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August 14, 2022 - 2:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Democratic Socialists of America, batavia, austin park, news.

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As the ReAwaken America Tour's stop at Cornerstone Church in Batavia wore on during its second day on Saturday, members of the Democratic Socialists of America gathered in Austin Park for a "teach-in" about fascism. 

There were about 40 people at the gathering.

The Batavian was present for a talk by Rev. Jennifer Butler, author of the book "Who Stole My Bible?"

Butler said what drew her to Jesus Christ was his radical message for his times, resisting the Roman government and the Pharisees. 

"Who stole my Bible? Christian nationalists stole it," Butler said. "What do we need to do to reclaim Scripture as a handbook for resisting tyranny? Scripture, when you read it the right way, is actually a radical book."

Starting with Constantine, Butler said, people with a lust for power and the power of the state have been distorting the message of Christ to their own ends.

"Ever since then, there's been this tendency, as there is throughout history with all religions, and in all contexts to co-opt religion in order to control people," she said. "It started with Constantine. We saw it during the Crusades. We saw it under Hitler."

She said today there is a global movement with impetus from Putin's Russia to use religion to promote authoritarianism.  

"These global oligarchs and global authoritarians are weaponizing religion and relating to each other globally to enrich themselves and to strengthen their own power," Butler said. "They're kind of like global crime syndicates that are also abusing and using religion to control people."

The strategy employed by authoritarians is to divide and conquer, Butler said. They manipulate people's emotions.

"I think first and foremost, in the people who are getting drawn in, it's fear. Fear gets weaponized. That's why actually, Scripture -- sorry to quote Scripture so much, because I know Christianity really pisses people off -- but the Bible says over and over again, perfect love casts out fear."

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August 14, 2022 - 2:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Le Roy, notify.

A 66-year-old man from Warsaw died yesterday as the result of injuries sustained in a crash on Route 19 in Le Roy at 1:20 p.m.

Following the accident, Duane R. Hamill was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

According to State Police, Hamill was driving a 1994 Ford F-15o pickup truck southbound on Route 19 when the truck swerved into the oncoming lane and struck a 2015 Chevrolet Trax.  The pickup truck exited the roadway and overturned, ejecting Hamill.  

The name of the other driver was not released by State Police. That person was transported to Strong with non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by the NYSP Collision Reconstruction Unit and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

August 14, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, ReAwaken America Tour, batavia, notify.

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People were still speaking around 6 p.m. under the big tent in front of Cornerstone Church Saturday, as the parking lot looked much more like a mowed hay field than it had the last two days.

Law enforcement officers stood outside of the fenced property and vendors, including a Center Street Smokehouse food truck, departed the event. A lone Genesee County Sheriff’s vehicle sat parked farther down on Bank Street Road, just before the overpass.

For all of the worry and concern expressed beforehand about violence, there apparently was none. As for rhetoric and questionable claims regarding political and health matters, that’s up to one’s own opinion.

Signs stating no guns, no knives were an anomaly not often seen at church-hosted events. The ReAwaken tour seemed well-organized, and determined to stop anyone with a weapon from entering with security checking bags and each person upon entering the event.

Overflow visitors were provided space inside the church to view speakers on a large screen, while most — including special VIPs — found a seat under the big white tent in front of the church.

Days leading up to Friday’s debut of the tour offered whispers of trouble via out-of-town protestors planning a showdown. That never happened, and, in fact, not one protestor paid a visit to the site on Friday, and there were no reports — or sightings by The Batavian — of any on Saturday.

For an event this size, it was obvious that people had the protocol down — except for the schedule being askew — with a clear sound system, visuals on a screen behind speakers, and bios for everyone. Vendors sold many related, and political, items featuring Donald Trump, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and others. Mario Fratto’s campaign signs were equally prominent, and a tractor-trailer on Saile Drive got a facelift with a Trump 2024 billboard-sized ad facing the road.

It wasn’t so clear what Stone’s message was, given his bemoaning of his ordeal and how he had become homeless, penniless, and without a voice due to a judge’s gag order for him not to talk during his trial. Stone, who was convicted of seven felony charges, including lying under oath to a congressional committee and threatening a witness whose testimony would have exposed those lies, was later pardoned by the former president.

"We lost our home, my car, our savings, our insurance. But most importantly, I lost my ability to speak. I was not entitled to speak for 18 months, on any subject. I had to sit by and watch "CNN," and "MSNBC" and others call me a Russian traitor, called me, a Russian intelligence asset, lie repeatedly about connections between the Russians and the Trump campaign,” Stone said. “And then I made a fateful decision. I was depressed. I was angry. I was scared for my wife. I was demoralized. And it was then that I decided to redeem myself in the blood of Jesus … At that moment, it was like cement blocks were being lifted from my shoulders.”

“Not a month goes by in which the combination of my legal fees, just our basic living expenses, and we do not live a lavish lifestyle, and my wife's uninsured expenses, are not greater than the amount of money I make every month,” he said.

Not so fast. Several news reports, including “Orlando Weekly,”Sun Sentinel,” and “The Daily Mail,” state that Stone moved out of his $1.6 million Florida home and rented it out for $9,500 a month, and purchased a smaller, two-bedroom apartment for $525,000. In July, he and his wife, Nydia reached an agreement with the government to be held responsible for more than $2 million in unpaid income taxes, penalties, and interest, subject to potential additional interest as well as subtractions for previously processed payments or credits. It also proposes a judgment against Roger Stone alone for about $453,000 in taxes, penalties, and interest.

Stone  -- who has become as famous for his back tattoo of Richard Nixon as for his self-proclaimed reputation as a 'dirty trickster' -- talked about how he worked for “two of the greatest Americans in the 20th Century, he said: Richard Nixon and Bob Dole. But they don’t match the former president, he said.

“They were very, very tough guys, but neither one of them was tougher than Donald Trump,” Stone said. “Because of his toughness, he was a great president, and it’s just because of his toughness that he will be a great president again.”

Within some banter with tour host Clay Clark, Stone was asked how much his legal costs were. Are they $1,500? Clark asked. Nope. Those expenses are $35,000 a month, Stone said. After he spoke, there was an opportunity for folks to see him, buy his book and get it autographed, and make a donation, should they feel the urge to do so.

Top Photo: Roger Stone gives the famous victory sign -- a Nixon favorite -- as he ends his talk this weekend at the ReAwaken America Tour in Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.

August 14, 2022 - 7:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nancy Mortellaro, Richmond Memorial Library, news, batavia.

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Nancy Mortellaro just loves lisianthus flowers.

She told The Batavian two years ago, "I think they’re gorgeous. They look like roses. They’re gorgeous and they last a long, long, long time in a vase."

She has been buying seeds and planting lisianthus plants in a garden bed outside tof he Richmond Memorial Library for five years. Today, she was honored by the library's Board of Directors with a plaque naming the garden in her honor.

"Nancy Mortellaro's dedication to the Batavia community has been exemplary," Board President Gregg McAllister said. "All of us as residents of this community are beneficiaries of her vision and energy through her involvement in several organizations. She particularly has been a dear friend of the library, always interested in what is going on here, and being involved and supportive."

Library Director Bob Conrad brought about some laughs with his telling of a story about the garden's popularity.

"Not to pat my own back or toot my own horn," he began, "but our new library cards with this beautiful 1895 building photographed by a local photographer, is a great new logo, I basically deserve all the awards. And instead, I got one phone call. One angry phone call saying, 'Bob, I wanted a library card with the lisianthus garden on it.'

"I'll tell you in a community of 19,000, you can't make everyone happy. The lisianthus garden seems to. Thank you, Nancy."

Mortellaro thanked all of the volunteers who have helped her over the years, and said she was honored and happy that the community has expressed so much appreciation for the garden.

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Bob Conrad unveils the garden plaque.

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Nancy Mortellaro, sitting, center, with her family, in town this weekend for a family reunion.

August 14, 2022 - 7:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Richmond Memorial Library, batavia, news.

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After 30 years away -- with her husband Rick, working as a nurse in Albany -- when Anne Iannello returned to Batavia in 2017 for retirement -- she gravitated to the Richmond Memorial Library.

After all, it's a place of childhood memories.

Soon, she was drawn to the Friends of the Library and started looking for a volunteer opportunity.  She met Lucine Kauffman, head of the Library Visits program, who assured her she would love being a Library Visits volunteer.

