Timelines 10/24/13

Same-sex marriages begin in New Jersey
With the formal withdrawal of Governor Chris Christie’s challenge to a state Supreme Court ruling permitting same sex-marriage in New Jersey, the first of many formal marriage ceremonies were officiated in the state. The ruling makes New Jersey the 14th state to have legal same sex marriage. In response to the ruling, a series of quickly-arranged ceremonies were officiated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker just after midnight on October 21. After a ruling in September striking down the state’s gay marriage ban, Christie’s office issued an appeal. However, the appeal was rejected by the court. Christie conceded, arguing that though he believed the issue should be in the hands of either the legislature or a popular vote, he was bound to enforce the court’s decision. Christie has come under increasing pressure in his state to support same-sex unions, but also had to balance constituent voices with his own party, which still officially opposes gay marriage and would likely weed out its supporters during primaries.

Hepatitis prevention legislation becomes law
A new law signed by Governor Cuomo and pushed by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski will require healthcare providers to provide free Hepatitis screening for eligible adults in New York. The law requires providers to offer all individuals born between 1945 and 1965 free Hepatitis screening. Hepatitis C has received attention in recent years, with greater pushes for expanded coverage as the disease became more prevalent. For instance, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently changed Hepatitis testing recommendations for Boomers from Grade C to B, paving the way for more coverage. Hepatitis C has become a significant medical concern for the Baby Boomer Generation, with an estimated one in 30 harboring the infection. 75 percent of Boomers are estimated to be unaware they have the disease. Additionally, deaths from Hepatitis C complications outnumbered those from HIV for the first time in 2007 and the disease is estimated to have infected anywhere between 3.5 and 5.3 million Americans. About 80 percent of new cases are reported to be asymptomatic.

Monsey man arrested on drug and weapon charges
Shlomo Ettinger, 61 of Monsey, was arrested and charged last week for multiple drug and gun-related offenses. Neighbors reported suspicious behavior two months ago, prompting an investigation by police. Upon executing a search of Ettinger’s house, police found more than a pound of marijuana, 370 grams of hash oil, an unregistered .357 caliber Smith & Wesson, ammunition for the pistol, and $2,000. Ettinger was charged with second-degree criminal possession of marijuana, fourth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, both felonies and misdemeanor fourth-degree possession of a weapon. Five others were also arrested as a result of the investigation and charged with lesser crimes.

Nyack fire chief saves neighbor’s home from fire
35 year Empire Hook and Ladder Co. Number 1 firefighter Rich Cascioli Sr.has been praised for quick action when he responded to a fire in his neighbor’s kitchen and saved his dog on October 18. Cascioli spotted smoke coming from the house on Tompkins Avenue and ran inside the back door, which was open. Though there was a fire which is believed to have started with the kitchen stove, nobody was home at the time. Cascioli put out the fire and rescued the neighbor’s dog before fellow Nyack firefighters were able to respond and check the fire was completely out. No injuries were reported. The fire destroyed a bag of groceries near the stove and damaged some cabinets and a refrigerator, but the house incurred no serious structural damage. According to Nyack Fire Chief James Weck, the response likely prevented far more serious damage to the building.

Nevada student opens fire at middle school, killing one
A 12-year-old boy opened fire at Sparks Middle School in Washoe County, Nevada on October 21, killing a teacher and wounding two classmates who are now in stable condition. The boy, whose name has not been released by police out of respect for his family, opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic Ruger as students were entering the school before the beginning of the school day, hitting one student in the shoulder. He then encountered 45-year old math teacher and former Marine Michael Landsberry, who attempted to convince the boy to put down the gun before being fatally shot in the chest. The boy then shot another student in the abdomen before killing himself. Police explained the shooter also attempted to enter the school at one point, but was unable because the school was under lockdown. According to them, Landsberry’s acts bought time for many students to escape to safety. Authorities say they have interviewed 20 to 30 witnesses and suspect the shooter had been bullied but have not identified a definite motive yet. However, police did identify the source of the gun, which was taken from the boy’s parents. After the shooting, students from the middle school and a neighboring elementary school were evacuated to the local high school. The middle school is expected to reopen in a week.

Smog paralyzes northeast Chinese cities
Dense smog rolled over several cities in northeast China earlier this week, closing airports, slowing traffic and prompting a public health emergency in a nation known for serious environmental problems. The smog began to roll into cities such as Harbin on Sunday and remained on Tuesday, limiting visibility and forcing residents to wear masks in order to prevent coughing and eye irritation from the pollutants in the air. Air tests revealed the smog carried forty times the safety limit for fine particulate matter. Air pollution has been a major problem in China, which has only recently attempted to address serious environmental consequences from their rapid industrial growth. Earlier in January, Beijing experienced a lesser event dubbed “airpocalypse” which caused similar problems. Chinese officials blamed the smog on a combination of late harvest season straw-burning, high coal-heating activities, and a low-pressure weather system which prevented the dissipation of the air.

Pope Francis places “Luxury Bishop” on leave
In an effort to further enhance the worldly image of his papacy and clamp down on corruption in Rome, Pope Francis I recently placed a German bishop on leave for millions in extravagant spending. Francis removed Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his post after revelations in German papers that he planned a lavish $42 million of his official church residence in Limburg and a first-class plane trip he took to India. The scandal ignited outrage in Germany, where the government taxes churchgoers and provides funds to the Catholic Church and other religious groups. According to the Vatican, Tebartz-van Elst will be offered a position outside the diocese and another man will be appointed in his stead. Though the Vatican stated public money never went to the bishop, the scandal still damaged the church’s reputation in the country. Tebartz-van Elst’s removal was marked with praise from top German Catholic officials and hopes that it would help rehabilitate the church’s image. Francis has been at the forefront of a campaign to weed out corruption in the Catholic Church. Along with the removal of the bishop, he has also supported efforts to reform the Vatican Bank, which has also been recently rocked by claims of financial misdeeds.

Gallup Poll: Most Americans want legal marijuana
A gallup poll released Tuesday revealed 58 percent of Americans were in favor of legalizing marijuana, contrasted with 39 percent who want it to remain illegal. The poll noted shifting attitudes in the county concerning the drug were most pronounced with political independents, 50 percent of which support legalization, compared to relatively unchanging numbers from Democrats and Republicans. In 2013, polls showed 65 percent of Democrats and 35 percent of Republicans favored legalization. The shift is a recent sign of changing attitudes on marijuana, likely due to increases in respondents’ personal experiences with the drug. Only 14 percent of Americans favored legalization in 1969, when polls on the subject began.