Free Gun Locks from Rockland County Sheriff’s Office
In an effort to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office began handing out free gun locks on Friday to county residents. A resolution was unanimously passed by the Rockland County Legislature last month that allows for the distribution of 1,600 cable locks. Each person may take home up to four locks and they are being handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis. The locks fit pistols, long rifles, and shot guns.

Trouble with Security at Kabul’s U.S. Embassy
A number of issues have been raised regarding the safety of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, including poor security measures, inadequate training of employees, and the firing of employees who expressed their worries over unchecked practices and procedures. The questionable security is being provided by a private company hired by the State Department to protect American diplomats. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) issued a report stating that the State Department received a memo from the Kabul Emergency Response Team in July, but did nothing about it. The department denies that there are any problems with security in Kabul. One of the guards who expressed concern over the security measures in place at the embassy was fired, reportedly for“leading a baseless mutiny” against senior leaders. The POGO report also states that while teams were sent to other embassies for security assessments after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a team was not sent to Kabul.

Fatal Accident in New City
There was a one-vehicle accident on Sunday at the corner of Strawtown Road and Cairnsmuir Lane in New City at around 11:25 p.m. The vehicle was split into two parts and the driver, Esmin Ljesnjanin, 23, of Congers, was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene. Front seat passenger Gjon Kolnrekaj, 26, also of Congers, was also pronounced dead at the scene. Both men were taken to the Rockland County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy. Clarkstown Police responded to the accident and their initial investigation shows that the 2007 Nissan Altima may have been driving north on Strawtown Road and crossed into the southbound lane, striking a corner street sign. The vehicle then struck a tree and the house located at 112 Strawtown Road. The house suffered minor damage.

The accident is still being investigated by the Clarkstown Police Department’s Accident Investigation Team.

Police Dogs Exempt from Confinement
Senator Carlucci introduced a bill in January 2012 that would exempt police dogs from confinement if they bite a suspect and the New York State Senate passed that bill on Monday. New York State law currently has provisions that call for the 10-day confinement and observation of animals that may have exposed someone to rabies. However, various law enforcement agencies have claimed that this unfairly punishes K-9 dogs for performing their duties. The bill must now await approval by the Assembly and is being sponsored by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski.

Vote for Armed Guards in Newtown
Late last Thursday, the Newtown Board of Education held a vote to decide whether armed guards were wanted in their schools, and the result was in favor of hiring one armed guard and one unarmed guard for each school. This vote, however, is only a request and must pass various budget and logistical obstacles. The guards would be coming from the town’s police resources and are already a fixture in the middle and high schools after the Sandy Hook shooting. More than half of the country is in favor of putting armed guards in schools, according to a January 15 poll by CNN.

Justice Department Memo for Drone Strikes on Americans
According to a confidential Justice Department memo obtained by NBC, the U.S. government has the authority to launch attacks on American citizens if they are believed to be high-ranking members of Al-Qaida or an affiliated group. These attacks may be launched even if there is no evidence of them being involved in an active plot against the U.S. Various officials have backed the use of drone strikes, calling it a measure of self-defense against groups that pose a threat to this country. However, the 16-page memo specifies that officials do not have to have direct knowledge of a planned attack to order the killing of citizens. Those targeted must merely have been “recently” involved in potentially threatening activities, though it is not indicated how recent this involvement must be. Before drone strikes are ordered, it must be seen that the capture of the targets is impossible, either for reasons of safety for those who must capture them or because the countries they are currently residing in will not let U.S. forces execute capture missions. The strikes must also comply with the “law of war principles. There are other memos from the Justice Department on the subject of targeting American citizens, but the department refuses to make them public.

Rockland County Pharmacy Controversy
At 5 p.m. on Friday, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef cancelled the contract the county had with a taxpayer-subsidized pharmacy that provided free prescriptions to workers and retirees. A workers union for the Rockland County government went to court on Friday to fight that decision. The union also filed an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board, as they handle labor relations for public employees in New York. The County Legislature passed a law stating the county must provide the health care benefits that were fulfilled by the pharmacy, so some are claiming Vanderhoef is not following the law. Vanderhoef has been planning to shut the pharmacy down since 2011 and says that in doing so, he will be saving taxpayers $2 million annually.

Deal Reached in Stephen Baldwin Tax Case According to Attorney
Actor Stephen Baldwin has a hearing on Tuesday at Nyack Village Hall in relation to his felony tax evasion case. According to his lawyer, a plea deal is being made which will result in a fine but no prison time. The hearing is expected to be adjourned and a moved to another date. Upon arraignment in Nyack village Court, Baldwin, 46, of Upper Grandview, pleaded not-guilty to the charge against him. He reportedly failed to file state income-tax returns in 2008, 2009, and 2010, owing more than $350,000 in penalties and interest. It has not been confirmed by District Attorney Tom Zugibe whether a plea agreement is being made.

Track Upgrade Planned for CSX in Rockland
Plans for a second railroad track and siding spanning Haverstraw and Stony Point are being made by CSX Corp., which would total $26 million. Existing siding in West Haverstraw will be expanded three miles to meet track that was used by the former Lovett power plant in Stony Point, and the work is to be done in an environmentally sensitive area. Concerns were raised about noise levels due to idling engines, which would disrupt residents during the night and into the early morning. There are about 35 freight trains that use the line daily, ranging from one to three miles long. A 1000-megawatt transmission line may also be placed in the railroad bed parallel to the track. Work is expected to begin in the spring and be completed by the end of the year. CSX does not require extra permits to complete the work as it is within their right of way. The double track on the northern end of the line between Ravena and Catskill is also being extended.

