Archive | Featured

NYCHA Residents Fear New City Development Plans

NYCHA Residents Fear New City Development Plans

NYCHA Residents

Residents gather outside City Hall to fight against the New York Housing Authority’s plan to lease land in the projects to private developers. (Ntshepeng Motema/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

INTRO: A new plan is taking shape that would change life inside New York City Housing Authority buildings. It would allow the Housing Authority to lease land to private developers. Some residents are protesting the idea, saying it would ruin their communities. Ntshepeng Motema reports.

Posted in City Life, Featured1 Comment

Cosmos Overshadowed As Soccer Expands In New York

Cosmos Overshadowed As Soccer Expands In New York

 

Pele

Pele of the New York Cosmos gestures during a press conference at a New York Hotel on Thursday, Sept. 29, 1977. It was Pele’s final media session prior to the Pele farewell game and his subsequent retirement from professional soccer. (AP Photo/Ira Schwarz)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

INTRO: New York is getting a second team in Major League Soccer. Reports say that New York City FC — short for football club — will join the New York Red Bulls in the league in 2016. The new team is backed by one of the biggest names in European soccer. But Max Rosenthal reports that the news has some New York fans wondering if a famous name in American soccer is being forgotten.

NARR: For decades, there was no bigger name in American soccer than the New York Cosmos.

(Fade up AMBI from 1976 game “At forward, number 10, Pele” Fade under at applause.)

The Cosmos brought the Brazilian and other world legends to play in the North American Soccer League. The team sold out 76,000-seat Giants Stadium. And now the team is back. In August, the Cosmos start playing in the top minor league in the country. It’s soccer’s version of Triple A baseball. And the team’s history is still so powerful, it attracts fans who weren’t even born the last time the Cosmos played.

ACT: Lucas Vasquez, I’m from Long Island. Carlos Mieles, I’m from New Jersey.

Vasquez and Mieles are freshmen at NYU. Their families are from South America, and they grew up cheering for teams from Argentina and Ecuador.

But they don’t watch MLS. Vasquez and Mieles never connected with the New York Red Bulls, who have played in the league for nearly twenty years. Vasquez says the Cosmos history is a powerful draw.

VASQUEZ: What the Cosmos can bring to the table is they already an identity within New York. Not some foreign company or owner that wants to promote their selves or their own brand. This is an identity that took root within New York and already has its roots their and has people remember that. So this is really a New York based club.

Compare that to the Red Bulls, who play in New Jersey and are owned by the energy drink company of the same name. Vasquez and Mieles are so excited about the Cosmos that they’ve organized a Latin American-style fan group called La Banda del Cosmos. They say they’ve already got about 50 regular members, and they’re expecting big things, both from the group and the team itself.

VASQUEZ: I can see Cosmos really playing in the one of the highest levels, signing players from all over the world and acting like a European club.

For years, MLS wanted to put a second team in the New York area. And when the Cosmos reformed in 2010, many fans thought the team was the obvious choice. Vasquez admits he’s disappointed the Cosmos won’t be in MLS. But he thinks that could change.

VASQUEZ: I think what the Cosmos can do right now is show the league that this is an opportunity they can’t miss.

But that may just be wishful thinking. Mark Noonan was an executive vice president at MLS. Now he runs a sports marketing company in Connecticut. He says it was the stars that made the old Cosmos great. Without those big-name players, the new Cosmos can’t live up to the team’s history.

NOONAN: Now it’s just a name. It’s a name that thirty years later still has recognition amongst the, I would say, hardcore soccer aficionados in this country and perhaps outside of this country. But most kids under the age of 20 don’t have a clue. So trying to recapture what it was is impossible.

BELL: I think it’s like, thirty years later, seeing a woman you went out with in high school. You’re going to be disappointed.

That’s Jack Bell. He runs the soccer blog at the New York Times, and he covered the Cosmos in their glory days. He agrees that the Cosmos name is the new team’s biggest asset. And the team’s biggest moneymaker is the merchandise, like jerseys, that they sell worldwide. For that reason, MLS probably isn’t the best fit.

BELL: You know, the structure’s a little bit different. If they went into MLS, they wouldn’t own their own marketing rights, and that’s a big deal to them right now. It’s weird, it’s kind of the merchandise before the team.

So instead of the Cosmos, MLS is reportedly turning to a European powerhouse.

(Fade up Aguero goal ambi to full at “Aguero…he can win it…Oh! He’s won the title, surely, for Manchester City!” then fade out)

Last year, Manchester City won the English Premier League, the most popular soccer league in the world. Their owner, Sheikh Mansour, is an Abu Dhabi royal. He’s pumped billions into Manchester City over the past five years. And according to published reports, he’ll be the money man behind New York City FC. It’s chance for MLS to bring in not only a big name and big money, but also a big fan base that doesn’t ordinarily watch American soccer.

(Ambi from bar underneath)

The Mad Hatter Saloon is the official hangout of New York’s Manchester City fans. On Tuesday afternoon, a few of them gathered to watch their team’s latest Premier League game. Right now, MLS isn’t high on their agenda.

Frank Desanto is a native New Yorker. He says he never saw the Red Bulls as a New York team.

DESANTO: They play in Jersey. So it’s like, I’m a city kid. I want a team that plays in New York.

Michael Warren is coming from slightly farther away. He’s originally from Manchester, and he’s been a City fan his entire life.

WARREN: Well, longer than you’ve been alive. Over 50 years.

He comes in from Connecticut nearly every weekend to watch Manchester City, but he rarely watches MLS games. That is set to change.

WARREN: It’ll be nice to have a City-connected team playing in the States, absolutely. I was talking to a couple of friends at the weekend and we said that we would probably go to see most of the games.

It’s proof of the drawing power that that Manchester City brand can bring to MLS. But Jack Bell of the New York Times says the new team’s management can’t assume that the brand will do all of the work by itself.

BELL: They seem to think that they’re in Europe. And they’re not, and they still need to sell this team. If they think they can do the same things that they do in the Premier League, I think they’re going to be sorely disappointed.

MLS is expected to formally announce the new team within two weeks. But whatever happens, New York City FC won’t start play until 2016. It will take that long to sort out issues around a proposed new stadium for the team in Queens.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in Featured, Sports0 Comments

Queers, Against Gay Marriage?

Queers, Against Gay Marriage?

John and Glenn

John Hoge and Glenn Santiago have lived together for 27 years. They got married in 2012 a year after gay marriage became legal in New York. This is their home in the East Village. (Camilo Vargas/Uptown Radio).

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

INTRO: Support for gay marriage keeps growing in the United States. But some members of the gay community, who call themselves Queers, oppose gay marriage. The issue has revealed a split in the gay community. And it goes back to the radical spirit of gay liberation from decades ago. Camilo Vargas reports from Christopher Street, where it all began.