"It's easy," Kauffman told Iannello.

"All you have to do was go out and deliver some books, chat up a little bit of conversation, check in with them," Iannello recalled Kauffman telling her. "Again, it's very easy."

A couple of Iannello's "easy" deliveries included bringing books during the pandemic to an elderly shut-in who told Iannello to come to her dining room window at the side of the house.  

"So after we went through some pricker bushes, the window finally it started to rise up slowly and out came a fishing net," she recalled. "Now, I would have someplace to put the books.  So, of course, again, I get some scratches from the pricker bushes wrapping the books in the fishnet, but once that was all set, I was like, 'hey, I can do this.'"

Another "easy" assignment was bringing some books to a woman who informed Iannello after she arrived in the woman's apartment that she needed to get her cat to the vet.

"Speaking of scratches," Ianello said at the beginning of her story, "if you know or have a cat, you know the cat's wonderful. It's the difficulty of getting them and chasing them in a small apartment and putting them in a box that's probably the worst part. She certainly let me know that. But there was a great outcome. So that was good as well."

Iannello's sense of humor and good cheer, along with her hard work and dedication, is why she was given the Friends of the Library Volunteer of the Year Award on Saturday.

"You make a difference when you volunteer," said Kathy Zipkin, president of the Friends Board of Directors. "You make life better for so many by delivering books and movies and by simply being a good listener with compassion. When you give your time to helping others, it shows your kindness, generosity, and quality, and character. I want you to know just how much your dedication to volunteering is so greatly valued by so many here at the library and beyond."

Iannello recommended the "easy" Library Visits program to anybody who wants to volunteer in the community.

"This is such a wonderful program, to reach out to these seniors in the community that are unable to come to the library, so we could bring the library to them," she said. "It's so important."

Photo: Anne Iannello and Samantha Basile, community and adult services librarian, with the plaque that now also contains Iannello's name as a volunteer of the year for 2022. Photo by Howard Owens.

August 13, 2022 - 11:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, Bethany.

A mobile home that was torn down is now reportedly on fire at Clipknock Road and Torrey Road, Bethany.

There is no exposure to other structures.

Bethany Fire and Stafford Fire dispatched.

UPDATE 11:34 p.m.: A first responder reports no smoke or fire. "The trailer is completely gone. There's a dumpster. There's no fire at all."  Both assignments can go back in service.  The "fire" was reported by a passerby.

UPDATE 11:42 p.m.: Now Bethany and Stafford are dispatched to 9525 Clipknock Road for the report of an unattended controlled burn, a brush fire.

August 13, 2022 - 9:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire services, emergency management, news, notify.

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There is a crisis brewing in fire and EMS coverage in Genesee County, but it's invisible to most area residents, according to a report released this week by the Office of Emergency Management.

The report was prepared by Municipal Resources, a consulting firm hired to review the state of fire and EMS services locally and recommend changes.

"The challenges that are facing the fire and EMS services in Genesee County are very real; there is a crisis that is slowly building, and has been for a considerable period," the report states. "The reason that many stakeholders, municipal leaders, and the general public do not see 'evidence' is the long tradition in both the fire and EMS services of 'getting the job done.'

"Looking ahead," according to the report, "the implications of not taking action will be quite simple: service levels will continue to diminish, some companies and EMS agencies may fold under financial pressures or because they are just not viable responders any longer, and fewer and fewer most likely aging volunteer members will be trying to respond to an increasing number of requests for service."

The 278-page report contains 95 recommendations to improve services and ensure the long-term viability of fire and EMS services in the county.

The report was presented to local media for the first time on Wednesday night at the Fire Training Center on Bank Street Road in Batavia by members of a task force formed two years ago.  The members, which included volunteer firefighters, elected officials, and Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator, set a goal of finding actionable recommendations on how to improve things and not just produce another study.

The goal is not a countywide fire service
The purpose of the report as some have assumed, said task force chairman Eric Weis (president of the Bergen Fire Department), is to push through a replacement of the current volunteer fire department system with a paid, countywide fire department.

He noted the report contains this statement: "It should be clearly understood by all stakeholders that the focus of this report is to augment and not supplant existing fire and EMS resources. Therefore, recommendations are focused on better utilization of existing organizations and resources while maintaining, supporting, and strengthening existing organizations."

Weis put the same sentiment in his own words.

"The volunteers are the backbone of the emergency services in the county," Weis said. "This is not intended to, again, take away from that. It's intended to enhance it. And I also want to say that, yes, there are issues, but, you know, the members of the volunteer departments in this county put forth a hell of a lot of effort every day. I think the needs are being met."

The biggest challenge for fire departments and EMS companies in Genesee County is the nationwide decline in volunteerism.  Genesee County is not unique.  People are much less likely to volunteer for anything, let alone service as demanding as firefighting or emergency medical assistance.

The report states:

The only reason why the challenges the system is facing both today and looking to the future are not more evident is because of the passion and dedication of the members of the county’s fire and EMS organizations who continue to answer the calls for service. But the number of active volunteers is declining in the county as they are everywhere, and many of those who remain are aging. 

 

The crisis of volunteerism
The report anonymously quotes a volunteer chief, "Volunteerism is being killed by social changes and increasing training standards for liability reasons. With fire call volumes being low and EMS requests high, we are at the point of high-risk low frequency events being a large concern. People don’t want to put in the time to train to fight one or two fires annually."

Long gone are the days when a young person could volunteer for the local fire department, be handed a helmet and coat, and start showing up at fire scenes. Now volunteer firefighters must go through hours and hours of training just to get started, and dozens of hours more every year to advance their skills.

And "volunteer" means they don't get paid for any of that time, either training or responding to incidents.

"I think most people in the community have no idea the amount of hours that they (volunteers) commit to this job," said Yaeger (first inset photo). "They are many hours away from home, away from family, away from work, to get this job done. 

"I think many citizens probably assume that volunteers are compensated to some extent," Yaeger said later. "And other than food and refreshments at a training or after an event, there is no compensation."

Among the 95 recommendations offered by Municipal Resources is finding some way to make some sort of compensation possible, be it monetary, health insurance, or gift cards to local businesses. But that isn't possible currently because state law prohibits any compensation to volunteer firefighters.

County Legislator Gordon Dibble, who served on the task force, said he and his fellow elected officials are ready to try and tackle that problem, which means going to the state Legislature to change the law statewide or working with Assemblyman Steve Hawley on a change in the law allowing Genesee County to become the first county to compensate volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel.

"I don't think we've (the Legislature) talked about that," Dibble said. "We haven't come to that, but I could agree with you that might be a way to go. It might help our situation. It starts somewhere and sometimes it starts with a small tiny county government that moves it up through the state."

Compensation needs to be an option
New York needs to catch up with other parts of the country, Yaeger said, when it comes to compensating volunteer firefighters.  In other parts of the country, volunteers aren't paid wages as much as they are provided pay on a per diem basis.

"They're being paid a stipend," Yaeger said. "They're being paid to be on-call. They're being paid to go to training. They're not making what a career firefighter is making, because they're just being paid or compensated when they're performing a duty for the community. That's something else that we need to pursue. And that needs to happen sooner than later because it's just inevitable."

One option to make volunteer firefighting less of time management challenge is to give volunteers on-call schedules so they know when its their turn to respond to any calls that come in and are prepared to respond.

"I did get some feedback from a friend of mine in the department who said with his job, it's tough for him to come on a whim on a call at certain times of day," said Weis (second inset photo). "He's working constantly. But if he had a set day, where he knew that he was on duty, his eyes opened up to that. That is something that would make being a volunteer more efficient."

The EMS crisis
The report also highlights the challenges facing ambulance providers, whether the all-volunteer services provided by departments such as Byron, Bergen, Alexander, and Bethany, or the paid-personnel services, what Yaeger refers to as "commercial," such as Le Roy Ambulance and Mercy EMS.

Currently, the mixture of volunteer and commercial EMS services are keeping response times in most of the county under four minutes for basic life support calls and eight minutes for advanced life support.

These are critical numbers when the calls are for cardiac arrest (less than two percent of EMS calls) or stroke.

