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: rmian@longislandpress.com. Twitter: rashedmian

Did ‘Westworld’ Finally Confirm that Crazy Theory about the Man in Black?

William, Man in Black theory

Warning: Yee be warned, herein lies spoilers galore!

If there’s anything we can definitively declare about HBO’s spellbinding hit series Westworld, it’s that nothing is what it seems—absolutely nothing.

And as we prepare for the season finale—wait, we’ve already sat through nine hours of sex-crazed debauchery?—the show’s maniacal creators have given us the big reveal fans have been craving for, and one that its legion of fans had long suspected: that good ol’ Bernard is none other than Dr. Ford’s oft-mentioned park co-creator: Arnold.

That well-intended shocker, however satisfying, was hardly the biggest surprise of the Sunday’s episode. We were all distracted by the Bernard-is-really-Arnold-now-it-all-makes-sense smokescreen that the creators so cleverly used to conceal from us the episode’s deepest and darkest secret to date, one in which we hardly had the bandwidth to immediately recognize the enormity of it all as the park’s facade crumbled before us: William—yes, Dolores’ wide-eyed companion—is actually the same character as the Man in Black.

Of course, this hasn’t been confirmed by the big wigs running the show, but all the clues are there: William somehow uses the very same knife the Man in Black has in his clutches, how they both appear to be wearing the same shirt in a previous episode, William’s primal rage finally—and horrifically—revealing itself in a bloodbath, and the episode’s not-so-veiled ending in which a silhouette of a man who appears to be William emerges, staring at Dolores. “William?” she asks. Yes, well, no, it’s the Man in Black. But yes, it’s William, at least we think so.

Related: 5 Real-Life ‘Stranger Things’-Montauk, Long Island Parallels

Confused? Let’s explain. Fans have theorized that Dolores’ storyline is actually a different timeline than the rest of the show we’re watching, speculating that we’re witnessing events take place 30 years in the past. It’s an early period when the park had just opened. An initially apprehensive William eschews the purported pleasures the park offers but seems to be interested in discovering something greater.

More clues are offered in the show’s penultimate episode. Take, for example, William’s sadistic colleague, Logan, who guts Dolores so he could showcase her robotic skeleton—a stark difference from the latest host models, which most resemble the human body. Or the aforementioned knife William uses to slaughter Logan’s brigade of apparent outlaws that just so happens to resemble the same weapon the Man in Black carries around.

These clues may all seem circumstantial, until we see Dolores escaping captivity at the urging of William, who proclaims, “I’ll find you.”

That takes us to the episode’s final moments when the Man in Black stumbles upon William’s new love. “Hello, Dolores,” says William, err, the Man in Black.

The Dolores-William-Man in Black connection was hardly the evening’s only revelation. We also learn that Dolores killed Arnold. Why? We don’t know yet, but we’re hoping the finale offers more answers.

As the season’s conclusion approaches, we’ll have to see if Maeve and Hector, whom she’s roped into her plot to flee the park once and for all, are successful. She’s been prodigious so far, so why not?

In Westworld, nothing would surprise us.

(Featured photo credit: HBO/Westworld)

Trump Team Considering Resurrecting Ineffective & Discredited Bush-Era Muslim Registry

Trump Muslim registry

It was one of the presidential campaign’s most incendiary moments: a candidate of one of the two major political parties issuing a full-throated proposal that would keep an entire faith group out of the United States.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” the Republican presidential hopeful said on Dec. 7, 2015.

As American voters let that sink in—Trump’s supporters praising the proposal with vociferous applause while his opponents were left stunned—the businessman and reality TV star said America’s door should remain closed until “our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

Trump’s comments came in the wake of a horrific mass slaying in San Bernardino, Calif., which killed 14 and injured nearly two dozen others.

Americans had been on edge even before the terror attack in California. A month earlier in Paris coordinated attacks by ISIS had led to the deaths of 130 victims, including 89 attending a concert at Bataclan theatre. Islamophobia was increasingly a topic of conversation, stoked by the fear of refugees coming to the United States from Afghanistan, Syria and other war-torn countries.

As the often-vitriolic campaign for the White House wore on, Trump softened his tone to broaden his appeal; instead of a total ban, American authorities would perform “extreme vetting” of non-citizens entering our borders.

More than two weeks after the election, Americans still have an incomplete idea of what a Trump America would look like. No one—perhaps not even Trump himself—knows what to expect from his presidency. He’s toyed with the idea of creating a Muslim database, and conducting surveillance of mosques in the United States, both extremely controversial ideas. One of his advisors, Carl Higbie, even invoked the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 as a precedent for policy.

Whatever Trump does, it is becoming worrisome to many observers that his administration will pursue some kind of immigration policy targeting refugees or people from majority Muslim nations altogether.

If not a total ban, Trump could decide to re-instate a counter-terrorism program from the President George W. Bush-era that disrupted the lives of thousands of people even though government officials later deemed it ineffective compared to the array of automated tools intelligence officials had installed in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), the program has its root in the controversial Patriot Act. NSEERS, which was adopted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), amassed a database of about 90,000 incoming non-U.S. citizens from 25 countries. All of them were predominantly Muslim countries, except one: North Korea.

Ultimately, more than 13,000 people were placed in deportation proceedings because of the program. Families were ripped apart. Of the tens of thousands affected, none were singled out for posing a threat to the United States.

On April 28, 2011, DHS issued a notice in the Federal Register spelling the ostensible end of NSEERS. DHS itself had concluded that the program was no longer needed.

