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HUDSON RIVER VALLEY TAPPED AS LIVING LABORATORY

The Hudson River Valley would become a living laboratory for the study of the environment under a program announced Tuesday by Gov. George E. Pataki and Pace University.

The Pace Academy for the Environment would be a hub for scholarly examination of environmental affairs, allowing students from different colleges to collaborate on studies involving water pollution, air pollution, development, nuclear power and many other issues, Pataki and Pace President David Caputo said at a news conference.

"The complexity of the environmental issues is such that they are not simply about technology and science but rather require the best thinking of cultural experts, social scientists, economists, political experts and philosophers," Caputo said.

The academy, to be based at Pace's Pleasantville campus, would not confer degrees, but Caputo said it would allow students from across the state to study for credit at colleges other than their own through a Hudson Valley Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities.

One dead as truck rolls
off ferry into L.I. Sound

ORIENT POINT (AP) -- One person was killed in a bizarre accident Tuesday morning when a 65-foot truck rolled off the Cross Sound Ferry and plunged into the Long Island Sound, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.

Initially, authorities believed two people were killed in the incident. But a head count of ferry passengers showed only one person was missing, said Coast Guard spokesman Chief Warrant Steve Sapp.

The victim was pulled from the water, but pronounced dead at a Long Island hospital, Sapp said. The accident happened near the end of a routine trip by the ferry between New London, Conn., and Orient Point in Long Island.

Police said the truck was in the last row of the ferry when it rolled into 100 feet of water after crashing through three sets of chains.

The accident occurred around 10:15 a.m., authorities said. It was unclear what caused the truck to begin rolling.

The ferry, called the Susan Anne, was built in 1964, according to the ferry company's Web site. It can accommodate 80 vehicles and 840 passengers and cruises at 15 knots.

Four state worker unions
sue over medical expenses

ALBANY (AP) -- Four state worker unions claim in a lawsuit that United Healthcare Corp. failed to adequately reimburse members and their families for millions of dollars in insured medical expenses.

The unions on Tuesday accused United Healthcare of cheating more than a million people covered under the Empire Plan, an insurance plan for state workers, who use out-of-network providers. According to its state contract, United Healthcare is supposed to reimburse patients 80 percent of "reasonable and customary charges" paid out-of-pocket.

Instead, the lawsuit claims, United Healthcare has used its own formula since 1998 to calculate what it determines as reasonable, resulting in payments far below 80 percent.

The actual payments vary widely on a case-by-base basis, said Alan Lubin, executive vice president of New York State United Teachers.

One member who went into premature labor in Philadelphia and had to use a non-network hospital came home with $4,120 in hospital bills the Empire Plan should have covered, Lubin said.

Guilty in Wendy's killings,
man could get death penalty

NEW YORK (AP) -- The man behind the execution-style shootings of five employees inside a walk-in freezer of a Wendy's restaurant was found guilty Tuesday of capital murder, and could be sentenced to die.

A Queens jury took 11 hours to convict John Taylor of all the charges in the 20-count indictment, for plotting the May 24, 2000, robbery, fatally shooting two of the five victims and commanding his mentally retarded accomplice to shoot the rest.

Family members of the victims wept quietly as the verdict was read in the full courtroom.

Taylor, 38, showed no emotion, lowering his head slightly when the jury found him guilty on all five counts of felony murder and one count of first-degree murder, all capital offenses.

Today the trial will enter the penalty phase, in which the jury will decide whether Taylor should be put to death.

Taylor's co-defendant, Craig Godineaux, 32, pleaded guilty in January 2001 to shooting five of the seven victims -- three fatally. Since he is mentally retarded, he was not eligible for the death penalty under New York State law and is instead serving five life sentences.

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