The report states:

Heart attack and stroke victims require rapid intervention and care, and transport to a medical facility. The longer the time duration without care, the less likely the patient is to fully recover. Numerous studies have shown that irreversible brain damage can occur if the brain is deprived of oxygen for more than four minutes. In addition, the potential for successful resuscitation during cardiac arrest decreases exponentially, 7 to 10%, with each passing minute that cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or cardiac defibrillation and ALS intervention is delayed. Few attempts at resuscitation after 10 minutes are successful. 

Keeping EMS services staffed is both a challenge for volunteer departments and Mercy EMS and Le Roy Ambulance.  The training hours to qualify as a crew member can be up to 150 hours and the duty is hard and often puts EMTs in harm's way. 

Mercy EMS recently went through a staffing crisis that required assistance from services from outside the county and the turnover in personnel is frequent, with employees either finding the work isn't for them or using their training and experience as a stepping stone into a career as a paid firefighter.

"The environments that they're working in are not the best environments," Yaeger said. "People don't need to know what some of those environments are but it's a dangerous job. They're exposed to a lot of things that they probably shouldn't be exposed to."

In New York, as in most of the country, ambulances are not considered an essential service, like police and fire services.  Municipalities are not required to provide EMS coverage.  The report suggests that needs to change.

Among the consultants' recommendations, as one option, is the creation of a countywide EMS service.

This model would have the county assume all EMS response and transport responsibilities for EMS. The county would have to hire full-time personnel and purchase all equipment and vehicles to staff four units. These units would need to be housed in strategic locations across the county to meet response time benchmarks county wide. While this concept is relatively new in New York state, several counties have either implemented this type of service or, are exploring the concept. 

Countywide cooperation
While the report doesn't call for a countywide fire service, there are recommendations for standardizing operations.  That means establishing compatible Standard Operating Procedures across all departments so that when departments are working together, they're all using the same tactics and methods.

"Everyone in the fire service knows that we're already responding regionally," Yaeger said. "So how do we formalize that to make sure that everybody is on the same sheet of music? How do we make sure that the funding sources are there and available for all those resources to come in so we're not duplicating resources, we're not duplicating equipment?"

Getting everyone on the same sheet of music could eventually lead to a countywide department, but that won't happen any time soon, Yaeger said.

"Thirty years from now, 20 years from now, could there be a county-wide fire service? I won't be here to see it. Not in this position. But sure, it could happen," Yaeger said. "It takes time to see if it's even necessary. It may not be necessary. We may find that there are ways to work together and make our system better without forming a countywide service."

Going forward
With 95 recommendations, there is a lot for all the stakeholders to consider what priorities should be tackled first.  That process will involve everyone at all of the departments as volunteers read the report and come back with recommendations.

Task force members say that so far, the report has been received favorably, but they know that there will be those who resist change of any kind.

"(Somebody) coined the phrase that 'firefighters say the two things they hate the most are the way things are, and change,'" Yaeger said.

Weis said he hopes to see each department provide the task force with five, 10, or maybe 15 priorities from the 95 recommendations. The task force will use that feedback to come up with 10 to 15 action items to tackle first.

"We really want feedback first from the departments," Weis said. "Before we kind of settle on the 10, or maybe 15, before we settle on those, we want the feedback from departments. We don't feel we want to just dictate the solution."

PDF Downloads:

Top photo: Six members of the task force, from left,  Eric Weis, president, Bergen Fire, Mike Heale, chief, Elba, Bob Mruzak, fire chief, Bergen, Tim Yaeger, Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator, Gordon Dibble, Genesee County legislator,  Donna Hynes, supervisor, Town of Elba. Not present and not pictured, Legislator Greg Torrey and Pavilion Supervisor Robert LaPoint.

Photos by Howard Owens

August 13, 2022 - 8:43pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, ReAwaken America Tour, notify.

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It was a dog that brought Sharon Opdyke to a deeper faith in God and healers, she says.

Quite literally, in fact. Opdyke was visiting from Maryland, and she shared her story with The Batavian while getting a snack during the ReAwaken America tour at Cornerstone Church.

It was in May at a Tour in South Carolina. Opdyke was watching a friend’s dog and they were in the water at a beach while baptisms were going on nearby. She thinks perhaps a girl was having a spiritual awakening, and the dog sensed the commotion. The dog nearly dragged Opdyke to the water where the girl was, and comforted her with gentle nudges.

"I have never in my life seen anything like this. The dog pulled me up from the water up to where this girl was and the girl had collapsed. I don't know if (the healer) cast the demon from her. Something happened. The girl lost consciousness. And she collapsed actually into my friend's arms. She held her by the head,” Opdyke said. “And (Tour speaker) Julie Green didn't let go of this young girl and was just praying over her, and the dog, through the crowd of people, at least 300 people, made its way up to this young girl … And the dog curled right up beside the young lady.”

Witnessing what she believes was a healing was “so amazing” and something Opdyke has never experienced before, she said. She was baptized there, and her passion for God — and all that the ReAwaken America movement stands for — have increased from that point on. She also attended the tour event at Virginia Beach, and in Batavia on Friday.

“And a lot of it was General Flynn. He was our inspiration,” she said, speaking also for her husband. “And then we knew some of the other speakers that were going to be there, including Kash Patel. I think Eric, Eric Trump was there. And a lot of the pastors and then some of the prophets like Amanda Grace, Pastor Dave Scarlet, Julie Green was there ... and then I also wanted to get baptized on the beach. And that was just fantastic.

“So I ended up meeting someone on the beach in South Carolina, and she lives near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, so not too far from where we are. And I actually work at a dog shelter, and they're an animal shelter. So we kind of coordinated because of that, because she also needs a dog sitter. She's not far from us. So her and I agreed to go to Virginia Beach. And we actually only went to Virginia Beach for the beach ceremony. We did not go to hear the speakers. That was phenomenal.”

She rattled off many speakers by name and some of what they spoke about at her first event in South Carolina. Many of them were also featured at the Batavia event. They shared personal and professional stories and even included some humor, she said. (David) Nino Rodriguez had everybody in hysterics, she said, “because you have to sometimes just laugh at the people that are still asleep about what’s going on in the world.”

The Batavian asked her what she meant by that.

“Just everything, the amount of evil I mean, the amount of evil that's been going on … we've been poisoned our whole life. Everything's been a lie. You know, and a lot of people are just waking up to it. Why are some people more awake than others and some people now kind of coming out of their coma that they've been in for years,” she said. “But, you know (pointing toward the sky) that's sunshine, and I mean that, you know, we’ve got to focus on the light. It's been dark all these years, everything's, we're, moving into a beautiful world. But we have to get through the ugliness. We still have a bit of ugliness and we need to wake people up.”

She cautioned about what she has learned: you can’t merely tell people. You have to show them what’s going on, she said. They have to “see this amount of evil.”

“People who think that Biden is really the president. Come on. Yeah, this is a sham. That's a joke,” she said. “Like I said, I had never seen anyone healed in my life. And when I saw that, that kind of led me even more to watch people like (author/teacher/prophetic speaker) Robin Bullock. And just some of the other prophets. I mean, I've always watched (Tour speaker) Amanda Grace.

“You know, if you're gonna sit back and just hide in your house, well, you know, there's casualties of war, and they're the casualties of war. We're at war,” she said. “It's just amazing the amount of people that (the tour is) bringing together who are like-minded.”

Born into a Republican family, she doesn’t really believe in party politics, she said. She is highly involved in her community, is a chief Republican judge, works with her local police and fire departments, and all the while sensing that something was wrong, she said. The primaries were “a joke,” and people can’t vote as easily anymore, she believes, including her local precinct not being set up properly for people with disabilities.

The name of the tour was accurately coined, she said, because that’s what is gradually happening.

“I think we're waking up America, we are waking up,” she said. “We are the majority, you know, so when people say, as they continue to see the circus that's going on in D.C., things are only gonna get worse, but they have to get worse to wake folks up.”

Photo: Sharon Opdyke of Maryland, who drove with a friend to Batavia for the ReAwaken tour, displays the T-shirt she bought for her husband. Photo by Joanne Beck.

August 13, 2022 - 4:25pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, ReAwaken America Tour, batavia, notify.

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It got loud Friday evening when Twisted Sister filled the tent — with its iconic “We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore” — as an intro to the leader of the ReAwaken America Tour at Cornerstone Church.

Not quite a packed house by the evening, the audience rose to its feet clapping and singing along as Michael Flynn took to the stage.

