“The City of New York’s not going anywhere and
neither are the watershed towns so you better work together.”
That’s what Lynette Stark, acting commissioner of the
State Department of Environmental Conservation, told leaders
of the Coalition of Watershed Towns and top brass from the
New York City Department of Environmental Protection on Friday
at a summit conference in Newburgh. The meeting was called
at the request of the Coalition to iron out differences between
According to Alan Rosa, a complete briefing on the summit
will happen on Monday February 21st at 6PM in the headquarters
of the Catskill Watershed Corporation on Main Street in Margaretville.
Rosa, the Executive Director of the CWC, attended the summit
and said that while no conclusions were reached, “we
now have a good framework to work from.”
That was not the case two months ago when Coalition officials
demanded the sit down because they said the City refused to
“Things went fairly well,” Rosa said.
Rosa was pleased that acting DEP commissioner David Tweedy
seemed sincerely interested in hearing what the coalition
had to say, and was also glad that Stark, who has been around
watershed affairs since the get go in the 1990’s, was
at the helm.
“She knows what’s going on,” Rosa said.
Election day is about nine months away, but in Shandaken the
town’s Republican Party is already fanning the flames
to excite the rank and file about the importance of getting
out the vote in this town, where it is feared by some party
officials that Republicans, which are close to becoming outnumbered,
may lose control of local Government.
In a February 1st letter distributed to all registered Republicans,
less-than-confidant Republican Club President Gerry Setchko
explained that there are two board seats currently held by
Democrats that are up for grabs this year as well the Supervisor’s
seat currently held by Republican Robert Cross Jr.
Setchko is concerned. The party no longer enjoys dominance
in the town the way it once did.
“Due to the influx of new people from the city and surrounding
suburbs, the Democrats have increased their numbers in Ulster
County and I’m sorry to say also in Shandaken. Your
one vote is more important to the party now than it ever was
in the past when we enjoyed a large majority in town,”
According to the Ulster County Board of Elections, Republicans
hold a thin lead over Democrats, with 807 registered voters
to the Democrats 784. There are also 531 non-enrolled registered
voters whose votes are often the deciding factor in town races.
Setchko made a run for Supervisor two years ago at the Republican
caucus and lost by 5 votes to Cross. While it remains unclear
whether he will run for town board or even challenge Cross
again, in his letter he urges all party members to come to
this year’s caucus, expected in June, “and vote
for the candidates you want to represent the party and you
in the November election.”
The letter contains some fire and brimstone remarks, such
as those that note how the Republicans ousted “the liberal
backed Democrats” in 2003, and Setchko’s dire
warning that the town would suffer greatly should the Democrats
regain control. He accused the Democrats, which held sway
for two years until the Cross administration took over in
2003, of having an agenda “to cater to liberal zealots
hell bent on obstructing any business enhancements and any
responsible business development that would ensure the towns
future prosperity and well being.”
“It is imperative that we increase our numbers on the
town board… I cannot express in words just how important
it is to ensure that this happens in November. I personally
do not want to see this town go back to be controlled by liberal
elitists implementing more restrictive requirements and amendments
to our zoning laws just to stop and deter future business
development,” he added.
The town’s Republican Committee has met recently to
discuss potential candidates also.
The Shandaken town board followed the recommendation of the
town’s planning board and appointed two new members
of the planning board’s choosing on February 7.
The seven member volunteer board found itself two members
short recently. Allan Berryann resigned last fall after being
on the board for less than one year. His vacancy needed to
be filled by a replacement that would serve the remaining
years of his term, which ends in 2010.
It was also announced that planner John Byer resigned effective
at the closing of the February 9th planning board meeting.
Byer’s term runs through the end of 2007.
At a January 12th board meeting the planners were ready to
interview candidates to find a replacement only for Berryann,
but once aware of Byers impending departure they decided they
would conduct the interviews to find a replacement for Byer
as well. This idea met some resistance from audience members
that felt Byer’s position should be advertised to give
residents a chance to apply.
But the planners decided that the three applicants that applied
for Berryann’s seat were enough of a talent pool to
pick from to fill both. All interviews were held the evening
of the 12th in closed, executive sessions.