When you walk into the Stonewall bar on Christopher Street, you’re greeted by a long line of pop hits.

Fade up music at  ‘pop hits’

Near the entrance, a frame has a newspaper from June 1969. The headline: Homo Nest: Queen Bees are Stinging Mad.

Fade down pop music and fade up street ambi.

I walk out with Steve, one of the sixty-year olds at the bar. He was 22 at the time, and he explains the headline.

Steve:

The Stonewall bar was the original bar that was raided by the police where people resisted the raid and the denigration that used to go on. This kicked off the gay liberation movement. 0.12

The rioters were drag queens, runaway youth and gay and lesbian patrons of the bar. Society called them queers. They were the weirdos, the marginals, the deviants. And they inspired activist the groups that sprung up all around the country. They claimed the word Queer as a synonym of sexual liberation, of freedom, of gay power. “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it,” was their motto.  Fade out street ambi

Queer activist Yasmin Nair fears that gay marriage betrays the spirit of the Stonewall riots.

Yasmin

We felt that there was a real need for queers to understand that there’s actually always been a radical history of being against gay marriage and having a left radical politics. 0.10

Queers today continue fighting against what they saw as the establishment.

Yasmin 

The queers have always made a connection between those oppressive institutions and institutions like marriage, the prison industrial complex, the military… 0.08

During the seventies and eighties, the gay movement fought for sexual liberation, for social and economic rights. And for their own survival survival.

Yasmin

We had the AIDS movement in the 80s and that depleted our efforts, not only because we lost so many but because it consumed so much energy.  0.10

Then the face of the gay movement changed in the 90s. Celebrities and rich personalities came out. Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign began lobbying for full legal equality. The new motto was not to fight the establishment, but to be part of it.  The movement began to attract mass support. Gender studies professor Bonnie Morris remembers the third great march for gay rights in Washington.

Morris

Now by the time we get to the Millenium March in 2000 there was a definite trend towards Faith, Marriage, it sounded very mainstream. 0.08


Hundreds of thousands attended the march. But Queer activists all over shunned the event. The demands had gotten too conservative. Corporations began funding gay initiatives. And many Gays began focusing on  the legal benefits of marriage.

Morris

A lot of the shift towards focusing on marriage, had to do with protecting assets if you had some.  0.08

Queer activist Yasmin has a somewhat darker interpretation of the shift. She believes that gay couples must now tie the knot, literally, if they want health care, immigration rights or tax breaks.

Yasmin

Marriage is now being coerced upon too many people, so it’s not an option actually. 0.05

But Morris argues that there is something that draws couples to marriage, and it has nothing to do with assets.

Morris

Gay marriage as a means of also getting access to rituals, and well-wishing, and a host of other things that are very hard to quantify. 0.10

Fade up room tone from John and Glenn’s

Rituals are important to Glenn Santiago and John Hoge. They met in New York in 1985 and have been together for 27 years. Their apartment in the East Village is an explosion of Mexican carnival skulls, catholics relics and gay art. They started celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead in the name of the dozens of friends they lost during the AIDS epidemic.

John

We didn’t think we’d live to be together 20 years. Everyone was dying. It was like get married, why? Let’s just have as much fun as we can now, because we’re not gonna make it that much longer. 0.13

The experience of surviving AIDS led John and Glenn to get legal documents to protect them in case one of them should pass away. Assets were not in their mind when they decided to tie the knot last November.

John

When did we do our wills? That was…

Glenn

Probably fifteen years ago. 0.05

John and Glenn lived and cherished the free spirit of the seventies. Marriage was not something that they needed. Until last year, when Glenn had a fever that almost took him to the hospital.

John

I realized that if I have to take Glenn to a hospital anywhere in this country now, I don’t have to take that paper with me, I can say “that is my husband.” 0.10

John and Glenn are still getting used to that word… husband. They’ve survived together, lived together. And the day of the ceremony, as the minister pronounced them husbands

Glenn

I got choked up thinking I never ever dreamed that I would be part of a state or a country that would legally say that I was just like everybody. 0.13

Fade out room tone.

Bonnie Morris thinks back to 2000 and remembers why many activists supported the shift in the movement.

Morris

Should we be putting all of our time into defending gays in the military, gays in the altar, gays in the church, and a lot of people said “Yeah, because we’ve been there all along.” 0.18)

The queers are not standing in the way of those who want to get married. But they continue to defend their radical legacy. They want marriage to remain an option among many. And to make its rights and benefits available to all.

Camilo Vargas, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in City Life, Culture, Featured0 Comments

Debris Impedes Post-Sandy Recovery Along Jamaica Bay

Debris Impedes Post-Sandy Recovery Along Jamaica Bay

Don Riepe of the American Littoral Society looks out over Jamaica Bay six months after Hurricane Sandy hit, May. 2013 (Katherine Jacobsen/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST INTRO:

When Hurricane Sandy slammed into the shore of Long Island, it devastated humans as well as ecosystems along the Northeastern seaboard.  Six months later, Katherine Jacobsen went to Jamaica Bay to see how one of these ecosystems is recovering.

__

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is made up of a sprinkling of islands, tucked behind the Rockaways in the Jamaica Bay. When Sandy hit, the storm surge sent water over the low-lying islands dismantling houses, docks and sand dunes.

Lincoln Hallowell is a park ranger at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. He says that he and his colleagues still aren’t sure what effect Sandy will have on the area’s wildlife.

Lincoln Hallowell:

It’s, it’s a different place. 

He stands in his office and points to a map that shows the area before the storm.

Lincoln Hallowell:

You can see… it looks like there should be something there, and up until Oct. 29, there was something there.

That something was a freshwater pond that was an important stopover for migratory birds and a walking path.

Lincoln Hallowell:

In just a matter of a few hours during the storm, that disappeared. 

But even though the freshwater pond and the sand dunes that kept it in place were washed away by the storm, environmentalists say that the wildlife in the area has been surprisingly resilient.  But they also say the sand dunes need to be rebuilt.

Arthur Lerner-Lam is a seismologist from Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Arthur Lerner-Lam:

So, Jamaica Bay was almost a buffer for some of the populated areas inland. What do we learn from that? We learn that nature in some way can be used to protect the places where people live.   

The sand dunes at Jamaica Bay acted as natural shock absorbers.  Sand dunes are known as soft infrastructure.  That’s as opposed to hard infrastructure, like storm walls.  The walls can send the waves bouncing back into the ocean.  Lerner-Lam says, in a small inlet area, this means that the waves could hit each other, amplify and then crash into the hard structure again.

But Lerner-Lam says the dunes won’t survive a storm without the grasses that grow on top of the dunes.

Arthur Lerner-Lam:

Well, any vegetation, such as marsh grasses will actually hold the sanddunes in place, or at least the top layer in place.

