Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fatal Crash Kills Beloved Young Brooklyn Sad on 'Deathtrap' Street by Ryan Lavis, Rocco Parascandola & Barry Paddock - NY Times

Read original...

A young father died in a fatal crash on what neighbors called a 'deathtrap' street.
Twisted metal and a white sheet over the body of a beloved young dad dramatically tell the story of a crash that left a Brooklyn family grieving and a Queens neighborhood reeling.
Geraud Gray, 24, of East Flatbush, lost control of his black 2003 Nissan on a curve, slamming into the pole on North Conduit Ave. near 78th St. in Ozone Park about 10:16 a.m. yesterday, authorities said.
Witnesses reported he was speeding and driving erratically on a stretch of North Conduit Ave. that's a hot spot for drag-racing, cops said.
Witnesses told cops they saw two other vehicles speed by moments before Gray crashed.
"It was mangled," stunned neighbor Jackie Pellegrino, 60, said of the car, which wound up flipped over on its roof.
"This street is a deathtrap," agreed her daughter, Jodie, 33. "I wouldn't even walk my dog on this street. I'm petrified."

Amazingly, an 18-year-old man in the passenger seat somehow survived and is in stable condition at Brookdale University Hospital, authorities said. His name was not released.
Gray, who worked for FedEx, had a 2-year-old son.
"He was loved by all," said friend Selly Richards, 41. "He was a family man. He spent a lot of time with his kid."
Photo and video by: Todd Maisel - Daily News

Bees in Brooklyn Hives Mysteriously Turn Red by Susan Dominus - NYTimes.com

Read original...

David Selig of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a restaurant owner and amateur beekeeper, was disappointed that instead of honey his bees had produced a red concoction more reminiscent of maraschino cherries, or of cough syrup.
Cerise Mayo expected better of her bees. She had raised them right, given them all the best opportunities — acres of urban farmland strewn with fruits and vegetables, a bounty of natural nectar and pollen. Blinded by devotion, she assumed they shared her values: a fidelity to the land, to food sources free of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial food coloring.
And then this. Her bees, the ones she had been raising in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and on Governors Island since May, started coming home to their hives looking suspicious. Of course, it was the foragers — the adventurers, the wild waggle dancers, the social networkers incessantly buzzing about their business — who were showing up with mysterious stripes of color. Where there should have been a touch of gentle amber showing through the membrane of their honey stomachs was instead a garish bright red. The honeycombs, too, were an alarming shade of Robitussin.
“I thought maybe it was coming from some kind of weird tree, maybe a sumac,” said Ms. Mayo, who tends seven hives forAdded Value, an education nonprofit in Red Hook. “We were at a loss.”
An acquaintance, only joking, suggested the unthinkable: Maybe the bees were hitting the juice — maraschino cherry juice, that sweet, sticky stuff sloshing around vats at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company over on Dikeman Street in Red Hook.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” said Ms. Mayo, a soft-spoken young woman who has long been active in the slow-food movement. She found it particularly hard to believe that the bees would travel all the way from Governors Island to gorge themselves on junk food. “Why would they go to the cherry factory,” she said, “when there’s a lot for them to forage right there on the farm?”
Cerise Mayo, a beekeeper in Red Hook and Governors Island, found that her wandering bees were returning with red coloring, probably acquired at the factory of a company that produces maraschino cherries.

It seems natural, by now, for humans to prefer the unnatural, as if we ourselves had been genetically modified to choose artificially flavored strawberry candy over strawberries, or crunchy orange “cheese” puffs over a piece of actual cheese. But when bees make the same choice, it feels like a betrayal to our sense of how nature should work. Shouldn’t they know better? Or, perhaps, not know enough to know better?
A fellow beekeeper sent samples of the red substance that the bees were producing to an apiculturalist who works for New York State, and that expert, acting as a kind of forensic foodie, found the samples riddled with Red Dye No. 40, the same dye used in the maraschino cherry juice.
No one knows for sure where the bees might have consumed the dye, but neighbors of the Dell’s factory, Ms. Mayo said, reported that bees in unusually high numbers were gathering nearby.
And she learned that Arthur Mondella, the owner of the factory, had hired Andrew Coté, the leader of the New York City Beekeepers Association, to help find a solution.
Mr. Mondella did not return phone calls seeking comment, but in an interview, Mr. Coté said that the bees were as great a nuisance to the factory as Red Dye No. 40 was to the beekeepers. (No, Ms. Mayo was not alone: David Selig, another Red Hook beekeeper, also had bees showing red.)
A “honeycomb” from Mr. Selig’s hives.

