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Gillibrand thumbs-down on Trump's new Afghanistan blueprint

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ripped into what she described as a lack of specific details in President Donald Trump's Monday-night address to the nation on his new military strategy for Afghanistan.

"I found the President's speech tonight terribly lacking," said Gillibrand, the ranking Democratic member on the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a statement released after Trump's speech had concluded. "Lacking in details, lacking in substance and lacking in a vision of what success in Afghanistan looks like."

Reversing his past calls for a speedy exit from Afghanistan, Trump used his speech to recommit the United States to the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, declaring U.S. troops must "fight to win." He pointedly declined to disclose how many more troops will be dispatched to wage America's longest war.

He said the U.S. would shift away from a "time-based" approach, instead linking its assistance to results and to cooperation from the beleaguered Afghan government, Pakistan and others. He insisted it would be a "regional" strategy that addressed the roles played by other South Asian nations — especially Pakistan's harboring of elements of the Taliban.

Gillibrand said many more details were needed.

"When committing American service members overseas, the Commander in Chief needs to clearly define the mission and a strategy to achieve success," she said. "Until he can do that, expecting service members to fight and possibly die in Afghanistan is a disservice to their sacrifice.

"I am skeptical that the President's 'new strategy' will achieve what the last 16 years could not, and I will be calling for extensive hearings in the Senate where Congress must demand accountability and transparency from this Administration," she continued.

Categories: State/Local

Around NY

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

JetBlue flight makes an emergency landing

RALEIGH, N.C. — JetBlue says one of its commercial jets made an emergency landing at a North Carolina airport due to mechanical issues.

The company released a statement saying a mechanical issue forced the flight from New York to Palm Beach, Fla., to land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Monday morning. The statement didn't elaborate.

Tracking service Flightaware identified the jet as an Airbus A320, which JetBlue notes on its website has about 160 seats. Flightaware says the plane landed at 9:15 a.m.

Wake County EMS spokesman Jeffrey Hammerstein said six people were evaluated at the scene by medics, and two others were taken to a hospital. He said there were no life-threatening injuries, but some passengers complained of headaches or a burning sensation in their eyes.

Police investigating fatal shooting of boy, 9

SYRACUSE — Police say they're investigating the fatal shooting of a 9-year-old boy.

Police officials say officers responded at around 2:35 a.m. Monday to a report of a shooting at a home in Syracuse. Responding officers found the 9-year-old suffering from a gunshot wound.

Officials say the boy died a short time later. His name hasn't been released.

Police say the weapon has been recovered, but no other details are being released yet. Officials say there's no ongoing threat to the neighborhood.

7-year-old girl dies in weekend house fire

NIAGARA FALLS — Fire officials say a 7-year-old girl has died in a fire that damaged a house over the weekend.

Crews responded to the house fire in Niagara Falls around 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Authorities say two adults and 13 children made it out of the burning home safely. Niagara Falls police say a 7-year-old girl died in the blaze.

The home was badly damaged. Firefighters say the blaze was caused by cooking that was left unattended.

— Associated Press

Categories: State/Local

Outing turns tragic when parents tumble off cliff

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

When William and Amanda Green took their two boys on a weekend outing, they headed for the Zoar Valley Gorge, a rugged area not far from their Buffalo home that includes waterfalls, forests and cliffs that plunge as much as 40 stories.

But a summer hike turned tragic when both parents were found dead Sunday near a creek at the bottom of the gorge. Their 4-year-old son, Alexander, was nearby with severe injuries, and their 7-year-old, Jacob, though less severely injured, was found hours later wandering the gorge floor alone.

Police on Monday were still trying to piece together exactly how the tragedy unfolded, though they said it appeared that the parents and Alexander fell about 200 feet down the cliff.

"It's sheer. It drops straight down," Erie County sheriff's spokesman Scott Zylka said of the area.

"It is a gorge," said Capt. Daniel Richter, a state forest ranger. "You don't want to get too close to the edge. There have been accidents. There have been fatalities."

The valley is a popular hiking and kayaking spot 35 miles south of Buffalo. With shale cliffs and the whitewater Cattaraugus Creek running through the gorge, it can attract hundreds of visitors on a typical summer day.

