There’s a comprehensive plan for Shandaken.... or at least
that’s the word from comp plan committee chair Chuck Perez,
who said this week that the authors of the draft would come
to town on January 17th at 7pm to present it.
Since October staffers from the Stantec Corporation, hired by
the town to take all the previous efforts at a plan and forge
them into one clear draft, have come to town twice to meet with
the public. They appear to be right on schedule for having the
job done in March.
The third visit on the 17th will be to walk those interested
through the elements of the plan, and accept input about any
The Ulster County Development Corp. has approved a total $50,000
for application to new recommendations from the county’s
Special Commission on the Economic Future of Ulster County,
which calls for a countywide vision on economic development,
a strategic plan for the future, support for small businesses
and entrepreneurs, and the backing of shovel-ready site initiatives.
But exact uses for the $50,000 investment are still vague, including
only the promise of “education for public officials and
the general public” on ways to better attract new businesses
and community revitalization projects and the need for “more
supportive political leadership” in regards to development
“My belief is this really can be the first step toward
... helping us develop a 20-, 30-, 40-year plan for Ulster County,”
said Bob Ryan Jr., president of Ryan Insurance, recently elected
first vice chairman of the Ulster County Development Corp.’s
board of directors for 2005. “The growth is coming, and
we need to manage it properly.”
At an afternoon meeting that lasted scarcely a half an hour,
the Shandaken town board shuffled thousands of dollars around
within the 2004 budget to pay the bills just before the New
Most notable was the to transfer $10,780 to the Police Department.
“There was no provision for buy back time,” explained
Supervisor Robert Cross Jr..
According to Cross, the town is obligated to pay officers for
any unused sick or vacation time. He said there were other police
department expenses covered by the transfer, but the buy back
costs were “the majority of it.”
Councilwoman Jane Todd added that the officers ended up not
taking much vacation and sick time because they were needed
to work shifts when there were no part time officers available.
Cross said after the meeting that the 2005 budget includes funds
for buy back time, so this won’t happen next year. In
2004 the department had a budget of $202,673. In 2005 the police
budget will be $236,856
Another fiscal bonus is recent word that the State will not
usurp $35,000 of town revenue from Justice Court fines. Cross
said that when the 2005 was prepared in the fall the town could
not include the $35,000, as revenue because the State announced
it would take it for State coffers.
“This more than offsets the cost of the new officer and
everything else,” Cross said.
Last month the town board Republican majority decided to hire
a forth full time officer despite protests from the board Democrats,
who claim the hiring was ill advised.
The board also voted to spend an extra $13,810 on gasoline and
diesel fuel, gave another $4,560 to the Supervisor’s Secretary/Bookkeeper,
and an extra $3,580 for the costs of Elections Personal services.
Iraq faces the prospect of civil war as Prime Minister Iyad
Allawi’s government loses credibility and violence against
U.S. forces increases, according to almost a half dozen former
and serving administration officials. Upcoming January elections
will not improve the deteriorating security situation, these
sources said, all speaking on condition of anonymity because
of the sensitiveness of the topic. Plus a new threat has arisen.
“We are starting to play the ethnic card in Iraq, just
as the Soviets played it in Afghanistan,” said former
CIA chief of Afghanistan operation Milt Bearden. “You
only play it when you’re losing and by playing it, you
simply speed up the process of losing.”
Phoebe Marr, an analyst who closely follows events in Iraq,
told United Press International that “having the U.S.
military unleash different historical enemies on each other
has become an unspoken U.S. policy.” Bearden, Marr and
others also referred to the Pentagon’s tactic of pitting
one group of enemies against another in Iraq as being fraught
According to Marr, Iraq has always been a complicated mosaic
of religious and ethnic groups and tribes. The tilt of the Bush
administration towards Iraq’s Shiites, who compromise
60 percent of the population, upset the balance of power, she
Former Defense Intelligence Agency chief of Middle East operations,
Pat Lang, said the key blunder was the disbanding of Iraq’s
400,000-man army. “At a stroke, we went from a liberator
to an occupier.”
Another problem is the Iraqi middleclass, many of them Sunni,
and almost all of them anti-American, according to Marr. “They
disliked us in the past because the U.N. sanctions made them
suffer. When the war came, they had expectations that were much
too high. Then they became passive and they won’t work
with us, and yet this is the only chance they’re going
to get… The whole Bush administration policy has been
Said former senior CIA Iraqi analyst Judith Yaphe: “Elections
will not solve anything — we are grasping for events that
will enable us to get out of Iraq, but there are no such thing.
Democracy is not an event but a process.”
