Timelines: 3/4/15

Coptic Christians march on White House

A crowd of Egyptian-American Coptic Christians marched on the White House on February 24 to protest the perceived inaction of President Barack Obama in the face of increasing persecution of Middle Eastern Christians by ISIS.

The group wore orange jumpsuits during the protest to raise awareness to the continued plight of Copts and other Christian groups in the Middle East who have been the target of a genocidal campaign by ISIS. The orange jumpsuit has become synonymous with the Islamic State’s atrocities in Syria and Iraq, where numerous videos have shown hostages wearing the clothing while they are executed by beheading.

ISIS suffered two recent defeats in Iraq and Syria, one of which involved a Peshmerga offensive which drove Islamic State from the Kurdish city of Tal Tamr. However, during their retreat, ISIS managed to kidnap 90 Assyrian Christians.

 

Presidential plan to ban common rifle ammunition sparks Congressional backlash

A proposal set forward by the Obama Administration to ban a common type of rifle ammunition has lawmakers up in arms.

The proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would prohibit the use of .223 M855 “green tip” rounds, a frequent choice for sportsmen who use the AR-15 rifle. Though the ATF cleared the ammunition in 1986, they claimed the recent development of handguns which can fire the armor-piercing round now poses a significant threat to law enforcement.

In response, over 100 Congressional representatives of both parties have signed a letter against the proposal. The letter argues there is no concrete evidence that the round has ever been used for the purpose of piercing police armor or even that it qualifies as an armor-piercing round legally subject to ATF restrictions.

“Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged –much less offered evidence–that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer,” The letter reads. “The idea that Congress intended LEOPA [Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act] to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous.”

The ATF is accepting public comment on the proposal until March 16, after which it will make a decision on the proposal. Comments can be submitted via email at APAComments@atf.gov.

 

New City store sells $7 million lotto ticket

An unknown Rockland County resident purchased a winning $7 million lottery ticket at the Just-A-Dollar at 20 North Main Street in New City.

The $25 “Golden Ticket” was confirmed to have been sold at the location, which store owner July Brogna stated had never seen a jackpot of that size at the store. Though it was confirmed that a Rockland resident had won the ticket, Lottery officials stated it would be a few weeks before his or her name was formally announced.

Regional wins have been piling up in recent months. A $1 million ticket was sold at a Chestnut Ridge store last month, while a $5 million ticket was sold in Yonkers in December.

 

Google to build new headquarters in California

The tech giant Google is set to reveal plans for a new headquarters in Mountain View, California, a boon for the company but an added strain for residents of the once small West Coast community.

The new headquarters, designed by London-based design firm Heatherwick Studio, will likely include a set of canopylike buildings to house a significant portion of the company’s 20,000 employees. This new construct will supplement or replace much of Google’s current setup, which covers 7.3 million square feet of office space the group already leases in the city.

At the same time, the plan has added to resident fears that the tech industry has changed the city for the worst. Residents have reported that though the tech boom has brought an unprecedented amount of tax revenue to the city and drastically reduced unemployment, Mountain View has seen an upsurge in housing prices and is now so crowded that traffic jams are a near constant presence.

Google has stated it wishes to build more housing in the city to accommodate an influx of workers. Though some residents and members of the city council approve of the expansion, others fear the addition of thousands of new employees could create a voting bloc which could give the company control over the city.

Monsey driver will face no charges in fatal pedestrian hit

A Monsey driver will not be charged in the death of a 61-year-old man on Robert Pitt Drive, according to police.

The pedestrian, Richard LeGrand, was struck by a Hyundai Elantra driven by a 56-year-old woman as he crossed the road at about 7:35 p.m. LeGrand, a 15-year resident of the Monsey Home for Adults on Monsey Boulevard, was a frequent presence around town as he walked to and from neighborhood businesses. LeGrand sustained injuries to his head and lower body and was consequently taken by ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital, where he died shortly past 8 p.m.

Police stated they believed his visibility to drivers was likely impacted by his wearing of black clothing. No charges or summonses are being pursued against the driver as a result of this determination.

Monsey has seen an uptick in pedestrian-related accidents in recent years. To prevent such tragedies, police have initiated a safety program which includes increased pedestrian safety awareness and ramped up enforcement of laws requiring drivers to yield the right-of-way to cyclists and on-foot travelers.

Charges re-levied in shooting death of Rockland fugitive

Authorities have opted to charge an Orange County man accused of shooting dead a Rockland resident wanted for statutory rape after the first round of charges failed to stick.

