Gov. George Pataki signed a major casino-land claim deal with
a man who had no right to act on his tribe’s behalf, according
to a majority of the Cayuga Nation of New York’s traditional
government. The group, representing two of the three Cayuga
claims, said the agreement signed with Pataki is invalid because
the man who negotiated for the tribe, Clint Halftown, had no
authority to do so.
Traditional Cayugas, tribal leaders are now saying, oppose gambling,
and the tribal council has not reached any consensus on a pact
Pataki’s office insisted the agreement is valid, citing
documents from 2003 that show Halftown was designated a tribal
representative. But tribal leaders including Chief Chester Isaacs
have made available a letter telling Halftown he has no right
to represent the tribe in deals with other governments.
Pataki needs state and federal legislation for the Cayuga land
claim, along with deals with four other tribes, to be approved.
The Nov. 17 deal was aimed at settling a nearly $250 million
judgment against the state in the Cayuga land claim case. It
would allow a tribal casino at Monticello Raceway, and the tribe
would share slot machine revenues with the state.
Lobbyists are saying the state could borrow against future gambling
income to close its current deficit. But with Pataki and five
tribes reaching deals that would allow large casinos —
all with about 3,000 slot machines – the stakes are high
enough to have drawn intense opposition in Washington as well
as Albany. Speculation now has Pataki using up to $5 billion
in such revenues within the coming year’s budget proposal,
due in the coming weeks.
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a Republican whose district includes
the Oneida land claim territory, and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, whose
district would likely host the five proposed casinos, said they
are not embracing the land claim settlements.
Cop Fade Away
The Shandaken town board, fearful of potential lawsuits, agreed
not to fire a part time police officer, but to keep him suspended
from duty until his appointment ends at the end of the year.
The part time police officer that was suspended from duty last
spring will not be coming back to work in Shandaken.
In November, Shandaken's officer in Charge, James McGrath, sent
a letter to the board asking it’s members to terminate
Douglas Hoyt, 26, of Orchard Street Tillson, who was charged
on May 7, 2004 with aggravated harassment, a misdemeanor, after
deputies from the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office said
he made threatening comments during a heated telephone conversation
with a female acquaintance.
Earlier this week Hoyt was sentenced in Rochester Town Court
to a conditional discharge by town Justice Ronald Keillor. Keillor
said the conditional discharge was contingent on Hoyt honoring
a one-year stay away order of protection for the victim and
her family. Hoyt will also have to pay $665 in fines and court
surcharges as a condition of his sentence.
McGrath’s letter indicated that he was aware of Hoyt being
found guilty last month, and therefore believed that represented
grounds for immediate dismissal.
But board member Paul VanBlarcum issued a word of caution. A
member of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department, VanBlarcum
said another Ulster County town has found itself embroiled in
a legal dispute involving Hoyt, and he feared that Hoyt might
take some legal action against Shandaken if he were to be fired.
Instead, VanBlarcum suggested, Hoyt should just remain under
unpaid suspension until the end of this year. This would, according
to VanBlarcum, not give any opportunity for a potential,and
perhaps costly, lawsuit.
“In January we just won’t reappoint him,”
The rest of the Board agreed.
Hoyt was a part time officer for Shandaken for about two years.
While on the force he was accused of being overzealous in carrying
out his duties and at times found himself defending himself
against harassment accusations in town court.
A financial claim against Ulster County by contractors working
on the late and over-cost new jail has been settled for under
a quarter its original amount, leading some in county government
to start talking about the whole project becoming less a financial
burden than originally anticipated. A check was cut last week
to electrical contractor J.D. Parella for $945,583, as opposed
to the contractor’s original $4.4 million claim.
Other claims filed against Ulster County include firms seeking
compensation for additional money they’ve had to spend
because of 16 months of delay in completing the project: General
contractor David Christa Construction, who are seeking $3.3
million, and Rotondo Weirich, seeking $4 million.
Current estimates call for the new jail and county sheriff’s
office to be completed sometime next summer.
