Venezuela’s Biggest Food Company Suspends Pasta Production At One Facility

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s biggest food company is halting work at one of its facilities because of government delays in allotting it dollars to buy wheat from foreign suppliers.

Empresas Polar said in a statement Tuesday that it had no choice but to suspend production and furlough workers at a pasta assembly line after emergency supplies lent by other companies ran out. It gave no date for resuming production of the Primor and Gran Senora brands at a facility in the western city of Maracaibo. Polar in January said it is owed $463 million by the government agency that controls the nation’s dollar supplies and that the waiting time to process requests has more than quadrupled to 230 days.

The move adds to shortages that have climbed to a record this year.

Spotlight On Mexico As Violence Erupts Close To The U.S. Border

CIUDAD MIER, Mexico (AP) — Once again, the bodies are piling up.

At least 14 people died Tuesday in several firefights between federal forces and gunmen in the city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas. The dead included 10 alleged gunmen, two federal police officers and two bystanders, Tamaulipas state authorities said. Gunmen blocked some of the industrial city’s main avenues with buses in the afternoon and then ambushed federal police officers on patrol, officials said.

Earlier this month in the border town of Ciudad Mier, gunmen peppered the facade of the main hotel, leaving at least 20 bullet holes in the two-story building. The next day, soldiers killed four of the alleged attackers. A day after that, three other gunmen were found dead near the Rio Grande.

A spasm of violence has left at least 64 dead throughout the northern state of Tamaulipas this month, according to an Associated Press tally of official and Mexican media reports. That has many worried about a return to the worst days of 2010, when the security wing of the powerful Gulf Cartel turned on its former bosses, forming the breakaway Zetas group that has distinguished itself for butchery.

That rivalry simmers along, but authorities say many of the recent killings are the byproduct of a fresh feud between two Gulf Cartel capos, former allies who are struggling for control of cities or stretches of border.

Tamaulipas has always been a focal point in the drug war, one of the busiest places on the border for northbound drugs and migrants and southbound weapons and cash. The federal government sent troops to the state in November 2010, turning military patrols into a feature of life in border cities. The violence has never fully abated, but even by the standards of Tamaulipas, April has been extreme. Mexico’s federal government has promised a new strategy, though it has yet to offer details.

“The fact is right now the federal government response in Tamaulipas is nowhere near what it needs to be,” said U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat from Brownsville, a city across from Matamoros, which is a 2-hour drive east from Ciudad Mier.

Much of the violence has its roots in the February arrest of Javier Garza Medrano, who oversaw the Gulf Cartel’s drug, kidnapping, extortion and gasoline theft activities in the Gulf coast city of Tampico, according to Mexico’s National Security Commission. Garza apparently came to believe that a rival in the cartel, Aaron Rogelio Garcia, provided the information that led to his arrest, and ordered the man’s murder, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Gunmen then opened fire at Garcia’s April 3 funeral in Matamoros. The government acknowledged that an 18-year-old woman was killed, but the unnamed official said three people had died, including Garcia’s wife, brother and sister-in-law.

Attacks on Garcia’s allies followed in Tampico and neighboring Ciudad Madero, the official said. Twenty-eight people were killed in the two cities over four days, 14 of them in a five-hour span during fighting between criminal groups that included drive-by shootings and execution-style killings. Victims were dumped on streets and, in one case, inside an ice-cream shop.

In addition to the Gulf Cartel infighting, several deaths have been attributed to a feud between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, while still other people have died in clashes between gunmen and Mexican military units.

Easy access to the U.S. makes Tamaulipas attractive to both foreign manufacturers and criminal organizations. More immigrants enter the U.S illegally here than anywhere else along the border, and in drug trafficking, it’s second only to Arizona. Assault rifles purchased at Texas gun shops and cash from drugs sold in other states are smuggled back into Mexico through Tamaulipas. Undeveloped riverfronts like that outside Mier, where the Rio Grande river is shallow and studded with rocks, make crossing easy.

