News & Opinion » Metro ink

For the birds


Members of UR Veg, the University of Rochester's Vegetarian Education Group, know that activism is a tough job with little instant gratification. That's why public relations manager and UR sophomore Ryan Merkley isn't crushed that more crows were killed this year in Auburn's crow shoot than ever before.

            "When I heard that 1,000 crows had been shot [compared with approximately 700 last year], it really got me down," Merkley says. Merkley and two other members of UR Veg drove around rural Cayuga County for five hours recently, searching for crow-hunters to deter. They were armed with an audiotape looped with a distressed crow's call.

            The annual event has drawn protests from several animal rights groups over the years. Four Cornell alumni were arrested in 2003 for interfering with the hunt.

            But the UR Veg members didn't find as much trouble. In the end, the trio only confronted one hunter.

            "It teaches me what the flaws of our activities were," Merkley says. "In the future, I think we'll find better ways to confront the hunters more directly."

            UR Veg is used to adversity. Last year, UR students took issue with the group's advertising techniques.

            "I'm all for people saying whatever they want --- I just don't want them to gross me out into not eating meat," UR junior Mark Koenig says. Koenig and a friend put up signs for a spoof group called UR Carn after they saw a UR Veg-sponsored video of chicken slaughter being broadcast outside a campus dining center.

            This year, UR Veg has altered its advertising techniques. Signs now cite members' reasons for joining the club.

            Nathan Nobis, a PHD candidate who co-founded UR Veg two years ago, believes the group has brought about positive change.

            "In the dining halls [lately], the words vegan and vegetarian are kind of all over the place," Nobis says. "I think the work of some of the members of UR Veg has been instrumental in that, in terms of getting more food options for people and informing people about why they want those food options."

            UR Veg will continue to spread its message on campus and off, with fliers, potluck dinners, and what Merkley calls "direct action."

            Merkley isn't about to let one crow shoot get him down. "You have to win your small victories one by one," he says.

            For more information, visit

--- Jennifer Weiss

RBTL gets dogged

Every spring, the City of Rochester reveals the line-up for its upcoming Rochester MusicFest. The actual announcement of artists is always preceded by words from Mayor Bill Johnson, who praises festival organizers --- the Rochester Broadway Theatre League and John Parkhurst --- for the wonderful work they've done.

            So imagine Parkhurst's surprise when the city announced it was replacing RBTL with New York City's Lead Dog Marketing to plan this year's MusicFest.

            RBTL submitted its bid for the 2004 MusicFest, a formality Parkhurst's all for.

            "The city should be doing that to see that they get the best bang for the dollar they can," Parkhurst says. "But then all of a sudden this group from New York is doing everything."

            To Parkhurst, it was quite a blow.

            "Well, yeah. I've been involved personally since day one of the festival," he says. "I went on the first site search. We have a very dedicated staff [200 people] that worked very hard towards this event."

            Lead Dog Marketing is aware of this, of course, and tried to get Parkhurst on board.

            "Basically, I've been in this position before," he says. "They come in and want to pick your brain, pay you a few dollars, and then kick you to the curb."

            So Parkhurst said no dice. "It just didn't make sense for us to be a part of it."

            "I had a nice conversation with [the city's Parks, Recreation, and Human Services Commissioner] Loretta Scott and so forth, and they told me they wanted to go in a different direction," Parkhurst says. "I just felt bad, that we could have been a part of that direction."

            The mayor's office did not return our calls for comment.

Another download death knell

After 22 years of independently supplying Rochester with music, Fantastic Records will close its doors forever.

            "I just think a lot of the issues surrounding indie --- and non-indie --- retail stores hit us in terms of downloading and burning CDs," says owner Jeremy Sarachan. "Sales are down quite a bit and I see the trend continuing."

            The store will close at the end of April.

            This recent downward spiral is widespread, and the mom-and-pops aren't the only ones being hit hard. Tower Records, for instance, filed for bankruptcy last week.

            "I think downloading will be the future," Sarachan says. "There will be more and more legal ways to do it that will be reasonable to the customer."

            And Sarachan isn't bitter. He's rather proud of what he's done. For his family, it was a good ride.

            "It's always been in my family for 22 years," he says. "It was a great thing to have done. And it's OK now that we're moving on."

Edwards closes

After 28 years of serving the Rochester community from exclusively downtown locations, Edwards Restaurant closed its doors for good on February 17.

            The restaurant relocated to the historic Jonathan Child House at 35 South Washington Street in May 2002. But renovations to the historic structure quickly created significant cost overruns. Those, coupled with the downturn in the local economy, have forced the restaurant to shut down.

            "We've had some excellent runs, some phenomenal successes," says co-owner Tom Hackett. "We've done everything well. It's just because of the cost of operations that we're forced to make this move."

Major misogyny

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter wants a full hearing to examine sexual assault in the military.

            Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered an inquiry into allegations of sexual assault against women serving in Iraq and Kuwait. According to, at least 37 female service members have sought counseling and other assistance for sexual trauma after returning from duty in those two countries.

            Slaughter, a Democrat, and Republican Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito, co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, have led 37 bipartisan congressional members in sending a letter calling on the House Armed Services committee to hold a full committee hearing on the subject.

            "For years, my colleagues and I have heard terrible stories from female soldiers of sexual assault and rape --- allegations that have largely gone ignored," Slaughter says. "Our military women put their lives on the line to defend our nation from our enemies. They should not have to defend themselves from their fellow soldiers, too."

            Any meaningful solution, Slaughter says, must address the underlying causes that have allowed this problem to persist.

            Traditionally an all-male institution, the military has a long history of misogyny, says Harry Murray, sociology professor at Nazareth College.

            The purpose of the military and military academies, Murray says, is to teach people to commit violent acts. Doing so does not breed respect, he says, for fellow human beings, male or female.

            To kill, Murray says, you must learn to dehumanize the victim. Once you can do that, it is easier to devalue human life as a whole, he says.

            A January 1994 report of the General Accounting Office determined that anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of women at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, the Military Academy in West Point, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs had experienced various forms of sexual harassment at least twice a month. The report defined sexual harassment as words, gestures, or actions with sexual connotations that are unwelcome and tend to intimidate, alarm, or abuse another person.

Say no to war again

To mark the first anniversary of the Bush war, the US-based United for Peace and Justice organization and other groups are calling for massive demonstrations on Saturday, March 20. The focus is obviously on ending the US occupation of Iraq and helping bring real peace to that tragic land. But organizers also speak of a new worldwide political alignment: a "new superpower" (international public opposition to war and Bush-style hegemony) committed to changing the status quo.

            Rochesterians are now organizing bus caravans to New York City for a demonstration that day, in coordination with similar demonstrations around the globe. The local lead organization, Metro Justice, has put out a call for participants. You can reserve a bus seat ($60 round trip; $30 for students and low-income) by sending a check (note "Bus") to the Metro Justice office, 167 Flanders Street, Rochester, 14619. Call 325-2560 for more information.