The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
has notified local town governments that it plans to leave
the Shandaken tunnel portal open for much of the fall and
winter, releasing water from the Schoharie Reservoir into
the Esopus Creek, while the agency prepares to make repairs
on the Gilboa Dam. The DEP says the dam is not in danger of
failure, but towns along the Schoharie River, downstream from
the dam, are making evacuation plans in the event of a worst-case
scenario—inundation of the river valley. Meanwhile,
communities along the Esopus, including Shandaken, Olive,
Ulster, and Hurley, are preparing for higher water than usual,
in the year following a major spring flood.
The Gilboa Dam, which impounds up to 19.5 billion gallons
of water in the Schoharie Reservoir, was scheduled for major
rehabilitation beginning in 2010, but structural problems
were revealed during a recent routine survey by the DEP. With
the reservoir currently at 100.6 percent capacity, an effort
is being made to prevent excess pressure on the dam by draining
water through the Shandaken tunnel that conveys water underground
to connect the Schoharie Reservoir, via the Esopus Creek,
to the Ashokan Reservoir. Repairs are planned for late spring,
when water levels will be low enough to allow workers access
to the section of the dam that needs repair.
At the Monday, November 21, meeting of the Coalition of Watershed
Towns (CWT), the organization’s President, Pat Meehan,
said the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
(DEC) has assured him that everyone was working very closely
together on this issue “to prevent any sort of catastrophic
failure” and the state was “encouraged by the
anxious approach of the city.” He praised the DEP’s
fast reaction and said he knew of “no accusations of
things being held back” from any parties.
The Emergency Management Group of Ulster County Lawmakers
has called a meeting for government officials on November
29 in Kingston, where the DEP will explain the measures it
is taking with regard to the reservoir and water releases
from the portal. Art Snyder of the Emergency Management Group
said, “Any time one reservoir is worked on, it has an
impact on the entire system. The DEP will explain what will
take place and what can be expected. This is an emotional
issue for anyone, especially if they’ve been flooded
before, and we want the officials who’ll have to make
the plans to hear the information firsthand without that highly
charged atmosphere. Later we’ll have public meetings
where anyone can come, listen, and ask questions.”
Ulster County’s Democrats, who will take over the county
legislature for the first time in years come January, recently
elected six-term legislator and current Minority Leader David
Donaldson as the body’s 11th Legislature chairman. They
also voted unanimously for Jeanette Provenzano, D-Kingston,
as majority leader for next year, and Robert Parete, D-Boiceville,
as the majority whip, second in command of the caucus proceedings.
A vote of the full Legislature is still required for Donaldson
to take control of the chairmanship. The vote is generally
a formality, particularly when the majority holds a strong
margin over the minority, like the incoming 21-12 body.
Donaldson, D-Kingston, faced a four-way runoff for the chairmanship
with Peter Kraft, D-Glenford; Alan Lomita, D-Rosendale; and
Joseph Stoeckeler, D-Ellenville. Two secret ballots were taken
in the public meeting. The first ruled out the two candidates
who received the least votes - Lomita and Stoeckeler - leaving
Donaldson and Kraft in a head-to-head revote in which Donaldson
prevailed. Donaldson won 13-8.
After inspecting Onteora district buildings and grounds with
school administrators, KSQ principal architects, Armand Quadrini
and Scott Hillje reported their findings to the school board
on November 15 pointing out many areas in need of repair or
overhaul. Once these studies are complete, Onteora taxpayers
will be presented with a bond issue asking for infrastructure
upgrades, but are currently being asked for input. Most of
the problems had to do with age. They included parking lot
asphalt problems, drainage problems, aging playground equipment
and fencing around perimeters of the buildings. Most toilet
facilities are not accessible for the disabled, a federal
code mandated under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Interior and exterior areas of buildings are in need of repair,
while single pane windows at most of the schools are still
in their original condition, bringing up issues with energy
efficiency. Floor tiles in some of the schools carry asbestos,
but have been well maintained where they do not pose a threat.
The electrical system throughout all the buildings is in its
original state and is in need of upgrading to keep with current
Quadrini presented a report on demographics and projected
enrollment throughout the district. Presently, Onteora district
has a total of 2046 students. Woodstock elementary (including
West Hurley Community) has 39 percent of elementary grade
students, while Bennet carries 37 percent and Phoenicia 24
percent. By the year 2011 the projected enrollment will be
down by approximately 25 percent to 1539 students.