Sheriff Timothy Howard said two hikers trekking through the bottom of the gorge came across the Greens' bodies. The injured 4-year-old was nearby.

A sheriff's helicopter made a dangerous landing on the gorge floor and evacuated the 4-year-old as emergency crews and police descended the cliff face.

Categories: State/Local

Following rock fall, Indian Ladder trail remains closed

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

New Scotland

Almost two months after a woman was hit and injured by a falling rock, the Indian Ladder Trail at Thacher State Park in New Scotland remains closed as officials work to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

State office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation spokesman Randy Simons said officials have done a preliminary “scaling” to remove loose rocks from the steep, nearly sheer cliffs that run along and above the trail, and plan to do more.

The accident occurred July 2 when an unidentified 60-year-old woman was struck in the head while walking on the trail. She was rescued by local firefighters and sheriff deputies as well as state police, and taken to Albany Medical Center.

State officials said they were going bring in rock scaling crews from the Finger Lakes region, where there are a number of gorges with rock faces similar to those at Thacher Park.

The park has undergone a makeover this year, with a new visitors’ center and plans to eventually set up rock climbing courses on the steep walls near Indian Ladder.

Located atop the Helderberg Escarpment in rural Albany County, Thacher Park offers views of the Hudson Valley, Green Mountains, the foothills of the Adirondacks and the Albany area.

The popular Indian Ladder trail is typically accessed from the top of the park.

rkarlin@timesunion.com @RickKarlinTU 

 

Categories: State/Local

Veteran Assemblyman Denny Farrell to resign Sept. 5

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY — State Assemblyman Herman "Denny" Farrell, the powerful chair of the Ways and Means Committee, will retire from his seat in the chamber effective Sept. 5.

Farrell, first elected to the Assembly in 1974, said in a Monday statement that it had been "my honor to have served my constituents in the 71st Assembly District for the past 42 years, but there comes a time to move ahead to new challenges and let others carry on the work on behalf of the residents of Northern Manhattan."

"I am taking this step for a number of reasons, including the desire to spend more time with my family and to deal with some issues concerning my health," said Farrell, 85. "It also will give my Democratic colleagues the opportunity to name a new Chair of the Ways and Means Committee so the work of the committee can proceed without disruption on next year's budget and other priorities as it always has soon after November's election."

Farrell said he had picked Sept. 5 as his departure date because it marked the 51st anniversary of his first job in state government, working for the Manhattan Supreme Court.

The timing will also short-circuit any primary for the Democratic nomination to fill his seat. Instead, the selection will fall to county party leaders.

Farrell said he would support his Chief of Staff Al Taylor to succeed him "should he choose to seek to do so."

"It has been a wonderful ride for me, serving with six governors and working closely with colleagues and staff on both sides of the aisle," he said.

 

Categories: State/Local

Capitol Watch: Lawmakers are connecting with constituents

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

A look at stories making news:

Summer politicking

Free from the legislative session in Albany, many state lawmakers are spending the summer connecting with constituents.

That means Republicans and Democrats alike have filled up their schedules with town hall meetings, community fairs and other events that give them critical face time with their bosses, the voters.

A few examples this week: Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon of Long Island will hold a meeting on pediatric and adolescent diabetes Thursday.

Democratic Sen. James Sanders of Queens plans to host a sexual assault defense class Wednesday.

Tick trouble

Alarmed by what they say has been an especially bad year for ticks, a group of New York lawmakers are preparing for a hearing on efforts to fight illnesses, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, and Powassan virus.

A Senate task force plans to meet Aug. 29 in Albany to hear from medical authorities, tick experts and others involved in trying to prevent infections and fight the illnesses.

Calls for maggot probe

A second state lawmaker wants answers from state officials following an Associated Press report on the case of a disabled man infested with maggots at a state-run group home in Rome.

Republican Sen. Joseph Griffo of Rome says he wants answers from the state agencies that care for the disabled and investigate allegations of abuse and neglect after learning about the case of Steven Wenger.

— Associated Press

Categories: State/Local

Counter-protest dwarfs 'free speech rally'

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

Boston

Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

Counterprotesters marched through the city to historic Boston Common, where many gathered near a bandstand abandoned early by conservatives who had planned to deliver a series of speeches. Police vans later escorted the conservatives out of the area, and angry counter-protesters scuffled with armed officers trying to maintain order.