Now it seems that President-Elect Trump is considering re-installing NSEERS, which still has its regulatory framework in place, much to the disappointment of immigration advocates. Had NSEERS undergone an autopsy, it would’ve read like this: a redundant and ineffective counter-terror tool fraught with bureaucratic confusion that despite its $10 million annual price tag perpetually failed to engineer a single terror investigation. In simple terms, NSEERS was an abject failure.

‘Failed Experiment’

Even those officials with close ties to the registration program are convinced NSEERS should remain on the scrap heap.

“There was no security case to be made for NSEERS because all the people who come in on Visas are interviewed and tracked, and so we don’t have to pick based on generalizations, we can just interview and track everyone,” Margo Schlanger, who was appointed by President Obama in 2010 to oversee the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at DHS, tells the Press.

Now professor of law at the University of Michigan, Schlanger came to a similar conclusion, as did officials at DHS and the agency’s Office of Inspector General: “It’s some combination of redundant and ill-advised.”

Under NSEERS, non-U.S. citizens entering the United States from the 25 designated countries were required to register with customs officials by providing fingerprints and photographs, and answering questions about their background. They were also instructed to inform a customs officer at their port-of-exit upon leaving the country. DHS eventually expanded the program to include certain men already in the United States by having them “check in” at immigration offices.

Not only did the program’s domestic agenda appear to discriminate against people who were not considered threats or even under investigation, it caught many of those who would’ve willingly complied in a bureaucratic tailspin, leaving some of them totally in the dark about what was required, immigration advocates say.

“Inadequate notice and misinformation prevented many individuals who would have complied from doing so,” said researchers at the Center for Immigrants’ Rights at Penn State Law in a 2012 report titled “The NSEERS Effect: A Decade of Racial Profiling, Fear, and Secrecy”.

“The federal government relied principally on notices in the Federal Register to inform the public of registration requirements,” the report found, “and, like the majority of the American population, most individuals subject to NSEERS were not familiar with the Federal Register or the requirements contained therein.”

Homeland security officials admitted as much in a series of memos.

At least two memos, one sent by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in October of 2005 and the other in June 2011 after the countries were de-listed, encouraged authorities to use “prosecutorial discretion” in certain cases where the affected person had a reasonable excuse for failing to register, such as hospitalization, or in a situation in which they were “simply unaware of the registration requirements,” as the 2005 letter stated.

Officials effectually decided that using manpower to register mostly Muslim citizens from entering the United States was unnecessary.

“DHS has determined that recapturing this data manually when a non-immigrant is seeking admission to the United States is redundant and no longer provides any increase in security,” the DHS wrote in a notice placed in the Federal Register on April 28, 2011.

Instead of focusing “on more general designations of groups of individuals,” as NSEERS did, DHS preferred to identify specific individuals who pose a threat, the notice stated.

That President-Elect Trump is considering reinstating a federal program that failed has many immigration advocates concerned. Just this week, a consortium of human rights organizations, immigration advocates and concerned citizens, petitioned the Obama administration to rescind NSEERS’ regulatory framework, which still exists despite the program ostensibly ending in April 2011 after DHS de-listed all the impacted countries.

“NSEERS targeted foreign nationals from 25 countries based on religion, ethnicity, and national origin,” their letter states. “NSEERS was a discriminatory policy that ran counter to the fundamental American values of fairness and equal protection. Rescinding the regulatory framework of the program will ensure that our nation does not target communities based on national origin and faith.”

One of the groups behind the letter is the Washington, D.C.-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which has been raising awareness about NSEERS since its implementation.

“If you are a suspected terrorist and you’re in this country to do harm, are you going to turn yourself in at a government facility?” asks Abed Ayoub, ADC’s national legal and policy director. The answer is obvious: No, you wouldn’t. “So, the program is flawed,” Ayoub concludes.

Immigration advocates have not hid their disappointment over the Obama administration’s decision to leave the regulatory framework in place.

“All they did was take the furniture out of the house,” says Ayoub. “You can still refurnish the house.”

By only de-listing the countries, DHS did not eliminate the problem facing many immigrants who did not read the notice in the Federal Register, or “did not feel comfortable registering” because of past problems experienced by a community or family member, argues Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants Rights Clinic at Penn State Law.

Wadhia didn’t think it was fair that a person should face the consequences of failing to register for a program considered defunct in 2011.

“The NSEERS program was a failed experiment,” she continues. “It was counter-effective or ineffective as a counter-terrorism tool. It was alienating to the communities and families it targeted. And it was discriminatory along the lines of…national origin and religion.”

So why would President-Elect Trump even consider an immigrant enforcement strategy that top officials considered superfluous? Look no further than Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

NSEERS Reboot

Kobach, a Republican who was counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft, is considered the chief architect of NSEERS. Trump is now considering him as his possible chief of Homeland Security.

Upon leaving a meeting with Trump in New Jersey this week, Kobach bumbled his paperwork and was photographed with confidential notes in his hand. At the top of his list of ideas, clearly visible, thanks to his documents mishandling, is to “update and reintroduce the NSEERS screening and tracking system.”

Kobach’s apparent proposal would do what automated tracking systems could not: It would “add extreme vetting questions for high-risk aliens: question them regarding support for Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women, the United States Constitution.”

Trump has not suggested whether or not he’d revive the program, and his transition team has denied he ever advocated for a registry singling out Muslims. The idea of Trump proposing a Muslim registry emerged during an interview with a Yahoo News reporter in which Trump, when asked, said, “We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.” The discussion got even more convoluted from there, with Trump invoking a wall on the US-Mexico border amid questions about a registry. Trump, however, never unequivocally rejected such a policy.

During a rally in Alabama shortly after the topic was broached, Trump said a “watch list is okay, and surveillance is okay.” He later added: “But I do want databases for those people coming in, but I also insist on a wall.”

