Illegal yeshiva will not remain in New Hempstead
Following a decision by Yeshiva Ohr Torah of Monsey, an illegal yeshiva set up in a single-family New Hempstead home will be vacated and an alternative site will be sought. The decision came in response to a July 25 decision by the New Hempstead Board of Trustees not to approve a special permit for the continued operation of the school. 90 people, most of them fire personnel, attended the board meeting to voice opposition to the school on safety grounds. According to Ira Emanuel, the New City attorney representing the congregation, Yeshiva Ohr Torah began to look for alternative sites when it became apparent the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals would not grant zoning code variances for the school. However, no replacement site has been announced yet. Yeshiva Ohr Torah purchased the house, which had been expanded by its previous owners without village approval, in March 2011. They were cited for multiple fire code violations and prepared the location for a temporary special permit by fitting the house with new safety measures. However, they still faced strong opposition from local fire personnel, who argued the house could not be safely modified to function as a school. Village officials largely agreed, expressing unwillingness to bypass village regulations for an initially illegal structure.

NYC launches gun buyback program
In an effort to reduce the number of illegal guns on the street, the NYPD will partner with local houses of worship for a gun buyback program. The program is designed to allow anybody who wishes to turn in their firearms a place to do so with no questions asked and no fear of arrest for illegal weapons charges. The $300,000 program will be funded by the City Council and NYPD, with equal $150,000 contributions from both groups. $200 will be offered for handguns and $20 will be offered for rifles and shotguns. The NYPD will be working with local houses of worship, which will host the events. The buybacks will be held in neighborhoods the NYPD determines to be problem areas due to gun trafficking, shooting incidents, homicides and gun-related arrests.

Pope Francis OK with chaste gays
In a surprising statement offered during his return trip from Brazil’s World Youth Day, Pope Francis I explained to press representatives that he maintains a non-judgmental stance on sexual orientation, so long as the individuals practice chastity.”Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” Francis said. “You can’t marginalize these people.” The comment came during a news conference while he spoke about homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood, particularly the recent uncovering of a “Gay Lobby” within the Vatican and. Francis explained that while the alleged lobby might be an issue, he has not seen any overt indications of opposition as he pursues reforms, opposes lobbies within the Vatican regardless of their goals and does not consider same-sex orientation itself to be a problem. Formal Catholic teachings do not bar those with same-sex attractions from the priesthood, arguing that though homosexual acts are sinful, attraction is not. However, previous pontificates have taken a hard line on the issue, barring gay priests from service in the Church.

Over a hundred Palestinian prisoners released in possible deal to reopen peace talks
In a controversial decision, Israel’s cabinet voted on July 28 to approve the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in a move which could reopen Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The heated session ended in the 13-7 vote for the resolution, which was supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As a result, the prisoners, which have served anywhere between 19 and 30 years for participation in terror attacks against Israelis, will be gradually released over the course of several months. The move provoked a firestorm of controversy and condemnation, with many Israelis saying the release of convicted terrorists goes too far in the name of brokering peace. During the vote, a demonstration urging the proposed releases’ defeat was held by families of victims of Palestinian attacks. The initial list of prisoners came from an Israeli Minstry of Justice list obtained by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and contained 118 prisoners. However, the government declined to release the other 14 prisoners.

Craft beer festival returns to Rockland this fall
In response to the success of last year’s event, Nanuet’s Growler & Gill Craft Beer Shoppe will once again host an annual craft beer festival this fall. The event will be held on Saturday, September 21 at Growler’s location at 148 E. Rt. 59 in Nanuet. It will include beer sampling from over 40 breweries, food and music. Included among the attending beer-makers are well-known craft breweries such as Dogfish Head, Chimay and Stone Brewing Company as well as local microbreweries such as Pearl River’s Defiant Brewing Company. Food will be provided by Northern Comfort Catering and Brewer’s Cow ice cream. Tickets are valued from $45 for early bird tickets to $95 for general admission advance tickets, with other values available as well. Designated driver tickets are available at a $10 value.

Judge gets tougher on Stephen Baldwin, demand faster payment
Rockland County Judge Charles Apotheker is seeking faster repayment of back taxes owed by actor and Rockland resident Stephen Baldwin. Baldwin has not paid down the remaining balance in part or in full since the deal was brokered three months ago. Hence, Apotheker instructed Baldwin that one third of the remaining $300,000 he owes must be paid back within three months. The Upper Grandview resident took a plea deal earlier in 2013 which would require him to repay $400,000 owed after failing to file state income taxes from 2008 to 2010, with $100,000 paid immediately. In return, Baldwin would receive a conditional discharge and avoid a felony charge on his record. Baldwin has faced financial difficulty due in part to repayment and a lack of significant acting parts and may be forced to extend payment over a five year period. If he chooses this option, he would be placed on probation for the duration of his repayment.