“Bees will forage from any sweet liquid in their flight path for up to three miles,” Mr. Coté said. While he has not yet visited the factory, he said that the bees might be drinking from its runoff, and that solving the problem “could be as easy as putting up some screens, or providing a closer source of sweet nectar.”
Could the tastiest nectar, even close by the hives, compete with the charms of a liquid so abundant, so vibrant and so cloyingly sweet? Perhaps the conundrum raises another disturbing question: If the bees cannot resist those three qualities, what hope do the rest of us have?
A story of the perils of urban farming, this is also a story of the careful two-step of gentrification. Red Hook embodies so much of Brooklyn culture — an infatuation with the borough’s old ways, just so long as those do not actually impinge on the modish design and values.
The maraschino cherries that emerge from the Dell’s factory have probably graced thousands of retro-chic cocktails and sundaes in Red Hook itself, or at least in Williamsburg. Finding some solution to the maraschino juice bee crisis — to all urban clashes of culture — is part of the project of New York, a wildly creative endeavor in and of itself.
All summer long, friends of Ms. Mayo were forever pointing out the funny coincidence that her first name means “cherry” in French; as a slow-food advocate with the last name Mayo, she was already accustomed to such observations.
Mr. Selig, who owns the restaurant chain Rice and raises the bees as a hobby, was disappointed that an entire season that should have been devoted to honey yielded instead a red concoction that tasted metallic and then overly sweet.
He and Ms. Mayo also fear that the bees’ feasting on the stuff could have unforeseeable health effects on the hives.
But Mr. Selig said there was something extraordinary, too, about those corn-syrup-happy bees that came flying back this summer.
“When the sun is a bit down, they glow red in the evenings,” he said. “They were slightly fluorescent. And it was beautiful.”

E-mail: susan.dominus@nytimes.com
Photos by: Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

NY Needs More Aid for Unemployed, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Says by Kenneth R.. Bazinet - NY Daily News

Read original...

The legislative battle ahead won't be easy for Democrats, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says.

Out-of-work New Yorkers and the city's richest taxpayers are holding their breath as Congress and the White House begin dealmaking to decide what bills come up for a vote during the lame-duck session.
"No question the obstruction makes this very difficult, but we don't choose battles because they are easy," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said of the legislative battle ahead with Republicans empowered by their recent landslide election victories.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate convene Tuesday at the White House with President Obama in what both sides expect will be a contentious parley over the agenda in the abbreviated congressional session.
The only items certain to pass Congress are budget resolutions to keep the government from shutting down. Otherwise, it's a crapshoot.
A holiday season extension of jobless benefits for long-term unemployed Americans is among the longshot legislation languishing in Congress.
"People must come together, do what's right, and secure critical assistance for 200,000 New Yorkers who are out there looking for work," Gillibrand said.
New York City's jobless rate now stands at 9.2%, slightly below the national average but still devastating for those hit by layoffs, as well as city retailers who depend on a strong holiday shopping season.
Still on the table before the 111th Congress adjourns are the much more widely discussed middle class tax cuts and separate cuts for the rich.
The White House insists the President will not agree to make permanent cuts for the rich, cuts that affect about 2% of all Americans - those making $250,000 or more a year.
But a temporary extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy could be part of a deal in exchange for making the middle class cuts permanent, Democratic sources said.
GOP Speaker-in-Waiting John Boehner contends the only way the economy will rebound is if all the tax cuts remain permanent. The White House counters if that were the case the economy would not have collapsed during the Bush administration, when they were put on the books.
One compromise, offered up by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), would extend tax cuts for families earning up to $1 million instead of $250,000.
New York City residents pay about $50 billion in federal taxes annually, according to calculations prepared for the Daily News by the nonpartisan Fiscal Policy Institute in Albany.
Other agenda items that appear doomed during the last-gasp congressional session - unless Obama can pull off an 11th-hour coup - include repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for gays and lesbians, and Senate ratification of the START nuclear nonproliferation treaty with Russia.

Monday, November 29, 2010

White House White Board: Your Healthcare Dollar

Nancy-Ann DeParle, the Director of the Office of Health Reform at the White House breaks down new rules will make our health care marketplace more transparent and ensure you get the best value for your premium dollars. They are just one of the many parts of the Affordable Care Act that are already making our health care system stronger.

