BALCONY - Business and Labor Coalition of New York

NYSUT Allowed to Intervene in Tenure Case

October 14th, 2014

leg. gazette

By KEITH J. FERRANTE, Gazette staff writer

October 14, 2014
State Supreme Court Justice Philip Minardo has granted a motion by the New York State United Teachers to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the state’s tenure law.

NYSUT’s motion gives teachers the opportunity to defend the state’s tenure law by allowing seven teachers from upstate school districts to serve as defendants in the case. The legal filing states the plaintiffs want to “eviscerate laws” that protect teachers from arbitrary dismissal.

The lawsuit is a consolidation of two separate cases filed earlier this year: Davids v. New York and Wright v. New York.

Both cases are related to a landmark court decision handed down in June by California state Judge Rolf Treu in the case Vergara v. California. He decided that California’s tenure rules impacted how teachers were hired and fired in a disproportionate manner, and this ultimately affected how poor students and minority students performed, thus depriving them of their right to an equal education under state law.

Shortly after the decision, two similar lawsuits was filed in New York. Before their consolidation, the two cases made similar arguments against ineffective teachers.

In Davids v. New York, New York City Parents Union President Mona Davids and Vice President Sam Pirozzolo are plaintiffs against the state, effectively making the same argument as Vergara v. California, that students are being negatively affected by statutes preventing the removal of ineffective teachers from the classroom.

In Wright v. New York, seven families are plaintiffs including Keoni Wright. Wright, the father of twin daughters, noticed a difference in the way his daughters were being educated by different teachers in the same school. The lawsuit challenges statutes that “confer permanent employment, prevent the removal of ineffective teachers from the classroom, and mandate that layoffs be based on seniority alone, rather than effectiveness.” The case was supported by the advocacy organization, Partnership for Educational Justice, which was founded by former CNN correspondent Campbell Brown.

NYSUT President Karen Magee said “Tenure is an important safeguard to ensuring children receive a quality education by enabling teachers to speak out in the best interest of their students. Tenure is also a critical safeguard to ensuring all students have an effective teacher, protecting academic freedom and providing educators an environment in which they do not have to be in constant fear of unfair firing.”

The group of seven teachers defending the tenure laws include past and present winners of the state’s Teachers of the Year award. Ashli Skura Dreher, who was the 2014 winner, said “My students are the beneficiaries of my many years of hard work and professional development. I could not have attained this mastery without the job security afforded by the tenure and seniority laws.”

The state is represented by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in the case.

NYSUT is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

AQE Is Setting the Record Straight on School Funding

October 10th, 2014

Report Finds State Democrats Fought and Won More Aid for Schools
Tell Senator Skelos to Stop Republican Claims that They are the Champions for Schools

AQE is setting the record straight on upstate school funding aid.

Senate Republicans have been caught sending campaign flyers to voters claiming to deliver school aid funding. The mailings also imply that Senate Democrats are ignoring the needs of upstate schools.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

A new report released by the Alliance for Quality Education, Upstate School Aid: Setting the Record Straight, shows that Senate Democrats actually fought for and won more than two and a half times as much school aid as the Republicans proposed.
To read the report, click here.

The truth is that the Senate Democrats fought and won an additional $312 million for art and music classes, school libraries, guidance counselors and kindergarten. These programs were actually saved from the chopping block this year.

Tell Senate Majority Leader Dean Skellos to stop claiming that Republicans are the champions for public schools.

Because of chronic underfunding, New York State now owes its public schools $5.9 billion. Schools in every region — upstate and downstate — are owed substantial amounts of state aid.

But in the last state budget, the Republican-led Senate Majority coalition still tried to undercut public schools and funnel money to privately run charter schools.

New Yorkers can no longer wait for a state government that fully and fairly funds our schools. Good schools are in jeopardy.