Ambiguity aside, it’s Trump’s past statements about Muslims that disturbs advocates most.

“NSEERS is a discredited program that was shelved in 2011 because it did not make our nation any more secure or safe, and it only relied on the racial and religious profiling of Muslims traveling to the United States,” Robert McCaw, government affairs director for the Council on American Islamic Relations Government Affairs, told Talking Points Memo last week.

When a top Trump surrogate, Carl Higbie, recently told Fox News‘ Megyn Kelly that World War II-era internment of Japanese Americans serves as a precedent for establishing some form of Muslim registry here, several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, were quick to offer a stinging rebuke.

“If the Trump administration proceeds to discriminate against our Muslim neighbors, families, and friends, we will sue,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, on its website.

As Trump’s transition continues, Americans, especially Muslims and other immigrants, are are wary about what’s to come.

“Right now there’s no telling what the next administration is going to do,” says Ayoub of the ADC. “We just got to focus on making sure this administration rescinds this program. We are prepared for whatever comes next. We’re mobilized. We’re energized. We’re not afraid.”

And what if Trump reinstates a Bush-era registration program that many advocacy groups remain convinced clearly and unfairly targeted Muslims under the guise of national security?

“We’re prepared for anything,” says Ayoub.

Concern Grows for Humpback Whale Stuck on Moriches Bay Sandbar

Humpback whale Long Island
Humpback whale stuck in Moriches Bay off Long Island. (Photo: Screenshot via Kari Mancuso's YouTube)

Marine biologists are growing concerned with the welfare of a humpback whale that had been swimming off Long Island over the past week but is got stuck on a sandbar in Moriches Bay.

The whale is currently “grounded in the middle of the bay, near Hart’s Cove,” the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation said in a statement on Facebook. The whale has been struggling to get itself unstuck.

“We are considering the whale’s welfare, and are disappointed in the recent turn of events,” the Riverhead Foundation said on Facebook. “We are hopeful that the animal will be able to swim out of the bay on its own with higher tides.”

Biologists with the organization went out on boats Sunday to monitor the whale’s behavior and condition, the group added. Additionally, biologists, along with Southampton Town Bay Constables and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, attempted to produce a surge of waves to knock the whale off the sandbar, to no avail.

Reports of the whale swimming off Long Island first emerged on Nov. 13. From its behavior, the foundation said it appeared the whale was feeding. At the time, the foundation requested that active boaters stay alert and avoid moving too close.

As biologists continue with their wait-and-see approach, the group is also actively consulting with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and whale experts about possible courses of action.

Mendy Garron, Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator, NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday that the whale is likely suffering from internal injuries, noting that forcibly removing the animal could cause a “significant amount of stress” and compound any medical issues.

“The animal’s well being is the first priority,” Garron added.

Officials are deploying a team of experts from Cape Cod, as well as a large whale veterinarian from North Carolina, to aid in medical intervention. Based on similar episodes across the country, whales of that size typically have only have up to week of survival once stranded. Once doctors make contact, they can then advise whether euthanizing the whale is in its best interest.

The goal is to make the animal as comfortable as possible, Garon said, adding that experts have advised against any further attempts to physically remove it from the sandbar.

As a safety precaution, officials have advised concerned citizens to avoid approaching the whale. Going within 200 feet of the whale is in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Garron said.

Although Long Island has had humpback whale sightings in the past, having one appear in Moriches Bay is rare, officials said. The bay’s extensive sandbars are particularly challenging for whales to navigate.

Marine biologists became concerned almost immediately after receiving reports of the whale in the bay because of of the waterway’s obstacles. As experts discussed contingency plans, they eventually concluded that physically removing the whale from the bay was not in its best interest because of its location and the distance of intervention would be greater than any past instances.

At least two humpback whales found off Long Island this year did not survive their foray into nearby waterways.

In June, biologists found partial remains of a dead humpback whale floating in the waters of Westhampton, and in April, a dead whale was found floating in Napeague Bay in Amagansett.

At least six deceased whales were found off Long Island last year.

‘Heil Hitler’: Reports of Hate Crimes Have Long Island, Nation on Edge

Anonymous letter left with Muslim public school teacher in Georgia. (Courtesy: Facebook)

“Heil Hitler!”

That’s the virulent greeting an Asian-American woman walking with her 6-year-old child received last week as they trotted along a pedestrian crosswalk in Stony Book.

In another incident, a man driving his car in East Northport shouted “f@#king wetback”—a derogatory term for immigrants, but reserved mostly for Mexicans—at a Hispanic man, veering off the road and nearly hitting him.

“Get the f@#k out!” the man allegedly screamed. “Trump is president.”

These are just two of the more than 400 complaints made to the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) since the Nov. 8 election of Donald Trump.

The president-elect had been accused during the campaign of making Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic comments. At the outset of his campaign he referred to Mexicans as “rapists” and “murderers,” proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, which he later changed to “extreme vetting,” a Muslim registry, and questioned the ability of a judge of Mexican heritage to oversee a case involving Trump University, which Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the “textbook definition of a racist comment.”

SPLC, an anti-hate organization, provided the Press with the Long Island complaints—both of which SPLC has is trying to corroborate. However, the Press has confirmed a third reported incident that occurred the day before Election Day.

