The CCM property may be part of the “Rochester burial area,” where the University of Rochester had buried animal carcasses that had been used for testing the effects of radiation. Although the DOE is reported to have excavated the University of Rochester burial area in 1972 to a depth of 10 feet and to have removed 512 cubic yards of soil, drums, and debris from the site, the results from the Corps of Engineers testing would indicate that this area is far from decontaminated.

The Corps of Engineers report indicated that, in the testing, a total of eight samples contained measurable plutonium. Other radionuclides detected include strontium-90 and radium. These samples included an animal bone, laboratory debris, and subsurface soil samples. The plutonium and strontium contamination is assumed to be from the University of Rochester radiation experiments, while the radium would have come from the storage of uranium refining waste, known as K-65 residue. The findings by the Corps indicate that this waste is not a potential danger to the public because the surface soil “exhibited near background levels” and because the site is currently “inaccessible to the public.” On the other hand, excavation of the site, as Chemical Waste Management proposed, would bring to the surface contaminated subsurface soil. This would expose both workers and the public to soil contaminated with some of the most carcinogenic substances known to human.

The issue of contamination at the Chemical Waste Management property was brought up at a press conference, called by Residents for Responsible Government, on September 17, at a cemetery just a mile west of the hazardous landfill. On the same day, Chemical Waste Management hosted an open house for the local residents. Vince Agnello, president of Residents for Responsible Government, asked Gov. George Pataki for his intervention concerning Chemical Waste Management’s request to obtain an excavation permit to dig on the site, despite New York State Department of Health orders prohibiting digging on this radiologically contaminated site. Flanking Agnello at the press conference were local officials, union representative Roger Cook, and two state representatives, Senator George Maziarz and Francine DelMonte.

This fight pits some weighty state and federal agencies against each other. The opposing forces include the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation against the Residents for Responsible Government, the Niagara County Legislature, and the New York State Department of Health. The disputed site is part of the original Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, which the federal government, during and after World War II, used to store “Manhattan Project” wastes. In 1972, the state department of health prohibited the release of this land into private hands for unrestricted use. Chemical Waste Management began operating this landfill site in 1988. The Department if Energy decommissioned the site and released it for unrestricted use.

A letter from the state department of health, dated August 19, stated, “Based on the documentation provided by Chemical Waste Management to date, as well as our review of available data, we are unable to substantiate the Department of Energy’s conclusion that the affected properties can be released for unrestricted use.” It further requests that, “since there is a potential for residual soil contamination and potential ground water contamination, the department of health must evaluate current site conditions before we can approve earth moving activities. Therefore (the department of health) requests that Chemical Waste Management submit a plan for monitoring ground water for radioactive contaminants for developed areas and a plan for air monitoring for currently active areas.”

Chemical Waste Management has agreed to submit soil and water samples for radiological testing to a lab in St. Louis, Mo. The EPA has refused to review the Department of Energy surveys of the site, and it has complimented the state’s department of environmental conservation for the fine job that it is doing in managing the site. The Niagara County legislature passed a resolution on September 7 requesting that a full State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process, including public hearings, be used regarding the expansion of the Chemical Waste Management site.

Maziarz is planning to make personal contact with the governor to persuade him to intervene on behalf of the local residents. If this does not work, Agnello is prepared to start local petition drives and rallies to block the proposed Chemical Waste Management expansion.

I Can’t Remember Anything is the first production presented by the new Gerald Fried Theatre Company. The company was founded this year by brothers Manny and Gerald Fried, actress Rosalind Cramer, and playwright Rebecca Ritchie. Directed by Sheila McCarthy, the play features Manny Fried in the role of Leo and Rosalind Cramer in the role of Leonora.

Leonora is a beautifully dressed social butterfly who is frustrated by her memory lapses and discouraged by the knowledge that her husband and all of her friends except for Leo are deceased. At one point, Leonora says in frustration, “Sometimes I think I remembered something... I wonder if I’m imaginary.” Leo is more of an analytical person, who wants and seems to need time alone. He has very little tolerance for small talk or conversation that he perceives to be mindless chatter. “I like women. I just don’t like dumb women,” Leo tells Leonora, who wonders if perhaps he just doesn’t like women. As an old man, Leo needs his solitude more than ever. Leo also is very conscious of his physical limitations. He talks about suffering from “gas disease” and stress, and about the possibility of stroke.

Through the dialogue and the realistic acting by both performers, the two characters come to life. Both Leo and Leonora wonder about the point of their own existence. Leo comments, “All we are is a lot of talking nitrogen.” Leonora, who no longer receives party invitations, says, “I can’t for the life of me figure out why I haven’t died.” Their sadness at losing valuable parts of their lives weighs on them. In one poignant exchange, Leonora relates that she has forgotten about the spices that she used for cooking and, in fact, hardly remembers that she did cook. Leo gently reminds her about the rosemary that she used, sharing with her how tender her lamb and string beans were.

Kurt Schneiderman describes Mother Dis-Courage as “just another absurdist, neo-Brechtian, anti-imperialist extravaganza.” He created this one-act play as a loose takeoff of Bertold Brecht’s play, Mother Courage, about a woman who doesn’t want her sons to die in war while, at the same time, making her living from the continuation of that war. In Mother Dis-Courage, the characters are types, rather than realistic portrayals of people. At times, it seems that they are aware of the fact that they are characters in a play. The types include Mr. Moneybags (Donald Gallo), an employer who is focused on the bottom line to the detriment of his workers, Mother Dis-Courage (Kate Olena), a woman who doesn’t want her own son to die but who doesn’t seem to care if other people’s sons die, and Son Dis-Courage (Rich Kraemer), a confused young man who joined the military because Mr. Moneybags told him that he had to participate in “killing other people” and in “stealing their natural resources.”

“America is great because of money and killing!”

Mother Dis-Courage is a literary play, incorporating elements of Mother Courage and of Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol. Berthold Brecht (Keith Elkins) and Britney Spears (Jeannine Giftear) appear as narrator of the tale. Brecht’s obscure poetic recitations clash with Spear’s “narration” for the radio program, “All Things Belabored.” Later in the play, Brecht, carrying his chains, appears as a Jacob Marley type, warning Mother Dis-Courage of both her and her son’s potential fate. Brecht tells Mother Dis-Courage that she will be visited by the Ghosts of Imperialist Invasions of the past, present, and future. The ghosts turn out to be George Orwell (Emanuel Fried), John Lennon (Kevin Costa), and Paul McCartney (Ron Leonardi).

The dialogue in Mother Dis-Courage is pointed and topical. The issues brought up occupy the news headlines of today, and they include pre-emptive war, the abuse of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, video games, George W. Bush, prejudice against Arabs, and attitudes toward China. Despite the unpleasant reality of the issues brought up, the play never becomes tedious or tasteless. It always stays in the realm of political satire, and, as such, makes for far better entertainment than the daily newspaper.

The Toronto Film Festival, a cinematic playpen for the rich and famous as well as for the true blue devoted film fan, is underway, having opened Thursday, September 9. It runs through Saturday, Sept. 18. If you juggle your schedule just right, you might be able to catch seven movies a day. It’s been done. Many of the movie-crazy see five or six films a day, and average guys and gals are mightily pleased with three or four choices. The most I’ve ever seen in a single day is six features.

In spite of special passes and advance sales, it is absolutely possible to drive up to Toronto and enjoy the festival. Anyone who goes should be able to see at least 3 movies with no hassle. The secret is to be open to anything and everything. Don’t discriminate. Sure you might want to hang-out in the same theater space as some of this year’s stars like Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Danny Glover, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Peter Sarsgaard, Dustin Hoffman, Hilary Swank, Colin Firth, Sigourney Weaver, Charlize Theron, Andy Garcia, Joan Allen, Jamie Foxx, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Kevin Spacey, Sean Penn, Sandra Bullock, Joseph Fiennes, Orlando Bloom, Susan Sarandon, Lily Tomlin, Helen Hunt, Nick Nolte or Al Pacino; and you just might get lucky, but most movies have the director and a star or two in tow to introduce the film in the theater.

The best advice for those of you simply driving up is to get an early start and make the rounds of the theaters showing festival films. Look at the big board, and then the lobby standee for which showings actually have tickets available. Buy what you need, at around $16.00 Canadian. Theaters showing movies include the Cumberland, Varsity, Paramount, Elgin, Art Gallery Of Ontario Auditorium, Royal Ontario Museum Auditorium, the Ryerson Theatre, and Roy Thompson Hall where the star-packed Galas are shown. If screenings are sold out, there’s always the possibility of standing in line for a Rush Seat, but that’s a time-waster and your getting in depends on the length of the line. Additionally, the movie might have already started by the time you make it into the auditorium. Rush Seats for the Galas are usually available, but you will sit way up high in the third balcony. You can also go to the festival box offices at the ManuLife Centre on Bloor near Bay Street or the College Park location on Yonge near College. Or call 416-968-FILM and ask “what’d’ya got?” for your chosen day.

Some of the movies slated to play the festival this year include Head In The Clouds, The Assassination Of Richard Nixon, Beyond The Sea, The Libertine, Return To Sender, The Merchant Of Venice, Modigliani, Ray, The Motorcycle Diaries, A Good Woman, Stage Beauty, I Heart Huckabee, The Woodsman, Haven, Crash, Due South, Imaginary Heroes, Red Dust, Trauma, Wilby Wonderful, Siblings, Being Julia, P.S., Kinsey, Clean, Hotel Rwanda, Childstar, and so much more. But, let’s face it, a lot of you are cinephiles of the highest order, so how about this for your schedule; yep, you can go to the festival and hopefully see new works such as: Catherine Breillat’s Anatomie de L’enfer, Jean-Luc Godard’s Notre Musique, Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education, Wim Wenders’ Land Of Plenty, John Waters’ A Dirty Shame, Todd Solondz’s Palindromes, Carlo Mazzacurati’s An Italian Romance, John Sayles’ Silver City, Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, and top it off with an anthology picture entitled Eros, with segments by Michelangelo Antonioni, Steven Soderbergh, and Wong Kar Wai.

If it’s autographs you seek, hanging out around the Four Seasons Hotel or Roy Thomson Hall will satisfy your craving for movie stars, but they can be spotted anywhere. At Roy Thomson, where the Galas are held, the stars stroll the red carpet. There are true blue autograph hounds everywhere, some of them from Buffalo. In fact, years ago I promised never to reveal his identity, but one of the world’s – that’s world’s – greatest autograph collectors lives in Buffalo. He’s always at the Toronto Festival. How many signatures has he collected in his 40-plus years? Try more than 20,000. A tip of my hat to him.

If you can’t make it to Toronto, there’s always new material for home viewing. From Strand Releasing, which holds the gold standard for unique features, comes the DVD releases of Swoon and A Thousand Clouds Of Peace. Swoon is the exceptional, award-winning 1992 drama, stunningly photographed in black and white by Ellen Kuras, that tells the infamous true story of Leopold and Loeb, two very bright young Jewish men who, in 1920s Chicago, kidnapped and murdered a boy named Bobby Franks. In the film, the idea for the murder rises out of a desire to simply see if it could be done. The movie is chilling in its reality and sense of thrill-seeking, a cautionary take for today. It’s superbly written and directed by Tom Kalin. The DVD is a newly remastered version of the movie and is loaded with extras including commentary track, the original theatrical trailer, photo galleries of the filmmakers and the actual Leopold and Loeb trial, movie stills, and posters. Twelve years after its initial acclaimed release, the well-acted Swoon continues to have the power to overwhelm and merit discussion. A Thousand Clouds Of Peace is from Mexico and is written and directed by Julian Hernandez. Its full Mexican title is Mil Nubes de Paz Cercan el Cielo, Amor, Jamás Acabarás de Ser Amor. The 2003 movie has wowed audiences at film festivals, including Sundance. At the highly-competitive Berlin International Film Festival, it won the prestigious Teddy Award for Best Film, and was subsequently nominated for seven Mexican Oscars.

Festival movies are often a world unto themselves and many never receive theatrical release in the United States. DVD and VHS offer movie fanatics the opportunity to catch unusual films they might never get to see. A Thousand Clouds Of Peace is worth finding. The movie follows a young gay teenager in the big city, which is almost a Golden Age Of Hollywood cliché. Director Hernandez fully understands the empty heart the gay teen carries wherever he goes. He’s just broken up with his older, male lover, and wanders crowded streets quite lonely and in despair. The movie might be rooted in homosexual relationships, but its theme is universal. It’s about longing and desire and needs. Hernandez has delivered a frank and complex work that is a fascinating to look at visually, as it is to listen to its message of hope.

When lazing by the swimming pool in a pool of blood, do you ever think about how your family’s gene pool is kind of a cesspool?

Until I get a social life, I’ve been rewatching my Alias season one DVDs. In that season, Sydney Bristow is a double agent, so she’s always getting missions from an evil, fake CIA and then going back to the virtuous, actual CIA with this question: “What’s my countermission?” I kind of like the word “countermission.” Maybe because it would be fun to lie constantly, betray my colleagues, and destroy my employer from within. That would really pass the time.

The redundancy of the week: “alcohol-induced hangover.” As opposed to what, an alcohol-induced pregnancy? Or a sledgehammer-induced hangover?

Two of my favorite euphemisms for taking a shit are “laying an egg” and “dropping the bomb.” I guess I like that sweet, motherly feeling of giving life, and also that God-like, fatherly feeling of snuffing it out. Both are cool.

I always wanted goons, but I’d settle for minions.

Rage seems to be all the rage these days, as various folks have seriously used the terms “zoo rage,” “tax rage,” “Bible rage,” “golf rage,” “sidewalk rage,” and “salad bar rage.” I hope that this trend continues and we’ll soon read about or experience “bunny rage,” “cheese grater rage,” “altar boy rage,” “panda rage,” “bowling shoe rage,” “tranquilizer dart rage,” “liquefied chicken manure rage,” and maybe even “sponge bath rage.”

I wonder how many “people who take the short bus to school” (stupid people) “drive the porcelain bus” (vomit) while “riding the magic bus” (tripping on acid or ‘shrooms). More than few, I expect.

While talking with my friend Tina in a coffee shop, I heard a barista shout, “Tall virgin on wheels!” Though I soon learned that these words referred to a medium decaf coffee to go, I had two immediate thoughts: 1) Hello to the imagery! and 2) our more barbaric ancestors would surely have appreciated a tall virgin on wheels; you could just wheel her right up to the volcano and — ploop — drop her in.

Outside of limericks, very little English literature contains the words “Nantucket” or “Lewinsky.”

Next time you’re trying to describe something that’s neither horrific nor terrific, try one of these real words I found with Google: spider-iffic, hair-iffic, sitar-iffic, horror-iffic, lobster-iffic, scooter-iffic, allergy-iffic, prankster-iffic, cholesterol-iffic, birdcage-iffic, monster-iffic, terror-iffic, gore-iffic, Hitler-iffic, ogre-iffic, toddler-iffic, boner-iffic, blister-iffic, poseur-iffic, weather-iffic, scare-iffic, Cher-iffic, odor-iffic, mediocre-iffic, dinosaur-iffic, wanker-iffic, squid-er-iffic, mosher-iffic, twister-iffic, clunker-iffic, murder-iffic, whore-iffic, terrier-iffic, and vampire-iffic.

