Month: December 2020

Smithsonian Institution Will Exhibit the History and Culture of Panama in the U.S.

first_imgBy Dialogo July 17, 2009 PANAMA CITY, 15 July 2009 (AFP) – An exhibition organized by the prestigious Smithsonian Institution, located in Washington, will present the history, culture, and scientific advances of Panama in a score of events that will take place in the United States between October of this year and May 2010. “We have a very simple goal, which is that people in the United States get to know Panama,” said Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, upon announcing the exhibit in a presentation in Panama on Tuesday. “Many people know that there is a canal in Panama, or if they’re salsa fans, they know that Rubén Blades is Panamanian,” but apart from that, “there is very little knowledge of what Panama is and what its geological formation means or its importance for biodiversity,” Díaz explained. The different activities will take place primarily in Washington and New York, but there are also events planned in Panama. The organizers estimate that a least a million people will visit or participate in the various activities planned in the two countries. “Panama at the Smithsonian” will display aspects of the geological and archeological history of the country up through its present biodiversity, by way of Spanish colonization, Caribbean heritage, and the arrival of the railroad and the widening of the Panama Canal. In addition, there will be components related to traditional music like décimas or the importance of the African legacy in percussion rhythms and dances, without forgetting modern music like salsa and jazz and its importance in the present configuration of the country. The organizers emphasized that it will be possible to observe that “the formation of the isthmus began in Panama more than 3.5 million years ago” and that Panama “is the origin of many things that have affected the entire world, like the creation of the ocean currents or (being) a bridge that united two continents.” Díaz acknowledged that “it is always difficult to publicize the scientific part, because people are more interested in movies or music,” for which reason he believes that this is a good opportunity to present the scientific work done in the country. “First the indigenous people, then the Africans arrived, then the Chinese: all these arrivals of different cultures and their influence in Panama are going to be dealt with in this program,” said Eldredge Bermingham, director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, located in Panama, a co-organizer of the exhibit together with the Interoceanic Canal Museum of Panama. U.S. scientists will give talks in Panama on tropical archeology and the history of the naturalists of the isthmus. The Smithsonian Latino Center seeks to ensure that Latino contributions to the arts, sciences, and humanities are highlighted, supporting various programs as part of the activities of the U.S. institution. Díaz also affirmed that a goal is that people in the United States differentiate among Mexicans, Colombians, Cubans, or Panamanians “and understand that they are not the same just because they are Latinos and that each Latin American country is different.” Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico have been the subjects of previous exhibitions, and once the events related to Panama have concluded, Argentina will be the guest of honor in commemoration of the bicentennial of Argentine independence from Spain.last_img read more

US provides relief for floods in Guatemala

first_img The United States said it has requested 50,000 dollars in emergency aid for flood-hit Guatemala and reprogrammed another 4.38 million dollars in economic aid for recovery efforts. “We are very, very concerned about the disaster there,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. The US ambassador in Guatemala City Stephen McFarland at the weekend asked for 50,000 dollars in aid from the US Agency for International Development and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance as a “US initial response,” he said. “We have since reprogrammed 4.38 million dollars in economic support funds to assist Guatemala’s recovery efforts,” Crowley added. He also said the US embassy has freed up helicopters which are normally used to help fight drug trafficking for the purpose of surveillance and rescue missions. “And we’ll continue to look for additional ways to provide support to the people of Guatemala,” he said. In Guatemala, at least 45 people died over the weekend amid the heaviest flooding in recent memory. By Dialogo September 10, 2010last_img read more

