Eyewitness to Gun Violence

Eyewitness to Gun Violence
by Miguel Balbuena

On Sept. 21 I went to Betts Branch Library, at 4862 S. Salina St., to see the movie “The Secret Life of Pets 2” on the big screen. The film started promptly at 2:30 p.m. and had a running time of 86 minutes. Then, taking advantage that it was still summer and the weather was nice, I decided to do a power hike from the Valley, the neighborhood where the library is located, to Cafe Kubal, at 401 S. Salina St., in downtown Syracuse in order to get on time before it closed at 7:00 p.m.

Approximately at 4:50 p.m., I heard “Pop, pop, pop!” in rapid succession as I was walking northbound on the sidewalk to the right, about half way down the 1800 block of South Salina Street, before its intersection with McLennan Avenue. Having been trained to shoot with rifles, pistols and other weapons in the Army Reserve for stints within four years, I knew these three loud noises could not have been caused by firecrackers. My conclusion was confirmed when I had a visual. I saw the passenger’s side front and back windows of a white sedan shattered and the driver bleeding and leaning unconscious onto the steering wheel.

The vehicle was coming out of the driveway of the apartment complex known as Ashley Arms when the motorist was hit. It seemed that his foot had kept pressing the gas pedal as the car, in slow motion, finished coming out of this driveway and got into the driveway across South Salina Street, where it was stopped when it collided with the front of a black pickup truck parked there.

I was the only pedestrian on the sidewalks of this block at the time of this incident and it appear to me that none of the occupants of the passing cars became aware of the shooting as they didn’t slow down, much less stopped. It seemed that the shots were fired from long range from a point behind my back, i.e., not
within my field of vision. At the time I wasn’t sure whether the perpetrator or perpetrators would keep on shooting or whether there were passengers in the car who would shoot back. Situational awareness advised me to stand still until it was not dangerous to proceed.

Another pedestrian walked southbound in a zombie-like state with her head looking down to
her smartphone screen. Nothing happened to her, which indicated to me in no uncertain terms that now it was safe to carry on with my business. Before long, four cruisers from the Syracuse Police Department, a truck from the emergency medical services of the Syracuse Fire Department and two vehicles from the
American Medical Response company showed up. One of them transported the victim, in critical condition, to Upstate Medical University Hospital.

Since I wasn’t able to see any detail that would have been helpful to the law enforcement officers, it would have been inappropriate for me to waste their precious time during this tragic moment. I am confident that ballistic and forensic analyses conducted by the Criminal Investigations Division of the SPD would provide it with more relevant information.

The night before I witnessed the shooting, I had watched two movies back to back: “Rocketman” and “Shaft.” “Rocketman” was about the life and career of musician Elton John; “Shaft” was about the exploits of trigger-happy vigilante John Shaft, who left in his wake plenty of shattered glasses, blood and gore, and other outcomes of gratuitous violence.

The scene on South Salina Street reminded me more of “Shaft” than of “Rocketman,” with the difference that it didn’t appear to be the effect of the action of a vigilante. Instead, it has the markings of yet another round of the turf fight being waged between rival gangs for control of distribution territory on Syracuse’s South Side.

South Salina Street is a teeming thoroughfare in Syracuse and, as such, it stands to reason to view it as one of the safest places in town. Nonetheless, on Sept. 10 and Feb. 18 three people in total were shot on its 2000 block, near Wood Ave., two blocks down the location of latest incident. A male was injured in last year’s attack; a man and a woman were injured in the one five months later. The woman died in a hospital as a result. Then, on May 22 a female was shot on the 4300 block of South Salina Street.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

Good News for Furry Animals

by Linda DeStefano
Translated by Rob English

According to the Sept./Oct. 2019 issue of ALL ANIMALS, there is good news in the ongoing battle to free animals from being killed for their fur. More and more designers are rejecting animal fur and using other materials. These materials are becoming easier for the designers to work with and, in some cases, more environmentally friendly – some being made from recycled plastic. Currently, research is being done on making “fur” from plants.

Other advantages are that they are less expensive and easier to maintain than animal fur, and they are warm, and stylish.

