to have the help: Karla Digirolamo, chief operating
officer of Unity House.
PHOTO: Chris Shields
and community activists use popular play to raise money for
time is my favorite time of the year,” said the bubbly and
super-enthusiastic Brianna Bailey, co-organizer of this year’s
performance of The Vagina Monologues at the University
at Albany. Bailey also works as the grants and policy coordinator
at Unity House of Troy, and nearly jumped out of her co-director’s
chair in anticipation of the show’s opening tonight (Thursday).
She isn’t the only woman excited about the opportunity to
talk, rant, scream, and cry about vaginas on stage. In the
upcoming four weeks, more than a dozen universities, colleges,
and community organizations in the Capital Region will perform
Eve Ensler’s award-winning play in order to support and raise
awareness about bringing an end to domestic violence.
really energizing to see that so many people are dedicated
to a cause such as eradicating violence,” Bailey said. According
to her, the performances by separate organizations are certainly
not competitive, but rather supportive of each other, which
is just what sets The Vagina Monologues apart from
other theatrical shows.
The shows will simultaneously take place as part of V-Day,
“a global movement to stop violence against women and girls”
first established in 1996. Officially celebrated on Feb. 14
each year, V-Day represents an effort to curb the high number
of sexual assault incidences on Valentine’s Day.
Proceeds earned from V-Day fund- raising and ticket sales
for the local upcoming shows will go primarily to area domestic-violence
campaigns and shelters, such as Holding Our Own, the YWCA
of Schenectady, Equinox, Inc., Unity House of Troy, Albany
Rape Crisis Center, and others. A portion of the local proceeds
also will go to the international 2007 V-Day Spotlight Campaign:
Women in Conflict Zones.
In 2006, more than $20,000 was donated to beneficiaries by
local ticket sales and V-Day-oriented fund-raising events.
Meghan Slutsky, co-director of The Vagina Monologues
at Albany Law, said, “Last year, I believe, we raised in the
neighborhood of $2,000. This year, we are hoping to at least
double that amount.”
Carmen Rau, the executive director of Holding Our Own, a foundation
that has given more than half a million dollars in grants
to women’s and girl’s organizations since its establishment,
said that donations from groups like The Vagina Monologues
at UAlbany and St. Rose help fund programs centered around
domestic violence. Recently grants have been awarded to the
Restorative Community Justice Program, Counting Our Lives
(a nonprofit documentary made to educate policy makers), the
Albany Free School, and the Albany Social Justice Center.
Unity House of Troy pours proceeds from fund-raisers like
The Vagina Monologues directly into its domestic-violence
program. Because funding from the state does not sufficiently
cover the emergency, residential, and nonresidential services
Unity House provides, the domestic- violence program banks
on sources like local V-Day fund-raising to “keep it together,”
said Karla Digirolamo, the chief operating officer of Unity
violence runs at a loss because it is such an extensive program,”
she added. Adults and children can seek emergency shelter
at Unity House, stay in its housing residences, and receive
support from its 24-hour staff, legal and personal counseling
services, and advocacy programs un- til they become self-
Vagina Monologues was first written and performed by Ensler
in 1996. From the basement of a street café in New York City,
she told what she considered the most striking vagina-related
stories gleaned from the more than 200 women she interviewed
in the previous years. Retelling the stories of sex, rape,
violence, abuse, and empowerment became an effective form
of social justice and feminist activism.
This year, performances will take place in Europe, the Middle
East, Asia, Africa, and in nearly every American state. There
will be more than 100 shows in New York alone.
Take a Joke
they scare easily in Boston. Last week, a few
dozen LED-lit signs depicting cartoon characters
(“Mooninites”) from Aqua Teen Hunger Force
flipping the bird were mistaken as bombs planted
by terrorists. Major parts of the city were shut
down as bomb squads flew into action. A few hours
after they were first reported, the city realized
the “threats” were neither bombs nor signs of
an impending terrorist attack but instead a marketing
campaign for an upcoming movie. Turner Broadcasting,
the media corporation responsible, has agreed
to pay the city of Boston $2 million to offset
damages from the advertising stunt. The campaign
included similar displays in nine other U.S. cities
that went off without incident.
Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) came down hard on Iran
in her address to the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee this week, placing Iran’s president,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “in the company of the most
despicable bigots” for his denial of the Holocaust.