Missing nun found in Haverstraw
A nun in the late stages of dementia was reported missing in Sloatsburg on Sunday, but was found safe one day later at the far end of the county. Sister Therese McMahon, 74 of the Bronx, was in Rockland for a retreat at St. Joseph’s Home at 125 Sister Servants Lane when she left for church on Sunday. She was reported missing on Sunday when she did not show up to an 11 a.m. mass at St. Joan of Arc Church at 52 Eagle Valley Road in Sloatsburg, her intended destination. After a daylong search, she was found with her car on Route 9W in Haverstraw at 11:30 p.m. on Monday. Police stated McMahon appeared to be doing fine since her disappearance.

Tim Allen wants to reclaim racial slur
Tim Allen, the comic made famous by films such as “The Santa Clause” and the sitcom “Home Improvement,” caused a stir when he told the Tampa Bay Times that he wanted to reclaim the “N-word.” Allen explained his rationale was to take away the word’s power over others by normalizing its use and removing what he considered to be its confusing contextual nuances. Citing the recent outcry against celebrity chef Paula Deen for her use of the word in 1986, Allen argued the taboo against use of the word by whites is divisive and harmful because it perpetuates a double standard, Commentators reacted to the statement with a mixture of confusion and disapproval, with Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson explaining the word’s current use is a reclaiming of its initial derogatory meaning. Hence, that context is lost when it is used by whites and it becomes inappropriate. The word has been frequently used in comedy, with stand-up comics such as Richard Pryor and Chris Rock incorporating it into their routines. White comics including George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Louis CK and Doug Stanhope have used the word onstage as well.

State to provide grants to aspiring artists
Rockland is set to offer grants to individual artists and groups of artists who apply for the state-provided funds through the county. The state grants will be available through the Arts Council of Rockland and are separated into two categories for Community Arts Grants and Arts Education Grants. Individual artists can also use a nonprofit organization as their fiscal sponsor in their grant applications. Potential applicants can learn more at any one of three informational meetings, which will be held at 7 p.m. on August 6 at the New City Library, at 6 p.m. on August 14 at the Arts Council’s Garnerville office and at 6 p.m. on August 28 at Finkelstein Memorial Library in Spring Valley. The Arts Council of Rockland was formed to advance Rockland artists and their community role, including arts education. It receives an average of $36,000 to $40,000 for grants annually. Last year, it distributed $37,000 in state funds.

Florida propane blast injures eight workers
An explosion at a central Florida propane refilling plant late Monday night injured eight workers and prompted an emergency evacuation. 24 employees were at work in the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares, Lake County at the time of the blast. After the explosion, a half mile evacuation order was given by fire personnel in response to the explosion. The fire was put out by 2 a.m., two hours after the initial blast, and the order was lifted soon after so an investigation into the cause could begin. The plant housed 53,000 20 pound cylinders of propane and 2.3 million tanks annually to locations in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Aside from the eight workers, nobody in the surrounding community was reported to have been injured in the blast and all plant workers have been accounted for. Though no official cause has been announced, a spokesman with Blue Rhino’s parent company Fergellas stated the explosion might have resulted from equipment failure and human error. Blue Rhino had previously received a fine for a safety violation in 2011, though it is not known if the incidents are connected.

Congress to investigate deadly Seal Team 6 Crash
Congress has announced plans to investigate a helicopter crash in Afghanistan which killed thirty Americans, including 22 members of Seal Team 6. Family members of the soldiers killed in the crash claimed they have not been given the full story on the matter. Thought the Pentagon provided information on the crash with a written report and computer discs, families claim the Pentagon knew the helicopter was flying into a dangerous area and unnecessarily sent the soldiers into a dangerous situation. According to a report provided by the Pentagon, the chopper, a Chinook, was not properly equipped and the black box was unaccounted for due to a flood, which skeptics claim was not likely in that region of Afghanistan. In addition, the bodies of soldiers were quickly cremated and Afghan forces were quickly substituted for the American soldiers at the last minute, leading to questions over whether it was retaliation for the death of Osama Bin Laden. The Pentagon has claimed it does not believe the SEALs were specifically targeted.


Mom charged in connection with son hitting 11-year old
A New City mom has been arrested and charged with permitting the unlicensed operation of a vehicle after her 15-year old son struck an 11-year old child in Gardiner, New York. The accident occurred on July 28 at around 2:10 p.m. when the teen was driving the family’s SUV back to their campsite from the Yogi Bear Campground’s park office. According to the teen, he did not see the child as he rode on the side of the road with his bicycle. The car ran over his leg before he was dragged a short distance. The child was treated for abrasions to his leg and arms at St. Francis hospital in Poughkeepsie, while the teen was treated for anxiety before being released to his parents and police.

