Posted by TAG - November 21, 2012 | News

Sean McNally of A Band Of Rogues performing at Karl’s Klipper.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — November 20, 2012. It’s said, “Home is where the heart is,” and on Sunday so many of this reporter’s former bandmates and old friends turned out to raise money for Staten Islanders who have been left heartbroken by Hurricane Sandy that it literally was ““old home week.”


Bobby Moller and Frank Bonafato are two more of the “Rogues.”
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

After Hurricane Sandy visited destruction on Staten Island, musician Joe O’Brien put on his organizer’s cap and went to work. O’Brien contacted musicians from a circle of people who have played together in various projects since the 1980s — some of whom this reporter had played music with back when, a number of whom I hadn’t seen in well over a decade. O’Brien didn’t have to twist any arms. Everyone turned up.


Joe O’Brien – keyboard player and benefit organizer.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

After college, life gets complicated: work, family, bills, and, dare I say it, middleage. Some of my old colleagues had moved to other towns and other states but when their hometown needed them, they stepped up. And when the dust settled the bands had raised $5000 for hurricane victims. What’s more, the money went to two local organizations that guarantee all donations go right to those in need: the William Mooney Memorial Foundation (who paid for the public address system) and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.


Tim Boyland – architect, bass player — and old friend.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

Karl’s Klipper, a restaurant and bar in the St. George section of Staten Island, hosted the rockers’ fundraiser. The narrow dining area was transformed into a night club for a special Sunday afternoon. Tommy O’Callaghan and Patsy Lonzello played some straight ahead rock, the Richmond County Pipe & Drum Corps marched down the aisles with their bagpipes in full throat, A Band Of Rogues performed their brand of high energy Irish folk-rock, an impromptu O’Callaghan grouping that featured a Klipper bartender (doing both jobs on Sunday) performed classic rock anthems, The Recruders played some loud and fast surf punk, and, The PocketCox did a set of Iggy and the Stooges standards.


Happy Donutz, a punk rocker who had no power for 8 days.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

Iggy and the Stooges standards? I had my doubts it could be pulled off. I saw Iggy in 1974 at the Toledo Sports Arena (Raw Power tour – paying an astounding $4.50 for the Stooges, James Gang and Slade), the Motor City Roller Rink in 1980 (Soldier tour), and New York’s Pier in 1988 (Instinct tour). Each and every performance was beyond superlatives. Iggy is a true original and for this lifelong fan it was tough to imagine anyone doing the legendary Jimmy Osterberg justice — or even coming close.


Singer Chris King in character — as Iggy Pop.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

But I was wrong. With “Happy Donutz” (who bears a striking resemblance to my old friend Rudy Bacich) igniting his Gibson, and architect Tim Boyland burning down the house on bass, Chris King channeled Iggy and nailed the part. The Stooges material — including Loose, TV Eye and I Wanna Be Your Dog — never sounded better. Two songs from the Bowie / RCA years, Lust For Life and The Passenger, sounded equally impressive. The set, and the show, ended with Search And Destroy from the Stooges best known recording: 1973’s Raw Power. Audience members joined in as PocketCox tore it up. My old bandmate, and ex-CNN cameraman, guitarist Mark Peters, grabbed the mike to sing a verse as the crowd screamed along: “I am the world’s forgotten boy…”

My ears were bleeding as I walked home after the gig — with a grin stretching from one wound to the other. It just doesn’t get any better than this: seeing old friends, a host of “forgotten boys” (but not by me!) donating time and talent to help the “forgotten borough” heal. If the so-called superstorm brought out the worst in people — and by all accounts the looters were very bad news — it also brought out the best. Staten Island is an inverted triangle resting due south of Manhattan. I like to think it’s shaped like a heart.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

“Anyone who ever had a heart — they wouldn’t turn around and break it.” — Lou Reed

Author Jason Sibert is NLN Environmental Editor
(Photo: Jason Sibert / NLN)

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis based Monsanto needs no introduction anywhere in the world, as the company is a multi-national biotechnology firm and a leading producer of genetically modified seed.

