Monday, May 3, 2010

Tea Party Movement Advances in CNY

The Tea Party Movement is just over a year old, but it has already earned enemies and picked up steam as local groups pop up across the country. The Central New York area is no exception. The CNY Patriots are a tea party based out of Cicero, NY.

Joanne Wilder (pictured left), a Cicero local, started the group last March when she says she became fed up with the way the country was being run. She says it was President Obama's passing of the economic Recovery Act last year that made her decide she needed to take action.

"All the sudden now we're doing bank bailouts; we've got car companies that are going under; we gotta bail them out," she says. "Let 'em go bankrupt. It's the American way."

Over the past year the Tea Party -- both nationally and locally -- has staged protests against government actions they believe are un-Constitutional. During the week surrounding Tax Day this year, the CNY Patriots focussed the theme of their two major rallies on the health care bill, urging attendees to sign a petition that asks Attorney General Cuomo to reject government-run health care for the State of New York.

"An increasingly unpopular President and Vice President, and arrogant and presumptuous House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a soon-to-be-defeated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have forced a socialist takeover of America's health care system," said Chairman of the Onondaga County Republican Party John DeSpirito (pictured above) in his speech at the Tea Party Express Rally just before Tax Day this year.

Upcoming protests by the CNY Patriots include a rally against Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi May 29th, when she is scheduled to visit Central New York for Cornell University's Senior Convocation.

"We're going to Ithaca!" Wilder declared to the crowd of about 50 protestors who gathered in downtown Syracuse on Tax Day of this year. "She's going to give the commencement speech, but we're going to tell her to go home. Get back on your jet, or your broomstick, and go back to San Fransisco, Nancy."

And their most recent planned protest is against the push for amnesty for illegal aliens in the U.S. They plan to rally in support of Arizona's new immigration law May 11.

For more on the CNY Patriots, listen to this radio wrap here.

Greek Life Success

There are many negative stereotypes about Greek life that say they are only partiers, don't contribute to the community and are very superficial. The truth is, these organizations have been around since 1776 and have bred very accomplished and successful people throughout history.

Locally at Syracuse University, the Kappa Kappa Gamma-Beta Tau Chapter resides at 743 Comstock Avenue. I am a member of this sorority and have learned that lots of incredible women have lived in that brick house. Their stories alone show how Greek life helped them become successful and overall shaped their lives.

"You look back and if someone says what did you get out of it, well it's my first learning of first learning of problem solving," says Robin Burns, class of 1974.
She was the CEO and President of Calvin Klein Cosmetics, Victoria's Secret Beauty and Estee Lauder. Burns says the stereotypes are wrong and they only reflect people being uninformed about the Greek system.

JoAnn Heffernan Heisen, a 1972 graduate agrees and says that Greek life shaped her and has stayed a very important aspect in her business world ever since she joined.

Although fraternities and sororities do their share of drinking and having fun throughout their college careers, as every college student does, the opportunities to become great are endless and people do not know that. Through networking, bonds, challenges, leadership positions and interaction with people, those who support the system say Greek life is an incredibly positive experience for those who choose "Go Greek."

Click here for radio story!

The War No One is Talking About

Back in 2004, Stephanie Miner was a Syracuse Common Councilor and the head of the city's finance committee. She agreed to hold a discussion about the war on drugs and its financial impact on the city.

Six experts testified during the hearing, which lasted more than two hours. It featured testimony from City Auditor Minch Lewis, LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) founder Jack Cole and Pierre Claude Nolin, the head of the Canadian Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs.

A local group called ReconsiDer helped put together this slate of experts to testify. The group's leader, Nicolas Eyle (left), says the hearing couldn't have gone better.

But, there was a problem. No one showed up.

"Well it got no media coverage in the newspaper because the newspaper didn't want anything to do with it," Eyle said during an interview this past April. "It was too radical."

The Post-Standard sent a reporter to cover the discussion, but Eyle says the reporter stood in the back of the room, giggling with the head of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA). The newspaper printed a story about the hearing on page 17 the next day.

Eyle says there wasn't enough public demand to change the city's drug laws. Even with Miner on board, the group struggled to promote its message - the legalization of all drugs - without media coverage.

Since that hearing, ReconsiDer has stopped taking on new members. At its peak, the organization had more than 1,000 members, including people outside the United States.

But it's core - Eyle, Gene Tinelli and Peter Christ - are still fighting to reform drug laws in Central New York.

"I don't want to see us do with drugs what we did with alcohol, I don't want to see us legalize drugs and embark on a 50 year bender pretending we don't have a drug problem," said Christ (right), a former town of Tonawanda police officer.

Christ first got involved with the drug legalization movement in the early 1990s after he retired from the police force at the age of 42. He has served as the group's spokesman for more than a decade, speaking at rotary clubs and libraries.

The group's message is simple.

"When you choose a policy of prohibition to deal with these kinds of problems, you have chosen a policy that gives you total deregulation and decontrol of this marketplace," Christ said. "We have to get this out of the hands of gangsters and thugs, and turn it over to legitimate business people."

While Christ is traveling, Gene Tinelli (left) is doing his part to change drug policy. He's an addiction psychiatrist, and an associate professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

He seems committed to promoting the drug legalization movement in Central New York. And that includes debating Onondaga County district attorney, William Fitzpatrick.

"He won't debate me anymore." Tinelli said. "He's paid to enforce the law. And he's also elected. So there's the political input and what seems to get the most votes."

Fitzpatrick says that's not true.

"I don't know where he's getting that from," he said. "I don't clear my calendar with Gene. I have a secretary.

