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Good Afternoon

MTA overtime investigations underway

The only way to turn the MTA into

The only way to turn the MTA into a well-run, well-managed bureaucracy is if it can free itself from the constraints of ancient work rules and practices. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Daily Point

What happens now?

Over the last several weeks, overtime in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has made headlines, leading to many a call for investigation. First, the MTA Inspector General was tasked with looking into examples of excessive overtime. Then came calls by MTA board members for an outside investigator, specifically a former prosecutor, to take a look. Then, news that the Queens district attorney was going to join the effort.

But after days of rumors, word came Friday that the feds were stepping into the ring. The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District is now investigating, according to a New York Times report.

Federal prosecutors reportedly have subpoenaed records from more than a dozen Long Island Rail Road and New York City Transit workers, and are looking at the MTA’s timekeeping practices. All of that comes after an Empire Center report showed some egregious uses of overtime, including recently retired LIRR chief measurement officer, Thomas Caputo, who earned $344,147 in overtime alone last year.

So, what does the feds’ involvement do for all the other layers of detective work regarding the MTA? Will there be three or four concurrent investigations? Or will some of the others stand down, awaiting the determination of federal prosecutors? Will the MTA's IG office be revamped? 

The real question is whether any of these investigations get to systemic labor problems, or whether this is just another case of a few workers who will take the fall.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Who ever heard of a state microbe?

When it comes to state pride, it’s often the little things that matter. And now, even the microscopic stuff.

Last week, New Jersey became only the second state to adopt a microbe when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law recognizing Streptomyces griseus with the official honor.  

That’s the microbe necessary for producing Streptomycin, which was the second big antibiotic developed, coming after penicillin, and is credited with saving millions of lives by effectively fighting tuberculosis, among other diseases.

Streptomyces griseus was discovered in 1943 in a field at the New Jersey Agricultural Experimental Station by Albert Schatz, a Rutgers doctoral student.

The only other state with an official microbe is Oregon, which made Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer’s yeast, its official standard bearer in 2013 to recognize the state’s thriving beer-brewing industry and culture.

So will New York follow in Jersey’s teensy microbe-loving footsteps, and if so, what should it honor? New York has a great cheese history and could go after Lactococcus lactis, which is key to cheddar production. But Wisconsin already looked at adopting that one in 2009, and in the end rejected it. Do we really want Wisconsin’s cast-off microbe?

Two great options might be Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, the key bacteria in yogurt production. Greek yogurt has become an increasingly vital part of the upstate economy.

But if we’re really looking for microbes that are putting New York on the map right now, two candidates stand out above all others:

The rubeola virus causes measles, and New York is dominating the nation in what has become the worst outbreak in the United States since 1994. In 2019, 839 cases have now been reported nationwide, and 623 of those are the pride of the Empire State.

Candida auris, although first discovered in Japan in 2009, made its first U.S. appearance in New York in 2017. The fungi, which is increasingly plaguing hospitals, carries a 35 percent mortality rate, is highly resistant to antifungal drugs and is all but impossible to scour out of hospitals once it sets down roots. And New York wasn’t just first in the nation with Candida auris — it continues to lead. Of about 600 cases confirmed nationwide, 319 occurred in New York.

Take that, Jersey!

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Who will win?

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Bonus Point

Not all heroes wear capes

Not long after making her political debut, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is joining the likes of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man in her very own (unofficial) comic book.

The single-issue $5.99 magazine, titled “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force: New Party, Who Dis?” features the Bronx-born congresswoman in a series of short illustrated stories, one of which tells the tale of a tag-team wrestling match that pits AOC, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Maxine Waters against representatives from the NRA, Big Oil and Big Pharma.

Other notable features include a “Where’s Waldo”-like search for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a sea of toads, as well as a phony advertisement for a Pac-Man satire called “Pence-Man,” which charges the player with collecting hamberders and defeating female politicians like Rep. Ilhan Omar, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

What’s more interesting, though, are features that strive to provide comic book readers with some real information. One item, titled “Pairing PACS & Politicians,” asks readers to match political action committees with the politicians the PACs sponsor. An infographic called “Where Dat Money?!” provides a breakdown of basic economic terms and principles meant to “help everyone sound a little smarter standing around the water cooler at work.”

The book, published by Devil’s Due Publishing and created by writer Josh Blaylock, is available in comic retailers and online. The company also teased its next anthology feature, titled “Talk Bernie to Me,” which is scheduled for release on July 3.

- Michael Cusanelli @mcusanelliSB