Postcard from Cuba: People connect, governments disconnect

Many old American cars in Cuba are used as taxis. Due to the U.S. embargo, many of the cars predate 1960, and the owners often have a difficult time obtaining parts to repair the vehicles. Photos by Lauries S. Miller.

By Laurie S. Miller

HAVANA — Sitting in his walker, waiting on his luggage at the Havana Airport, David Hiebert of Lawrence, Kansas, was looking forward to his second trip to Cuba – this time with six family members in tow.

Hiebert said one of his favorite things about the first trip was talking to people.

“I asked a 10-year-old boy what he wanted to be when he grew up,” Hiebert said. “He replied, ‘a tourist.’”

It’s not a surprising answer, considering that the average state salary is around $27, and many people don’t have the means to maintain what they own, said Miguel Coyula, an architect, urban planner and professor at the University of Havana. Cuba attracted a record 4 million visitors in 2016, an increase of 13 percent from 2015, according to Cuba’s tourism ministry. This increase is attributed to the resumption of diplomatic relations with the United States that occurred under President Barack Obama.

It remains to be seen how President Donald J. Trump’s policy changes will affect American travel to Cuba in the future. Trump’s new restrictions, aimed at tightening travel and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba, were announced June 16.

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The Russian connection: Macedonian politics, U.S. news

An Analysis

By Benjamin Shultz and Snezhana Stefanovska Shultz

Source: Alamy.com

Macedonia is in a part of world that is often overlooked. Approximately the size of Vermont and with a population of around two million, the country is impoverished, landlocked, and isolated in a corner of Europe that relatively few people visit.

While fellow ex-Yugoslav republics Croatia and Slovenia are now part of the European Union, Macedonia remains on Europe’s cultural, economic, and political periphery. As such, it is a country that rarely enters the international news cycle, much less that of the United States.

That changed in November 2016, when journalists descended upon the industrial town of Veles after a Buzzfeed investigation found that it was a leading hub of fake news production favoring the Trump campaign.

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Airport festival attendance soars

Ron F. Gorr and his 1942 Stinson L-5 Sentinel, Jimmy Stewart Airport, June 10, 2017. Photo by Alexandria Mansfield.

By Alexandria Mansfield

INDIANA – The annual aviation festival that landed last weekend at the Jimmy Stewart Airport  drew the largest crowd in the event’s two-decade-long history, an airport official said Tuesday.

“There were more people here this weekend than we’ve ever had before, mainly because of the weather,” said airport manager Tom A. Robertson. “It’s very seldom that we get two good days in a row.”

Events featured vintage and military aircraft, face-painting, balloon animals, food trucks and public-service booths and included an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, aerial demonstrations and a 1940s-themed dance. A new feature brought two speakers:

  • Dean Stewart Engelhardt, of California, a seaplane instructor, test pilot, Alaskan bush pilot, aerobatic airshow pilot and stunt pilot; and
  • Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds, of Connellsville, a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II.

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What compensation for a wrongful conviction?

A Civic Project story

Lewis “Jim” Fogle and wife Deb dine at Wayne Avenue restaurant, Indiana, Pa., April 19, 2017. Photo by Nathan Zisk.

By Nathan Zisk

INDIANA – At his August 13, 2015, release from state prison after serving 34 years for a crime he did not commit, Lewis “Jim” Fogle said he wanted nothing more than a steak dinner. Now he wants more – compensation from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for his wrongful conviction.

In 1981, state police charged Fogle with the 1976 rape and murder of 15-year-old Deann Katherine Long of Cherry Tree. An Indiana County jury convicted him in 1982. He won release from prison two years ago after the Innocence Project, a New York- and Philadelphia-based non-profit that represents the wrongfully convicted, found DNA evidence exonerating him. Soon after, Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty, citing the new evidence, declined to re-try Fogle.

Today, Fogle, 65, is unemployed, but not unoccupied. He travels to tell his story, and he practices the artwork he discovered in childhood and developed in prison. He lives in a cluttered apartment on Oakland Avenue. It is dark, with concrete walls — just like prison, Fogle said. Sometimes when he awakens, he thinks he never left.

