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The Complicated Race for One Long Island Congressional Seat

The candidates running for a Long Island Congressional seat are headed to federal court in Albany today to find out whether there will be a do-over of the Republican primary — and a possible general election in December. The case means voters in New York's third congressional district may have to go to the polls an astonishing six times to vote in every election this year. And some observers think presidential politics are at play. "This case has more turns than most 'Law & Order' episodes," said WNYC's John O'Connor. "Like just about every political story this cycle, this one also has a tie to Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. Opponents of Republican Candidate State Sen. Jack Martins say that by asking for the general election in the district to be held in December, he's trying to avoid having to appear on the same ballot as Trump." O'Connor said that's because the GOP worries a big Trump loss could drag down other Republicans for Congress as well. A new primary for the race is set for October 6, after a judge ruled Republican candidate Philip Pidot shouldn't have been excluded from the first ballot. That decision is on appeal.

Huma Abedin, Clinton's 'Accomodator and Protector,' Says She's Separating from Husband Ant...

Top Hillary Clinton Aide Huma Abedin says she's separating from her husband, former congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, after he was caught "sexting" again with another woman earlier this week. WNYC's senior editor for politics and policy Andrea Bernstein says Abedin has been Clinton's most influential aide, serving as "both accommodator and protector" at the State Department and even earning the title "Clinton's second daughter." Bernstein says Weiner's multiple "sexting" scandals have caused consternation within the Clinton team, both for the anguish it was causing Abedin and the unwelcome parallels to Bill Clinton. "Donald Trump has already leapt to draw those parallels," said Bernstein. "But the Clinton campaign says this is a private matter between two married people and it's not taking the bait." Andrea Bernstein spoke to WNYC's David Furst.

Huma Abedin, Clinton's 'Accomodator and Protector,' Says She's Separating from Husband Ant...

The Perfect Place for a Shark to Grow Up: Off of Long Island

Movies like "Jaws" helped make great white sharks famous, but to scientists, the species still holds plenty of mysteries. Great white "nurseries" — areas where the animals spend the first few months of their lives — are found in other parts of the world, including in waters off of South Africa and Australia. But for years scientists had no idea where the great whites in the North Atlantic might be starting off their lives. Now, a group of marine biologists think they have finally found a nursery off the coast of Long Island. The theory, which was tested earlier this month by a two-week expedition aboard the M/V OCEARCH, evolved from research by Tobey Curtis, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A few years ago, Curtis started looking through old fishing records, museum collections, and newspaper clippings dating back more than 200 years. He found that out of the entire North Atlantic, nearly all of the baby Great White sharks seen since the 19th century were found off of Long Island's southern coast. "There's nowhere else along the whole Atlantic coast where four foot long white sharks are being caught, except off Long Island," Curtis said. "The juveniles seem to like these shallow areas where there's a broad continental shelf and there's a lot of food available." As adults, great white can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh thousands of pounds. But when they are first born, they are only about four feet long, and their mothers have left them to fend for themselves. That means the shark pups are still vulnerable to larger predators, including larger great whites. Researchers aboard the M/V OCEARCH attach a tag to the dorsal fin of a dogfish that will allow them to track its movements. (OCEARCH) This year, Curtis teamed up with the shark research organization OCEARCH to find and tag as many juvenile great whites as they could in the waters surrounding Long Island. While he was hoping they would find one or two baby sharks over the course of the trip, they ended up capturing, and tagging, a total of nine. The researchers have even given them locally-inspired nicknames like Montauk, Hampton and Gotham. Curtis and the other researchers say swimmers have little reason to fear: baby great whites are too small to go after humans, and they are still rare enough that it's unlikely anyone would come across one of them given the vastness of the ocean. Instead, Chris Fischer, the founder of OCEARCH, sees the baby great white nursery as a positive sign that the area is rich with seafood — and that the sharks are keeping it that way by eating weak and sick fish. "You live in a special place," Fischer says. "This is where the balance-keeper of the entire North Atlantic is born." The expedition not only helps prove where sharks grow up, but also will tell researchers about great whites' migration patterns. So far, the tracking devices on the tagged sharks show that they are swimming around the waters off the tip of Long Island. When the sharks get big enough to take on a longer journey this fall, Curtis, Fischer and their crew will be following to see where they go next.

