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NCPR News Staff: David Sommerstein

Reporter/ Producer
David Sommerstein, NCPR's roving St. Lawrence Valley/Fort Drum/Tug Hill reporter, began his career in radio, strangely enough, as a high school Spanish teacher in Buffalo. While drilling verb conjugations and teaching a love for Latino culture during the day, he sat in as a late night jazz and Latin DJ at Buffalo's NPR affiliate, WBFO. The radio bug bit, and David found his way to southern Colorado/northern New Mexico (the Taos/Santa Fe area) where he was Program Director, Music Director, Volunteer Coordinator, and "Just About Anything Else You Can Think Of" Director at NPR affiliate KRZA.

Since joining NCPR's news department, David has reported from the chilly deck of a St. Lawrence icebreaker, the power-chord filled stage of the High School Rock Band Festival, and the tense Albanian street market of post-war Kosovo with soldiers from Fort Drum. David also gets to fulfill his passion for music of all kinds when he spins world dance and groove music on editions of The Beat Authority. E-mail

Stories filed by David Sommerstein

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Photo by Ting-Li Wang, courtesy Clarkson University.
Photo by Ting-Li Wang, courtesy Clarkson University.

Clarkson hockey wins first national title

The Clarkson womens hockey team is a national champion. The Golden Knights upset the two-time champion Minnesota Gophers 5 to 4 at the NCAA Division I Frozen Four yesterday.  Go to full article
Human Trafficking in Our Backyard. Poster: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/74442773@N03/7418920888/<br />">John Eng Cheng, Inheritance Magazine</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Human Trafficking in Our Backyard. Poster: John Eng Cheng, Inheritance Magazine, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Four kinds of human trafficking in the North Country

More than 40 agencies across the North Country are coming together to fight some of the darkest underground crimes. The North Country Human Trafficking task force says smuggling rings funnel vulnerable people into forced prostitution, indentured servitude, and debt bondage. And while it's not common, it is happening here in the North Country.

The task force is holding trainings to help law enforcement, not-for-profits, and churches learn to identify victims of human trafficking. David Sommerstein attended one in Canton.  Go to full article
Photo: David Sommerstein
Photo: David Sommerstein

Finally, a sign of spring: Maple Weekend is here

Looking for that real sign of spring? Don't look out the window. New York's first crop of 2014 is coming in. The sugar shanties will be going full bore this weekend for the state's official Maple Weekend. There are some celebrations around the region and plenty of places to taste the freshest maple syrup.

New York is the country's second biggest producer of the sweet nectar, behind Vermont. Producers will put out more than 2 million taps this spring.

New York's Acting Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball spoke with David Sommerstein. He says it's the time to celebrate a tradition and an economic driver.  Go to full article
Congressional hopeful Elise Stefanik tours the Urban Mission in Watertown. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Congressional hopeful Elise Stefanik tours the Urban Mission in Watertown. Photo: David Sommerstein.

NY-21: Stefanik tours Watertown businesses

Congressional candidate Elise Stefanik swung through Jefferson County yesterday.

The Republican toured the Knowlton Technologies plant in Watertown, then visited the Watertown Urban Mission next door. She also held a meet-and-greet last night at The Barley Pub in Belleville, between Watertown and Pulaski.  Go to full article
A train in Casselton, North Dakota carrying crude oil derailed and exploded on Dec. 30, 2013. Photo: Ken Pawluk / Associated Press / latimes.com, via NTSB press release
A train in Casselton, North Dakota carrying crude oil derailed and exploded on Dec. 30, 2013. Photo: Ken Pawluk / Associated Press / latimes.com, via NTSB press release

Schumer presses oil companies on dangerous train tankers

While in Watertown Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer said the federal government is not moving fast enough to make trains carrying crude oil safer.

Schumer said volatile shipments of crude oil didn't used to be an issue in New York because there weren't many.  Go to full article
Jefferson County legislative chairwoman Carolyn Fitzpatrick looks on as Sen. Charles Schumer speaks in Watertown Wednesday. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Jefferson County legislative chairwoman Carolyn Fitzpatrick looks on as Sen. Charles Schumer speaks in Watertown Wednesday. Photo: David Sommerstein.

