Stephen Baldwin Avoids Felony Charges with Plea Deal
Actor and Rockland resident Stephen Baldwin recently reached a plea deal with county prosecutors in which he will plead guilty to one charge of failing to pay income taxes and pay a hefty invoice in exchange for staying out of prison. Baldwin will be required to pay back the bulk of $350,000 in back taxes within one year. In exchange, he will avoid felony charges and his record will remain untarnished. The actor also has the option to pay the amount over the course of five years, but would retain a felony conviction while being placed on probation. Though both prosecutors and Baldwin’s counsel stated they were satisfied with the deal, Baldwin’s attorney Russell M. Yankwitt expressed concern that the actor would not be able to pay the $350,000 due to pre-existing financial troubles and a lack of entertainment deals permitted under Stephen Baldwin’s born-again Christian faith.

Emmett Woods Honored as Businessperson of the Year
Rockland resident Emmett Woods, who owns and operates Emmett’s Castle at Blue Hill Golf Course in Pearl River, has been selected by the Rockland County Hibernians as their Businessperson of the Year and will be honored at Pearl River’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Born in County Tyrone, Ireland, the Pearl River businessman has been both a longtime promoter of Irish culture and community work. Woods served as chairman of the Rockland Gaelic Athletic Association for five years and performing fundraising for the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the Special Olympics, among other groups. Woods, who immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1985, lived in the Bronx for ten years before moving to Pearl River in 1995. He explained that he chose the predominantly Irish neighborhood to retain a connection to his heritage and regularly participated in the parade for several years.

TV Show Filmed at Rockland County Courthouse
Coordinator for Rockland County’s Office of Tourism and Economic Development CJ Miller confirmed on Thursday that the Rockland County Courthouse would be a filming location for a televised series by Lionsgate. According to Miller, Lionsgate used one of the courtrooms, scheduling its filming around court operations and paying thousands of dollars for their use of the space. Though Miller did not disclose the name of the series, she explained it to be an ongoing crime drama. Miller added that more film crews could be expected to scout and shoot in Rockland County, operations which the County was encouraging in an effort to promote a “film-friendly” reputation.

“Birth Tourists” Provoke Controversy
A recent trend of wealthy foreign women travelling to the United States specifically to give birth has created controversy over potential abuse of U.S. citizenship requirements. The trend involves small hotels which cater specifically to pregnant women who visit the United States just long enough to give birth and obtain citizenship, passports and social security numbers for their children. The women, who are often from upper classes in Asian and European nations, are drawn to spots in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and New York, where one such hotel exists in Queens. Critics such as Representative Phil Gingrey (R-Ga) have taken aim at the practice, with Gingrey explaining that the women are “gaming the system” and called for a re-evaluation of the 14th Amendment to prohibit what he saw as an exploitation which does not match the spirit of the law.

East Ramapo School Board Meeting Ends With Shouting Match, Prompts Ethics Complaint against School District Attorney
Following an escalation of tensions at the most recent East Ramapo school board meeting on Tuesday night, the school district’s attorney engaged in a verbal sparring match with an East Ramapo student. After the school board left in response to attendees breaking out into angry chants, activists, parents, and students gathered outside to discuss the meeting. Attorney Albert D’Agostino allegedly began the argument when he approached activist Steve White, who had been talking with student Nicholas Pulakos regarding comments D’Agostino had directed earlier to White. Witnesses reported D’Agostino then followed Pulakos and White out to the parking lot, where he continued to verbally attack the group. Nicholas’ mother Charlene Williams-Pulakos filed an ethical complaint with the board’s Grievance Committee, claiming D’Agostino’s actions were a violation of the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct. The district meeting was marred by accusations by activists that the school board was delaying public comment on plans to move graduation ceremonies to an indoor location on a Monday, a suggestion which prompted outrage among parents and students. According to board member Joel Klein, the plan has since been abandoned.

Man Fights with Officer After Breaking into Ramapo Home
A Spring Valley man is under arrest after he broke into the home of acquaintances, assaulted them and fought with a responding officer Thursday evening. James Anis, 24, is charged with assault on the officer and residents, as well as burglary and criminal mischief, all as felonies. He was also charged with the misdemeanor of resisting arrest and a violation of unlawful possession of marijuana. Ramapo Police responded to a disturbance at 112 Rockland Lane around 6:45 p.m. Thursday and found Anis had forced his way into the home and assaulted the two occupants. He fought with the officer and was subdued by other officers who arrived shortly thereafter. The injured officer was treated and released from the hospital. (From: www.midhudsonnews.com.)