In that incident, a 17-year-old Manhasset High School student hurled the “N” word at a black student and allegedly threatened her with a photo of a gun, according to the complaint made to SPLC. The student was arrested three days later. A spokeswoman for the Nassau County District Attorney’s office declined to provide details of the altercations, but the charges—two counts of harassment, the first, based on “race/religion” and the second, “communicate a threat” via “phone/computer/mail”—match the description of the complaint. Manhasset School District Superintendent Charlie Cardillo has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Complaints of harassment and ethnically or racially motivated hate crimes across the country have put communities on edge, including in New York, where a swastika and the word “Trump” were spray-painted on a wall at SUNY Geneseo. Although only some of the incidents mention Trump or his surprise victory explicitly, the spate of verbal or physical attacks has evoked fears among minority groups that a segment of the population has been emboldened by Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

As of Thursday, SPLC has received 437 complaints nationwide regarding hate incidents.

The Anti-Defamation League is also monitoring hate crimes stemming from the election.

“Sadly, the contentious tone from the 2016 election has translated into a moment of ripeness for the haters to deface properties across the country with some of the most unsettling anti-Semitic and racist imagery,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement. “We must not let this troubling trend of hate define our society, which means that the onus is on our community leaders, religious clergy, elected officials and others to remain vigilant, report incidents when they surface, and make clear that this level of vitriol will not be tolerated.”

In Patchogue on Thursday, residents found fliers on parked cars from the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, featuring a drawing of a hooded-Klan’s member, bookended by the words: “Our Race Is Our Nation.” A Suffolk police spokeswoman said the Hate Crimes Unit concluded there was nothing criminal about the fliers.

Long Island has a history of playing host to Nazi-sympathizers, most notably at Camp Siegfried in Yaphank during World War II, where thousands openly glorified Nazism and paraded down streets named after Hitler and the mass-murder’s sinister cohorts.

When Jewish blood drips from the knife,” kids dressed in Hitler youth garb would sing, then will the German people prosper.”

KKK fliers popping up on Long Island is not a new phenomenon. Similar leaflets appeared in Westhampton Beach in July, and prior to that, in Wantagh and Rockville Centre.

When pressed by 60 Minutes on Sunday during his first post-victory interview, Trump said he was “surprised” by the spate of hate incidents. In response, he told those attacking people to “Stop it.”

“Since Donald Trump won the election we’ve seen an alarming number of hate-based incidents occur throughout the nation, some of which are no doubt stemming from Trump’s hate-filled campaign,” Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said in a statement.

On Friday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department is investigating whether any of the recent incidents violate federal law.

“We will continue to enforce our nation’s hate crimes laws to the fullest extent possible,” Lynch said in a statement. “We will continue to uphold our conviction that all men and women deserve to lead lives of safety and dignity.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who has addressed hate crimes on multiple occasions, cited the Patchogue incident as he called upon local officials to speak out against alleged hate crimes.

“I call on all public officials, of all parties, and indeed, all people everywhere, to denounce and repudiate these expressions, and to pledge to punish to the full extent of the law anyone engaged in such acts,” Cuomo said in a statement. “To remain silent is to engage in a dangerous new permissiveness that threatens our American way.”

Just this week, the FBI released its hate crimes report for 2015, which showed a 67-percent increase in attacks on Muslims. Hate crimes across the board spiked 6 percent.

Following last week’s election, a Muslim high school teacher in Georgia said she received an anonymous letter in which the cruel author suggested she hang herself by her Hijab—a traditional Muslim head cover.

The ominous letter was signed “America!”

Featured photo: Anonymous letter left with Muslim public school teacher in Georgia. (Courtesy: Facebook)

National Popular Vote Movement Closer To Changing Presidential Elections

National Popular Vote Movement
National Popular Vote Movement

Long before Hillary Clinton became the fifth presidential candidate in American history to lose an election despite winning the popular vote, a movement had already begun to change how our presidents are elected. Instead of the Electoral College having the last word, the goal is to give each voter a true stake in the outcome by empowering state legislatures to pick the victor solely according to who won the most votes nationwide.

Then came Nov. 8, the day Republican Donald Trump pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in modern times. He’s expected to occupy the White House in January but Clinton may have beat him by more than a million votes when the painstaking task of counting all the ballots is complete.

To undercut Clinton in the Electoral College, Trump took the perceived Democratic strongholds of Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as several key battleground states where various polls erroneously had predicted Clinton victories. There’s no way to know if the election would have turned out differently if the candidates didn’t have to focus on getting the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Trump himself is a past critic of the Electoral College. He acknowledged on Tuesday that had a popular vote system been in place, he would’ve deployed a different strategy.

He might be right. Or wrong. As Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post points out:

“The fact is that just because Trump lost the popular vote last week doesn’t mean he would have lost a popular-vote election.

What do I mean by that? Basically, losing the popular vote in an electoral-college election isn’t the same as losing the popular vote in a popular-vote election. The former involves a very specific strategy that may cost you when it comes to winning the nationwide popular vote. But you pursue that strategy because the latter doesn’t matter. You need to get to 270 electoral votes, not a majority or plurality of all votes.”

 

Abolishing the Electoral College outright is a daunting proposition because it would require amending the U.S. Constitution. First, both houses of Congress would have to pass the amendment by a two-thirds majority in each legislative body. Then 38 states would have to ratify it within seven years of its passage.

But the reform movement aims to get around that with a simple solution called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Already 11 states, including New York, have passed legislation to join the compact. Collectively, these states represent 165 electoral votes, only 105 votes shy of the 270 threshold. The compact wouldn’t take effect until the pro-popular vote states reach the magic number. Under this system, states that sign onto the compact would award their electoral votes to the consensus popular vote winner.

The non-profit organization spearheading the movement, National Popular Vote, is not advocating for the Electoral College to be abolished, but rather that the total amount of votes nationally take on greater significance.

“I think there’s a lot of dynamics that would shift and become more fair” in the event a national popular vote was installed, recently elected Vermont State Sen. Chris Pearson, a Democrat, tells the Press.