Colombia Turning to Rodents in Battle Against Land Mines

first_img Why rats? Turning to rats The National Police plan to eradicate illicit crops and land mines has for more than four years experimented with using rodents ─ in addition to their use of trained dogs ─ to detect anti-personnel mines in various parts of the country. The idea was borne from the APOPO organization’s experience in Tanzania. APOPO researches, develops, and deploys detection rat technology for humanitarian purposes. It is a registered charity in Belgium and is headquartered in Tanzania. APOPO has led demining programs in that African country with enviable results. In fact, Tanzania no longer is listed as having a high number of land mine victims. Top levels of the Colombian police forces and the Ministry of Defense gave free rein to those conducting the experiments using rodents to detect buried mines, mindful of the fact that mine-detecting dogs often activate the mines because of their weight. The rats used are from the species Rattus norvegicus, better known as albino rats, and they are trained in four critical phases. In the first, they try to socialize the rats to humans and other animals, such as dogs and cats. At the same time, the rats are trained to tolerate unusual sounds without scurrying away and hiding. “In the first phase, they primarily try to reduce the animals’ stress levels so that they can interact more calmly with their environment and not be startled by humans or animal species from which they would normally flee,” stated the project’s scientist, Luisa Fernanda Méndez, DVM, in reports provided to Diálogo by the Communications Office for the Colombian National Police. After the animals achieve a high level of sociability in their environment, the training efforts next focus on the rodents’ ability to recognize orders so they can respond to stimuli from the technicians who are in charge of training the animals. This recognition ability is necessary so they can be used without leashes or harnesses. The third phase in training the rodents to detect landmines is exposing them to explosive substances, first in the lab and later in the field. They are trained in 10 meter by 10 meter quadrants in order to prevent the rodents from being easily distracted while they are tracking odors. At first, the trainers build mazes in the lab with corridors and pathways that have different types of smells, but especially the scent of explosive substances. This way, the animal can learn to identify the scents and relate them to an incentive. When they are able to track and identify them with over 90 percent accuracy, the trainers begin the rodents’ field training. In the field, the albino rats, or the rodent demining squad, are trained in areas at measuring at most 10m x 10m, with barriers between the quadrants. This allows the animal to devote its full attention on searching for its object, “the treat”. In the fourth phase, trainers focus on the animals’ diets, ensuring that they are always sated and can concentrate their efforts on searching for the “treat” they receive for detecting the explosives. During this phase, trainers condition the rodents to not be distracted by edible plants or insects so their senses are focused on finding explosive substances. Their reward for finding explosives is a simple sugar pill, which the rats find irresistible. “The key is to develop a strict diet for the animal, so it is always satisfied and is only waiting for the treat. It can then focus on obtaining the treat and will not be distracted by other things that, in the field, it might consider as food, such as worms, flowers and grain,” stated Dr. Méndez’s report. By Dialogo January 11, 2011 Dear Sirs I believe that rats are the most suitable to find the location of landmines, however we count on the U.S. to locate the mines despite the fact it would be one by one and time consuming and we need to develop a method to provide us with a general map of the locations of the mines. This way we can detonate them in sequence as we will gain time and agility in the action. There is in Bogota and Switzerland studies with electromagnetic waves for detonations in series; however I request contact with CCCM AND THE SWEDISH EMBASSY TO EXCHANGE IDEAS. I WILL KEEP SEARCHING AND IF I FIND OUT ANYTHING I WILL WARN THEM; MEANWHILE I CAN ONLY WISH LUCK AND SUCCESS TO YOU. IN CASE OF FURTHER HELP, PLEASE NOTIFY MR. CARLOS DE MORAES Interesting information. Brilliant!!! An animal that can to learn this work. Congratulations to the those who put this into practice!!! They should be praised! center_img Bogotá, D.C., Colombia, – Colombia is second only to Afghanistan in its annual number of land mine victims, according to a recent report by the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor. But Colombian officials are hopeful that a new program that uses rats to detect the deadly hidden weapons will improve those statistics. Colombia recorded 764 land mine victims in 2009, according to the study released on Dec. 10 and sponsored by USAID, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Embassy of Sweden. Although that number dropped by almost 15 percent from 2008, the countryside in many parts of the nation still is dangerous, especially because armed insurgent groups continue to plant mines. “The situation in Colombia remains dire. We still have the second highest number of victims of land mines in the world, only surpassed by Afghanistan. But worst of all are the armed conflict and the use of land mines as weapons of war by insurgent groups,” explained Álvaro Jiménez, director of the Colombian Campaign against Landmines (Campaña Colombiana Contra las Minas – CCCM). International Landmines Monitor and CCCM are especially concerned about mine injuries to civilians employed in the eradication of illicit crops. About 180 of the 2009 victims were working on drug eradication efforts when injured, including 52 who lost their lives. Colombia has taken important steps to eliminate the land mines, according to International Monitor. Authorities have swept and cleared mines from 326,223 square meters out of the nearly 50 square kilometers where mines are believed to have been planted. “Direct research and corroborating information have revealed that land mines are present in 650 municipalities. However, we must point out that the records are not precise with regard to the number of victims. In many parts of Colombia, especially where insurgent groups are active, such cases are not reported because people are afraid of the insurgent groups,” said the director of CCCM. Colombia has also asked to delay the deadline for complete removal of mines by 10 years, and their request to keep 586 mines for military training, pursuant to the provisions of the Ottawa Convention. According to statistics gathered by CCCM, out of the 32 departments in Colombia, only the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina are free of land mines, while the most affected departments are Antioquia, Meta and Caquetá. These figures also indicate that at least 650 of the almost 1,200 municipalities have landmines buried in them. The decisión to employ rodents to detect landmines is largely due to the animals’ low weight, which makes it all but impossible for them to detonate the mines, Colombian police informed Diálogo. The researchers’ experience indicates that the lightest weight that will activate an explosive device is 420 grams (14.8 pounds). Albino rats never reach this weight, and therefore they run the least possible risk in searching, detecting and clearing fields of mines. At least this is what was demonstrated during clearing efforts conducted by Apopo in Tanzania. This allowed them to achieve a significant reduction in the number of victims among the persons involved in deactivating these lethal devices. Colombia’s new demining rodent squad is scheduled to begin operations in the first few months of 2011.last_img read more

