Rashed Mian

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Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: rmian@longislandpress.com. Twitter: rashedmian

LIRR Derailment: 29 Injured in Railroad Crash in New Hyde Park

LIRR
Long Island Rail Road Station. (Photo by Joe Abate)

More than two dozen people were injured when a Long Island Rail Road train derailed in New Hyde Park Saturday night, officials said.

Luckily, there were no fatalities and the most serious injuries—29 in total—were related to broken bones and lacerations, officials said.

“The good news here is no fatalities,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said.

The county executive said an LIRR train was traveling eastbound when it crashed into a work train. It was unclear if the work train was idle.

The derailment is currently under investigation, he added.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said approximately 600 passengers were on board at the time of the derailment, which spawned service disruptions on the Ronkonkoma, Oyster Bay and Port Jefferson branches. Service was also suspended between Jamaica and Hicksville—one of the railroad’s busiest branches. LIRR riders were advised to use Montauk, Babylon and Hempstead lines.

The Long Island Rail said uninjured passengers were being taken to New Hyde Park Village Hall on Stewart Avenue.

“Staff from the MTA and the LIRR are on the scene and will work around the clock to determine the cause of this derailment and restore service as quickly as possible,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Photos on social media showed a mangled train car and twisted metal as a result of the crash.

A brief video posted by a Twitter user showed people in relative calm and emergency lights blaring in the background.

Hurricane Matthew Expected to Spare Long Island

Hurricane Matthew
This visible-light image of Hurricane Matthew was taken from NOAA's GOES-East satellite at 7:45 a.m. EDT on Oct. 4, 2016, within the hour of landfall in western Haiti. (Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

It looks like Long Island could be spared from Hurricane Matthew’s wrath.

The massive hurricane, which is embarking on dangerous path toward the Bahamas and the south eastern coast of the US, is projected to make an eastward jog into the Atlantic Ocean early next week, sparing Long Island from the storm’s destructive force.

Brian Ciemnecki, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Upton, told the Press that the current track has Matthew veering east after passing through the Carolinas. It’s also unlikely that Long Island would experience any residual impact from the powerful hurricane, Ciemnecki said.

“At this time it seems unlikely” LI would receive any rain, Ciemnecki said. “While it seems unlikely at this time the forecast can still change and there’s still maybe some uncertainty to this.”

Matthew is currently churning north, north-west at 10 mph and carrying maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

While Long Island could breathe a sight of relief—for now—coastal neighborhoods in Florida and the Carolinas are bracing for significant damage.

There have been reports of residents flooding supermarkets for the usual goods in case of prolonged outages, and drivers flocking to gas stations, spawning long lines.

State of emergencies have been declared in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina.

Matthew has already been blamed for at least 11 deaths in the Caribbean.

Relief agencies have been particularly concerned about the situation in Haiti, which is still recovering from the devastating earthquake that rocked the country in 2010 and left as many as 55,000 people in shelters, according to the United Nations. The earthquake killed an estimated 200,000 people.

After Matthew ripped through the vulnerable Caribbean nation Tuesday, cutting off major arteries and decimating communication systems, relief agencies reported facing obstacles in their attempts to reach those devastated by the storm.

The National Hurricane Center warned that Matthew could strengthen as it cuts through the Bahamas on its way to the Florida coast. The agency said tropical storm or hurricane conditions could impact Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina later this week or by the weekend.

Although Long Island is not in danger of receiving a serious blow from Matthew, the region is in desperate need of rainfall.

From June to September, the amount of rainfall on Long Island came in at 7 inches below normal, according to the National Weather Service.

So, bring on some rain—but keep the hurricanes away.

Found Body ID’d as Missing Shoreham Boy

A body discovered Wednesday morning has been identified as that of a missing Shoreham boy, Suffolk County police said.

Police said 14-year-old Nickolas Donnelly was last seen 10 a.m. Tuesday at his Chambord Court home before he went out for a run.

His body was found in a wooded area about a mile away near Royal Way in Shoreham at 7:50 a.m. Wednesday. Investigators deemed his death non-criminal.

On Tuesday night, police had released a photo of the teen when he was reported missing.

Cops Identify Pair in Commack Motor Inn Murder-Suicide

Commack Motor Inn Murder-Suicide
Suffolk County police are investigating a murder-suicide at Commack Motor Inn. (Photo: thecommackmotorinn.com)

The two people found dead in an apparent murder-suicide at the Commack Motor Inn last week have been identified as 31-year-old Omar Torres and 29-year-old Yesenia Abreu, both from Glendale, Queens.

Suffolk County police believe Torres killed Abreu before turning a gun on himself last Wednesday afternoon.

Their lifeless bodies were discovered by a motel employee who went to inspect the room after the pair failed to checkout.