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement later protested on the Common, where a Confederate flag was burned and protesters pounded on the sides of a police vehicle.

Later Saturday afternoon, Boston's police department tweeted that protesters were throwing bottles, urine and rocks at them and asked people publicly to refrain from doing so. About 10 minutes before that, President Donald Trump had complimented Boston police, tweeting: "Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you."

He also complimented Boston's Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh.

Boston Commissioner William Evans said 27 arrests were made — mostly for disorderly conduct while some were for assaulting police officers. Officials said the rallies drew about 40,000 people.

Trump applauded the people in Boston who he said were "speaking out" against bigotry and hate. Trump added in a Twitter message that "Our country will soon come together as one!"

Organizers of the conservative event, which had been billed as a "Free Speech Rally," had publicly distanced themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. A woman was killed at that Unite the Right rally, and many others were injured, when a car plowed into counter-demonstrators.

Opponents feared that white nationalists might show up in Boston anyway, raising the specter of ugly confrontations in the first potentially large and racially charged gathering in a major U.S. city since Charlottesville.

One of the planned speakers of the conservative activist rally said the event "fell apart."

Congressional candidate Samson Racioppi, who was among several slated to speak, told WCVB-TV that he didn't realize "how unplanned of an event it was going to be."

Some counter-protesters dressed entirely in black and wore bandannas over their faces. They chanted anti-Nazi and anti-fascism slogans, and waved signs that said: "Make Nazis Afraid Again," "Love your neighbor," "Resist fascism" and "Hate never made U.S. great." Others carried a large banner that read: "SMASH WHITE SUPREMACY."

Chris Hood, a free speech rally attendee from Dorchester, said people were unfairly making it seem like the rally was going to be "a white supremacist Klan rally."

"That was never the intention," he said. "We've only come here to promote free speech on college campuses, free speech on social media for conservative, right-wing speakers. And we have no intention of violence."

Robert Paulson, another free speech rallygoer, said there was definitely a lot of tension.

"They believe that we're Nazis and KKK down here. That's what they think, a lot of them. It's not true. A lot of the people down here just love the United States, are here to promote free speech," he said.

Rockeem Robinson, a youth counselor from Cambridge, said he joined the counter-protest to "show support for the black community and for all minority communities."

Katie Griffiths, a social worker also from Cambridge, who works with members of poor and minority communities, said she finds the hate and violence happening "very scary."

"I see poor people and people of color being scapegoated," she said. "Unlearned lessons can be repeated."

TV cameras showed a group of boisterous counter-protesters on the Common chasing a man with a Trump campaign banner and cap, shouting and swearing at him. But other counter-protesters intervened and helped the man safely over a fence into the area where the conservative rally was to be staged. Black-clad counter-protesters also grabbed an American flag out of an elderly woman's hands, and she stumbled and fell to the ground. Yet Saturday's showdown was mostly peaceable, and after demonstrators dispersed, a picnic atmosphere took over with stragglers tossing beach balls, banging on bongo drums and playing reggae music.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition, which organized the event, said it has nothing to do with white nationalism or racism and its group is not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers in any way.

Rallies also were planned in cities across the country, including Dallas, Atlanta and New Orleans.

Hundreds of people gathered at City Hall in Austin, Texas, Saturday morning, holding signs in support of racial equality.

Categories: State/Local

State seeks to expand list of medical exemptions for dark window tinting

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY — With a new window tint law going into effect earlier this year, the state Department of Health is updating the list of medical conditions for which people can obtain a waiver to have tint darker than otherwise allowed. 

The department wants to add albinism, serious skin conditions related to light exposure, lupus and general severe photosensitivity, among other conditions, to the list of ailments for which a tint exemption may be granted to a driver. The proposed regulation was outlined in the Aug. 16 state Register.

The regulations also would be updated to allow a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, in addition to a doctor, to certify that patients have a condition that allows them to seek a waiver. In addition, the regulation would explicitly state that waivers may be granted if personal protective measures, including wearing sun-protective clothing, sunscreen or eye protection, is not adequate.

State law prohibits tint with a light transmittance of less than 70 percent.

