A suspect is still at large following an attempt to rob the
Boiceville Garage on Wednesday, December 7th. According to
the police, an armed, masked man entered the garage Wednesday
evening demanding money. He was apparently told the money
was locked in the safe and it could not be opened by the clerk
on duty at the time. The suspect, described as a male, approximately
5 foot, 4 inches to 5 foot, six inches, wearing a gray sweatshirt,
blue jeans and a ski cap. While police would not officially
comment, some of the clothing apparently worn by the subject
was discovered under a bridge nearby. Anyone with information
should call state police at (845) 338-1702.
Even though tax bills are about to start appearing in people’s
mailboxes, and there’s a townwide revaluation of tax
assessments going on, which will also entail mail appearing
in people’s boxes, the two are not related, according
to town supervisor Berndt Leifeld. At least not for the current
“Letters have gone out documenting individual properties,”
Leifeld said of a string of mail people will be getting checking
the attributes of their properties to see if what the town’s
consultants undertaking the reval have gotten things right…
The supervisor added that the actual tabulation of assessment
values starts to happen only after the current phase of documentation
According to contracts with the reval consultants, and mandated
county and state assessment needs, the entire project must
be completed in April.
The tax bills going out in early January will reflect the
current year’s assessments, set into place last Spring.
“We still have time before the papers come in the mail
with the amounts we’re worth and how much we’ll
be owing,” Leifeld quipped. “I guess that’s
when everyone commits suicide.”
He paused for effect.
“I know I’ll be going up…”
Anyone who drives along Route 28 into the mountains has seen
the property, rising up from Kenoza Lake in what amounts to
that spot where the hills start to become actual mountains.
Where the Catskills begin. Just as anyone who has an ear for
some of the hippest music of recent years knows what’s
been produced up there in recent years at the relatively new
Allaire Studios in the old Pitcairn Estate building visible
at the top of Tonshi Mountain.
It’s all part and parcel, it turns out, of a major 882
acre conservation easement, spanning across the towns of Hurley,
Olive and Woodstock, that’s just been purchased by trhe
New York City department of Environmental Protection, for
an undisclosed price, as announced last week in a series of
“This conservation easement represents a major step
forward in the City’s ongoing watershed protection program,”
said DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd in one of those releases.
“The City has now protected over 55,000 acres of watershed
land under its Land Acquisition Program, and has provided
the funding to the Watershed Agricultural Council to protect
another 12,000 acres.”
The conservation easement, from the Randall Wallace family
trust, covers a “substantial part” of Tonshi and
Little Tonshi mountains and abuts other properties purchased
by NYC in recent years, including a 20 acre tract purchased
in November. Altogether, the DEP currently owns or has conservation
rights to 1,116 acres on Tonshi Mountain.
The DEP has said that protection of the area is crucial to
continuing protection of the Ashokan Reservoir, the lynchpin
of its Upstate reservoir system currently protected via point-source
regulations in lieu of filtration.
The Wallace property, known as the Pitcairn estate because
of former owners, abuts a large property on Little Tonshi
owned by rock star David Bowie and his wife Iman.
According to City EP spokesperson Ian Michaels, the conservation
easements include 357 acres in Woodstock, 295 acres in the
Town of Olive, and 230 acres in Hurley.
“Things like this are typically in the works for quite
a while,” said Michaels of the process that led up to
the December 13 announcements.
Wallace, a renowned fashion and portrait photographer, purchased
the estate put together in the 1920s by Raymond Pitcairn,
a Pittsburgh-based industrialist who used the massive Tudor
main building, named Glen Tonche, as his summer getaway, in
The Ulster County legislature recently approved a 2006 budget
that will raise the property tax levy by 38.95 percent. They
reached the final figure, approved 18-14 along a largely party-line
vote (and about ten percent less than what was originally
anticipated) by making two last-minute additions to anticipated
revenues and eliminating one job.
All 17 Republicans, who will be losing their long-held majority
status next month, and retiring Democrat Joan Feldmann of
Saugerties voted for the budget.
