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August 15, 2017 - 2:25pm
posted by Billie Owens in Oakfield, news, Announcements, Labor Day.

Submitted photo. Back row: Shaun Negvesky, Melanee London, Melissa Watterson, Laura Klotzbach-Dinsmore. Front row: Ritchie Kirkum, Jamie Lindsley. Not pictured: Bill Barbur and Samantha Pangrazio.

Press release:

On Monday, Sept. 4th the Oakfield Betterment Committee will host the 2017 “Labor Day Celebration” in the Elroy D. Parkins (Little League) Park, 37 Drake St., Oakfield.

This event is a family-oriented and alcohol-free festival featuring first-rate live entertainment, children’s activities, car cruise, parade, and food vendors.

Nonprofit groups from Oakfield and surrounding areas, including Alex’s Lemonade stand, operate food and beverage stands and various games and other fundraisers at the event, making this celebration an important part of our local nonprofit organizations’ finances.

The parade kicks things off at 10 a.m. There will be a Car Cruise from 12-3. Ghost Riders perform from 12 to 3 p.m. and Terry Buchwald impersonates Elvis from 4 to 7 p.m. Plus there will be pony rides for children all day, an appearance by Mercy Flight, basket raffles, and bounce house fun ($5).

As you are aware, many local community gatherings and carnivals are disappearing due to restrictive laws, lack of funding, and difficulty maintaining a volunteer base. The Oakfield Betterment Committee is dedicated to making sure that our local event continues to be a tradition for our town. Due to the same difficulties facing other communities, we are scaling back to a one day event for 2017, but it will still have most of the features our attendees look forward to each year.

In addition to Labor Day, Oakfield Betterment hosts fun and meaningful community events such as the annual Earth Day Clean-up, summer outdoor family movie nights in Oakfield Town Park, 5K fun runs for various causes, and a Community Thanksgiving Dinner. We are also planning to have an event featuring and supporting local small businesses at the Lions Club Christmas in Oakfield. All of these events are free to the public.

When other local organizations need a helping hand, we are at their service. So far this year, we assisted with the Haxton Memorial Library’s Summer Reading Kickoff carnival and Elba Betterment Committee’s annual pig roast.

If you have any questions, or would like to join the Oakfield Betterment Committee, please check our website: http://www.oakfieldbetterment.com/ and "like" our Facebook page.

August 15, 2017 - 2:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia PD, batavia, news.

With a grant from the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services, Batavia PD will be able to outfit all officers with body cameras, Chief Shawn Heubusch told the City Council on Monday night.

In all, the $10,000 grant combined with funds already appropriated in the city budget will mean the department has a total of 32 body cameras.

"They're absolutely valuable," Heubusch said after the meeting. "I wouldn't be asking for 32 of them if I didn't think they were valuable. As far as from a prosecutorial standpoint, it collects evidence and firsthand accounts when this story is unfolding. So from that perspective, it helps in the prosecution aspect of a crime. When you're dealing with a victim or a suspect you have that person on film saying what they said, acting the way that they were acting at that point in time, and that could be introduced into evidence or it can be used to get a plea deal."

Twice the cameras have helped clear up accusations against officers by suspects, Heubusch said, so they've proven valuable in that respect as well.

"I think we see a lot more positive reaction (from officers) because they were very suspicious at first," Heubusch said. "They wanted to know, 'what are we getting ourselves into?' But the first time that they're dealing with the drunk alongside the road and they're able to go back and review that footage and see this is exactly what this person said, this is exactly how the person acted, and then present that in court, they see it's been very beneficial, or in the instance where somebody comes forward with a false claim against them."

Officers are supposed to activate the camera anytime they are responding to a "hot" call, Heubusch said. The camera should be on anytime there is an enforcement action.

Of course, Heubusch said, officers are human and in an active situation, turning on a body camera is not always the first thing that comes to mind.

"That's the first thing you forget to do is turn that on," Heubusch said. "In most cases that is the first thing you want to see, you want to see that turned on. So we understand there's a human element as well. So you know there is enough room within the policy to give the officers some individual leeway."

Officers also have the discretion to turn the camera off in situations where privacy is paramount, such as cases involving juveniles, especially as victims, confidential informants, or sensitive domestic calls, depending on the circumstances.