It is the first time the department has updated the tint-exemption condition list since 1997, according to information submitted with the proposal. The proposal follows a new law that went into effect Jan. 1 that includes window tint assessments as part of the annual state vehicle inspection.

It is expected that the state Department of Motor Vehicles will incur some additional costs for review and issuance of new waivers. According to the regulatory information, that agency has seen waiver requests nearly quadruple since the new inspection law went into effect.

Some state lawmakers have sought to codify certain exempting medical conditions into state law, but their efforts were unsuccessful this year.(Regulations are easier to repeal than laws.)

State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, carries one bill that would codify porphyria, xeroderma pigmentosa, and severe drug photo-sensitivity as exempting conditions and also add albinism, as the DOH is seeking to do now.

"The condition of albinism — perhaps more commonly known than the other conditions — can provide for extreme photo-sensitivity to both the eyes and the skin," Marchione's bill sponsor memo states. "The oversight of both the current law and regulatory environment to include this condition has caused, in the cases of many constituents, literal pain and suffering which could be remedied with a change to the law to include albinism."

Some forms of porphyria — a group of conditions that can cause photosensitivity, which is already covered under existing regulations — are as common as 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 75,000, according to medical publication Clinical Advisor. Approximately one in 18,000 to 20,000 people in the United States has some type of albinism, according to the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation.

mhamilton@timesunion.com • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

On Capital Region tour, Assembly speaker sees one New York

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY — A self-proclaimed city boy trekked through sprawling upstate on Thursday.

But what Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie saw was a representative cross-section of New York as a whole, from his home in the Bronx to Ballston Spa and Buffalo.

In a three-stop tour of the Capitol Region, the Democrat visited a 155-unit supportive housing building in downtown Schenectady, an hour-long visit that was juxtaposed later in the afternoon by a visit to vacation destination Saratoga Springs — a city with its own income inequality issues.

Heastie also visited the Colonie Fire Training Facility near the Albany International Airport, a look at how to prepare for the emergencies that strike any area.

The visit to the region, part of a summer-long tour of the state, was an opportunity for Heastie to see first-hand the issues he has heard about from the area's Assembly Democrats, who represent a small chunk of the 100-plus members of the Democratic Majority Conference.

"The region that I probably knew the best outside of my own home region from being up here for 15 years before I became speaker was the Albany area," he told reporters after touring 845 Commons, the Schenectady supportive housing facility for formerly homeless people in Schenectady County, a number of whom are veterans.

"We have people that are doing well, you have people who are barely making it and you have people who are really struggling, so that continues to always be our challenge," he said. " ... Many of the inner cities have the same problems of homelessness, poverty, less-than-adequate education results. Those things are really the same no matter what region you are in around the state."

Heastie's tour was relaxed — atypical of what often occurs when a high-level state official visits the area.

At the Schenectady stop, he took questions from residents. They ranged from how people can help advocate for funding for programs like those offered at 845 Commons to whether the Assembly would denounce President Donald Trump's comments from earlier in the week regarding statues of Civil War-era figures and last weekend's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

"I'm very concerned that President Trump believes there are good Nazis," Heastie said, later telling reporters, "We don't want to erase history, but I think in some form we should not be trying to (glamorize) parts of our history that weren't positive ... and the Civil War wasn't a positive part of our history."

"The Confederacy was the enemy of the country at that time, so I don't think we should be really having things that puts them in a glamorous light," he said.

In Colonie, Heastie marveled at a tabletop model town used for emergency call trainings, complete with an airport, industrial ward and downtown area.

"I would have died to have this when I was a kid," he said.

On his jaunt down Broadway in Saratoga with Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, Heastie found a thriving downtown at the height of track season, the kind of destination many other areas are trying to replicate.

"This is bustling up here," he said upon arrival after fighting traffic on the Northway and around the commercial strip downtown. "I forgot it was racing season."

Heastie will remain in the area on Friday for a morning tour of the Albany Capital Center.

Categories: State/Local

Carl Paladino removed from Buffalo school board

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY – Carl Paladino, the brash Buffalo businessman and 2010 Republican candidate for governor, has been removed from the Buffalo city school board by the state education commissioner following a controversial tenure.

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia's lengthy decision was released on Thursday. The full decision is here.