In other words, the sand grasses keep the dunes from washing away.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is attempting to rebuild the dunes around Jamaica Bay in part with money allocated by Congress after the storm.  But the problem is, to restore all of these sand dunes, someone has to remove the junk that Sandy left on top of them.

Gerry Tiss is off the south shore of Long Island on a Saturday morning.

Gerry Tiss:

The orange and blue stuff is people’s docks that were blown apart. 

Tiss stands on his 4ft by 12ft skype blue wooden motor boat and points to a nearby sand dune.

Gerry Tiss:

It looks like a roof from that bayhouse that came from who knows where…

There’s no way that Tiss’s boat stands a chance of picking up the debris. And so he does what he can and scoops up pieces of washed up two-by-fours, plastic bags and the like.

The issues are similar, if not as bad, at Jamaica Bay.

Don Riepe is with the environmental watchdog group, the American Littoral Society.

Don Riepe:

You know, some of the pieces were too big, they have to be cut up… so you can see some of the debris left over by the storm.

Riepe and others say it’s the park service’s’ responsibility to move the trash   But Ranger Lincoln Hallowell says the Park Service has its own issues.

Lincoln Hallowell:

Part of the problem is, we lost a lot of equipment during the storm that hasn’t been replaced yet.  

Hallowell says even if the park service had the equipment, it wouldn’t be easy to remove the debris without disturbing the wildlife.

Lincoln Hallowell:

A lot of areas are environmentally sensitive so you don’t want to get a lot of areas with heavy equipment through there.  

Environmentalists hope the debris can be removed and dunes can be rebuilt before the hurricane season starts on June 1st.

Katherine Jacobsen, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in City Life, Featured, Science and Tech0 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)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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 UnfitForChildren.org. 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

Proposed Bills to Stop Use of Condoms As Evidence of Sex Work

Proposed Bills to Stop Use of Condoms As Evidence of Sex Work

Activists assemble on the steps of City Hall, May 3, 2013. They’re backing city and state bills that would create more oversight of the NYPD and ban the use of condoms as evidence in sex work prosecutions. (Camilo Vargas/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST INTRO:

A New York State Senate Bill would ban the NYPD to stop using condoms as evidence of sex work, and a City Council bill would create a new NYPD oversight office. Activists for the bills gathered at City Hall to support the measures. Camilo Vargas reports.

——-

A bundle of legislation to reform the way the NYPD operates is currently making its way in the State Council. It’s called the Community Safety Act, and among its measures is the creation of an Inspector General for NYPD Oversight. The Measure has been endorsed by Mayoral Candidates Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio. But the measure is opposed by current Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. They claim that the bill would add more bureaucracy to NYPD oversight.

At noon today, human rights, public health and anti stop and frisk organizations gathered at City Hall to push for passage of the Community Safety Act. They support the act because they believe it will end what they call police profiling of LGBTQ communities of color. And that it will end the NYPD’s practice of using condoms as evidence of sex work.

[Ambi of protesters chanting “Safe needles saves lives”]

Activists chant on the steps of City Hall protesting against the NYPD. They’re a coalition of HIV Aids, LGBT and human rights groups that oppose the city’s stop and frisk measures. They claim the NYPD confiscates condoms and needles, and use them as evidence to arrest and charge people of prostitution and drug use. A transgender hispanic woman gives her testimony for the crowd.

Transgender witness:

Porque en mi caso personal cuando yo iba para un club me arrestaron por andar un condon en mi bolsa.

She says she was arrested for carrying a condom in her bag as she headed for a club. She fears being arrested for carrying condoms sh   e got at a city health center. She is one of the cases documented by a study by Human Rights Watch. The human rights group interviewed 125 sex workers, LGBT individuals and outreach organizations, and found that because of the NYPD’s use of condoms as evidence, people at high risk of infections are afraid of carrying them.

Margaret Worth:

That the condoms that they have on them at the time can be considered evidence by police and by prosecutors.

That’s Margaret Worth, a spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch at the press conference. She says people in communities at high risk of HIV and STD infections sometimes believe that there’s a limit to the number of condoms they can carry, so that the NYPD doesn’t prosecute them for sexworkers.

Elizabeth Worth:

There’s absolutely no legal limit to the number of condoms a person can carry on them. Condoms are not contraband.

Elizabeth Lavenger, a spokesperson for the gay men’s health crisis says the measure of confiscating and using condoms as evidence of sex work contradicts the city’s policies of promoting condom use. The city’s health department actually hands out condoms for free. But what the city giveth, the city taketh away.

Elizabeth Lavenger:

People take those condoms and then almost immediately taken by the Police. So it’s money wasted that could be used to prevent infections.

The activists claim that these infection have led to a recent health crisis. Health officials recently documented meningitis and syphilis outbreaks among men who have sex with men in New York City. They also continue to record higher than average HIV infection rates in this group.

The organizations are also pushing for passage of the State Senate Bill sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery, that would ban the use of condoms as evidence of sex work. The bill has received the endorsement of several public officials, including Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Haley. George Artz is the DA spokesperson:

George Artz:

The District Attorney has assigned his LGBT liaison to work with Senator Montgomery’s staff to support a bill prohibiting the use of condoms as evidence.

The bill is garnering support in the New York State Senate. Activists expect it will be ready for passage later this year.

Camilo Vargas, Columbia Radio News.


Posted in City Life, Culture, Featured, Health0 Comments

Hey, Street Harassers: Stop! Or I’ll Hollaback

Hey, Street Harassers: Stop! Or I’ll Hollaback

Women walk past a group of construction workers gathered on the street during their lunch break Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010, in New York. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Host: It’s spring, and the weather’s finally warm. Time for sunglasses, summer clothes, and long Saturdays in the park. For women, breaking out the sundresses can also mean more catcalls. Emily Jones reports on efforts to fight back against that kind of harassment.

The nights have gotten warm enough that I can walk around my neighborhood – Morningside Heights – in just a light sweater. I’ve brought my tape recorder just in case. And sure enough, a white van slows down as it drives past me on 108th street.

Driver: Hey! Ready to go get some (indistinct expletive) tonight?

A few blocks away, a group of eight or ten young guys circles around me – slowly – as I pass through them. Every. Last. One. looks me up and down.

Boy: Yeah word, that’s what I’m sayin, eh?

When I don’t respond, or even smile at them…

Boy: You had a baaaaaad day

If you’re a woman in New York this is often just how the city is. In a study of New York social service providers, 86 percent said their clients report street harassment. International studies show anywhere from 70 to 99 percent of women experience harassment at some point in their lives.

Cameron: Any time I see a group of more than one guy walking together, it’s the first thing that goes through my head.

Jae Cameron works for a group called Hollaback that tries to fight harassment on city streets.