Across the country, governors and other elected officials often
double as pitchmen: They appear in publicly funded commercials
meant to promote their states, their agencies or a particular
initiative they are spearheading.
But each time their faces show up in such ads, critics - usually
from the opposing political party - question whether these “goodwill”
commercials aren’t also meant to feed their political
ambitions by boosting their name recognition.
In their defense, the politicians claim they are just doing
their jobs because they’re considered the public face
of the state or an agency and, therefore, are the best spokesmen
for an ad campaign.
“It’s a slippery slope between promoting a service
and promoting the brand that is them,” said Martin Kaplan,
who studies political ads at the University of Southern California’s
Annenberg School for Communication.
In New York, Governor George Pataki has been accused of abusing
a $5 million, national ad campaign to sell himself for a future
run for public office. The campaign shows scenes of rebirth
in New York City’s financial district in lower Manhattan,
where the World Trade Center stood before the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks. Pataki speaks about “the heart of commerce, culture
After the ad started running in the country’s largest
media markets and on national cable news networks, Democrats
and other critics charged it was a campaign spot for Pataki.
It was launched a month after the Nov. 2 elections, and around
the time Pataki’s name surfaced as a possible Republican
presidential candidate in 2008.
Evan Tracey, president of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media
Analysis Group, an ad tracking company in Arlington, Va., said
advertising right now makes sense for public officials with
“They have a sort of forum that’s all to themselves,”
he said. “They’re not competing with a lot of political
ads. There’s no downside to getting out there right now.”
That is except, of course, the onslaught of criticism that doing
With little fanfare or advance notice, the Shandaken town board
agreed to accept a revised agreement for the construction of
a wastewater treatment for the hamlet of Phoenicia. The project
location has not yet been disclosed.
According to Councilman Joe Munster, the 104 page amended agreement
amounts to the town agreeing to re route various documents.
Calling the agreement “complicated and confusing,”
Munster said he felt that the amended agreement does not alter
Councilwoman Jane Todd said the amendments were necessary conditions
of a grant for the project.
Phoenicia is next in line to get millions of dollars from the
City of New York to build a sewer plant to service the hamlet.
The funds are a part of the 1997 watershed deal reached between
local authorities and the City, which taps the streams and brooks
in the Catskills for the drinking water of 9 million downstaters.
To keep it clean, the City has been funding treatment plants
in places like Andes, Hunter, and soon Fleischmanns and Phoenicia
to get rid of potentially polluting septics and cesspools that
line the backyards in these locales. The cost for each plant
is several million dollars. Phoenicia is slated to spend about
But what will be built, and where, remain closely guarded secrets
of the committee assembled to put the deal together. The Committee
has settled on a location, but there are differing accounts
of where in the purchasing process the town is, and so far no
one will say where that site is. However, the committee has
made a request for proposals from engineering firms to build
the system on the site, and they have reportedly received some
proposals back for review.
The “amended Identified Community Agreement” provides
for detailed design and contemplated construction of the plant
and a collection system to get the waste to it, as outlined
by the project engineer during the project study period.
According to a resolution passed this week by the Shandaken
town board, the town has already conducted an environmental
review of the project and has satisfied the environmental review
responsibilities under state law.
The Justice Department has released a rewritten legal memo on
what constitutes torture, backing away from its own assertions
prior to the Iraqi prison abuse scandal that torture had to
involve “excruciating and agonizing pain.” The new
17-page memo omitted two of the most controversial assertions
made in now-disavowed 2002 Justice Department documents: that
President Bush, as commander in chief in wartime, had authority
superseding U.S. anti-torture laws and that U.S. personnel had
several legal defenses against criminal liability in such cases.
The new document said torture violates U.S. and international
Critics in Congress and many legal experts say the original
documents set up a legal framework that led to abuses at the
Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at the U.S. prison
camp for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After the
Iraqi prison abuses came to light, the Justice Department in
June disavowed its previous legal reasoning and set to work
on the replacement document.
The Justice Department memo was released less than a week before
the Senate Judiciary Committee was to consider Bush’s
nomination of his chief White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales,
to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general. Democrats have
said they would question Gonzales closely on memos he wrote
that were similar to the now-disavowed Justice Department documents
that critics said appeared to justify torture.
The release also coincided with continuing revelations of possible
detainee abuse, most recently a series of memos from FBI agents
uncovered in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit alleging
instances of Defense Department wrongdoing during a variety
The Pentagon, Justice Department and CIA have opened numerous
investigations into allegations of prisoner abuse and some detainee
deaths stemming from the war on terror and in Iraq. Several
U.S. soldiers have also been subjected to court-martial proceedings
for their roles in the alleged abuse, some of which was documented
in photographs from Abu Ghraib circulated worldwide earlier
A British medical journal has confessed that it gave U.S. regulators
confidential drug company documents that suggest a link between
the popular anti-depressant Prozac and a heightened risk of
suicide attempts and violence.
