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Uptown Radio’s Local Newscast for May 3, 2013

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For Columbia Radio News in New York, I’m Tony Maglio.

Former New York State Senator Shirley Huntley worked as a government informant in 2012.

The Queens Democrat secretly recorded seven elected officials, according to court documents. Prosecutors indicated that Huntley’s recordings may help bring charges against another, unnamed senator, and two other elected officials. Huntley resigned last year after pleading guilty to a corruption scandal in which she admitted to embezzling nearly $88,000. Huntley is scheduled to be sentenced on May 9.

Two former associates of New York City comptroller John Liu were convicted on Thursday for their roles in an illegal fund-raising scheme. Liu, who is a candidate for mayor, has not been charged with a crime and maintains his innocence.

LIU_ACT_NC1.wav: “They can look at anything and everything they want…voters of New York City.”

Police divers are searching for the body of a pilot on the bottom of the Hudson River. A World War II-era amphibious airplane crashed and sank on Thursday.

State police detected debris where the plane went down near the river’s east bank in Germantown – 40 miles south of Albany. Today, divers located the tail section. The pilot is presumed dead.

An autopsy has determined that a 14-year-old girl found charred and naked on a Brooklyn beach was killed. The medical examiner’s office says that Shaniesha Forbes died of “homicidal asphyxiation,” which includes suffocation and smothering. Forbes’ body was discovered on Gerritsen (HARD G, GERIT-sen) Beach in January.

The city needs to take steps to handle natural disasters better after Superstorm Sandy, Deputy Mayors said today. Suggestions included buying more police boats and developing a system to track patients after hospital evacuations. The city also plans to expand hurricane evacuation areas to encompass 640,000 more people.

On the back of a strong April jobs report, the Dow Jones briefly topped 15,000 today and the S&P climbed above 1,600. Those are both record highs.

Tonight, the Knicks play the Boston Celtics at 7. The Nets host the Chicago Bulls tomorrow at 8 pm. It’s currently 62 degrees and clear. It will be 60s and sunny all weekend.

For Columbia Radio News, I’m Tony Maglio.

Posted in City Life, Newscasts0 Comments

Mixed Martial Arts Questions Legality of Beating People Up

Mixed Martial Arts Questions Legality of Beating People Up

Champion Jon Jones, top, lands an elbow against Chael Sonnen during their UFC 159 Mixed Martial Arts light heavyweight title bout in Newark, N.J., Saturday, April 27,2013. Professional mixed martial arts is illegal in New York. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

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HOST INTRO: Mixed Martial Arts is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. But New York is one of only two states where the sport is banned. Tony Maglio tells us why 2013 may be the year that this changes. Or possibly why it won’t be.

If you’ve never seen a mixed martial arts — or MMA — match before, it can be tough to watch.

[Bring up UFC 121 ambi]

At a 2010 event in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC – which is the “big league” of mixed martial arts — the heavy weight champion is about to lose his title. The challenger and soon-too-be-champ is on top, hammer punching his face and head. There is blood on the mat, all the champ’s. He has a bad cut under his left eye. It’s over quickly. A first-round knock out.

It is this kind of spectacle that led New York legislators to ban professional combat sports in 1997. In 2000, the legislature also cracked down on amateur bouts.

[Fade out UFC ambi]

[Bring up gym ambi]

But that has not put a damper on the dreams of Anthony Pipola. At a gym in midtown, he sees becoming a pro MMA fighter as a way out of his current life.

[Fade down gym ambi]

Pipola: “Currently I dig holes for a living…and it kind of sucks. So I’d rather much try to beat the sh** out of people for a living.”

Pipola’s 31-years-old and from Queens. He’s currently 2-0 as an amateur.

Pipola: “The fighting’s the easy part, the training sucks. The dieting, the conditioning, the strength training, the living like a Buddhist disciple, pretty much removed from everybody and just concentrating on what you have to do – that’s the hard part. The nine minutes of fighting is easy.”

[Bring up gym ambi]

Pipola alternates between two-minute rounds on the heavy bag and wrestling with his coach. He trains six days a week for his next amateur fight on May 25 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. But he would rather fight in New York.

[Fade out gym ambi]

Some legislators, like Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman, want to keep the sport illegal.

