Briefs May 11, 2006)
Just when everyone started to think things could get no worse
with the beleagured county jail project, already millions
over budget and years behind schedule – with a recent
state report pointing out gross mismanagement from the formerly
GOP-controlled county legislature and a growing litany of
calls for criminal investigations coming from various directions
– it is now looking like there is no written record
of a vote approving construction contracts. Why the worry?
Consider the growing number of lawsuits already surrounding
the project, from and against various contractors, among others,
and the charges of malfeasance that will arise if the county
cannot defend itself in any.
Legislature Clerk Ellen DiFalco and County Attorney Joshua
Koplovitz are saying they have been unable to find meeting
minutes or a purchase order to explain approval of a contract
with construction manager Bovis Lend Lease, dated Oct. 25,
2000 even though contract was touted in a Nov. 2, 2000, release
from the late Legislature Chairman Daniel Alfonso, R-Highland,
as having been approved by the Construction Management Review
Committee. Koplovitz says the origin of the committee is a
mystery, including the authority that created it, whether
it was subject to a county Legislature resolution, and what
it was charged to do.
Under the contract, Bovis Lend Lease was designated construction
manager and Crandall Associates as architect for the “Ulster
County Law Enforcement Facility - A new 484 bed county jail
and public safety complex to house 484 inmates (designed for
600) with a construction cost estimate of approximately $53,000,000.”
Former County Attorney Francis Murray confirmed comments from
several surviving members of the county Construction Management
Review Committee that no paper trail may exist showing a specific
vote approving the contract.
The committee consisted of Alfonso, R-Highland, as chairman;
then-Legislature Majority Leader Ward Todd, R-Shandaken; the
late county Legislator Joan Feldmann, D-Saugerties; county
Building and Grounds Commissioner Harvey Sleight, then-County
Administrator William Darwak; then-county Purchasing Agent
Arlene Kerans; former county Legislator John Naccarato, R-Kingston;
and Ulster County Sheriff J. Richard Bockelmann, who announced
this month that he will not seek re-election.
“Somewhere in the world, sometimes things do get lost
or misplaced,” Sleight said. “What can I say?”
Murray said he was told the payment schedule for Bovis Lend
Lease was acceptable after it was reviewed by Todd. Todd,
who later became county Legislature chairman before stepping
down in 2003 when appointed president of the Ulster County
Chamber of Commerce, declined to answer questions about how
the contract amounts were reached. He said a vote by lawmakers
was not needed on the agreement because the Legislature customarily
had not voted on such contracts.
“The Legislature, if you go back into the records, didn’t
vote on those contracts,” he said. “They were
done by county departments.”
Meanwhile, the current Democrat-controlled legislature is
asking the state comptroller’s office to go deeper with
its investigation into the handling of the 6-year-old $86.16
million Law Enforcement Center project still not completed
since leaders in the previous administration never admitted
having watchdog procedures available but never used until
2004, when the troubles had already compounded.
The state report, which acknowledges finding $12.9 million
in “unnecessary costs as a result of deficiencies,”
was issued April 7 and had a May 8 deadline for a county response.
Furthermore, it has been confirmed that the Ulster County
lawmaker reported to have received $39.59 worth of cigars
from a consultant to the county Law Enforcement Center project
was in fact Todd, who also approved reimbursal of such expenses.
Todd reportedly went to the county treasurer’s office
in recent weeks to hand over $40 in cash to cover the expense,
saying he had no recollection of receiving the gift.
Meanwhile, local legislator Robert Parete is threatening to
go to court to force release of the county’s currently-quieted
Hill report on the debacle, while others are saying that,
reports to the contrary, there is a legal paper trail for
all jail decisions.
Scholastic Book Clubs recently announced the winners of its
SeeSaw Book Club’s “Dream Bike Drawing Contest
2006,” including one Olive resident. Students in grades
K-1 were asked to draw themselves on the bike of their dreams
with “Freddy” from the “Ready, Freddy!”
book series in order to win their dream bike.