Subway Wiz Sets New Guinness World Record for Fastest Trip Through Every Station

There's a new world-record-holder for the fastest trip to every single New York City subway station. Well, not exactly new. He's also the old record-holder. The Guinness group has confirmed that Matthew Ahn now holds the world record for the fastest time traveling through every station. Ahn held the previous record in 2015, but it was voided with the opening of the new Hudson Yards station. His trip on July 22, 2016 took him 21 hours, 28 minutes and 14 seconds. That's less time than it took him to plan the excursion; Ahn says he spent about 25 hours mapping and comparing schedules before choosing the route that would land him in the record book.

Subway Wiz Sets New Guinness World Record for Fastest Trip Through Every Station

Nursing Home Owner in de Blasio Investigations Flouted State Rules that Protect Patients

Rafaela Rodriguez moved to Canarsie, Brooklyn nearly a decade ago because her common-law husband liked it out there — especially the airplanes that would land and takeoff from neaerby JFK airport. "He'd sit down and watch," she said. "Oh he used to love that." But her husband, Rafael, wouldn't enjoy the planes for long. The senior citizen with neatly trimmed white hair was acting strangely around the house and after a liver transplant, dementia set in. Rafael Santiago would never return home again. Instead he would end up at CABS Nursing Home on Nostrand Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. "He was eight years in there," said Rodriguez, who became a fixture at the nursing home herself, and even set up her own small beauty salon where she cut patients' hair. "I kept it beautiful," she said as she clutched photos — a Caribbean festival in 2011 and the Christmas boogaloo party the following year. She said one nurse knew her husband so well she could tell what he needed by the expression on his face. "That nursing home was like a family," she said. But that changed shortly after the Allure Group bought the facility in June of 2015. Rodriguez said family members noticed patients were being transferred out and they began to worry. In October, they held a meeting and demanded an explanation. According to minutes from the meeting, an administrator said patients had been relocated because they weren't suited for the facility, and dismissed rumors the nursing home was closing. But by then a contractor had already applied for a permit to demolish CABS and replace it with a seven-story apartment building, records from the Department of Buildings show. Rodriguez said the pressure to leave continued. "The social workers, they start to work and call all the nursing homes to [see] where they can admit this person the other person," Rodriguez said. "You can see the ambulettes taking the patients to this nursing [home], the other nursing home, to the other nursing home. It was like a nightmare." Nursing home operators are supposed to give the state Department of Health 90 days notice and submit a detailed plan on how patients will be transferred. The plan includes a roster of patients, a process for relocating them and notification to families of possible alternatives. The agency has to approve the plan before anyone gets moved out. But, according to a three-month investigation by WNYC, that didn't happen at CABS — or a second location owned by the Allure Group in Manhattan that was the subject of multiple investigations after the owner sold it to luxury housing developers. Relocating a nursing-home patient suffering from dementia or other serious illness is a delicate matter and it takes time, advocates say. Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, an advocacy organization, said the law requires that any transfer be in the best interest of the patient. "You have a right to at least a 30 day notice, an appeals process and protections in place to make sure that you are able to select a nursing home that can meet your needs and that is in an appropriate setting geographically," he said. "Or otherwise go to another setting if you would be better off. It is really important that those protections are carried out." Despite reservations, Rodriguez said Rafael and several others were transferred to Concord Nursing Home around November. According to the state Department of Health, a closure plan for CABS was not approved until February. Rodriguez and other family members said they were never given formal notice the nursing home was closing or notified of their right to appeal any transfer. And at Concord, Rafael began to get sick. Rodriguez said one weekend the nursing home called to say her husband was in a coma after his blood sugar level reached a dangerous 700. She said up until then, the highest it ever got was around 250. After that, he became despondent. Next, he caught pneumonia, and she prayed by his bedside for days. "I talked to him. I prayed. I go back Sunday. I do the same thing," she said. "I go Monday and I had the feeling that he was going to pass, and on Monday I pray and on Tuesday at 4:26 (a.m.) they called me that he passed away. And that was the end of everything." The state Department of Health wouldn't comment on the death, and neither would Allure or Concord, which cited privacy laws. Rafael's death was classified as normal and was not referred to the city's medical examiner for review. But Rodriguez believes that if her husband had remained in the place he called home for eight years, he would still be alive. "Because he was still strong," she said. "He died like it was not his time yet." Mollot said that transfers in general can be problematic because they can cause an interruption of consistent care. "Sometimes their basic care plans get messed up," he said. "It's just things that happen if we are not extremely careful." While the Allure Group was closing CABS, it was also closing another nursing home at the center of a controversial real estate deal. Rivington House had been used for decades as a nursing home for AIDS patients until the fall of 2014, when Allure decided to buy the property. Less than a year later, the company entered into a contract to sell the site to luxury housing developers for $116 million — more than four times the purchase price. Since then, the de Blasio Administration has been investigated twice for lifting deed restrictions that allowed the sale to happen. 