Nearly a week into the investigation, police are only clear about how Torres died—a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Abreu’s cause of death remains undetermined, police said, adding that detectives are still awaiting autopsy results from the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office.

A police spokeswoman said Tuesday that Torres and Abreu had gone through occasions in which they were romantically involved.

Investigators are still trying to determine where Torres got the gun and how much time elapsed from when Abreu was killed and Torres committed suicide.

Torres did not leave a suicide note, the spokeswoman said.

Neither Torres nor Abreu were reported missing prior to their deaths, police said.

Trump Foundation Ordered to Cease Fundraising in NY Amid Probe

Donald Trump

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office has ordered Donald Trump’s charity foundation to cease fundraising here after it failed to obtain the proper registration to solicit donations—a violation of state law.

The “Notice of Violation” was sent to the Donald J. Trump Foundation on Friday. It explicitly orders Trump to “immediately” cease solicitations or engaging in fundraising efforts, and gives the foundation up to 15 days to hand over the requisite documents.

“Despite failing to register pursuant to Article 7-A, the Trump Foundation solicited contributions in New York State earlier this year, in violation of New York law,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The order from the attorney general’s office comes as several news organizations, most notably The Washington Post, have scrutinized Trump’s foundation for its apparent reliance on donations from contributors other than the charity’s namesake. The Post reported that Trump himself has not donated personally to his own foundation since 2008.

Additionally, The Post reported that Trump used a quarter-million dollars in donations to settle business lawsuits. The paper was also the first to reveal that the foundation was not registered in New York to solicit donations within the state.

The attorney general’s notice focuses entirely on the foundation’s apparent failure to register with New York.

“While we remain very concerned about the political motives behind A.G. Schneiderman’s investigation, the Trump Foundation nevertheless intends to cooperate fully with the investigation,” said Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokeswoman, in a statement, according to The New York Times. “Because this is an ongoing legal matter, the Trump Foundation will not comment further at this time.”

Last month, Schneiderman, a Democrat who supports Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, revealed that his office was scrutinizing whether the Trump Foundation was complying with state law.

“My interest in this issue really is in my capacity as regulator of non-profits in New York State, and we have been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety from that point of view,” Schneiderman told CNN at the time.

Trump’s surrogates have described Schneiderman’s probe as a partisan attack intended to prop up Hillary Clinton, who was a U.S. Senator (D-NY) before she became Secretary of State in the Obama administration.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, told CNN that Schneiderman’s investigation is “nothing more than another left-wing hit job.” He also accused New York’s attorney general of turning a blind eye to the non-profit Clinton Foundation.

Clinton briefly mentioned Trump’s much ballyhooed philanthropy in the pair’s first debate last week at Hofstra University, suggesting that Trump was adverse to releasing his tax returns because, among other things, he may not be as charitable as he claims.

The news comes during a particularly rough stretch for Trump’s campaign.

His debate performance at Hofstra University, which was widely panned, spawned a week-long spat with a former Miss Universe winner—prompting an early morning Twitter rant from the Republican tycoon—and on Saturday evening The New York Times revealed that Trump may have avoided paying taxes for as long as 18 years after losing nearly $1 billion in 1995.

Meanwhile, New York’s attorney general is reportedly continuing his separate case against Trump University for defrauding its students. After initially announcing that her office was contemplating joining in a multi-state suit against Trump’s for-profit enterprise, Florida Attorney General Pam Biondi did not pursue similar complaints from students in her state. Later it was revealed that the Trump Foundation had given Biondi’s political committee a $25,000 donation in 2013, and the IRS subsequently fined Trump $2,500 because the contribution from a non-profit charity violated federal tax law. Trump’s campaign says that there is no connection between the campaign donation and the Florida AG’s decision not to pursue the complaints against Trump’s institution of higher learning.

(Featured photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Massapequa Man, 33, Killed in Crash that Injured 3

A 33-year-old Massapequa man was killed early Saturday morning in a single-car crash in Westbury that also injured three of his passengers, Nassau County police said.

Authorities said Michael Deveny was driving a 1998 Nissan Altima east on School Street at 4:45 a.m. when the car careened into a utility pole before slamming into a tree and a stop sign. Deveny was thrown from the car, police said, causing a fatal injury. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

His three passengers, two men and a woman, had to be extracted from the vehicle by Nassau police’s Emergency Service Unit and Westbury firefighters, police said.

All three were treated at nearby hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Police did not say what caused the driver to lose control. The investigation into the crash is ongoing, police said.

Cops Seek Tips in Levittown Dog Hit-And-Run Death

Screenshot from video that shows car striking a dog in the roadway and fleeing the scene.

Nassau County police are looking for the driver who struck and killed a Yorkie named Peanut in Levittown last month.

Authorities said a 66-year-old woman was walking Peanut with an extender leash on Center Lane on Sept. 20, when the dog wandered into the roadway and was fatally struck.

