Timelines 5/9/13

Garnerville Home Destroyed in Fire
A fire which was likely caused by a tossed cigarette destroyed a Garnerville home early on Sunday, ripping through a family’s belongings but causing no injuries. The fire began at around 1:45 a.m., after which the family immediately left the house and both West Haverstraw and Thiells firefighters responded to the blaze. Though the home could not be saved, the entire family, including a pet dog, escaped the fire without injury. Homeowner Marco Lopez was unsure of the exact cause of the fire, but explained to fire personnel that he had seen somebody smoking on the premise. Fire officials explained the cigarette might have ignited mulch on the front lawn and spread to the house and urged locals to be careful about cigarette disposals and other open flames, especially considering the relatively dry weather Rockland has experienced in recent weeks.

Monsey Goat Owner Accused of Animal Law Violations
A dwarf Nigerian goat which was stolen from its Monsey home has been recovered, but the owner now faces charges related to violations of village animal laws. The goat was stolen on Friday by teenagers and found wandering the streets of Montebello on Saturday morning, after which it was returned to its owner Moshe Rosenbaum. However, Rosenbaum were also given a summons by Airmont’s village code enforcement for raising a goat on a property which is not zoned for farm animals. The goat’s owner, Moshe Rosenbaum, was given 45 days to find another home for the goat.

Attorney General Announces Lawsuits and Settlements over Sandy Price Gouging
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a round of settlements and a new wave of lawsuits on May 2 which target service stations in New York accused of violating New York State’s Price Gouging Law after Hurricane Sandy. The settlements include a deal with one station in Rockland County. Among the stations which reached settlements with the state is Citgo/Enterprises, Inc. at 162 E. Rte 59 in Spring Valley. The station was discovered to have nearly doubled its prices following Sandy, with a jump to $4.59 per gallon immediately after the storm. The new lawsuits were brought against gas stations in Brooklyn, East Islip, Massapequa, and Farmingdale. These new cases added more names to a growing list of state lawsuits against gas providers, including twenty five previously settled cases which netted $167,850 in total settlements from stations. A number of other investigations into possible gouging are ongoing.

Albany Corruption Probe Nabs Another State Senator
Brooklyn State Senator John Sampson has become caught up in the same broad corruption investigation which nabbed Spring Valley mayor Noramie Jasmin and deputy mayor Joseph Desmaret and may surrender to authorities as early as this week, according to two sources close to the investigation. Sampson stands accused of receiving help in expanding his business around Kennedy Airport from former State Senator Shirley Huntley, who had connections with the Port Authority. In exchange, Sampson allegedly gave Huntley a $1,000 payment. Huntley pled guilty in January to stealing almost $90,000 from a government-run nonprofit and made an agreement with the FBI in May to record conversations involving fraud and bribery schemes. She is the second state legislator known to have recorded conversations for authorities, the last being former Assemblyman Nelson Castro, whose recordings resulted in bribery charges against Assemblyman Eric Stevenson.

Bangladesh Factory Collapse Might be one of the Worst Industrial Accidents Ever
A garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh and claimed the lives of more than 600 workers might be one of the worst industrial accidents ever, according to the most recent death toll. The eight-story Plaza Rana building collapsed on April 24, leaving 149 people missing since last Wednesday. However, police announced last Sunday that they had discovered more than 200 bodies since then, putting the current number of dead at 610. The total far surpasses other garment factory disasters such as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York which killed 146 workers. Masood Reza, an architect who helped to design the building, explained the structure was initially designed as a shopping mall and did not have the structural integrity to hold large industrial machines. Both the factory’s owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and consulting engineer Abdur Razzak Khan were arrested in connection to negligence and other illegal building and employment practices.

Cuomo Ad Campaign Funded with Sandy Relief Money
A new series of ads released by Governor Cuomo encouraging businesses to come to New York has spurred criticism for using money gathered for Sandy relief, according to a report from the New York Times. The $140 million ad campaign, titled “New York State Open for Business,” was funded in part by money drawn from Power Authority and Energy Research and Development Authority and federal aid for Sandy relief. Other programs whose funding was diverted include public building financing and environmental programs. However, critics have questioned the wisdom of using the funds to PR campaigns. Former governor Eliot Spitzer, however, called the ads “a waste of taxpayer money.” Others have also suggested the ad campaign was a veiled effort to enhance Cuomo’s stature without doing anything substantial for the state’s economy.