The Hudson Valley saw unemployment figures stay relatively low
at 4.3 percent, and growth pick up somewhat for the third quarter,
according to new figures recently released by the Marist Bureau
of Economic Research, with major increases in Ulster and Dutchess
making up for losses elsewhere. Jobs in the larger valley region
grew by 1.6 percent across all sectors except manufacturing,
including trade, business, services and tourism. The average
selling price for houses was up nearly 13 percent over a year
ago and the rate of sales increased by 3.1 percent. The number
of building permits also increased, up 8.1 percent for single
Nationwide, manufacturing has declined by 20 percent since 1977
- more rapidly over the past seven years. The report suggests
a growing federal deficit may reduce availability of funds for
needed infrastructure projects including local water and sewer
systems, schools and roads, and warns that the dollar’s
decline against other currencies may start hampering local growth
in the coming year.
The debt-to-income ratio for households increased 1.2 percent
- a record high relative to disposable income. The debt-to-asset
ratio was 18 percent, the highest over the span of the 1990s.
A strong relationship was found between commuting time and income,
with those boasting incomes greater than $200,000 more likely
to commute more than 60 minutes, than those with incomes less
The Onteora Middle School is raising funds to build a climbing
wall and ropes elements in their Middle School and High School
gyms as part of their physical education program. For $10, supporters
can buy a “Get Vertical” Savings Card that offers
discounts and savings at local businesses. Savings can be found
at Belleayre Mountain, Bread Alone, Resevoir Inn, Beyond the
Gate, Dunkin’ Donuts, Olive’s Country Store, Hong
Kong Chinese Restaurant, Anaconda Sports and Catskill Mountain
Pizza. The card is valid for one year. Organizers hope to install
the new physical education apparatus during the winter. For
anyone interested in purchasing a “Get Vertical”
Savings Card you may call the Onteora Middle School at 657-
7090 or contact PTSO member Kim Burgess 339-3164.
Almost one-fourth of the state’s high school students
in the Class of 2004 did not take all five Regents exams required
to graduate, let alone pass them, according to data released
recenty by the state Education Department. The achievement results
for students who entered ninth grade in 2000 were requested
by the state Board of Regents as it considers moving to 65 the
passing grade required for graduation. At present, a score of
55 is needed to pass.
Among general education students who did take all five exams,
92 percent passed. If the passing score were raised to 65, the
percentage passing would fall to 77. And although an overwhelming
majority of students who dropped out of high school or entered
general equivalency diploma programs never took Regents exams,
the few who did take them mostly passed.
The state Education Department blamed poor preparation in middle
school as the main cause for the shortcomings.
The federal Social Security Administration (SSA) is not accepting
marriage licenses from New Paltz submitted on or after February
27, 2004, when village mayor Jason West solemnized 25 same-sex
marriages. Since then, 123 heterosexual couples from New Paltz
and the surrounding areas have received those marriage licenses
from the town clerk. But it appears that these are not considered
valid, at least according to the feds.
This news has incensed couples who were legally married in New
Paltz as well as local officials, residents, and congressman
The new policy specifically directs SSA employees not to, under
any circumstances, accept ANY marriage licenses from New Paltz
as a valid form of identification. Under the Evidence of Identity
for an SSA Card policy that can be found at http://policy.ssa.gov,
a section lays out the policy for “Procedure-Questionable
Marriage Documents.” Not only is New Paltz specifically
identified as a “questionable” town for marriage
documents, but it is the only one out of four in the nation
whose invalidity is open-ended.
Congressman Hinchey has drafted a letter to the commissioner
of the SSA asking that the policy be “immediately repealed.”
“This policy is completely arbitrary, overreaching, and
attempts to penalize innocent people who have been legitimately
and legally married,” said Hinchey, who believes that
this act is a symptom of a “neo-conservative administration”
to try to penalize and ban same-sex marriages.
John Shallman, the regional communications director for the
Social Security Administration, said that only legal documents
are acceptable for use in changing an individual’s Social
Security record. “And until the legal issues are resolved,
local Social Security offices nationwide will not accept as
evidence of identity any marriage documents issued in New Paltz
after February 27, 2004,” he explained.
Local Mid-Hudson counties are poised to join New York City and
Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties in suing 44 national
pharmaceutical companies for inflating the prices of prescription
drugs sold to Medicaid recipients that were partially funded
by the counties. Greene County has already signed on to the
lawsuit while Ulster, and neighboring Dutchess and Columbia
counties, are still contemplating the move.
