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Man Who Fell Through Bronx Sidewalk Into a Pit of Rats Sues Building Owner

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Plunging into a pit of rats is no longer an irrational fear for this Bronx man.

What We Know:

  • In late October, 33-year-old Leonard Shoulders was waiting to catch a bus at East 183rd Street near Third Avenue in Bronx, New York. Suddenly, the ground beneath him fell through plummeting him 12 feet below a side-walk sinkhole and into a dark vault filled with rats.
  • According to the Gothamist, Shoulders has since filed a lawsuit, claiming gross negligence of property maintenance, against the city and the owner of a nearby building. His attorney, Nicholas Bagley, told the Gothamist, “These rats were crawling all over him and he was fearful of screaming out because he didn’t want them to go in his mouth or further agitate them.”
  • His attorney also stated that the total amount of money Shoulders is seeking to gain in the lawsuit will be determined by the extent of his permanent injuries and psychological trauma. Since the incident occurred, Shoulders’s attorney states that he fractured his spine and was paralyzed in the fall. After undergoing spinal surgery, and currently living in a rehabilitation facility, it is unclear if he will ever regain full function of his body.
  • The whole thing was caught on a security camera in a nearby building. The video, obtained by NBC News, shows pedestrians leaning over the gaping hole in the sidewalk in an attempt to address Shoulders’s condition. After spending thirty minutes in the rat-infested pit, Shoulders was finally pulled out by the New York City Fire Department.

This story is truly a New Yorker’s worst nightmare!

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Crime

U.S. Soldier Arrested in Plot to Blow Up 9/11 NYC Memorial

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A U.S. Army soldier was arrested in Georgia on charges that he plotted to blow up the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and attack U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. (Inset: FB via United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Alejandra Villa-Pool/Getty Image)

A U.S. Army soldier was detained Tuesday in Georgia on terrorism charges after he talked online about plans to blow up New York City’s 9/11 Memorial and other monuments and assault U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, officials said.

What We Know:

  • Cole James Bridges from Stow, Ohio, was in custody on charges of attempted material support of a terrorist organization, the Islamic State group, and attempted murder of a military member, stated Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for Manhattan federal prosecutors.
  • The 20-year-old soldier, also identified as Cole Gonzales, was with the Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, when he believed he was chatting with the Islamic State online about the terrorism plots, Biase mentioned.
  • According to a criminal objection in Manhattan federal court, Bridges entered the U.S. Army in September 2019 and was appointed a cavalry scout in Fort Stewart. Unknown to Bridges, an FBI employee was in on the chat. Biase said Bridges gave detailed instructions on tactics and manuals and information about attacking the memorial and other New York City targets.
  • “As we allege today, Bridges, a private in the U.S. Army, betrayed our country and his unit when he plotted with someone he believed was an ISIS sympathizer to help ISIS attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East,” William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York City’s FBI office stated in a press release.

“Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition,” he continued.

  • According to court papers, he communicated his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to help the Islamic State group. The criminal complaint stated he then gave training and guidance to professed Islamic State fighters who were plotting attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City, including the 9/11 Memorial.
  • Bridges also outlined specific military tactics to help the terrorist group’s fighters kill U.S. troops, including the best way to strengthen an encampment to resist an attack by U.S. Special Forces and how to wire specific buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops, the complaint said.

He was programmed to make a first appearance in federal court in Georgia on Thursday. It was not instantly clear who would represent him.

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Headlines

NYC Now Largest U.S. City to Grant LGBTQ Businesses Access to Minority Contract

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New York City now recognizes LGBTQ-owned companies as minority-owned businesses, making them eligible for city contracts to expand their businesses.

What We Know:

  • On Tuesday, New York City’s Department of Small Business Services and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce announced a plan to fast-track LGBTQ-owned businesses into city certification programs where they can receive billions in contract funding and access to resources like consulting, mentorship, and educational programs.
  • According to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, approximately 1.4 million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender business owners in the United States generate $1.7 trillion a year in revenue. N.Y.C. now joins the growing list of cities and states that have moved to incorporate LGBTQ-owned businesses in city contracts, including cities in California, New Jersey, Maryland, and Florida.
  • Openly gay Councilmember Daniel Dromm said the historic agreement would “impact the lives of thousands of New Yorkers in a meaningful and lasting way.”

“When it comes to establishing and growing businesses, LGBTQ entrepreneurs face many significant and manifold challenges. I am pleased that these business owners who were once excluded from sorely needed contracting and procurement opportunities will be able to participate,” he continued.

  • This comes at a crucial time when many LGBTQ Americans are facing unemployment. According to a May 2020 poll by the national LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign and PSB Research, queer people of color were disproportionately impacted by job loss, with 22 percent of LGBTQ people of color losing their jobs because of the pandemic, compared to 14 percent of white LGBTQ workers and 13 percent of the general population.

Due to this motion, it appears that LGBTQ business owners in N.Y.C. will now have a greater chance to rebound and have a strong economic comeback.

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Education

College Board Drops SAT’s Optional Essay and Subject Tests to Reduce Demands

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College Board will be permanently dropping the optional essay and subject tests after the summer. This is to reduce the demands of students affected by the crisis of the pandemic.

What We Know:

  • On Tuesday, the College Board announced that it is discontinuing the optional essay section and subject-area exams of the SAT for college-bound U.S. students after June 2021. SAT subject tests were optional, multiple-choice exams that students could take in order to demonstrate aptitude or standardized academic credentials on topics like Spanish language, biology, and physics.
  • It will be available only in certain states, including Delaware and Oklahoma, that use the SAT for school accountability measurement and offer the test during the school day. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated a process already underway to simplify our work and reduce demands on students, the standardized testing nonprofit said in a note to members.
  • According to NBC News, the optional SAT essay section, which was introduced in 2005, will be discontinued after June testing dates because “there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing,” the College Board said. The essay section had a 15-year heyday, which raised the maximum SAT score from 1600 to 2400, was a central part of many students’ college admissions applications for years. However, by last year, several major institutions had made the section optional.
  • Based in New York, the testing organization also revealed the launch of a process to revise the main SAT, aiming to make the admission test more flexible and streamlined and enable students to take the exam digitally instead of with pencil and paper. There were few details available on how the main SAT might be changed. David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, said the organization is not pursuing an at-home version of the exam. He said more information would be coming in April.
  • Even before the pandemic, the subject tests and the optional essay were losing influence. Fewer schools were requiring applicants to take them, and many experts questioned their value. These tests long served a niche role in admissions as a way for students to amass extra credentials showing their prowess for ultra-competitive schools. For many years, Ivy League schools and others, including Georgetown University, recommended, encouraged, or accepted subject test scores in addition to the scores they required from the main SAT or ACT.

U.S. students registered for subject tests will be refunded, while the College Board will provide two final SAT subject test administrations in May and June 2021 for international locations because they are used internationally for a wider variety of purposes. College Board plans to phase out international students by next Summer.

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