New York

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Marilyn Schmiedel, a member of Sure Shots, prepares to shoot during a practice at Red’s Indoor Range in Pflugerville. The all-female shooting league was formed in 2010 to provide women with a social outlet while teaching them safe gun practices.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

When Niki Jones moved from New York to Texas less than a decade ago, she had virtually no experience with guns. But, when she opened her own store and began working late nights alone, she felt that she needed a form of protection and got her concealed hand gun license. 

“I found myself at the range — had a great time — and then got to a point where I wanted to be challenged. so I looked for a league to join,” Jones said. “I began to get frustrated because there wasn’t one that included women. So I started one with the goal of making it everything I want and the reaction was great.’

In 2010, Jones created Sure Shots, an all-female shooting league and social group.

The league practices out of two different Red’s Indoor Range locations, one in Oak Hill and one in Pflugerville on alternating Wednesdays. Made up of a couple hundred women who refer to themselves as “Sure Shots,” the league was created with the purpose of providing women a social outlet, similar to a book club or a running group, while teaching safe gun practices. Supplementary workshops are offered to members that delve deeper into topics such as gun assembly and local shotgun competitions.

Regardless of age, experience or political views, the league simply caters to those who want to practice their shooting. One of Jones’ favorite aspects of the organization is the Mini Sure Shots league, where daughters of Sure Shots can learn about shooting during special, condensed, kid-friendly workshops. Jones understands that gun use can spark concern but says that most are receptive to a league for children.  

“The girls are like sponges: They soak everything up,” Jones said. “It’s great because they have moms that teach them from an early age how to safely use guns so most of them aren’t as afraid of the atmosphere. They’re safe but very interested.”

In an effort to expand her involvement in the community outside of weekly practices, Jones founded Sure Shots Magazine. The publication celebrates accomplished markswomen, features interviews with professionals and editorials on training with firearms.

Nancy Miller, member of Sure Shots for a little over a year, said she had a difficult experience dealing with firearms 10 years ago and used the league as a part of the healing process. During an outing with her husband at a local shooting range, she tried shooting a gun for the first time in years. After picking up and putting down a gun multiple times, she finally shot at the target through her shakes. Not long after that shot, she joined the league.

“It was a personal goal: something I wanted to do for myself,” Miller said. “These girls are the best. We’re kind of a big family.”

Moving to Texas from Louisiana, Lori Benoit had little to no experience with Texas gun culture. Years after the move and three kids later, Benoit started to shoot as a way to redefine herself and create an identity outside of her role as a mother. 

“This was one activity that wasn’t centered around the kids, which was liberating,” Benoit said. “It was totally out of my comfort zone, but I think that’s what made it more appealing. It’s weird because it allows me to create a different identity and gives me a skill that can help me defend my family.” 

The league, which is free, has more than a hundred members and a group of about 20 who attend Wednesday practices regularly. Tricia Palmer, who grew in up Austin and graduated from UT, was around guns for most of her life, but it wasn’t until Benoit, Palmer’s neighbor, mentioned the league that Palmer started taking shooting seriously. She realized that shooting bridged a new relationship with her husband, who was already an avid shooter. 

“I have always been busy and led an active lifestyle, but I didn’t have an activity that my husband and I both took part in, and now we do,” Palmer said. “It gives me a sense of strength and power. Plus, us girls look good doing it.”

For movie buffs, the month of October means one thing: 31 days of horror movies. With tons of horror flicks to choose from, The Daily Texan is going to be providing a daily horror recommendation. Whether you prefer ghosts, zombies or stark explorations of the human condition, we’ll be featuring horror films of all flavors. Check back every evening for the movie of the day. Next up, we get existential with “Synecdoche, New York.”

When “Being John Malkovich” scribe Charlie Kaufman announced that his next project would be a horror movie, no one knew what to expect. It turns out, neither did he.

Kaufman began his process by making a list of what frightened him and, as things happen, the project ultimately became “Synecdoche, New York,” his directorial debut. It is not a horror movie in the traditional sense, but it is still absolutely terrifying on an existential level.