August 15, 2017 - 1:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in comprehensive plan, batavia, planning, news.

Nearly two years in the making, a draft of a new comprehensive plan for Batavia has been presented to the City Council and soon it will be up to council members to decide what kind of future they want for the city.

One that maintains the status quo or one that aims to improve the quality of life for residents and attract new businesses.

"I think you’ll find that, yes, some communities are losing population," City Manager Jason Molino said after the draft plan was presented to the council. "They're not growing at great rates, but I think you’ll see that the communities that are well planned, and have good comprehensive plans that are practical, you’re going to see those communities are growing. They’re growing exponentially. They’re growing a lot faster than those who don’t (have comprehensive plans). I would argue that good planning leads to smart choices and that leads to positive outcomes.

"If we want to be mediocre forever then maybe we don’t do the comprehensive plan," Molino added. "If we want to achieve more, we take a community-based approach to it and you make smart choices in the future to trigger growth in the future."

Consultant Rob Holzman made the initial presentation of the plan. He reviewed the history of the process, which began in October 2015 and included the formation of a steering committee, interviews, focus groups, surveys and two community open houses where community members were invited in to share their vision for the future of the City of Batavia.

"This plan sets up a strong foundation for moving forward and understand what some of the basic investments are that are necessary to attract a younger population as well as a senior population," Holzman said.

Among the findings of the research that underlies the plan is that Batavia is seeing a decline in home ownership and a startling rise in rental occupancy.

"These are two characteristics that are worth noting because they’re really a driving impetus behind why you want this comprehensive planning process," Holzman said. "It's to figure out what’s going on and how some of these trends might be reversed."

The city is also overstocked in industrially zoned property. Industrial is the second highest acreage in the city of 14 types of zoning in Batavia, at 682 acres but only 169 acres are actually being used for industrial activity.

The plan suggests, Holzman said, that the city can direct more industrial uses in the area of the Harvester Center and the Pearl Street industrial park, both with significant vacancies, and rezone an area such as the east end of East Main Street.

The 70 to 90 properties in that area, with the exception of a cement company, are all commercial and residential, Holzman noted.

"It is a key gateway coming into the city," Holzman said. "It sets a tone for what to expect and having industrially zoned properties there might not be the best use of that transportation corridor."

Among the other suggestions for the Batavia of the future is the development of a complete street policy, which would include bike paths, bike racks at public facilities, signs providing distance and direction for destinations (wayfinding signage), and bus shelters that are attractive and may contain public art.

"Bus shelters might sound like a basic thing, and it is a basic thing, but it’s a necessary component to add to the vitality of a place," Holzman said.

The plan also suggests developing a tree management plan, a plan for parks and recreation, a plan to celebrate the city's history and its public spaces.

The plan also calls for changing the city's zoning code from the more highly regulated current form to what's known as "form-based" code, which more loosely defines appropriate uses for sections of the city.

When it came time for the council and the public to weigh in, there were some objections.

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs (later joined by community member John Roach) suggested that any suggestion that the east end of East Main Street be rezoned be removed from the plan. He insisted that the council already voted 6-3 against changing the zoning, therefore, it shouldn't be brought up again.

Molino explained that at this stage, the comprehensive plan is a roadmap. Implementation of actual zoning changes would come up later. Further, he noted, the council's previous vote was just on two parcels in the 70- to 90-acre area under consideration.  

Roach suggested the proposal was just a backdoor way to bring in the tax-exempt, subsidized housing for disabled people proposed by DePaul earlier this year.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski objected to the idea of form-based code because, based on his research, he said, back before current zoning was created, something like form-based zoning was used and it only benefitted the well-heeled and politically connected.

Holzman tried to explain that form based means something entirely different today and that what the comprehensive plan proposes is really a mix of formed based structure and traditional zoning.

Councilman Adam Tabelski said he was concerned (a concern shared by other speakers) that the Tonawanda Creek is barely mentioned in the plan, even though it represents a potential resource for the city.

Molino said specific proposals for what might happen along the creek would fit into the city's strategic planning process, which he also spoke about and how it might change with a new comprehensive plan.