Meanwhile, the future of the Future of the District Committee
is in question since the school board could not agree with
the definition of its current role. In 2004, the school board
asked Winters to create a committee to look into the facilities
and make recommendations based on future projections and study
the closure of West Hurley Elementary School. The committee
came up with four recommendations including the current feasibility
study by architects and based on enrollment projections, decided
to keep West Hurley School closed. The committee was asked
by the current board to continue their work, but they are
now questioning the committee’s responsibilities. Board
President Dave Patterson said he would like to see the Future
of the District committee play a role in getting information
about a bond to improve the school’s infrastructure
to the communities. The school board tabled making any decisions
and will discuss the future of the district committee at the
next school board meeting.
Coming meetings on the facilities report will take place at
Phoenicia Elementary on Monday, November 28 at 6:00 p.m. and
Woodstock Elementary on Thursday, December 1 at 6:00 p.m.
Kingston Hospital hired Michael Kaminski, the beleaguered
institution’s former interim CEO and president of Kingston
Hospital, to fill those positions on a permanent basis as
of November 1. Yet at the same time, it has been recently
announced that Health Quest, the parent corporation of Vassar
Brothers Medical Center, Northern Dutchess Hospital and Putnam
Medical Center, recently terminated all merger discussions
with the health facility because, sources say, Kingston had
not been able to shore up its fiscal problems satisfactorily.
Starting in 2007 the Hospital will start facing a $3 million
annual reduction in revenues due to its being reclassified
by the federal government into a new funding aid category
on a par with Westchester County band other “metro area”
facilities. Kaminski and peers at Benedictine Hospitals have
enlisted the aid of New York Senator Charles Schumer to convince
Congress to allow them to participate in a demonstration project
that would enable them to maintain their reimbursements at
After seeing its deficit rise to nearly $11 million in 2002,
Kingston Hospital relieved former CEO Anthony Marmo, who had
been at the helm of the hospital and its various affiliations
for ten years, of his duties and hired the Boston-based Speltz
and Weiss management firm to oversee hospital operations.
Speltz and Weiss then brought Kaminski to Kingston Hospital
as interim CEO. Kingston ended its contractual arrangement
with Speltz and Weiss as of Aug. 1.
The hospital is part of Kingston Regional Health Care Services
(KRHCS), which includes Margaretville Hospital and the 82-bed
Mountainside Nursing Home on the Margaretville Hospital campus,
in addition to operating Ellenville Hospital under a management
Georgene Fredericks of Shokan has been named the 2005 Business
Honoree in this year’s Tribute to Women of Achievement
of Ulster County. Sponsored by the Ulster County YWCA, this
annual event recognizes outstanding women who have contributed
to the quality of life in Ulster County and whose professional
and personal qualities make them effective role models for
other women. She and her fellow nominees were recognized at
the Tribute Dinner Friday, Oct. 21, at Wiltwyck Country Club.
Fredericks is Branch Manager of Mid-Hudson Valley Federal
Credit Union’s largest office in Kingston, where she
supervises 26 people. She joined MHV in 1999 as assistant
branch manager with 26 years of prior experience in financial
services. She also serves on a number of credit union committees,
including Community Relations, where she helps allocate the
community relations budget. Fredericks was co-captain of MHV’s
team for the 2005 American Cancer Society Relay for Life,
an activity that earned the New York State Credit Union League’s
highest honor for social responsibility, the Dora Maxwell
Award, in 2003 when she was also co-captain. She currently
serves on the Board of Directors of Kiwanis of Kingston. She
is past treasurer of Onteora Central Schools Sportsfans Association,
past board president and treasurer of the Ulster Chapter of
the American Institute of Banking, past board member of SHARP
(Shandaken Area Revitalization Plan), and a former member
of the Rotary Club of New Paltz.
The state has released its 2005 draft State Open Space Conservation
Plan, updated every three years since 1992, outlining priority
project areas that are eligible for State acquisition funding
from the Environmental Protection Fund and other state, federal
and local sources and making policy and program recommendations
to guide the State’s Open space protection program for
Among the new priorities are a push to enable the State to
acquire lands adjacent to, or inholdings within, existing
State Forests, Unique Areas and Wildlife Management Areas;
the enhancing of local governments’ abilities to carry
out local open space conservation programs; and the expansion
of the existing Catskill Mountain Forest Legacy area to include
the Shawangunk Ridge.
