Ulster County legislators, Charter Commission members
and about 30 residents recently discussed primary areas
of contention surrounding a proposed charter to establish
a county executive form of government initially called
on by the former GOP majority of the county legislature.
A major area of debate turned out to be a provision that
would allow the county executive to appoint the heads
of the departments of planning, health and mental health.
At present, department heads are appointed by oversight
boards, with confirmation by the Legislature.
Republicans, now in the minority, said such appointments
were “scary” while Legislature Chairman David
Donaldson said departmental boards must be restricted
to advisory roles to allow the county executive enough
authority to run a streamlined, accountable government.
It was further pointed out that under the proposed charter,
the county executive will choose the director of planning
from a pool of three possible candidates selected by the
county Planning Board.
Others asked for the charter to be amended to present
the budget in a more timely manner for taxpayers to review
the numbers before voting for a county executive. As of
now, the charter continues the current budget schedule,
which requires the final draft to be presented to lawmakers
by December. Also, some questions were also raised over
the charter’s unknown cost.
Dean Palen, the county’s public health director,
asked that the charter drop its requirement for a physician
to lead the health department. He said under state law,
he already has a doctor on his staff. The proposed changes
anticipate the county reaching a population of 250,000
- the state threshold for requiring a physician at the
helm of a county health department.
The full legislature now decides on August 9 whether to
act on a committee endorsement of the plan and put the
proposal, spearheaded by former GOP legislator and SUNY
New Paltz professor Gerry Benjamin, on the November 7
Benjamin, NOW the dean of liberal arts and sciences at
SUNY New Paltz, said various charter counties across the
state have shown they are not more expensive than non-charter
counties. He said the charter creates few new jobs, but
a “parallel reduction of positions” makes
up for them.
Shandaken Area Youth Sports (SAYS) may need to find a
new home field, as according to the group's President
Chris Fisher, Kaatskill Development Partners has declined
to renew their 5-year lease on the Rt.28 site in Mt. Pleasant
which expired in July.
"We were told that Dean (Gitter) said you don't need
a lease. It's my property and you can play whenever you
want," said Fisher on Monday. The problem, he said,
is that the group uses the site under a Special Use permit
granted by the town, which is conditional on its leased
access. In addition to their own soccer schedule, SAYS,
as leasee, also makes the field available for use by Onteora's
varsity and JV soccer teams.
Fundraising is well underway to help area 6th graders
attend a prestigious event in Washington DC this fall,
but organizers are still short of funds as the deadline
for particpation appears within a week.
Four students from the Phoenicia Elementary School have
been nominated to represent the school and the Onteora
Central School District community at the Junior National
Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC this coming
The purpose of the Conference is to honor and inspire
exceptional middle-school students in our nation, distinguished
by academic excellence, leadership potential and maturity,
and to reinforce the virtues of leadership, citizenship
and democracy using Washington, D.C. as their classroom.
Oliveria resident Thomas Hickey, whose son Ryan is one
of the nominees, is heading up a fundraising campaign
to secure the $8000 needed to send all four students to
the 6-day conference.
With an August 9th registration deadline looming on the
horizon, Hickey said that about three quarters of the
total funding has been accumulated through family contributions
and from private doners and also from local organizations
like the local American Legion. The Shandaken Chamber
of Commerce is helping with the fundraising as well.
“The key goal of the Junior National Youth Leaders
Conference is to introduce Junior Scholars to the important
concepts of leadership: character, communication, goal
setting, respect, problem solving and teamwork,”
Hickey said Tuesday. “Scholars will examine leadership
in an historical context, focus on applying critical leadership
skills in their own lives and explore ways to make a difference
when they return to their school and community.”
The other students nomintated are Peter Vesley and Edith
Lerner, both from Phoenicia, and Shokan resident Justin
“This will be a powerful experience for everyone
involved, enabling the students to interact with our nations
leaders and to visit national landmarks,” Hickey
added. “Imagine if you had been given an opportunity
such as this and could not attend due to a lack of funds.”
Anyone who wishes to donate, or has any question regarding
the conference, can contact the Junior National Young
Leaders Conference at 703-584-9533, or contact Hickey
at 845-688-1090 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Catskill Heritage Alliance has awarded scholarships
to four graduates Margaretville, Onteora, Roxbury, and
Andes Central Schools asked to write no more than 750
words on the subject “My Catskill Heritage.”
