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Buffalo Tracks -- Nov. 12

In a world where things are a Google search away, people and places with local ties pop up on many corners of the Internet.

People who used to live in the Buffalo area, as well as others who still call this place home, have a habit of making news elsewhere.

On an occasional basis, Buffalo News Live will highlight these Buffalonians, whether they're gone or they're still here. Here's the latest edition of Buffalo Tracks:


Buffalo billionaire Robert Rich Jr. is investing in an amateur soccer club in England, according to an Associated Press item picked up in Businessweek. Rich shipped over a scoreboard to the Bedlington Terriers, who play in a town where he has ancestral roots.


A photographer from Burma who lives in Buffalo was honored as a "peace hero" in Lansdale, Pa. Law Eh Soe is a Burmese refugee and was one of several recognized at The Peace Project/Kids for Peace International Dinner, according to the Lansdale Reporter.


A Buffalo woman is touring with Sesame Street Live, playing Bert, the Murray (Ky.) Ledger and Times reports. Denise Pajak is in her fourth year on tour with the show.


The owner of a California sewing-machine shop has a "wall of honor" tribute to veterans in his place of business. Jim Wyllie, who grew up in Buffalo, was featured in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


A Buffalo native was featured in a North Carolina community newspaper for his work as a scoutmaster. Ron Shaw's son may have aged out of scouting, but he hasn't, according to the South Charlotte News.

You can check out previous editions of Buffalo Tracks here.

If you know of former Western New Yorkers making news elsewhere, send me an e-mail at

--Aaron Besecker

Morning Roundup -- Friday, Nov. 12

This Fighting Seabee generates a lot of buzz Thursday during the stainless-steel sculpture's Veterans Day dedication in Raymond Klimek Veterans Park on River Road in North Tonawanda. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News)

Good morning. Here are this morning's top headlines:

Workers and employers are confronting hard choices as health insurance premiums spike in a brutal economy, Business Reporter Jonathan Epstein reports.

Road deputies in the Erie County Sheriff's Department have been awarded a raise, but have to pay back health insurance they got for free -- a move that's causing about two dozen retirements.

The latest edition of Gusto is out today, and includes a preview of Hollywood's holiday season.

St. Joe's and Cardinal O'Hara won Monsignor Martin Association titles at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Thursday. Check out this video wrap-up with Sports Reporter Keith McShea:

A soldier who went AWOL in the middle of a deployment to Afghanistan returned on Veterans Day. Watch the AP video report here.

For a look at today's other happenings, including today's weather forecast, check out Good Morning, Buffalo.

You also can check out The Buffalo News on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

--Aaron Besecker 

Video: Officials showcase $2 million Larkin District streetscape


Mayor Byron Brown and John Koelmel, president and CEO of First Niagara, listen to Howard Zemsky, principal of Larkin Development Group, this morning. (Harry Scull Jr./ Buffalo News)

BUFFALO -- Community leaders hope a $2 million project to overhaul the square where Seneca Street intersects with Swan Street in the Larkin District is just the beginning of the neighborhood's transformation.

That's what community and business leaders who have spearheaded the project said this morning during a ribbon cutting for the Larkin Spotlight Streetscape project.

"You can see the marvelous progress that's already been created, and it's just the beginning," said John Koelmel, president and CEO of First Niagara, which moved its headquarters into the Larkin Building on Exchange Street. "We've really just gotten to the starting line."

The project rebuilt sections of Seneca, Van Rensselaer, Swan and Emslie streets in what is also known as the city's hydraulic neighborhood.

Funded by First Niagara, as well as the Larkin Community Fund and the City of Buffalo, the project added new streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, curbs, lighting and other features to the square. See the results of the street upgrades in this video from the ribbon cutting this morning:

--Denise Jewell Gee

Morning Roundup: Wednesday, Nov. 10

Good morning.

The National Weather Service expects the patchy fog in places this morning to lift soon. Its forecast for the Buffalo area calls for clouds early in the day, with a high near 51 today. Expect sun on Thursday.

Here's a look at a few of the latest headlines:

- The public will have the chance to speak out about the 2011 proposed county budget at 5 p.m. tonight on the fourth floor of Old County Hall, 92 Franklin St. A story by News Staff Reporter Matthew Spina explains why Erie County Executive Chris Collins has not dipped into $88 million in reserves.

- A Niagara Falls man who was beaten with a golf club in an alley died of his injuries Tuesday night. Police are trying to piece together information on a suspect.

- Time is running out to complete a $700,000 sale agreement to purchase the Statler Towers on Niagara Square. Mark D. Croce discussed his plans publicly for the first time Tuesday with The Buffalo News.