Thank you,

Billy Easton
Executive Director
Alliance for Quality Education

About AQE
The Alliance for Quality Education is a coalition mobilizing communities across the state to keep New York true to its promise of ensuring a high quality public education to all students regardless of zip code, income or race. Combining its legislative and policy expertise with grassroots organizing, AQE advances proven-to-work strategies that lead to student success and echo a powerful public demand for a high quality education.
www.aqeny.org

Experts Address Concerns Of City Small Business Owners

July 16th, 2014

By Azure Gilman

Aiming to raise awareness about various business growth strategies and how to navigate potentially onerous new regulations, a panel of experts at City & State’s “On Small Business” event Tuesday weighed in on the concerns of small business owners fighting to stay relevant in a competitive climate.

The event, co-sponsored by CAN Capital, focused specifically on the challenges facing New York City’s small business community, and the panel reflected a mix of representatives from the city and state government, as well as the private sector: Steve Cohen, the executive vice president and deputy commissioner of Empire State Development; City Councilman Robert Cornegy, the chair of the Council’s Small Business Committee; Julie Menin, commissioner of the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs; and Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

Maria Torres-Springer, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services kicked off the event with brief remarks, pointing out that small businesses represent nearly 95 percent of all businesses in the city, and employ nearly half of the private sector workforce. Torres-Springer also ran through a list of new initiatives from the de Blasio administration that included a new tech talent pipeline, the creation of the Jobs for New Yorkers task force, a business mentorship program, and a craft entrepreneur program in Spanish, as well as more aggressive outreach to immigrant communities.

The subject of outreach to small business owners came up again during the panel discussion, with Cornegy explaining that despite the renewed engagement efforts from the city, he has found anecdotally that some small businesses are still left in the dark.

“What I found in my tenure is that there are great services, including access to capital, that businesses don’t know about because they don’t have the capacity to attend all the workshops,” Cornegy said.

Menin, perhaps trying to create distance from the policies of the Bloomberg administration, often criticized as burdensome the myriad regulations pertaining to small businesses, touted the de Blasio administration’s announcement last week of 24 reforms aimed at reducing fines for business violations, and lauded its move to put 41 inspector checklists online so that people can see what is expected of them.

But fines are not the only concern small businesses have to worry about. The panel was asked whether major legislative initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act and the city’s recently passed Paid Sick Leave, while well-intentioned, might negatively impact the health of small businesses. Cornegy, who voted in favor of Paid Sick Leave in the Council, was careful to qualify his enthusiastic support for the bill by communicating the concerns that he has heard from businesses owners.

“In and of itself [Paid Sick Leave] is a great opportunity to support workers,” Cornegy said. “But also coupled with the Affordable Care Act, [it] can potentially put a constraint on businesses for growth and development. We want to make sure there is not an unintended consequence for these great programs.”

Cornegy added that the particular concerns he heard from business owners were regarding accounting and record keeping for sick days. Addressing that apprehension, Menin said that mediation would be the first resort for any sick leave disputes between business owners and employees.

The prospect of an additional increase to the city’s minimum wage, potentially to as high as $13 an hour, is another legislative change that unnerves some small business owners. While Menin stood steadfastly behind the de Blasio administration’s call for higher wages to tackle a widening income equality gap, her co-panelists said that such a sudden, major change could be harmful to businesses.

“There’s only so much that business can afford,” Rigie said. “We did not support the recent increase in minimum wage,” he added, using the restaurant business as an example of an industry where wage scales are applied differently because of tips.

Cornegy supported the idea of an increase in minimum wage but only if it is done responsibly, and incrementally, over a period of time, and cited a fact that reflected a sobering reality in a city that is becoming more costly for the ordinary consumer.

“Even $13 an hour, if someone told you that allowed them to survive in this city, that would not be true,” he said.

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The Women’s Equality Act Is Not Forgotten

May 7th, 2014

When I think about the 10-point Women’s Equality Act, I find it hard to understand why it is difficult to pass these common sense bills in a progressive state like New York. The women of this state deserve to have their basic, fundamental rights recognized and confirmed by the state government and not treated as just political issues.

In the past, Albany has tackled 10-point Women’s Equality Act (WEA), I controversial legislation by tying multiple, often unrelated initiatives together in a comprehensive package sometimes labeled the “Big Ugly.” Policies ranging from the property tax cap to rent control regulations have all been deemed important enough to be included in these omnibus bills, ensuring that they’ll pass by giving politicians on both sides of the aisle something they want.

