Thursday, December 15, 2011

From Death Row to Freedom: One Man’s Exoneration by DNA Evidence

Kirk Bloodsworth  photo/The Thoma
By Rob Garilli
Standing in front of more than 160 people assembled in the Romano Center at St. Thomas Aquinas College, a crowd that included visitors from Dominican College and STAC’s West Point campus, former Lance Corporal Kirk Bloodsworth of the US Marine Corps adjusted his tie. Its familiar print of a double helix pattern carried significant meaning, as he was preparing to explain to his audience the importance of DNA and how DNA testing had saved his life. Brought to STAC by Student Activities, Campus Safety, and the Social Sciences Department, he had a number of lessons to teach both criminal justice students and, more generally, American citizens.

On August 9, 1984, Bloodsworth was arrested for first degree murder after nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton was found dead in the woods near the Fontana Village Apartments in Essex, MD. Bloodsworth’s story highlights the problems of relying on subjective evidence such as eyewitness descriptions and composite sketches of suspects, as well as personality profiles of criminals created to supplement police investigation.

When the two main eyewitnesses in the Dawn Hamilton case, two boys aged eight and ten, described the killer as being over six feet tall with curly blonde hair, a bushy mustache, tan skin and thin stature, the pale and red-haired Bloodsworth was confused as to his arrest. However, local police were only too happy to find a killer in the tragic case of a murdered child, despite the fact that they were bypassing other potential suspects and charging a Marine with no prior criminal record. When placed in a lineup, Bloodsworth wasn’t even the suspect chosen by the two boys – but they called two weeks later to change their original decision and say that Bloodsworth was definitely the killer.

The final nail in Bloodsworth’s coffin came when a neighbor saw a reproduction of the composite sketch on the nightly news and called police to report that the image was definitely that of the man who lived next door. As a result of a flawed investigation system, he was placed on death row and sent to a prison cell to await the end of his life.
The horrors of death row, which Bloodsworth described, would be terrifying to anyone subjected to them. The audience, though, could only imagine how insufferable they would be for an innocent man. He was kept in a cell that was only three steps across and as wide as his armspan, the place where a prison guard had been disemboweled by an inmate two weeks prior to Bloodsworth’s arrival. “On the first night,” he said, “I crawled under my bed and wept in silence. Going to prison for a crime like the one I was arrested for ensures that you have the life expectancy of a gnat.” Cockroaches would swarm in the cells, and Bloodsworth saw a wave of them covering the ceiling one night when the toilets of the cells above him flooded.
Bloodsworth attributed two things to keeping him alive. The first was the friendship he shared with a man called Blue who was imprisoned for robbing a bank. A brother of Islam and a philosopher, Blue taught Bloodsworth to play chess by calling out moves from to him from the neighboring cell. Though the two men often talked about God and survival, Bloodsworth recounted the day when Blue came to him in the cafeteria insisting that he had been let out of jail. Later, Blue returned to his cell and jabbed two pencils into his eyes, hoping to kill himself. Instead, he survived and was blinded. “I didn’t want to see it anymore,” he responded when Bloodsworth asked why he had done it. “I didn’t want to live it anymore.”

The second thing that kept Bloodsworth alive was reading. Working as the prison librarian for over seven years, he came to love to read and developed “a love for new learning.”

Prison Library Provided Key to Exoneration

It was this thirst for knowledge that led Bloodsworth to reading about a case in Narborough, England that was the first to use DNA fingerprinting to determine the killer in a series of murders. Energized by this information, Bloodsworth sought to have the police in his case use DNA to find Dawn’s real killer – but it wasn’t easy. “People just wanted to hold onto something that didn’t work and didn’t mesh,” he said of his conviction. Though there were only two DNA labs in the country at the time of his imprisonment, Bloodsworth’s lawyer paid to have Bloodsworth’s DNA sent to California. It was then, after eight years, eleven months, and nine days in prison, that Kirk Bloodsworth became the first death row convict to be exonerated on DNA evidence.

Bloodsworth now travels worldwide to discuss the importance of using more definite forms of investigation and abolishing the death penalty.

“Witness identification,” he said, “accounts for 75% of wrongful convictions.” In his own case, it was human fallibility, reliance on children’s testimony, and an Identikit that included a limited number of facial features that landed him in jail. “Prison was my life,” he said, “but life for me is different now.” As a member of Witness to Innocence, an organization made up of 138 exonerated former death row inmates, Bloodsworth seeks to educate people on the issues behind the death penalty and faulty investigations.
Remembering the words of his mother, whose body he was forced to view for only five minutes in handcuffs and shackles following her death, he told the audience, “You need to stand up.” He entreated the audience to find a worthy cause and stand behind it in the interest of making a difference. “The fact that we still have the death penalty in America shows that we need better standards and practices in our justice system. We can do better.”