DuBow Does Not Seek Re-Election
Mayor of South Nyack Patricia DuBow will not be seeking re-election next month, but is still in the running for a seat on the village board. DuBow has nominated Trustee Bonnie Christian for mayor and if Christian is elected, DuBow is willing to be appointed to fill the vacant trustee position. Donald McMahon has also decided against running for another term as trustee, so there will be two vacant positions. Republican Trustee Thomas Neff will run for re-election and Catherine McCue and Clifford Weathers were the Democrats chosen at the South Nyack caucus in January to run for the two trustee positions.

Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry to Resume Service
The Haverstraw-Ossining ferry is set to resume service on Tuesday morning. It was shut down last week due to ice on the Hudson River, but shuttle commuters were provided with buses to transport them between the Haverstraw dock and the Tarrytown station. There, they could connect to trains that would take them to Grand Central Station and midtown Manhattan. The ferry between Newburgh and Beacon will also resume service on Tuesday.

Bear Mountain Groundhog Predicts More Winter
Trailside Jack, the resident weatherman and groundhog at Bear Mountain State Park, has seen his shadow, which means six more weeks of winter. The families who showed up, many parents bringing young children with them to participate in the festivities, were dismayed at the news that they would have to remain bundled up in their hats and scarves for longer than they had hoped. Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, however, did not see his shadow, indicating a short winter. This was the first Groundhog’s Day celebration at Bear Mountain in 30 years because of a lack of a steady stream of woodchucks to make the appearance.

Tappan Zee Bridge Design Team Set to Meet Public
Two community meetings to be held next week are the first time the design and building team of the new $3.9 billion Tappan Zee Bridge will discuss the project directly with the residents of Rockland and Westchester counties. The first meeting will take place on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Westchester Marriot, 670 White Plains Road, Tarrytown. On Tuesday, the team will meet with the public at 7 p.m. at Nyack High School, 360 Christian Herald Road, Upper Nyack. Three representatives of Tappan Zee Constructors, the group that was awarded the construction contract for the bridge on December 17, and the special advisor to Governor Cuomo on the project met with the president of The Quay condominiums of Tarrytown on Wednesday. The group discussed concerns over noise, air pollution, and rodent infestation that the construction of the new bridge may cause. More meetings with those who will be directly impacted by the project are set to take place sometime in the near future. Officials have assured residents that the new span’s construction will not cause terrible traffic jams even though only one of the twin spans will be completed by 2016. That one span will have the same holding capacity as the old bridge.

East Ramapo Wins Lawsuit
The East Ramapo school district filed a lawsuit against the state Attorney General’s Office and the court decided in their favor. The lawsuit came about last year when Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman made a request that the school district waive their attorney-client privacy privileges and allow internal communications over the sale of two schools to be reviewed by the state agency. Schneiderman also attempted to keep the district’s attorney, Albert D’Agostino from representing them in the case. The members of the Orthodox and Hasidic school board were accused of making “sweetheart deals” when selling two former elementary schools to private yeshiva communities. The judge allowed the district to keep their attorney and decided the district does not have an obligation to break the attorney-client privacy rights.

Assault in New Hempstead
A fight between three men took place at approximately 11:09 p.m. on Tuesday on Rensselaer Drive in New Hempstead. Two of the men, John Biagi, 23, and Charles Lampedusa, 22, both of Eastchester, went to the home of Mitchell Peligri, 49. Peligri resides at 2 Rensselaer Drive and got into a verbal altercation with the other two, which quickly escalated into a physical fight. Arming himself with a knife, Peligri slashed Biagi across the arm. He was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Lampedusa falsely identified himself as a police officer during the incident, leading him to be charged with second-degree criminal impersonation. Biagi was charged with trespassing, and Peligri was charged with second-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The Ramapo Police Department Detective Division is further investigating the incident.

“James Bond” Burglaries Across Rockland 
A group based in New Jersey that has come to be known as the “James Bond gang” has once again been ransacking the Rockland area. The group breaks down front doors of homes, rushes to master bedrooms to steal jewelry and cash, and is gone within minutes of arriving. Though the gang usually cuts alarm systems before entering the homes, even if they do trip an alarm, they are gone too quickly for the police to catch them.  They have been operating for about 20 years, and spread out their crime sprees across the tri-state area. Seven Rockland homes have been targeted in the past few months, several dozen in Bergen County and other parts of Jersey, and as far north as Fairfield, Connecticut.  The gang usually targets high-end developments and waits until dusk, so their car is not visible to neighbors. Their BMWs and Lexuses are equipped with secret compartments, a grease jet-spray machine, and high-intensity lights that help them escape the police, which is what earned them the “James Bond” title.  Various members of the gang have been caught and convicted through the years. Residents have hired a private security agency to investigate and patrol the area in Orangetown. Stony Point and Clarkstown have not yet been hit, but the Stony Point police have issued a warning to residents. They are asked to report any suspicious cars seen in the neighborhood.

Another U.S. Embassy Attacked
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey was bombed last week in what Turkish officials characterized as an attack by Marxist rebels. U.S. officials, however, said they would reserve judgment on who attacked the embassy and why. A Turkish journalist and two guards were injured in the attack. The embassy had been targetted as recently as 2008. It’s been a rough stretch for U.S. embassies as deadly showdown in Benghazi, Libya and a mob riot in Egypt both took place at U.S. embassies on Sept. 11, 2012.

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