A plan guiding the future management of the state’s 292,000
acres in the Catskill Forest Preserve has been finalized after
years of deliberations and fine tunings, New York State Department
of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis
announced last week, noting that the update to the Catskill
Park State Land Master Plan “strikes an appropriate balance
of protecting the wilderness and expanding recreational enjoyment.”
Among various specifics, the plan adds a “Primitive Bicycle
Corridor” for recreation and includes invasive species
management to address emerging threats to resources.
The Catskill Forest Preserve is part of the Catskill Park, which
consists of 705,500 acres of public and private lands. Since
its creation in 1885, the Forest Preserve has grown from 34,000
acres to nearly 300,000 acres of public land within Delaware,
Greene, Sullivan, and Ulster counties. Forest Preserve lands
are protected under Article 14 of the state constitution as
“forever wild” and cannot be logged, leased or sold,
and must be managed to protect wilderness values. The state
pays property taxes on DEC land.
The first Catskill Park State Land Master Plan was developed
in 1985 and classifies state forest preserve lands within the
Park based on their physical character and capacity to accommodate
human use. This resulted in four land classifications: wilderness,
wild forest, intensive use and administrative. The Plan also
designates management units and directs DEC to develop individual
unit management plans that guide management activities and public
use of those geographically specific units.
The current plan got its first outing in 2003, when a proposed
draft revision of the 2980s plan was released for public review
and comment. That process resulted in the release of a second
draft in April of this year, after which final comments and
revision requests were weighed and incorporated.
Specific changes from the original plan include the creation
of a new land classification – the Primitive Bicycle Corridor
- to encompass approximately 156 acres along four 100 feet wide
trail corridors, mostly in Greene County, along the entirety
of the old Mink Hollow Road through the Indian Head Wilderness
(3.2 miles); along 4.5 miles of the old Overlook Turnpike from
the Overlook Mountain Wild Forest boundary to Platte Clove and
Prediger Road; along Diamond Notch Road from outside Lanesville
to Spruceton in the Hunter-Westkill Wilderness (3.2 miles);
and along the old Colgate Lake - Dutcher Notch Trail. Bicycle
use will also be extended to other trails throughout the region.
In addition, the size of the Colgate Wild Forest will be increased
from 600 acres to 1,495 acres; invasive species will be treated
wherever there is potential for significant degradation to the
native ecosystem, and greater recreation tie-ins with New York
City owned lands will be encouraged.
Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain
Club, said: “This is a very balanced plan that expands
responsible recreational opportunities while protecting the
Catskills, one of New York’s greatest and most beloved
natural resources. This plan will create new mountain biking
opportunities while protecting hiking trails on steep slopes
of the Catskill High Peaks and will expand the Catskill wilderness
to protect the summit of Hunter Mountain and the Escarpment
The finalized plan can be found on the Department’s web
New York City should not try and buy any more land in the town
of Shandaken because most of the land is already owned by the
State, the City, or is already deemed unbuildable due to existing
constraints. In a nutshell that is the advice of the hamlet
designation committee, a group that assembled recently to form
new boundaries for the town hamlets. The idea was that the City
would not be allowed to try to buy land inside the expanded
hamlets, just as it is not allowed in the current hamlet borders.
The town will pass this idea on to the Coalition Of Watershed
Towns, which is negotiating the matter with the City.
The 2008 Watershed Science and Technical Conference will be
held at the Thayer Hotel in West Point on Tuesday and Wednesday,
September 16th and 17th. Those interested in attending the conference
may register online at the Department of State’s website
at www.dos.state.ny.us or the New York Water Environment Association’s
website at www.nywea.org.
“This important conference will bring scientists, engineers
and technical experts together with watershed stakeholders and
the public to present leading edge research findings and information
regarding the protection the New York City Watershed, the nation’s
largest unfiltered surface water supply,” said NYS Secretary
of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez.
T “The conference will be valuable to elected officials,
directors of public works, planning and highway departments,
land use planners, consulting engineers, attorneys, educators,
environmental groups and interested citizens, all of whom are
our partners in protecting and enhancing the New York City Watershed”,
said William C. Harding, Executive Director of the Watershed
Protection and Partnership Council, adding, “Conference
attendees will find themselves in a unique forum for collaboration
among the many entities working within the field of watershed
protection science here and across the nation.”