Plans to develop a $100 laptop computer for distribution to
millions of schoolchildren in developing countries have caught
the interest of governments and the attention of computer-industry
heavyweights. First announced in January by Nicholas Negroponte,
the founding chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s
Media Lab, the initiative appears to be gaining steam. Neighboring
Massachusetts has proposed spending $54 million to buy one
of the laptops for every student in middle school and high
school in the state and a half dozen nations are looking to
make similar moves, including laptops with hand cranks, for
students in developing countries. Current plans call for producing
five to ten million units beginning in late 2006 or early
2007, with tens of millions more a year later. The big question,
to be decided by ongoing talks, is what operating system –
Apple’s OS X or Microsoft Windows – would be included
in the machines. To get the price down, an eight-inch diagonal
screen — smaller than standard notebook computers —
will run in two modes, with a high-resolution monochrome mode
for word processing and a lower-resolution color mode for
Internet surfing. It will be powered by both a power adapter,
if electricity is available, or through a wind-up mechanism.
The device will have wireless capabilities and can network
with other units even without Internet access. Software will
include a word processor, a Web browser, an email program
and a programming system.
A Shokan father was killed November 12 in a head-on collision
on state Route 28 that left his 2-year-old daughter hospitalized.
Dunner Finch, 25, was driving westbound on state between 9:30
and 10 p.m. Saturday night when he crossed into the eastbound
lane of traffic, striking an oncoming vehicle head-on near
the intersection of state Routes 28 and 375. Finch was pronounced
dead at the scene. His 2-year-old daughter, Amanda, was taken
via helicopter to Albany Medical Center in stable condition.
The driver of the other vehicle, 24-year-old Michael Borruso
of West Hurley, and a passenger in his vehicle, 15-year-old
Michael Lore of Shokan, were taken to Benedictine Hospital
in Kingston. Borruso had a fractured leg and other injuries,
while Lore had a fractured wrist and facial injuries, police
said. Police said they don’t know what caused Finch
to enter the oncoming lane of traffic. Route 28 was closed
for about three hours as the accident was cleared. State police
were assisted at the scene by the New York City Department
of Environmental Protection Police, Woodstock Police, West
Hurley Fire Department, Olive Fire Department and multiple
emergency medical service units.
911 Take Back
Congressional budget negotiators have decided to take back
$125 million in Sept. 11 aid from New York, which had fought
to keep the money to treat sick and injured ground zero workers.
State officials had sought for months to hold onto the funding,
originally meant to cover increased worker compensation costs
stemming from the 2001 terror attacks. But a massive labor
and health spending bill moving fitfully through House-Senate
negotiations would take back that funding, lawmakers said.
The tug-of-war over the $125 million began earlier this year
when the White House proposed taking the money back because
the state had not yet spent it. New York protested, saying
the money was part of the $20 billion pledged by President
Bush to help rebuild after the Sept. 11 attacks. Health advocates
said the money is needed to treat current and future illnesses
among ground zero workers.
The Senate voted last month to let New York keep the $125
million, but the House made no such move. House and Senate
budget negotiators then decided to take the money back, lawmakers
and aides said.
Top New York fire officials recently lobbied Congress to keep
the funding. Fire and police officials say they worry that
many people will develop long-term lung and mental health
problems from their time working on the burning pile of toxic
debris at ground zero and they want to use the money to help
Up to 3,000 foreign insurgents may be fighting in Iraq, but
they remain a small part of the overall rebellion, a US military
analyst has suggested. Algerians, Syrians and Yemenis are
most numerous among foreign insurgents, an ex-White House
aide has written in a controversial new report. Anthony Cordesman,
a veteran analyst, used Saudi and other regional security
studies to collate data on insurgents. The figure is three
times as large as unofficial Pentagon estimates, but may total
no more than 10% of insurgents. The Iraqi insurgency remains
largely home-grown, Cordesman added, with 90% or more hailing
No Ed Funds!
Federal aid for education would be frozen under a bill emerging
from House-Senate negotiations. Aid for special education
would increase by less than 1 percent while programs funded
under President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program
would be cut by more than 3 percent. Saying they were doing
it to avoid cutting more deeply into education, medical training
and Pell Grants, lawmakers have decided to give up about $1
billion worth of home state projects from a sweeping bill
funding education, labor and health and human services programs.
Lawmakers are trying to wrap up work on the 11 spending bills,
comprising approximately one-third of the federal budget,
that Congress passes each year. After years of consistent
increases, the overall budget for domestic agencies - with
the exception of the Homeland Security Department - is essentially
frozen or even slightly below last year’s levels.
Also being frozen are funding levels for the National Institutes
of Health, despite the probability of a scary new flu pandemic
in the coming year.
All told, programs funded by the education and health bill
faced a $1.4 billion cut over last year’s levels once
extra costs to implement the new Medicare prescription drug
benefit are factored in.