Chosen for recommendation were Glenn Miller and Keith Holmquist.
Miller is a former member of the town’s zoning board
of appeals and was town code enforcement officer for a short
time a few years ago. Miller, a constant fixture at town board
meetings, has a track record of publicly combating opponents
of the golf resort proposed by Crossroads Ventures, but has
made a point of stating publicly that he has not taken a position
either way on the project.
The Resort project is expected to come before the Planning
Board later this year.
Holmquist operates a ski shop in the Greene County Town of
Hunter and is President of the Phoenicia Rotary Club.
The town has given out the first ever logging permit this
In the 1990’s the Shandaken town board revised Shandaken's
logging law, upping the threshold for requiring a permit.
At the time it was agreed that the old law put loggers through
extensive review requirements, and the process of the review
slowed projects down by a couple of months while the planning
board did it’s work.
The new law, the one that still exists today, allows loggers
to acquire permits immediately for any project that harvests
less than 100,000 board feet of timber. Anything more than
that the project would be permitted not by the planning board
but the town board, and only after an environmental review.
Last Saturday at a special meeting the first permit under
that law was issued for a major project on 500 acres at the
head of Pine Hill's Rose Mountain Road. Neighbors of the project
report that they believe the town board handled the matter
Conditions of the permit, which is good for one year but renewable
without further review, include a $20,000 performance bond
plus a half a million dollar insurance policy to guarantee
that Rose Mountain Road will be repaired should it suffer
any damage due to log trucks carrying heavy loads over it.
Furthermore, the trucks can only transport the logs when the
dirt road is dry, not during spring or fall when it is soft.
Also the logger must have a flagman for traffic safety when
shipping the cargo, and the company is not allowed to use
Rose Mountain Road as a turnaround for the trucks, nor for
a loading area.
“They (the town board) tried to be fair to the logger
and to the people on the road,” said Rose Mountain road
resident Flavia DeMola
Holding The Line
At last week’s town board meeting, Comp Plan Committee
chairman Chuck Perez raised the gambling issue, saying "I
don't know what's preventing you people from working together
to pass a law..." Reminded by others in the audience
that Shandaken had passed such a resolution in the final days
of the previous administration, Perez asked that the board
reaffirm that resolution, drafted and offered by former supervisor
DiModica in December 2003, and do so every year. With nods
of assent all around, the board apparently agreed it would
Next, Rob Stanley, also a Comp Plan Committee member, took
the moment of agreement a step further, saying that towns
need to work together to prohibit gambling within the blue
line of the Catskill Park. Once again unanimous consent, with
Supervisor Cross asking if he would, and Stanley agreeing
to head a committee to spearhead such an effort. "So
what do we need a committee for?" asked Republican Club
President Jerry Setchko, Shandaken's unofficial recordholder
for multiple committee and board service in the shortest timespan.
"Sounds like bureaucracy to me."
Sullivan County leaders have endorsed a plan by Gov. George
Pataki that would bring five Indian-run casinos to the Catskills
as part of land claim settlements. The 6-3 vote does not assure
the casinos will be built, only that the matter now will be
considered by state and federal lawmakers, who must approve
the plan before casino gambling can come to the region.
State Sen. John Bonacic has said he plans to introduce just
such a bill in Albany later this month. Senate Majority Leader
Joseph Bruno has said hearings will let the Senate decide
how to act on Pataki’s proposal.
The recent vote came after months of debate between casino
advocates, who say the gaming halls will mean new jobs and
a renaissance for the county, and critics, who argue that
most of the new jobs will go to outsiders and the casinos
will create social ills.
The vote supported Pataki’s recently announced plan
to allow five casinos in Sullivan, rather than three. The
governor said the extra casinos are needed to satisfy all
outstanding land claims by Indian tribes.
The plan needs state and congressional approval, and some
legislators said they wouldn’t move forward without
local support for the casinos. State Senate hearings on the
casino plan have been scheduled for Feb. 28 in Albany and
March 3 in Monticello.