How did the waffle get associated with waffling? Is it somehow less steadfast and true than a pancake?

You can say, “The new Star Wars movies suck” around more people than you can say “The new Star Wars movies blow,” even though “suck” and “blow” have about the same meaning. I guess “suck,” because it’s so popular, has been more thoroughly rehabilitated and drained of filth. It also doesn’t help that “blow” is one half of “blow job”; that’s just a little too reminiscent of what the phrase actually means.

I worked in a nursing home as a maintenance man one summer, and one of my colleagues uttered these words, which I still live by: “Medical waste… it’s not good to taste.”

If a bleeding heart liberal and a compassionate conservative saw a five-hanky chick flick in the nosebleed seats together, would they drown in their own tears and blood?

The words of the week:

10) Smurf

9) Buttmunch

8) Piggy

7) Smegma-free

6) Skankspionage

5) Ninny

4) Dweebitude

3) Phlegm

2) Vulva-savvy

1) Diddle

A great moment: While walking between work and a sushi place, I overheard three batshit-loony-looking dudes on the street having a debate over whether “paranoid” and “schizophrenic” meant the same thing. God bless America.

Wordluster Mark Peters wants to hear your thoughts, jokes, and questions about language, including favorite words, memorable goofs, trenchant observations, and other word-ish material. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In fact, from the moment that more than 500,000 people stepped off at Seventh Avenue and West 15th Street on Sunday afternoon through the arrest of the last sixteen anarcho-kids at 30th Street and Eighth Avenue shortly after midnight on Friday, September 3, the anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-corporate, and anti-capitalist demonstrators who came together for more than four days to express their displeasure with the direction the world is heading cemented a bond that had been forming since before the infamous 1999 demonstrations in Seattle. In and about lower Manhattan all day and night last week, tens of thousands roamed with purpose, entirely sincere, and willing to prove it. Take Father Simon Harak, Jesuit priest and anti-militarism coordinator with the War Resisters League. As 4 p.m. approached on August 31, designated a day of direct action by many groups involved in the week’s events, members of the War Resisters League, the School of the Americas Watch, the Latin American Solidarity Movement, and others lined-up two-by-two in front of Ground Zero, prepared to take an unpermitted march as close to Madison Square Garden as the police would let them. Many intended to participate in a “die-in” to protest U.S. military policy, at Madison Square Garden if possible, but, more likely, when the police officers decided the march had proceeded long enough. And Harak was ready to make a physical stand against war profiteering as well. “There used to be a war, and some people profited off of them,” said Harak, moments before the march was to begin. “Now, especially under the Bush administration, these same people are making war for profit. What they’ve done in effect is commandeered our military to take over an entire nation. The economic cost is huge, and the human cost astounding. By staging a die-in, what we want to do is bring the idea of the human cost as close to the convention as possible.” Harak is a co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness and has been a priest for 24 years. Currently he serves the St. Vincent Parish in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on the weekends and works with peace activists during the week, he said.

Unfortunately, the march from Ground Zero to Madison Square Garden didn’t go quite as expected. Shortly after a police commander, who remains unidentified, announced to the assembled demonstrators that, as long as they stayed on the sidewalk, walked two-by-two, crossed with the lights, and didn’t block pedestrian or automobile traffic, there would be no problem, the group began crossing Church Street and headed up Fulton, toward a line of police who had closed off Fulton to traffic.

But, just as the sidewalk on Fulton began filling up, officers moved to the front and halted the march’s progress, forcing several people who were expecting to step onto the sidewalk before the Church Street light changed to be momentarily stranded in the street, thereby blocking traffic and giving the NYPD “causes belie.” What proceeded from there was incredible as several men and women were lined up on their knees and handcuffed. About 200 people on Fulton were surrounded by orange netting. Reporters were told not to move or they were “fair game,” and the police proceeded to arrest the whole crew before the march had even had a chance to start.

The arrests didn’t halt the protest from going forward, though, as about 220 people opted to march along the sidewalk up Church Street, toward the Garden via Washington Square Park. They were a quiet, solemn crew, who nevertheless managed to snake their way to Broadway and 28th Street, where 54 members of the group left the line to perform a die-in after dozens of police on bikes, cars, and vans halted the procession.

Eric LeCompte, SOAWatch events and outreach coordinator, estimated the Ground Zero crowd at 2,000 and said the decision to break away and march despite the arrests and heavy police presence was heartening. “I really feel that the action turned out well,” LeCompte said as police attempted to close off the intersection where the 54 “dead” marchers lay. “It was terrible the way this started, with the police illegally arresting more than 200 people. But we intended, and did, let the Bush administration know what its foreign policy is doing to the world.” Other events throughout the week followed a similar path, with police promptly moving to shut down entire blocks as protest sprang up, and demonstrators cropping up elsewhere. Sunday, August 30, is a perfect case in point. Loosely affiliated groups participated in an event known as ‘Mousebloc,” a series of confrontations aimed at RNC delegates and their hangers-on attending dinner and performances near Times Square, the heart of the city’s theater district. Police, as if foreshadowing how they would handle the A31 day of direct action, moved in quickly and shut down streets, intersections, and corners each time a group of protesters moved to block an entrance, occupy a corner, or confront the Republican revelers.

Mounted police rode at a small crowd of about 100 gathered on the island in the Square, which caused a small splinter group of a dozen or so to run off in the direction of the Marriott Hotel. Officers on foot pursued them, blockaded the hotel entrance, and closed down the sidewalk to everyone, even credentialed reporters.

Around the corner a group calling themselves Queer Fist held a “kiss-in,’ in which couples walked slowly along the sidewalk, stopping to kiss soulfully often enough that more than thirty police officers corralled the participants at the corner of 47th and Seventh and arrested them en masse, utilizing the now-familiar orange netting and metal barricades.

Small demonstrations kept popping up at and around Times Square throughout the evening. Police obliged, shutting down sections of the street, rounding up demonstrators and, at times, very few times mind you, getting rough.

One of those instances involved a group called “Food Kitchen,” which brings food to demonstrations across the country. Several members were wondering outside the Palace Theater, where an angry confrontation between demonstrators and presumed RNC attendees leaving the musical Aida broke out, carrying trays of food when several officers moved in, grabbed one, identified by three other members as Mark Randall, knocked his tray of food to the ground and pulled him toward a waiting paddy wagon. As of press time, Alt Press has been unable to discern the whereabouts of Randall.

By the time that Tuesday rolled around, “Mousebloc” seemed a dry run for the protesters and police as lower Manhattan between the Garden and Union Square Park become the scene of untold protests. Marches broke out, seemingly at random. Protesters played cat-and-mouse with the police, allowing them to pursue a group only so long as it took to find a block which hadn’t been shut down and then promptly stop, at times lying in the street until the officers had closed the area off from cars, pedestrians, and media alike. The official arrest count for the evening is more than 1,100, a number that includes many legal observers from both the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union, reporters, and folks going about their daily business. Both the NLG and the ACLU are considering filing a class action civil lawsuit against the city and its police force for illegal and “pre-emptive” arrests that took place that night and throughout the week.

Other, calmer activities took place all week, including a tent city called “Bushville” in the blasted wasteland of Bedford-Stuyvesant, an American Friends Service Committee memorial for the fallen (military and civilian) in Iraq, a “Fox Shut-Up-a-thon,” a march on the mass media, rallies throughout the day at Union Square (rallies that often resembled activist bazaars), the last of which culminated in a huge, un-permitted march to the Garden during Bush’s acceptance speech, a labor rally attended by tens of thousands, and many similar, largely un-remarked upon events. All of which begs the question why? Why were sustained demonstrations against the sitting leader of this nation largely ignored by the mainstream, and most so-called alternative, media? If the government of another nation, say Iran, or even a democratic nation such as Mexico, faced half the numbers and half the actions that this one did, our daily press and cable news channels would be all over the scene. They’d pick “leaders” out of the crowd, ask them how horrible their government is, release them and pontificate for days on the few sentences anyone paid attention to. Not here, my friends. Instead, as a workplace colleague, Margaret Galambos, said to me the other day, upon returning from the U.S. Open in New York, “there weren’t that many people, were there? I didn’t see much in the papers or on TV.”

And that, not Gitlin’s paranoia or Taibbi’s prodding, is the problem that the active left faces today.

The audience that Get Urban! aims to capture appears to be the wealthy suburban baby boomers to whom new urban real estate development in places such as Buffalo has been geared.

Ezell defines three desirable urban areas or “urbs.” Post-industrial urbs are comprised of factories that have been converted to cool, pseudo-soho loft spaces. Think Elk Terminal. Garden urbs are “quaint, tree-lined areas, often with historical or significant residential and commercial architecture.”

These are not to be confused with eclectic urbs, which are models of diversity and “funkiness.” Elmwood is given as an example of an eclectic urb, although it clearly seems to fit the definition of both. Ezell insists on calling Allentown and the area around the strip “Greater Elmwood Village.” The annoying habit of coming up with new names for urban areas carries throughout the book for a reason: the author’s rigid public relations mindset. (Personally we prefer the title of People’s Republic of Elmwood, but there’s no accounting for taste.)

Finally, all other areas are relegated to the status of “blank canvas urbs.” So outside of the “Greater Elmwood Village urb,” Buffalo apparently has a lot of blank canvas urbs to offer. That’s the bright and optimistic side.

In reading this book, which proclaims to be a guide to persons seeking to connect their identity type with one type of vital urban area, one can’t help but think that a sort of colonization project is already under way. Driving demand for better urban living areas would appear to be a laudable goal and, although self-appointed urban cheerleaders such Ezell or various Buffalo News writers can be very annoying indeed, it would seem that most everyone you talk to wants Buffalo to “make a comeback.”

When one considers the fact that federal housing money was pumped into Ciminelli’s Sidway loft conversion project at the rate of about $180,000 per unit, however, optimism should give way to a more healthy skepticism. Ezell points out the need for urban energy in all successful “urban renewal.” Time and again, though, Buffalo’s urban energy has been dissipated, along with federal dollars, on isolated, politically driven projects that have yet to result in the creation of a single new “urb” of any sort.

In addition, the predilection for what Chippewa Strip entrepreneur Mark Goldman called “deathstars” (monolithic public construction projects that punch holes in the fabric of urban neighborhoods) seems to continue with the enormously expensive bioinformatics “signature building,” on Washington Street.

In terms of the success of the Elmwood area’s continued stability in the real estate market, it’s sobering to note that much of the rest of the city’s west side has more or less collapsed. Therefore, people attracted to Elmwood for its “funkiness” must pay a premium for housing that is funky, but a safe distance from crack dens.

The downside that doesn’t appear in this work is that, while disinvestment in urban areas continues to bounce along the bottom, federal aid to cities, long abused by corrupt city governments such as the Masiello administration, appears to be in danger as well. As political power shifts to the sun belt, so will federal dollars needed to prop the bloated infrastructures of ubiquitous sprawl. What our own optimistic regional planners, such as the Giambra administration’s Bruce Fisher, don’t want to talk about is the growing inclination of the federal government to turn its back on such places as Buffalo. While this reached a new level with the sudden postponement of the federal courthouse project by Republicans in power, one can’t expect the Democrats, if brought back into power this fall to keep the gravy train flowing into urban renewal projects that have often done more harm than good in the Northeast.

The Bush debacle aside, if Democrats seek to maintain power, they must build a strong constituency in the so-called “red states.”

Dark, clean, and crisp, yet inviting, Prespa offers the city something unique. Instead of the typical restaurant/bar combination, Prespa is a comfortable bar/lounge that simply happens to have a great menu with a chef to back it up. The ample couches, elegant bar, side rail, fireplace and abstract artwork make a good backdrop for the melting-pot crowd. The offerings from Prespa’s stellar beer list and the more than adequate wine list are other aspects fostering flirtatious conversation. Entrepreneur/restaurateur Alex Michaelidis and his staff should be extremely proud of their first venture.

“There is not a thing on the menu I would not order.” “Relaxing alternative to Allen Street.” “Warm and inviting.”


Salads: Mesclun greens, grilled asparagus, tomato, goat cheese

Panini: # Grilled Chicken Breast, fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, red onion, avocado aioli on rustic Italian

Wasabi Roast Beef, romaine, tomato on spinach bread

Pizza:Red Pie – tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil with Vidalia onion, and Portabella mushrooms

Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Cake * Chocolate Brownie Cheese Cake with Caramel

Beverages: Sterling Merlot, 2002, Central Coast * Hop Harvest Draft, Custom Brew Crafters

* -- best of category # -- best of show

The Democratic convention was uplifting in its look and attitude, but empty of a concrete plan for America’s future, and too often mired in the swamps of 1970’s Viet Nam. The faces were attractive and bright, the smiles wide and genuine, and the talk was of hope and recovery from the militaristic, isolationist, imperialistic, fear-mongering monarchy America once again suffers under. I admire John Kerry as well, because I was in the service during that Southeast Asian “conflict” LBJ lied us into escalating, and I know my fellow Americans DID commit some heinous crimes over there. I remember being proud of him for coming back and daring to say so out loud. But I wanted to hear the nuggets of future goals an optimistic idealist could latch onto, and had to wait until the Republican convention to hear out of the mouth of George W. Bush, himself. And while I know he will never keep faith with any one of them, they were unarticulated asides of aspirations that should have been coming out of John Kerry’s mouth instead.
The Republican convention was somewhat embarrassing, not just because thousands of protesters from all across the country were being arrested (harkening back to the ‘72 Republican convention) and restrained to the point that a judge had to fine the city for their release, or that it was just a drawn-out homage to a “get over it” event that happened years ago at the expense of issues like the economy, the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the environment, and JOBS, but because speakers like Zell Miller –a Republican with a Democrat label that remains in office because he brings home the bacon whatever clothes he wears, and the ever cartoonish, cracked-lipped caricature of Dick Cheney we are always so creeped-out seeing, just oozed pure mean-spiritedness, pettiness, anger and poor policy defensive braying. Even “Ahnold” (a Republican married to a member of the Democrat’s most influential clan Kennedy), who I am a huge fan of, did a greasy faced, pretentious exhortation of clichés and flat-out falsehoods that made one wonder where even Conan the Terminator’s limited acting skills had disappeared to. I was immensely embarrassed for him and, other than twaddle like “Twins”; I’ve never felt that way before. I applaud his rise (with Franco Columbu, another muscle beach import) from humble immigrant beginnings to world-renowned movie idol and governor of California, one of the most socially progressive states in the nation, but his poorly written, and even more poorly delivered harangue rang raucously empty in the lock-step, Stepford delagates' summer sweat-soaked auditorium.
CNN’s, as well as C-SPAN’s coverage repeatedly panned frowning, brooding and bored faces throughout the convention and the fields of flags and metronomic cheers of “flip-flop” rang as hollow as the phony patriotism which has forever been “the last refuge of a scoundrel”. And when George W. Bush finally spoke, from “No Child Left Behind”-one of his poorest funded programs as anyone who knows a teacher or has a child in school knows all too well, to the “war” in Iraq-both his justification for it: WMD’s, terrorist connections, and his oft touted, but unprovided support for both our troops and a democratic (non-puppet) Iraqi government, he lied. That even just a room full of Americans cheered this Orwellian disinformation (up is down, war is peace, hate is love) diatribe was disheartening to any progressive leaning, late blooming, baby boomer.
What has democracy in America been reduced to when one of your only two electable political parties is an affiliation of selfish and self-serving, bold-faced liars, and the other is a party of high ideals but little expectations of those it exists to help? Where do we go as a nation from here? A massive overhaul of our electoral system has to be engineered before capitalism’s greed-driven engine and ethically corruptive legislative meddling turns American democracy into a corporate theocracy, and every “right” it was founded to provide is restricted or reserved for the “fortunate” few. This is our time. History will look back at us and judge our choices and our character by what we do here today. It will say we either saved that bold experiment our founding forefathers undertook, or failed it. VOTE. It’s not just your “right”; it’s your duty. It is your duty to all those who come after to provide the promise your parents left you, and to honor all those who have gone before that made it possible for you to do so.
-alexander graham
Often when the doctrine of separation of powers is discussed reference is made to the three co-equal branches of our government. What is often left out is the fourth branch of our government, the people. In a republican form of government the people have the ultimate power and what is not expressly granted to the government is reserved in the people. The authority to permit commercial gambling has not been granted to any branch of our State Government. It is only with the permission of the people that it may be granted. Upstate Citizens for Equality will dedicate our resources to protect the right to vote guaranteed to all citizens of New York.


