TIMELINES 3/20/14

Hasidic men plead guilty in divorce coercion plot

Two brothers in an eight-member Hasidic gang pled guilty last Monday to conspiracy charges related to the coercion of other ultra-orthodox men for the purpose of obtaining religious divorces.

Moshe and Avrohom Goldstein pled guilty in a U.S. District Court in Trenton, admitting to working with six partners-including prominent Monsey rabbi Martin Wolmark-to kidnap and torture Hasidic men until they granted their wives gets, or religiously-sanctioned permissions to divorce.

The gang would charge up to $80,000 to women in exchange for the service and were caught when they brokered such a deal with undercover FBI agents in Edison, N.J. Two others in the group also admitted to authorities they had conducted a similar kidnapping in 2011.

Sentencing for the Goldsteins is set for June. Each faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Four injured in Sparkill car crash

Two vehicles collided head-on in a serious accident on Route 9W in Sparkill on Sunday, resulting in serious injuries to four of the occupants.

The crash is believed to have occured when a sedan and van collided near the Rockland Country Club, forcing emergency personnel to close off that section of the road until the accident could be cleaned up. The road remained closed through 4:30 p.m. on the same day.

Two of those injured in the crash were treated for possible fractures at Nyack Hospital. The driver of the sedan was treated for rib and leg injuries, while the driver of the van was transferred to Westchester County Medical Center for treatment of multiple fractures and possible internal injuries.
Missing Ramapo man found in Newark, Pomona man remains missing

70 year old Jan Gutka, who disappeared last Friday, was found safe in Newark, New Jersey late Saturday evening as police continue their search for a man who vanished on the same day.

Gutka was last reported to have left a doctor’s appointment in Bergen County on Friday morning. Meanwhile, police continue to search for Peretz Sontag, 50, of Pomona, who also disappeared on Friday after making comments alluding to suicide.

Sontag, a member of a well-known Orthodox family, has black hair, brown eyes and wears glasses. He stands at 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighs about 145 pounds and was last seen driving a black 2012 Kia Optima with New York plates reading FZD-8413.

Anybody who has information on Sontag is encouraged to call Ramapo Police at 845-357-2400.
Palisades Parkway in New Jersey to see pothole repairs

After an evaluation by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, much-needed pothole repairs will soon begin on the New Jersey side of the Palisades Parkway.

A DOT spokesperson announced last week that $15 million would go toward repairs for the stretch of highway, which has been in a state of serious disrepair since the mid-’90s and sustained heavy damage from repeated deep freezes during the winter of 2013-2014. Work is scheduled to begin as early as this summer.

The New York State DOT manages the highway from the Bear Mountain Traffic circle to the state line. Though the Palisades Interstate Park Commission is responsible for the length of the road in New Jersey below the state line, its minimal, $7.7 million budget allows very little for repairs.
Congers worker burnned in factory accident

A worker at a makeup-production factory in Congers was treated on Sunday for first degree burns he sustained on the job when a caustic chemical spilled on his face.

The worker was injured when five gallons of the waxy liquid was spilled at Intercos, an Italian makeup company with a manufacturing location on Route 303. The worker was treated for his injuries and no other individuals were determined to have been afffected.

First responders with the Congers Fire Department, Rockland Paramedics and the Congers-Valley Cottage Ambulance Corps also called Rockland’s hazardous materials team to investigate and clean up the mess. The spilled material was deemed not to be a threat.
State Attorney General calls for pharmacies to end tobacco sales

In an interstate effort to curb tobacco use, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine have joined forces to push for major pharmacy chains to discontinue the sale of tobacco and smoking paraphenalia.

Schneiderman and DeWine head up a coalition of 28 states and territories petitioning major pharmacies such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, Safeway and Kroger to change their business model. The push was inspired in part by CVS Caremark’s decision to discontinue tobacco sales in October 2014.

Schneiderman has been a major opponent of tobacco sales in New York state, supporting crackdowns on illegal cigarette sales online, contraband sales at traditional retail outlets and sales at “roll your own” locations in New York City.
New tax scofflaw drivers license suspensions target tax evaders

As part of a program to clamp down on delinquent taxpayers, the state has begun to suspend licenses held by drivers who owe significant sums of tax money.

The initiative pursued residents who owe more than $10,000 in back taxes to the state. Drivers have 60 days to arrange payment after their first notification, then a final warning 15 days before the license is suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The license is authorized to remain suspended until the debt is paid or a payment plan is reached.

The first round of notifications were sent to more than 17,700 drivers in August 2013, 6,500 of whom were spared suspensions after paying what was owed. 8,900 license-holders had their driving privileges revoked, while 2,300 were ineligible for suspensions.

