Some towns brace for higher road salt costs

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Some upstate New York towns are bracing for higher road salt prices this winter.
WGRZ-TV in Buffalo reports that nearly 50 cities, towns and villages pool together in Erie County to buy road salt to keep costs low. Still, the price of salt increased $20 a ton to $56.
One industry official cites the rising cost of overtime and equipment and says some suppliers are facing production shortfalls.
Erie County’s Department of Public Works says it spent $400,000 from its budget on road salt.
Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak says the city won’t know how much it will spend until it uses its leftover supply of road salt from last year.
Information from: WGRZ-TV,

Man at center of branded women case seeks release on bond

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The leader of a New York-based self-improvement group who is accused of branding women and forcing them into unwanted sex has again filed a request to be released on bond.
The Times Union of Albany reports NXIVM (NEHK’-see-uhm) founder Keith Raniere is seeking to be released to home confinement in suburban Clifton Park with electronic monitoring.
Authorities say Raniere ran a secret society of sex slaves who were branded with his initials with the help of television actress Alison Mack and liquor heiress Clare Bronfman.
Raniere’s attorneys say in court filings the women were never coerced to have sex, and the branded women were never held down against their will.
Wednesday’s motion marks Raniere’s third attempt to get released on bond.
His trial is scheduled to begin in March.

EPA: Tonawanda Coke left flammable, hazardous materials

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the now-closed Tonawanda Coke plant in western New York left behind hazardous and flammable materials.
WKBW-TV in Buffalo reports the agency says the plant has potentially explosive substances stored onsite, hazardous substances discharged into the soil and improperly stored acids and solvents.
The 100-year-old plant closed Oct. 14 after it violated its probation in connection to a 2013 pollution conviction. It employed about 100 people.
The plant has filed for bankruptcy, and town officials say a potential buyer would assume 100 percent of the liability for any cleanup of the property.
The EPA says it will be at the site for several months collecting samples.

John Lennon’s killer says he feels more shame every year

By MICHAEL HILL, Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The man who killed John Lennon told a parole board he feels “more and more shame” every year for gunning down the former Beatle outside his Manhattan apartment in 1980.
“Thirty years ago I couldn’t say I felt shame and I know what shame is now,” Mark David Chapman said. “It’s where you cover your face, you don’t want to, you know, ask for anything.”
Chapman expressed his enduring remorse for killing Lennon at his 10th parole board hearing in August at Wende Correctional Facility, where he is serving a 20-years-to-life sentence. The board denied his release that month. New York prison officials released a transcript of the hearing on Thursday.
Chapman, 63, shot and killed Lennon on the night of Dec. 8, 1980, hours after having the former Beatle autographed an album for him.
Chapman told parole board members he still thinks about how Lennon was “incredible” to him earlier that day. He said he had been going through an internal “tug of war” of whether to go ahead with the shooting.
“I was too far in,” Chapman told the board. “I do remember having the thought of, ‘Hey, you have got the album now. Look at this, he signed it, just go home.’ But there was no way I was just going to go home.”
As in previous parole hearings, Chapman went into detail about the shooting and his regret over the “senseless” act. Chapman claimed he sought notoriety and felt no animosity for Lennon, even though he loaded his gun with more lethal hollow-point bullets.
“I secured those bullets to make sure he would be dead,” he said. “It was immediately after the crime that I was concerned that he did not suffer.”
Chapman described working at the prison cleaning, painting and stripping wax from the floors. He said he left his quest for notoriety behind long ago and is devoted to promoting the transformative power of Jesus.
He said he realizes the pain he caused will linger “even after I die.”
In its decision, the state Board of Parole said releasing Chapman would not only “tend to mitigate the seriousness of your crime,” but also would endanger public safety because someone might try to harm him out of anger, revenge or to gain notoriety.
Chapman will be up for parole again in August 2020.

Parents charged with using kids’ identities to rack up debt

BATH, N.Y. (AP) — New York State Police say a couple racked up nearly $10,000 in unpaid utility bills and credit card debts using the man’s son’s name, destroying his credit rating.
Authorities on Thursday say 44-year-old Thomas Cash and his wife, 39-year-old Alisha Cash, were arrested in Madison County, Alabama, and extradited to face fraud charges in New York. Both are in Steuben County Jail. It could not be determined if they have a lawyer.
Investigators say the couple opened numerous accounts over five years while living in Hammondsport, New York, using the identities of their three children under 18 who didn’t live with them.
Police say they racked up nearly $10,000 in unpaid utility bills. The children were unaware of the scheme until one applied for a loan.