That Clinton won the popular vote has reinvigorated the discussion about whether America’s archaic system is in desperate need of an overhaul.

Trump himself has in the past railed against the current winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes by state. In an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday Trump said, “I’m not going to change my mind just because I won.” But a few days later, he changed his position, calling the Electoral College “genius.”

In 2012:

This week:

Altering the system could change more than just how votes are counted, advocates say. It could affect everything from which states campaigns choose to visit, how federal funding is dispersed, and more innocuous decisions such as where the president deploys cabinet members to rally support for federal programs, says Pearson.

A National Popular Vote surrogate, Pearson said presidential campaigns are “ridiculously concentrated” in half a dozen so-called battleground states.

According to his organization, two-thirds of presidential campaigning in 2016 occurred in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan. The candidates made a total of 71 visits to Florida during the general election, but they never set foot in 24 states, including the District of Columbia, the entire race.

A map of all the states where the candidates campaigned. (Courtesy: NationalPopularVote.com)
A map of all the states where the candidates campaigned. (Courtesy: NationalPopularVote.com)

Those two dozen jurisdictions were seen as either reliably Democratic or Republican, and the outcomes were considered pre-determined, giving the candidates no incentive to spend time meeting with tens of millions of Americans who would cast their votes for the 45th president.

“Basically 10 to 15 states at most are in play, and the rest of us are totally left on the sidelines,” says Pearson, who emphasized that over 90 percent of this historic campaign took place in 12 states.

“If you don’t live in those states, you are completely taken for granted,” Pearson adds. “And that is very damaging for the democratic process.”

In New York, for example, the common refrain among Republicans is their vote is meaningless because their chances of breaking through a Democratic firewall in New York City is near impossible. The same goes for Republican voters in California or Democrats in Oklahoma or Nebraska.

“Republicans in New York are sort of discounted. Even if they get 49.5 percent of the vote, it’s meaningless,” says Pearson. “The Republicans in Idaho deliver a 400,000-vote victory for their candidate; it’s totally meaningless. Republicans in California don’t bother voting.”

The popular vote bill in New York, sponsored by upstate Republican State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, had passed overwhelmingly in both the state Senate and the Assembly. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in November extending the pact, which was due to expire in 2018, Griffo said that New Yorkers were being ignored while fisticuffs play out in only a handful of perceived swing states.

“In the 21st Century, every vote really should count, and this legislation will help achieve that democratic ideal in a way that respects the Constitution,” he said in a statement.

“This action will help ensure every vote is treated equally, and places New York at the forefront of the battle for fairer elections and to strengthen our democracy,” added Cuomo. “Making the national popular vote a binding one will enable all voices to be heard and encourage candidates to appeal to voters in all states.”

New York Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) says he may have voted differently had the popular vote system been in place this election. He wrote in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ name for president on his ballot.

“It didn’t matter, because Hillary Clinton was going to win the state anyway,” Thiele tells the Press. “If I was in a swing state, I might have had to think long and hard.” Before he became an Independent, Thiele was a registered Republican.

“Everybody knew what the rules were” in this election, Thiele adds. “And at the end of the day, that’s the result.”

But he said it would be wrong if people regarded the national popular movement as just a reaction to the election results.

“It’s a much broader principle,” he says.

Thiele, one of the original sponsors of New York’s bill going back a decade, said his reasoning is simple. “I think the person who gets the most votes should win the election,” he says.

Not everybody is on board, however.

In an article in Slate titled “In Defense of the Electoral College,” U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner argues, among other things, that swing state voters are perhaps the most informed segment of the electorate because of the extreme focus on those areas.

“Voters in toss-up states are more likely to pay close attention to the campaign—to really listen to the competing candidates—knowing that they are going to decide the election. They are likely to be the most thoughtful voters, on average (and for the further reason that they will have received the most information and attention from the candidates), and the most thoughtful voters should be the ones to decide the election.”

Separate from the National Popular Vote movement is legislation proposed by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Wednesday that would abolish the Electoral College. The constitutional amendment will have a difficult time passing a Republican-controlled House and Senate.

“This is the only office in the land where you can get more votes and still lose the presidency,” Boxer said in a statement. “The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts.”

Thiele believes a constitutional amendment is unlikely to have the requisite support needed to pass. If the current system is eventually changed, it’ll be because individual states voted to join the pact.

“It’s obviously a state-by-state decision,” he says. “But I certainly think the recent political history is in our favor, and I think that will cause every state to take a second look and [a] closer look at National Popular Vote.”

Pearson says the organization still has its work cut out for itself to convince other states to join the pact. In Arizona, Oklahoma, Oregon and Arkansas, legislation has passed in one legislative chamber, but not the other, he says.

The past election could help the cause. Since Nov. 8, National Popular Vote’s webtool to help voters connect with their legislators has been used at least 40,000 times, Pearson claims.

If NPV makes it to its goal of 270 by 2020, it would be “enormously gratifying,” he says.

FBI: Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Skyrocketed Last Year

Muslim leaders held a rally at Masjid Noor in Huntington on Dec. 18, 2015 to condemn violence and bigotry. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

Hate crimes against Muslims in the United States spiked significantly last year to a rate not seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to the FBI’s annual hate crimes report released this week.

Nationwide, anti-Muslim hate crimes jumped 67 percent in 2015 compared to the prior year—a rise from 154 in 2014 to 257 last year. The uptick in hate crimes quintupled from the previous year-to-year spike of 14 percent. The stats don’t take into account the recent spate of bias incidents reported after the election, including some in New York.

“The year 2015 saw a great deal of news about Islamist attacks in Europe and in the United States, and the exploitation of these attacks by right-wing media and political figures very likely fueled anti-Muslim hatred,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate organizations in the US.