Horror movies are often characterized by the unlikely and impossible. There are no monsters in real life and, though serial killers exist, most of us won’t ever deal with one. Cancer, on the other hand, is something we cannot avoid. And same with our loved ones abandoning us. Or the possibility of our children resenting us. And, no matter what the new fall season brings us, there is nothing more frightening on television than the evening news and the threat of society crumbling.

And that is what “Synecdoche, New York” is about.

All of this makes the movie sound like a downer — which it can be — but it also happens to feature a bizarre sense of humor, present in nearly every scene. There are also moments of surprising profundity, which is especially impressive since, taken as a whole, “Synecdoche, New York” doesn’t make very much sense. Characters change genders and motivations, and refer to events that never happened while time jumps forward so fast that not even the protagonist can keep up with it — another terrifying element.

Said protagonist is stage director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who receives a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and chooses to spend the money recreating New York inside a hanger within the city. Of course, to be a perfect reproduction, the hanger needs a hanger within itself and that again within itself. Since “Synecdoche, New York” exists in a dream reality, it can go on and on this way, although, as viewers, we only see a couple of levels into the rabbit hole.

It goes without saying that Cotard’s project, an overblown attempt to produce something truly real, never fully comes to fruition. Meanwhile, his wife abandons him and finds success making paintings so small that they require special magnifying glasses in order to view, showing us how our dreams can fall apart while others around us seem to achieve them effortlessly.

There are no ghosts or goblins in “Synecdoche, New York” and not many viewers left the theater describing what they had seen as a horror movie; indeed, most viewers left unable to describe just what the hell they just saw. Despite the fact that the movie is an unorganized, unfocused mess, with no concrete story to hold it together, it is one of the most affecting, challenging and, yes, terrifying that I’ve seen.

There is a monologue toward the end, given by a preacher at a staged funeral. 

“While alive, you wait in vain, wasting years for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right,” he says, “and it never comes.”

No, it is not the shower scene in “Psycho” or Linda Blair spewing green vomit in “The Exorcist,” but as far as things that keep me awake at night, wasting life on false hope tops the list.

Widowspeak, the great dreamy, hazy, indie rock group from Brooklyn, N.Y., just released Almanac earlier this year and have another EP titled The Swamps due out on Captured Tracks by the end of the month. The Daily Texan spoke with band members Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas about writing songs and touring through the South.

 

The Daily Texan: Are you used to playing big festivals like ACL?

Molly Hamilton: We’ve done a couple of them but mostly we play a small stage at the beginning of the day, which honestly is really cool because you are a part of this festival where are a lot of people are there because of bigger acts and then they get to accidentally discover you, which is a really cool experience.

Robert Earl Thomas: We had a bunch of people come up to us today and say, “I didn’t know who you were, but now I’m a fan,” and that’s awesome. We couldn’t ask for anything better, and then I get to see other bands I want to see. Being a band at a festival is the coolest.

MH: Exactly, it’s like being the opening band on the sickest bill ever. It’s 100 bands long. 

 

DT: You have a new EP coming out at the end of the month called The Swamps. Were these songs recorded after Almanac?

RET: We were sick of touring, but we really didn’t want to work either, so we worked out this thing where just the two of us opened for Jason Isbell.

MH: It’s always cool to be exposed to new people. We started writing songs about being stagnant and cooped up. The swamps are a still and creepy place, and that permeated throughout all we were writing about.

RET: We have the lyric in the song “The Swamps” that goes “Read the listings in Southern towns.” I would drive through town and get on Craigslist and find a house for $500 and say, “Why don’t we live there!” 

 

DT: You get compared a lot to other bands. Is that something that you think is cool or do you get tired of it after a while?

MH: I don’t necessarily get tired of the comparison because for a lot of people, it’s like they love that band so if they see something that they’ve always loved in our music. The one thing I don’t like is when people assume it’s our influence. A lot of people say “Oh, Molly’s obviously influenced by Hope Sandoval’s singing,” and I think it’s more that I coincidentally sing similarly to her, and I think we come from a similar place in terms of our stylistic leanings.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Twinkies will live to see another day.

Hostess Brands Inc. and its second largest union agreed Monday to try to resolve differences after a bankruptcy court judge noted that the parties hadn’t gone through the critical step of private mediation.