NYSE May Soon Rely Solely on Computers in Emergencies
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently received plans from NYSE Euronext which shift trading entirely to their electronic trading system Arca in cases of emergency when floor-directed trading is technically difficult or dangerous. The details of the plan anticipate disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, when the stock market floor was shut down for several days and rendered floor trading impossible. While the original contingency plan called for floor trading to remain in a limited capacity while Arca took over the bulk of the exchanges, this would be the first time Arca would be established as an exclusive system. Other exchanges such as Direct Edge Holdings LLC and NASDAQ OMX Group Inc. have already established backup sites where trading can be conducted remotely in emergency situations.

U.S. Senator Schumer Calls for Plan to Keep Trucks off Local Parkways
Speaking at the Hutchinson River Parkway near the Mamaroneck Road Overpass on Monday, Senator Charles Schumer joined local officials to announce a new initiative to train truck drivers to better avoid overpasses on local parkways, hopefully reducing the number accidents on roads in the Hudson Valley region. The initiative would require commercial drivers’ license applicants to include GPS training and education on the dangers of low overpasses. Many commercial drivers use GPS devices already, but do not use devices specifically designed for commercial use and encounter obstacles not anticipated by the satellite maps. According to Schumer, eighty percent of these accidents are a result of faulty GPS directions, meaning training could drastically cut down accident figures and would supplement measures such as written signs on roadways cautioning trucks and buses when they approach low-hanging overpasses.

Governor Cuomo Provides Wine & Spirits Vendors with Streamlined Process
Heeding suggestions from state beverage vendors, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on March 4 the establishment of a new, direct online process to help vendors navigate the often complicated system of state regulations. Dubbed a “one-stop shop” for members of the liquor industry, the program will provide a single point of contact between manufacturers, distributors, and specially-trained staffers from various agencies such as the State Liquor Authority and Tax and Finance Department, who will advise on state regulations. Cuomo expressed hope the move would make it easier for industry members to stay in compliance with all relevant legal requirements. Program staffers will also host educational programs and feature a website where industry representatives can search for grants, loans, incentives, and permits available to eligible participants and will feature a FAQ section for quick answers to easy questions.

Independent Commission Cautions Cuomo on Pension Plan
The Citizens Budget Commission joined a growing chorus of critics on March 4 by warning that Governor Cuomo’s pension proposal would threaten the stability of local communities and increase expenses overall. The program, which offers local communities and schools the option to set a lower, fixed rate on pension payouts over the course of twenty five years, was criticized by the Commission for costing more in the long-run. CBC President Carol Kellermann said the plan“…does not provide meaningful, long-term relief for localities in fiscal distress and endangers the viability of the pension funds.” Kellermann added the plan would also threaten New York’s reputation as a state which pays its pension bills in a timely fashion. Similar criticisms had been leveled by individuals such as Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who argued that state pensions are a significant cost, but cutting them alone would ultimately prove ineffective.

Appeal by Empire Center Seeks Disclosure of Pensioners’ Names
The Empire Center for New York State Policy expressed an intention to appeal a previous ruling which upheld the right to deny the release of pensioner names through Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests. Albany’s Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court upheld the ruling on February 21, citing “well-defined statutory construction” supported by precedent. According to the Empire Center, the group would now move to the highest court in New York to seek an appeal. The suit against the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS) came as a result of the NYSTRS’ refusal to submit the identities of retired pensioners, information which the Empire Center stated it had been receiving for years.

Pakistani Mob Burns Christian Homes in Protest of Alleged Blasphemy
In response to rumors about an alleged act of blasphemy against the Muslim prophet Muhammad, a mob of Pakistanis in the city of Lahore rampaged through a Christian neighborhood, setting fire to homes. The incident began on Friday when a Muslim man accused a Christian of blasphemy, prompting an angry group from a local mosque to march to the man’s house. Police took the man into custody to quell the protests, but local Christians left their homes in anticipation of further unrest. The mob returned on Saturday, looting homes and burning piles of items in the streets as about fifty homes were set ablaze. Accusations of blasphemy in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation often go unstopped by police who fear association with blasphemers, leading to such incidents of mass violence.

Lawmakers Request Details on Obama’s Drone Policy
Eight Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to President Obama on Monday requesting the declassification of the legal basis for drone strikes in response to a leaked Justice Department paper detailing what they referred to as an “overly broad” process. The letter, which was put together by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) and supported by the House Judiciary’s top Democrat John Conyers (D-Michigan), asks for clarification on questions of the feasibility of capturing a suspect and the determination of what constitutes an imminent threat. The request comes days after Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) drew attention to the drone program, staging an almost thirteen hour filibuster of Obama’s nomination of CIA Director John Brennan during which he raised the possibility of unconstitutional drone use on Americans on U.S. soil. Attorney General Eric Holder dismissed claims of drone use on Americans in the U.S. except in “extraordinary circumstance.”