45 Rivington, a former nursing home, was flipped for what appears to be a $72 million profit. (Richard Yeh/WNYC) Allure has said it warned a city official the building would be sold off if the cost to lift restrictions was too high. But city officials have said Allure made it appear the nursing home would remain open. The State Department of Health has said the same. According to the agency, in the fall of 2014, Allure applied to convert the facility into a nursing home for a broader geriatric population instead of just AIDS patients. The conversion was approved by health officials. "Based on the materials submitted by the owner in connection with its conversion application, the Department had every expectation that utilization would increase and the facility would continue to operate," a spokesman wrote in an email to WNYC. But a year later, when state health department workers went to Rivington House for a routine inspection, they were surprised to find it had closed, according to Richard Danford, the long-term care ombudsman for New York City. He said they called him from the site. "It was a short conversation. They said, 'We are at Rivington House to do a site review and there are no residents here,' and that was pretty much it," Danford told WNYC. "They were quite surprised, as were we." Danford works for a non-profit and any time a nursing home closes, he gets notified and acts as an advocate for patients and their families. But this time, all the patients were gone before there was a chance to meet with them. Danford said that when proper procedures are not followed, there is no way of knowing who was living there or where they went. "You have aged people, people with serious disabilities. The process for relocating for that population is very complicated and they do have rights," Danford said. WNYC was able to track down one patient discharged from Rivington House at the time Allure was closing it down. Sal Siggia said he stayed at Rivington House last fall. At 6-foot-3, he weighs 116 lbs. He's had AIDS for 25 years, but his real problem is the radiation he received for throat cancer. It damaged his esophagus and he can't swallow food or drink without it getting into his lungs. "My prognosis is not really great. It's pneumonia, pneumonia, pneumonia — dead, at some point," Siggia said. Salvatore Siggia, a former Rivington House patient, at his new apartment inside an elevator building. Nurses and therapists now provide him care at home. (Richard Yeh/WNYC) He was at the nursing home recovering from one of those bouts of pneumonia, and he speaks highly of staff who would bath and shave him while he lay in bed too weak to get up. "I was sick as a dog. I really was," he said. But then Siggia was able to start walking again and he wanted to go home. So he was discharged to his fifth-floor East Village walk-up. Leaving would prove difficult. This dangerously thin man would now be responsible for feeding himself through a tube in his stomach even though he wasn't sure how to use the machine that dispensed his nutrition. The facility lent him a mobile oxygen tank but it was too heavy to carry upstairs, so a friend did it. Siggia was determined to make it work. "When I faced my steps I just think, 'Go and don't think about it,' " he said. "And there were times when I was literally crawling up the last few steps because I just didn't have the strength anymore." Eventually, he would make it to the top, catch his breath, compose himself, then think, 'I made it. I got up here.' "Whether it was a good idea or not, I had no other options of what to do," he said. But there were other options. Two former employees who spoke to WNYC on the condition that they remain anonymous said Siggia was discharged prematurely and could've been given more time to get stronger. Ultimately, Siggia said Visiting Nurse Services deemed his apartment unsafe because of the stairs, and also because his bathtub was in the kitchen and his bed was elevated off the floor. Today, he lives in an elevator building and has nurses and therapists to care for him at home. It took him nine months to put everything in place. Since leaving Rivington House, Siggia has suffered five more bouts of pneumonia, been hospitalized and lost 10 pounds. "In comparison, I was doing very well (at Rivington House) — even though I was a wreck when I left there," he said. Rivington House closed for good one month after Siggia left. And after the state Health Department found it empty, the Allure Group was allowed to submit a closure plan anyway. Health officials then approved it without fines or penalties. "I have never heard of being able to file a closure plan retroactively," said Susan Dooha, director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, where Danford, the ombudsman, works. She's been advocating for seniors for 14 years. "In the event that facilities would, I don't know, perhaps prefer to be in the real estate business, then I think there ought to be real consequences for not taking care and putting residents first if that's the case," she said. Danford was also surprised by the state's actions. "It was highly unusual," he said. "Let me put it that way. I'd never run into anything like that and our concern is always for the residents." The state health department said it could not answer questions about why closure plans were approved at both Rivington House and CABS after the fact because the matter is under investigation. Andrew Levander, an attorney for Allure, said company representatives discussed the anticipated closing of Rivington House with the state Health Department as early as June of 2015 and discussions continued through the fall. Levander also said in a written statement that, "Privacy laws prevent us from commenting on any specific patients, their discharge and follow-up after discharge, other than to confirm that Allure at all times, complied with applicable rules, regulations and procedures concerning patient care." Construction has been halted at both Rivington House and CABS, and both buildings now sit empty.

