Monday, July 6, 2015

New York to Crack Down on High-Interest Lending to Military Service Members

Cuomo Administration Closing Loophole that Allowed Lenders to Make Loans at More than Double New York’s Interest Rate Caps 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a crackdown on high-interest loans made to military servicemembers by closing the "Fort Drum Loophole." That loophole – predicated on a previous 2005 determination by the New York State Banking Department – had allowed companies to make unlicensed loans that were in some cases more than double New York State's interest rate caps to servicemembers who were stationed in New York but were not permanent New York residents. The Cuomo Administration is formally reversing that 2005 determination administratively effective July 6, 2015.

“Jacking up the interest rates on loans made to military servicemembers to make a greater profit is simply unacceptable, and it will not be tolerated in the state of New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “This action will help protect military servicemembers and their families from predatory lending, and companies should know that we will not hesitate to crack down on bad actors.”

Governor Cuomo announced his intention to close the Fort Drum Loophole as part of his 2015 Opportunity Agenda. In the following months, Omni Military Lending, after discussions with the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), agreed that all loans to servicemembers stationed in New York would now be made through an entity licensed by DFS, Omni Financial of New York, Inc., in compliance with New York’s usury and licensed lender laws. Omni had been making loans in New York at interest rates of up to 36 percent – despite a New York State interest rate cap of 16 percent on such loans or 25 percent interest for certain licensed lenders.

The NYDFS sent a letter to Omni today acknowledging the company's agreement and providing guidance to all military lenders that loans made to servicemembers stationed in New York should be made in compliance with New York’s interest rate caps, thereby closing the Fort Drum loophole.

While Omni lends through a store front entity in Evans Mills, NY near Fort Drum, the Governor’s administration will also be cracking down on illegal online lending by military lenders to servicemembers stationed in New York in the weeks and months to come. In recent years, NYDFS has taken a series of actions to stop illegal, high-interest online lending – particularly payday lending – over the internet.

A copy of the NYDFS letter sent closing the Fort Drum loophole can be viewed here.

Cuomo: Solar Growth of More Than 300 Percent from 2011 to 2014 in New York State

All Regions See Triple-Digit Growth of Clean, Cost-Effective Solar Power to Lower Costs for Residential Customers and Businesses

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today the growth of solar in New York State has increased more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2014, which is twice the rate of U.S. solar growth overall. The significant increase affirms the value of Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy – which includes the $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative – to build a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers.

“The Empire State is rapidly becoming a leader in clean energy technology, and that means greener and more sustainable communities for all New Yorkers,” Governor Cuomo said. “Through the $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative, we’re making solar a reality in virtually every corner of the state and building a brighter future today. I am proud to see New York pulling well ahead of the national average for the growing solar industry, and look forward to seeing that momentum continue in the years to come.”

As part of Reforming the Energy Vision, the $1 billion NY-Sun initiative is significantly expanding the use of solar throughout New York as it becomes a sustainable, subsidy-free industry already supporting thousands of jobs.

A total of 314.48 megawatts of solar electric was installed as of December 2014 across the state, equivalent to powering more than 51,000 homes. The substantial growth is attributed to a combination of factors, including the NY-Sun initiative, decline in solar electric component prices, and growth in the number of installer businesses marketing solar electric directly to consumers.

"Reforming the Energy Vision is already working to increase access for more and more New Yorkers to realize the benefits of local, clean energy," said Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York. "New York State’s booming solar industry is driven by individual and community interest in cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy, and Reforming the Energy Vision and NY-Sun are making it easier for businesses to meet this growing demand."

Solar capacity tripled, quadrupled or quintupled in every region of the state other than Long Island, which has more installations than any other region. In addition, numbers of projects at least doubled in every region. The largest increase in percentage of megawatts was in the North Country, followed by the Finger Lakes, Central New York and New York City.

The following shows the percentage increase of megawatts (MW) of solar capacity and projects installed in each region across the state from 2011 to 2014:

Region MW Installed Increase Projects Installed Increase
Capital Region 500% 240%
Central New York 519% 299%
Finger Lakes 533% 193%
Long Island 154% 122%
Mid-Hudson 421% 296%
Mohawk Valley 475% 365%
New York City 516% 548%
North Country 573% 153%
Southern Tier 486% 144%
Western New York 216% 171%

In addition, as of May 2015, more than 304 MW of solar photovoltaic was under contract, not yet installed, with an additional 65.6 MW of applications accepted, not yet contracted.