The governor and the Assembly embraced this often successful strategy with the Women’s Equality Act. However, the Republican/IDC leadership refused to follow this pattern and broke the WEA apart—ultimately failing to pass what the governor had presented and the Assembly approved.

The failure to pass the entire 10-point package is particularly troubling because the people of New York State overwhelmingly support all 10 of the issues addressed in the Women’s Equality Act. This legislation includes provisions that ensure women will receive equal pay for equal work and recognizes that pay inequality continues to hold New York’s economy back. The WEA would end multiple forms of inequity that women face, including family status, pregnancy discrimination and source-of-income discrimination.

The Women’s Equality Act would also combat sexual harassment in the workplace, strengthen human trafficking laws and provide greater protections for victims of domestic violence. But what has held up the entire package is a political fight over the last point of the WEA, a simple codification of the federal choice provisions into New York State law.

Republican opposition to the 10th point of the Women’s Equality Act is all the more shocking when we recognize that New York actually decriminalized abortion in 1970, prior to federal law, passing choice legislation through the Republican-controlled Senate with 12 Republican senators joining most of their Democratic colleagues in favor of this initiative.

That today not a single Senate Republican would vote for a simple codification of federal choice provisions is distressing. But the fact that this attitude is supported by the Senate Leadership, allowing the entire 10-point Women’s Equality Act to be held up in the State Senate, is inexcusable.

The fact remains that the majority of New Yorkers are women, even though the leadership in Albany does not reflect that. Clearly women’s rights, health and equality transcends the boundaries of partisan politics.


State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the leader of the state Senate Democratic Conference.

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Ask the Expert: Coffee and Health

April 29th, 2014

by Dr. Rob van Dam

Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

The Summary

  • Drinking up to six cups a day of coffee is not associated with increased risk of death from any cause, or death from cancer or cardiovascular disease.
  • Some people may still want to consider avoiding coffee or switching to decaf, especially women who are pregnant, or people who have a hard time controlling their blood pressure or blood sugar.
  • It’s best to brew coffee with a paper filter, to remove a substance that causes increases in LDL cholesterol.
  • Coffee may have potential health benefits, but more research needs to be done.
  • Read more about coffee and tea compared to other beverages.

1. The latest Harvard study on coffee and health seems to offer good news for coffee drinkers. What did the research find?

We looked at the relationship between coffee consumption and overall mortality in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which together included about 130,000 study volunteers. (1) At the start of the study, these healthy men and women were in their 40s and 50s. We followed them for 18 to 24 years, to see who died during that period, and to track their diet and lifestyle habits, including coffee consumption. We did not find any relationship between coffee consumption and increased risk of death from any cause, death from cancer, or death from cardiovascular disease. Even people who drank up to six cups of coffee per day were at no higher risk of death. This finding fits into the research picture that has been emerging over the past few years. For the general population, the evidence suggests that coffee drinking doesn’t have any serious detrimental health effects.

2. So for coffee drinkers, no news is good news? Why is this finding so important?

It’s an important message because people have seen coffee drinking as an unhealthy habit, along the lines of smoking and excessive drinking, and they may make a lot of effort to reduce their coffee consumption or quit drinking it altogether, even if they really enjoy it. Our findings suggest that if you want to improve your health, it’s better to focus on other lifestyle factors, such as increasing your physical activity, quitting smoking, or eating more whole grains.

3. Is there an upper limit for the amount of coffee that is healthy to drink each day?

If you’re drinking so much coffee that you get tremors, have sleeping problems, or feel stressed and uncomfortable, then obviously you’re drinking too much coffee. But in terms of effects on mortality or other health factors, for example, we don’t see any negative effects of consuming up to six cups of coffee a day. Keep in mind that our study and in most studies of coffee, a “cup” of coffee is an 8-ounce cup with 100 mg of caffeine, not the 16 ounces you would get in a grande coffee at a Starbucks, which has about 330 mg of caffeine.

