County Health Department Named “Public Health Ready”
Last week, Rockland County was recognized for its ability to properly respond to public health emergencies by the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The county earned its status of “public health ready” in terms of preparedness planning, workforce competency, and by showing they are ready for all hazards through planned exercises and responses to real life situations. Project Public Health Recognition is a program designed to assess local health department’s ability to plan for, respond to, and recover from public emergencies. For more information on this project, visit www.naccho.org/PPHR.

STOP-DWI Superbowl Weekend
There are a number of times during the year that accidents due to drunk driving are more common, and the weekend of the Superbowl is one of them. As a result, Rockland County police agencies are going to be participating in the statewide STOP-DWI Crackdown efforts. From February 1 to February 4, special enforcements will be made to stop drinking and driving. Other holidays that give cause for extra patrols are St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Say Weekend.

Two Board Seats Open in East Ramapo District
Due to the resignation of two Board of Education members, the East Ramapo school district is accepting applications for the positions through February 18. Suzanne Young-Mercer and Stephen Price left the board last week, each submitting an individual letter of resignation. Both cited “intimidation” and “harassment” by fellow board members as reasons for leaving. They were the only two members of the board who were not either Orthodox Jewish or Hasidic. The remaining members voted unanimously to have President Daneil Schwartz appoint two replacements, rather than hold a special election. The regular school board elections will be held in May, where the candidates chosen to fill Mercer-Young and Price’s seats may run for the chance to serve a full three years. Candidates must be registered to vote in the U.S., must not hold any other public office simultaneously, and must not live with any current school board members.

Armed Robbery in Ramapo
At just after 2 a.m. on Wednesday, a cab driver was robbed at gun point by two men on East Williams Avenue in Ramapo. Two male passengers directed the cab driver to that street and, when the driver stopped, he was faced with a handgun. The two men stole the driver’s cell phone and cash, though they did not injure him. The first suspect is described as a Hispanic male, light-skinned, approximately 5’6”, and has a slim build. He had on dark pants and a dark, hooded coat. The second suspect was a black male, also with a slim build. His clothing was similar to the other suspects. The Ramapo Police Detective Division is currently investigating the incident.

Robbery in Nanuet
A 47-year-old female victim had her purse stolen in the parking lot of Stop & Shop in Nanuet at around 10:25 a.m. on Saturday. The woman was returning to her car after leaving the store, and the suspect’s car was parked next to hers. The suspect, described as a 20-year-old Caucasian male of average build between 5’8” and 5’10”, took the victim’s purse from her shoulder and left in his vehicle. The vehicle is described as a newer model Ford, 4-door hatchback, dark gray and sporting New York license plates. The incident was captured by video surveillance cameras and the Clarkstown Police Detective Bureau is investigating. Anyone with any information may call 845-639-5800 or the TIPS line at 877-639-6233.

Haverstraw Man Indicted on Attempted Murder Charge in Attack on Neighbor
The Rockland County grand jury has indicted a Haverstraw man on charges of attempted murder and assault in connection with an attack on his neighbor at the New Main Street Hotel in Haverstraw, where they both live. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said William Lewis, 29, of 47 New Main Street in Haverstraw went into his neighbor’s room on the evening of December 5, 2012 with the apparent intent of robbing him. Lewis is alleged to have struck the victim repeatedly with a guitar, stabbed him with a broken light bulb and strangled him with a cord. As a result, the victim was in a coma for two weeks and spent a month in Westchester Medical Center. His injuries included a skull fracture, a fracture of his right eye orbit, two broken ribs and several lacerations. Hi vision has also been impaired as a result of the attack. After investigation, the Haverstraw Police Department arrested Lewis, who was arraigned and remains in the Rockland County Jail on $50,000 bail. (From www.midhudsonnews.com. Republished with permission).

