Shandaken will continue to pressure Belleayre Mountain
officials to take responsibility for ambulance coverage
of the mountain on winter weekends.
That’s the result of internal discussions between
the town board and ambulance department staff, which will
be on call in larger numbers starting this weekend until
a long term solution can be reached.
At a town board session Monday, it was clear that not
all is well with the ambulance issue. Last month Squad
leader Jerry Pearlman announced that his crew could no
longer take care of both the Ski Center and the Shandaken
Community when Belleayre doubles the local population
on weekends with out of town skiers that engage in high
risk activity. He also said that from now on the Shandaken
Community would be the squad’s priority, not Belleayre.
This stance caused friction between the town and Belleayre
Superintendent Tony Lanza, who has said to Pearlman that
it is Shandaken’s responsibility to serve the Ski
Center because it lies within the town. Last month Lanza
said he would enter into an agreement with the nearby
Margaretville Ambulance Service, which operates out the
Margaretville Hospital in the Delaware County Town of
Middletown, but the plan never came to pass.
According to Pearlman, there is no change yet in the positions
of either Lanza or himself, but as a stopgap measure Pearlman
has found a way to increase coverage on the weekends.
He did so, he said, as part of a compromise plan between
himself and town Supervisor Robert Cross Jr., who successfully
pushed for the hiring of one part time paramedic to full
time status. Pearlman opposed the hiring.
Monday night Pearlman told the audience that he thought
the hiring of Big Indian resident Craig Apolito was a
bad idea. Furthermore, he said, the hiring does nothing
to increase the size of the squad because last week another
full time paramedic had resigned for reasons unrelated
to the current ambulance crisis.
But for now, the coverage of the town is better on the
“I talked to the crew,” Pearlman said.
Pearlman also said that part of the compromise between
he and Cross was that the town board would consider options
to restructure the ambulance squad, such as creating an
ambulance district in town that would provide funding
for the squad independent of the towns general budget,
much the way local fire departments are funded. Also,
Pearlman said, Cross would work to convince Lanza of the
need for Belleayre to accept some responsibility to provide
ambulance service at his facility.
“I owe it to the taxpayers to try and make that
happen,” Cross said.
Cross admitted that he was ducking press calls all last
week about the ambulance issue because he feared that
reporters wanted to take the story “where it didn’t
need to go,” but he did not elaborate on what that
meant. When asked to explain the status of the ambulance
issue at Monday’s meeting he refused and said that
reporters could meet with him privately to get information
after the meeting. At just such a session Cross told a
reporter that he hoped the town board got credit for doing
something to resolve the ambulance issues by hiring Apolito.
Brian Grant, one of Shandaken’s three elected tax
assessors, has resigned. Grant sent his letter of resignation
to the town board, which received it Monday, citing personal
reasons for his departure. It remains unclear how or when
his vacancy will be filled.
Close Or Merge?
A state panel has recommended that Kingston and Benedictine
hospitals should merge by the end of next year or face
the shut down of one of them. The directive has spurred
legislative action and has brought up past rifts that
resulted when the two hospitals tried to merge about a
decade ago, but broke off talks because of Kingston Hospital’s
agreement that it would abide by Benedictine’s Catholic
health-care directives, which would include a ban on birth
control and abortions. A second round of merger talks
failed six years later, in 2004, when Benedictine again
refused to abandon its Catholic health-care rules, although
the two hospitals did agree to seek some cooperative agreements
and eliminate the duplication of services.
The new state Commission on Healthcare Facilities in the
21st Century took note of the abortion disagreement in
making its recommendation and suggested that reproductive
services be handled at a separate facility.
“If Kingston and Benedictine Hospital fail to execute
such an agreement by Dec. 31, 2007, it is recommended
that the state commissioner of health close one of the
facilities and expand the other to accommodate the patient
volume of the closed facility,” the report continues.
The commission’s recommendations now go to the Legislature,
which must then reject or accept them in their entirety
by the end of the year.