Cameron: And I think that’s the most exhausting thing, you know? Having to keep your gaze trained on the ground all the time. Otherwise something will happen.

Hollaback encourages people to “holla back” at their harassers by sharing stories online. Women often report feeling scared or violated – so much so that they change where they go, Cameron says.

Cameron: Every day I go through stories in New York of folks saying it is a problem and it stops them from like going to where they work or where they want to be or being with the people they love.

Efforts to stop harassment span the better part of a century. In the 1920s it was called the anti-flirt movement. It sought to protect ladies from so-called mashers, the scoundrels who pursued them on the street. More recently, some victims of harassment have tried flinging angry rhetoric back at the catcallers — literally, hollaback.

But Hollaback founder Emily May says that doesn’t always work, or feel safe.

May: And the reality is that it’s not our responsibility to have that perfect response. It’s the responsibility of the people who are harassing not to harass us.

May and other advocates don’t think simply banning harassment would work, for a lot of legal reasons. Instead, they want to teach potential harassers that catcalls and whistles aren’t ok. Holly Kearl founded StopStreetHarassment.org. She says since most harassers are men, the key to reaching them is other men.

Kearl: In our society a man’s voice has a lot more sway with other men than a woman’s voice does. It’s a sad statement but it’s true in a lot of cases, and so men can actually have a really big impact on changing other men’s opinions about street harassment.

Kearl says the best way to get through is to make it personal. She made a habit of telling her male partner every time she got harassed. Suddenly, the problem became real.

Kearl: They just may have a stereotype in their mind about who gets harassed and then they don’t really worry about it. But if they know that the women they care about are routinely harassed, I think a lot of them would care and would want to do something.

English teacher Ileana Jimenez has seen that transformation firsthand. She teaches an elective on feminism at Elisabeth Irwin High School in Soho — and street harassment is a central topic. She remembers the moment when one boy in her class suddenly understood his friends and classmates got harassed.

Jimenez: And he wrote about how, if this is happening to my friends, then it’s probably happening to my mom. And that’s kind of where he went one extra step on bringing it to a kind of close and personal level.

May from Hollaback thinks those kinds of personal stories can lead to policy changes. The group won a grant from the Knight Foundation to write a smartphone app that can map street harassment. The app will log when and where each report happens in a central database. Users will also have the option to have Hollaback send those stories to the local City Council member. May hopes all those reports will prompt council members to act.

May: You’re gonna organize a big fat rally and press conference around street harassment in your district. You’re gonna make a call for a major citywide investment in preventing street harassment – comprehensive education, curriculum, guides for employers, public service announcement campaigns…a major push.

Users will be able to download the new app this summer.

I’m Emily Jones, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in City Life, Featured0 Comments

Gillibrand Attacks Looming Food Stamp Cuts

Gillibrand Attacks Looming Food Stamp Cuts

Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to media at the Union Square Pavilion on May 3, 2013. Gillibrand and anti-hunger advocates spoke out against proposed cuts to federal food stamp programs. (Max J. Rosenthal/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

INTRO: The city’s Independent Budget Office says there are currently almost 2 million people in New York on food stamps. That’s nearly a quarter of the city’s populations. Republicans in Congress are proposing cuts to those benefits. New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand opposes them. Max Rosenthal went to hear her speak about the farm bill this morning.

NARR: The Union Square farmers’ market is one of at least 50 around the city that accept food stamps. Since 2009, people on food stamps have recieved more money thanks to the federal stimulus package. That money runs out in November, and benefits for the average family will drop by 30 to 50 dollars per month. Senator Gillibrand says the effects on New Yorkers will be severe.

GILLIBRAND: It means one less week of food on the table each and every month for the typical family, or 70 million less meals per year right here in New York City.

Roger Cass is shopping at the market using food stamps. He says the cuts will be a big problem for him.

CASS: It will, it will, it will. Especially for someone like me who’s — I mean, at 66 it’s unlikely that I’ll find a job.

Cass depends on food stamps to eat nutritious meals. He goes to food kitchens about three times a week and he often finds junk food or leftovers. At Union Square, he can use what’s called Electronic Benefits Transfer to get tokens that farmers treat as cash.

CASS: I’d say my EBT card probably covers half of what I spend on food.

But as Congress starts debating a new farm bill next week, there may be even more cuts in store.

GILLIBRAND: Some of my Republican colleagues are planning to take it one step further by proposing amendments that would cuts tens of billions of dollars more from the food stamp program and make fewer families eligible for this benefit.

For now, no one knows for sure what cuts may pass, but they are likely to be severe. The budget that passed the House of Representatives gave over $100 billion dollars less for food stamps over the next decade.

Joel Berg is the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. He says that even though food stamps are a small part of the overall farm bill, cutting them will have a disproportionately large effect.

BERG: People are shocked enough at the existing cuts, and they’re just flabbergasted that fat cats in Washington are considering taking even more food away from low-income people.

The Senate Agriculture committee starts debate on the bill next week. Gillibrand’s staff says they expect a vote in the full Senate within the next two weeks.

Max Rosenthal, Columbia Radio News.


Posted in City Life, Featured, Money0 Comments

Veterans Find Peace from Post-Traumatic Stress

Veterans Find Peace from Post-Traumatic Stress

 

A statue dedicated to the veterans of Rhinebeck, New York. (Alexandra Hall/Uptown Radio)

 

Listen to the full piece

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST INTRO: Each day, 22 U-S veterans kill themselves – that’s according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Suicides have increased so much that last year, more active-duty troops killed themselves than troops who died in combat in Afghanistan. Alexandra Hall found some vets are turning to meditation to help.


Alexandra Hall: The Omega Center in Rhinebeck is known for offering spiritual retreats.

[BIRDS AMBI]

Hall: This weekend’s retreat is different: It’s called “The Real Cost of War.” And early on Saturday morning about 50 veterans make their way to the the Main Hall for morning meditation.

The men and women take off their shoes.

[TAKING OFF SHOES AMBI]

Hall: They enter the large room and sit in chairs or on cushions on the floor.

[BELL AMBI]

Hall: The sound of the bell means the meditation has begun. Many of the veterans are old enough to have served in Vietnam, but some are young. For most, this is their first time meditating. Many close their eyes- and other than the occasional cough, the room is quiet for twenty minutes.

[BELL AMBI]

Hall: The bell reminds veterans to return to the present moment and begin walking meditation.

[PEOPLE GETTING UP AMBI]

Hall: The group walks slowly around the open room. The idea is to inhale and exhale with every step.

One large man remains sitting on a cushion. Alongside him lies a prosthetic leg. Elliot James served in Iraq. He lost his right leg below the knee in 2005 when an American tank accidentally crashed into him as he was guiding it around a barrier. He says when he got back, he was hyper-vigilant- a common symptom of PTSD.  