While Monsanto and other genetically modified food advocates often tout genetically modified organisms as a way to increase agricultural yields and fight world hunger, others have responded to the company’s practices with protest. The St. Louis chapter of the Occupy Monsanto movement engaged in more than one act of protest this month, according to Gateway Green Alliance Co-Coordinator Don Fitz.

From Oct. 16 to Oct. 17 OM held a demonstration against the chemical giant’s business practices at an industry conference at the Millennium Hotel in St. Louis, demonstrated in front of Whole Foods Market in Brentwood, Mo. and also held a demonstration outside of Monsanto world headquarters in Creve Coeur, Mo. The demonstration in front of Whole Foods occurred because OM said that the grocery giant stocks genetically modified foods.

In addition to his role with the Gateway Greens, Fitz is also an advocate of Occupy Monsanto. Like other anti-GMO activists, Fitz’s critique is multi-faceted. He said that the capital intensive nature of the GMO business allows huge corporations like Monsanto to establish too much control over the world food supply and that such power could lead to higher costs for consumers. Fitz also said the large amount of capital required of this form of agriculture drives more farmers from the land. Daniel Romano, an organizer with Gateway Greens and Safe Food Action, an organization that promotes organic foods and smaller systems of agriculture, is also worried about the power on Monsanto. He said patented GMO seeds establish intellectual and commercial control over particular seeds and that Monsanto’s technology fees drive up the cost of business for farmers. In addition, he objected to farmers not being allowed to save seeds after a harvest. He also said that approximately 50% of the seeds sold in the United States are from companies owned by Monsanto.

“Being able to patent human life is just unprecedented,” Romano said.

Fitz also said there were problems with GMO’s from a human health standpoint. He referred to a 1990’s study in the United Kingdom by Ampad Tuztai that revealed that rats fed GMO’s ended up with impaired immune systems.

“This could be a problem in places like Africa which struggle with AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome),” Fitz said. “If people’s immune systems are weakened it could make matters worse.”

AIDS patients experience a weakening of the immune system, according to websites. Romano also said scientific studies support the dangers of using GMO’s. He said they cause internal organ damage, stunted growth and that fetuses are most susceptible to damage.

Fitz sited environmental the alleged environmental impacts of GMOs as a point for concern. He said using GMOs leads to more chemical use in agriculture, as GMOs designed to control weeds often lead to more pest evasion and therefore led to increased pesticide use. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, “pesticides can cause health problems such as birth defects, nerve damage and cancer, but the overall effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed.”
The website also says “pesticides are regulated at the state and local level to make sure that these products are used with reasonable certainty that they will pose no harm to infants, children and adults.” Romano had doubts about the EPA’s statement.

“Big agriculture, biotechnology companies and the EPA are intertwined,” he said. “EPA’s figures are supplied by industry. Their pesticide limits are way too high. Their figures aren’t solid independent science.”

Some GMO advocates say GMO’s increase yields and represent an answer to the problem of world hunger on a planet that keeps growing in population, an idea Fitz doesn’t agree with, as he said GMO use could lead to famine. He said there are only six to 12 varieties of any crop and if a GMO version of a crop goes into failure, it means a greater damage to the supply of that particular crop due to the lack of agricultural diversity in today’s agriculture. Romano said that weeds and insects eventually develop a resistance to GMOs and farmers end up having to use herbicides and pesticides to control weeds and insects.

Fitz and Romano both advocate organic farming and feel it hasn’t been given enough credit by the powers that be, as he said the U.S. Government gives subsides to other types of agriculture through farm programs and subsidizes infrastructure that is used to transport agricultural products from one place to another. Fitz said these subsides mask the costs of current agricultural practices against more expensive organic products. Fitz advocated using public research and development dollars to improve organic techniques such as crop rotations that repel insects.


Posted by TAG - November 15, 2012 | News

Electrical workers from DTE Energy (Detroit) – working on Staten Island
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — November 15, 2012. Earlier today, this reporter spotted a group of electrical workers standing near their truck — not an unusual sight for New York City, except that these men were from Detroit’s DTE Energy.

I introduced myself and took a couple of pictures. The men asked if I would be putting the photos on the internet. I said yes and gave out my business card — which prompted a few comments, my favorite being, “United Auto Workers, that’s what I’m talking about!”