Olive resident Cody Davis was one of the contest’s twenty-five
winners, selected from nearly 1,000 participants, and will
receive $200 towards the purchase of a bike of his choice.
The winning artists depicted themselves on bicycles ranging
from the fantastical to the practical.
Susan Zimet, Ulster County Legislator from New Paltz, announced
her candidacy to represent the 42nd District in the New York
State Senate on Wednesday, May 3, at an Orange County Democratic
Annual Dinner, chosen to start her run in the backyard of
incumbent Republican John Bonacic. Senate Democratic Leader
David A. Paterson introduced Susan Zimet. The 42nd Senate
District includes all of Sullivan and Delaware, most of Ulster
and part of Orange counties.
Zimet is a two term Ulster County Legislator representing
the 10th District and the former Supervisor of the Town of
New Paltz, the first woman to hold that office. Running on
a theme of One New York In Partnership For Reform, Susan Zimet
will be part of the Democratic effort to gain the majority
in the NY State Senate. She is a fiscally conservative, socially
conscientious Democrat acknowledged for her work on open government,
budget and taxation reform, clean elections, protecting women’s
and veterans’ health, school safety, alternative energy,
sustainable economic development and the creative economy.
Bonacic, while strong with local initiative projects involving
Belleayre Mt. Ski Area, has come under fire for partisan involvement
in a number of key development issues facing the Catskills,
as well as his convoluted involvement in the passage of controversial
Large Parcel legislation.
With all the talk about shutting down FEMA, the Federal Emergency
Management Agency that has taken the blame for the poor response
to last summer’s Hurricane Katrina tragedy, some in
the region have been remembering a day when the embattled
agency was not only considered the federal government’s
most efficient and responsive face, but also a key to bringing
a splintered mid-1990s Catskills together.
On the same day that the agency announced it was closing its
New Orleans offices, and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff
announced that all federal agencies were fully prepared for
the hurricane season ahead, the former town supervisor of
Margaretville, now executive director of the Catskill Watershed
Corporation, recalled a time ten years ago when FEMA came
to the region’s rescue like the proverbial cavalry.
“Back when we got hit with the severe floods of January,
1996, they had an absolutely excellent response,” Rosa
recalled this week. “Within a day of the floods they
had set up offices in the local American Legion Hall, clearing
away the mud and operating without electricity. Within three
days, the FEMA Director, James Lee Witt, was visiting local
towns with Governor Pataki and local congressmen.”
Witt had been brought in from his previous position handling
Arkansas emergencies by President Bill Clinton soon after
the former Arkansas governor’s 1993 inauguration. Working
with an agency rep as bad as today’s (a 1992 Congressional
report noted that “FEMA is widely viewed as a political
dumping ground, a turkey farm, if you will, where large numbers
of positions exist that can be conveniently and quietly filled
by political appointment,” similar to last month’s
Senate call for the agency’s break-up), Witt was raised
to Cabinet level and used his emergency-management experience
to “instill in the agency a spirit of preparedness,
of service to the customer, of willingness to listen to ideas
of local and state officials to make the system work better,”
according to statements from the time.
By the time he left office in early 2000, moving on to set
up a private firm that’s been hired by the State of
Louisiana to help its own recovery work in light of the federal
government’s failures, Witt has worked with 348 Presidentially-declared
disaster areas in more than 6,500 counties, in all 50 states
Rosa, remembering his time with the Cabinet member fondly,
called the agency “a morale booster for the region”
that helped heal rifts that had arisen the previous year when
a number of local property rights groups, spurred on by the
watershed regulation fights with New York City, had broken
an attempt to have the Catskills named one of 50-some UN Biosphere
regions in North America, along with federal funding for a
number of Heritage Tourism projects in the region.
“His visits, and FEMA’s aid to everyone, came
at a critical time when we were negotiating with New York
City towards what would eventually become the Memorandum of
Agreement, under which this organization now operates,”
said Rosa of the massive funding package that brought the
CWC into existence. “They were there from the start
helping coordinate rebuilding efforts.”