Colombia and Panama Reinforce Joint Strategy against Drug Trafficking

first_img At the conclusion of a meeting in Bogotá on March 28, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón and Panamanian Public Safety Minister José Raúl Mulino agreed to reinforce their countries’ joint strategy in the fight against drug trafficking and signed an aerial interdiction agreement. According to an official statement, the agreement “establishes the possibility that in aerial interdiction operations conducted by Panama, Colombian officials may be contributing and collaborating with information they have with regard to aircraft that might be affecting the two countries’ stability.” During their meeting, Ministers Pinzón and Mulino also agreed “to strengthen coordination in the area of intelligence exchange, reason for which it was decided to connect the two Governments’ databases in order to improve performance in the fight against criminal organizations active on both sides of the border,” the statement said. “We have to incorporate those marginalized towns along the border into all our strategies, in order to actively involve them in the productive life of our nations and thereby disconnect any impulse to collaborate with terrorist groups or drug traffickers,” Mulino said. It was also decided at the meeting that the Colombian Army will include officers from the Panamanian National Border Service (SENAFRONT) in its special-operations and infantry courses. For their part, the police will conduct training programs in aviation intelligence and aircraft maintenance for Panamanian officers. Meanwhile, the Colombian Navy will send a group of maritime interdiction experts in July to hold a course for Panamanian units, while the Colombian Air Force will hold a course on aerial intelligence for the Central American country’s authorities in August. “We’ve agreed to provide complete collaboration to the Panamanian government to train its officers in the various public-safety services in each one of the specialties and by each branch of the Armed Forces and the police in Colombia,” Minster Pinzón said in that regard. By Dialogo March 30, 2012last_img read more