Daniel T. Warren
Chair, Niagara Frontier Chapter of Upstate Citizens for Equality
On a recent warm August night, I joined that group of waiting people. I was taking the 2:00 am van to Great Meadow Maximum Security Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York to visit my friend, George Baba Eng, or Baba, as his friends affectionately call him. He's been incarcerated for twenty-seven years now for killing a drug dealer who had pulled a gun on Baba's wife. The public defender assigned to his case hadn't bothered to mount much of a defense since Baba was poor, Black and drug addicted at the time. He wound up with twenty-five years to life.

I first "met" Baba, in the summer of 2002 at the Millions for Reparations Rally in Washington, DC when long-time activist and Reparationist, Sundiata Sadiq, showed me a copy of the insightful article Baba had written on reparations and the need for "Restorative Justice." As the Communications Director for the organization Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation, I was greatly interested in how this incarcerated brother saw the subject.

Baba's writing impressed me so much that I wrote an article about him. Then I began corresponding with him, mostly through his very close friend, Karima Amin, an African storyteller who performs in venues all over the country, including behind the walls.

In early August Karima wrote me that it would mean a lot to Baba if I visited him. That was all I needed to be told. I'd wanted to visit him for quite a while but never had the gumption to carve out a space in my busy schedule and just do it.

Once I decided to go, I was really excited. Even so, I found that as I made the actual preparations, I had pre-visit heebie-jeebies about practically everything from "What if the bus breaks down and I get stranded?" to "What if I have banned items on me and they don't let me in?" and most of all, knowing that the visit would last about five hours, "What if Baba and I run out of things to talk about?"

Thinking back to those fears now makes me almost laugh because they all proved so completely unfounded, especially the last. But through it all, Karima patiently answered my every question and gave me constant reassurance.


As about seventy of us waited on the corner for our buses and vans to pull up, I was hoping that during the four and a half hour trip to Comstock and the ensuing wait at the prison I'd get a chance to talk to several of my fellow travelers and learn something about them and the persons they were visiting.

My first conversation was with a very pretty young woman going to Washington Correctional Facility, also in Comstock. She told me that this was her first visit to her uncle. He had shot but not killed someone who had assaulted him first in a case of mistaken identities. The man had not even pressed charges, but her uncle was given a year and a half for illegal possession of a weapon and an additional year and a half for assault.

There was a very dignified Black woman executive who was likely in her mid-thirties. She was visiting a friend she's known since childhood. He'd been convicted on the testimony of only one eyewitness. Even though he had done some bad things earlier in life, he swears he is innocent of this crime, and she believes him. She and others are trying to get him an appeal, but it's heavy going and she has little faith in the system.

I spoke with a very lively woman from the Bronx, probably in her early forties, whose husband has been incarcerated for twenty-seven years. They've been married for thirteen of those years. He had been the best friend of her first husband who had been shot and killed. In their mutual grief over his death, they bonded so deeply that they eventually decided to marry.

Another quiet-spoken young woman was visiting the father of her fourteen-month-old daughter, an adorable little girl who was curious about everything. He's serving six months in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) for supposedly sassing a guard, (a correction officer or CO). For that reason he's not allowed out in the big room with everyone else but has to receive visitors in a claustrophobic little room off to the side. From it they can hear the sounds of the main room, which just accents their desolating sense of isolation.

Another mother was there to see her teenage son who was only seventeen when he went in. She told me that he did commit the crime and deserved to be punished, but she is extremely concerned about the effect of his being in an adult facility at such a young age. He's scheduled for release next year, and she just hopes that he comes out without irreparably damage.

There was also a very elegant grandmother who spoke only Spanish. She comes frequently to visit her son, who should be released in December. This time she brought her youngest grandson, who appeared to be in his early twenties, for his first visit to his father in the four years he's been incarcerated.

Another woman told me that she and her four-year-old daughter had been scheduled to leave for their first conjugal visit with her husband on the night of the blackout, but with the subways out of service, they couldn't get to the bus. She had tried to reschedule for the following weekend, but the prison wouldn't allow that. The next availability was in October.

She was disappointed, but her daughter was devastated. The little girl has no memories of her father because she was only three months old when he went in. She had been beside herself with excitement about meeting him and spending the night together under the same roof, so it was quite a blow.

All of the children I saw seemed delighted to be coming to visit their fathers, even though many of them were too young to really understand where they were and what was what. In the van, for instance, there was a little boy about sixteen months old who kept saying happily as he bounced up and down with joy, "Go see daddy! Go see daddy!"

Throughout the entire roundtrip - and I'm talking close to eighteen hours - I was struck by how well behaved the children were. There were no whining infants or children throwing tantrums. Only once did I hear a baby get upset about something and cry loudly for about thirty seconds. The anticipation and emotions of the trip were felt even by the little ones.


Through the dawning day we drove on, and shortly before 7:00 am we arrived at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. We disembarked and lined up outside the prison in the chilly morning air, along with others who'd come by car. Whereas everyone in the vans except me had been Black or Latino/a, several of them were white.

Soon we were admitted into the visitor's waiting room. As we filed in past the desk, we were each given a form requiring basic information about the person we were visiting and ourselves. First-time visitors got a second form as well. After filling them out, we brought them back to the guard, who examined them and our two pieces of photo ID.

Karima had told me that the reason we weren't admitted into the visiting room until 9:00 am was because they have a change over of the guards first. Therefore, I took a seat where I could get a good look at who was entering and exiting. I watched as white guard after white guard passed by in both directions, each with the job of wielding power over the inmates of color who mainly comprise the prison population. I saw exactly one Black guard come in and none go out.

On the van coming up, a woman had explained to me that most of them dress for comfort for the long trip, but bring everything they need to really dress up after they get there. Then they leave all their traveling stuff in a locker in the visitors' room.

Therefore, when I opened the door to the ladies' room, I was met by the pleasing sights and sounds of women happily engaged in the act of transforming themselves. The mood was festive as scarves came off heads, curlers were removed from hair and make-up was applied. The women graciously stepped aside to make room for each other in front of the two small mirrors. They took turns going into the booth to don their nice outfits and to change their children's clothes. The whole thing reminded me of the girl's bathroom in high school, only nicer because there was such a spirit of camaraderie and cooperation.

And let me tell you, when the ladies stepped out, they were lookin' good! I could hardly recognize several of my travel companions who had turned into some foxy ladies.

Then, we waited. While we did, we were able to enjoy the coffee, juice and diverse breakfast snacks that a woman named Rebecca, who volunteers with a Christian organization, had so kindly set out for us.


At 9 am sharp, they began letting us in, one by one. When they called out the name of the person we were visiting, we went up to the counter, took off our shoes and set them on top for examination along with the other meager things we were allowed to bring in: not much more than our IDs, house keys and money for the vending machines. We couldn't have anything like a lipstick and certainly not a mirror or anything else that could possibly be turned into a weapon.

If a woman had on an underwire bra, she had to remove it in the ladies room, put it into a small brown paper bag and place it on the counter as well. It was only after she'd gone all the way through to the visiting area that she was allowed to put it back on in the rest room.

When the name George Baba Eng was called, I took off my shoes, earrings and watch and placed them on the counter with my wallet. I went through the metal detector just fine. Then they stamped the back of my hand with an iridescent blue ink that only showed up under a special light, gave me back one of the forms I'd filled out, and slid open the first set of bars for me to walk through. After they had shut behind me, I was sent out a door and across a small courtyard to another building where the guards buzzed me in. From there, I was let through another set of bars and into the visiting area.

I entered the visitors' room and handed over my form to one of the guards at the desk. He asked me if I planned to leave money for the inmate - I said no because I hadn't even known such a thing was possible - and he pointed out exactly what seat I was to take at one of the three long tables running the length of the room. There were no glass partitions above the tables, but there were wooden panels underneath to prohibit contact of any kind below. As I saw later, all the visitors sit on one side of the tables with their backs to the guards, while the incarcerated men all sit on the other, facing the guards.

As instructed by Karima, I then went into the vending machine room to buy all the items for Baba's and my lunch and the tickets for the Polaroid photos that we could have taken together. She had told me what he liked best to eat and also to be sure to get the photo tickets right away before they were gone.

Though there were so many of us crammed into this tiny room in long lines for the machines, I was amazed by the good nature and fellow feeling. Never did I feel it more than when I got my first turn at a machine. As I struggled with each purchase to get the machine to accept my money, I was embarrassed because I felt so inept and like I was taking forever! Yet, no one showed the slightest sign of impatience or irritation with me, but offered suggestions and tried to help.


In between my raids on the various vending machines, I kept looking to see if Baba had been brought down yet because I wanted to be there when he walked in. Just as I carried in my last haul, I looked over and there he was, coming through the inmates' entrance. I recognized him immediately from his photo.

We came to our assigned places, leaned over the table and gave each other a big hug. Then we sat down and immediately dove right into deep discussion with no preliminary small talk.

Looking straight into each other's eyes, Baba and I talked non-stop for four and a half hours. We discussed all kinds of things, both personal and impersonal. For instance, I asked him how he sees the Bible with its condoning of such things as slavery and the oppression of women, and he gave me his answer, placing it in the context not only of the history of Christianity, but of Judaism and Islam.

We talked about politics, racism, the reparations movement, and about our very selves. When I asked, he told me in detail about the commission of his crime. He never tried to lessen one iota the awfulness of what he had done in taking the life of another human being. His searing, everlasting remorse for it was evident.

We also talked about dance (I used to be a dance teacher) and about gardening, another love of mine.

Just as in his letters, I found Baba to be warm, sincere, open, intelligent, scholarly and kind - the sort of person it's a real joy to spend time with under any circumstances. I felt so at ease with him, completely at liberty to be myself and free to bring up any subject under the sun.

I already had tremendous respect for Baba before I came, but every good thing I thought of him was confirmed and multiplied during our visit. I am positive that he is a changed man who not only deserves to rejoin society, but a man desperately needed in the community. He is both a warning and an inspiration to young men who may be headed down the wrong track and need support and positive direction. I am sure that interaction with him could turn many of their lives around so they don't end up spending years behind the walls like he has. That is why, when he goes before the parole board in December, with all my heart I hope and pray, as do so many others, that they grant him a parole.


Around noon I went back to the vending machine room to microwave our lunch. When called, Baba and I also went to the area off to the side where, under the watchful eye of a guard, an inmate took our photos. Each time, before sitting back down, I looked around the room, trying to gauge the general atmosphere among the approximately sixty inmates with their visitors.

What I saw was such an intense interaction between people that it's hard to describe. While there were a few people playing cards, practically everyone was locked in deepest conversation. Most were looking straight into each other's eyes, and many were holding hands.

Usually in a room with so many people, groups form for casual conversation. Here, however, even though we were sandwiched between the persons next to us in about three feet of space, we each focused on the person across from us as though we were in complete privacy.

The sound level was so loud you had to strain to hear your partner; yet, there was something wonderful about the din. You could tell that this wasn't casual conversation, but fervent communication, people trying to establish a deep connection with each other. You could literally feel these men's hunger for a taste of the world beyond the walls, brought to them by someone who recognized their humanity.

Children sprawled on the tables and even perched on the inmates' laps, all looking as though they were having the time of their lives. One little boy sat astride his father's shoulders while he leaned forward, talking to his wife.

Shortly after I first sat down, a man entered, whose appearance I found a little scary. He took a seat not too far away, and I soon forgot about him. When I was looking around the room, though, I noticed him again. He was leaning across the table with a very tender expression on his face as he gazed lovingly into the face of his woman visitor. Very gently, he stroked her hand. She had tears in her eyes. Recalling my first superficial response - and yes, I have to say it, racist reaction - I felt so critical of myself and vowed to learn from it.

Altogether, being in that visiting room and witnessing the indomitable spirit of those present was a tremendously compelling and educational experience. When you looked around, you were aware that if you knew the story of any one of these inmates and his visitor it would break your heart. And you knew, too, that all of them, taken together, would comprise a massive weight of unbearable pain. Yet, here was this remarkable affirmation of humanity taking place and a sense of real joy snatched from so much tragedy.


At 1:45 pm we were given the warning signal that there were only 15 minutes remaining. I was shocked that the time had flown by so fast; I felt I could easily have stayed and talked with Baba for at least another four hours.

When the final signal came, I was really sad to leave. I gave Baba the biggest embrace I could as everyone else hugged and kissed goodbye. Then they hustled the inmates out through their exit while we retrieved our sheets of paper and began making our way back through to the waiting room.

Before they let us through each locked door, they checked our blue-stamped hands under the light. Prior to passing through the final barred doorway, we also had to write our signatures again, which they compared with our originals when we first came in.

Those with possessions in lockers retrieved them, and then we all climbed back into our vans.

The ride up had been fairly quiet because it was, after all, the dead of night and most people were trying to get some sleep. But in the van going home, there was a completely different kind of quiet. Even though the driver was playing music, the silence of the visitors was palpable. Everyone, myself included, were struggling with lots of difficult emotions, and we were pretty well hunkered down within ourselves.

Meanwhile, the weather outside was, in stark contrast, wonderfully bright and sunny. It was jarring to realize it was just like any ordinary Saturday afternoon drive in the country as we passed beautiful scenery and even wildlife, including a deer with her fawn.

When we reached Ricky's at about 7:30 pm, we all said a swift goodbye before making off in different directions. Many, no doubt, will see each other again soon on future trips to visit loved ones.

Though there were painful aspects, this trip was one of the deepest and most moving experiences of my life. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I implore anyone who has ever thought of visiting someone behind bars to go ahead and do it. You will affirm your own humanity as you help affirm someone else's.

Two bus lines serving the New York correctional facilities are Operation Prison Gap, (800) 734-3733 and Double K Transportation, (718) 495-4991.

Donna Lamb can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
It’s a horrifying and chilling event, yet it’s seemingly straightforward and simple. Airplanes have been commandeered since the invention of multi-place aircraft. The American people, reeling from the attacks of the day, accepted the straightforward. As time passed, and the searing emotions dulled, the questions began to be asked.