Best of all, these products save animals from the excruciating pain of being caught in a steel jaw, leg hold trap before being bludgeoned to death. The animal may be struggling for days before the trapper checks his traps. Perhaps suffering even more are the foxes and other animals who are kept in tiny, filthy cages with no veterinary care until they endure anal electrocution to obtain their fur.

On the legislative front, West Hollywood, Berkeley, San Francisco and Los Angeles have all banned the production and sale of animal fur, and the New York City Council has considered a ban.

As an individual, you can help by avoiding any animal fur – even fur trim. Garments are supposed to be labeled as animal fur or faux fur but this isn’t always reliable. You can examine the material the “fur” comes out of to make sure it is woven fabric and not skin.

If you want to read the entire article, go to https://www.humanesociety.org/news/out-style

If you want to grapple with the issue of our responsibility to animals, come to a free People for Animal Rights talk, short film and discussion on “Moral Responsibility Toward Animals as Reflected in the Major Religions of the World” at 7 p.m. on Mon. Oct. 21 at Onondaga Free Library, 4840 W. Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse (Onondaga Hill).

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights (PAR). For more information about PAR and a sample of our newsletter, contact us at PAR, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, or call us at (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. or email us at people4animalrightscny@gmail.com

Your Low-Plastic Life

September 2019
Vecinos: information and advice for our American communities

by Ellen Lee Alderton

By now, you’ve probably heard that plastics are flooding into our oceans. In fact, some scientists estimate that by the year 2050 there will be more tons of plastic than sea life in the world’s waters.

And sadly, although it can make us feel better to know that we’re sorting our plastics and placing them in the recycling bin, the story is actually more complicated than that. In the past, the United States shipped most of its used plastic to China to be recycled. Since March of this year, however, Beijing has stopped accepting this waste, leaving our country with the question, what do we do with all this non-biodegradable material? This question is critical, because it takes a piece of plastic, on average, 1,000 years to decompose.

One important step we can all take is to reduce our personal consumption of plastics. Some of the ways to do this can be simple: buying the peanut butter or olive oil at the grocery store that comes in the glass container or picking up a half-gallon of milk that comes in a cardboard carton. These products can be a little more expensive, but our children and our grandchildren will thank us. Other simple things we can all do are to use aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap and to buy a reusable aluminum or glass water bottle and keep it handy. Reusable shopping bags, as well, can mean that at least part of our weekly grocery shopping does not find its way to the landfill.
Other ways to cut back on plastics may not be as obvious. Let’s explore our bathrooms, for example. The average bathroom harbors plastic bodywash and shampoo bottles, plastic toothbrushes and razors, and even plastic dental floss and toothpaste in plastic containers. If you think these uses of this decidedly environmentally unfriendly substance are unavoidable, think again. Try searching on Google for “plastic-free toothpaste” or “plastic-free dental floss” and you’ll find many options to choose from. Some of these may even be better priced than what you would buy at the drug store. You can also find wooden toothbrushes, wooden and aluminum soap holders, and even wooden toilet brushes. One of my favorite eco-friendly products is Bim Bam Boo toilet paper, which can be ordered on Amazon for roughly the same price as other brands of toilet papers.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that American consumers create more than 14 million tons of plastic waste each year from containers and packaging alone. It doesn’t need to be this way. When our grandparents were growing up, consumers used glass, wood, metal and waxed paper. We can go back to these products again today, and you can play a critical role in making this transition happen. When you choose plastic-free products, you are voting with your consumer dollar. The less you buy plastics, the less retailers will want to create products from this material. The sum of all of our individual choices can make a big difference.

Ellen Lee Alderton is the Director of Education of La Mano Amiga, an educational nonprofit organization based in Colorado.

Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down

by Linda Lebedovych
Provided by Linda DeStefano
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

I had the privilege of attending my third annual “Hoe Down” at the Farm Sanctuary at Watkins Glen, N.Y. – a meeting of like- minded animal lovers, vegetarians and vegans from all over the country. The co-founder of this sanctuary is Gene Bauer, an iconic figure who was selling vegan hot dogs out of a VW Van at Grateful Dead concerts before “vegan” became a common word.

The event includes music and dancing.