A five-person jury assessed the entries and selected one
winner from each school: Eun Lee of Margaretville for
a poem, Rosie Winn of Onteora for a memoir-essay, Kelli
Huggins of Roxbury for a memoir-essay, and Josh Weaver,
Andes, for a memoir-essay. Each winner received $100 and
a book published by a local publishing house — Purple
Mountain Press in Fleischmanns, Overlook Press of Woodstock,
and Black Dome Press of Hensonville — that, in the
judges’ determination, was appropriate to the writer’s
winning entry. The prizes were awarded at each winner’s
“It was difficult to select just one winner per
school from these wonderful submissions,” said Susanna
Margolis, chairman of the jury. “And it was downright
inspiring to see how important their Catskill heritage
is to these young writers.”
The membership of the Catskill Heritage Alliance has also
unanimously elected Richard Schaedle as its new chairman
at the group’s annual meeting July 16 in Big Indian.
John Carney had earlier been confirmed as co-chairman
of the organization, filling out the unexpired term of
Michele Wooton, who remains on the Executive Committee.
Schaedle succeeds Margolis, who served as Chairman for
the past two years.
“During the two years that Susanna Margolis has
been Chairman, the CHA has widened its presence in the
community and grown its membership. I’m honored
to be chosen Chairman and look forward to continuing our
mission,” said Richard Schaedle.
A resident of Pine Hill, Schaedle’s ties to the
region go back two generations to his father’s day,
when the family began summering in Pine Hill. The new
CHA Chairman was baptized in what was then the Pine Hill
Presbyterian Church and spent summers and vacation time
in the hamlet as a boy. After graduating from Dartmouth
with a degree in economics, Schaedle obtained an MBA from
New York University and began his career on Wall Street.
He retired in 1996, at which time he and his wife, Bonnie
Panzig Schaedle, became year-round residents of Pine Hill.
The Schaedles have two grown sons.
Schaedle has been an active participant in community affairs.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of Margaretville
Memorial Hospital / Mountainside Resident Care Center
and the Board of Trustees of Kingston Hospital. Richard
has also been instrumental in the move by the Town of
Shandaken to acquire the Pine Hill Water Company to ensure
the water supply, and has been a member of CHA since its
After years of visiting Ulster and Delaware counties and
falling in love with the Catskills, in 1992 newly appointed
co-chairman John Carney and his wife, Julie McQuain, settled
in Hardenburgh where Carney currently serves on the Board
of Assessment Review. A native of suburban Chicago, Carney
holds a BA in theater arts from Southern Illinois University.
He moved to New York in 1980 to pursue an acting career
and also toured nationally as a stand-up comic. Carney
has been active in several unions and remains a member
of the Screen Actors’ Guild and AFTRA. John is a
gardener, hiker, volunteer shelter dog-walker, and is
Vice President of JMPR Associates Inc., a media relations
firm specializing in news from science, medicine and the
arts. The Carneys have one son.
The Catskill Heritage Alliance is a volunteer, non-profit
501(c) 3 organization with a membership of more than 500
dedicated to preserving the harmony between the villages
of the central Catskills and the surrounding wilderness
through community revitalization and open space conservation.
CHA is a member of the Catskill Preservation Coalition.
Ulster County lawmakers have fired the special legal counsel
they had who represented them in disputes with contractors
who worked at the new Law Enforcement Center. With Mark
Sweeney gone and the Keane and Beane law firm of Westchester
hired, attorney Edward Beane briefed the special oversight
committee last week, with Committee Chairman Richard Parete
saying this new firm should work out better for the county.
“They actually worked with Orange County with their
jail and some of the problems that arose from there,”
he said. Two attorneys from the new firm met with Ulster
lawmakers. “They want to get this resolved and get
everything behind us as quickly and as economically as
The Sheriff’s Office administration has already
moved into the new law enforcement center with the jail
expected to be certified for occupancy later this year.
Contractors are finishing up with their punch lists of
items that need to be corrected.
