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If Cuba’s Dissidents are Happy, I’m Happy

We’re not lifting the embargo. We’re simply going to normalize diplomatic relations. This means we’ll have an embassy in Havana, they’ll have an embassy in New York, and we will conduct diplomatic business with each other as we would with any other country. This does not mean that we’re friends, even. It just means that we’re talking. We normalized diplomatic
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Kim Jong Un Dictates to Sony

The Interview is a satirical work of fiction that apparently so angered the hermit-like Stalinist North Korean regime that it famously unleashed its crack hacking squad on Sony Pictures. An astonishingly un-American series of reactions took place throughout the day Wednesday when Pyongyang’s hackers invoked 9/11 to threaten moviegoers. First, Sony said it would let cinemas opt out of showing
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SENATOR GILLIBRAND & CONGRESSMAN HIGGINS ANNOUNCE CONGRESS PASSES MEASURE REAUTHORIZING ERIE CANALWAY NATIONAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced that Congress has approved reauthorization of the Erie Canal as a National Heritage Corridor. Through this legislation, the federal designation, which was set to expire in 2015, will be renewed through 2021. The bill passed the House of Representatives on December 4th and passed the Senate on December 12th.  “The Canalway Corridor is one of New York and the nation’s great treasures,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The reauthorization of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor will help the region's tourism industry continue to grow as visitors from all over come to learn about our state’s great history.” “Proximity to the Erie Canal is uniquely ours and holding this piece of history provides great opportunities for the communities that share this national treasure,” said Congressman Higgins. “Renewal of the federal commitment to promote and preserve the Erie Canalway provides great economic returns and reaffirms the significance of this unique asset.” The measure, included the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, was introduced by Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Higgins, and Congressman Chris Gibson earlier this year as the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Act (HR 4641).  The Erie Canal was designated a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in 2000. Under this designation, a federally appointed Canalway Commission, in conjunction with the National Park Service and U.S. Department of Interior, is tasked with promoting the Corridor as a tourism destination and ensuring that the historical and natural features of the Canal and its communities are preserved.  First opened 189 years ago, the Erie Canal was quickly recognized as a defining public works and civil engineering achievement. By connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, the canal facilitated the movement of people and goods in a way that had previously been restricted by the difficult conditions of overland routes. Today the Erie Canal continues its role as an economic driver, supporting the transport of close to 100,000 tons of cargo and serving as one of New York’s largest tourism magnets, providing recreational opportunities, events, and telling the story of the Canal’s role in the Underground Railroad.  The Corridor covers 4,834 square miles across 23 counties, extending from Tonawanda to Whitehall at the bottom of Lake Champlain, and includes Buffalo, Rochester and the Finger Lakes, Oswego, Syracuse, Albany, Saratoga National Historic Park, and Glens Falls. For more information about what there is to see and do along the Erie Canal, visit www.eriecanalway.org.  
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Higgins Announces Over $2.12 Million for Niagara County Head Start

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced the award of over $2.12 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for Niagara County Head Start. “When we provide children with the tools to learn at an early age, it opens doors to education and opportunity for years to come,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. Niagara County Head Start, Inc. Executive Director Geraldine Donovan noted that the organization has been in the business of Head Start since 1977 and currently serves 470 children.  Head Start is based on a national model that promotes school readiness among low-income families with a particular focus on language and literacy, as well as cognition and development.  When compared to their peers, children who participated in Head Start are more likely to compete academically in high school and attend college after they graduate.  A study conducted in California showed that for every dollar invested in Head Start we create $9 in return through increased earnings, employment, family stability, decreased government assistance, crime, and special education costs.   
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Congressman Higgins Announces Approval of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced approval of H.R. 5059, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act for American Veterans (SAV) Act.  This legislation creates a comprehensive community response for coordinated mental health care at Veterans Hospitals across the country.  Congressman Higgins cosponsored this legislation. “Thousands of men and women devote their lives every day to serve our country,” said Congressman Higgins. “We cannot turn our backs on these individuals.  This legislation is a step forward to protecting the safety of these service men and women.”   The Clay Hunt SAV Act is a first step to mitigate the tragic amount of suicides committed by veterans every day.  The legislation requires the Veterans Administration (VA) to develop an interactive website for mental health services to better facilitate coordinated care.  It also requires a third party to annually evaluate both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA mental health and suicide prevention programs.  And finally, to address the lack of mental health professions currently serving the VA, the bill provides an education loan repayment pilot program to individuals pursuing psychiatric services and working at VHA hospitals. Since 2001, over two million US soldiers have served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.  An estimated 600,000 soldiers have a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression.  Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day, totaling 8,000 veterans each year.  New York State is home to more than 800,000 veterans and the 26th Congressional District alone is home to almost 50,000 veterans.  Congressman Higgins has made veterans affairs one of his top priorities since joining the House of Representatives.   Any veteran suffering from severe depression and thoughts of suicide are encouraged to call the 24 hour Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1 for immediate assistance. 
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As House Votes for California Drought Relief, Higgins Pushes for Fair Consideration of Disaster Relief For Cold Weather States

While the House of Representatives considered the California Emergency Drought Relief Act this week, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) pushed for fair consideration for cold weather states.  This comes as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wraps up its assessment of the damages inflicted on Western New York during the historic November snowstorm.  Higgins and other members of the Western New York federal delegation have called on federal agencies including FEMA, the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide resources to municipalities and businesses incurring excessive costs and damages due to the storm.  Below are Congressman Higgins’ remarks on the House Floor: [[{"fid":"475","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]] (To access video click above or go to: http://youtu.be/41hwHZ5kMvA) “Mr. Speaker, when a natural disaster strikes, the damage and cleanup costs often far exceed the local governments’ ability to respond and to rebuild. Americans take comfort in the knowledge that the federal government will aid in the response by providing assistance to mitigate the often massive costs of natural disasters. “The recent record-breaking snowstorm in Western New York reminded the nation that Buffalonians are a resilient and generous people. That was on display during the storm and its aftermath, with so many instances of neighbors helping neighbors. “But the storm also left my community with significant expenses in terms of the emergency response and structures that collapsed under the weight of the snow. “That is why I joined the Western New York delegation to urge FEMA to act quickly to certify the disaster and disburse assistance. Western New Yorkers are the first to volunteer to aid other communities in need. Now we must ensure a helping hand is there for them when they are need it.” The Congressional Research Service recently issued a report on the issue of cold weather relief: Major Disaster Declarations For Snow Assistance And Severe Winter Storms: An Overview.  
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BRIGHTON ROAD REOPENS TO TRAFFIC

The Erie County Department of Public Works Highways’ Division has announced the substantial completion of an over $2 million road reconstruction...
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Retail Workers Bill of Rights

The City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors on November 25, 2014, passed the first Retail Workers Bill of Rights in the nation. The legislation will apply to retail chains with 11 or more locations nationally or worldwide and that have at least 20 employees in San Francisco under one management system. The . . . → Read More: Retail Workers Bill of Rights