Within weeks of the 1996 floods, then U.S. Senator Daniel
Patrick Moynihan had addressed Congress about the region’s
residents’ grace in the face of nature’s fury.
Rebuilding efforts were well underway. People were praising
the federal government’s role in helping local folks
out, and cheering on the state-brokered MOA between Upstate
towns and New York City.
A new prosperity, subtle but viable, was set in motion.
“FEMA was a true asset, a beacon really,” surmised
Rosa, before resisting further comment about the current state
of the agency.
For that, he said, he’d hold comment… for now.
Longstanding Ulster County Treasurer Lewis C. Kirschner recently
announced that the 2005 Annual Financial Report for the County
of Ulster has been completed and filed with the State Comptroller,
with an overall Unreserved/Unappropriated General Fund Balance
of $11.9 million, an increase of $10.7 million compared with
2004. Major contributors to this increase were due to one
shot transactions such as an accounting change that eliminated
the Medicaid Lag Accrual which resulted in a $5 million increase
in the Fund Balance and the settlement of tax delinquent properties
resulted in another positive increase to the fund balance
of $6.4 million. In addition the sale of serial bonds resulted
in a revenue of $3.5 million. Kirschner added, however, that
county debt payments increased by $2.7 million over the prior
year, retirement costs continued to escalate, amounting to
$2.3 million over last year, and hospital and medical premiums
cost the County an addition $1.4 million compared with 2004.
These costs, expected to continue to increase in the coming
years, are fast eroding any one-time savings. Furthermore,
the treasurer pointed out that the state recommends that municipalities
should maintain an unreserved/unappropriated fund balance
of between 5% and 10% of their total general fund budget,
which presently would amount to a minimum of $12.5 million…
below what is there now. The Ulster County Legislature’s
Ways and Means Committee has meanwhile endorsed $1.33 million
in proposed budget cuts while recommending against imposing
new mortgage taxes and additional vehicle registration fees
to increase revenues this year. Their proposed spending cuts
appear to offset a projected deficit exceeding $1 million.
Among the cuts are $44,754 in benefits to lawmakers, including
$3,300 for travel reimbursements; $13,780 for health insurance
contributions; $9,324 for health insurance buyouts; and $18,550
for the Flex insurance plan. Other proposed reductions in
county department budgets include a drop in spending of $107,815
for Mental Health, $45,444 for Public health, $3,798 for Probation,
$1,892 for the Medical examiner, $16,926 in Personnel costs,
$103,300 for the Buildings and Grounds department, $87,650
for Information Services, $29,664 for the Board of Elections,
$12,847 in District Attorney expenses, $19,206 for the Public
Defender, $6,306 for the Medical Examiner, $36,000 for the
County Treasurer, $21,213 for County Purchasing, $11,193 for
the Office of Real Property Tax Services, $95,442 in County
Clerk costs, and $10,280 for County Attorney.
The Town of Denning is starting on a new comprehensive plan
this Thursday, May 11th, with a 7:30 pm Community Visioning
Session designed to provide residents, business owners and
other interested persons the opportunity to describe what
is special about their town, what are its defining features,
as well as threats and challenges to the future growth and
development of the community. The meeting will be led by Helen
Budrock, Assistant Director at the Catskill Center, who led
similar efforts in Shandaken and other Catskills communities.
The Catskill Center awarded the town $15,000 for upgrading
its long-range community plan.
A ‘comprehensive plan’ is the long-range strategy
for the Town’s physical growth and economic development.
It includes assessments of existing resources and issues,
projections of future conditions and needs, and it considers
future land use goals. As a policy guide, a comprehensive
plan provides a framework for the development of the municipality.
It is integrated with other planning initiatives, for example,
capital planning and zoning upgrades.
David Gilmour, the Town’s planning consultant, noted
that “While only around 500 people in size, Denning
has the second largest area of any community in Ulster County.
The Town of Denning is faced with some unique challenges and
others that mirror those of its neighbors. On the one hand,
Town government is responsible for maintaining fiscal balance
and an extensive public road network through hilly terrain.
