Ghawi was shot six times, once in the leg, three times in the stomach, in the clavicle, and once in the head.

Phillips brought the discussion back to Sanders by bringing up her unsuccessful attempt to sue the online seller the shooter had used to purchase 4,000 rounds of ammunition. The suit was thrown out, and the judge ordered Ghawi’s family to pay the seller $203,000 in legal fees instead.

Afterward, Phillips called Sanders, and “it did not go well,” she said.

Clinton credited the women for “putting themselves out there.”

“These are the real stories,” she said. “These are the gaps in the law.”

Clinton said claims that she wants to take away guns from law-abiding citizens is a “fantasy.”

“This is not about responsible gun owners, never has been,” Clinton said.

Several people in the audience said gun safety was an important issue that needed to be addressed.

“It’s crazy in this country that the gun lobby is able to block any sensible rules to reduce the number of gun deaths in this country,” said Robert Kleinman, 64, a financial planner from Port Washington.

“I like some of what Bernie stands for, but I just don’t think he’s got as much experience for the job as Hillary,” he added. “Hillary’s got the perfect resume; she will be a great president.”

Olga Doukas, 50, of Port Washington, said Clinton’s appearance reaffirmed her faith in Clinton to pass gun legislation.

“I feel confident now after Hillary spoke that she will do everything in her power and capabilities to pass a law to prevent the sale of guns, especially to criminals,” she said.

For Jane Dody, a retired reading teacher from Jericho, the issue of gun violence hit home.

“I’m a mother, I’m a grandmother, and I’m a teacher,” she said, “and when that young woman spoke, the daughter of the principal, it really brought me to tears.”

Dody admitted she likes Sanders’ position on several issues, but believes Clinton would be the stronger nominee.

“And,” she added, “I’d like to see a woman president.”

Elise May, an art teacher from Port Washington, said she came out for Monday’s event more for the issue of gun safety than for the candidate herself.

“It’s an issue that I find very important, and I don’t quite understand how after all these years we haven’t got the kind of laws enacted that we need enacted,” she said. “So I’d like to know how that’s going to happen.”

But May is not so sure Clinton, or any candidate for that matter, could succeed where so many others have failed.

“I don’t know how with our government and the state of our government that change can happen,” she said. “I have to believe it can.”

(Photo credit: Michael Davidson/Flickr)

Long Island Mosque Tackles Radicalization with Message of Hope

Islamic Center of Long Island
Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. (Photo credit: Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

In what could be considered a call to action for Long Island Muslims, a prominent Imam from Egypt on Friday encouraged the congregation at a Westbury mosque to rise above the challenges facing the community amid a rise of both Islamophobia and extremism.

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“We know as good practicing Muslims we should not bury our heads in the sand,” Sheikh Ibrahim Negm, visiting scholar from Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, told the congregation at the Islamic Center of Long Island during his sermon on Friday. “Rather, we should rise to meet the difficult challenges we are facing.”

Negm, an advisor to the Grand Mufti of Egypt, has headlined a three-day lecture series at the ICLI this week that concludes Saturday night.

Titled “Upholding Moderation & Resisting Radicalization,” the series hopes to reach out to young people and anyone else in the community disheartened by anti-Muslim rhetoric whipping through the media and American politics.

The ICLI, which last year launched an interfaith institute, has spearheaded efforts to address Islamophobia with educational services and events that focus on religious solidarity. The mosque has also been instrumental in addressing misconceptions about the religion and has vocally condemned attacks by bloodthirsty extremists groups like the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Muslims are often criticized for not doing enough to impede a person’s path toward radicalization. The ICLI is taking the proactive step of addressing the issue by empowering those within the community.

In an interview, Negm said the purpose of his sermon was to present a framework that the community can use to be more involved. He admitted that he does not have all the answers.

As someone who does not live in the community, Negm said, “I cannot suggest practical steps” but rather a “framework” that will guide congregants forward.