“I proved the truth, and that’s what set me free,” he offered in his closing remarks. Citing the example of his first lawyer who, upon telling Bloodsworth that they would be getting him out of prison as soon as possible, promptly turned around and walked directly into the brick archway behind his seat, he gave the audience his final moral: “Stand up for yourself,” he said, “and don’t run into that wall.”

Rob Garilli is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas College from Lyndhurst, New Jersey. He is an English major who recently took on a minor in Writing. He is a staff writer for The Thoma, the campus newspaper. Upon his graduation in May of 2012, Rob will be pursuing a MFA in creative nonfiction.

This article also appeared  in The Thoma.

Wrong Place to Occupy

Occupy Wall Street 10/8/11   photo/Jan Barry

By Liz Kaminski

The American people are angry and have full right to be. Given the high unemployment rate, the sour economy, and the national debt growing larger every day, it’s no wonder that people are up in arms. However, is it possible that their anger is directed to the wrong outlet?

On September 17, a group of people began protests at Zuccotti Park in New York City's Wall Street financial district. These men and women went there to protest against the greed found in Wall Street and the corruption taking place in private industry. Protestors claim that they are representing the 99%, a statement propagating class warfare against the richest 1% of Americans. The group seems to have an anti-capitalist take and wishes for more government control over the private industry of America. Although this campaign has now spread to over 100 cities in the United States, not one campaign in its frenzy stopped to review the other side of this problem. The current economic problem in the United States was not caused by private enterprise alone. Faults in government decisions created the current state of affairs.

People should be angry, but they should be demanding change from the government, not the private corporations in America which have remained the same throughout the decades. It is the government that has changed and has spurred this economic crisis. The private banking sector is unfairly receiving far too much blame. People should focus on the larger governmental faults and related problems, like the housing crisis caused by the Federal Reserve in 2008 which initiated this slippery slope of economic instability. It was through economic corruption within the Federal Reserve, which is supposed to monitor and regulate the economy, that the housing bubble popped. Even to this day, the Federal Reserve continues to be fiscally irresponsible.

The website “The Next Great Generation,” an online magazine out of Boston, has authors who agree with Occupy Wall Street Movement protests against the private sector, but also think that the movement could have used its rights as citizens to draw attention to the government issues. According to this website, 60% of the 99% did not vote in the 2010 election. If these people standing out on the streets of the Financial District had used their democratic right to vote for or against the issues perhaps they could have voiced their grievances earlier.

Take Protests to Source of the Problem

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has done a wonderful job of publicizing that there is a problem in this nation and that we must pull together to fix our nation for this generation and future generations. It is time to take these protests to the next level and go straight to the source in Washington D.C. There are already some protests in D.C., but there should be more. According to the “Washington Post,” K Street, the country’s hub of the lobbying industry, is being occupied and protested. This is a great step towards moving towards focusing the anger on the government and its connections with Wall Street.

The government itself, which has incurred fifteen trillion dollars in debt (a number that is so large that it is unfathomable to imagine), is also to blame for the economic crisis. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was passed by Congress, officials that the people elected, to intervene in private industry. This act bailed out investment banks that were struggling after the sub-prime mortgage crisis. It was through government intervention that 700 billion U.S. taxpayers dollars were spent, when alternatives could have been found. Occupy Wall Street calls for more government intervention, yet the government intervention seems to only help Wall Street widen the gap between it and Main Street.

People standing on Wall Street would perhaps do better to stand outside the Federal Reserve demanding why they are still calling the U.S. Treasury to print money and loaning it to the private banking sector. People would be better suited to stand outside the Capitol building in D.C. demanding why the politicians we have elected are not working for the people, but working for the private banking sector instead.

“Closing down” Wall Street is not the solution to this nation’s problem. If anything it could make it worse, considering 100 million Americans have jobs under these major corporations. Focus the anger at the government and use the democratic process to end some of these injustices. The 2012 election is rapidly approaching – this is the time when citizens can make a change.

For more information:

Liz Kaminski is a St. Thomas Aquinas College undergraduate and a staff writer for The Thoma, the campus newspaper. She is a Communication Arts major with a minor in Writing who will be graduating in the Spring of 2014. She plans on entering a career in the media. She is still undecided about whether her career will be in television or print journalism. Liz lives on campus during the semester, but her permanent residence is in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Digitized Future: How Digital Content is Helping and Hurting the Video Game Industry

By Ryan Fitzsimmons

In the past 10 years or so, physical media has been digitized at a rapid pace.

It started with the music industry, as downloadable music made the iPod a huge success, and made CDs increasingly irrelevant. In the past few years, devices like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook have freed literature from physical books, where it seemed forever bound. While digitalization has made distribution and availability of media easier and has updated antiquated mediums, it also has its share of problems, especially for small businesses trying to keep up with media devices increasingly digitized and sold online.

Video games, for instance, are an entertainment medium that has exploded in popularity over the last decade. While originally attracting underground followings, the third quarter of 2011 alone has seen several games sell over one million copies, which is a measure of success in the video game world. Despite these great successes, the debate over digital content is causing rifts over the future of the industry.