Gas and electric bills, already up due to increased summer
consumption and rising supply costs, are set to rise again
due to new delivery rates that Central Hudson is planning
to charge to bring service to homes and businesses across
Fortunately, much of the Route 28 corridor is NYSEG territory…
but such changes tend to have ramifications.
The state Public Service Commission has approved CH’s
proposal to raise its overall electric and natural gas
delivery rates by 11 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.
For residential customers alone, the increases work out
to 15.7 percent for electric service and 11.9 percent
for gas over three years.
In a press release Central Hudson’s senior vice
president of regulatory affairs, lauded Arthur Upright,
praised the decision as one that “balances important
initiatives that meet the region’s growing energy
needs while ensuring that our customers continue to pay
amongst the lowest delivery prices in the Northeast.”
The new rates, which took effect Aug. 1, are expected
to raise the utility’s electric revenues by 42 percent,
or $72.1 million, and natural gas revenues by 53 percent,
or $22.2 million, over three years. The typical residential
electric customer who consumes about 500 kilowatt hours
of electricity per month will see electric bills increase
by about 5.4 percent in the first year, 5 percent in the
second year and 4.6 percent in the third.
The approved increases are only for the costs Central
Hudson incurs in delivering the commodities. The actual
cost of electricity and natural gas, which appear as a
separate item on customers’ utility bills, are not
subject to regulation.
State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, said the commission
“failed to live up to its mission” of protecting
the rights of the public with regard to utilities. He
called the utility’s proposal “ill-timed and
Bill Decker, 2005 traphsooting champion of the Phoenicia
Rod and Gun Club posted a "perfect century"
score at the shooting c lub Sunday afternoon July 23.
The "100 Straight" score was the first perfect
score in the club's trapshooting history. Bill Decker
had shot a number of 99's but finally attained the elusive
one hundred straight for which he received a patch emblem
from the trapshooting chairman Paul Cutrone.
The nationwide market for luxury condominiums appears
to have tanked, with tens of billions in new construction
projects cancelled and apartment-to-condo conversions
down from $4 billion last September to just $334 million
in May. Almost everywhere in the country, developers are
cancelling or delaying projects as high-end home sales
decelerate, lenders back out of funding projects that
may not sell, and construction costs rise. Builder confidence,
as tracked by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells
Fargo Housing Market index, has fallen to its lowest level
in over 11 years.
Partly to blame is a surplus of high-end condo properties
both available and under construction nationwide, but
especially in major sunbelt markets like Miami, Las Vegas,
and San Diego. Also at risk for major price declines say
many in the industry are Manhattan, Boston, and Washington
DC. Apart from the glut of available units, the underlying
problem however, seems to be that too few people can afford
the $1 million dollar-plus residences developers and investors
have been speculating on.
Governor George Pataki said Thursday that he was “extremely
disappointed” in the US EPA’s decision to
allow a one-year delay in the start of dredging of the
Hudson River of PCBs. Congressman John Sweeney of Clifton
Park said he was not surprised by the announcement.
EPA spokesman Leo Rosales said the agency has independently
verified the accuracy of the projected construction schedule
provided by GE. “The change of schedule was due
to a recent design report by General Electric in which
they projected the project to start in 2008 and after
careful review of their design documents and our own evaluation
of the reasons why we have decided to agree with the report
and look into those.
“Each time the cleanup timetable is pushed back,
people lose confidence that this important project will
ever happen,” said Pataki. “I urge the EPA
to refocus and redouble its efforts to get this important
project underway as soon as possible.”
Sweeney, meanwhile, said he has concerns regarding to
magnitude of the project. “Once the decision to
dredge was final, I have fought vigorously to ensure it
was realistic in its approach and considered carefully
the impacts to the Upper Hudson communities that will
be severely affected by this effort,” he said. “This
process requires a concerted commitment on the part of
both the EPA and GE to address these issues quickly and
limit the length of this project so the residents can
put this issue behind them.”
The Evers Award
At its annual meeting in Arkville this Saturday, July
29, the Catskill Center present Michael DeWan and the
Woodstock Land Conservancy with its 2006 Alf Evers Award
for Excellence, initiated in the late historian’s
spirit to annually recognize individuals or organizations
who have made outstanding contributions in community development,
education, arts and culture or natural resource protection
in the Catskills.
