TIMELINES 8/28/14

Ex-employee damages property of former Airmont employer

Police arrested a man on Sunday afternoon who they claim smashed the outside of an Airmont restaurant where he used to work over an alleged wage dispute.

Officers arrested Jose Vasquez Salinas, 25 of Suffern, after they found him brandishing a bat and hatchet at The Turn Restaurant on Campbell Avenue. Salinas had allegedly smashed several lights outside the restaurant, but neither damaged the inside of the restaurant nor injured anybody with the weapons.

Salinas complied with police demands that he drop his weapons and was arrested without further incident. He was charged with misdemeanor destruction of private property.

 

Former federal cyber-security director convicted for child porn

The former acting director of cyber-security at the Department of Health and Human Services was convicted on Tuesday for the dissemination and possession of child pornography through the anonymous Tor internet network.

Timothy DeFoggi, 56 was arrested in April 2013 and charged with possessing and soliciting a number of illicit images of children. According to prosecutors, he was a frequent member and commentator on a child pornography website from March 2, 2012 to December 8, 2012, when the FBI took down the website.

Prosecutors alleged DeFoggi not only possessed explicit images but requested images of another member’s son and even suggested to a member in private messages that they conspire to rape and murder children together.

The arrest and prosecution is part of a larger effort which has already identified and convicted five other users of three child pornography sites, including the administrator who ran all three sites.

 

Republicans criticize Cuomo’s seeming reluctance to debate opponents

New York State Republicans are lambasting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s silence on the question of whether he will debate his Democratic challenger, Fordham University Law Professor Zephyr R. Teachout, or his Republican challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

Cuomo was asked at a Syracuse campaign event last week whether or not he would accept an invitation to debate from NY1 in New York City and Time Warner Cable News in Albany, to which he responded he would “let the campaign decide.” He has not yet answered.

Cuomo has until Thursday to accept the invitations, but State Republicans have already become more aggressive in their assertions that Cuomo is scared of a debate. After Cuomo’s ambiguous answer last week, Republicans released an image of Cuomo’s face superimposed onto the body of Bert Lahr’s iconic Cowardly Lion character from “The Wizard of Oz.”

In spite of Cuomo’s conspicuous absence, he remains the frontrunner in the polls. The latest Quinnipiac poll has Cuomo’s 56 percent far ahead of Astorino’s 28 percent.

 

Bean bag chairs recalled due to suffocation hazard

A recall has been issued for 2.2 million bean bag chairs which can open up and expose children to an interior of small foam beads, a choking hazard which has already killed two children.

The chairs were recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in cooperation with Ace Bayou Corp after two children-one 13 years old and another 3 years old-managed to open zippers on the bean bag, crawl inside and suffocate on the foam beads. The zippers, which are meant to be permanently sealed, are on the exterior cover.

Retailers who sold the chair include Bon-Ton, Meijer, Pamida, School Specialty, Wayfair and Walmart. They were also sold online by Amazon, Meijer and Walmart before July 2013.

It is recommended all customers check the chairs to ensure the zippers are sealed. If they are not, Ace Bayou announced it will provide free repair kits for anybody who purchased a bag.

 

Seattle man confesses to national killing spree, cites revenge against U.S. government

A Seattle man arrested in late July confessed to a series of four killings which he claimed were revenge against the U.S. government for recent military action in the Middle East.

Ali Muhammad Brown, 29, confessed to the murder of four men in two states after he was caught at a makeshift campsite in Northern New Jersey on July 18. According to him, the kills were justifiable retribution against the government for deaths caused by the United States in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Brown’s spree began when he allegedly stole a car and handgun from the mother of his children and gunned down Leroy Henderson, 30 of Skyway, Washington. After this, he used a dating website for gay men to lure Dwone Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said to a Seattle nightclub, where police say he killed them both at close-range.

After his image was identified by police, Brown traveled to New Jersey, where he allegedly committed several robberies. During this time, he shot and killed college student Brian Tevlin, 19, in West Orange.

If brought to trial and convicted in Washington, Brown could face the death penalty.

 

Burger King seeks to purchase Tim Hortons, move base of operations overseas

Fast food giant Burger King announced on Tuesday that it plans to pay $11 billion to buy iconic Canadian breakfast chain Tim Hortons as part of an effort to move its corporate operations to a more business-friendly climate.