Initial reports claimed that five terrorists had taken over the aircraft. Of those five, Saudi Arabian national Hani Hanjor was the only individual that the FBI named as a pilot. But the problem was that Hanjor was an incompetent pilot, as reported by Newsday’s magazine. It was related that, in August 2001, Hanjor showed up at Freeway Airport in Bowie, Md. wanting to rent a Cessna 172. The alleged hijacker produced a FAA pilot license and a logbook showing 600 hours of total flight time. Two instructors took Hanjor up for a short test flight. Unfortunately, he lacked the flying skill to allow him to rent the small single-engine airplane.

The Boeing 757 is a far more difficult plane to fly than is a Cessna, the plane that Hanjor was unable to prove that he was capable of piloting. Yet Hanjor allegedly flew flight 77 into the Pentagon. It was said that Hanjor flew an airplane 2,000 times larger than anything he had ever flown and that he flew it 400 percent faster. Despite his inadequate flying skills, Hanjor was allegedly able to execute a 5-g turn from 7,000 feet, 270 degrees in a very long sweeping turn, level off at just over the power lines, and hit the side of the building dead solid perfect on the first pass. And all of this was done at just under 500 miles per hour. That’s the technical part. The human element is just as compelling. This young pilot is in the heartland of his hated enemy, and he is in an airplane that can be shot out of the sky at any second. He is going to kill himself and his comrades as well as hundreds of other people. He’s been at the controls for more than an hour. If he flinches, the mission fails. This twenty-something didn’t flinch, not even as he faced certain death.

Hanjor’s comrades in the two other hijacked airplanes that hit their marks also didn’t flinch. They each made perfect hits on the twin towers, each pulling about two Gs.

Of course, once they took over the aircraft hundreds of miles from their target, they had to navigate all of the way back to Washington by using some sort of portable global positioning satellite. They would have to maneuver down from thousands of feet over hundreds of miles to nearly ground level as they headed back east. Their mission was to find the Pentagon and then hit it.

Let’s turn our attention to even simpler questions. Five Arab men hijacked flight 77, so why are there no Arabic-names on any of the passenger manifest that I have in my files? This was solved by cross checking the names on the passenger list against those on the memorial list. Short of the five hijackers, they add up. But what names were the hijackers using? They were alleged to be using aliases. But the FBI said that their identities were traced through the credit cards that they used to buy the tickets in their own names. If this were the case, the fake names wouldn’t match the real names on the tickets or the manifest.

But, if collectively, all of the hijackers went to the trouble of faking their names somehow, why did they leave flight manuals and passports written in Arabic behind in rental cars in some parking lots? The passport of alleged terror mastermind Mohammed Atta was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center two blocks away. He used an alias to get aboard, but he kept his passport. Everything and everyone aboard his plane was incinerated beyond any hope of recovery, except his passport.

Despite all of these inconsistencies, the planes did crash. And the questions come up as to why wasn’t anything done to stop that from happening?

Each hijacking occurred in the northeast corner of the United Sates. This is the busiest airspace on the planet. Each commercial flight, commonly called a heavy, is always under positive control. Each heavy is under constant communication with air traffic controllers to maintain safe separation from other aircraft. Altitude information is provided by the aircraft transponder, and communicates to the air traffic controllers, and that information shows up on the control screens. Turn the transponder off, and the controller no longer knows the altitude and the separation of the heavies. That aircraft is now a hazard to air navigation and will be ordered to go to 3,500 feet and to return to the airport.

If voice communication is lost as well and the aircraft begins to wander from its original flight plan, there is now a state of emergency all over the airspace. The ability to keep planes from running into each other is now in serious jeopardy. On the morning of September 11, 2001, there were four heavies with no transponders and no voice communications wandering around the busiest airspace on the planet. Within two or three minutes, there would be near panic across the entire air traffic control system.

What should have happen next would have been a matter of routine. These intercept procedures have been in place for years. There were more then 60 routine interceptions in the months prior to 9/11. The air traffic controller calls a duty/liaison officer at the North American defense Command in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. Within two to three minutes, the first available fighter jets are scrambled, off the ground, and on their way to intercept. Even though the aircraft’s transponder is off, the heavy’s airframe produces a radar echo visible to controllers who can vector a chase plane to the target. Authorization for an intercept from a higher authority is not required. No one has to call the president, vice president, secretary of defense or the Air Force.

Of course, all recorded conversations between pilots and controllers are public information. They are erased unless something serious has been recorded. Those recordings are serious. The New York Times obtained some of these. They show that the controllers seemed to have lost contact with the airplanes.

There is an Air Defense Intercept Zone just off of the Atlantic coast that was constantly patrolled. There are also other “fast movers” (fighter aircraft) on routine patrols or training missions that can be called upon to respond.

Flight 77 took well over an hour to get to the Pentagon. There were at least three air forces bases within striking distance. Nothing happened. No one was questioned or court-martialed.

These are only the central questions. There are others. How and why did the twin towers crumble upon itself? The published story has holes. Jet fuel didn’t do it. What about the Israeli spy ring tracking the so-called hijackers? Why were members of the Bin Laden family flown out of Boston and back home just days after this horrific event? Surely, they were material witnesses. There are dozens more. The more questions that you ask, the more that seem to come up. But we’ll keep asking.

Outside, the world watched in disbelief as the two World Trade Center towers, one by one, were hit by jet airliners. Inside Tower Two, Lo, 24, was sitting at his desk, beginning his second week of work. The havoc began with a loud “Boom!” that sounded as though a large desk had been dropped on the floor. Shortly afterward, Lo’s computer began to surge. Lo then turned around and peered out the window. “It looked as though it was raining papers, and my first thought was, who’s on the roof throwing papers?” Looking out toward the rest of the people on the semi-filled floor, Lo began to hear panicking voices saying, “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Still in a state of confusion and having no clue that the first tower had been hit, Lo quickly followed a group of people from his floor toward the elevators on the 44th floor. “I didn’t even know where the stairs were. You generally don’t walk up 73 flights of stairs,” said Lo. While going downstairs, rumors of a plane hitting the first tower began to circulate. “You just heard people saying that a plane hit the other building, and I’m thinking a Cessna or a little prop plane’s wing clipped the building.” Some people claimed to have seen the plane hit, while others couldn’t remotely fathom what was happening. Regardless, thousands of people continued to walk down the seemingly endless flights of stairs.

When Lo finally reached the sky lobby on the 44th floor, masses of people were congregating from all different directions. “We were all just kinda hanging out and talking. Everyone was asking what’s going on and I heard someone say, ‘A plane hit. It was an American Airline 767,’ and I actually laughed a little bit. That’s a jet! That’s a big plane!” said Lo. “I thought he was wrong.” Suddenly, a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, “The fire department is downstairs. Remain in the building. Do not go outside. There’s a fire in the first World Trade Center. Please remain put. If you want, you can go back up to work. Everything ‘seems’ secure.” After the message was announced, Lo proceeded to wait for an elevator back up to his floor, but it was the uncertainty of the word “seems” and the shakiness of the announcer’s voice that caused Lo to think twice.

Lo headed to the window to see what was going on outside, and, suddenly, there was another loud “Boom,” and the building began to sway. “You could feel the building shifting back and forth and then I looked at the elevators and there was smoke coming out from the crevices,” said Lo. Scared and with the building still swaying, Lo quickly walked with the rest of the people toward the 44th floor staircase and started to walk down. Luckily, the lights were still on and, to move faster, some women removed their high heels. “I was trying to logically think of what happened. Why did our building just shake?” The only conclusion Lo came to, while walking down the stairs, was that maybe it was the antenna from Trade Center One that may have toppled over and hit the second building. To him, this was the only comprehensible answer to what was happening. Terrorist attacks were the furthest thing from his mind.

With his feet uncontrollably shaking, it wasn’t fear, but rather anxiety to get out of the building that was consuming Lo.

Finally, Lo arrived in the lobby, technically the second floor. He looked outside the huge glass windows. “I looked out, expecting to see all these people, but it was a ghost town. When I looked out, it was grayness and a lot of debris,” said Lo. While Lo was still completely bewildered by the apocalyptic scene outside, he observed a security guard escorting everyone to narrow escalators down to the mall, which was the bottom level. “Everyone was exiting from the staircases going down, so there’s this huge pileup of people trying to go down these two escalators that weren’t even working and it was like a traffic jam,” said Lo. Cops were yelling, “Don’t Run!” as the mass of people, including Lo, were escorted back up the stairs to the second level again. “This time, I saw this guy and he’s got a T-shirt on and it’s ripped, and his whole arm is singed, and I’m thinking, what happened to you?” said Lo.

Minutes later, he evacuated the building and looked up to see a cloud of smoke coming out of Tower Two. Cops were shouting, “Keep walking! Keep walking!” as Lo walked farther from the building, continuing to look up every so often. People all around were crying, and he overheard someone say that the Pentagon had been hit as well. Ironically, Lo found himself walking past a church cemetery. He stopped about 1,000 feet from the building. Cops were shouting, “Don’t use your cell phone! Don’t use your cell phone!” as Lo unsuccessfully tried to use it anyway. “I felt pretty safe, but I also didn’t expect the buildings to come down. So I was just watching.”

Captured by the surrealism of the whole event, Lo watched as the fire trucks began to roll up. His next thought was, how are they going to put out the fire, because it was so high up? At that point, everyone was standing around, talking, and looking upward. All of a sudden, a cop shouted into a megaphone, “Stand back! The building’s not secure!” All eyes were fixed on the top of the tower. Lo watched as the building began to fall. “All I thought was, oh my God, a bomb went off!” People began to scream, and Lo, along with the mass of people, started running as the tower came crashing down around them.

Smoke and debris filled the air as Lo ran toward the Brooklyn Bridge. “It was so scary because you could see the debris coming at you really quickly. You see pictures from the news of people running from the debris, and I was one of those people,” said Lo. His next thought was that it was poison gas and that he needed to get away from it quickly.

At that point, Lo was running on the ramp headed toward the Brooklyn Bridge. The debris was clearing a bit; however, Lo now faced a new dilemma. Although he was running toward the upper level of the bridge, panic gripped him. “I’m thinking, okay, if they blow the bridge up, is it safer to be on the upper level or the lower level? If I have to jump, would I survive?” Lo said. He then decided that he didn’t want to be on the bridge and, instead, wanted to go uptown, but that meant that he’d have to walk back into the cloud of debris. Choosing the first option, Lo continued onto the bridge, staying on the upper level. “I thought, if the upper level collapses, it will collapse onto the lower level.” At first, everyone was sprinting, then jogging, and, eventually, walking. There was a light dusting of debris in the air as Lo made it to the other side of the bridge. An unusual calmness swept over the crowd, which was occasionally broken by someone crying. “I wanted to get off this bridge because I didn’t feel safe,” Lo said. Not realizing how big of an event this was and that the whole world already knew what was happening, Lo, after about ten tries, got through to his brother in Chicago. “I don’t know if you know this, but my building just got hit with a plane, and it actually just fell down, but I’m safe.”

Although Lo was safe, he wanted to be “really safe” and not on the bridge anymore. “There was this sense of conformity. I wanted to run, but no one else was so I didn’t.” Once in Brooklyn, Lo’s plan of action was to somehow get to the safety of his home. Without having to pay, Lo got on a bus that was heading toward Queens. All around him, people were talking about what had just happened, and this is when Lo found out that both towers had fallen. As he switched onto another bus, he heard over the radio that intelligence thought that Osama Bin Laden was behind the attacks. As Lo looked back toward Manhattan, all that he could see was a trail of smoke.

After a traumatic day, Lo made it safely to his house, and he called his parents, who were on vacation in Italy. “I heard my mom’s voice, and she started to cry. Then I heard my dad crying. They said, ‘You know it’s your birthday, and you had 300 angels escorting you down those stairs.’”

As humans, we are put here to learn and, with each day, we’re shaped into the people whom we will eventually become. Each experience that we go through in life will make us come to realizations about not only ourselves, but also about the people around us. September 11 was a day that opened many people’s eyes to the reality of the world and to their own mortality. This day acted as a huge lesson to us all, to not take any aspect of our lives for granted because you never know when it will be gone forever.

For Tom Lo, he realizes how incredibly lucky he is. Not only did he manage to walk out of the building untouched, he also didn’t know anyone who died. “There could have been a 100 “what if’s” and they’re all very close,” said Lo. “I’m thankful to have my life.”

Nicolas Cage and director Ridley Scott were in TO to help promote Scott’s Matchstick Men. The movie is one of those con man efforts that doesn’t quite achieve the brass ring. Cage plays an obsessive-compulsive, germ a-phobic, agoraphobic con artist. He smokes, too. Things are falling apart in his life – to say the least. Just as his mental issues are getting worse, he discovers he has a teenage daughter. He’s ill-equipped to raise her and the thrust of the movie is the nature of their testy interaction and Cage’s character’s having to deal with continuing to flim-flam to live and eat. Director Scott, who usually makes big budget, special effects movies, handles the material well; he can do small, but every time Cage pretended to be a dad, I cringed. He also overacts a tad too much for the less-than-heady material. As his criminal partner, Sam Rockwell is good, as always. Alison Lohman, who is this weekend’s hot, new thing has talent. The movie falters because we keep wondering how Cage got to be such a success at conning if he’s such a mess. Big themes are trumpeted when cinematic psychology rears its boring head as the daughter figures out the answer before Cage. An attempt at a happy ending turns the movie to mush.

Cabin Fever was a popular hit at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival, and it’s finally getting its distribution due. It’s a very good horror movie about a camp in the woods and a flesh-eating virus. Directed by Eli Roth, who co-wrote the screenplay with Randy Pearlstein, the movie has a solid run of good jolts and eventually gets under your skin (sorry). Jet Lag was also a hit at the 2002 festival and I wrote good things about it back then. Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno star as mismatched people who meet at an airport and bond. It’s all very French and very good. The Secret Lives Of Dentists had its premiere at the 2002 TO film festival. The fascinating movie is based on Jane Smiley’s novella The Age of Grief, and stars Campbell Scott as a dentist who has a strange dream that shakes up the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Hope Davis is his wife in this well-acted film.

Into the woods again with Camp, a pleasantly entertaining movie about a summer camp for the arts. Mickey and Judy never put on a musical show like this one. With television’s Boy Meets Boy, Will & Grace, and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, I’m not sure how any parent can be clueless about their child’s sexuality. But if gay issues remain, seeing Camp will continue to help sort out matters.

Northfork is another quirky tale from the writing-directing Polish brothers, Michael and Mark. This ethereal and engrossing movie stars James Woods, Nick Nolte, Claire Forlani, Anthony Edwards, Peter Coyote, Daryl Hannah, Ben Foster, and Kyle MacLachlan. In 1955, the residents of a small Montana community are forced to move their homes and alter their lives to make way for a new dam that will bring electrical joy to the region. The Polish brothers make compelling movies that are almost eerie in their rhythmic strangeness, and this is no exception.

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star features the endlessly annoying David Spade as a Peter Pan type who was a big television star as a kid but needs to reconnect with a childhood he never had to score roles as an adult. He hires a family to teach him about what he missed. The lackluster movie has umpteen cameos by real-life former child stars, but it never quite delivers anything other than tedium and a desire that Spade keep his clothes on for the rest of his life.