"It's just flat out dangerous. You're going to have more addicts, you're going to have less productivity, you're going to have a greater drain on the economy, you're going to have a greater drain and strain on the healthcare system."

As for the future of the drug legalization movement, Eyle, Tinelli and Christ say they're committed to putting the War on Drugs back on the map.

Click here to listen to the full story.

Syracuse Tries to Keep Nationals Memories Alive

From 1949 until 1963, the Nationals represented Syracuse in the NBA and won a championship in 1955. Almost 50 years after the Nats moved to Philadelphia and became the 76ers, they have gradually started to become forgotten (click here to listen).

"I think they tend to be something that an older generation, certainly a generation that was around at that time, identifies with and is aware of it. I think younger people in the community are not aware of it," said Dennis Connors, Curator of History for the Onondaga Historical Association.

The championship banner hangs from the War Memorial rafters, lost among banners (above right) honoring the defunct Stars and Blazers hockey teams and Canastota boxer Carmen Basilio.

"They probably should have a showcase with some photos and some memorabilia," Nats author David Ramsey said. "They should probably have a plaque, this is where the Nats won the 1955 NBA title."

Less than a mile from the War Memorial, a plaque below an oversized shot clock (above) says "this clock honors the rule that changed basketball and saved the NBA." In 1954, Nationals owner Danny Biasone and GM Leo Ferris created the 24-second shot clock to increase scoring and speed up the slow, boring game.
"It made the game more exciting as well so it has a tremendous impact not only on the N-B-A but on basketball and other sports," Syracuse Sports Corporation President Bill Motto said.

The monument is in front of an Armory Square Starbucks instead of across the street from the War Memorial because it's quite visible, Motto said. "What's great about it is it's in such a place that so many people can view it every year, all year around."

In Driver's Village in Cicero, is The Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame. Although not the most conventional place for a hall of fame, four Nationals are enshrined here, owner Danny Biasone and players Billy Gabor, Paul Seymour, and Dolph Schayes.

"For people who go there and see the visuals and see the memorabilia, see Dolph's number four jersey (below), that keeps the Nats alive, so to speak," Hall of Fame Historian Bob Snyder said.

Soon after Schayes and the Nationals moved away, Dave Bing, Jim Boeheim, and the Orange replaced the Nats as Syracuse's basketball team. The memory of the Nationals faded as years went by and generations passed, with the hall of fame enshrinements, shot clock monument, and championship banner, small reminders of a team and era that once was.

"It's rare to have a memory that is just pure happiness," Nats author Ramsey said. "Used to be, every year there's fewer people who smile and think about that day, because they die unfortunately."
It is important for the community to remember the Nationals, just like any other part of its history, History Curator Dennis Connors said. However, history goes through cycles, so even if Syracuse's memory of the Nats faded away, it could be re-discovered 50 years from now.

Westcott Nation No More

In the southeast quadrant of Syracuse lies a neighborhood filled with people of different cultural, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds. It's a neighborhood that was once known for it's social activism and community involvement. It was once known as Westcott Nation.

Where did the name come from?

"[Larry Hoyt and his friends] were listening to an interview, Abbie Hoffman’s being grilled before congress or something like that," explains Jason Eaton, a local financial advisor and community activist who read Hoyt's book on the occurence. "And they asked him what his place of residence was and he said it was the Woodstock nation and apparently Larry Hoyt turned to his friend and said yeah we’re from the Westcott nation. So apparently it was fairly informal...but it stuck."

But it only stuck for so long. Many of the current student residents had no idea what Westcott Nation was or had even heard of it. Westcott Community Center Executive Director Steve Susman blames it on the business property owners for not being community minded.

"Mostly they're not community-minded and don't interact with the community groups which are trying to get them to form a business association or to pitch in to help beautify the street or be active or at least express their ideas. It's hard to get them even to talk to you," Susman said. He emphasized the effect the closing of the Westcott Cinema had in 2007, which is now the Westcott Theater, an 800-seat performing-arts venue that Susman says is too big for a tiny neighborhood.

"Two in the morning...600 people spilling out into this tiny neighborhood, most of whom have parked illegally cause there's not enough parking for that number and there are tour buses on the street and I've heard a couple of the other business owners complain bitterly that their customers couldn't get on the street and they lost business because of the Westcott Theater."

Another issue that's been bringing Westcott Nation down has been the "increasing number of absentee landlords here who don't keep up their properties," says Eaton. Dan Greenblatt, a junior at Syracuse University, has experienced this problem firsthand. His landlord for his old apartment at 816 Livingston Avenue lived in New York City.

"Every time we needed something fixed it never happened cause she's not even around," says Greenblatt. "We'd e-mail her and she'd call someone and they'd never show up. Just horrible organizational skills, just really horrible to deal with."

Both Susman and Eaton had solutions for this issue. Susman is among many pushing the Syracuse Common Council to follow Rochester's model, particularly when it came to shoveling snow.

"Rochester adds 14 dollars to every home owner's taxes and they do all the sidewalks in the entire city for that," says Susman.

Eaton wants to get the community members involved.

"I think that there should be a mechanism in place for the people who live here to see that a house is on the market, buy it before some absentee landlord does and then own and manage it well so that we can collect the rents from the income and provide a nice environment and a nice neighborhood for people," said Eaton.

People such as Susman and Eaton and organizations such as the Westcott Community Center may try to improve the neighborhood that is Westcott Nation. But while the physical area may improve, the mentality of Westcott Nation has long faded away.

Click here to listen to the story.

Where Is Lacrosse Going?