A large part of the growth of the video game industry is directly related to digital content. At the 2011 London Games Conference, 23 percent of game developers believed that by 2013, digital sales would surpass physical game sales. In this current generation of consoles (beginning in 2006 and including the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3), online functionality has blossomed thanks to services like Xbox Live (XBL) and the Playstation Network (PSN). Even on personal computers (PC), services like Steam, which offer a direct means of downloading games, have seen a surge in popularity, as sales have risen 200 percent between 2009 and 2010. These services not only connect players by offering online multiplayer and an easy means of communication, but also create an environment where it is easy for independent game developers to release low budget titles and for larger developers to release and expand their games in a cost effective way.

Games cost a fair amount of money to make. This, unfortunately, makes them a somewhat risky proposition for new developers. Before this most recent generation of games, new developers often put themselves on the line economically by making new games. The success (or lack thereof) of a game could lead to a boom or bust for a developer. One of the major costs of game development is having a set number of discs created. Since developers have to create a rough estimate of how well their game will sell, they must make a large number of game discs to ship to sales outlets. If a game doesn’t sell well, they are not being reimbursed for their extra product, resulting in financial losses.

Digital Games Cut Costs

With the success of XBL and PSN, however, developers can avoid this cost. By creating games for digital distribution only, developers get around paying for discs and don’t have to create an estimate on how well their game will sell. Also, since consumers don’t have to purchase a physical copy of a game, the cost to them is less as well, allowing for buyers to take a chance on a game they might not have bought if it had been full price.

The role of downloadable content (DLC) in this current console generation also can’t be understated. Just a few years ago, once a game was ready for retail, that was the final product. Only PC games received a possibility of getting an expansion pack, which would take time to be released and were oftentimes only slightly less expensive than the original games. Now however, a game can receive periodic updates through new content and patches that may fix any of the game’s issues. While DLC often costs consumers between five and fifteen dollars, it potentially increases the longevity of a game exponentially.

Digital distribution is not well received by everyone in the game community, however.

Among the biggest powers in the video gaming industry are the retailers who sell physical copies of games. Gamestop, the largest of these corporations, thrives from the release of bonus content for pre-ordering games and through the selling and trading of used games, the latter practice requiring a physical copy. Although used game sales have gone up 12 percent in the past year for Gamestop, the chain reports that its largest growth is in digital content sales, which increased 69 percent from last year. Because of this, Gamestop is finding more ways to thrust themselves into the digital market.

While Gamestop has managed to adapt its business model to the changing game market, many smaller stores cannot. Times are already tough for small businesses, and independent game stores are no different. Many small stores cannot compete with corporations like Gamestop in offering exclusive content for big games, so they frequently offer deals that reduce game prices. With digital media, however, games are already slightly less expensive and can be downloaded from the comfort of one’s home. Add to this the expanding availability of exclusive content on Steam, XBL and PSN, and brick and mortar stores seem to be facing a difficult road ahead of them.

Needless to say, the future of video gaming will be found in the digital realm. While physical media will in all likelihood continue to exist, it’s quickly becoming the minority to an ever-expanding digital market. While this may be for the best when it comes to lowering risk and raising profits for game developers, retailers have to evolve to meet this challenge. Corporations like Gamestop are showing that it is possible, but small businesses will ultimately take the hit. Already disadvantaged, this could be the end of independently owned brick and mortar stores in yet another modern industry.

For Further Information:
Cork, Jeff. "When Do You Think Digital Will Eclipse Retail Sales?" 07 Nov. 2011..
Sinclair, Brendan. "GameStop Sales, Profits Sink by Millions." Video Games, Video Game Reviews - GameSpot. 18 Aug. 2011..;title;4.
Magrino, Tom. "30 Million Steam-ed ." Video Games, Video Game Reviews - GameSpot. 18 Oct. 2010..;title;3.

Ryan Fitzsimmons is an Honors student at St. Thomas Aquinas College. He is currently a junior and is majoring in History. Ryan wishes to pursue a career in journalism upon his graduation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do What You Love and Make Money Doing it!!!!

By Ken Sherman

Ever want to make your own television show about whatever you want and make big bucks?  Well, this dream might be more realistic than you thought.

A very popular video-sharing website known as has become the home to many everyday people making it big and to many viral videos with millions of viewers. This website is the modern day blog where people can create any kind of channel they want and with enough networking and quality content, these “vloggers” can bring in fan bases of tens of thousands and up to millions.  The content variety is endless.  Videos range from reality vlogging, to video game reviews, to makeup gurus.  But how does one get started?

Like any other website, your first step is to create an account with a username and password.  The username you create is going to be your Youtube name.  So for example; if my username is KenSherman, my channel name is going to be under the URL  Your next step is pretty simple, start creating content.

