Archive | Health

Expansion of Medicaid Might Effect Community Health Centers

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HOST INTRO: poised to go into effect next month, public health experts are looking at how the expansion of Medicaid could affect funding for community health centers. Niina Heikkinen reports.

Here in New York, community health centers are where many low-income Americans, both with Medicaid and those who are currently ineligible for insurance, receive health care.

As Medicaid expansion brings coverage to a growing pool of Americans, these health centers can now be reimbursed for a growing number of their patients. Now an additional 100,000 adults in New York State will be able to sign up next month.

This increase could mean about a 40 percent jump in Medicaid revenue for community health centers, according to Peter Shin, a public health researcher at George Washington University.

While that number looks like a big deal for health centers, Shin is cautious about making any definite predictions.

[Shin] All of the revenues as well as the estimates for that people that are going to be insured is really based on eligibility, and you know, we don’t know to what extent they’re actually going to be enrolled in the program, or how many of them will seek coverage. So traditionally, it hasn’t been a sort of one to one relationship between eligibility and enrollment. (0:29.8)

Though Medicaid enrollment may not be as high as Shin’s estimates, Maxine Golub of the Institute of Family Health, says she sees low-income New Yorkers regularly who are eager to get insurance.

But,
[Golub] I can’t really say at this moment what that is going to do for our revenue, but we assume it can only be good. (0:10.5)

Though she wouldn’t speculate on possible Medicaid revenue, Golub says more funding from federal, state and private grants would certainly help.

[Golub] what we’ve experienced over the last several years is that those grant opportunities have become both smaller pots of money that you are competing for and more people are competing for them. (0:17.5)

Because the expansion increased the number of people eligible by just 2 percent, Al Jankowsky of the Floating Hospital in Brooklyn, says he doesn’t think that much will change for the hospital.

[Jankowsky] New York State itself had one of the best eligibility programs and Medicaid eligible programs, what the 138 percent did was literally help a very good Medicaid product get a little bit better. (0:15.8)

He says the expansion would have to be much bigger to have a noticeable impact on Medicaid revenue.

Also, many of the people who rely on health centers for coverage are ineligible for Medicaid because they are not U.S. citizens.

Here’s Peter Shin again from George Washington University.

[Shin] Even in states that are opting to expand Medicaid, you’re still going to see a sizeable number of who are still left uninsured, and at least for health centers they’ll still need federal grants and other state support to care for the uninsured population. (0:15.1)

It is still too early to tell what impact Medicaid expansion will have for New York State’s community health centers.

Niina Heikkinen, Columbia Radio News

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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 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)

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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.


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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)

 

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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.

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Diabetes May Affect More Than Expected

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HOST: More than half a million adults living in New York City have diabetes. Hundreds of thousands more may have the disease without knowing it – that’s according to a new report by the city’s health department. As Ntshepeng Motema reports, health experts say obesity remains a major cause of the disease.

REPORTER

People with diabetes are more likely to have heart attack,kidney failure and eventually go  blind.

And Obese people are likely to be diabetic.

Caroline Bohl is a Nutritionist and a Diabetes Educator at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center in Washington Heights.

She says the number of patients has gone up in the past two years and she sees new patients every week, many of whom are young people.

CAROLINE BOHL

I think what is becoming more disturbing is that,you are seeing more patients in their 30s 40s generally people that who were not even ten years ago who were not developing thi  s until they were fifty or sixty and we are sing a definite shift in younger people already.

The New Health Department report shows that diabetes is most prevalent in low income black,hispanic and asian communities.

In places where finding healthy food can be a challenge.

Most cannot afford a healthier lifestyle.

Bohl says the city needs to do more to help people eat better.

CAROLINE BOHL

Making those foods lower cost,if the government,I mean we subsidize corn and all these kind of processed ingredients,maybe throwing a little more money into making fresh fruits and vegetables and very sessional things accessible to people it would make it easier for them.

Not far from the nutrition clinic is a Macdonalds

Bohl says its comes down to a person’s choice on what they decide to eat.

Two customers just bought big sodas 310 calories each .

AMBI

Order number 14,enjoy the rest of your day. HE POURS HIS DRINK

CUSTOMER

I do not look at thE calories of the soda that I drink No.

Eliot Lebow runs a family center for diabetic people.

ELIOT LEBOW

We gonna talk about how the illness is impacting their family and we are gonna talk about how they can change their communications so that their family can understand what they are going through.

He has been living with diabetes for 32 years.

He usually keeps a healthy diet,

but Lebot says sometimes all it takes is a little exercise.

ELIOT LEBOW

There is a choice between taking the train a couple of stops and walking a couple of stops. and I always take the long way which is healthier and it makes you happy overall.

Lebow says the city needs to advocate more about testing for diabetes,

the same way it is done for breast and colon cancer.

This way maybe people will know their health status before it is too late.

Ntshepeng Motema,Columbia Radio News.