State’s jobless rate dips to 4%, lowest level in 30 years

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York officials say the state’s unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level on record, dipping to 4 percent for the first time in 30 years.
The Department of Labor says Thursday that October’s 4 percent unemployment rate was last reached in May 1988. The agency says its labor force data goes back to 1976.
The state unemployment rate in September was 4.1 percent.
The national unemployment rate in October was 3.7 percent, unchanged from September.
New York City’s jobless rate in October was also 4 percent, the same as the previous month when it reached its lowest level on record.
The labor department says the overall number of unemployed New Yorkers decreased last month to just under 388,000, the lowest level since April 2001.

NFL awarding more than $35 million to brain injury studies

By BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL is awarding more than $35 million in funding to five organizations conducting research into diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries.
Through its Scientific Advisory Board established as part of its “Play Smart. Play Safe” initiative, the NFL is awarding grants to investigative teams focusing on concussions and associated conditions, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Receiving the funding will be:
—Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, led by Dr. William P. Meehan III, $14,698,132 to “A Prospective, LONGitudinal and Translational Study for Former National Football League Players.”
—The University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, $6,070,384 to its “Prevalence of Brain Health versus Neurodegeneration in Professional Football Retirees” work.
—The University of Calgary, led by Dr. Carolyn Emery, $9,438,473 to “Surveillance in High Schools to Reduce Concussions in Youth.”
—The University of California-San Francisco, led by Dr. Geoff Manley, $3,454,080 to “Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI Longitudinal).”
—The Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Harvard Medical School, led by Dr. Grant Iverson, $1,583,138 to “The Spectrum of Concussion: Predictors of Clinical Recovery, Treatment and Rehabilitation, and Possible Long-Term Effects.”
Having awarded $35 million of the NFL’s $40 million commitment made in 2016, the league has allocated the remaining $5 million to further medical research focused on player health and safety. The funds will be distributed under the guidance of SAB Chairman Gen. Peter Chiarelli, a retired U.S. Army general who led the Department of Defense efforts on post-traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and suicide prevention.
“We saw their translational values,” Chiarelli said Thursday. “They supplemented ongoing research that already showed great promise. We were focused on the patient, and of the eight that we asked to come back and brief us for 30 minutes and answer questions, these five had the greatest opportunity to help patients, and to help understand and prevent injury in the future. That was our unified goal in picking the final five.”
Col. Sidney Hinds, an SAB Member and program coordinator for brain health research at the Department of Defense, praised the transparency of the search for grantees as well as the long-range effects their research can have.
“The traumatic brain community is relatively small when you look at other disease processes in comparison,” Hinds said. “Many of these groups are collaborating already, but I do believe through this SAB process, the future steps will offer another opportunity to collaborate and share information.
“I really look forward to further work and to the results these researchers will have, and to underscore the efforts they are undertaking. The results they get will not only impact professional sports but the broader general public to understand and take care of and treat concussions in the future.”
The five honorees will present evidence of making headway to the SAB in about one year. Chiarelli is optimistic their progress will be obvious.
“We felt it was important to ask each one of them that they provide deliverables at different stages in their research timeline,” he said. “We asked that we would get together and see how their research is progressing. We hope not only they get to something that will help the patient, but increase the collaboration in the field, and I think this is something that will happen with this.
“We hope to come back a year from now and see how they have been able to meet the deliverables they laid out. It’s very exciting.”
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Amtrak cuts operating losses to lowest level in decades

NEW YORK (AP) — Amtrak says its $168 million operating loss this year was the smallest since 1973, its second full year in business.
The government-owned railroad said Thursday it took in a record $3.4 billion in revenue in the 2018 fiscal year.
Amtrak has been shrinking its annual operating losses in recent years and says it plans to eliminate them by 2021.
Amtrak said ridership remained steady at 31.7 million passenger trips. It blamed the lack of growth on service disruptions such as a second summer of repairs at New York’s Penn Station.
The railroad received about $1.9 billion in federal subsidies in the 2018 fiscal year. It invested about $1.5 billion in capital improvements.
Also Thursday, Amtrak’s board authorized the purchase of new locomotives for service outside the Northeast Corridor.