The last-minute amendments adopted by the legislature included
an increase in the estimated sales tax revenue for next year
of $800,000, an increase in appropriations from the county’s
Medicaid reserve fund by $700,000, and the elimination of
a vacant job in the Department of Highways and Bridges for
a savings of about $100,000.
The Legislature’s Republican leadership withdrew a last-minute
proposal to increase the county’s hotel/motel tax from
2 percent to 8 percent, a move that would have generated an
additional $2.6 million in revenue and reduced the increase
in the property tax levy by as much as 8 percentage points.
Democrats said that overestimating revenue in past budgets
is part of what brought the county to its current financial
troubles. Republicans countered that at least they were bringing
proposals to the table - more, they said, than the Democrats
have done to bring the tax levy down.
Also Wednesday, lawmakers unanimously adopted the county’s
$260 million capital program for the next five years after
eliminating about $31 million in new construction projects
that had not been authorized by the Legislature.
County property taxes in Ulster County will vary widely next
year, with some communities seeing rate increases as high
as 46 percent and others seeing their tax rate cut by as much
as 98 percent, the result of revaluations and changes in the
state-dictated equalization rate.
Translating the budget increase to municipal tax rates is
determined by the overall value of the municipality in relation
to other municipalities, and also by the equalization rate,
a state-determined multiplier that attempts to even out the
disparities between municipal-level assessments for the purpose
of levying taxes evenly across the county, school district
or other multi-jurisdictional taxing bodies.
All six of the towns in Ulster County that did townwide revaluations
in 2005 - Saugerties, Marlboro, Marbletown, Plattekill, Rosendale
and the town of Kingston - will see their tax rates go down
this year, although the decrease will be offset to varying
degrees for those homeowners whose assessments increased as
County taxes account for about 12 percent of the average property
tax bill in Ulster County.
The Ulster County Charter Commission has finalized its suggestion,
minus any budgeting guesses, to shift county governance to
an elected executive position from its current appointed administrator
format. The premise, the commission has said, is that a county
executive who is a sole, fully accountable leader, coupled
with an elected comptroller, would find and enforce efficiencies
in operations that would offset the additional cost of a larger
In more immediate matters, Kingston Mayor James Sottile declared
that he was not interested in serving as the county administrator
and would finish out the remaining two years in his second
term as mayor.
The county administrator’s job comes with an $89,500
salary. Sottile currently grosses $60,000. Under next year’s
Kingston City budget approved by the Common Council this week,
the mayor will get a 25 percent raise in 2006, to $75,000.
Political watchers are saying the administrator’s post
could serve as a showcase for its next appointed incumbent
to prove his or her worth as a viable county executive candidate
when election to that office comes up, perhaps as soon as
Sottile’s decision leaves the field open for Democrats
to appoint an administrator from inside or outside of Ulster
County. The choices include current jobholder Art Smith, a
Republican who is serving his first two-year stint in the
post, but who served as deputy county administrator for some
20 years before that. His term does not expire until June
But Sottile’s decision also concerns the current administrator’s
post alone; it doesn’t rule out a run at county executive,
if and when that elective post is created. The timing could
serve the mayor well, for voters are expected to be asked
if they want to approve a new executive form of government
in November 2006, and then to be asked to actually choose
an executive in either 2007 or 2008.
“Who knows what could happen two or three years from
now?” said Sottile.
As incoming Legislature chairman, Democrat David Donaldson
has vowed to uphold party promises made during the election
and move diligently toward creating a county executive form
of government. He has said he believes the office would be
captured by a Democrat.
Topping the list of local officials cited as potential candidates
for the county executive post is Democratic Assemblyman Kevin
Cahill of the 101st Assembly District, which covers most of
the county, including Kingston. Cahill is a native of Kingston
and still lives here, and was a county legislator and minority
leader before winning election to the Assembly.
Cahill laughed when asked if he was interested in running
for the county’s future top job. “We don’t
have a county executive form of government, last time I checked,”
he said. But he acknowledged that rumors are rampant, including
the fact he was introduced by Democratic County Treasurer
Lew Kirschner at a recent party gathering as “the first
county executive of Ulster County.”
If Cahill were to run for and be elected county executive,
one rumor circulating already has it that Sottile might be
appointed to Cahill’s Assembly seat.