Also keep in mind that the research is typically based on coffee that’s black or with a little milk or sugar, but not with the kind of high-calorie coffeehouse beverages that have become popular over the past few years. A 24-ounce mocha Frappachino at Starbucks with whipped cream has almost 500 calories—that’s 25 percent of the daily calorie intake for someone who requires 2,000 calories a day. People may not realize that having a beverage like that adds so much to their energy intake, and they may not compensate adequately by eating less over the course of the day. This could lead to weight gain over time, which could in turn increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, and that’s a major concern.

4. Is there any research that suggests coffee may have some beneficial health effects?

Yes, research over the past few years suggests that coffee consumption may protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, and liver cirrhosis. And our latest study on coffee and mortality found that people who regularly drank coffee actually had a somewhat lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who rarely drank coffee; this result needs to be confirmed in further studies, however. This is a pretty active area of research right now, and it’s not at the stage where we would say, “Start drinking coffee to increase your health even if you don’t like it.” But I think the evidence is good that for people in general—outside of a few populations, such as pregnant women, or people who have trouble controlling their blood pressure or blood sugar—coffee is one of the good, healthy beverage choices.

5. Why does it seem like scientists keep flip-flopping on whether coffee is bad for you or good for you?

Often people think of coffee just as a vehicle for caffeine. But it’s actually a very complex beverage with hundreds and hundreds of different compounds in it. Since coffee contains so many different compounds, drinking coffee can lead to very diverse health outcomes. It can be good for some things and bad for some things, and that’s not necessarily flip-flopping or inconsistent. Few foods are good for everything. That’s why we do studies on very specific health effects—for example, studies of how coffee affects the risk of diabetes—but we also conduct studies such as this most recent one looking at coffee consumption and mortality over a long period of time, which better reflects the overall health effect.

Coffee is also a bit more complex to study than some other food items. Drinking coffee often goes along together with cigarette smoking, and with a lifestyle that’s not very health conscious. For example, people who drink lots of coffee tend to exercise less. They are less likely to use dietary supplements, and they tend to have a less healthful diet. So in the early studies on coffee and health, it was hard to separate the effects of coffee from the effects of smoking or other lifestyle choices.

Over the several decades that coffee has been studied, there have been some reports that coffee may increase the risk of certain cancers or the risk of heart disease. But in better conducted studies, such as the one we just published—larger studies that have a lot of information about all other lifestyle factors and make a real effort to control for these lifestyle factors—we do not find many of these health effects that people were afraid of.

6. What is the latest research on the risks of coffee or caffeine during pregnancy?

For pregnant women, there has been quite a bit of controversy over whether high intake of coffee or caffeine may increase the risk of miscarriage. The jury is still out. But we know that the caffeine goes through the placenta and reaches the fetus, and that the fetus is very sensitive to caffeine; it metabolizes it very slowly. So for pregnant women it seems prudent to reduce coffee consumption to a low level, for example one cup a day.

7. Should people with high blood pressure consider reducing their coffee or caffeine intake? What about people with diabetes?

We know that if people are not used to using any caffeine, and they start to use caffeine, their blood pressure goes up substantially. Within a week of caffeine consumption, however, we see that the effect is less pronounced—there is less of an increase in blood pressure. After several weeks of continued caffeine consumption, however, a little bit of increase in blood pressure remains. In studies that look at the incidence of hypertension in the general population, drinking caffeinated coffee is not associated with a substantial increase in risk. But if people have hypertension, and are having a hard time controlling their hypertension, they could try switching from caffeinated coffee to decaffeinated coffee, to see if it has a beneficial effect.

With diabetes, it’s a bit of a paradox. Studies around the world consistently show that high consumption of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee is associated with low risk of type 2 diabetes. But if you look at acute studies that just give people caffeine or caffeinated coffee, and then have them eat something rich in glucose, their sensitivity to insulin drops and their blood glucose levels are higher than expected. There isn’t any long-term data on coffee consumption and glucose control. But if people have diabetes and have trouble controlling their blood glucose, it may be beneficial for them to try switching from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee. Making the switch from caffeinated to decaf may be better than quitting coffee altogether, because some research suggests that decaffeinated coffee actually reduces the glucose response.

