JClosed For Good
Setting a highly depressing precedent to Olive residents south
of the Ashokan Reservoir, Westchester County has agreed to the
permanent closure of the roadway atop the Kensico Dam in Valhalla.
Like Monument road over Olive's "lemon squeeze," the
Kensico's West Lake Drive has been closed to traffic since 9-11,
forcing a relatively short but congested detour by over 6,000
cars a day.
Westchester's county government had threatened back in July
to reopen the road, in an attempt to force New York City's DEP
to produce hard evidence on the dam's vulnerability to terrorist
attack using car bombs. But following the completion of a confidential
US Army Corps of Engineers study on the subject and its release
to Westchester County Executive Albert Spano, the County has
accepted the city's position.
"If the dam bursts, the devastation is incredible,"
said Spano, who described the impact of a 60-foot wall of water
that would devastate the most densely populated region of his
county. "The point here is that the people of Westchester
look to me to verify. I can say now that I'm sure of it. If
you're inconvenienced, I'm sorry," he said.
About 90 percent of NYC's drinking water including the full
output of the Ashokan basin, is piped through the Kensico reservoir.
DEP spokesman Charles Sturkin said his agency was pleased with
the county's decision to support the road closure. "I
think what we needed to do was to give them the cover to say
they had a so-called independent report that confirmed our findings,"
said Sturkin. "We're glad they saw it as we knew it."
More Trash Talk...
The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency board has decided
to establish new construction and demolition debris separation
programs from consultants Clough, Harbour & Associates,
at a cost of $12,000. Agency Executive Director Charles Shaw
said the separation program would cost an estimated $2.5 million
and involve the installation of equipment to sort construction
and demolition materials. Components of the new system will
include shredding equipment that officials estimated would save
$303,000 if installed in 2005. And according to figures provided
by the agency, the county would save $150,000 in landfill costs,
$75,000 in fuel, $20,000 in wood grinding costs and a "conservative"
estimate of $13,500 in overtime expenses once the new system
is set in place. The sole no vote to the proposal, Kevin Roberts,
said he saw no immediate need to update a study that has not
been used since it was released in May 2002. Officials said
the update would be ready in November and included in presentations
to county and town lawmakers.
That Jail Again?
Ulster County lawmakers approved the spending of an additional
$8 million for cost overruns and claims settlement caused by
delays in work on the new county jail last week by a 24 to 3
vote, with Democrats Tracey Bartels of Gardiner, Richard Parete
of Accord, and Brian Shapiro of Woodstock opposed on the basis
of general opposition to the runaway nature of the entire project.
At the same time, all in the legislature seemed to agree that
final construction costs on the project will end up being at
least double the approved amount. Current estimates put the
$71.8 million project, which is roughly a year behind schedule,
as much as $21 million over budget: $4.7 million to complete
construction, and the remainder to settle claims and pay consulting
and legal fees. Consultants Hill International had recommended
appropriating $15.6 million to give them a pot of money from
which to settle claims filed against the county by contractors
who say they've incurred additional costs due to the project
delays. Meanwhile the County is saying that they now expect
to get back some of the overruns through litigation once the
project is finished. There is ongoing dissension as to how such
claims will be handled over the coming term, as well as how
open any discussion of cost overruns need be.
Ulster County officials recently reached a settlement of a lawsuit
New York City developer Alan Ginsberg had filed over the town's
assessment of 23 properties he owns at TechCity, the former
IBM complex. County Treasurer Lewis Kirschner said the settlement
between the town of Ulster and AG Properties calls for the assessment
on Ginsberg's TechCity holdings to be lowered from more than
$50 million to approximately $30 million, the figure previously
offered by the town. Ginsberg had pressed for the assessment
to be lowered to $20 million. The owner, who had owed $7.5 million
in back taxes on the properties, must now pay $2.8 million in
back taxes, with $1.4 million due by the end of December and
the balance by May 2005. Under the terms of the settlement,
the town will be required to pay $492,000 to the county, which
by law had covered the town for the delinquent tax bills. The
Kingston school district will also have to refund a portion
of county funds used as reimbursement for back taxes. Ulster
town Assessor James Maloney, who is facing removal from either
that position or his role as a county legislator for conflict-of-interest
matters involving the vote, declined to comment on the settlement.