Also in recent weeks, Glenn Noonan, Republican Minority Leader
for the 2006 Legislative Session, announced
the following Minority Committee assignments: Administrative
Services – Robert Aiello and Joan Every; Arts, Education
and Community Relations – Frank Felicello and Wayne
Harris; Criminal Justice and Safety - Robert Aiello and Joan
Every; Economic Development – Elizabeth Alfonso and
Joseph P. Roberti, Jr.; Efficiency, Reform and Intergovernmental
Affairs - Charles Busick and Susan Cummings; Environmental
- Dean Fabiano and William McAfee; Health – Charles
Busick and Joseph P. Roberti, Jr.; Human Services - Dean Fabiano
and Wayne Harris; Labor Relations and Negotiation –
Richard A. Gerentine and Glenn
Noonan; Personnel – Elizabeth Alfonso and Wayne Harris;
Public Works - Frank Felicello and William McAfee; and Ways
and Means - Susan Cummings and Richard A. Gerentine.
On December 6, the Onteora School community heard New York
State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill speak about his bill titled
A8069, that would change school funding from the real property
tax method, to a State flat tax,
“We have an education funding crisis in New York State,”
said Cahill, “this is about our constitutional obligation
and our moral obligation to provide funding for quality of
education for every single child in New York State.”
Cahill explained that the Hudson valley is unique because
the “property wealth exceeds income wealth.” As
property values raise the middle class and the diversity of
people can no longer afford to live in the area and as houses
are sold at a higher rate, “we can be pretty sure we
can count on more school tax tomorrow, but what we cannot
be sure is that these folks here will be able to afford to
pay and we will have people consider this their vacation home
or an opportunity as an investment to run up the prices and
sell it to someone else, we loose young working families and
the fabric of our communities.”
Bill A8069 would eliminate real property tax as funding to
education and instead shift the tax burden to a state tax.
The school budget would be created by the local school board
and must comply with standards under the New York State education
The bill needs sponsorship from a Senator in order to reach
the Senate floor for a vote, but Cahill is optimistic about
it’s future. Local senator John Bonacic is currently
pushing a similar, but not same bill…
The school administration has asked the district to keep all
heating temperatures set at 68 degrees in every school and
classroom. Winters recommended that teachers and students
come equipped with an extra sweater and explained that because
of the old heating system, some rooms may be colder than others.
The heat was reduced beginning Monday December 5, hoping it
will help offset the cost of rising fuel prices. They have
also asked bus drivers not to keep busses standing idle while
running using unnecessary fuel.
Kingston will seek an injunction against white supremacist
radio host Hal Turner if he tries to hold another rally in
Kingston, two city attorneys and the police chief said last
week, noting that any court action would be based on Turner’s
threat during a Nov. 19 rally to bring Kingston “to
its economic knees” by holding future demonstrations
if a black student accused of attacking a white classmate
at Kingston High School wasn’t charged with a hate crime.
A recent indictment against the suspect included no hate crimes,
but there has been no word from Turner, a New Jersey-based
Internet radio host, on whether he plans to return to Kingston.
Police Chief Gerald Keller has said that Turner gave up his
First Amendment right to demonstrate in Kingston the moment
he turned the prospect of future rallies into a threat. He
conceded, however, that courts usually protect First Amendment
rights and could side with Turner.
The Nov. 19 rally - which attracted about 40 Turner supporters,
200 counterdemonstrators and 200 police officers - cost the
city about $60,000. The event was verbally confrontational,
but there were no violent incidents and no arrests.
The Laws and Rules Committee of the city is currently considering
a proposal that would require demonstrators to obtain permits,
but no action has been taken yet.
First Big Snow
The first major snow of the season December 9 ended up with
Kingston hosting 11.5 inches of snow on the ground, Poughkeepsie
had 11, Catskill 9.2, Shandaken 8 and Hudson had 6 inches,
according to the National Weather Service.
Meteorologists described the storm as a classic Nor’Easter
with two storm systems - one from the Ohio Valley and another
coming up from the mid-Atlantic. The two storms merged near
Long Island before moving northeast.