Clinton, a frontrunner in the 2008 presidential
election, stated that “no option should be left
off the table” in dealing with Iran’s attempts
to acquire nuclear weapons. Pledging her full
support of Israel, Clinton, who pocketed more
than $83,000 from pro-Israel groups in 2006, is
seen as attempting to secure Jewish support for
her upcoming presidential bid.
residents on Tuesday approved a measure to renovate
or build five library branches with a vote of
about 3,300 in favor and about 1,700 against.
Those who opposed the proposition argued that
maintaining the library system wasn’t worth the
increased tax burden. Also, the voters passed
a $19 million school-renovation measure. Those
renovations will rely upon state funds and will
not increase taxes.
We Have a Problem
this week, NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak was charged
with several crimes, including attempted murder
and kidnapping. According to police, Nowak drove
from Houston to Orlando (while wearing diapers,
in order to avoid the need for restroom breaks)
with the intent to kidnap a woman who Nowak believed
was a rival for the affections of another male
astronaut. Nowak, who dressed in disguise, reportedly
was armed with a BB gun and pepper spray when
she confronted the other woman in the apparent
astronaut love triangle.
2002 plan for cell-phone towers in the Adirondacks could have
saved a motorist’s life
Last month, a Brooklyn couple traveling the Northway after
midnight ran their car off the road in the Adirondack Park
and were stranded. Their cell phone didn’t work. After a 36-hour
ordeal in freezing temperatures, the husband, Abraham Langner,
was dead. “And I was really angry when the Adirondack Park
Agency and us dirty hippies in the environmental movement
got tarred with the blame for this accidental death,” said
John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council. The blame, he said,
was being doled out by the same politicians who have stood
in the way of actual advancement in cell coverage along the
Since 2002, there has been a plan in place, approved by the
APA (the state agency that oversees regulation of the park),
that could provide seamless cell-phone coverage from exits
26 to 35 of the Northway. Had this network been in place,
Sheehan said, the Langners might have been able to call for
In 2000, after the Northway’s emergency roadside phones suffered
a Y2K meltdown, the state police and the New York State Department
of Transportation both proposed that a plan be put in place
to bring coverage to the Adirondacks. The agencies worked
together, along with the Adirondack Council, for a year, commissioning
a $3.5 million engineering study, to come up with a plan that
would pass through the APA’s permitting process.
The plan involves placing 38-foot towers, 33 in all, in the
treeline along the Northway at a cost of $5 to 10 million.
The network would piggyback the fiber-optics cable running
along the corridor, insuring uninterrupted coverage.
towers would be small enough to fit into the woods on the
roadside without being seen, and therefore would not run afoul
of the Adirondack Park Agency’s requirements regarding substantial
invisibility of communications equipment or other towers,”
Sheehan said. The towers would be installed by the phone companies
who then would in turn rent space from the state on the poles.
The proposal won a permit from the APA in a matter of months.
But, with the short-tower network approved, the cell-phone
companies pulled out. They didn’t want to foot the cost, Sheehan
said, for towers that would do little than extend their coverage
to the roadway corridor.
Assemblywoman Theresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said that Sheehan
is right: The companies did reject the proposal due to its
narrow extension of coverage.
had come up with a proposal that the environmentalists could
agree to,” she said, referring to the short-tower network,
“but we couldn’t get any carriers to come in because obviously
the only place you could be able to get coverage was on the
is wrong with a company making money?” Sayward asked. “What
is wrong with free enterprise?”
Not only would the short-tower plan not extend coverage much
beyond the corridor, Sayward said, the network wouldn’t even
provide adequate coverage for the corridor itself.
Together with Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury), Sayward
began working aggressively to push through an alternate plan
of placing three 100-foot towers, and four 75-foot towers
into rest areas.
we met with the state office of technology,” she continued,
“they told us that if a car went off the road, down an embankment,
that they would not be able to use their cell phones cause
the coverage went from tower to tower, in a straight line.
And we thought, what good is that?”
She pointed to the incident with the Langners specifically.
Had the short-tower network been in place, she argued, it
still would not have assisted the couple. The coverage would
have been too limited. Cars that leave the interstate, she
said that she has been told, are not guaranteed coverage.
Confronted with Little’s remark, Sheehan pulled out one of
the dozens of maps prepared for the 2002 permtting process.