On the other hand, the population is aging and the housing
market has experienced price inflation”.
Plant A Row
With the start of the growing and planting season the Master
Gardener program run by Cornell Cooperative is looking for
gardeners to help them feed the hungry in Ulster County by
joining their Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) campaign. The
only thing vegetable gardeners need to do is grow a little
extra or take their excess produce and bring it to Cornell
Cooperative Extension of Ulster County, 10 Westbrook lane,
Kingston. There, their nutrition program educators, whose
hands-on programs work with low-income children, families
and seniors, will use and distribute the food when they go
out to teach. Donated produce will also be given to food pantries
in Kingston and New Paltz. Home gardeners participating in
the program will even be able to receive special growing and
pest management advice from Master Gardeners via special weekly
The Hunger Action Network of New York State estimated in 2003
that one in 10 families in New York was at risk of hunger,
and that families in such predicaments often resort to lower-quality
diets or emergency food sources to get by. During that same
time they estimate that 8.3% of Ulster County’s population
experienced food insecurity. This means that in 2003 approximately
13, 781 of our friends, neighbors and children had worry,
fear, and anxiety about or the actual inability to put an
adequate amount of food on their tables.
For further information on the program call 845- 340-3478
(DIRT). Or visit http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/ulster.
The Greater Margaretville Chamber of Commerce will honor five
local business people at its Annual Dinner on Wednesday, May
24 at 6 p.m. at the Hanah Country Resort, Margaretville, with
a good half associated with Shandaken-based Belleayre Mountain
Ski Center. Receiving special recognition at the dinner will
be Tony Lanza, superintendent of Belleayre Mountain; Joe Kelly,
chairman of the board of directors of the Belleayre Conservatory;
Carol and Peter Molnar, proprietors of Margaretville Lodging;
and Dave Riordan, executive director of the Delaware &
Ulster Railroad in Arkville. The honorees were chosen by the
chamber because of their “diverse contributions to the
local business community.” In addition to the presentation
of awards, the Annual Dinner will include an evening of socializing
and dancing. Tickets for the Annual Dinner are $45 each in
advance and are available by contacting the chamber office
at 845 586-3300. Tickets at the door will be $55.
It’s looking like New York may be fielding not one or
even two presidential candidates for 2008, but three. In addition
to Hillary, former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and retiring
Governor George Pataki are showing strong intersst in running
for the Republican Party nomination… but also facing
growing concerns about their ability to win over the GOP’s
increasingly conservative heart.
Party pollsters and pundits contend that Giuliani and Pataki,
supporters of abortion and gay rights as well as tough gun
control laws, are too liberal for the conservative Republicans
who tend to dominate the presidential primaries.
Both have started visiting primary states, giving speeches
and attending lunches and dinner events, while also carefully
crafting their story lines: Giuliani as the resolute leader
in the face of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; Pataki
as the Republican who won three terms in an overwhelmingly
Democratic state. But omitted from both biographies is any
mention of their longtime policies.
“When was the last time Republicans nominated a pro-abortion,
pro-gay rights Northeasterner with an iffy record on taxes
and spending?” asked Nelson Warfield, an aide to Bob
Dole’s failed 1996 Republican presidential campaign.
“That’s the hurdle both Giuliani and Pataki face.”
Independent pollster Lee Miringoff said if Giuliani and Pataki
decide to seek national office, they eventually will have
to deal with the “litmus issues.”
“It’s a question of whether they can effectively
make counter arguments. I assume they will talk about their
values and what their vision of the Republican Party is,”
said Miringoff, head of Marist College’s Institute for
Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “I don’t
think they’re in a position to say, ‘That’s
not really what I meant.”’
Giuliani courting the right, recently spoke to a Global Pastors
Network conference of evangelicals in Florida and is set to
headline a fundraiser in Atlanta for Ralph Reed, the former
Christian Coalition leader now running for lieutenant governor
in Georgia… even though the Rev. Jerry Falwell recently
said he could not support Giuliani for president because of
“irreconcilable differences on life and family and that
kind of thing.”