There were five accidents on the Thruway and more than a dozen
vehicles had to be winched out of the shoulders and medians
along the highway. There were also numerous traffic mishaps
on more local roads.
New For Septics
A program that pays half of the cost of inspecting and pumping
out residential septic systems in the Catskill-Delaware Watershed
has been expanded. The program, administered by the Catskill
Watershed Corporation (CWC), now applies to all new or replacement
residential systems installed since Jan. 21, 1997 that are
at least three years old. Property owners who are eligible
will soon receive a letter from the CWC explaining the program.
Original program rules offered inspections and pumpouts only
to homeowners whose systems had been replaced under the CWC’s
Septic Rehabilitation and Replacement Program. The rule change
extending this routine maintenance of
on-site septic systems to all homeowners who were issued septic
construction approval from the New York City Department of
Environmental Protection since Jan. 21, 1997 was adopted by
the CWC Board of Directors November 29. To participate in
the program, property owners may contract with any licensed
septage hauler and arrange to have their tank pumped out.
An inspection check list must be filled out and signed by
the hauler. The homeowner pays the hauler, and returns the
checklist to the CWC, along with
a reimbursement form, contractor’s invoice and proof
of payment (contractor’s receipt or cancelled check).
The CWC does not pay for enzyme treatments, system additives
or sales tax. For more information and the required forms,
contact Larry Kelly at the CWC, 845-586-1400, Ext. 15.
A Hunter family blowout degraded into what State Police called
a “Dodge City” shotgun battle between two Haines
Falls brothers recently inside the home they shared. Wesley
N. Hall, 19, and Watson A. Hall, 21, were both in the Greene
County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail December 11 after,
authorities say, the two became incensed at each other sometime
before 9 a.m., grabbed a shotgun each and opened fire. Despite
exchanging blasts from 12- and 20-gauge shotguns, neither
brother was seriously injured, authorities said. Both were
cut by glass blown from a window and skylight destroyed in
“They got injured more from the glass that was in the
house after their little escapades,” said one law enforcement
official, who asked that his name not be used.
Troopers received a call for shots fired and responded to
the home to find one brother, Watson, already outside. He
was taken into custody while authorities made phone contact
with Wesley, who was still inside. He also surrendered. Both
were charged with felony first-degree reckless endangerment
and misdemeanor menacing and criminal possession of a weapon.
Watson Hall also was charged with misdemeanor criminal possession
of a controlled substance, though authorities declined to
identify the substance pending test results.
At one point, Wesley appears to have had both shotguns, police
said. But exactly what happened inside, and what they were
fighting over, was not clear. It also wasn’t clear how
many shots were fired inside what police called “a decent-size”
Asked if they were sharing the same cell, a jail official
said: “They’re not even in the same tier.”
On Friday, December 16, the third graduation under the collaboration
of Ulster County Community College and the Ulster County Law
Enforcement Training Group was held at Hillside Manor, Kingston.
Graduates included Trevor Bailey from Olive, Trevor Bailey
and Travis Nissen for the Town of Shandaken. Congratulations,
Government research project that assigns risk scores for industrial
air pollution throughout the United States has rated Ulster,
Dutchess, Greene and Columbia counties as above the median
health risk among 3,141 counties nationwide. According to
data obtained by the Associated Press and based on the 2000
Census, Ulster and Dutchess counties each have a health risk
from industrial air pollution that is 3.6 times greater than
the national median. In Greene County, the health risk is
twice the national median, while Columbia is 1.6 times the
national median. In Ulster County, the hamlet of Wallkill
in the town of Shawangunk was ranked among the top 5 percent
of national Census tracts with the highest health risk scores
from industrial air pollution.
Ulster County Legislator Brian Shapiro, D-Woodstock, said
it is hard to accept the data because the area is overwhelmingly
“Along with most people, I think of Ulster County as
having fresh mountain air and country air,” Shapiro
said. “I wouldn’t think that we have a problem.”
Shapiro, designated chairman of the county Legislature’s
newly formed Environmental Committee starting in January,
said he would like to review the data further.
Peter Iwanowicz, the director of environmental health with
the American Lung Association of New York, said he is not
surprised by the findings. He said the American Lung Association
has given Ulster and Dutchess counties failing grades on ozone
tests in the past few years.