Special events at the conference include remarks by John Cronin,
former Hudson Riverkeeper and currently the Director and CEO
of The Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, and the Director
of the Pace Academy for the Environment at Pace University.
New At School
There are no less than six new faces up by the blackboards at
Phoenicia school this year. According to Principal Linda Sella
there’s also a new lunch lady at the school.
“We have four new Teachers. Mr. Hallock-3rd grade, Mr.
Grady-Phys. Ed., Ms. Scherry-4th grade and Ms. Sobewleski-2nd
grade. Please feel free to introduce yourself,” she said.
Two of those teachers are familiar faces at Phoenicia. In fact
one of them even went to school there.
Jaclyn Sobolewski was born and raised in the Phoenicia area
and was educated in the Onteora school district before going
on to receive a bachelors degree in Psychology and a masters
degree in Elementary education. She is also familiar to students
and parents, as she has been working as a substitute teacher
Cindy Scherry is another new teacher well known in the area
after years of work as a substitute. Scherry, who was also educated
in the Onteora School District, hails from nearby Olivebridge
in the town of Olive. She holds a Bachelors degree in Elementary
Robert Hallock comes to Phoenicia from the Southern Ulster County
town of New Paltz. Like Scherry he holds a Bachelors degree
in Elementary Education.
Jason Grady, who lives in Rhinebeck, comes to teach gym in Phoenicia
holding a Master’s Degree from Hofstra University.
Sella noted that there are more new staffers at Phoenicia for
the 2008-2009 school year.
“Two more new faces in the classroom are Ms. Tenke and
Ms. Stropoli. Both are teaching assistants and we welcome them.
You will have another opportunity to meet the new teachers at
open house…Wednesday, September 17 at 7pm.”
While the new teachers and assistants will be doling out knowledge,
Ms. Diane Sorbellini will be doling out breakfast, lunch and
snacks in the cafeteria.
“Ms Sorbellini will join us as a permanent member of our
food services staff,” Sella said. “Because the numbers
of students buying meals has increased over the past year and
looks much the same this year we needed the extra help.”
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP),
the Open Space Institute (OSI), and the Ashokan Foundation announced
September 2 that they have completed a three-way transaction
on the 374–acre property formerly known as the Ashokan
Field Campus. The entire property was acquired earlier this
year by OSI’s land acquisition affiliate the Open Space
Conservancy (OSC) from Campus Auxiliary Services (an arm of
the State University of New York at New Paltz). Under the agreement,
DEP has taken title to 219 acres in Olive and 14 acres in Marbletown,
and 141 acres in Olive have been acquired by the Ashokan Foundation.
The Ashokan Foundation’s principals, Jay Ungar and Molly
Mason, are musicians who have run cultural programs at Ashokan
for 30 years. Jay Ungar said, “We feel privileged to be
partners with OSC and DEP as stewards of Ashokan’s 374
acres of streams, forests and fields. We will strive to further
develop Ashokan’s mission as a learning environment where
schools, organizations, families and individuals can re-connect
with nature and build community through shared experiences in
outdoor education, living history, art, music and dance.”
Molly Mason added, “While many of our old buildings will
have to make way for new structures on higher ground, the new
buildings will be designed to reduce our carbon footprint. This,
plus our increased use of local sources of food and materials,
will help the new Ashokan become a model of green, sustainable
By owning a portion of the property, DEP now has more flexibility
in operating the Ashokan Reservoir and managing turbidity. DEP
has the ability to release water from the reservoir to the lower
Esopus Creek. Releasing water can allow DEP to create a void
in the Ashokan Reservoir to capture runoff from intense storms.
Capturing runoff can have benefits for water quality and enhance
the attenuation effect the reservoir already provides in relation
to downstream flooding.
Such releases require – and natural flooding has also
caused – some inundation of areas along the Creek, where
several buildings had been constructed over the years by the
prior owner, Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS). The design of
the subdivision puts the central feature of the 233-acre property,
a 1.7-mile stretch of the Esopus Creek, under DEP’s ownership
so that it can safely control releases of water. Much of the
remaining uplands will be owned by the Ashokan Foundation to
allow continued operation of its educational and cultural programs.
