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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kennedy Waited for Right Moment

NEW YORK (AP) — With the wind of her family's legacy at her back, Caroline Kennedy says her quest for a Senate seat has been a long time in the making.

In her first sit-down interview since she emerged as a Senate hopeful, the 51-year-old daughter of President John F. Kennedy told The Associated Press that she has always pondered jumping into politics, but waited for the right moment.

"I am an unconventional choice. I understand that. I haven't pursued the traditional path. But I think that in our public life today, we're starting to see there are many ways into public life and public service," she said.

For the full story, go to The Associated Press.

Fatal Fire in Philadelphia

A brief but lethally intense house fire killed seven people - four of them children - and injured two others late Friday night in Southwest Philadelphia.

More from and CNN.

Earthquake in Lancaster, Pa.

More than 1,000 people called the Lancaster County 911 center after a minor earthquake shook the area early this morning.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the 3.4 magnitude quake hit just after midnight and was centered just outside Lancaster.

Many who called 911 thought there had been an explosion nearby, but there were no reports of injuries or severe damage.

U.S. Geological Survey

Man Charged for Importing Beetles

Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have charged a man for allegedly importing 25 giant beetles from Taiwan without a permit.

If convicted, 36-year-old Marc DiLullo of Birdsboro could get up to a year in jail, one year on probation and a $100,000 fine.

Prosecutors say someone in Taiwan mailed the package to DiLullo and he tried to pick it up at a post office on May 8. But postal workers were suspicious of the package labeled "toys, gifts and jellies" and notified authorities.

Politico Will Miss Ed Rendell

Governor Ed Rendell has made the list of politicians who will be missed by in 2009.

They say Rendell is a reporter's dream: a powerful, plugged-in politician who actually speaks his mind. One of the first stirs caused by Rendell happened when he told reporters that some white people in Pennsylvania were probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate.

Rendell's name still pops up as a possible Cabinet member, but that won't happen until he leaves Harrisburg in 2010. The Democrat has said he won't leave the state in the hands of new Republican Lieutenant Governor Joe Scarnati.

For the full story, go to

Friday, December 26, 2008

Man Pleads Guilty to Sex Charges

A Brookville area man has pleaded guilty to charges filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Child Predator Unit.

Steve Kempski is accused of using the Internet to sexually proposition and send sexually explicit photos to people who he believed were young girls. They were actually undercover agents from the Child Predator Unit.

Kempski will be sentenced after the state Sexual Offender Board peforms a Megan's Law evaluation.

Gov. Considers Gambling Expansion

New York Governor David Paterson is considering raising money for the financially strapped state by expanding gambling.

Paterson believes the state could get nearly $500 million in additional revenue by extending gambling to bars, restaurants and racetracks.

Among the proposals are allowing the Quick Draw game to be played 24 hours a day instead of 13 and making the game permanent instead of subject to review by the Legislature every few years.

Paterson also wants to lower the legal gambling age from 21 to 18.

Snow Globes Being Recalled

A holiday decoration is being recalled because it can be a fire hazard.

The Hallmark jumbo snowman snow globe is being recalled because when the glass globe is exposed to the sun it can act as a magnifying glass and ignite nearby objects. So far there have been two reports of fires caused by the snow globes.

The snow globes were sold at Hallmark Gold Crown stores for $100 but, if you have one, you can return it to any Hallmark store for a full refund.

For more information, go to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site.

United Way Reaches 60% of Goal

The United Way of the Bradford Area has reached 60% of its 2008 campaign goal of $375,000. “This wonderful achievement illustrates the commitment of the Bradford community to care for others,” states Kristen Tate Luther, Executive Director. “The capacity to care for one another is the key concept the founding fathers of the Community Chest were aiming to accomplish back in 1925 and the same level of caring exists within our community today.”

Monies raised from the annual appeal are allocated locally to health and human service agencies in Bradford. The 2008 funding cycle benefited 28 programs and 17 local agencies. “We work diligently to ensure donors their contributions DO stay locally, but many misconceptions regarding who is funded and where the monies go oftentimes prevent residents from contributing. The United Way of the Bradford Area operates on the ‘abundance philosophy’ where resources are utilized to their full potential so we can achieve the common good. Other United Way organizations may choose different paths, but the Bradford United Way has been and will always be committed to keeping everything local”, states Luther.