The British Medical Journal reported in its Jan. 1 issue that
documents it received from an anonymous source indicated that
Prozac’s manufacturer, Eli Lilly & Co., was aware
in the 1980s that the drug could have potentially troubling
side-effects. The journal said the documents, reportedly missing
for a decade, had formed part of a 1994 lawsuit against Eli
Lilly on behalf of victims of a workplace shooting in Louisville,
Kentucky. Joseph Wesbecker, the gunman who killed eight people
and himself in 1989, had been prescribed Prozac a month before
the shootings. Eli Lilly won the case, but later disclosed it
had settled with the plaintiffs during the trial.
The journal said one of the records reported that fluoxetine,
the generic name for Prozac, had caused “behavioral disturbances”
in clinical trials. The journal said it had turned the documents
over to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which had agreed
to review them.
The journal said the office of U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey
also was examining the documents to determine whether Eli Lilly
had withheld data from the public and the FDA.
“This is an alarming study that should have been shared
with the public and the FDA from the get-go, not 16 years later,”
In a statement to the journal, Eli Lilly said Prozac “has
helped to significantly improve millions of lives… It
is one of the most studied drugs in the history of medicine,
and has been prescribed for more than 50 million people worldwide.
The safety and efficacy of Prozac is well studied, well documented
and well established.”
In October, FDA ordered that all antidepressants carry warnings
that they “increase the risk of suicidal thinking and
behavior” in children.
Ulster County has been awarded $600,000 for its Home Ownership
Program. Funding was provided by a Community Development Block
Grant through the Governor’s Office of Small Cities. The
2004 Program Application closely mirrors a recently completed
County home ownership program. It is designed to provide down
payment and closing cost assistance to low and moderate-income
households to enable them to purchase a home. The program also
has educational components that include budgeting and maintenance
skills to insure buyers build the necessary equity and learn
about upkeep on their homes. The $600,000 is expected to leverage
at least an additional $3.6 million in private mortgages and
homeowner equity. Program delivery will be the responsibility
of Rural Ulster Preservation Company (RUPCO), as well as Shandaken
Area Revitalization Project (SHARP). Additional support came
from the Resource Center for Accessible Living. For further
information please contact Dennis Doyle, Planning Director at
Recent court developments have been grim for those who cherish
a free press.
On Dec. 9, a television reporter in Providence, R.I., Jim Taricani,
was sentenced to six months of house arrest for refusing to
reveal who gave him an F.B.I. videotape showing a local official
taking a bribe. Furthermore, a three-judge federal appellate
panel in Washington is considering maintaining a lower court’s
sentences of up to 18 months in prison to Judith Miller of The
New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine for refusing
to disclose their sources in connection with the investigation
that the United States attorney and special prosecutor Patrick
Fitzgerald is leading into the leaking of the name of a covert
C.I.A. officer, Valerie Plame, to the columnist Robert Novak.
Among the strange wrinkles in this case is that Novak, who first
published Plame’s name, seems to be in no jeopardy, while
Mr. Cooper faces jail time stemming from an article he wrote
exposing the administration’s motive of retaliation against
Plame’s husband, ambassador Joseph Wilson, for criticizing
Iraq policy… and Miller never wrote about the case.
The appellate panel has expressed hostility to the notion that
the First Amendment provides any protection for journalists
subpoenaed to reveal their confidential sources to a grand jury.
Cooper and Miller have written about the Bush administration’s
use of questionable legal means to silence its critics.
After almost two years of renovations, Husband and wife Restaurateurs
Devon and Marybeth Mills are ready to open the doors of the
Peekamoose Restaurant in Big Indian. The couple have worked
feverishly to restore the landmark structure that was once the
famous Rudi’s Big Indian Country kitchen and more recently,
the eatery known as Jake Moon’s.
Originally a farmhouse at the turn of the century, this property
was most widely known as Rudi’s Big Indian Country Kitchen,
a part of the Ashram community and a favorite place among locals
and visitors alike. Rudi’s was home to not only a restaurant,
but also a greenhouse, bakery, bar, antique shop, as well as,
a location for special events. It has enjoyed a rich history
of success for more than 25 years.
Marybeth quickly discovered that many folks have fond memories
of dining at Rudi’s, even to the point that they hope
the Mill’s mimic the menu.
“We are competing with a very strong memory of Rudi’s,
but we’re not trying to reproduce what that was…we’re
not going to be Rudi’s Two,” she said.