He provided the council with a document that he said would help officials and staff better prioritize projects, especially when new ideas come along.

"One thing when we began to develop this process, we realized that as new opportunities come along there has to be a very disciplined process to evaluate those," Molino said. "We have to decide whether it not happen, be put off, changed, or if more resources have to be put on the table to deal with them."

August 15, 2017 - 11:59am
posted by Billie Owens in byron, news, accidents.

A man is unconscious after a tire exploded at Zuber Farms, 5633 Tower Hill Road. Byron Fire Department and Mercy medics are responding. Mercy Flight in Batavia is put on ground standby.

UPDATE 12 p.m.: Mercy Flight is cancelled.

UPDATE 12:02 p.m.: The chief on scene says responders can continue in non-emergency mode to the structure east of the main building. A tire exploded off its rim, striking the victim.

August 15, 2017 - 9:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news.

A trooper has been dispatched to the Thruway overpass on Route 98, Batavia, for two subjects who "lost their boat" and are now trying to recover it.

It's stuck in the guardrail.

The incident is hindering traffic.

August 15, 2017 - 7:25am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia PD, batavia, news.

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Batavia Police Officer Arick Perkins was recognized at the City Council meeting Monday night for his quick action the night of July 18 to render first aid to a stabbing victim on East Main Street.

Perkins found a victim with multiple stab wounds who was bleeding uncontrollably. Perkins applied a tourniquet to the victim's arm in an effort to stop the bleeding until EMS personnel arrived. 

For this life-saving effort, Perkins was recognized with a resolution of the City Council, a Batavia PD Life-Saver Award and an award from the University of Rochester Kessler Trauma Center.

img_1258.jpg

August 15, 2017 - 7:18am
posted by Maria Pericozzi in Here and Now, music, news, events, batavia.

The second annual Here and Now Festival will be held on Aug. 25 and 26 at Austin Park featuring more than 70 vendors, 13 food trucks and 14 musical artists.

Pastor Jason Norton said it is a coalition between churches and ministries, with corporate sponsorship, in attempt to bring unity.  

“There seems to be a lot of division between denominations,” Norton said. “We’re trying to see the walls torn down, where we can all come together for a time of worship.”

Here and Now is a revival of an event that happened in 1916. A group of five churches from the area built a structure out of lumber in the middle of winter, where Austin Park is currently located.

“We have the same spirit behind it,” Norton said. “This year, in commemoration of that, were doing the same thing they did, on the same ground they did.”

While the music groups are Christian, Norton said it shouldn’t stop people from coming because the genres vary from '70s rock, folk, rap and hard rock. Christian Cuevas, the runner-up from last year’s TV show “The Voice” will be performing on Saturday night.

There will also be many activities for children, including face painting, balloon animals, cotton candy and Kona ice.

On Friday, the doors will open for VIP ticket-holders at 5:30 p.m., with regular admission at 6. The concert will start at 7 p.m. and end around 11. On Saturday, events will run from 10:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. For a full schedule of events and full list of artists, click here

Norton said the concert will draw people from nine different states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont, along with people coming from Ontario and British Columbia, Canada.

“Right now, we have 1,500 tickets sold for Friday night,” Norton said. “We’re expecting every bit of 2,000 or 2,500 people to attend this year.”

More than 100 people from local churches are volunteering this year. Norton and his wife oversaw the event with 26 churches and ministries volunteering last year. A committee of 12 people from various churches along with volunteers from the region will help to make this event a success.

Tickets are $5 each to help cover the cost of the festival. If you would like to sponsor this event or advertise your businesses, call 297-3155.

"We hope that this will be a real blessing to the city," Norton said. "We hope people come down and see the city come together at this great event." 

August 15, 2017 - 7:10am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, corfu, pembroke, Le Roy, news.

Edward Joseph Stabell, 23, of Meiser Road, Corfu, is charged with trespass. Stabell is accused of trespassing at a location on Gilmore Road, Pembroke.

Scott Douglas MacPherson, 58, of Transit Road, Pavilion, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, speeding, and insufficient tail lamps. MacPherson was stopped on Lake Street Road, Le Roy, at 9:14 p.m. Sunday by Deputy Ryan DeLong.

August 15, 2017 - 7:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in freshLAB, batavia, business.