If your content is posted frequently and attracts at least a couple thousand views a week, Youtube will offer you a partnership.

Becoming a Youtube partner, the people who make revenue off their videos, is not something that happens overnight, however; sometimes it can take years.  Just take a look at the popular music channel called BoyceAvenue.  This is a band of three brothers who have been doing covers and original singles since 2007.  For the majority of the time they were below 100,000 subscribers, which sounds like a lot but for a channel of three brothers when it comes to revenue splitting they definitely were on the low end.  Today, BoyceAvenue has a little under 1 million subscribers and 445 million upload views.

There are also partners such as the channel EpicMealTime.  Their videos, which feature eating huge amounts of junk food with comedic narrative going on in the background, have gone viral in less than a year, giving them 2 million subscribers.
What are subscribers? Subscribers are your dedicated viewers.  When someone subscribes to your channel they are updated about everything you do, whether it be another video, you “favorite” a video, or most importantly upload a video.  Usually the amount of subscribers you have is the minimum number of views your videos will get each time you upload one, because they are all updated when your videos are released.  You can also think of your subscribers or “subs,” as vloggers call them, as your fan base.  By obtaining a lot of subs, you’re becoming more and more of an internet celebrity.  The more viewers per video you have also increases your income. 

Youtube does not share its set income per view with the public but for some of the big name channels, with 3-4 million subscribers, revenues have been leaked, with some making well over $200,000 and $300,000 a year.

Now don’t get your hopes up too quickly.  Making this much income would require a lot of work and time, just like anything else.  I’m not trying to label this a get rich quick scam, but what I am doing is opening the door of opportunity in a place you might not have ever looked before. Youtube has set a platform for easy networking for people  trying to create quality videos of all sorts.  There are audiences for all types of content, some greater than others, but in the end anybody can make it big.

This is the chance for all people to use the internet for all its worth.  Make the time you spend on the internet worth it by making money while using it. 

Ken Sherman is a sophomore Communication Arts major at St. Thomas Aquinas College.

More than Just the Pizza

By Andrew Romanella

Upon walking into a pizzeria, your senses are immediately engaged by the sights that make your mouth water and the smells that almost create a taste on your tongue. The bustle of workers and customers creates an anxious atmosphere, but with that first bite of pizza with freshly baked crust and a sweet homemade tomato sauce topped with quality mozzarella cheese, you find yourself relaxed and suddenly it’s as if there’s no one else but you and your slice of pizza.

Beyond the sensory appeals and the swirling bustle of the store front, there lies the unnoticed, underrated work that goes into being able to create that delicious slice of pizza. Everyone simply sees the people who give them their order, but never sees the effort that goes into the food they are about to enjoy.

Cascarino’s Pizzeria and Ristorante in Montgomery, NY exemplifies a family-owned, independent, New York state pizzeria that prides itself on quality and customer satisfaction. Co-owner Anthony Cascarino has been managing his family’s restaurant along with his father, Tony, for the past seven years. Within these seven years, Tony and Anthony have endured setbacks and experienced great achievements.

There is much work and struggle that is overlooked in the pizzeria/ restaurant industry, which is brought to life through observation of Cascarino’s.

When asked what some struggles and setbacks are for the business, Anthony replied, “The more money that comes in, means more money being put to bills.” Keeping up with payments and making sure all bills and invoices are paid in a timely manner is difficult, but it’s also hard to maintain the profit and spending balance. Quality product has its price as does labor, and Cascarino’s continues to maintain that standard though it is a complicated struggle.

Owning a business, especially a pizzeria, may seem like a simple project to take on, but there is much more than just knowing how to cook a pizza. As Anthony slices a pizza to go he says, “Owning a business is a 24-seven thing. You have to be constantly focused and if you’re not 100 percent there, it throws the day, month, even the year out of place.”

Next time, when walking into a pizzeria, when you step through those glass doors and take in those intriguing sights and smells, think about the work that went into creating those aromas and hunger provoking sights. Being a small business owner is much more than just ways to make more money and working every day to pay your rent. When you’re a small business owner, it’s about creating relationships with the people you encounter each day. Small businesses seem to run more like a family than a place to make money.

So next time you’re craving that slice of pizza, or that thin crusted pie with all of your favorite toppings on it, come on into Cascarino’s Pizzeria--because you’re guaranteed not only a great slice of pizza, but a great atmosphere as well.

Andrew Romanella is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Underworld: This Sure Beats Twilight

By Omar Brown 

For people who have grown tired of “Twilight” and the touchy-feely love story, watch a movie that also has vampires and werewolves but has more action that make your eyes pop out of the screen.

The first“Underworld” film was created in 2003; the movie was basically about a secret war between vampires and werewolves. In “Underworld” the vampire warrior Salene, while loyal to the vampires, falls in love with Michael, who is a werewolf, and hopes to end the war. Kate Beckinsale plays the role of Salene as a bullet-shooting, werewolf-killing temptress. Beckindale also shows the romantic side of herself to Scott Speedman who plays the role of Michael the werewolf.