“We are facing…whether we are talking about this part of the world or globally, we are facing imminent challenges as Muslims,” Negm told the packed mosque.

He reminded Islam’s adherents that such speed bumps are ingrained in the religion—tests that every Muslim must confront.

“We shall be visited with trial and tribulations,” Negm said, citing the Koran. He added, “Life on this planet Earth is a testing ground.”

It’s normal for people to feel anguish over Islamophobic remarks, but it’s important not to fall into a state of despair, Negm explained.

“Don’t get overwhelmed by what we are going through,” he added.

Negm stopped short of instructing the community about how to act as a collective voice, opting instead to inspire change on a local level.

“Are we doing the homework or are we just passing the buck?” he asked, rhetorically. “We should take ownership of the situation we are experiencing and see what we can do.”

The third and final installment of the ICLI’s “Upholding Moderation & Resisting Radicalization” series is Saturday at 7:15 p.m. 835 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury.

Long Island Protesters Condemn ‘Fascist’ Donald Trump’s Hate-Filled Campaign

Donald Trump Rally
Protesters decried Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies outside his rally in Bethpage on April 6, 2016. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

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16-year-old Muslim American girl who frequently gets taunted for her religious beliefs. A son of Mexican immigrants who’s been discriminated against all his life. A father of two who has never attended a protest before but wanted to introduce his kids to the political process.

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These were some of the diverse faces of the several hundred protestors who demonstrated outside GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s rally at Grumman Studios in Bethpage Wednesday night.

Standing for several hours just beyond the entrance to Trump’s much-ballyhooed campaign stop, incensed protesters waved signs amid bone-chilling temperatures, decrying what many perceive to be Islamophobic, racist and misogynistic comments from the delegate-leading Republican hopeful.

“No more room for hate, America is great!” protesters chanted from where they were sequestered, as pro-Trump Long Islanders made their way to the rally one day after their top pick for the White House suffered a brutal defeat to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) in Wisconsin.

“Trump’s a fascist!” they screamed in a rhythm that mimicked a “Let’s Go Yankees!” chant.

“Hey-hey, ho-ho, hateful Trump has got to go!” the bundled bodies billowed as the evening sky melted to black.

Protesters began huddling around 4 p.m., occupying a space across the street from Grumman Studios’ entrance dubbed the “Free Speech Zone” by local law enforcement authorities, which attracted an odd mix of pro-Trump followers and his many detractors. Some business savvy supporters sold Trump apparel—hats, shirts, and buttons—beside a food truck vendor advertising Halal meat.

Busloads of Trump supporters responded to some of the jeers with a flash of their middle finger—a greeting even some children riding on board took part in.

The protest was mostly peaceful until a large group of Trump fans who had failed to enter the Grumman Studios because the venue was at full capacity started a counter-protest that prompted an hours-long standoff under the watchful eye of Nassau County police officers in riot gear and cops mounted on horseback.

Donald Trump Rally Long Island
Nassau County police officers in riot gear stand between Donald Trump protesters and the GOP frontrunner’s fans.

In order to maintain the peace, officers separated the rival groups, prompting chants of “Build that wall!” from Trump supporters, who ironically were the ones being blocked off.

The Trump group yelled “White Lives Matter,!” recommended that protesters “Get a job,” and chanted, “Leave this country!”

They also took on the two Democrats vying for their party’s nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, was dubbed a “Communist,” and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, was chided for perceived lies she supposedly spewed.


“We do our jobs, we come home, we want to watch some Netflix and binge on some brownies.”


When a Trump supporter condemned Clinton for her untruths, someone on the other side of the rally responded, “Fuck you, we don’t like her, either.”

At one point, both sides engaged in dueling “U-S-A” chants, as if to demonstrate one side was more patriotic than the other.

So went the first anti-Trump demonstration on Long Island in 2016: High school insults were traded, bravado did not manifest into much of substance, and demonstrators chanted until their vocal chords gave out.