Kingston and Benedictine’s current memorandum of
agreement is unsigned, but would establish a parent corporation
for the two hospitals if agreed upon. David Sandman, executive
director of the Commission on Healthcare Facilities in
the 21st Century, has said he doubts either hospital will
be forced to close “because we are very optimistic”
the merger will take place.
In its report, the commission said there are too many
hospital beds in the city (222 at Benedictine and 145
at Kingston), neither hospital is fully occupied, and
there is a duplication of the services (including medical,
surgical, emergency, obstetrics and perinatal care). The
report also says both hospitals are in “precarious”
The two hospitals have a similar number of inpatient discharges
and emergency visits, but Kingston had significantly more
outpatient visits than Benedictine. Kingston is affiliated
with Margaretville Hospital, a federally designated critical
access hospital in Delaware County. Each of the hospitals
has approximately 750 full-time equivalent employees.
In 2003, Kingston Hospital had a minus-10.4 percent operating
margin; Benedictine’s operating margin was minus-2.1
percent. Each of the hospitals has long-term debt of approximately
In light of the report, Ulster County legislators Robert
Parete, Chairman of the Health Committee, Peter Kraft,
Chairman of the Human Development Committee and Joseph
Stoeckeler and Mary Sheeley, who both serve on the Health
Committee, have started urging Legislatove Chairman David
B. Donaldson to form a Blue Ribbon Commission to carefully
review the recommendations and offer a long term vision
for Ulster County. The members of the Blue Ribbon Commission
will consist of various healthcare professionals and interested
parties. At the same time, they will urge the Governor
and State Legislature to hold public hearings throughout
the State before any decisions are final with respect
to the report.
Four members of the middle school steering committee gave
a presentation at the Onteora School District’s
November 28 school board meeting in Phoenicia on the importance
of a five-through-eight grade configuration smiddle chool
and why Onteora should go in that direction. Chief among
the reasons for heading in this direction were that it
would help align OCS with State standards, inspire better
team teaching, help age appropriate social development
with less peer pressure, and promote both grade flexibility
for special needs student and parental involvement.
It was furter proposed that ideally, such a school would
involve a separate gymnasium, cafeteria, separate library
from the high school. Right now, Onteora’s Senior
and Middle schools are not completely separate.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation reports
that Region 3 Forest Rangers cited two people for incidents
involving unlawful ATV use during the opening weekend
of hunting season Nov 19. Both incidents took place on
or near Silver Hollow Road close to the Shandaken-Woodstock
town line and within the Mt.Tobias Wild Forest.
According to DEC spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach, Edward
O’Brien of Pelham Manor was charged with operating
a motor vehicle in the forest preserve, a violation carrying
a possible fine up to $250, and was issued a second ticket
for an unregistered 1995 Jeep which was impounded. Susan
Van Exel of Palenville was charged with a more serious
offense, a misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded firearm
on a vehicle. Tickets written are all returnable in Woodstock
32 seventh and eight graders from the Onteora School District
are the first to sign up for a new pilot program called
AWARENESS (Assisting With Adolescents to Resolve, Empower
and Nurture through Enriching Senior Social events), an
initiative started by Marie Shultis, wife of Hurley supervisor
Mike Shultis. Utilizing two older twelfth grade coordinators
and a dozen or so trained teenage mentors, the program’s
goal is to “begin to impact the substance abusing
aspects of our school culture by providing as many mentoring
groups as possible,” according to Shultis.
Through the program, which was launched at the Paul corn
maze on Hurley Mountain Road Sunday, at least 12 high
school students and 35 middle school students representing
a diverse economic, ethnic, and social mix of young people
and their families will come together to participate in
a variety of activities that are intended to provide enjoyable
alternatives to alcohol and substance abuse and are aimed
at building self-confidence and tolerance, Shultis explained.
In preparation, the student mentors and parents associated
with the program received two training sessions earlier
this month from the Mental Health Association of Ulster
“What drives this program is the genuine enjoyment
the older students get working with the younger students
and visa versa,” said Pam Perkins, family support
coordinator with the MHAUC. “The parents see this
mutual enthusiasm and they are motivated to get involved
and stay involved.”