8. How do you explain the paradoxical findings on coffee and caffeine consumption and diabetes?

It’s possible that there are simply different effects for short-term and long-term intake of coffee and caffeine. And, as I mentioned before, it’s becoming increasingly clear that coffee is much more than caffeine, and the health effects that you see for caffeinated coffee are often different than what you would expect based on its caffeine content.

For example, if you look at exercise performance, it seems that caffeine can be somewhat beneficial, but caffeinated coffee is not. Or if you look at blood pressure and compare the effects of caffeinated coffee to the effects of caffeine, you’ll find that caffeinated coffee causes blood pressure increases that are substantially weaker than what one would expect for the amount of caffeine it contains. The same is true for the relationship between coffee, caffeine, and blood glucose after a meal. It’s possible that there are compounds in coffee that may counteract the effect of caffeine, but more research needs to be done.

9.  Is drinking coffee made with a paper filter healthier than drinking boiled coffee or other types of coffee?

Coffee contains a substance called cafestol that is a potent stimulator of LDL cholesterol levels. Cafestol is found in the oily fraction of coffee, and when you brew coffee with a paper filter, the cafestol gets left behind in the filter. Other methods of coffee preparation, such as the boiled coffee common in Scandinavian countries, French press coffee, or Turkish coffee, are much higher in cafestol. So for people who have high cholesterol levels or who want to prevent having high cholesterol levels, it is better to choose paper filtered coffee or instant coffee, since they have much lower levels of cafestol than boiled or French press coffee. Espresso is somewhere in the middle; it has less cafestol than boiled or French press coffee, but more than paper filtered coffee.

10. Do tea and coffee have similar beneficial effects?

One could expect some of the beneficial effects of coffee to be similar for tea, since some of the compounds are similar. A study in China has found that drinking large quantities of Oolongtea—a liter a day—is beneficial for glycemic control in people with diabetes. But research on tea in the U.S. has not shown the type of beneficial effect we see for coffee, probably because people in the U.S.tend to drink tea that is weaker in strength and tend to drink less of it.

References

1. Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Li TY,Rodriguez-Artalejo F, Hu FB. The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148:904-914. Summary for patients.

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New Rental Housing Landscape Illustrates NYC Rental Housing Trends

April 25th, 2014

More than one million households in New York City are rent-burdened, which means they are paying 30 percent or more of household income on rent, and nearly 600,000 of those households are severely rent-burdened, or paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent, according to the newly released NYU Furman Center/Capital One Affordable Housing Landscape.

The Landscape, an infographic released today by the NYU Furman Center and Capital One, provides a detailed look into rental housing affordability trends in New York City from 2000 to 2012 and illustrates how trends in affordable rental housing affected New Yorkers as rents continued to increase, incomes stagnated, and the share of renters paying a high percentage of their income rose.

The Furman Center’s past research has shown that over half of renter households in New York City are rent burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent and utilities. This study delves more deeply into recent trends in rent levels, rent burdens, affordable units, and the gap between the number of low-income households in need of affordable housing and the number of existing affordable units. This analysis is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, including data from the American Community Survey from 2005 through 2012.

To learn more about the Affordable Rental Housing Landscape, please see the infographic and press release.

Officials ‘air’ their plan differences

April 22nd, 2014

When de Blasio administration officials met at City Hall recently to hear a pitch about spurring development in a city where affordable, vacant land is scarce, two top mayoral aides were in their element: Both had promulgated proposals to harness the unused development capacity of landmarked buildings—their “air rights”—to do so.

But their prescriptions, prepared before they joined the administration, were markedly different.

Vicki Been, the commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, argued that landmarked buildings should be allowed to sell their air rights not only to adjacent buildings, but also to nearby properties facing wide streets.

The proposal advanced by Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the City Planning Commission, was far more aggressive: It would permit the transfer of air rights clear across town, even to other boroughs.