Paladino's removal follows hearings in Albany in June during which time state education officials heard from Paladino and those who wished to oust him.

Officially, those seeking Paladino's ouster charged that he improperly disclosed information about teacher contract negotiations. But tensions between Paladino, other board members and members of the community were inflamed by racially charged comments he made in December in alternative Buffalo publication ArtVoice about President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama a month after the election of Donald Trump. 

The publication asked Western New York newsmakers what they hoped for in 2017. Paladino replied that he wished Michelle Obama would "return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."

Paladino, who has remained in the political sphere as a vehement backer of President Trump, apologized for his remarks

In June, ahead of his hearing, Paladino said his critics are "idiots and they have no other response to the issue being discussed" than to call him a racist.

Paladino's Buffalo attorney, Dennis Vacco, said they are disappointed in the decision and believe Paladino's remove is excessive.  They plan to appeal the decision.

Vacco, who was state attorney general from 1995 through 1998, defended his client's role as outspoken member of the school board.

"We have an elected voice for the students and taxpayers," said Vacco. "We have this man removed but the dysfunctionality remains."

The New York State United Teachers union praised Elia's decision in a statement that alluded to Paladino's December statements.

"There is absolutely no place in public education for someone who flagrantly disregards the rules and spouts disgusting, racially charged ideas that harm students and the teaching environment," NYSUT said.

Categories: State/Local

Youth prison dentist pleads guilty to misconduct

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY — The now-suspended top dentist for New York’s youth prisons has pleaded guilty to official misconduct stemming charges that he claimed to be working on state time while actually treating patients at his private practices in Amsterdam and Saratoga Springs.

Neil Schachter, 61, of Saratoga Springs pleaded guilty in Rensselaer City Court to a charge of official misconduct, according to a statement Wednesday from state Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott and Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove.

Schachter had already made full restitution of $68,000 and agreed to cooperate on another matter. He had initially been charged with grand larceny, a felony. Official misconduct is a misdemeanor.

He remains suspended from his job without pay as director of dentistry at the state Office of Children and Family Services’ Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities, which runs centers for youngsters convicted of crimes.

“This defendant exploited taxpayers with the theft of public funds that he used to supplement a six-figure salary he was already earning in private practice,” said Leahy Scott. Her office concluded Schachter had between September 2013 and early 2016 charged the state for periods in which he had been working at private dental clinics.

Schachter in December 2014 also created a fraudulent letter — purportedly from his former supervisor — that falsely authorized an arrangement in which he could collect the two salaries at the same time.

In a prepared statement, his attorney, Scott Iseman said: "Dr. Schachter took responsibility for his official misconduct today. He admitted that on one occasion he billed for 4 hours of time when he should have billed leave or vacation time and has made complete restitution. All allegations that Dr. Schachter stole money or committed other crimes have been entirely discredited and dismissed."

 

 

Categories: State/Local

Cuomo signs backyard surveillance bill

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday that creates a law allowing someone to sue a neighbor for invasion of privacy for videotaping recreational activities in an adjacent backyard without permission.

"Everyone should be able to feel safe in their own home and in their own backyard," Cuomo said in a statement. "This legislation will crack down on disturbing behavior and give New Yorkers legal recourse and peace of mind in order to protect their privacy and potentially their own personal safety."

The bill was in response to a 2011 incident in Chautauqua County in which a convicted sex offender put up cameras outside his home, with one of them trained on a neighboring family's backyard. State Sen. Cathy Young, the bill sponsor, told the Times Union last week that the family, which included an 11-year-old boy and 14-year-old daughter, called the police about the surveillance, but authorities couldn't do anything about it under the law at that time.

Young said that creating a right to sue for unwanted surveillance of a backyard is a "good first step," noting that outright criminalization would be a more difficult pursue.

"The backyard is a little bit more public, even though it's your private property" she said. "That's why we felt we should go (for) the private right of action first, and see how it works. If there's still problems that are occurring in the state, then we should look at possible criminal penalties."

Both homeowners and tenants of a residential property would have the ability to sue if they did not consent to being recorded by someone who set up a camera on an adjoining property with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm or threaten another person.

Law enforcement surveillance is exempted under the new law.

This effort builds on a 2003 law that made it a felony to videotape someone without their permission in an intimate setting where there would be a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a bedroom or bathroom.