Ashcroft's visit to Buffalo was a demonstration of security in action. These security precautions were taken against the public, who was not invited to the talk, and against the media, rather than against terrorists. Ashcroft avoided tough questions by granting three-minute sound-byte interviews were granted to television reporters and by refusing to speak to radio or print reporters.

Inside the conference room, a group of about thirty uniformed police officials, their badges gleaming, sat on a raised platform behind the lectern to serve as a scenic backdrop for Ashcroft. A display of ten flags behind the officers completed the image.

The audience rose en masse when U.S. Attorney Michael Battle, there to introduce Ashcroft, announced, "This is a great day for America."

To the audience's delight, Ashcroft referring to law enforcement personnel as the "doers, the achievers, the soldiers who put their lives on the line."

Ashcroft reminded the audience of the terrible events of September 11, 2001. He said that the purpose of the Patriot Act was to prevent a repeat attack. The work of law enforcement had become demanding, he said.

"Never have we asked more of law enforcement. Thanks to you, we are winning the war on terror," he said, pointing out that governmental action prevented Osama bin Laden's "murderous vision of America in flames" from being realized.

Ashcroft referred to the places where the terrorists struck with their airplanes as "consecrated ground." Quoting President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, he said, “'That from these honored dead,'” said Lincoln, “'we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.'” Ashcroft never mentioned that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War.

According to Ashcroft, the Patriot Act has given the government the power to investigate terrorists without tipping them off to the investigation. He said that investigative tactics, such as delayed notification of search warrants, give law enforcement officials "time to identify associates" and arrest multiple suspects. And, it means that it's less likely that terrorists will flee, destroy evidence, or kill witnesses. He said that police now have more access to the business records of a person under investigation. "Every cop recognizes the value of business records," Ashcroft said.

Laws now keep pace with ever-changing technology, Ashcroft said. The USA Patriot Act permits the use of a roving wiretap against terrorism suspects who might switch telephone numbers or abandon a cell phone. This is a tactic that has been used against drug dealers and organized crime. "We can use it against the terrorist threat," he said, adding that government officials do not have to get one court order after another every time a suspect changes telephones. He also denied that this power could be abused. "We can't listen to anyone's phones."

Information sharing is another key feature of the USA Patriot Act, Ashcroft said. He said that "a seamless anti-terrorism team worked across jurisdictional lines" and captured a British citizen in Newark, N.J., who was attempting to sell shoulder-fired missile launchers to terrorists but who, instead, sold them to undercover FBI agents.

Ashcroft said that the Patriot Act has yielded results, with 255 individuals charged, 132 individuals found guilty or pled guilty to Patriot Act-related charges, 18,000 subpoenas and search warrants issued, and 250 new assistant U.S. attorneys hired. Among persons accepting plea deals after being charged under the Patriot Act were the "Lackawanna Six." In addition, more than 3,000 individuals around the world have been arrested. "Many more have met a different fate," Ashcroft said ominously.

To a standing ovation, Ashcroft concluded by saying, "We will finish the work begun on September 11."

At the end of the 25-minute talk, newspaper and radio reporters were ushered from the building. We went to watch the ongoing protest. Ashcroft had stated that the goal of the administration was to preserve lives and protect liberty, but both our experiences with the security precautions at the hotel and the street scene that we encountered revealed a different story.

More than 200 protesters filled the opposite side of Pearl Street, blocked off to traffic by a long line of parked police cars. Protesters were warned that they faced federal charges if they crossed the street.

Several individuals at the rally spoke with me. Pam Tritto said, "We need to stop handing over all of our power to a government that doesn't represent us." Bill Marx of Pax Christi said, "The administration claims that it's supporting democracy abroad, but it should do something about it here in America." He said that he has heard "horror stories" about the Patriot Act. He said that President Franklin D. Roosevelt's comment, "The only thing to fear is fear itself" has been turned upside down "The administration is using fear to accomplish its assigned task for the corporate world."

Attorney Daire Irwin said that everyone invited to hear Ashcroft in person was "paid by the taxpayers, and the taxpayer was the only one excluded. It's hard not to be suspicious. Everyone in there is feeding at the public trough, and the only one not allowed in is the public. It's time to stop feeding the animals."

Jeanne-Noel Mahoney, local director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, "The move against the Patriot Act is very much strengthened by this morning's activities, such as Ashcroft's excluding the print media from asking questions. People are becoming aware that it's us who are paying for the speaking tour, and we are not invited to the talks."

Home of Hits

Long time local records store offers comprehensive weekly release lists covering indie, rock, hip hop, and various styles of beats. A common misconception in the area is that Home of the Hits sells only rock and indie releases. Nothing could be further from the truth. Email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the store at 1105 Elmwood to sign for weekly email.

DJs About Town

A couple of new residences mark the start of fall. Deep Soul Plug’s Zuk returns to Sundays at the new and improved Rendezvous on Niagara Street to infuse his unique blend of house styles beats. Zuk’s opening night during the Labor Day weekend, from all reports, was just like the old days when Sundays at the "Vous" was one of the hippest nights happening in Buffalo. Email Zuk at djzuk@deepsoulplug for more details.

Also look for Dirwood to start spinning tech house on Fridays at Iberia on Main Street in the Heights during upcoming weeks. This will be a nice addition to the Thursday night Dirwood hosts at the Elmwood Lounge with Jubie.

Word around is that former Baby Steps mainstay, dj Kream is looking to start playing his blend of hip hop, breaks, and down tempo again. He’s currently talking to several establishments. Once he settles on a new home, we’ll let you know.


Release: Pushin’ On Artist: Quantic Soul Orchestra Format: seven inches Label: Tru Thoughts

Dj Shadow and Cut Chemists Brainfreeze release, along with hip dj/producer Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw label, have done wonders to rekindle interest in the seven-inch single. UK dj/musician follows suit, releasing another in a series of live funk 45s under his live moniker, Quantic Soul Orchestra. Pushin’ On is a raw, lo-fi, guitar-driven funkster with soulful vocals added by Quantic collaborator, Alice Russell. B-Side is an instrumental version highlighting the funky beats. It was recorded in one take. Amazing…

Artist Website: Label Website: Hear It Online: Buy it at:

Release: Trading Eights/Blueprint Artist: The Five Corners Quintet Format: ten inches Label: Ricky Tick Records

A Tasty side project of NuSpirit Helsinki, Finland’s Five Corner Quintet dishes up two bossa-flavored dance jazz numbers that remind us of everything that was great about the bossa-influenced jazz of the ‘60s. Yet Trading Eights & Blueprint still maintain a feeling that is both vibrant and fresh, while managing to avoiding the overproduction that is laden in so many contemporary dance jazz tracks. Nice packing and liner notes reminiscent of Blue Note old Verve releases make this even more desirable. In every respect, it's a winner.

Editor's Note: Trading Eights can also be found on Schema Records' compilation Break N' Bossa, Chapter six, while Blueprint can also be found on the compilation Jazz Bizniz! Volume three -- Independent Jazz, Soul & Outernational Sounds on Counterpoint Records.

Artist Website: n/a Label Website: n/a Hear It Online: Buy it at:


Release: A Strange Melodic Shape Artists: Various Format: CD Label: Alternate Take Records

Comprising Alternate Take Record’s first two vinyl eps, Southern Soul Cont. one and two plus five new tracks, A Strange Melodic Shape reflects this Dallas-based label’s pen gent for dope instrumental hip hop and funky jazz breaks. Featuring a wide array of Southern downtempo producers, A Strange Melodic Shape is another testament to the wide array of deep, dark eclectic beats that can be created from hours of digging through old records (aka crate digging), finding beats, lifting and reinterpreting them much in the same manner as early releases from London’s Ninja Tune and Mo’Wax Records. A Strange Melodic Shape features the kindest beats out of Texas since Dallas cohort MC 900 Ft Jesus’ 1991 release Welcome to My Dream.

Label Website: Hear It Online: Buy it at:


Release: Compass Artist: Signaldrift Format: CD Label: Wobblyhead

Kraftwerk and New Order would be proud. Signaldrift crafted a record of beats that Kraftwerk once explored and New Order later exploited. Yet Compass’ sound is more mellow and atmospheric (even dubby) than New Order or Kraftwerk ever were. Think early Aphex Twin meets Slowdive, and you’re concocting the Signaldrift formula. Warm clean lo-fi production, eerily similar to many early Factory Records (Tony Wilson, what a guy) releases, only adds to the beautiful introspective state of this release. Fans of Boards of Canada, Mouse On Mars, and Darla’s Bliss Out Series (including this writer's favorite installment by Transient Waves) will not be disappointed.

Label Website: Hear It Online: Buy it at:


Scotty Dr Wisz Kream Zuk EVR Hippie


Ulrich’s Tavern 674 Ellicott Street Buffalo, New York 14203 (716) 855-8409 For lunch during the week and for Friday and Saturday dinner, you’ll love the Wiener Schnitzel and Homemade Potato Pancakes. “Some of the best potato pancakes I’ve ever had.” “European Comfort Food.”

Barrel House 85 West Chippewa Street Buffalo, New York (716) 856-4645 Their soups and chili are some of the best in the city, and lunch gets to you fast. “They have the best soups; my favorite is the red pepper and sausage.”

Lydia’s Pearl: Breakfast, Lunch, and Seafood Bar 484 Pearl Street Buffalo, New York 856-CLAM (856-2526) /fax 856-2522 Whether it the Giambotta breakfast of sausage, egg, potatoes, onion and pepper, the award-winning chili, or the Wednesday Special Pork tenderloin with cran-mayo sandwich, anytime is a great time for Lydia’s. “Lydia is a gifted chef and a great hostess who puts a lot of herself in her business.” “Quick and delicious, the best little place in town.”

Off the Wall 534 Elmwood Avenue Buffalo, New York 14222 (716) 884-9580 fax (716) 884-9986 Enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner or buy a couch. Tenderloin Medallions in Tomato Cream Sauce with Garlic Smashed Potatoes were very comforting. “An unique, organic, orgasmic experience.” “It was fabulous.”

When I entered the auditorium, the forum was already underway. Speakers raised a variety of topics, from education to union contracts. A sample of the comments follows:

Amber Slichta, a city homeowner, suggested that Buffalo follow the example of Cleveland, with a "smart growth" initiative. Cleveland bought houses from people at more than market value "to encourage them to move to less-desirable neighborhoods and fix houses up." She said that this could help to increase the city's tax base. "I love living in the city. I want to help see it work." Loretta Renford of the Commission on Citizens' Rights said that students are failing because "something is desperately wrong" and that city schools are not providing their students with a quality education.

Eva Doyle, a teacher, said that "Buffalo does not need more cuts to education." She said that she has spent hundreds of dollars out of her own pocket for supplies, such as microscopes, compasses, and magnifying glasses, so that her students could experience hands-on learning. "We cannot afford to lose programs and teachers. The children are the wealth of a nation."

Lawrence Brose, executive director of the CEPA Gallery, talked about the "importance of culturals and the arts to the fiscal recovery of this city." He criticized the city government's sudden de-funding of cultural programs in mid-year as "morally reprehensible." He said that budget cuts forced him to reduce his staff from nine to three and that the laid-off staff members have since relocated to other cities. Buffalo is suffering from an "incredible brain drain," he said, adding, "I'm looking at my options, too." Marlies Wesolowski of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY focused on block grant distribution. "We know first hand the problems that the city is facing," she said, but added, "The city needs to come up with a fair and equitable process for distributing block grant funds, with a credible evaluation process. Right now, it's not."

Charles Hendler, interim executive director of the Preservation Coalition of Erie County, said that Western New York "needs an aggressive approach to sprawl." And, on the topic of building inspections, he said, "Building inspecting shifted from trained inspectors to part-time firefighters. Don't do 'pennywise cuts.'" Joe Foley, president of the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Union criticized the city for failing to negotiate a new contract. "We understand the economic situation of the city. We do care. We are part of the city and we risk our lives daily." He said that the city's plan "does not address safety and will not work without union involvement... If the city would negotiate, an agreement could be reached in 24 hours and that it would 'guarantee great savings.'" Retired engineer R. H. Cutter said that many cities and towns in New York State face problems similar to Buffalo's. He said that he is "encouraged by the outspokenness of people," but added that the way that city government is run "hasn't changed much since the days of King Arthur and the Knights."

At the September 10 BFSA meeting, Sheffer offered a report on the forum. He said that 250 persons attended the forum, and that 54 spoke, while another 75 submitted written comments, either as a hard copy or via the internet. He said that the comments revealed several common themes. Among them were suggestions for revenue enhancement, such as a commuter tax, an income transfer tax, and a bottle fee. It was also suggested that property tax exemptions be decreased. He said that questions were raised as to whether having firefighters check for building code violations violated the Taylor law. And, he said that many people talked about education, saying that "the answer to budget dilemmas should not be on the backs of city students." BFSA President Thomas Baker said, "You and your team did a professional job on Saturday. We will take this under advisement." In the near future, the videotapes of the forum will be aired on public access television, Sheffer said.

The next BFSA meeting will be on September 15. At that time, the authority will be required to either approve or deny the city's four-year plan.

Rodriguez mostly bores me. Oh sure, his El Mariachi was interesting, but did he have to go and remake his own picture and call it Desperado? Now we’ve got Once Upon A Time In Mexico, which probably should be called El Mariachi III, assuming you’ll consider for a moment calling the second installment El Mariachi II. Truth be told, Rodriguez considers his newest Desperado II. Are you still with me? And frankly, his From Dusk Till Dawn, a violent con men/quasi-western/contemporary vampire film also fits into the mix, or mold if you will. I think the latter has a terrific style and a looseness that works, but it walks the same road as the El Mariachi pictures. As a matter of record, Rodriguez is the same guy who made three versions of Spy Kids.

All in all, it really doesn’t matter, Once Upon A Time In Mexico proves that Rodriguez has run out of gas. The director has already over-worshipped at the altars of Peckinpah and Leone. I mean, come on, when does homage turn into plagiarism? And now he’s virtually looting his own imitations for a bloody display of surreal stuck-in-a-rut filmmaking. At least Rodriguez’s mentor, Quentin Tarantino had the good sense to stop making movies for a while because the ideas weren’t there. In Once Upon A Time In Mexico, we’re visited by the brooding man with no name who once had revenge in his heart. Antonio Banderas saunters through town knowing he’s got all manner of firepower in his guitar case. Salma Hayek, who thankfully doesn’t talk much in what amounts to a pointless cameo, plays the fetching female seemingly only because this kind of movie needs a fetching female. If my memory serves me correctly, the plot point involving her in this movie doesn’t seem to gibe with her plot point in Desperado. Let’s just say she was once Banderas’ love interest, and leave it at that.

Here’s the gist of the story: CIA agent Johnny Depp would like the president of Mexico dead. But, he doesn’t want him dead at the hands of an assassin. So he signs on the mysterious singing gunman (Banderas as El Mariachi) to kill the killer. There’s a drug lord played by Willem Dafoe who seems to be channeling Orson Welles’ idea of Mexican badness from his Touch of Evil. The overthrow of the Mexican government is at the center of the movie, but hyperventilating around the edges of this overwrought feature are all manner of characters (like a fascistic general), some friendly, some less so, who participate in the goings-on, and there are all manner of goings-on. The movie is like a maze without an exit. You want Cheech Marin? You got ‘im. You want Ruben Blades? You got him, too. You want Mickey Rourke? Oh yes, he’s here as well.