Several divisions within the campaign are working hard to finalize numbers – but the pace of the 2008 appeal has had its pace set by a third party….the economy. “The completion rate of the pledge process has definitely fluctuated this year, but we are and remain extremely grateful for sacrifices made to ensure pledges are completed. It’s a community success, not just organizational, so understanding financial limitations goes with the territory”, says Luther.

The United Way Board of Directors serve as the leadership team for the appeal and will take the necessary time to do all follow-up calls and contacts. The board hopes to finalize everything by January 31st. Pledges can be made by calling the United Way office.

‘We ALL Win’, the 2008 Campaign Theme, holds an impactful message, especially in these difficult economic times. Remember, ‘it’s not what you give, but that you give’ – which will help the United Way make the most of its resources this year in helping local agencies and programs.

Judge: NY Can't Enforce Tax Law

A New York State Supreme Court judge is temporarily barring officials from enforcing a new law requiring the collection of taxes on cigarettes sold by Indian retailers to non-Indians.

The judge's order tells government officials to appear in court next month to show why she shouldn't issue a permanent injunction against the tax collection.

The new law scheduled to take effect in February will prohibit manufacturers from selling tobacco products without a state tax stamp to any wholesaler that doesn't certify the cigarettes won't be resold tax-free.

A spokesman for Governor David Paterson says the state will comply with the judge's order.

Paterson in No Hurry To Name
Hillary Clinton Successor

New York Governor David Paterson says he's in no hurry to pick a successor to Hillary Clinton in the US Senate, and he wishes people would stop talking about who he will choose when, and if, Clinton is confirmed as Secretary of State.

More attention has been given to Paterson and his choice since Caroline Kennedy decided to seek the seat once held by her uncle, Robert Kennedy.

Paterson says he doesn't feel that much anxiety over the choice because, under the state constitution, whomever he appoints much stand in the next general election in 2010.

Leon Man Jailed for Firing Guns

A Leon man has been for firing guns outside a house on Route 62 Wednesday night.

Sheriff's deputies say that at about 10:15 p.m. on Christmas Eve someone called to complain about an intoxicated man who was making threats and firing guns.

44-year-old Timothy Donner was taken into custody without incident and charged with menacing, trespassing, unlawful possession of marijuana and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling.

He's in Cattaraugus County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Christmas Break-Ins in Smethport

Police are looking into Christmas Day break-ins at The Cottage House Restaurant and St. Elizabeth's Church in Smethport.

They say someone broke into the church sometime between 1 and 8 a.m., broke a window on the church's basement door, took $10 from a cabinet and fled in an unknown direction.

Sometime between 1 and 1:25 a.m. someone forcibly opened, and broke, the cash register drawer at The Cottage House. Police say there was loose change in the drawer but it wasn't taken.

Police say they're not sure if the door was locked and secured by employees before they closed the restaurant, but no force was used and the door was not damaged.

Accused Orange Thief Jailed

A Jamestown man has been accused of stealing a Christmas present from a front porch on Christmas Eve.

Police say a neighbor told them he saw someone take a package that had been left on the porch by a delivery person at about 4:15 Wednesday afternoon.

Police officer Rick Hooks followed footprints from that house to a house nearby and found 28-year-old Ruben Mascitti hiding under the kitchen sink.

Mascitti was arrested and taken to Jamestown City Jail.

The package contained a box of oranges.

Gas Leak Evacuates Homes

Some Roulette homes were evacuated Wednesday night when natural gas from a new Marcellus Shale well started leaking in heavy concentrations.

At just after 6 p.m., Route 6 was closed from the eastbound Roulette Main Street exit to the Fishing Creek exit.

Roulette firefighters had to access the wells with four-wheel-drive vehicles to turn off the valves. The leak was eventually stopped.

Guardian Exploration of Texas owns the wells, but they have an office in Shinglehouse and are investigating.

For the full story, go to Solomon's Words.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yes, Virginia ...

From The Newseum:

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

And make sure you keep checking out NORAD's Santa Tracker so you know how close he is to your house!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Council Passes 2009 Budget

WESB/WBRR News Director

Bradford City Council passed its 2009 budget Tuesday night, which does include a tax increase – but not as big as council members thought it would be.