Despite the criticism, Giuliani is riding high in national
polls that show him and Sen. John McCain of Arizona leading
the pack of potential 2008 GOP presidential contenders. Those
polls have Pataki as a statistical afterthought.
On Sunday, May 21 what remains of the local farming community
of the Catskills, plus all would-be farmers in the area, are
invited to celebrate the unique contributions that the Catskills
farming community has made in watershed protection and land
conservation. To name just a few important milestones, there
are now over 80,000 farm acres under pollution-preventing
Whole Farm Plans; nearly 100,000 acres under forest management;
over 1,500 acres in stream buffers; and over 8,000 of agricultural
acres under conservation easement – set aside permanently
for food production and water quality stewardship.
Watershed Agricultural Council Chair, Fred Huneke, comments
“We know it’s a busy time for farmers, but we’re
almost two decades into the Watershed Agricultural Program
and we want to kick off this yearly tribute to the fine level
of conservation the farmers have achieved and maintained since
The event, called “Down Off the Farm Day,” will
take place from 1-4:00 p.m. at the Delaware County Fairgrounds’
Livestock Pavilion in Walton… a good distance, but a
pretty drive. There’ll be plenty of entertainment for
all ages, from country band The Mustangs and bluegrass performers
Aurora North to an Air Castle for the kids. The Delaware County
Dairy Princess will serve milk punch for all. A purebred Holstein
calf has been donated by JJ Farber Farm in Jewett to highlight
a seasonal raffle for the day, which will also feature a gas-powered
power washer, picnic table, chainsaw; and pedal tractor for
kids. All proceeds of the day will benefit the Watershed Agricultural
Council Conservation Easement Stewardship Fund.
Advanced reservations are essential to insure that there’s
enough food for everyone! The $5 ticket includes barbeque
chicken by Niles Wilson with potato salad, baked beans, rolls,
beverages, a home-grown Pure Catskills green salad and homemade
pies from local farmers Barb Hanselman, Nancy and Nanette
LaTourette and Carolyn Post. Children 5 and under enter free,
and families can purchase a $20 ticket. To RSVP, please call
Becky O’Dell at 607-865-7017.
Nine states, including ours, have sued the administration
of President George W. Bush for lenient automotive fuel economy
standards that they say worsen an energy crunch and contribute
to air pollution and climate change. The lawsuit says that
the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has
failed to meet federal laws requiring government to determine
the impact of regulation on fuel conservation and the environment.
“At a time when consumers are struggling to pay surging
gas prices and the challenge of global climate change has
become even more clear, it is unconscionable that the Bush
Administration is not requiring greater mileage efficiency
for light trucks,” said New York Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer in a press release.
In March, the Bush administration approved a 1.9 mile-per-gallon
increase in the standards for sport utility vehicles, minivans
and pickups — all in the light truck class that includes
big gas guzzlers — to 24.1 mpg between 2008 and 2011.
It also rewrote the rules for calculating how far light trucks
must go on a gallon of gasoline.
But the lawsuit, joined by the attorneys general of California,
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode
Island, and Vermont, says the move included language that
could “create incentives to build larger, less fuel-efficient
models” and attempts to pre-empt a California law requiring
a reduction of greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions. The attorney
general of the District of Columbia and the corporate counsel
for New York City have also joined.
The percentage of working-age Americans with moderate to middle
incomes who lacked health insurance for at least part of the
year rose to 41 percent in 2005, a dramatic increase from
the 28 percent in 2001 without coverage. Moreover, more than
half of the uninsured adults said they were having problems
paying their medical bills or had incurred debt to cover their
expenses, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund,
a New York-based private, health care policy foundation. The
study of 4,350 adults also found that people without insurance
were more likely to forgo recommended health screenings such
as mammograms than those with coverage, and were less likely
to have a regular doctor than their insured counterparts.