“For centuries, people, with both insight and foresight,
have made significant contributions to our past, present
and future that should not go unnoticed. Alf Evers was
one of those people,” said CCCD Executive Director
Tom Alworth. “We are extremely proud to present
this year’s award to Michael DeWan and the Woodstock
Land Conservancy for their excellent work protecting the
landscape that Alf Evers so cherished.”
“Just as The Catskills - the single best history
of our region and Alf’s best work - begins and ends
on the summit of Overlook, so has the Woodstock Land Conservancy’s
work been focused on Overlook, preserving both its upper
reaches and those of its sister Mount Guardian, as well
as fabulous mountain vistas from below, such as the Zena
Cornfield,” DeWan said, speaking of the many successes
the small organization started in 1988 with the Zena campaign,
“To date, our ‘Save Overlook’ campaign
- launched in 2004 with the help of The Open Space Institute
- has saved over 400 acres of the most fragile and threatened
land at the highest elevation, and we are looking to increase
that soon by another 250 acres.”
Evers passed away just shy of his 100th birthday in 2005.
He was the author of major histories of The Catskills,
Woodstock and the City of Kingston, as well as numerous
essays and children’s books.
In addition to presenting the award, The Catskill Center’s
Annual Membership Meeting featured keynote speaker Barbara
“Charlie” Murphy, Director of Local Government
at the New York State Department of State. In keeping
with The Catskill Center’s mission of balancing
environmental conservation and sustainable community development,
Murphy spoke about smart growth and the “quality
communities” movement in New York State.
For more information, call (845) 586-2611 or visit www.catskillcenter.org.
US House Resolution 5319, the Deleting Online Predators
Act (DOPA), was passed by a 410 to 15 vote of the House
of Representatives last week. If the Resolution becomes
law social networking sites and chat rooms must be blocked
by schools and libraries or those institutions will lose
their federal internet subsidies. According to the resolution’s
top line summary it will “amend the Communications
Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service
support for schools and libraries to protect minors from
commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.”
Adults will be able to ask for the library’s permission
to use such sites. The Resolution will now go to the US
Senate for a vote before being offered to the President
for signature into law.
The rhetoric from advocates was all about MySpace. For
example, Texas Republican Ted Poe says, “social
networking sites such as MySpace and chat rooms have allowed
sexual predators to sneak into homes and solicit kids.”
An incredibly vague law, DOPA will require schools and
libraries to block access to a potentially huge range
of sites on the internet. The goal is to protect children
from adult predators. Sites that must be blocked include
those that allow people to post profiles, include personal
information and allow “communication among users.”
The Ulster County Development Corporation (UCDC) and the
Chamber of Commerce of Ulster County (Chamber) are seeking
nominations for their 2nd Annual Business Recognition
Awards. The awards recognize Ulster County entrepreneurs
and businesses that are leaders in their field, have realized
outstanding achievements over the past year, or have shown
dedication and commitment to furthering business in Ulster
County. Awards will be given in the following categories:
Entrepreneur or Businessperson of the Year, Business of
the Year, Small Business of the Year, Cultural Business
of the Year, Building Project of the Year, and Tourism
or Hospitality Business of the Year
The application period is now through August 18, 2006.
Nomination forms must be submitted to the office of UCDC
at 5 Development Court, Kingston, New York, no later than
5:00 P.M. on August 18th.
A committee of UCDC and Chamber representatives will evaluate
nominations. Winners will be recognized at a dinner held
on October 19, 2006 at the Wiltwyck Golf Club in Kingston,
New York. Additional information about the awards and
the nomination forms are available by contacting Irene
MacPherson at UCDC at 845-338-8840 or email@example.com.
A film shot in several locations throughout the region
last year is now ready to hit Theaters, and there’s
already a buzz around that it’s going to be a good
In the spring of 2005 film crews were on location along
with film superstar Robin Williams shooting scenes for
“The Night Listener.” Roger Ebert reviewed
the film when it was at the 2006 Sundance Festival in
January and while “The Night Listener” failed
to win any awards at the prestigious event, Ebert was
impressed with the film.
