TIMELINES 1/10/13

Lawsuit Bans Over-the-Counter Sales of Synthetic Drugs
On Tuesday, another lawsuit involving the illegal sale of designer drugs with deceptive labels was won by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman against a chain of head shops owned by John Tebbetts III. Within Tebbetts’ eight head shops, located throughout Central and Northern New York, drugs with labels indicating they were not for human consumption were being sold with the intent of consumption by the buyer. These drugs include synthetic “bath salts” and “synthetic marijuana,” which can not only be harmful to those who use them, but also to those they may harm while under the influence of the drugs. Nitrous oxide was also being sold with the express purpose of creating a “high” for consumers. Tebbetts must provide all of the information for items he sold and offered for sale between January 1, 2012 and August 1, 2012. A hearing is set for February 20, where the judge will determine penalties and costs for Tebbetts. Schneiderman filed 12 lawsuits against 16 head shop locations on July 10, including Village Sensations in Nanuet. Some decisions are still pending, though temporary restraining orders removed the mislabeled drugs from the shelves almost immediately.

Tougher Penalties Needed for State’s Electric Utilities
The Moreland Act Commission issued a preliminary report on Monday, calling the state’s electric utilities “natural monopolies” and offering suggestions for cracking down on those companies with poor performance records. The state panel, created by Governor Cuomo in November to insure quality performance by the state’s utility companies, suggested increasing the amount of fines that can be levied on the utilities as well as making it easier to revoke a company’s certification. According to the report, papers were served to seven power companies and 40 requests for information were also sent out. The panel also wants to make changes to the Public Service Commission, including increasing the number of staff. The PSC regulates a number of services, such as those provided by power utilities, cable companies, and telephone providers. Much of the report also focused on the Long Island Power Association, which the Commission recommends privatizing. However, the utility has $7 billion in debt and $4 billion in assets, so it still remains unclear how a sale would go through. Next, the Moreland Act Commission will be expanding its focus to more areas of New York as it analyzes the response to tropical storms Lee and Irene in 2011.

Syrian Civil War
A number of developments have taken place in the civil war in Syria, some of them adding to the already large death toll of over 60,000. U.S. troops arrived in Turkey on Friday in order to protect the country against Scud missiles being launched within Syria at cities close to the border of the two countries. Germany and the Netherlands have also deployed Patriot air defense missiles. A battle is also taking place over control of the Taftanaz Air Base in northern Syria, Free Syrian Army members attempting to seize control of the helicopter base from the government. If they succeed, President Bashar al-Assad will have a reduced ability to launch air strikes in the area. Nusra Front, a terrorist group, is part of the attack on the air base. A car bomb explosion at a gas station near a hospital in Damascus left ten people dead, though that number may rise as many more are in critical condition. The fire spread to nearby cars and buildings. The parents of American journalist James Foley spoke out on Thursday, asking his kidnappers to inform them of his location and condition, and to let him go. He was abducted in November after having worked in Syria for a year. He had previously been captured and released by the Libyan government while working there.

New Reports Obtained on Safety of Hydrofracking in NY
High volume hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, is a method of drilling used to extract natural gas from rock formations. The public has expressed concerns over the environmental and public safety of this extraction method, though a newly uncovered report suggests it is safe. A copy of an analysis by the NYS Health Department prepared early last year was just recently made known to the public and is mainly a summary of research that had already been done by others. It is unclear how much research has actually been conducted by the state, rather than by other parties, and environmentalists are concerned about the potential health risks. The public feels that Governor Cuomo has been hiding the health impacts from the public. He has been delaying the decision on whether or not to employ hydrofracking extraction methods in New York, but if the process does receive approval, it will most likely result in a limited amount of fracking along the Pennsylvania border in the Southern Tier.

Moore’s Bodyguard Arrested for Illegal Firearm
Filmmaker Michael Moore is a strong proponent of gun control, his tweets following the Sandy Hook massacre calling for people to “demand strict gun control,” though his bodyguard was arrested at New York’s JFK airport in January 2005 for carrying an unlicensed weapon. Patrick Burke was licensed to carry a weapon in Florida and California, but not New York. He was taken by police to Queens central booking after declaring at the ticket counter that he had a firearm.

Connecticut Man Arrested for Spring Valley Robberies
Police announced on Tuesday that a Connecticut man has been charged with one count of first-degree robbery of a Spring Valley convenience store late last November. He is also suspected of robbing a deli 12 hours later. On November 28, Tony Curtis Hunt, 43, stole nearly $1,500 from the N&K Quick Pick on Hickory Street. A man fitting his description stole $1,000 from the Latin Food Mart on South Main Street. The first robbery occurred around 12:20 a.m. and it is believed Hunt used a black semiautomatic pistol. After taking the money from the deli 12 hours later, he left in a Nissan Altima parked behind the store. Hunt was not arrested until December 4, following investigations aided by surveillance cameras. Police speculate Hunt stole the money after falling into debt caused by the loss of his job with Wide World BMW in Spring Valley. Hunt was arraigned on Monday before Spring Valley Justice Christine Theodore. His bail is set at $30,000 and he faces court hearings. A grand jury investigation is taking place.

Special Olympics Come to Haverstraw
The village of West Haverstraw came to the rescue after Hurricane Sandy almost kept the 2012-13 Special Olympics Floor Hockey League from happening. The Nanuet Family Resource Center’s gym on Convent Road was the longtime home of the league before it was severely damaged in the storm. Seven teams, including one from Westchester, had already signed up to play, and volunteers with the Hudson Valley Special Olympics spent over a month trying to insure they had a place to do so. Though the schedule had already been made for West Haverstraw’s gym for the fall and winter, Village Trustee Robert D’Amelio, with the support of Mayor Ramundo, rearranged the schedule to open up Wednesday nights for the Special Olympics program, free of charge. The league had its opening game on Wednesday, Clarkstown versus the BOCES Bombers.

