Ellen Abbott

Reporter, Syracuse

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County.  Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

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Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

What goes up must come down, and luckily for researchers at SUNY ESF in Syracuse, a weather balloon they launched just over a month ago from their Syracuse campus, was finally discovered along a remote area in Cortland County.

The project was part of the Global Space Balloon Challenge, and engineering students, led by professor Giorgos Mountrakis, fashioned the high-altitude balloon so it could carry information-gathering electronics thousands of miles high.

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center / Facebook

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center will be offering pasteurized donor human milk for premature infants.  

St. Joseph’s will become one of 12 hospitals in New York state that will offer donor’s milk, from a Boston-based milk bank in its Level III neonatal intensive care unit.  

Pediatrics chairman Dr. Larry Consenstein says the milk would be used in cases where a mother’s milk is not available for a premature infant. He says studies show that feeding formula to a premature baby can cause severe complications, especially infections in the digestive tract.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Gaming facilities have some new competition in upstate New York. The Yellow Brick Road Casino has opened in Chittenango, a small town about 20 miles east of Syracuse.  

Gamblers started waiting along a yellow brick path in front of the casino, the night before the opening; From Albany, from nearby Syracuse and all around central New York.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) says more resources are needed to fight recruitment of individuals by radical organizations like ISIS and groups linked to al-Qaida.  He says one of the big goals should be an anti-messaging campaign aimed at extremist groups.

Chris and Jenni / Flickr

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is trying to discourage mothers from early elective deliveries. The insurance company is sending out information to doctors and health care facilities, warning about problems that can come from delivering babies early.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

In the wake of federal lawmakers delaying a decision on the future of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner continues the drumbeat calling for more spending on America’s roads and bridges.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Central New York boosters of universal health care are celebrating this week, after the state Assembly passed the New York Health Act.

The legislation would provide universal, comprehensive health care to all New Yorkers.

“What it means is -- basically -- when you’re born, you have health insurance,” says retired physician Joal Potash. He volunteers at free medical clinics in Syracuse.

Destiny USA

Tourism is growing in central New York, up 17 percent in the last five years, according to industry officials. And at a tourism roundtable in Syracuse Wednesday they agreed there are still more ways to boost tourism dollars.  

Travel spending in the five counties of central New York amounts to nearly $1.2 billion, employing 25,000 people. So it’s a huge industry already, according to David Holder of the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Finding out who tests positive for the H-I-V virus and getting them treated are cornerstones of a central New York strategy to meet the state’s goal of ending AIDS by 2020.  

HIV testing by ACR Health is already up 20 percent since December, after a new push to get more people tested according to Jeanette O’Connor-Shanley, the agency's director of support services. And when individuals test positive, they move on to the next part of their strategy to cut back on the number of new aids patients. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse-area Rep. John Katko is touring schools in central New York this week, looking for ways to strengthen education policy.

It’s a story Katko says he’s heard again and again: federally mandated standardized testing is stifling teaching flexibility, and forcing all children to be taught in a one-size-fits-all curriculum. To make his point at a news conference Tuesday, he read a letter he received from an Onondaga County sixth grader, upset at the way he sees test prep taking over schools.

NYS Assembly

The future of the state’s property tax cap is one of the big items on the docket as state lawmakers head back to Albany to finish up the current session. Supporters of the tax cap, including business groups, Republicans in the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are pushing to make the tax cap permanent. 

Syracuse-area Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli thinks the tax cap has worked.

"I think it has been successful in keeping property taxes down,” said Magnarelli.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

Central New York emergency medical technicians have increasingly been on the lookout for liquid nicotine overdoses.  

As the use of smokeless e-cigarettes continues to grow, more and more liquid nicotine is ending up in the homes of Americans. And it’s not safe, says Upstate Medical University toxicologist Nicholas Nacca.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A political newcomer is running for the seat on the Onondaga County legislature, currently held by legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon. Tim Rudd says he’s a candidate in the district that includes parts of the city of Syracuse and the town of Geddes.

Rudd had one issue to talk about in his introductory news conference: campaign ethics.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s time for emergency rooms to prepare for typical summertime injuries involving children. Often that means accidents involving kids on bikes, skateboards or scooters. One Syracuse hospital says the worst of those injuries can be avoided.

When 10-year-old Michael Caltabiano of Syracuse heads out on his bike, he always wears a helmet. And when he sees other kids without one, he has a message for them:

"I tell them that wearing a helmet, keeps them out of the hospital. It’s a great, great idea."

Mike Mozart / Flickr

This weekend kicks off the summer travel season. And according to one travel group, it’s going to be a busy one.