Asked about the cause of the fighting, Mier residents refer euphemistically to those who come from upriver — Zetas territory — and those from downriver — the land of the Gulf cartel.

But nearly everywhere in Tamaulipas, it is impossible to ignore the effects of the violence.

One afternoon in the working-class neighborhood of San Pedro on the outskirts of Matamoros, four women sat chatting outside a boxy single-family home. None would give their names. One said her husband was taken by gunmen 2 ½ years ago. Another said it had been three years since her 28-year-old son disappeared. Yet another recounted when a marine helicopter opened fire from the air, sending residents scrambling for cover.

“Sometimes you’re just coming with the kids from school and here they come with their shootout,” said one young mother. “The insecurity is typical; it’s part of daily life.”

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said the government’s new security strategy may be similar to the aggressive measures taken in the central state of Michoacan, where President Enrique Pena Nieto has sent in thousands of troops and police, arrested officials for cartel ties and installed a special federal commissioner as the most powerful official in the state.

“The state has not been abandoned,” Murillo said of Tamaulipas. “It requires another kind of strategy, an adequate one for Tamaulipas, adequate for Tamaulipas’ conditions. That is what we will have shortly.”

Cuba And EU Start Talks To Renew Stalled Relations

HAVANA (AP) — After two decades of disagreements, failed stabs at rapprochement and mutual recriminations, officials from the European Union and Cuba were sitting down together Tuesday to discuss hitting the reset button on their soured relationship.

While EU officials say concerns about democracy and human rights will continue to influence the bloc’s policy, recent visits by Cabinet-level officials from France and the Netherlands suggest an increasing openness to engaging the Communist-run nation. “There’s certainly a will on the part of the EU to perhaps freshen the agenda and move to a different basis for formulating their relations,” said Paul Webster Hare, a lecturer in international relations at Boston University and former British ambassador to Cuba.

At the same time, he said, “It’s very important that there is a core set of principles — democratic tolerance, freedom of the press and so on — so it would be unrealistic of the Cubans to expect all of that to simply drop away.”

Cuban officials have said they welcome the negotiations and are prepared to discuss any and all issues on a basis of mutual respect.

Cuba is the only Latin American nation that does not have a political and cooperation agreement with Brussels.

Since 1996, EU policy toward Cuba has been guided by the so-called Common Position, which rules out full relations with Havana until it makes reforms in areas such as more diverse political participation and freedom of expression.

A number of European firms pulled out back then as Cuba was slow to pay its bills and former President Fidel Castro hardened his rhetoric against Brussels.

Relations hit a nadir in 2003 after Cuba imprisoned 75 government opponents during a crackdown on dissent. The EU instituted limits on high-level visits to the island, reduced cultural cooperation and began inviting dissidents to visit European embassies in Cuba.

Cuba responded by accusing Brussels of hypocrisy for ignoring alleged human rights violations by its own member states and allies.

The Common Position does not have the same teeth as the 52-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba, which outlaws most American trade with and travel to the island.

European companies are still free to trade with Cuba and some do, most notably Spanish hoteliers and French spirits distributor Pernod Ricard.

However a more flexible EU policy could lead to more government-level cooperation between Cuba and the continent, and in turn encourage more European investment.

The talks come at a crucial moment when Havana is hoping that a recently approved law will lure badly needed foreign capital to stimulate its economy.

The EU began lifting some sanctions unilaterally in 2008, the year Fidel Castro retired from the presidency permanently and power passed to his younger brother Raul.

The younger Castro has since introduced economic reforms that allow some increased free-market activity, and eliminated an exit visa requirement that for decades made it difficult for Cubans to travel overseas. He has also released the last of the 75 jailed in 2003, although harassment and brief detentions of dissidents remain common.

Raul Castro has also said he will step down by the time his current term ends in 2018, although there’s no sign that Cuba intends to allow multi-party elections anytime soon.

