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A repository of random thoughts, odds and ends, and not-quite-fully-formed ideas.

Archive for November, 2006

No modesty here


Seen today on the back of a silver Range Rover.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, November 30th, 2006 at 1:53 pm |
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Do you know enough to be an American?


Immigrants who want to become American citizens will soon be taking a new naturalization exam. It’s supposed to focus on the concepts of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. A pilot test of 144 questions was released “today”:http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=dcf5e1df53b2f010VgnVCM1000000ecd190aRCRD and some of my colleagues and I tried it. And we missed some. Here are a few of the questions:

Question 9. How many amendments does the Constutition have?

Question 22. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?

Question 55. What does it mean that the U.S. Constitution is a constitution of limited powers?

Question 66. What is the current minimum wage?

Question 91. There are 13 original states. Name three. (Or to make it tougher, name all 13)

Question 100. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers.

Question 132. What is the tallest mountain the United States?

The answers are on the website of “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.”::http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=dcf5e1df53b2f010VgnVCM1000000ecd190aRCRD Or check back here tomorrow.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, November 30th, 2006 at 1:50 pm |
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The face of AIDS


Westchester County still has more people with AIDS and HIV than any other county in New York state outside of New York City.

There are about 2,500 people living with AIDS and another 2,500 infected with HIV, according to the county’s Health Department. About a quarter of those with HIV are thought not to know it, said the health commissioner, Joshua Lipsman.

World AIDS Day is Friday and 25 years after the epidemic began, here’s a snapshot of the disease in the county.

More women have become infected — 50 percent of those with HIV are female.

African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected. Fifty percent of those with the HIV are black, 20 to 25 percent are Hispanic.

Of those with HIV, 30 percent got the virus through heterosexual sex, another 30 percent by sharing needles. Infection among men who have had sex with men has dropped to 17 percent.

And here are the communities that have the highest rates: Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Ossining and White Plains

On Friday, there are events planned throughout the county. Plus, the Health Department is planning a conference that will look at issues surrounding AIDS testing for Dec. 13 at the Maryknoll Center in Ossining.

The Journal News will be covering many of the events and spending time with people with HIV and AIDS. Look for the stories on Saturday.

UPDATE: Westchester’s Health Department updated its numbers on Thursday. Here are the revised figures.

People reported to be living with AIDS: 2,257

People reported to be living with HIV: 949

Total reported to be living with AIDS and HIV: 3,206

Another 1,069 people are thought to have HIV and not know it, for a total of 4,275 people living with AIDS and HIV.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 at 1:42 pm |
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Who needs the real thing?


If Thanksgiving was too much family togetherness for you, what about a virtual family dinner instead?

Think of all the benefits. No need to travel. No irritating relatives. Plenty of room at the table. And when the arguments begin, just turn off the camera.

Seriously, a prototype for a virtual dinner is being developed by researchers at Accenture Technology Labs in Chicago as part of its Online Health Services. The aim though is to overcome the isolation of older relatives who live alone, not to shut out the relatives you don’t like.

Here’s how it works: Ceiling-mounted cameras act as sensors that track the cook as he or she prepares dinner. Once the dishes are on the table, a screen pops up at the end. (It’s transparent when it’s not in use.) A computer application runs through a directory of friends and relatives to find out who’s available for dinner and their image is projected onto the screen. And your older relative has someone to talk to during dinner.

Virtually, anyway.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, November 28th, 2006 at 1:44 pm |
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Where’s Scotty?


A clever license plate on a black BMW on the Bronx River Parkway: “BMRMEUP”

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, November 28th, 2006 at 12:03 pm |
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Happy, happy, merry, merry


Around this time last year, I got a call from a woman upset about an ad in The Journal News. It referred to holiday shopping.

Why doesn’t it say Christmas shopping? she demanded to know.

Maybe to draw in some Hanukkah shoppers, I suggested. I tried to explain that it wasn’t really my place to dictate to shopkeepers how they should advertise.

She was too angry to listen and hung up. Not in the spirit of the holiday, I thought.

Well, Christmas is approaching, and the fuss about Christmas greetings has started again. And once again a lot of it is not in the spirit of the holiday.