“I get panic attacks and very cold sweats,” Fogle said during an April 6 interview at his home. “Sometimes I’m so dizzy I can’t stand.”

While he was in prison, his mother and two brothers died. His relationships with his wife and family were fractured, he said, although he is close to his two granddaughters. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, Fogle said.

He is among 61 Pennsylvanians (2,033 nationwide) who have been exonerated since 1990 by DNA evidence that proves they did not commit the crimes for which they were convicted, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University College of Law and Northwestern University School of Law.

In Fogle’s case, the registry listed “perjury or false accusation” as contributing factors in his wrongful conviction.

In February, attorneys for Fogle filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful conviction. It cites two former Indiana County prosecutors – including current Court of Common Pleas presiding judge William J. Martin – and seven state police officers who investigated and prosecuted the cold case.

But the federal court is one of three avenues in Fogle’s strategy to win compensation from officials who took 34 years of his life. The other two approaches are the court of public opinion in the press and the legislative bodies of the state House and Senate in Harrisburg.

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The Snapchat photo, revisited and reconsidered

A Civic Project story

Former Indiana University of Pennsylvania student Katelyn J. Hecei. Photo taken and provided by Hecei.

By Emilee Larkin

INDIANA — Katelyn J. Hecei was a freshman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Dec. 8, 2015, when her roommate took a photo of a group of African-American students in the Stapleton Library, posted it to the video-messaging application Snapchat and labeled the students as “monkeys.” The image and caption went viral on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

Hecei (HE-see), 20, of Warren, Pa., said she was a friend of her roommate and expressed shock that she would do something like that.

“The way her post made my friends feel broke my heart,” Hecei said in a March 6 Twitter message. “A campus where diversity was celebrated was tainted by one person.”

Hecei said she faced some backlash, too. She said some people on campus assumed she felt the same way as her roommate because they were friends.

“It went on for about a week, the messages to me and the random bangs on the door at night,” Hecei said. “But after I reached out to some students, I felt cleared of any issues.”

Hecei lives in Phoenix, no longer an IUP student.

“I stopped attending IUP because the environment wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of,” said Hecei in a March 30 Twitter message. “The whole place felt so toxic. The people were rude and didn’t care about other people.”

Hecei said she still thinks about the Snapchat incident and its impact.

“I still think about how much what one person says can hurt another, or a whole race,” Hecei said.

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IUP Punxsutawney’s racist past and present

A Civic Project story

Khandice J. Hampton, 20, of Philadelphia, outside Wilson Hall on Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s main campus, March 29. Hampton, a junior, spent her freshman year at IUP’s branch campus in Punxsutawney. Photo by Alexandria Mansfield.

By Alexandria M. Mansfield

PUNXSUTAWNEY –- On a Friday night in early April, students at this Indiana University of Pennsylvania branch campus do not roam the streets looking for their next party. No, students at this vintage-1962 institution burrow in their rooms like the town’s most famous mammal, celebrity groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.

Why? Because they have been warned by friends, family members and administrators against walking at night. Students don’t feel safe here.

“People would roll by and yell racial slurs out of their cars,” said Khandice J. Hampton, 20, of Philadelphia, in a March 29 interview in the Stapleton Library on the main IUP campus in Indiana. “It put a piece of fear in me. You see it on movies and TV, and you just don’t really think about it until it actually happens to you.”

Hampton, who attended IUP’s Jefferson County campus from the summer 2014 semester until the end of the spring 2015 semester, said she is just one of many black students at IUP who have experienced racism at Punxsutawney. Hampton, now a junior, plans to graduate in May 2018.

“There was stuff that was unnecessary,” Hampton recalled. “We were walking to a store, and a guy just rolled past and screamed, ‘N****rs!’”

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A talisman for public-school teachers

Whit W. Watts. Photo by David Loomis.

An Opinion

By Whit Watts

INDIANA — Years ago I was given a talisman in the form of a Saint Christopher medallion. At the time, I had no idea who Saint Christopher was. I was told the medallion would protect me on my travels. I can’t say I believed it would do so, but it was a gift and somewhat fashionable at the time. So, I put it on my key fob anyway.

I carried it for many years. While I was never the superstitious type, I must admit that in an odd sort of way I did derive a kind of empty comfort from it.