“The Common Position that still exists is a document that is already 18 years old,” said EU Ambassador to Cuba Hernan Portocarrero. “And what we want to do now is find a convergence between the Common Position, which contains very important political principles, and the majority of member states that have a constructive bilateral relationship” with Cuba.

Christian Leffler, a high-ranking EU official for the Americas, was heading the delegation. Representatives from both sides were scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday behind closed doors in the Cuban capital.

No deal is expected to emerge immediately.

“We are open to dialogue with the European community on a basis of respect,” Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel said last week. “And we will facilitate everything that we are able to build from a position of respect, from a position of equality.”


Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Havana contributed.


Andrea Rodriguez is on Twitter:

The Most Racist Part Of Donald Sterling’s Legacy Can’t Be Solved With A Lifetime Ban

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life on Tuesday after he was caught on tape saying he didn’t want his girlfriend bringing black people to games.

But as ESPN host Bomani Jones eloquently pointed out, this is hardly the worst act of racism that has been attributed to Sterling — that title goes to his alleged acts of housing discrimination, for which he was sued twice, in 2003 and 2006, the second time by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The first suit, brought by 19 tenants with the help of the nonprofit Housing Rights Center, accused Sterling of forcing blacks and Latinos out of his rental properties, and ended in a confidential settlement in 2005. The second accused him of refusing to rent to African-Americans in Beverly Hills and to non-Koreans in LA’s Koreatown. It ended in a record $2.725 million payout to the Justice Department. Sterling denied wrongdoing in both cases.

The charges made against Sterling were stomach-turning. In response to the 2003 suit, one of his property supervisors testified that Sterling said all blacks “smell” and are “not clean,” that he wanted to “get them out” of his properties to preserve his image, and that he harassed tenants and refused to make repairs until they were forced to leave, according to depositions obtained by ESPN The Magazine.

But as alarming as the claims against Sterling are, housing discrimination as a practice is alive and well in America, and can’t be solved with something as simple as a lifetime ban.

“For individuals and families, it limits their housing choices, it dictates where you can and cannot live, and that means limited access to other opportunities: educational opportunities, employment opportunities, health care services, other amenities,” Fred Freiberg, director of the nonprofit Fair Housing Justice Center, told HuffPost. “It sustains and enforces patterns of racial segregation and poverty concentration, and it creates a whole host of inequalities that we could, frankly, do without.”

A 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that overall, minority home-seekers are still told about and shown fewer units than white applicants. In a series of paired tests in 28 metropolitan areas across the country, HUD compared the treatment of a non-white person and of a white person of the same gender and qualifications when each applied for an apartment. The study found that, compared to whites, Blacks were told about 11.4 percent fewer rental units and shown 4.2 percent fewer; Hispanics were told about 12.5 percent fewer and shown 7.5 percent fewer; and Asians were told about 9.8 percent fewer and shown 6.6 percent fewer.

The authors of the study cautioned that their findings have probably understated the problem — and Freiberg pointed out a number of the study’s blind spots in a 2013 response. For one thing, the study only focused on publicly advertised housing. These days, Freiberg says, housing providers looking to discriminate might just rely on word of mouth, or advertise only on websites or in newspapers that target certain ethnic or religious groups. Another issue is that the study only looked at who was shown more units — in some cases, the minority home-seeker might be shown a greater number of apartments, but only those located in minority neighborhoods.

The government did make an effort to ban housing discrimination with the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act (the law that Sterling was sued for violating). But as ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah Jones found in a 2012 investigation, the government has repeatedly failed to punish communities that violate the law.

And even though it’s been nearly 50 years since the Fair Housing Act was adopted, segregation is still a reality in American cities. A 2010 analysis of census data by Brown University found:

With only one exception (the most affluent Asians), minorities at every income level live in poorer neighborhoods than do whites with comparable incomes. Disparities are greatest for the lowest income minorities, and they are much sharper for blacks and Hispanics than for Asians. Affluent blacks and Hispanics live in poorer neighborhoods than whites with working class incomes. There is considerable variation in these patterns across metropolitan regions. But in the 50 metros with the largest black populations, there is none where average black exposure to neighborhood poverty is less than 20 percent higher than that of whites, and only two metros where affluent blacks live in neighborhoods that are less poor than those of the average white.