David Carlson, 43, will face a jury on charges of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of Norris Acosta-Sanchez, 35, who had a warrant out for his arrest for the rape of a teenage girl.

Acosta-Sanchez was staying at a cabin owned by Carlson in October 2013, four months after police began their search for him. When Carlson learned of the situation, he contacted police, who briefly detained Acosta-Sanchez before he escaped.

Acosta-Sanchez confronted Carlson at his property in Sparrowbrush, Orange County. There, Carlson contends he attempted to hold Acosta-Sanchez at the end of his shotgun until he could contact police, but was forced to fire the weapon in self-defense when the other man lunged at him.

Carlson was initially indicted less than a week after the shooting, but the charges were thrown out after Judge Robert Freehill determined an Orange County prosecutor improperly withheld Carlson’s claims of self-defense from a grand jury.

 

Russians mourn death of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov

Russians said their last goodbyes this week to Boris Nemtsov, a leader in the Russian opposition to President Vladimir Putin who was shot dead in Moscow on Friday.

Thousands of Russian supporters lined up to view Nemtsov’s casket in the Russian capitol before it was taken to Troyekurovskoye Cemetery for burial. Supporters, many of whom claim the murder was an assassination orchestrated by Putin’s ruling party, were heard chanting anti-Putin slogans. Putin himself sent a representative rather than attending the funeral himself.

Other high-profile figures, including European Union representatives and imprisoned opposition leader Alexi Navalny, were barred from the funeral. Nalvany went as far as to say he believed Nemtsov was killed either by government operatives or by members of a pro-government group taking orders from the Kremlin.

Nemtsov was walking home from dinner with his girlfriend Anna Durytska when he was shot four times from behind. CCTV footage of an alleged getaway car was released by a pro-government news outlet, but the suspects’ faces are not shown and the shooters remain unidentified.

 

Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan sentenced to death

Nidal Hasan, the shooter who killed over a dozen soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, now faces execution after a military jury handed down the most serious sentence available on Wednesday.

The jury of 13 military officers unanimously agreed on the verdict for Hasan, the 42-year-old Virginia-born Muslim who was convicted on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for a rampage which left 13 dead and 30 injured. Hasan’s case is subject to an automatic appeal, after which further appeals could stretch the legal fight out for some years.

Throughout the trial, Hasan, who acted as his own attorney, showed no remorse and stated he committed the murders to protect Muslim insurgents fighting American forces in the Middle East. In spite of this motivation, lead prosecutor Col. Mike Mulligan told the jury to pursue a death sentence to punish Hasan for the murders, not for being a Muslim.

If the sentence is upheld, Hasan would be the first service member to be executed since 1961.

 

Cuomo provokes parental fury by tying Dream Act to tuition aid

Governor Andrew Cuomo has provoked the ire of state parents with a provision in the new state budget which makes $1 billion in state college tuition aid contingent upon approval of tuition assistance for illegal immigrants and tax credits for parochial schools.

The provision, which was quietly inserted into the budget two weeks ago, links the release of Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grants, which serve 372,000 New York students, to both the Dream Act and the Education Investment Tax Credit Act. The language of the provision was written in such a way that both programs had to be accepted.

The link sparked an immediate backlash from both Albany politicians and New York parents, who argued college tuition should not be held hostage in the political battle over state aid to undocumented immigrants. The Dream Act eventually cleared the Assembly, though its passage in the Republican-controlled Senate is far from certain.

Cuomo’s office initially defended the linkage of the two unrelated items by arguing it was the best way to ensure both are passed. However, his office appeared to back down on Sunday, stating that only a budget which included TAP would be approved by the governor.

 

Massive WWII Japanese warship rediscovered off Philippines

The WWII Japanese warship “Musashi,” which was said to be the largest battleship of its time, was rediscovered this week by a diving team bankrolled by American billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The Musashi, which spanned 900 feet and weighed 73,000 tons, sank with 1,043 Japanese service members in the Sibuyan Sea after it was bombarded with bombs and torpedoes by American forces in 1944.

Surprisingly, it Allen who rediscovered the wreckage with his luxury yacht. Armed with deep ocean surveillance equipment and assisted by sea records from four different countries, Allen’s team was able to easily narrow down the probable area of the Musashi’s wreckage before divers found it on the third dive.

Since the discovery, Allen has posted numerous photos and videos of the Musashi on his Twitter page, including a valve handle with Japanese lettering which he stated confirms the warship’s identity.