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Gun control bill passes New York Senate, heads for Assembly

A new package of gun laws that includes a stricter definition of banned "assault weapons" and new provisions on gun ownership and mental illness is making its way through the New York State Legislature. Late on Monday night, the Republican-controlled state Senate voted 43-18 to pass S.2230, which will now head for the Democratic-controlled Assembly and likely passage into law.

The New York Times reports that the gun bill was the result of a deal reached under pressure by Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, had pressed lawmakers to move quickly in response to Newtown, saying, “the people of this state are crying out for help.” And the Legislature proceeded with unusual haste: Monday was the first full day of this year’s legislative session.

“We don’t need another tragedy to point out the problems in the system,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference.  Read more

Loss of dairy farms costs region $100 million a year, says local expert

Photo published under Creative Commons license.

For decades, small dairy farms have been disappearing from the rural upstate New York landscape, as rising costs outpace milk prices and farmers struggle to stay in business.

Last week, in a column published in the Chenango Evening Sun, a local dairy expert claimed that the dairy drain is costing the Chenango, Otsego and Delaware County region over $100 million a year in lost economic impact.

In the article, Kenneth Smith, executive director of the Chenango County Cornell Cooperative Extension, takes a look at recent USDA data on milk production, and concludes that the loss of hundreds of dairy farms from the region since 1999 has taken a grave toll on the local economy:  Read more

Flu emergency declared in New York State

Photo of flu shot being administered by Indiana Public Radio. Published under Creative Commons license.

With flu cases skyrocketing across the state and the nation, Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared an official public health emergency for the state of New York. The announcement was made on Saturday.

Along with the declaration, Cuomo signed an executive order allowing pharmacists to give flu vaccine to children between six months and 18 years old, for 30 days after the order. Under normal circumstances, the law does not allow pharmacists to vaccinate children.  Read more

DEP opens the Cannonsville to motors -- and watershed land to trails

Above: The Cannonsville Reservoir looking serene, if a bit low on water, in July of 2012. Photo by Flickr user mountain_man_ny_2; published under Creative Commons license.

The agency that manages New York City's water -- and its vast upstate watershed -- is taking another small step toward opening up its reservoirs for public use.

This April, the Cannonsville Reservoir will be opened up to fishing boats with electric trolling motors for the first time. If the pilot program is successful, it may be introduced at other reservoirs, following the example of the city's recreational boating program. Launched on the Cannonsville in 2009, the recreational boating program now allows canoes, kayaks and sailboats on four upstate reservoirs.

The program, according to New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) deputy commissioner Paul Rush, is for fishing boats only. But allowing electric trolling motors will make it easier for anglers to access more of the reservoir, and open up the reservoir to people who are physically unable to row.

Deposit resident Lloyd Hornbeck, avid fisherman and longtime proprietor of Hornbeck's Sport Shop, said that local anglers had been talking with the DEP about allowing motorboats on the reservoir for some years.
  Read more

Cuomo's State of the State: Upstate casinos and minimum wage hike on the agenda

Above: Video of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 'State of the State' address on Wednesday afternoon.  Read more

Walton woman arrested for making death threats to children

On Monday, the Village of Walton Police Department arrested 27-year-old Walton resident Jennifer L. Morris, in connection with a series of graphic and disturbing death threats made on Facebook to Walton children last week.

Although police say more charges are pending, Morris faces only misdemeanor charges: Two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Some of the threatening messages and photos that she is accused of posting are still online at Facebook.

The Walton police issued a brief news release about the arrest:

On January 5th 2013 the Village of Walton Police Department received a complaint of unauthorized access into a Facebook account involving threats to various individuals, including children. Over the past two days several more threats were received by other individuals in and around the Village and Town of Walton. An extensive investigation was conducted by the Walton Police Department and the Delaware County Sheriff's Office which has led to the arrest of Jennifer L. Morris age 27 of Walton.  Read more

Walton children targeted with online death threats and pornography

Several children in the Walton Central School District have been targeted by an unknown person who used Facebook to spread pornography, tag pictures of dead children with the names of local students, and threaten to reenact the Sandy Hook shootings in Walton.

Local residents have also been using Facebook to warn each other about the messages and urge their friends not to accept new friend requests through the site. The harasser has been using several accounts, including "Anthony McCool," "Cody Haha F," and "Cody Farwell." At least one of the accounts appears to have belonged to an innocent Facebook user whose account was hacked.

As recently as Sunday night, one account -- "Cody Farwell" -- was still active, and displaying a recent threat:

Above: A threatening message posted on Saturday by a harasser posing on Facebook as "Cody Farwell." Names in the message have been redacted.

Walton Central School District Superintendent George Mack said that he was first made aware of the situation over the weekend.  Read more

Local indie movie theaters race to meet a digital deadline

Upstate Films in Woodstock. Photo from Upstate Films' Facebook wall.

Upstate Films, a nonprofit that runs two small arthouse movie theaters in Rhinebeck and Woodstock, is racing the clock to raise $180,000 for two digital projectors.

It's an upgrade the theaters are being forced to make, along with thousands of small movie theaters like them across the country. This year, all film distributors will stop making films available in the old 35mm analog format. 

With about $150,000 already raised, the Woodstock Times reports this week, the theaters are still $30,000 shy of the goal, and the clock is ticking. Upstate Films's Steve Lieber lays out the gravity of the situation:  Read more

Cuomo and Christie blast House GOP over failure to pass Sandy bill

The governors of New York and New Jersey are publicly venting outrage over a decision by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to adjourn on Tuesday night without voting on a critical Hurricane Sandy relief bill.

This afternoon, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, issued a joint statement:  Read more

See video

Where to ring in the New Year in the Catskills -- and beyond

Photo by Flickr user Rosie Rogers. Published under Creative Commons license.  Read more