The second installment of the “Underworld” series shows the relationship between Michael and Salene as a team and a couple. The third installment of “Underworld” explains how the war between the vampires and werewolves began.

The filmmakers have made a fourth installment called “Underworld: Awakening.” Kate Beckinsale comes back again as the vampire warrior Salene, wakes up from a coma and discovers she had been captured; she escaped from a facility run by humans. Unlike any other “Underworld” movies, humans have discovered the existence of vampires and werewolves, making this “Underworld” movie pretty interesting.

This installment of “Underworld” seems completely different since it’s a whole new world that includes a new war and a new breed. What also makes this movie interesting is that this is the first “Underworld” movie to be shot in 3D.

“Underworld: Awakening” will be in theaters on January 20, so watch the trailer, get hyped up and wait for the movie to pop your eyes out.

Omar Brown is a senior Communication Arts major at St. Thomas Aquinas College.  He is 21 years old with a dream to make his own movie or a show. His career choice when he graduates is to be a videographer and a producer.  Born in Pennsylvania, he spent his first nine years in Ardmore, when Omar’s father died. When he was ten years old, he moved to live with his grandparents in New York. Omar always had a creative personality and an overactive imagination.  In his senior year of high school, Omar discovered what he wanted to be when he became fascinated with the media industry.  Omar believes that he’ll become something that his family would be proud of.

“The Disco Biscuits” Get Ready for their New Years Run!

By Rob Scully

Back again for more, The Disco Biscuits return to the legendary Nokia Theater (now known as Best Buy Theater) for another three night run in glorious Times Square, New York City.

Since 1995, the band has been destroying different venues throughout the United States with their bass heavy, electronic sound. The Biscuits, for short, can be categorized under the genre of an electronic jam band. They are one of the few bands to undertake such a sound and make it their own. Their fan base has grown tremendously throughout the past sixteen years they have been playing together.

With the New Year just around the corner, the band is currently preparing to blow up the stage at The Best Buy, starting the day after Christmas  through Dec. 28 and then running to the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. Dec.30 and New Year’s Eve

Within the past year, the Biscuits have only played twelve shows. This worries their fans, while fanning rumors on the grape vine that the band is soon to break up. Most fans would like to believe the rumors are not true, but who truly knows what will happen until it happens. One of the main reasons the rumor has been spreading is because each band member has recently put more time into their separate side projects.

Jon Gutwillig, the guitarist, has recently created a DJ project based in New York City call DJ Barber. This breaks many fans’ hearts to see him put down his guitar, and rely on computer programs to create music. He has recently played venues such as the Delancey on the upper west side of New York City, and the Brooklyn Bowl located in Brooklyn. Many biscuit fans refuse to give his new project a shot because they have had so much experience with the band that it is impossible.

The bass player Marc Brownstein and keyboardist Aaron Magner have also put more work toward their side project called Conspirator. Conspirator has been around since 2005, but was not such a main factor in their lives. They put much more focus on the Biscuits’ sound, playing many more shows. Recently, they have announced a full fall and winter tour, which is one of the main reasons of a possible break up with the Biscuits. Conspirator also has been working on a new album, not leaving much time to work on new tour dates and music with The Disco Biscuits.

Finally, the drummer Allen Aucoin has just begun a new side project as well. He has been putting on many shows upstate New York alone. He has created a sound not many have heard but has a growing fan base.

“Many fans are feeling very skeptical about the upcoming run,” said Todd Scarfi, a resident of Westwood, New Jersey. “The recent shows I have been able to attend they have just not been clicking. They are not the Biscuits anymore. I hope to hear them click during the run or I will be very disappointed I decided to go, as much as I love the band.”

Todd, being a fan for almost six years, now can say he has the experience to be able to tell what is going on with the band he so truly loves. On the other hand, The Disco Biscuits fan base has grown widely, as most old fans are having trouble adapting to their new sound. Their sound seems to have started becoming more mainstream, appealing to a younger crowd.

During the summer of 2011 The Disco Biscuits released a new album by the name of “Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens.” This album has stirred up much talk on the band, and has been named the best album they have written and recorded thus far. In the end the question is, will the band sound up to the par their fans are expecting?

For more information:

Rob Scully is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts.

Hip-hop: Alive and Kicking

By Xavier Rios

The year was 2006. Emcee supreme and New York native Nas single handedly launches an attack on Hip-hop music with the release of his latest single, “Hip-hop is dead.” The single is the first release off his eighth studio album, which shares the same title.

In a culture where ego trumps all, it was just a matter of time before another rapper took offense to Nas’ new project. However, this seemed to have been the savvy NY rap veteran’s plan all along--spark fire into those individuals that were truly purist and enthusiasts of Hip-hop music.