Any differences in opinion within Mayor Bill de Blasio’s team should be smoothed out by May 1, when his housing policy is expected to be unveiled. To be sure, Mr. Weisbrod’s report does not necessarily reflect his personal view; it was authored on behalf of a private client, Landrex, which wants to be an intermediary in the sale of air rights between landmarked buildings and buyers.

‘Flexibility and fairness’

Ms. Been’s plan, released in March, was done for her previous employer, the Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy, a joint research center of NYU’s Law School and its Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. It called for a formulation “intended to balance flexibility and fairness, by defining a reasonably large recipient area … while ensuring that unused development rights are not transferred” to a neighborhood with a different character.

Buyers of air rights would bypass the bureaucratic slog of obtaining a discretionary “special permit,” but would have to build some affordable housing. The proposal could create 66,000 affordable and market-rate units, according to the report.

As the de Blasio administration crafts its proposal to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, the mayor has signaled his approval for allowing higher-density development. Selling air rights from landmarked buildings is one untapped source. Indeed, an estimated 28% of Manhattan properties are landmarked or in historic districts (where landmarked buildings cannot sell air rights under current rules), according to a study last year by the Real Estate Board of New York.

“The old adage ‘Buy land, they’re not making it anymore’ doesn’t apply to air rights,” said Kenneth Fisher, a lobbyist and land-use attorney who partnered on the Weisbrod report and presented its findings at the City Hall meeting. “So as Bill de Blasio’s team tries to scope out its housing and economic development policies, air rights will be part of the conversation.”

The policy Mr. Fisher pitched would deliver $600 million to owners of landmarked buildings (many of which are religious organizations and nonprofits), $800 million in real estate taxes and $40 billion in economic spending over 30 years, according to the report, authored several years ago during Mr. Weisbrod’s time as a partner at consulting firm HR&A.

Open to alterations

In contrast with Ms. Been’s proposal, the rights would be sold only in commercial zones with 20% floor-area bonuses already in place. Those bonuses mean that allowances for further development already have been approved.

Buildings outside historic districts but designated as landmarks are currently allowed to sell their air rights to nearby buildings that have hit their zoning limits. Such arrangements allow the buyers to build upward while providing landmarked buildings cash to maintain their properties.

In practice, though, landmarked buildings have almost never been able to sell their air rights because of burdensome geographical restrictions and red tape. The issue came to the fore last year during the failed midtown east rezoning plan, when St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Bartholomew’s Church and Central Synagogue wanted more flexibility to sell their 2 million square feet of air rights, which could fetch hundreds of millions of dollars.

Whether the de Blasio policy leans toward the approach outlined in Ms. Been’s report or Mr. Weisbrod’s proposal, opposition should be expected. Neighborhood groups and preservationists will likely maintain that it will crowd the city with skyscrapers, despite efforts in both plans to build upward only in areas appropriate for such development.

The Weisbrod-affiliated proposal, as written, would not generate much if any affordable housing, as the report’s authors say they weren’t looking to compete with the city’s inclusionary zoning program. But their plan was developed during the Bloomberg administration, and Mr. Fisher said he would be open to altering it for the new administration, which has made affordable housing the measure by which it judges nearly all development proposals.

“We wanted to test the concept by focusing on commercial districts,” Mr. Fisher said, “but there’s probably a way to include a housing component.”

The City Hall meeting also included a top aide to Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, who has been tasked with delivering a housing policy that accomplishes the mayor’s goals. What she produces could be amended in the coming months amid lobbying and political pressure from the real estate industry, affordable-housing advocates and activists of all stripes.

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For Diabetics, Health Risks Fall Sharply

April 17th, 2014

BY SABRINA TAVERNISE AND DENISE GRADY

Rates of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and amputations dropped over the past two decades, federal researchers said.

Federal researchers on Wednesday reported the first broad national picture of progress against some of the most devastating complications of diabetes, which affects millions of Americans, finding that rates of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and amputations fell sharply over the past two decades.

The biggest declines were in the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar, which dropped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 2010, the period studied. While researchers had had patchy indications that outcomes were improving for diabetic patients in recent years, the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, documents startling gains.