NYS Commission of Agriculture Nathan Rudgers will address the
importance of small farm enterprises to the state and regional
economies, and highlight the Northeast Small Farm Expo being
held Sat. & Sun September 18th & 19th at the Ulster
County Fairgrounds in New Paltz. Representatives from Cornell
Cooperative Extension of Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster
Counties with staff from Cornell, Penn State and Rutgers Universities
are hosting the press conference. The Secretaries of Agriculture
for New Jersey and Pennsylvania have also been invited to attend.
For more information about the Expo or press conference please
contact Les Hulcoop, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess
County at (845) 677-8223 or Lisa Berger, Cornell Cooperative
Extension of Ulster County, 845-340-3990 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Catskill Business Roundtable will meet Thursday, Sept. 16
at 10:30 a.m. at Catskill Watershed Corporation offices, 905
Main Street, Margaretville. The Roundtable consists of area
business owners and economic development representatives who
have been working to improve the business climate in the five-county
Catskills region. The agenda for the Sept. 16 meeting includes
an update on the development of a web site which will promote
the Catskills as a place to do business. The site will also
offer instant connection to the First Stop Shop compiled by
the Roundtable and the New York State Department of State last
year. The First Stop Shop provides information on services and
guidance available to existing and start-up businesses from
governmental agencies and non-profit organizations. It is available
in print form by calling the CWC, but the web site will make
the data searchable from computers anywhere. A progress report
on the GIS network that is being developed will also be provided
at the Roundtable meeting. To learn more about the Roundtable,
as well as the CWC and its economic development programs, go
to www.cwconline.org, or call toll-free, 1-877-WAT-SHED.
The Ulster County Legislature recently called for a second estimate
of renovation costs for the Golden Hill Health Care Center in
Kingston. Its Golden Hill Subcommittee voted to authorize Director
Sheree Cross to spend up to $40,000 to retain a second architect
to review plans and specifications for the proposed renovation
of the county-owned nursing home. In April, county lawmakers
were told that the 280-bed facility is at risk of a "major
piping failure" at any time due to degradation of the water
and sanitary sewer systems throughout the facility. Three options
were presented: a $24.4 million renovation to replace just the
water and sewer systems; a $44 million overhaul of the building;
or building a new nursing home at a cost of roughly $81 million.
A fourth option to close the facility altogether was unanimously
rejected. The state recommended breaking the project down into
several components because projects under $3 million are subject
to a faster review and approval process than larger jobs. About
75 percent of the tab for the $24.4 million pipe-replacement
proposal may be reimbursable by the New York State Medicaid
program, leaving the county to pay about $6.1 million.
Scientists say they've identified a gene that appears to be
linked to both alcoholism and depression, a finding that may
one day help identify those at higher risk for the diseases
and guide new treatments. Previous studies of twins and adopted
siblings have suggested there likely are genes in common underlying
alcoholism and depression, and that the two disorders seem to
run in families. But the lead researcher of the new study says
this is the first report of a specific gene that seems to increase
risk for both disorders. Follow-up research might help reveal
the underlying biology that makes some people susceptible to
alcoholism, others to depression, some to both diseases, and
others to neither. Scientists are saying that if the finding
holds and is replicated by others, it will provide another potential
target for developing new drugs to treat depression and alcoholism.
Alcoholism affects 7.9 million American adults, and 18.8 million
suffer from depression, according to the National Institutes
On September 18, a number of area groups will be sponsoring
a Mid-Hudson Valley People's Assembly, A "Social Forum
about Reclaiming Democracy, Understanding and Acting on Local,
National, Global Issues at the Central Valley Elementary School
on Route 32 in Central Valley, across from Woodbury Common at
the intersection of Exit 16 of the NYS Thruway and Route 17.