A few minutes later, the music died down and Flynn reiterated its meaning.

“When something happens to you, you say you’re not gonna take it anymore,” said Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was later pardoned by the former president. “Here's what I want people to understand about these types of events, and what we do here on this ReAwaken America tour is to really get into the communities and go to places where people would, you know, we’re going out to California a couple of times we went to Oregon, we're going to go back out to the West Coast, up into the Washington State, Idaho area … we're here because we want people to know that we're not giving up on you, right, we're not giving up on this region.”

Applause and standing ovations were sprinkled into his speech. Most attendees had been there all day and planned to return for a full day of speakers on Saturday as well. Flynn said that there were to be baptisms a bit later, and that was going to be “a powerful thing.”

“I know the way that our country is segmented right now,” he said. “There's so much going on. But what we have to understand is that those of us guys like me, or people like me, we're going to come in, and we're going to touch you. And we're going to remind you, we're going to teach you, and we're going to say things to you. But it's really up to you. Those of you that were here this morning heard me say we don't have all the answers. I do not have all the answers and we're gonna make mistakes as we go along this path. And is this an awakening in the biblical sense? Is this a spiritual awakening? You bet it is.”

“I mean, there's a spiritual war and there is a political war. And they are going on, they're going on in this country right now. You know, God didn't choose America, God chose Israel. America chose God,” he said.

He encouraged folks to reawaken themselves and figure out “what it is that we want as Americans.” He knows what he wants.

“I want freedom. I want my safety. I want my security. I want to be left alone. I want to be able to do the things that I want to be able to do," he said. "I served this country for nearly three and a half decades. I've absolutely seen the worst in corruption, the worst. I've seen the worst of humanity, absolute worst of humanity. I have witnessed the sacrifice of young men, principally young men, but young men and women. Great, great sacrifice.”

He spoke of how those young men and women sign on the dotted line to join the military, wanting to do something with their lives. What most of them — not even their parents — know, he said, is that they are signing up to give their “very life to this country.” And he encouraged audience members to do their part as well.

“You have to decide what it is that you are going to do. And you’ve got to decide to do something,” he said. “What we're trying to do is, we're trying to convince you to decide that your life is going to take a different path. That's what we're trying to get you to do. We have 3,000 people in here today. All I want is one person to make the decision, 'I'm going to go and I'm going to crash through life.' I've got my toes over the edge of this stage right now. Purposely. And the message is, this is where our nation is; we are at the edge … I want your attitude to change. That's part of what we're trying to do here. Change about what you believe, how you believe, or how strong is your faith; maybe that's the attitude adjustment that you have.”

He capped off his 15-minute talk by circling back to the baptisms and instructing to “put Jesus Christ first in your life.”

“I hope this event will be life-changing for you,” he said.

Michael Flynn speaks during the tour at Cornerstone Church Friday evening in Batavia.  Photo by Howard Owens.

August 12, 2022 - 11:45pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, ReAwaken America Tour, batavia, notify.

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When first asked about why he was hosting the ReAwaken America Tour, Pastor Paul Doyle put it simply that protests about the event’s presence in Batavia was being overblown and that he wanted to host it at Cornerstone Church.

“I think it’s a patriotic, Godly event with reputable people that love the Lord,” Doyle said previously to The Batavian. “This isn’t just a secular event. These are Godly men and women … there’s going to be prayer, repentance, and because of that, the baptisms.”

Baptisms were, in fact, on the event schedule for Friday and again on Saturday evening. When he was bombarded with reporters’ questions after deciding to host the Tour, Doyle maintained then that “we’re gonna talk about Jesus Christ,” and didn’t feel there was any legal issue with a nonprofit church hosting a political event.

During his talk on Friday, the pastor’s voice gradually escalated to one of unbreakable conviction that he will charge ahead at full speed along with other pastors of the same mindset. Does talking about COVID, and vaccinations, critical race theory and other hot button topics make it political talk? Many colleagues aren’t bothered by going there, he said, and neither is he.

“I don't worry about offending Democrats for not worrying about talking about the issues that the church has to talk about. The Bible says in Psalms 119, it says 'the instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.' That tells me if you want revival, you’ve got to pull up the instructions of the Lord again. They're good and the laws of God are good,” he said to a crowd that had thinned out from earlier in the day. “The Psalmist said, 'Lord, I love your laws because they're good.' And we have generations coming up that haven't even heard them before. Because the church is too afraid. We've been too intimidated. Even the Attorney General of New York is trying to bully us for not being quiet. And I'm just not gonna have any of that right now. I’m going to talk about whatever I want from the pulpit.”

He introduced his wife Lee, who is from Mississippi, and said that they were like the North and South coming together. He compared that to what is happening right now in the country.

“And there was a new battle. It's not a battle of North and South. It's a battle of good and evil. And I'm just so thankful that there's people that are standing up and wanting to have a voice once again in our country,” he said.

Doyle emphasized that he and his church have reached out to all races, and want the African-American community to stop following the narrative that they’re victims. 

“They’ve been victims too long,” he said.

He’d also like to reach the LGBTQ community, encouraging listeners to ask themselves “what things have I been conditioned to think?” and wants people to rethink attending churches “where the blind are leading the blind.”

“I’m not interested in a mega church,” he said. “I’m interested in a mega movement."

When he first became aware of Mario Marillo, a motivational speaker who puts on large tent meetings across the country, Doyle admired Marillo for an event in Bakersfield, Calif. right in the center of a primarily Democratic state during pandemic shutdowns. He asked other church leaders if they were interested in a revival featuring Marillo, and the larger ones were not, claiming he was too political.

“He was preaching a message not only about the gospel, but he was calling out leftist agenda policies of (California Governor) Gavin Newsom that have made people miserable with, so he was preaching right in a blue state and a blue city, probably with blue constituents,” Doyle said. He was not afraid. And they came running to the altar. I mean, hundreds of them. And I saw healings.”

Fact Check: In the 2020 presidential election, 53.88 percent of the voters in Kern County (Bakersfield) cast ballots for Donald Trump. Kevin McCarthy, Trump supporter and House Minority Leader, won re-election in Bakersfield with 64 percent of the vote.  Bakersfield is red, like all of the San Joaquin Valley, not blue.

God told Marillo to bring his show to Batavia, and Cornerstone hosted him last fall. They expected 400 to 500 people at best, and instead had 4,000 to 5,000, Doyle said.

“I’m sure you know, we were praying for a revival. I told the Lord, ‘Lord, I don't care where people come from, I don't care what they've done. I don't care what color they are. We’ve gotta see hungry people that are hungry for you.’ I just believe he's answered the prayer,” Doyle said. “And so he came out here, and he had those meetings. And it just ignited a fire in me personally. And it made me start preaching much more boldly from the pulpit.”

As for things that are “too political” Doyle said that it dawned on him that meant “things that are affecting people in our churches.”

“But since when did it leave the church and go to the political arena, we’ve got to pick it out of the political realm, and put it back in the church,” he said. “So that's what we've been doing. I don't know how many news outlets have interviewed me … And they want to know what I think about stuff. And I noticed they asked all these really loaded questions, or, how do you feel about a church hosting a political event, you know, you’re a 501 (C)3. And I said, ‘You think I'm doing this because of money? You think that intimidates me? I'm like, I'm gonna do it. We've got to have a move of God in this country.”


Further Reading: Opinion: Cornerstone Church is not risking its tax-exempt status by hosting the ReAwaken America Tour


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Top photo: Pastors Paul and his wife Lee Doyle on stage Friday during the first day of the ReAwaken America Tour at Cornerstone Church in Batavia. Photos by Howard Owens.

August 12, 2022 - 6:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

Press release:

On August 12th at 4:14 PM, Batavia Police responded to the area of Elm Street and East Main Street for a reported shooting. Upon arrival, BPD officers located two victims in the area. Both victims were treated by the City of Batavia Fire Department and Mercy EMS. MercyEMS transported one victim to UMMC with non-life threatening injuries and one victim was treated on the scene. BPD is actively investigating the incident at this time, however has determined that there is not an ongoing threat to the safety of the public or residents in the area.

Anyone with information in regards to the incident is asked to contact Detective Ivison at (585) 345-6350, or contact BPD through the confidential tip line at (585) 345-6370.

August 12, 2022 - 5:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in ReAwaken America Tour, news, notify.