Cuomo had more than 100 other bills on his desk awaiting action on Wednesday.

He also signed a bill making it a misdemeanor to alter a student's official records without permission. The law now explicitly covers unauthorized tampering of grade, attendance and disciplinary records, among others.

mhamilton@timesunion.com • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

Judge sets 'likely' re-trial date for Sheldon Silver

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY — Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is likely to be re-tried beginning with jury selection on April 16, 2018, a federal judge said Tuesday.

Silver is appealing to have his case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Absent a decision from that panel, Judge Valerie Caproni wrote in brief court papers, the case is likely to run from April 16 through the end of May 2018.

Silver's 2015 conviction on corruption charges was overturned last month by a federal appeals court, which remanded the case back to a lower court for retrial. 

In the ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found that jury instructions in Silver's trial were improper under a Supreme Court ruling in the public corruption case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. The McDonnell ruling came down after Silver was convicted.

However, the Second Circuit rejected Silver's overarching challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in his case.

mhamilton@timesunion.com • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

Schenectady woman pleads guilty to welfare fraud

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

SCHENECTADY — A woman has pleaded guilty to welfare fraud carried out by concealing the fact that she lived with and was married to the father of her three children, according to state Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott's office.

Victoria Bell (also known as Victoria Pacheco) of Eastern Parkway pleaded guilty Tuesday in Schenectady County Court to third-degree welfare fraud, a felony. The 36-year-old will be required to pay $51,709 in restitution for the food stamp and Medicaid benefits she improperly received. She is also expected to serve five years of probation and 75 hours of community service.

Bell's husband is a long-tenured, full-time employee at Ellis Hospital making more than $45,000 per year, according to Leahy Scott's office.

The investigation found that since August 2012, Bell repeatedly filed public benefit applications and re-certifications that failed to mention her husband or his job. Bell, separately, had also been earning more than $10,000 each year working part-time in retail.

"This defendant's repeated fraud and deceit enabled her to improperly tap into a government benefit program meant only for those who are truly the most in need of financial assistance," said Leahy Scott in a statement.  

Bell is due to reappear in Schenectady County Court on Oct. 12 for sentencing. Schenectady County District Attorney Robert M. Carney's office handled the prosecution.

Categories: State/Local

Cuomo proposes new hate crimes provisions post-Charlottesville

Albany Times/Union - 34 min 31 sec ago

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he will push to add inciting to riot and rioting that targets a protected class of people to the state hate crimes statute, a response to violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. 

Dubbed the Charlottesville Provisions, penalties for rioting and inciting to riot would be increased. Rioting under the hate crimes law would come with stiffer felony penalties, while inciting to riot under the hate crimes law would become a felony (up from a misdemeanor). 

Hate crimes statute protects those who are targeted because of a perception or belief about their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Cuomo also called on legislators to extend human rights law protections to public school students so that the state Division of Human Rights would be able to investigate bullying, harassment or other discrimination by public school students. 

A 2012 state Court of Appeals decision found that public schools are not covered under the definitions in human rights law that gives the state the ability to investigate such incidents. 

"The ugly events that took place in Charlottesville must never be repeated, and in New York we're going to stand united against hate in all of its forms," Cuomo said in a statement. "Our diversity is our strength and this legislation will help protect New Yorkers and send a clear signal that violence and discrimination have no place in our society. New York is one community and one family, and we will never stop fighting to ensure the safety and equal treatment of all New Yorkers."

Lawmakers are not set to return to the Capitol to act on legislation until January. 

Since the weekend, Cuomo has been responding to the events in Charlottesville through different methods. 

On Monday, he signed legislation that adds community centers to the list of public places where people who commit certain crimes, including making a false bomb threat, can face stiffer penalties. Originally crafted in response to bomb threats made to Jewish Community Centers in New York and elsewhere in the country, Cuomo said the Charlottesville violence demonstrated a need to stand against bias and hate.

On Sunday, he circulated a petition calling on President Donald Trump to "clearly and unequivocally condemn and denounce the violent protest organized by the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, including Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler, with support from David Duke."

"President Trump must immediately call this for what it is — no cover, no euphemisms," the petition states. "This was a terror attack by white supremacists."

