CBS News Logo Archaeologists excavate colonial battleground in upstate New York

Archaeologists are excavating an 18th-century battleground that was the site of a desperate stand by Colonial American troops, the flashpoint of a massacre and the location of the era's largest smallpox hospital. The site's multilayered history poses unique challenges for the dig, which is being conducted in a state-owned park that has served as a natural time capsule amid the summertime bustle in this popular southern Adirondack tourist destination. "It's a confusing and complicated site," said David Starbuck, the archaeologist who's leading the project during the State University of New York at Adirondack's annual six-week archaeology field school. Starbuck and his team of two dozen students and volunteers began excavations two weeks ago in a section of Lake George Battlefield Park, located on rising ground overlooking the southern end of the 32-mile lake. New York state has owned the park since the late 1890s, a fact that Starbuck credits with protecting the site from commercial development and intrusion by treasure hunters. "This really is an incredibly well-preserved site," said Starbuck, a professor of anthropology at New Hampshire's Plymouth State University. He has conducted digs at 18th-century military sites in eastern New York for more than 25 years. The village of Lake George has yielded troves of artifacts over the decades. Starting with the French and Indian War (1755-63) and continuing through the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, tens of thousands of American, British, French and Indians encamped here during various military campaigns aimed at controlling the waterways connecting the upper Hudson River and Canada. Battles were fought and forts were destroyed or abandoned; the material traces of all that activity are still being uncovered. Many of the discoveries have been made at the battlefield park, one of the most significant 18th-century military sites in the region. It was the site of the Battle of Lake George, fought on Sept. 8, 1755, Continue Reading

U of Albany won’t play Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium as part of New York’s North Carolina travel ban

Duke basketball is probably feeling pretty blue right about now. The prestigious basketball program is scrambling to find an opponent for this upcoming season after the school’s previously-scheduled game against Albany was removed due to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s stance against North Carolina House Bill 2 law, the Durham Herald-Sun reported Wednesday. Duke was originally scheduled to play Albany at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 12 as part of the Naismith Basketball hall of Fame Tip Off Tournament. However, Gov. Cuomo has taken a hard stance on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, which forces transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding with their birth gender instead of the gender they currently identify with. In addition, the law also takes away a person’s ability to sue their employers in state court for discrimination or wrongful termination. In response to House Bill 2, Gov. Cuomo signed an executive order in March banning all non-essential state travel to North Carolina. Albany is a public school and a member of the State University of New York (SUNY) school system and must abide by Cuomo’s North Carolina travel ban. SUNY spokeswoman Holly Liapis emailed a statement to the Herald-Sun expressing her support for the executive order. “The State University of New York supports Governor Cuomo's executive order banning all non-essential travel to the state of North Carolina,” Liapsis said. “We instructed our campuses to immediately review any existing travel plans by faculty and staff. SUNY and its campuses continue to support the Governor on taking this stand.” In addition to Albany, three other SUNY schools participate in Division I sports: Stony Brook, Binghamton and Buffalo. Only Albany had a sporting event scheduled in North Carolina. The NBA has threatened to potentially move the 2017 All-Star Game, which is currently scheduled to Continue Reading

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara subpoenas State University of New York research facility in economic development probe, sources say