A key aspect of the new program, according to Shultis,
is that the young people will help plan the activities
rather than become involved in a program planned for them
by adults, she said. Future plans include movie outings
and participation with the Little Monster record label
owned by Hurley councilwoman Kate Hyman and her husband,
Little Monster recently released its first CD, “All
Together Now,” a collaboration of local young people
and adult guests singing Beatles music that is available
exclusively at Barnes and Noble and the label expects
to release six more CDs next year.
Area businesses and residents interested in donating to
the AWARENESS program can call Schultis at 845 417-1483
for more information. The program’s web site is
Ah… The Jail!
Officials at the state Commission of Correction informed
county officials last week they were pushing the opening
date of the long-promised Ulster County jail to early
next year. And to make matters worse, some county legislators
are concerned that, given the variety of problems now
being found at the $100 million facility, Ulster County
will continue to face decades of repairs and other woes
while the 402-bed jail and sheriff’s headquarters
The sheriff’s department moved into the administrative
section of the building this summer, but despite optimism
expressed as recently as two weeks ago that the jail would
open this year, officials have now conceded that won’t
The facility was originally scheduled to open in April
2004 and cost about $53 million. Delays have continued
to push back the opening date for the jail and increase
the price. The current estimate of about $100 million
does not include tens of millions of dollars of additional
costs to taxpayers for interest on the money borrowed
to finance the project.
Sheriff-elect Paul Van Blarcum said that although he laments
the additional expense that will arise from more delays,
he sees a silver lining. “From the start, I wanted
to be there right as it’s opening, and not get there
when it is already over with,” said Van Blarcum,
who takes office Jan. 1. He opposed building the new jail,
as early as 1998, in his first and unsuccessful bid for
county sheriff, but the problematic jail helped propel
him into office this past November.
One person in the Ellenville area was killed and 25,000
Central Hudson customers lost power on December 1 when
a line of powerful thunderstorms raced across the region,
leaving tornado warnings in the Kingston and Saugerties
The death occurred in Warwarsing when a tree uprooted
and fell on a house on Route 209 near Hang Glider Road,
not far from the former site of HITS.
Parts of Kingston, Stone Ridge, High Falls and Rhinebeck
all lost power as a result of the storm, and Woodstock’s
25th annual Open House holiday event resulted in much
lower than expected attendance.
George Maglaris, a meteorologist with the National Weather
Service in Albany, said the storms - which brought thunder,
lightning, torrential rain and strong winds - were associated
with a fast-moving cold front that tracked from west to
east. Wind speeds in Ulster County reached about 65 mph
To improve the reliability of electric service throughout
the Mid-Hudson Valley and better meet the growing energy
needs of its customers, Central Hudson Gas & Electric
Corporation said this week that it has implemented a more
comprehensive vegetation management program for its electric
transmission and distribution system.
Central Hudson is studying tree species and vegetation
growth rates along its electric distribution lines, together
with other factors such as circuit performance histories,
in determining the optimum maintenance schedules and trimming
strategies to improve service reliability. Electric circuits
are analyzed individually so that a customized maintenance
plan can be developed for each.
“Putting the results of this study to use will help
us better-address reliability of the electric system,”
said utility President Carl Meyer. “Crews work under
the direction of trained and certified arborists to determine
how trees can be safely and effectively trimmed. In addition,
we work with municipal officials to identify and trim
or cut diseased or dying trees that may fall onto power
lines, and will assist them in determining the appropriate
tree species for planting near utility lines.”
Ulster BOCES has been awarded more than $734,000 in federal
grant funds to be used to support its Projects with Industry
program, which serves individuals with severe disabilities.
The funding, part of the Federal government’s 1968
Rehabilitation Act, will be used over a three-year period
to support the program.