Mayor Tom Riel says a lot of the credit for that goes to City Clerk John Peterson.

He said Peterson cut roughly $750,000 from the budget when the city was looking at a $1.2 million deficit.

"That's tremendous," Riel said. "I'm proud of the rest of city council … Everyone's worked hard."

Riel said he's sorry they had to pass the tax increase on to the public but they had no other choice.

Also Tuesday night, passed the new "residential rental unit ordinance," which is aimed at cracking down on landlords who don't take care of their property.

City Solicitor Mark Hollenbeck explained that, following a work session with area landlords, some language in the ordinance was changed from its first reading.

Hollenbeck said the ordinance makes it clear that a violation "has to be a willful act," not an unintentional mistake.

Another change is that a landlord – or an agent of the landlord – does not necessarily have to live in Bradford. For example, if someone lives in Limestone, New York, but regularly comes to Bradford, that would be acceptable.

Also, there is a change in inspection fees. If a landlord has the same tenant for two years, and the property has passed inspection for two years, there will be no fee after that as long as the same tenant lives in the property.

In other matters, Steve Cavallaro of Cavallaro's Custom Picture Framing, representing other Kennedy Street business owners, said they would like the city to consider using parking meters with only a 30-minute time limit, instead of two hours, so they would have a greater turnover.

He mentioned that they already lost parking on one side of the street because of the Streetscape project. Cavallaro also noted that if the two-hour meters are installed people will park on Kennedy Street then leave for two hours, taking up a space that a potential customer would use.

Riel said council will discuss the matter, and noted that they would have to change the parking ordinance to install meters with a shorter time limit.

In other matters, Peterson wanted residents to be aware that instead of receiving coupon books for refuse payment, they will be receiving a sheet of perforated coupons.

He said this is a cost savings to the city.

Also Tuesday night, council recognized Bradford Eagle Scout Tyler Thomas for his restoration work at the 5th Ward Park.

Riel said his efforts made a visible difference and were also a cost savings to the city.

At the end of the meeting, Riel thanked everyone for bearing with council as they "get through this financial trouble. … We hope that everyone has a happy holiday season – and the politically incorrect Merry Christmas as well."

UPB Prof Reviewer for Textbook

Dr. David Soriano, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, is among 22 professionals who reviewed the newest edition of a textbook for college courses on drugs and society.

The 10th edition of “Drugs and Society” is the only introductory text of its kind co-authored by two pharmacologists and a criminologist, Soriano said. The authors are Glen R. Hanson, Ph.D., DDS; Peter Venturelli, Ph.D.; and Annette E. Fleckenstein, Ph.D.

The new text, published by Jones and Bartlett Publishers, illustrates the impact of drug use and abuse on the lives of ordinary people and provides students with a realistic perspective of drug-related problems in our society.

“I consider it an honor to be selected as one of the reviewers for the newly released 10th edition of this highly regarded text,” Soriano said.

“The publishing company and authors asked me to review the new edition because they are aware of the number of students taking the Drugs and Society class on our campus. I have been teaching the course since Fall 2001 and it was the first on-line course taught on our campus.”

Soriano teaches Drugs and Society at Pitt-Bradford, where it is a required course for three Pitt-Bradford majors. The lab is taught from a chemist’s perspective and involves formal lab courses and field trips to the New York State Crime Lab in Olean, N.Y., Federal Correctional Institution – McKean and the Mentally Ill Chemically Addicted unit of Bradford Regional Medical Center.

“There are still a significant number of undergraduate campuses not offering such a course on drugs of high use/abuse potential, but the situation is rapidly changing,” Soriano said. “In my estimation, all college students should have a course in drug education and awareness while at the undergraduate level.”

Soriano earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., and earned his doctorate from the University of Nebraska. He has taught at Pitt-Bradford since 1984 and teaches general chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry.

His research interests include the evaluation of drugs and the design of potential new drugs using computer graphics.

CCMH Awards Scholarships

Several area students were recently awarded scholarship funds from Charles Cole Memorial Hospital.

Funds are awarded to students pursuing nursing and allied health careers. Upon graduation, scholarship recipients agree to work at CCMH for a minimum of two years.