ALBANY — Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating a state university research facility as part of a probe into Gov. Cuomo’s much-ballyhooed “Buffalo Billion” economic development plan, the Daily News has learned. SUNY Polytechnic Institute, which is headed by the politically connected Alain Kaloyeros, has received subpoenas seeking documents and other information, sources said. SUNY in July entered into a $1.5 million contract with criminal defense firm Kelley Drye and Warren LLP to represent the institute, records show. Bharara is looking into the contracts awarded for projects to build high-tech businesses in economically struggling Buffalo to see if any bid-rigging or other shenanigans took place, sources said. An Investigative Post report earlier this year said at least one request for proposal was written in a way that would benefit a specific developer who gave Cuomo (right) nearly $100,000. The Buffalo Billion was a major economic development initiative during Cuomo’s first term that he has promised to duplicate in other parts of the state. The requests for proposals for the contracts were officially handled by SUNY Polytechnic’s predecessor, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. But it was Cuomo’s office that announced them in March 2014. Kaloyeros, the institute’s president, has long been the face of SUNY's nano tech research center, which receives big money from the state and private sector for cutting-edge tech research and economic development deals. Cuomo on Friday said he was unaware of the probe, praised the success of the Buffalo Billion program and expressed continued confidence in Kaloyeros. He dismissed questions about those who donate money after winning state contracts. “It hasn’t been a problem for the past 100 years, so I don’t know why it would be today,” he said. SUNY Continue Reading

The Big Apple is at the core of New York’s political rot

Just when you thought Gov. Cuomo had imposed law and order in Albany, state Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens is arrested in a brazen bribery plot. New York truly is an Empire State — of corruption. And New York City is the undisputed capital. The city has 43% of state’s population but 73% of its crooked state officeholders. I crunched the numbers: 24 of the 33 state pols caught in the corruption eruption over the past decade live in the five boroughs. The Malcolm Mess crowns Queens as the king of sleaze — home to no fewer than eight pols caught up in scandal since 2003, tops among the boroughs. Before Smith, greedheads such as Shirley Huntley, Pedro Espada Jr. and Brian McLaughlin filched public funds intended to finance Little Leagues, senior centers and food banks. And it was the people’s daughters who were allegedly ogled by Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who stands accused of serial sexual harassment of his female staff. As to why Albany’s sleaze concentrates in New York, there are many theories. Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist at the State University of New York at New Paltz, points to the lack of serious competition in many city elections — the result of one-party domination by the Democrats and a system stacked in favor of incumbents. Others are seizing the latest scandal as an argument for reforming campaign finance rules. Yes, those rules are insanely lax. But as former Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky notes, laws on the books already prohibited most of what the scandalmongers have done — and the pols simply broke them. Or, as Cuomo put it on Wednesday, “People in power abuse power and that’s part of the human condition.” The state absolutely needs stronger anti-corruption laws and more credible enforcement. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara can’t clean up Albany by himself. Ultimately, though, what matters is Continue Reading

NYPD kept tabs on Muslims not just in New York, but throughout the Northeast

NEW YORK -- One autumn morning in Buffalo, N.Y., a college student named Adeela Khan logged into her email and found a message announcing an upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto. Khan clicked "forward," sent it to a group of fellow Muslims at the University at Buffalo, and promptly forgot about it. But that simple act on Nov. 9, 2006, was enough to arouse the suspicion of an intelligence analyst at the New York Police Department, 300 miles away, who combed through her post and put her name in an official report. Marked "SECRET" in large red letters, the document went all the way to Commissioner Raymond Kelly's office. The report, along with other documents obtained by The Associated Press, reveals how the NYPD's intelligence division focused far beyond New York City as part of a surveillance program targeting Muslims. Police trawled daily through student websites run by Muslim student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and 13 other colleges in the Northeast. They talked with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed. Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the United States and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations, which the NYPD referred to as MSAs. They included Jesse Morton, who this month pleaded guilty to posting online threats against the creators of the animated TV show "South Park." He had once tried to recruit followers at Stony Brook University on Long Island, Browne said. "As a result, the NYPD deemed it prudent to get a better handle on what was occurring at MSAs," Browne said in an email. He said police monitored student websites and collected publicly available information in 2006 and 2007.But documents show other surveillance Continue Reading