Hoylman: “The reason I’m concerned about mixed martial arts is because I have a two-year-old daughter and the main venues where mixed martial arts at a professional level would be held are in my district.” 

And there are activists on Hoylman’s side. One group hosts a web site called Let’s break those initials down: “U-F-C.” The site accuses Ultimate Fighting Championship of sexism and homophobia, and accused one of its stars of having made a ‘how-to’ rape video.”

Mixed Martial Arts can be dangerous, too. Aspiring pro Anthony Pipola certainly has had a few injuries.

Pipola: “Uch, about 7,341.”

all sarcasm aside…

Pipola: “None during fighting, all during training and my conditioning routines. Three broken noses, broken ribs, sprained my back, sprained my knee…

Since MMA in New York is illegal, any bouts that do occur are unregulated. Stephen Koepher is Pipola’s coach and owner of the New York Sambo gym. He says that means anything can happen.

Koepher: “There was an incidence where a gentleman fought on an unregulated show in New York, and he was banned by the Association of Boxing Commissions for having hepatitis. So he couldn’t fight anywhere else, but he fought here in New York where nobody cared to check.”

And that’s not even as bad as it gets. In the past year alone, there have been three deaths in amateur mixed martial arts. Last month, a 35-year-old fighter collapsed and died following an amateur bout in Michigan. There was no doctor on site.

Koepher and other critics of the New York State ban say that legalizing the sport would make it much safer.

Koepher: “And New York right now having a blank slate, actually has an opportunity to make some really important changes.”

It could also be a boon to the state’s economy: The UFC’s own study estimates that legalizing and regulating MMA in New York State would bring in $23 million annually and create over 200 new jobs.

In 2013, for the fourth straight year, the state legislature has taken up a bill to legalize the sport. The past three efforts failed. This year’s bill has passed through the senate and into the assembly. That’s where it sits now.

The reason the bill has been shot down over and over is … a union dispute 2500 miles away.

Culinary Union Local 226 is by far the largest union in Nevada. And it’s locked in a battle with the Fertitta brothers, who own Station Casinos in Las Vegas. The National Labor Relations Board found Station Casinos violated U.S. labor law 82 times in efforts to block the Culinary Union from organizing its employees. Stephen Koepher of New York Combat Sambo says there’s one more thing the Fertitta’s own…

Koepher: “They are also the owners of he UFC. So their beef in Nevada has dragged its way over here to New York. So both parties are sort of using New York MMA as a proxy battleground to take shots at each other. And New York, being a union-friendly state, obviously has some ears that are listening to what the union is having to say.”

New York Legislators are listening because this culinary union is a part of a larger union, UNITE HERE, which has a major presence in New York. Sources with knowledge of the situation in Albany confirm that it is union pressure that has killed the bill to legalize MMA in the past.

And remember that website “UnfitForChildren” which bashes the Ultimate Fighting Championship? That website is connected to Culinary Union Local 226. Though you’d really only know that if you emailed them. Which Uptown Radio did. No one at the website responded to multiple requests for comment, nor did the culinary union or UNITE HERE.

The bill is still up for consideration as the legislative calendar year approaches its summer recess.  And some backers are hopeful. But with only about four weeks left for the bill to get going, other backers say they’ve used up all of their optimism in the past.

Tony Maglio, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in City Life, Culture, Featured, Health1 Comment

Chechen New Yorkers React to Tsarnaev Brothers

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Chechnya has a long history of committing terrorist attacks in Russia, but this is the first in America. Reporter Tony Maglio was in Brighton Beach today. The area has one of the largest Russian populations in America.

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The Tonight Show Is Returning To New York

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Early next year,The Tonight Show will be coming back to the city where it all began more than 50 years ago: New York. The city’s comedians are already getting excited that this move could be their big break. Tony Maglio reports.

Posted in City Life, Culture0 Comments

The Lows of Stand-Up Comedy

HOST INTRO: Stand-up comedy has perhaps more lows than highs. With a job like that, you need friends – if for nothing else to drag them along for the ride. Commentator Tony Maglio shares the story of the worst show ever.

Stand-up comedy is the loneliest gig in the world. It’s just you, on stage, alone, with
a microphone, a stand, and for some reason, always a stool. Yes, there’s a crowd, but
you can’t see them through the blinding stage lights. You only know they’re there if
they laugh. Or groan.