About 45.8 million Americans did not have health insurance
in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The percentage
of individuals earning less than $20,000 a year without insurance
rose to 53 percent, up from 49 percent in 2001. Overall, the
percentage of people without insurance rose to 28 percent
in 2005 from 24 percent in 2001. The study also found that
59 percent of uninsured with chronic conditions such as asthma
or diabetes either skipped a dose of their medicine or went
without it because it was too expensive. One-third of them
those in that group visited an emergency room or stayed in
a hospital overnight or did both, compared to 15 percent of
their insured counterparts. That study found that cost prevented
41.1 percent of uninsured adults from seeing a doctor, compared
to 9.2 percent of individuals with coverage. Meanwhile, 51
percent of women without health insurance haven’t had
a mammogram in two years, compared to 22.8 percent of women
with insurance. And 76.3 percent of uninsured men between
the ages of 40 to 64 haven’t had the PSA test, which
detects prostate cancer, in two years. That compares to 52.2
percent of their insured counterparts.
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey
more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting
that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress
when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules
and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements
that Congress be told about immigration services problems,
‘’whistle-blower” protections for nuclear
regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference
in federally funded research.
Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush’s
assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort
to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting
the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution
is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws
and to the president a duty ‘’to take care that
the laws be faithfully executed.” Bush, however, has
repeatedly declared that he does not need to ‘’execute”
a law he believes is unconstitutional.
Former administration officials contend that just because
Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he
is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting
his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential
But with the disclosure of Bush’s domestic spying program,
in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones
of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant
to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority
to override. Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush’s
theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing
for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the
Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.
No More Soda
The nation’s largest beverage distributors have agreed
to halt nearly all soda sales to public schools, according
to a deal announced by the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Under the agreement, the companies have agreed to sell only
water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milks to elementary and
middle schools, said Jay Carson, a spokesman for former President
Bill Clinton. Diet sodas would be sold only to high schools.
Cadbury Schweppes PLC, Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and the
American Beverage Association have all signed onto the deal,
Carson said, adding that the companies serve “the vast
majority of schools.” The American Beverage Association
represents the majority of school vending bottlers.
The deal follows a wave of regulation by school districts
and state legislatures to cut back on student consumption
of soda amid reports of rising childhood obesity rates. Soda
has been a particular target of those fighting obesity because
of its caloric content and popularity among children. Nearly
35 million students nationwide will be affected by the deal,
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation said in a news release.
The group, a collaboration between Clinton’s foundation
and the American Heart Association, helped broker the deal.
“This is really the beginning of a major effort to modify
childhood obesity at the level of the school systems,”
said Robert H. Eckel, president of the American Heart Association.
Under the agreement, high schools will still be able to purchase
drinks such as diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, sports
drinks, flavored water, seltzer and low-calorie sports drinks
The agreement applies to beverages sold for use on school
grounds during the regular and extended school day, Carson
said. Sales during after-school activities such as clubs,
yearbook, band and choir practice will be affected by the
new regulations. But sales at events such as school plays,
band concerts and sporting events, where adults make up a
significant portion of the audience, won’t be affected,
he said. How quickly the changes take hold will depend in
part on individual school districts’ willingness to
alter existing contracts, the alliance said. The companies
will work to implement the changes at 75 percent of the nation’s
public schools by the 2008-2009 school year, and at all public
schools a year later.
Many school districts around the country, such as Onteora,
have already begun to replace soda and candy in vending machines
with healthier items, and dozens of states have considered
legislation on school nutrition this year.
Reacting to the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress passed the Real
ID law last year, intending to make it tougher for terrorists
to obtain driver’s licenses and for people without proper
identification to board planes or enter federal buildings.
