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Guard battalion named Unit of the Year

BINGHAMTON (AP) -- An Army National Guard unit based in Binghamton is getting some recognition from a magazine distributed on U.S. military installations worldwide. The 204th Engineer Battalion has been named Unit of the Year for 2011 by Salute magazine.

The battalion was honored for its work in responding to the flooding in the Catskills, Adirondacks and the Binghamton area after tropical storms Irene and Lee hit New York late last summer.

Members of the 204th rescued residents who were threatened by rising waters in the Catskills, while other soldiers cleared roads and creeks.

The unit includes companies based in Kingston, Buffalo, Walton and Horseheads.



'Gay' no longer counts as slander, court says

ALBANY (AP) -- A midlevel state appeals court says it's no longer slander in New York to falsely call someone gay.

The court on Thursday wiped out decades of rulings, including its own, to say that society no longer treats false comments that someone is gay, lesbian or bisexual as defamation. Without defamation, there is no longer slander, the court ruled.

"These appellate division decisions are inconsistent with current public policy and should no longer be followed," stated the unanimous decision written by Justice Thomas Mercure of the Appellate Division's 3rd Department in Albany.

While the decision sets new case law in New York now, it could still go to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

The ruling stems from a suit by a Binghamton area man against a woman he claimed spread a rumor she heard about him in hopes that his girlfriend would break up with him.



New sentence ordered in 1968 hijacking case

NEW YORK (AP) -- A man sentenced to prison for hijacking a plane from New York to Cuba four decades ago will be resentenced after a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a lower court judge wrongly concluded he would not be eligible for parole.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the resentencing for Luis Armando Pena Soltren, 69, who returned to the United States from Cuba in October 2009 to face air-piracy charges. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison without parole.

The appeals court said Pena Soltren is entitled to a sentence that includes the possibility of parole because parole existed in the federal sentencing structure when Pan American Flight 281 was hijacked on Nov. 24, 1968.

It said the judge can take Pena Soltren's parole eligibility into account in determining a new sentence. Prisoners at the time were generally eligible for parole after serving about a third of their sentences.

Parole has been abolished in the federal system.



State to sell trains from failed rail project

GLENVILLE (AP) -- The state has been paying more than $150,000 a year to store trains and replacement parts from a high-speed rail project that failed in 2004, the Cuomo administration said Thursday.

Now officials plan to sell four remaining Turboliners, adding that they may not be worth more than scrap after the project cost New York $70 million.

One five-car train sits in a field on the outskirts of suburban Schenectady, rusting and partly vandalized in an industrial park. Others stand nearby.

The $185 million project, launched in 1998 to refurbish Amtrak Turboliners to run 110 mph on New York tracks, was part of Gov. George E. Pataki's plan to upgrade rail service and cut travel time between Albany and New York City.