“The big evening hit at the Eccles was Patrick Stettner’s
“The Night Listener,” an eerie, Hitchcockian
thriller starring Robin Williams as a gay late-night disk
jockey whose publisher friend (Joe Morton) asks him to
read a manuscript about a young boy (Rory Culkin) tortured
by his parents and now dying of AIDS under the care of
a foster mother in Wisconsin (Toni Collette),” Ebert
wrote shortly after seeing the film. “The Williams’
character is depressed by the breakup of a long-term love
affair, and gets involved by telephone in the life and
death story of the boy. But the more he finds out, the
more questions are raised, until the movie takes turns
that no one in the audience can anticipate. The screenplay
is by Armistead Maupin and Terry Anderson, based on Maupin’s
novel, and is scary, fascinating, and elusive. Williams
pursues versions of reality in a series of events that
“This is a movie that ends more than once, in more
than one way,” he added.
Francesca Dinglasan of Boxoffice magazine said “The
film derives its force from director Patrick Stettner’s
touch at sustaining a dark and foreboding mood that permeates
from the moment Gabriel’s skepticism is raised to
the conclusion of his investigations.”
Although the story takes place in rural Wisconson, it
was the Catskills that played the role, standing in for
Wisconson were locations like the Reservoir Deli in Olive
and the Phoenicia Diner, where during shooting Williams
took time out to chat with a local reporter in the parking
“Look out, that van behind you is backing up,”
Other locations were in Greene County and other parts
of Ulster County.
Also at Sundance was “Stephanie Daley,” a
film shot in the Phoenicia area last summer. The film,
which stars Tilda Swinton of “Narnia” fame
and Timothy Hutton, has no release date.
“The Night Listener,” rated R, enters theaters
in wide release on August 4th.
For photographers entering the Shandaken Eagle Day Photo
Contest, please be alerted that all entry photos must
be dropped off with the Shandaken Town Clerk at Town Hall
by Friday August 18th between the hours of 9am and 3 pm,
Scientists worldwide are watching temperatures rise, the
land turn dry and vast forests go up in flames. In the
Siberian taiga and Canadian Rockies, in southern California
and Australia, researchers find growing evidence tying
an upsurge in wildfires to climate change, an impact long
predicted by global-warming forecasters.
A team at California’s Scripps Institution, in a
headline-making report last month, found that warmer temperatures,
causing earlier snow runoff and consequently drier summer
conditions, were the key factor in an explosion of big
wildfires in the U.S. West over three decades, including
fires now rampaging east of Los Angeles.
Researchers previously reached similar conclusions in
Canada, where fire is destroying an average 6.4 million
acres a year, compared with 2.5 million in the early 1970s.
And an upcoming U.S.-Russian-Canadian scientific paper
points to links between warming and wildfires in Siberia,
where 2006 already qualifies as an extreme fire season,
sixth in the past eight years. Far to the south in drought-stricken
Australia, meanwhile, 2005 was the hottest year on record,
and the dangerous bushfire season is growing longer.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an authoritative
U.N.-sponsored network of scientists, has long predicted
that summer drying and droughts would worsen forest fires,
which in many regions are primarily set by humans. Global
temperatures rose an average 1 degree Fahrenheit in the
20th century, and warming will continue as long as manmade
“greenhouse gases,” mostly carbon dioxide
from fossil-fuel burning, accumulate in the atmosphere,
the panel says.
The Scripps study, in the journal Science, was unique
in collating detailed data from 34 years of U.S. western
wildfires with temperature, snowmelt and streamflow records.
A nonhuman cause, meanwhile, may also be on the rise.
Warming in high northern latitudes is expected to generate
more lightning, igniting more forest fires, notes the
Wanted: Face time with President Bush or top adviser Karl
Rove. Suggested donation: $100,000. The middleman: lobbyist
Jack Abramoff. Blunt e-mails that connect money and access
in Washington have shows that prominent Republican activist
Grover Norquist facilitated some administration contacts
for Abramoff’s clients while the lobbyist simultaneously
solicited those clients for large donations to Norquist’s
tax-exempt group. And those who were solicited or landed
administration introductions included foreign figures
and American Indian tribes, according to e-mails gathered
by Senate investigators and federal prosecutors or obtained
independently by The Associated Press.