Nursing Home Owner in de Blasio Investigations Flouted State Rules that Protect Patients

In 'The Layover,' a Canceled Flight Leads to an Affair

If you have a wife, or a fiancé, or a boyfriend, there's a point in any casual conversation with an attractive stranger that you should mention it. If you don't — then you've crossed a line. Maybe you're hoping the conversation will lead to something. And maybe it will. That's how Leslye Headland's new play at Second Stage starts, with that kind of line-crossing. In "The Layover," Shellie (Annie Parisse) and Dex (Adam Rothenberg) are seatmates on a Thanksgiving flight that's supposed to end up in New York. But it's cancelled, and after some runway flirting where both of them fail to immediately mention significant others, they meet up again at the airport hotel — and then in Dex's hotel bed. Did he want something to start? Did she? Was it a temporary escape from the small cruelties of their everyday lives, or the beginning of something more serious? What lies are OK to tell to strangers? These are all interesting questions, made crisply exciting by Trip Cullman's sleek direction and Jeff Sugg's projections of noir film clips. But while Headland touches on them briefly, she doesn't look at the "whys" in depth. Instead, "The Layover" is part dark comedy, part murky thriller. We know something bad is going to happen because of some heavy foreshadowing (Shellie is reading a crime novel; they discuss the murders in the Hitchcock classic "Strangers on a Train" in depth; amputation is mentioned). But when that something bad does happen, it's neither unexpected nor revelatory. The violence is simply not earned.

This Week in Politics: Foundations - Ethical Minefields and Donor Magnets

This week, Hillary Clinton gave a forceful speech calling the Trump campaign racist. But it was also a week that found her, once again, answering questions about emails – and about a report that more than half of the people outside the government who met with her while she was secretary of state gave money to the Clinton Foundation. Given her standing as the presidential front-runner, it's natural that the foundation is being held up to intense scrutiny. But Clinton isn't the only politician who submits to the siren song of a charity. Michael Bloomberg had one, Chris Christie has one... even Donald Trump has a foundation. WNYC's Andrea Bernstein walks host David Furst through the ethical minefields of politicians and foundations - and looks at how some of the local non-profits stack up against the Clinton Foundation.

This Week in Politics: Foundations - Ethical Minefields and Donor Magnets

Robbing a Bank in the Dog Days of August

In The Dog, filmmakers Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren profile John Wojtowicz, the larger-than-life bank robber portrayed by Al Pacino in "Dog Day Afternoon." While the famous fiction film only captured one day in his life, this documentary explores his background in the early gay rights movement and what happened after he came out of jail as an infamous New York character. — Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen For more information, click here to visit the official film web site.