Every year, AAA does a survey of members to find out if they’re traveling over Memorial Day. Results this year show it will the busiest Memorial Day on the road in the last decade, according to AAA of Western and Central New York Spokeswoman Diana Dibble. Estimates are that 32 million Americans will hit the road, in large part because of an improving economy and lower gas prices. This could bode well for a busy summer overall.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

It’s not the threats from abroad that worry Army Secretary John McHugh the most these days. During a visit at Syracuse University yesterday, he said an uncertain budget situation is the military's boogie man right now.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse-area Assemblyman Sam Roberts may soon be giving up his seat to be commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the state agency that handles welfare and disability cases.  

Roberts, a Democrat, was nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the job Wednesday. He needs to be confirmed by the New York State Senate, and then it’s up to the governor to call a special election.  

Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, a fellow Democrat from Syraucuse, hopes that could take place during the regular November election.

Michael Staab / International Institute of Species Exploration, SUNY ESF

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse has come out with a top ten list of new species discovered in the last year. SUNY ESF President Quentin Wheeler says the list is culled from the 18,000 new plants and animals scientists discover every year. 

Wheeler says it’s not just plants or animals on the list. There’s a 600-pound chicken-like dinosaur that researchers used to think was a bird, nicknamed the “chicken from hell” because they hung out in nests of dinosaur eggs.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney is kicking off her campaign for re-election with an endorsement from a group that doesn’t traditionally back Republicans.  

The Alliance Network is a leading Syracuse-area community organization that represents many of Syracuse’s minority interests. It has only endorsed two Republicans in its history, former Rep. Jim Walsh and Mahoney, when she ran for a second term as county executive four years ago.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Residents in one Syracuse neighborhood are sprucing up their homes this spring with an extra incentive in mind

The Eastwood Neighborhood Association once again is recognizing homeowners who put in a little extra time and effort to beautify their home.  

Resident Minch Lewis says the Eastwood Neighborhood Curb Appeal Contest goes a long way to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood that anchors the east side of the city of Syracuse.

Ryan Somma / Flickr

There won’t be any crowing contests or poultry competitions at the New York State Fair this year. The decision is a proactive one, in response to the spread of a strain of avian flu.

The directive comes from the New York State Department of Agriculture, which is watching the spread of strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to state veterinarian Dr. David Smith.

DJ Leln / via Flickr

President Barack Obama is calling on more public awareness and debate regarding military equipment that is distributed to local law enforcement agencies. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says she would welcome such discussions.  

PunchingJudy / Flickr

In the last six months, New York state has trained 10,000 laypeople to use Narcan, a drug that can save a person from death after an overdose of opioids like heroin or prescription pain killers. Local emergency medical technicians say they are behind the move, if people are properly trained.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While the federal government and some state governments are looking to punish companies that sell pure powdered caffeine, local emergency personnel are getting a primer on how to deal with an overdose.

Upstate New York Poison Center toxicologist William Eggleston says it’s only a matter of time before someone dies using powdered caffeine in New York state.

"I think if the product continues to be readily available, it’s inevitable that someone is going to unintentionally misuse the product,” Eggleston said.

borisvolodnikov / Flickr

A report released this spring labels much of Onondaga Lake as swimmable, and Onondaga County officials say this report should be a springboard to further discussions about the future of the lake.  

The Upstate Freshwater Institute says the northern two-thirds of the lake, that was once called the most polluted in the country, is swimmable. Tom Rhoads, Onondaga County’s Water and Environment Protection Commissioner, says that doesn’t necessarily mean residents should grab their swimsuits and jump in.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Taking care of dogs can help rehabilitate an inmate. That’s one of the theories behind the creation of the dog shelter at the Jamesville Correctional Facility.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A new program starts in Syracuse this weekend that’s meant to help people overcome one of the biggest impediments to finding work in central New York: transportation. 

It often isn’t so easy getting a job in central New York if you don’t have a car or access to public transportation. Providence Services of Syracuse President Deborah Hundley says the problems come at workplaces that are beyond the bus line, or shifts that begin or end when buses aren’t running.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse's Upstate Medical University is taking a research project into the community, which will focus on older, frail adults.

Dr. Sharon Brangman, chief of geriatric medicine, says usually researchers start out with a thesis and then try to prove it. Armed with a $15,000 federal grant, they’ll work the other way around on this.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Prosecutors and police agencies across central New York are trying a new strategy as they continue to fight the rising use of synthetic marijuana. Not since the bath salts craze of 2012 have local police and emergency personnel come across so many agitated individuals high on synthetic drugs. 

John Katko/Facebook

Syracuse-area Rep. John Katko has his work cut out for him as co-chair of the Task Force on Terrorist, Foreign Fighter Threat. The Republican just returned from a trip to several countries in the Middle East to get a sense of where problems might lie.

Katko, as part of an eight-member congressional delegation, visited Israel, Iraq, Turkey and some European countries to get a better idea of the dangers posed by foreign fighters -- those Westerners recruited and trained by terrorist organizations.