The Field Narrows: GOP Candidates drop from Clarkstown races
It was announced on Wednesday that Town Supervisor candidate Ralph Riverso and Town Clerk candidate Kathleen Sheridan have dropped out of their respective races, reducing the pressure on Democratic incumbents. Both candidates had submitted their petitions by the time they decided to withdraw from the running. Riverso explained he was physically unable to continue due to a heart condition, while Sheridan cited “serious personal difficulties” as her reason for dropping her campaign. Clarkstown Republican Chairman Bob Axelrod is now faced with finding a challenger to contest Democratic incumbent Alex Gromack, who is now running against only Clarkstown Preservation Society candidate Brian Moran. Sheridan’s departure leaves incumbent Town Clerk Justin Sweet running unopposed. Though he will not be running, Riverso explained he would still support a Republican candidate for the position of Town Supervisor and expressed a hope that a write-in candidate might make it into the running. Axelrod stated anybody interested in running should notify him.

Belgium considers euthanasia for children, late-stage dementia patients
The European nation of Belgium, which has legalized euthanasia under limited circumstances, is considering expanding the standards to children under the age of 18 and patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of late-stage dementia. The new regulations expand on pre-existing standards which allow doctors to euthanize citizens with terminal illnesses. If the changes are approved by Belgian lawmakers, children will be allowed to voluntarily elect to end their own lives if they are judged to be mature enough to make the decision and their condition is deemed dire enough. Cases of dementia appear to be even looser. Patients would be allowed to sign an agreement with doctors allowing euthanasia once their condition reaches an advanced stage, with allowances even in cases where the patient is apparently physically healthy. Previously, these patients were also deemed to be incapable of making a decision to end their own lives. The neighboring Netherlands have had their own forays into child euthanization as well, allowing the euthanization of 22 infants with spinal bifida since their law’s modification to allow minors in 2005. Though euthanization of children is not explicitly allowed under Dutch law, it has not been prosecuted.

Jasmin and Desmaret reappear in court
Embattled Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret reappeared in court in White Plains on July 19 for the scheduling of further proceedings related to their accusations of taking payments in exchange for political support for private projects. The scheduling of future hearings for the case came after the Judge Kenneth Karas granted the defense time to examine and amend various pre-trial motions. Once this is completed, the Judge is expected to rule on the motions. Barring the unlikely event of Karas granting a dismissal of all charges, long delays are expected to end and a trial will begin shortly thereafter. Former state Senator Malcom Smith, who is embroiled in the same wide-ranging state corruption probe as Jasmin and Desmaret, appeared in court as well. His attorney Ross Kramer stated to press that once a schedule is set, they will likely pursue motions to dismiss some of the counts.

State overpaid $7.8 million to hospitals
Hospitals billing Medicaid for higher levels of care than were provided or necessary for long acute care admissions caused the State Department of Health (DOH) to overpay those hospitals $7.8 million. This information comes from an audit released by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli last Thursday. The Island Peer Review Organization (IPRO) is employed by the DOH to review paid inpatient claims. DiNapoli requested the IPRO review 297 sample hospital stays, billed by 10 hospitals, for patients remaining in their care for 50 or more days under high levels of care, as opposed to “alternative level of care,” which is known as ALC and much less costly. The IPRO’s review showed that 94 of the cases they reviewed were improperly billed, costing the state $10.6 million. The hospitals in these cases did not bill for ALC care, which is what was provided. The state should only have been responsible for $2.8 million; Medicaid overpaid the claims by $7.8 million. Due to the 32 percent rate of overpayment found in the audit sample, auditors found that there is a high risk of overpayment in other Medicaid claims for acute treatment. DiNapoli recommended the following to the DOH, which has been supported by department officials: recover the $7.8 million that was overpaid by the state; inform the ten hospitals sampled by the IPRO of the proper procedure for billing inpatient claims for ALC; and modify the sampling plan of the IPRO to select and review claims at high risk of overpayment due to false charges of acute levels of care.

Mt. Ivy & Beacon residents charged with criminal possession of controlled substance
On July 30, 2013, at 3:45 p.m., the Town of Haverstraw Police arrested Victor Manuel Estabam Jr., age 25, of 60A Mt. Ivy Trailer Park, on a charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree with intent to sell and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. They also arrested Assgn D. Roche, age 16, of 20 Sycamore Dr., Beacon NY, on a charge of criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree. Numerous complaints were received about possible drug activity in the area of 60A Mt. Ivy Trailer Park. An investigation was started by the Town of Haverstraw Selective Enforcement Unit, who were assisted throughout the investigation by the Town of Ramapo Street Crime Unit and the Rockland County Narcotics Task Force. After a lengthy investigation officers were able to obtain a search warrant and with the assistance of the Rockland County React team execute the search warrant without incident. Both subjects were arraigned in the Town of Haverstraw Justice Court and remanded to the Rockland County Correctional Facility in lieu of $10,000, each pending a court appearance on August 5, 2013.

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