States Vote to Nullify Federal Gun Control Laws
A growing number of states have begun to pass state resolutions to block enforcement of federal gun restrictions, including Texas, Alabama, Missouri and Kansas. Most recently, Texas’ state house passed House Bill 928 on May 7. If it passes through the state senate and is signed by Governor Rick Perry, it would prohibit enforcement of almost all federal gun control measures and allow penalties for state officers who do enforce federal regulations. State senators in Missouri and Kansas have already approved similar laws which effectively ban the enforcement of federal gun laws. Kansas is unique in that it only bans enforcement of laws regarding guns manufactured and remaining within the state, while the Missouri bill only limits laws which the state attorney general deems unconstitutional. State noncompliance poses a significant problem for federal enforcers. The Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that the federal government cannot force state authorities to enforce federal regulations. Judge Andrew Napolitano recently explained a lack of cooperation with states can make federal law “nearly impossible to enforce.”

State Attorney General Announces New Animal Protection Initiative
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a new initiative on May 1 aiming to shut down criminal animal fighting rings by using pre-existing civil and criminal remedies to prosecute offenders. Schneiderman explained that fighting animal abuse not only protected animals but also targeted operations which were often linked to larger illicit activities such as criminal gangs and gambling rings. Though the scope of the initiative includes activities such as dog-fighting, it will not focus exclusively on such practices and will include other forms of animal abuse as well. The program will involve investigators and assistant attorney generals across the state, who will work in concert with the Consumer Fraud Bureau, Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, Organized Crime Task Force and Investigations Bureau to find and prosecute offenders.

New York State Comptroller Raises Concerns about Nuclear Waste Storage
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli attended Entergy’s annual shareholder meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 3 to introduce a shareholder proposal calling for a limit on waste stored in spent fuel pools and a required transfer of waste to dry cask storage. DiNapoli cited safety concerns from possible accidents and sabotage as reasons why Entergy should consider the proposal, which he argued would not only keep the public safe but also enhance shareholder value. His proposal also calls for Entergy to report progress to shareholders on a quarterly basis. Dry cask storage involves the removal of cooled nuclear fuel from cooling pools and securing it in specially-designed containers filled with inert gas. It is an option which the National Academy of Sciences has claimed holds significant advantages over cooling pool storage, the method commonly used by Entergy.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Breaks Silence on Obama
Though often characterized by his frequent silence, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke about Obama during a CSPAN interview on May 3, characterizing him as being predictably in line with establishment politics. Thomas explained that though he did not know Obama as well as other presidents such as Bill Clinton, he said any black president would have to speak in favor of prevailing cultural norms in the black community rather than challenging them and would have to be approved by “media elites.” “Anybody [the media] didn’t agree with they would take apart,” Thomas explained. Thomas also explained that he could not say if he had any common ideas with Obama or past presidents because he did not like politics and favored an approach which focuses more on history and other fields which he claimed have “more substance.”

Israel Strikes at Syria, Targeting Missile Shipment
An Israeli airstrike on Syrian soil which took place on Friday was confirmed a day later by Israeli officials, who explained it was meant to destroy a shipment of missiles destined for Hezbollah forces. The airstrike had previously been confirmed by U.S. officials in the area, but they were non-specific on the target. Israeli officials spoke on the condition of anonymity, explaining the release of further information was still tightly restricted by Israeli intelligence. According to the anonymous sources, the target was a shipment of long-range, ground-to-ground missiles, but contained no chemical weapons. It is the second instance of an Israeli strike on a target in Syria in 2013, the last being an airstrike on a shipment of SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, also bound for Hezbollah.

State Shuts Down major Charity Accused of Defrauding Public
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on May 3 that Campaign Center, Inc., a major New York charity, had been ordered to close its doors after the discovery that it had defrauded the public out of millions of dollars. According to prosecutors, Campaign Center worked through the CBAC to solicit $10 million in donations for breast cancer research, screening, and education from 2005 to 2011. However, the organizations were not affiliated with any recognized cancer institutions and only four percent of its donations actually went to breast cancer prevention programs. The scam was conducted through the Coalition Against Breast Cancer (CBAC), a sham charity which had previously paid $1.55 million in restitution before being forced to close its doors. The new ruling requires Campaign Center to be dissolved and for its owner, Garrett Morgan, to pay restitution for the defrauded funds. In addition, the organization will no longer be eligible for nonprofit status in New York State.