Schumer: Ft. Drum shouldn't "come within a whiff" of Army cuts

New York Senator Chuck Schumer says he's not afraid to use his political might to protect Fort Drum from cuts to the military budget. Schumer held a press conference at Watertown city hall Wednesday as the Pentagon prepares to axe up to 100,000 U.S. Army troops.  Go to full article
Bassmaster Elite angler Randy Howell reels in a small mouth during a tournament practice session near Ogdensburg last summer. Photo: David Sommerstein
Bassmaster Elite angler Randy Howell reels in a small mouth during a tournament practice session near Ogdensburg last summer. Photo: David Sommerstein

How much do Bass fishing tournaments hurt the fish?

Last summer, the country's top professional anglers were catching hundreds of pounds of Bass in the St. Lawrence River for the Bassmasters Elite tournament. Elite series officials deemed it a big success. A study found it generated $1 million to $3 million for the region.

But are tournaments like Bassmasters Elite bad for the fish? The number of catch-and-release tournaments on the St. Lawrence, Lake Champlain, Black Lake, and other bodies of water has been increasing. Years of research has led to protocols and rules that protect fish stock. But a team of researchers at Lake Champlain Sea Grant has found it does indeed stress out the fish, and it can take them months to recover.  Go to full article
Aaron Woolf has been chosen by Democratic Party leaders in the North Country to seek the NY-21 House seat. Photo provided by NYS Democratic Party
Aaron Woolf has been chosen by Democratic Party leaders in the North Country to seek the NY-21 House seat. Photo provided by NYS Democratic Party

Where NY21 Dem Candidate Aaron Woolf stands on the issues

The endorsed Democratic candidate for Bill Owens' seat in Congress finally broke his media silence Wednesday, speaking with several North Country media outlets. Aaron Woolf spoke with David Sommerstein on a range of issues, from gun control and health care to why a political rookie wants to represent the region. Democratic county chairs chose Woolf to run a month ago, but he had declined interviews until now.

Woolf faces a primary challenge from St. Lawrence County political veteran Steve Burke.

Woolf was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from high school in Princeton, New Jersey, and has lived in many different places. Until last month, he was registered to vote in Brooklyn. But Woolf says he considers Elizabethtown in Essex County home. Woolf spoke by phone with David Sommerstein from the grocery store he owns in Brooklyn.  Go to full article
Rebecca Weld of Potsdam is "The Cookie Architect." Last year she sent blank, puzzle-piece-style gingerbread cookies out to a few dozen of her favorite cookiers. Each returned a fully designed cookie, and Weld built them into a <a href="http://cookieconnection.juliausher.com/blog/gingerbread-house-of-cards">Gingergread House of Cards</a> - a meta-cookie, if you will. All photos: David Sommerstein, unless indicated
Rebecca Weld of Potsdam is "The Cookie Architect." Last year she sent blank, puzzle-piece-style gingerbread cookies out to a few dozen of her favorite cookiers. Each returned a fully designed cookie, and Weld built them into a Gingergread House of Cards - a meta-cookie, if you will. All photos: David Sommerstein, unless indicated

Potsdam "cookie architect" makes edible art

You might remember the rise of the gourmet cupcake from several years back. Now, a new designer baking trend it involves that humblest of desserts - the cookie. Bakers around the country and around the world are making incredibly intricate and artistic cookies, and then sharing photos of their creations online.

One cookie designer who won what you might call the "Oscar" of cookie culture last year lives right here in the North Country. Rebecca Weld earns her living as an architect in Potsdam. But during her free time, Weld is hunched over the kitchen counter, like an alchemist, dripping food coloring drop by drop and stirring to achieve the perfect colored icing to decorate cookies.  Go to full article
Photo: Sarah Harris
Photo: Sarah Harris

NYS government sows seeds to boost farming economy

It seems like state leaders are sowing acres of ideas these days to boost New York's farming economy. This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of New York's first ever inter-agency task force on agriculture. The idea is to help farmers cut through the bureaucratic red tape that's an obstacle to growth.

Also this week, North Country Sen. Patty Ritchie unveiled a plan to encourage more young farmers to enter the business.  Go to full article

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