And spark a fire he did, from the date that the single was released up until now, the song has been widely referenced. He challenged the fact that rap’s commercialization diluted the art form. He paid homage to the history of Hip-hop, while at the same time inspiring change for the better.

Today, a new crop of emcees has emerged, slews of rappers who deliver carefully manicured raps and share the passion for the craft just as Nas does. A young, hungry generation that soaked up all they witnessed since Nas’ proclamation.

The baton has been passed.

Wale and J Cole, two promising young rappers, have risen as the top emcees of this new class. With their latest albums currently topping ‘must hear lists’ it comes as no surprise to think Nas played a hand in the revolution of the art.

Hip-hop is not dead and is very alive and kicking.

Xavier Rios is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas College. He is a Communication Arts major. Mr. Rios hopes to be a successful writer and filmmaker.

Lady Gaga Versus “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

By Craig Altman

On September 20, 2010, Lady Gaga took the stage in Portland, Maine not to sing for her fans but to talk about how she feels about the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the U.S. military. Hearing it from such a world-renowned pop star was a big eye opener for society about something that was not a very well known topic but which was affecting gay people throughout our country.

Many people tend to get so wrapped up in the moment, so focused on certain things that are miniscule in the big picture compared to events like these. Throughout her speech at Bowdoin College, Gaga gave some very strong lines that conveyed how much it was a concern to her and why she felt it should be for the rest of society.

She opened up her speech, which can be found on YouTube, by stating, “Equality is the prime rib of America, but because I'm gay, I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer. There are amazing heroes here today, whose stories are more powerful that any story I could tell, any fight I’ve ever fought, and any song that I could tell,” she said of military veterans who are gay and were speaking out.

“I’m here because they inspire me, I’m here because I believe them, I’m here because ’Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is wrong…it’s unjust, and fundamentally, it is against all that we stand for as Americans,” she said. 

Gaga was clearly stating that many Americans have truly lost the meaning to life. Causes like this are what help change the world and open everyone’s eyes.

Throughout her speech, she stated that it is such a great disgrace to our country that there are people out there fighting in America’s wars overseas, willing to lose everything that they have, and that they are being discriminated against due to their sexual preference.

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was a federal policy that was aimed towards homosexuals serving in the military. The act supposedly helped stop military people from discriminating against or causing trouble with homosexuals in the military, as long as they didn’t reveal they were gay. The policy in fact stopped people who “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” from being allowed to serve in the armed forces. The military was worried that the word would get out that there are certain people who are gay, and would degrade their public image and the military’s morale.

A person’s sexual preference certainly does not change who they are, but is more about what they prefer. The act clearly states that service members who are homosexual should be discharged. The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy really opened up the eyes of many, and certainly changed the way each of the soldiers viewed each other. Because so many people were objecting to it, the policy was finally changed this year.

Lady Gaga is a perfect person to help bring out the true problems in today’s government and society. She is a woman with great power and morals and has an effect on many different people. Due to the great efforts by many people, the policy was changed by President Obama, and its end was celebrated by many this year.

For more information:

Craig Altman is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts. Of his future plans, he said: “I would like to run my own public relations company.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Romeo Santos & Modern Bachata

By Ynes Lantigua

In the Dominican Republic there is a type of music that has become known worldwide over the last couple of years. This music is known as Bachata. It’s a type of song that is very heavy on guitars and full of sentimental lyrics about heartbreaks, infidelity and love. Bachata is very similar to the “blues.”

Bachata originally developed in the Dominican Republic in the 20th century. The original term for Bachata was called “Amargue,” which translates into “blues, bitterness or bitter music.” Bachata was heavily based on Cuban boleros and Puerto Rican “Jibaro music and baladas.” A bachata group is composed of five instruments, which are the lead guitar, rhythm guitar, electric bass guitar, bongos and güira. The rhythm guitar is also known as a “segunda” and serves the purpose of adding syncopation to the music.

 In the 1960s and 70s, maracas were used instead of guira. The change in the 1980s from maracas to the more versatile guira was made as bachata was becoming more dance oriented. The first bachata songs were completed in the late 1960s after dictator Rafael Trujillo was murdered. After Trujillo’s death many more singers felt more freedom and were able to share their Bachata music to the country. One of the best modern bachata singers today is known by his stage name Romeo Santos.

Anthony Santos, better known for his artist name, Romeo Santos, is a Bachata singer from The Bronx who is well known in the Latino community. He recently released his first solo album “Formula Vol. 1” on November 8. His primary goal is to cross over into the English language market. In a recent interview with Jasmine Garsd on NPR’s Weekend Edition about his first solo album, Romeo Santos explained that, “"One day my father brings a cassette. He's showing me this, and he's like, 'Look at this guy, his name is Anthony Santos, like you,' he says. I popped it on and started hearing the songs, the music, and I was like, 'Wow, this sounds great.’” At this point in his life Romeo Santos discovered that he had a passion for music and wanted to learn more about this specific type of music. He went out to buy Anthony “El mayimbe” Santos’ album. He became very passionate about this type of music and later joined his cousin Henry and a few friends and started their band Aventura.