It’s not a coincidence that most comedians are messed up. We’re depressed. We
have anxiety. We were often bullied or come from unhappy homes. We developed a
sense of humor instead of thick skin. We’re different than you.

That’s why comics have to be friends with other comics. No one else can really relate
to our feeling of isolation. You drive to a show alone. You perform alone. And you go
home alone. We don’t get a ton of chicks.

I met Pat and Mike at the Stress Factory Comedy Club. Pat was a natural showman
and friendly with everybody. Mike was an imposing jerk who was mad at the world.
I liked them both immediately.

The three of us started getting booked as a group from Philly to New York to D.C.
and Pittsburgh. We shared more Days Inn beds than your average prostitute. We
did clubs, colleges, bars, restaurants. Shows at halls, fundraisers at strange venues.
In stand-up you’ll perform in places you never even thought a show could be held.
One night I watched my two pals do sets at a bagel store. Even I drew the line

I once took a job opening for a Spin Doctors concert. That would have been great if
it were 1993. It was 2006. The show ended in disaster as the promoter and the club
owner got into a fight and the cops were called before the headliners even hit the
stage. For some reason I gave the promoter another chance, but this time, I dragged
my two best friends along.

The gig was at a bar called “Da Vinci’s Pub” in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. But
considering the clientele, there has never been a less appropriate name for a town.
Perhaps GED-ville would have rung truer.

When we reached the pub it was clear that no one was expecting us. The patrons
were there to booze and watch the NBA game.

But to get paid, we had to go through the motions. Mike went first. Nobody turned
to face the stage or pay attention. The TV volume was still at full blast — it was a
disaster. Mike quickly got into it with a heckler at the bar that hadn’t signed up
for a comedy show. Curbing his ample temper and not wanting to burn my bridge,
Mike brought me up. I didn’t care about the bridge. I spent my time telling the
rowdy, disrespectful crowd exactly what I thought of them. It wasn’t nice and it isn’t
appropriate for public radio. Tension grey thick with big, good ol’ boys that likely
had guns and game hounds in their pick-up trucks outside.

There was just one problem; Pat still had to close the show. God Bless Pat. He
actually tried to do material. He got no laughs, but may have saved a few lives. We
got out of there as fast as possible.

We could’ve been miserable the whole ride home. My friends could’ve blamed me
for a terrible night. But instead we just laughed and made fun of everyone. That’s
what comics do. That’s what friends are for. I quit stand-up shortly after that night.

Posted in Commentaries1 Comment

What To Expect From Pope Francis

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HOST INTRO: The world has a new pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Ber-GOAL-io) of Argentina was chosen on Wednesday. Tony Maglio talked to Rocco Palmo, one of the most prominent U.S. analysts on Catholicism. He said  the election of Pope Francis means quite a bit to young Catholics.

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Cuomo Moves To Save Shoot Em’ Ups In New York

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HOST INTRO: Governor Cuomo passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, exactly two months ago. And it will go into effect a month from today. He’s described it as the “toughest” gun control law in the United States. But he forgot to make a few key exceptions. Tony Maglio reports on one that could affect you in your living room.

The SAFE Act bans the possession of high-capacity magazines and sale of assault weapons in New York. But it was written and passed perhaps too hastily. The act neglected to include exceptions for police officers and Hollywood sets.

So if you’re a fan of Al Pacino and M16 A1 Assault rifles with underslung 39mm Smoothbore grenade launchers with a quadrant rear sights and flip up ladder front sights, you’ll be a fan of this exception. Because without it, this film could not have
been made:

Tony Montana, Scarface: “You wanna play rough? OK! Say Hello to my little friend! OK? (Fade under Narr)You wanna play rough?” (0:11)

OK, “Scarface” wasn’t filmed in New York. But that scene is one of the most recognized assault weapon moments in film history. (Bridge up Scarface Ambi til end) And under the SAFE Act as it currently stands, it would be illegal.

In New York it’s against the law to possess even blank-firing non-guns or imitations. In other words, prop guns can land you in jail. To have these otherwise illegal replicas on set, the production company needs to acquire permits, insurance and
use a licensed prop gun supplier. Licensed pyro technicians and gun handlers are also required on set to supervise props firing blanks.