Although the entire property had been off the tax rolls since
being owned by CAS, DEP will now pay property taxes on its portion
as assessed. DEP plans to manage the applicable part of the
property consistent with a conservation easement held by the
Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy, which ensures that the eastern
half of the property cannot be developed.
Under an agreement earlier this year, OSC acquired the entire
property on May 12 from CAS and sought subdivision approval
from the Town of Olive in order to convey parcels to both DEP
and the Ashokan Foundation. Approval was granted by the Town
on June 10. On August 14, DEP purchased title to 233 acres from
OSC. OSC will hold the remaining 141-acre tract and plans to
convey it to the Ashokan Foundation later this month.
Over the next several years, DEP plans to remove several structures
that lie within the inundation zone and will assist the new
owners with reconstruction outside this zone. Reciprocal deeded
rights have been established in order to allow the two new neighbors
– DEP and the Ashokan Foundation – to use each other’s
property for access and activities relating to their missions.
The Ashokan Center, the programmatic arm of the Foundation,
will continue the programs that have been offered on the site
for four decades.
OCS Tax Rates
The Onteora Board of Education has released information on tax
rates. The school board last month adopted a yearly tax warrant
resolution calling for $35,220,498 to be raised by taxes for
the 2008-09 school year. The property tax levy is unchanged
from the 2007-08 school year.
The school district’s $48,215,077 budget, which was approved
by voters in May, increases total appropriations 3.07 percent
over the previous school year’s budget. According to the
tax rate information sheet provided by the district business
office, the total assessed property value in the district is
The district will collect $5,768,830 from taxpayers in Hurley;
$220,615 from Marbletown; $11,545,542 from Olive; $6,481,136.27
from Shandaken; $10,825,379 from Woodstock; and $378,996 from
Lexington. Rates per $1,000 of assessed property value are as
follows: Hurley: $9.81, down from $10.63 last year, a 7.71 percent
decrease; Marbletown: $9.87, down from $10.29 last year, a 4.1
percent decrease; Olive: $9.12, up from $7.80 last year, a 16.92
percent increase; Shandaken: $41.46, down from $43.49 last year,
a 4.67 percent decrease; Woodstock: $10.99, down from $12.11
last year, a 9.2 percent decrease; Lexington: $16.07, up from
$15.43 last year, a 4.15 percent increase.
As the Ulster County Legislature prepared to vote Wednesday
on a new county ethics law, all discussion of allowing Democratic
County Elections Commissioner John Parete to retain both his
county job and his chairmanship of the county Democratic Committee
has been halted. The Laws and Rules Committee Monday ruled against
such double dipping at a September 8 meeting, as well as the
making of any exceptions for Parete, who owns the Boiceville
Inn in Olive.
Lawmakers in committee also discussed a possible change to the
county’s administrative code and agreed to allow the county
executive to appoint a former member of the legislature after
that person is out of office. There had been discussion of requiring
a one year waiting period.
A Green Pizza Fundraiser for the Olive-originated Family Farm
Festival will be held Saturday, September 13th, from 4 to 7pm
at the Epworth Center on County Route 1 just south of High Falls.
The event will raise funds for the 2009 Family Farm Festival.
Festival organizers will serve up all-you-can-eat artisanal
pizzas made from locally grown ingredients cooked in a hand-made
wood-fired oven. Music, an heirloom tomato tasting, and tours
of gardens and a strawbale house are also on offer.
The Family Farm Festival has been held at the Epworth Center
in High Falls for the past six years as a convergence of dozens
of local organic farmers and thousands of good-food lovers.
The Festival was started by organizers Dina Falconi and Jen
Prosser, a former columnist for this paper.. With Prosser’s
recent move to New Mexico, Falconi has handed off the festival
to a group of local organizers. The first step in the re-organization
process is fundraising, and the group’s inaugural effort
- this artisanal pizza and music fete - promises to fill the
coffers of the fledgling group.
“Because of financial and organizational difficulties,
we’re postponing the debut of the newly organized festival
until September, 2009,” says the new organization’s
President, Thea Harvey. “We’re hoping the Green
Pizza Fundraiser will bring in people who’ve enjoyed the
Family Farm Festival in past years. We’re looking to build
a broad base of community support.”
