• The New Wave: Surge Of Women Running For Office

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The midterm congressional primaries are kicking into full gear and there is a tidal wave of female candidates running for office this year.

    Although filing deadlines have yet to pass in every state, the country is already seeing a record number of women running for Congress. Many women are also on the ground in gubernatorial races, as well as some state legislative and municipal elections.

    “We’re looking at close to double the number of women who ran in previous record years,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers. “When we look at the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and statewide elected offices we’re at over 700 women who are running for office. We’re really seeing a huge increase in the U.S. House.”

    Many believe the 2016 presidential election is responsible for inspiring women to run.

    “So many people got engaged in that election whether they were pro-Trump or pro-Hillary and they got off the sidelines and started volunteering and talking about politics,” said Mendham Township Committeewoman  Amalia Duarte. “I think right now it’s wonderful because women need to be represented, we need to be at the table otherwise we’re on the menu, or so goes the quote. I’m hoping that women continue to be engaged, continue to run and continue to stay involved in politics because it’s important. These are our lives.”

    Walsh credits President Donald Trump.

    “I think a piece of it was the defeat of Hillary Clinton, I think a larger part of that though is the election of Donald Trump,” Walsh said. “I think for a lot of women they thought that when the Access Hollywood tape came out that he couldn’t possibly win, that it would be disqualifying for anyone to get elected president of the United States who openly talked about sexually assaulting women.”

    Montclair State University Political Science and Law Professor Brigid Harrison agrees.

    “We can’t deny the influence that President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has had,” Harrison said. “It has really ticked some women off and really made them mobilized and compelled to do something on a very personal level.”

    But Walsh thinks it goes beyond sexism.

    “I think it went also to the actual policies that women care about and feeling like some of the things that they were concerned about — issues like health care and the environment — were really in jeopardy and that they needed to have a voice of their own,” Walsh said. “It was a real kind of clarion call about the fact that elections have real consquences and that women really felt that they had to find a way to have their own power, their own voice and to be able to exercise their power in the electoral system and I think all of that has led to women being more engaged.”

    Roughly three-quarters of the congressional female candidates are Democrats.

    “There needs to be more done on the Republican side because political parity will not be achieved in this country on the back of one political party, both parties have to have a commitment to that,” Walsh said.

    But it’s not just Democrats.

    “On the Republican side, you are seeing some Republican women saying, ‘You know what, this is not my party. This is not what I believe in. I’m not a Democrat but this does not represent how I see the future of my party and so I’m going to do something abnout it,'” Harrison said.

    Republican Chele Chiavacci Farley, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, said she’s been traveling the state and speaking to people told her they’re appalled and disappointed at the general chaos they see in Washington.

    “There’s obstruction on both sides of the aisle and they’ve lost faith in their government leaders,” Farley said.

    Over the coming weeks, WCBS Newsradio 880 will examine the challenges women have faced, what it will take to achieve parity and how the political landscape is changing.


    Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880 reporter Peter Haskell’s video series The New Wave: Women in Politics. See the first installment here.





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  • City Council Staffers Get Naloxone Training As Protesters Demand Safe Injection Sites

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — City Council staffers were trained on how to prevent opioid overdose deaths as protesters staged an act of civil disobedience to get Mayor Bill de Blasio to act on so-called safe injection sites.

    City Councilwoman Diana Ayala, who represents the South Bronx, organized the training session, hoping staffers would take the information out into the community.

    “It’s a very personal subject matter for me as the family member of several individuals who are drug addicted and who have come close to overdosing,” Ayala said.

    Staffers received training and naloxone kits from Reilly Glasgow with the Alliance for Positive Change who has saved over 50 lives using Narcan at the East Side Harm Reduction Center.

    “I say this in joking but I’m jaded, this is something that you do all the time, you don’t even think about it. You just hope you’re not too late,” Glasgow said.

    As the training was held on the 16th floor at 250 Broadway, on street level more than a dozen people, including Brooklyn City Councilman Steven Levine, were arrested for sitting in a crosswalk, blocking traffic near City Hall.