According to U.S. Lacrosse, lacrosse is the fastest growing sport for high school kids. The sport has had a huge jump, up 138% in just the last decade, and now has 228,000 athletes in high schools. And lacrosse is a sport Central New Yorkers know pretty well. Denver University assistant coach and former All-American Princeton goalie Trevor Tierney says the rest of the country is going to find out more about the game soon.

"I really trust that this sport will become one of the biggest sports in the county as more people become familiar with it," Tierney says. "Now you're seeing 70,000 people starting to fill up NFL stadiums so we're really catching onto it and I think its just because its an exciting fun game".

But, colleges outside the hotbeds of lacrosse (Maryland, New England, and New York to name a few) aren't sold on collegiate lacrosse yet. Despite 41,935 fans and ESPN exposure at Gillette Stadium for last year's national championship classic between Syracuse and Cornell, Rob Edson, senior Associate Director of Athletics at Syracuse Unversity, says the exposure isn't always enough.

"At the end of the day, we're never going to make money in men's lacrosse," Edson said.

And Syracuse is the premiere program for men's lacrosse, and still it is a hard sell. Edson pulls out a calculator to hammer the point home. Syracuse brings in about $350,000 from ticket sales in one season, which is about half of its scholarship budget.

"So we have to double our attendance, and we're the leader in the country in attendance," Edson said. "We would have to double our attendance just to have a chance to cover the scholarship portion".

Money is one of the issues facing the growth of Division I lacrosse, but others find another reason. Title IX. Edson says its hard to add a men's team because it just exacerbates the problem of gender equality in athletics.

"Well, the biggest thing holding it back at the college level is Title I," Tierney agrees.

Title IX and the BCS. John Paul has been coaching Michigan club lacrosse for 13 seasons. The team is looking for its third straight Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association championship, but he doesn't see it becoming a varsity sport anytime soon.

"Smaller schools, including Division I schools, add lacrosse, and at big football schools they just don't need to do that," Paul says. "This is a 100 million dollar athletic department that is completely driven by football".

There is no doubt lacrosse is a growing game.

"There's very few among us that think lacrosse will fall back into a rabbit hole of a niche sport," said Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse magazine.

Tierney says the future of the game is in big time venues like the New Meadowlands Stadium at the Big City Classic or M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for the National Championship.

Paul still thinks it should stay on campus.

"And as much as these big events are great to draw attention to the sport and get big crowds, the kinda take away from the really collegiate atmosphere that lacrosse could be," he said.

Wherever lacrosse goes, big venues or small fields, playing club or D-I schedules, West Genessee High School head coach Mike Messere says there will always be kids who love the game. And that is all that really matters.

Click here to listen to the full story.

Hannibal High School battles to keep its athletic teams

With New York state forced to make cuts because of a budget deficit, Hannibal High School is battling with the Hannibal Board of Education to keep its athletic teams. The school is located in Hannibal, NY which is about 45 minutes northwest of Syracuse. The school has about 650 students, and about half of them particpate in a sport.
Junior Zack Welling plays on the school's football and basketball teams. As he dribbles a basketball in the school's empty gymnasium and looks up at the banners hanging on the walls, he says he's hoping he'll have a chance to play in front of packed crowds next season.

“I’d be crushed," said Welling. "I’d be devastated. It’s basically my life. Sports are. If we’re not doing it during the season, we’re training in the offseason, and we are just doing anything we can do to get better.”
The board of education needs to lessen a budget gap of more than $200,000. The school lost some junior varsity teams in 2005, but got them back after the booster club raised around $79,000. However, Hannibal never lost any varsity teams.

Principal Brian Schmitt says cutting athletics would create a lot of negatives.

“We would have less opportunities for our kids to be involved," says Schmitt. "Probably we would have a significant decrease in attendance. A significant decrease in the grades our students are receiving. I would say our disciplinary will rise up as well as probably the crime in the community.”

Junior Kate Sullivan is a top student and a starter on the varsity soccer, volleyball, and softball teams. She said sports helps refresh her mind after long and stressful days of school.

“The reason why I’m an honors student, and the reason why I stay in my classes and go to school is because of sports," says Sullivan. "If I didn’t have sports I probably wouldn’t do half of my homework that I do.”

Schmitt says sports helps students learn a lot of valuable lessons that help them later in life.

“It gives them something to look forward to, to focus on," says Schmitt. "It teaches discipline. It teaches self-reliance. It also teaches teamwork. And again, the biggest piece is it’s an incentive for what they go to school for other than their academics.”

This whole situation has helped the student body come together to fight for their beliefs. Zach Welling, Kate Sullivan, and Nancy Perry’s son Brian formed a group called “Save Our Schools”. Around 585 of the school’s 650 students are in the club. The group had a silent day a few months ago where they did not talk or participate in classes.

“This whole time I’ve been working here, I’ve never seen students come together as one and actually carry something out like this," said Welling.

The group has also sent letters to Assemblyman Bob Oaks, Senator Darrel Aubertine, and Governor David Patterson. Save Our Schools also participated in a trash pickup in Hannibal to show it cares about the community.

The school received good news at the budget meeting April 21st. The board included sports in the budget and set it at 25 and a half million dollars. It also has a 2.99 percent tax levy, which is the amount the district has to raise through property, housing, and business taxes. Now the residents just need to approve the budget May 18th. Hannibal football coach John Manion says he doesn't want his players to tell people to vote "yes" for the budget, but he's giving them some different advice.

“I’m telling the kids that now is your final push," says Manion. "This is when you need to get out there and don’t try to tell people to vote yes, but tell them they need to vote.”

