Hungry Flock To Turkey Giveaway

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

The Yorkville Common Pantry handed out 2,200 turkeys in the days before Thanksgiving – but that wasn’t enough to meet the demand of the 9,000 families the charity serves.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to turn [people] away, that’s the sad reality,” said Daniel Reyes, director of the pantry, which raised $35,000 to buy the turkeys.

Rising food costs, tough economic times and an increase in hungry people are proving a triple whammy for city food pantries and soup kitchens this holiday season.

Growing Hunger

There’s been a 28 percent hike in the number of people using food pantries and soup kitchens in the last year, bringing the number of New Yorkers served to 1.3 million, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Meanwhile, the number of people across the country seeking help from food relief programs has risen 25 to 45 percent, while donations have gone up by 18 percent, according to Feeding America.

“Actually, during Thanksgiving people are less likely to go hungry because more people give out food,” said Joel Berg, director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “So if it’s this bad now, just imagine the rest of the year.”

Major Challenges

The tough economy and rising food prices are presenting food relief operations with major challenges. A gallon of milk costs nearly a dollar more than last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the prices of such Thanksgiving staples as turkey, cranberries, whipping cream and pumpkin pie mix are up.

“We’ve raised an unprecedented amount of money this year,” said Reyes, whose pantry gave away about 1,000 turkeys in 2006. “We’ve worked very hard, but at the same time the cost of Thanksgiving has also gone up a lot.”

“We are in a food crisis and it becomes glaringly clear at this time with the holidays when folks have to get turned away because we are unable to provide them with food,” he added.

'Obama' Hate Attack Victim Speaks Out

Monday, November 24th, 2008

When a car full of young men pulled up to Ali Kamara near his Staten Island home shortly after Barack Obama’s historic election victory, the teen didn’t run – he said he thought he was about to be stopped by cops.

Moments later, the 17-year-old high school student said he found himself instinctively covering his face as he had been taught in boxing class while his attackers pounded him with pipes and a baton, and yelled, “Obama!”

As he recovers from his injuries, Kamara, a Black Muslim, described the racially charged beating – and vowed he isn’t going to let the suspected hate attack shake him from his goal of becoming a pediatrician.

“I try to wake up early in the morning, go to school, make the best out of it, like, just to learn so that I can make my mom happy,” said the Curtis High School student, who has been taking extra classes to make up the time lost to his injuries.

“That can’t stop me from doing anything,” said Kamara, who suffered a head wound and was left with a limp by the early Nov. 5 beating.

“They could’ve killed me, though, and not make me try to be who I wanted to be when I grew up… I want to meet them to ask them why it had to be me,” Kamara said.

‘Cowards in The Night’

Two white teenagers, described as “cowards in the night” by a prosecutor, have been charged in the early Nov. 5 beating near the intersection of Pine and Broad streets in predominantly black Park Hill.

Ralph Nicoletti and Bryan Garaventa, both 18, face counts of assault as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon. The teens, who pleaded not guilty, could get up to 15 years in prison, if convicted.

Cops are looking for two other suspects in the attack, which prosecutors said came shortly after members of the quartet shouted racial slurs outside a local nail salon.

Kamara said he had spent most of election night playing video games at a friend’s house. Around midnight, after watching the election results, he walked home. He was a few houses away from his home when a car pulled up just before a stop sign.

“That is when the two kids hopped out and I thought it was the cops,” said Kamara.

“So, I stood there. I’m waiting for them to search me, because if I run, [they’re] going to chase me,” said Kamara, adding that cops had stopped him once in the past, and let him go after finding nothing amiss. “They’re going to say, I had drugs on me or ‘Why you running?’ or ‘We got to take you to the precinct to see if you’ve got any criminal (record).’

Next thing he knew, Kamara said, he was being beaten. He said he put his hands over his face as the attackers clubbed him and called him “Obama.”

Another car soon drove by and the four men fled. “That car saved my life,” Kamara said.

Kamara said he got up, ran and jumped over a fence of a nearby house, and called his mom – and 911.

“If I wasn’t going to get up, they was going to kill me,” said Kamara, “because they kept hitting me hard.”

A Mother’s Nightmare

Kamara’s mother thought she had left senseless violence behind eight years ago when she fled war-torn Liberia with her son and settled on Staten Island. Now, she said, her life has been turned upside down.

“Every day, I have to give him medication for his head,” said Janeba Ladepo, 36, a resident assistant at the United Cerebral Palsy facility near her son’s school. “I go to work and I cry. I think about my son everyday.”

“We don’t deserve this. We are a poor people coming to this country for our daily bread.”

Ladepo said she wanted to see the other two suspects brought to justice soon.

“I’m not going to say that all white people are bad,” she said. “Four people did this to my son. I consider them to be bad people.”

Demands for Justice

The incident has shaken Staten Island and spurred demands for justice. Elected officials have put up a $6,600 reward. Some residents have proposed a borough-wide conversation on race, and have called on schools to use Obama’s upcoming inauguration as a “teaching moment” about racial relations.

“There is hate because of fear. There is fear because of ignorance,” Hesham El-Meligy, a New Springville resident and Muslim community representative, said at a recent public meeting of the Staten Island African-American Political Association. “We have a problem of not acknowledging the problem.”

Dora Berksteiner, president of the Staten Island African-American Political Association, said she received about 10 phone calls from Staten Island residents about children taunting other children after Obama’s victory.

“We have a black president and for some people, it’s like the world has come to an end,” Berksteiner said. “When he is inaugurated, I expect we’ll have more problems.”

Guns 'N Roses Star Likes It Hot

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron Thal is serious about his music – and his hot sauces.

With the long-awaited release of “Chinese Democracy” days away, Thal – known professionally as Bumblefoot – talked about his love of all things spicy and his contribution to Guns N’ Roses’ first album in 17 years.

“I was looking to bring something new to the songs that may not have been there before,” said Thal, who joined the band in 2006, after most of the “Chinese Democracy” songs had been written.

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Hope For Rockefeller Laws Repeal

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

As Democrats captured a majority in the state senate for the first time since 1964, beating out Republican incumbents in two districts, the new political landscape has many reformers anticipating a once-in-a-generation opportunity to influence longstanding legislation.

“If the governor puts a serious proposal for repeal or sweeping reform on the table it’s likely to be taken up by the Democratic senate,” said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a drug policy group.

Enacted in 1973 by then-governor Nelson Rockefeller, the tough on crime statues established mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses, limiting judicial discretion on the length and type of sentences handed out. Last year more than 20% of new inmates, or roughly 12,000 prisoners in the New York state correctional system were committed for drug-related offenses. Over the last 35 years, hundreds of thousands of offenders have been sentenced under these laws.

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FBI Went Searching For Bobby Fischer

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

New York Times Hoax Fit to Prank

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Anthony Kearse

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Aurora Caponegro

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Rose Marie Mosher

Friday, November 7th, 2008