“Can the tribes contribute $100,000 for the effort
to bring state legislatures and those tribal leaders who
have passed Bush resolutions to Washington?” Norquist
wrote Abramoff in one such e-mail in July 2002. “When
I have funding, I will ask Karl Rove for a date with the
president. Karl has already said ‘yes’ in
principle and knows you organized this last time and hope
to this year.”
A Senate committee that investigated Abramoff previously
aired evidence showing Bush met briefly in 2001 at the
White House with some of Abramoff’s tribal clients
after they donated money to Norquist’s group.
Norquist and Abramoff were longtime associates who went
back decades to their days in the Young Republicans movement.
Norquist founded ATR to advocate lower taxes and less
government. He built it into a major force in the Republican
Party as the GOP seized control of Congress and the White
Lawyers for Abramoff declined comment and the White House
has said Rove was unaware that Norquist solicited any
money in connection with ATR events in both 2001 and 2002
that brought Abramoff’s tribal clients and others
to the White House.
“We do not solicit donations in exchange for meetings
or events at the White House, and we don’t have
any knowledge of this activity taking place,” said
a White House spokeswoman, Erin Healy.
The war in Iraq has cost almost $300 billion so far and
would total almost a half-trillion dollars even if all
U.S. troops were withdrawn by the end of 2009, according
to a Congressional Budget Office analysis released late
last month. Congress has approved $432 billion for military
operations and other costs related to the war against
terror since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The
new CBO study is the first analysis by Congress’
scorekeeping agency of how much of that has been allocated
for the Iraq war.
Since 2003, the tally of appropriations for Iraq is $291
billion, CBO said. That includes $45 billion from a $94.5
billion hurricane relief and war funding measure passed
The nonpartisan CBO analysis comes after congressional
debate over whether to set goals or timetables for U.S.
troops to withdraw from Iraq. Congress declined to set
a timetable, but the Pentagon hopes to start drawing down
forces by the end of the year. Meanwhile, troop amounts
went up and new spent funds have been in several departments
in the administration.
The CBO study estimated future appropriations… The
more optimistic scenario would maintain 2007 troop levels
in Iraq at 140,000, but quickly dropping thereafter with
almost all troops out by the end of 2009. Under it, the
Iraq war would cost $184 billion more over the 2007-2010
budget years. Under a more pessimistic scenario, with
a slower drawdown of troops and a continued U.S. presence
of 40,000 over the long term, the Iraq war would cost
$406 billion over the next decade, CBO said.
Regardless of future costs, operations in Iraq have far
exceeded early estimates. Former White House economic
adviser Lawrence Lindsey initially predict the war could
cost $100 billion to $200 billion. Other administration
officials dismissed the figure as too high and Lindsey
A recent competing analysis by the Congressional Research
Service puts the tally for Iraq at $319 billion with the
war in Afghanistan costing another $88 billion. The lower
CBO estimate only includes appropriations passed since
the war in Iraq began.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of
Commissioners Thursday authorized the investment of at
least $1 billion and as much as $2 billion toward construction
of the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel project.
The project would create an additional passenger rail
tunnel connecting New York City to New Jersey and to Rockland
and Orange counties in New York, and includes the expansion
of New York’s Penn Station beneath 34th Street in
Manhattan. With a direct rail connection, commuters will
be able make the trip from the Hudson Valley in 47 minutes
rather than today’s average trip of about 60, and
they will not have to leave their seats and transfer trains.
“This tunnel will help grow New York’s economy
for decades to come, and it will create a faster, one-seat
ride to Midtown for tens of thousands of New Yorkers in
Rockland and Orange counties,” said Senator Charles
Schumer. “As the Hudson Valley grows, we need to
keep it moving. We can give commuters back 25 minutes
a day by providing a one-seat ride between the Hudson
Valley and mid-town Manhattan. It will not only improve
traffic flow, but will expand commuting options, reduce
air pollution and improve overall quality of life.”
Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved
New Jersey Transit’s application to move ahead on
plans to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River, which
would create a one-seat train ride from the Hudson Valley
and Northern New Jersey directly in to Midtown Manhattan.