The company’s announcement last week that it would move to liquidate prompted people across the country to rush to stores and stock up on their favorite Hostess treats. Many businesses reported selling out of Twinkies within hours and the spongy cakes turned up for sale online for hundreds of dollars.

Even if Hostess goes out of business, its popular brands will likely find a second life in buyers. The company says several potential buyers have expressed interest in the brands. 

John Papanier, 12, directs traffic on a street congested by vehicles during cleanup after Superstorm Sandy, in the New Dorp section of Staten Island, N.Y. Residents of New York’s Staten Island borough are noticing something new as they and volunteers work to clear the remains of storm-damaged homes: gawkers. Cruising by in cars or walking through streets snapping photos, these are people drawn to the scene of a tragedy to glimpse what they've seen on television come to life.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Garbage trucks, hulking military vehicles and mud-caked cars move slowly through a Staten Island waterfront neighborhood still reeling from Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge. Then comes an outlier: a spotless SUV with three passengers peering out windows at a mangled home choked with sea grass.

Residents recognize the occupants right away. They’re disaster tourists, people drawn to the scene of a tragedy to glimpse the pictures they’ve seen on television come to life.

Two weeks after the superstorm socked the region, cleanup continues in New York and New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the destruction. At its peak, the storm knocked out power to 8.5 million in 10 states, and some during a later nor’easter. About 73,000 utility customers in New York and New Jersey remained without power late Sunday, most of them on Long Island.

But the storm didn’t just bring darkness and despair; it also brought the gawkers.

Seaver Avenue on Staten Island was sloppy with mud, sand and curbside mounds of couches, personal photos, mattresses and sodden sheetrock. Mickey Merrell’s front porch was askew, and the storm surge nearly knocked a neighbor’s house into hers. Across the street a house was washed off its foundation. It was a scene of human misery — and one of New York City’s new attractions, like the construction crane that collapsed and dangled high above mid-town Manhattan on Oct. 29.

“Sometimes it’s like we’re at the zoo,” Merrell said. “So many people come and stop and stare at this place.”

Domenick and Kim Barone said they could tell the tourists apart from the volunteers because the gawkers’ clothes and shoes are clean, and they’re often snapping pictures.

Peter Lisi, a renter who is fighting a landlord trying to evict him from his damaged home, said he doesn’t mind the gawkers, “as long as they’re not making fun.” Some of them are drawn in to what’s happening and help, he said.

 

Waves crash into a seawall and buildings along the coast in Hull, Mass., Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. A nor’easter blustered into New York, New Jersey and western Massachusetts on Wednesday with rain and wet snow, plunging homes in New York and New Jersey right back into darkness in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — A nor’easter blustered into New York and New Jersey on Wednesday with rain and wet snow, plunging homes right back into darkness, stopping commuter trains again and inflicting another round of misery on thousands of people still reeling from Superstorm Sandy’s blow more than a week ago.

Under ordinary circumstances, a storm of this sort wouldn’t be a big deal, but large swaths of the landscape were still an open wound, with the electrical system highly fragile and many of Sandy’s victims still mucking out their homes and cars and shivering in the deepening cold.

Exactly as authorities feared, the nor’easter brought down tree limbs and electrical wires, and utilities in New York and New Jersey reported that nearly 60,000 customers who lost power because of Sandy lost it all over again as a result of the nor’easter.

Mark L. Fendrick, of Staten Island, tweeted Wednesday night: “My son had just got his power back 2 days ago now along comes this nor’easter and it’s out again.”

John Miksad, senior vice president of electric operations at Consolidated Edison, the chief utility in New York City, said, “I know everyone’s patience is wearing thin.”

As the nor’easter closed in, thousands of people in low-lying neighborhoods staggered by the superstorm just over a week ago were urged to clear out. Authorities warned that rain and 60 mph gusts in the evening and overnight could topple trees wrenched loose by Sandy and erase some of the hard-won progress made in restoring power to millions of customers.

“I am waiting for the locusts and pestilence next,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said. “We may take a setback in the next 24 hours.”