The slogan of the Hannibal Warriors is "Purple Pride Never Dies". The banner hangs in the school's gymnasium, and the students made signs with their school's alma mater on it for their silent day in March.

Come May 18th, Zack Welling, Kate Sullivan, and the rest of the students at Hannibal High School just want to make sure their “Purple Pride never dies.”

Click below to listen to the story

Syracuse Relay for Life

The Syracuse University Relay for Life event was held in the Carrier Dome on April 10th. Relay for Life consists of teams of up to 15 people where at least one person per team is walking around the Dome at all times. SU Relay for Life co-advocacy chair, co-advocacy chair, Justin Cole, says this is to symbolize that "Cancer never sleeps so neither will we." The event started at six in the evening, and ended at six in the morning.

During the event, a one hour ceremony called the Luminaria was held to honor people that are currently battling cancer, and those that have lost that battle. Inside of the Carrier Dome was completely dark during the Luminaria except for decorated white bags with glow sticks inside them to honor cancer victims. These bags lined the track where people walked, and everyone remained silent.

Gina Blaszka, a sophomore at Syracuse University, was one Relay for Life participant that had a bag in honor of a loved one. Gina's mother, Judy Blaszka, had a rare form of ovarian cancer and passed away on October 23rd. Gina says that while she enjoyed the Luminaria ceremony, it was the most difficult part of Relay for her.

"Last year I remember thinking I could never imagine if my bag turns from 'In support of' to 'In memory of'," said Gina. "Just the fact that that's what my bag said really hit home."

The Syracuse Relay for Life raised $153,110 this year. This was the most ever announced at a Syracuse University Relay for Life. As Betsy Guilfoil, the Event Manager and American Cancer Society representative, explained, Syracuse University is known for having a successful Relay each year.

"Syracuse University Relay for Life is definitely the largest within the Central New York area," said Guilfoil. "Last year they were given an award, they were one of the top five in the country."
For an audio version of the story, click here.

Recycling in Syracuse

The idea of recycling is pretty easy. Students like Angela Laurello, a sophomore at Syracuse University, like to think that they are making a difference by throwing away their used containers into recycling bins. However, Associate Director of Sustainability at Syracuse University Steve Lloyd says people are often misled as to what can actually be recycled.

"Anything that's plastic that's one or two but is called stackable or crackable like yogurt containers are not recyclable," says Lloyd. He says plastic bottles will contain a number that determines whether or not the material can be recycled, and most of the time, they are not.

Research assistant and director of the Green Campus Initiative group at the School of Environmental Science and Forestry Justin Heavey explains that this is because most products are made to be used only once.

"They're not really designed to be used and then broken down again so I think some industries are moving towards starting with better products."

So people like Laurello who think they are making a difference are really only adding to the waste stream. Where do these cups end up?"

"Trash," says Lloyd.

A recent trash audit done by members of the Green Campus Initiative program at SUNY-ESF found nearly 500 papers cups over the course of one day in the trash, all which Heavey says will end up in landfills.

"Two thirds of what was in there was in fact trash but there was still one third that could have been composted or recycled both of which we have facilities for on campus," says Heavey.

The audit proves that SUNY-E-S-F students are still unsure of just what is and is not recycleable. However, Heavey says the real initiative should be a change to using more re-useable products, rather than just recycling.

"And I'm a big proponent on things that can be reused because even when you recycle you're eating or dinking out of something that was made for one use and then to use it again it has to be melted down and into another product so you're adding energy and other products and water and pollution just to recycle that into something else when you could be using a sturdier product."

Hear the whole story here.

Chiefs Anticipate the Arrival of Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg walked off the mound as a Harrisburg Senator for the last time. The first overall pick by the Nationals in last years draft started the season for AA Harrisburg, and after five starts has been promoted to AAA Syracuse. He will make his debut start on Friday.

Click here to listen to radio report.

"Strasburg has everything," said Noah Coslov, a former reporter for who last year presented Strasburg with college baseball's Golden Spikes award, "He'll be a number one starter wherever he goes. There are no flaws in his game."

Chiefs General Manager John Simone envisioned Strasburg playing for the Chiefs since the Nationals drafted him into the organization last year. The team will certainly take advantage of the financial advantages that Strasburg brings. Simone said that the team accepted an offer from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network to allow Chiefs games to be broadcasted in the Washington D.C. area. Chiefs fans have also been able to purchase Strasburg jerseys since the beginning of the year.

"There's a lot of interest in them," said souvenir shop employee Tom Bergamen, "They've been one of our top items. They're selling almost every day."

Jersey sales may indicate a strong interest level of Strasburg from the Chiefs fan base. Though major league caliber players have put on Chiefs uniforms in the past, Chiefs fans seldom get to see a player with the potential of Strasburg. The arrival of the phenom pitcher is sure to draw capacity crowds to Alliance Bank Stadium, but many regular attending Chiefs fans see it as just another day at the ballpark.

"You want to see a winner ," said Chiefs fan Sam Ruppy, "It seems like they've got a pretty good core this year and hopefully Strasburg will help add to their success."

SU Students Blowing Up On the Music Scene

Mouth's Cradle is a band made up of two students, Syracuse University senior Brandon Linn and sophomore Kevin Hegedus. Both of them are from Allentown, Pennsylvania.
"Actually Brandon and I lived just a few blocks away from eachother. At home, I mean we went to high school together," Hegedus said, "but it was a really big high school so we didn’t know eachother until after I graduated."

When they finally did meet, Linn knew they were onto something.