The group will host additional fundraisers over the coming year;
check out its website for details on this or other events at
The fifth annual “Bike for Cancer Care” will be
held on Sunday, September 21, 2008 to benefit the Rosemary D.
Gruner Memorial Cancer Fund at Benedictine Hospital. This year’s
ride will again offer three routes (5-mile Family Ride, 25-
and 50-mile rides) and all will travel throughout Ulster County.
All rides will start and finish at Ulster Savings Bank’s
180 Schwenk Drive headquarters in Kingston. Registration for
the event begins at 7:45am and rides will start as follows:
50-mile ride – 8:30am, 25-mile ride – 10:00am, 5-mile
ride – 11:00am. The post-ride barbecue and awards ceremony
will begin at 12:00pm.
In partnership with the Cancer Center and Health Foundation
at Benedictine Hospital, the Fund, created in 2004 by the Gruner
family, provides financial assistance for cancer patients and
their families who are receiving treatment in Ulster County.
To date, over 300 patients and their families have been assisted
by the Gruner Fund in all areas of Ulster County, including
Kingston, Saugerties, Kerhonkson, Ellenville, Accord, Woodstock,
High Falls, New Paltz, Margaretville and Shandaken.
Applications and fundraising guidelines for the “Bike
for Cancer Care” are available at www.bikeforcancer.org.
For additional information, please call Dan Gruner at (845)
Do you own, and live in, a one or two family home that has been
flooded one or more times since April 1, 2004? Is your home
valued less than $250,000? Is your combined family income less
than 150% of HUD median income? Would like to sell your home?
If so, you may be eligible to participate in the Greater Catskill
Flood Remediation Program. The Ulster County Emergency Management
Office has been working with local municipalities over the last
several months to identify residents who meet these criteria.
This is a last call for anyone who has not been contacted by
your municipality to apply for the program. For further information,
please contact Art Snyder, Director, Ulster County Emergency
Management at (845) 331-7000 – by September 15 for an
The Shandaken Women’s Network will hold its next meeting
on Wednesday, September 17th from 6 to 9 p.m at the Boiceville
to hear speaker Judith Biannucci from United First Financial
present a program on how to pay down debt faster. The topic
is about the “Money Merge Account”. Please RSVP
Diana Mae Munch by Sunday Sept 14th, so Barbara at the Boiceville
Inn knows how much food to purchase and prepare. Contact Diana
at (845) 688-7057 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the event contact Shandaken Women’s
Network President Melody Newcombe at 845-688-5472.
On September 26th the Onteora Senior Class is having a District
Wide Welcome Back Chicken BBQ with the help of Hickory Pit Smokehouse
from 5 to 8 PM Tickets are for sale in the offices of each elementary
school, via Fran Hollander at the Middle School and Liz Sopata
in the High School, along with many senior class parents. The
goal is to sell 500 dinners. Tickets will be available at the
door also .The event will help kick off the annual Onteora Homecoming
Two upcoming events stress the new emphasis on biodiversity
and sustainability for the coming decades.
On September 19 and 20, Sustainable Hudson Valley will hold
its third annual conference, Cool Communities/ Living Economies:
Ten Years to a Green Economy. The program is published, and
online registration is now available at www.sustainhv.org. The
regional gathering will take place at the Seven21 Media Center,
721 Broadway, Kingston, NY.
The conference brings together entrepreneurs, industry and civic
leaders, funders, educators and engaged citizens for a practical
exploration of the ways communities can work together to accelerate
the region’s transition to a green economy.
A week later, the Watershed Agricultural Council is sponsoring
a site visit and talk about biodiversity at Arkville’s
Lazy Crazy Acres on Thursday, September 25. At 1 p.m., Dr. Darrell
Emmick, State Grazing Land Management Specialist with the USDA-NRCS,
will lead a two-hour pasture walk through the Fairbairns’
fields. For over 25 years, Emmick has promoted grazing-based
dairy production systems in the Northeast United States. Emmick’s
work includes developing practical grazing guidelines and providing
on-farm technical assistance. Emmick will discuss the importance
of grass species biodiversity as it relates to a rotational
grazing system. Topics include: How to increase biodiversity
in pastures, how plants and animals benefit each other, how
rotational grazing on biodiverse land affects animal behavior
and how rotational grazing helps the environment
Lazy Crazy Acres, managed by Jake and Karen Fairbairn, is a
small grass-based dairy farm with 35 cows and 30 youngstock.