Rodriguez is a multitasking director. He does everything. And he does it in the comfort of his house outside Austin, Texas. No Hollywood excess for him, which proves that you don’t have to live in Los Angeles to make convoluted, violent, cinematic junk food. In addition to writing and directing this rehashed mishmash, he photographed the movie himself using high-definition video. He also produced it, wrote the familiar music (all hail Ennio Morriconi), and edited the picture, or, as it reads in the opening credits, “chopped” it. Fortunately, the film doesn’t look like a home movie, which is its saving grace. If you like your action gonzo, then this feature could be right up your alley. The blood flows and flows and flows. There are some truly indulgent action scenes, and I will attest that there is a visceral excitement to them. For a while. How many times can Rodriguez shatter images? As many times as he wants to, I guess. How many times can he lead the audience down one path and then disappear into one of the myriad subplots? Too often for me. I don’t mind incoherence if it’s coherent. Comic book fantasies are great in comic books. Rodriguez is all over the place because he’s bereft of ideas. My sense of El Mariachi and Desperado were that romance played an important role in their story lines. Revenge was sweet. All we’ve got now is slaughter for the sake of stylized slaughter.

The whole enterprise collapses into a jumble of conspiracy and danger with no way out except the front door of the movie theater.

Erie Co. Leg. #3 Democratic Primary

George Holt, Jr. ( i ) 3,941 77% Michael Darby 1,170 23%

Erie Co. Leg. #6 Democratic Primary

Albert DeBenedetti ( i ) 1,564 39% Leonard Sciolino 1,365 34% Robert Quintana 1,115 27%

Erie Co. Leg. #7 Democratic Primary

Demone Smith ( i ) 3,084 61% Robert Baines 1,976 39%

Erie Co. Leg. #10 Republican Primary

Kevin Hardwick 1,434 51% Charles Swanick ( i ) 1,373 49%

Buffalo City Court Democratic Primary Debra Givens ( i ) 13,301 56% Mario Giacobbe 7,822 33% Michael Kuzma 2,594 11%

Buffalo Comptroller Democratic Primary

James Pitts 10,089 39% Barbra Kavanaugh 8,934 35% Alfred Coppola 3,963 15% Andrew SanFilippo ( i ) 2,884 11%

Delaware Dist. Councilman Independence Primary

Julie Penman 35 50% Marc Coppola ( i ) 35 50%

Ellicott Dist. Councilman Democratic Primary

Brian Davis ( i ) 2,261 84% Donald Barnes 420 16%

Fillmore Dist. Councilman Democratic Primary

David Franczyk ( i ) 1,225 52% Charley Fisher III 894 38% Ronald Fleming 238 10%

Lovejoy Dist. Councilman Democratic Primary

Richard Fontana ( i ) 1,277 54% Clarence Dent 693 29% Robert Okoniewski 214 9% Patsy Bevelock, Jr. 183 8%

Niagara Dist. Councilman Democratic Primary

Dominic Bonifacio, Jr. ( i ) 1,190 58% Louis Turchiarelli 851 42%

South Dist. Councilman Democratic Primary

James Griffin 2,844 60% Mary Martino ( i ) 1,887 40%

University Dist. Councilman Democratic Primary

Bonnie Russell 1,743 59% Betty Jean Grant ( i ) 1,233 41%

Senate Majority Leader Bruno had previously reaffirmed his promise to the people of New York to pass S. 5702, the legislation that will refinance our bankrupt Superfund, while protecting children and drinking water. Citizens' Environmental Coalition, NYPIRG, and many other groups have applauded Sen. Bruno's courageous stance.

Now local companies are working behind closed doors to thwart this legislation! The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, a consortium of industries and developers, is attempting to stamp out much-needed environmental reform by derailing agreed-upon Superfund/Brownfields toxic waste cleanup legislation.

This is a blatant attempt to deprive Western New Yorkers of their right to remediation of toxic health threats. Please call your representatives now and urge them to: "Tell Sen. Bruno it's time to PASS the long overdue Superfund/Brownfields bill!"

Then call Sen. Bruno at 518-455-3191 and thank him for his commitment to make good on his promise when the Senate reconvenes on September 16th.

WNY State Senate Local Contact Numbers

Byron Brown (716) 854-8705 George Maziarz (716) 438-0655 Patricia McGee (716 372-4901 Mary Lou Rath (716) 633-0331 Joseph Robach (585) 225-3650 William Stachowski (716) 826-3344 Dale Volker (716) 656-8544

New York State has never been closer to getting Superfund legislation. Don't let Big Business hijack our Legislature - call your State leaders today!

The source? Well Ms. Kavanaugh is quoted quite extensively in the article, as is State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, but ultimately the article is an exercise in heavily editorialized analysis; the stuff usually reserved for editorials, op-eds and commentary columns. Mr. Hoyt’s observation that, “I don’t know if Al is out there working or just there to take votes to help another candidate,” is paired with Ms. Kavanaugh’s complaint that “SanFilippo and Coppola are in this race to take votes away from me,” to reach the manufactured conclusion that back room deals were made to aid the SanFilippo campaign.

No evidence is offered to support this accusation outside of the amount of money raised by each campaign; a spurious barometer at best, and one that is further weakened by the fact that Ms. Kavanaugh has tens of thousands more dollars than the other three candidates. To question the other candidates because they can’t raise gobs of money is an odd attack upon the political process itself, especially considering the Buffalo News’ support of campaign finance measures.

A telephone conversation with Brian Meyer revealed that his involvement with the piece in question was limited to conversations with Mr. Pitts and Mr. Coppola. Mr. Meyer said that he was unaware of the News’ editorial board’s decision to endorse Ms. Kavanaugh until after he filed his story and that the other writer, Mr. Lakamp, did most of the legwork and writing for the story.

When Mr. Lakamp was reached by telephone he refused to comment and directed Alt to speak with Buffalo News City Editor Stan Evans. As of filing this story Mr. Evans has not responded to Alt’s query about the ethics of running commentary as news when there are real scandals out there to report on.

Meanwhile, veteran News’ political reporter Robert McCarthy wrote about a Labor Day parade in Clarence that featured both County Executive candidates. Buried in the piece is a statement by Democratic County Executive contender Dan Ward referring to the unfolding scandal within the County Highway Department. Unfortunately Mr. Ward is paraphrased in the piece and the word scandal is placed in scare quotes- a tactic used to distance the writer from responsibility for the word(s) in the quotes and, in this case, to demean the scandal concept itself.

And it looks like the payroll irregularities and missing equipment from Salt Road Garage is just the tip of the iceberg in the Erie County Highway Department. According to some Aurora residents, lumber from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stored at the County Forestry Barn has made its way to the Giambra sign committee just in time for a new batch of campaign lawn signs.

And we won’t even bother to ask why the Buffalo News has no interest in investigating the Giambra administration’s illegal and unethical handling of the proceeds from the tobacco settlement.

Meanwhile Buffalo is in dire financial straits, the Buffalo Public Schools will discontinue kindergarten instruction next year and Mr. Giambra continues his obstinate stonewalling while making dire predictions that county property taxes will have to go up by over 50% if the county has to share more sales tax revenue with the city.

Traditionally, Buffalonians have preferred to hang out in places where they can both drink and smoke. “We have open outdoor space where we can allow smoking. So nothing has really changed for us. In fact, the Act has increased our business as we can accommodate smokers as well. People like to come to our bar where they can smoke too instead of hanging out in places where they can only drink,” said Charlie Goldman, owner of La Luna, a favorite Latino bar on Chippewa Street in Downtown Buffalo.

Chad Syler, general manager of Red Room, another popular bar in the Chippewa District, however, doesn’t appear to be happy with the Act although the Red Room too has an outdoor space with arrangements for smokers. For him, “the biggest thing is our payroll, which has gone up as we have to hire additional security to stop people from smoking.” Moreover, he feels that people are socializing more than drinking. “When the bar is crowded, people find it difficult to go in and out all the time and so settle outside, at times, for more than an hour and as such bartenders lose a lot on their tips,” added Mr. Syler. In winters, Mr. Syler fears that people will prefer to stay at home and smoke while taking in a glass of wine rather than going out to places where they cannot smoke.

Mr. Goldman also agrees that in winters he is going to suffer because of the ban as people will not have access to outdoor space and will have to do without smoking. However, while Mr. Syler is against the ban, Mr. Goldman supports the policy of non-smoking and is willing to take the financial risks.

While some of the places have put up non-smoking signs, others are monitoring non-smoking with the help of security, and still others, like the Liberty Coffee Roastery at Lafayette Square in Buffalo Downtown, have not felt the need of either; smoking has never been allowed in their restaurant and so they are not faced with that problem.

It is one month now since the Act came into force and Buffalonians appear to be not only much aware of it, but also quite cooperative. Bar patrons

“going out for a smoke” have become commonplace. This has prevented a tension in nightclubs that would otherwise have been created. “Very rarely have we had to tell people not to smoke as they have been very cooperative,” said Mr. Goldman. “People are cooperating and they walk right out for smoking,” added Mr. Syler.

However, not all feel the same way about going for a drink as Mr. Schneider. Ellen Heidrick, a third year law student at UB, does not support the ban at all. A smoker herself, she bluntly says, “I don’t like it; when I go to a bar, I like to smoke. This Act is forcing people to smoke outside taking their drinks with them. The ban is good for other public places, but not for bars. They always over-regulate smoking, but not alcohol. It is hypocritical,” She adds, “ I think alcohol is equally dangerous, if not more so!”

Establishments Hit by The New York State Clean Indoor Act Under current law established by the act, smoking is now prohibited across the board in venues previously tolerant of their smoking patrons. Some of the venues affected include; ·Bars and Restaurants ·Indoor swimming facilities ·Waiting areas in public transportation terminals ·Zoos ·Bingo Facilities ·Indoor Arenas ·Public and Private Colleges and Universities

Venues Untouched by New State Smoking Legislation There are, however, venues that have fallen under the radar within the context of the new legislation. Although many can be considered personal domains and within the realm of our personal freedoms, some are business establishments that through grandfathering and territorial issues have remained untouchable. ·Private homes, Residences, and Automobiles ·Hotel or Motel Rooms Rented to One or More Guests ·Retail Tobacco Businesses ·Membership Associations Staffed by Volunteers ·Cigar Bars (Est. Prior to January 1, 2003) ·Outdoor Patios with No Ceiling Enclosure ·Native American Owned Gaming Establishments

According to Mr. Springer the Democrats need a message to effectively battle the Republican party.

Photo: Gabriel Schmidbauer “Say what you want about Republicans,” said Mr. Springer. “Their message is clear. I think it’s totally wrong and hurtful, but it’s clear.”

Mr. Springer said he was happy to see such a strong field of Democratic primary candidates but that it was too early for him to endorse anyone, though he admitted that he does like Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean a good deal.

“Actually, the best thing I could do for the Dermocratic party right now would be to endorse Bush,” said Mr. Springer referring to negative publicity associated with the Jerry Springer show. He also cited the show as the reason he declined to run for the Senate as it would still be on the air for the entire campaign season and would give endless distracting fodder to the media and republicans, making winning a seat difficult and possibly doing harm to other Democrats running for office.

Since Labor 2002, the Bush Administration has continued its attacks. During the long dispute on the Pacific docks, the Bush Administration intervened on management’s side. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) President Jim Spinoza told Prospering in America radio that Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Secretary of Labor Chan and Secretary of Homeland Security Ridge phoned the union and charged that a strike, if called, would make the union and its members “economic terrorists.”

When management locked out the dockworkers, President Bush invoked the national security provision of Taft-Hartley and ordered the workers to return to work. The problem, of course, was not that the workers refused to work; it was that the management refused to manage.

Despite the Administration’s intervention, the ILWU won a contract that protected workers’ jobs and allowed for technological innovation on the docks.

The Administration continued its assault on rights of federal workers. It denied airport screeners the right to join a union. Undaunted, the Service Employees International Union continues to organize the screeners.

In November 2002, the Administration announced plans to privatize as many as 850,000 federal jobs. These jobs would be the ones the Administration deemed “not inherently governmental.” Ironically, given that the Reagan Administration fired the previous generation of these workers, air traffic controller jobs have been designated as “not inherently governmental.”

As part of the assault on federal workers, the Administration and its Congressional allies have slipped an interesting provision into the Medicare prescription drug bill. That provision would strip all federal workers of civil service protections and eliminate federal pay scales.

The Administration also determined that some workers are making too much money. The Department of Labor will implement new overtime rules on September 1, 2003, that will seek to prohibit workers making more than $65,000 per year from receiving overtime pay. The new rules will also guarantee overtime pay to those making less than $22,310. Workers making between these amounts can be deemed exempt from overtime if their jobs are administrative or executive in nature. One of the determining factors will be if the job requires the worker to do paperwork.

All this matters only if jobs are available. The official unemployment rate has increased by fifty percent since the Administration took office. Since November 2001, the economy has 2.5 million fewer jobs. The loss has been particularly hard in manufacturing.

Manufacturing job losses hit the labor movement hard, as manufacturing remains a core of the labor movement. The result has been a slight dip in the percent of workers belonging to unions.

This decline is less than the job loss number would suggest in large part because unions continue to organize. Through the end of August, unions have added well over 100,000 new members in 2003.

On the state level, unions scored a major victory. Every state in the union faced, and faces, a significant budget crisis. Governor Pataki chose to deal with the crisis by proposing a budget that would have devastated state services, slashed the state workforce and threatened the viability of the state’s health care system.

While the state AFL-CIO could not bring itself to talk about a tax increase, it did force the debate over the budget to include “revenue enhancements.” The SEIU and the New York State United Teachers held massive rallies attended by tens of thousands to pressure state lawmakers and Governor Pataki to pass a budget that maintained state services. The eventual budget included “revenue enhancements” of an income tax surcharge on the wealthiest New Yorkers and a sales tax increase of .25%.

The legislative session also established a financial control board for the city of Buffalo. The board has the power to void labor agreements between the city and its unions, but has yet to exercise that power, despite pressure from County Executive Joel Giambra and the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership. Mayor Anthony Masiello sent a plea to Buffalo residents seeking relief from labor contracts and from “fringe” benefits cited to be representative of one-third of the budget. It is the battle over so-called fringe benefits, especially health care, that will shape the story of labor in the next year. That is true for workers and all unions.

The CWA, IBEW and Verizon, despite a $4 billion profit, are negotiating over who should bear increased health care costs, attempting to appropriate responsibility to the workers. The UAW and the Big Three automakers are negotiating over health care costs and plant closures.

The difficulty in these situations is that neither party nor both parties together can control those costs; private health insurance companies impose these premiums in order to guarantee themselves a suitable profit. (Note: The definition of a suitable profit is more than last year.) According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, administrative costs for private health insurance companies exceed those of the national health care system in Canada by over 30%. Further, the study finds that the higher the administrative costs the lower the quality of care. The study poses a way out of the collective bargaining based dilemma in the form of a national health care system. Adequate health care is not a “fringe” benefit. It is an essential human right and is at the core of what the labor movement fights to provide for its members.

Earlier this year, Brandon had brushed aside questions regarding both the terms of the loan agreement (SNI must pay a whopping 29% interest on the loan) and also concerns about whether the loan could be construed as a management contract, meaning, in effect, that Freemantle is managing the gaming operations of the casino.