Press release:

 A volunteer committee led by the Batavia Development Corporation created a website (www.freshLabBatavia.com ) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FreshLab-Batavia-157039621534443/ ) to inform the community about the project, construction progress and recruitment to lease two more start-up restaurant spaces.

“We understand residents are chomping at the bit to learn more about the project,” said Barb Shine, Batavia Development Corporation director and co-captain of the marketing efforts. “It’s an enormous undertaking, pretty complex, with a lot of moving parts. We hope the website helps break it into bite-sized pieces.”

Jon Mager, future master brewer of the anchor eatery, Eli Fish Brewing Company, formerly known as Batavia Brewing Company, has agreed to take the lead on social media construction updates. Beth Kemp, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, has guided the creative direction, technical setup and will post periodic updates in addition to the Batavia Development Corporation.

“We’re getting more and more excited about this project. Programming at freshLAB will benefit all of our downtown businesses,” added Kemp. “Complementing our solid restaurant core, freshLAB will help reshape downtown into a dining and entertainment destination.”

August 15, 2017 - 6:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, batavia, news.

20170815_061120jacksonacc.jpg

Reader-submitted photo of an accident this morning around 5:45 a.m. on Ellicott Street just west of Jackson Street, Batavia.

The SUV was occupied by eight people, all returning home to Niagara Falls from vacation, police told our news partner, WBTA.

At least two people were sent to the hospital. Their injuries were not life-threatening.

The vehicle was westbound when it veered off the roadway, struck two street signs and a light pole before crashing into the tree.

August 14, 2017 - 4:30pm

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August 14, 2017 - 2:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien, news, darien lake, darien lake performing arts center.

The following people were arrested by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office during the Goo Goo Dolls concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Sunday:

A 17-year-old of Lincoln Avenue, Dunkirk, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, and unlawful possession of marijuana after allegedly being found in possession of a controlled substance and marijuana.

Kevin R. Dawidowicz, 41, of Maywood Place, Buffalo, is charged with reckless endangerment, 2nd, after allegedly striking a Darien Lake security officer with his vehicle.

Kevin M. Buisman, 32, of Elmwood Avenue, Tonawanda, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, after allegedly entering the venue without a ticket.

Colleen K. O’Donnell, 26, of Warsaw Street, Cheektowaga, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, after allegedly entering the venue without a ticket.

Cody Z. Woodhouse, 28, of Robinson Street, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, after allegedly entering the venue without a ticket.

Samuel P. McCaslin, 27, of Vahn Street, East Concord, is charged with trespass after allegedly attempting to re-enter the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.

August 14, 2017 - 2:54pm
posted by Billie Owens in BHS, news, Announcements.

Press release:

Batavia High School will host a brief parent orientation for parents of incoming freshmen and transfer students new to the high school beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

Parents will have the opportunity of meeting available staff and administration who will introduce parents to BHS policies, programs and expectations. All first-time BHS parents will find this informational session helpful in transitioning their child to the high school. This is also an opportunity for parents who once again have a student at BHS to learn about any new changes.

Link Crew Day for Freshmen & Transfer Students -- Wednesday, Sept. 6

  • Morning Session @ 8 – 11:30 a.m.: Freshmen ONLY

Batavia High School will host a Link Crew Day for freshmen students only from 8 to 11:30 a.m. only on Wednesday, Sept. 6. Incoming freshmen and pre-approved Link Leaders will be the only students attending school on this day.

Upperclassmen need not attend school on Sept. 6th as incoming freshmen will be participating in freshmen transition activities.

The concept of Link Crew is simple: linking freshmen with successful upperclassmen. While creating a sense of comfort for incoming students, the Link Crew concept also addresses the attitudes of upperclassmen toward freshmen and respect for freshmen becomes the norm.  

Schools today are different than ever before, as are students, families and communities. The transition from middle school to high school is one of the most difficult ones young people face, expectations are greater and schools are larger.

Research has shown that if a student makes it successfully through his/her first year of high school, he or she will have “made it” and he/she can be expected to graduate.  With this in mind, Link Crew program was to help students make the transition with specific intervention and support from older peers. 

