TIMELINES 2/21/13

Pearl River Teen Killed in Car Collision
A car collision late in the evening of February 12 claimed the life of Thomas Argenti, 18, a former football and lacrosse player for Pearl River High School and student at Rockland Community College. Argenti, , was killed when his car collided with an SUV near East Kinney and McCarter Highways at about 10:30 p.m., as he and friends were driving home from a Jersey Devils game. Police have issued no citations and have made no arrests, but Newark Police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office are continuing to investigate the crash. Students and teachers recalled Argenti as a friendly, hard-working, and fun-loving student, with Pearl River High School Principal William Furdon describing him as a “perfect gentleman.” The funeral mass for Argenti was held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 19 at the Joseph W. Sorce Funeral Home. In addition, a moment of silence was held at Pearl River High School’s boys’ basketball game on February 13.

Facebook Won’t Pay Taxes, but Will Receive a Refund
A recent finding from the nonprofit group Citizens for Tax Justice revealed that Facebook, which raked in $1.1 billion in profits this fiscal year, will not pay a cent in federal or state taxes in 2012, but will be receiving a $429 million refund. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the refunds come from stock options which count as business expenses and are hence subject to deductions. The deductions not only match the amount Facebook had to pay in taxes, but surpass it, meaning that the government will pay Facebook an approximately $429 million difference between taxes and refunds. Though Citizens calls the move “an amazing admission,” it is technically legal. Facebook relies heavily on stock options as a means of compensation, and the 2012 refund is largely a product of compensation for unpaid equity awards from the last two fiscal years.

Car Strikes Five Year Old in New Hempstead
Police were called to the intersection of Viola Road and Asher Drive at about 8:30 a.m. on February 13 when a 1998 Hyundai driven by Guymel Demas of Spring Valley struck a five year old boy boarding a school bus. Witnesses stated that the bus had stopped and activated both its lights and stop sign when Demas attempted to pass it on Viola Road. The boy ran out into the street and in front of Demas’ Hyundai. The boy was brought by ambulance to Nyack Hospital, where doctors released him after determining that he sustained only minor injuries. Demas was issued a summons for passing a school bus.

148 Years After Civil War, Slavery Officially Unconstitutional in Mississippi
Mississippi became the last state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, addressing an oversight which had gone unnoticed for a century and a half. Though a bill ratifying the 13th Amendment and officially outlawing slavery unanimously passed through both the state’s Senate and House in 1995, former Secretary of State Dick Molpus failed to send a copy of the resolution to the Federal Register. The mistake was noticed by Dr. Ranjan Batra, an associate professor at the University of Mississippi. After watching the recent historical drama film “Lincoln,” Batra researched state ratifications and discovered Mississippi’s failure to finalize the law. Current Secretary of State Hosemann responded by correcting the error on January 30, filing the necessary paperwork and ending almost a century and a half of delay.

State Amortization Program Prompts $368 Million in Borrowing
The New York State Comptroller’s Office is preparing to lend $368 million to local governments for the purpose of paying public employee pension costs. The state’s amortization program, which began in 2010, allows local governments to borrow for annual costs at a three percent interest rate. The result will be an eighty one percent borrowing increase by local entities from 2012. While many municipalities have been forced to take the money to stay afloat, many have also been reluctant to embrace a program, arguing that it merely delays a solution to the budgetary gap produced by rising pension payouts. As an alternative to this type of deferral, Governor Andrew Cuomo is offering another proposal which will set a flat 12.5 percent payroll rate. Cuomo argued the policy will allow schools and local governments to gradually address rising costs by controlling current rates while chipping away at past costs with future savings. Critics have leveled similar criticisms to the amortization plan, stating that it will not defer rather than control pension costs.