To get in touch with Eliot Lebow go to www.therapyhelp.pro or www.diabetictalks.com

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City Lawmakers Pass Bill Granting Paid Sick Leave

City Lawmakers Pass Bill Granting Paid Sick Leave

 

Christine Quinn

New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn announces the new compromise to allow all New Yorkers to take sick leave, Mar. 29, 2013. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

HOST INTRO: Lawmakers came to a compromise last night on a bill that could expand paid sick leave to as many as a million New Yorkers. The legislation still needs a vote by the City Council. But as Sonia Paul reports, some activists are already celebrating what they call a major victory for workers’ rights.

NARRATION:

Council members and advocacy groups reached the compromise last night. Quinn says the pending bill will be revolutionary for New York City.

ACT:

This law guarantees that all New Yorkers, all New Yorkers, can take time off to care for themselves and their families when they’re sick, without fear of threat of losing their job.

(0:13)

NARRATION:

Under the bill, businesses with 20 or more full-time employees must provide five paid sick days to their workers every year.

Right now more than one million New Yorkers don’t receive those benefits. Alison Hirsch of service employees international union local 32BJ says that the law will help the most vulnerable workers in New York:

ACT:

A lot of low-wage workers, largely people of color, women, young workers, fast food workers, people of color, car wash employees…folks who work every day to make a minimum wage or a living wage, something to support their families, and now no longer have to choose between taking a day off and losing their job.

(0:19)

NARRATION:

There are some exemptions. Workers employed at some businesses will be allowed to take sick leave, but they won’t get paid for it. That’s so smaller businesses that might otherwise struggle to pay their employees won’t be burdened under the new law.

And Quinn says the City Council can prevent the law from going into effect under poor economic conditions.

ACT:

So if a major downturn occurs, we would put off implementation of the legislation.

(0:06)

That may not be enough to satisy Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He’s opposed mandatory sick leave because he think it’ll hurt New York City businesses. And Bloomberg has promised to veto the bill. But the new compromise means there are enough votes in the city council to override that veto.

NARRATION:

The announcement at City Hall today attracted dozens of supporters.

AMBI (play for 5 seconds and the float under following narration for 5 more seconds)

“Si se puedo”

NARRATION:

22 year old Joseph Barrara was one of them.. He’s been working full-time at a KFC in Brooklyn for nearly a year.he and his coworkers are all too familiar with the idea of coming into work sick. Berrara says he’s glad for this bill because it’ll finally force his employer to come through with promises:

ACT:

Um, well they always tell us benefits are coming soon. Um, but I’ve been there about ten months now, going on a year. And I don’t want to keep hearing soon, coming soon. I’m actually glad that now I have a definite answer on what I’m going to get.

(0:14)

NARRATION:

The bill on paid sick leave will go into effect next spring. Although it’ll initially apply to businesses with 20 or more employees, the law will extend to businesses with 15 or more workers in the fall of 2014.


Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

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New Report Finds Widespread Problems In Nursing Homes

HOST INTRO: A report by the U.S. Inspector General says many nursing home residents are not getting the care they need. The agency’s investigation discovered neglect and fraud at government-funded homes across the country. Ntshepeng Motema reports.

A physician giving antipsychotic drugs to a patient with no history of psychosis. This is just one error among the many cases documented by  the report. Don White is a Spokesman for the US Health and Human Services Department, which authored the report. He says some of the nursing homes do not even have proper care plans for patients.

DON WHITE

If you do not have a care plan you do not have a guide for everyone providing care to that patient.

White says this is a requirement for monitoring a patient’s recovery progress.

DON WHITE

You are going to have all sorts of professionals providing care. They might need to refer to that single care plan so that we have a co-ordination of services.

Another striking discovery that the report unearthed is fraud. Funding to run these nursing homes comes from Medicare. White says in some cases the homes are over-billing government.

DON WHITE

We were actually looking at individual patient records and saw that the homes were billing for services that were not needed but increased the number of reimbursement to the institution.

New York has many traditional nursing homes that provide services to the elderly, mainly funded by Medicare. One such place is Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Queens. Director of Recreation Ann Simmons says Silvercrest is effective in meeting the needs of old people.

ANN SIMMONS

They would get care of nursing, they would get the right nutrition, they would keep up their ability to function, mobility, keep that going, everything we can as long as it is progressive and you know they do not get any sicker.

But Simmons says to ensure that patients are not mistreated, it is the responsibility of  family members to regularly check up on their loved ones.

ANN SIMMONS

If you are not going to make sure on a continuous basis that they are getting the best quality of care that they need then you do not know what is happening to them.

But what happens if a person does not have a family?

Luisa Gonzalez is 83 years old, she has Alzheimers disease and has no relatives. But she refuses to move into a nursing facility, opting for a more conventional way of being taken care of.

REPORTER

Do you like staying here?

GONZALEZ

Staying here, I do not mind, I live alone I have nobody at home.

For the past year Gonzalez has been  staying in the home of her caregiver,  Manuela Reverol, in the Bronx.

She says she prefers this arrangement to living alone.