He located the map of the area where the Langners went off
the road. Had the plan been put in place, he said, according
to the map’s schematic, the Langners’ car would have sat comfortably
within the radius of cell coverage.
was awesome,” said APA spokesman Keith McKeever, when describing
the the 2002 short-tower proposal. “It would provide seamless
coverage from exits 26 to 35. The 33 cell towers would accommodate
three independent, private cell-phone companies. It would
have had seamless coverage for the corridor. It was a project
designed with the priority on public safety. And it was done
in a way that was consistent with local, state and federal
McKeever also pointed out that during earlier discussions
about possibly implementing the tall-tower proposal of Sayward
and Little—which exists only in concept—it was essentially
nixed by the federal agencies and the DOT.
other side of Little and Sayward is acting like they have
an equivalent plan to the short-tower network in front of
them,” Sheehan said, “and they don’t.”
If anyone wants cell towers in the Adirondacks for next winter,
he added, they are going to have to go with the short-tower
they go with the tall-towers thing,” he said, “then they have
got to get an engineering study done, they have got to apply
for permits with the Adirondack Park Agency, or they have
got to do this ridiculous grandstanding, drag-everyone-from-the-funeral-to-the-Legislature
emergency legislation. And that is what they are trying to
do right now.”
debate about the safety of artificial-growth hormones continues,
more dairy companies are providing hormone-free alternatives
When compared to the price of the average gallon of milk,
an equal quantity of a hormone-free alternative may ring up
a few cents higher at the register. The latter, however, is
significantly better for your health—at least that’s the claim
made by those who oppose injecting America’s dairy cows with
the artificial-growth hormones that boost milk production.
For several years, and especially since this past fall, some
dairies in the Northeast have pledged to offer only milk that
is hormone-free. Others have decided to provide consumers
with a hormone-free alternative.
reason we offer the choices is because consumers asked for
them,” said Marguerite Copel, vice president of corporate
communications for Dean Foods. Dean Foods supplies grocery-store
dairy cases with several varieties of milk, including conventional,
hormone-free and organic. The company owns several other brand
names, including Garelick Farms, which purchases from dairy
farmers throughout upstate New York.
Sometime around October, Garelick decided to begin converting
its entire milk supply to hormone-free.
To date, only one artificial-growth hormone has been approved
by the Food and Drug Administration. The hormone is manufactured
by the agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto and
sold under the brand name Posilac. It is the synthetic version
of a naturally occurring protein hormone called bovine somatropin,
or bST, which is found in all cows.
Posilac, a form of recombinant bST, can boost milk production
by as much as 10 to 15 percent, according to Monsanto. While
Monsanto maintains that milk produced from cows that have
been injected with rbST is safe for human consumption, the
artificial hormone is not currently approved for use in nearly
all other industrialized countries: Japan, Canada, and European
Union member nations, to name a few examples.
HP Hood, which owns the locally distributed Crowley brand,
has been purchasing milk from farmers who pledged not to use
rbST for its plants in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire for
several years. During the fall, the company chose to expand
this promise to plants in Massachusetts and upstate New York.
converting based on supply,” said Lynne Bohan, spokeswoman
for Hood. “Supply is limited, but we’re continuing to monitor
both consumer demand for milk free of artificial-growth hormones
and the supply, and we’ll make changes accordingly.”
Northeast Dairy Producers Association is one of several agricultural
organizations that have expressed concern about the potential
income loss associated with the abandonment of artificial-growth
offers the opportunity to increase profitability,” explained
Caroline Potter, executive director of NEDPA. “It allows the
cow to use nutrients more effectively and make more milk,
so essentially it lowers the farm’s costs.”
To counter lost income, many companies pay a premium for milk
from cows not injected with rbST. Hood is among these, said
Bohan, although she wouldn’t disclose the amount. Since it
may cost more for a retailer to purchase the raw materials
needed for hormone-free products, this inflated price is then
often passed on to consumers.
consumers can’t necessarily afford to purchase the higher-priced
organic milk or rbST-free milk,” Potter said, “and if a consumer
can’t afford to do that, they need to know that the milk that
they buy is safe, healthy and wholesome. That is absolutely
our No. 1 concern.”
That’s why NEDPA is one of several organizations and companies
that have expressed concern—some in the form of lawsuits—about
the labeling of milk.
concern is just that milk is labeled accurately,” Potter said.
“What we don’t want to happen is that by labeling milk rbST-free
that there is an implication that other milk is then not as
safe or as healthy.”
Despite the FDA’s continuing approval for Posilac, several
companies have responded to consumer demand for hormone-free
dairy products. Last month, Starbucks announced it would switch
to hormone-free dairy products: milk, half-and-half, whipped
cream and eggnog. Chipotle is doing the same with its sour
cream. The retailer Safeway has also opted to ban rbST in
dairy products at its processing plants in Oregon and Washington.
loose ends this week-