Their goal is to maintain a healthy herd that will produce a
high-quality product. The Fairbairns milk twice a day in a swing
parlor. In the winter months when the cows are not on pasture,
the animals are housed in a bedded-pack barn.
There is no fee for the pasture walk, however pre-registration
by September 22 is encouraged. To register, call Kim Holden
at (607) 865-7090 or email email@example.com. For more info,
More than 800 arrests were reported during a week of sometimes
peaceful, sometimes violent dissent at the Republican National
Convention in St. Paul. The last of the actions, following arrests
of numerous non-Mainstream members of the press corps, occurred
on Thursday, September 4 when anti-war protesters rallied at
the state Capitol and then planned to march to Xcel Energy Center,
where Sen. John McCain was due to accept the GOP presidential
nomination. But their permit had expired the previous hour,
and police — in riot gear and using horses, snow plows
and dump trucks — blocked their way. For hours, police
let the protesters amble from one blocked intersection to another.
And then the arrests began… with protesters blockaded
onto a bridge police said they were forbidden to block.
The crowd varied from a high of about 1,000 down to a hundred
and back to around 500. Officers then set off smoke bombs and
fired seven percussion grenades, causing protesters to scatter.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said the St. Paul police
department and its police chief decided that members of the
media and protesters should be charged for unlawful assembly.
“The tactic of blocking people on the bridge could very
well have prevented a lot of activity later tonight,”
Fletcher said. “ Clearly there were a number of people
with no intention of being law-abiding here.”
The National Labor Relations board has set Thursday, September
18 as the date for a union-representation election for registered
nurses at Benedictine Hospital in Kingston. The nurses are seeking
to join the New York State Nurses Association for a unified
voiced to address workplace issues including nurse staffing,
non-competitive salaries, and lack of incentives to retain experienced
Last month, the NLRB rejected hospital management’s effort
to prevent the election.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey sent a letter of support for the
nurses’ organization efforts.
“The call for unionization should not be viewed by the
administration at Benedictine as something counterproductive
to hospital goals” he wrote to hospital CEO Thomas Dee.
“In fact, unionization of the nursing staff will help
to improve policy on an array of issues ranging from working
conditions and nurse-to-patient ratios, to the role of nurses
will play in determining standards of care.”
The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO)
at the State University of New York at New Paltz has been awarded
a $286,899 grant by the U.S. Department of Education. Directed
by Gerald Benjamin, associate vice president for regional engagement,
the Center serves as the principal locus of the college’s
efforts to raise its level of engagement within communities,
government and businesses across the Hudson Valley.Benjamin
said that the Congressionally-directed grant, secured by Senator’s
Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, will be used to
develop measures of Hudson Valley and Catskills communities’
social, economic and environmental character that are broadly
accepted and allow the tracking of change over time.
Teaching materials will also be developed on the environmental/developmental
nexus for use in college courses, and other materials will be
prepared for distribution to local government decision makers
– county executives, county legislators, mayors, city
councils, town and village board members. Publication of these
measures by the Center will continue as a regular project of
the center, Benjamin added.
For more information about the Center, visit www.newpaltz.edu/crreo.
Sales of existing single-family houses in the Hudson Valley
and Catskills remained sluggish in July; however, they rose
considerably in two counties, according to the New York State
Association of Realtors.
Sales rose year over year in July by 155 percent in Sullivan
County and by 46 percent in Delaware County, according to the
trade organization. The county with the least decline in sales
was Dutchess with just under five percent loss while the largest
decline was in Rockland County at 27 percent.
Statewide, sales of existing single-family homes fell by over
Median prices of existing homes also declined in most counties
in the region in July. Ulster county homes dropped 14 percent
year to year.
In other regional economic news, State Department of Labor officials
“put companies on notice” recently with the introduction
of a new law requiring more advance notice for layoffs, and
stiff penalties for lack of compliance.