LUISA GONZALEZ

It is lonely being alone I do not know how people do it, watch tv day and night, night and day that is not me, I like action, sometimes I go to the club, they play records there, life short is honey.

Reverol has been a paid caregiver for Gonzalez for two years. At first she went to her home five days a week.

Last year Gonzalez’s mental  condition worsened.

She left stove on while she was watching AND nearly setting her apartment on fire. It was not until a neighbor came knocking that Gonzalez realized what was happening. So the Reverol family took her in and are taking care of her at no additional cost.

AMBI OF COOKING

Like most days at lunchtime Revelo is in the kitchen preparing a snack for Gonzalez.

Today Revelo’s daughter Denise is helping out.

Denise says her mother makes sure that Gonzalez is well taken care of.

DENISE REVEROL

So my mom pretty much makes sure that she takes all of her medication, like her Alzheimer medication and all her other medication because she gets jumpy and anxious, my mom takes her to the doctor and takes care of her.

To make sure that many more elderly people are as well looked after as Gonzalez, the Health and Human Services department wants a system where only nursing homes that are compliant with good quality care are funded.


Ntshepeng Motema, Columbia Radio News.

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Breast Cancer Screenings for Women without Health Insurance

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HOST:
 According to the American Cancer society, many women make fewer visits to the doctor because they don’t have health insurance. St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx has a plan to bring mammograms to the women who need them. My co-host, Ntshepeng Motema (en-SEP-eng mo-TAY-mah) has the story.

REPORTER:
The new mobile mammogram van parked outside St Barnabas Hospital actually looks more like a recreational van.

But walk inside and it’s more like a regular doctor’s office – there’s a waiting room, magazines to go through while you wait and water for refreshment.

Bert Petersen is the director of the Breast Surgery Department at St Barnabas.

PETERSEN:
The first thing you would do is you would go right into this room this is where you disrobe ad get ready for the services that we can provide. Then we also have this room right here where we also do clinical breast exam.

St. Barnabas has had a mobile mammography van before – their last one has been out of commission for the past two years due to outdated equipment.
As he walks visitors through the van, Dr. Petersen points out some key features of the latest offering.

PETERSEN:
Starting with this right here, so this is the data collection system, this links immediately to our electronic medical records. And the we go right back into this room what is exciting here is state of the art digital mammography which is really key in the new fight against breast cancer because 15% of breast cancers are missed by mammography.

He says a lot of lives could be saved if more women would just get checked out before it’s too late.

PETERSEN:
There is free coverage for mammography in New York State many women do not realize that it is just a matter of applying and meeting certain qualifications.

But the trick is getting this information to those women.

Arlene Riviera who helps patients understand how the system works says their efforts to reach the community are already paying off. Since they aired commercials about the van a day ago she has had more than 20 women call.
ARLENE RIVIERA:
Our phones have been ringing I have had women call me I have had in just a matter of a day or a day and a half say to me I was at home watching t.v and I saw you guys offer free screenings I am age forty I do not have insurance, they have just been calling.

(AMBIENCE OF ADMISSION OFFICER INSIDE HOSPITAL BOOKING APPOINTMENTS)
Some women who make appointments come to the hospital.Inside St Barnabas a patient, who does not wish to identify herself, has just come out of a checkup. She is one of the lucky ones with health insurance and she says all women need to get checked.

PATIENT:
You have to know about your body and health if you want to live longer, if you do not know that’s how you get sick and you die before your time.

The new van will start making weekly rounds around the neighborhood from next week.
Ntshepeng Motema, Columbia Radio News.

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Gluten-Free Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy

Listen to the full piece: 

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It’s the latest dieters’ fad—gluten-free food. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, oats, rye and barley. The sale of gluten-free products is booming. But as Amber Binion reports, these gluten-free options may not always add up to a healthy diet.

Morton’s Supermarket on the Upper West Side isn’t a dieter’s paradise.

“Excuse me. Do you have gluten-free around here? A gluten-free section?”

Graduate student Luisa Navarro was diagnosed with gluten intolerance three years ago by her doctor. She sometimes has trouble finding gluten-free options.

“Yeah, if I’m at a grocery like this I definitely have to search for the gluten-free. Here’s the gluten-free bread! It’s really good gluten-free bread,” says Navarro.

Food retailers are capitalizing on the gluten-free craze. Gluten-free food sales surpassed $12 billion in 2012 and are expected to reach $15 billion by 2015. Navarro says she misses her favorite foods.

“This brownie, Oh man. I used to love brownies. The ingredients are water, evaporated cane juice, non alcholized cocoa powder, soy flour—there we go. Flour. So the minute it has flour. Nothing. See, I can’t do that,” Navarro says.

More Americans are gluten sensitive today than ever before. Scientist suggests this is because there are more processed wheat products with higher levels of gluten. Avoiding these products was once reserved for sufferers of celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder that makes gluten toxic to the digestive system. It’s a condition that affects about two million Americans.

“There’s an imbalance in the immune system that causes it to attack it’s on tissue.”