U.S. Military Operation Martillo to Reinforce Guatemalan Police

first_img A total of 171 United States Marines will provide support, starting this week, to the Security Forces of Guatemala, in an operation called Martillo, focusing on countering drug trafficking in Central America, reported an official source on Aug. 21. The Guatemalan Defense Minister, Ulises Anzueto, said operations will last two months and will aim to neutralize the drug gangs that smuggle drugs across the Guatemalan Pacific. “‘We try to counteract drug trafficking and provide the restraint needed for their entry into Guatemalan territory, and if they enter, bring them to a place where we can stop or disrupt their activities,” said Anzueto to the internet newspaper, Prensa Libre. The actions will cover six departments of southwestern Guatemala. Operation Martillo is an initiative of the U.S. government to combat drug trafficking, together with Central America and the Caribbean, and so far, it has only been implemented in Honduras. According to Anzueto, the joint operation will involve some two thousand Guatemalan soldiers. The Americans used the South Air Command in Retalhuleu, about 105 miles from the capital as a strategic point, but the Brigade Base Paratroops of Puerto San José (South) of Central Air Command, in the capital, will be added to the Task Force operation of Northwestern San Marcos (southwest), explained Anzueto. The drug traffickers began to use the south coast, especially since the sea is easy access. What they do is unload [the drugs] at sea, and then they use routes to move toward the border of Mexico’, reported the Guatemalan President, Otto Pérez last Monday. The presence of foreign military in Guatemalan territory, under the Constitution, can only be approved by the legislature, which has not happened so far. By Dialogo August 23, 2012last_img read more

New Clubhouse to Promote Military Partnership at Rio 2016 Olympics

first_imgAt the 5th World Military Games held in 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil earned a total of 114 medals in a field featuring 111 nations and 4,000 athletes. At the Pan-American Games in Toronto, Canada, this past June, 123 Brazilian Military athletes earned 67 medals, accounting for 48 percent of the country’s total. “It will be very important to have such a large space in which to learn of other delegations’ participation and exchange information, knowledge, and build friendships, which is fundamental in competition,” said FAB 3rd Sergeant Bruno da Silveira Mendonça, who plays for Brazil’s Field Hockey Team that will compete in Rio. “What is important is fair play among the participants, leaving any rivalries on the field or in the competition arena.” It is important to have a club for Military athletes, one of the Sergeant’s fellow athletes observed. “I think it’s very relevant to have a place where we can meet friends and share our experiences,” said FAB 3rd Sergeant Gideoni Rodrigues Monteiro, who recently became the first Brazilian in 24 years to qualify for the Olympics in Omnium track cycling. “The CISM Club will provide an opportunity to promote Military sports and camaraderie between countries represented in the Olympics and have athletes that come from their Armed Forces,” explained Army Colonel Walter Jander, executive manager of the Brazilian Military Sports Commission. The agreement on the clubhouse facilities was signed at the beginning of February during the continental meeting of CISM of the Americas, which was held in Bávaro, Dominican Republic. Founded in 1948, the CISM, which has 134 member countries, is a transnational organization headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, that promotes sports within the Military. Forty-seven of the 93 athletes scheduled to compete for Brazil in the Olympics are service members participating in PAAR. The Military’s goal is to win 10 medals, which would double the number of medals that Brazilian Armed Forces competitors won at the 2012 London Olympics. The Ministry of Defense has set the goal of having around 100 Military athletes with ties to the Armed Forces (Navy, Army, and Air Force) qualify for the Olympic Games. The participation of service members in international sporting competitions has received official support since 2009, when the Military launched the High-Performance Athletes Program (PAAR, for its Portuguese acronym) – a partnership between the ministries of Defense and of Sports, with the goal of strengthening the Brazilian Military team in high-level athletic events. A meeting place Military pride The CISM Club will highlight the participation of Military athletes in the Olympics, Col. Gagliardi said. “We want to make a link here between winning a medal and the fact that the winners are in the Military, thus validating our contribution to the sports efforts in this country.” During the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio this August, the leaders of Military delegations from 100 participating countries will have the opportunity to socialize and share their experiences at a clubhouse set up for the International Military Sports Council (CISM) on the grounds of the Air Force University (UNIFA) in the neighborhood of Campo dos Afonsos. The PAAR The clubhouse will have a media center for press conferences, meetings, and interviews with Military athletes from throughout the world, where officials will also report on the results of the Military Olympians and give them their awards and medals. Officials will renovate UNIFA’s clubhouse as part of a space “where Military athletes participating in the Olympic Games can get together to socialize, meet their team leaders, and where delegation leaders can view performances by their respective athletes,” stated Colonel Pedro Celso Gagliardi Palermo, vice president of the Air Force Sports Commission. Officials will host guests at the facility a week before the Games begin. “I think that Military athletes will have many chances to win a medal,” Col. Gagliardi said. “I’d bet our strongest chances are in judo, swimming, sailing, and the modern pentathlon, both men’s and women’s.” By Dialogo March 18, 2016 The CISM requests that all Olympic host countries share the cost of setting up the clubhouse facility. Brazilian authorities chose the UNIFA site because it is the closest Military facility to the competition venues. UNIFA, which is a Brazilian Air Force (FAB) training center, has modern facilities for track and field, volleyball, and numerous aquatic sports. last_img read more