She explains medical loss ratio...Insurance companies must now spend 80% of your premiums on actual healthcare...More info on Healthcare.gov

RIP Leslie Nielson - The Swamp Fox

Leslie Nielsen, Actor, Dies at 84 - NY Times

Leslie Nielsen, the Canadian-born actor who in middle age tossed aside three decades of credibility in dramatic and romantic roles to make a new, far more successful career as a comic actor in films like “Airplane!” and the “Naked Gun” series, died on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.

According to The Associated Press, his agent, John S. Kelly, said Mr. Nielsen died at a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale where he was being treated for pneumonia.

Mr. Nielsen, a tall man with a matinee-idol profile, was often cast as an earnest hero at the beginning of his film career, in the 1950s.

His best-known roles included the stalwart spaceship captain in the science fiction classic “Forbidden Planet” (1956), the wealthy, available Southern aristocrat in “Tammy and the Bachelor” (1957) and an ocean liner captain faced with disaster in “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972).

In the 1960s and ’70s, as his hair turned white and he became an even more distinguished figure, Mr. Nielsen played serious military men, government leaders and even a mob boss, appearing in crime dramas, westerns and the occasional horror movie.

Then, in the low-budget, big-money-making 1980 disaster-movie parody “Airplane!” he was cast as a clueless doctor on board a possibly doomed jetliner. Critics and audiences alike praised his deadpan comic delivery, and his career was reborn.

“Airplane!” was followed by a television series, “Police Squad!” (1982), from the film’s director-writers.

It lasted only six episodes, but Mr. Nielsen, his goofy character, Lt. Frank Drebin, and the creators went on to three successful feature-film spinoffs.

The first, “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!” (1988), was followed by “The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear” (1991) and “The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (1994), whose cast included Priscilla Presley, O. J. Simpson and Anna Nicole Smith.

Other filmmakers cast Mr. Nielsen in a variety of comedies, including “Repossessed” (1990), an “Exorcist” spoof with Linda Blair; “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” (1995); “Spy Hard” (1996); and “2001: A Space Travesty” (2000).

None were received as well as the “Naked Gun” films, but Mr. Nielsen found a new continuing role as the paranoid, out-of-control president of the United States in “Scary Movie 3” (2003) and “Scary Movie 4” (2006).

In keeping with his adopted comic persona, when Mr. Nielsen in 1993 published an autobiography, “Naked Truth,” it was one that cheerfully, blatantly fabricated events in his life.

They included two Academy Awards, an affair with Elizabeth Taylor and a stay at a rehabilitation center, battling dopey-joke addiction.

In real life he was nominated twice for Emmy Awards, in 1982 as outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for “Police Squad!” and in 1988 as outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for an episode of “Day by Day,” an NBC sitcom about yuppies and day care.

Off screen, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, in 2002.

Leslie William Nielsen was born on Feb. 11, 1926, in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The son of a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police of Danish heritage and a Welsh mother, he grew up in the Northwest Territories and in Edmonton, Alberta, where he graduated from high school. Jean Hersholt, the Danish-born actor and humanitarian, was an uncle.

Mr. Nielsen enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force before his 18th birthday and trained as an aerial gunner during World War II, but he was never sent overseas.

He began his career in radio in Calgary, Alberta, then studied at the Academy of Studio Arts in Toronto and at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. This led him to his television debut, in a 1950 episode of “Actors Studio,” an anthology series on CBS.

By the time Mr. Nielsen made his film debut, in 1956, he had made scores of appearances in series and performed in one Broadway play, “Seagulls Over Sorrento” in 1952, as a tyrannical navy petty officer.

He continued to make guest appearances in television series throughout his career, and with great regularity through the 1970s.

And he did stage work, touring North America and Britain in a one-man show about the crusading lawyer Clarence Darrow.

His final projects included “Lipshitz Saves the World” (2007), an NBC movie comedy, and “Scary Movie 5,” to be released.

Mr. Nielsen married four times. His first wife (1950-56) was Monica Boyer; his second (1958-73) was Alisande Ullman, with whom he had two daughters; and his third (1981-83) was Brooks Oliver. Those marriages ended in divorce.

In 2001 he married Barbaree Earl; a resident of Fort Lauderdale, she survives him, as do his daughters, Maura Nielsen Kaplan and Thea Nielsen Disney.

His elder brother, Erik Nielsen, who was deputy prime minister of Canada from 1984 to 1986, died in 2008.

In a 1988 interview with The New York Times, Leslie Nielsen discussed his career-rejuvenating transition to comedy, a development that he had recently described as “too good to be true.”

“It’s been dawning on me slowly that for the past 35 years I have been cast against type,” he said, “and I’m finally getting to do what I really wanted to do.”