Andrew Amigo owns a holistic health company called Fast Healing.

“It seems like that gluten does a couple of things, one it causes the immune system to flare itself up. What happens is, when you have these flare-ups, it increases your systems and gluten causes a lot of tissue inflammation,” Amigo says. 

Navarro explains how it feels in her own body: “When I have gluten I get absolutely exhausted. I might get sick to my stomach. I might get a migraine and I feel like I can’t move.”

The fad has spread beyond people with medical conditions like Navarro’s, and there is a cyber community of gluten-free advocates. Ellen Allard is a holistic health coach who runs a blog called “Gluten Free Diva”. She has celiac disease but recommends being gluten-free for everyone.

“I think people need to start trusting their bodies more and really listening to their signals and not always trusting doctors. I love my doctor but I also think people should listen to their bodies. Why not try gluten-free? There’s no downside to it,” Allard says. 

But there may be a downside for dieters who aren’t paying attention to ingredients. Food producers are now making gluten-free junk food that can be just as fattening as processed gluten products.

“So if the food is gluten-free, it doesn’t mean that its healthy. You got to read the other labels and see what the contents are in the other foods as well. It still can be high in sugar; it could be high in fats, fast fats. It depends on the other ingredients,” Amigo says. 

Many nutritionists think that gluten-free diets are a trend and will eventually be reserved for people with celiac once again. Right now, however, food retailers are taking advantage of America’s diet fascination.

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Fighting Effects of Alzheimer’s With Art And Interaction

A participant with Alzheimer's at the Studio Museum in Harlem (Photo/Cathy Greenblat)


When dementia sets in, it’s often thought that all is lost. But staff at the Studio Museum in Harlem doesn’t think so. It has a program to provide art therapy to Alzheimer’s patients, which is meant to keep moods up and minds active. Some hope the program might lessen the need for medication to fight depression. Andrew Parsons visits the museum, where seniors were discussing an art exhibit.

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City Program Alleviates Food Deserts

New Yorkers who live far away from grocery stores struggle to stay healthy (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Three million New Yorkers live too far from grocery stores, according to the city.

Experts call these areas “food deserts”.

That’s because it’s difficult for residents to find fresh groceries. And as a result, they’re more prone to health problems like diabetes and obesity.

A city program is trying to tackle the issue.

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SLOTKIN
A super market in a food desert is like an oasis in real one. Sometimes, getting there and back requires an arduous journey.
FADE UP. Plastic bags, carts, and talking. Grocery.
At Food Bazaar in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, shoppers fill carts with what is easily a week’s worth of groceries.
CROSSFADE: Into parking lot
Many customers walk or drive their hauls home. But, others rely on livery cabs. A store security guard hails a mini-van for two middle-aged Hispanic women, they chat with the driver.
START FADE UP THEN DOWN ON WOMEN: THE TWO WOMEN
Then they get into the cab. Doors shut.
SOUND Of Doors
They drive away. Ricky Calhoun is the store security guard who hailed the cab. He only has to walk four blocks to get here. But he sees customers from Downtown Brooklyn and even Manhattan.
CALHOUN
They have a lot taxis that take them over from the Lower East Side.

SLOTKIN
People who live in food deserts spend a lot of extra time and money, if they want healthy food options.
So in 2009, the city started offering tax incentives to grocers to build and improve their stores. This year, Food Bazaar’s parent company, Bogopa, will take advantage of the program to expand sections of this store creating more shelf space.
The tax incentive from this project and renovations at five of the company’s other stores could amount to as much eight hundred thousand dollars. Bogopa spokesperson Justin Shon says the stores aren’t the only beneficiaries.
SHON
It helps the community in that we’ll be able to expand our fresh offerings for that store and will be able to save with the sales tax on the equipment that we purchased.

SLOTKIN
In other words, the city program allows grocers to reduce the sales tax they pay on construction materials and new equipment. So far, the city program has awarded benefits to fifteen grocery stores. In some cases, companies built new markets, others were simply expanded. New York City is not the first to address food deserts with incentives. Federal and state programs have offered grants, credits, and loans for about a decade.
But building better grocery oases in food deserts is tricky. Even identifying which neighborhoods are food deserts is difficult because conditions can vary so widely between cities. In some, people drive everywhere, but in other cities, like New York, most rely on public transit. Some cities are sprawling, others — densely packed. Mari Gallagher is a researcher and consultant known for popularizing the term “food desert”. She says those variations make diagnosis difficult.
Gallagher.
There’s not a perfect distance to a grocery store. So in Harlem New York for example. That’s going to be a little different than Queens. Which will be a little different than Chicago versus other parts of Chicago. Versus Detroit or Los Angeles or Savannah Georgia.