After realizing the Act’s omission, Governor Cuomo promised what he called a “cleanup amendment” to the act would be in place for cops and Hollywood.

Seneca Sporting Range owner, John DeLoca, has worked on many sets and trained several actors. But not one of them touched a real gun.

DeLoca: “You could come in here and say, ‘I’m Ted Danson.’ I’m sorry, I don’t care if you’re the Pope. Unless you have a license, you can only touch a prop gun on a set. They can rent my facility, they could be here for three days, they could get all kind of permits – but only people who have licenses touch real guns in New York City.” (0:19)

DeLoca played a gun dealer on Ted Danson’s HBO series, “Bored to Death.” He has also shot two episodes of “The Good Wife” at his gun range in Queens, where he and I flipped through his gun magazines together. DeLoca showed me the most popular
assault rifle for film.

DeLoca: “It’s an AK-47, it’s these collapsible folding stocks. Again, anything with a pistol grip further down the trigger or a depresser. They’re looking for these rifles that basically look [like they’re] for war. (0:16)

It’s also the weapon used in the Newtown massacre.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence is an advocacy and education group started in 1993 in response to a fatal shooting of a teacher in Park Slope. Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett doesn’t see any danger with the weapons used in movies.

Gunn Barrett: “These guns are gonna be props, more or less, for filming. No one who shouldn’t have it is gonna be able to get it so there’s not gonna be any risk to public safety of anyone getting a prop gun with no bullets. (0:16)

Gun dealer DeLoca says that in the movie-going experience, it’s the realism of these props that is paramount.

DeLoca: Whether you have seven rounds or five rounds or a big banana clip or small gun or little gun – if they’re gonna make a movie in New York City I think they should make it as real as possible.” (0:10)

Gunn Barrett is very aware of the argument that the high rate of gun violence in the United States is related to violence in the entertainment industry.

Gunn Barrett: “What I would say to that is actually the country that has the most violent video games is not the United States, it’s Japan, and their gun violence rate is almost zero.” (0:09)

So what’s the difference between our country and Japan?

Gunn Barrett: “Well we have an awful lot more guns.” (0:03)

That debate will continue, as will the legislative conversation surrounding gun laws. But in the meantime, the show will go on in New York City. And as soon as the exception is signed, it will continue to include assault-style weapons and banana

Tony Maglio, Columbia Radio News.

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MTA Fare Hikes are Unfair, Say Activists

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And whether you prefer to take the city’s subway or the bus, get ready to fork over more money. The MTA is raising fares this Sunday by 25 cents per ride, or by 8 dollars a month for an unlimited monthly card. One New York City group is encouraging people to fight back. Tony Maglio has the story.

The MTA says it has no choice but to raise the fairs. (0:04)

ADAM: The MTA, as you know, is facing significantly higher costs for
things that we can’t control the rate of their growth. (0:10)

That’s MTA spokesman, Adam Lisberg. He said some of the increase at the turnstiles
is due to subway expansion, but the majority is for employee healthcare, pensions,
and retirement plans. (0:10)

That explanation doesn’t satisfy Jesse Myerson. He’s a 26-year-old organizer from
the group “No Fare Hikes.” Get it? No Fair Hikes? It’s a group that formed at MTA
public hearings in late 2012. The members are not big fans of the most recent fare
increase. And here’s what Myerson wants you to do about it: (0:18)

JESSE: It’s really expensive to get on the Subway. So what we’re asking
is if people have unlimited Metrocards, as they leave the system, if they
can swipe in somebody who doesn’t have an unlimited Metrocard – it
will save that other person money. (0:13)

Myerson wants these riders to wear a “Swipe Back” pin to be noticeable. (0:04)

JESSE: It can create a community of riders who have mutual trust in one
another and can organize and stop the fare hike regime. (0:07)

Myerson estimates that he has “swiped back” a hundred strangers over the years,
and it’s legal. The only thing that’s illegal is to sell a swipe. The MTA’s Adam Lisberg
says more power to them. (0:11)

ADAM: Once you buy an unlimited ride Metrocard, you are free to, if
it is your want, to spend your days standing in a Subway station giving
people free rides. (0:12)

Though he maintains the strategy No Fare Hikes is suggesting just doesn’t add up.