“Its been a trend over the past six or seven years,”
Iwanowicz said, adding that poor air quality has been seen
from New York City to the Adirondacks. Emissions from motor
vehicles, factories and power plants are up, and contributing
to the ozone problem, he said.
Ozone is a form of oxygen that results when byproducts of
fuel combustion are “cooked” by sunlight. Exposure
to high ozone levels can trigger asthma attacks and lead to
difficulty breathing. Long-term exposure can permanently damage
“The Hudson Valley is becoming more and more developed,
and that’s why you’re seeing the problems become
more and more acute,” Iwanowicz said.
While emissions limits have been put in place for motor vehicles
and smokestacks, they are not protective enough, Iwanowicz
said. He said more needs to be done to reduce the number of
cars on the road.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously recently that the government
can seize a person’s Social Security benefits to pay
old student loans. Retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
wrote the decision that went against a disabled man, James
Lockhart, who had sued claiming he needed all of his $874
monthly check to pay for food and medication after his government
benefits had been cut by 15 percent to cover debts he incurred
for college in the 1980s.
Congress recently eliminated a 10-year time limit on the government’s
right to seek repayment on defaulted student loans by seizing
payments, including Social Security, to individuals. The Bush
administration has maintained that the case was important
because outstanding student loans total about $33 billion,
which includes about $7 billion in delinquent debt. Of the
delinquent loans, about half are over 10 years old.
Justices were called on to clarify federal laws that sent
conflicting messages about the collection of loans that are
more than a decade old.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said that
Congress “unambiguously authorized, without exception,
the collection of 10-year-old student loan debt ... in doing
so, it flatly contracted and thereby effectively repealed
part of the Social Security Act.”
Groups like the AARP and the National Consumer Law Center
had urged the court to safeguard Social Security benefits
in the Lockhart case, arguing they “are critical in
preserving a measure of financial independence for older and
Under the normal rules of politics, Congressional Republicans
ought to be doing victory laps these days because of the new
Medicare drug benefit, accepting the gratitude of the nation’s
retirees. Instead, at meetings around the country, they are
trying to ease widespread confusion and apprehension about
a program that strikes many retirees as dauntingly complex.
Beyond altruistic concerns, Congressional Republicans have
a keen political interest in ensuring an orderly, successful
rollout of the program, which happens to begin in a highly
competitive midterm election year. The drug benefits are available
for the first time beginning Jan. 1, and the initial sign-up
period, which began Nov. 15, lasts until May 15. Nobody knows
how popular the drug benefit will ultimately be with the nation’s
retirees, who are a critical voting bloc. But Congressional
Republicans, who pushed through the Medicare drug law in 2003,
have clear political ownership of it, and whatever credit
or blame it brings, strategists say.
Republicans counter that, properly explained, the drug benefit
is a huge advantage to the 42 million Americans on Medicare
- the biggest expansion of the program since its creation
40 years ago.
Meanwhile, a growing number of Congressional members are already
pushing legislation to extend the May deadline for signing
up for the drug benefit without penalty. They argue that retirees
need more time to decide what to do and more flexibility to
change their minds. The penalty for a late sign-up is significant
- an increase in premiums of 1 percent for every month past
“Seniors are confused, bewildered and frightened,”
said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, who is leading
the push for a delay.
The administration is opposed to such delays, arguing they
are unnecessary and would only compound the uncertainty about
The Medicare drug plan was devised to reflect central Republican
tenets: that private companies, and private market forces,
are the best way to deliver drug benefits to the nation’s
elderly; that the government’s role should be sharply
limited, particularly when it comes to exerting price pressure
on the drug companies; and that the nation’s retirees
ought to have a full array of options for their drug coverage.
From Maine to Florida, from Virginia to Missouri, as much
as half the United States confronts the possibility that harshly
cold weather will lead to restrictions of natural-gas supplies.
In some places - areas heavily dependent on natural gas to
produce electricity (such as the Catskills and Hudson Valley)
- the prospect of “rolling blackouts,” or controlled
power outages, is much higher than in previous winters.