ELLIOT JAMES: Every morning I woke up I’m reaching for a broom in the room, just anything to be the weapon that I had to reach for every day for seven months.

Hall: He self-medicated so that he wouldn’t have to face what he went through. He eventually tried to kill himself, but woke up in a hospital that offered treatment for PTSD. He’s been practicing meditation ever since.

JAMES: Meditation and mindful breathing helps me sit still with this stuff. To allow that time to pass and to not just feel like I have to react to this feeling.

Hall: Rather than numb him, meditation allows James to be consciously aware of of his symptoms. With veteran suicides at an all time high, mindfulness meditation is being used to treat veterans with post-traumatic stress. The U.S. Office of Veterans Affairs is studying how mindfulness, in addition to traditional therapies, such as medication and psychotherapy, is helping veterans after they come home from war.

CLAUDE ANSHIN THOMAS:  I have guys come here taking twenty-seven different kinds of medications.

Hall: Claude Anshin Thomas is leading the retreat. He’s not your typical buddhist monk. He’s a Vietnam vet himself – something that helps him relate to these vets in a way that others can’t.

THOMAS: With this group of people there are certain expressions of character that I identify with immediately.

Hall: Thomas was a door gunner in the Vietnam war. Door gunners were responsible for shooting out the open side of a helicopter with a machine gun. Thomas and his crew used to make bets about who could kill the most people. He says several hundred Vietnamese died because of his actions and it’s left lasting scars.

THOMAS: The real cost of war is that it never goes away.

[TRANSITION ROOM AMBI]

Hall: In the main hall after breakfast, the men and women are more lively as they settle for a group session with Thomas. It’s informal.

THOMAS: Question!

Hall: Hands pop up.  

THOMAS: In the way back, right here. Yeah go ahead.

Hall: A large older bald man with a deep, southern drawl asks Thomas how to apologize.

MAN: I lost my temper at our senior club meeting. I cussed this guy out. I wanted to take him out and beat the crap out of him and then my wife said I should apologize and I got mad at her.

THOMAS: yep

MAN: I still feel ashamed, how do you handle situations like that? I don’t want to apologize.

THOMAS: Well, whether I want to or not, I do.

Hall: The point of mindfulness is not to be attach to, nor reject, what you think and feel. So Thomas tells veterans to allow flashbacks, anxiety, and depression to happen.

THOMAS: Anger rises – just be present with the anger.

Hall: He tells the group to be aware and observe your symptoms – all of them –  without judgment, and then, just let them be.

THOMAS: Rather than punch them, I ought to bow to them. That takes some skill and practice. First we start with not punching.

Hall: Of the veterans who kill themselves, the majority are 50 years and older. Looking around the room, it’s these men and women who returned from war over thirty years ago who are most at risk. Elliot James – The Iraq war veteran who lost his leg – knows this. He says he’s learning mindfulness now so that that doesn’t happen to him.

JAMES: The more that I sweep stuff under the rug, the more it grows, the worse it gets and then I’ll be dealing with it maybe at 40 or 50 and who knows what I’ll do to somebody or myself by then.

James says he hopes meditation will be a way younger veterans like him to get help before it’s too late.

Alexandra Hall, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in Featured, Health2 Comments

Latino Evangelicals Reshape Immigration Views

Latino Evangelicals Reshape Immigration Views

 

Teachers lead a music class at the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church in the Bronx, Apr. 20, 2013. Some observers say growing Latino churches are the future of Evangelical Christianity. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST: Some Evangelical Christians have embraced comprehensive immigration reform in recent months. It’s a huge shift for the group, usually conservative in its politics. An influx of Latino congregants has pushed the church into changing its stance. Sonia Paul reports.

It was a week and a half ago, the day the Senate released its eight hundred and forty-four page draft bill for comprehensive immigration reform.

[AMBI: Rev. Salguero singing at the worship service in DC. [Let rise and play for seven seconds, then fade under and float under narration.]

Just blocks away from the Capital, at the Church of Reformation, an audience was singing a closing hymn . A giant screen at the front showed the people who came to preach and perform. They were clapping their hands and stomping their feet.

[Bring up more ambi.]

Latinos, Blacks, and a few Asians. But most of them appeared to be white.

They were Evangelical Christians. And they came here from all over the country to lobby Congress on immigration reform.

[LET AMBI RISE UP A LITTLE BIT FOR A FEW MORE SECONDS, THEN FADE DOWN]

They were calling the day a National Day of Prayer and Action on immigration. A group that calls itself the Evangelical Immigration Table organized the event.

[Fade out AMBI HERE]

Evangelicals aren’t the most likely supporters of immigration reform. Take Southern Baptist Mike Huckabee. In the Republican presidential primaries in 2008, he advocated strict controls.

ACT: MIKE HUCKABEE AUDIO

What we need to do is have a border that is sealed, and the same kind of process that we have if we go through a stadium — we go in one at a time, and we have a ticket.

His views were mainstream Republican at the time. Pew research Center reports show white Evangelicals overwhelmingly supported the Republican party in the last three presidential elections. But now, residents in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Florida — all conservative states — can hear ads like this one coming through their airwaves.

ACT: FLORIDA AD AUDIO

But our dysfunctional immigration system breaks up families and causes suffering. Christ calls all of us to compassion and justice.

That focus on compassion and justice is the selling point of the two-year-old Evangelical Immigration Table. It’s an umbrella organization for several Evangelical and social justice groups in support of immigration reform.

Evangelical pastor Gabriel Salguero chairs the group. He’s the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. In January, under his leadership, the Evangelical Immigration Table developed a bold message on immigration.

ACT: SALGUERO PRAYER CHALLENGE

We worked on a campaign called I was a Stranger. And we engaged just hundreds of Evangelical churches and tens of thousands of Evangelical Christians to read the bible and pray.

The Table put out radio ads in areas with large Evangelical populations — and released YouTube ads, like this one, of prominent Evangelical leaders reciting a well-known verse from the Book of Michael.

ACT: I WAS A STRANGER CAMPAIGN AUDIO

For I was a stranger, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.

I was a stranger.

I was a stranger.

I was a stranger.

(In Spanish)

I was a stranger. And you invited me in.

I needed clothes, and you clothed me.

[AMBI FROM OUTSIDE THE DC CHURCH]

Back in Washington, people outside the Church of Reformation are saying their goodbyes after a long day of lobbying on immigration. Others inside the church are still singing.

David Beckmann is a white Lutheran pastor and economist. He says it’s about time Christians unite for immigration reform — because the connection between the bible and the public policy issue is clear.

ACT: BECKMAN BIBLE MESSAGE

Cause the bible over and over again talks about doing right, being kind to widows, orphans and immigrants. Duh! (laughs). Cause immigrants are always kind of shuddered aside, they don’t ever have full rights.