Running for Judge? Plan to attend these candidate forums

first_imgRunning for Judge? Plan to attend these candidate forums Running for Judge? Plan to attend these candidate forums May 15, 2006 Regular News Those who may be candidates for the 55 newly created judgeships should also attend the May 18-19 forums Training sessions for people seeking election as judges in 2006 will be held May 18-19 in every circuit with a contested judicial election.Also, those considering running for any of the new 55 judgeships created by the Florida Legislature this year should attend the forums. The qualifying period for those new positions is set for July 17-21. Strict rules govern judicial campaigns and the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Bar Board of Governors jointly sponsor these one-hour “candidate forums” to help judicial candidates understand those rules and the importance of following them. All candidates for judicial office and their campaign managers are strongly encouraged to attend.The forums will emphasize the importance of integrity and professionalism among candidates for judicial office and the consequent impact of campaign conduct on public trust and confidence in the courts.“The courts stand at the heart of the democratic process,” Chief Justice Barbara Pariente said. “In endeavoring to preserve and strengthen our system of government, the judicial branch relies upon many dedicated individuals willing to serve the public good. I ask that you conduct your campaigns in a manner exemplifying this commitment to service and justifying continued public trust and confidence in our judicial system.”Chief judges will open the forums with comments on the nonpartisan nature of judicial races. The session will continue with a videotaped introduction by the chief justice, followed by representatives of the Bar’s Board of Governors, who will discuss the Bar’s role in judicial elections. Members of the court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee will review Canon 7 of Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, distribute or otherwise call attention to informational resources, and further impress upon candidates, campaign staff, and others in the community the seriousness with which the Supreme Court views any abuse of the election process.“The Florida Supreme Court has adopted rules that govern judicial elections and prohibit conduct that is detrimental to public confidence in the system,” Chief Justice Pariente said. “Together with the Judicial Qualifications Commission and The Florida Bar, we have vigorously enforced these rules and will continue to do so.”An online version of the Canon 7 booklet may be accessed on the Supreme Court’s Web site at, first clicking “Decisions & Rules,” then, under “Other Supreme Court Documents,” selecting the link to the Code of Judicial Conduct and clicking “Canon 7.”Though preliminarily scheduled in all circuits, the following forums — all beginning at 1 p.m. — will go forward only in those circuits in which qualifying results in contested judicial elections­: • First Circuit — Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties­­ — Friday, May 19, M.C. Blanchard Building ­Courtroom 101­190, Governmental Center­, Pensacola­. • Second Circuit — Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla counties — Friday, May 19, Leon County Courthouse ­Commission Chambers­, 301 South Monroe St., ­Tallahassee­. • Third Circuit — Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor counties — Thursday, May 18, Suwannee County Courthouse, ­First Floor, Courtroom B­200, South Ohio Ave., ­Live Oak.