The Next Stop Is Cheaper Than Expected: MTA Cuts Back Planned Fare Hikes

Whenever the MTA is in the news, it’s usually for something like a transit strike or almost running over kittens, but this time it’s not so bad. The MTA announced on Wednesday that it will scale back its planned fare and toll increases for 2015 and 2017 by nearly half.

The rates had been expected to jump 7.5 percent in 2015 and 2017, but they will increase to by 4 percent in those years—still an increase, but not nearly as high. The news affects subway, bus, and train fares, in addition to bridge and tunnel tolls.

In a presentation to the MTA board, Chief Financial Officer Robert Foran said the MTA has seen higher than anticipated revenue from fares and tolls, lower pension estimates and debt service payments, and higher savings on one of its sharply rising costs: paratransit for the disabled. Read more…

Is Marriage Equality Headed To Your State?

Another week, and another state is moving forward with marriage equality it seems. Last Friday night, the Hawaiian House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, 30-19. It heads back to the Senate, which approved an earlier version of the legislation and is expected to re-convene tomorrow.

Hawaiian Gov. Neil Abercrombie indicated he would swiftly sign the measure into law. This could make Hawaii the 15th/16th state to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, since Illinois also made big news by legalizing gay marriage last Tuesday with the final bill to be signed next week by Gov. Pat Quinn. With The amount of progress made on the marriage equality front in recent months is enormous, but can we expect it to continue?

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It’s 2013 And You Can Still Be Fired For Being Gay In Most Of The U.S.A.

You’d think that in 2013, LGBT individuals would have protections in place against workplace discrimination, but, for the most part, that isn’t the case. This fact makes the Senate’s vote yesterday on ENDA, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) even more significant. In a victory years in the making, Senate lawmakers passed a bill banning workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals.  There was even some bipartisan support; it passed its final vote in the Senate 64-32, with 10 Republicans joining the 52 Democrats and 2 Independents in passing the bill.

ENDA was first introduced in the Senate back in 1996 but failed to pass by 1 vote; it was reintroduced multiple times since then, only to be defeated again and again, making yesterday’s victory a significant marker of the progress that has been achieved in the past year. But while the victory has emboldened supporters, the bill still has a ways to go before it can be signed into law.

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Breaking Down New York State’s Ballot Proposals

Election Day is tomorrow, and while you probably know something about the mayoral race, you’ll also need to know about the six New York State ballot initiatives you’ll be voting on if you head to the polls tomorrow. These initiatives are proposed amendments to the state constitution, and many of them seem like obscure issues that are hard to vote on without knowledge of the subject at hand. In order to alleviate some confusion, we’ve rounded up the proposals and break each one down.

Proposal 1: Authorizing Casino Gaming

The initiative to legalize casino gambling is by far the most publicized of the proposals on this list. The potential benefits and downsides of casino gambling have been discussed in some detail, but basically it boils down to whether or not you believe that bringing casinos will bring economic growth to the state. Worth mentioning is that the actual language of the proposal was heavily slanted by the governor’s office towards presenting casinos in a positive light; it states that casinos will be “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.” Read more…

Is Fracking The Future Of New York City’s Energy?

Despite numerous protests from West Village residents over the past year, the enormous shale gas pipeline that’s been under construction for nearly a year was completed today, and will soon start pumping a massive amount of gas to residents of New York. The gas comes from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, and while protesters have nothing against the marvelous state of Pennsylvania, there are upset that the gas has been extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a process which has drawn criticism for fears that it could contaminate groundwater.

The gas from the pipeline, however, does bring enough gas to heat 2 million homes and is much cheaper than the conventional heating oil it replaces. While there’s no word yet on whether fracking will be allowed in New York State, could pipelines like this be the future source of New York City’s energy? Read more…

$10,000 For A B.A.—Smart Investment Or Just B.S.?

Beyonce once asked us, “Who needs a degree when you’re schoolin’ life?” And while we can’t deny Beyonce’s infinite wisdom, most of us know that for our generation, a college degree is becoming more and more important in being able to contribute to society. But college is expensive—and while there’s been lots of talk of making it more affordable, lawmakers in some states are trying a relatively new approach to do just that: by challenging their states’ public colleges to develop bachelor’s degrees costing no more than $10,000 in total. Of course, there are a few catches—there are only a few types of degrees available, many of the classes are conducted online and there’s little room for electives outside the chosen major—but it’s still a degree.

The ideas were floated two years in heat of the presidential primary season, and since then, some public colleges have started to offer these programs. Looking at the results so far, are these 10k degrees a worthwhile investment?

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Obama Adminsitration Quietly Tells Supreme Court To Ignore The NSA

While the recent government shutdown caused most politicians to deviate from their usual hijinks, the Obama administration’s lawyers have been up to something interesting this past week: the Justice Department is fighting an effort to have the Supreme Court review the legality of the NSA’s call-tracking program.

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, the Justice Department argues that the petition filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) asking the justices to review the program is “premature” and that the issue should be allowed to percolate in the lower courts. Among other defenses, the administration said Friday that only phone companies can challenge the secret orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to hand over metadata of every call made to and from the United States. And who would ever doubt that the phone companies are always fighting tooth-and-nail for our rights?

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New York City Judge Rules That Unpaid Interns Have No Protection From Sexual Harassment

Unpaid internships–love em, hate em, you probably have had one at some point. But did you know that as an unpaid intern, you have no protection from sexual harassment in the workplace?

22-year-old Lihuan Wang learned that lesson the hard way. She was reportedly sexually harassed by her boss during her unpaid internship in in 2010 and filed a lawsuit last January. But a New York judge ruled last week that that unpaid interns cannot sue their bosses for sexual harassment in New York City because they’re not employees, which means they’re not covered by the city’s Human Rights Law. How did this come to be?

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Move To Switzerland And Get Free Money

While the US government might run out of money any day now, other countries with functioning governments are figuring out new ways to help their citizens, either by renting out other countries, or in Switzerland’s case, addressing income inequality. The Swiss are currently considering to hold a vote on whether to introduce a law that will unconditionally guarantee each Swiss adult 2,500 francs ($2,800) a month in income.

Just to recap: live in a nice, European country, eat some chocolate and cheese (not together), and get $2,800 a month with no strings attached? Sounds like the life. With money like that, you could even afford NYU’s tuition (just kidding—even that’s not enough to cover all of it). Read more…

China Makes It Rain, Leases 5% Of Ukraine

The Chinese government is rich enough to provide full scholarships to NYU students, but it’s not stopping there. China reportedly struck a deal last week to lease 11,580 square miles of Ukranian land over the next 50 years to feed its ballooning population. The land is roughly the size of Belgium and amounts to 5% percent of Ukraine’s total land and 9% of its total farmland. China is already a large country—why would it need more land? World domination maybe?

Mostly, China is acquiring additional farmland to have secure sources of food for its ballooning population. China wants to prevent future food shortages and protect itself from price fluctuations from importing food across the world. This concept is known as “land grabbing” and can have significant consequences for the countries that partake in it. Read more…