But it’s not just biblical passages reminding Evangelicals of their call to duty. Reports indicate there are now nearly eight million Hispanic Evangelicals in the United States. That’s about 15 percent of the overall Evangelical population.

[AMBI OF MUSIC CLASS]

At the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church in New York, Latinos are the majority of students at the church’s weekend music class. They make up practically the entire church population.

ACT: MORELBA BRONX CHURCH POPULATION

There are people Dominican, Puerto Rican, from Hondorus, Ecuadorian…

That’s eighteen year old Morelba Fernandez. She’s at her church in the Bronx most days of the week, leading the youth ministry or assisting the music classes.

[AMBI OF MUSIC CLASS]

Or, advocating for immigration reform.

ACT: MORELBA

We also go to marches about immigration, like the Dream Act. A lot of teenagers, we go, because that’s very important for us.

Some observers say growing all-Latino churches like Fernandez’s are the future of Evangelical Christianity. Their support of immigration reform is hardly surprising.

[FADE OUT AMBI OF MUSIC CLASS]

Pew research polls show over 85 percent of Hispanic evangelicals support immigration reform. In comparison, just over half of white Evangelicals support the cause.

But that’s still a big change for the white Evangelical community. A few years ago, only a quarter of them polled supported immigration.

ACT: CRUZ

Hi, I’m Samuel Cruz.

Samuel Cruz is a sociologist of religion at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. He says the Latino Evangelical influence is the biggest reason Evangelicals are now embracing immigration.

ACT: CRUZ

In fact, Focus on the Family, which is one of the big conservative right-wing organizations in this country, is supporting immigration reform. And they know why they’re doing it. They’re catering to their huge constituency of Latinos within the Evangelical community.

The Senate is expected to debate the provisions of the immigration bill in coming weeks. Observers say that if Evangelicals maintain unity, they just might help tip the scale on passing immigration reform.

Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in Culture, Featured, Money and Politics0 Comments

Arms Treaty Sparks Fierce NRA Opposition

Arms Treaty Sparks Fierce NRA Opposition

New Jersey Firearms Academy Director Lateif Dickerson at his practice booth in the shooting range. He’s a member of the NRA and fiercely opposes the UN Arms Treaty. (Camilo Vargas/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST INTRO: Gun control was shot down this week in the Senate, but the gun debate has gone global. The UN passed a treaty earlier this month that bans the sales of weapons to countries suspected of using them for war crimes, terrorism, and organized crime. The White House supports the Treaty, but as Camilo Vargas reports, it’s going to be a tougher sell for the powerful NRA lobby.

To get a sense of what gun advocates in this country say about the UN Treaty, I head to the New Jersey Firearms Academy in Jersey City. I’m taking the NRA’s basic pistol course.  

Ambi from the shooting range

Jerry Martin

Ok, before you walk through this door you gotta have your eyes in and your ears on.

Come on in!

Jerry Martin’s is the senior instructor at the academy. It’s my first time shooting a gun and I’m NERVOUS.

FADE UP SOUND OF GETTING IN PLACE

At the cage, Martin positions my trembling hands until they form a tight grip on my pistol.

Jerry Martin

Firm grip now, get as high up in there as you can. Get the gun in there, and when you’re ready squeeze

I pull the trigger for my first shot.

SOUND OF SHOT

Not too bad, I get better with every shot.

Jerry Martin: good, a little bit lower, that’s good

SOUND OF SHOTS

Jerry Martin: good that’s even better, that’s close

By the end I was having a blast.

SOUND OF SHOT

Jerry Martin: Bullseye!

I shoot ten rounds, switching between pistols and revolvers. And I get it. The thrill of shooting a gun.  

The shooting practice was the fun part of the day-long class. In the classroom, Academy Director Lateif Dickerson – doesn’t wait long before he tells the students that the United Nations wants to tread on their Second Amendment rights.

Lateif Dickerson

It’s bad enough that our own government is infringing on our rights, and now you’re gonna let an outside government infringe on our rights, that’s a bigger problem to me fundamentally.

Dickerson’s problem is the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT. One hundred fifty three countries voted to adopt it on April second, including the United States. The ATT is the first attempt in history to regulate the sale of weapons worldwide. It will make countries that sell weapons essentially run background checks on the countries buying them, to make sure they’re not using them for war crimes. Seller countries would have a responsibility to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists and criminals. Every country in the treaty would have to report its annual weapons sales to the UN.

Dickerson tells the class if the US Senate ratifies the ATT, these controls may limit gun sales here in the United States.

Lateif Dickerson

That’s why we’re against the Small Arms Treaty and those outside influences that would have an impact on our ability to own and possess these types of firearms.

Dickerson is one of the hundreds of NRA members who fiercely oppose the UN Treaty. Here’s NRA Executive Vicepresident Wayne LaPierre speaking at the UN last year.

Wayne LaPierre

Any Treaty that includes civilian firearms in its scope will be met with the NRAs greatest force of opposition.

The NRA tells its members the treaty will force more Americans to register their guns. But advocates for the treaty say the NRA has it all wrong.

Steven Stedjan

This treaty is only about the international trade of weapons. There is nothing about the domestic control of weapons within this treaty.  

Steven Stedjan is an arms specialist at the international non profit Oxfam. He says the NRA’s campaign against the treaty is politics as usual.

Steven Stedjan

So they created this boogey man of the UN trying to take away your guns.

Stedjan says the US already has strict controls for the sale of weapons overseas. What the treaty does is level the playing field for US manufacturers. Foreign arms suppliers would have to compete with rules as strict as those the US already enforces. In fact, the only three countries that voted against the ATT were Syria, North Korea and Iran, three countries that already face arms embargoes. The ATT might make it harder for them to get their weapons.

But UN officials like Disarmament Officer Daniel Prins say the most important reason to sign the treaty is human safety.

Daniel Prins

People in the future can feel safer because I foresee that arms will not end up in the hands of criminals, of pirates, of armed groups as easily. I’m  very sure this treaty will save a lot of lives and lot of limbs.

For the United States to join in the Treaty, it needs the backing of President OBAMA AND a two thirds vote in the Senate. The White House is for the ATT, but the Senate is 10 votes short of the total needed for adoption. And ATT advocates say they’re unlikely to close that gap any time soon.

Camilo Vargas, Columbia Radio News

Posted in Featured, The Globe0 Comments

How Not To Travel In Mongolia

How Not To Travel In Mongolia

Train in Ulaanbaatar

: The train at the Ulaanbaatar station in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Commentator Sonia Paul should have ridden it Orkhon her first day in Mongolia, Aug. 2010. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST: Traveling has its ups and downs. When commentator Sonia Paul took a three-week trip to Mongolia to discover the country’s natural beauty, she found that sometimes all you can do is count on the kindness of strangers — even if it leads you astray.