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Christian Nationalism is a threat to freedom and the American way of life, a group of pastors told a small gathering in a parking lot behind the First Baptist Church in Batavia this morning, while across town about 3,000 people were gathered at Cornerstone Church for the ReAwaken America Tour.

Among the speakers at First Presbyterian was Rev. Nathan Empsall, an Episcopal minister and director of Faithful America, an online organization that Empsall said puts its faith in action for social justice and love.

"Christian Nationalism, is defined by researchers and academics as a cultural framework and a political ideology, a political world worldview, not a religion," Empsall said. "Christian Nationalism, is the merging of the national American identity with a religious identity, making them one in the same, saying you aren't a real true American unless you're a conservative Christian. The hallmark phrase of Christian Nationalism is that America is a Christian nation. That's not true, of course. We are a pluralistic nation."

Empsall said Christian Nationalism is a threat to freedom in America.

"The goal of Christian Nationalism is not to follow Jesus," Empsall said. "The goal of Christian Nationalism is to seize power, political power, at any cost, no matter who you have to hurt along the way. No matter how many rights you have to take away from other groups, no matter how many elections you may have to try and overturn despite the will of the voters. It's typical of authoritarian movements in this regard."

He tied many of the speakers at the Tour event to the Jan. 6 insurrection, when Donald Trump supporters stormed the capital to try and overturn the presidential election results. 

He suggested that while the ReAwaken America Tour may not be explicitly violent, it does builds the framework for future political violence.

"When we talk about the threat of violence, we're not saying ReAwaken America is a bar and at the end it's gonna have a drunken brawl in the parking lot," he said. "You might not see violence today. What we are worried about is another January 6 happening, but perhaps not in the nation's Capitol, perhaps in every town or local state capitals when elections don't go the Christian nationalist way next time.

"When you raise the stakes as high as they come and demonize your opponents in God's name, you don't have to tell people to commit violence," he added. "They connect the dots."

That said, he is ready to embrace Mike Flynn and Roger Stone, he said, two Trump allies and former advisors speaking at the Tour event, as brothers in Christ.

"Now look, if Mike Flynn and Roger Stone, and the pastors who are with them today, tell me that they are Christians, I believe them," Empsall said. "I don't know their relationship with God. I don't know their heart. I do not doubt them. But I do know that their actions and their words are not Christian actions. They are not Christian words.

"So this morning," he added, "as we hear all the lies from Qanon 2.0 about public health and about democracy -- we ask them to know the truth for the truth shall set you free. We say to Clay Clark and Mike Flynn, 'brothers, don't bear false witness. Come home like the prodigal son.' We follow the Prince of Peace. We love our neighbors. We don't call them Team Satan because they don't share our politics or because they share a different approach to our faith or to faith itself."

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Rev. Roula Alkhouri, the pastor of Batavia First Presbyterian Church, hosted the event.

"Our hearts are broken," she said. "Because of the damage this tour, this ReAwaken America Tour, has already caused around our country, using the cover of religion to sow division and hate. I have experienced this kind of hate personally since I started speaking up and saying that we shouldn't have this here, this kind of language and this kind of hate-inciting event. I've received a lot of hate for this."

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August 12, 2022 - 4:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in ReAwaken America Tour, news, batavia, notify.

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Pastor Mark Burns prayed for New York's attorney general, Letitia James, and her family, during his appearance at the ReAwaken America Tour at Cornerstone Church in Batavia on Friday.

James earlier this week reportedly sent a letter to Pastor Paul Doyle, telling him that she was concerned the event could lead to racial violence.

Burns, an evangelist and failed congressional candidate who has reportedly appeared on a right-wing TV show and said parents and teachers of LGTBQ children should be executed, told the mostly white audience that all patriots, regardless of race, were welcome into the movement.

As of early this afternoon, no protestors had been seen on Bank Street Road.  The lone deputy parked in a driveway in the area said he had not seen any protestors.  There was no other additional local law enforcement at the location during the times The Batavian was at the church or in the area.  People at the event have generally been friendly, from what we've observed, toward members of the media. The staff has been friendly and helpful though the event seems disorganized at times and speakers have not appeared on schedule.  There is a significant contingent of private security at the event and signs at the entrance noting that guns and knives are prohibited.

The Batavian will provide additional coverage of events related to the tour, both at the church and away from it, throughout the weekend.

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Gene Ho, President Donald Trump's campaign photographer, sharing stories about working with Trump.

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August 12, 2022 - 3:18pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, ReAwaken America Tour, batavia, notify.

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Clifford and Cecilia Miller were anxious to attend the ReAwaken America Tour this morning, arriving around 5:30 a.m. at Cornerstone Church in the town of Batavia.

They made the nearly three-hour trek from Chemung County to partake in the two-day event with two others who rode with them. By 11:45 a.m., they knew the trip was well worth it, they said. The couple watched a convoy of vehicles displaying U.S. flags, sat under the large white tent listening to speakers that included Michael Flynn, and embraced fellow attendees, Cecilia said.

“Just being together here with like-minded people, meaning believers in Christ, and believing in the restoration of our country,” she said. “I’ve always been brought up in the church in one shape or form, so it gave me a foundation of the Lord. And then as I grew, I was like, there’s got to be more than this, God, you know. And so now I'm completely born again, as they say, and I'm into his word. To me, his word is our guide, that we should stand by and go by, and when we've gotten away from that, we need to bring it back.”

The Millers learned of Cornerstone when they came to see Mario Marillo speak during tent meetings last October at the Bank Street Road church. They kept in touch and then found out about the tour coming this week.

Aptly dressed in a red, white and blue ReAwaken T-shirt and Trump baseball cap on Clifford, and a John 3:16 cap for his wife, the couple was looking forward to the remainder of the day and all day tomorrow. They booked a hotel in Batavia, where other attendees were also staying, they said. Visitors came from  out of state, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, and out of the country from Canada.

The Millers weren't alone in the patriotic apparel, as many of the 3,000-plus crowd sported all things red, white and blue, from dresses, scarves, and hats to vests, shirts, sneakers, and even a little something for their canine companions.

The original line-up of speakers changed at some point, and Flynn had spoken before his scheduled time. He is also scheduled to speak this evening, and The Batavian plans to cover that. Earlier guests included Gene Ho, the former president’s campaign photographer; Dr. Jana Schmidt, who was not on the original schedule; Kash Patel, former chief of staff to the acting U.S. secretary of defense under former President Trump; and Dr. Bryan Ardis, an entrepreneur, chiropractor, acupuncturist and nutritionist.

Much of the discourse was about COVID-19 protocols and vaccines, with claims about the vaccine’s safety; claims of how the government and "fake news media" kept certain political happenings from being investigated (Hillary Clinton, “Russiagate”) and therefore didn’t make “the Left” more accountable for its actions; and claims of how the former president took action that would have prevented the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Fact Check: According to the official timeline of Jan. 6 and several other news outlet investigations, Trump did not authorize National Guard troops until hours after the insurrection began.

Fact Check: The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines teach the immune system to recognize and fight the coronavirus, greatly reducing the likelihood of severe disease if a person is infected. There is no evidence the vaccines impair immunity, according to SciCheck’s COVID-19 Vaccination Project.

Primary evidence that was used by a well-known Fox News anchor regarding the vaccines harming the immune system “is a much-criticized Food and Chemical Toxicology paper written by several individuals known for being opposed to vaccination or for spreading health misinformation."

“Lead author Stephanie Seneff is a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has falsely claimed that vaccines cause autism and has pushed a theory linking the herbicide glyphosate to COVID-19, among other unfounded scientific views. Senior author Dr. Peter McCullough is an internist who has repeatedly spread misinformation about COVID-19 treatments and the vaccines. Another author, Greg Nigh, practices naturopathy, a form of alternative medicine that has often embraced pseudoscientific methods,” SciCheck states. 

“When the paper was first published in April, numerous critics condemned it, with some calling for it to be retracted. (That effort was denied. Notably, the paper appeared in the journal after the editor-in-chief put a call out for papers “on potential toxic effects of COVID-19 vaccines.”)