The Sabres take on the New Jersey Devils tonight in Newark. Watch The News' Bucky Gleason talk about the team's season in this video:

--Denise Jewell Gee

Porter: 'New era' for Senecas to focus on reducing debt, improving education

Porter Robert Odawi Porter speaks after he is sworn in as president of the Seneca Nation of Indians on Tuesday. (Harry Scull Jr./ Buffalo News)

CATTARAGUS TERRITORY -- The Seneca Nation of Indians must reduce its debt and boost its investment in education and the well-being of its people to remain strong in the future, newly elected Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter said this afternoon.

Porter, speaking to more than 250 people after being sworn in as nation president, called it a "new era" in which the Seneca Nation will focus on diversifying its economy and providing new educational opportunities for Senecas.  

"If we can borrow $660 million to start up a casino business and construct some new buildings, we surely better be able to find a way to make substantial investments in the education and well-being of the Seneca people," Porter said. 

To do that, Porter said, the nation has already started to implement a plan in which it will seek to retire nearly 40 percent of the debt held by the Seneca Gaming Corp. and its subsidiaries within the next five years. 

Porter said he also will present the Council with a plan to allow Seneca employees to get their college degrees in the workplace and to create 100 new fluent Seneca language teachers within the next six years. 

Porter made the remarks this afternoon shortly after being sworn in as the nation's new president during its bi-annual "Canvass Day" ceremonies.

"Investing in our people is the very best kind of economic diversification that money can buy," Porter said. "If our people are strong, the nation will be strong."

Porter, who replaces former Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr., thanked Snyder for more than five decades of service.

Porter said the nation must also diversify beyond the tobacco and gaming industries and prepare for when the Seneca gaming compact is set to expire in 2016.

"I have every reason to believe that the compact will be extended until 2023, but I would not be doing my job as our president if I simply assumed that the best-case scenario would play itself out over the next six years," Porter said. 

See a portion of Porter's remarks in this video:

--Denise Jewell Gee


Sneak peak of 'Sarah Palin's Alaska' to air Wednesday at Regal Walden Galleria


In this July 2, 2010 publicity image released by TLC, former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is shown by the family boat in Dillingham, Alaska, in a scene from the reality series "Sarah Palin's Alaska," which premieres on TLC on Nov. 14. (AP Photo/TLC, Gilles Mingasson)

The Buffalo area is one of eight regions that will get a sneak peak at TLC's new series "Sarah Palin's Alaska" ahead of its Sunday television premiere.

TLC will offer a screening at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Regal Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga.

The eight-week show -- which has already spurred speculation over what it means for Palin's potential presidential prospects -- focuses on Palin and her family in her native Alaska.

Tickets for Wednesday's event are available on a first-come, first-served basis by registering here. They will not accommodate walk-up guests without tickets.

See a two-minute promotional video for the show in this clip from TLC:

Watch more Sarah Palin videos on

Watch more Sarah Palin videos on


--Denise Jewell Gee

Local store to host 'Call of Duty' sneak preview release party

Can't touch this until midnight, but you can play it.

Plan N Trade gaming store in Tonawanda will host a sneak preview and midnight release party tonight for "Call of Duty: Black Ops," the year's most anticipated video game release.

Gamers won't be able to get their hands on the actual game until midnight, but beginning at 10 p.m. the store will allow visitors to play the game on select game modes before the official release time at 12:01 a.m.

The Call of Duty game series, which puts its players in World War II and the Cold War eras, began as a computer game in 2003 before being expanding to consoles and handheld devices. Game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. in November 2009 said its previous Call of Duty installment, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” topped all video game records after recording $550 million in sales in its first five days on the shelves.

Buzz surrounding Black Ops would lead one to think this year's release will sell just as fast -- or faster.

"We've only been open for three weeks and we've received so many calls from people asking us if we're selling it early or if you can get it or what's going on," said Tonawanda Play N Trade owner Matthew Winnicki, 26. "We're not selling it before the actual release date but it kind of allows these people to play it you know."

Listen to Matthew Winnicki talk about "Call of Duty: Black Ops" and tonight's preview and release party:

Play N Trade is located at 2309 Eggert Rd.

View Larger Map

--Lauren Nicole Mariacher


'Re-imagine' your Buffalo library

The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system is asking residents to share their visions of what a local library should be -- now and in the future.

The library's "Re-Imagine Campaign" will offer three community meetings with focus groups and web surveys so that organizers can get a better idea of what the public wants and needs from their local library. The first of these meetings will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight in downtown's Central Library.

"This is an exciting as well as a challenging time for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System," the library says on its Web site. "We are beginning a process to re-imagine the library and create a new vision that will meet the needs of the entire community; a library that will not only accommodate the types of library services that are so heavily used currently but one that will satisfy the needs of our users for innovative services in the years ahead."

