Flu Virus Declared a State of Emergency
Governor Cuomo announced on Saturday that the spread of the influenza virus in New York State has reached a state of emergency. After declaring the Public Health Emergency, an Executive Order was issued that temporarily allows for pharmacies to administer the flu vaccine to people aged six months to 18 years, when they previously were only allowed to give vaccines to those over 18. This Order will only last for 30 days. Said to be one of the worst flu seasons, there have been 19,128 cases of the virus reported, more than triple the 4,404 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu during the 2011-2012 season. Two children from New York have already died, along with 18 children across the rest of the nation. New Yorkers are being strongly urged to get vaccinated if they have not done so already. The flu season typically lasts through late winter or early spring and is spread through coughing and sneezing. When experiencing symptoms, a primary care physician should be called prior to going to the hospital, as a trip to the hospital may not be necessary.

Van Cura Chosen as New Undersheriff
It was announced on Friday that Robert W. Van Cura would be appointed as the new Undersheriff; this appointment went into effect on Monday. The spot of Undersheriff opened up when Thomas J. Guthrie retired from the position after 30 years of service, having begun working with the Sheriff’s office in 1982. He served with Sheriffs Thomas Goldrick, James Kralik, and Louis Falco III. Prior to that, he served as part of the New York City Police Department. Van Cura has served the South Nyack-Grand View Police Department for over 30 years, having served as a patrol officer, detective, and first line supervisor. He was promoted to Chief of Police in 2004. He used to be President of the Police Chiefs’ Association of Rockland County, which oversees such things as the County Intelligence Center, Rockland County Police Information Network, and the Police Academy. Van Cura has also served on the boards of several Counter Terrorism groups, such as Counter Terrorism Zone 4 and the NYS Executive Committee on Counter Terrorism. Van Cura graduated Magna Cum Laude from Dominican College in Blauvelt, earning a degree in Public Administration. He completed the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Course in 2005 and the FBI’s Leading in the Analysis of Crime and Terrorism Program in 2007.

Grants for Sandy’s Victims
A Community Crisis Relief Fund has been created for those in the area who were impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Both individuals and non-profits will be able to benefit from the fund, which is supported by donations from individuals and businesses. After one round of applications was processed, Meals on Wheels and People to People each received $500. The following funds are still accepting grant applications: Community Crisis Relief Fund (individuals and non-profits), Active Cares Fund (non-profits only), Boulders Benefits Fund (non-profits only), and North Rockland Disaster Recovery Fund (individuals and non-profits). Applications are reviewed weekly and grants given when there are available funds. Applications can be obtained online at www.rocklandgives.org, by emailing info@rocklandgives.org, or calling 845-947-2868.

2012 Sees Rise of Gun Permits in New York
Handgun applications that have gained approval in the state of New York have nearly doubled in the last year, according to data obtained by Gannett’s Albany Bureau. In January 2012, there were 1,280 approved permits issued; in November 2012, there were 2,401. In 2012, a total of 19,689 permits were issued outside of New York City. Suffolk County is the largest county in the state aside from the city and had the most handgun permits issued (1,635). Those who own gun shops across the state have been expressing concern over the law Governor Cuomo passed on Tuesday, which took effect immediately and called for background checks on all purchases. Customers were supposedly lining up outside the shops, hoping to make purchases before the law was enacted. Store owners may be fined or criminally charged if caught breaking this law. A “Webster provision” was also put in place, named for two first responders shot and killed in Monroe County on Christmas Eve. The provision mandates a life without parole sentence for anyone who kills a first responder.

Formation of Speakers Bureau
In order to ensure Rockland County residents are aware of all the services available to them, County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef created a Speakers Bureau. A number of speakers are available to speak to schools, organizations, and other groups about a variety of topics such as: benefits for veterans, health education programs and future clinics, various youth initiatives, senior programs, and preparation for future emergencies like Superstorm Sandy. Speakers of this kind have always been available to the community, but the creation of this bureau makes the process easier for those requesting a speaker. To request a speaker, visit www.rocklandgov.com.

Newtown Sparks Talk of White House Funding for Police in Schools
Following last month’s massacre in Connecticut, the Obama administration has been considering providing funds for more police officers on school campuses to ensure the safety of students. This is just one part of the government’s plan to put an end to gun violence. The requirement of background checks prior to any gun sales and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips are also among the actions being taken. Though the Obama administration is not going as far as placing armed guards at every school, as suggested by the National Rifle Association, they are considering making federal money available to schools that wish to hire police officers or install surveillance equipment on their campuses. Members of the NRA and those who work in the gun industry do not support the new regulations being put in place by lawmakers, including the ban on high-capacity ammo clips. Vice President Biden will discuss recommendations from the administration’s working group on gun violence with President Obama on Tuesday. Background checks will be enforced even for private sales, such as those that take place at gun shows.

Wyoming Creates Bill that Challenges Federal Gun Law
After talk of introducing a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, Wyoming lawmakers created a bill that keeps the federal government from enforcing these bans. This bill, backed by eight state representatives and two state senators, would have any federal agents who attempt to enforce the bans imprisoned for one to five years and fined up to $5,000. It would also keep gun dealers in Wyoming from obeying the federal law, as long as the property being handled is kept within Wyoming borders. However, this bill is agreed to be unconstitutional by legal experts. When federal and state law conflict, the Constitution’s supremacy clause states that federal law should be upheld rather than state law. It is unknown whether Republican Governor Matt Mead will sign the bill into law.

Man Pleads Guilty in Rockland Psychiatric Center Murder Case
Last Thursday, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe announced that Curtis Wilson pled guilty to one count of first-degree manslaughter. The incident occurred on January 16, 2012 at approximately 5:16 p.m. The defendant attacked fellow resident Vincent Knadler, hitting him in the head repeatedly with a two-foot long metal pole. Knadler was pronounced dead at Nyack Hospital at 6:01 p.m. Due to his guilty plea, Wilson is not able to use a psychiatric defense. This was Wilson’s sixteenth inpatient hospitalization in the last 25 years. He is a former resident of Newburgh. Wilson is being held at the Rockland County Jail, awaiting his March 27 sentencing. Prosecutors have recommended 23 years in state prison and 5years of post-release supervision.

Concern Over Obama’s New Cabinet, Solis Resigns
In preparation for his second inauguration, President Obama has been rearranging the members of his Cabinet, a process that was further affected last Wednesday when Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced her resignation. Obama had high praise for Solis, commending the work she did for families in need during these tough economic times and her role in insuring the health and safety of workers. She was the first and only Hispanic woman to hold a high Cabinet post. Following the resignation of Solis and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and the withdrawal of Susan E. Rice from consideration for secretary of state, questions have been raised over the diversity in race and gender of Obama’s Cabinet. All four of his recent nominees have been white men. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki will reportedly remain in their positions.

Class Action Suit Over New Gun Law
Within the next three weeks, Western New York Attorney James Tresmond, of Hamburg, is hoping to file a class action lawsuit to challenge the new gun and ammo restrictions in New York State. There have reportedly been 8,000 gun owners who wish to be part of the suit and several lawyers who have offered to help with the lawsuit. In addition to banning a variety of military-style weapons, the law Governor Cuomo passed on Tuesday reduces the amount of ammunition magazines allowed to be purchased from seven rounds to ten rounds. New York will now be the first state to require background checks for the purchase of bullets and will create a comprehensive database of those restricted from purchasing guns. This system will also flag those who purchase large amounts of ammo.

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