“The paper, which does not present any original research, is a review coupled with an analysis of data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, the United States’ early warning system to detect possible safety problems with vaccines. VAERS reports can be submitted by anyone, are not vetted for accuracy, nor do they mean that a reported symptom was necessarily caused by the vaccine; the data have often been mined to incorrectly claim vaccines are dangerous” it states. SciCheck is a branch of the nonpartisan FactCheck.org. Click here for article 

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Schmidt reviewed several natural remedies that can keep one’s immune system healthy and prevent illness, such as taking in sunshine, cayenne pepper, honey and cooked mushrooms, plus turning to prayer and community, all of which have been touted in health-related newspaper, magazine, online, and television reports.

She also discouraged wifi exposure, stating that cell phones kept in men’s pockets decreases sperm count by 75 percent — provoking a long  “oooooh” from the audience — that dirt is more beneficial as an anti-depressant than Prozac, and those COVID vaccines should be avoided. (See Fact Check above.)

“Does it make any sense at all to (take in the ingredients from the vaccine), as bad these shots are, and we know they’re bad,” she said, suggesting instead to use near infrared therapy. “Remember that these shots are evil.”

Fact Check: According to Health University of  Utah Research published in the journal "Environment International," analyzed data from 10 previous studies suggested that sperm’s mobility, or its ability to move normally toward an egg to fertilize it, appears to fall by an average of 8 percent when a man is exposed to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones.

Fact Check: Red light therapy is a treatment that may help skin, muscle tissue, and other parts of your body heal, according to WebMD.com. It exposes you to low levels of red or near-infrared light. Infrared light is a type of energy your eyes can’t see, but your body can feel as heat. Red light is similar to infrared, but you can see it.

Fact Check: According to an article in “Forbes” magazine, “further research on gardening found it improved life satisfaction and mood. Digging in the dirt really does lift your spirits. The digging stirs up microbes in the soil. Inhaling these microbes can stimulate serotonin production, which can make you feel relaxed and happier.” “The Atlantic” also states that “M. vaccae, a living creature that resides in your backyard compost pile, acts like a mind-altering drug once it enters the human body, functioning like antidepressant pills to boost your mood.”

Patel teased that he would share later about the most recent incident involving an FBI raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. He claimed that Trump had authorized the National Guard to be on standby before the Jan. 6 insurrection, and that during a phone call that Patel was on, Pelosi was more concerned about when food service would be restored than about the violence at the Capitol. No evidence was found online to substantiate or refute that claim.

As for Flynn’s charges before being pardoned by the former president, Patel called them “bogus” and claimed “we actually found documentation” proving his innocence.

“And that man is still standing with us today because he believe in the fate of this country,” Patel said.

Fact Check: NPR.org (National Public Radio) states that "Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about conversations he had had with Russia's then-ambassador to the United States as he and the rest of President-elect Donald Trump's camp waited in the wings early in 2017."

"My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel's office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions," Flynn said in late 2017 at the time of his plea, according to the news site.

Patel joked that he could keep speaking, but had to get out to his booth to sell more books. Several vendors were strewn about outside and many more inside of the church, selling ReAwaken, Trump and related items of clothing, jewelry, keepsakes, books and more.

“This isn’t a Trump rally, but it’s close,” he said, with large screens in the background displaying logos and information related to each speaker.

The Millers were glad to have heard the information.

“We were learning so much deeper stuff,” Clifford said. “So that’s good for us, because we don’t really watch local news. We just don’t know what’s happening. I can’t believe what they say.”

They watch Flashpoint and Newsmax a few times a week, they said. Warm and affable, the couple spoke more about the Christian element than particular subject matters. Clifford was nearly 51 before he became a Christian he said, after spending much time “off in my own world.”

“I was seeking something different, and Jesus was my answer,” he said. “And, I'm telling you, I would have changed nothing else for it. God has brought me (to salvation).”

As smoke billowed out of nearby grills, people continued to mill around, shopping for memorabilia, catching a quick bite out in the sunshine or sitting under the tent as new speakers took to the stage every 15 minutes. As of noon, there were no protestors or visible threats of violence on site, and a counter-event was set for 11:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church.

The schedule runs to 7:15 p.m., when baptisms are to take place, and resumes again at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

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Clifford and Cecilia Miller of Corning traveled to the ReAwaken America Tour to be with like-minded Christians, they said, and believe that people need to get back to God; Jana Schmidt talks about natural remedies during Friday's event at Cornerstone Church; Visitors snap a photo with a traveling bus named after its owner, attorney Scott McKay, whose biography defines him as "the patriot street fighter."  Signs were placed at event entrances to provide directions and a reminder that "no guns, no knives" were allowed in. Photos by Joanne Beck.

August 12, 2022 - 8:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in ReAwaken America Tour, batavia, cornerstone church, news, notify.

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The ReAwaken America Tour has arrived in Batavia.

Among the opening events this morning was a truckers' convoy on Bank Street Road past Cornerstone Church, where the event is being held.

Pastor Paul Doyle, who agreed to host the event after it was canceled at a venue in Rochester, has denied that the tour promotes political extremism.  Critics say event speakers peddle conspiracy theories and racism and that the rhetoric can lead to violence, such as the racially-motivated mass murder at a supermarket in Buffalo in May.

Today's speakers include retired General Michael Flynn, pardoned by President Donald Trump after being convicted of lying to the FBI during investigations into his dealings with foreign nations.  Flynn is scheduled to speak in the morning on "Why now is the time to act without fear and hesitation to save this God-given republic."

Other speakers include Kash Patel on "what is actually going on in America," Doctor Bryan Ardis, on COVID-19 protocols involving remdesivir and midazolam, Christie Hutcherson on why we must protect our borders, Julia Flynn, on a "practical plan to save America," Lance Wallnau, on God's "chaos code," Mel K on the "great reset," Dr. Rashid Buttar on the "COVID-19 chaos," Jim Meehan on fighting back against "medical corruption."

Eric Trump is speaking in the afternoon on "why the Trump family has committed their time, talent and treasure to help save America."

In the early evening, Roger Stone, also pardoned by Trump after his conviction on charges of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering, will speak about how Jesus can save America.

As things were getting underway this morning, a number of vendors were already in place offering books, t-shirts, hats, jewelry, paintings, and other wares to the attendees (photos below).

The Batavian will have coverage throughout the weekend of the event at Cornerstone as well as counter-events at other locations in Batavia.

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The stage in the main event tent ready for guests and speakers.

August 12, 2022 - 8:16am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, GLOW YMCA, downtown, Restore NY, notify.

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Rochester Regional Health and United Memorial Medical Center officials would like Genesee County on board to assist with a $2 million grant for the Healthy Living project in downtown Batavia.

Working through Ed Flynn of LaBella Associates, hospital officials plan to apply for the grant and, if approved, funding would “flow through the county,” County Manager Matt Landers said Wednesday.

“There would be no county match, and no county cost,” he said to legislators during their Ways & Means committee meeting at the Old Courthouse.

Restore NY grant
The grant is to go toward some of the demolition costs of the GLOW YMCA site between Wiard and Bank streets, he said. The county can charge up to $10,000 for administrative costs, “which should be more than enough for us to cover our costs,” Landers said.

“I would liken this similar to a (Community Development Block Grant) project where the (county’s Economic Development Center) usually comes to us and has a private business out there that wants to secure funds for a project for economic development and their job creation,” he said. “And then we basically utilize grant ministries, grant administration services … So this will be a very similar arrangement, but less intensive. According to Ed Flynn, the CDBG project is a little more intensive. This is less intensive. So I don't see a drawback.”

The unusual part, he said, was that this request is to approve an intent to apply before actually applying for the grant. That letter of intent was due Thursday, and the next step would be to get the Legislature’s blessings on the actual grant application, he said.

“So if there are reservations around, they can still be raised,” he said. “So it's a little nontraditional process where I'm coming to you with the intent to apply. And then we'll be voting on formal permission to apply, within the attached resolutions, that will come forward probably in September.”

The committee approved his request, and Genesee County will be submitting a Restore NY round six grant to support the development of the Healthy Living Campus. United Memorial Medical Center – Rochester Regional Health (UMMC-RRH), and GLOW YMCA have partnered to develop a $33.5 million, two-story 78,000 square-foot regional health and wellness facility, which will integrate a new YMCA facility with state-of-the-art medical space for the Healthy Living program.