“The hospital looks to its scholarship program to help with recruiting the next generation of heath care workers. Today, we have over 40 past recipients working at Charles Cole,” said Tom Noe, executive director, corporate support services at CCMH. Noe said that $75,000 in scholarship funds will be awarded this year

Those receiving scholarship funds include:

Carol Strawderman of Port Allegany is attending the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. She is married to Michael Strawderman and is a daughter of Gloria Kelly of West Virginia and Ron Kelly of South Carolina.

Megan Woods is attending UPB and is a daughter of Dan and Kim Woods of Smethport.

Amber Gardner of North Bend, Pa., is attending Lock Haven University’s Clearfield Campus. Gardner, a daughter of Robert and Cheryl Gardner, received the Brenda A. Ross Memorial Nursing Scholarship which was established in memory of Ross, who was a nurse at CCMH until her untimely death in 1987.

For additional information on scholarship opportunities, call 814/274-5431 or e-mail

Rep. Peterson Has Mixed Emotions

WESB/WBRR News Director

After nearly 40 years in public office, Congressman John Peterson says he is retiring with "mixed emotions."

Peterson represented the 5th district for six terms in Congress, but decided not to seek a 7th term this year. He says he has no firm plans for the future, but will be spending time with his family and working around his Victorian home and two-acre flower garden.

"I leave office with very, very mixed emotions. I'm not tired, I'm not sick, I'm not out of gas," Peterson said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. "I don't think these are jobs you should hold for life. … I think a good turnover in a legislative body is healthy."

Peterson, who turns 70 on Christmas Day, says he believes he has been a strong voice for rural issues in Congress. He says he tried to get people to work together on issues including economic growth, rural health care and technology education.

He says be believes his successor, Glenn Thompson, will be an advocate for rural Pennsylvania as well.

Peterson says one of the most important issues facing the country is energy. He says the U.S. needs a broad-based energy policy that can't be built around renewable energy sources just yet.

"You can't stop using coal, oil and gas because you want to switch to renewables that aren't ready to supply you affordably," Peterson says.
He says energy is "still an under-valued issue … and now we have to watch the new administration."

On the state level, Peterson says he will still continue to oppose putting tolls on Interstate 80 if Governor Ed Rendell and/or the Legislature go in that direction again.

He adds that he would be willing to work with an organization to disband the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and "fold it into" PennDOT.

Peterson says he set out to be a businessman before getting involved in politics. He served in the state House and Senate before being elected to Congress.

He says what he'll miss most about politics is the debates.

If you debate an issue long enough you're likely to do the right thing," Peterson says. "I thnk today we have far too little debate, far too little discussion that the public gets involved in."

"I love the discussion of issues," he says. "I will miss that very much."

One Book Bradford Receives Grant

The Bradford Area Public Library and its One Book Bradford Committee has received a grant for $2,883 from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council as part of its Our Stories, Our Future initiative on American History.

The grant was received to support the February 9, 2009, visit of author David Laskin at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s Bromeley Family Theater.

One Book Bradford is a collaborative venture among local book clubs, the Friends of the Bradford Area Public Library and the Spectrum Series of Pitt-Bradford.

“This year’s selection, ‘The Children’s Blizzard,’ by David Laskin, was chosen with care and understanding of the residents of the local area who identify with fierce independence and family loyalties of the early settlers of the American prairie,” said Linda M. Newman, director of the library.

“The author’s visit will offer a unique opportunity for a rural audience to interact with a published author who has made a meaningful contribution to the field of literature.”

Other funding for Laskin’s visit comes from One Book Bradford, Spectrum and the Pitt-Bradford writing program and the Division of Communication and the Arts.

Our Stories, Our Future, is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of We the People, a national initiative exploring the history of the United States.

The Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s mission is to inspire individuals to enjoy and share life-long learning. Since 1973, the PHC has empowered local groups to offer high-quality public programs that have a positive impact on the everyday life of their communities. PHC represents the federal-state partnership of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The next One Book Bradford event is at 2 p.m. January 24, when Bradford Little Theatre will present an original short play based on Ted Kooser's book of poetry from from reminiscenses of blizzard survivors.