Ahead of the storm, public works crews in New Jersey built up dunes to protect the stripped and battered coast, and new evacuations were ordered in a number of communities already emptied by Sandy. New shelters opened.

In New York City, police went to low-lying neighborhoods with loudspeakers, urging residents to leave. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t issue mandatory evacuations, and many people stayed behind, some because they feared looting, others because they figured whatever happens couldn’t be any worse than what they have gone through already.

“We’re petrified,” said James Alexander, a resident of the hard-hit Rockaways section of Queens. “It’s like a sequel to a horror movie.”

Forecasters said the nor’easter would bring moderate coastal flooding, with storm surges of about 3 feet possible Wednesday into Thursday — far less than the 8 to 14 feet Sandy hurled at the region. The storm’s winds were expected to be well below Sandy’s, which gusted to 90 mph.

By evening, the storm had created a slushy mess in the streets in the metropolitan area. Eight-foot waves crashed on the beaches in New Jersey, which was lashed with a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow.

Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, with most of the victims in New York and New Jersey.

Men's Tennis

Play began Thursday in Flushing, N.Y., as the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships got under way at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Senior Daniel Whitehead represented the Longhorns as he competed in the singles draw after receiving automatic entry through his win at the Texas Regional Championships on Oct. 23. Whitehead was defeated in his first match against California’s Ben McLachlan (6-2, 6-1), who ranked No. 16 in the ITA preseason rankings.

However, two Longhorns are still alive in the tournament. Doubles tandem Chris Camillone and David Holiner, the No. 8-ranked doubles team in the country, received a late invitation to Flushing as they were chosen as alternates in the doubles draw. Camillone and Holiner received a bye in the first round of 32 but played a tough match against North Florida’s Moritz Buerchner and Norbert Nemcsek in the round of 16, where they won 8-6.

The win puts Camillone and Holiner at an 8-2 record this fall and, more importantly, advances them to the quarterfinals Friday against Duke’s No. 16 Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler.  

Men's Tennis

Senior No. 46 Texas player Daniel Whitehead will travel to Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (the same site of the U.S. Open earlier this year) in Flushing, N.Y. today through Sunday for the 2012 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.

Whitehead is one of 32 players who will compete in the singles draw portion of the championships and is the first Longhorn to reach the nationals since Ed Corrie in 2009. Whitehead solidified a spot for himself in the New York after winning the main singles draw at the Texas Regionals in Fort Worth, T.X.

Whitehead has played exceptional tennis this fall accruing an 8-2 singles record in singles competition, 2-2 against ranked opponents. Whitehead was ranked No. 46 in the ITA preseason rankings and will see many of the top-ranked college players in the nation, including Virginia’s Alex Domijan who was ranked No. 8 during the preseason but is currently the No. 1 player in the tournament, and Ohio State’s Peter Kobelt who was ranked No. 35 in the preseason but is currently the No. 2 player in the tournament.

The National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships will mark ending of the fall season.

 

A firefighter surveys the smoldering ruins of a house in the Breezy Point section of New York, Tuesday. More than 50 homes were destroyed in a fire that swept through the oceanfront community during Super-storm Sandy.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Stripped of its bustle and mostly cut off from the world, New York was left wondering Tuesday when its particular way of life — carried by subway, lit by skyline and powered by 24-hour deli — would return.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the power company said it could be several days before the lights come on for hundreds of thousands of people plunged into darkness by what was once Hurricane Sandy.

And Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before the subway, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history, is running again. All 10 of the tunnels that carry New Yorkers under the East River were flooded.

Sandy killed 10 people in New York City. The dead included two who drowned in a home and one who was in bed when a tree fell on an apartment, the mayor said. A 23-year-old woman died after stepping into a puddle near a live electrical wire.

“This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced,” Bloomberg said.

For the 8 million people who live here, the city was a different place one day after the storm.

In normal times, rituals bring a sense of order to the chaos of life in the nation’s largest city: Stop at Starbucks on the morning walk with the dog, drop the kids off at P.S. 39, grab a bagel.

On Tuesday, those rituals were suspended, with little indication when they would come back. Schools were shut for a second day and were closed Wednesday, too.