The program provides job development, job placement, and
to the extent appropriate, training services to assist
individuals with mental or physical disabilities overcome
their specific health challenges and obtain or advance
in employment in the competitive labor market. This includes
developmental, emotional, as well as physiological disorders
or conditions that in some way hampers or hinders a person
in their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
There are currently 28 students participating in the Vocational
and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities
program at Ulster BOCES with nine currently receiving
assistance through the federally-funded PWI program. There
are also three students enrolled in PWI classes who will
be entering the program soon. Courses offered include
Administrative Office Practice, Basic Business Bookkeeping,
Administrative Medical Assistant, Registered Medical Assistant,
Dental Assistant, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air
Conditioning), and Manufacturing Technology.
Increased gang infiltration and violence in the Hudson
Valley means traditional and new means of addressing the
issue head on. Ulster County District Attorney Donald
Williams said the entire region is now facing those problems.
“The Mid-Hudson Region, Poughkeepsie, Orange County,
Newburgh, Kingston, and other areas, are no longer immune
from the type of situation such as gang violence that
has only been experienced to a large extent in larger
metropolitan areas such as New York City,” he said.
“We most certainly are not anywhere near the same
level of some of these other jurisdictions, but it an
emerging issue that must be addressed and now.”
Williams said law enforcement is taking an aggressive
response to the problems, which also require action from
parents and schools.
The state-funding Operation IMPACT program was formed
a couple of years ago to provide some funding to areas
with high gang presence to combat that scourge.
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is developing a new museum
that will explore the 1969 Woodstock Festival experience
and its significance to American culture. Museum organizers
are accepting donations and loans of artifacts from the
most famous rock concert in history as well as the equally
famous decade that produced it. The museum is seeking
items of significance that will help to chronicle the
era that began with JFK and ended with Woodstock…
and included this area’s being home to the likes
of Jimi Hendrix, The Band, and others…
The museum will explore the meaning and importance of
the Woodstock event to the local community and the nation
through personal stories and profiles, immersive multi-media
exhibit displays and experiences, engaging programs and
educational events. The goal of the Museum is to create
an inter-generational dialogue and evolving understanding
of the 1960’s and to preserve the historic site
on which the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair took place.
Bethel Woods is set within nearly 1,700 acres at the site
of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Bethel Woods presented
a variety of artists and performances in its inaugural
season, including classical, pop, rock, country and jazz.
Age & Autism
Men who become fathers in their 40s or older are much
more likely to have autistic children than younger dads,
a new study shows, bolstering evidence that genetics contributes
to the mental disorder. The research involved about 130,000
Israeli Jews born in the 1980s. Those fathered by older
men were almost six times more likely to have autism or
related disorders than those fathered by men younger than
30, and more than one-and-a-half times more likely than
children fathered by men ages 30-39.
The mothers’ age at childbirth appeared to have
little impact on autism, although the researchers said
they couldn’t rule out “a possible small effect”
from the oldest mothers.
Autism experts called the study intriguing but not definitive,
and the authors said the results need to be tested in
a broader population to see if similar findings would
occur in other ethnic groups. The researchers also said
their results may not apply to Asperger’s or other
Previous research linked advanced paternal age with lower
intelligence scores and with schizophrenia. Other studies
have shown that sperm mutate more often in older men,
potentially leading to increased risk for brain abnormalities
in their children.
Autism is a developmental disorder that involves an impaired
ability to socialize and communicate. Symptoms can include
repetitive behaviors such as head-banging; avoidance of
physical or eye contact with others, and communicating
with gestures rather than words. It is more common in
boys than in girls and typically is diagnosed in the first
few years of life.
Many researchers believe impaired genes are a cause or
trigger of autism. Most studies have failed to find evidence
to support a persistent belief among some parents that
mercury-containing childhood vaccines are to blame.
Hit With A Pan
A Hurley woman is in the Ulster County Jail on a charge
of second-degree assault for allegedly attacking another
person during a domestic incident on Friday night, December
1, Ulster County Sheriff’s deputies reported Saturday.
Mirosalva Alberto, 50, of Route 373 in West Hurley allegedly
beat the other person, her husband, in the face and head
with a metal pan. The victim was transported to Benedictine
Hospital in Kingston where he remains hospitalized with
several fractures to the face.