Aside from the broadsides exchanged by both sides, protester after protester said they had deep misgivings with the GOP favorite and were uncomfortable with some of his remarks he’s made on the campaign trail about Muslims, Mexicans and women.

Mahira Siddiqi, a mother of three from Hicksville, felt compelled to attend Wednesday’s rally because of rampant Islamophobia careening through the media.

“I think a lot of the people who are out here don’t really know any Muslims that closely, and I think if they took the time to talk to some of us they would realize that we’re just like them,” Siddiqi told the Press.

“We do our jobs, we come home, we want to watch some Netflix and binge on some brownies,” she added. “And we want to raise our kids in a peaceful society, and we want our kids to have the same opportunities that we did. And for most of us, we were born here, so this is home. This is it.”

Siddiqi lamented that both her 11- and 8-year-old are old enough to understand to some degree that anti-Islam sentiment is roiling America today.

She said she tries to shield them from the rhetoric because “it just hurts my heart for them to have to feel that.” But she felt compelled to take her place in Bethpage.

“Because the level of hate has just gotten so much, it’s become necessary for people who maybe normally would not go out and be activists to do so,” she said.

Long Island Donald Trump rally
A business-savy Long Islander selling Donald Trump apparel outside his rally in Bethpage. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

As if on cue, Jeff Zilberstein, 42, of East Islip was sauntering around the barricaded area with his 7-year-old daughter perched atop his shoulders.

It was the first time Zilberstein ever attended a protest. He decided to make it a family affair, bringing along his wife and two kids.

“I think that they need to understand what the political process is all about. I’ve never done this before,” Zilberstein said. “You can agree to disagree about a lot of things, but I have a hard time agreeing to disagree about Trump.”

To him, the bombastic reality TV star and businessman’s being in the race “was a joke to begin with—and he’s not a joke anymore,” he said.

Benjetta Miller of Bay Shore was standing under a tree holding a “Stand Against Islamophobia” sign.

Miller, a Sanders supporter who is not eligible to vote in the state’s April 19 primary because New York’s closed primary rules don’t allow registered Independents to cast a ballot, said she’d vote for Clinton in the general election if it came down to it.

“There’s just no room in our country, in our government, for a Donald Trump,” she said.

The Ahmed family from Woodmere would agree.

Sarfaraz Ahmed, his wife and daughter, Yursa, decided to attend the rally to protest what they consider racist remarks espoused by Trump, and because their family has been the victim of Islamophobic comments.

“Our kids go to school, and they’ve been harassed. They’ve been called names because we wear different clothes,” said Sarafarz, adding that his children have been branded “terrorists” by bullies.

“We are here for 40 years—my brother came [in] 1973,” added the Pakistani immigrant. “All the kids were born here. Grew up here. Went to school here.”

His 16-year-old daughter Yursa, who attends private school, expressed her disappointment that people would judge an entire religion based on the acts of a select few.

“It’s like a classroom. When one kid messes up, the whole class doesn’t have recess,” said Yursa, who has been taunted by people when she goes into New York City. “Why do we have to suffer if someone else messed up?”

Long Island Donald Trump rally
The Ahmed family from Woodmere lamented anti-Muslim sentiment in America today. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

Muslims aren’t the only ones who felt compelled to speak out.

“The reason I feel like joining is because a lot of people of my skin complexion would rather hold their silence than stand up and let their voices be heard,” said 22-year-old Key Martinez of North Bellmore. “I’m not an illegal immigrant, but my family are, so I’m here for them.”

Martinez has specifically objected to Trump’s proposal to have Mexico build a wall to prevent people crossing America’s southern border.

If his family hadn’t come more than 25 years ago, he’d never have the opportunities now offered to him.

“I’ve been discriminated all of my life,” said Martinez, who attends Nassau Community College where he also works. “This is the first time I get to stand up for that.”