The approval allows the project to move ahead to the preliminary
engineering phase, a key step toward achieving federal
Schumer said that the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel Project
will give commuters in the Hudson Valley a faster trip-time,
a one-seat ride, and real congestion relief in anticipation
of ridership demands over the next 20 years. The improved
travel time and convenience is expected to attract substantial
numbers of new Hudson Valley commuters to rail, with daily
trips tripling from close to 8,000 now to over 24,000
All calls for renewed rail travel on the West bank of
the Hudson relies on such news… Stay tuned!
The Ulster County legislature is considering getting rid
of Ulster Rx’s enrollment fee to help boost membership
in the countywide discount drug program. The move would
involve the dropping of Liberty Care Rx, the company that
is currently administering the plan, and adopt a free
program now being offered through the National Association
Liberty Care Rx discontinued live customer support services
with the county in May 2005 due to low enrollment. The
live line was replaced with a toll-free number that features
a recording referring customers to the company’s
Web site or to a long-distance number.
Legislators believe the lack of human contact in the enrollment
process is proving daunting to those who might be signing
up for the benefit. People will now look to Dutchess County’s
practice of supplying National Association of Counties
discount cards directly at participating pharmacies.
The U.S. is poorly prepared for a major disruption of
the Internet, according to a study by the Business Roundtable,
which is composed of the CEOs of 160 large U.S. companies.
They say neither the government nor the private sector
has a coordinated plan to respond to an attack, natural
disaster or other disruption of the Internet. While individual
government agencies and companies have their own emergency
plans in place, little coordination exists between the
groups, according to the study.
The study points out that a massive Web disruption could
potentially paralyze banks, transportation systems, health-care
providers and voice calling over the Internet. The chief
problem: There are so many public and private institutions
that handle security-related tasks that their responsibilities
often overlap, creating inefficiencies that can bog down
an emergency response, according to the study.
Security officials at some banks and other companies have
established groups to swap data about Internet threats.
Companies that make the technology behind the Internet
itself have an informal group of their own to discuss
security issues. Meanwhile, a government body called the
National Cyber Response Coordination Group is meant to
manage a response to Internet emergencies.
Yet those groups’ roles are often unclear, and no
system is in place to coordinate their efforts, the study
says. It cited “serious problems stemming from the
lack of consolidation, including the fact that these organizations
are not accountable for their actions.”
The group said the public and private sectors should develop
a closer relationship in preparing for an Internet disruption.
It also suggested that the government fund a panel of
experts who could assist in developing plans for restoring
Internet services in the event of a massive disruption
The government should invest in developing a good early-warning
system for Internet emergencies — the cyber equivalent
of the warnings provided ahead of a hurricane or other
natural disaster, the Roundtable said. The private sector
should also decide on one process for sharing information
with each other and the government during an Internet
emergency, the group added.
The U.S. Army will discontinue its multi-billion dollar
contract with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide
logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide. The company,
formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has drawn
scrutiny for its work in Iraq from auditors, congressional
Democrats and the Justice Department, which is investigating
potential overcharges for fuel, dining and laundry services.
Texas-based Halliburton is the world’s second-largest
oil services company and the U.S. military’s biggest
contractor in Iraq. The logistical support is performed
by Halliburton engineering and construction unit Kellogg
Brown & Root. Last year, the Army paid the company
more than $7 billion under the contract, the Post said.
Army officials defended the company’s performance
but said Pentagon leaders decided multiple contractors
would give them better prices, more accountability and
greater protection if a one contractor fails to perform.
Halliburton maintains that its billing disputes with Defense
Department auditors have been resolved and that its work
has received rave reviews from the military.
The Pentagon’s decision on Halliburton comes as
the U.S. contribution to Iraq’s reconstruction begins
to wane, reducing opportunities for U.S. companies after
nearly four years of massive payouts to the private sector.
They now plan to split the Iraq work among three companies
to be chosen this fall and Halliburton would be eligible
to make a bid. A fourth firm would be hired to help monitor
the performance of the three contractors selected.
A Bush Administration appointee to the federal Interior
Department was awarded his own buffalo to hunt on a billionaire’s
Texas ranch a month before his office designated Houston
as a port for exotic wildlife, a move that greatly benefited
the ranch owner.