SLOTKIN
New York City’s definition of a food desert is anywhere where the nearest grocery store is more than a ten minute walk from your door.
The city tax incentive is not the only program trying to address the issue. In 2010, New York state started co-funding a grant program with a nonprofit that helped create eighty-eight new stores in Pennsylvania. Caroline Harries, works for the Philadelphia-based Food Trust, which partially funds the state program. Harries says benefits weren’t limited to food access.
Harries
These projects have worked to create and retain over 1.67 million square feet of food retail space as well as over 5,000 jobs. We estimate that the program has been able to improve access to healthy food for over half a million penn. Residents.

SLOTKIN
But grocery stores aren’t the only way to bring better food to the deserts. Public and private programs have also tried more agrarian options.

DIMITRI
You have community gardens from these groups, and farmers markets.

SLOTKIN
Carolyn Dimitri teaches food economics at NYU. She says, on their own, none of these ideas has a big effect.

DIMITRI
My question is is the cumulative effects of these small movements going enough to increase the amount of healthy food available in a neighborhoods. I’m not convinced it is but I don’t really see a model popping up.
By September, New York City will have one more grocery store subsidized by both the city and state programs, at the edge of one of the city’s food deserts on Staten Island. Jason Slotkin. Columbia Radio News.

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Potential DEC Resource Shortage Could Stunt Shellfish Industry

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HOST INTRO:

If you’re a New Yorker, and you like oysters, clams and scallops the freshest you can get come from the waters around Long Island. These shellfish pump water through their bodies to breathe and eat. And if you eat them, you also get any toxins that stay behind. That’s why shellfishing is monitored by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. It tests water quality–and forbids shellfishing if the water’s not clean enough. But lately, the agency’s been falling behind — enough so that the Federal Food and Drug Administration is taking notice. And people who make a living with shellfish are worried.

John Light reports.

JOHN LIGHT, REPORTER

Vincent Dimino has been selling fish in New York for 53 years. He’s built quite a business, buying fish from all over the country, and then prepping them for sale in his market in midtown.

SOUND: FISH BEING GUTTED ON “PREPPING,” ICE BEING SPREAD ON “MARKET”

JOHN LIGHT

He says he can tell when the Department of Environmental Conservation is going to cut off shellfish harvesting.

VINCE DIMINO

Regulations are if there is more than one inch of rain at one time, they close everything down for twenty-four hours. Two inches, forty eight hours, and so on.

JOHN LIGHT

A rainy day on Long Island means no local shellfish in New York, because rainwater runoff is one of many sources of contamination.

SOUND: DEC PHONE RECORDING OF SHELLFISHING ADVISORIES

“YOU HAVE REACHED THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION EMERGENCY SHELLFISH CLOSURE INFO MESSAGE LINE. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY MAY 4 2012…” FADE UNDER

JOHN LIGHT

The DEC updates this message every day.

FADE UP

“ARE CLOSED TO THE HARVEST OF SHELLFISH AND CARNIVOROUS GASTROPODS”…FADE UNDER AND OUT

JOHN LIGHT
Still, this past winter the Food and Drug Administration reported that New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation is dangerously short-staffed. The FDA called the department “highly dependent on borrowing staff and resources from other programs.” No one at the DEC could give an interview on tape,
but a spokeswoman provided a statement through email. In it, she wrote that one of two vacancies on Long Island had been filled in May of last year. And the agency “feels that we are adequately staffed at this time.”

FADE UP SOUND OF BEACH

A lot of people just want the DEC to do it s job.

SOUND OF MIKE TALKING

Mike Osinsky is an oyster farmer in Green Port, Long Island. He delivers oysters to restaurants all over Manhattan — about a ton a week, he says. He raises the oysters on his property, and sorts them for sale using this machine. On a recent morning, it’s misty and cold, so a wood burning stove is heating Osinsky’s bayside home.

FIRE AMBI

He’s worried about the chilly weather stunting his oyster crop. But his immediate worry is that the DEC will close his bay because of a dangerous algae that’s spreading.

MIKE OSINSKY

I’m a little concerned right now because Sag Harbor’s closed, Shinnecock Bay is closed, Mannatuck Inlet in closed.

JOHN LIGHT

Osinsky business is relatively new — he’s only been at it for nine years. Before then, he was a software programmer on Wall Street. He says last year was his biggest — that’s when he hit a ton a week.

MIKE OSINSKY

Which is for me sort of a threshold, I’m going to pour some more money into this, I’m going to build a hatchery. If I’m doing a ton and I’m turning away business like crazy, I might as well do ten tons.

JOHN LIGHT

Osinsky says he would like to build an oyster hatchery. But Osinsky says the Department of Environmental Conservation has yet to approve his oyster hatchery location, and he’s been waiting for over a year.

FADE OUT AMBI

Seafood is more highly regulated than anything except medicine, says Roger Tollefson, who is head of the New York Seafood Council. The council works with fisherman and wholesalers to promote New York seafood. Tollefson also trains shellfishermen in state and federal regulations — and, specifically, about how the DEC works.

ROGER TOLLEFSON

In the past, when money has been tight, they’ve looked to cut things. And in the past it’s been threatened that they would no longer test for the harvest areas in New York State.