"So through mutual friends I met Kevin, and Kevin is like a really unique guy and I was a really unique guy," Linn said, "so we combined our forces to make Mouth’s Cradle and you know it came about this sounds that I was like totally unfamiliar with but yet totally happy and proud of at the same time."

The duo started making music together, but they didn't take off until they met SU freshman Max Gredinger. Gredinger is in the Bandier School of Music Business, in the college of Visual and Performing Arts. He created and runs the blog, On top of that, he says runs the promotion team for Mike Posner and works on the promotion team for Big Sean, two major artists in the hip-hop industry.
Gredinger is not your prototypical "hip-hop" manager/promoter.

"I’m a white Jewish kid from the suburbs who knows more about hip hop than probably anyone else that you’ll ever meet. "
And that fits perfectly with Mouth's Cradle style of hip-hop.

"Rappers, try to use really hard sample and really rough stuff," Linn says, "And we’re literally sampling the Pokemon theme song and making this crazy rap."

Gredinger says the world is ready for that type of hip-hop.

"The game has changed so much and it went from being a middle lower in terms of hip hop being a middle lower class art form, done in really Brooklyn and like L.A. and like New York City area," He said, "But now its just kind of this internet movement and like being from the suburbs is a new part of hip hop, which is so beyond me."

And the sound that Mouth's Cradle creates, it can't really be categorized as just Hip-Hop.

"Now I would say theyre an electric hip hop duo, which would piss off so many people because it’s a cluster of random and arguably obscure genres." Gredinger says

Clearly that sounds is working. Cradle's first single, 'Honey From a Stone' is number sixty-one in the Pop section of Itunes, and Linn says that's pretty impressive.

"That's above Adam Lambert and we weren't on American Idol"

But success didn't come without problems. Hegedus has crohn's disease, an intestinal disease that makes digestion difficult. He had to miss this semester to recover from surgery he had. He was doing this all while the band was making their first album, The Next Big Thing.

"That was a huge roadblock because I had to work every day and there were just some days when I was so sick and there was just no way I could, be inspired or be able to do creative things," Hegedus said, "and obviously surgery I had to recover from that."

But Linn says in the end Kevin's crohn's turned into a positive for the band.

"Emotionally Kevin was in a really tough, but like I always say, he wrote some of best lyrics at that point because he was in such a deep state," Linn said, "And just literally like lying in bed and just writing lyrics and at one point lying in a hospital bed just writing lyrics."
And now Linn says the band is ready to keep pushing forward this summer.
"We’re putting out a mixtape this summer which is just gonna be really cool because to go along with our unique sound, we’re gonna make a pretty unique mix tape."

As for the future after the summer, Gredinger is pretty optimistic, to say the least.

"Yea, they’re gonna be huge. I wouldn’t, if I dind’t believe it, like I said it about Posner two years ago, and now he’s signed to Sony J. Records, I mean I’m always right about this stuff frankly. Yea, they’re gonna be enormous."

To hear the piece on Mouth's Cradle, click here.

International Adoptions Nationally Low, Affecting Agencies in CNY

According to the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, the number of international adoptions to the United States in 2009 compared to 2004 has decreased by approximately 9,000. In Central New York, agencies are definitely feeling the difference.

Mary Capocefalo is a social worker at Family Connections, an adoption agency in Cortland.

"Probably 10 years ago, I was personally doing about two or three a month. Now I do one every six months," she says concerning the number of cases she handles.

Capocefalo says the main reasons for the decrease is money and time.

"It's much more expensive, it's more more complex than it used to be."

The New Life Adoption Agency in Syracuse specifies in adoptions from China. Attorney for New Life, Marsha Hunt, says the cost is getting more and more expensive.

"I wanna say that probably between $25,000 and $30,000 for a family to adopt including travel when you consider all the costs."

Not only are the costs getting bigger, but the waiting period for adopted children to physically be with their adoptive parents is getting longer. Barbara Graffeo is a social worker at the New Beginnings Adoption Agency at its Florida office and says what used to have a reputation for being fast has now changed.

Marsha Hunt explains the dramatic increase in the waiting period at New Life.

"Right now for a family to actually receive a referral, some of our families are up to about four and a half years."

Capocefalo, Hunt and Graffeo all say the Hague Convention has had a big effect on adoptions.

Graffeo says the Hague sets up rules and regulations for all countries who are involved.

"The international part of it, of course, is that they're trying to do the best thing they can for the children in each country, making sure that they're 100 percent legally free for adoption before they're placed," she says. "And then making sure that the countries that they're placing those children in are following like regulations in their countries."

Graffeo says unfortunately the convention has made the process more complicated because it requires another part of government to oversee these regulations.

Tom Royal adopted one of his daughters from Ethiopia three years go. He and his wife are currently trying to adopt again, but are finding it more difficult than the first time.

"It's harder now. We both have to go and we have to go instead of me just going once, we have to go twice," he says about traveling to Ethiopia before they can legally adopt another child.

Greg Franklin is an adoption attorney in Rochester and says the decrease can affect diversity in CNY.

"The more internationally adopted kids who come into a community, the more of a melting pot you've got," he says.

The most important thing of all this, Mary Capocefalo says, is connecting children needing to be adopted with families and couples wanting children.

"I’m concerned that people who want to adopt, who are willing to spend the money, willing to raise a child, we’re not bringing those two together. There’s children without parents and there’s families that want to love children and we’re not bringing them together.”

Safety Around SU an Ongoing Process

It was a walk Ben Tepfer had made many times before. Tepfer was used to walking home to Sadler Hall late at night. As a freshman, Tepfer would come home later than 3 in the morning at least once a week from his job at the Daily Orange.