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN,
Act unveiled at the Poughkeepsie branch of the New York State
Department of Labor by Labor Commissioner Patricia Smith is
based on the 1988 federal WARN Act which forced companies with
more than 100 employees to give a 60-day notice of layoffs,
downsizing, or closing. The new state law calls for a 90 day
notice, and lowers the minimum number of employees in companies
forced to comply to 50. It also gives the commissioner the power
to ask for relief, including back wages and unpaid medical benefits,
for employees who didn’t receive the proper notice, and
penalizes any company who doesn’t comply with the law
$500 per day they didn’t give notice accordingly.
Smith said the federal law was “inefficient and has virtually
no enforcement mechanism.” This, she said forced the state
to take the reins in this issue.
In 2004, Imperial Schrade, in Ellenville, showed up one day
and the plant was closed, with hundreds of employees effected.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston said the new bill addresses
a bigger issue than just layoffs.
Open The Files!
Months before the Bush administration ends, historians and open-government
advocates are concerned that Vice President Cheney, who has
long bristled at requirements to disclose his records, will
destroy or withhold key documents that illustrate his role in
forming U.S. policy for the past 7 1/2 years.
In a preemptive move, several of them have agreed to join the
advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
in asking a federal judge to declare that Cheney’s records
are covered by the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and cannot
be destroyed, taken or withheld without proper review. The goal,
proponents say, is to protect a treasure trove of information
about national security, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, domestic
wiretapping, energy policy, and other major issues that could
be hidden from the public if Cheney adheres to his view that
he is not part of the executive branch and is not required to
make his papers public after leaving office. Access to the documents
is crucial because he is widely considered to be the most influential
vice president in U.S. history, they note.
Cheney has not disclosed his plans for his papers, nor has he
argued publicly that any are exempt from the 1978 law. Congress
passed the law after the Watergate scandal to ensure that the
country’s highest elected officials preserve their papers
for public review.
“The Office of the Vice President currently follows the
Presidential Records Act and will continue to follow the requirements
of the law, which includes turning over vice presidential records
to the National Archives at the end of the term,” Cheney
spokesman Jamie Hennigan said in an e-mail.
But many, including the American Historical Association and
the Society of American Archivists, are not reassured. Their
lawsuit contends that President Bush sought to improperly narrow
the scope of the records law in a 2001 executive order that
declares, in part, that the statute “applies to the executive
records of the Vice President.”
Scholars describe “executive records” as a term
that is not found in the original act, and that seemingly opens
the door to withholding some documents on the grounds that they
are “non-executive” records - legislative records,
for instance. It raised red flags because Cheney has frequently
argued that his office is not part of the executive branch but
rather is “attached” to the legislative branch by
virtue of the vice president’s role as president of the
The group wants the Archives to abandon its interpretation that
legislative records of vice presidents are personal property
and not covered by the presidential records law.
Gary M. Stern, general counsel for the Archives, said he has
shared the group’s concerns with the White House.
For years, Cheney has resisted revealing any aspect of the inner
workings of his office; he has shielded information such as
the names of industry executives who advised his energy task
force, his travel costs and details, and Secret Service logs
of visitors to his office and residence. Since 2003, his office
has refused to comply with an executive order requiring entities
in the executive branch to file annual reports on their possession
of classified data, at one point blocking an inspection by officials
from the National Archives.
The Presidential Records Act, inspired by Nixon’s attempt
to withhold from Congress and perhaps destroy some of his records
and tapes after Watergate, first applied to the Reagan administration.
For the first time, it provided for the preservation of vice
Until now, the Food and Drug Administration’s attention
to the suicide risks of medications has focused on psychiatric
drugs, such as antidepressants prescribed to youngsters. But
this year, officials unexpectedly broadened their concerns to
include a medication for asthma, drugs for controlling seizures
and even one for quitting smoking. Those are medical conditions
not usually associated with psychiatric disorders.
Several independent experts say the safety alarms point to a
gap in the FDA’s knowledge of how drugs affect the brain.
Even if medications are intended for physical conditions, some
drugs can have unforeseen consequences if they are able to enter
the brain. A group at Columbia University has developed a method
for assessing the suicide risks of drugs, possibly helping identify
risks before a medication goes on the market. But the FDA only
requires use of such assessments on a case-by-case basis.