George T. DeTitta of The Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute will lead the process, which is expected to span over the next several months.

Central Library

Roderick Holbes, 13, of Buffalo, uses a computer in downtown Buffalo's Central Library's business, Science and Technology Department on Oct. 14. (Sharon Cantillon/ Buffalo News)

The schedule for the Re-Imagine community meetings is as follows:

- Nov. 8, 5 to 7 p.m. in Mason O. Damon Auditorium in the Central Library on Lafayette Square.

- Nov. 9, 7 to 9 p.m. in Room 5102 of Building 5, Erie Community College South, 4041 Southwestern Blvd. in Orchard Park.

- Nov. 10, 7 to 9 p.m. in Room B401 of Bretschger Hall, Erie Community College North, Tech Drive off of Wehrle Drive in Williamsville.

--Lauren Nicole Mariacher

Morning Roundup -- Monday, Nov. 8

Good morning Buffalo.

Temperatures today will range from a high of 48 to a low of 32 degrees with clear skies and no precipitation expected.

Here are some of the latest local headlines:

-Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, in Toronto for yesterday's game, said he wants the team to remain in Western New York, and that it will, if he has his way.

-While Bills fans may be excited about that news, they're certainly not happy with yesterday's loss, which puts the Bills at 0-8.

Here's the postgame report with Allen, Mark, and Sully:

-Buffalo's reputation as the mecca for unhealthy food options may be starting to change -- thanks to the introduction this week of a new initiative in Erie County that appears to be a first in the nation.

-Even the color of paper is being question as Town of Hamburg board members review budget proposals and look for places to cut.

Check out Good Morning, Buffalo for a quick look at what's happening today in Western New York.

--Lauren Nicole Mariacher

Popular YouTube video shows Buffalo in its best light

This photo from a new video promoting Buffalo shows the city skyline at sunset.

BUFFALO -- A popular new video on YouTube is showing Buffalo in its best light -- and making Buffalo hearts far and wide swell with civic pride.

The city skyline bathed in golden morning sunlight, a sunset over Lake Erie and hypnotic time-lapse video of clouds billowing behind City Hall and the Central Terminal are shown in vivid color on the video-sharing Web site.

The six-minute video primarily spotlights Buffalo's architecture gems because it was originally produced to be shown to members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is hosting its annual conference in Buffalo next fall.

But now it is gaining traction among the "Talkin' Proud" crowd of Buffalo boosters who are sharing it with friends on the Internet via social networking Web site Facebook, e-mail and Twitter.

"The thing about the video that's so valuable right now is people who maybe are not into architecture are really getting a sense of how great the assets are that we have here," said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitor Bureau, which produced the project with local filmmaker John Paget.

Gallagher-Cohen talks about the community collaboration to create the video:

Entitled "Buffalo: This Place Matters," the video includes sweeping shots of the city's Olmsted Parks system and wide-angled scenes of masterworks by America's three premier architects -- H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright -- over a soaring orchestral soundtrack.

"Buffalo's only one of two cities in the world to have buildings by these three architects," Paul McDonnell, an architect for Buffalo Public Schools, says in the video.

Since it was posted Tuesday it had been viewed more than 29,000 times by late Friday afternoon -- a rapid and impressive tally for a promotional video. Comments on it were universally positive.

"Wow! I wish everyone who thinks negative things about Buffalo would watch this!!!" read one comment.

"I'm proud to be from Buffalo," said another.

Lackawanna native and Springfield, Va., resident Paul O'Rourke watched the video after a Buffalo native neighbor told him about it. He sees it as "a great portrayal of some of the nicer things in Buffalo" and an effective marketing tool to sell the city.

"The lighting was absolutely fantastic in some of those shots," said the Navy commander, who left the Buffalo area in 1989. "Someone went through an awful lot of trouble to get those."

In fact, the CVB hired a Mercy Flight helicopter to take Paget up twice -- at dawn and dusk -- for aerial shots that provide a vantage point of the city rarely seen.

"People told me, 'Wow, you did a great job with the cinematography," but actually my job was kind of easy when you have such beautiful buildings," Paget said.

And while these eye-catching pictures are coupled with an earnest push for cultural tourism dollars, some viewers might want to simply use it as a digital comeback to the tired snow and Bills jokes.

"We're a Thurman Thomas city, right?" says Eric Walker of PUSH Buffalo, a neighborhood group dedicated to affordable housing, over shots of refurbished West Side homes. "You keep those legs moving and something's going to happen."

Watch the video:

--Joseph Popiolkowski

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