Federal law effectively allows drug companies to self-report
the “average wholesale price” of drugs sold through
the Medicaid program. Several lawsuits, including one filed
by the state Attorney General’s Office, allege the firms
charged government-funded programs far more than they charged
hospitals and other health-care providers.
New York state and its counties each pay 25 percent of all Medicaid
costs, with the remaining 50 percent paid by the federal government.
The program provides health care coverage for the poor and disabled.
Decisions are expected in the coming month…
Drop The Rock!
State lawmakers voted recently to scale back some of the mandatory
sentences under New York’s infamously harsh “Rockefeller
drug laws”, which could send a person to prison for life
for possessing just a few ounces of heroin or cocaine. Among
the reforms would be to change the current maximum sentence
of 15 to 25 years to life to a sentence of eight years to 20
years, making offenders eligible for release in less than seven
years. They currently have to serve the minimum of at least
15 years. The proposal would also eliminate the maximum term
of life for the most serious offenses. A common sentence of
three years to life for many offenders would become a determinate
sentence of three years, making offenders eligible for release
in just over 2 1/2 years. Under the Rockefeller drug laws, defendants
could face up to life in prison for possession of just four
ounces of cocaine or heroin.
The agreement would also make nonviolent drug offenders eligible
sooner for treatment programs and double the amounts, by weight,
of heroin and other controlled substances that defendants have
to be caught with to qualify for the harshest of charges.
The Assembly approved the measure 96-41; the Senate passed it
in a 53-6 vote. Gov. George Pataki helped negotiate the measure
and said he would sign it into law.
Critics of the mandatory drug laws say the sentences are unduly
long for many low-level offenders and addicts, and disproportionately
affect minority offenders.
The Supreme Court is considering whether states such as ours
may bar people from buying wine directly from out-of-state suppliers,
a big-money question that could lead to sweeping changes in
how alcoholic beverages are regulated and sold. Justices have
heard arguments in three appeals involving bans in Michigan
and New York on direct shipments that cross state borders. The
dispute pits regulators and wholesalers against out-of-state
wineries that want to sell alcohol to consumers, mostly over
the Internet or by phone.
The case involves a clash between two parts of the Constitution,
with lower courts divided over which section should rule. On
one side is the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition in 1933
and explicitly granted states authority to regulate alcohol
sales. Twenty-four states have laws that generally require outside
wineries to sell their products through licensed wholesalers
in the state. Michigan and New York allow instate Internet or
telephone sales of alcoholic beverages. Some other states allow
such sales, others do not. The Constitution also implicitly
prohibits states from passing laws that discriminate against
out-of-state businesses. That provision has been embraced by
wine makers who hope to reach faraway Internet customers looking
for favorite U.S. vintages unavailable in their home states.
While the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with New York
in upholding the state restrictions, the 6th Circuit, based
in Cincinnati, Ohio, struck down Michigan’s laws as unconstitutionally
Since 1980, the number of wineries has quadrupled nationally
to more than 3,700 this year, and their survival depends on
state laws that give them a fair shake, the National Association
of American Wineries argues in a friend-of-the-court filing.
The Washington-based Institute for Justice says the 24 states
that ban direct interstate shipments are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas,
Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio,
Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota,
Tennessee, Utah and Vermont.
Got Your ID?
The United States Congress has passed legislation that requires
the States to surrender their regulatory rights over driver’s
licenses and birth certificates to The Department of Homeland
Security. Beginning in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security
will issue new uniformity regulations to the States requiring
that all Drivers Licenses and Birth Certificates meet minimal
Federal Standards with regard to US citizen information, including
biometric security provisions. Added to currently existing Federal
Laws and Supreme Court rulings that American citizens when born
will be issued a Social Security Number that will be included
on their Birth Certificates, along with DNA biometric markers,
the rulings guarantee that all birth certificates will also
now be registered in a Federal Government database maintained
by the Department of Homeland Security. No child will be allowed
enrollment to schools or be entitled to either State of Federal
Government benefits programs without first presenting a certified
Homeland Security registered Birth Certificate. Drivers License4s
holding Social Security Number will be required for receiving
and applying for all State and Federal benefits programs. Supreme
Court rulings have simultaneously upheld that State and Federal
Law Enforcement authorities have the right to request Identification
from any American citizen, for any reason and at any time as
not being violations of their, the citizens, constitutionally
Major Banks and credit card companies have applauded the adoption
of a National ID system as being important to counter fraud
and increasing instances of identity theft. National ID cards
with biometric markers will eliminate them from having to issue
Credit and Debit cards, which for the first time in US history
have surpassed the usage of checks and cash. Utilizing The Department
of Homeland Securities centralized federal database, Banks and
credit card companies will only require the presentation of
a citizens Driver’s License to make purchases as all of
the persons financial information, including credit and cash
balances, will already be known in “real time.”