Hudson Valley Building Trades Council President Todd Diorio
said the Catskill Casino Coalition, a group made up largely
of construction-related trade groups and unions, is ready
to muster its forces and go to Albany.
Bruno said he wants to wrap up the review process swiftly.
The Senate’s move follows an announcement by Assembly
Speaker Sheldon Silver that his chamber will hold hearings
on the legislation. The Assembly has not scheduled the hearings
yet, but Silver said he wants a thorough review of all aspects
of the bill, including Pataki’s limited success in settling
sales tax issues with the tribes.
Meanwhile, town board members in the Route 209 corridor town
of Rochester are considering whether a resolution should be
written that would reflect concern about the impact proposed
casinos would have in the community. Gambling opponents have
reported rumors of proposed casino locations near Kingston,
Ellenville, New Paltz and even Highmount should concern Town
And Pataki’s plan is also bumping into problems in Washington
and would be prohibited altogether under a bill being drafted
by Sen. John McCain, the new chairman of the Senate Indian
Affairs Committee, who has just called for hearings on all
aspects of Indian gaming. Rep. Richard Pombo is simultaneously
expected to introduce legislation this month that would ban
out-of-state tribes from gaining land in another state for
gambling operations. Proving a connection to the Catskills
would be difficult
for several of the tribes planning casinos there.
Pataki’s bill includes five tribes seeking to end claims
tied to New York’s improper taking of Indian reservation
land 200 years ago. The tribes would build large casinos that
would share slot machine revenue with the state. The Pataki
measure, which must be passed in Congress and by the state
Legislature, would end land claims with the Mohawks, the Oneida,
the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, the Seneca-Cayuga
Tribe of Oklahoma and the Cayuga Nation of New York.
All are simultaneously fighting among themselves, and with
outside-the-state tribes, over the governor’s controversial
Ulster County’s rental market is being hurt by a combination
of high prices and scarce availability, according to officials
at the Rural Ulster Preservation Co., which is currently proposing
several affordable housing projects around the county to help
change the climate. The average rent for non-subsidized studio
apartments in the county was $491 in 2003, with one-bedroom
apartments bringing an average rent of $675, two-bedroom units
bringing $810 on average, and three-bedroom units averaging
$941, according to the survey. In 2004, the average rent for
studio apartments climbed to $512, one-bedroom units brought
$700, two-bedrooms units, $838, and three-bedroom units, $994.
RUPCO closed its waiting list for subsidized housing in October
2003, with 1,900 families in need of affordable housing.
Despite pledges to speed construction at Ulster County’s
new law enforcement center, there is still such disarray on
the project that the roofing crew did not even show up on
a warm workday last week that was ideal for their task. Their
absenteeism can be seen as symbolic of the troubled project,
which, it now appears, is beginning to publicly pit Ulster
County against its project manager, Bovis Lend Lease. And
the threat of legal action may now join the cost overruns
and long delays on the list of impediments plaguing the largest
capital project ever undertaken by Ulster County.
The new county jail is a combination 402-bed jail and administrative
headquarters for the county sheriff. Eighteen months behind
schedule, it is now projected to cost more than $91 million
to complete. County legislative leaders who approved the project
say they will recoup some of those costs after legal action
that could take years.
While the new law enforcement center is still officially slated
for completion in late August, county officials now say they
would have “to pay a premium” to meet that completion
date, pushing the costs even higher. Construction mangers,
county legislators and contractors privately say the actual
date will be between October and December of this year, barring
further problems. The original date for completing the jail
was April 2004.
Democrats in the county legislature will try to pass a resolution
to create a national search committee to find a replacement
to Harvey Sleight, the commissioner of the Ulster County department
of buildings and grounds for the last fifteen years. Sleight,
68, was not reappointed to his position at the end of 2004,
and has not officially been reappointed to his post since
December of 2000.
The county legislature is divided 17-16, with Republicans
holding a one-vote edge. Majority leader Michael Stock said
that despite the fact Sleight did not have enough support
to get a permanent reappointment, he does not believe Republicans
will support creation of a search committee to find his replacement.
“I don’t think it will have any support on the
Republican side of the aisle or a lot of support on the Democratic
side of the aisle.”