Maps showing megawatts of solar capacity for counties in each region and a chart showing pre-NY-Sun versus post-NY-Sun figures can be found here

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar energy is the fastest growing energy technology in the United States today:

Solar capacity grew in the US by 146 percent from 2011 to 2014.

    Installed solar photovoltaic system prices in the United States have dropped steadily – by 8 percent from 2013 to 2014 and 49 percent from 2010.

    There are currently more than 538 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in New York, employing more than 7,000 people.

    New York State ranked 7th in the country for installed photovoltaic capacity in 2014, up from 9th a year earlier, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“This exceptional solar growth demonstrates that New York State is doing what needs to be done to scale-up this renewable resource and move toward a sustainable solar industry,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO of NYSERDA. “NYSERDA will continue to build on this momentum and work toward Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy to create a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers.”

An important pillar of Reforming the Energy Vision is the proposed Clean Energy Fund, a $5 billion investment over the next ten years in clean energy programs. The Clean Energy Fund encompasses four portfolios: Market Development, Innovation and Research, NY Green Bank and NY-Sun.

In 2014, the Governor made a historic commitment of nearly $1 billion to NY-Sun in order to significantly expand deployment of solar capacity throughout the state and transform New York’s solar industry to a sustainable, incentive-free sector. NY-Sun involves deploying public funds in a strategic manner to drive industry to scale and reduce burdens on ratepayers. It provides support for solar projects and uses a proven Megawatt Block system approach that is responsive to market conditions, allowing the solar market in each region of the state to grow at its own pace. It also includes support for work to decrease balance-of-system costs (everything except the cost of solar modules and inverters) through streamlined permitting, reduced acquisition costs and training of code officials and first responders.

Additional efforts under NY-Sun, such a Community Solar NY and K-Solar, are also helping homeowners, small businesses and schools throughout the State gain greater access to clean energy through economies of scale from soliciting bids for multiple projects at one time.

Kevin Bailey, Owner, High Peaks Solar in Wynantskill: "The growth of my PV installation company has been tremendous over the past seven years, and we have been nearly doubling or tripling our growth in sales and installation capacity every year over the past five years. Thanks to Governor Cuomo's NY-Sun initiative, the price of photovoltaic technology, including solar modules and inverters, has been rapidly decreasing. This has led to increased access to more people and more work for installation companies like High Peaks Solar."

Gordon Woodcock, Renewables Department Manager, Taitem Engineering in Ithaca “Taitem Engineering's Renewables Department has more than doubled in size over the past year thanks to support through the NY-Sun initiative; low-cost, accessible financing through Green Jobs-Green New York; and innovative customer outreach programs such as Solar Tompkins and Solarize Southern Tier. We have added technical staff, sales and marketing professionals, and experienced contractors while also training entry level installers. Our diversity hiring initiatives have supported this growth, and shown that the renewable energy industry provides opportunity for our entire community.”

Jeff Irish, Founder and President, Hudson Solar in Rhinebeck and Albany, said, “As an entirely New York based solar design and installation company, we’ve benefited greatly from the NY-Sun initiative. Our Capital District and Hudson Valley solar installations and employment have both been growing at double digit annual rates recently. Hudson Solar’s mission is to help our region move to a better energy future, and we’re continuing to invest in our business and our experienced local team to do so.”

Adam K. Rizzo, President, Solar Liberty in Buffalo, said, “Solar Liberty has continued to rapidly grow and add employees because of the NY-Sun initiative. This year, we plan to install more residential and commercial systems than anytime in Solar Liberty’s history. We are proud to be partnered with NYSERDA since our company’s inception in 2003 and look forward to continuing to expand our business in New York State.”
Under Governor Cuomo’s initiative for Reforming the Energy Vision, New York State will spur clean energy innovation, bring in new investments, improve consumer choice while protecting the environment and energize New York’s economy. This pioneering approach provides New Yorkers new opportunities for energy savings, local power generation, and enhanced reliability. 

To achieve the State’s economic development and environmental objectives, Reforming the Energy Vision encompasses statewide initiatives such as the Clean Energy Fund and $1 billion NY Green Bank to overcome market barriers and attract private capital. By empowering communities and creating jobs through programs like Community Solar NY and K-Solar for schools, the $40 million NY-Prize competition for community microgrids and the $1 billion NY-Sun initiative, New York is leveraging statewide resources to integrate local energy resources and meet the needs of New York communities.
For more information on Reforming the Energy Vision, visit

U.S.-France Military Relations

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and France’s Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke to reporters following a meeting at the Pentagon.