Cathie Black Claims to Have Educational Experience with Charter School Board Post, But it's Moot by Meredith Kolodner & Greg B. Smith - NY Daily News

Read original...

Parents and school officials at the Harlem Village Academies School say they've had little contact with schools chancellor nominee Cathie Black.

City schools chancellor nominee Cathie Black insists she's connected to public education via a highly touted charter school - but a close look shows she's had no contact with students, parents or teachers there.

Officials at the Harlem Village Academies admit the school's National Leadership Board, which Black joined just five months ago, has never met.
That board "has no operational or governing authority" over the school and exists for "support purposes only," the school said in response to Daily News questions.
Black primarily advised the school's CEO, Deborah Kenny, on "management, leadership, and the development of a book" Kenny is writing, the school said.
Harlem Village parents and former employees had little knowledge of Black, who is expected to get a state waiver that will allow her to take the job despite having almost no education experience.
"No, no, no, she's not with us," said the parent of a sixth-grader. "She's not on our board. We have a lot of people who give money, lots of very famous people come here. That could be what it is."
A second parent added, "I've heard of Cathie Black from the papers, but she's not part of this school."
Black's link to Harlem Village appears to be her only connection to New York public schools.
She went to Catholic school, sent her children to a Connecticut boarding school and spent her career in the publishing business.
Far from the average school
A former Harlem Village employee said Black visited the school in 2009 at Kenny's invitation as a possible donor. After that, the former employee never saw Black again.
Harlem Village officials said Black started on the board in July, a month after she lost her job as president of Hearst Magazines.
It's not clear when Mayor Bloomberg first approached Black with the idea of becoming chancellor.
Whatever Black's role there, Harlem Village has little in common with the average public school.
Kenny, who oversees 450 students, is paid $442,000, including a $140,000 "bonus" and $27,780 in "other" expenses.
The schools chancellor gets $250,000 to oversee 1.1 million students.
Many charter schools have a parent representative on their board. Harlem Village does not.
Bloomberg has called the school a national "poster child" for school reform. Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch gave $5 million toward construction of the new high school.
The school has been lauded nationally for its high test scores, including for pushing 100% of its eighth-graders to pass state math tests.
A look at the overall scores tells a different tale. In the last round of tests, like schools across New York, numbers dropped precipitously after the state made the tests tougher.
Schoolwide English test scores fell from 81% passing to 41%, while math dropped from 91% to 71%. And by eighth grade, the number of students taking the tests is a small fraction of the earlier grades.
The eighth grade with the 100% passing rate in math had 19 students.
'Why do they keep kids back?'
An unusually high number of younger students either drop out or are held back. In school year 2003-04, the year the school opened, only 48 of 73 fifth-graders made it to sixth grade. In school year 2006-07, 46 of 68 moved on; in 2007-08, just 40 of 76 fifth-graders made it to sixth grade.
Several parents praised the school for improving test scores and enforcing discipline but questioned why so many students were held back repeatedly.
"The school is good in some ways, but I don't like how they keep making so many kids stay back," one parent said. "There's a lot of pressure. If the school is as good as they say, then why do they keep the kids back?"
Higher grades fared better, although only 31 of 43 of the seventh-graders in 2006-07 made it to eighth grade and only 24 of that class went on to ninth, records show.
Harlem Village officials called the drop in overall test scores "irrelevant" because the school takes in low-performing students whose scores rise the longer they're at the school.
They also said the academy's high school students outperformed their public school peers, with 97% passing all Regents exams compared with 66% in public schools. They did not mention that the high school serves 163 students in ninth and tenth-grades only.
The middle school teacher turnover rate at Harlem Village Academies is also high: more than 50% of the teachers left or were fired in both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. In 2008-09, the turnover was 25%; in 2009-10, the rate was up to 39%.
School officials said the reasons teachers leave are "wide-ranging," including teachers who "move out of state or become full-time mothers."
The school also punishes students at an exceptionally high rate. Harlem Village suspended half its students in school year 2005-06, 44% in 2006-07 and 62% in 2007-08.
By comparison, nearby Public School/Intermediate School 210 reported suspension rates of less than 5% in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
School officials said 95% of the suspensions were for "nonviolent behavior," including "teasing, cheating or disrespect."

Cathleen Black: Education's Sarah Palin? by Gary Anderson - The Huffington Post

Read original...