Bottom line: Donald Sterling’s racism has been roundly rejected by everyone from Snoop Dogg to the president — but when it comes to everyday acts of insidious, life-ruining racism, there are many more like him out there.

Sterling Out of NBA, But Racism Still Alive

It’s incredible to some, but routine for others. I’m referring to the comments made by LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. There is little doubt that Mr. Sterling let his guard down and spoke what he really feels. However, it all depends on what side of the tracks, or in this case, income bracket, you live on to be surprised by his comments.

The majority of people of color living in this country are reminded of the inherent discrimination that exists on a routine basis. The racism that still persists in this country is very much alive and well and unfortunately flourishing. The problem is not too many people feel it, see it, or care to address it. The reason is that in this modern age it is concealed much better than the days of Jim Crow laws when people of color where forced to sit, eat, drink and sleep in separate quarters of this country.

In this day and age, the discrimination and sometimes-raw racism is camouflaged carefully into the fiber of our everyday life through laws, subliminal messages in movies and even in children’s cartoons. The most glaring are laws that pass local, state and sometimes federal levels, but rarely make the national news to form the outcry that we have been seeing in the last two days over Sterling’s comments.

How many people were shocked when the state of Arizona had legislators lobbying and eventually passed a law to allow police officials to legally stop people that “looked undocumented”? I don’t remember national news coverage creating the same hoopla as what they are creating with this latest episode of racism in America? Perhaps the difference was that people thought that the only ones being affected by that ridiculous law in Arizona were Mexicans living in the State?

Very few nationally recognized organizations made the type of noise that needed to be heard to prevent racists in this country, whether hidden or open, know that this attitude is not acceptable. Thank God for the Phoenix Suns basketball team, which was one of the first to demonstrate their concern and disagreement with that law by purposely wearing “Los Suns” jerseys and making a team statement against the proposed law.

However, where was the rest of the NBA? Where were all the people of conscience, where were the sports headlines condemning Arizona? That’s why it depends on where you are from and who is being affected and what news editors feel will help increase the ratings. A white, Jewish owner of a majority high profile majority black basketball team saying racist statement taped by a girlfriend is “hot news” and a lot of news can make a lot of changes.

However, where was Major League Baseball and why did they still play their internationally-aired All Star Game in Arizona? Many concerned people and organizations were urging Major League Baseball to move the game out of Arizona as a sign of protest against a law that was discriminatory. Major League Baseball, with almost a third of its baseball players being immigrants from a Latin America, definitely had a vested interest in standing up for its players. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball failed that moral test. That was sad, especially being a league that broke the color barrier in 1945 when Jackie Robinson became the first black player to play professional ball.

Fortunately, yesterday NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life from all NBA activities and levied fines of $2.5 million dollars.

Though this might not do much to stop the discrimination and racism that still roams the corporate and legal halls of this country, it does show that once exposed it can be detrimental to the perpetrators. It all depends on what makes the major news.

Americans Need People Like Donald Sterling And Cliven Bundy

Yesterday, I was both shocked and pleasantly surprised when I heard NBA Commissioner Adam Silver say he had decided to ban Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life.

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a cynic, so I had braced myself for the league to slap Sterling with a fine — the kind that looks like an impossibly large sum of money to regular folks, but is likely just gas money for a billionaire who owns a professional basketball team. I was maybe even expecting Silver to indefinitely suspend him. But to ban Sterling for life was, in one word, impressive.

The last few days in media have been what I’ve come to accept as those few moments throughout the year when we all experience reoccurring mainstream racism. The kind that makes every person at every media outlet, not just the black ones, stop and rub their eyes to be sure they read something correctly or clean their ears just in case they imagined the disgustingly racist sentiment that just came out of someone’s mouth. It’s the good old-fashioned racism we read about in history books when we were kids — overt, grotesque and outright discrimination that makes us cringe.