Locally, Nassau County police reported 32 hate crimes and Suffolk County police reported 66 such incidents last year. In both counties, the far majority of crimes were characterized as religiously motivated, but it’s not clear which groups were targeted. Freeport and Port Washington, the only two village police departments to provide data to the FBI, reported five combined incidents.

Hate crimes targeting Muslims haven’t been this high since 2001. Following the Sept. 11 attacks the FBI reported 487 anti-Muslim hate crimes across the country.

The FBI did not speculate why there was such a serious increase in hate crimes toward Muslims. Instead, the agency has left it up to activists and academia to interpret the numbers. They have reportedly linked the stark rise to the divisive presidential election campaign and now-President-elect Donald Trump’s call for a Muslim ban late last year following terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., which killed scores of people.

In its report, the FBI highlighted the arrest of a Florida man who later pleaded guilty to threatening to firebomb a Florida mosque and shoot its congregants.

“I don’t care if they’re [expletive] 2 years old or 100,” he said in a voicemail message left with the mosque.

Muslim Americans were not the only community impacted by an apparent rise in hate-filled attacks. Anti-Jewish attacks were up 9 percent, hate crimes against blacks increased by nearly 8 percent and anti-LGBT inspired hate crimes ticked up 5 percent, according to the FBI’s stats.

Hate crimes against Jews accounted for the largest overall number of hate crimes reported last year—half the 1,354 religious bias offenses reported to the FBI.

“Hate crimes like these can have a devastating impact upon the communities where they occur,” the FBI said in its announcement releasing the annual report.

In total, the FBI was notified of more than 5,000 hate incidents from 14,997 law enforcement agencies across the country shared through the agency’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

Of the 7,121 victims, the FBI said that 59 percent were targeted because of their race, ethnicity or ancestry; 19-percent because of religious bias; and 17 percent because of sexual orientation.

The report is not a full representation of hate crimes because not all law enforcement agencies share their data with the agency. SPLC believes the number of FBI-reported hate crimes is far too low, claiming the actual number is in the hundreds of thousands.

The disturbing increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes comes as no surprise considering the number of hate crimes advocacy groups have been tracking. Between 2014 and 2015, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) found that the number of mosque attacks quadrupled from 20 to 78. Nearly half of those incidents occurred in November and December last year—the same period when people were brutally killed in Paris and San Bernardino.

“The presidential election, combined with a couple of incidents last year, without a doubt in my mind fuel that spike that we saw,” Corey Saylor, director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia at CAIR, told the Press.

Following the slayings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris last January, CAIR found a half-dozen attacks targeting US mosques. That number nearly tripled after a husband-and-wife duo killed 14 people last December inside a San Bernardino office, Saylor said.

During that period, then-candidate Trump called for a temporary ban of all Muslims coming to the US. He was not the only Republican in the presidential race to question the patriotism and motives of Muslims: Ben Carson said Muslims should not be eligible to run for president, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested a religious test for Syrian refugees trying to enter this country.

Some Long Island Muslims have expressed concern about Islamophobia in America, noting that the climate over the last year has been worse than the days following 9/11. Many congregants of at least one mosque chose to stay home after the Orlando nightclub massacre in June. A Suffolk County Muslim leader said his mosque cancelled a bake sale out of concern for the young girls in the congregation.

Although the 2016 election has ended, some groups, particularly immigrants, have not enjoyed a reprieve that they hoped would come.

SPLC said it has recorded at least 315 incidents of “hateful harassment and intimidation” in the week since Nov. 8.

In Georgia, a Muslim high school teacher said she received an anonymous letter in which the cruel author suggested she hang herself by her Hijab—a traditional Muslim head cover. The ominous letter was signed “America!”

“As a Muslim, I wear a headscarf as a practice of my faith,” the teacher wrote in a Facebook message accompanying a photo of the letter. “I want to share this to raise awareness about the reality and climate of our community. Spreading hate isn’t going to ‘make America great again.'”

Anonymous letter left with Muslim public school teacher in Georgia. (Courtesy: Facebook)
Anonymous letter left with Muslim public school teacher in Georgia. (Courtesy: Facebook)

A Muslim student attending San Diego State University told police that two men who remarked about Trump and her religion robbed her on campus. Additionally, Muslim students at New York University were greeted with the world “Trump” written on the door of their Muslim prayer room on the morning after the election, according to the NYU Muslim Students Association.

Muslims are not alone. A black student at Baylor University was shoved and called a racial slur by a male student who said: “I’m just trying to make America great again,” a reference to Trump’s campaign slogan.

“He sort of shoved me off the sidewalk and he said . . . ‘no n—–s allowed on the sidewalk,’” she wrote on social media, according to The Washington Post.

In response, several hundred of her fellow students accompanied the student on her walk to class in a show of solidarity.

There have been a slew of reports of anti-Semitic and other racially motivated crimes since the election. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered two separate multi-agency investigations into purported hate crimes in upstate New York, including one in which a swastika and “Trump” appeared on a wall at SUNY Geneseo.

“To any New Yorker who is scared, I want you to know that we have your back, that we will keep you safe, and that protecting your rights is what America stands for,” Cuomo said.

Earlier Tuesday, Cuomo announced that he had launched a toll-free hotline—1-888-392-3644—to report incidents of bias and discrimination across the state.

“In this state there is no place for racism. There is no place for hate,” he said at an event in Rochester. “This is New York. This is America. We are all immigrants… By definition we are a diverse population. That’s what founded the country, and the diversity is its strength, and we’re not going to let anyone turn the diversity into a weakness, and we’re not going to be pitted one against another.”