Despite a late-night agreement averting a global showdown
over continued U.S. control of the Internet’s addressing
system, many delegates to a recent U.N. technology summit
in Tunisia did not believe the Americans emerged victorious.
And representatives of a number of countries remained adamant
that U.S. control must be tempered if the Internet is to fully
reach its potential, with even traditional allies of Washington
considering the summit as having opened the door to the possibility
of more shared governance.
More than 10,000 government, business and other delegates
attended the three-day U.N. World Summit on the Information
Society. Many questioned the fact that a quasi-independent
group, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers,
or ICANN, manages the worldwide network’s main addressing
computers on the U.S. government’s behalf.
Many worried, at the summit’s end, whether complaints
left unchecked could prompt dissatisfied countries to create
their own addressing system, splintering the Internet such
that two people typing in the same Web address may reach different
sites, depending on where they live.
Although Pakistan and other countries sought a takeover of
the system by an international body such as the United Nations,
negotiators ultimately agreed, as time ran out, to a create
an open-ended international forum for raising important Internet
issues. The forum, however, would have no binding authority.
Delegates and officials involved in the talks said the new
forum would give nations a stronger say in how the Internet
works, including perhaps spurring the availability of domain
suffixes in Chinese, Urdu and other languages.
The new group, the Internet Governance Forum, could also address
any issue, such as spam or cybercrime, not currently covered
by ICANN. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who would open
the forum’s first meeting perhaps early next year in
Athens, denied the United Nations wanted to assume ICANN’s
“Let me be absolutely clear: the United Nations does
not want to take over, police or otherwise control the Internet,”
he said. “Day-to-day running of the Internet must be
left to technical institutions, not least to shield it from
the heat of day-to-day politics
Meanwhile, Congress has passed a resolution that called for
the United States to make plain its intention to permanently
control the Internet’s day-to-day operations. Countries
including China, Brazil, and Russia lobbied intensively at
the first summit in Geneva two years ago for changes to the
current system. The E.U., which had initially supported the
status quo position of the U.S., made a surprise turnabout
in September when it agreed for the need for more governmental
Rising sales and auto taxes increased the tax burden at the
state and local levels for many U.S. households last year,
a survey of 51 major municipalities shows. The finding, by
Washington, D.C.’s chief financial officer, comes as
separate research shows that tax burdens also are rising at
the federal level because of growing employment, capital gains
and income increases for some.
The report from the District of Columbia’s financial
chief, Natwar Gandhi, found that a family of four with an
annual income of $75,000 paid about $6,884 in local and state
taxes on average last year, or 9.2% of their income. In 2003,
that family paid average taxes of $6,832, or 9.1% of their
income. At $150,000, the average tax burden for a hypothetical
family of four rose to 9.3% in 2004 from 9.2% in 2003. The
average tax burden for families at $25,000 declined.
The report’s findings reflect national tax trends. The
federal tax burden as a percentage of personal income began
declining when President Bush pushed through three rounds
of tax cuts during his first term. But tax payments to the
government began to rise again in late 2003 and have continued
to do so this year, according to Wachovia Corp. of Charlotte,
Today, Americans are paying roughly 11.8% of their personal
income in federal taxes, compared with 9.6% in late 2003,
The trends pushing up local tax burdens differ from what is
raising the federal burden. Recent reports have indicated
that state tax revenue is swelling, owing in part to more
Americans finding jobs and paying taxes.
Top federal health officials rejected easier access to the
morning-after pill before reviewing all the scientific evidence,
according to a new Congressional audit that has renewed charges
that politics trumped science. It reports that the Food and
Drug Administration’s May 2004 decision on emergency
contraception deviated from 10 years of agency practice in
evaluating over-the-counter sales of prescription drugs -
and was unusual in several respects.
Critics in Congress declared their suspicions confirmed and
urged the FDA’s boss to intervene to assure that a still
pending reconsideration of the pill’s fate isn’t
based on ideology. Also, the lawmakers asked the governmentg
to probe whether the FDA illegally destroyed documents from
the office of then-Commissioner Mark McClellan, now the government’s
Medicare chief, that might have shed more light on the controversial
In a statement, the FDA stood by its rejection and said the
independent Government Accountability Office “mischaracterizes
The new report is the latest blow to the credibility of an
agency that by law is supposed to base decisions on science,
not politics or industry pressure. Top-ranking FDA officials
have acknowledged they overruled their own scientists’
decision that nonprescription sales of emergency birth control
would be safe - and the agency’s women’s health
chief resigned in protest.
Minutes of a Jan. 15, 2004, meeting show Dr. Steven Galson,
then acting drug chief, told reviewers that rejection was
“recommended,” the GAO reported. Other FDA officials
told investigators that they, too, were informed a decision
had already been made.