Key Player in Bridgegate Scandal Hired by Donald Trump Campaign

Bridgegate figure Bill Stepien finally has the job on a national presidential campaign he was gunning for—just not the job he'd originally envisioned. In 2013, Stepien was the GOP whiz kid with a scientific approach to expanding the number of Democrats voting for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his reelection campaign. The percentages were going to be so big for Christie that he was going to be the undisputed GOP choice for president in 2016. But then, Bridgegate emails in which Stepien was deeply involved were released, Stepien was fired, and Christie's bid failed. Now, Stepien will go to work as Donald Trump's national field director, sources familiar with Stepien say, just weeks before the Bridgegate case goes to trial in federal court in Newark. Stepien was the architect of the carrot-and-stick approach to Democratic mayors that went stupendously awry during Bridgegate, when his colleagues organized the closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge to punish the Mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to endorse Christie. Stepien, seen as a rising star in the GOP, was set to essentially run the Republican Governors Association in 2014. Christie had just been elected chair of the RGA, widely seen as a prelude to Christie's 2016 presidential bid. Stepien, who was fiercely loyal to Christie, was nicknamed Smoke—now you see him, now you don't. But then came the release of the now-infamous "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email. The author, Bridgegate defendant Bridget Anne Kelly, formerly reported to Stepien. Stepien himself was deeply entangled in that email dump; he had engaged in multiple back-and-forths with David Wildstein, the former Port Authority leader who ensured the bridge lanes were closed. (Wildstein has pleaded guilty to federal crimes for his role.) Stepien was also a political buddy of former Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni, the other Bridgegate defendant. After Baroni delivered false testimony about a "traffic study," Stepien sent him an attaboy text: "Hey, great job," he wrote. "Thank you." Christie fired Stepien from both the RGA job and one as head of the NJ GOP the day the Bridgegate emails were released, saying he was "disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude of callous indifference" in the Stepien emails. Christie didn't do the firing himself. Instead, he asked his outside strategist, Mike Duhaime, to do the job for him. Duhaime delivered the news to Stepien in a coffee shop. Though Stepien has never been indicted, he hasn't returned to a high-profile political job until now. In his new role, Stepien will do what he did for Christie: working on building voter turnout for Trump. The Bridgegate trial starts Sept. 19.

Why Giuliani Is Suited to Be Trump's Staunchest Supporter

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is one of Donald Trump's most valuable and ubiquitous surrogates lately. He defends the controversial Republican presidential candidate on countless cable and broadcast news programs, even as most Republican leaders have distanced themselves from Trump's outrageous comments and conspiracy theories. Giuliani's rise in Republican circles may seem puzzling at first, given the bruising defeat he suffered during his own 2008 presidential bid. The big city mayor was far too socially liberal for Republican primary voters. But it's really not that odd for him to be the face of the party with this particular nominee. Having covered Giuliani for almost seven of his eight years as mayor, I saw a Republican politician who - not unlike Trump - shifted from populist to pugilist, sometimes at his own expense. He was elected in a mostly Democratic city by running as a Republican, Liberal and Independent Fusion candidate who vowed to be a strong leader. Upon taking office, he endorsed incumbent Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo over his Republican opponent, George Pataki. And he supported abortion rights, immigration and President Bill Clinton's anti-crime bill. But many black voters didn't trust the man who defeated David Dinkins, the city's first African-American mayor. They chafed at a "broken windows" approach to policing that included stop and frisk tactics. Those tensions blew up when an African immigrant named Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by police in 1999. The public was outraged but Giuliani stood by the police; and it wasn't the only time. When questioned about his poor relations with black communities, Giuliani claimed that he'd "done more for the African American community" than Dinkins on "jobs, economic development, crime being down, lives being saved." That comment sounds very similar to Trump's new attempt to reach black voters by calling their neighborhoods "war zones." When Giuliani saw an opening for the U.S. Senate, he shifted to the right. Hillary Clinton was also running and he needed to appeal to more conservative Republicans. He supported vouchers for private school students and (unsuccessfully) cut off funding for the Brooklyn Museum over an exhibit he found offensive to Catholics. Giuliani ultimately abandoned his 2000 Senate race because of his diagnosis of prostate cancer. He'd also just left his wife for another woman. His popularity plunged. He became famous for his feuds - chastising "jerky" reporters, a Democratic judge whose decision he opposed, and calling a ferret owner "deranged." Sound familiar? That's how Giuliani would have ended his two terms had it not been for his leadership during the September 11th attacks in 2001. The abrasive New Yorker became "America's Mayor." Seeing Giuliani stump for Trump now, it's not so out of character. Both are outsized, New York personalities that love a good fight (and headlines). Both have had complicated personal lives. And both are unorthodox Republicans — capable of making a populist appeal that resonates with a lot of voters, but that also ultimately alienates many.

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