New versus old YMCA
Restore NY funds will be used by the development team to demolish the old 40,000 square-foot YMCA, and an 8,500 square-foot obsolete boiler house owned by UMMC-RRH, which will provide space to accommodate a new downtown park and parking lot. The project was selected as a priority Downtown Revitalization Initiative project and is also supported by the Batavia Brownfield Opportunity Area plan. UMMC/RRH will lead the development team.

Demolition of YMCA won’t be for a while, as the new building site at the former Cary Hall and Elks Lodge needs to be in place for the facility’s members to use, said Rob Walker, CEO of GLOW YMCA. There shouldn’t be any downtime for members, as they will transition over to the freshly completed site while the older YM building is taken down, he said.

“And continue operations without hurting the community and our services to the community — that was important to us, both from a mission standpoint and service standpoint, but also fiscally being responsible as well,” Walker said Thursday to The Batavian. “So the demolition is all dependent on completion of, and a certificate of occupancy for, the new YMCA UMMC building.”

The facility has previously been outlined — a pool, updated exercise equipment, and brand new amenities alongside Healthy Living’s teaching kitchen, classrooms and offices — and Walker described the outside space being “a nice streetscape park area” with benches, trees, lighting and an open grassy area for some outdoor activities, plus additional parking space.

“That's the beauty of what we're doing. There'll be additional parking there that kind of complements the site. There's two main entrances to the facility, one is on the northwest section, and then one is on the south section, that both enter into and through a nice corridor to the welcome desk, where a member services representative will direct them to where they need to go.”

He also emphasized that the nonprofit’s board and volunteers have talked about this eventual move for the last four or five years, and the county’s Senior Center was always part of the vision.

“Our true hope is that we can add on to the YM space where the current one is to include the Senior Center. It’s really important to volunteers and board members,” he said. “It’s our hope that the Genesee County Senior Center would join the Healthy Living campus.”

The former Cary Hall and Elks buildings have been razed, and new construction is to begin this fall. It was important to YMCA leaders not to disrupt the many services offered, including childcare, swimming lessons and exercise classes and offerings to varied age groups, he said.

“We want to be able to continue to do those services and keep the momentum that we have with those programs as well. They're all doing really well, there's a lot of wait lists, and we're going to be able to serve more people in the new facility. So that's going to help. Our capacities are pretty much limited in the existing YMCA,” he said. “It takes a little while to line up these contractors. We'll have a better idea this fall, or even late summer, on the timing of that lineup. Obviously, there's a lot of labor shortages, supply issues, that are affecting all these contractors.”

Construction plans
As has been said early on, the plan remains for completion to be in late 2023, or early 2024, depending on the labor and supply availability. A project such as this typically takes 16 to 18 months, and that’s if “everything flows under the construction timeline,” he said. But it’s a fluid timeline, he added.

Walker is grateful for the local support of municipalities and donors. Project costs are about $23 million for YMCA and $10 million for the RRH-UMMC portion.

“We appreciate the county and the city support on earmarking, this. Our escalation costs have been tremendous in the last two years. So we've had to dig deeper than we already have. We've raised over $14 million on our side, on the Y side, so we've got to keep going,” he said. “And we will, but we've got 95 percent of what we need. So we're confident that in the next four months we'll be able to close the small gap.”

Top photo: 2022 File Photo of demolition for the new Healthy Living Campus in downtown Batavia. The next phase to knock down YMCA is set for this fall, and officials are in the process of applying for a $2 million Restore NY grant to help with costs. Photo by Howard Owens.

August 12, 2022 - 8:08am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Batavia Players, batavia, notify.

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In its 25th year, Batavia Players’ Summer Youth Theater program returns from a pandemic year off with something spectacular to behold, Director Pat Burk says.

He chose the musical “Godspell” to give prominent and ample opportunity for the 15 youth actors to fully embrace their characters and bring the Gospel of Matthew to life in an atypically festive and colorful atmosphere.

“It’s about parables and things, and also excerpts from the Gospel according to Matthew. But you know, the whole premise of the show is just a very beautiful premise, and the show itself is physically gorgeous. I think people will be surprised at our setting this year … during Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” Burk said during an interview with The Batavian. “And that's another nice thing about the show, you can kind of put it into the setting you want it to be in. Originally it was in a junkyard in New York City. It was a bunch of homeless, kind of hippie vagrants, in the junkyard in New York City. We've changed that, and ours is very New Orleans, Mardi Gras-themed. and it is a very beautiful show. So I think people will enjoy it.”

The musical is a retelling of the Gospel of Matthew set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The disciples of Jesus spread his message of love and tolerance through the city streets as the time gets closer to Jesus's betrayal at the hands of Judas and his eventual crucifixion. Parables are interspersed with music set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns, with the passion of Christ appearing briefly near the end of the show.

With its debut on Thursday, Summer Youth Theater’s production continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Batavia First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia.

"Godspell" began as a project by drama students at Carnegie Mellon University and evolved from off-off-Broadway to being rescored for an off-Broadway production, which became a long-running success.

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Don’t let the actors’ ages, from 12 to 21, fool you; most are fairly well versed in theater and in working with Batavia Players, Burk said. There have been challenges, though, with the venue — First Presbyterian Church in Batavia. The widespread choreography and sets were too much for the Players’ makeshift stage while the new one is under construction, he said.

The troupe was invited to perform at the East Main Street church and accepted, meaning a complete transplanting of sets, the light and sound boards, costumes, props and stage setup, he said. They had to rent sound equipment, move and reset lights, and faced more challenges with designing a set for this particular show, he said, “which we want to really highlight the design and the costumes and the coloring, the colors involved in the show and how we're setting the show.”

“We had to bring in a bunch of really expert people to make that happen,” Burk said. “And I think people will be amazed. It's pretty expansive, and it's pretty impressive, actually.”

There also wasn’t room for the pit band that accompanies vocalists, he said. Their current, temporary digs consist of a small stage area inside Batavia City Centre until the theater construction is finished.

“Because the only shows that we do in there … we can have drums and guitars and bass and two pianos, and there's no room for that in our temporary space,” he said. “So the shows that we've done in there, if there is music, have either band recorded music that you purchase, and/or an individual piano. So, this show really requires a fuller pit, plus the choreography and dance numbers are, in our version, are fairly extensive, and they would not have worked in that space.”

That being said, the church performance space has worked out nicely for a breathtaking production that, contrary to what some people may think of biblical prose, is anything but boring, he said.

“It's absolutely gorgeous. And the music is amazing. Absolutely amazing, and it allows a lot of individual moments to shine within the show,” he said. “It's kind of an ensemble cast, which, there's obviously, one big important role. And then there's a bunch of ensemble roles, but they all have lines, they all have solos, they all have songs. It's also a good one to highlight the kids that are in it.”

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"Godspell" takes Burk back — nearly 50 years — to when he was first cast in it at 16. He found it then — as he still does today — to be a “beautiful, beguiling, and bold” over-the-top celebration that was an immediate success amidst a swirl of controversy, he said.

“It certainly was not a traditional telling of biblical parables. What many did not realize at the time was that this musical was not about the life and times of Jesus, it was about how Jesus created this loving and caring

community from a wide array of people,” he said. “Instead of being the universal story of the life of Jesus, it used Jesus as a vessel for the story of how a community is created and how it can include all.”

Ticket information is available at showtix4u.com

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Batavia Players' Summer Youth Theater cast readies for a debut of "Godspell" Thursday evening; Elise Baumer, Crystalina Baumer, Melania DeSa e Frias, Maia Zerillo and Jocelyn Coburn; front row featured actors Deacon Smith, Kai Hoag and Gabriel Burk Flanagan; Matthew Stevens as the lead of Jesus, with Samantha Jane Balbi, who is also the show choreographer; Matthew Stevens and Dorothy Sue Flanagan, the youngest member of the cast. Photos by Howard Owens.

 

 

 

August 11, 2022 - 11:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in WNY STAMP, Charles Schumer, news, notify.
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The pandemic exposed a weakness in the U.S. economy, Sen. Charles Schumer said today while at a car dealership in Genesee County -- not enough computer chips are manufactured in the U.S., leading to a shortage in the semiconductors that help cars, along with phones, computers, and appliances, run.

Currently, only 12 percent of chips are manufactured domestically, according to Schumer, compared to 37 percent in the 1990s.