In a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, Trump said he was “surprised” by the spate of hate crimes, and he turned to the camera and told perpetrators to “stop it.”

But whether the president-elect’s message will reach those who need to hear it is unclear.

“It seems that people who hold bigoted views feel empowered to go out and take action against minorities,” said Saylor of CAIR, “and we’re not just talking about Muslims.”

Anti-Trump Protests Continue Across United States

For a second straight night thousands of dissatisfied Americans poured into streets across the United States to protest Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Demonstrators in Baltimore, Minneapolis, Oakland and Los Angeles marched deep into the evening, holding signs and proclaiming that the president-elect does not represent them. While the far majority of protesters were peaceful, some in Portland smashed car windshields and purportedly set small fires.

Related: Thousands Protest Trump’s Presidential Victory Across U.S.

The Washington Post reported that an estimated 4,000 people took part in Thursday’s protest in Portland. At least 26 had been arrested, Portland police said, blaming “anarchists” for destroying property and declaring part of the protest a riot.

Police reportedly deployed rubber bullets, pepper spray and other so-called “less lethal munitions” to disperse protesters.

In Minneapolis, thousands of disgruntled voters reportedly blocked a busy interstate in the city, producing a major traffic jam, according to the StarTribune.

After his meeting with President Barack Obama Thursday morning, which the national press characterized as cordial, Trump Tweeted that “professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting.” The protests, which began Wednesday, appeared to grow organically, and although the media covered the demonstrations, it was unclear what provoked the president-elect to accuse the press of inciting protests.

Later, Trump softened his tone, cheering “small groups” of protesters for demonstrating their “passion for the country.”

Trump’s supporters have come to the future president’s defense and slammed protesters for hitting the streets following a democratic election.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a core Trump confidant, called protesters on college campuses “a bunch of spoiled crybabies” in an interview with Fox & Friends.

Yet Trump himself encouraged people to “march on Washington” after President Obama was re-elected in 2012, calling the election a “travesty.”

Protests are expected to continue across the United States.

In Nassau Democrats Came for a Celebration, But Left Stunned and Bummed

Nassau County Democrats glued to the screen showing election results at Westbury Manor.

Democrats in Nassau County poured into Westbury Manor Tuesday night prepared to celebrate the long-awaited coronation of Hillary Clinton whom the party elites had seemed assured would become the heir apparent to President Barack Obama’s eight-year legacy.

At first, they eagerly huddled around a large screen airing CNN’s election night coverage, with each projection and update feeling like the bottom half of an inning in a baseball playoff. The mood was upbeat, lubricated by the rapid flow of beers, nerve-settling scotch and crimson red wine. They mused about their party’s chances—confident in their heroine’s ability to blunt the forces of a populist uprising.

The polls all along had pointed to her victory, perhaps even a landslide over Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed billionaire turned reality TV show host.

But as the evening wore on, their confidence began to wane—as results rolled in precinct by precinct, state by state. Trump captured Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. Clinton’s chances of gaining a plurality in the Electoral College were shrinking as her firewall in states like Michigan and Wisconsin turned out to be more brittle than impenetrable. Worse still was Pennsylvania, a reliably Democratic swing state suddenly turning Republican red. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing on the map. They buried their heads in their hands, wiped away patches of sweat pooling along their brow and muttered inaudibly.

“This is bullshit!” a woman yelled as she turned away from the screen.

“This does not look good,” another woman offered. “This is scary!”

Unsure of what to make of the projections, Democrats whipped out their smartphones to seek advice, and maybe even a measure of hope, from The New York Times and FiveThirtyEight’s real-time forecast. The Times had predicted an 84-percent chance of a Clinton win, but then its forecast swung dramatically to Trump’s side. After midnight, the site said his chances of winning were greater than 60 percent.

It couldn’t be happening, but it was. Right before their eyes. Their dreams of victory were turning into a nightmare. Despondent local party leaders, their families and friends, along with campaign volunteers all stood watching while a GOP wave defiantly swept across the United States. Those gathered in Westbury were so desperate for good news—anything—that they cheered exuberantly when CNN called California for Clinton, a no-brainer. But on a night filled with surprises, nothing was a sure thing.

Trump, the man accused of trafficking in fear, racism, sexism and anti-Muslim rhetoric, was heading toward a remarkable victory—and the assembled masses could hardly believe it. When the pundits and the media said he couldn’t outlast all the other contestants in the Republican primary, he did. When they said there was no way he could win the White House, he did. Now he’s president-elect Trump.

That’s not how the night was supposed to go. Originally, the party-goers were planning to revel in watching Democrats win their Long Island and state-wide races, but as the hours wore on, their attention was squarely on the White House.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, the host for the evening, made only two appearances the entire night. He didn’t have much to report on the presidential front either time.

“It’s going to be a long night,” Jacobs said, his expression taut. It was the only assurance he would offer.

As the election returns lasted past midnight, the large crowd began to dwindle.

“I’m surprised it’s close—I thought she was a shoe-in,” said a man named Jerry, who didn’t want to give his last name.

Among the few dozen people still remaining around 1 a.m. were three Democratic volunteers sitting on the floor, unable to hide the pain on their faces. It was a look shared by many Clinton supporters at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City, the site of their candidate’s election night party, when the cable network cut to them.

One 23-year-old volunteer watched the outcome in Westbury, and said that the unfavorable results revealed how “powerless we are.” He also observed how disconnected urban areas are from rural America.

“It shows we are not a country united,” he said.

The volunteer then tried to take a realistic view about why the electorate had rejected Clinton.

“People look for something to blame,” he said, noting that a lot of people in middle-America have lost jobs since the Great Recession. “They’re kind of left out to dry.”

