DNA testing for Menands body, cigarette tax increase, Ashcroft gets big crowd, teaching Arabic in Schenectady, a plan to stop to the phone books

Investigators say it could take two weeks for DNA testing to provide more info about the dismembered body found in Menands on Tuesday. They do know from an autopsy that it belonged to an African-American woman. [TU]

A state investigation has concluded that NYRA broke the law when it hired a firm to perform integrity reviews for $125,000 per month -- without bidding out the job. It doesn't look like there will be any consequences for the race track operator, though. [Saratogian]

It looks like that cigarette tax increase will go through. At $2.75-per-pack, New York will have the highest cigarette tax in the nation. [AP/Daily Gazette]

John Ashcroft drew a big crowd for his lecture at Skidmore. He seemed to welcome critical questions from students, "I'm in a target-rich environment. Take advantage of it." He also, seemingly by mistake, referred to Barack Obama as "Osama." And, unfortunately, he didn't serenade the crowd. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

The Schenectady school district will start offering Arabic classes next year. [TU]

Saratoga Springs' school district proposed budget has been chopped by $1 million. Among the cuts: an expanded foreign language program. [Daily Gazette]

An Albany common councilman is pushing a measure that could possibly slow the barrage of phone books. [TU] (AOA item about how to stop the phone book deliveries)

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Washington Avenue definitely needs more than one lane in each direction, but that doesn't mean it can't be redesigned. They can reduce the size of the lanes, add a median, and add a protected bike lane where the shoulder of the road now lies. I agree, however, that the entire Harriman loop would have to be redesigned and that includes those over-passes, so this would be an extremely expensive undertaking if they want to do it right. But there could be significant development on the land that is now wasted by asphalt that could offset that cost and bulk up the tax base for the city.

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