Fire in New City Destroys Home, Kills Two
Clarkstown Police are investigating a fire which destroyed a home at 36 Stratford Place on Thursday morning, killing Barbara Calise, 79, and her handicapped daughter Yvonne Calise, 54. After being called to report what was believed to be a fire in their laundry room, fire personnel responded to a blaze. They arrived to find the entire back end of the house in flames. New City Fire Chief Kenny Flynn stated that the two victims were trapped in the front room of the first floor when firefighters discovered them. Attempts were made to rescue the women, but the front end of the house burst into flames, moving so quickly that most of the home was destroyed by the time the fire was out. Over a hundred volunteers to be called in from New City, Congers, Nanuet, Hillcrest, and West Nyack Fire Departments to fight the fire. It took forty five minutes to get it under control, but no adjacent homes or buildings were damaged. An investigation is ongoing, but Clarkstown Police reported that the fire might have started in the basement and has been ruled to be an accident.

State Education Department Maintains Critical Position on East Ramapo Special Ed Placements
Assistant Commissioner of Education James DeLorenzo issued a letter on February 6 defending the State Education Department’s recent findings that the East Ramapo Central School District improperly placed disabled students in private religious schools. DeLorenzo stood by his position and explained that if the district did not take action to rectify the matter, the state would be forced to intervene with actions which may include bringing students in private schools back into public schools, and redirecting or withholding state funding to the school district. When the state’s options begin to run out, Commissioner John King Jr may also issue an order to comply. If the school board willfully refuses to comply, King may remove members of the school board from office. The letter was a response to a rebuttal by East Ramapo attorney David Butler, who claimed the Department misapplied state law and pledged to challenge the state’s findings. The East Ramapo school board has faced mounting criticism for cutting deep into school expenses, planning to borrow to pay down its large deficit, and spending large amounts defending itself from litigation levied by both education activists and the state.

Local Dog Breeder Charged Again for Selling Sick Puppy
Stony Point dog breeder John Principe has incurred an additional charge from the Hudson Valley Humane Society in Stony Point. The charge related to the sale of a puppy which allegedly showed signs of infectious disease, a violation of state Agriculture and Markets law. The puppy was purchased from Principe, who owns Retrievers 4U, on August 1, 2011 and brought to a veterinarian, who reported that the puppy was sick and unfit for purchase. The vet explained the puppy had an array of infections including giardia, hookworms, a skin infection, ear mites, and a respiratory infection. It was treated with intravenous antibiotics, but developed pneumonia and had to be euthanized. Principe continues to maintain his innocence, arguing that the dog was not sick when it was sold and all necessary regulations were followed. This is the third time Principe has been charged for the sale of sick animals since September, when he was arrested and charged by Stony Point Police for the sale of a puppy sick with coccidia and giardia.

Federal Government To Monitor “Sovereign Citizens”
Two weeks ago, the White House announced the formation of the Interagency Working Group to Counter Online Radicalization to Violence, which will provide cybersecurity information to tech giants in order to fight not only Islamic terrorists, but also potential threats within the “Sovereign Citizens” Movement. Sovereign Citizens Movement is a loose anti-government group which argues Americans can physically and legally separate themselves from government authority. To do this, Sovereign Citizens normally use means such as white collar crime and tax evasion, but have been linked to violence against government officials, judges, and police officers in the past. The committee stated that its initial goals will be to coordinate with the technology industry to identify and prevent such ideologies from spreading online while preserving civil liberties and individual rights of internet users. The new group is part of a larger cybersecurity push by President Obama. Given past actions, he move has been interpreted by some as an attack on civil liberties. Obama faced sharp criticism for the appointment of Cass Sunstein, who had previously published an academic paper arguing for aggressive government infiltration of social media and a ban on “conspiracy theorizing.” Sunstein resigned not long after the paper came to light, but this has not stopped critics, who point to Homeland Security’s routine data monitoring and collection which targets social media, popular websites, and online communication forums. 

Minnesota School Explodes into Riot as Two Ethnic Groups Clash
A lunch room food fight at Minneapolis South high School turned into a brawl with hundreds of students on February 14, an incident linked to simmering cultural and religious divisions between American-black and Somali-Muslim immigrant students. The fight, which involved 200 to 300 students, began at around 12:45 p.m. and lasted about fifteen minutes. Students reported that it began when one student threw a milk carton at another. The situation quickly grew out of hand, requiring teachers to call police. Students were instructed to stand down, but refused to comply. In response, police sprayed the air above the fighting with mace, which sickened about a dozen students but brought the situation under control. No deaths occurred and weapons were reported during the fight, but three students and one staff were taken to the hospital. Police stated that though no criminal charges were pending, the future possibility of assault, riot, and other charges had not been ruled out.