But with the deadline for setting up the law two years away,
states are frustrated, saying the law — which requires
states to use sources like birth certificates and national
immigration databases to verify that people applying for or
renewing driver’s licenses are American citizens or
legal residents — will be too expensive and difficult
to put in place by the May 2008 deadline. Another issue is
the privacy impact of the requirement that states share, through
databases, the personal information needed for a driver’s
Concerns are so great that last week, the National Governors
Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures
and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
issued a report saying that the states have not been given
the time or money to comply with the law and that they need
at least another eight years. And two states, including ours,
have considered resolutions calling for the law to be repealed,
the New York City Council passed a resolution opposing it
and New Hampshire is considering opting out entirely.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration, facing complaints from
border-state lawmakers, is considering scaling back strict
passport security requirements for people who infrequently
travel between the United States and Canada. The concession
may not be enough for lawmakers who want to delay rules requiring
passports or other tamper-resistant ID cards for all who enter
the United States beginning Jan. 1, 2008.
The ID rules were part of a 2004 intelligence overhaul law,
overwhelmingly approved by Congress, to tighten U.S. borders
against terrorists. They have since pitted lawmakers from
border states against those from the heartland, strained relations
with Canada, and forced Homeland Security to roll out technology
and training under a deadline that may prove too aggressive
Despite large-scale U.S. support, Iraq and Afghanistan rank
among the world’s 10 most vulnerable states. In its
second annual “failed states” index, Foreign Policy
magazine and the Fund for Peace concluded that Sudan is the
country under the most severe stress because of violent internal
conflict. Eleven of the 20 most vulnerable countries of the
148 examined in the survey are in Africa. The Democratic Republic
of the Congo and Ivory Coast, both chronically volatile in
recent years, ranked second and third. Each country was given
a score based on data from numerous available sources. A “failing
state” was described as one in which the government
does not have effective control of its territory, is not perceived
as legitimate by a significant portion of its population,
does not provide domestic security or basic public services
to its citizens and lacks a monopoly on the use of force.
According to the review, the situation in Iraq (No. 4) and
Afghanistan (No. 10) deteriorated since 2005, the first year
the survey was taken. “For Iraq, the index category
that worsened most was human flight,” the report said.
“The exodus of Iraq’s professional class has accelerated,
leaving the country without the trained citizens it needs
to staff important posts.”
Iraq’s instability was underscored in a State Department
report last week that said fully 30 percent of all terrorist
attacks worldwide last year occurred in Iraq.
Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of the damage from Hurricane
Katrina, nearly one-third of young Americans recently polled
couldn’t locate Louisiana on a map and nearly half were
unable to identify Mississippi. Americans between the ages
of 18 and 24 fared even worse with foreign locations: six
in 10 couldn’t find Iraq, according to a Roper poll
conducted for National Geographic.
Among the findings: One-third of respondents couldn’t
pinpoint Louisiana on a map and 48 percent were unable to
locate Mississippi. Fewer than three in 10 think it important
to know the locations of countries in the news and just 14
percent believe speaking another language is a necessary skill.
Two-thirds didn’t know that the earthquake that killed
70,000 people in October 2005 occurred in Pakistan. Six in
10 could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East. While
the outsourcing of jobs to India has been a major U.S. business
story, 47 percent could not find the Indian subcontinent on
a map of Asia. While Israeli-Palestinian strife has been in
the news for the entire lives of the respondents, 75 percent
were unable to locate Israel on a map of the Middle East.
Nearly three-quarters incorrectly named English as the most
widely spoken native language. Six in 10 did not know the
border between North and South Korea is the most heavily fortified
in the world. Thirty percent thought the most heavily fortified
border was between the United States and Mexico.
The number of New Yorkers suffering from asthma symptoms in
the past week has more than doubled, the city Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene said recently. Hospital emergency
room visits for asthma symptoms increased from 250 a day during
the first three weeks of April to an average of 500 a day
over a recent week, the agency said. In addition, sales of
over-the-counter allergy medications increased more than twofold
over the past two weeks, a pattern observed every year that
marks the beginning of the spring allergy season, it said.
“New Yorkers with asthma should talk to their doctor
about avoiding asthma triggers, developing and following an
asthma action plan, and taking asthma control medications
as prescribed,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas
Frieden. “Proper asthma management can prevent severe
asthma episodes, emergency department visits and hospitalizations.”
The agency said sufferers should contact their doctor if they
have more than two asthma attacks per week or nighttime symptoms
more than two nights per month.