­ • Fourth Circuit — Clay, Duval, and Nassau counties — Friday, May 19­, Duval County Courthouse­, Courtroom 4­330, East Bay St., ­Jacksonville­. • Fifth Circuit — Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties —Thursday, May 18, Marion County Judicial Center, ­Fifth Floor Conference Room­110, N.W. First Ave., ­Ocala.­ • Sixth Circuit — Pasco and Pinellas counties — Thursday, May 18, Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center­, Fourth Floor, Courtroom 1­14250, 49th St., North ­Clearwater­. • Seventh Circuit — Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, and Volusia counties — Friday, May 19­, Volusia County Courthouse Annex,­ Courtroom 10­, 125 E. Orange Ave., Daytona Beach.­ • Eighth Circuit — Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties — Thursday, May 18, Alachua Criminal Justice Center, ­Jury Assembly Room­ 220, S. Main St., ­Gainesville.­ • Ninth Circuit — Orange and Osceola counties, Thursday, May 18, Orange County Courthouse, ­23rd Floor, Judicial Conference Room, ­425 North Orange Ave., Orlando­. • 10th Circuit — Hardee, Highlands, and Polk counties, Friday, May 19­, Polk County Courthouse, ­Ninth Floor Judicial Conference Room­ 255, North Broadway, Bartow­. • 11th Circuit — Miami-Dade County —­Thursday, May 18­, Dade County Courthouse, Courtroom 4-2­73, W. Flagler St., Miami. • 12th Circuit ­ — DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties — Thursday, May 18, Sarasota Judicial Center, ­Room 810­202, Ringling Blvd., ­Sarasota.­ • 13th Circuit — Hillsborough County­ — Friday, May 19, George Edgecomb County Courthouse, ­Sixth Floor Judicial Conference Room, 800 E. Twiggs­, Tampa.­ • 14th Circuit — Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties — Thursday, May 18, Bay County Courthouse, ­Jury Assembly Room, 202­300 E. Fourth St., ­Panama City. • 15th Circuit­ — Palm Beach County —­ Thursday, May 18­, Palm Beach County Courthouse, ­Judicial Dining Room, ­205 North Dixie Highway­, West Palm Beach.­ • 16th Circuit — Monroe County, Friday, May 19, Monroe County Courthouse Annex, ­Fourth Floor Grand Jury Room­, 502 Whitehead St., ­Key West.­ • 17th Circuit — Broward County — Thursday, May 18, Broward County Courthouse, ­Courtroom 400­, 201 S.E. Sixth St., ­Ft. Lauderdale. • 18th Circuit­ — Brevard and Seminole counties­, Friday, May 19, Historic Titusville Courthouse, ­Courtroom 6­506, South Palm Ave., ­Titusville. • 19th Circuit­ — Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties — Friday, May 19­, St. Lucie West Annex­ Courtroom M­, 250 N.W. Country Club Drive, ­Port St. Lucie.­ • 20th Circuit — Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties­ — Friday, May 19, Lee County Justice Center­Courtroom C­, 1700 Monroe St.­, Ft. Myers­.Questions regarding the upcoming forums may be directed to Cal Goodlett, Office of the State Courts Administrator, at (850) 922-0350 or, via e-mail, at read more

Cops: Plumber Stole Jewelry, Cash from Great Neck Home

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Raymond Gonzalez of Ozone Park was arrested Friday for allegedly stealing a jewelry box from a Great Neck house where he was working earlier in the week.A plumber is accused of stealing jewelry and cash from a Great Neck home where he was working earlier this week.Nassau County police arrested 35-year-old Raymond Gonzalez of Queens on Friday and charged him with grand larceny.Police said Gonzalez, employed by Great Neck-based Thomas Curley Plumbing Company, was working on a Ridge Drive East home on Monday when he allegedly stole a jewelry box from the master bedroom, which contained jewelry and cash.Police learned that Gonzalez was working at the home Monday afternoon and then arrested him Friday at his employer’s office, authorities said.Gonzalez is scheduled to be arraigned Saturday at First District Court in Hempstead.last_img read more