  • Afternoon Session @ 11 a.m. – 2:55 p.m.: Freshmen & Transfer Students

Upperclassmen should not attend the P.M. session of our orientation program. This session is designed for freshmen and transfer students new to Batavia High School only. Freshmen and transfers will enjoy a light lunch, do a walk-through of their schedules, meet their teachers, and have an opportunity to become accustomed to their locker and lunch routine.  

The first day of classes for ALL BHS students is Thursday, Sept. 7th.

Anyone with questions is asked to contact the BHS Counseling Center at 343-2480, ext. 2002.

Batavia High School is located at 260 State St. in the City of Batavia.

August 14, 2017 - 2:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia PD, batavia, news.

Press release:

The City of Batavia and The University of Rochester Kessler Trauma Center will be recognizing City of Batavia Police Officer Arick Perkins on Aug. 14th at the Batavia City Council Meeting for his recent life-saving efforts performed on a victim with uncontrolled bleeding.

Shortly after midnight on July 18 Officer Perkins, along with other members of the City of Batavia Police Department, responded to a reported stabbing incident on East Main Street in the City. Upon Officer Perkins’ arrival, he located a subject down in the driveway that had a severe injury to his arm and was bleeding uncontrollably. Officer Perkins reacted quickly and applied a tourniquet to the victim’s arm in an effort to stop the bleeding while awaiting EMS. Without Officer Perkins’ quick response and tourniquet application, the outcome of the incident could have been much worse.

According to the University of Rochester Kessler Trauma Center uncontrolled hemorrhage continues to be the highest cause of preventable death in injured patients. Bleeding-control skills performed by bystanders and first responders, such as done by Officer Perkins, are being used to save lives on a daily basis.

Officer Perkins is being recognized for his quick action and dedication to service.

“Stop The Bleed” is a program created by the American College of Surgeons and is endorsed by the Federal Government as part of domestic preparedness. The course is designed to teach the public how to control life threatening bleeding with or without specialized equipment. There are many classes available to the public. Information about the program can be found at bleedingcontrol.org or by contacting the Kessler Trauma Center via e-mail at [email protected].

August 14, 2017 - 2:33pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in news, batavia, crime.

Kim Diamond was sentenced to four months of intermittent jail time with five years of probation Monday after she pled guilty to grand theft in the third degree in May.

The former United Memorial Medical Center employee admitted to stealing items valued at $170,000 from UMMC and selling them on Ebay. Diamond agreed to pay $30,000 in restitution. According to her attorney, Randolph Meyer, she is receiving mental health treatment and has never been convicted of any crimes.

Meyer said the equipment she took was in areas where they were no longer using it.

“It took them four or five years to notice anything was missing,” Meyer said. “Obviously, their inventory control system lacks a little.”

Lawrence Friedman, the district attorney, said Diamond thought she felt entitled because they were items the hospital was planning to throw out.

“I can assure the court, after extensive meetings with a number of representatives from the hospital, that is certainly not their position,” Friedman said.

She is also accused of possessing equipment from another hospital she worked at in Monroe County, with likewise claims that the items were being thrown out, Friedman said.

“I assume that this court’s sentence will have some impact on what is done there,” Friedman said.

Friedman said it was his recommendation that Diamond should receive straight jail time, but Judge Charles Zambito sentenced her to intermittent jail time.

He said he saw no reason to sentence her to straight jail, and noted Diamond has a young daughter.

“I’m very sorry for what I did do,” Diamond said. “I did do some things wrong and I apologize. I am mortified at myself. I can’t forgive myself.”

For prior coverage, click here

August 14, 2017 - 2:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in accidents, news, batavia.

A motor-vehicle accident with injuries is reported at 3899 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. It is blocking traffic. Town of Batavia Fire Department and Mercy medics are responding.

August 14, 2017 - 2:08pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in batavia, news, Zerin Firoze, religion, notify.

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Zerin Firoze grew up in Bangladesh in a secular family with a well-educated father, where 90 percent of the people in the country are Muslims.

She wanted to be like any other kid and use YouTube to listen to music, watch tutorials and study for school. But in 2013, YouTube was banned in her home country after an anti-Islam video was posted.

Firoze said something special happened to her that day. Shortly after it was banned, she watched an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslim” after some of her Muslim friends were sharing the video, asking for everyone to report it.