“When I would go out with people, I’d always walk back with people,” said Tepfer. “but I guess that was at the beginning. Then I realized that things don’t generally happen.”

Tepfer sees things a little differently now. Back on April 11th of last year, two men approached Tepfer near the Irving Avenue Parking Garage on his walk home to Sadler. Tepfer was on the phone and didn’t really notice the silver sedan that was pulling up to him. The robbers pushed him against a fence and threatened him with a shotgun. The men took off with Tepfer’s wallet, his cell phone and the keys to his dorm room. The sophomore TRF student is still shaken up when he talks about what happened.

“For the rest of that night and probably for the next couple of days after I would describe a trauma state where you don’t really feel anything like a rush of adrenaline that’s actually really what it was,” said Tepfer. “It was almost surreal.”

Tepfer is not the only SU student who has been affected by neighborhood crime. Sophomore Visual and Performing Arts student Tom Howland had a similar incident happen to him just two months ago. Someone broke into Howland’s South Campus apartment early in the morning back on February 20th. The robbers took off with Howland’s new computer, his TV, his Play Station Three and several of his DVDs.

When Howland got a phone call from his roommate about his things being missing, he didn’t believe him at first.

“I get a call while I’m in Kimmel, my roommate telling me that all my stuff is gone,” Howland said. “Previously he did jokes like take my stuff like last year. And he said ‘Seriously. Your stuff isn’t here.’”

Robberies like the one that happened to Howland are nothing new to SU or even the whole east side of Syracuse. Last year alone, there were over 60 robberies and over 50 motor vehicles thefts reported on the east side of Syracuse. Even Comstock Avenue, where three SU dorms are located, has not been crime-free. A total of 73 larcenies, 39 burglaries and six car thefts have occurred there over the last three years.

Harry Lewis, the treasurer of the Southeast University Neighborhood Association, says that there are a number of reasons why so much crime has taken place near the university.

“Where you have more concentration of students I think you have the possibility of having more break-ins,” he said. “You have housing down there, section eight housing. And a lot of the people like that will constantly be on the lookout for open doors.”

Despite all the crime, Assistant Chief of Public Safety Mike Rathbun says that the Syracuse University area is actually one of the safest parts of the city because of its huge police presence.

“Of the law enforcement presence on the hill. You have Syracuse police, you have Syracuse University, you have ESF police, we have UpState Police, you have the Veterans Police,” Rathbun said. You can’t stay anywhere on campus and not see a police vehicle drive by every two minutes.”

Rathbun also said that he thinks that a lot of the crimes that happen near SU are preventable and that students need to be more careful.

“Students are not being very observant. They’re walking with their head down they have iPhones on, they’re talking on the phone, they’re not really alert to what’s going on around them. So they’re letting people approach them,” he said.

DPS sends out emails when a robbery or any other safety incident happens on campus. DPS has sent out 106 emails since the beginning of the 2004 school year. The purpose of the emails is to try to get students to be more aware of their surroundings. It seems like the emails are working. Since moving to Ackerman Avenue, Mike Couzens has made several changes to his daily routine to help him stay safe.

“I do a lot of different things,” Couzens said. “I always make sure to take my GPS out of my car, you know. Take out anything that’s going to be worth any money. It’s doing the simple things. Just being smart about it.”

For students, just like the rest of college, trying to stay safe is a learning experience.

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Photo taken from

Child Abuse in Onondaga County

The Onondaga County Commissions Office says there is a "sharp increase" in child abuse cases in northern counties in New York State and especially in Onondaga County. Deputy Commissioner of Social Services Brian McKee says the number of child abuse cases increased last year and is increasing even more this year. He says they "received more child protective concerns this year than in actually the first quarter in any other year."

The Executive Director of McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Site Julie Cecile says in this first quarter, the Site's medical team saw 77, which is 22 cases more than the first quarter of last year. Over half of the cases dealt with kids under six years old, and almost half involved sexual abuse.

McMahon/Ryan and the Commissions Office define child abuse as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse can include maltreatment and neglect.

Onondaga County Sheriff Department deals with only physical and sexual abuse. Sergeant Jack Schmidt of the abused persons unit says on a slow day, the unit can see two or three cases. He says he thinks the number of cases being reported is also increasing. People were once scared to report cases of abuse because of social norms, but they are now making the process more comfortable. He said it was even more uncomfortable for male children who were victims of sexual abuse by another man. "Not only is there stigma that you're the victim of a sex crime," he said. "But you'er also the victim of a homosexual act, and people were very uncomfortable talking about that because they are openly admitting that tehy were involved in a homosexual relationship."

Anne Galloway, a nurse at the Child Abuse Referral and Evaluation (CARE) program at SUNY Upstate Medical University says the most cases the program sees involve sexual abuse. She says lately they've seen around the same number of patients. But they have seen an increase in physical abuse cases.

Julie Cecile of McMahon/Ryan says she thinks physical abuse is increasing because of the poor economy. She says "people are getting more and more frustrated in their lives and the easiest target is the littlist of the little."

Cecile thinks the biggest problem is lack of community awareness. She says people do not know what is going on and therefore do not know how to stop it. McMahon/Ryan recently started putting up posters to make people aware. Cecile says it's important so people can see then and "understand that this is a problem and that they need to pick up the phone and they need to call."