“We didn’t think for a second that the other side could be so powerful,” added another campaign worker.

Around 1:30 in the morning Westbury Manor had mostly cleared out. There were only a handful of stragglers. By that point, there was nothing really left for Democrats to see. Their candidate had suffered a decisive defeat. Hillary Clinton would not make history as the first American woman president.

The election was over.

Clinton Concedes: ‘Donald Trump is going to be our President’

hillary clinton concedes

Hillary Clinton conceded the presidential election to her bitter rival Donald Trump Wednesday morning, telling supporters gathered at The New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan that the Constitution “enshrines a peaceful transition of power” and offering to work with her opponent on behalf of uniting the country.

Just before noon Clinton emerged publicly for the first time since her election night defeat had become official. She was wearing a black pantsuit with purple lapels—perhaps her own way of demanding that a deeply fractured America of red and blue states come together.

It was a speech that the Clinton camp probably prepared for but never actually anticipated she’d ever have to deliver. In the hours leading up to the election the polls almost unanimously pointed to a Clinton victory—many by large margins, some by more narrow ones. In the end, the majority of these polls were alarmingly wrong, failing to properly grasp the level of discontent among white voters who felt abandoned by the political class.

Standing on stage with her husband, President Bill Clinton, and her running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va), Clinton told an audience that included many of her closest confidantes: “We must accept this result and look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.

“This is not the outcome we wanted or worked so hard for, and I’m sorry that we did not win this election, for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country,” Clinton said, choking back a tear or two.

“You represent the best of America,” she continued, “and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”

Clinton acknowledged the disappointment felt by millions of supporters, singling out women and young girls who saw her candidacy as the first legitimate opportunity to break the proverbial glass ceiling since the 19th Amendment had granted them the right to vote in 1920.

“We need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives,” Clinton urged them.

“And to all the women, and especially the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” she said. “I know we still have not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will.”

Despite the excruciating loss, Clinton called upon her followers to push forward and fight for causes that matter.

“Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time,” she said. “So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the cause and values we all hold dear: making our economy work for everybody, not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet, and breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams.

“We spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of the country to say with one voice: We believe the American Dream is big enough for everyone.”

The former U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration said she called Trump at around 3 a.m. Wednesday to congratulate him.

President Barack Obama had done the same.

Just after 12 p.m., he stood in the Rose Garden with the sun shining on his face. Joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Obama talked about the importance of a peaceful transition of power and instructed his team to follow the example of his predecessor, George W. Bush, whom he praised.

“The presidency and the vice presidency are bigger than any of us,” he said, adding that a peaceful transition is one of the “hallmarks of our democracy.”

During the election, Obama had talked about his hope that he would be passing the baton to Clinton, who could move his agenda forward. Now he’ll have to hand over the powers of the presidency to the same man who built his political career by challenging the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency. Trump had propagated the falsehood that Obama was not born in this country. Trump continued to question Obama’s birth, even after Obama produced his Hawaii birth certificate.

Obama said he hopes that his Republican successor will follow through on his promise that he’ll be a president for all Americans.

“We all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens,” Obama said.

What’s next for Clinton is unclear. She did not hint at what the future holds for her; instead, she rallied her supporters to carry on.

“Don’t grow weary,” she told them. “There is more work to do.”

(Photo credit: Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America/flickr)

Schumer Wins 4th Term, Ascension to Senate Majority Leader Hangs in Balance

charles schumer
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sailed to victory Tuesday night to secure a fourth term in office, allowing the veteran lawmaker to squarely focus on a slew of competitive races nationwide that could flip the power of the Senate in Democrats’ favor.

Schumer, the third-ranking Democratic Senator, defeated his Republican challenger, Wendy Long, a Massachusetts native and litigator from New York City, according to the Associated Press.

New York’s senior U.S. Senator is in line to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the current minority leader in the Senate. But if Democrats can win four of the 34 seats up for grab—nine of which are hotly contested—and Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the White House, then his party would regain control, making him the majority leader. (In this scenario, Democrats and Republicans would be tied, but a Vice President Tim Kaine would tip the scale as the president of the Senate.)

Even if Clinton loses, Democrats could gain control by winning five seats.

If Democrats recapture the Senate and hold on to the White House, then New York would boast two of the three highest-ranking positions in government.

The Brooklyn-born Schumer, 65, has come along way. Despite his powerful status in Washington, D.C., he prefers to appear like a fighter for the working-man. Schumer is notorious for holding Sunday news conference addressing local issues. Even so, he’s often called upon to douse flames in the nation’s capital and furiously take on Republicans.

At least publicly, Schumer has not made his potential ascension a hallmark of his re-election bid.

When asked about potentially joining up with a president from New York—which hasn’t happened since Franklin Eleanor Roosevelt was in the White House—would mean for the state, he demurred this summer in an interview with a Press reporter.

“There was a lot of attention during the primaries about ‘New York values,’” he said, referring to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) off-putting remarks during his bid for the GOP nomination. “And all I know about that is the New York values I learned from my father, a World War II vet who ran a small exterminator business, and my mother, a loving homemaker; we’re all about hard work, caring about your neighbors and doing well in school and in life. I happen to think those values are universal and play nicely on the national stage, too.”

According to an NBC News analysis, all but one of the competitive Senate races are concentrated in states where Republican incumbents swept to victory during the rise of the Tea Party in 2010 and are for the first time up for re-election.

The races in Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Illinois could come down to how well candidates at the top-of-the-ticket fair in those respective states. Several races are in competitive swing states of Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Schumer accomplished his goal, but voters outside New York will decide whether he and his fellow Democrats wrestle control of the Senate.

hofstra transfer day today
hofstra transfer day today