Democratic leader David Donaldson said he does not know if
there is enough support to pass the resolution. “But
it’s time to move on. Let the Republicans say he’s
doing the job he’s supposed to do and vote put him back
in that position [commissioner] permanently. To have a commissioner
of buildings and grounds working month to month is absurd.
Either appoint him or don’t. So this pushes the issue.”
The Hurley Planning Board chaired a “pre application
conceptual presentation” for a large 652-unit development
on a 411 acre parcel off state Route 209 on February 7 that
brings to light a massive new “active adult” bedroom
community for the region, changing the way we all look at
real estate up the 209 and 28 corridors. As presented by co-developers
Dick Lewis of Marlboro and Darren Davidowich, senior vice
president of New Jersey-based US Homes, a division of Lennar
Corporation, the the project stems from their commitment to
“open up the Hudson valley and New York State for the
building of ‘active adult community products.’”
Lennar, born in Miami in 1954, is a $10.5 billion “national
homebuilding company” that prides itself on making home
purchases easy: they design communities, and individual detached
and semi-detached homes, to be complete “turn-key”
ready, including access to their own financial services. To
date, they’ve opened major developments in 18 states,
including a number of major “golf communities”
and large developments in close proximity to gambling meccas
in New Jersey and Nevada. Altogether, they delivered over
37,000 homes last year.
Lewis and Davidowich went to Hurley town board member Jack
Gill to buy his property on the suggestion of Chester Straub,
president of the Ulster County Development Corporation and
chairman of the county’s Housing Consortium.
“We try to be very context sensitive,” Davidowich
explained as he showed a map of his planned development, which
he said would likely include elements of “stone-like
buildings” to better blend into the historic nature
of the region. There would be a large community center, with
pools and surrounding recreational opportunities, including
tennis and bocci ball, for residents of the gated community.
The developers would try to provide their own septic and water
systems, as well as their own roads and maintenance.
“Hidden Forest of Hurley,” as the development
plans from “Hurley 209 Company” (designed by Barton
& Associates of Pennsylvania) are called, will be made
up of 228 duplex “luxury twin home” units and
424 single-family homes, mostly single-story “with an
option for lofts or basements.” The development will
be accessed by a “double boulevard” leading into
the central community center, from which circular roadways
of homes emanate like tent sites at a public campground. There
will be a manned booth at the main gates to the development,
an unmanned gated Lucas Avenue back entrance, and 303 acres
of green space buffer zones to give Hidden Forest “an
airy feeling like the rest of the town has now.”
Davidowich further noted he and Lewis’ intentions to
have Hidden Forest blend in with its surrounding community.
“We’re not designing a fortress here,” he
said, noting that the “security pavilion” was
more for the residents’ sense of comfort (“knowing
someone knows when they’re coming and going”)
rather than to keep the locals out. As if to prove his point,
the developer pointed out how there were plans to improve
the trailhead for the Hurley Rail Trail, including a paved
parking area and night lighting designed to make the “whole
experience” more “user friendly.”
Davidowich noted that hiring for the project, which he and
Lewis said would likely take several years to get to the construction
phases, would all be “local,” defined in terms
of being “not from Florida or Texas.” His attorney,
Geraldine Tortorella, then outlined what they were looking
from local planners, how the Hurley planning laws could work
in their favor, and how they thought it best for the town
to okay their plans as a “Planned Residential District.”
She said they would need sketch plan approval before getting
PRD approvals from the town, and that public hearings could
be held “if appropriate.”
“We’ve come here not to find out whether this
can be done, but how,” Tortorella said, noting that
the developers would be undertaking environmental impact statements
as required by state law.
Questions about the costs, and home prices involved yielded
that the developers were seeking to sell units for prices
between $250,000 and $400,000, for a total development value
of approximately $180 million. When asked about whether their
development would include affordable housing, Lewis suggested
that the house prices, being in line with recent reports that
the median house price in Ulster County is now $299,000, were
Hurley is in two school districts: Onteora and Kingston, with
the development in the latter. The project is the latest in
a series of major proposals facing the region, including a
1,000 plus development slated for the banks of the Hudson
River in Kingston and Dean Gitter’s long-in-the-process
Belleayre Resort project for the town of Shandaken, which
has pegged itself as a jobs-producing and tourism-enhancing
development instead of a community of permanent residences.