Turning the Tables: Missouri GOPer Seeks to Proposing Gun Control a Felony
A recently-proposed bill in the Missouri House of Representatives could outlaw gun control proposals and even lead to prison sentences for offending legislators. The proposal by state legislator Mike Leara carries a sentence of up to four years in prison for introduction of gun control legislation. It has not attracted widespread support and has been criticized as polarizing by both Democrats and Republicans. Leara explained that he submitted the proposal out of principle and to raise attention to the gun issue, but does not expect its passage. Leara’s bill came partly in response to another bill submitted by Missouri Democrats which would ban assault weapons statewide. Though this bill is also expected to fail in the overwhelmingly conservative state legislature, two other bills criminalizing federal gun control measures passed after January 1, 2013 and preventing federal regulations of firearms manufactured and kept in Missouri have moved through committee and may come to a vote.

Pearl River Eyes School Budget Cuts for 2013-2014
A $1.7 million shortfall and $2.4 million budget gap may spur what Pearl River Superintendent John Morgano called some of the harshest education cuts in decades. To supplement the $60.3 million spending plan, the school district may implement spending cuts at all levels of the district. Programs which might be on the chopping block include Pearl River Middle School’s Challenge Program, social studies and math programs in Pearl River High School, librarian and orchestra programs in three elementary schools, non-mandated speech programs, and some athletics. In addition, the cuts may result in layoffs for about ten or eleven teachers, five teaching assistants, and one or two clerical employees. The school district, which has faced recent financial setbacks with a $645,000 reduction in state aid and funding limitations set by the state legislature’s two percent property tax cap, has scheduled a workshop on March 5 prior to a March 19 Board of Education vote on the new budget measures.

TV Anchor Resigns After Accusations of Choking Wife
WCBS-Channel 2 News anchorman Rob Morrison submitted his resignation today after being arrested for choking and threatening to kill his wife. Morrison, 45, was arrested by police on February 17 at his Connecticut home, where he was involved in a drunken altercation with his wife Ashley, an anchor for CBS “Money.” With their seven year old son in full view of the incident, Morrison allegedly began to choke his wife, who struck him with a remote control to loosen his grip. During the arrest, Morrison reportedly threatened to kill his wife and hurled insults at police. Ashley’s brother Dr. Gregory Risk also informed police of a separate incident where Rob threatened to kill his wife and son, triggering a Child Protective Services investigation. The argument allegedly stemmed from long-running conflicts between the Morrisons over an affair which Rob might have had with a production assistant or intern. Police reported that Ashley Morrison was so distressed that she refused to write out a statement or allow police to photograph handprints on her neck. Morrison, who maintained his innocence in spite of the resignation, has been charged with strangulation, threatening and disorderly conduct is currently out on $100,000 bail.

New York State Teachers’ Union Sues to Block Property-Tax Cap
New York State Teachers United is challenging the property tax cap issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo which took effect in 2012, filing suit in the state Supreme Court on Wednesday. The union argues that the cap, which limits property tax growth to two percent per year, places schools with less wealth at a greater disadvantage because they often do not have the resources to override the law. To bypass the tax cap, a supermajority of 60 percent of a given school budget vote must go toward an override measure. Their arguments in court are expected to challenge the sixty percent supermajority unconstitutionally undermines the “one person one vote” principle and that the tax cap itself is an arbitrary limitation on property tax levy increases.

Police Arrest Three in Suffern Break-In
Police arrested Steven Fettman, 19, Kenny Joseph, 20, and Jhamecia Watkins, 16, on February 18 for charges related to a burglary at a Rockland Terrace home last week. Fettman, Joseph, and Watkins reportedly stole cash and jewelry from the home, though it is unknown what they took on February 18. The three attempted to take more belongings on February 18 before a neighbor called police with a tip that the suspects were acting suspiciously outside the home. In addition to the burglary, the three allegedly had burglary tools on their person and broke two door windows in the front of the house. Charges included felony second degree burglary, criminal mischief, criminal possession of burglar’s tools, and fourth-degree conspiracy.