“This is the first really credible, reliable data that demonstrates that all of the efforts at reducing risk have paid off,” said Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in the study. “Given that diabetes is the chronic epidemic of this millennium, this is a very important finding.”

The number of Americans with diabetes more than tripled over the period of the study and is now nearly 26 million. Nearly all the increase came from Type 2 diabetes, which is often related to obesity and is the more common form of the disease. An additional 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which means they are at high risk of developing the disease.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who wrote the study, estimate that diabetes and its complications account for about $176 billion in medical costs every year. The study measured outcomes for both Type 1 and Type 2.

Researchers said the declines were the fruit of years of efforts to improve the health of patients with Type 2 diabetes. Doctors are much better now at controlling the risk factors that can lead to complications — for example, using medications to control blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure — health experts said. What is more, a widespread push to educate patients has improved how they look after themselves. And a major effort among health care providers to track the progress of diabetes patients and help steer the ones who are getting off track has started to have an effect.

“These results are very impressive,” said Dr. K. M. Venkat Narayan, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Emory University, who specializes in diabetes and was not involved in the study. “There is strong evidence that we’re implementing better care for patients with diabetes. Awareness has increased tremendously, and there’s been a great deal of emphasis on coordinated care in health care settings.”

Edward W. Gregg, a senior epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the lead author of the study, said researchers used four federal data sets — the National Health Interview Survey, the National Hospital Discharge Survey, the United States Renal Data System, and Vital Statistics — over a 20-year period to give a comprehensive picture of diabetes outcomes.

Dr. Gregg said the study relied on large sample sizes, including hundreds of thousands of diabetics who had heart attacks, and thousands who died from high blood sugar.

“This is the first time we’ve put the full spectrum together over a long period of time,” Dr. Gregg said. He pointed out that heart attacks, which used to be the most common complication by far, had dropped down to the level of stroke, which also fell.

“We were a bit surprised by the magnitude of the decrease in heart attack and stroke,” he said.

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Beyond the declines in the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar, the study found that the rates of strokes and lower extremity amputations — including upper and lower legs, ankles, feet, and toes — fell by about half. Rates for end-stage kidney failure dropped by about 30 percent. The study did not measure blindness, another critical diabetes complication.

Dr. Gregg cautioned, however, that the number of Americans with diabetes continued to rise. “We have to find a way to replicate these successes, to transfer that knowledge into preventing the disease to begin with,” he said.

The declines in rates of complications began around 1995 and continued gradually, but steadily, over time, the data show. What drove the outcomes varied by the complication, Dr. Gregg said. Improved blood sugar control has made a difference, especially in reducing the rate of amputations and end-stage kidney disease. Declines in smoking and the rising use of statins to lower cholesterol and of other medications to control blood pressure contributed to the declines in heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers noted that heart attacks had declined substantially for the general population as well, where the same factors were at work. But while people without diabetes saw a 31 percent decline since 1990, those with it experienced a 68 percent drop.

Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, attributed much of the improvement to a change in the approach to treatment. Doctors are putting more emphasis on controlling blood pressure and cholesterol — major risk factors for heart disease and strokes — than on lowering blood sugar, he said.

Because cardiovascular disease is what kills most people with diabetes, this shifting priority seems to have paid off. Dr. Zonszein said that certain blood pressure drugs, not available in the past, help protect the kidneys and had helped prevent or at least postpone kidney failure for many patients.

And doctors are paying closer attention. Dr. Narayan ticked off questions about diabetes patients that are now routine in many health care settings: “What proportion of your patients turn up for regular appointments? What proportion of your patients has at least one eye exam a year? What proportion of your patients has good control of glucose, blood pressure and lipids?”

Despite the progress, experts said there were still too many people with severe complications, often because they do not take care of the disease. People with Type 2 need to check their blood sugar regularly, take medications and watch their diet.

“Really, we have two worlds,” said Dr. Zonszein, explaining that educated patients tend to manage diabetes well. “Then we have the other world,” which is far more likely to ignore diabetes until its devastating complications set in, “maybe because of social issues, language issues, access to health care, economic issues.”