Trump said Monday that those who acted criminally "in this weekend's racist violence" will be held accountable. In remarks at the White House, he singled out the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and others who "are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

mhamilton@timesunion.com • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

No, Removing These Statues Will Not Solve Underlying Racial Problems

NYObserver - 1 hour 2 min ago
There's a legitimate discussion to be had, in civil tones and terms, over which monuments should stay and where they should best be placed.
Categories: State/Local

Warning Signs of Mass Violence—in the US?

NYObserver - 2 hours 30 min ago
Two genocide and mass atrocity prevention scholars argue Trump's response to the Charlottesville attack is a red flag.
Categories: State/Local

Gay judge becomes court pioneer

Albany Times/Union - 5 hours 34 min ago

Albany

For the first time in history, an openly gay judge was confirmed to the state's highest court in June.

The state Senate approved Paul Feinman's nomination, sealing a landmark moment that arrived 11 years after the state Court of Appeals issued a controversial ruling finding that New York's constitution did not guarantee the right of same-sex marriage. In nominating Feinman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo followed through on the request of the five openly gay members of the state Legislature who penned a letter, organized by State Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, urging the appointment of a jurist from the LGBT community.

The 57-year-old's confirmation continued to diversify a court that has been totally remade by Cuomo and includes no members of the 2006 court that upheld the state's same-sex marriage ban in Hernandez v. Robles. And it represented a marker of progress for the state's LGBT community.

But who is the history-making University of Minnesota law school alum who has spent the last two decades as a judge in the state court system?

To Justice Rolando Acosta, he's an old friend. Feinman, from Long Island, might have had little obviously in common with Acosta, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, when the two men met as undergraduates at Columbia University.

But Acosta said the two quickly became friends as neighbors in John Jay Hall, talking into the night about issues of justice over Bigelow Lemon Lift tea.

"Paul was just a kid from the city," Acosta said, "but surprisingly with a deep sense of empathy and a deep sense of right and wrong that I think, frankly, separated him."

The two young men both knew they wanted to be public interest lawyers, Acosta said. Their careers tended to move in parallel, and eventually led both men to become judges. Acosta in May was named the presiding justice of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division's First Department, where both he and Feinman have served for the past several years.

One of the things that stayed the same, Acosta said, was how Feinman's thoughtfulness — "nerdiness" even, he laughed — and ability to offer sharp, complete analysis of any topic shone through.

"You engage in a discussion with him, and he makes you better," said Acosta.

To Hoylman, Feinman is someone who will offer inspiration as well as a forward-looking approach to the court. Hoylman said he has known Feinman since the 1990s, when the judge first ran for civil court, and described him as "approachable and humble."

Hoylman said he hopes Feinman will "be ahead of the curve in recognizing and protecting the rights not just of LGBT people, but of a lot of groups who are threatened in today's political environment: immigrants, people of color, religious and ethnic minorities, women in their right to reproductive health care."

And to Vincent Bonventre, an Albany Law School professor, Feinman is someone who brings to the court a sterling reputation as a jurist.

Bonventre said that Feinman's judicial opinions are strong, and that he is known for his collegiality. "People think he is terrific," Bonventre said.

The longtime court-watcher thinks the court would have reached a different ruling in Hernandez had Feinman been on the bench.

Former Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, now of counsel at Latham & Watkins, echoed the sentiment, characterizing Feinman's reputation as "great" and noting that he is known for his collaborative approach.

Justice Angela Mazzarelli, whom Feinman worked for as a court lawyer for seven and a half years, lauded Feinman's listening ability and preparation. Mazzarelli, another First Department appellate justice, performed Feinman's marriage to Robert Ostergaard in 2013. (The state legislature legalized same-sex marriage in 2011.)

Throughout his career, Feinman has stayed active in his support of LGBT rights. From 2008 to 2011, he served as the president of the International Association of LGBT Judges.

The spot he fills on the court formerly belonged to another history-making appointee: Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman to serve on the bench of the Court of Appeals, who died in April in what the authorities recently ruled a suicide.

Through a court spokesman, Feinman declined to be interviewed for this story, and has not done any public interviews since his confirmation.

Lippman said another trait will serve Feinman particularly well on the New York's highest court.