Mrs. Alberto was arraigned and sent to the county jail
in lieu of $1,000 cash bail.
Thirty-one percent of U.S. teenagers say they drink energy
drinks, according to Simmons Research. That represents
7.6 million teens, a jump of almost 3 million in three
Nutritionists warn that the drinks, laden with caffeine
and sugar, can hook kids on an unhealthy jolt-and-crash
cycle. The caffeine comes from multiple sources, making
it hard to tell how much the drinks contain. Some have
B vitamins, which when taken in megadoses can cause rapid
heartbeat, and numbness and tingling in the hands and
But the biggest worry is how some teens use the drinks.
Some report downing several cans in a row to get a buzz,
and a new study found a surprising number of poison-center
calls from young people getting sick from too much caffeine.
Most brands target male teens and 20-somethings. Experts
say the fierce competition among hundreds of new drinks,
with Austria-based Red Bull guarding the biggest market
share, leads to a “ratcheting up” of taboo
names as companies try to break out from the crowd.
Cocaine Energy Drink, which launched in September and
now sells in convenience stores and nightclubs in six
states, is the latest example, following a twisted logic
set by drinks named Pimpjuice and Bawls. Anheuser-Busch
and Miller Brewing now produce several “energy beers”
- beer containing caffeine.
How much caffeine do energy drinks contain? A University
of Florida study found that some products, although served
in cans two-thirds the size of a standard can of Coke,
contain two to four times the amount of caffeine as that
Coke. Energy drinks are unregulated in the United States,
but the authors of the University of Florida paper suggest
warning labels for them.
“How much of your favorite energy drink or soda
would it take to kill you? Take this quick test and find
out.” - From a “Death by Caffeine” calculator
on the Web site, www.energyfiend.com. Fill in your weight
and click the button marked “Kill Me.”
A Catskill woman was sentenced in federal court recently
to 65 months in prison for engaging in a scheme to defraud
prospective authors of monies paid to have their books
published. Martha Ivery, 57, also known as Kelly O’Donnell,
previously pleaded guilty to 15 counts of mail fraud and
one count of bankruptcy fraud.
Ivery presented two separate persona to prospective authors:
Martha Ivery, publisher, Press-TIGE Publishing Company,
Inc., and Kelly O’Donnell, literary agent, Kelly
O’Donnell Literary Agency, Inc. She obtained payments
in advance of publishing from a given prospective author
both in her persona as Martha Ivery and in her separate
persona as Kelly O’Donnell, without disclosing to
the prospective author that they were one and the same
She received fee payments prior to publication of a given
book, including initial payments to publish, separate
fees for representation by a literary agent, separate
fees for editing, separate fees for illustrations, separate
fees for a Special Markets Program, and separate fees
for a prospective author to purchase copies of her own
book prior to publication, and offered a variety of excuses
for non-publication years following the initial payment.
Eleven European Union governments - including Britain,
Poland and Germany - knew about secret CIA prisons operating
in Europe, a draft European Parliament report concluded
The report presented to the EU assembly’s special
committee investigating allegations about the detention
centers and CIA kidnappings in Europe called on governments
to launch their own inquiries to determine whether human
rights laws were violated. It criticized top EU officials
of “omissions and denials” during testimony
to the committee.
No EU governments have admitted that the claimed anti-terror
operations were carried out on their territory. Governments
have been warned by EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner
Franco Frattini that if they knew about the CIA renditions
and secret flights they could be found in violation of
While thin on proof to back up the allegations, the committee
report claimed it got information from secret documents
and information from several sources in the United States
and from national authorities in the 25-nation bloc.
“At least 1,245 flights operated by the CIA have
flown into the European airspace or stopped over at European
airports,” the draft said.
The report said 11 EU nations - Britain, Poland, Italy,
Germany, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece
and Cyprus - had knowledge of the alleged U.S. secret
anti-terrorism measures taking place on European soil.
It said the committee had obtained “serious circumstantial
evidence” showing that Poland may have hosted a
temporary secret detention center for the CIA.
