Timelines: 3/11/15

Stony Point resident demands compensation for wrecked mailboxes

A Stony Point man is demanding restitution from the Town after snow plows repeatedly destroyed his mailbox.

Anthony Liccardi, 67, found his first mailbox destroyed early in February at his Skinner Court split-level, presumably by a snow plow. After he purchased a new one, another plow knocked it over the next day.

Though the Village offered a wood and metal replacement, they would not reimburse Liccardi for the full-price of the model he bought at Home Depot. Legally, the Town is under no obligation to replace mailboxes because clear roads are considered a priority. However, replacements are typically paid for as a courtesy to residents.

This winter has proven difficult for residents with mailboxes near the street. Icy snowbanks often set the structures firmly in place, making it easier for the box itself to come off when it is hit.

 

Congers house destroyed in fire

A home in Congers was deemed uninhabitable on Monday after a persistent fire caused significant damage to all levels of the house.

Fire personnel from Congers, Central Nyack, West Nyack, New City, Valley Cottage, Haverstraw and West Haverstraw were called to the scene in the mid-afternoon and arrived at 2:30 p.m. to find the house engulfed in thick flames and smoke. About 80 volunteers fought the blaze for about an hour and a half before it was finally extinguished, but were unable to save the house.

One pet inside was taken to Valley Cottage Animal Hospital after it was rescued, but no human injuries were reported. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

 

Medical marijuana bill introduced in Congress

A historic medical marijuana bill was introduced by a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, opening the way for a potential relaxation of federal regulations on the currently banned substance.

The bill, which was presented by Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), is fairly comprehensive in its goal of legitimizing medical use of the drug. If passed, it would reclassify THC as a Schedule 2 substance with medical potential, relax restrictions on bank services for the legal cannabis industry, interstate transportation and federal research, and and allow greater leeway for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to recommend it for treatment of certain conditions.

Drafted with assistance from a coalition of drug reform groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access and the Marijuana Policy Project, the bill reflects changing opinions on both recreational and medical cannabis. Since 2012, support for legal marijuana has jumped to almost fifty percent in some polls and prompted ballot measures in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. to eliminate criminal penalties for possession and sale of the substance.

 

Ringling Brothers to retire its circus elephants

In an unprecedented decision, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced last Thursday that they would retire their 13 traveling elephant performers by 2018, ending a longstanding fixture of their circus performances which has become highly controversial in recent years.

Following a long debate among the company’s leadership, the animals were designated for retirement at the circus’ 200-acre conservation center in Florida and will be moved there once new facilities are built to accommodate them. According to Alana Feld, Executive Vice President of the circus’ parent company Feld Entertainment, a shift in the public perception of elephant performances necessitated an alteration to the circus’ program.

Animal rights activists have long taken issue with the use of elephants and other exotic animals as performers, pointing to frequent physical abuse and long-term damage to their health. Local laws targeting elephant shows have also hampered the circus, forcing them to avoid cities or engage in long, costly legal battles to continue operations.

Consequently, the decision was met with praise from animal welfare groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Welfare Institute.

 

University of Oklahoma shuts down frat after racist video goes viral

The University of Oklahoma opted to immediately shut down a fraternity which was caught on video in the midst of a racist chant on a tour bus.

The school’s local chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) was captured on the 10-second video using racial slurs toward blacks, alluding to lynchings and vowing to never accept them into the fraternity. As a consequence, the school effectively ended all SAE activity on campus, severed ties with the frat and ordered its members to vacate their on-campus fraternity house within 48 hours. A formal investigation was launched and two students were consequently expelled for their behavior.

Reaction on and off campus strongly supported the school’s decision. A solidarity rally was held on campus on Monday to protest the racist sentiments. SAE’s national leadership similarly condemned the video, apologizing for the behavior of the chapter and suspending all its members.

SAE has had a checkered history with race. In 2013, members at St Louis’ Washington University were suspended for similarly singing racially offensive songs to black students while in 2014 members at Clemson University were suspended held a “Cripmas” party where attendees dressed as gang members. The same year, University of Arizona chapter was suspended for allegedly assaulting members of a Jewish frat while yelling anti-Semitic slurs.

 

NYPD seeks new deputy commissioner

The NYPD has once again been forced to reshuffle its leadership, this time casting a broad net to find a new deputy commissioner of training to replace two others who left for other positions within a span of only a few months.

The Department made the announcement through an ad in the New York Times and job postings on major recruiting websites such as Monster.com. According to Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis, the NYPD pursued the broad call for applicants to pull in a wide range of potential candidates.

The role is a particularly important one as the NYPD continues to address challenges posed by both activists critical of police misconduct and federal watchdogs called in to survey the department’s tactics. Part of the position’s responsibilities include regular interaction with a federal monitor appointed after a federal judge ruled the department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” program unconstitutional.