State Attorney General Reaches Deal with Google over Privacy Violations
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a multi-state deal between 37 states and the District of Columbia and Google, which stood accused of violations of personal privacy from their Street View service. Google’s Street View service was brought to investigators’ attention when reports emerged of the Street View cars which traveled neighborhoods photographing street locations gathered and stored data from unprotected network connections. Data collected included emails, passwords, text messages, and web histories, including information from private homes. As part of the agreement, Google will destroy the collected data, which will not be used for commercial purposes. Google has also agreed to train employees on consumer data protection, conduct a public information campaign on securing online information, and pay a fine of $7 million to the states, $192,000 of which will go to New York.

Ups Freight Reopens Nanuet Service Center
UPS announced this week that ss part of an ongoing effort to improve efficiency throughout the Northeast, UPS Freight has reopened its service center in Nanuet, N.Y. The Nanuet Service Center, located at 80 W. Nyack Rd., is positioned near several major thoroughfares, including the New York State Thruway (Interstates 87/287), Palisades Interstate Parkway and New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. It also is located near New York State routes 59 and 304. The existing 32-door Nanuet facility was closed in 2005 after UPS Freight opened a new service center in Newburgh, N.Y. However, a recent evaluation of shipment volume as well as the number of miles driven for pickups and deliveries in the area pointed to the need to re-establish the Nanuet facility. “There are two reasons UPS Freight decided to reopen our Nanuet facility – and they also are two of our company’s cornerstones – service and sustainability,” said Jack Holmes, president of UPS Freight. “Re-establishing our physical presence in Nanuet allows us to offer earlier service to many of our customers in the area while reducing the number of miles we’re driving to reach those customers. We’re looking forward to continued growth in the Northeast and having the Nanuet terminal back in business will help us achieve that goal.” The facility employs about 30 people, and its service area includes White Plains, Yonkers and New Rochelle, N.Y.; Mahwah, Ramsey, Northvale and Emerson, N.J.; and Stamford, Norwalk and Greenwich, Conn. (Press release.)

General Electric Agrees to Investigate Possible Impact of PCB Contamination
As part of a recent deal with State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, General Electric will perform an evaluation of steps necessary to remove traces of thirty years’ worth of PCB contamination from the Hudson River. The analysis will seek to rectify issues pointed out by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study which found higher than expected concentrations of PCBs in hotspots which were not subject to further cleanup through a previous agreement between the EPA and GE. The EPA also pointed out that additional dredging could prevent the full impact of the contamination. In an effort to reduce the broad range of liability for the PCBs which might be opened by the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, GE will seek to complete their analysis in 2013. In exchange, DiNapoli agreed to withdraw a shareholder resolution calling for the evaluation.

Herkimer Shooting Spree Leaves Four Dead, Suspect Identified
Police in Herkimer, New York have identified Kurt Myers, 64, as the shooter responsible for four deaths and at least two injuries at a car wash and barber shop in Herkimer, New York on February 13. The shootings began at the barber shop on Wednesday morning at 1:30 p.m., when Myers opened fire on the car wash, then made his way to the barber shop. In addition, emergency personnel were called to an intentionally set fire at Myers’ residence earlier in the day at about 9:30 a.m., where they found ammunition for six firearms. As of 6 p.m. Myers was not been reported to be in custody, but the Utica Observer-Dispatch reported police had focused on a jewelry store on Main Street, not far from the car wash, and used a battering ram in a standoff at a local diner with an individual they would not confirm was the suspect. Local schools and hospitals have been placed on lockdown.

East Ramapo School Board Appoints New Members
The East Ramapo School Board appointed Bernard Charles and Nathan Losman as temporary members of the East Ramapo school board at their March 12 meeting. The new appointments come in the wake of resignations by previous board members Stephen Price and Suzanne Young-Mercer, over alleged intimidation from the largely Orthodox Jewish board, as well as close scrutiny by community members over board financial decisions. Charles is a Spring Valley resident who works for the village’s Parks and Recreation Department and is running for village mayor, while Losman is from New Hempstead and works as an attorney for the White, Fleischner, and Fino Law Firm. Both were chosen from a pool of twelve candidates, seven of which were interviewed by the board as final candidates. The two members terms will be in effect as soon as they take their oath of office and will continue until May, when they will be eligible to run for a full term of three years.