The driver of the blue Chrysler Pacifica appeared to slow down momentarily after the dog was hit but left the scene without stopping.

Nassau police detectives ask anyone with information regarding the incident to contact the Second Squad at 516-573-6253.

The Nassau County SPCA is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver.

Watch the video:

Cops Seek Thomaston Hit-And-Run Driver

Thomaston hit-and-run
This Nissan Rogue was involved in a serious hit-and-run in Thomaston on Friday, police said.

Nassau County police are on the hunt for the driver who crashed his or her vehicle into a pedestrian Friday morning in Thomaston and fled the scene.

The pedestrian, a 43-year-old man, was crossing Middle Neck Road in Thomaston just before 10 a.m. when he was struck by a vehicle heading south, police said.

The man was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was listed in serious condition with multiple trauma injuries.

The driver fled in what has been described as a gray or blueish gray Nissan Rogue, police said.

Investigators ask anyone with information regarding the crash to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS. All calls are anonymous.

Creepy Clown Sightings Reported in Suffolk, Cops Say

clown sightings

The creepy clown hysteria frightening America has made its way to Long Island.

Suffolk County police received reports Wednesday of a dastardly group of clowns jumping in front of cars in Brentwood, and a separate incident in which a person dressed as a clown was spotted in North Babylon.

And Friday morning, two Long Island school districts initiated “lockout” procedures after clown-related social media threats that were later unsubstantiated.

“The Suffolk County Police Department has received reports related to people wearing clown costumes while acting in a menacing manner,” Stu Cameron, SCPD Chief of Department, said in a statement Friday. “The department has not confirmed any of these reports and our officers have not personally witnessed any individual wearing a clown costume.

“We understand this may be a social media prank throughout the country, but we take quite seriously all calls that involve intentional harassment, trespassing, disturbing of the peace, and reported activity that results in the citizens of our county feeling threatened,” he continued.

North Babylon School District said its high school was placed on “lockout” following “clown-related social media threats made by an unknown person or persons.” An investigation by Suffolk police found no threat to the school and the campus was deemed safe, prompting school officials to lift the lockout at 10:45 a.m.

The Central Islip School District also initiated lockout protocols in response to an apparent threat.

“In an abundance of caution, the Central Islip School District instituted a lockout,” Central Islip School District Superintendent Dr. Howard M. Koeing said in a statement. “After conversations with Suffolk County Police Department representatives, we were assured there is no imminent threat, and the lockout is canceled.”

Long Island can now add its communities to a growing list of neighborhoods across the country that since August have been bedeviled by reports of people either dressed as clowns or reporting false sightings for their amusement.

There’s been reports of menacing clowns in at least eight states: Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to The New York Times.

The alleged sightings have led to at least a dozen arrests nationwide, the Times reported, for various violations, ranging from making false reports to making terroristic threats.

“We wanted to make an example and crack down on clown-related activity in our city,” the police chief of a local Alabama community said in response to the charges brought against seven clowns.

Authorities have yet to uncover a motive for the spate of clown sightings, though there have been arrests for people falsely reporting clowns in the area. Suffolk County police are closely monitoring all social media channels and calls made to the department, SCPD’s Cameron said.

Several run-ins with the ominous clowns read like outtakes from the terrifying movie It, based off master horror wizard Stephen King’s 1986 supernatural classic—skin-crawling. In South Carolina, there were reports of clowns in the woods attempting to lure children. In another sighting, a woman said she saw a clown with a blinking nose standing under a light post near a dumpster.

Some of the sightings, however, appeared to have been hoaxes. Earlier this month in Georgia, police received a call of a clown near a white van. When cops arrived, they discovered the driver had run out of gas. A search of the van found no clown costumes, police said.

The initial 911 call turned out to be a prank.

The caller told investigators that “he did not see any clowns…and had just made it up and that he was aware of all the complaints about clowns and the schools being on lock down.”

The 26-year-old man and his sister were charged with obstruction and unlawful conduct.

As for the purported Suffolk sightings, police warned residents that there would repercussions for false reports.

“While the motives of these individuals could not be determined, the Department reminds the public false reporting and intentional harassment or disturbing of the peace can lead to legal consequences,” added Cameron, SCPD’s chief of department. “Individuals engaging in this type of behavior may be subject to violations and/or misdemeanor arrest under the NYS Penal Law.”

Congress Chooses 9/11 Families over Saudi Arabia in Rebuke to Obama

9/11 saudi lawsuit

Every once in awhile, Congress will surprise you, like it did Wednesday when members of both the House and Senate struck down President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill that would permit family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

The overwhelming bi-partisan support for still-grieving families served as a humiliating rebuke for both Obama and Saudi Arabia, America’s closest ally in the Middle East, which has recently come under increased scrutiny despite an entrenched alliance that deepened after 9/11.