Sgt. Schmidt says he thinks the community is aware of child abuse. He says they need to continue to make the process comfortable so people keep report cases and it's important for mandated reporters to be aware of child abuse signs.
Listen to the story here.
**Picture taken from; pinwheels set up for child abuse awareness month

Team A Newscast April 7 4:00

Well, I was the only person left in the class who did not produce already so I felt a lot of pressure especially being the first newscast. I think everything went as planned except for my printing. I printed the scripts landscape for some reason and I did not have time to print them out correctly before we went on. Erika did a great job as anchor considering the scripts and the timing at the end. (We made it, it wasn't anything too painful.)

Click here to listen to newscast.

The West Virginia story, looking back, was definitely out of place. I don't know why I felt I absolutely had to have a national story in there. I took a very long time to write the stories I had to and since we were the first newscast that did not work out very well and thats probably why I messed up the scripts. Overall, everything went according to planned except the scripts. Producing is definitely stressful but I know what to do for next time.

Team E Newscast 4:30 April 28

Today was the last newscast day and my second and last time being producer. It went a lot smoother than last time and it might have been since we were the last newscast but I also found myself not rushing as much as the last time. I personally thought everything went well considering we had Allie doing a live shot from the LeMoyne baseball game. I cut the tease and went to "Now This" when I really could've just left it because we had 50-ish seconds coming back from the commercial break and we ended up bringing in a floater. That's the only thing I regret.

Click here to listen to newscast.

Jake did a great in studio story about the golf courses with the chilly weather. He gave Ryan some extra work with the 5 bytes he had but it did make for a good story to listen to.
Emily did her phoner on the Green Tech Center and got in touch with the Director right away with some good sound. We lead with that story in to 2 other environmental stories and then into the weather related stories (Jakes and Allie at the game)
Overall I am a lot happier with how smooth it went before we actually went on air and during because we were somewhat on time and even light!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Computer use in Syracuse City Schools

Computers are becoming an important part of most jobs and, therefore, using computers is becoming an important part of school.

"In order to, you know, survive and thrive in todays world they [kids] need those computer skills," Onondaga County Public Library's Jeanne Keller said.

This increased use of computers can be seen in Syracuse City Schools, except there is sometimes a problem - some students do not own computers at home.

"If our students aren't learning computer skills with us then they're not necessarily learning them in other places," District Library Coordinator Pat Vilello said. Vilello says it is important for kids to know how to use computers and that is why teachers sometimes assign homework that students need a computer to complete.

"They [the schools] definitely need to assume that some of their students won't have access to a computer," Joanne Trask from the White Branch Library said. Vilello says the teachers do assign work based on the assumption that at least one student in their class doesn't have one, but she does not know the number of students in the district who don't own a computer.

Allegra Smith, who recently graduated Henninger High School, said most of the computer work she had to do was typing papers, but she was glad she had a computer at home so she didn't have to spend a lot of time at school or in the library just to use a computer.

The schools are still doing all they can to make it easier for students that don't have access to a computer at home.

"Any assignment that has to be done for research they [teachers] accommodate the students by using the computer lab," Mary Beth Piazza, a teacher at Grant Middle School, said.

Vilello said that most of the time school computer labs are booked at all times of the day because teachers bring their classes there. She said it is very difficult for the teachers to assign work to be done on the computer without giving the students time to work on it during school hours in case some students don't have a computer at home to do the work.

Another option for students is to stay after school to get their work done. Vilello said the city schools have after school programs that last between an hour or an hour and a half after the school day ends and these programs sometimes include time in the library with computers.

Public libraries in the area are also accessible to students after school. A University of Washington study found that 16 percent of people used a library computer to do homework in the last 12 months. The study also says that a quarter of teenagers in the United States use a library once a week.

Dawn Marmor, the Children's Librarian at the Mundy Branch Library in Syracuse, said that a lot of kids who come to the library do not have a computer at home to use. She said the computers at the library are easily accessible to kids and they don't even need a library card to use them. The library also offers one-on-one instruction to kids if they need assistance.

Marmor said a lot of the time, though, kids aren't even doing school work on the computers.

"Since most of them don't access to a computer at home, they use our computers, most of them, for their entertainment purposes," Marmor said. Joanne Trask from the White Branch Library said she sees a lot of kids playing games on the computer there, as well.

Pat Vilello said the schools will continue to give work to be done on computers, especially since she says she believes the number of students without computers at home is decreasing each year.



Organic farming in New York State increasing, but does not compare to conventional farm numbers

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, there are 36,352 farms in New York State and 1,137 of these farms are involved in some sort of organic production.

Anton Burkett from Early Morning Farm in Genoa, New York is an organic farmer and has owned Early Morning Farm for 12 years. Burkett says for him, organic farming is not only important because it is better for the earth, but he says it is also healthier for the body.

"We could hook you up to a nutrient mix in the hospital or you could carry an IV bag around with you and you would never have to eat real food ever again. We could keep you alive for years and years and you may grow faster even if we put the right mix in, we could get you to grow faster. So it's the same thing with plants," Burkett said.

According to the USDA's 21-page Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, organic products are those made without the use of synthetic chemicals.

Karen Abbott from Abbott Farms in Baldwinsville, New York says she isn't sold on the idea of organic farming. Abbott says she is more interested in monitoring and moderation with integrated pest management.

"We do certain scouting practices and measurements really carefully done through weather system, weather monitoring system so that we're only applying the bare minimum to produce a marketable crop," Abbott said.

Burkett says farming organically can be more expensive than more conventional agriculture, but one USDA program is working to alleviate some of the costs associated with going organic.

The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Center EQUIP-Organic Initiative was authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill and gives organic producers or growers transitioning into organic production to apply for up to$20,000 a year in funding for up to six years.