I explained that the National Writers Union is Local 1981 of the UAW, hence my union affiliation. It turned out that some of the IBEW workers had been UAW at one time. I mentioned that I still have friends and family in Local 12, in Toledo, not far from the Motor City — and thanked the guys for coming to the aid of a battered New York. Our friends from Michigan said they expected to be going home soon. I wished them well and walked away smiling — the first time I’d worn a smile in what seemed a very long time.

There are electrical workers from all across the country in Staten Island, working to restore power as I type. I can only say that, as a Staten Islander, I am grateful to them all — and to my new friends from DTE Energy I’d like to add, “Thank You, Detroit!”

A fellow worker from the Motor City.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

Volunteers from the University of Maryland moving supplies in Midland Beach.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — November 10, 2012. Inside “Zone A” — the Hurricane Sandy evacuation zone — recovery efforts are well underway but volunteers far outnumber other responders.


Soldiers go door to door on dusty, mud covered roads.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The streets are paved but you wouldn’t know it. Walking down Quincy Avenue in Midland Beach is like venturing down a back country road. It’s muddy, bumpy, and when a vehicle passes, dusty. A blue house on the west side of the road has a bright purple portable toilet stall next to it. Sanitation is a problem, there is no electricity, and the blue house was originally on the opposite side of the road. Sandy ripped it off its foundation and moved it across the street. At night it sits there, forlorn and condemned, beneath the shadows cast by gas-powered portable street lights. And yet there is a bright spot in all of this — a very bright, multicolored, spot: dozens of volunteers dot the landscape. Volunteers clad in color-coordinated t-shirts can be seen knocking on doors, doing demolition, pulling trash out of homes and bringing survivors food, cleaning supplies — and hope.


Quincy Avenue: this house was originally on the other side of the street.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The hope volunteers are delivering is a valuable commodity. Con Edison, FEMA, and the Red Cross are nowhere to be seen. Residents busily engaged in removing debris from their battered homes laugh derisively whenever the subject of restoring power arises.

“Thank you Con Ed,” one man said, holding up a city-issued flier promising electricity.

“Is that your electric bill?” his neighbor asked.


A local homeowner mockingly displays a notice promising electricity.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Nearby, roped off with yellow caution tape, is the shattered home of one James Rossi, an 85-year-old Midland Beach resident who didn’t make it out alive. There is a makeshift memorial to “Jimmy” on his front door and some seven day candles on the stoop. Hearing the victim’s story, one young volunteer, a journalism student, said, “Stop, I’m going to cry…”


The final resting place of Jimmy Rossi, 85-years-old.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

And yet, in the middle of catastrophe, hope has returned to Midland Beach — seemingly coming out of nowhere. A group of dedicated organizers, an ad hoc organization called the Ocean Breeze Relief Angels, are parked on Quincy Avenue, giving out cups of coffee and work assignments to young volunteers.

One group of young workers drove up to Staten Island from the University of Maryland. Clad in Terrapin red sweatshirts and jackets, the volunteers fanned out across the neighborhood. The Terps, as they are known, brought bleach and garbage bags to Islanders struggling to clear their homes of mud and debris. They made lists of those people who had no means of preparing hot dinners, and promised to have pizzas delivered later that evening.


The clothing distribution area in battered Midland Beach.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As the Terps made their presence known a group of yellow-clad Mormons from Reading, Pennsylvania, cleared homes found abandoned. Sanitation workers, using bull dozers and dump trucks, hauled away huge debris piles. The occasional garbage truck came by, its crew loading debris into the hopper. Overhead an Army helicopter passed by, a soldier leaning out one of the helo’s windows, surveying the recovery site. And a short distance away, Port Authority Police gave out supplies — bleach, water, and self-heating meals — to anyone in need. Massive piles of clothing filled the grassy strip that runs parallel to Father Capodanno Boulevard.


A Mormon from Reading, Pennsylvania, knocking on doors.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Just north of Quincy Avenue, outside South Beach Psychiatric Center — now serving as the landing zone for the Army helo — the sidewalk was visible: resting at the bottom of a large sinkhole. A short distance away the South Beach boardwalk parking lot was full of cars relocated by police — cars that had been rendered inoperable by the storm surge. Some looked almost new, others had fogged windows and seaweed and debris littering their interiors. Opposite the lot, a shattered home sat, one of its walls missing. A toilet was visible from the street.