Pictured, members of the One Book Bradford committee, from left, Bradford Area Public Library director Linda Newman, Ann Gannon and chairwoman Pat Shinaberger, present State Rep. Martin Causer with a copy of this year’s One Book selection, “The Children’s Blizzard” by David Laskin, in appreciation for his support of the arts.
(Photo Courtesy of One Book Bradford)

Parkview, Hamlin Bank Lead

In round 5 chess league action at School Street Elementary, there were several upsets in the junior varsity division. Lang Surveying Team was knocked out of first place by the Tasta Pizza Team. Northwest Savings Bank Team drew their match against Team Edmond Chevrolet. Hamlin Bank Team crushed the Domino’s Pizza Team to take over the division lead. Smith’s Watch & Clock Repair Team won a major victory against Drs. Rhinehart Team. Hamlin Bank now has a 2-point lead in the league followed by Lang Surveying in second and the Tasta Pizza Team in third place.

In the JV division, only Leah Swineford, captain for Tasta Pizza, and Mitchell Forbes, captain for Hamlin Bank, remain undefeated.

In the varsity section, Parkview Super Market Team won its match against Dr. Laroche Team by half a point to continue in first place. Bradford Window Co. Team managed a narrow win over Smith’s Fine Jewelry. Dexter’s Service Center Team tied with the Ed Shults Toyota Team, and Team Dr. Gonzalez bested the Pharmacy at Union Square Team. Parkview continues to lead the varsity action followed closely by Dr. Gonzalez and Bradford Window Co.

Tied for first in the varsity division are Tamara Ferguson, captain for Smith’s Fine Jewelry; Mike Jones, captain of the Dr. Gonzalez team; Rob Ferguson, captain for Ed Shults Toyota; Todd Hennard, captain of the Bradford Window team; Greg Henry, captain for the Dr. Laroche team; and Bob Ferguson, captain for Parkview Super Market.

There will be no league activities over the Christmas Holidays. Matches will resume on Wednesday, January 7.

Bradford Makes Top 200

Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau

If you like the outdoors, Bradford should be on your destination list.

That’s according to Outdoor Life magazine’s Top 200 Towns for Outdoorsmen. Bradford is ranked 164th, according to Outdoor Life’s December/January issue.

The towns were rated based on several criteria – population, huntable species available, fishable specials available, “trophy potential,” year-round hunting and fishing opportunities, public land access and lack of gun laws limiting sportsmen.

This distinction is sure to boost the area.

“Having Bradford selected as one of the national top 200 towns for outdoorsmen is an honor,” said Linda Devlin, executive director for the Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau, located at 80 E. Corydon St., Bradford. “Our national assets are unsurpassed.”

The Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau promotes tourism to McKean County.

Sometimes, as Devlin pointed out, those who live in the area don’t always recognize what the area has to offer.

“As residents, we sometimes miss the beauty and uniqueness of our region,” she said. “Bradford and the other communities around the Allegheny National Forest are truly an amazing destination for recreational enthusiasts.”

According to the article, the magazine combed through every population center in the U.S. with more than 4,000 people.

Some of the factors considered were the growth rate of the local economy, the unemployment rate, the degree of taxation, the time it takes to commute to work, the crime rate, housing prices, median household income and the variety of cultural opportunities within an easy driving distance.

Outdoor Life then looked at how the towns were purely from a sporting perspective.

“We rated them on the fishing and hunting opportunities each town offers, the trophy quality of the sporting opportunities, proximity to land, the restrictiveness of the gun laws and whether fishing and hunting is good year-round,” according to the article.

The magazine then put this information into a database and developed a formula that gave a little more emphasis to sporting opportunities than to quality-of-life rankings.

“These places exist in every state – towns where you can step out your back door with a fly rod or a shotgun and find abundant fishing and hunting opportunity in sight of the municipal water tower,” the article said. “Places where the economy is vibrant, but the pace is slow. Towns with good schools and hospitals and a strong sense of community.

“Places where you can wear fishing waders or a camouflage hunting jacket into a bar and not call attention to yourself.”

Many attributes featured in the article are part of a message that the Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau has been working to promote.

“This designation as one of the top 200 sites in the nation for hunting and fishing in America by Outdoor Life reinforces the marketing message that the vacation bureau has been promoting to travelers,” Devlin said. “Our region is a unique destination full of quirky attractions offering world class outdoor recreation for all seasons. Plus, we are a safe and economical destination.