Following the merger, the American burger chain would likely move its operations to Ontario, Canada, where corporate tax rates are lower than they are in the United States. The company formed from the merger would likely be valued at around $18 billion and would be the third-biggest quick service restaurant company in the world.

The move makes sense financially, but could prove politically risky. Corporate taxes in the U.S. stand at a high effective rate of 39.1 percent, significantly higher than the 26.3 percent rate in Canada. However, moving offshore could negatively impact American sales if consumers decide Burger King’s avoidance of U.S. taxes warrants a boycott.

The deal is less risky for Tim Hortons, which already controls a large share of the Canadian fast food market and runs little risk of upsetting Canadian or American consumers. A merger with Burger King could expedite the process of bringing Tim Hortons into the international market, a long-term goal for the largely Canada-bound chain.

 

Teachers’ union and police union butt heads over Sharpton rally

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch came out swinging in the press against United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who chose to throw his support behind a march held on Saturday by Al Sharpton and other activists protesting the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner.

Lynch accused Mulgrew of using the event as a way to distract the union’s rank-and-file and the general public from recent conflicts over teacher tenure, charter schools and a recent, controversial union contract which he argued places the union at a disadvantage. According to Lynch, the move was shocking partly because the PBA and UFT normally worked together on common issues.

“We typically boost each other up,” Lynch stated in an interview with the New York Post. “I’m dumbfounded why Mike Mulgrew would do and say the things that he has.”

The UFT was one of several major sponsors for the march, which began at the Tompkinsville street corner where police allegedly placed Garner in an illegal choke hold until he was unconscious, and ended at the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office. Other supporters included the NAACP and SEIU, a major healthcare workers’ union.

 

Tax break approved for Orange Avenue complex without school district approval

A tax agreement was reached between the Town of Ramapo and the developers of the proposed 91-unit Orange Avenue apartment complex in Suffern, though the Ramapo Central School District alleges it was not a party to the decision.

The deal requires Orange Avenue Associates to pay $92,541 in property taxes over the course of five years, with the payment increasing 4 percent every five years. The breaks are projected to last a maximum of 40 years.

The school district stands to lose valuable tax revenues from the deal, but according to them, the negotiations, deal and subsequent Town Board resolution were reached without their knowledge or consent. Orange Avenue Associates’ Joshua Goldstein defended the agreement and stressed that it would help revive Suffern’s struggling business district.

With the approval of the Rockland County Industrial Development Agency, Orange Avenue Associates secured a PILOT agreement for town tax breaks in May. It was also able to secure more than $1 million in additional IDA sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions.

Owned by Sheldon Goldstein, Orange Avenue Associates has raised eyebrows with its connections to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo’s campaign treasurer Richard Sirota has been listed as a partner in the project. Both Goldstein and Cuomo denied any state influence upon the Town Board for the project’s approval, with Goldstein referring to Sirota as merely a “passive investor.”

 

Missing New Jersey man feared kidnapped during visit to Israel

An Orthodox Jewish man from New Jersey went missing last week in an Israeli forest, leading to concerns that he was kidnapped amid the country’s continued conflict with Hamas.

Aaron Sofer, a 23-year old student from Lakewood, New Jersey, went missing on Friday while he was hiking in a wooded area of Jerusalem. Though a large search was initiated of the area and some personal items which are believed to have belonged to Sofer were found, Sofer himself remains missing.

State and federal officials have already stepped in to assist Sofer’s family and the Israeli government, which continues to search for Sofer. Aaron’s cousin Shlomo Sofer has also called on the State Department to assist in the search and criticized the Israeli response, arguing that military forces should be used.

Kidnappings have played a particularly visible role in the most recent conflict between Hamas and Israel. After the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June, right-wing Israelis retaliated with the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian boy, further inflaming anger and causing tensions to boil over into armed conflict.

 

American dies fighting for ISIS in Syria

A San Diego man who traveled to Syria to fight for ISIS was killed over the weekend in one of the first known instance of an American dying while serving with the notoriously violent terror group.