A Greene County man from neighboring Hunter was convicted of
beating his former girlfriend unconscious in a bar last April
and will spend the next 11 years in prison. At his sentencing,
Joseph Krom, 41 of Haines Falls, apologized to his former girlfriend,
Kimberly Elder of Kingston, and said he would do his best to
change his life while he is incarcerated.
Krom pleaded guilty to one count of felony assault on Nov. 9.
Under an agreement with the Greene County District Attorney’s
Office, his plea satisfied the five-count indictment against
him, which had included charges of attempted murder and four
counts of assault, all felonies. Krom also waived his right
to an appeal.
The charges stem from an early morning incident April 7 at the
Silver Springs Ranch on County Route 25 in Haines Falls. According
to the Greene County District Attorney’s Office, Krom
got into an argument with Elder, 26, and brutally attacked her,
striking her on the head and face with a pool stick and a metal
urn. Elder, seriously injured and rendered unconscious, was
airlifted to Albany Medical Center for treatment of injuries
that included a ruptured right eye socket and severely damaged
right eye as well as facial cuts and fractures, authorities
Krom was arrested the following day after he turned himself
in at the Catskill state police barracks. He was indicted April
19. Nothing ever happened to the others in the bar who witnessed
the savage beating.
Krom previously served three months probation on a 1994 conviction
of possession of a weapon, criminal impersonation and criminal
trespass, all misdemeanors.
Millions of Americans will face an increased threat of bacteria,
viruses and parasites in their water thanks to a new federal
policy allowing sewer operators to dump inadequately treated
sewage into the nation’s waterways. The Environmental
Protection Agency’s new plan, which reverses a current
rule requiring sewer operators to fully treat their waste in
all but the most extreme circumstances, will allow operators
to routinely dump sewage anytime it rains. EPA is expected to
issue the policy sometime in the next few weeks.
Scenic Hudson and Environmental Advocates of NY, two groups
that have worked closely on state water quality issues in the
past, recently called on the New York Congressional Delegation
to stop EPA from implementing this official guidance, which
would be particularly harmful for New York drinking water supplies.
Currently sewer operators are allowed to blend partially treated
sewage only in extreme cases, such as hurricanes and tropical
storms, and when there is no feasible alternative, such as adding
more capacity to handle sewage or storing it until it can be
fully treated. The new policy will allow plants to dump partially
treated sewage anytime it rains or snows.
Untreated sewage contains a variety of dangerous pathogens,
including bacteria (such as E coli), viruses (such as hepatitis
A), protozoa (such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia) and helminth
worms. The pathogens in sewage can cause illnesses ranging from
diarrhea and vomiting and respiratory infections to hepatitis
and dysentery. Even with the current, stronger sewage treatment
standard, experts estimate that there are 7.1 million mild-to-moderate
cases and 560,000 moderate-to-severe cases of infectious waterborne
disease in the United States annually.
Besides the obvious threat to public health, allowing inadequately
treated sewage in our nation’s waters will have dire long-term
environmental and economic consequences, Scenic Hudson and Environmental
Advocates said. More sewage in our waterways will close beaches
along the Hudson River, in New York’s Great Lakes Basin
area and throughout the state. This would in turn kill fish
and destroy shellfish beds, resulting in irreparable damage
to the fishing and tourism industries. Sewage is the second
largest known cause of U.S. beach closures and advisories every
Two months after the government recommended that scarce flu
shots be reserved for people most at risk, health officials
are now worried that tens of thousands of doses could go to
waste, and they are considering easing the restrictions.
