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Yogurt rises to the top

Albany Times/Union - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 6:07pm

Albany

On Wednesday morning, yogurt became New York's official state snack.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the so-called "Yogurt Bill" to coincide with the kickoff of a conference on dairy and yogurt issues at Cornell University.

"This designation is a fitting recognition of the importance of this state's yogurt industry, which has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, making New York the top yogurt producer in the nation," Cuomo said in a statement. "We will continue to work with New York producers and dairy farmers to build upon this progress and further strengthen this critically important industry."

The popularity of Greek-style yogurt has been a boon for the state's dairy industry. The state estimates that New York produced 741 million pounds of yogurt in 2013, up from 695 million pounds in 2012, accounting for 15.7 percent of the total U.S. yogurt production.

Even so, the bill prompted debate — including concern for the lactose-intolerant and the reputation of pretzels — and even ridicule from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and David Letterman after it came to the floor of the state Senate for a vote in early May.

The measure was sponsored by Western New York Republican Mike Ranzenhofer, who backed it after a group of fourth-graders in his district pitched the idea.

cseiler@timesunion.com518-454-5619@CaseySeiler

Categories: State/Local

Cuomo chronicles success, setbacks

Albany Times/Union - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 5:07pm

Albany

In his 2010 bid for governor, Andrew Cuomo released the 200-page campaign manifesto "The New NY Agenda: A Plan for Action."

On Tuesday, he released what amounts to his 2014 campaign-season book: a 500-page autobiography that glowingly recollects his accomplishments while detailing what he calls his "fall" — the wilderness years between his failed 2002 gubernatorial bid and his 2006 run for state attorney general.

"All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life" (HarperCollins, $29.99) chronicles decades of state political history from Cuomo's point of view, running all the way back to his father's work as a mediator during a Queens housing dispute in the late 1960s. As he grows to adulthood, the narrative tends to play up his accomplishments, portraying him as moderate, nonpartisan and goal-oriented.

"It is from these sometimes stirring successes and always searing setbacks that I have come to believe that all things are possible if we, each of us together as a country, are willing to challenge and change the status quo, in our own lives, in our business, and in our politics," Cuomo writes by way of introduction.

The book's three-act structure begins with his professional relationship with his father as a campaign staffer during Mario M. Cuomo's mayoral and gubernatorial runs, and continues with his work in President Bill Clinton's administration. His portrait of his father balances admiration for his drive and political skills with occasional criticism of a public style that sometimes conveyed arrogance.

The second section recounts Cuomo's fall, and is perhaps the most humanizing part of the book. He details pulling out of the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary race against Carl McCall in the face of almost certain defeat, as well as his split from Kerry Kennedy — including the phone call from a New York Times reporter that informed him of his wife's decision to seek a divorce.

The pain from both losses was acute. "I was sad, angry, scared. Alone," Cuomo writes. "Separately, my political debacle and divorce were each devastating. Together, the combination felt dreadful."

He also writes about his relationship with his three daughters, and his attempts to become a more involved father. The third section recalls his triumphant election in 2010, with separate chapters devoted to the legalization of same-sex marriage, the passage of the SAFE Act gun control law and the ensuing backlash, and the responses to devastating storms, including tropical storms Irene and Lee and Superstorm Sandy.

With slightly less affection, Cuomo shares tales from his often contentious relations with the media.

"The press is increasingly challenged by their changing industry, which has made them desperate to grab scoops and 'make' news," he writes. "Some reporters live to create a scandal to get them on the front page. You are guilty until proven innocent."

One passage in particular created buzz among the Capitol press corps Tuesday: Cuomo makes brief mention of a story written by Ken Lovett of the Daily News during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign in which Lovett used information from a campaign strategy session he had listened in on after former Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto had unknowingly kept Lovett on the line after trying to decline his call.

"The story quoted liberally from our 'private meeting,' saying that we were strategizing counterattacks," Cuomo writes. "It was bad, but I saw it as just a bump on the campaign trail. It was almost funny."

He adds, "It was a curious stunt by Lovett, given that he was violating the New York criminal law against eavesdropping."

On Tuesday, Lovett recounted his version of the events on the Daily News' political blog. He wrote that he took notes, doing "what I felt most reporters would do." His attempt to seek on-the-record comment ultimately prompted a call from Cuomo himself warning that Lovett was breaking the law.

"I laughed then and I laughed now after reading it," Lovett wrote Tuesday. "I didn't plant listening devices. Just a call."

Unsurprisingly, Cuomo's book release received a cold reception from his Republican challenger Rob Astorino. The Westchester County executive posted a $1,000 reward to anyone who attends Cuomo's Wednesday book-signing at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan and asks him five specific questions — on video — about the Moreland Commission, a subject left out of the book's index.

By contrast, there are chapters about both marriage equality and the SAFE Act.

State Democrats countered with an offer of their own: $2,000 to any New Yorker who takes video of someone asking Astorino three questions about his refusal to release additional years of tax returns.

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

Categories: State/Local
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