Woman Hoards 67 Dead Cats, 99 Live
Last Wednesday, officials were called to remove 67 dead cats and 99 live cats from a home in upstate New York. The home is located in Wright, near Albany, and was apparently discovered by Sheriff’s deputies after a neighbor called to report the overwhelming odor of cat urine and feces. The deputies found the dead cats being stored in plastic bags in the freezer and the live cats placed in cages stacked from floor to ceiling. The owner of the cats, an unidentified female, is being charged. An animal shelter has taken in the cats and its manager has reportedly tried to help the woman before, saying she has a “hoarder mentality.”

First Hazardous Waste Cleanup
Last Friday, Rockland County’s Hazardous Material Team was called to its first cleanup of 2013. A truck on Route 9W in Haverstraw was leaking diesel fuel at around 6:30 in the morning, and the volunteer firefighters of Haverstraw initially responded to the scene. The HAZMAT team was called only minutes after the Incident Commander arrived on scene. The firefighters prevented the fuel from leaking into the shoulder or the storm drains, and the HAZMAT team removed the fuel that was left in the damaged tank.

Revisiting Cuomo’s Gun Control Legislation
Sheriffs in upstate New York are holding out hope that Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature will rethink parts of the new gun-control law, saying it acts against law-abiding citizens and the decision to sign it into law was made too hastily. A Sheriff’s Association conference was held in Albany last week, where the new legislation has been a major topic of discussion. Some sheriffs are in agreement that, though the law does attempt to address mental health issues in gun owners and to restrict access to illegal guns, it is still a violation of their Second Amendment rights. The new gun-control was passed on January 15, in response to the shootings in Newtown, Conn. and Webster, Monroe. It places a ban on assault weapons and limits the magazine capacity from 10 to seven. Sheriffs say their offices are receiving many phone calls from citizens with questions about the new regulations, and some have been scheduling informational meetings regarding the subject. The Sheriff’s Association is expected to reveal its official position on the new law soon. The Association of Chiefs of Police has announced their approval of it, and it has also earned praise from district attorneys across the state. Governor Cuomo’s office has agreed that amendments need to be made – for example, police are not currently exempt from the magazine limit.

Sports for the Disabled Deemed a Civil Right
Schools are now being told by the U.S. Education Department that they must provide equal opportunities in sports programs for students with disabilities, or create equal alternative activities. This new directive could lead to sweeping changes, as schools will be required to make modifications for disabled students. According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, sports are an invaluable part of a child’s life, teaching them lessons to be used both inside and outside the classroom. He wants all children to have the opportunity to learn those lessons. Sports are being called a civil right by the Education Department, and the new decree is reminiscent of Title IX, which allowed women equal opportunity to play on sports teams. Students with disabilities will not be guaranteed a spot on competitive teams, but they will not be excluded from them either. A study done in 2010 by the Government Accountability Office suggests that sports programs may be beneficial to students with disabilities, as they are generally more likely to remain sedentary than other students. The requirement for equal opportunities in sports was only addressed to elementary and secondary schools, but those in higher education have stated that they will also look closely at the measures suggested.

Your Honor, I’d Like to Plead Muslim to this Crime
A Muslim boy from England who admitted to raping a 13-year-old girl whom he met on Facebook avoided a prison sentence after the judge learned his Islamic faith school taught him that women are “no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground.” Adil Rashid, 18, claimed ignorance of British law, saying he did not know it was illegal for him to have sex with the girl. His school supposedly did not educate its students about women and his home life also lacked a proper education on the subject, as he grew up in a closed community environment. Rashid and his victim met online and began messaging each other through Facebook. They then began exchanging text messages and phone calls over a two-month period, before finally meeting up at a Premier Inn in Nottingham. He was not arrested until a week after the incident, when the girl told a friend what happened and her friend informed a teacher. Last week, Judge Michael Stokes sentenced Rashid to nine months of youth custody, two-year suspension, and a two-year probation supervision order. Stokes did not send Rashid to prison because of Rashid’s apparent naivety of sexual conduct and his passive, unassertive personality.