PAUL: It was the summer of 2010, and I was traveling by myself in Mongolia — my first big solo traveling trip. I was in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, and on my way to a ranch in a place called Orkhon. I showed the woman supervising the platform at the train station my ticket. She shook her head. No, no, not this train.

Are you sure? I asked. I had planned the trip fairly meticulously. But she waved me off.

The sun set and departure time neared. I went back to the train woman. I pointed at the train’s name on the ticket, gestured toward the green train in front of us, gave the thumbs up sign and nodded. And of course I flashed my pearly whites.

She glared back at me and shook her head. Next one.

I heard someone hollering in English and discovered it was a boy selling peanuts on the platform. I made my way over, bought a bag and made small talk with him about my travels to Orkhon.

Orkhon? His ears perked up. No, no! he said. That’s your train! And he pointed to the train just as it was pulling away.

I nearly dropped my bag of peanuts. It was the last train of the day to my destination. And it was only my first day in Mongolia. How was I ever supposed to survive three weeks by myself?

Before I knew it, a few tears rolled down my cheeks.

I got a room for the night at a hostel near the station, and asked a girl who worked there to buy me my seven-dollar replacement ticket to Orkhon. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get lost.

Don’t worry, Sonia, she said when I finally got on the train the next day. She promised to call the ranch owner in Orkhon to tell him I was coming.

On the train, I sat next to a Mongolian woman who spoke English with a Russian accent. She nodded encouragingly when I showed her my ticket — Orkhon. My stop too, she said. Her smile was comforting.

When we arrived in Orkhon, she quickly disappeared. I started searching for a call center where I could dial the ranch owner. But then a girl about my age wearing Dior sunglasses called out to me.

You lost? Her English had a Russian accent too. I have a cellphone, she said.

I was grateful for the offer and quickly dialed the ranch owner.

You’re where? he said when he answered the phone.

Orkhon?…

And you just got off?

Yes?…

Do you realize you’re four and a half hours away from where you should be?!

What?!!

It turns out Mongolia has many locations that share the same name. And there are at least two places called Orkhon. The girl from the hostel had bought me a ticket to the wrong Orkhon.

What I needed to do was get to the right Orkhon. I had no time to feel sorry for myself. The Dior girl was getting in a cab with her brothers. I quickly explained my situation. With her sunglasses, English skills and cellphone, she had become my bodyguard in a span of five minutes.

She nodded intently and told me to join them in the cab. They could get me where I needed to go.

What else could I do? I squished in the backseat. I decided things just had to turn out fine. We peeled away from the station, and I let myself marvel at the vast land and open sky surrounding me.

HOST: Sonia eventually got herself to the ranch at the right Orkhon. She still gets lost sometimes, but she always manages to find her way back.

Posted in Commentaries, Featured, The Globe0 Comments

Officials Hold News Conference in Watertown, Mass.

Officials Hold News Conference in Watertown, Mass.

Officials address the media during a news conference in Watertown, Mass.Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Posted in Featured, The Globe0 Comments

Boston Area On Lock Down; One Suspect Dead,One on the Run

Boston Area On Lock Down; One Suspect Dead,One on the Run

Investigators continue to search for one of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, in Watertown, Mass. Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Posted in Featured, The Globe0 Comments

Manhunt Locks Down Boston

Manhunt Locks Down Boston

Police officers take cover as they conduct a search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, Friday, April 19, 2013, in Watertown,Mass. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Posted in City Life, Featured, Money and Politics, The Globe0 Comments

Formerly Incarcerated Students Get Training On How To Secure Jobs

Formerly Incarcerated Students Get Training On How To Secure Jobs

Students in the Osborne Association’s Green Career Center in the Bronx practice pitching themselves to potential employers in front of their class.

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST INTRO:

Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing a new statewide initiative that gives employers up to $2,400 for each formerly incarcerated person they hire. But first, they’ve got to get the job. Christie Thorne reports.

REPORTER:

We’ve all filled out job applications. You write down your name, your employment history, add a few reference contacts. And then you’re asked about your criminal history. Each year, about 700,000 people have to mark YES to that question. That’s the number of men and women leaving the U.S. prison system.

RONALD DAY: Often times it’s like, well, if that person has checked off on an application that he or she has been convicted of a crime, sometimes those applications get put in the garbage.

REPORTER:

Ronald Day is the Director of Workforce Development at the Osborne Association, a non-profit that offers practical skills and support for the formerly incarcerated.

RONALD DAY: What we want to do is try to level the playing field for individuals because we know that there’s a great deal of discrimination and a lot of stigma.

SOUND: Students chatting in class at The Osborne Association

REPORTER:

It’s a busy Monday morning at the Osborne Association’s headquarters on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx. Fifteen grown men sit in a classroom staring at the front of the room.

SOUND: Teacher talking to students in the classroom

REPORTER:

They’ve all spent time in prison, but none intend on going back.

 SOUND: Student presents a pitch exercise

REPORTER:

Today they’re crafting one-minute pitches – written to sell themselves to potential employers.

SOUND: Student presents a pitch exercise (Continued)

REPORTER:

He’s fine practicing one on one, but when he reads in front of the class he stumbles. Disappointed in himself, he gest choked up. But he’s encouraged to keep going by the class, and he does.

SOUND: Students applaude

REPORTER:

Then comes the important part. Getting feedback from his classmates.

SOUND: Students critique pitch exercise

REPORTER:

After weeks of work on their resumes and practice interviewing, they’ll move on to technical skills, like plumbing and construction. When they make the transition in a few weeks, they’ll be come students of Alvin Banks.

ALVIN BANKS: I think it’s important to provide that inspiration or that template for people to see, like listen – there are opportunities out here and if you work hard enough you can be afforded them and life is not over.

REPORTER:

Banks knows what they’re going through first hand. He graduated from here about two years ago, after he struggled to find a job when he got home from prison.

ALVIN BANKS: I came home from the Federal system February 10th, 2011. I did approximately 10 years altogether.

REPORTER:

Ten years for fraud. The first thing Banks did when he got out was spend time with his four kids.

ALVIN BANKS: My youngest is 5. She was born while I was on Rikers and I actually was listening to her mother give birth on the phone. I made a decision the last time I was in prison to not come back.

REPORTER:

A big part of staying out? Finding a job.

ALVIN BANKS: I was promptly told that I was basically unemployable because of my record.

REPORTER:

And this is where a big problem lies for people that are trying to re-enter normal life. Ann Jacobs is the Director of the Prisoner Re-Entry institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

ANN JACOBS:It’s human that when we get discouraged, when we can’t think of the next thing to do and be hopeful about it that we revert to old patterns. I mean, I do think that’s the essence of recidivism.