Martinez summed up what many other people in the crowd said they have been feeling as they’ve watched Trump tour the country while promising to make America great by banning Muslims, putting the Muslims that are here in databases, keeping Mexicans out, punishing women for abortions if they’re deemed illegal (before he backtracked), and lessening America’s role militarily by suggesting countries like Japan and South Korea should develop nuclear bombs to defend themselves.

“He is prejudice,” Martinez said, “and there’s no way of denying that.”

Cuomo Signs New York $15 Minimum Wage Bill

NY $15 Minimum Wage
Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a rally at Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan Monday, April 4 to celebrate historic $15 minimum wage hike. (Photo credit: Don Pollard/ New York Governor's Office)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday declared victory in the fight for a $15 minimum wage with a congratulatory rally in Manhattan that also served as a campaign stop for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

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A smiling Cuomo, who made the $15 minimum wage hike a top priority of his 2016 agenda, told the partisan crowd at Jacob Javits Center that the new pay bump, included in this year’s state budget, would “restore economic fairness” and help rebuild a fractured middle class.

“We defined the problem,” Cuomo said. “We explained the unfairness, and the people of the state of New York responded because the people of this state demand fairness and demand justice.”

Joining Cuomo on stage was Clinton, the former secretary of state and twice-elected New York Senator. Clinton didn’t shy away from using the governor’s legislative achievement to attack GOP frontrunner Donald Trump even though she’s still entrenched in a primary battle of her own against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist.

New York’s wage hike won’t go into effect immediately. The plan calls for Nassau and Suffolk counties to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour by the end of 2016, followed by a $1 hike in pay each year until the $15 cap is reached by 2021. New York City businesses would raise their hourly wage to $15 by the end of 2018. Small business owners and industries operating in other regions of the state will separately be required to raise wages incrementally over a four-year period.

The uneven rollout may be complicated, but it was intended to give anxious business owners time to adjust before they become mandated to pay the legal $15 minimum. The new law, however, does not include tipped workers.

Before its recent passage, Cuomo spent considerable time on the road to build a formidable coalition to support the bill. For a brief period, the governor’s strategy included campaign-style rallies in which he toured the state in a ostentatious red-and-blue RV.

“It was the labor movement that built this nation’s middle class in the first place and we’re rebuilding the middle class for a new economy today,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo’s back-patting speech also included some presidential campaign undertones, taking veiled shots at Trump without mentioning the bombastic reality TV star and billionaire businessman by name.

“I’ll tell you what we did not do in New York,” Cuomo said. “We didn’t take the anger, and we didn’t fan the flames of the anger, and we didn’t use the anger politically. And some voices out there want to do just that: they want to take that anger, and they want to use it politically. They want to use it as a way to turn us against each other.”

Clinton, who has been campaigning in New York in advance of the state’s April 19 presidential primary, called the $15 wage hike a “real watershed.”

During her campaign, Clinton has advocated for a $12 federal minimum wage but said she supports local governments that pass their own pay hikes. On Monday, the former two-term U.S. Senator predicted that New York’s achievement would be far-reaching. “I know it’s going to sweep our country,” she said. Her opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has called on the federal government to raise the minimum wage to $15.

President Obama released a statement Monday commending lawmakers in New York for their efforts while issuing a long-shot plea for Congress to follow their lead.

“This action means more parents won’t have to choose between their job and caring for their new children,” Obama said. “It means more workers can earn a higher wage to help make ends meet.”

The agreement by New York lawmakers came less than a week after California became the first state in the country to approve a $15 minimum wage hike.

Cuomo also signed into law a 12-week paid family leave bill that will go into effect in 2018 and will include both part-time and full-time employees.

(Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a rally at Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan Monday, April 4 to celebrate historic $15 minimum wage hike. Photo credit: Don Pollard/ New York Governor’s Office)

‘Eye in the Sky’ Forces Us to See the Human Toll of Drone Warfare

In what was mostly a spellbinding portrayal of the cost of drone warfare in the 21st century, there were moments in Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky” that you couldn’t help but wonder if the director was engaging in cheeky satire as one British bureaucrat after another anguished over a decision to kill terrorists in a drone strike on Kenya that would also serve as a likely death sentence for an innocent girl selling bread outside their hideout.