East Ramapo Budget Solution
After much deliberation over how to meet next week’s budget deadline, the East Ramapo school board voted on Tuesday to borrow almost $10 million and get rid of six music teachers and nearly all spring sports. During initial discussions on how to fix the district’s growing deficit, some suggestions that had parents and teachers outraged were the elimination of the kindergarten program and all elementary music and art programs. Though the music teachers are being laid off, regular classroom teachers are being trained to teach the students the lessons they would be missing with the loss of the music teachers. While art teachers are being kept, their salary will be paid by federal Title 1 funding. In addition to these cuts, the district is expecting $6.6 million in revenue from the sale of a former elementary school, which will also go towards closing the growing deficit. This, however, will not be enough. The district will need millions of dollars more in budget cuts for this year and next, and Superintendent Joel Klein is still insisting the state needs to change its aid formula. It has been concluded that cutting the kindergarten program will not save the district any money, so to the relief of parents and students, that is no longer an option being considered as the district moves forward in balancing its budget.

Three Lawmakers Facing Criminal Charges
The new General Assembly in Illinois took its oath of office on Wednesday, swearing in three lawmakers with criminal charges against them. Former Democratic state Representative Derrick Smith was expelled last year after facing bribery charges, but the public voted him back into office. Senator Donne Trotter reportedly brought a weapon to an airport and is facing gun charges. Representative La Shawn Ford faces federal bank fraud charges. Illinois is facing historic financial problems, but experts say the charges against these three lawmakers will not present an issue as the state tries to sort out its money issues.

Call-In Radio Show Hosted by Ramapo Supervisor
A new call-in radio show will take place every Saturday morning, featuring Ramapo Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence. It can be heard on WRCR 1300 AM or over the internet at www.wrcr.com between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. The Supervisor’s goal with this radio program is to keep residents up to date and informed on the issues that matter most to them. Special guests will also appear on the show to speak about topics such as the Tappan Zee Bridge, job creation, reducing local taxes, etc. St. Lawrence was most recently appointed by Governor Cuomo to the Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force and the Hudson Valley Economic Development Regional Council. He is also the chairman and vice chairman of several other councils.

Jean-Baptiste Pleads Guilty in 1994 Murder Case
It was announced on Monday that Daniel Jean-Baptiste pled guilty to one count of first-degree manslaughter in the case of the 1994 killing of Rene Charles. Charles, a real estate broker and an activist in the Haitian community, was shot in his driveway on October 20, 1994 around 8:30 p.m. Jean-Baptiste was not arrested until December 21, 2011, when he was charged with second-degree murder. Though Jean-Baptiste was not the one to shoot Charles, he was the one to drive the shooter to the victim’s home. Jean-Baptiste is currently being held in Rockland County Jail and will be sentenced on April 2, 2013. He faces a maximum of 12 years in state prison.

Spring Valley Woman Arrested for Public Assistance System Ripoff
It was announced on Wednesday that Tanya Lindsey of Spring Valley was arrested and charged with third-degree grand larceny. Lindsey allegedly falsified documents submitted to the Rockland County Department of Social Services, stating she was unemployed while she actually had a job with Facility Development & Management, LLC in Orangeburg and the DASHA Wellness Clinic in New York City. The money she gained through the public assistance subsidies she received totaled $18,315.32, between September 2009 and May 2011. Her arrest follows an investigation by the Rockland county Special Investigations Unit and the Rockland County Department of Social Services. Lindsey was arraigned in the Town of Ramapo Justice Court and released. She is scheduled to return to court February 5, 2013. The defendant is currently on probation in the Town of Clarkstown, where she has a criminal case pending against her. Lindsey also has prior convictions for issuing bad checks and petit larceny.

Strange but True: 18th Century Sex Manual to be Auctioned
An 18th-century copy of a sex manual titled Aristotle’s Complete Master-Piece is to be auctioned off in Edinburgh, almost 200 years after being banned in Britain. First published in 1684, the book was considered “highly distasteful and lewd,” but it was still a popular item on the black market after having been banned. The ban was not lifted until the 1960s. The book is a combination of scientific fact and old wife’s tales. It details male and female anatomy, warns parents of the consequences of having children out of wedlock (including pictures of hairier-than-normal children), and suggests that a woman must enjoy sex in order to conceive. Though the book is illustrated, none of the images would be considered offensive today. The copy being auctioned is from 1766 and is expected to sell for as much as £400.

Civil Liberties Panel Getting Back on Track
During President Bush’s time in office, a presidentially appointed panel was created to insure that federal laws do not interfere with American civil liberties. It is not until late last year, after five years of no activity, that the agency was able to hold a meeting. Known as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, it consists of four part-time members and is still awaiting a chairman. President Obama’s nominee for the position of full-time chairman, David Medine, is awaiting Senate approval. Mr. Obama only filled the vacant positions on the board after a call from critics urged him to do so. The board is not yet fully established, still searching for office space in Washington and creating a website. As such, their meeting in October was aimed at determining what the public wants to see on their agenda. Suggestions from one watchdog group include determining whether joint local-federal terrorism tasks forces have been worth the money spent on them and looking into the use of surveillance drones. The panel was created in 2004 and was made independent in 2007.