ADAM: If these people think that the best way for the MTA to deal with
a perennial cash shortfall is to make sure that we get LESS money from
riders, their math is as bad as their logic. (0:14)

But it won’t stop the group from trying.

So what would organizer Jesse Myerson do with his money, if not for the fare
increase? (0:07)

JESSE: I might eat a little bit better, as it is I tend to try to buy the
cheapest groceries possible. But if I had another 8 times 12 dollars
a year I would probably get better groceries and eat a little more
TONY: So you’d buy like Boar’s Head turkey is what you’re saying?
JESSE: (Laughs) Yeah maybe something like that. (0:20)

Either way, starting Sunday, New Yorker’s won’t have a choice but to pay more
when they board the subway. Which deli meat you choose is up to you.

Tony Maglio, Columbia Radio News. (0:10)

Posted in City Life0 Comments

Seth MacFarlane: Over the Line For The Oscars?

Seth MacFarlane: Over the Line For The Oscars?

Seth McFarland at Oscars

Seth MacFarlane arrives at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009, in Los Angeles. (Matt Sayles/AP Photo)


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HOST: Finding the right host for the Oscars ceremony has been a challenge in recent years. This year, Seth Macfarlane gets his shot. And while some people aren’t applauding the choice, comics everywhere will be rooting. No matter what happens.

Tony Maglio reports. (0:18)

NARR: Comedian and big-band crooner Seth Macfarlane is either the perfect choice for Oscar host, or a dangerous one.

MacFarlane looks like the boy next door, but his biting satire on “Family Guy” is the material of a much darker mind. His humor has offended a number of celebrities and critics. It’s also made him one of the most popular and panned people in Hollywood.

Recently, MacFarlane got in trouble from jokes he made on the Oscars nomination show. After naming the best supporting actress nominees, MacFarlane said this:

MACFARLANE: “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein” (0:05)

NARR: But that shot at the super-producer is tame by Macfarlane’s standards. What people truly worry about from the director of “Ted,” are jokes like this one: (0:08)

MACFARLANE: “I read Amour was co-produced in Austria and Germany, right? The last time Austria and Germany got together and co-produced something it was Hitler – but this is much better (much better, highly recommended, so much better).” (0:15)

Some people didn’t find that funny. In response to his critics, Macfarlane tweeted: “Lotta flap over that Adolf joke. Look, Amour was a great film, so how about this: Austria, we’ll give you the Oscar if you take back Arnold.” (0:15)

Ray Ellin is a comedian and host of the web-based talk show, “LateNet.” He believes that some of the criticism of Macfarlane’s jokes is a little overblown. (0:09)

ELLIN: “When you say the word Hitler, people get on edge. You say the word Jesus, a lot of people get on edge. And I get it; those are sort of red flags for people. But you know, the joke itself wasn’t that harsh just in its content.” (0:16)

NARR: After all, even that joke doesn’t compare to those Macfarlane tells in another venue where he’s made a name for himself. Here’s Macfarlane reading a future obituary he prepared for the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen. (0:12)

MACFARLANE: “’Charlie Sheen, who became a tabloid fixture due to his problems with drugs and alcohol, was found dead in his apartment.’ You know what, I actually just kind of copied Amy Winehouse’s obituary. I only had to change three things: the sex of the deceased, the location of the body and the part that says ‘a talent that will be missed.’ (0:21)

ELLIN: “On Comedy Central when they do roasts, they just go for the jugular. It’s the harshest thing you can say about somebody. But there’s a way of making fun of somebody or making funny of a movie without
being that sinister.” (0:10)

NARR: Ellin and comics around the country are eagerly waiting to see which route MacFarlane will choose on Sunday. It will be then when we see how this animated host handles his highly anticipated real life role.

Tony Maglio, Columbia Radio News. (0:14)


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How to Save New York’s Shrinking Middle Class

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Helping the middle class is always a popular item on the political agenda, and nowhere more so than in New York. The city has seen much of its middle class leave for the suburbs over the past few decades. Tony Maglio spoke to David Giles of the Center for Urban Studies to find out how New York can bring those middle class citizens back.

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