* Bill O’Reilly may be trading up the Hudson River for the Amazon. This Saturday, the veteran political operative is heading down to Ecuador to meet with a local tribe called Los Afectados, or the Affected Ones, who are interested in rallying a group of American conservatives to their cause. For almost 20 years, the people of the Ecuadorian Amazon have been fighting against the American oil company, Chevron, over environmental damage from drilling at the headwaters of the river. Lefty celebrities like Darryl Hannah, Sting and Kerry Kennedy have already spoken out against Chevron and the company’s efforts to escape legal liabilities, and now O’Reilly is being brought down to see if any conservatives can be enticed to speak out. “I have read at length about the environmental damage in Ecuador caused by Chevron, but I want to see it for myself before getting involved,” said O’Reilly, who was recently named communications director for the New York State Republican Committee. “If it is half as bad as it sounds, Americans conservatives should be encouraged to speak out on it. If you break it; you’re supposed to fix it. Period.”
* In her State of the City speech today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will propose mandatory kindergarten for all city five-year-olds and a loan program for middle class families who need help paying for childcare. Quinn, a frontrunner to replace Michael Bloomberg as mayor in 2013, will highlight the fact that nearly 3,000 children are currently not attending kindergarten, many from high-needs communities. She will propose to make kindergarten mandatory through legislation. The speaker will also announce plans to launch a new program providing “high quality” childcare for working families, with the goal of making the service available to “tens of thousands of New York City children.” Quinn notes that there are currently no financial assistance programs available to families who earn between $40,452.50 and $111,750 a year, or more than 275 percent of the federal poverty level. “This program is the first of its kind in the nation – and could become a model that provides financial stability and quality care for families across the country.”
* While Quinn is talking about mandatory kindergarten and childcare assistance in City Hall, a group of protesters will be across the street, rallying against a luxury condo development planned on the site of former St. Vincent’s Hospital. The Coalition for a New Village Hospital are advocating for a new hospital in place of St. Vincent’s, but the protest can also be seen as a potential opening shot in the race to replace Quinn in the 3rd Council district. One of its leaders, Yetta Kurland, a civil rights lawyer and LGBT activist, is rumored to be planning a run for the seat, after losing in a primary against Quinn in 2009.
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