JOHN LIGHT

But Tollefson says an interstate trade regulation stipulates that the Department of Environmental Conservation, and no one else, test the waters.

ROGER TOLLEFSON

If the DEC were to stop testing these samples in a timely manner, it would shut down an industry.

JOHN LIGHT

Shellfishing on Long Island is fading, despite the modest success of boutique shellfish farmers like Mike Osinsky. And a shutdown would mean no local shellfish for businesses that have come to rely on it —
They include Vince Dimino’s fish market, and Camaje, a restaurant in Manhattan, near Washington Square Park.

RESTAURANT

JOHN LIGHT

It’s late afternoon, and Camaje owner and chef Abby Hitchcock is getting ready for the dinner shift.

FADE UP KITCHEN AMBI

She says shellfish dishes, like scallops, are some of her most popular.

ABBY HITCHCOCK

They seem decadent and delicious and they’re something people mess up a lot when they cook at home, or they’re afraid they’re going to. And so it seems like kind of a cool restaurant thing to order.

JOHN LIGHT

Restaurants like Camaje depend on wholesalers, like Vince Dimino. And he could always buy more shellfish from further away — like Canada or the Gulf of Mexico. But New York Seafood Council’s Roger Tollefson says that would be a shame.

ROGER TOLLEFSON

I think one of the benefits and beauties of living in this area is that we can buy local. And the consumer should really always demand local products whenever they can get them. But they shouldn’t be excluded from it because we can’t afford to test the waters.

JOHN LIGHT

Tollefson plans to continue training shellfishermen to work with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The Food and Drug Administration will reevaluate some of the DEC’s Long Island units
later this year.

John Light, Columbia Radio News.

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Lawsuit to Improve Access to Plan B Moves Forward

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HOST INTRO: A lawsuit increasing the availability of Plan B will go forward. A federal judge has denied the federal government’s request to dismiss the suit. Annie Russell reports the latest in a 7-year saga over limits on the controversial drug.

Annie Russell: The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit to increase availability of the morning after pill in 2005. The lawsuit said the FDA’s restrictions on Plan B were “arbitrary and capricious.” In 2009, Judge Edward R. Korman agreed. Annie Tummino is the lead plaintiff in the suit. She said that ruling was a first step.

TUMMINO 1

The FDA was actually ordered to allow 17-year-olds and up to have access to the pill at pharmacies without a prescription

Under the ruling, women 16 and under still need a prescription to get Plan B. The plaintiffs aren’t happy with that. They wanted the drug to be sold on pharmacy shelves. And in December, it looked like they were going to get what they want. The FDA said that it planned to lift all age restrictions on Plan B.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA. President Barack Obama stood by Sebelius at a December press conference:

OBAMA 1

The reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a ten-year-old or an eleven-year-old going to a drug store, should be able, along with bubble gum or batteries, to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect.”

The FDA disagrees with the President’s assessment. It found that there was no medical reason to limit Plan B. Annie Tummino says there are lots of medications on pharmacy shelves that could be dangerous.

TUMMINO 2

But the risk versus the gain of making it over the counter. But it’s decided that it’s better to have access. I think this is no different.

The Intervention by Sebelius gave Plaintiff Annie Tummino and her lawyers an opportunity to re-open the lawsuit. They’ve added Sebelius as a defendant.

Tummino says young women face an undue burden to get to a doctor within 72 hours, or the Morning After Pill won’t work.

TUMMINO 3

That’s an extreme burden, especially at that age, but really for any woman, to get to a doctor when this medication is most effective within 24 hours after sex. And for a young woman in particular, I think it’s difficult to get to the doctor, especially if they may not want their parents to know.

It’s older teens who have the most trouble getting Plan B, even under current regulations. Boston University researchers posed as 17-year-olds and called pharmacies in five cities inquiring about Plan B. Almost 1 in 5 told the researchers they couldn’t purchase the drug no matter what, even though it’s legal. When asked what the age restrictions were, pharmacy employees answered incorrectly 43% of the time.

The study also found that pharmacies in low-income neighborhoods were twice as likely to mis-inform callers.

Supporters of the lawsuit want pharmacists to be taken out of the equation altogether. Kathryn O’Grady is a social worker who specializes in contraception issues. She says the idea of interacting with a pharmacist may deter women from asking for Plan B.

O’ GRADY 1

I think it takes a lot of guts to go up to, especially if it’s a male pharmacist or a complete stranger and say like- admit that you need Plan B

But she says she worries that if it’s too easy to get Plan B, it could be abused.

OGRADY 2

I think it’s a concern that people will use Plan B as their regular method for birth control

She says that’s a problem, because Plan B only cuts pregnancy chances in half, unlike daily birth control pills and other forms of contraception, which have a 97% effectiveness rate.
Annie Russell, Columbia Radio News.

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Department of Health Releases Stats on Rats

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Jason Slotkin:
Living in Manhattan means living with rats. We’ve all seen our fair share of them. And recently, the city Department of Health issued a report on which Manhattan neighborhoods have the most.