    They are demanding that de Blasio release the results of a City Hall-commissioned study on so called “safe consumption sites” where users are monitored.

    “Nobody has ever died of an overdose in a single one of them, you know, we can’t really understand what’s complicated about the best public health intervention for saving lives,” said  melissa more is with the drug policy alliance.

    “The mayor’s basically saying that it’s complicated, he wants to have everything in a row before he releases the report but while he’s doing that people are still dying,” said Hiawatha Collins with the Harm Reduction Coalition. “At the end of the day it’s not about politics, it’s not about where people are going in their position and elevating themselves, it’s about saving lives.”

    Canada and Europe have long had monitored injection sites. There are none in the United States.


    Neil A. Carousso produced Marla Diamond’s report for WCBS Newsradio 880.

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  • Young People with Autism Get To Be WCBS 880 Reporters For A Day

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — As part of Autism Awareness Month, and in partnership with Koeppel Auto Group, WCBS Newsradio 880 presented a program on news and weather reporting for a class of autistic young people from the Quality Services for the Autism Community Day Habilitation program.

    The young people came to the showroom of Koeppel Ford in Woodside, Queens to hear from WCBS 880 Reporter Marla Diamond and Chief Meteorologist Craig Allen.

    Diamond explained how she works as a reporter – including her early alarm clock, her computer skills, how she works out of her vehicle, and how she travels the city covering all kinds of interesting stories.

    She demonstrated how she uses as microphone, digital recorder and audio editing software on her laptop. She recorded QSAC visitors reading news scripts and weather forecasts.

    WCBS Newsradio 880 Director of News and Programming Tim Scheld, Reporter Marla Diamond and Chief Meteorologist Craig Allen talk with motivated QSAC students. (Neil A. Carousso/WCBS 880)

    The QSAC young people also got a lesson in weather from Allen, a veteran of both radio and TV. He also brought tools of his trade — including a barometer, a lightning detector, and something that created a tornado effect in a glass tube.

    The session concluded with questions and answers from the young people about everything from covering snow storms to what makes a good news story.

    “So when we talked to the guys who came today about this potential opportunity, they were incredibly excited to meet people in the community who they see as absolute superstars, and they really were excited to learn about what you guys do, and to be in a place with fancy cars, with everybody giving them tons of attention, so they’re really excited to be a part of this today,” said QSAC Senior Director of Day Services Lauren Maldonado.

    WCBS Newsradio 880 Chief Meteorologist Craig Allen shows QSAC students the tools of his trade. (Neil A. Carousso/WCBS 880)

    QSAC President and Chief Operating Officer Cory Polshansky said many in the program are making leaps and bounds toward independence. He mentioned one young man who has been with the program since he was a teenager.

    “Now it’s 15 years later, and he’s grown into a young adult, and he’s developing the skills and hopes to one day live in his own apartment. And that’s what he’s been talking about for a couple of years, and he’s working at it, and in a couple years, he’ll probably be ready to live independently with some supports from QSAC,” Polshansky said.

    A QSAC Student reads a weather forecast with WCBS Newsradio 880 Reporter Marla Diamond and Chief Meteorologist Craig Allen. (Neil A. Carousso/WCBS 880)

    The session was held at the Koeppel showroom in Queens as part of the auto group’s strong support of the QSAC organization.

    “We would like to give back what we get. I mean, it’s kind of selfish to keep getting and not giving back,” Koeppel said.


    Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880’s digital content at QSAC’s Day of Habilitation program at Koeppel Auto Group on Friday, April 13, 2018. 

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  • After 100 Days In Office, Westchester County Executive Says Budget Is Top Concern

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — George Latimer is marking 100 days in office as Westchester County Executive.

    The Democrat was elected last fall, unseating two-time popular incumbent Republican Rob Astorino. Latimer is a lifetime Westchester resident — born in Mount Vernon, a product of public schools, and a graduate of Fordham in the Bronx. He was a marketing executive for two decades before jumping into politics. He has served in various roles in city, county and state government along the way, and he has never lost an election.

    He ran for county executive on promises to hold the line on taxes, fight to preserve the environment, build up urban centers, increase opportunities for minorities and women in business, and increase investment in mental health and fight the opioid crisis.