It also includes presentations from authors, under-cover slaughter house workers, medical doctors, environmental experts and other movers and shakers changing the world views on “meat eating”. Three authors presented to us; Nil Zacharias (author of Eat for the Planet), Carol Adams (author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, Living Among Meat Eaters and Protest Kitchen) and Katie Gillespie (The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 Aad other Stories). I’d love to talk about some of these lectures at PAR’s next vegan social. Needless to say, I left with some new books.

The session opened with speaker Dominick Thompson, a gentleman of color who spent 3 years in prison for drug selling. He grew up in a poorer community which he called a food desert. In other words, his community only had fast food and convenience stores within its 2 miles radius so there was almost no access to vegetables and fruits since he didn’t own a car. When he was in prison, he began to empathize with caged animals who were put in cages having done nothing wrong. He began trading his meat portions in prison for the vegetable portion out of respect for these helpless animals. This didn’t slow him down from becoming a “ripped” athlete. Upon release he helped his community with food choices and founded a clothing company called crazies and weirdos. His T-shirts have the logo: “Eat What Elephants Eat”. He provides nutrition counseling to less affluent communities and to anyone interested in the vegan lifestyle. He’s also listed by VEG NEWS as one of the seven vegan men of color to follow on Instagram.

One of the youngest activists is Genesis Butler, a 13-year-old girl of color who spoke to us about her epiphany while eating chicken nuggets and how she came to reject the typical American diet at age 10. She’s learning how to protest events and becoming one of the youngest public advocates in the media. She is influencing school children and adults alike.

These are just some of the highlights, and the priceless experience includes meeting so many other like- minded folks and the lovely vegan meals which were beyond delicious and “animal time” touring and interacting with the hundreds of saved farm animals.

Social justice for all is always on the forefront for which this group is committed.

The next event is the Celebration for the Turkeys on Saturday, November 16 with the feeding of the turkey ceremony, and the lovely vegan Thanksgiving Dinner along with a silent auction and more presentations. See FarmSanctuary.org for details and more events.

In the Syracuse area, there are many opportunities to try vegan food and socialize with others, such as through People for Animal Rights or Syracuse Vegan Meetup or VeganCNY.

Linda Lebedovych is a member of People for Animal Rights (PAR). PAR can be reached at people4animalrightscny@gmail.com or (315)488-PURR (8 a.m. – 10 p.m.) or P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358.
Reach Syracuse Vegan Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/syracusevegans/
Reach VeganCNY at vegancny.org

Some victories

Some victories for animals and the environment in NYS legislature
by Linda DeStefano
Translated into Spanish by Rob English.

After years in which the NYS Senate typically failed to pass legislature to protect the environment, a change in the political makeup of the body resulted in several wins for environmental protection this legislative session. Perhaps the biggest win was passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. This establishes strong targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and prioritizes renewable energy. It also intends to provide green jobs, especially in disadvantaged communities (which have often suffered the greatest impact from climate change and from polluting businesses in their communities). This was the culmination of years of lobbying by NY Renews, a coalition of environmental and social justice organizations. It was a cliff hanger as to whether the NYS Assembly, the NYS Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo could negotiate a settlement for a final bill before the end of the legislative session. I was one of hundreds of people who traveled to Albany to fill the State Capitol with passionate people who demanded action (See attached photo of Stephanie Hitztaler and myself).

On the animal front, the League of Humane Voters of NY played a major role in passing the Anti-Declaw bill out of both the Senate and Assembly. As of this writing, Gov. Cuomo signed into law the ban on declawing of cats, it will prevent untold suffering of felines across the state by prohibiting declawing. This is the first time this legislation has made it to the Governor’s office! In prior years, it was held up in committee. New York is the first state to prohibit declawing.

Another bill which awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature would require hospitals and nursing homes to provide vegan options for people upon request.

Code Red / Code Blue passed the Senate but did not move in the Assembly. This legislation would protect domestic animals from extreme weather conditions whenever there is a national weather alert. It would require the owner or guardian to remove their animal from these conditions.

The bill to prohibit wildlife killing contests was reported out of the Environmental Conservation Committee favorably. It’s now in the Codes Committee and will be picked up there in January when the legislature convenes. This was the first time in the history of this bill that it made its way out of the most vulnerable committee.