The People's Assembly will focus on ways to create an informed
and active civil society. The aim is to demonstrate and showcase
what works in achieving a peaceful society that offers social,
economic and environmental justice, to explore what distorts
democratic procedures, and to learn what people can do together
today and after the upcoming elections. The keynote speaker
will be Scott Ritter, the former Marine who headed the UN's
Iraqi weapons inspections program, and author of "Endgame:
Solving the Iraq Problem Once And For All."
Other participants include Dr. Peter Montague, founder and director
of the Environmental Research Foundation and the newsletter
"Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly"; Ward Morehouse
and Virginia Rasmussen, who will focus on "Corporations,
Law and Democracy"; Prof. Emeritus Robert Engler, CUNY
Graduate Center, and author of "Politics of Oil";
Ramapo College Professor Trent Schroyer, President of TOES/US;
and Richard Kirsch, Executive Director of Citizen Action of
New York. This assembly will begin to answer some very basic
questions: What kind of future do people want for the Mid-Hudson
Valley? For the nation? For the world? For
further information visit www.midhudsonvpa.org, email email@example.com/
or phone 845.987.2321.
The Iraqi government shut down Al-Jazeera's Baghdad operations
indefinitely recently, extending a one-month closure order imposed
after the pan-Arab channel was accused of inciting violence.
Officials at Al-Jazeera, the Arabic world's leading cable news
outlet, reacted with outrage, but did not say how it would respond
to the order. Iraq's Ministerial National Security Committee
said in an e-mail statement sent to The Associated Press that
it had decided to extend a suspension ordered Aug. 5 because
al-Jazeera failed to offer an explanation of its editorial policies.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said last month that the
government had convened an independent commission to monitor
Al-Jazeera's daily coverage "to see what kind of violence
they are advocating." Iraq's now-disbanded Governing Council,
in place during the U.S. occupation, banned the station's reporters
from entering its offices or covering its news conferences for
a month in January because it had reportedly shown disrespect
toward prominent Americans and Iraqis. The network has been
criticized by a number of senior U.S. officials for its coverage
of the war on Iraq and for being an outlet for al-Qaida terror
network by broadcasting videotapes and audiotapes purportedly
from Osama bin Laden or his aides. Al-Jazeera has denied the
In a new rate-setting tactic for the electric-utilities industry,
TXU Energy of Texas plans to impose a bigger rate increase for
its customers with the lowest credit scores, which are numeric
rankings of credit-worthiness that take into account a customer's
history of paying electricity, telephone and cable bills. TXU
defends the use of credit scoring as an accurate predictor of
future payment performance. But the additional increase for
customers with bad credit will wipe out the 8% to 10% savings
TXU had offered as incentives to sign up for service. And consumer
advocates warn that the practice eventually could lead to even
greater differences between the rates charged to different groups
of consumers and could tempt energy suppliers in other deregulated
states to follow suit. A state-funded consumer advocate in Texas
said her office intended to file a formal complaint with the
Texas Public Utility Commission asking it to issue an emergency
order preventing TXU, which is both the biggest utility and
biggest competitive supplier in the state, from implementing
the rate changes. Many states have laws restricting the use
of credit scoring, including New York, where insurers can't
deny coverage based on low scores.
How Long Now?
When asked recently how long the U.S. military is likely to
remain in Iraq, Senator John McCain replied "probably"
10 or 20 years. "That's not so bad," he said, adding,
"We've been in Korea for 50 years. We've been in West Germany
for 50 years." If Senator McCain is correct (and the belief
in official Washington is that he is), then boys and girls who
are 5 or 10 years old now will get their chance in 2015 or 2020
to strap on the Kevlar and engage the Iraqi insurgents.
At the largest annual convention of American Muslims, a pro-Bush
booth recently stirred anger among attendees who believe the
president's actions since Sept. 11, 2001, have hurt more innocent
Muslims than terrorists. The display was funded by Muhammad
Ali Hasan and his mother, Seeme, who recently created the group
"Muslims for Bush." Seeme Hasan said in a phone interview
that she and her husband Malik, a Colorado physician who earned
his wealth in the health care industry, have donated more than
$1 million to Bush and Republican causes since the 2000 campaign.
Muslim leaders say the domestic war on terror and the USA Patriot
Act, which extended controversial law enforcement powers, have
cast so wide a net that all Muslims and their institutions have
become suspect. Many also saw the war in Iraq as the extension
of a misguided U.S. policy in the Mideast that foments terrorism
instead of stopping it. Leading American Muslim organizations
endorsed Bush in 2000 over Democrat Al Gore, expecting the Texas
governor would be more sympathetic to their concerns. But Muslims
have said since that they regretted their decision.
Recent surveys of U.S. Muslims indicate a majority will vote
for Kerry, even though they fear he will not go far enough in
repealing parts of the Patriot Act.
When it comes to heart disease, being fit may be more important
than being thin, according to a study of more than 900 women
published recently. When analyzed by categories of weight and
activity, women who were at least moderately active were less
likely to develop heart disease or related problems than women
with low activity scores, no matter which weight category they
were in. The American Heart Association endorses at least 30
minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity for women on
most or all days of the week.
A second study published at the same time, however, found that
being overweight is a bigger risk factor than inactivity when
it comes to adult-onset diabetes among women. "Because
physical activity is a significant individual predictor and
has a beneficial effect on body mass index, it remains an important
intervention for diabetes prevention. Our study suggests that
to further reduce the risk of diabetes with physical activity,
it should be performed in conjunction with achieving weight
loss," the study said.
The Bush administration recently announced, late on the Friday
afternoon before the Labor Day holiday, that older Americans
will have to pay about 17 percent more next year for their government-run
Medicare health insurance, the largest increase in Medicare's
history. Starting in January, the elderly will pay $78.20 per
month for non-hospital services, up $11.60 from $66.60 this
year. Most of the increase will cover the program's new prescription
drug coverage and preventive services, including an initial
physical exam and other tests. The remaining amount, about 25
percent, will be used to help build up Medicare's trust fund,
with the government saying that the higher upfront costs will
"help save money elsewhere." Robert Hayes, president
of Medicare Rights Center, called the increase "a body
blow to millions of older Americans living on fixed incomes"
and blamed it on poor management. The Congressional Budget Office
estimated the bill would cost less than $400 billion over 10
years. But after the bill was signed by President George W.
Bush, the administration revealed that its own expert put the
cost at $534 billion. Last year, Medicare premiums rose about
13 percent from $58.70 to $66.60, the second largest hike. People
have questioned the timing of the administration's annual announcement,
which since 2001 has come in October but this year came late
on Friday before the Labor Day holiday weekend and just as Hurricane
Frances was hitting Florida, home to many retirees.
The world wants President George W. Bush out of the White House,
according to a poll released on Wednesday that shows in 30 of
35 countries people preferred Democrat candidate John Kerry.
Kerry was particularly favored in traditionally strong U.S.
allies and beat Bush on average by more than a two-to-one margin,
46 percent to 20 percent, the survey by GlobeScan Inc, a global
research firm, and the University of Maryland, said. The only
countries where Bush was preferred in the poll of 34,330 people
that was conducted mainly in July and August were the Philippines,
Nigeria and Poland. India and Thailand were divided. Asked how
the foreign policy of Bush has affected their feelings toward
the United States, a majority or plurality of respondents in
30 countries said it made them feel worse about America, while
in three countries more respondents said they felt better. The
survey's margin of error was plus or minus 2.3 to 5 percentage
Soon after arriving in Equatorial Guinea in 1991, the U.S. ambassador
discovered an unusual arrangement involving the country's despotic
president and the first successful oil company operating in
the poor, West African nation. Walter International Inc. was
paying to send the president's son to study at Pepperdine University
in Malibu, Calif., company employees told the ambassador, John
E. Bennett. The staff of the Houston company told Bennett about
the arrangement, grousing that the son was "spending at
will," bringing the tab for a year in Southern California
to at least $50,000, the former ambassador said. But after Walter
Inc. lured some of the biggest names in oil to drill off the
shore of a country the size of Maryland, they expanded their
graftm according to new reports. The companies paid for scholarships
for children of the country's leaders, formed business ventures
with government officials, hired companies linked to the president
and rented property from government officials and their relatives,
according to a U.S. Senate report released in July that reveals
the companies' operations in striking detail. A current Securities
and Exchange Commission investigation includes the three companies
with the largest presence in the country ˜ Exxon Mobil
Corp., Amerada Hess Corp. and Marathon Oil Corp. ˜ along
with ChevronTexaco Corp., Devon Energy Corp. and CMS Energy
Corp. Such activities were thought to have beem outlawed in
1977 under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, after SEC
investigations led more than 400 U.S. companies to admit that
they had made questionable or illegal payments in other countries.
The act outlaws payments to foreign officials for the purpose
of obtaining or keeping business. But officials at the Justice
Department and SEC, both of which are responsible for enforcing
the act, will not provide statistics on the number of oil companies
that have been accused of violations. And Senate staff members
would not say whether they referred any possible violations
of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to the Justice Department
for investigation, citing policy not to disclose such information.
The oil companies named in the Senate report have since declined
to answer specific questions about operations in Africa or did
not return phone calls.
The Defense Department spent $70,500 to produce a Humphrey Bogart-themed
video called "The People's Right to Know" to teach
employees to respond to citizen requests for information. But
when it came to showing the tape to the public, the Pentagon
censored some of the footage, saying they did so because they
were worried the government didn't have legal rights to some
historical footage that was included. Citing the U.S. Freedom
of Information Act, The Associated Press asked the Pentagon
for a copy of the video nearly 18 months ago. The Defense Department
released an edited version of the tape and acknowledged the
irony of censoring a video promoting government openness.
The 22-minute video features a trenchcoat-clad narrator resembling
Sam Spade, the detective played by Bogart in the 1941 classic
"The Maltese Falcon." The narrator follows mysterious
characters known only as "veiled lady" and "large
man" as he describes Pentagon rules under the open records
law, which mandates disclosure of most federal documents, e-mails,
photographs and videotapes. "Releasing or denying access
to records can be a tricky business," the narrator says,
impersonating Bogart. "In the end it will be up to you
to do the right thing and provide as much help as you can. And
remember, I'll be looking at you, kid."
Œ'Taxes are going up next year no matter who wins the presidency
in November,'' says conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who
advised both Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush. Œ'It's
out of the hands of politicians,'' Bartlett said. He goes on
to note that the annual $400 billion deficit leaves little room
to maneuver. The shortfall was exacerbated by two earlier tax
cuts as well as rising costs for Iraq, Afghanistan, homeland
security and a major expansion Medicare. Furthermore, the Federal
Reserve has embarked on a course of raising interest rates from
their recent 40-year lows. Higher interest rates combined with
a continued weak dollar will put more pressure on the government's
An Oct. 6 public hearing has been set on a proposed $14.85 million
Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency budget that would increase
county taxpayers' subsidy of the agency by more than 28 percent.
The operating budget portion of the plan totals $11.92 million
shows a hike up from $9.3 million this year. The balance of
the spending plan is set aside for debt service. Overall, the
proposed budget is up 34.64 percent. Under the proposal, the
county would pay the agency $3.21 million for its services in
2005, an increase of $713,176, or 28.55 percent. Agency Executive
Director Charles Shaw attributes the increase to higher gas
prices, which have driven transportation costs higher for both
the agency and its contractors. The second big cost increase
is the New York State Retirement System. The cost of the
agency's contracts with private trash haulers are expected to
increase by $574,830, or 38.75 percent, to $2.62 million. The
agency's own transportation costs are projected at $732,839,
an increase of 106.62 percent, or $378,164. At the same time,
the proposed budget projects a 17.57 percent decrease in landfill
fees the agency pays to dump county trash at the upstate Seneca
Meadows landfill. That's a reduction of $438,670, for a total
of cost of $2.06 million. The agency has projected a decrease
in landfill fees because it expects to be separating more waste
for recycling markets, including construction and demolition
debris. Also included in the budget are:* $3 million in personnel
expenses, an increase of $372,865, or 14.19 percent.* $752,438
in insurance costs, an increase of $126,215, or 20.15 percent.