Any natural-gas cutoffs would primarily affect electric-power
plants and factories fueled by gas, not homes, and be most
likely in the Northeast. If cold deepens for prolonged periods,
the likelihood of interrupted natural-gas supplies rises to
30 percent in the Northeast and to 10 percent as far south
as Florida and as far west as Missouri, according to a recent
report by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America
(INGAA), a trade association representing gas pipeline companies.
In a “worst-case” scenario, chances of interrupted
gas rise to 40 percent for the Northeast and 25 percent across
the eastern seaboard.
Even so, gas cutoffs would not automatically mean power outages
to residential and commercial consumers. Residential customers
who heat homes with natural gas are unlikely to have their
supply interrupted, because gas utilities typically have “firm
contracts” with distributors.
Still, hurricane damage continues to block about 6 percent
of the nation’s gas supply flowing through pipelines
north from the Gulf of Mexico. The government reported last
week that 32 percent of the Gulf supply remains “shut
in” - a loss of 3.2 billion cubic feet per day. That’s
at the high end of the range the INGAA predicts will be “missing”
Potential problems exist in New York, where half of the electricity-generating
capacity is fueled by natural gas, and Florida, where it is
35 percent. New York’s advantage is that two-thirds
of its gas-fired generators are “dual-fuel” facilities
that can switch to burn oil.
More than 8,000 people have been mistakenly tagged for immigration
violations as a result of the Bush administration’s
strategy of entering the names of thousands of immigrants
in a national crime database meant to help apprehend terrorism
suspects, according to a new study conducted by the Migration
Policy Institute, a research group in Washington, which relied
on statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security
that covered 2002 to 2004. The study found that the national
crime database was wrong in 42 percent of the cases in which
it identified immigrants stopped by the local police as being
wanted by domestic security officials.
Many immigration violations, like overstaying a visa, are
civil infractions, not criminal offenses typically handled
by the police. But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11,
2001, domestic security officials have worked to encourage
states and localities to help enforce immigration laws by
adding the names of thousands of violators - like immigrants
evading deportation orders - to the F.B.I. crime database.
The statistics seem likely to fuel the debate over the program,
which has been hailed by some as an important tool in the
war on terror and criticized by immigration advocates who
fear that it will focus attention on ordinary immigrants suspected
of violating civil immigration laws, not terrorists.
Locally, a large number of Pakistani and other Islamic immigrants
to the area were deported following the 9/11 attacks, and
sparked a local investigation into the Ulster County Department
of Motor Vehicles.
Conservatives are meanwhile pegging illegal immigration as
the next powerful political issue to shape coming elections.
GOP strategists have said they are looking to opposition to
illegal immigration as a way to edge out Democrats in 2006,
and not just in border states.
World War III?
Israel’s armed forces have been ordered by Ariel Sharon,
the prime minister, to be ready by the end of March for possible
strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran, military
sources have revealed. The order came after Israeli intelligence
warned the government that Iran was operating enrichment facilities,
believed to be small and concealed in civilian locations.
A senior White House source said the threat of a nuclear Iran
was moving to the top of the international agenda and the
issue now was: “What next?” That question would
have to be answered in the next few months, he said.
Defense sources in Israel believe the end of March to be the
“point of no return” after which Iran will have
the technical expertise to enrich uranium in sufficient quantities
to build a nuclear warhead in two to four years.
“Israel — and not only Israel — cannot accept
a nuclear Iran,” Sharon warned recently. “We have
the ability to deal with this and we’re making all the
necessary preparations to be ready for such a situation.”
If a military operation is approved, Israel will use air and
ground forces against several nuclear targets in the hope
of stalling Tehran’s nuclear program for years, according
to Israeli military sources. It is believed Israel would call
on its top special forces brigade, Unit 262 — the equivalent
of the SAS — and the F-15I strategic 69 Squadron, which
can strike Iran and return to Israel without refueling
“If we opt for the military strike,” said a source,
“it must be not less than 100% successful. It will resemble
the destruction of the Egyptian air force in three hours in
Russia recently signed an estimated $1 billion contract —
its largest since 2000 — to sell Iran advanced Tor-M1
systems capable of destroying guided missiles and laser-guided
bombs from aircraft.