New York Budget Battle
A series of hearings began on Monday, whose focus is to critique Governor Cuomo’s proposed $136 billion spending plan. There are 13 legislative hearings planned over the course of the next month, where legislators will have the opportunity to express their concerns with the proposed budget. It is anticipated the mayors will ask to see more aid and fewer state-mandated costs. The budget deadline is March 31. Part of Cuomo’s plan is to raise the minimum wage for workers from $7.25 per hour to $8.75 per hour starting in July. Some feel this increase should be accompanied by incentives for businesses, as small businesses may find it difficult to afford the increased salary for workers. There are also negotiations currently taking place between the state and the U.S. government over a reduction in Medicaid funds for New York. If an agreement is reached, there would be a cut of $1.1 billion. Disagreements have risen over the placement of several upstate casinos. Cuomo planned to create a commission to recommend the best areas for the casinos, but lawmakers in both houses would rather allow the state Legislature to decide the specific locations, or at least the counties and regions. There is a provision in the governor’s budget that would extend a fee on the state’s utilities, which is set to expire in 2014. The fee was first enacted in 2009 and brings in $500 million annually, helping to plug budget gaps. Though Cuomo wants to extend it for five more years, some legislators would rather see cost reductions filling the budget gaps. The budget would not create any new taxes while at the same time closing a $1.35 billion budget gap.

Possible Probe into Senator Sleeping with Underage Prostitutes
According to documents first published online on Tuesday, the FBI has launched an investigation on a U.S. Senator accused of sleeping with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. The investigation appears to have begun on August 1, 2012 and focuses on Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey. Menendez has taken repeated trips to the Dominican Republic with longtime campaign donator and Miami eye doctor Salomon Melgen. Various sources reveal that other officials had evidence against Menendez as early as April 2012. Menendez reportedly slept with prostitutes who were as young as 16 and also evaded Senate Ethics committee rules, which are set up to keep third parties from paying travel expenses for senators. Senators are allowed to accept lodging and travel from friends, but must gain approval and document that these gifts were given. Menendez failed to do so when he received free travel on Melgen’s private jet. One of the young girls Menendez hired was asked to confirm through photos that it was Menendez she slept with. She did so, and said she met with him at least three times in 2009, and again in 2010 and 2011. She was 16 years old in 2009. The age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18.

Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay Stalled
The special envoy for closing the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was reassigned on Monday and there are no plans to replace him. The office is being closed and the duties performed by the special envoy will now be taken care of by the office of the department’s legal advisor. Daniel Fried had worked on diplomatic issues related to resettling detainees or sending them back to their home countries, and will now work as the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy. He will also handle issues such as Syria and Iran. The post Fried formerly held was created in 2009, just after President Obama took office, and the prison was supposed to close within the year. Congress, however, imposed restrictions on transfers of detainees back to their homelands.

Millions of Dollars in Life Insurance Paid to Beneficiaries
An investigation started in July 2011 by the Department of Financial Services has resulted in over $665 million being paid to life insurance beneficiaries as of Tuesday. These beneficiaries did not know they were entitled to the money. Prior to regulations set up in 2012 by the DFS, life insurance companies did not actively seek the beneficiaries of their clients’ policies. Instead, those beneficiaries had to make a claim to receive the money. Many life insurance policies went unclaimed, as not all beneficiaries realize they are listed on a loved one’s policy. As of May 2012, the DFS has been requiring insurance companies to hold investigations quarterly to insure all beneficiaries are receiving the money they are entitled to. The law also requires insurers to: notify the insurer’s parent company, subsidiaries, and affiliates of a death so policies where no claims have been filed can be identified; gather more sufficient information on beneficiaries when a life insurance policy is purchased, so they may be paid more quickly when the policyholder dies; and answer requests for lost policies or unclaimed life insurance policies. The Lost Policy Finder helps people locate lost or misplaced life insurance policies and annuity contracts for those who are deceased.

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