London Calling: Hannah, a volunteer from the UK, handling logistics.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

On Olympia Boulevard, a main artery that branches off of South Beach’s Sand Lane, a man approached this reporter and asked, “Are you FEMA?” I identified myself as press and the distraught man begged me to tell people that he has had no power since the storm — despite the fact that he and his neighbors reside next to the Crystal Ballroom, a catering hall that had power restored almost immediately. The man refused to speak on camera but begged, “Please tell people, we need power…”


An abandoned playground, near the South Beach boardwalk.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Further down the boulevard two members of a group organized by the New York State Nurses Association asked me if I had seen the rest of their group. I said no but thanked them for their service. As the volunteers reversed direction, looking for their colleagues, a Red Cross van drove past. It was the first Red Cross vehicle I had seen all day.


The spirit of New York on display in South Beach, Staten Island
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

A few blocks away, I surveyed my old neighborhood, as I approached an apartment I once called home. I was concerned that my old landlord’s family, who had treated me like royalty, might not be okay. I found Marie, my former landlord’s daughter, and her husband Rich — covered in bleach, cleaning their home. It had been 22 years since the last time I saw them. We hugged, fought back tears, and talked about our kids — and the devastation to our beloved South Beach neighborhood. I took one last shot of the day, promising Marie that I would not print it. And so I won’t. But it’s a picture of weariness, resilience — and Hope.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…


“The Myth Of Global Warming”
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — November 11, 2012. In last two years New York City has experienced two hurricanes and two Autumn blizzards — perhaps it’s time we changed the hurricane naming conventions?

Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy — these names sound so benign and quaint. Given that global warming has impacted the frequency and severity of major storms — assuming that the “Myth of Global Warming” hypothesis advanced by creationists doesn’t fly any longer with reasonable people — perhaps its time we gave recognition to those responsible. Submitted for your consideration, some possible names for future storms: Hurricane BP, Hurricane Chevron, Hurricane Exxon, Hurricane Shell. This naming convention could be augmented to include individuals who merit recognition: Hurricane Adelson, Hurricane Cheney, and even Hurricane Koch – which could be singular or plural. With the number of storms increasing we may soon reach Hurricane W — and beyond.

Posted by TAG - November 6, 2012 | News

The “John B. Caddell,” a tanker ship, run aground by Hurricane Sandy in the Clifton section of Staten Island.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)


NEW YORK — November 6, 2012. Global climate change increased the power and fury of Hurricane Sandy, according to Environmental Defense Fund Chief Scientist Steve Hamburg.


A tree falls in Brooklyn…
(Photo: Ed Hedemann / NLN)

The EDF is a non-profit which “Takes on the most urgent environmental threats to the climate, oceans, ecosystems and people’s health,” according to its website. Hamburg said global warming affects the ocean waters, changes in the moisture of the atmosphere and changing energy patterns — as warming in the artic affects patterns of cold air in the atmosphere. In turn, all of these factors made Sandy a more powerful storm, but Hamburg said Sandy wasn’t caused by climate change.


Manhattan under water.
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Millstone and Frank Mullen)

“We could see more of this in the future,” Hamburg said. “If you look at the characteristics of this storm, it’s what the climate research community has said will happen.”


Wall Street before the storm.
(Photo: Nigel French / NLN)

Ceres Spokesperson Peyton Fleming said the losses for the insurance industry add up to approximately $20 billion dollars. Ceres is an organization that mobilizes members of the business and investor community to “expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy economy,” according to its website.

Staten Islanders waiting on line for gas to power their generators.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

“The estimates on the losses are double what they were a few days ago,” Fleming said. “But the broader economic impact is around $50 billion dollars.”

A police officer confronting an SUV driver – on the wrong side of the road.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

Fleming said the damage from storms like Sandy could impact insurance consumers across the board in higher insurance premiums.


The Hudson River during the storm.
(Photo: Nigel French / NLN)


View Photos From Hurricane Sandy