Sounds Park Noise.
Fade up, then under

Jason Slotkin:
The other morning, at about 5:30. I went to Columbus Park on the Lower East Side – the neighborhood with the second-highest number of rat infestations, according to the report.

Sound
Park fade up, then under

Jason Slotkin:
There was some trash scattered about. Traps in some of the brush.

Sound of footsteps (Fade Up scattered)

And sure enough, a few rats scattered into bushes and their burrows at the sound of my footsteps

Sound
Burrow
Sound of bushes

Jason Slotkin:
The report says rat infestations through Manhattan have declined. But not everyone agrees that it means there are fewer rats. Robert Jackson is the city council representative for Washington Heights, one of the neighborhoods with the highest number of rat infestations, according to the report. He says the report records only rat infestations the health department has been able to confirm.

Robert Jackson:
Reported incidents may have decreased, but that doesn’t mean // The rat problem has decreased.

Jason Slotkin:
What that means is the number of residents who have called the city’s 311 hotline to report rats has increased. But those reports aren’t included in official city statistics, unless the department of health can confirm them. In some neighborhoods, like parts of Midtown, there are nearly 20 times as many complaints as the city can confirm. Residents of Washington Heights and Inwood, the other neighborhood at the top of the list, which are part of community board 12, say they’re sick of the rats. The neighborhoods are densely populated and have plenty of hills and parks where rats can hide

Ebenezer Smith:
It’s the way God made this district.

Jason Slotkin:
Ebenezer Smith works for community Board 12. He says this district needs more attention from the city.

Ebenezer Smith:
We need a special operation here. That doesn’t happen at this time because of the budget cuts,etc. etc. So, the city’s working in a flat…that apply to all the budget.

Jason Slotkin:
Smith’s talking about budget cuts that slashed the department of health’s rat management team by two-thirds, while the rat reports called into 311 have increased. But ultimately, human behavior is what attracts the rodents. Rat expert Ralph Maestre says negligent building management can lead draw them inside – and not every super is on his game.

Ralph Maestre:
I’ve seen city supers allow the garbage in the compacter room to fill up to the 3rd, 4th floor of a building before they take the garbage out.

Jason Slotkin:
Maestre says residents of buildings like that can keep food away from rats.

Ralph Maestre:
If you have vegetables on the countertop. They’ll jump up there. If you have meat on the countertop, they’ll jump up there. And they’re very good climbers.

Jason Slotkin:
We reached out to the City Department of Health several times to find out in effort to find out more about its report on rats in Manhattan. The Department never responded. We’ll have a follow-up on Uptown Radio, if they get back to us.

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Justice Kennedy at the Center of Health Care Case

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy may hold the key to the survival of the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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The Supreme Court held oral arguments this week to determine the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. One of the biggest surprises of was the Justices’ harsh questioning of the Obama administration’s lawyers, particularly by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Ben Bradford spoke with New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak about the man who is widely considered the Court’s “swing vote.”

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Bloomberg Going Global Against Smoking

 

The School of Public Health is a no smoking campus, much like the rest of New York City. Photo by Acacia Squires

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BY ACACIA SQUIRE

Host: Smoking is the world’s number one preventable cause of death. For the past 10 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it his personal mission to prevent some of these deaths. His administration has rolled out one initiative after another to prevent smoking right here in the city. Now, he’s expanding his campaign internationally. Acacia Squires takes a look.

Squires: This week health advocates from around the world are gathering in Singapore at the 15th annual World Conference on Tobacco. One of the advocates there is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He took the opportunity yesterday to announce a sizeable donation.

Bloomberg: We just committed another 220 million dollars over the next four years to help work and convince governments to help raise taxes because if you raise taxes, kids stop smoking, and if kids don’t smoke as kids, they won’t smoke as adults and they will live a lot longer and healthier lives.

Squires: Raising taxes on cigarettes was one of Mayor Bloomberg’s first initiatives after he took office in 2001. Back then, the tax was just eight cents. Now, with city and state combined, smokers in the big apple pay five dollars in taxes, swelling the total cost of some brands to fifteen dollars a pack.

Smoker Warren Duncan is standing outside of work on Broadway and one hundred sixty eighth street, taking a drag.

Sound: 168th Street and Broadway

Squires: This sidewalk is one of the last places where Duncan can publically smoke in the city. In 2010 Bloomberg banned smoking in bars and restaurants, and in 2011 he banned it in parks and on beaches. He says the heavy cigarette taxes don’t deter him.

Squires: How much do you pay for a pack of cigarettes?

Duncan: I pay eight bucks a pack.

Squires: Okay, I won’t ask you where you get your cigarettes (laughs).

Duncan: Chinatown, Chinatown, everything is in Chinatown.

Squires: This is still a problem in the city. Some retailers sell cigarettes they import illegally. Despite that, Dr. Barron Lerner at the Mailman School of public health says Bloomberg’s campaign has been successful in New York City.