For information about additional bills and to be added to a list to stay informed, contact:

Jeffery Termini
Legislative Director
League of Humane Voters® of New York
(716) 380-7667
League of Humane Voters® of NY
New Paltz, New York 12561, USA

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights. One of our activities is to keep our members informed about state and national bills regarding animals and the environment, and we were happy to share the alerts from the League of Humane Voters with our PAR e list. We also have public events (speakers, films, cooking demos), vegan socials and a physical newsletter. For a brochure about PAR and a sample of our newsletter, contact PAR, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. or people4animalrightscny@gmail.com.

Our Closest Star

by Nilsa Ricci

Summertime – a word that rings loud with excitement and warm promises for many people. For those living in Central New York, summer means that the snow is 100% gone (knock on wood).

In all the fun happening under the sun, it can be easy to put a pause on health precautions. However, the sun is unforgiving and our decisions can have lasting health consequences.

In the United States, melanoma of the skin is the fifth leading cause of cancer.1,2 In 2019, it is estimated that there will be 96,480 new cases of melanoma and that 7,230 people will die.2,3 Compared to Caucasians, Hispanics are less often diagnosed with melanoma.4 However, a higher percentage of Hispanics diagnosed with melanoma die, often because they are diagnosed too late.4 This discrepancy is due, in part, to the lack of: medical care access among many Hispanics, awareness about the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, and adequate skin protection.4

While there are several different types of melanomas,5 ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major risk factor for most of them.1 The most harmful UV rays from the sun are UVA and UVB rays.6 UVA rays can indirectly damage the DNA of skin cells and are associated with skin damage (like wrinkles), as well as with some skin cancers.6 UVB rays can directly damage the DNA of skin cells, causing most sunburns and skin cancers.6 Since UV rays are strongest from 10am – 4pm, try to limit your exposure to direct sunlight especially during these hours.7

Sunscreen, when used as directed, is able to reflect or absorb most of the harmful sunrays.8 The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 (filters ~97% of UVB rays), broad-spectrum coverage (protects against UVA and UVB rays), and resistance against water.8 It is recommended to use the “teaspoon rule” when applying sunscreen: 1 total teaspoon of sunscreen for the face/head/neck, 1 teaspoon for each upper extremity, 2 total teaspoons for the front and back torso, and 2 teaspoons for each lower extremity.8 Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before sun exposure, reapplied every two hours (at least), and reapplied after sweating or water exposure (even if the sunscreen is labeled as “water resistant”).8

Everyone should self-examine skin spots and moles for the following ABCDE features9:

A = Asymmetry: One half is different from the other half.

B = Borders: Undefined or irregular boundaries.

C = Color: Varied pigmentation that may include shades of black, brown, tan, red, white, or blue.

D = Diameter: Larger than 6 millimeters across (although some melanomas may be smaller).

E = Evolving: Looks different from your other spots/moles or is changing in size, shape, or color.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of these features. Remember that early detection and treatment can improve the rate of survival.

Let’s enjoy our closest star in a safe way. Happy summer!

1. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/risk-factors-for-the-development-of-melanoma?fbclid=IwAR2CISU_mM8pM0GQT8i48oHNiekT0GZoXks1YmKbkQv5-i1lo3gVmOhsVGM#H5112797
2. https://www.aimatmelanoma.org/about-melanoma/melanoma-stats-facts-and-figures/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30620402
4. https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/are-you-at-risk/hispanic
5. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/pathologic-characteristics-of-melanoma?sectionName=Nodular%20melanoma&search=types%20of%20melanoma&topicRef=15806&anchor=H11&source=see_link&fbclid=IwAR1cEzlfmKdXWJ_TmrPDSMvrLHWa8z4xWeXZeXqOY8_sU67Ct9DhhzgMRy0#H11
6. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation/uv-radiation-what-is-uv.html
7. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/choose-the-right-sunscreen.html
8. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/selection-of-sunscreen-and-sun-protective-measures?search=sunscreen&sectionRank=2&usage_type=default&anchor=H11208302&source=machineLearning&selectedTitle=1~150&display_rank=1#H11208302
9. https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/detect/what-to-look-for

Nilsa Ricci was born in Florida to a Colombian father and a Peruvian mother. She graduated in 2016 from Columbia University in the City of New York with a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior. She is currently a medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She is on the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA).