They will pay homage to Rudi’s though. They possess the
recipe for Rudi’s famous Coffee Toffee Pie, and plan to
include it in the menu soon.
But with Devon being a Chef, and both finally fulfilling lifelong
dreams of having their own place, the Peekamoose menu promises
to be all their own.
A glance at the menu, which will change seasonally, boasts specialties
like orrechiette with roasted garlic and broccolini, roasted
cod with brandade & chive gremolata, rabbit loin with calamata
olives & soppresatta with a baby carrot souffle and pan
seared skate, savoy cabbage and mustard. The menu includes lunch
as well, although the Peekamoose will start out as a place that’s
strictly for dinner.
And don’t look for any muti colored banners flapping away
in bright spotlights. The Mills don’t believe in holding
some huge event to celebrate the opening. Their approach, Marybeth
said, will be a soft opening where people can come and receive
the quality of food and service they will always get at Peekamoose.
A big grand opening with people waiting out in the cold for
a chance to get served is not the atmosphere they want.
“We’re not flash over substance people,” she
For more information call 845-254-6500.
Rhode Island has become the first state in the nation to approve
regulations that allow its residents to import cheaper prescription
drugs from Canada. The state Health Department’s new regulations
will take effect in mid-January, permitting residents to import
through the mail or by private shipper prescription medications
The Health Department was forced to amend the rules after the
Legislature passed a law this summer allowing the licensing
of Canadian pharmacies.
Rhode Island’s new law conflicts with the federal ban
on drug importation, but it is unclear whether the Food and
Drug Administration will take action against the state. The
FDA says it cannot guarantee the safety of medicines sold through
foreign pharmacies, but has not stopped states from setting
up Internet sites to help consumers buy drugs through Canadian
pharmacies and it has not gone after cities and towns, including
Boston and Springfield, Mass., that have been purchasing drugs
from Canada for their employees and retirees.
Prescriptions drugs are often cheaper in Canada and other countries
because of government price controls. Congress has considered
legalizing the import of prescription drugs but has met strong
opposition from the administration and the pharmaceutical industry.
Opponents, including representatives of the pharmaceutical industry,
maintain that the new law will lead to unsafe drugs, job losses
and a breakdown in patients’ relationships with their
The obesity epidemic is reaching down to the sandbox: More than
10 percent of U.S. children ages 2 to 5 are overweight, the
American Heart Association has reported, up from 7 percent in
The prevalence of obesity among adults is well-known, with an
increase of 75 percent since 1991. So is the problem with school-age
children, reaffirmed by new statistics showing that nearly 4
million children ages 6 to 11 and 5.3 million young people ages
12 to 19 were overweight or obese in 2002.
But the findings among preschoolers are a strong indication
that kids’ weight problems are beginning even earlier.
Experts blame the prevalence of junk food marketed to children,
too much TV, and the decline in the number of families who sit
down together to eat.
Dr. Sarah Blumenschein, an assistant professor of pediatric
cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
at Dallas, said doctors and parents need to watch the weight
of even very young children.
“We have a lot of people that think that their kids look
cute plump: `Look at her - she has all those bracelets of fat,”’
Dr. William Cochran, a pediatric gastroenterologist and nutritionist
for the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Pa., said he sees many
youngsters in his weight management clinic who weigh 300 to
400 pounds. He is also seeing more and more children with diabetes,
high blood pressure, even liver disease.
“Some kids are drinking a liter or two liters of soda
a day,” said Cochran, a member of the task force on obesity
for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “In 10 to 30 years,
the incidence of heart disease and stroke and diabetes are just
going to be astronomical.”
Other highlights of the report:
About 1 million youths ages 12 to 19 in the United States -
or 4.2 percent of the age group - have metabolic syndrome, defined
as three or more of the following five factors: high triglycerides;
low “good” cholesterol; high blood sugar; high blood
pressure; and a big waistline. These factors raise the risk
of heart disease.
A trove of interoffice documents from top aides to New York
Governor George Pataki have revealed his administration’s
response to a potential scandal, with one frustrated adviser
even referring to Controller Alan Hevesi, who is leading the
investigation into misuse of Erie Canal development funds, as
Six-hundred pages of memos and E-mails pertaining to a real
estate deal involving the state Canal Corp. were released this
week, charting a “sweetheart deal” that the Canal
Corp., an arm of the state Thruway Authority, had cut with businessman
Thomas Hutchens, who paid just $30,000 for the rights to develop
homes along the 500-mile Erie Canal. The contract was ultimately
nixed by Hevesi.