The new penalty system has already increased collections by $56.4 million, 34 percent over the initial $42 million estimate.
Unemployment in 30 states reach post-recession lows

A new Departmment of Labor report has shown state job markets which have yet to fully recover from the recession, but have made significant headway in overall figures. However, the figures are for unemployment and not overall labor participation, which remains the lowest since women joined the workforce en masse in the 1960s.

The Labor Department announced 30 states have returned to post-recession employment levels, with some of the biggest drops occurring between the months of December 2013 and January 2014. New York is currently at its lowest level since January 2009, with a 0.3 percent drop to a 6.8 percent unemployment rate.

Other states saw even bigger declines. Michigan fell 0.6 percent during the same time period, registering a 7.8 percent unemployment rate and logging one of the biggest drops in the nation.

Though the drops seem to be good news, Washington Post columnnnist Niraj Chokshi cautioned there are deeper issues in the job market which also required attention. Specifically, Chokshi argued income disparity and long-term unemployment posed serious risks for the states’ long-term economic health.
Student claims he was disciplined for wearing NRA shirt

A student in Grand Island, NY claimed that he was disciplined by a teacher after wearing a National Rifle Association shirt to school.

According to the parents of Shane Kinney, a 16 year old sophomore at Grand Island High School and and an avid hunter, the youth was told his shirt was inappropriate because it contained images of crossed rifles in the Association’s logo. Shane was told to turn the shirt inside out but refused, getting him an in-school suspension.

Grand Island Superintendent of Schools Terese Lawrence issued a statement explaining they would look into the matter, but denied Kinney had been disciplined for wearing an NRA shirt. The Kinneys do not plan to take action against the school.
Crimea votes to leave Ukraine, Putin declares region to be under Russian control

Following a referendum by residents on Sunday which was said to have shown 96.7 percent of voters in favor of secession, the Crimea region of Ukraine voted to leave Ukraine to join Russia.

The Kremlin declared the annexation official after a signing ceremony which took place in the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol on Tuesday. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was joined by the Prime Minister of Crimea and Mayor of Sevastopol to welcome the region, a vital shipping and naval center where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is baed, into Russia’s sphere of influence.

The move drew strong condemnation from Western nations and the Ukrainian government. Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the annexation “a robbery on an international scale” while both the European Union and United States have similarly criticized Russia’s decision.

Crimea, which is culturally Russian, largely withdrew support from the movement which unseated former Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich due to its perceived hostility toward Russian influence. Since Yanukovich’s removal, Putin has built a visible military presence in the region in hopes of pressuring Ukraine to accede to the Kremlin’s demands.

Rockland resident and NYS “Top Cop” named “Person of the Year”

Rockland Resident Joseph A. D’Amico was honored by a global security group last Friday, receiving their annual New York City Person of the Year Award

D’Amico, who serves as New York State’s Police Superintendent, received the award from ASIS International, a security firm which specializes in protection of a broad range of people and assets in both the public and private sector. Each year, ASIS honors an awardee for service in the interest of NYC residents continued safety and security.

D’Amico is the latest addition to a line of award-holding luminaries. Past recipients include former State Police Superintendent William Connelie, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the former Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner III.

Pilot of Malaysia Flight 370 linked to jailed opposition leader, families threaten hunger strike

After denials, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim shed light on the pilot of the missing Malaysia Flight 370 by admitting Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was related to his son-in-law and had personally interaacted with Ibrahim.

The new information seems to suggest the disappearance was intentional and orchestrated by somebody close to the airline. The diverted route was found to have been programmed into the plane’s flight computer and Malaysia stated it was investigating the possibility of a hijacking.

Though Ibrahim cautioned that politicizing the incident was counterproductive and harmful to the families of missing passengers, families remain angry and skeptical of Malaysian authorities, demanding immediate answers and threatening a hunger strike if information is not provided.

China, the hone country of about two thirds of the plane’s 154 passengers, gave credence to the statements by repeatedly demanding a better and more transparent investigation from Malaysian authorities. Chinese investigators also announced background checks turned up nothing suspicious about the passengers.

White House pastry chef quits, cites Michelle Obama’s healthy eating campaign

White House exxecutive patry chef Bill Yosses announced on Tuesday he would be leaving his position to teach people how to eat healthier.

Yosses, who was hired during the Bush Administration, called the decision “bittersweet” and explined that though he admired Michelle’s campaign against unhealthy eating, he was not ready to abandon milk, eggs, butter, sugar and cream for healthier alternatives.

The chef will leave his position in June.