Mama’s last Hug

MAMA’S LAST HUG: Animal Emotions and What They tell us about ourselves by Frans de Waal, 2019.

Reviewed by Linda DeStefano

Translated into Spanish by Rob English

Many anecdotes, a sense of humor, an uncluttered writing style, and a passion for his subject make de Waal’s book very readable and enjoyable. And I smiled that he dedicated the book to his wife: “Catherine, who lights my fire.”

His respect and love for animals is obvious. Trained as a biologist, he has done non-invasive research on chimpanzees and bonobos for many years. Much of that has been at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center near Atlanta, Georgia. The chimps at Yerkes have a large outdoor area where they can climb, run and socialize. Much of the research is observation of their behavior but sometimes it involves engaging a champ in a task. The researchers must make these tasks interesting and rewarding because the chimps can choose whether or not to participate.

This is in stark contrast to the type of research which has been done by other researchers on chimps, such as infecting them with diseases. Extreme isolation was also used. I still recall in horror at an experiment in which each chimp was isolated alone in a tiny barren container with no stimulation. They literally went insane. The famous primatologist, Jane Goodall, once visited this chamber of horrors and tried to explain to the researchers that chimps in the wild are very active and very social. I find it incomprehensible that they wouldn’t have been able to figure that out for themselves but perhaps money from their grant allowed them to harden their hearts.

Sometimes researchers and chimps become friends. This was the case of Mama, who was a matriarch in her group, and Jan van Hooff. She had known Jan for 40 years; Jan visited her when she was very old and near death. She embraced him and gave him a huge chimp smile.

According to de Waal, animals share all our emotions – both the ones we regard as positive and the ones we regard as negative. He is indignant that researchers for many years refused to accept this reality but the field has now opened up to this recognition. An example of similar behavior is that chimps are sometimes violent and cruel – even killing each other. For more positive emotions, look at the bonobos.  Their mantra could be “Make love, not war” as they seldom fight, never kill each other, and use frequent sex as a means of pleasure and social cohesion.

Chimps also have a peaceful side. The top male in a troop might be a tyrant but – more often – is a peacemaker. “In fact, the smallest male may become alpha if he has the right supporters. Most alpha males protect the underdog, keep the peace, and reassure those who are distressed.” (p. 175)

Besides primates, de Waal reports on studies which demonstrate emotions in other animals. For example, rats enjoy being tickled and will come back for more if the researcher stops. It makes me sad to think that so many rats and mice suffer during invasive research and that not enough researchers have turned to modern, better methods of research that don’t use animals.

And animals can have empathy for each other. One study used bonobos. A bonobo would be given a pile of fruit. A bonobo in an adjoining cage had none, but the “wealthy” bonobo opened the door between the cages in order to share the fruit. Another study put one rat in a small glass container while another rat observed that the trapped rat was distressed. “Not only did the free rat learn how to open a little door to liberate the other, but she was remarkably eager to do so. Never trained on it, she did so spontaneously. Then Bartal challenged her motivation by giving her a choice between two containers, one with chocolate chips – a favorite food that they could easily smell – and another with a trapped companion. The free rat often rescued her companion first, suggesting that reducing her stress counted for more than delicious food.” (pp. 117-118)

The author learns from observing his own companion animals too – cats and fish. Regarding fish, he bemoans the low esteem in which they are generally held. He notes that they feel pain, exhibit depression, curiosity, sociability and playfulness.

de Waal is pleased that the U.S., Japan and the Netherlands no longer do research on chimps. He is active with Chimp Haven, which provides a beautiful home for chimps who were formerly used in research. He worries about the other animals still suffering in labs and the animals suffering on factory farms. Factory farms contain hundreds or thousands of animals (such as cows, pigs, chickens) in very crowded, unnatural conditions. He thinks transparency can make a change for the better. If labs and factory farms were open to the public there might be an outcry for better treatment. One of his suggestions is a label on meat that the consumer could scan and see on her smartphone the condition of this animal before being killed.

This book review barely scratches the surface of the intriguing knowledge de Waal reports on various species both in the wild and in captivity.

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights. For a sample of the organization’s newsletter, contact PAR, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358 or people4animalrightscny@gmail.com or (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.