“I think this designation will be useful in helping to brand the region as a major destination. It will be helpful in increasing the number of visitors to McKean County.”

According to the article, which is also featured in the Dec. 19 issue of Pennsylvania Outdoor News, the writers of Outdoor Life scored towns on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being better.

With a population of 8,578, Bradford scored seven for huntable species; four for fishable species; four for trophy potential; 4.7 for year-round opportunities; six for public lands access; and seven for gun laws.

Devlin also noted that only five towns within Pennsylvania were selected. The other Pennsylvania towns on the list are Williamsport, Carlisle, State College and Scranton.

For more information, log onto or call the Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau, 800-473-9370.

Monday, December 22, 2008

VoiceCare Provides Assurance

Linda South, personal emergency response coordinator for Bradford Regional Medical Center’s McKean County VNA & Hospice, displays the pushbutton activator necklace and the two-way voice console of the VoiceCare Personal Emergency Response System, an alert system available through Bradford Regional Medical Center’s McKean County VNA & Hospice at 20 School St. in Bradford. “We have 150 people who are subscribing to VoiceCare throughout McKean County,” says South. “But more could benefit from this alert unit. It promotes secure independent living for those who are on their own and away from family and caregivers."
(Photo courtesy of BRMC)

Causer: Health Care is Big Challenge

By State Rep. Martin Causer

Next to dwindling state budget revenues, one of the biggest challenges facing this Commonwealth and its citizens is access to health care.

In rural areas like ours, it can be difficult to attract doctors and specialists. It is even more challenging to keep them once they get here. Unfortunately, thanks to the high malpractice insurance costs in Pennsylvania, that problem is no longer unique to rural areas. Many parts of the state are struggling to keep enough doctors on hand to meet patient needs. High-risk specialists, such as OB-GYNs, are in especially short supply, and a number of hospitals have closed their maternity wards as a result.

Most of us who are fortunate enough to have good health likely take for granted that if and when we do get sick, we’ll just go to the doctor or the hospital and be as good as new. But talk to anyone who’s had serious health problems and you’ll likely learn that we should not assume the care we need will be available.

In Harrisburg, there’s been quite a lot of talk about health care over the past two years, but not enough action. I sincerely hope that changes in the new legislative session.

First and foremost, I believe we need to extend the MCare abatement program that helps make malpractice insurance more affordable to doctors and keeps them practicing in our state. The abatement is funded by money paid by doctors into the MCare fund, so there is no impact on our state budget. The governor has refused to extend this program until lawmakers approve his very costly plan to “cover all Pennsylvanians.” I oppose this plan because we cannot afford it and broad-based, state-sponsored health care plans simply do not work.

However, I do recognize that while our Commonwealth has one of the lowest rates of uninsured people in the nation, there are still people in need of coverage. The CHIP program has provided an important safety net for children, and adultBasic could serve that role for adults. I would consider supporting an expansion of the adultBasic to cover the 50,000 or so people already on the waiting list who cannot get coverage elsewhere. We should also consider sliding scale premiums that would be based on a person’s income in order to enroll more people who cannot obtain coverage elsewhere.

Finally, we must take steps to make it more affordable for the private sector to continue providing health care benefits to employees by encouraging the use of Health Savings Accounts, wellness tax credits and establishment of a basic but affordable health benefit plan that small businesses can afford to offer employees.

With this prescription, we can better ensure the health of our citizens.

WIVB Being Pulled from Lineup

WIVB-TV will be taken off the Atlantic Broadband lineup on January 1 unless an agreement can be reached between the cable company and Channel 4's parent company.

Earlier this year, LIN Television and Time Warner Cable had a dispute that left Time Warner customers without CBS programming for nearly 4 weeks.

LIN was holding out for Time Warner to pay "fair market value," while Time Warner said it should not pay for free over-the-air broadcast signals. An Atlantic Broadband representative says their situation is similar.

Terms of the eventual agreement were not disclosed. WGRZ-TV had a contract dispute with Atlantic Broadband in December 2006, although a deal was eventually reached there as well.

If WIVB is pulled from the Atlantic Broadband lineup, customers can still get CBS programming on WSEE-TV from Erie.