“The Most Scrutinized Document in Indian Gaming History.”

The SNI Tribal Council has now hired Mr. Brandon, who is part Seneca, to handle negotiations for financing of four more WNY casinos. In an effort to downplay Seneca Niagara financing problems, Mr. Brandon was brought in to give a presentation and answer questions at public meetings held on the August 18 and 19 at the Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations, respectively.

Robert Jones, Co-Chairman of the Senecas for Justice and Preservation, was on hand at those meetings and challenged Brandon to defend his role in the Seneca Niagara deal.

“The Seneca people were very concerned – from the beginning – that the Tribal Council was moving too fast for our own good,” he told Alt. “We didn’t want land claims or taxes or any issues relating to our sovereignty to be included in these casino negotiations and we were concerned that they weren’t crossing all their t’s and dotting all their i’s.”

“Now this NIGC letter comes out and states that this is exactly what happened,” Jones continued. “ It was a bum’s rush. They were desperate for a loan, so they went to Freemantle and said, ‘We’ll give you whatever you want, just give us the money.’ And that’s what this NIGC letter proves.”

About Brandon’s latest involvement, not as a member of a federal oversight commission, but as a representative of the Seneca Nation, Jones was adamant that Brandon and the Tribal Council be held responsible for all of the problems in the Freemantle fiasco.

“They said that this agreement was the most heavily scrutinized document in the history of Indian gaming,” Jones said. “Well, if that’s the case, why was it so screwed up? Why did they put our sovereignty at risk? And now we’re supposed to trust this guy Barry Brandon with more financing deals? We can’t trust him. That NIGC letter proves that he screwed up. It’s embarrassing. And now we’re supposed to bring him in to screw up again?”

This issue of the SNI Tribal Council’s rush to open four more WNY casinos while opening up legal loopholes in the Nation’s sovereignty will definitely be a factor in the Seneca’s referendum on the proposed Allegany casino on Sept. 9.

In her letter Coleman said that a management contract requires the approval of the NIGC Chairman is required. She also states, unambiguously, that this is the case with the Seneca Niagara Casino.

Who Really Runs The Seneca Niagara Casino?

In Coleman’s analysis, “…with respect to the default provisions, we find that the agreements would give Freemantle the right to manage, control, and operate the Seneca Niagara Falls Casino upon default by the SNFGC (Seneca Niagara Falls Gaming Corp.). We also find that the primary loan agreement gives Freemantle ultimate control over new equipment leases and purchases. On this basis, we conclude that the loan agreements, and related documents, constitute a management contract.”

In discussing these default provisions Ms. Coleman states that, “The Term Loan Agreement and related documents have a number of remedial default provisions, which permit the transference of control, operation and management of the Casino to Freemantle, or its designee, in the event of a default.”

Coleman specifically mentions the threat that the Freemantle deal poses to the sovereignty of the SNI, “IGRA ( the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) recognizes the importance of tribal governments running gaming, and thus imposes certain limitations on Indian gaming operations. They have to be regulated by the tribe; they have to be owned by the tribe; and they have to be operated by the tribe. These are the fundamental underpinnings of Indian gaming, based on the time-honored principles of tribal sovereignty, which distinguishes it from gaming in the private arena. The above-cited remedial default provisions collectively permit regulation, operation and ownership by an entity other than the Nation. We are also completely unconvinced that a court can appoint a receiver for a tribal gaming operation; a court appointed receiver would usurp a tribe’s ability to own, regulate and operate its gaming enterprise.”

In summary, Coleman stated that, “…we conclude that this agreement, when considered together with all related documents, is a management contract, and, therefore, requires approval of the NIGC Chairman. Please be advised that an unapproved gaming management contract is void.”


In terms of sovereignty, what would happen if the SNI were to default on the loan? Impossible, casino advocates say. If the Seneca Niagara Casino is, as Ms. Coleman asserts, under the management of Freemantle or an anonymous “designee”, there is some question as to whether the tribe has been given an honest accounting of the bookkeeping at the casino.

A carbon copy of Coleman’s letter was sent to Michael Anderson an attorney for another D.C. law firm, Monteau & Peebles & Crowell. It was not clear at press time who Anderson is representing or why he was sent a carbon copy of the memo.

The Buffalo News has reported that the City of Niagara Falls is due to receive 9 million dollars from the casino, however great that news is for the struggling community of Niagara Falls, the fact remains that this casino run by outsiders, does, in fact, represent a threat to the Nation’s sovereignty. The fantastic numbers for Seneca Niagara have not been translated into dollars in the pockets of Senecas on the reservations. Critics, like Mr. Jones are asking about what kind of legal precedent would be set for the Seneca Nation if assets on sovereign territory were subject to legal seizure by anonymous, private corporate interests, as a matter of course.

Although the NIGC appears to consider the current management contract void, the casino continues to operate. The Sept. 9 referendum gives Senecas the opportunity to voice their opinion on whether or not the Nation should continue to operate this major facility and perhaps another on the Allegany reservation in this kind of legal gray area.

Terry Hughes is Reporting Secretary for the Teamsters Local 264 representing Sorrento workers and has been an employee of Sorrento Cheese for fifteen years. He talked with Alt about contract negotiation problems that workers are currently facing at Sorrento. Employees are currently working without a contract.

Alt: How did things get to this point?

They gave us a final offer on health and medical benefits. There’s a standard in the dairy industry that’s already been set with other companies like Wendt, Bison Foods, etc.. Our proposal was that we’d get the same thing as all these other dairy workers already have because we basically do the same things, it’s the same type of job.

So, the company refused and they gave us a lower standard. We told them we didn’t think the union would go for it. We put it to a vote and over ninety percent of our workers voted it down. With that, the company implemented their final offer and refused to go back to the table and discuss it. Right now we’re working without a contract and they’ve imposed this final offer, which was already voted down.

Alt: Is that legal?

We feel that there’s been some labor violations, so we’ve filed some charges. Most contracts if they get voted down, normally you’d go back to the table. Alt: Or go for an extension of the old contract. Right, and they’ve refused to do that

Alt: How many workers are involved ?

About 312, I think.What we’ve been doing is a lot of leafleting, going to Bison games, and Thursday in The Square and the reason for that is that we just want to inform the community and get some backing from the community and show what this company is doing. We’re not looking for a boycott of any product, or a shut down or any thing like that, but what we want to do is let people know, because this could be happening to your friends and family, what this company is doing.

Alt: Is there a danger this could lead to a strike on your part or a lockout on their part?

At this point we’re not sure. Of course, we’re trying to avoid a strike at all costs. We wouldn’t want the company to force three hundred families out of work. That’s why we’re doing this for now, just trying to put a little pressure on the company and to get the same recognition that other dairy workers from other companies are getting. Alt: Have you worked with the Coalition for Economic Justice? Not yet.

Alt Sorrento is owned locally, right?

Oh, no. Sorrento is owned by a French conglomerate (Simplot). So yeah, with these other dairy companies the workers didn’t have to go anywhere near what we’ve had to go through to get this contract.

And if movie stars are your thing, you can always catch an actor or actress strolling around the festival’s main arena, the intersection of Yonge and Avenue Road/University Avenue. Head for the Four Seasons Hotel in the Yorkville shopping/tourist district for primary sightings of celebs, but by and large they are everywhere. And call it a night at the Bistro 990 on Bay Street, across from the Sutton Place Hotel. Lots of festival goers, media types, and directors, producers, and stars settle in at the Bistro late night. Most of the public showings have question and answer sessions with the stars and director, or at the very least, they are introduced before the movie begins.

This year, the film festival will screen 336 films from 55 countries, including 252 features. Nearly 75% are world and North American premieres. 60% of the features are screened in a language other than English, and 66 features are directorial debuts, including the Closing Night Gala Presentation, director Jeff Balsmeyer’s Danny Deckchair. The opening night film is famed Canadian moviemaker Denys Arcand’s Les Invasions Barbares, a prizewinner at Cannes.

Also on tap are Robert Altman’s newest, The Company, as well as Dogville, another controversial entry at Cannes. A brief list of movies includes Colin Firth and Tom Wilkinson in Girl With A Pearl Earring, Jack Black and Joan Cusack in Richard Linklater’s The School Of Rock, Marco Bellocchio’s Good Morning, Night from Italy, and Nathalie from France, with Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Béart, and Gérard Depardieu. Other movies include Bruno Dumont’s Twentynine Palms, the much talked-about Shattered Glass, about the New Republic’s celebrated plagiarist, Easy by Jane Weinstock, and John Sayles’ Casa De Los Babys. There will be films by famed directors such as João César Monteiro, Rituparno Ghosh, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Haneke, and Gus Van Sant, who will be showing his Cannes Film Festival grand prize winner, Elephant. The National Cinema spotlight shines on New Brazilian Cinema and the Director’s Spotlight highlights films from Turkey. Other highlights include Crimson Gold by Jafar Panahi, James’ Journey To Jerusalem by Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, Kitchen Stories by Bent Hamer, and Osama by Siddiq Barmak.

One of the most popular festival events is Dialogues: Talking With Pictures, which sees some quite famous people showing and talking about their favorite movie or a special work of theirs. This year director Jane Campion presents and discusses Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing. Director Hector Babenco presents Eduardo Coutinho’s Twenty Years Later. Filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta presents Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru. Gary Burns presents Robert Altman’s Nashville. Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola presents and talks about his own rarely-seen One From The Heart, and Sir Ridley Scott presents the Director’s Cut of his Alien, with never before seen footage.

And, while her father is showing one of his past films, daughter Sofia Coppola will screen her new directing effort, Lost In Translation. Other actors with films include Keith Gordon with The Singing Detective, Scott Caan with Dallas 362, and Charles Martin Smith with The Snow Walker.

And yes folks, it’s coming. Generally viewed as one of the worst movies ever made or, at the very least, the worst movie many people have ever seen, the scandal of scandals of the Cannes Film Festival will screen at Toronto. Scheduled near the end of the festival, Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny will unreel and definitely demand discussion, asking the question: can a scrawny guy from Buffalo continue to alienate most of the movie-going world’s most important players? The much-talked about and much-maligned film is about, according to an understanding of its basic story line, one guy’s tragic loss of the love of his life.

In The Brown Bunny, Gallo directs and plays a motorcycle racer who journeys from New Hampshire to California. Everyday, he’s haunted by memories of the last time he saw his true love. He wants to make these memories disappear. As he motors across America, with the camera firmly planted in the front seat, he tries to find a new love, and makes outrageous requests of women to come with him on his trip. He might not be able to replace Daisy, the only girl to whom he’s ever been completely devoted, and quite possibly the only girl he will ever love, but he sure is going to try. Daisy is played by Chloe Sevigny, who, in the film’s climactic moment, performs fellatio on Gallo, an act which divided the Cannes audience like few movies ever had. They were already booing at the long static shots and endless dusty road scenes, during which screenwriter Gallo talks and talks and talks. Sevigny’s sex act, and supposedly Gallo’s arrogance, really riled up the masses. Needless to say, it will be the most talked-about movie at Toronto and one that will sell out the instant tickets go on sale.

Visit the Festival's Official website at or call the Bell Infoline at 416-968-FILM. The Festival Box Office is located at College Park, Market Level, 444 Yonge Street. Day-of-show tickets are available at the theater where the film is unreeling.

How or why NATO has become involved in middle Asia has not been completely explained. But perhaps the paternal instincts of the US government came into play. NATO was always the younger brother to U.S. military might. NATO needed a new job, so Uncle Sam found him one. And Uncle Sam can always use a few more troops.

Alessandro Minuto Rizzo, NATO Deputy Secretary General proclaimed the mission “a reflection of NATO’s ongoing transformation and resolve to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.”

This means the venerable NATO will become in the war on terror, and put itself on the payroll of the fastest growing multinational business on the planet.

Rizzo claimed that NATO would lead the peace- keepers “as long as necessary.”

The peace- keeping force is known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). At least thirty countries contribute these soldiers. Before NATO took command on February 10th it was led by Germany and the Netherlands. ISAF troops were deployed in December, 2001, after the US led war that toppled the Taliban.

But the eager eyed NATO command might not like what it’s getting into.

Immediately after the fall of the much maligned and diplomatically challenged Taliban, the boom boxes came out and the beards came off. But since then, Afghanistan has disintegrated along the fractured fault lines of War Lords, clans and families, and descended into chaos.

These different factions might hate each other and carry blood feuds for generations. But, hating and killing foreigners supercedes any provincial squabble. Banding together to fight any invader is an Afghan tradition.

Empires with Imperialist ambitions have been fiercely resisted. The British launched their first Afghan Army back in 1842. Of the thousands of British soldiers put into the field to suppress the wild tribes outside the Kabul Government, only a handful of soldiers survived to reach the Khyber Pass to safety. The rest were butchered, or died in the snow and ice.

For ten years back in the 80’s, the Soviet Army slowly died and Osama Bin Laden was born.

And now there is a new army to fight.

The last several weeks have seen some very fierce fighting; Taliban rebels have thrown the gauntlet at the government in Kabul, and have been hitting and running in their finest tradition of catch me if you can. The hottest fighting has been in the southeast region of the country. Between the cities of Kandahar and Kabul lie the two provinces of Katika and Zabol. Targets inside both provinces have been attacked and overrun by guerrillas. .

Of course, the US government probably is playing fast and loose with the title of Taliban.

There is no law and order outside the provincial governments. The countryside is rife with War Lords shooting it out for control of the once again flourishing drug trade, unemployed bandits looking for some easy pickings, or real live renegade Taliban looking to settle old scores.

And of course, any free- lance terrorists recruited by American dollars in the wrong hands will gladly sign on for the chance to slit a foreign throat.

The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is fluid at best, and simply nonexistent in other locations. The southeast seems to be the most porous.

Just two weeks ago, a convoy of guerrillas crossed the border and attacked a police station. The raid began just after midnight on a Saturday, when about 400 insurgents mounted on trucks crossed the border 125 miles southeast of Kabul. Firing machine guns, tossing grenades and shooting rockets, they easily took over the compound and held it until Sunday morning.

Afghan police were caught inside the compound and elected to shoot it out with the attackers. Seven were killed, including the police chief.

As dawn came the attackers packed up and fled. There may be a small force of Americans in country, but they have air power and know how to use it. They retreated, taking their dead and wounded with them. It was the largest attack in over a year.

It was reported that Taliban fighters actually took over the Provincial capital of Zabol: Qalat City, effectively cutting the country in half. Kandahar and Kabul would be out of communication, its forces threatened. But like many reports out of Afghanistan, this proved not to be the case. Alt Press has a source in a newspaper in Quetta, Pakistan, The Balochistian Post, just across the border. The source cannot confirm the story.

As we go to press, U.S. forces and Afghan militia are responding to a series of Taliban attacks. Using A-10 warthogs, F-16’s and Harrier jets in support, they are pounding and attacking suspected Taliban strongholds in the provinces. Central Command’s body count rests at 14 Taliban.

In Afghanistan, just like Viet Nam, anyone trying to kill you is a Taliban.

The public service ads were initially put on the back burner, only to come out this past winter causing some local political insiders to criticize the County Executive’s effort as little more than self-serving campaign ads in the guise of public service. Dan Ward, the Democratic County Executive contender has said as much as have Buffalo Comptroller competitors James Pitts and Barbara Kavanaugh.