In the past few days, everyone has appropriately shaken their heads and expressed outrage over the racist remarks both Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy have expressed. They have called for change and withdrawn support and financial association. They have dedicated hours of cable TV time mulling over the issue, and plastered the story on the front of newspapers everywhere. But what we haven’t acknowledged, is just how much our country needs men (and women) just like Sterling and Bundy.

People like Sterling and Bundy are the boogie men who perpetuate the only sort of racism most people are willing to admit still exists. They make white people feel safe because white people can look at them and say “I’m not a racist, because I’m not like that.” And they give black people gratification because black people can point to them and say “And you white people think we live in a post-racial society.” Sterling and Bundy restore world order around America’s idea of what racism is supposed to look like.

After being confronted by these sort of “monsters” we can all come together, fight them down and ultimately proclaim that “we are one” — a message that I admire the NBA for attempting to spread. The same way Mommy and Daddy used to turn on the lights and prove the boogie man wasn’t real, and the monster under the bed didn’t really exist. But at the end of the day, not only does racism still exist, it’s has evolved into a chameleon that can take on multiple forms. There are a lot more people just like Sterling and Bundy out there, they just might not look or act anything like them.

While both these men should be admonished for their remarks and their behavior, and while it’s beautiful to watch society unite against the forces of evil, we cannot ignore the fact that racism happens everyday, and it’s rarely acknowledged in mainstream media. Racism doesn’t have to be someone saying “black people were better off as slaves,” or not wanting black people at their games. It could be housing discrimination — an offense Sterling has ironically been accused of in the past. It could be the reason why African-American males are more likely to have encounters with law enforcement and are three times more likely to be searched during traffic stops than white motorists. It could be the cause of the glaring racial disparities in school disciplinary practices.

Racism isn’t a big bad boogie man that everyone can see. It’s a silent killer like cancer that most people never see coming, or simply choose to ignore.

Let me be clear, I admire our nation’s response to these horrifying incidents, and I think we have made incredible progress in this country. But as we all return to our regularly scheduled programs, sleeping well at night because we know the bad guys have been caught, let’s remember there’s still a lot of work to be done and the bad guys won’t always be as easy to point out as Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy.

Bertha González Nieves: The Beauty and the Brains Behind Casa Dragones Tequila

Tequila has grown up, and you, have grown up too. Tequila no longer holds a place in your heart for cringe-worthy shots served with lime and salt, nor syrupy sweet Margarita Mixes.


Tequila is quickly becoming understood as a new luxury spirit on the market, and these days acquiring a bottle of high quality tequila no longer demands a dedicated trip to Mexico. The best tequila is meant to be sipped (in a crystal Riedel Tequila sipping glass, no less), and has a diverse range of flavors from tropical fruits and fresh pears, to vanilla and sweet agave, and is silky smooth on the tongue. One of the best tequilas I’ve ever tasted is Casa Dragones, the ultra-luxe limited edition Blue Agave Joven tequila, and their new release, Casa Dragones Blanco, made especially for cocktail mixing, is changing the way people think about the spirit.


Casa Dragones was founded in 2009 by MTV’s Robert Pittman and Maestra Tequilera Bertha González Nieves, who is the beauty, brains, and brawn behind the revolutionary company. She’s been named one of the 50 most powerful women in Mexico by Forbes magazine, was a top executive for Grupo Jose Cuervo, one of the biggest tequila companies in the world, and now stands at the helm of the boutique brand, Casa Dragones.

We recently sat down with her to discuss what makes Casa Dragones such an amazing tequila, how she came into the tequila business, and what it’s like to be the world’s first female Maestra Tequilera.


Where does the name Casa Dragones come from?