Source: C-Span 

South Carolina State Senate Debate on the Confederate Flag

The South Carolina State Senate convened to debate removing the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has called for the removal of the flag following the deadly Charleston church shooting in June 2015.

Source: C-Span 

Homeland Security Secretary and TSA Administrator Remarks on Aviation Security

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivers remarks on aviation security efforts and swears in Transportation Security Administration Administrator Peter Neffenger.

Video link: Aviation Security

Source: C-Span 

Washington Journal: Richard Norton Smith on President Obama's Legacy

Author and Presidential Historian Richard Norton Smith discusses interpretations of what President Obama’s legacy is and might be following recent Supreme Court decisions, the Charleston shooting, and his handling of the economy and foreign policy.

Trailblazers in Black History: Nat Turner

Today in History: July 6th

Paul Krugman on What's at Stake in Greece Debt Crisis

The Nobel Prize-winning economist and ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis on the economic fallout from the Greek debt crisis.

Fmr. RNC Chairman: GOP Needs 'Sister Souljah' Moment with Donald Trump

Ted Cruz on Supreme Court: The Justices 'Put on an Obama Jersey'

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argued on NBC's "Meet the Press" that members of the Supreme Court "put on an Obama jersey" by voting to uphold the Affordable Care Act and strike down restrictions on same sex marriage.

"It is the justices who have politicized the Court," claimed the republican presidential contender, who proposed a Constitutional amendment for periodic judicial retention elections as a way of reducing what he sees as the politicization of the judicial branch.

Trumped: How The Donald's Comments Are Dividing the 2016 GOP Field

Any day the political conversation in the 2016 presidential race is about Donald Trump isn't a good day for the Republican Party. Translation: The GOP has had a rough last few weeks. Indeed, it's now been nearly three weeks since Trump, during his presidential announcement, referred to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" bringing drugs and crime into the United States. And the rest of the Republican field finally started responding to those comments over the long July 4 holiday.

  • Here was Ted Cruz on "Meet the Press" defending Trump in a way. "I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. The Washington cartel doesn't want to address that… He has a colorful way of speaking. It's not the way I speak. But I'm not gonna engage in the media's game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans."
  • On other hand, here was Rick Perry criticizing him on ABC: "I've said very clearly that Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party. I was offended by his remarks."
  • Here was Chris Christie: "The comments were inappropriate and they have no place in the race."
  • And Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican, was maybe the most forceful: "To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party. We're going to win when we're hopeful and optimistic and big and broad rather than 'Arr, grr' angry all the time."
Oh, and here was Trump firing back at Jeb Bush, per NBC's Kelly O'Donnell: "Jeb Bush once again proves that he is out of touch with the American people. Just like the simple question asked of Jeb on Iraq, where it took him five days and multiple answers to get it right, he doesn't understand anything about the border or border security. In fact, Jeb believes illegal immigrants who break our laws when they cross our border come out 'out of love.'" 

Full article available here: Trumped

Source: NBC News 

United States Wins Third Women’s World Cup Title

Chicago Violence Rises With the Heat of the Summer

Bart Knols: Waging War on Mosquitoes

By Jeremy Wilks

Bart Knols has declared war on mosquitoes, armed with nothing more than plastic tubes and fine netting, and steely determination. The Dutchman and his colleagues from In2Care, a small startup company he founded in 2011, are on a mission to eradicate the disease, step by step, in some of the worst affected areas of Africa.

Speaking to Euronews Explorers, his incredible drive in taking on this seemingly unbeatable disease is simply expressed: “I’ve been in this field for 22 years, I’ve had malaria nine times myself, I almost lost my wife to it, and I’ve seen too many children die in small clinics in the remotest corners of Africa – what more motivation do you want?”

Malaria is a very common and deadly parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes, killing an estimated 600,000 people each year, many of them children under five years of age, the vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s one death every minute. Yet many believe it can be beaten. Bill Gates and Pedro Alonso, Director of the Global Malaria Programme of the World Health Organization recently announced that malaria could be eradicated from the face of the planet by 2030, if the right tools are in place.

The way Bart has gone about tackling malaria is different and innovative. Thanks to an EU research grant in 2012, he brought together a diverse team of experts to try to find new ways to deal with malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

“I got people involved who had no idea about malaria but were total experts in other field like chemistry or physics, or had a business background, and let them have a completely novel look at the system,” he explains.

Full article available here: Bart Knols

Source: Euronews

Varoufakis Resigns after Greek Referendum

Source: Euronews