Today, many people take talismanic comfort from concealed weapons. We harbor vain hopes that concealed weapons will protect us in our travels, that they will serve as invisible deterrents and, if the time came, allow us, flat-footed and alone, to control the uncontrollable.

Such comfort is easy to obtain. If you can purchase a gun in Pennsylvania, then you can obtain a permit to conceal and carry it — no training or additional checks required.  I have no problem with that. As long as you’re sober, that’s fine by me. That’s your individual right.

As state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, has pointed out,  Senate Bill 383, authorizing public-school personnel access to firearms, has nothing to do with individual rights. Carrying deadly force to protect the public is an entirely different matter.

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Reaction mixed to IUPatty’s prohibition proposal

State Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana. Photo courtesy of Philly.com.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA –- Two weeks ago, state Rep. Dave Reed called for an end to the annual IUPatty’s revel and ruckus and invited “all in our community to make it happen.” Reaction among local officials, university administrators and students has ranged from support to opposition.

Kaycee E. Newell, a member of the borough council, is skeptical.

“If Dave Reed has some magic solution to stop 18-to-24-year-olds from partying, I’d love to hear it,” wrote Newell in an April 3 email. “I think Rep. Reed needs to reevaluate his priorities.”

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Whatever you call it, IUPatty’s 2017 was busy

The 200 block of South 10th St., Indiana, Friday afternoon, March 24, 2017. A tenant at one of the parties reported that the landlord posted the no-parties sign earlier in the day and asked tenants to observe a no-beer-kegs rule. Photo by David Loomis.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA – A concerted public-private effort to dampen what Indiana University of Pennsylvania officials describe as “celebratory tendencies” among students in early spring met its match against warm dry weather for most of the IUPatty’s 2017 party weekend.

Swarms of student revelers and party tourists drawn to the day-and-night “alcohol culture on campus,” as one university administrator put it in a March 21 email, overflowed sidewalks and streets from Frat Row to Grandview Avenue in seas of shamrock-green T-shirts and go-cups.

 

On Grandview, four police cruisers and eight or more officers rolled up at 1:25 p.m. on Saturday to break up a party attended by roughly 250 people. Police arrested one young man as he crossed the street.

At 2:30 p.m., a party drew between 250 and 300 people to the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at 220 S. Seventh St. Fraternity members asked a photographer and a reporter to leave the property. No police were in the vicinity.

IUPatty’s crowd on the march at Maple Street and South Sixth Street, 1:30 p.m., Saturday, March 25. Photo by Cody S. Minich.

On Wednesday, Indiana borough police reported weekend assistance from state police, campus police, the county sheriff’s office and officers from Punxsutawney, Homer City and Blairsville. “There were no significant shifts in manpower or assignments from years past,” Indiana police Lt. Justin Schawl wrote in a March 29 email.

But police were “unusually busy” during the weekend revel, The Indiana Gazette reported. Police reported one man shot dead and three people wounded by gunfire in two Saturday morning incidents off-campus.

The bad news ran counter to coordinated efforts by university administrators, various police agencies, landlords and others to prevent the sort of mayhem that has bruised the campus’ public image over the six- or seven-year run of unsanctioned annual celebrations that have coincided with dwindling enrollments.

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IUP, FIUP struggle with declining enrollments

Susan Snell Delaney Hall, constructed during Phase I of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Residential Revival project. Photo courtesy of IUP.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA — Declining enrollments have created a financial squeeze at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as President Michael A. Driscoll reviewed in a 75-minute semi-annual “briefing” from Sutton Hall on Wednesday.

But the president did not mention another institution squeezed by sinking numbers of students — the Foundation for IUP, an independent, nonprofit, charitable 501(c)(3) corporation formed in 1967 “to promote and support the educational purposes of IUP.”

The foundation’s most ambitious purpose has been the Residential Revival. Starting in 2006, the quarter-of-a-billion-dollar building program began demolishing 14 IUP dormitories and constructing eight new “suites.” The university described the public-private project (the private foundation owns the buildings; the public university manages them ) as “’the largest of its kind in the nation.”

The price tag for students was similarly big-ticket: The new suites doubled their rents.

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