It was business as usual on Friday as David Steiner apparently has agreed to provide Bloomberg with the waiver he needs to appoint Cathleen Black as the new chancellor of education for New York City.
Cathleen Black is as embarrassingly ignorant of education as sure-to-be presidential candidate Sarah Palin is of national and geopolitical issues. Steiner, though should know better.
Unfortunately, although steeped in philosophy and educational theory, he shares Bloomberg's corporate ideology, and apparently is ultimately a political animal. He thinks John Dewey was wrong-headed and that he recanted his life's work. Instead of blaming exploding rates of inequality, concentrated poverty, and unemployment for the plight of inner-city youth, he blames progressive educators--progressive both in the Deweyian sense of "child-centered" and in the sense of "left-liberal".
Educators should be clear that this decision is not a compromise. Creating a new #2 position of chief academic officer was a ploy to make Steiner's decision seem more palatable in the face of significant public opposition. Shael Polakow-Suransky is already a top official at the city's department of education, and would be available to Ms. Black anyway. Giving him a new title will make little difference; it will only make the Tweed Hall administration even more top heavy. Good superintendents, and even high school principals have long worked as teams, meeting regularly with colleagues and pooling their knowledge. But this is not the kind of corporate management that Bloomberg has brought into public governance, nor unfortunately is it Cathleen Black's management style.
What was heartening was the immediate outcry and organized opposition to both the candidate and the non-process. In spite of buying off opponents, including the teachers union and nonprofits, Bloomberg's political machine is showing some cracks. For one brief moment, when his advisory panel, packed with members linked to Bloomberg, wavered in their support, I thought David Steiner might do something heroic and democratic. But it is now clear that behind the scenes (and the public's back) Steiner and the real players (apparently including Arne Duncan) were scrambling to shore up the damage caused by Bloomberg's secretive and impulsive appointment.
Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, aware that the new #2 position was really political spectacle, asserted, "The issue for us is, 'can we create credibility around this position?' "
Clearly the "us" she is referring to is not the citizens or teachers of New York City. Sol Stern, a conservative commentator with The Manhatten Institute perhaps put it best when he said that Mr. Polakow-Suransky will be treated as a "gofer" by the mayor and Ms. Black.
Mr. Polokow-Suransky is an educator and has a graduate degree from Bank Street College of Education, one of the best and most progressive Educational Leadership programs in the city. One can only speculate why Mr. Polakow-Suransky would go along with what appears to be a political charade. He is also a graduate of what the Wall Street Journal called the "prestigious" Broad Superintendents Academy. I don't want to engage in guilt by association, since it is possible that Mr. Polokow-Suransky's Bank Street education inoculated him against the Broad Academy Kool Aid. But, it is worth taking a look at the ideological tenets of the Broad Superintendents Academy and its impact on the current cadre of corporate thinking superintendents around the country.
Eli Broad, a Los Angeles-based venture philanthropist, has for two decades bankrolled the corporate education of current superintendents and the retooling of business and military leaders to be superintendents. A recent press release for the Broad Superintendents Academy proclaims that Broad graduates filled 43 percent of all external superintendent openings in large urban American school districts last year. Not only is Broad selling a corporate management model, he is recruiting future urban superintendents from the ranks of the military. According to the same press release:
This year's class also includes high-ranking Army and Air Force leaders, including a major general who oversaw 45,000 combat soldiers in Iraq and led officers of 26 nations to coordinate efforts in Afghanistan, a brigadier general who led the Army to create and deploy a 4,000 man organization into combat anywhere in the world within 96 hours, and a colonel who created nationally recognized business practices to better utilize the skills and talents of 60,000 Army officers (Broad Center Press Release, 2010, paragraph 6)
If a corporate model seems top-down and undemocratic, imagine leaders used to a chain of command organization! I am not against cross-sector borrowing of evidence-based and appropriately applied ideas. In my last post I elaborated on why worn-out ideas (mostly ideologies) from the corporate closet have had a devastating effect on public education. But do you suppose there has been a nuanced discussion of the cross-sector borrowing from the military to education?
Speaking of cross-sector borrowing, a group of teachers from the Green Party will be applying for Ms. Black's position at Hearst magazines. They will bring books about the publishing industry and ask them to have patience while they "get up to speed." What do think their odds of getting hired are? Apparently cross-sector borrowing is a one-way street.
About the Author:
L. Anderson is a former high school teacher and principal, having taught and administered schools in Iowa, New York City, and Mexico. He is a professor of Educational Leadership in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University (NYU). He is the recipient of two Fullbright awards, one in Mexico and one in Argentina. His most recent publications are Advocacy Leadership: Toward a Post-Reform Agenda. (2009, Routledge). And The Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice. (2007, Sage, with Kathryn Herr).