To make matters worse it’s rumored that the spots were done with money from the $246 billion landmark national tobacco settlement, an agreement reached between 46 states and the four biggest tobacco companies to help the state governments recoup the costs of treating poor and uninsured people who fell prey to big tobacco’s illegal business practices and aggressive marketing.

Despite the assurances of the state attorneys general the final agreement never incorporated specific provisions aimed at curbing smoking and treating addicts. Across the nation settlement money has been spent on everything from infrastructure repairs to filling budget gaps and, in states like North Carolina where tobacco is the leading cash crop, subsidizing and promoting tobacco production.

While things here in Erie County might not be as absurd as the tobacco growing South, there is very little money going towards tobacco prevention measures. Instead, as reported by the Buffalo News, the majority of the County’s portion of the settlement has gone toward capital projects like suburban road and bridge repairs.

This is perfectly legal and acceptable according to Erie County local law 4-2000, the act that created the Erie County Tobacco Asset Securitization Corporation (ETASC), a not-for-profit corporation formed by Erie County in 2000 to securitize the tobacco settlement money in the face of concerns that the tobacco companies might default on their payments at some time over the 25 year term of the national settlement.

What isn’t acceptable or legal is the Giambra administration’s failure to comply with the spirit and letter of the law that created ETASC. According to that law, in addition to the securitized $211.7 million ETASC is directed to pay Erie County a much smaller sum of money annually from a business trust set up under Delaware state law. This residual fund provides $3-$5 million to the county annually, according to our sources.

The law states that half of the annual residual payments should go toward economic development and the other half toward Mr. Giambra’s regionalism projects. Out of the portion for economic development half is to go solely for economically depressed areas like the City of Buffalo- over three years that amount is somewhere between $2.25 and $3.75 million.

How much has been spent toward this end? Not nearly enough to comply with the law, depending on how closely one pays attention the number is either $1.9 million or $0.

According to a Buffalo News article from January 13, 2003 Budget Director Joe Passafiume claims $1.9 million of the County tobacco residual fund went to fixing the East Side Transfer station after it partially collapsed following the December, 2001 snowstorm.

Our sources don’t back up that claim. According to the minority leader of the Erie County Legislature, George Holt, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated $1.4 million to reimburse the City of Buffalo for the $1.9 million spent on demolishing and reconstructing the station. After discovering that the city and FEMA were covering the costs Mr. Holt sent two letters, one on May 5, 2003 and the other on May 8, 2003, to Mr. Passafiume to inquire what was going to be done with the $1.9 million pledged for city economic development. Mr. Holt said Mr. Passafiume has failed to respond to the query. Other county government officials reported that Mr. Giambra’s administration has failed to provide an account of the $1.9 million as well. Attempts by Alt to get a response, an explanation or a retraction from Mr. Passafiume were unsuccessful. Alt was told that Mr. Passafiume didn’t want to be quoted, could offer no information and would be unavailable to us. Attempts to get a response from others in the Giambra administration were unsuccessful as well. None of this surprised the members of the County Legislature contacted for this research, nor did they surprise Dan Ward, the Democratic contender for County Executive, who said that Mr. Giambra appears to have nothing but disdain for open governance.

“I’ve seen all kinds of administrations,” said Mr. Ward. “Some lazy, some inept, but this is a sinister enterprise put together to fleece government of everything it can. If he is in violation of County law the first thing to do is get a new County Executive, I certainly wouldn’t run a pirate or corrupt regime.”

The County Executive’s unethical use of the tobacco settlement money extends past the small residual fund, according to many in county government. When ETASC was created by the county Mr. Giambra put himself, Mr. Passafiume and County Comptroller Nancy Naples on the board of the corporation that now has the rights to the county’s portion of the settlement, $646 million. As of press time the other two board members remain unknown to Alt. Meanwhile the administration has been burning through the securitized tobacco money, according to budget documents and county officials. One knowledgeable source within the County Legislature said that the $211.7 million was supposed to be available for about ten years and would be used to create two $100 million trust funds, one for rising Medicaid costs, the other to fund maintenance, repair and restructuring at the Erie County Medical Center.

Turns out this never happened. According to documents received by Altpress about half of the money is already spent or allocated to be spent this year, mostly on capital projects and to replace the county’s traditional subsidies to ECMC and Erie Community College.

Additionally the County Executive, with the support of the Republican controlled County Legislature, has been using the tobacco settlement money to pay for recurring county expenses like County Fleet Operations (between $800,000 to $1million a year since 2001), county office equipment ($420,000 in 2001 and $600,000 this year) and operating Dunn Tire Park ($1 million this year and last), according to publicly available budget information.

The list is large and repetitive but the income isn’t. At least $127 million is spent and the County is poised to spend well over $30 million more of the settlement, according to our sources there will only be $56.7 million left at the end of the 2003 fiscal year- at the rate Mr. Giambra is burning through the tobacco money it will all be gone in two years.

Unfortunately tracking the spending of County government is becoming very difficult as the Giambra administration has refused repeated requests by County officials for information on County revenue and expenses. Additionally County Democrats no longer have access to the county accounting database. According to our sources only those in Mr. Giambra’s good graces can access this information anymore- information that was available to all legislators prior to the ascendancy of the County Republican machine.

Alt has copies of three letters sent to Mr. Passafiume by Mr. Holt. In addition to the two cited above another includes 13 simple questions about ETASC and tobacco revenue. This letter too remains unanswered, according to Mr. Holt. We have also learned that Legislator Al DeBenedetti has sent several letters asking similar questions, he too said that no one in the administration has answered his questions.

Mr. DeBenedetti took special issue with the Executive’s spending practices, claiming that capital spending has been excessive, especially since the overwhelming majority of the money has went to suburban projects at the expense of the ailing City of Buffalo.

“It’s election year ribbon cutting,” said Mr. DeBenedetti of Mr. Giambra’s road, bridge and culvert repair projects. “He’s spending the tobacco money like a drunken sailor when he could be using it to pay down some of our debt. We’ve increased our capital expenditures over what was approved on budget solely because of amendments. It’s a shame that the legislative body that’s supposed to provide checks and balances isn’t because they fear there’s going to be retribution if they don’t rubber stamp the amendments.”

Mr. Giambra’s office declined to comment on his use of securitized tobacco money even though a July 28, 2003 press release from County Comptroller Nancy Naples stated that using non-recurring revenue sources to cover recurring expenses is an unhealthy practice. Phone calls to press Secretary Jeff Hammond have gone unreturned as have requests to speak with Deputy County Executive Carl Calabrese.

(Editor's Note)

Mr. Giambra’s manic spending habits, evasion of facts and petty crime all mirror symptoms of addiction as defined by the American Medical Association. We here at Alt feel that addicts need treatment rather than incarceration and urge Mr. Giambra to seek help before this problem spirals out of control.

While Western New Yorkers have grown accustomed to vicious attacks on organized labor in the pages of The Buffalo News, the deliberate snubbing of major mainstream Democrats by Stanford Lipsey and his editorial staff is something new. What are the reasons for this hard right turn?

Perhaps it has something to do with Warren Buffett’s new hobby as campaign manager for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or maybe it has something to do with his paranoia about the effects that the recent power blackout will have on his interest in MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.

According to MidAmerican’s website, “the vertical configuration of the electric utility industry in the United States provides unlimited opportunities for companies like MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. This model is particularly favorable to utility companies because they control the supply and distribution of electricity to consumers.” Questions about the “unlimited opportunities” presented by deregulation are apparently not welcome with Warren & Co. at the moment.

Buffett, now the second wealthiest human being on the planet, has reinvented himself as a “moderate” Republican and it shows in the pages of The News. Although he has condemned the Republican drive to eliminate estate taxes, Buffett continues to act as an adoptive father figure to such ideological sons as The Terminator and Bill Gates. Buffett did a series of PBS interviews with Gates giving his stamp of approval to his junior monopolist and he now appears eager to grant his imprimatur to the Austrian muscleman as he attempts to piledrive the results of a democratic election in California.

Since Sen. Clinton has taken the lead in criticizing both the recall effort in California and the negative effects that power deregulation has had on both California and the northeast, it comes as no surprise that the editorial staff of The News has chosen to give less coverage to the Senator and Democratic Party candidates in the 2004 Presidential race than they gave to the appearance of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader when he appeared in Buffalo on a campaign stop sponsored by The Buffalo Alternative Press in the summer of 2000. In her speech in Buffalo Sen. Clinton noted that while the recall referendum was financed privately with a few million dollars raised by wealthy Republicans, the State of California will wind up spending $65 million to enable, “…an angry minority to reverse the results of a Democratic election.” As we take time to celebrate Labor Day this year, our thoughts, of course, turn to our armed forces in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us not, however, forget the battles at home, especially the fight for our 42 million fellow Americans who are without health care, and, of course our struggle against media moguls like Mr. Buffett who would prefer that things stay just the way they are. As Mother Jones famously said, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

For complete coverage of Sen. Clinton’s speech and more on the Young Democrats Convention in Buffalo we encourage our readers to visit our website at www.altpressonline .com

Children’s Crusade: The Governor was then asked if his campaign was merely a children’s crusade a la Eugene McCarthy’s anti-war candidacy in 1968.

"This is an awakening of America. In my generation, it took young people to change presidents and change America’s foreign policy and it looks like young people are taking the lead again.

California Dreamin’: Dean was asked about the recall of Gov. Gray Davis in California and the role that celebrity plays in politics.

I think that celebrity does play a role but, in the end, knowing how to run the government matters a great deal. It’s my hope that the recall won’t succeed in California because I think it’s just another right wing attempt to undo an election, as we saw in Florida and as we’re now seeing in Texas with redistricting. Obviously, Cruz Bustamante is the best qualified candidate should Gray Davis not be returned to office.

Iraq: The Governor was asked about his anti-war stance and whether other candidates might start coming around to his position, given the increase in guerilla attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

“They can’t. They voted to send them.”

Alternative Press vs. The Buffalo News: Alt then asked for the Governor’s thoughts on media consolidation and control, specifically citing The Buffalo News’ editorial decision to bury coverage of The Young Democrats Convention in a story about Gov. Pataki’s leadership during the blackout entitled, “State Leaders Demand Federal Inquiry.” The question was interrupted by a reporter from the Associated Press demanding to see press credentials at the urging of the author of the piece in question, Robert McCarthy of The Buffalo News. Dean’s press people refused to yield the floor and allowed Alt to continue; “I wonder if you could speak to the effect this has on our democracy, when we get this kind of slanted coverage of such a huge event?” we asked.

“Welllll,” Dean responded with some bemusement, “I guess all I’d say is that every paper has the right to cover events in the way they want to, and that’s why there’s an alternative press and that’s why the internet exists.” “I’ll tell you an interesting story. There was a very important paper in the country that incorrectly ran a story saying that I had changed my position on the Iraq war about six months ago, or so. We were astonished that they were running it and so we called them up and they wouldn’t retract it. So, we put up a notice about what the real position was on the net and it was fine.”

“There really are alternatives now. That’s the incredible thing about the internet; it’s a medium that’s not simply a one way medium. It’s a two way medium and it’s important and it does get around the monopolies that sometimes media have. Now, I’m not very worried about press monopolies to be frank about it. What I am very worried about is radio and television.” “I think the idea that radio and TV [conglomerates] can own huge proportions of American airwaves, or rent them, is wrong. It’s been something that’s bothered me for a long time. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the Dixie Chicks were not played on Cumulus radio stations (Ed. note: due to their criticism of George Bush) because those are our airwaves. They don’t belong to the corporations and to stifle political thought and not allow people to have the full range of political thought in their communities does stifle democracy.”

“So, y’know, as a politician, I’ve been outraged at stories like that (indicating The Buffalo News story) from time to time and I’ve learned not to do that anymore. But the way to get even, as it were, is to make sure you have a strong web presence, to make sure there are alternatives, and there are! Everywhere I go there are alternatives, even in the smallest cities and towns that represent different points of view.”

DIRTY PRETTY THINGS: Director Stephen Frears creates an atmosphere of risk in this gripping dramatic enterprise that’s quite difficult to pigeonhole, which means it’s a must-see movie for adults yearning not to be insulted. Okwe, superbly acted by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is a kind-hearted and quite gentle Nigerian doctor who has moved to London for secret personal reasons. He ends up working at a West London Hotel along with Senay, a Turkish chambermaid. She’s played by the magnificent Audrey Tautou (Amelie). The hotel, the sort of place where drug dealing and prostitution are winked at, is supervised by a questionable chap. And when Okwe finds a human heart in one of the toilets, he uncovers events much more sinister than anything he could imagine. The very well-acted film delights in keep you guessing. Stephen Knight’s tight screenplay also offers an interesting look at the immigrant culture in England. In Dirty Pretty Things, Frears has concocted a fascinating tale, one that takes you along like some sort of strange amusement ride. The movie has comic moments, but with each new situation and each new character, its mystery deepens and you eagerly await what’s coming next.

FREDDY VS. JASON: Look, you can interpret this as high praise, but this movie is better than it has any right to be. Those 1980s horror icons, Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare On Elm Street movies and Jason Voorhees from the Friday The 13th features are back and battling each other for preeminence in the world of shockeroo cinema. To get the boys together, a clever idea has been utilized; the supernatural Freddy is upset that he’s become a forgotten figure. To bring his name back into public consciousness, he invades Jason’s dreams and convinces him to murder some young people on Elm Street, which is the site of Freddy’s unspeakable crimes. Jason does what he’s urged to and Freddy is once again a known entity. Needless to say, the whole town’s talking and the film-ending collision between evil and evil might not satisfy considering the pedigree of these two lunatics. Freddy Vs. Jason has solid pacing, but that unfortunately leads to a clunky conclusion. The usual horror movie music and screaming Mimi types abound, and the gore gets a tad out-of-hand, but for folks who want to get their thrills from seeing how truly ugly Freddy has become and how quietly creepy Jason has remained, there have been worse movie fright fests this year alone.

MY BOSS’S DAUGHTER: Just in case you wondering how to get ahead in Hollywood, even though you make truly bad movies, consider the suddenly hot career arc of Ashton Kutcher. Fame often has nothing to do with talent. Instead, Kutcher showed up on Saturday Night Live in jockey shorts revealing a lot of everything. He then stole Allen Funt’s Candid Camera idea (an oft-stolen idea in these reality TV times) and decided to play hidden camera pranks on his fellow celebrities on MTV. Then the twenty-something Kutcher hooked up with fortyish Demi Moore and supposedly the duo is a hot sexual item. See, easy attention, instant fame. Those who suffer are people who are forced to sit through his movies, and believe me, although he may have his fans; nobody is forced to sit through his movies unless they are a movie reviewer. The latest Kutcher goof on good taste and common sense is My Boss’s Daughter and it’s a mess. I don’t care how personable people are; you can’t enjoy cesspool cinema when you know the talent on screen is capable of much, much better. And I’m specifically referring to Terence Stamp. Vulgar and insufferably boring, the movie stars Kutcher as a nice guy who wants to be close to his boss’s sexy daughter (the untalented Tara Reid), so he offers to baby-sit the boss’ (Stamp’s) pet owl. And you thought there were no signs of intelligent life in Hollywood. Anyway, stupid and failed comic situations abound and the movie mercifully ends.

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