The draft report will be voted upon by the special committee
after the EU assembly’s Christmas break, officials
In September, President Bush acknowledged for the first
time that terrorism suspects have been held in CIA-run
prisons overseas, but did not specify where.
Several governments around the world have meanwhile tried
to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming
they are only following the U.S. example in the war on
terror, the U.N. anti-torture chief said recently.
Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture,
said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable
treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that
if the United States does something, it must be all right.
He would not name any countries except for Jordan.
“The United States has been the pioneer, if you
wish, of human rights and is a country that has a high
reputation in the world,” Nowak told a news conference.
“Today, many other governments are kind of saying,
‘But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing
something different than what the United States is doing?”’
Nowak said that because of its prominence, the United
States has a greater responsibility to uphold international
standards for its prisoners so other nations do not use
it as an excuse to justify their own behavior. The remarks
were the latest in a tense back-and-forth between Nowak
and the United States. He has been an outspoken critic
of U.S. detainee policy, chastising the United States
for maintaining secret prisons. He has also been skeptical
about new legislation that would protect detainees from
blatant abuse - such as rape and torture - but does not
require automatic legal counsel and specifically bars
detainees from protesting their detentions in federal
The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the questions
of whether the federal government, particularly the Environmental
Protection Agency, is authorized and obligated to take
action to ease global warming. New York and Massachusetts,
which have been joined by 10 other states, 3 cities and
13 environmental groups, will argue that the federal agency
has shirked its legal responsibility to protect the public
and ignored the requirements of the Clean Air Act.
Federal lawyers, in tandem with those of the automobile
industry, are arguing that existing law is inadequate
to support far-reaching regulation and that Congress or
the foreign policy arena, or both, are the appropriate
places to produce new global warming policies. But, lawyers
on both sides of the issue agree, the justices’
answers to a more basic question — whether the plaintiffs
have a right to bring the case — may have the greatest
In deciding that issue, known legally as a question of
standing, the justices may determine whether Massachusetts
and its fellow petitioners have made a good enough case
that the atmosphere and oceans are warming at a dangerous
rate, fueled in part by human actions like burning fossil
fuels, and that the petitioners have been harmed in the
process. Second, the court may decide whether any person
or state injured by a worldwide phenomenon may seek legal
redress even though it would only partly deal with any
The question of standing was not decided by the appeals
court. That panel rejected Massachusetts’s claim
that the federal environmental agency was obligated to
regulate the emission of heat-trapping chemicals from
the tailpipes of new passenger vehicles. One judge said
the harm the state had suffered was too generalized to
give it standing. A second said the potential loss of
coastal land was enough to give it automatic standing,
and the third judge did not address the issue.
The case originally stemmed from a 1999 application by
19 environmental groups asking the E.P.A. to regulate
greenhouse-gas emissions in new passenger vehicles.
Meanwhile, three Democratic senators poised to head committees
grappling with global warming have pressed President Bush
for mandatory U.S. limits on greenhouse gases. In a letter
to Bush, Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Jeff Bingaman
of New Mexico and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said voters
in the recent election demanded that the government reduce
the nation’s heat-trapping greenhouse gases that
are contributing to the Earth’s warming.
“The recent elections have signaled a need to change
direction in many areas, including global warming,”
the senators wrote.
Boxer, Bingaman and Lieberman will, respectively, head
the Senate ‘s environment, energy and homeland security
committees when Democrats take control in January.
The White House, however, sent signals that the new Democratic
Congress should not expect Bush to budge from his opposition
to regulating industrial carbon dioxide. That position
he took in March 2001 was a reversal of his campaign stance.
The departing chairman of the Senate environment committee,
Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma, promised to lead
the opposition to climate bills that pose big economic
costs in next year’s Senate. Democrats will enjoy
a 51-49 majority, but 60 votes are often needed to overcome
“Many of you might be thinking that the Democrats’
razor-thin majority means that global warming-inspired
carbon cap legislation is somehow now going to sail through
the next Congress,” said Inhofe, who has called
global warming an hysteria-driven hoax. “Well, I
can assure you that will not happen.”