The season of turmoil for New York’s Republican Party
continued recently as county leaders said Jeanine Pirro should
abandon her struggling campaign to challenge Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton next year and instead run for state attorney
general. Pirro issued a terse response claiming that she remains
a candidate for U.S. Senate, no matter the troubles her campaign
has faced to date.
The state’s county chairmen also voted in their private
meeting in favor of having former Massachusetts Gov. Bill
Weld run for governor in his native New York, state GOP Chairman
Stephen Minarik said. The ballot in favor of Weld was not
unanimous and many of the county chairmen did not vote.
In the Senate race, Minarik said no vote was taken but the
recommendation represented a consensus of the county leaders.
Rockland County Chairman Vincent Reda said the support among
his colleagues for a Pirro switch was “overwhelming.”
Two weeks ago, the state Legislature’s highest ranking
Republican, Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, went public with
his advice that Pirro switch to the state attorney general’s
race. If Pirro bows out, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer
and a tax attorney from Sullivan County, William Brenner,
are still actively seeking the nomination.
Independent polls have shown Clinton and state Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer, the only announced Democratic candidate for
governor, far ahead of their potential Republican challengers.
The state Conservative Party has been highly critical of Pirro
and Weld because of their support for abortion and gay rights.
Some GOP leaders believe that if the party backs a more conservative
candidate for Senate, such as Spencer or Cox, there is a chance
the Conservative Party might be more open to a Weld candidacy.
No Republican has won a statewide race in New York without
Conservative Party support since 1974.
Ethiopian, American and European researchers have observed
a fissure in a desert in the remote northeast that could be
the “birth of a new ocean basin.” They have been
observing the 37-mile long fissure since it split open in
September in the Afar desert and estimate it will take a million
years to fully form into an ocean, said Dereje Ayalew, who
leads the team of 18 scientists studying the phenomenon. The
fissure, now 13 feet wide, formed in just three weeks after
a Sept. 14 earthquake in a barren region called Boina, some
621 miles north east of the capital, Addis Ababa.
“We believe we have seen the birth of a new ocean basin,”
said Dereje of Addis Ababa University. “This is unprecedented
in scientific history because we usually see the split after
it has happened. But here we are watching the phenomenon.”
Dereje said that the split is the beginning of a long process,
which will eventually lead to Ethiopia’s eastern part
tearing off from the rest of Africa, a sea forming in the
The Afar desert is being torn off the continent by about 0.8
inches each year.
The scientists plan to set up an observatory to watch the
split and see how it develops.
China In Africa
Across Africa, China’s economic and diplomatic presence
is expanding in an accelerating push that is raising both
hopes and hackles far beyond African shores. Chinese diplomats
feature at African summits, flying the flag of Third World
friendship and offers to cancel some $1.3 billion in bilateral
debt. Chinese businessmen snap up commodities, while Chinese
doctors treat Africa’s sick under assistance programs
that win friends among people often forgotten by the rest
of the world.
“China’s move into Africa is displacing traditional
Anglo-French and U.S. interests on the continent,” said
Martyn Davies, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies
at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University. “The
United States, and the British, are particularly concerned
about increased Chinese movements.”
Reminders of China’s ties to Africa stand in many African
capitals where Chinese-built stadiums echo an era from the
1950s and 1960s when Chairman Mao’s engineers forged
anti-Imperialist solidarity with Africa’s independence
leaders. But the current Sino-African business boom is unprecedented,
driven by China’s increasing hunger for raw materials
to power a market-driven economy growing at over 9 percent
In 2004, China’s total exports to Africa hit $13.82
billion, up 36 percent over the previous year while imports
— largely raw materials — surged 81 percent to
$15.65 billion, according to Chinese statistics.
Chinese diplomats, while recognizing African concerns over
competition that has all but destroyed some low-tech industries
such as textiles, say the two are ideal partners.
“China now finds herself in a position to offer what
African countries need, namely, sophisticated technology appropriate
to African conditions at relative low cost,” Liang Guixuan,
an economic expert at China’s embassy in South Africa,
said at a recent trade meeting.