Douglas McAuthur McCain was one of three ISIS militants killed during a skirmish with the Free Syrian Army. After the fight, the FSA released photos of his American passport and his body, showing a distinctive tattoo McCain wore on his neck.

McCain was described by those who knew him as an open, social individual who frequently shared his love of basketball and hip hop and did not initially fit the profile of a religious extremist. After his conversion to Islam in 2004 he remained religiously moderate but did eventually take a dark turn in the early 2010s when he began posting social media updates in support of terror groups and befriended known extremists online.

In April, McCain traveled to Turkey, where he met with like-minded individuals and traveled to the front lines of the Syrian Civil War.

According to senior administration officials, McCain was one of dozens of radicalized Americans fighting for terror groups such as ISIS in the Middle East. Officials have expressed concerns that these individuals might attempt to re-enter the United States and commit terror attacks on American soil.

 

Russia confirms soldiers captured in Ukraine

Russia confirmed on Tuesday that ten of its soldiers had been captured by Ukrainian separatists this week in the country’s Donetsk region, heightening tensions in a region already marred by civil war and intervention by the former Soviet state.

Footage released by Ukraine showed the camouflage-clad soldiers after they had surrendered to Ukrainian forces fighting pro-Russian separatists. According to Ukrainian officials, ten of the soldiers crossed into Ukrainian territory in a column of several dozen vehicles. No armed conflict was reported.

Though Russia admitted the soldiers had crossed the border into Ukraine, it maintained the crossing was an accident which occurred during a routine exercise and that the Russian soldiers surrendered voluntarily. Ukrainian officials rejected the explanation, arguing the Russian soldiers were on a special mission.

The incident was released only hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Porosenko were scheduled to meet in the neighboring nation of Belarus to discuss the conflict. Currently, pro-Ukrainian forces are edging closer to victory and have pushed Russian separatists back to two eastern strongholds.

 

United Airlines flight forced to land after fight over leg room

Two passengers engaged in a heated spat over leg room forced an early landing for a United Airlines flight on Sunday so crew could remove the two troublemakers.

The passengers were seated in the “Economy Plus” section of a Newark-to-Denver flight. Though the section had extra leg room, the man in the seat behind used a “knee defender,” a device which prevents the seat in front of a passenger from reclining and banging into their legs.

Though the device is prohibited by United Airlines regulations, the man refused to remove it when asked by flight attendants, leading to a protracted argument with the woman seated in front of him. At one point, the woman became so angry that she threw a glass of water in the man’s face.

After the plane landed at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, both passengers were removed. Nobody was arrested in connection to the incident.

The “knee defender” was invented in 2003 by former Congressional staffer Ira Goldman. Goldman, who stands at 6-foot-3, created the device as a way to protect his long legs during cramped flights.

 

American Heart Association calls for tougher E-cigarette regulations

The American Heart Association came out for tougher restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes, arguing for their classification as tobacco products so their use by youths might be curtailed.

The Association published its stance in it’s journal Circulation, outlining policy recommendations which include a federal ban on the sale of e-cigs to minors, further research into the health effects of their use. The group also advised the implementation of strict limits on advertising for e-cigs and a ban on flavored products which they argue are more appealing to youths.

E-cigs have surged in popularity in recent years due to their relatively discrete use of vapor rather than smoke and anecdotal evidence their use can help cigarette smokers to quit their habit. However, evidence of their effectiveness is still scant and research into their harms and benefits are ongoing.

 

Arab nations unexpectedly conduct airstrikes in Libya

The U.S. was taken by surprise this past week with two airstrikes against Libyan targets by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, neither of whom informed U.S. officials of the operations.

The strikes were conducted against Islamist militias in Tripoli. Both the governments of the U.A.E. and Egypt have refused to accept responsibility for the raids, with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi explicitly stating no Egyptian airstrikes had occurred.

Though both the U.A.E. and Egypt’s current ruling party are American allies, sources say the strikes are damaging to American-Egyptian and American-UAE relations due to their capacity to further inflame regional conflicts.

The strikes are believed to be part of a larger campaign of established, autocratic Middle Eastern governments against Islamist insurgents. Fearing a backlash against existing monarchies which have traditionally controlled a number of established Arab states, both the U.A.E. and Egypt have been at the forefront of efforts to crack down on movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.