Departing United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
simultaneously put the blame for global warming on “a
frightening lack of leadership,” saying the poorest
people in the world, who do not even create much pollution,
bear the brunt of rising temperatures.
“The impact of climate change will fall disproportionately
on the world’s poorest countries, many of them here
in Africa,” Mr. Annan said in a speech to a major
climate conference. “Poor people already live on
the front lines of pollution, disaster and the degradation
of resources and land. For them, adaptation is a matter
of sheer survival.”
When pressed at a news conference afterward about his
comments on poor leadership, Mr. Annan denied that he
was singling out the United States, the world’s
biggest source of the smokestack and tailpipe gases that
are linked by most scientists to rising temperatures.
The United States is also one of the few countries that
has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty
setting limits on the heat-trapping pollutants.
Malaria, one of Africa’s leading killers, is spreading
to higher altitudes because of rising temperatures. The
Sahara is expanding, turning farmland into desert and
contributing to conflicts like the one in the Darfur region
of Sudan. And animal and plant species have begun dying
off or changing sooner than predicted.
In Jail Now…
A record 7 million people - or one in every 32 American
adults - were behind bars, on probation or on parole by
the end of last year, according to the Justice Department.
Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase
of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a
report released last week.
More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208
were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are
increasing, but admissions are increasing more.
Men still far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but
the female population is growing faster. Over the past
year, the female population in state or federal prison
increased 2.6 percent while the number of male inmates
rose 1.9 percent. By year’s end, 7 percent of all
inmates were women. The gender figures do not include
inmates in local jails.
From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug
offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison
population growth. The numbers are from the Justice Department’s
annual report breaking down inmate populations for state
and federal prisons and local jails.
Racial disparities among prisoners persist. In the 25-29
age group, 8.1 percent of black men - about one in 13
- are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic
men and 1.1 percent of white men. And it’s not much
different among women. By the end of 2005, black women
were more than twice as likely as Hispanics and over three
times as likely as white women to be in prison.
The recent death of state Supreme Court Justice Vincent
Bradley and the appointment of Justice Michael Kavanagh
to the court’s Appellate Division in New York City
will lead to some adjustments in New York’s Third
Judicial District, which is comprised of Ulster, Greene,
Columbia, Sullivan, Albany, Rensselaer and Schoharie counties.
State Supreme Court justices handle primarily civil matters,
and each county has judges assigned to it. Currently,
Ulster County has four justices assigned to it, including
Bradley and Kavanagh, and one acting justice.
Kavanagh will serve at both the county and the appellate
level and will split his time between Kingston and New
York City. But the Bradley seat will need to be filled
by appointment by the governor, subject to confirmation
by the state Senate. That seat then will be up for election
in November 2007 and the winner will serve a 14-year term.
Phil Sinagra, executive director of the Ulster County
Republican Committee, and John Parete, chairman of the
Ulster County Democratic Committee, can recommend potential
appointees to the governor, though both said they have
not yet considered possible candidates. Bradley’s
successor does not have to come from Ulster County.
FBI Lists All
The FBI wants to start including “non-serious offenses”
on criminal-history reports to employers – a move
some say could unduly taint people’s job prospects
and spread misinformation. If the proposal goes into effect,
many employers using the FBI’s system could discover
a job applicant had been convicted for drinking in public,
or had been arrested for vagrancy as a teenager, among
Under the proposal, which has not yet been finalized,
the FBI would report minor offenses on “rap sheets”
– records used by employers for screening job and
licensing applicants and employees. These offenses –
which can range from traffic violations to urinating in
public – would be reported through the FBI’s
nationwide fingerprint databank.
Currently, the Bureau essentially tracks only information
on “severe and/or significant” offenses, mainly
major misdemeanors and felonies. Now, the FBI proposes
to include virtually all “finger-printable offenses”
in the database, which feeds into a national crime-information
system that is available to more than 90,000 law-enforcement
agencies and other authorized users. States set their
own policies on what offenses warrant fingerprinting.