Some bridges into the city reopened at midday, but service on the three commuter railroads that run between the city and its suburbs was still suspended.

The New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather since the 19th century, but said it would reopen on Wednesday.

Swaths of the city were not so lucky. Consolidated Edison, the power company, said it would be four days before the last of the 337,000 customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn who lost power have electricity again.

For the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County, with 442,000 outages, it could take a week, Con Ed said. Floodwater led to explosions that disabled a power substation on Monday night, contributing to the outages.

A fire destroyed as many as 100 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens. Firefighters said the water was chest-high on the street and they had to use a boat to make rescues.

The landscape of the city changed in a matter of hours.

The mayor said: “We will get through the days ahead by doing what we always do in tough times — by standing together, shoulder to shoulder, ready to help a neighbor, comfort a stranger and get the city we love back on its feet.”

States that expand their Medicaid programs under President Barack Obama’s health care law may end up saving thousands of lives, a medical journal report released Wednesday indicates.

Until now, the Medicaid debate has been about budgets and states’ rights. But a statistical study by Harvard researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine found a 6 percent drop in the adult death rate in Arizona, Maine and New York, three states that have recently expanded coverage for low-income residents along the general lines of the federal health care law.

The study found that for every 176 adults covered under expanded Medicaid, one death per year would be prevented.

“Policymakers should be should be aware that major changes in Medicaid — either expansions or reductions in coverage — may have significant effects on the health of vulnerable populations,” wrote the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Medicaid is a federal-state program for low-income and severely disabled people. It covers about 60 million people in the United States. The new law assigned Medicaid a major role in expanding coverage, accounting for about half the 30 million uninsured people expected to gain insurance as a result of the health overhaul.

But the Supreme Court last month ruled that states have the leeway to reject the law’s Medicaid expansion, which is geared to reach mostly uninsured adults without children and with annual incomes up to about $15,400. As a consequence, the Congressional Budget Office projects 3 million fewer people will gain coverage. Although the CBO still expects most states will expand their programs to some degree, the agency’s nonpartisan analysts project that it may take longer than a decade for some governors and legislatures to decide.

Some governors in Republican-led states, including Texas and Florida, have rejected the Medicaid expansion since the high court’s ruling. Many remain on the fence, awaiting the outcome of the November elections and GOP promises to repeal the law. Although Washington will pay all of the cost of the expansion for the first three years, then scale back to a 90 percent share, Republican governors say Medicaid is already too costly and the Obama administration repeatedly has blocked their efforts to streamline the program.

The New England Journal study seems destined to be swept up immediately into the debate. Critics are certain to point out that its lead author, Dr. Benjamin Sommers, is on temporary assignment from Harvard working in a policy division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which is carrying out Obama’s overhaul.

In an interview, Sommers said “HHS does not have anything to do with this paper.” The research was under way before he began serving as an adviser to the department, and no federal money was used in the project, he said. Like other major medical publications, the journal rigorously reviews research prior to publication.

The study’s findings counter a widespread perception that having a Medicaid card is little better than being uninsured. Because Medicaid pays doctors far less than Medicare and private insurance, some experts have questioned it will be able to deliver the care that people need.

The study compared key health statistics in the three states that expanded Medicaid coverage with outcomes in neighboring states that did not, examining five years before the expansion and the five years after.

New York, Maine and Arizona have all expanded eligibility for adults since 2000, with New York’s expansion by far the largest. States that did not expand and were used for the comparison included Pennsylvania (for New York), New Hampshire (for Maine), and Nevada and New Mexico (for Arizona.)

The study is not the gold standard for statistical research because subjects were not selected at random, but Sommers said the researchers cross-checked their results and are confident of the findings.

In addition to the drop in death rates among adults ages 20 to 64, the study found a 21 percent drop in delays getting care blamed on cost barriers.

It’s the second recent study to document the benefits of Medicaid. A study of Oregonians published last year found that those with Medicaid were more far more likely to get regular medical care, including preventive screenings. The subjects of the Oregon study were randomly selected.

“Expanding Medicaid to low-income adults is associated with significant gains in health and survival,” said Sommers.