Even though they all grew up in New York, Aventura mostly sings in Spanish. Romeo Santos says, “I was raised bilingual but my strength is in Spanish. Even though I live and I was born and raised in the States, when I'm doing music, it's easier for me and I know exactly how to express myself. I would always talk with my friends in English and Spanglish, but it was more like slang. It was more like, 'Yo, what's up dog?' But in Spanish I know what's proper and what's ghetto. I know the difference." One of the songs that helped Aventura become famous worldwide was “Obsecion.”

After working together for 17 years, Aventura went their separate ways so each of the members can work on solo projects. A very public rumor in Spanish-language media began. “Santos claimed he carried the burden of the workload in Aventura; his band members accused him of letting fame go to his head,” Garsd reported on NPR. Besides Bachata ballads, his new solo album features many English language songs and collaborations with widely known Hip Hop artists like Lil Wayne.

He explains that his producer, Rico Love, agreed with his interest in collaborating with non-Hispanic singers. "It would just be so unique, unexpected and, in my opinion, revolutionary," Santos says. "That's what I felt. My goal is for them to cross over into my world. But I also want to reinvent myself, which is why I do a little bit of R&B, which is why I got Lil Wayne on a song in this album."

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Ynes Lantigua is 20 years old and a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College. She is a Spanish major with a Journalism minor. She will graduate in the Spring of 2013. She hopes to one day become a medical malpractice lawyer. She still lives at home with her mother and nephew in New York City, downtown Manhattan.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bushkill Falls: Pennsylvania’s Slice of Heaven

By Gerald Marafioti

There is an otherworldly beauty that is reserved for nature, only to be viewed by appreciative people with a keen eye for detail. This beauty has been noticed at locations such as The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Cave of the Winds, Carlsbad Caverns and a secluded spot in Pennsylvania known as Bushkill Falls.

Up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania off Interstate Rt. 80 is the rather well hidden tourist attraction that is the most beautiful place that I have ever seen. The gorgeous set of falls, which has been a hot spot for tourists since 1904, contains everything that nature could offer in one spot. I have been there numerous times to observe the beauty that has been carved out by years and years of rushing water, and I was able to enjoy this beauty with my significant other twice.

The falls area has four paths that wrap around the cascading waterway and the surrounding woods to ensure the one traveling the trails sees everything they could. With the shortest trail lasting just about thirty minutes, and the longest lasting over two hours depending on the speed of the hiker and how often one stops to take in all the beauty, it gives everyone the opportunity to ensure they see all that their own endurance allows them to. The longest trail winds through all of the other trails, along with having a long hike into the woods where you can see a different side of nature which includes flowers, trees, creeks, rock formations and even forest critters like chipmunks and deer.

There are many hotspots on the trail which ensure that you see this piece of heaven from the best locations. These locations are little alcoves that cut off from the main path to enable you to see the falls from over, under and even behind the falls themselves.

Fall and early Spring are the ideal times to view the greatness of these falls, due to the fact that there are not many mosquitoes in the area at that time and because the temperature ranges between a perfect 55 to 75. If any hotter, there is a slight, constant mist from the falls that is very relaxing and very cooling. A favorite spot where the tourists of Bushkill Falls gather is the Lovers Nook, a cut off from the main path with a bench where the lovers from around the globe come to carve their initials into the bench for good luck for their relationship. I personally have done this with my significant other, and found the initials my parents carved there twenty years earlier.

All in all, Bushkill Falls is a beautiful place to visit with friends, family, and lovers. It’s a place for everyone to observe nature and the inner beauty our world has to offer. Admission is fairly inexpensive and it is the most beautiful place that I have ever seen. Visiting here is something I recommend doing if anyone is an outdoor enthusiast or wants to visit somewhere breath-taking. Kids love it and dogs are allowed on the trails. Bushkill Falls is the beauty that some people have thought did not exist on Earth anymore.

For more information:

Gerald Marafioti is a sophomore at Saint Thomas Aquinas College. “I am a Communication Arts major who aspires to be a radio DJ as my professional career. I am the Program Director of the on-campus radio station WSTK, where I have a weekly radio show on Monday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. I am an Average Joe kind of person and I enjoy playing video games and hiking in my spare time. I enjoy writing and reading books and one day hope to write my own book for the masses to enjoy.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

STAC Campus a Bathroom For Geese

By Tia Naylor

Students at St. Thomas Aquinas College have all witnessed the infestation of Canada geese. Families of geese swoop onto the college campus to feed on the lush fields of grass and defecate all over the sidewalks.

“It’s like a maze to get to class,” says Desmond Jackson, a junior at STAC. “If you don’t watch your step, you’re bound to step in their green poop.”