Casa Dragones is named in honor of the Dragones, the elite cavalry that helped spark the Mexican independence movement. The name is a tribute to the independent spirit that the Dragones and the tequila share. My business partner, Bob Pittman, owns a house that used to be the clubhouse of the Dragones, named Casa Dragones.

What was the original vision for Casa Dragones? Did the product change at all during the development process, and if so, how did it change from your original vision?

Our original vision was to create an exceptional sipping tequila. This vision has never wavered.

You’re the Maestra Tequilera for Casa Dragones, what does that job entail?

We are two maestro tequileros at Tequila Casa Dragones: Benjamin Garcia and myself. Together we design the formula of our product and are in charge of the production of every batch from harvest, to production, blending, and bottling.


You’re the First Maestra Tequilera ever! Congratulations! How do you think being female in a male-dominated industry has influenced your path and how has it influenced your product?

In my early 20’s I was selected by the Japanese government as a young, Mexican ambassador to Japan. As a part of my training I had to learn about the history, finance, economy, and culture of Mexico. I was invited to visit the top tequila distilleries and when I saw my first agave field I fell in love with the industry. I knew from that moment on that where I wanted my career to be. While I joke I almost had to grow a mustache to be accepted in this industry, it really is not whether you are male or female; it is the passion you have for the category.

What were you doing before, and what lessons learned have you applied to your company?

I am an entrepreneur at heart with a career rooted in the consumer luxury goods industry. Prior to co-founding Tequila Casa Dragones, I spent ten years working for the Beckman family, who owns multiple brands of tequila, including Cuervo, Gran Centenario, and 1800. I held senior marketing and commercial positions, including Commercial Director for North America, Global Director of New Business and Innovation and Global Brand Director and was responsible for their portfolio of brands in North America. Needless to say this was a great education in luxury goods and particularly the tequila industry.

The gist of it is that I’ve applied my myriad experiences with the Beckman family and Booz Allen & Hamilton, where I developed marketing strategies, to launching and building a small but ever growing artisanal brand of which I am extremely proud.


What do you love about tequila?

The craft in producing exceptional tequila, one bottle at a time. Our entire approach takes time and expertise, and it is our love of the craft and meticulous attention to detail that ensures an extraordinary experience and the highest possible quality.

Casa Dragones has collaborated with many star chefs to develop pairings with cuisine, who are some of your favorite chefs you’ve worked with? Do you have any favorite dishes from these collaborations?

It’s a distinction that we are incredibly proud of: We have had the honor to work with some of the most respected leaders in the culinary world.

Scott Conant is a friend and I love his approach to food. His pairing of Casa Dragones Joven with a tagliolini with calamari, pine nuts & parsley remains one of my favorites.

Having a culinary legend like Eric Ripert pair our Joven with a dish as delicate and sumptuous as “The Egg,” his famous 3-bite dessert of milk chocolate, crème brulée, caramel custard foam and a hint of sea salt makes me very proud.

Chef Enrique Olvera — who we are partnering with on Mesa Abierta, a new culinary festival in San Miguel next month — pairs the Casa Dragones Joven with everything from barbecued lamb to opera cake. I love the diversity of the chef pairings; they highlight how nuanced our product is.


What is your favorite cuisine to pair with Casa Dragones?

I don’t have just one. What is most exciting for me is the exploration of each chef pairing and where the complexity of Casa Dragones kicks in. My favorite pairings are the ones that surprise me and make me taste a new note in our product; just as wine and food elevate each other, a food pairing with Casa Dragones Joven can enhance the experience of the dish and the tequila.

We love everything about the Casa Dragones packaging, from the hand etched crystal decanter to the gorgeous blue box to the minimal label. What was the inspiration for the packaging and the etched decanter?

The bottle is inspired by a traditional Mexican apothecary bottle I found in the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City when they had an exhibit on the history of glass in Mexico.
Casa Dragones Joven Tequila comes in a handcrafted, pure, lead-free crystal decanter and nestled in a stunning blue gift box. Each limited edition bottle is individually hand-engraved by Mexican artisans using the traditional technique of Pepita. Each bottle comes with a handmade crystal top, and is hand-labeled and signed, marking the details of each small batch.