Drug companies say no cause-and-effect link has been established
that would tie the medications under scrutiny to suicides. Also,
some doctors worry that the talk of suicide may scare patients
with serious illnesses away from drugs that could help. For
example, depression -a major risk factor for suicide - is associated
with physical illness, they note.
This summer, the FDA convened a panel of scientific advisers
to evaluate the suicide risks of 11 anti-seizure drugs, including
Neurontin. Crunching data from 210 clinical trials, the agency
found a small increased risk: two of 1,000 patients taking the
medications experienced suicidal thoughts or behavior. When
millions of people are taking a drug, even such slim odds can
have significant consequences.
The advisory panel accepted the FDA’s findings, but voted
against imposing the government’s strongest warning on
the drugs, saying that could do more harm than good. The FDA
is considering how to communicate the risks to patients.
Igniting a provocative new debate, senior military officials
are pushing the Pentagon to go on the offensive in cyberspace
by developing the ability to attack other nations’ computer
systems, rather than concentrating on defending America’s
electronic security. Under the most sweeping proposals, military
experts would acquire the know-how to commandeer the unmanned
aerial drones of adversaries, disable enemy warplanes in mid-flight
and cut off electricity at precise moments to strategic locations,
such as military installations, while sparing humanitarian facilities,
such as hospitals.
An expansion of offensive capabilities in cyberspace would represent
an important change for the military. For years, U.S. officials
have been reluctant to militarize what is widely seen as a medium
for commerce and communication - much like space. But a new
National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations, declassified
earlier this year, fueled the Pentagon debate and gave the military
a green light to push for expanded capabilities.
The monthslong debate took on added urgency after the electronic
attacks that coincided with the Russian military’s early
August push into Georgia and reflects a newfound uncertainty
over the state of global cyber-warfare capabilities. Military
officials have not concluded whether the electronic network
attacks in Georgia were coordinated by Moscow or were the work
of freelance hackers or paramilitary groups. Still, the use
of cyberspace by Russia and other countries is drawing intense
scrutiny by the Pentagon.
“As we go forward in time, cyber is going to be a very
important part of our war-fighting tactics, techniques and procedures,”
said Michael W. Wynne, a former Air Force secretary.
A senior Pentagon official said that “exploiting”
computer networks to gather intelligence is currently the most
important use of cyber-power. “Clearly, the exploitation
activities have been preeminent,” the official said. But
citing Russia’s use of cyberspace, some current and former
officials believe that the U.S. military services, if allowed,
could move beyond intelligence gathering and develop a broad
array of offensive capabilities that would fit well with conventional
If the military is allowed to develop more advanced cyber-warfare
methods, the United States would be able to routinely launch
an airstrike at a target and simultaneously use an electronic
attack to disable defenses or spread disinformation, said Wynne,
the former Air Force secretary.
The widespread practice of students’ registering to vote
at their college address has set off a fracas in Virginia, a
battleground state in the presidential election.
Late last month, as a voter-registration drive by supporters
of Senator Barack Obama was signing up thousands of students
at Virginia Tech, the local registrar of elections issued two
releases incorrectly suggesting a range of dire possibilities
for students who registered to vote at their college.
The releases warned that such students could no longer be claimed
as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, a statement
the Internal Revenue Service says is incorrect, and could lose
scholarships or coverage under their parents’ car and
After some inquiries from students and parents, and more pointed
questions from civil rights lawyers, the state board of elections
said that it was “modifying and clarifying” the
state guidelines on which the county registrar had based his
Student-registration controversies have been a recurring problem
since 1971, when the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to
18 from 21, and despite a 1979 ruling by the United States Supreme
Court that students have the right to register at their college
In New York State, all voter registration must be completed
by October 10.
While the bankruptcy filing rate for those under 55 has fallen,
it has soared for older Americans, according to a new analysis
from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which examined a sampling
of noncommercial bankruptcies filed between 1991 and 2007.
The older the age group, the worse it got - people 65 and up
became more than twice as likely to file during that period,
and the filing rate for those 75 and older more than quadrupled.
“Older Americans are hit by a one-two punch of jobs and
medical problems and the two are often intertwined,” said
Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who was one
of the authors of the study. “They discover that they
must work to keep some form of economic balance and when they
can’t, they’re lost.”