A weak El Nino and human-made greenhouse gases could make
2005 the warmest year since records started being kept in
the late 1800s, NASA scientists recently said. While climate
events like El Nino — when warm water spreads over much
of the tropical Pacific Ocean — affect global temperatures,
the increasing role of human-made pollutants plays a big part.
The warmest year on record was 1998, with 2002 and 2003 coming
in second and third, respectively. Last year was the fourth-warmest
recorded, with a global mean temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit
(14 C), which was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the middle
of the century, NASA scientist Drew Shindell said in an interview.
Average temperatures taken from land and surfaces of the oceans
showed 2004 was 0.86 degrees Fahrenheit (0.48 C) above the
average temperature from 1951 to 1980, according to Hansen.
Meanwhile, 200 of the world’s leading climate scientists,
meeting in England, recently issued the most urgent warning
to date that dangerous climate change is taking place, and
that time is running out. The biggest-ever study of climate
change, based at Oxford University, reported that it could
prove to be twice as catastrophic as the previous worst predictions…
And an international task force concluded that we could reach
“the point of no return” in a decade. Finally,
the British head of the Shell Oil Company warned that unless
governments take urgent action there “will be a disaster”.
Professor Mike Schlesinger, of the University of Illinois,
reported that the shutdown of the Gulf Stream, once seen as
a “low probability event”, was now 45 per cent
likely this century, and 70 per cent probable by 2200.
Officials of six towns and villages in the Rondout Valley/Route
209 corridor area have formed a cooperative partnership to
better attract tourism and new business. The new Rondout Valley
Corridor Coalition, which includes the towns of Wawarsing,
Marbletown, Hurley, Rosendale and Rochester, and the village
of Ellenville, will facilitate cooperation between the communities
on a range of issues, problems, and opportunities and has
met six times since its formation in September, and has already
put in a request to the state Department of Transportation
and the Ulster County Transportation Council to do a transportation
and land use study of a 30-mile stretch of Route 209 from
Hurley to the Ulster County border south of Ellenville. Another
project under consideration is to bring together local historians
and representatives of the various historic resources in the
valley to explore ways collaboration may be beneficial to
Meanwhile, a recent report from the Hudson River Valley Greenway
is expected to help groups promoting state “scenic byways”
designations in the region, and has listed over 50 possible
roads for such designation in the region. The project is being
funded by a federal transportation enhancement grant eith
approximately $150,000 available to assist groups wanting
to achieve Scenic Byway designation.
As defined by New York state, a scenic byway is a road corridor
that is of regionally outstanding scenic, natural, cultural,
historic or archaeological significance. A scenic byway corridor
is actively managed to protect its outstanding character,
and to encourage economic development through tourism and
recreation. Through the state Department of Transportation’s
Scenic Byways Program, more than 2,000 miles of roads have
been designated as scenic byways in the state.
The Shawangunk Mountain Scenic Byway, which will likely be
the first local effort to gain funding and recognition, will
encompass some 82 miles of roads, cover 100,000 acres, and
pass through 10 communities in Ulster and northern Orange
Counties, in and around the Shawangunk Ridge as well in the
Wallkill River and Rondout valleys.
The Hudson River Valley Scenic Byways Public Outreach Summary
Report is on the Web at www.hudsongreenway.state.ny.us.
Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are now showing
up in the nation’s homeless shelters. While the numbers
are still small, they’re steadily rising, and raising
alarms in both the homeless and veterans’ communities.
The concern is that these returning veterans - some of whom
can’t find jobs after leaving the military, others of
whom are still struggling psychologically with the war - may
be just the beginning of an influx of new veterans in need.