REPORTER:

About 40 percent of people leaving prison will be back in the system within three years. That number is even bigger in New York City – as many as half will go back.

 ANN JACOBS:We should want to welcome them back to society and to have them have a stake in the larger whole.

REPORTER:

Another problem is that many people returning from prison are going back to places that aren’t equipped to support them. Jacobs says to tackle recidivism we also need to look at these communities. But Alvin Banks says his main goal is to keep them focused on the uphill battle ahead.

ALVIN BANKS:I tell the participants that we have to be more diligent, we have to work harder. We have to get up earlier, we have to be smarter, we have to be more resilient than the average person because of our background.

REPORTER:

And the strategy behind Governor Cuomo’s Work for Success program is to help ex-prisoners help themselves. Because lowering recidivism is ultimately good for everyone. Christie Thorne, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in City Life, Featured0 Comments

New Madonna Photo Exhibition Gives Insight Into The Star’s Life

New Madonna Photo Exhibition Gives Insight Into The Star’s Life

Photograph by Richard Corman of Madonna and a group of boys in the Lower East Side, 1982. The photo is part of a series on display at the Times Square W Hotel until May 12

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST INTRO: As a pop icon, Madonna is known for being, well, revealing. Now a new photo exhibit gives fans some additional insight into the star.  Alexandra Hall has the details.

ALEXANDRA HALL: Black and white portraits of Madonna are all over the lobby of the W Hotel in Times Square. In one, she’s on a rooftop with a group of scowling, school-aged boys in tough, cut-off jeans. She’s the only one smiling, holding a boom box with one hand behind her head. In another, she lies on a rock in jeans and studded belts. Photographer Richard Corman shot the photos of Madonna at her Lower East Side apartment in 1982- and they’ve never been shown. Jody is a journalist from Australia staying at the W hotel with her children. Looking at the photos, what stands out to her most is Madonna’s trend-setting style.

JODY: The armbands and the bangles, the hair with the tie, the makeup, um and the torn jeans. You know, so it was just that look.

HALL: Her young son Amon stands nearby.

AMON: From looking at these pictures, I think she kind of looks like almost wild and out there.

HALL: Like a good wild?

AMON: Yeah, different to today’s wild.

HALL: Looking at the photographs, Jody notices a difference between pop artists in the 1980’s and now.

JODY: Especially looking at these photos, you know, it came from Madonna. It didn’t seem to be that somebody else found her and made her into something else that she wasn’t already.

HALL: Jason Knowles and Pedro Vabuena are also in the lobby. Knowles says that Madonna was ahead of her time.

JASON KNOWLES: She was very cutting edge. What she was singing about and all that was what other people were thinking but she was actually doing what other people were thinking.

HALL: What was she singing about?

KNOWLES: (whisper) Sex! And provocativeness and freedom.

HALL: The two reminisce about the first time they saw her.

KNOWLES: He and I saw Madonna in concert back in 1981 or 2 at a place called Club Illusions in Hialeah, Florida.

PEDRO VABUENA: It was pretty awesome to see her like that because it was before she was famous, it was a small nightclub, it cost 5 dollars to get in.

HALL: Jody Britt is the head of photographer relations and sales at Rock Paper Photo- that’s the group that’s curating the show. She says that the photographer Richard Corman and Madonna met purely by luck.

BRITT: His mother was a casting director. She was casting a film for martin Scorsese- a remake of Cinderella, and Madonna had come in as one of the potential actresses. And Richard’s mother said, you need to shoot this girl.

HALL: She didn’t end up acting in the film. Their photo shoot was one year before Madonna released her first, self-titled album- the one that made her famous. Pedro Vabuena says the photos remind him of what he likes about music from that time.

VABUENA: If you listened to the lyrics that they had back then, it had more meaning and it had something to it.

HALL: The photos will be on display at the Times Square W Hotel lobby until May 12.

Alexandra Hall, Columbia Radio News.

(TIME 2:58)

Posted in City Life, Culture, Featured1 Comment

Fast Food Workers Strike For Higher Wages

Fast Food Workers Strike For Higher Wages

Hundreds of New York City fast food workers protest for higher wages and the right to unionize. They marched from a Harlem park to a McDonald’s on Lexington and 125th.

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Fast food workers across the city staged a walk-out yesterday. Workers from some of the biggest chains – McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC – are demanding higher wages and the right to unionize. This is the second time in the last six months workers have staged a one-day strike. Christie Thorne reports.

REPORTER

At 8:30 in the morning on Thursday, Cherise Rodriguez was supposed to be behind the counter of a Burger King at 116th and Lexington. But instead of clocking in there, she was standing outside of a McDonald’s in Midtown. Yesterday was Rodriguez’s first protest. She says even though she was nervous, she knew it was important to join in.

 CHERISE RODRIGUEZ

I’m an overworked person and underpaid. All of us here are overworked and underpaid. And we’re out here for the struggle and we just want everybody’s support for the day. (:10)

 Rodriguez is one of about 50,000 fast food workers in New York City. All of whom make minimum wage – seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour.

AMBI

Harlem Rally / We can’t survive on $7.25! (:07)

Workers want to double the wage to $15. Rodriguez is chanting at a park in Harlem with her Burger King colleague, Kasseen Silver. They’re about to take part in the final march of the day. Silver says that the city’s cost of living makes these jobs harder.

KASSEEN SILVER

So in order for us to continue to pay our taxes, to receive medical coverage and for us to be able to take care of our family and not nickel and dime check to check…we need these things that everybody wants in this country. We’re tax-paying citizens, we do our job, we do our job well and we just want what we deserve. (:17)

And that’s just not possible on minimum wage says Jessica Cogle, who works at a Harlem McDonald’s and has a baby on the way.

JESSICA COGLE

With $7.25, I can’t afford nothing. Once I pay for my metro card to get to work, and eat…it’s gone! (:08)

In a statement to Uptown Radio, a McDonald’s spokeswoman called the company’s wages competitive and said that employees have access to a range of benefits to meet their individual needs. She adds that McDonald’s works hard everyday to treat employees with dignity and respect.

Workers were happy with the turnout. So was Joseph Barrera. He’s an employee at a Brooklyn Kentucky Fried Chicken and an advocate with New York Communities for Change, one of the organizers of the strike. Barrera says it stalled a Burger King from opening and shut down a Domino’s Pizza altogether.

 JOSEPH BARRERA

Enough of the workers were on our side. I guess it was impossible for them to run the store because it was so understaffed. My store as well. Out of the 11 workers that work there, 6 of them are by my side. (:11)

And Barrera says there have been other gains. Just a week ago City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a bill that would give full time employees paid sick leave. And last month, New York legislature approved a budget that will bump up the city’s minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2015. Christie Thorne, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in City Life, Featured, Money0 Comments