    During an appearance Wednesday morning on WCBS Newsradio 880, Latimer told Wayne Cabot and Paul Murnane that the budget is a top concern.

    A full audit is underway, but an early look shows the county has a budget gap that will likely grow.

    “The state comptroller came in to the fiscal review, identified that some revenues were overestimated — sales tax, state aide. And we know already that we have a major union contract that’s gone seven years unresolved and that’s accumulating a pretty hefty prospective charge if we’re able to close it off,” Latimer said.

    The county executive said he’ll try to encourage villages to share some services as a way to cut costs.

    “What we have to do at the county level is try to give them incentives to combine or work with the county on the delivery of services,” Latimer said. “We’re obviously concerned about how can identify shared services, ways of restructuring how we deliver shared services — police, sanitation — things that we’ve come to understand can be done by every local municipality but now we have to look at doing them in some combination of delivery.”

    A caller also expressed concerns about what will happen to the communities that stand to lose revenue when the Indian Point Nuclear Plant closes in the coming years.

    Latimer said the goal is to repurpose the land that the plant sits on.

    “Part of it is going to always remain to house the spent fuel rods but the rest of the land sits on the Hudson and if it can be repurposed productively, and that’s open-ended. That’s a question economic development and how we incentivize that,” Latimer said.

    He favors creating an enterprise zone “where we can give some special tax discounts that would allow us to bring something else into that land.”

    “I don’t know that you’re going to get the same economic boon that you had with Indian Point but I think we can help offset it until the economy restructures itself in that area,” Latimer said.

    The county executive also addressed a question from a caller who asked why a new Westchester County police commissioner has yet to be appointed.

    “We haven’t found the right person yet,” Latimer said. “Public safety is an important position and we want to make sure we make the right decision. We’re not into hiring and firing and rehiring.”

    Another caller asked Latimer about lighting on the Bronx River Parkway.

    “All the lights on the parkway work in the Bronx section but none of them seem to work on the Westchester side,” the caller said.

    The issue comes down to money. The project has to be funded through the capital budget.

    “Everybody says,. ‘Well let’s keep our taxes low, don’t spend anymore money, don’t raise my taxces,’ but there are capital needs,” Latimer said.

    The county executive doewsn’t sound optimistic this will happen anytime soon.

    “I hope by the time I say goodbye in this position both he and I will be able to drive the Bronx River fully lit,” Latimer said.


    Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880’s live-to-tape interview on the WCBS Opening Bell Report on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. 

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  • A Look Back at Steve Scott’s Interviews With James Earl Ray, The Man Who Pleaded Guilty To Killing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — James Earl Ray pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in prison in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which happened 50 years ago Wednesday.

    But until his death at the age of 70 in 1998, Ray maintained that the guilty plea notwithstanding, he was not the one who killed Dr. King.

    WCBS 880’s Steve Scott interviewed Ray several times – including two radio interviews in the prison where Ray was serving his sentence, first in 1992 and again shortly before Ray died in 1998.

    Ray was a footnote in the grand scheme of history, Scott noted. But in 1992, Ray published a book, “Who Killed Martin Luther King? The True Story by the Alleged Assassin.” Upon seeing the book, Scott thought Ray might be an interesting person to talk to.

    Scott went through Ray’s publisher to get in contact with him, and not long afterward, Ray called him at home.

    “I was taking a nap one day, and got a collect call from a maximum security prison in Nashville, Tennessee, and there was James Earl Ray on the other end of the phone,” Scott said. “And I interviewed him, and then I asked him, I said, ‘Hey listen, if I can get myself down to Nashville, would you be willing to sit down in a room with me and record a radio interview face-to-face talking about the King assassination?’”

    Scott said Ray responded, “Well, you know, they don’t like me a whole lot,” but said Scott could ask prison authorities. The prison authorities in turn said there were no rules against an interview, so Scott could come down to talk to Ray if he so desired.