You can usually find flocks of geese feeding on the grassy field in front of the Romano Center, where student athletes practice for lacrosse or soccer games. They feast on the grass and strut around campus as if they own the place. Students are frequently halted in their travels to class by the birds, which are considered harmless unless confronted. To some, it is nice to have a visit from the geese traveling south for the winter but for most STAC students, they could do without the birds on campus.

“The sidewalks are small enough. I shouldn’t have to step around bird poop while also trying not to bump into other students going to or coming from class,” said Jackson, who has spent three years at St. Thomas Aquinas College, and noted that the geese have been a problem since he arrived on campus.

The geese use STAC as a bathroom all over campus, but it has not been complained about enough by students for anything to be done about the issue. Students complain about the geese to their classmates but not to the campus maintenance department. An issue so unpopular among the student population should be addressed. Obviously, there is no way to direct the geese to an appropriate area to feast and poop. However, St. Thomas Aquinas College can do a couple of things to keep the campus free of sidewalks stained with geese defecation.

One way to solve the geese problem is to start a club focused on cleaning up the STAC campus. Students who are passionate about attending a clean campus would be attracted to a club of this nature and help reduce the amount of feces seen on campus. A weekly clean up would be satisfactory to lessen the encounters that students have with either stepping in or around geese poop. Another way to solve this problem would be to possibly have the landscaping company get rid of the feces while cleaning up leaves or mowing the lawn. While this may add a surcharge to the bill that the school must pay for the lawn care, it would also help beautify the campus and keep the students from complaining.

No one likes to step in poop of any kind. Therefore, St. Thomas Aquinas College students and faculty should make more of an effort to get rid of the massive amount of geese feces around the campus.

As Desmond Jackson says, “the walkway in front of the school, leading to the Romano center, is practically stained green. There have been too many times where I’ve stepped in a pile of poop while trying to dodge another pile, leaving trails of green as I continue to walk.” Students are fed up with the geese and a change must be made.

Tia Naylor is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in English with a minor in Public Relations. Her future plans: “I hope to pursue a career as an event planner for an entertainment television company.”

STAC Dance a Big Success

By Kristen McGeough

St. Thomas Aquinas College held its annual winter semi formal dance on December 2    Underclassmen as well as upperclassmen were invited to the school dance, as STAC insured a great time for all.

The preparation for the dance was time consuming, but well worth it for participants, who adorned the location of the dance, STAC’s Romano Center, with intricate decorations appropriate for the holiday season. “The theme for the winter semi formal was difficult to build, however we put a lot of effort in and it made the night a success,” said James Joy, a junior at the college. Some of the creative embellishments made for the dance were pretty paper staircases, cutout figurines, and a beautiful chandelier made out of white tulle.

”I was one of the people that helped set up for the dance, and it looked like the actual set wasn’t going to look great when we set up, but it turned out to look fine and the dance was a lot of fun!” said Rob Garilli, a senior and Student Government executive board President.

Students slipped into their best formal attire and got ready for a night of fun as a professional DJ played in the Romano.  Not only was there great music, but the dance was catered with delicious food for the partygoers to devour. Appetizers included fried ravioli, chicken fingers, and a bounty of coconut shrimp. The dinner menu consisted of penne alla vodka, steak, chicken and salad. Last but not least, the dessert choices were cheesecake and scrumptious cupcakes generously made by a fellow student.

After the endless array of food was served, students returned to the dance floor and continued to dance the night away.

There was also Winter Semi Formal King and Queen chosen that night. The Queen who was chosen by fellow students was senior Kara Gould, and the King none other than Rob Garilli, who when asked said he was happy that he had been picked.

Not only students attended the dance, but faculty members crowded the dance floor. Even the president of the college, Dr. Margaret Fitzpatrick, made a grand appearance. A junior at the college, Alex Chicherchia, stated “The highlight of the dance was when Dr. Fitzpatrick jumped on a lit up platform and danced in front of everyone.”

The dance turned out to be a great success, and students left with remarkable memories of a night they will never forget. Overall, the Winter Semi Formal exceeded expectations, and STAC students who were in attendance are anticipating next year’s festivities.

Kristen McGeough is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in communication arts who enjoys writing in her free time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Students Wish Troops a Happy Holiday Season


Student Government Association
125 Rte 340, Romano Student Alumni Center, Room 11
Sparkill, NY 10976
CONTACT: Angela Mathisen
Office phone     845-398-4074


On Tuesday, December 6th the Student Government Association and Culture Shock Club will be collaborating to give students the opportunity to write holiday cards to deployed soldiers in the Middle East who cannot be with their families.
The event, to be held in the Romano Student Center at 8:30 pm, was inspired by an event sponsored by Student Activities just before Veteran’s Day in which students could send patriotic messages to members of the military police.
Refreshments will be provided for those students in attendance, and the cards will be handwritten and decorated during the hour-long event. For any students unable to attend, the SGA will also have cards available afterwards during their bi-weekly bingo game.

--Rob Garilli