Currently, there are 150,000 troops in Iraq and 16,000 in
Afghanistan. More than 130,000 have already served and returned
Part of the reason for these new veterans’ struggles
is that housing costs have skyrocketed at the same time real
wages have remained relatively stable, often putting rental
prices out of reach. And for many, there is a gap of months,
sometimes years, between when military benefits end and veterans
benefits begin. Both the Veterans Administration and private
veterans service organizations are already stretched, providing
services for veterans of previous conflicts. For instance,
while an estimated 500,000 veterans were homeless at some
time during 2004, the VA had the resources to tend to only
100,000 of them.
A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine
found that 15 to 17 percent of Iraq vets meet “the screening
criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or PTSD.”
Of those, only 23 to 40 percent are seeking help - in part
because so many others fear the stigma of having a mental
American ginseng, sister of the Asian wonder herb and a seasonal
cash crop in the Catskills, as well as the entire Appalachian
mountain chain, has two obstacles to long-term survival in
the United States: man and deer. According to a new report
in the journal Science, scientists now believe that natural,
slow-growing ginseng could be extinct within 100 years if
deer keep grazing continues at current rates. Scientists have
further suggested reintroduce mountain lions, wolves or other
natural predators as a means of aiding the medicinal plant’s
Ginseng is protected under the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species, which calls for the federal government
to certify each year that harvesting the root will not threaten
its existence. The wild plant takes 18 months to germinate,
then eight to 15 years to mature.
Commercial demand is huge for ginseng, touted as a cure-all
for everything from headaches and insomnia to sexual dysfunction.
Even beer and soda makers are now adding it to their drinks.
Your New ID
Immigration legislation passed by the House would allow the
federal government to force states to make sure they’re
not granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, giving
them three years to comply with the new federal standards
dictating what features driver’s licenses must have.
They could still issue special driving permits to illegal
aliens, but those permits would not be recognized as identities
for boarding airlines or allowing entry to federal buildings.
Ten states now don’t require license applicants to prove
they are citizens or legal residents: Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan,
Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin
and Utah. Tennessee issues driving certificates to people
who cannot prove they are legal residents.
Governors, state legislatures and motor vehicle departments
have protested the bill, calling it a costly mandate that
forces states to take on the role of immigration officers.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would cost
local, state and tribal governments $120 million over the
next five years. A similar measure was rejected by Congress
and the White House in December when it was part of a bill
reorganizing intelligence agencies. It won the Bush administration’s
support recently but still faces stiff opposition in the Senate.
State Police are still investigating the appearance of several
BB holes found in two panes of glass in a classroom at the
Phoenicia School on February 9. There are no indications they
may have been made while school was in session. Anyone with
information as to their possible origin is asked to contact
authorities at 338-1702.
Researchers in Boston have pinpointed a primary trigger for
the most common form of diabetes and have uncovered evidence
that simple, inexpensive aspirin-like drugs could keep the
disease that affects millions in check. The researchers discovered
a genetic ‘’master switch” in the liver
that is turned on when people become obese. Obesity has long
been linked to diabetes, but the reason, until now, has been
unknown. Researchers found that once on, this switch produces
low-level inflammation, which disrupts the body’s ability
to process insulin, causing type 2 diabetes. But the researchers
took the finding one step further. Reasoning that aspirin-like
drugs are used to quell inflammation, they successfully used
the drugs, called salicylates, to eliminate the symptoms of
type 2 diabetes in mice. Human tests are already underway
in Boston, though no results have been published.
‘’No one should go out and take these drugs,”
said the report, though, noting it was better to lose weight,
exercise, and eat healthy.
About 18 million Americans have diabetes, and most have type
2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become
resistant to insulin, which transports sugar from the bloodstream
into cells, giving cells energy to function. In diabetes,
this feeding is blocked, causing sugar to build up in blood.
Those afflicted grow excessively thirsty, exhausted, and confused
if the condition goes untreated, and are at high risk for
heart disease, stroke, blindness, and amputations. About three-quarters
of sufferers are obese or overweight.
The way many high school students see it, government censorship
of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is
hardly protected free speech. According to a study of high
school attitudes, more than one in three high school students
said the First Amendment goes “too far” in the
rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers
should be allowed to publish freely without government approval
“These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous,”
said Hodding Carter III, president of the John S. and James
L. Knight Foundation, which sponsored the $1 million study.
“Ignorance about the basics of this free society is
a danger to our nation’s future.”