Lerner: I think what’s happened in New York City was a total success. I mean the rates of smoking went way down. The numbers of tobacco related deaths in the City have estimated to have fallen dramatically. Rates of smoking have gone way down.

Squires: He says Bloomberg taking his anti-smoking tactics abroad is a great idea.

Lerner: Bloomberg hopes that it can be transported overseas on an international basis where similar strategies can be used.

Squires: Zandra Feather started smoking when she was just twelve years old. Bloomberg is helping to catch kids like her, before they’re hooked. She’s walking to class at Columbia University.

Sound: 116th and Broadway St Street.

Squires: By the time Feather was twenty-two, she decided it was time to quit. Now she applauds the crackdown.

Feather:  Here’s the thing, I don’t have a problem with smokers smoking. But I do have a problem when I am in a park, trying to enjoy my day and someone is smoking next to me and I am inhaling their cigarette smoke.

Squires: So, what did she think when Bloomberg the outdoor smoking measure last year?

Feather: Well, I was thrilled, but it’s not like there’s any enforcement measures so I haven’t really experienced an effect.

Squires: She’s right, New Yorkers are supposed to report smokers they see in city parks and on beaches, but the fifty dollar fine seems to be rarely imposed. Bloomberg hopes his charitable donation will  lead to similar initiatives abroad.  Acacia Squires, Columbia Radio NewsS

 

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Restaurant Owners Say Grading Unfair

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HOST INTRO: It’s been one year since New York City restaurants have had to post health inspection grades in their windows. Recent polls show that the public likes knowing which restaurants are safe and which are unsanitary. But this week the restaurant industry fought back, claiming that the grading system is far too cumbersome. Andrew Parsons reports.

***

At the Hungarian Pastry Shop on Broadway and 111th steet, customers crowd the entrance way as they stroll past the big green B rating in the window.

SOUND: Fade in sound of coffee shop with woman asking about sugar, fade under.

Manager Wendy Binioris’s son owns the shop. She says the rating system is inconsistent.

BINIORIS 1 (:09): It’s always a different inspector, never the same one who gets to know you and what your business is. And it becomes very arbitrary that way.

SOUND: Cash register and coffee shop sounds, fade under narration

Binioris says the rating reflects a moment in time. If one inspector sees something minor during a rush, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the way the restaurant usually operates.

BINORIS 2 (:13): They have to know, oh well you’re in the middle of a rush of 40 tourists on top of a full restaurant inside and outside. And you have three bakers in the kitchen working with flour and there will be flour on the floor because we’re making the dough.

SOUND: Fade restaurant sounds under narration and out

And Binioris isn’t the only one complaining. On Wednesday restaurant owners and city council members testified against the grading system, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

QUINN 1 (:07): I really think there are inconsistencies in this system that we can fix to make it fairer and make it better.

Fairness isn’t the only problem says attorney Robert Bookman who represents hundreds of restaurants. He says that the system hurts those who have B and C ratings as well as those with As.

BOOKMAN 1 (:17): They are spending a huge amount of money hiring generally ex-health department inspectors as consultants to try and walk them through this complicated 1300 point system, preparing for the test.

Bookman says customers don’t know whether a B rating represents major violations or minor infractions. A minor thing would be flour falling from the counter at the Hungarian Pastry Shop during rush hour. Bookman says a major violation is having food above or below required temperature.

BOOKMAN 2 (:16) : If that’s your only violation, you still have an A. You can have another restaurant that has four or five minor violations, like a leaky faucet. Yet that person can get a B based on the adding up of a number of points in New York. The A restaurant was less safe that day than the B restaurant was.

Owners also complain about fines. They’ve gone up 5 fold since 2003. The day before the hearings, Mayor Bloomberg said holding restaurants accountable is an important part of making them safer.
BLOOMBERG 1 (:08) : We put fines in to discourage certain kinds of behavior. That’s the reason there’s fines. If we get revenue from it, it helps with our budget.

Wendy Binioris at the Hungarian Pastry Shop says fines have been going up for years and she always factor them into the restaurant’s bottom line. She says that her shop is doing well overall and doesn’t think her B rating has hurt it.

SOUND PASTRY SHOP 2 (:04) : People chatting, up and under

Near the door, Jerry Dinken sits with a group of regulars. They say they’ve been coming here for around 7 years to talk politics. Dinken says he loves the pastry shop regardless of the rating.

DINKEN 1 (:02) If it was an F we’d still come here.

While Binioris says that she’d rather go back to the pass-fail system, she’d be satisfied with reforms to make the process more consistent and clearer. Says she’ll keep making the same cakes for loyal customers, no matter what.

Andrew Parsons, Columbia Radio News

SOUND PASTRY SHOP 3 (:04) : Coffee shop chatter, fade out

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Former Occupy Wall Street Clinic Going Strong

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When Occupy Wall Street’s tent city was up and running,  one of its features was a so-called medical clinic, where doctors and nurses volunteered their services. The clinic lives on in the form of a volunteer first aid center about two blocks south, on the corner of Rector and Greenwich Street.

 

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