While You Were Out: Jan. 2, 2020

This two-day workweek turns out to be both a blessing and a curse.

Blessing: It’s an easier way to get back into the swing of things after the holidays than a full five-day week would be.

Curse: A lot of people simply extended their holiday vacations and are not yet back to work themselves, making it slightly more difficult than usual for those of us who ARE working to get anything accomplished.

But we will soldier bravely on, CivMixers. Because that is what we do, isn’t it?

In the headlines…

Fallen auto titan Carlos Goshn held early discussions with a movie producer before his audacious escape. The film’s villain: Japanese justice.

Turkish authorities questioned seven people, including four pilots, about the role they may have played in helping Ghosn make his escape from Tokyo to Beirut, offering new clues to his mysterious flight.

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who was the only Latino candidate in the Democratic primary, is ending his bid for the presidency, capping a yearlong campaign where he struggled in polls but remained a policy pacesetter on immigration and fighting poverty.

A three-month window that began with a heart attack ended as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ strongest fundraising quarter yet, with his campaign pulling in $34.5 million in October, November and December. Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden said his campaign raised $22.7 million last quarter – its biggest quarterly tally so far.

Bestselling author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson has laid off her entire 2020 campaign staff but is pushing ahead with her Democratic presidential bid, two former staffers said.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio called out the new bail reform laws today – one day after they were implemented – saying New York judges should have discretion as they do in New Jersey, where bail reform laws were overhauled in 2017.

De Blasio defended the no-bail policy in a Fox News appearance Sunday, stating that under the old laws most defendants were released after making bail and insisting that if the only reason a person is kept behind bars is because they cannot afford bail, then that does not solve anything.

The president of the Troy Police Benevolent Association worries officers will be so tied down with paperwork required by the new discovery law it will prevent them for getting back on the road.

Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said police interviewed Grafton Thomas, the man charged in the Dec. 28 machete attack on Hanukkah party-goers, before the attack in regards to the November stabbing of a Monsey man. Weidel called the investigation into the stabbings “complex” and the November attack investigation “very active.”

There were 252 anti-Semitic hate crime incidents in 2018 – the second-highest total in a decade, according to new numbers released by the Division of Criminal Justice Services. The updated statistics cover 2017 and 2018; the previous update covered through 2016.

An Albany man charged with second-degree manslaughter in the strangulation-and-stabbing death of a woman was released from jail today under the new bail reforms that eliminated bail for that charge and most other felonies.

A white officer with the New York City Police Department who broke into a black woman’s home in Tennessee and threatened her and her sons with a racist slur has resigned from the force.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a crackdown on so-called “ghost guns” in New York by requiring firearm parts to be sold by authorized buyers and have the same eligibility requirements as a completed firearm. He also wants all “major parts” of a gun to receive a serial number.

With a potent mixture of campaign cash, canny bets on local races and union members ready to take to the streets, Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward has transformed his union of 33,600 hotel workers into one of the most imposing political forces in New York.

Despite New York’s dwindling population, the impact to the state’s congressional districts is not expected to be as bleak as previously estimated.

The Yates County district attorney has been assigned to be the special prosecutor handling the DWI case against state Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

…At the same time, there is word Kolb is the subject of a possible ethics probe because he was driving his taxpayer-funded vehicle at the time of the crash.

In a ruling on one of the art world’s notable #MeToo lawsuits, a court found that Artforum magazine can be held responsible for retaliation against a former employee — but that Knight Landesman, the influential former publisher whom the employee accused of sexual harassment, legally remains in the clear.

For those who work in law enforcement, the holiday season is a time to get tough on drunk driving, and it appears their efforts paid off locally as the calendar turned from 2019 to 2020.

The Albany housing market was named a “hidden gem” by realtor.com this week. The national real estate website called the Albany area one of “the 10 most under-the-radar markets where buyers can score a fantastic deal.”

The city of Albany is providing homeowners more flexibility for paying property taxes and helping residents avoid interest payments on unpaid taxes.

Cuomo signed legislation intended to help improve elevator safety across the state. This new law requires all individuals engaged in the design, construction, inspection, maintenance and repair of elevators or other automated people moving conveyances to be licensed by New York.

The governor also signed a bill into law that penalizes companies that move call center jobs to foreign countries, making them ineligible for state loans, grants or tax breaks for a period of five years.

Fires at STS Steel in Schenectady remained under investigation today as the company’s president worked to assess the damage.

The Capital District Transportation Authority is launching a flexible transit option with a pilot program covering an area that includes the Capital Region’s major shopping malls, the Albany International Airport, Wolf Road, and Corporate Woods.

King Brothers Dairy has been awarded $475,000 to expand its processing capacity and to add a production line to produce premium yogurt. A cold storage unit and barn renovations are among the projects that will accommodate the expansion.

After consulting a wide range of government agencies, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department has concluded that Sunday’s loud explosion and green flash was likely a meteor “entering and burning up in the atmosphere.”

James Ward, a retired assistant police chief, was appointed by Mayor Bill Keeler as the city of Cohoes’ first full-time public safety commissioner in more than two decades.

Clifton Park native and UAlbany student Zahra Hashimee, 20, is a TikTok star.

Stage Stores is converting its Peebles department store brand to Gordmans Off-Price Stores, with a reopening planned for Feb. 18. The Peebles store in East Greenbush, meanwhile, will close this month. A Peebles store in Troy closed a year ago.

U.S. health officials will begin cracking down on most flavored e-cigarettes that are popular with underage teenagers, but their plan includes major exceptions that benefit vaping manufacturers, retailers and adults who use the nicotine- delivery devices.

RIP Tom Dillon, who for more than 30 years was the chef and owner of Saratoga’s track-season favorite Siro’s Restaurant. He died Dec. 26 at age 73 after a long battle with cancer.

RIP Charles Chow, who had interests in multiple restaurants in the Capital Region since the mid-1970s and was a cycling coach for the Hong Kong Olympic team. He died at his Albany home on Dec. 22 at age 70.

In the “everything old is new again department”…For the first time in 30 years, vinyl records are outselling CDs.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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