New York needs pension reform

Albany, we have a problem. All across New York State, local government budgets have increased dramatically over the past decade. And the single biggest driver of those costs — and the property tax hikes that, in many areas, have paid for them — has been the ballooning cost of pensions. Government workers deserve a secure retirement, and today’s workers have earned the pension benefits they have been promised. We do not seek to diminish their benefits by one penny. But it is irresponsible (and dishonest) to promise pension benefits to future workers that taxpayers cannot afford. Gov. Cuomo has made pension reform for future workers a top priority this year — and recently, mayors and county executives from across the state came together to form a coalition supporting him. We have all seen how unchecked pension costs are leaving less and less money for vital services, from public safety and education to economic development and social services. In New York City, pension costs have gone from $1.3 billion 10 years ago to $8 billion. To put that number in perspective, pension costs now eat up one in every six tax dollars that city residents pay — and 12% of the entire city budget. That’s more than the operations of the Police, Fire and Sanitation departments combined. In Suffolk County, pension costs have gone from $13.9 million to $136 million, even though the staffing levels of the county have remained fairly constant. In 2001, Suffolk County’s pension costs averaged $1,352 per employee, as compared with $18,202 in 2011. That represents a 1,246% increase. Had the pension costs remained at 2001 levels, the county could have saved $1 billion — which could have gone to lower taxes and expand services. Across the U.S., pension costs are reaching crisis proportions for state and local governments — and some have even been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. Pittsburgh recently required an infusion of Continue Reading

When Hugh Carey carried the day: New York once had great representatives on Capitol Hill

The well-deserved praise being heaped on former Gov. Hugh Carey, who died Sunday at 92, raises a troubling question about New York City politics: What the heck went wrong with the city's congressional delegation?New York in Washington was the mark of an up-and-coming leader quite possibly destined for bigger and better things.Brooklyn. No wallflower backbencher, he made his mark by tangling with President Lyndon Johnson to ensure that a major education funding bill included some support for religious-affiliated private schools.Seymour Lachman and Robert Polner fittingly dubbed him "The Man Who Saved New York." But Carey's rise was no fluke for the congressional delegation of the late 1960s and early 1970s.John Lindsay, who became nationally famous as the young, dashing Republican elected twice as the mayor of a Democratic metropolis.Ed Koch, who parlayed his congressional career into three terms as mayor - and helped Carey implement the fiscal reforms that steered the city from the fiscal brink.Shirley Chisholm - a representative from Brooklyn who became the first African-American woman elected to Congress and the first to seek a major-party nomination for President.Bella Abzug, the women's rights leader, Herman Badillo, the pioneering Latino politician, and Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a prominent role in the Watergate investigation.Senate candidates and gubernatorial candidates," says Bruce Gyory, a consultant who also teaches political science at the State University of New York at Albany. "You don't tend to see people in the delegation right now that have the kind of star potential that Badillo had, that Lindsay had, that Carey and Koch had."Sen. Chuck Schumer - and that was 13 years ago.Rep. Gregory Meeks of Queens, accused last week by the Office of Congressional Ethics with improperly accepting $40,000 from a local businessman.Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem, a former up-and-comer who rose to become chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee - Continue Reading

Wiretaps shed light on New York corruption

ALBANY, N.Y. -- In the Tammany Hall-controlled Legislature of the late 1800s, New York lawmakers would introduce "ripper bills" that would either be adopted or rejected depending on the size of the bribes.After two bribery scandals in recent days, Albany's corrupt culture seems to be alive and well, prosecutors said."Once again, we have members of the Legislature allegedly acting as mercenaries," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the Manhattan-based federal prosecutor who brought the charges, said Thursday. "Once again, we are forced to consider how pervasive corruption is in New York government."Former state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, a Democrat from Queens, was charged Tuesday with trying to bribe Republican officials to help him win the GOP nomination for New York City mayor.Two days later, Democratic Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of the Bronx was arrested for allegedly accepting $22,000 in bribes to push legislation to help the local developers of an adult day-care facility.Stevenson was undone because fellow Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Castro agreed four years ago to serve as an informant after he was busted for perjury. Castro wore a wiretap, and Stevenson is heard boasting of how he could use his influence to help the developers, according to the criminal complaint."I just need you to tell me what they want; we prepare the bill. ... You can write down the language, basically what you want," Stevenson said last December, according to the complaint.The casualness of the conversations startled lawmakers and longtime political observers, and it plunged New York government into a deeper mire of mistrust."That type of behavior is disgusting," said Democratic Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who used to sit in front of Stevenson in the Assembly chambers. "It's not fit for an elected official. It's not fit for anybody. It's so incredibly blatant; it casts a shadow on our entire system."More state senators have been arrested over the past six years -- 12 of them Continue Reading