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From the United Kingdom’s attorney general to the foreign minister, those civilians entrusted to make critical military decisions chose instead to “refer up”—meaning pass the buck so the next person in line would have to live with the consequences. The term was so widely used that it was tough not to snicker even though the stakes were so high.

The only people totally committed to bombing a house in Nairobi to take out three high-level terrorists—two UK citizens and one American—seemingly planning a suicide bombing were Colonel Powell (Helen Mirren) and General Benson (the late Alan Rickman).

The decision facing England’s elected officials in “Eye in the Sky” is whether or not to approve the drone strike after it became clear that capturing the subjects in unfriendly territory would be nearly impossible.

Those advocating for the strike were operating under the impression that the loss of one life—the young girl selling bread—is easier to live with than risking dozens of lives if the terror subjects were successful in carrying out an attack.

On the flip side, as the British attorney general noted, the UK would look like the villains if it ever emerged that the government went ahead with the missile strike even though they knew the young girl’s life was in jeopardy. Indeed, the military had no idea where the al Shabaab terrorists were planning to strike, but they did not want to live through another Westgate shopping mall massacre in Nairobi, which left 67 people dead in 2013.

If this is how officials decide whether to bomb alleged terrorists in undeclared war zones like Kenya, then perhaps controversial assassinations—or “targeted killings”—from unmanned, remote-piloted aircrafts aren’t getting the level of scrutiny they deserve.

And maybe that’s the point “Eye in the Sky” endeavors to make. Not that drone strikes are immoral or incredibly effective, depending on how you see it, but that the program itself is flawed because protocols governing use of this nascent technology are not yet firmly in place. Sure, it’s easy to compel a pilot to pull the trigger on people you are 100-percent sure are the bad guys, but what happens when innocent lives are caught in the crossfire or you’re unsure if the people you’re targeting are truly terrorists? Who should be the one to make that decision? And if the intelligence is faulty or incomplete, should a deadly strike even be up for consideration?

At home, the debate has been raging for years over how the United States conducts drone attacks and whether the risk of collateral damage is too great. Many of the drone strikes operated by the US take place in countries where we’re not at war, like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, which heightens civilian exposure. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, US drone strikes have killed somewhere between 423 and 965 civilians in Pakistan since 2004. It’s difficult to ascertain the exact civilian death toll because such stats are kept secret.

“Eye in the Sky” also addresses the strain drone attacks put on US Air Force pilots operating out of a military base in Las Vegas.

Drone warfare has for years been compared to video games, in which soldiers in America remotely pilot drones over the skies of Africa and the Middle East. If the decision is made to strike a target, the operator presses the appropriate button and watches the target explode. Through the lens of the drone, the pilots can see the destruction the missile has reaped, but the aftermath is inaudible. The pilot won’t hear cries of family members or catch a whiff of smoldering flesh. They follow targets with deft precision, strike a building or a vehicle if need be, ascertain whether the target was killed, and return the aircraft to a nearby base.

Aaron Paul, who gives a searing portrayal of a US Air Force pilot/drone operator named Steve Watts, is at the controls of the drone hovering over Nairobi, and he poignantly captures the emotional tug-of-war that the more hardened generals have so effectively repressed. When Paul offers a heart-warming smirk as he sees the little girl playing with a hula-hoop in her backyard, it’s as if he’s standing right beside her. But those tear-jerking moments are fleeting, because it becomes apparent to us that the people inside the house are preparing for a bloody attack.

It’s difficult to leave this suspenseful film and not wonder out loud, “What would you do?” But perhaps the more pressing issue facing world leaders is whether it has become so easy to kill with a remote control that we’ve all forgotten the human cost of war?

(Featured photo credit: Bleeker Street Media/Eye in the Sky)

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