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NYSNYS NEWS: Gillibrand, Schumer both in Albany area to talk about bills on veterans, swatting cyber-crime.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: Gillibrand, Schumer both in Albany area to talk about bills on veterans, swatting cyber-crime.

By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


COLONIE, N.Y. (July 6) Both U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer held press conferences within an hour of each other here on Monday, almost but not quite crossing paths as they touted bills on veteran health and cyber-crime.

At the Colonie Police Department, Schumer called for tougher penalties for "swatting," the name given to a bizarre new digital crime that involves using cellphones, Skype and Internet anonymity to trick police SWAT team into responding with massive force to a fake report of violence.

"These dangerous actions are not pranks at all, these swatting attacks are serious incidents," Schumer said, citing on that occurred here in April. The call prompted police to swarm the area, evacuate homes before they learned several hours late the call was phony.

It was the second such swatting call in two years in Colonie, a thriving suburb of Albany that is perennially on the list of the most crime-free communities in the U.S.

Schumer said the cellphone or voice over Internet calls are almost untraceable, and the subsequent necessary responses cost local governments millions of dollars. Some of the calls are payback by online gamers trying to get even with others, Schumer said. Since the calls cross state lines, he's proposed a federal bill to mandate an 8 year prison sentence for swatting and require restitution for costs of the police response.

An hour earlier and a few miles away, Gillibrand was joined by other state and federal elected officials at a Colonie VFW post to call for federal benefits for Navy sailors exposed to Agent Orange herbicide during the Vietnam War, when the toxic chemical was used to kill thick tropical vegetation to expose the enemy and protect U.S. forces.

"We need to make sure all veterans exposed to Agent Orange are covered," Gillibrand said. Right now, coverage is extended to veterans who part of ground forces during Vietnam.

With her was Rep. Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) who has sponsored the bill to require Navy "Blue Water" veterans to be fully covered by the Veterans Administration for Agent Orange exposure and subsequent health problem.

The substance was sprayed on the ground and along the shores of waterways in Vietnam for a variety of tactical reasons, including to kill ground cover and deter shore attacks on naval warships. It is blamed for poisoning U.S. service members and millions of Vietnamese people exposed to the chemical.

Gibson said the sailors were exposed because local water supplies used for cleaning, cooking and bathing were in some cases tainted with high concentrations of Agent Orange.

"We estimate that there's up to more than 75,000 more sailors out there that should be getting this kind of coverage because they've been exposed to this pernicious toxin, Agent Orange which has caused such severe illness ," Gibson said.

He said he has had cases of ill Navy Vietnam veterans in his district affected by Agent Orange. Exposure is believed to be tied to cancer and other serious illnesses.

Records indicate that the U.S. military sprayed an estimated 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam and parts of Cambodia and Laos from 1962-1971. The chemical was primarily manufactured by Montsanto and Dow.

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