After citing as precedent court cases in which President Nixon
tried to suppress release of the Watergate tapes, attorneys
for Pataki gave up on Dec. 30 and are now complying with a state
Supreme Court order to releasethe records the Governor claimed
were privileged. The governor’s lawyers argued that their
release would paralyze the executive branch’s ability
to perform its duties.
The state’s contract with Buffalo developer Richard Hutchens
was awarded after extensive communication between Hutchens and
state officials,. His bid had been placed in response to a notice
on page 62 of a booklet available to state vendors for $175
a year, right below the notices seeking bids for mops, shop
towels, and coveralls.
According to state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, Pataki’s administration
lied to both he and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office
about the deal, both of whom would have had to sign off on it.
Hevesi’s office initially did, then rescinded the approval,
an unprecedented step. Spitzer’s office investigated at
the request of the state Assembly Committee on Corporations,
Authorities, and Commissions. The Attorney General concluded
“This is a morality tale that weaves together all the
failures of state government,” citing a pattern of political
favoritism and ethical lapses. The deal is now under investigation
by the state’s Inspector General. According to Pataki’s
office, if fraud is uncovered the contract will be voided and
criminal charges could follow.
Pataki’s communications director, Lisa Stoll, wrote the
“asshole” comment in an E-mail to another administration
official after she was informed Hevesi planned to scrap the
deal. Stoll left her post last month.
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who fought for the release of the
notes, called them “tawdry.”
“These documents establish the governor as the puppet
master for the state authorities,” Brodsky, who is running
for state attorney general in 2006, told reporters.
Critics of President Bush’s plan to create personal investment
accounts in Social Security say he is exaggerating the program’s
funding problems to boost public support for his idea.
“Social Security is like a car with a flat tire,”
said Peter Orszag, an economist at the Brookings Institution.
“There is a problem. We need to fix the flat tire. But
we don’t need to replace the car.”
But David John, a senior analyst at the conservative Heritage
Foundation, said the funding problem is real, especially for
younger workers. “Every day we delay raises the cost of
a repair to Social Security,” he said.
The retirement system faces a projected $3.7 trillion, 75-year
shortfall. Bush wants to overhaul the program to let younger
workers divert some of their Social Security payroll taxes to
personal accounts. But that alone won’t fix the problem
and could require upfront costs of $1 trillion to $2 trillion
over 10 years.
Bush regularly claims Social Security faces a shortfall of nearly
$11 trillion, which, Orszag said, is a misleading figure because
it makes the system appear to be in worse shape than it is.
The figure - $10.4 trillion to be precise - is the shortfall
over the “infinite horizon,” as measured by Social
Security’s Board of Trustees. The calculation was included
for the first time in the trustees’ 2003 report, along
with the required 75-year measure. The American Academy of Actuaries
criticized the use of the $10.4 trillion figure in the report,
saying it was likely to mislead the public.
Orszag said Medicare’s dwindling finances are more urgent
than Social Security’s. Medicare began dipping into its
trust fund this year, and it is expected to be exhausted in
2019, trustees said.
Social Security’s financial picture was little changed
from last year. The system is expected to begin paying out more
in benefits than it collects in taxes starting in 2018, with
the trust fund money the government owes depleted by 2042.
In a recent story, the Christian Science Monitor followed one
man’s payment into the SSI system over 45 years. After
recording all the payroll taxes he paid into the system (including
the matching amount from his employer), and tracking down the
return the Social Security Trust Fund earned for each of the
45 years, and then compared the result with what he would have
gotten had he been able to invest the same amount of payroll
tax money over the same period in the Dow Jones Industrial Average
(including dividends), it was found that Social Security investment
won out: $261,372 versus $255,499, a difference of $5,873.
Although most financial leaders support the idea and industry
groups (plus armies of lobbyists) are working behind the scenes
in Washington to make a case for private accounts, no CEO of
a major financial firm has gone public with their support yet.
Pundits are saying that is because Wall Street has learnt from
the past two times the idea of legislating trillions of dollars
into its hands came up, in the late 1990s and again in 2001.
Both times private accounts were advocated as a means of repairing
social security - the politically sacred but creaky pay-as-you-go
retirement scheme projected to run into increasing financial
trouble over the next 50 years as the US’s population
ages. And both times the financial sector came out as a vociferous
supporter, only to be accused by opponents of having little
interest in reform of social security, and simply wanting to
line its pockets with management fees.
One of the most prominent critics of the president’s concept,
University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, estimates the
net present value of management fees that Wall Street would
collect over the next 75 years from partial privatization of
social security as somewhere between $424 billion and $1.1 trillion.
That compares with a net present value of about $US3.3 trillion
for the projected fees Wall Street firms will generate from
all other activities over the same period.