Suffolk County Transit Bus Supporters Intensify Calls for Increased Funding, Service

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Riders and supporters of Suffolk County Transit Bus got on board the S40 bus Monday in Hauppauge to deliver 1,500 signed petitions to state Sen. Phil Boyle’s office in Bay Shore as part of an organized campaign to fix the state’s inadequate funding of the county’s bus system.Without more aid from Albany, Suffolk County Transit Bus will continue to suffer from an unfair balance of public support in our region. Last year, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Suffolk County contributed more than 50 percent of its transit system’s $57 million operating budget, while New York State ponied up only 35 percent. Nassau County coughed up only 2 percent to Nassau Inter-County Express’ $113 million operating budget while the state covered more than 50 percent.Granted, the counties’ daily ridership varies significantly: The average weekday ridership for Suffolk is 22,000 riders and 100,000 passengers for Nassau. On the other hand, weekday bus service in Suffolk ends at 7 p.m., while some Nassau routes are 24/7 and others end around 1 a.m.Last year, Suffolk County Transit Bus was able to increase Sunday service along 10 routes because it had received an additional $2 million from the state and the federal government. This year, Suffolk County was hoping for a $10 million increase in the 2014 state budget to expand service significantly but only got $500,000 more, which barely covers inflation, advocates claim.In a March 10, 2014 letter addressed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone wrote: “Other suburban counties such as Nassau and Westchester receive up to five times the amount of state funds that Suffolk County receives.”“Suffolk County has done a decent job of supporting its bus system and has shown that if given additional resources they will expand service,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit policy organization dedicated to reducing car dependency in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “Suffolk County’s New York State elected officials need to do more to support the millions of riders and businesses who depend on the reliability of the system.”“The formula that drives state aid of suburban counties’ public bus systems must be updated,” said State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) in a press statement. “My constituents in Suffolk County aren’t looking for a free ride, we’re just advocating for our fair share.”Students and riders were among the Suffolk County Transit Bus advocates who turned out May 12, 2014 in support of increased funding and expanded service.Meanwhile, attempts to expand service are showing signs of success, advocates point out. Through the end of March, Sunday ridership had grown by 97 percent. In fact, the S40 that participants boarded to Bay Shore saw a 56-percent increase in Sunday ridership from January through March.The petition drive started three weeks ago. The advocates’ group intends to drop the petitions off at the offices of each of Suffolk County’s elected state officials in the hopes that these representatives will climb on board and find more funds to support the county’s bus service.“After collecting hundreds of petition signatures from students at SUNY Stony Brook, it is clear that students need more SCT bus service” said New York Public Interest Research Group’s regional supervisor, Jaqi Cohen. “Stony Brook students are taking the S60, S69, and 3D routes that allow them to travel off campus to places like Port Jefferson and the Smith Haven Mall. Hundreds of students have signed our petition calling on our state elected officials to improve these vital services. We want them to heed their call for more SCT bus services.”“I represent many riders in Suffolk County that depend on the bus to get to and from work, specifically those who work at the Riverhead Tanger Outlets and the newly built Walmart Supercenter,” said Octavia Clarkson, a bus commuter. “Many of these workers, including my two siblings, do not work the typical Monday to Friday, nine-to-five work schedule and deserve to have transportation once their shift is over or at the close of business. I know that there is much more that can be done to extend this bus service into the evenings as well as increase Sunday service to more than 10 local routes.”“Lack of adequate bus services should not be a reason for students, working people or professionals to be limited in accessing life opportunities,” said Dawn Wing, a librarian at Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus. “Frequent bus breakdowns, insufficient emergency bus back-ups, lack of evening hour services make it difficult for Suffolk Community College students to attend classes and for faculty, such as myself, to work overtime. Enhancing bus services would benefit all Suffolk community members, not just current bus riders.“To invest in public transportation is to invest in the prosperity of Long Island,” she added.last_img read more