Many foreign competitors, including China, are investing heavily to dominate the industry, Schumer said. Nearly 75 percent of global semiconductor production is now occurring in East Asia, and foreign government subsidies drive the majority of the cost difference for producing semiconductors overseas and in the U.S.

In response, Schumer, the majority leader in the Senate, introduced the CHIPS and Science Act, which with the president's signature this past week, is now law.

It provides over $50 billion in federal incentives to get more chips made in the U.S.

"We say (in the bill), not only do they have to make the chips here, but they can't make any more of them in China," Schumer said. "That is very, very good for America. We're saying we want to build the future in Batavia, not Beijing, in Syracuse, not Shanghai. So I wrote this legislation with upstate in mind."

Schumer is bullish on WNY STAMP, the 1,250-acre technology park that is now shovel-ready in the Town of Alabama.  He believes that before long, there will be a semiconductor plant at the park.

"Companies are seeing upstate New York is the place to be," Schumer said. "We hope there'll be many more. And we're fighting very hard to get one at STAMP. It is seen as a great opportunity at some of the chip companies -- I'm not allowed to say who -- but they have already visited here a couple of times. The bottom line is that manufacturing chips here in New York has the potential to be our 21st century Erie Canal."

He promised to do everything he can to attract chip manufacturers to upstate New York.

"We have more shovel-ready sites, including the STAMP facility right here in Genesee County than any place in the country," he said. "I'm gonna use my clout as majority leader in making (upstate New York) the center of the country with $5 billion of federal money for all of our semiconductor advanced research and development, which attracts people here. We have a great workforce here. We have great universities here. We have cheap water and cheap electric power, which these chip plants need as well, so you put that all together, and we are ideally suited now that this bill passed."

From a press release, highlights of the legislation:

Specifically, Schumer highlighted that the bill includes:

  • $39 billion for the CHIPS for America Fund to provide federal incentives to build, expand, or modernize domestic facilities and equipment for semiconductor fabrication, assembly, testing, advanced packaging, or research and development to help attract major chip manufacturers to shovel-ready sites like STAMP in Genesee County.  
  • $11 billion for Department of Commerce research and development including creating a National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) a public-private partnership to conduct advanced semiconductor manufacturing, with Albany Nanotech primed to be a top contender to serve as a major hub for the NSTC, and other specialized R&D programs that universities across the state are in a strong position to compete for.
  • $2 billion for the DoD CHIPS for America Defense Fund.
  • $200 million for the CHIPS for America Workforce and Education Fund to kick start the development of the domestic semiconductor workforce, which faces near-term labor shortages, by leveraging activities of the National Science Foundation.
  • A new Investment Tax Credit for semiconductor manufacturing facilities and equipment.

Schumer explained that New York is uniquely suited to take advantage of these federal investments to reassert America’s global technological leadership. New York is currently home to over 80 semiconductor companies that employ over 34,000 NY workers, including global industry leaders like GlobalFoundries, Wolfspeed, onsemi, IBM, and other major microchip and innovation companies that support them like Corning Inc. in Monroe County which just announced a $139M, 270 job expansion in anticipation of this bill. Schumer said investments like these are only the beginning though, and now that his bill has finally become law, the ripple effects from more chip fabs and their supply chains being built in places like Upstate New York will give companies like Baxter and the American economy the stability it needs to avoid shocks like this again in the future. 

August 11, 2022 - 10:57pm
posted by Alecia Kaus in Scribner Road, pembroke, news, notify.

After a weeklong investigation, cracks in the roadway and on the property at 445 Scribner Road in Pembroke are not the result of a sinkhole, according to the Genesee County Director of Emergency Management Tim Yaeger.

Geologists have classified the event as a catastrophic movement of earth.

“Will it keep occurring? We are not sure,” Yaeger said.

Yaeger said the last time they noticed any shift or movement in the ground on Scribner Road was this past Monday and Tuesday. Monitoring equipment will be installed in a well to check water levels in the affected area and a seismograph will be placed to see if the ground is still moving.

On Monday, an excavation crew will arrive and dig up the 70-foot section of the road that is cracked to see if there are any other visual signs of movement. Earlier this week, there were core samples taken from about 30 feet deep with the assistance of Nature’s Way Contracting. Geologists and engineers from Clark Patterson Lee have also been assisting the Town of Pembroke, along with Genesee County and NYS DEC.

The NYS DEC has not completed their report as of yet Yaeger said. They are looking into a nearby quarry that is only one mile from Scribner road and the Nati home, which was condemned on Sunday.

“They were blasting on the other end of the quarry on Mondays and Fridays,” Yaeger said.

A phone meeting on Thursday morning with geologists, the DEC, the quarry operator, the town supervisor, zoning officer, code officer, and the highway supervisor has not uncovered any clues as to what exactly happened last Sunday morning at 6 a.m. when cracks started to appear in the driveway and roadway in front of 445 Scribner.

“We’re not seeing anything definitive of what’s causing the shift of earth,” Yaeger said.

Town Supervisor Tom Schneider said that people are on edge.

On Thursday evening a group of Scribner Road residents attended the regular Pembroke Town Board meeting where Schneider provided an update on the situation.

“We are very concerned about the neighborhood. The town is trying to get a handle on it and some data," he said. "They have developed a plan and there is going to be a lot of work out there on Monday to try and get a look at everything and get a better determination.”

Schneider said the quarry has an incentive zoning agreement with the Town of Pembroke to expand the quarry in the town of Pembroke, however, that will not move forward at this time.

“I will recommend that we put that on hold until we know exactly what happened with certainty," he said. "We are hiring a third-party Geotech firm to review any data collected. “

Scribner Road residents were advised to contact the Town Supervisor or call 911 if they hear strange noises or notice something in their basement. Strange popping noises preceded this past Sunday’s event for four to five days prior.

Gene Nati, whose home was condemned on Sunday, was at the meeting and thanked the Town of Pembroke. His home as of Thursday night was still standing.

“I want to let the board know, the supervisor Tom Schneider, has been phenomenal. For a small town, I absolutely cannot say enough about the effort and time he has put in. Scott Turner, Town Highway Supervisor -- incredible," Nati said. "On Sunday they’re sitting at my house, they’re doing what they gotta do, he has cried with my wife and myself. They have been there through this whole thing.”

Scribner Road will remain closed until next week while experts look at the road more thoroughly.

CLARIFICATION (2:30 p.m., Aug. 12): Town Supervisor Tom Schneider informs us that the house has not been condemned.  It has been tagged "Do Not Occupy" only.  He said:

Our Town engineer did an inspection yesterday, with my Code Enforcement Officer Jim Wolbert, and believes the house should not be condemned at this point.  He will provide a report to the town which will also be provided to Mr. Nati that contains recommendations for stabilizing the structure.  We all feel terrible for the situation that has fallen upon Mr. Nati and his family and is working at the Town level to get any answers we can.  I want to thank Mr. Nati and his neighbors for allowing the Town’s consultants to do what they need to do while investigating this situation.  I’d also like to thank NW Contracting from Alden, NY for getting started on sampling operations as fast as they can.  Brad Beyers with County Line Stone has also been very forthcoming with data requested by the Town’s Engineer and Geologist.   More extensive testing and investigation will begin on Monday; hopefully, we’ll know a lot more about this incident next week. 

 

 

August 11, 2022 - 7:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in pets, animals, crime, batavia, news, notify.

A Batavia woman accused of allowing her dog, Oddey, access to narcotics, leading to emergency veterinarian treatment for overdoses three times, was a no-show in City Court on Thursday afternoon.

Cassandra Elmore may be in the hospital, acording to a friend who called court about four hours before Elmore's case was to be called, but City Court Judge Thomas Burns had no proof that the claim was true, so he issued a warrant for her arrest.

Elmore's court time was at 1:30 p.m., and there were several other cases then as well. Burns finally called her case at 2:40 p.m., and she was not in court. Her friend was informed that the court would require proof of Elmore's admission to a hospital -- a call an email or a fax from the hospital.  The court received no proof of the claim prior to her case being called.

According to police reports, Elmore showed up at veterinarian offices on May 21, May 25, and June 21 with Oddey unconscious.  

Investigators believe Oddey consumed cocaine on two of those occasions and either cocaine or another narcotic on the third.

Elmore, 30, a resident of River Street, Batavia, faces three counts of injuring an animal under New York Ag and Markets Law Section 353.

Previously:

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