    So Scott, who was working in Chicago at the time, headed to Nashville and met with Ray at the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville in 1992. Ray laughed as Scott played him a clip of CBS News’ Walter Cronkite from the night Dr. King was assassinated.

    “Dr. Martin Luther King, the apostle of nonviolence in the civil rights movement, has been shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee. Police have issued an all-points bulletin for a well-dressed young white man seen running from the scene,” Cronkite said in the clip.

    Ray said: “Well-dressed? That couldn’t have been me.”

    Ray had been a fugitive from a Missouri prison at the time of the King assassination. He had a long criminal record that included armed robbery, burglary, forgery and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, CBS News reported.

    Speaking to Scott, Ray said he was a low-level crook who ran guns over the Canadian and Mexican borders. He said he was duped into being in Memphis when Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968.

    Ray fled the city shortly after the shooting and was captured in London two months afterward, CBS News recalled. He signed a confession with a detailed description of how investigators claimed the crime happened, and went on to plead guilty, CBS News recalled.

    CBS News reported the prosecutor in the case, Phil M. Canale Jr., maintained there was no evidence of a conspiracy in the King assassination. Canale did not outline a motive for the killing, nor did he accuse Ray, who was white, of being racist, CBS News reported.

    Ray tried to withdraw the guilty plea three days after issuing it even though he had told the judge he understood the plea could not be appealed, CBS News reported. He claimed at the time that he was set up by a shadowy gun dealer he had met in Montreal and whom he knew only as Raoul, and said he himself was changing a tire at the time King was killed, CBS News reported.

    Authorities never found a connection between the man identified as Raoul and the slaying, and several courts said there was never evidence of anyone else’s involvement, CBS News reported.

    Ray told Scott in the 1992 interview that he was not involved in any way with the King assassination, and he said he pleaded guilty out of concern that his brother and father – the latter also a prison escapee who had been on the lam for more than four decades – might also face charges otherwise.

    Scott: “James, I’ll ask you again, did you kill Martin Luther King?”

    Ray: “No, I had nothing to do with the shooting of Martin Luther King, and I had no advance knowledge of it. But having said that, I had been, you know, committing criminal offenses. But I wouldn’t have got no 99 years for what I was doing.”

    Scott: “You confessed to the King murder.”

    Ray: “Yes… I didn’t really confess to it. I entered a guilty plea. There’s a difference between, you know, a confession and a guilty plea.”

    Scott: “But why plead guilty to one of the most notorious murders of the 20th century if you didn’t do it?

    Ray: “If I didn’t enter a guilty plea, they might charge my brother Jerry Ray for as a conspirator in the Martin Luther King murder.”

    Scott: “Who had nothing to do with it?”

    Ray: “He was working. They knew he was working at the time. He was working in Chicago at the time, six days a week. They also said they might arrest my father, and my father, he’d escaped from prison in 1925, and he’d been a fugitive ever since. So apparently, the Justice Department found out about it, and they told my attorney, Percy Foreman, and he came and told me that if I didn’t enter a guilty plea, that you know, they might put him back in jail. And so I agreed to enter a guilty plea on those conditions.”

    In the interview, Ray suggested that the FBI was behind the King assassination, because then-Director J. Edgar Hoover was terrified of King’s influence over black America.

    Ray also reminded Scott that he was a prison escapee himself in 1968, and said, “What better way to stay under the radar than to kill Martin Luther King?”

    The U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1978 that Ray was the man who killed Dr. King. But the committee concluded that a group of racial bigots in St. Louis – with a reported $50,000 bounty on King’s head, might have been involved too, CBS News reported in 1998.

    As to whether he believes Ray was King’s assassination, Scott said: “He maintained until the day he died that he didn’t do it. Do I believe him? I’m not a big conspiracy guy. I’m really not. But there is a lot of compelling evidence – and the King family buys into this as well – that points, perhaps, to the fact that James Earl Ray at least did not act alone or didn’t do it at all. But you know what? If you give me 99 years in prison, I’m going to come up with some pretty good stories too. So the bottom line – I just don’t know.”


    Neil A. Carousso produced and edited the backstory video with WCBS Newsradio 880 afternoon anchor Steve Scott.

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