The involvement of the official, David P. Smith, “was
inappropriate and violated the appearance standard,”
the department’s inspector general said in a recent
report. Smith resigned after its release to begin working
at a new law firm.
Smith was deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife
and parks when he shot and killed the buffalo at a 5,000-acre
ranch owned by Texas billionaire Dan Duncan in late 2004.
He said the aging buffalo he shot had torn up some ranch
equipment, rammed vehicles and terrified ranch hands and
that he was driven in a pickup to within 100 yards of
the animal - the official symbol of the Interior Department
- and shot it between the eyes with a .30-caliber bolt-action
One month later, the department then designated Houston,
Memphis, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky., as official ports
for bringing exotic wildlife animals and trophies into
the United States… a provision for big-time hunters
who bring such animals to their private preserves for
Duncan, an energy entrepreneur with ties to Enron, has
hunted around the globe, seeking ever more exotic animal
species. He is a major contributor to Safari Club International,
a group that seeks to protect the freedom to hunt.
Fourteen European nations colluded with U.S. intelligence
in a “spider’s web” of secret flights
and detention centers that violated international human
rights law, the head of an investigation into alleged
CIA clandestine prisons reports, noting that the nations
aided the movement of 17 detainees who said they had been
abducted by U.S. agents and secretly transferred to detention
centers around the world. Some said they were transferred
to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and
others to alleged secret facilities in countries including
Poland, Romania, Egypt and Jordan. Some said they were
mistreated or tortured. The investigation relied mostly
on flight logs provided by the European Union’s
air traffic agency, Eurocontrol, witness statements gathered
from people who said they had been abducted by U.S. intelligence
agents and judicial and parliamentary inquiries in various
It was concluded that several countries let the CIA abduct
their residents, while others allowed the agency to use
their airspace or turned a blind eye to questionable foreign
intelligence activities on their territory. 14 European
countries — Britain, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Bosnia,
Macedonia, Turkey, Spain, Cyprus, Ireland, Greece, Portugal,
Romania and Poland – were listed as being complicit
in “unlawful inter-state transfers” of people.
Some, including Sweden and Bosnia, already have admitted
A parallel investigation by the European Parliament has
said data show there have been more than 1,000 clandestine
CIA flights stopping on European territory since the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks. Officials said it was not clear if
or how many detainees were on board, and have not shed
any light on allegations of CIA secret prisons. Clandestine
prisons and secret flights via or from Europe to countries
where suspects could face torture would breach the continent’s
human rights treaties, including the European Convention
on Human Rights.
Growing scientific evidence suggests the most widespread
industrial contaminant in drinking water — a solvent
used in adhesives, paint and spot removers — can
cause cancer in people. The National Academy of Sciences
report notes that a lot more is known about the cancer
risks and other health hazards from exposure to trichloroethylene
than there was five years ago when the Environmental Protection
Agency took steps to regulate it more strictly. TCE, which
is also widely used to remove grease from metal parts
in airplanes and to clean fuel lines at missile sites,
is known to cause cancer in some laboratory animals. EPA
was blocked from elevating its assessment of the chemical’s
risks in people by the Defense Department, Energy Department
and NASA, all of which have sites polluted with it.
TCE is a colorless liquid that evaporates at room temperatures
and has a somewhat sweet odor and taste. It is one of
the most common pollutants found in the air, soil and
water at U.S. military bases. Until the mid-1970s, it
also was used as a surgical anesthetic. It also has been
found at about 60 percent of the nation’s worst
contaminated sites in the Superfund cleanup program, the
Its 379-page report recommends that EPA revise its assessment
of TCE’s risks using “currently available
data” so no more time is wasted. Rep. Maurice Hinchey
said the report should prompt the government to move faster
in cleaning up TCE contamination like that found in his
home state and nationally.
“It is no longer acceptable for the government and
local polluters to claim that health risks associated
with TCE are simply scientific theory when we know that
they are compelling scientific fact,” said Hinchey,
who is on the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees
A committee of academy experts said “a large body
of epidemiologic data is available” on TCE showing
the chemical is a possible cause of kidney cancer, reproductive
and developmental damage, impaired neurological function