Dr. Nathan said that though the study shows that the average person with diabetes faces far lower risks for complications, the broader society still confronts a growing epidemic.

“There’s nothing else in the world that’s increasing as fast as the rate of diabetes,” he said. “As a society, we are still facing an enormous burden.”

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“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta

March 17th, 2014

(March 17, 2014)  New York — The Jewish Labor Committee is pleased to report that a resolution we cosponsored in support Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage  to $10.10, as well as raising the wage of tipped workers, was passed by an overwhelming majority of 250 delegates, from 60 groups across the United States, at the annual conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, meeting one week ago in Atlanta, GA.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, noted that passage of the resolution on the minimum wage is part of a broader campaign that must be waged community by community, and across the United States

“The Torah provides the moral imperative:  `Justice, justice shall you pursue.’ In practical terms, that means that we should support a just minimum wage – a wage that will enable working people to support themselves and survive in our society.  And we must partner with others to ensure it happens.

“We in the Jewish Labor Committee are proud to be part of this campaign, whether federally or in New Jersey or Washington DC or Massachusetts, or Los Angeles.  Raising the minimum wage is crucial to reversing the massive income inequality in the United States.  We encourage the wider community to join us in this struggle. It’s the right and just thing to do.”

Additional resolutions passed at the recent JCPA gathering, sponsored by or otherwise supported by the Jewish Labor Committee, concerned* Government Support for Public Higher Education , Combating Human Trafficking , European Anti-Semitism , Reproductive Health , Inclusion and Disabilities, and International LGBT Discrimination .

The JCPA encompasses a network of 15 national and 125 local independent Jewish community relations agencies. The Jewish Labor Committee is a founding member of the JCPA.

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The Jewish Labor Committee, an independent organization, is the voice of the Jewish community in the labor movement and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community. Whether through its national office in New York or local offices and lay-led groups across the United States, the JLC enables the Jewish community and the trade union movement to work together on important issues of shared interest and concern, in pursuit of our shared commitment to economic and social justice.

 

* For copies of any of these resolutions, write to info@jewishlabor.org

 

New York Women’s Equality Coalition Applauds Assembly for Passing Women’s Equality Agenda

January 28th, 2014

January 27, 2014 – The New York Women’s Equality coalition is pleased that our legislature has taken the first step in making the Women’s Equality Agenda a reality in New York this year, and we applaud the Assembly Democrats, Speaker Silver, and all those members who voted yes today, for putting women’s equality at the top of their 2014 agenda. Today, the New York State Assembly built on its longstanding commitment to New York’s women and girls by passing the full Women’s Equality Agenda, first introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo. By moving swiftly to prioritize the package of legislation, which was proposed last year and did not become law, the Assembly has made it crystal clear that women’s lives are a priority. Strong majorities of New York voters agree: eighty-nine percent think equal pay for women should be a high priority and 80 percent support updating New York’s abortion law. Despite this overwhelming public support, the State Senate failed to vote on the full Women’s Equality Agenda last year.

The New York Women’s Equality Coalition will continue to advocate until every single measure becomes the law of our state: equal pay, access to reproductive health, and freedom from discrimination and violence are all essential to women’s equality. We cannot let politics stand in the way of women’s lives. The ten million women of New York and their families deserve immediate action to see this legislation enacted this year.

 

Learn more at nywomensequality.org
Facebook.com/nywomensequalityTwitter.com/NY4Women

Video: http://bit.ly/HICp2f | #UpgradeNY | #WEAreStrong

The NYWEC Steering Committee is comprised of the following organizations:

A Better Balance; AAUW-NYS;

Family Planning Advocates of NYS;

League of Women Voters NYS;

 National Organization for Women – NYC;

New York Civil Liberties Union, NYS AFL-CIO;

NYS Anti-Trafficking Coalition;

 NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence;

NYWA/Equal Pay Coalition NYC;

Planned Parenthood Advocates of NY; Sanctuary for Families; YWCAs of New York State