New York primary: Heating up down the stretch

With the primary looming, look for Republicans to get craftier and Democrats to get nastier.Entering the stretch run toward the April 19 New York primary, political experts said Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich will get creative to siphon delegates away from front-runner Donald Trump, while Bernie Sanders amps up his attack on Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race.Suddenly, Trump and Clinton find themselves in an unexpected fight for delegates in their home state.“The fact that Sanders is by some polls mid-single digits behind Hillary is amazing to me," said Robert Schelin, a presidential scholar at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill. “To me, Hillary has to be incredibly frustrated because this is like a replay of 2008. She was a lock in 2008 and it didn’t happen. And now she was an absolute, positively-can’t-lose lock, and she’s probably still going to win, but it’s possible that she won’t.”At stake in New York are 291 Democratic delegates and 95 Republican delegates. Clinton and Trump both had them in their sights when they came home to regroup after losing a string of primaries, most recently last week's vote in Wisconsin, which they lost by 13 points each. EXPLAINER:  How the New York primary works and why it matters CANDIDATES: Where to see the candidates in the New York primary RELATED:  New York primary: Bernie Sanders returns to Brooklyn RELATED:  New York primary: Trump rallies 15,000 on Long Island RELATED:  New York primary: Clinton, Trump look to regroup in New York Sanders responded quickly. He kicked off his New York campaign with a rally in the Bronx on March 31 that drew more than 15,000, and hosted two more events in Brooklyn on Friday. The race got nastier last week when Clinton and Sanders questioned each Continue Reading

Bye-bye breasts, hello wonderful new life

At school, Scott Schulman heard taunts comparing him to his friends' mothers. At the beach, his shirt never came off. And in shirts-versus-skins basketball games, he was sidelined by breasts far too large for a boy. "From the time I was 9 years old, I never put myself in a position where someone could see me without a shirt on," Schulman, 20, told the Daily News yesterday. "It was nonstop ridicule." So when a state appeals court ruled that insurance giant GHI must pay $5,000 for the breast-reduction surgery that Schulman underwent three years ago, he was extremely grateful. "It's about time that a Joe Schmo can take on a big company and win," Schulman declared, speaking publicly for the first time. "Why can't the little guy win?" Schulman's 52-year-old father, Steve, a salesman from Oceanside, L.I., represented himself in Small Claims Court and then all the way to the Appellate Division after the insurance giant refused to pay for the surgery. The procedure, GHI said, was cosmetic and not essential. But Scott Schulman, now a prelaw student at the State University of New York at Albany, said breast-reduction surgery was vital for him to live a normal life. "It was a complete 180-degree turn in my life," he said. "I have a girlfriend now and I feel like I'm a whole new person." For most of his life, the condition that left him with enlarged breasts - known as gynecomastia - was Schulman's biggest hurdle. "I remember one time, I was at Six Flags in Ohio and we were going on this water ride," he said. "But when I got to the top, and they told me I would have to take my shirt off, I just walked all the way to the bottom." Worse, he said, were the stinging names he heard from classmates. "They were so bad, I can't even bring myself to say them," he said. All along, Steve Schulman saw the surgery as a way for his son to escape his personal misery. He just didn't expect his insurance company to fight the bill. "Whatever it cost, I would have Continue Reading