The students are even more restrictive in their views than
their elders, the study says. When asked whether people should
be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers
and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent
of students did. Three in four students said flag burning
is illegal. It’s not. About half the students said the
government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet.
The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of
Connecticut, is billed as the largest of its kind. More than
100,000 students, nearly 8,000 teachers and more than 500
administrators at 544 public and private high schools took
part in early 2004.
Abstinence-only programs like those promoted by the Bush administration
don’t seem to be working on teenagers in the president’s
home state, according to a state-sponsored study by Texas
A&M University researchers. The ongoing study, the first
evaluation of the abstinence programs across the state, found
that students in almost all high school grades were more sexually
active after undergoing abstinence education.
Researchers don’t believe the programs encouraged teenagers
to have sex, only that the abstinence messages did not interfere
with customary trends among adolescents.
The federal government will spend $131 million this year on
various abstinence-only education programs - $30 million more
than was spent in 2004. But many public health experts are
concerned that no one really knows what the government is
Among the findings in the Texas study: About 23 percent of
the ninth-grade girls in the study already had sexual intercourse
before they received any abstinence education, a figure below
the national average. After taking an abstinence course, the
number among those same girls rose to 28 percent, a level
closer to that of their peers across the state. Among ninth-grade
boys, the percentage who reported sexual intercourse before
and after abstinence education remained relatively unchanged.
In 10th grade, the percentage of boys who had ever had sexual
intercourse jumped from 24 percent to 39 percent after participating
in an abstinence program.
To be funded as abstinence education, programs cannot provide
instruction in birth control, outside “factual information
about contraceptive methods, such as the failure rates that
are associated with the different methods,” according
to documents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. Among other things, the law also dictates that an
abstinence program must have “as its exclusive purpose,
teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be
realized by abstaining from sexual activity.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has stepped aside from the
Justice Department investigation into the leak of undercover
CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity. Gonzales had been
involved in the case as White House legal counsel, testifying
before a federal grand jury and giving advice about it to
White House personnel.
Investigators want to find out who leaked the identity of
Plame, whose name was published in July 2003 by syndicated
columnist Robert Novak. The investigation is being run by
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago, who was appointed
special counsel with broad decision-making latitude and reports
to Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who has
said his wife’s name may have been revealed as retribution
for a newspaper opinion piece he wrote criticizing President
Bush’s claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger.
Wilson was asked by the CIA to check out that claim.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are pressing for investigations
into how a Washington reporter who used a pseudonym managed
to gain access to the White House and had access to classified
documents that named Plame. Until resigning in recent weeks,
James Guckert used the name Jeff Gannon and worked for TalonNews.com,
a Web site operated by Robert Eberle, a Texas Republican.
Democrats have asked how someone using a pseudonym was cleared
to enter the White House daily press briefings as well as
a presidential news conference.
Mr. Guckert resigned from Talon saying he had been “harassed
by liberals” on the Internet. Bloggers grew suspicious
of him after President Bush called on him at the news conference
and the reporter suggested that Democrats had “divorced
themselves from reality.”
More than 200 scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service say they have been directed to alter official findings
to lessen protections for plants and animals, says a new survey
of the agency’s scientific staff of 1,400, which had
a 30% response rate and was conducted jointly by the Union
of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility. More than half of the biologists and other
researchers who responded to the survey said they knew of
cases in which commercial interests, including timber, grazing,
development and energy companies, had applied political pressure
to reverse scientific conclusions deemed harmful to their
A growing body of science is linking sweet drinks, natural
or otherwise, to a host of child health concerns, everything
from bulging bellies to tooth decay. Though healthy in moderation,
juice essentially is water and sugar. In fact, a 12-ounce
bottle of grape soda has 159 calories. The same amount of
unsweetened grape juice packs 228 calories. The $10 billion
juice industry maintains that a conclusive link between its
products and obesity has yet to be established, but researchers
say sugar is sugar, and sweet drinks of any kind must be consumed