“After having a few conversations back and forth, I went back and read the Qur’an again,” Firoze said. “I used an adult mind this time and I was shocked. Something happened to me that day.”

Her new attitude toward Islam and problems at home set her on a path that brought her to Batavia for college and she hopes will eventually lead to Harvard Medical School.

Firoze was a high school student who started questioning Islam on social media.

“I sat up straight and thought, ‘What is happening in my country?’ ” Firoze said. “2013 was a turning point in my life. I understood that everything I learned about religions is false and man-made.”

She said she knew it was dangerous to question Islam on social media, but she did not stop. Overnight, she lost her Muslim friends.

“I did not know that my own Muslim friends and family that I have grown up with would try to kill me or harm me, just because I chose to question Islam,” Firoze said. “There are several passages in the Qur’an that instruct Muslims to kill non-Muslims. I didn’t want to kill Christians or non-Muslims because I have loving non-Muslim friends and they’re amazing.”

It's been a year since Firoze came to the United States and settled in Batavia.

She has applied for asylum in the United States because she would be killed by Islamic extremists or jailed by the government for speaking out against Islamic extremism.

“I would love to go back to my home country, but I would be killed,” Firoze said. “I don’t think it will change in the next 10 years. It will not get better. It will get worse.”

After speaking out, Firoze received death threats from multiple terrorist groups in Bangladesh. Her name was on a death-threat list from one of the terrorist groups.

“My country is supposed to be a secular country,” Firoze said. “It’s still secular in the Constitution, but a majority of the people happen to be Muslims.”

Firoze said they don’t understand free speech or secular values.

 “You cannot call a country secular, then have a state religion,” Firoze said. “It makes no sense.”

When Firoze’s father found out she received death threats from terrorist groups, he told her to get out.

 “I fought with my parents a lot and I could no longer take the abuse at home,” Firoze said. “I got in touch with more secular friends from Western countries. I started documenting my miserable condition.”

Firoze received a head injury from her father, which gave her a speech impediment. She told her friends she was forced to drop out of school and was locked in her room. She was not allowed to go out or do anything.

“My mom and dad said they could not keep an outspoken atheist at my house,” Firoze said. “My dad threw me out many times for me wanting an education.”

Her dad was highly educated, so Firoze never understood why her dad denied her education.

“I expected a lot more from my family,” Firoze said. 

After her condition continued to get worse, her friends in the United Kingdom set up a GoFundMe to try to rescue Firoze from Bangladesh, after she began receiving daily threats from Islamist terror groups.

“At the time, it became too dangerous for me to stay in Bangladesh,” Firoze said. “I had started receiving rape threats and death threats just for saying something on my own Facebook page.”

It took Firoze almost two years to obtain her five-year visa to the United States, after being denied by the United Kingdom and Sweden for her single marital status, lack of ties to her home country and lack of funding.

Once in America, Firoze began to adjust to the American life. For the first time, she used public transportation by herself, wearing a short skirt.

In Bangladesh, Firoze said women could not take the bus or train alone because they would be harassed, kidnapped and raped. Women are also expected to follow conservative Islamic dress codes, wearing a burka and veil.

“My mom and my aunt started taunting me to be more modest,” Firoze said. “All my high school friends started wearing burka and hijab. I was expected to dress like them and be like them to fit in. I never cared about fitting in.”

The malls in Bangladesh stopped selling jeans, skirts and Western outfits. Firoze was told she should wear the hijab, but she said she finds the concept degrading and insulting.

“So many of my friends and girls in my country are burned and beaten to death, for not wearing the head scarf,” Firoze said. “The hijab is a symbol of oppression.”

One of her best friends in high school was forced into an arranged marriage, which is common in Bangladesh. According to UNICEF, 66 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, and one-third of girls are married before the age of 15. The legal minimum age for marriage is 21 for boys and 18 for girls.

“I raised questions about her marriage,” Firoze said. “I said let her study. Allow her to complete her high school at least. I was the only one brave enough to stand up for her.”

At that point, Firoze was struggling to complete her own education. She was told that because she was a girl, she did not need to study.