The vacancy first opened up after Benjamin Tucker was promoted to first deputy commissioner, replacing Chief Phillip Banks after the former commissioner fell into a private spat with Mayor Bill DeBlasio. The position was briefly filled by Michael Julian, but he also vacated the position after he became deputy commissioner.

Settlement reached between New York State and credit reporting agencies

A court settlement has been reached between New York State and three leading credit-reporting agencies to ensure the agencies better address issues related to consumer protection, credit report accuracy and the resolution of consumer disputes stemming from faulty credit reports.

According to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the settlement was reached with Experian Information Solutions, Inc., Equifax Information Services, LLC, and TransUnion LLC, the three top national credit-reporting agencies which together oversee consumer credit information of about 200 million consumers. The agencies are tasked receive information from institutions such as banks, lenders and collectors and use the data to compile financial profiles of consumers.

However, such data is subject to sometimes significant errors, particularly in cases of mistaken identity, fraud and identity theft. To rectify these errors, the three agencies have agreed to institute a more exacting appeals process which gives consumers more power, protections from faulty information, relaxations for reporting on medical debt and prohibitions on reporting for payday loan debt.

Campaigns to increase the availability and visibility of free credit reports have also been included in the package, including a media drive to educate individuals on their rights as consumers in debt disputes.

 

French Olympians die in helicopter collision

Ten people, including two who represented France in the Olympic Games, were killed on Monday after two helicopters collided in rural Argentina during the filming of a new reality TV series.

The accident occurred in a remote area along the Andes mountain range that runs along the western border of the South American nation, about 730 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. According to reports from La Rioja Security Secretary Cesar Angulo, it appeared one of the helicopters had brushed against another during takeoff, causing the crash.

Among the dead were 2008 men’s welterweight boxing bronze medalist Alexis Vastine and women’s 400m freestyle swimming 2012 gold medalist Camille Muffat. Also killed was Florence Arthaud, an accomplished celebrity sailor and the first woman to win her country’s Route du Rhum boat race.

The French foreign ministry has established contact with Argentinian authorities and is currently investigating the crash. A possible involuntary manslaughter case has been opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office as well.

 

Simpsons co-creator and philanthropist Sam Simon dies at 59

Sam Simon, the co-creator of the foundational comedy series “The Simpsons,” died on Sunday at the age of 59.

Simon, an accomplished comedy writer, helped shape jokes and storylines on a number of major sitcoms, including “Cheers” and “Taxi.” However, he is best know as one of the creative forces behind Matt Groening’s animated comedy classic, a role he held until his departure in 1993.

Though he was with the show for a relatively brief amount of time, the royalties he earned from its success helped drive a significant amount of charitable work on his behalf. As a long-time animal welfare proponent, his love of animals prompted him to found the Sam Simon Foundation, a charity which takes in stray dogs and houses them for adoption. The Foundation also trains service dogs for the hearing impaired and wounded veterans.

Simon’s generosity continued even after he succumbed to colon cancer. After his death, the entirety of his $100 million fortune was donated to the charity.

 

18-month old baby survives 14 hours in submerged car

An 18-month old baby was recovered in a miracle rescue from a car submerged in a frozen Utah river, even after 14 hours submerged in the icy water.

Police stated they believed a car driven by Lynn Groesbeck, 25, struck a barrier, swerved out of control and plunged into the river while she and her daughter Lily were returning from a visit to Lynn’s mother’s house. The car flipped upside down and Lily hung in her car seat.

A fisherman spotted the car on Saturday afternoon and contacted authorities, who managed to form a human chain to pull the occupants from the river. Though her mother had died, Lily had hung unconscious from her seat the entire time, narrowly avoiding the water that partly filled the car.

In an eerie anedcote, police also reported a woman’s voice was heard calling for help when they arrived, though Lynn had been dead before the car was recovered.

 

Mortgage industry lobbyist played significant role in Cuomo financial crisis investigations

A previously unreported set of emails has shed some light on one mortgage industry lobbyist’s self-reported influence on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, encouraging the then State Attorney General to loosen a deal which imposed new rules on the mortgage market.

The emails, which were sent by industry lobbyist Howard Glaser to between 2007 and 2008, presented Glaser as a man with a “critical role” in securing the deal for former clients Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Glaser, who simultaneously worked as a consultant for Cuomo and a lobbyist for the firms, had previously stated he only served in an advisory role for the governor and had no hand in helping to craft the deal between the state and Fannie & Freddie.

Though a deal was reached between the parties, it was met with static from the mortgage industry. In response, Cuomo presented a revised plan which critics chided as soft and ineffective. During this time, Glaser’s involvement was characterized in the emails as so deep that he regularly briefed industry insiders on state investigations while he served as a close confidant of Cuomo.

Since then, Glaser went on to work as Cuomo’s state operations director in 2011 and Ron Perelman, a wealthy financial supporter of Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaigns.