Setting the tone for the year ahead, the Shandaken town board
has named new leaders of two critical elements of local government.
At the town’s reorganization meeting on January 5th longtime
zoning board of Appeals chairman Keith Johnson was replaced
by Rolf Reiss, a local builder and Woodland Valley resident
who has been a rank and file member of the zoning board for
several years. The town board also dethroned planning board
chair Gerry Setchko in favor of former planning board chair
and the boards senior member, Beth Waterman. Setchko was not
only removed from the chair. He was not reappointed to the board
The reorg session was ill attended and downright civil compared
to those of previous years. Past sessions saw endless input
from the public as people tried to sway the board one way or
another on resolutions coming up for vote. But this time literally
no one chose to speak when the public input portion of the meeting
But during the resolution process of the meeting councilman
Robert Stanley, the board’s sole Republican, stirred things
up. Stanley noted that the planning board had recommended that
Setchko be reappointed, and Stanley wondered why the town board’s
Democratic majority was even considering going against such
“The Supervisor thinks that change on the planning board
wouldn’t be a bad thing,” was the response from
Supervisor Peter DiSclafani.
Councilman Vincent Bernstein urged the town board to follow
the planning board’s recommendation.
Chichester resident Judy Wyman noted that it is not unusual
in Shandaken for the town board to ignore such recommendations
and in fact, when the Republicans took control of the board
a few years ago they removed Waterman from the Chair even though
the planners unanimously recommended that she remain. Ultimately
Waterman was appointed by a unanimous town board vote.
While Stanley supported Setchko to be on the planning board,
he added that, in his opinion, it didn’t really matter
who the chair was because all they do is run meetings.
Meanwhile, Setchko’s empty seat remains unfilled. The
board tabled a resolution to appoint Barbara Redfield, a resident
of the Winisook Club in Oliverea and member of the Catskill
Center for Conservation and Development’s Board of Directors,
because Bernstein and other board members said they were not
familiar with her.
In related news, Stanley said after the meeting that the planning
board has decided to conduct it’s own search for a suitable
candidate to join their ranks. Setchko said he remains under
consideration. Local Attorney Paul Friery is said to have expressed
interest as well.
Last month, when word had reached Setchko that he was going
to be replaced, he said it was ironic that DiSclafani was removing
a senior member of the planning board while simultaneously saying
he was concerned that the planning board lacked the experience
to review the upcoming Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact
Statement for the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.
The town board also replaced zoning board member Steve Stettine
with Joseph Micheals, an engineer who lives in Broadstreet Hollow.
In a stunning reversal from last month, the Shandaken Zoning
Board of Appeals has decided to hold a public hearing on it’s
plan to interpret a murky portion of town law- an interpretation
that could either pave the way for an unpopular water harvest
project or stop it in it’s tracks.
At their December meeting, the zoners were quick to note that
their interpretation will be about the law in general terms
and not related to the decade long effort of Andrew Poncic to
build a water harvest ystem in Phoenicia.
However, it is apparent that the issue is only before the zoners
because of that project. Poncic got an approval from the planning
board to do the project last year but that decision was thrown
out in court, with a judge saying that the zoners, not the planners,
are only entity with the authority to decide whether water harvesting
is similar to a clause in the law that allows water bottling.
Poncic himself sent a letter to board chairman Keith Johnson
requesting that board member Rolf Reiss, who has publicly opposed
the Poncic project, recuse himself from the interpretation process.
Reiss has refused, saying that he would only need to recuse
himself if he had some financial benefit from the decision.
Johnson, who last month voted to avoid a public hearing, changed
his tune, he said, after he spoke with at least two attorneys
about the matter. Because the matter was in a gray area of the
law it was best to err on the side of caution. Board member
Steve Stettine, who also voted against holding a hearing last
The decision to hold the hearing was unanimous. The hearing
is set for January 21st.
The Shandaken Town Board has delayed the adoption of new by-laws
for the Phoenicia Water District following a year end public
hearing that ran well into overtime.
The hearing on the Phoenicia district changes, slated to be
only 15 minutes, went for an hour and half as a handful of residents
complained that the new by-laws include revised usage rates
that raise property taxes for those in the district while lowering
the expense water for a handful of businesses.
If adopted as planned, the new rates would represent a reversal
of a decision made two years ago that business owners complained
about. At that time the town board, under former supervisor
Robert cross Jr., eliminated the old flat rate policy and adopted
rates that put the cost of the water on those that use it.
“It’s only fair that people pay for the water they
use,” Cross said at the time.
That decision came about after there was a huge increase in
property tax in the water district due to capitol improvements
made to system. By changing the rates and charging larger users
for using more, property taxes went down.
Supervisor Peter DiSclafani agreed this new proposal, prepared
by a volunteer committee, may cause property taxes to go up
again. If adopted, he said, it could be altered by the town
board at any time.
“ We’ll keep an eye on it,” he said, noting
that the next time the revenues will be added up would be in
April 2009. At that time the town will have an idea of how much
of a revenue shortfall, if any, may occur.
There are other variable to consider. Repairs to leaks in the
system have saved up to 75,000 gallons per day.
Proposed rates are as follows:
0- 20,000 gallons would cost $100 per year
A fee of $5 for every 1000 gallons used above 20,000 gallons
A fee of $4.50 for every 1000 gallons used above 100,000 gallons
A fee of $4.00 for every 1000 gallons used above 200,000 gallons
A fee of $3.50 for every 1000 gallons used above 400,000 gallons
Under the new laws property owners would be charged “a
minimum biannual fee” of $150 if their water meter were
malfunctioning. It is the responsibility of the owner to contact
the water district to schedule repairs, and the owner will be
responsible for the cost of the repairs.
It remains unclear when the town board will decide whether to
adopt the proposed by-laws, DiSclafani said, in light of the
concerns raised at the hearing.
Lew Kirschner, Ulster County’s treasurer of over 30 years,
has announced that he will retire from public office on February
20, saying he wants to spend more time with his wife, Amy, their
two sons and their grandchildren, and bettering his golf game.
Kirschner is being treated for prostate cancer and said the
time is right for him to retire, though he will serve as a consultant
for a private company called Fiscal Advisors.
Kirschner, a 73-year-old town of Ulster resident, became the
county’s first commissioner of finance on January 1, the
day the county’s new charter took effect, and was to have
remained in the $102,000-per-year job through at least the end
of this year.
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, on the job for less than
two weeks, said on Saturday that he plans to appoint Paul Hewitt,
who currently serves as director of finance in Kirschner’s
office, to the commissioner of finance position, pending the
county legislature’s approval.
Hein served as a deputy treasurer under Kirschner from 2003-06
and called his former boss and “amazing public servant.”
Kirschner served as an Ulster County legislator from 1969-76,
was elected to his first term as treasurer in November 1976
and was successful in eight consecutive re-election tries, including
five in which he had no opponent despite being a Democrat in
what long was a heavily Republican county.
The treasurer’s term was changed from three years to four
years during Kirschner’s time in office, and he last was
elected in 2005. Because the term that started in January 2006
was to run through December 2009, the county charter that voters
approved in November 2006 included a provision that said whoever
held the office when the charter took effect in January 2009
would stay on for one year as finance commissioner. After that,
according to the charter, it falls to the county executive to
appoint a finance commissioner and the Legislature to confirm
Some of the former duties of the county treasurer now are held
by the elected county comptroller, another position created
by the charter. Democrat Elliott Auerbach of Ellenville won
the first comptroller’s race two months ago and took office
with Hen on New Year’s Day.
Two local schools will take part in a feasibility study to evaluate
heating their middle and senior high school facilities with
The middle and senior high school facilities in the Onteora
was among five regional facilities in three counties selected
to be part of the feasibility study through the Watershed Agricultural
Council. In addition to our school and Cairo-Durham in Greene
County, Catskill Craftsmen, O’Connor Hospital and South
Kortright Central School, all in Delaware County, will be included
in the study.
Each study will analyze the current energy demands for each
facility, according to a press release from the Watershed Agricultural
Council. The analysis will include a detailed assessment of
the economic, environmental and technical feasibility of retrofitting
or replacing an existing boiler system to accommodate wood as
a renewable fuel option. The study, site visits and reports
will provide facilities with information to make decisions regarding
their energy needs.
Each facility for the study was selected from a pool of 11 candidates.
Application prerequisites included having a minimum facility
size of 50,000 square feet.
The total project costs for the studies at each facility will
be $23,000, according to the release. The Watershed Agricultural
Council’s Forestry Program would contract with Jeff Forward
of Vermont-based Richmond Energy Associates to perform the studies.
That contract would be paid for in part by a matching grant
from the U.S. Forest Service’s Economic Action program.
“Making the switch to wood can be a cost-effective solution
for many larger facilities with tight operating budgets,”
said Colin Miller, a wood utilization specialist with the Watershed
Agricultural Council. “The forest products industry and
other energy consumers adopted the technology when energy prices
first spiked over 25 years ago.”
He added that aside from cost savings, the benefits of woody
biomass energy include reduced carbon emissions, improved utilization
of wood waste, healthier forests and energy dollars remaining
To view a list of frequently asked questions about woody biomass
energy or to learn more about the feasibility study project,
visit the Forestry Market Development page at www.nycwatershed.org
or call Miller at (607) 865-7790 ext. 112.
Holiday shoppers found shelves at the Margaretville A &
P virtually empty over the recent holidays as the grocery store
prepares to close, making way for a new Freshtown scheduled
to open in late January. Shoppers were clearly frustrated by
the lack of goods in the store, but Noah Katz – who will
lead efforts on the new store — was optimistic that the
inconvenience would be short and the MARK Group announced plans
for a Buddy System to help anyone who lives without convenient
Katz indicated that by February 1, immediate changes in stock,
cash registers and electrical service delivery will be finished
and people will be able to get everything they need at the Bridge
Street location that has housed a supermarket for more than
With its Buddy System, MARK will organize a network of community
members willing to include a less mobile individual on out-of-town
shopping trips or “supermarket excursions.” Anyone
willing to pick up a less mobile individual and take them shopping
can register with MARK. Any person in need of transportation,
should also contact MARK to get on the “buddy” list.
Additionally, shoppers who are willing to just do the shopping
for another individual may also sign up and be paired with someone
who has no other way to get what they need.
For further information contact MARK at 845.586.3500 or via
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shot In Foot
A 20-year-old Mount Tremper man was taken to Benedictine Hospital
last week after he accidentally shot himself in the foot.
On January 2nd Jacob Lefferts of 5468 State Route 212 fired
a 12-gauge shotgun into his right foot while attempting to unload
the firearm, Ulster County sheriff’s deputies said. Deputies
said Lefferts was treated at the scene by members of the town
of Shandaken Ambulance Squad and taken to the emergency room
at Benedictine Hospital.
An unidentified man that answered the phone Monday at the Lefferts
household would not explain the circumstances surrounding the
accident or explain what Lefferts was doing with the loaded
The man did, however, describe Lefferts’ current condition.
“He is now fine and I have no further comment,”
the man said before hanging up.
Deputies said the incident occurred at approximately 2:57 p.m.
and they were summoned to the residence following a 911 call.
Captain Michael Freer of the Sheriff’s Department said
that Lefferts was in the house when the gun went off.
“He was using it for (small game) hunting,” Freer
said. “But it was a gun that he was unfamiliar with.”
As for the report that Lefferts is now fine, Freer said he doubted
his big toe was.
In addition to members of the ambulance squad, deputies were
assisted by the Shandaken police department.
Two motorists were injured — one seriously — in
a crash on state Route 28 December 30, state police at Ulster
have said, noting that an unidentified man was treated at Benedictine
Hospital in Kingston and released, but there was no update available
on the condition of the other driver, a woman, who was seriously
West Hurley Fire Chief David Gutierrez said the crash occurred
around 10 a.m. when one vehicle turned from Van Dale Road onto
Route 28 and collided with the other head-on. He said a state
police reconstruction team was on the scene to piece the details
of the collision together.
The names of the two drivers were withheld pending notification
of family members. There were no passengers in either vehicle.
Gutierrez said two helicopters circled over the site of the
accident to airlift the injured drivers, but they were unable
to land because of windy conditions. Both victims were taken
to the Benedictine Hospital, but the woman was later airlifted
to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, where she was listed
in critical condition.
Emergency personnel closed down Route 28 from Zena Road to state
Route 375 for about an hour and a half following the crash.
Gutierrez described the crash as “one of the worst we’ve
seen on that stretch in the last three years, as far as impact.”
The state Department of Environmental Protection police, Olive
and Woodstock town police, the Woodstock Fire Department, Mobile
Life Support, Stat Flight Helicopter, and Division Aviation
assisted at the scene.
There was also a single car accident in Phoenicia Saturday during
the most recent snow storm. No one was seriously injured.
A proposed local law that would prohibit sex offenders from
residing, having employment or otherwise entering or remaining
within one thousand feet of areas and facilities that would
provide them easy access to potential victims, including schools,
daycare centers, playgrounds and public pools, among other places
was tabled following a boisterous legislative meeting last week
when Ulster County Legislature Criminal Justice and Safety Committee
Chairman Frank Dart cautioned against acting in haste.
“Would you rather have a sex offender that you know is
living next door to you, or, have a sex offender and drive him
under ground, and you don’t know if he is living behind
a plaza, in the woods, and you don’t know where he is,”
Dart asked, noting that the measure should go back to committee
so they can bring in the appropriate ‘experts’ to
explain the ramifications.
“This could endanger the public, if we act too fast,”
added District 2 Democrat Brian Shapiro.
Republican Minority Leader Glenn Noonan replied that as far
as he was concerned, no action was as good as siding with sex
The ripple effect of the economic crisis is hitting statistics
for domestic abuse, according to new reports. Domestic violence
programs across the state and nation report that victims are
experiencing an increase in abuse in part because out-of-work
abusers have more opportunity to batter. Rhode Island, for example,
has recently seen a 25 percent increase in felony-level domestic
violence crimes. Victims end up with fewer opportunities to
contact programs for help, attend support groups, or get away
from the batterer.
Compounding the problem, domestic violence programs face a trio
of economic factors - cuts in federal funding, increased demand
for services, and decreased private donations as people lose
their jobs or see a downturn in their personal finances. These
budget constraints make it more difficult for local programs
to meet the needs of their communities.
In 2007, the National Network to End Domestic Violence conducted
its second annual 24-hour census of domestic violence shelters
and programs across the nation. The census report found that
in one day, more than 53,000 women, men, and children across
the country received services from domestic violence programs.
Over 25,000 of those individuals - more than half were children
- found refuge in emergency domestic violence shelters or transitional
Yet traon that same day, more than 7,700 victims who sought
services from their local domestic violence programs were not
served because the programs didn’t have enough funding
and resources. Programs in Massachusetts reported 309 unmet
requests for services due to a critical shortage of funds and
An equally alarming statistic is the three-fold increase in
domestic violence related homicides between 2005 and 2007 in
Massachusetts. Researcher Jaclyn Campbell has identified two
key risk factors in relation to domestic violence homicides:
limited access to services for victims and unemployment for
And this situation existed before the current economic crisis.
Be good to one another…
Dan Davis of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection
will present and discuss video footage of the upper Esopus Creek
(above the Ashokan Reservoir) on Thursday, January 29, at the
St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Phoencia from 7:00pm
8:00pm. The presentation, sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension
of Ulster County, is free and open to the public.
The video footage, taken from helicopter in April, 2008, is
an excellent way to see the current condition of Esopus Creek
and to highlight areas of management concern. The annual flyover
video is an assessment tool taken by DEP for comparing the stream
changes year by year and provides valuable information such
as identifying damage after major floods and other changes over
Please RSVP by calling Jenny Burkins at 845-340-3990 or email:
On The Eve…
A retired state trooper assigned to the Thruway shot and killed
his estranged wife early the morning of New Year’s Eve
and then took his own life, State Police said.
William Cotto, 53, had entered his wife’s residence at
3657 Main Street in Marbletown around 4 a.m. and shot and killed
his wife, Isol Cotto, 49, with a single shotgun blast. Cotto
them went to a parking lot at a nearby gas station and shot
himself to death, police said.
No one else at the residence was injured.
Cotto had been arrested on misdemeanor charges for unlawful
imprisonment in the second degree, menacing in the second degree
and harassment in the second degree on December 30. At the time
of his arrest, State Police secured all weapons known to be
in Cotto’s possession. They included a shotgun and ammunition,
as well as knives and billy clubs. He was arraigned and committed
to the Ulster County Jail.
He posted $5,000 bail and was released. The crime happened less
than two hours later.
At the time of the murder/suicide incident, Cotto was in violation
of an order of protection as a result of the earlier charges.
When a private plane crashed in a fireball outside Akron, Ohio
December 23 killing its pilot, it was big local news for the
evening. What wasn’t widely reported was that the pilot,
Michael Connell, had been Karl Rove’s and the Bush and
McCain campaigns’ chief IT consultant, and was set to
testify about his actions as a key witness in a suit alleging
massive election vote tampering by Ohio Republicans in the 2004
In that election. in which George Bush narrowly won the state,
it turns out that all votes cast were electronically shunted
from Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell’s website to
a separate computer operation in a Chattanooga, TN basement,
run by Connell. The process reportedly slowed down the data
stream, allowing Blackwell to analyze and determine how many
votes the Bush-Cheney ticket would require on a precinct by
precinct basis, to win the state.
Connell had recently told a news organization he was afraid
that George Bush and Dick Cheney would “throw (him) under
the bus,” and attorneys for the case involving the voter
fraud had alerted US Attorney General Michael Mukasey about
alleged threats to Connell from Karl Rove if he “refused
to take the fall” for the ’04 Ohio vote tampering.
Connell, a devout Catholic, has admitted that in his zeal to
“save the unborn” he may have helped others who
have compromised elections.
A slow starvation of the brain over time is one of the major
triggers of the biochemistry that causes some forms of Alzheimer’s,
according to a new study that is helping to crack the mystery
of the disease’s origins.
An estimated 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s
in their lifetime, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The disease usually begins after age 60, and risk rises with
age. The direct and indirect cost of Alzheimer’s and other
dementias is about $148 billion a year.
Robert Vassar of Northwestern University, the study’s
lead author, found that when the brain doesn’t get enough
of the simple sugar called glucose — as might occur when
cardiovascular disease restricts blood flow in arteries to the
brain — a process is launched that ultimately produces
the sticky clumps of protein that appear to be a cause of Alzheimer’s.
Working with human and mice brains, Vassar discovered that a
key brain protein is altered when the brain’s supply of
energy drops. The altered protein, called eIF2alpha, increases
the production of an enzyme that, in turn, flips a switch to
produce the sticky protein clumps.
“This finding is significant because it suggests that
improving blood flow to the brain might be an effective therapeutic
approach to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s,” Vassar
The best ways to improve blood flow to the brain and thereby
reduce the chances of getting Alzheimer’s is to reduce
cholesterol intake, manage high blood pressure and exercise,
especially entering mid-life.
“If people start early enough, maybe they can dodge the
bullet,” Vassar said. For people who already have symptoms,
vasodilators, which increase blood flow, may help the delivery
of oxygen and glucose to the brain, he added.
The Kingston Holiday Inn will host a two-hour event at 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 21, to explore Ulster County business capabilities
to sell goods and services in the Chinese market. The event
is free, but space is limited to businesses who can send representatives
to China in May. To make a reservation, call the Ulster County
Chamber of Commerce at (845) 338-5100 or visit ulsterchamber.org.
To help the region cope with hard times, county economic organizations
are forming the “Ulster County Business and Trade Mission
to China” in hopes of connecting local businesses to the
potentially largest foreign market in the world.
Mid-Hudson Region Small Business Development Center Director
Arnaldo Sehwerert said the primary goal of the initiative is
to create opportunities for small manufacturers in the county
to export their products to a new market and thus create more
local jobs. Another goal of the initiative is to attract Chinese
capital to Ulster County, whether through investment in local
business or through Chinese firms setting up shop here.
Showcasing Hudson Valley products in China could also benefit
other area businesses by promoting tourism.
Stacey Bowers, executive vice president for Woodstock Chimes,
based in Olive, said he believes increased interconnectedness
between Ulster County and China would be “a huge opportunity
going in both directions,” and he noted that even though
that there is not much of a market for his company’s wares
in mainland China, exports to other Asian countries have become
“an important segment of our business.”
New research by a University of New Hampshire domestic abuse
expert says spanking children affects their sex lives as adults.
Professor Murray Straus concludes that children who are spanked
are more likely as adults to coerce partners to have sex, to
have unprotected sex and to have masochistic sex.
Other studies have shown the link between spanking and physical
violence, but Straus said his research is the first to show
a link between corporal punishment and sexual behavior.
“My underlying motive was to bring this to the attention
of parents and of more people,” Straus said, “in
the hope it will help continue the decrease in the use of corporal
Straus, co-director of UNH’s Family Research Laboratory,
conducted a study in the mid-1990s in which he asked 207 students
at three colleges whether they’d ever been aroused by
masochistic sex. He also asked them if they’d been spanked
as children. He found that students who were spanked were nearly
twice as likely to like masochistic sex.
He has bundled that study with three new ones that explore the
connections between corporal punishment, coerced sex and risky
sex. He presented all four studies at the American Psychological
Association’s Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationships
in Bethesda, Md.
Straus said his study found adults who were spanked as children
are more likely to coerce their partners to have sex.
Straus asked 14,000 college students in 32 different countries
whether they strongly disagreed, disagreed, agreed or strongly
agreed with this statement: “I was spanked or hit a lot
before age 12.” He also asked whether they had ever verbally
or physically coerced an uninterested partner to have sex.
He found a big difference between students who said they’d
been hit a lot before age 12 and those who said they hadn’t.
For every increased step on Straus’s four-step scale of
agreement, men were 10 percent more likely to have verbally
coerced sex from a partner by insisting on sex or threatening
to end the relationship if the partner refused. Women were 12
percent more likely to have done that.
Previous studies have shown that 90 percent of parents strike
their toddlers, a statistic that’s held steady throughout
the 30 years Straus has researched corporal punishment. Meanwhile,
the number of parents who hit older children has drastically
decreased. Straus said it’s unclear why, though he has
some theories. One is that 2- and 3-year-olds are less likely
to respond to repeated verbal warnings.
Straus said he would like more pediatricians and child-rearing
experts to warn against spanking. He’d also like lawmakers
to take a stand by dedicating state money to teaching parents
about the dangers of corporal punishment.
“The best-kept secret in child psychology is that children
who were never spanked are among the best behaved,” Straus
That War’s Cost…
A trio of recent reports - none by the Bush Administration -
suggests that sometime early in the Obama presidency, spending
on the wars started since 9/11 will pass the trillion-dollar
mark. Even after adjusting for inflation, that’s four
times more than America spent fighting World War I, and more
than 10 times the cost of 1991’s Persian Gulf War (90
percent of which was paid for by U.S. allies). The war on terror
looks set to surpass the cost the Korean and Vietnam wars combined,
to be topped only by World War II’s price tag of $3.5
The cost of sending a single soldier to fight for a year in
Afghanistan or Iraq is about $775,000 - three times more than
in other recent wars, says a new report from the private but
authoritative Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
A large chunk of the increase is a result of the Administration
cramming new military hardware into the emergency budget bills
it has been using to pay for the wars.
And the CSBA report, and similar assessments from the Government
Accounting Office and Congressional Research Service, make clear
that the nearly $1 trillion already spent is only a down payment
on the war’s long-term costs. The trillion-dollar figure
does not, for example, include long-term health care for veterans,
thousands of whom have suffered crippling wounds, or the interest
payments on the money borrowed by the Federal government to
fund the war. The bottom lines of the three assessments vary:
The CSBA study says $904 billion has been spent so far, while
the GAO says the Pentagon alone has spent $808 billion through
last September. The CRS study says the wars have cost $864 billion,
but it didn’t factor inflation into its calculations.
Sifting through Pentagon data, the CSBA study breaks down the
total cost for the war on terror as $687 billion for Iraq, $184
billion for Afghanistan, and $33 billion for homeland security.
By 2018, depending on how many U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan
and Iraq, the total cost is projected likely to be between $1.3
trillion and $1.7 trillion. On the safe assumption that the
wars are being waged with borrowed money, interest payments
raise the cost by an additional $600 billion through 2018.
Shortly before the Iraq war began, White House economic adviser
Larry Lindsey earned a rebuke from within the Administration
when he said the war could cost as much as $200 billion. “It’s
not knowable what a war or conflict like that would cost,”
Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld said. “You don’t
know if it’s going to last two days or two weeks or two
months. It certainly isn’t going to last two years.”
According to the CSBA study, the Administration has fudged the
war’s true costs in two ways: Borrowing money to fund
the wars is one way of conducting it on the cheap, at least
in the short term. But just as pernicious has been the Administration’s
novel way of budgeting for them. Previous wars were funded through
the annual appropriations process, with emergency spending -
which gets far less congressional scrutiny - only used for the
initial stages of a conflict. But the Bush Administration relied
on such supplemental appropriations to fund the wars until 2008,
seven years after invading Afghanistan and five years after
President George W. Bush could be forcing President-elect Barack
Obama to act almost immediately to curb global warming, after
years of the Bush administration fighting attempts to crack
down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Or, depending on which interpretation prevails, Bush could be
giving his successor much-needed breathing room on a volatile
In its final weeks, the Bush administration has moved to close
what it calls “back doors” to regulating carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It barred the Environmental
Protection Agency from considering the effects of global warming
on protected species. And it excluded carbon dioxide from a
list of pollutants the EPA regulates under the Clean Air Act.
Environmentalists call the moves a last-minute attempt to block
speedy, executive action by the president’s successor
on climate change, an issue that Obama calls a top concern.
But they say it could backfire, by prompting lawsuits and fueling
fights over coal-fired power plants that the new administration
would need to resolve quickly.
Obama “now has to clean up a mess,” said David Bookbinder,
chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club, which has challenged
the EPA over the Clean Air Act decision and plans to sue to
block it. “They’re forcing him to act sooner than
he otherwise might have.”
Underlying the debate is the issue of how the federal government
should reduce America’s emissions of the gases scientists
blame for global warming, including carbon dioxide. Congress
has long debated, but never approved, a so-called cap-and-trade
system to limit carbon emissions.
Similar last-minute problems are emerging at the federal Justice
Department, decimated of experienced attorneys by the Bush administration’s
hiring of political appointees over the past eight years and
a host of last-minute appointments it could take months, if
not years, to unravel.
“For me, the structural issue is the independence of the
office of legal counsel,” says Michael Ratner, president
of the Center for Constitutional Rights, professor at Columbia
Law School, and an Olive resident. “The most important
change Obama can make at Justice is to eliminate ideology from
decision-making and return the department to its tradition of
fairly enforcing the law.”
President-elect Obama’s transition team has also, to date,
informed 90 Bush appointees at the Pentagon that their services
will not be needed after Inauguration Day.
Stay-over Defense Secretary Robert Gates is supposedly okay
with the move.
As for climate change… The United States faces the possibility
of much more rapid climate change by the end of the century
than previous studies have suggested, according to a new report
led by the U.S. Geological Survey. The survey - which was commissioned
by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and issued last month
- expands on the 2007 findings of the United Nations Intergovernment
Panel on Climate Change. Looking at factors such as rapid sea
ice loss in the Arctic and prolonged drought in the Southwest,
the new assessment suggests that earlier projections may have
underestimated the climatic shifts that could take place by
However, the assessment also suggests that some other feared
effects of global warming are not likely to occur by the end
of the century, such as an abrupt release of methane from the
seabed and permafrost or a shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean circulation
system that brings warm water north and colder water south.
But the report projects an amount of potential sea level rise
during that period that may be greater than what other researchers
have anticipated, as well as a shift to a more arid climate
pattern in the Southwest by mid-century.
Thirty-two scientists from federal and non-federal institutions
contributed to the report, which took nearly two years to complete.
The Climate Change Science Program, which was established in
1990, coordinates the climate research of 13 different federal
Also, over 1,000 scientists from around the world gathered in
Quebec City for the International Arctic Change conference similarly
concluded that something had to be done sooner than later.
“Climate change and its impacts are accelerating at unexpected
rates with global consequences,” delegates warned in a
Presenting data from hundreds of studies and research projects
detailing the Arctic region’s rapid meltdown and cascading
ecological impacts, participants urged governments to take “immediate
measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
By coincidence, 190 governments were meeting at the same time
in Poznan, Poland to do just that: reach an agreement on how
much to reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Except
that they decided to do nothing. They couldn’t even agree
to help poorer nations survive the ever-worsening climate crisis
by providing funds to strengthen infrastructure, build flood
defences and improve agriculture.
In chance hallway encounters in Quebec City, scientists - strictly
off the record for fear of losing funding - said climate change
is happening far faster and is having much larger impacts than
they ever imagined.
“Climate change will be an overwhelming global tragedy
without major reductions now,” said one Canadian expert.
In Poznan, politicians declared the meeting a success and pledged
to agree to cut emissions at next year’s meeting in Copenhagen.
For people who are not eligible for HEAP regular benefits, there
are emergency benefits available if you are facing “a
heat or heat related emergency emergency” and do not have
available money to meet your need. You may be eligible if (1)
your electricity is necessary for your heating system to work
and is scheduled to be shut off or is shut off; or (2) if you
are in danger of running out of fuel (including oil, kerosene,
propane, wood, coal or pellets) or (3) if your heating system
(which you own) will not operate.
To receive this benefit, the heating and/or electric bill must
be in your name in your name, your resources must be less than
the emergency benefit amount, and your gross income must be
below the current income guidelines (see table below).
For a household of one, your gross monthly income cannot exceed
$2,454. For three, the amount is $3,964. For five the figure
For more information contact the Ulster County Department of
Social Services or the NYS HEAP Hotline at 1-800-342-3009. If
you are age 60 or older, you may contact the Ulster County Office
for the Aging, 340-3006.