“That gave me the courage to speak against Islam, to speak against child marriage, to speak against terrible things happening in my country,” Firoze said. “In 2013, two famous atheists were killed in my country; my country was becoming more Islamic.”

One of her online Bengali atheist friends survived an attack with long-lasting neck injuries after being known an atheist blogger, while another atheist did not.

“In my home country, you can get jailed just for saying something on your Facebook page,” Firoze said. “Ordinary people like you and me have said something on their Facebook page about the government or Islam and they got jailed for it -- or for sharing a cartoon or meme.”

Firoze said there are more important issues that should be dealt with.

“People in my country don’t have access to healthcare or food,” Firoze said. “People are living in the streets. There are so many bigger issues in my country, and the government is after YouTube and Facebook.”

Terrorism has something to do with Islam, Firoze said.

“I have seen this with my own eyes,” Firoze said. “My classmates, friends, they became more radical. They became extremists after going to the mosque regularly. I have seen this in my own family and community.”

Firoze attended a secular school from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., would have lunch at home, then have Islamic classes from 4 until 6 p.m. She said her mom sent her to Islamic classes to “receive her moral values.”

“I started disliking Islamic school from a young age,” Firoze said. “It was horrible.”

While atheists in Bangladesh have used pseudo names, Firoze has not.

“I am different,” Firoze said. “I have used my real name and my real face. I have spoken against Islamic extreme groups for the last three years with my real name and picture on social media.”

Firoze hopes to be a U.S. citizen in the near future and to attend Harvard Medical School to be a doctor. She started a Skeptics and Secular Humanists Club at college and hopes to spread secularism in the world.

“We must criticize and reform Islam,” Firoze said. “We must protect the rights of Muslims, especially under the Trump Administration. Books and ideas do not have rights. Humans have rights. We must fight Islamic extremism from a place of moral strength and unity, instead of using far-right xenophobia, racism, and bigotry.”

Firoze would like to start a secular club in Batavia if she finds enough like-minded secular or agnostic, atheist people in Batavia. If you would like to collaborate with Firoze, contact her via Facebook.

If you would like to support her efforts, click here.

August 14, 2017 - 1:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, fire.

A mulch fire is reported at Summit Lubricants, 4080 Pearl Street Road, Batavia. Town of Batavia Fire Department is responding.

UPDATE 1:08 p.m.: Fire chief on scene says responders can proceed in non-emergency mode.

August 14, 2017 - 11:25am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, Darien, Bethany, Le Roy, notify.

Nicholas Edmund Kaiser, 26, of Westbourne Drive, Tonawanda, is charged with felony DWI and felony driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Kaiser was arrested after arriving at the Genesee County Jail at 1:35 a.m., Sunday, to pick up a friend who had been arrested for DWI earlier in the night. Upon Kaiser's arrive, officers suspected Kaiser of being intoxicated. He submitted to a field sobriety test. 

Jamie Ann Dorazio, 24, of Broad Street, Tonawanda, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and failure to obey police officer. Dorazio was stopped at 11:44 p.m., Saturday, following a traffic stop on Sumner Road, Darien, by Deputy Eric Meyer.

Jeffrey Alexander Cardenas II, 26, of Lake Street, Le Roy, is charged with driving while impaired by drugs and failure to keep right. Cardenas was arrested after Deputy Mathew Clor responded to a complaint of a vehicle off the road on Lake Street Road, Le Roy, at 12:18 a.m., Saturday.

David James Leroy, 25, of Sumner Road, Darien, is charged with obstructing governmental administration, 2nd. Leroy was arrested after deputies and troopers responded to a check-the-welfare call at a location on Sumner Road, Darien. Leroy allegedly interfered with the deputies and troopers.

Ronald D. Ashton III, 24, of Bennett Street, Buffalo, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, suspended registration and driving to left on crest/grade curve. Ashton was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear in Town of Bethany Court on charges stemming from 2016.

Kelly Ann Kasper, 47, of Judge Road, Alabama, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Kasper allegedly struck a person who was the protected party in an order of protection.

Teshawn Anthony Lang-Smith, 21, of Dellinger Avenue, Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief, 3rd. Lang-Smith is accused of damaging property at a party at 3:15 a.m., Aug. 30, 2014.

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