An Internal Revenue Service attempt to take away tax exempt
status from an Episcopal Church that they said urged congregation
members, in a pre 2004 election sermon, to vote against President
Bush for his stance on First Strike wars. The IRS wouldn’t
talk specifics of the case, but says federal tax law draws
a clear line between church and politics.
The case, however, has opened a can of worms given the Bush
campaign’s use of churches across the Bible Belt to
push its own vote, and has drawn outraged reactions, and vows
of support for the Episcopals, from church leaders of various
denominations and faiths.
“If the government starts supervising religious speech
and supervising the press and supervising political speech,
where are we? Well, welcome to the Soviet Union,” says
pastor Ted Haggard, head of the conservative National Association
The former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
broke federal law by interfering with PBS programming and
appearing to use political tests in recruiting the corporation’s
new president, internal investigators have said. Kenneth Y.
Tomlinson, a Republican, also sought to withhold funding from
PBS unless the taxpayer-supported network brought in more
conservative voices to balance its programming, said the report
by the agency’s inspector general.
Tomlinson was chairman of the corporation until September
and resigned as a board member earlier this month. The corporation
- which funnels hundreds of millions of federal dollars to
National Public Radio, the Public Broadcasting Service and
noncommercial radio and television stations - was created
by Congress in the late 1960s to shield public broadcasting
from political influence.
Specifically, the report said Tomlinson violated the Public
Broadcasting Act of 1967 and ethical standards by dealing
directly with one of the creators of the conservative-leaning
“Journal Editorial Report,” hosted by the editor
of The Wall Street Journal editorial page. In internal e-mails,
Tomlinson told CPB staff to threaten to withhold funds from
PBS “if they didn’t balance their programming,”
the report said. There was also evidence, the report said,
to suggest that “political tests” or qualifications
were used as a major factor in the hiring of new CPB President
Patricia S. Harrison, in violation of federal rules. Harrison,
who was backed by Tomlinson, is a former co-chair of the Republican
There are no criminal penalties associated with the laws the
report said Tomlinson broke, the IG’s office said. The
board could have incurred disciplinary action if Tomlinson
were still a board member.
Well-toned hips and a trim waist - not just the pounds you
carry - appear to be one of the best protections against heart
attacks, according to a study of thousands of people in different
countries. Researchers report that a hip-to-waist ratio is
a better predictor of the risk of heart attack for a variety
of ethnic groups than body-mass index, the current standard.
Based on weight and height, the body-mass index takes no notice
of where fat is or how muscular a person is... An athlete
and a couch potato could have similar BMI scores.
In the new study, the risk of heart attack rose progressively
as the ratio of waist size increased in proportion to hip
circumference. The 20 percent of the survey who had the highest
ratio were 2.5 times more at risk than the 20 percent with
the lowest ratio, the study found. That finding, researchers
said, suggested a two-part strategy: trimming the abdomen,
and possibly increasing hip size by increasing muscle mass
or redistributing fat.
Overall, waist measurements recorded by the researchers were
about 90 percent of the hip measurements. People in China
scored best at 88 percent, followed by 89 percent in southeast
Asia, 90 percent in North America, 92 percent in Africa, 93
percent in the Middle East and 94 percent in South America.
A 30-inch waist and 36-inch hips, for instance, works out
to a favorable 83 percent.
The study said the protective mechanism still isn’t
clear. The authors speculated that hormones may influence
waist and hip size, or that there may be important differences
in the fat composition in the two areas.
Iraq has launched an investigation into allegations —
denied by the Pentagon — that U.S. soldiers aimed artillery
rounds of flammable white phosphorus at civilians. Doctors
and teams from Iraq’s Health Ministry have been dispatched
to Falluja to look at hospital results while U.S. military
officials said that although its troops used white phosphorus
during an offensive to rid Falluja of insurgents last November,
the dangerous material was used only as a “smoke screen”
and means of flushing out insurgents in trenches and “spider
Pentagon officials said white phosphorus is a conventional
weapon and is used for several purposes — from creating
smoke screens to marking targets — and that it can be
used against enemy combatants. A protocol to an accord on
conventional weapons that came into force in 1983 forbids
the use of incendiary weapons against civilians, the U.N.
has said. The protocol also bans their use against military
targets near concentrations of civilians, except when they
are clearly separated from civilians and “all feasible
precautions” are taken to avoid civilian casualties.
The U.S. has countered that while it signed the overall accord,
it did not ratify the incendiary-weapons protocol or another
involving blinding laser weapons.