Wong to Lead Pitt-Bradford's Choir

Maestro Samuel Wong, a former assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic who has recently relaunched his medical career, will lead the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s College-Community Choir next semester.

Wong said the choir’s program for its March 18 program will be famous opera choruses, including Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Wagner’s “Lohengrin.”

“I welcome all voices to join in this exciting program,” Wong said. “It will be a chance to delve into the drama of great operas as well as review language pronunciations in Italian, German and French.”

The first rehearsal will take place at 7 p.m. Jan. 6, 2009, in the Webb/Bradford Forest Rehearsal Hall, Room 138 in Blaisdell Hall. No auditions are required, and all young adult and adult singers are welcome.

Wong’s dual career as maestro and medical doctor began with a degree in piano performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he also studied composition, tuba and violin.

He moved on to Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude in applied mathematics. He remained at Harvard for medical school, graduating with honors in ophthalmology, neurology and psychiatry.

While pursuing a residency in ophthalmology at Manhattan Eye and Ear Hospital, he continued to pursue his passion for music by conducting the New York Youth Symphony.

It was in this role that he was “discovered” by New York Philharmonic music director Zubin Mehta, who offered him the philharmonic’s assistant conductor position.

He first came to international attention when he made his New York Philharmonic debut in December 1990, stepping in for the late Leonard Bernstein, and then, in January 1991, replacing Mehta. Over the years, he has led more than 35 performances with the New York Philharmonic in New York City and in Washington, D.C.

Frequently in demand as guest conductor, Wong has appeared with the major orchestras in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Seattle, Houston, London, Brussels, Prague, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City, Spain, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.

Active in new music, Wong has led significant first performances with many orchestras, including 15 premieres in Carnegie Hall. He has collaborated with such distinguished artists as Yo-Yo Ma, André Watts, Marilyn Horne, Federica von Stade, Renée Fleming and more.

At the peak of his music career, Wong decided to return to medicine, accepting a position with Seneca Eye Surgeons Inc. in March to serve offices in Bradford, Warren and Jamestown, N.Y.

Wong takes over direction of the choir from Dr. Lee Spear, who led it for a decade and retired at the end of the fall semester.

“I am really delighted that fate has brought Sam to Bradford at exactly the right moment,” Spear said. “It is a pleasure to know that the choir will be in the hands of such an accomplished conductor.”

Food for The Warming House

For the 27th straight year, students from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute pulled their weight — 44,562 pounds, to be precise — for St. Bonaventure University’s soup kitchen in Olean.

Volunteers, about half of them members of the St. Bonaventure men’s swimming team, spent almost two hours Saturday morning unloading more than 22 tons of non-perishable food items and paper products at The Warming House on West State Street.

In all, almost 30,000 food items and paper products were collected for The Warming House.

The three-truck delivery was postponed from Friday, when weather closed almost all schools in Western New York and made driving dangerous. The switch prevented the boys from the Buffalo high school from making the Saturday trip to unload the trucks, so members of the St. Bonaventure community rallied to help.

“It’s the least we could do,” said Sean McNamee, men’s swimming coach. “Help was needed, and we were happy to provide it.”

The donation provides about 90 percent of the non-perishable stock for the year at The Warming House, said director Trevor Thompson.

Called the St. Joseph’s Food Basket, the donation effort is student-driven, running for three weeks right after Thanksgiving. Other Buffalo-area food pantries are aided by the drive, but The Warming House is the prime beneficiary.

Thompson and Bob Donius, vice president for University Ministries, presented Food Basket organizers with a 150th Anniversary Medallion at a school assembly Thursday in recognition of St. Joseph’s 27-year commitment to supporting The Warming House, the nation’s oldest student-run soup kitchen.

“The sacrifice and dedication of St. Joseph’s students in this food drive allow for the daily opportunity of St. Bonaventure University students, faculty and staff and Olean-area community members to continue providing much needed dignity, hospitality and nourishment to the area’s needy,” Thompson said.

In the photo, provided by St. Bonaventure University, Dan Donner (left) from Technology Services hands a box to Jim Miller of the Biology Department at the head of the food brigade unloading more than 22 tons of non-perishables into The Warming House soup kitchen in Olean Saturday morning.