"Paul ... knows how to see the humor in things, and knows how to laugh and appreciates the ironies of life," he said.

Categories: State/Local

First captain making history

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 10:07pm

West Point

Simone Askew marched into history Monday as the first black woman to lead the Long Gray Line at the U.S. Military Academy.

After an early-morning 12-mile march back to the gray stone academic complex with 1,200 new cadets she led through the rigors of basic training at "Beast Barracks," the 20-year-old international history major from Fairfax, Va., assumed duties as first captain of the 4,400-member Corps of Cadets. That's the highest position in the cadet chain of command at West Point.

"It's humbling, but also exciting as I step into this new opportunity to lead the corps to greatness with my teammates with me," a beaming Askew, still in camouflage fatigues from her march, told reporters.

As first captain, Askew is responsible for the overall performance of the Corps of Cadets. Her duties also include implementing a class agenda and acting as a liaison between the cadets and the administration.

"Simone truly exemplifies our values of Duty, Honor, Country," said Brig. Gen. Steven W. Gilland, commandant of cadets.

"I can't believe this has happened in my lifetime," said Pat Locke, one of two African-American women in the first class of women to graduate from West Point in 1980. "When I entered the Academy in 1976, the men did not want us there. Now 40 years later, everybody recognizes the talent and skills women bring to the game."

Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, was West Point's first African-American first captain in 1979. The first female in that role, in 1989, was Col. Kristin Baker, now commander of the Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe, Analytic Center.

Women make up about 20 percent of cadets, who are usually commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army upon graduation. The academy created a diversity office in 2014.

Categories: State/Local

Under pressure after Charlottesville, Trump calls out hate groups

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 10:07pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After two days of bland condemnations in the aftermath of hate-group violence in Charlottesville, Va., President Donald Trump on Monday singled out the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and others who ''are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

His brief statement at the White House — he took no questions from reporters — was an abrupt turnaround from Saturday, when an Ohio man with neo-Nazi sympathies drove his car into a crowd, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 20 others.

After Trump on Saturday condemned violence on ''many sides,'' Democrats and many Republicans rebuked him for failing to identify extremist hate groups as fomenters of the violence.

''To be truly presidential, the response should have been immediate, intuitive — 'This is unacceptable, this is un-American,'" said Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam. ''Leadership isn't about poll results and people pushing you to take a position. It says something about what his priorities are, and where his authenticity is lacking.''

A quick response ''didn't require study,'' Tonko added. ''It required a passion for stamping out bigotry, racism and hatred of any kind.''

Two days before Trump finally named names, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer tweeted: ''Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasn't done his job.''

Given his long record of bombastic and carefully targeted tweets and statements, Trump's reticence on Charlottesville opened the door to wide speculation about his motivations. Critics cited his courting of certain alt-right outlets during the 2016 election, as well as the appointment of former Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon to his White House inner circle.

Others delved into the Trump real-estate organization's legacy of civil right violations in not renting apartments to minorities, and his father Fred's arrest at a 1927 Klan brawl in Queens.

Trump's team scrambled to put a lid on the criticism through a Teleprompter-fed statement that the president read in a brief return to the White House from vacation at his Bedminster, N.J., golf resort he owns.

''Racism is evil,'' Trump said. ''And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs.''

Earlier, Trump met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The president said the Justice Department would conduct a civil rights investigation to see if federal laws had been violated. State-level second-degree murder charges have been lodged against James Alex Fields Jr., the 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer who drove his car into the crowd.

"To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you will be held fully accountable,'' Trump said. ''Justice will be delivered.''

In varying degrees, New York lawmakers were among those who moved more quickly to condemn the weekend violence.

''Hatred and bigotry have no place in our society,'' Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, posted on Facebook on Saturday. ''We stand united as Americans in condemnation of the violence in Charlottesville.''

Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, on Monday went a step farther and singled out white supremacists. ''All Americans — and particularly those in positions of leadership — must reject hate groups such as white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the KKK, and others which have no legitimate place in our political and societal discourse,'' he said in a statement. ''I am confident that the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute and hold accountable those responsible for the abhorrent acts which occurred in Charlottesville over the weekend.''

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted: ''I know we are better than this, but we must all speak out against this hate. Silence is not an option.''

dan@hearstdc.com

Categories: State/Local
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