Public comments on the budget will be taken at 2:30 p.m. Oct.
6 at the agency's headquarters at 999 Flatbush Ave., state Route
32 in the town of Ulster.
Fat Like Dad
Apart from upbringing and environment, scientists are discovering
that genes and biology are more important in the fight against
obesity than previously believed. Experts are investigating
couch potato genes, stop-eating genes, can't-resist genes, and
even the possibility of a party platter gene - which turns people
into opportunistic eaters, who eat whenever they are offered
food. Each person has a unique profile of genes, biology and
lifestyle; a slight tweak in any of those influences could make
the difference between fat and thin, experts say. Where they
disagree is over how powerful each individual factor is alone.
"There are about 340 genes involved in weight control.
Most of them increase the likelihood of your being fat, but
there are actually genes that protect against being fat,"
said Dr. Stephan Rossner, head of the obesity unit and professor
of health behavior research at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm,
Sweden. "You can have muscles that react just a little
slower; a mental setting that makes you just a little more prone
to use food for comfort or a body temperature that is just one-tenth
of a centigrade higher. If you have 20 of these factors all
going in one direction - but still each and every one of them
is normal - that can explain why people who live in the same
environment weigh different amounts."
While the laws of physics - which dictate that you cannot get
fat unless you eat more calories than you burn - are inviolable,
a person's genetic makeup influences the decisions made about
eating and exercising, experts say. Eating increases the levels
of the calming brain chemical dopamine. Brain scans have indicated
that obese people have a lower concentration of dopamine receptors
in their brains than lean people do. "It's possible that
some people need to eat more to get the same level of pleasure,"
said Dr. Kishore Gadde, director of obesity clinical trials
at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. There is
also growing evidence that fatty high-fat foods might dull the
appetite control signals in the brain.
Yet it is still unknown whether the appetite threshold is raised
by a lifetime of overeating or whether the overeating is due
to the threshold being higher. However, scientists believe it
could be linked to chemicals in the gut that are stimulated
by fatty food and signal the brain when the belly is full.
A third federal judge ruled recently that the Partial-Birth
Abortion Ban Act is unconstitutional, saying it fails to include
an exception when a woman's health is in danger. U.S. District
Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln said that Congress ignored the
most experienced doctors in determining that the banned procedure
would never be necessary - a finding he found "unreasonable."
"According to responsible medical opinion, there are times
when the banned procedure is medically necessary to preserve
the health of a woman and a respectful reading of the congressional
record proves that point," Kopf wrote. "No reasonable
and unbiased person could come to a different conclusion."
The abortion ban was signed last year by President Bush but
was not enforced because three federal judges, in Lincoln, New
York and San Francisco, agreed to hear constitutional challenges
in simultaneous non-jury trials. Last month, U.S. District
Judge Richard C. Casey in New York said the Supreme Court has
made it clear that a banned procedure must allow an exception
to preserve a woman's health - even as he called the abortion
procedure "gruesome, brutal, barbaric and uncivilized."
In June, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco
also found the law unconstitutional, saying it "poses an
undue burden on a woman's right to choose an abortion."
The three rulings are expected to be appealed to the Supreme
Court. The federal law bars a procedure doctors call "intact
dilation and extraction," or D&X, and opponents call
Russia is prepared to make pre-emptive strikes on "terrorist
bases" anywhere in the world, the Interfax news agency
cited the country's chief of staff as saying in the wake of
the recent school kidnappings and killings. General Yuri Baluyevsky
said: "With regard to preventive strikes on terrorist bases,
we will take any action to eliminate terrorist bases in any
region of the world. But this does not mean we will carry out
nuclear strikes." Already coined as Russia's September
11 by various Russian pundits and editorials, the tragic slaughter
of hundreds of innocent people in a middle school in Beslan
has the potential to trigger a major tremor in the foreign policy
charted by President Vladimir Putin, perhaps even as far as
heralding a new chapter in US-Russia relations, much to the
chagrin of the so-called Eurasianists around Putin who have
for a long time been advising him to steer clear of the US's
"war on terrorism". In his first post-Beslan interview,
Putin, in a tone reminiscent of President George W Bush's post-September
11 behavior, has declared Russia to be in a "war"
with enemies that his defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, has branded
as "unseen" and "borderless".