I’m glad that a woman at St. Boniface Church in Wesley Hills is passing out buttons reading “It’s OK to Say Merry Christmas to Me,” as my colleague James Walsh wrote in an article in “The Journal News”:http://www.lohud.com today. And I hope the wearers hear Merry Christmas often.

But why are some people so hostile about the topic? Why would you want to say Merry Christmas to someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday? What could be the point of that?

Yes, some people try so hard not to offend anyone that they become ridiculous. That’s why the term politically correct has such derogatory connotations.

I’m also sure some people don’t mind Christmas greetings even if they aren’t Christian. Maybe they even like Christmas carols.

And yes, I’m sure Happy Holidays often sounds insipid. Sometimes I’m not even sure which holidays I’m referring to.

But I think I’ll stick with it anyway. In the spirit of the season, I’d rather not shove Christmas down someone’s throat.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, November 27th, 2006 at 3:45 pm |


How fast can you go?


How fast can you drive without hitting something? What about in the snow and ice? Do you spin out?

You can give your driving skills a try tomorrow afternoon in Tarrytown on Westchester County’s driving simulator. Especially if you’re a teenager.

The county is sponsoring a fair for teenage drivers, designed to demonstrate how to drive safely. One of the attractions will be the county’s simulator.

I tried it last week to see how well I kept on the road when faced with a number of distractions. The cell phone and crying baby got the better of me. I crashed three times.

Teenagers, for every mile they drive, are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers. The risk increases with every additional passenger.

So have a go at it. The fair takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Marriot Hotel on Route 119.
Parents, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement personnel and health-care professionals are also invited.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, November 27th, 2006 at 10:56 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Muslim women meet


Muslim women gathered in New York City over the weekend with an agenda of ways to advance their rights.

Here are some of their ideas:

— Create an international shura or advisory council to put out recommendations to political and religious leaders on issues of concern to Muslim women.
— Establish an endowment to provide 10 scholarships for Muslim women to become muftias, licensed to render religious judgments or fatawa.

Approximately 100 women from the worlds of academia, politics, art and religion attended the meeting, called Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity.

There’s more information on the web site of the “ASMA Society,”:www.asmasociety.org an Islamic cultural and educational organization founded in New York City.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, November 20th, 2006 at 2:03 pm |
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Stressed out?


Why do Americans feel so stressed?

Here are the answers given in a survey released today by the “National Mental Health Association,”:www.nmha.org now called Mental Health America.

At the top of the list? Finances. Forty-eight percent cite money as a cause.

Next, health. Thirty-four percent. (Of course the worry doesn’t help.)

Third. Employment, either on-the-job problems if you’ve got one or lack of work if you don’t.

Forty percent of parents say they are frazzled and point to family relationships, work or finances.

Among various ethnic groups, Latinos are the most likely to single out employment. For Native and African Americans, it’s finances.
And people with mental illnesses are more likely to feel stressed than those without.

What helps? A college degree. Americans with a college degree are less stressed overall.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, November 16th, 2006 at 4:52 pm |


The Nuremberg trials


Even at the Nuremberg war crimes trials there were lighter moments.

After Richard Sonnenfeldt was named the chief interpreter, one of his jobs was to hire others to translate.

But there was a catch: The State Department in Washington, D.C., was in charge of finding potential interpreters. And according to Sonnenfeldt, it did a bad job.

Just how bad was captured in this memo, sent from an officer in his division:

“The present procedure is for civilians to be sent to Miss Galvin (Colonel Amen’s secretary), who sends them to Lt. Col. Hinkel (Colonel Amen’s deputy), who refers them to Col. Williams (division operations officer), who refers them to Sonnenfeldt (chief interpreter), who, because of their lack of qualifications, usually declares them surplus and returns them to Miss Galvin.”

I wrote about Sonnenfeldt and his new book, “Witness to Nuremberg.” You can also hear him interviewed earlier this month on “The Leonard Lopate Show” on “WNYC.”:http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2006/11/09

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, November 15th, 2006 at 5:06 pm |

About the author
Noreen O'DonnellNoreen O'Donnell For the last 20 years, Noreen O'Donnell has written about Hillary Clinton's run for the Senate, rebuilding Ground Zero, the Korean immigrants who travel north each day from Queens to work in nail salons, deadly runaway fire trucks and other stories in Westchester and Putnam counties. Now she's a columnist.

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