In order to become "organic," producers must be certified by a certifying agency. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York is one of these agencies, and the same one responsible for certifying the Early Morning Farm.

"After they finish the application process, it goes into the office, they process it and make sure everything complies with the organic standards and then send a farm inspector or a processor inspector out to the facilities to just check everything out and make sure everything they said on their application is actually what is going on on the farm or facility. And then it gets processed and they get a certificate of organic certification if everything goes well," said NOFA-NY Executive Director Kate Mendenhall.

Groups such as Community Supported Agriculture of Central New York work to support local organic farmers such as Burkett, who says he works with a CSA-CNY group in Ithaca. Dianna Winslow is a CSA-CNY board member in Syracuse and says the group's main goal is to connect eaters with growers in a local economy.

"We have to find, as a human race, a more sustainable way to grow things and eat ways that are seasonal and that preserve the land and feed the land as well as take from it and use the land more appropriately," Winslow said.

Sarah Johnston from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets says organic production is increasing, but the future of organic farming is unknowable.

"The future of organic farming is going to be determined by a combination of government policy and consumer demand. How fast? Who knows? We are in a recession right now," Johnston said.

Burkett says the Early Morning Farm is doing well and is expanding every year - with more employees and more products and he says he expects this will continue in the future.
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From Nightclub to Organic Restaurant - 617 West St. is Getting a "Green" Makeover

617 West Street, Syracuse, N.Y.
Sunlight shines through the first floor of the building, where the organic restaurant will be built.
Developers Cosmo Fanizzi and Christian Van Luven stand where the vegetable garden will soon be built.

Walk down West Street in Syracuse's Near West Side, and the building at 617 looks like nearly every other building on the block -- desperately in need of some sprucing up. Part of the roof is missing and the only piece of furniture in the building is a rusty, old armoire that looks like it came right out of a set on Beauty and the Beast. But by the end of this year, Roji Tea Lounge owner Christian Van Luven says the building will look completely different.

Christian Van Luven bought the abandoned building with his business partner Cosmo Fanizzi in January. According to Van Luven, it used to be a nightclub. Van Luven and Fanizzi are turning it into an organic restaurant with a residential space on top.

They want their building to be as environmentally friendly as possible, complete with solar panels, vegetable gardens and something called green infrastructure.

"We just formed this LLC, Activism and Commerce," said Van Luven. "When you are involved with business, I've come to find it means more to follow a sustainable approach."

With Syracuse's combined-sewer overflow problem, a problem that causes raw sewage to enter Onondaga Creek and Lake during storms, Fanizzi says he and Van Luven are focusing on implementing green infrastructure to help stop the problem.

According to Khris Dodson from the Environmental Finance Center, green infrastructure is storm water management.

"This means rain barrels, rain gardens and cisterns," he said. "Anything that helps capture rainwater before it enters the system."

Van Luven and Fanizzi reached out to Dodson because implementing this technology can be tricky. In Syracuse, building codes aren't structured around this new type of architecture.

According to Andrew Maxwell, Director of Planning and Sustainability for the Office of the Mayor, zoning codes are 40 years old.

But Maxwell is in full support of the project. He says Van Luven and Fanizzi won't be able to do the kinds of things they want to, it just might take a little more time.

Fanizzi says he and Van Luven will do what they can now, like constructing a green roof that uses plants to capture rainwater before it hits the ground, and save the bigger projects for later.

"They're the authority, and we're more like the dreamers right now," he said.

One of those bigger projects includes using collected rainwater for human use, such as cleaning dishes and flushing toilets. Dodson says this is not allowed in New York right now.

"We are a litigious society," he said. "We are so afraid of becoming sick for anything that we'd rather just code to protect everyone without thinking of the little things that could still be useful and important."

But Dodson says local government is catching up.

"I think we have the right types of players and the right political will," he said. "People always point to Portland, Oregon, and Northern California, but I think for a rustbelt community like Syracuse, we are doing well with moving forward."

Van Luven agrees saying, "The cool thing is now, going to city hall, you have a lot of younger people who understand what all this stuff is."

First District Common Councilor Matt Rayo, 24, is a graduate of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

"I would definitely support looking at the current policies and regulations regarding these kinds of issues and see what we could do to change them," Rayo said.

Fanizzi says the project has been an exciting process, especially because it has raised awareness about the possibility of updating codes. He also says he hopes their project will help others follow in their footsteps so Central New York can be a leader in sustainable development.

Dodson says this is a definite possibility.

"If done correctly, Central New York could be one of the leaders in the nation for how to green up your community and do things in a more sustainable way," he said. "The more we have people like Cosmo and Christian, the easier it gets for everyone else who follows their lead. In many ways, they're trail-blazers."

Dodson says it's perfect timing for the project since there are a number of other "greening" projects going on in Syracuse right now. Among the Onondaga Lake cleanup is the Near West Side Initiative, an initiative to revitalize and green the Near West Side of Syracuse. It's happening right where Van Luven and Fanizzi's building is located.

The Director of the Near West Side Initiative, Maarten Jacobs, says he applauds the job Van Luven and Fanizzi are doing as private developers within the larger initiative.

"Green infrastructure is key, it ties in exactly with what we are doing," he said. "We've been excited to see West Street come back up. It's great what they are trying to do, especially in terms of having a restaurant since there's a lack of restaurants."

Van Luven and Fanizzi say they hope to open the restaurant in September and the living space a year from then. With a busy summer ahead, Van Luven says he's excited to start the construction phase and finally get the shovel in the ground.

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