Meanwhile, Time Magazine recently noted that a leading Pentagon
hawk has hinted that the doctrine of pre-emptive war could soon
apply to potential new targets. During a private Aug. 19 conference
call with Capitol Hill aides from both parties, sources say,
senior Pentagon policy official William Luti said there are
at least five or six foreign countries with traits that "no
responsible leader can allow." An outspoken proponent of
the Iraq war, Luti had declared at an October 2002 conference
that the U.S. has "the right to ... hold accountable nations
that harbor terrorists." In his recent call, Luti did not
name the nations he had in mind but said they are led by dictators
with weapons-of-mass-destruction programs and close ties to
terrorists. His remarks suggest that the Administration is looking
well beyond the current "axis of evil," which includes
Iran, Iraq and North Korea; this might put countries like Syria
in the spotlight. A Pentagon spokesman declined to release a
transcript of the call, saying Luti was stating "well-established
official policy," not advocating pre-emptive strikes.
Election officials said a new rule barring hand recounts in
15 Florida counties with touchscreen voting systems will remain
in place until after Tuesday's primary ˜ despite a judge's
invalidation of the rule. In April, Secretary of State Glenda
Hood issued a rule preventing manual recounts. Hood has said
the machines don't require a paper trail. A coalition of government
watchdogs and other interest groups sued, however, arguing state
law requires provisions for hand recounts in every county no
matter what voting technology is used. Administrative Law Judge
Susan B. Kirkland agreed, invalidating Hood's rule. Kirkland
wrote that state law clearly contemplates "that manual
recounts will be done on each certified voting system, including
the touchscreen voting systems." The state hasn't decided
yet whether to appeal, said a spokeswoman. Florida's voting
system has been under scrutiny since 2000, when it took five
weeks of legal maneuvering and some recounting before Republican
George W. Bush was declared president over Democrat Al Gore.
Further election problems arose during Florida's close 2002
Democratic gubermatorial primary.
At least two documents that seem to confirm long-standing suspicions
that the Bush administration's foreign policy is being driven
by the dictates of the energy industry recently emerged. Documents
recently obtained from the task force as the result of a Freedom
of Information Act lawsuit filed by public interest group Judicial
Watch indicate Cheney and his colleagues had their sights on
the black gold under the Iraqi desert well before the attacks
of Sept. 11, 2001. In July 2003 the Commerce Department finally
turned over records that included "a map of Iraqi oilfields,
pipelines, refineries, and terminals, as well as two charts
detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and ŒForeign Suitors
for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts,' " according to Judicial
Watch's subsequent press release. There were also similar maps
and charts for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The
documents were dated March 2001.
Meanwhile, former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob
Graham of Florida asserted that the general who ran the war
in Afghanistan said more than a year before the U.S.-led invasion
of Iraq that his resources were being shifted in preparation
for taking on Saddam Hussein. Graham said Gen. Tommy Franks
told him a year before invading Iraq that he thought the United
States knew less about the situation in Iraq than did some European
governments, and the Bush administration should ask them for
advice. Graham said on NBC's Œ'Meet the Press'' that
his meeting with Franks was at the general's headquarters, Central
Command in Tampa, Fla. Œ'He laid out a very precise strategy
for fighting the war on terror,'' Graham said. Œ'First,
we should win the war in Afghanistan. Second, move to Somalia,
which as he described was almost anarchy but with a substantial
number of al-Qaida cells; then to Yemen. And that we should
be very careful about Iraq, because our intelligence was so
weak that we didn't know what we were getting into,'' Graham
World Bank President James Wolfensohn, a longstanding critic
of excessive global military spending, says he cannot comprehend
why the world spends only 50 billion dollars on development
aid annually while it squanders a whopping 950 billion dollars
on its armed forces. If the world's rich nations spend the 950
billion dollars to really fight poverty and disease, he argued
in recent interviews, they would not need to spend even 50 billion
dollars fighting wars.