In an appearance at a CNN town hall event Wednesday evening, President Obama said the vote was a “mistake” and would set a “dangerous precedent” for people abroad to bring suits against the United States.

The bill, officially titled the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA),” opens the door for victims’ families of the Sept. 11 attacks to effectively take Saudi Arabia to court and examine whether officials within the government provided financial or logistical support to the 9/11 hijackers.

“It’s very gratifying,” Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the sponsor of the House version of the bill, told the Press. “I really feel strongly for the 9/11 families; they fought hard on this.”

The Senate voted overwhelmingly—97-1—to override the president’s veto on Wednesday. The House vote was 348-77. A two-thirds majority in Congress is required to overturn a presidential veto.

The bipartisan vote was “one of the few times since 9/11 you saw real congressional unity today,” King added.

Obama Reacts

The emotional appeal from 9/11 families underscored how sensitive the vote was—and Obama acknowledged as much during the CNN town hall.

“It’s an example of why sometimes you have to do what’s hard, and frankly, I wish Congress here had done what’s hard,” Obama said. “I didn’t expect it, because if you’re perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that’s a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do.”

CIA Director John Brennan also reacted with disappointment, saying the law “will have grave implications for the national security.”

“The most damaging consequence would be for those US Government officials who dutifully work overseas on behalf of our country,” Brennan said in a statement. “The principle of sovereign immunity protects US officials every day, and is rooted in reciprocity. If we fail to uphold this standard for other countries, we place our own nation’s officials in danger.”

Obama has argued that the measure would make the US vulnerable to similar lawsuits brought by victims of American-led operations.

America’s Long War

The White House’s opposition to the measure comes as Obama has expanded the parameters in which the US fights alleged militants around the world.

As commander-in-chief, Obama has bombed at least seven predominantly Muslim countries using ubiquitous predator drone strikes and manned aircraft, causing hundreds of civilian deaths. He’s also deployed US Special Forces into countries, such as Libya, that the United States is not in hostilities with. In almost all instances, the administration cites the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force resolution, enacted three days after 9/11, to justify its actions.

Ironically, the United States has helped weaponize the Saudi-led coalition that has decimated and destabilized Yemen, killing upwards of 10,000 people—almost half of whom were civilians, according to human rights groups, as part of its offensive against Houthi rebels. Among the civilian causalities were patients at a Yemeni hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and attendees at a couple of wedding parties.

That the United States supports the Saudi government is of no surprise. Saudi Arabia is a long-time ally in the Middle East, serving as a counterweight to Iran, the kingdom’s chief rival in the region.

But Rep. King says suggestions that Saudi Arabia will suddenly rethink its close relationship with the United States, or even sneer at Congress’ rebuke, are off-base.

“I support America’s involvement with Saudi Arabia against terrorism,” the congressman said in a phone interview. “They have improved in many ways, and we are involved in a number of activities with them right now, which I support.”

“The reason I’m not strongly concerned about a Saudi response—even though you have to take it into account—is, basically, the Saudis are survivors,” he added. “They don’t act based on hurt feelings. They realize it’s in their interest to maintain a close relationship with the US, at this time. It could always change in the future.”

Scrutiny On Saudis

This is the second time in three months Washington has risked alienating the Saudis.

In July, Congress released more than two dozen long-classified pages from the so-called “9/11 Commission Report”—a voluminous analysis by the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which investigated the circumstances leading up to, including and following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Known as the “28 Pages,” the recently released portion pertained to Saudi Arabia’s alleged involvement in the tragedy, since 15 of the 19 hijackers hailed from the kingdom.

The report did not explicitly link the Saudi Arabian royal family to the attacks, but was ambiguous enough to welcome speculation.

“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government,” the commission wrote in the report.

“There is information, primarily from FBI sources, that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers,” it continued. “The joint inquiry’s review confirmed that the Intelligence Community also has information, much of which has yet to be independently verified, indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi Government in the United States may have other ties to al [Qaeda] and other terrorist groups.”

Saudi Arabia has maintained that its rulers played no role in the 9/11 attacks.

Now that JASTA has passed Congress’ muster—and survived a presidential veto—American families have the opportunity to take the Saudi government to court.

The legislation notes that “persons, entities, or countries that knowingly or recklessly contribute material support or resources, directly or indirectly, to persons or organizations that pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism…should reasonably anticipate being brought to court in the United States to answer for such activities.”

Supporters of the veto override were ecstatic.

“We are overwhelmingly grateful that Congress did not let us down. The victims of 9/11 have fought for 15 long years to make sure that those responsible for the senseless murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and injuries to thousands others, are held accountable,” Terry Strada, national chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, said in a statement. “JASTA becoming law is a tremendous victory toward that effort. We rejoice in this triumph and look forward to our day in court and a time when we may finally get more answers regarding who was truly behind the attacks.”

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