. In 1991, the 55-plus age group accounted for about 8 percent
of bankruptcy filers, according to the study, which looked at
more than 6,000 cases filed in 1991, 2001 or 2007. By last year,
filers 55 and over accounted for 22 percent.
Each age group under 55 saw double-digit percentage drops in
their bankruptcy filing rates over the survey period, older
Americans saw remarkable increases. The filing rate per thousand
people ages 55-64 was up 40 percent; among 65- to 74-year-olds
it increased 125 percent; and among the 75-to-84-year-old set,
it was up 433 percent.
A number of factors are contributing to the increase. Higher
prices for ordinary consumer goods have hit seniors on fixed
budgets. For older Americans living below the poverty level,
or not far above, a safety net likely doesn’t exist for
economic setbacks such as medical problems. And some fall prey
to scams that cripple their finances.
Warren noted increasing numbers of Americans are entering their
retirement years with significant debt and are still paying
off mortgages. She said it was wrong to assume that lives of
luxury are bankrupting seniors; rather, they’re incurring
debts to meet needs such as medical treatment.
“There’s no evidence that the problem is consumerism,”
the professor said.
Nor is there a significant aging trend to blame. While the country
is set to experience a notable age shift in the coming years,
no major one took place between 1991, when the average age was
33, and 2007, when it was 36.
On September 10, Riverkeeper attorney Jay Simpson was set to
testify before the New York City Council Environmental Protection
Committee’s emergency public hearing on natural gas drilling
within the NYC Watershed. Riverkeeper applauds New York State’s
decision to conduct a supplemental review of gas drilling’s
environmental impacts throughout New York State; however the
NYC Watershed, as the source of drinking water for half the
state’s population, is the state’s greatest natural
resource and warrants special protection.
Robert Goldstein, Riverkeeper’s General Counsel, stated,
“This hearing is critical so that the public can learn
about the potential impacts of natural gas drilling on the NYC
Watershed. We still have much to learn about the gas drilling
process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—
the jury is still out on it. But we know for certain that the
disruptive surface activity that would accompany any drilling
process in the watershed would irreparably damage our precious
unfiltered drinking water supply.”
As the world's population ages, gets richer, smokes more, eats
more and drives more, noncommunicable diseases will become bigger
killers than infectious ones over the next 20 years, the World
Health Organization is reporting.
The report, World Health Statistics 2008, shows that diseases
like diarrhea, AIDS, tuberculosis, neonatal tetanus and malaria
will become less important causes of death as heart disease,
cancer, stroke, diabetes and traffic accidents claim greater
percentages of victims. There will still be wide disparities,
the report says. Infectious diseases will remain major killers
in Africa but should decrease in Asia.
Dr. Ties Boerma, director of health statistics for the agency,
said he had seen more obese people and more smokers in capitals
around the developing world.
"We tend to associate developing countries with infectious
diseases," he said, but heart disease and stroke are becoming
"the chief causes of death in more and more countries."
Annual deaths from AIDS are expected to fall to 1.8 percent
of all deaths in 2030 from more than 3 percent now, the report
Tobacco companies are aggressively marketing to young people
in poor countries. Almost a quarter of smokers started before
age 10, the W.H.O. said, and one of its surveys of teenagers
found that 20 percent owned clothing with cigarette brand logos.
Citing freedom of choice, the companies work to break down traditions
preventing women from smoking.
Worldwide, 100 million people each year are impoverished by
paying for health care, the report said. And 40 percent of pregnant
women and infants do not get basic health care or immunizations.
A clean, fresh-smelling home may actually be bad for your health,
depending on what type of cleaning and air freshening products
you use. Recent research suggests that exposure to cleaning
products or air fresheners that contain a certain volatile organic
compound (VOC) called 1,4 dicholorobenzene (1,4 DCB), can reduce
lung function by 4 percent. Another study found that the use
of spray household cleaners could increase the risk of developing
asthma by nearly 50 percent. Yet a third study, reported by
University of Washington researchers found that the fumes from
air fresheners and fragrances contain hazardous toxins, none
of which are listed on product labels since companies are not
required by the federal government to disclose the ingredients
in these products.
The study on VOCs "suggests that other people should probably
avoid them, especially considering the way we live in our homes
today, tightly wrapped inside, so that if there are any chemicals
present, we're constantly breathing them in."