The Latest: El Chapo got police escort after escape

NEW YORK (AP) — The Latest on the New York trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (all times local):
4 p.m.
A former drug cartel member say his notorious boss got a surprise in 2001 when he broke out of prison and was met with a police escort in Mexico City.
Jesus Zambada testified Thursday at the U.S. drug-trafficking trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (wah-KEEN’ ehl CHAH’-poh gooz-MAHN’) he was driving the car carrying Guzman that day while Guzman was on the run.
He told a jury Guzman appeared worried until he explained to the kingpin the police had been bribed by the cartel and were there to greet him, not bust him.
Zambada is one of several cooperators testifying against Guzman in a drug-trafficking case. The defense says the cooperators are lying to save themselves.
3 p.m.
A government witness has admitted he was involved in carrying out killings for the Sinaloa cartel during his testimony against the notorious Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo.”
Jesus Zambada told a jury at the U.S. drug-trafficking trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (wah-KEEN’ ehl CHAH’-poh gooz-MAHN’) Thursday he was never a triggerman for the cartel. But he testified he helped locate targets and relay information to assassins three times.
The witness, who has pleaded guilty, also described surviving an attempt on his own life that resulted in a shootout on a Mexico City street.
The testimony about violent turf wars came on the third day of the trial in a tightly secured New York City courthouse where Guzman’s lawyers say he’s being framed by cooperators.
Guzman is perhaps best known for his daring prison breaks in Mexico.
11:40 a.m.
A former Mexican cartel member is testifying for the U.S. government at the New York City trial of the notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (wah-KEEN’ ehl CHAH’-poh gooz-MAHN’).
Jesus Zambada detailed on Thursday how the Sinaloa cartel paid bribes, preferably in U.S. dollars, to high-ranking police and other officials to protect its drug operation.
He said that in one instance, Guzman directed him to give $100,000 and a hug to a general.
On Wednesday, Zambada identified Guzman in the courtroom and told jurors he “was one of the most powerful drug traffickers in Mexico.”
The witness described how the cartel made massive profits by smuggling tons of cocaine into the United States.
Defense lawyers say Guzman is being framed.

Northeast battens down hatches as storm moves its way

NEW YORK (AP) — One of the first big storms of the season moved across the eastern half of the country Thursday, causing at least seven deadly traffic crashes and closing schools as it dropped snow as far south as central Alabama.
As much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow blanketed the St. Louis area, and forecasters predicted up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) in parts of southern New England as the storm made its way east. They also predicted northern New Jersey could see 4 to 8 inches of snow before the system exits the region by early Friday, while 2 to 5 inches is expected in the central region of the state.
Roads in Ohio were clogged by midday Thursday, where officials reported at least one traffic death that was likely weather-related. Indiana State Police also reported a death early Thursday, which they said was caused by the 60-year-old woman driving too fast on a slick road.
In North Carolina, the National Park Service closed the Blue Ridge Parkway to traffic because of dangerous road conditions stemming from snow, sleet and freezing rain. The park service said the closure Thursday includes the so-called “Asheville commuter zone” between mileposts 389 and 375, Asheville Citizen Times reported .
School districts closed or sent students home early across the lower Great Lakes and the Northeast. The University of Connecticut canceled classes starting at 3:30 p.m. or later at its main campus, satellite campuses and law school.
The South, where weather officials said the overnight trace in Alabama missed setting a record for earliest snow by about two weeks, began to clean up.
In Mississippi, a tour bus bound for a casino overturned, killing two people and injuring 44 others. And in the Little Rock, Arkansas, area, three people were killed in separate crashes on icy roads Wednesday night, while Interstate 40 was shut down overnight in the eastern part of the state because of several crashes. The interstate reopened shortly before daybreak Thursday, but officials said traffic was slow-going because some drivers had fallen asleep.
Witnesses told Mississippi investigators the tour bus driver lost control after crossing an icy overpass and the bus rolled over on its driver’s side, coming to rest in median of Interstate 269 in Byhalia around 12:35 p.m., said Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Johnny Poulos.
“All of a sudden the bus started swerving then it spun around two times, hit the rail and then flipped over,” bus passenger Veronica Love told news outlets as she left a hospital after the wreck. “The second spin, it started picking up speed. It was, I mean, what could you do?”
The crash happened about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of downtown Memphis, Tennessee.
Killed were Betty Russell, 70, and Cynthia Hardin, 61, both of Huntsville, Alabama, said DeSoto County Coroner Joshua Pounders. The injured were taken to Memphis-area hospitals, with at least three listed in serious condition Wednesday evening.
Officials said the group was traveling from Huntsville, Alabama, to gamble at a casino in Mississippi’s Tunica County, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) to the west.
In Virginia, the planned launch early Thursday of an unmanned cargo rocket to the International Space Station had to be rescheduled by one day because of the weather, NASA said. The unmanned Cygnus cargo craft is now scheduled to lift off early Friday from Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore carrying supplies and research materials for the astronauts at the space station.