Under the proposal, offenses ranging from traffic violations
to urinating in public could be reported through the FBI’s
nationwide fingerprint databank.
In joint comments filed with the FBI, labor and civil-liberties
groups warned that the plan, coupled with other efforts
to expand the criminal-data system, would foreclose employment
opportunities for an untold number of people, disproportionately
impact people of color, and invite the abuse of sensitive
information. Workers’ and privacy-rights advocates
say that the expansion of rap sheets fits into a widening
scheme to promote “security” – by exposing
people’s personal histories to private interests.
Groups opposed to the proposal say it would also push
many people of color further away from the mainstream
employment market. According to the FBI’s report
on crime in 2005, for low-level offenses like “disorderly
conduct” and “loitering,” blacks made
up more than 30 percent of arrests in 2005, but only about
13 percent of the general population.
The FBI refused to comment about the plan, pending the
analysis of input submitted during the public-comment
period, which ended earlier this month.
Approximately 250 people assembled at the Franklin Delano
Roosevelt Library’s Wallace Center in Hyde Park
on Tuesday, November 21 for a Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) hearing to exert their ownership.
With FCC rules up for review, speaker after speaker told
Michael Copps, the lone FCC commissioner present at the
hearing, that they want both the local and national media
to reflect the news accurately and completely, choose
the issues that are covered without bias or self-interest,
and portray minorities responsibly.
“The corporate monopolization of the public airwaves
and other media outlets is one of the most critical issues
facing our country today…There is no other issue
as central to the health of our democracy,” said
Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-Hurley), who jointly sponsored
the hearing with Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media,
a Rhinebeck-based grass roots media reform organization.
“If you allow any small number of people to control
the information the vast public has access to, ultimately
you are going to allow them to control the ideas that
people hold. And we need to understand [media consolidation]
is being done intentionally and purposefully in order
to corrupt the political process in our country.”
Hinchey is also the founder of the Future of American
Media Caucus in the House of Representatives and chief
sponsor of the Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005.
At issue are potential rule changes allowing for further
media consolidation that would enable one corporation
to theoretically own all of the media outlets —
radio, television and newspapers — within the same
community. Two large corporations, Clear Channel Communications
and Cumulus Media, already own about half of the radio
stations in the Hudson Valley.
Current FCC rules prohibit a single company from owning
a television or radio station and a major daily newspaper
in the same city but the FCC attempted in 2003 to eliminate
this ban in all but the smallest markets. Public outcry
and a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Third
Circuit circumvented the revisions. The federal agency
is believed to be planning a similar relaxation of the
rules again although it hasn’t specified how it
intends to change them. The Republican-dominated FCC —
the agency has three Republican members and two Democrats
(including Copps) — announced its upcoming review
of its ownership regulations in June and is taking testimony
through December, although it has only scheduled one official
public hearing in the country.
Copps maintained the FCC is in the midst of a “hugely
important proceeding that will decide what the nature
of our media — our radio, TV, newspapers, cable,
even the Internet — will look like for years to
come.” The commissioner will take the public testimony
given at last week’s hearing back to Washington
for inclusion into the official record as he has done
with the testimony from more than 30 similar events around
the country in recent months. “Will our media help
us to expand democracy or will it primarily serve the
financial interests of a few players?” he posed.
A launch event will be held at Belleayre Mountain Ski
Center’s Discovery Lodge on Friday, December 15,
from 2-4pm to kick off “First Strokes,” a
new marketing program for the region spearheaded by the
Roxbury Arts Group (RAG) and the M-ARK Project. Thanks
to a partnership effort between RAG and M-ARK to secure
a Cultural Tourism Initiative Grant, the “First
Strokes” program will match local artists, hotels,
and visitor venues with tourists looking to learn to paint,
write, sculpt or create fiber art. Wine and hors d’oeuvres
will be served, and participation materials will be distributed.
Information on local artists and classes can be found
at www.firststrokes.org, or by calling the M-ARK Project,
Inc. at (845) 586-3500.