Wolfensohn's argument is based on the premise that the root
causes of some of the world's political problems ˜ including
ethnic conflicts and civil wars ˜ are primarily due to
economic and social deprivation. Concurring with this view,
Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University,
told representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
at the United Nations that the United States was one of the
worst offenders as far as military spending and development
aid was concerned. "This year," he said, "the
United States is spending 450 billion dollars on the military
and 15 billion dollars for all development assistance."
"If life was so devalued," Sachs asked, "how
would it be possible to win a war against terrorism?" He
also said that nothing was more important for global security
than for the rich world to finally follow through on the 0.7
percent pledge for development assistance. "A safe world
would come when everyone's lives were taken seriously,"
According to World Bank figures, one-sixth of the world's six
billion people own about 80 percent of the world's wealth, while
another sixth live below the poverty line of less than a dollar
One of al Qaida's aims in its September 11 attacks on the US
three years ago was to draw the west into military conflict
on Arab soil, Prime Minister Tony Blair's former envoy to Iraq
acknowledged recently. Sir Jeremy Greenstock's said the allies
had "suffered the consequences" in Iraq of al Qaida's
determination to exploit the opportunities presented by a war
on Arab soil. He added that the West could not defeat bin Laden's
terror network by military means alone, but must adopt policies
to reduce resentment in the Muslim world. If the allies failed
to help Iraq put an end to its current instability, they would
be left "worse off than when we started", he warned.
"I think it was one of the objectives of Osama bin Laden
and the al Qaida leadership originally to draw America into
conflict on Arab soil as close to Saudi Arabia as possible,"
Greenstock said. "Iraq is not yet a failed state. We are
in a transition period, which has got considerable difficulties.
But if Iraq ends up as a failed state and we leave it in that
state, then we are worse off than when we started."
Citing the "diversity of expert opinion" raised at
the recently-ended Belleayre Resort issues conference, the Ulster
County Legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution last Thursday
supporting "the full adjudication of all issues "
now before Department of Environmental Conservation Administrative
Law Judge Richard Wissler. The move, which essentially mirrors
the position taken throughout the conference by the eleven member
groups of the Catskill Preservation Coalition, passed by a vote
of 27-3. Support for the resolution was unanimous from Route
28 corridor legislators Brian Shapiro and Michael Stock from
District 2 and Richard Parete, Peter Kraft, and Robert Parete
from District 3.
While noting that "the Ulster County Legislature will not
take a position in favor or opposition to the project until
a thorough review of all environmental issues" has been
completed, the resolution also notes the resort's potential
impacts on the local community, water quality, and other issues
as well as the county's historical support for the protection
of its open space and natural resources. According to the resolution,
its intention is "to ensure a thorough review that protects
the quality of the Watershed drinking supply, the rural character
of the Catskill region, and the residents of Ulster County and
New York State."
County Legislative Chairman Richard Gerentine, one of only three
lawmakers voting against the move, explained that "The
resolution asks the judge to adjudicate all issues connected
with the resort. That's something I would hope he would do;
it's his job anyway. I agree that (DEC) should carefully adjudicate
all of these issues, but I feel it was a little offensive to
Also voting against the measure, legislator Frank Dart said
he thought it was "unnecessary legislation", and that
"most of the people who voted for it didn't realize the
ramifications of what this means and didn't realize the roadblocks
it might throw up" or the possible cost in litigation for
Gerentine's second-in-command, majority leader Mike Stock however
voted in support of it, calling a "a memorializing resolution."
"I believe the judge is going to do the right thing,"
said Stock. "If everything falls into compliance, then
I think people will be a little more comfortable with the project."
Responding to the County's resolution in a brief written statement,
the project's developer, Crossroads Ventures, said that "There
is a lengthy and quite rigorous process now going on to elicit
information and testimony that will enable a NY State Administrative
Law Judge to determine what issues, if any, are substantive
and significant enough to warrant additional review by state