In 2010, Casa Dragones was awarded the Grand Prix Stratégies du Luxe for Product Design, a product/packaging design award, marking the first time a Mexican brand has won.


Lightning Round: Most Memorable meal

Per Se

Guilty Pleasure

Mexican spicy candy from Chilim Balam

Breakfast in Bed

Fresh squeezed orange juice, eggs florentine, Ninth Street coffee from Chelsea Market, and The New York Times.

Pick Your Poison

Casa Dragones

Last Meal

Grilled fresh fish tacos, with my favorite Mexican salsas and guacamole, a bonfire on my gorgeous secret beach in Nayarit with all my favorite people — celebrating life with Casa Dragones.

Half Of New York City Is Living In Near Poverty

Despite a rise in employment, nearly half of New York City’s population is living near poverty levels — a problem that is particularly striking in the city’s Asian population, which has surpassed Hispanics as the city’s poorest group, according to a new report conducted by the Center for Economic Opportunity.

The study revealed 45.6 percent of New Yorkers are barely making ends meet, even with more adults working full-time since the recession. A combination of low wages, rising rents, and a lack of benefits is largely to blame.

The dismal numbers, presented Tuesday to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, follows a growing number of studies showing the harsh realities of income inequality in New York. Just last week, city comptroller Scott Stringer released a study showing just how unaffordable the city has become, with the median rent in New York City rising a staggering 75 percent from 2000 to 2012.

The annual study also showed significant shifts within racial and ethnic demographics. As the report indicates, the poverty rate of Asians and Hispanics were “statistically identical” in 2008, at 22.4 percent and 23.5 percent, respectively. But by 2012, the rate surged to 29 percent for Asians, more than 3 percent higher than Hispanics.


The data paints a startling image of the city’s Asian population and specifically non-English speaking members in the Asian immigrant community, many of whom struggle to gain access to basic government-funded programs that aim to provide economic relief.

“Community monitoring of existing language access laws and policies in New York City show that speakers of Korean and South Asian languages suffer particularly poor language access at key City agencies,” the report reads. “As a result, Asian communities are unable to access vital City services that can help them prevent or rise out of poverty.”

More than half of the city’s Asian community lives in Queens, which also did not fare well in Tuesday’s report. The racially diverse borough experienced the highest jump in poverty in the city from 2008 to 2012 — an increase that is only expected to worsen as more Brooklyn residents flock to Queens in search for cheaper rents.


But the challenges facing Asians resonate nationally, particularly in urban areas.

“Housing issues are a critical issue facing those Asian American communities living in poverty with so many of them in very high cost areas,” Vivian Yi Huang, a director at Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), told New American Media in a 2013 report detailing poverty amongst Asians in the United States.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to increase language assistance initiatives throughout the city, a push advocates say will aid in reducing income inequality by helping non-English speaking New Yorkers seek benefits. Over the past year, the city has also discussed allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.

Tuesday’s report also comes ahead of a speech de Blasio is scheduled to give tomorrow detailing his affordable housing plan.

Jennifer Lopez’s ‘First Love’ Leaks From Untitled Album

Jennifer Lopez’s latest single, “First Love,” has leaked online. From her still-untitled new album, “First Love” is the follow-up to “I Luh Yu Papi.” Max Martin, of “… Baby One More Time” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” fame, wrote and produced the new track.

According to a recent interview in Billboard, Lopez started recording the album in February 2013 after divorcing Marc Anthony. “It’s a stronger Jennifer. The things I went through comes out here [on the album],” she told the magazine while speaking in the third person. “A Jennifer that still believes in love but she’s more grown now.”

The chorus in “First Love” picks up with, “I wish you were my first love ‘cause if you were first there wouldn’t have been a second, third or fourth love.” Listen to the track below.