The demand for flu shots has turned out to be lower than expected
because the flu season has been mild so far. Also, it turns
out that more than half of all elderly or chronically ill adults
have not even tried to get vaccinated because they figured no
shots would be available, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention has said.
The problem is that a flu shot is only good for the flu season
it is made for. Any excess must be disposed of at the end of
the season. The flu season begins in the fall and can last through
The surplus already has prompted some states to loosen their
immunization restrictions, allowing people as young as 50 to
get a shot. Others are considering allowing flu shots for anyone
who has close contact with those in a high-risk group.
The government in October recommended that healthy adults delay
or skip a flu shot this season to save vaccine for the estimated
98 million people in the country who need it most - the elderly,
infants or those with chronic conditions. Those people are at
highest risk of severe complications or death from the flu,
which kills on average 36,000 people and hospitalizes 200,000
each year in the country.
The recommendation was made after health officials learned that
nearly half of the country’s flu shot supply would be
cut off because of contamination at vaccine maker Chiron Corp.’s
plant in Liverpool, England.
Only about 65 million doses of vaccine will be available this
season in the United States, including a nasal vaccine that
is safe for only healthy people.
Although there were long lines of people seeking flu shots after
the nationwide shortages were announced in October, demand has
substantially dwindled in recent weeks. One reason is the flu
season has been mild so far. New York is the only state with
major flu activity, although flu cases are being found all over
the country, the CDC has noted
Locally, additional doses of flu vaccine have been received
by local health departments and health-care providers, giving
senior citizens and other high-risk individuals another chance
to be inoculated against influenza before winter takes hold.
Ulster County residents can make appointments for flu shots
and will be inoculated at the Health Department’s Kingston
offices in the coming month. Only those over 65 years old, and
individuals 18-64 who have proof of a high-risk medical condition,
can get the shots. Senior citizens who have Medicare Part B
will be able to obtain their vaccinations through Medicare.
The recipient must be entitled to Part B coverage on the date
of service, Medicare Part B must be the primary insurance coverage,
and the Medicare card must be presented on the date of service.
For those not eligible for Medicare Part B coverage, there will
be a $20 charge for the flu shot and a $25 charge for pneumococcal
vaccine, payable at the appointment.
Call the county Health Department at (845) 340-3070 to schedule
an appointment for a flu shot that will be administered at the
Health Department’s Kingston office on subsequent days.
For more information, call the county’s flu hotline at
(845) 340-3093 or visit the Health Department’s Web site
In the latest signs of strains on the military from the war
in Iraq, the Army National Guard announced recently that it
had fallen 30 percent below its recruiting goals in the last
two months and would offer new incentives, including enlistment
bonuses of up to $15,000. In addition, the head of the National
Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, has said that he needed
$20 billion to replace arms and equipment destroyed in Iraq
and Afghanistan or left there for other Army and Air Guard units
to use, so that returning reservists will have enough equipment
to deal with emergencies at home.
The sharp decline in recruiting is significant because National
Guard and Army Reserve soldiers now make up nearly 40 percent
of the 148,000 troops in Iraq, and are a vital source for filling
the ranks, particularly those who perform essential support
tasks, like truck drivers and military police.
In an effort to halt the slide, the Army National Guard this
week approved recruiting incentives that triple the enlistment
bonuses to $15,000 for soldiers with prior military experience
who sign up for six years (tax-free if soldiers enlist overseas),
Guard officials said. Bonuses for new enlistees will increased
to $10,000 from $6,000.
General Blum’s remarks come just a few days after the
chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, said that
the Army Reserve recruiting was in a “precipitous decline”
that if unchecked could inspire renewed debate over the draft.
General Helmly told the newspaper that he personally opposed
reviving the draft.
Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should
restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, according
to a nationwide poll. The survey conducted by Cornell University
also found that Republicans and people who described themselves
as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims’
civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.
Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention
to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks
and support limiting the rights of Muslim Americans. The survey
found 44 percent favored at least some restrictions on the civil
liberties of Muslim Americans. Forty-eight percent said liberties
should not be restricted in any way. The survey showed that
27 percent of respondents supported requiring all Muslim Americans
to register where they lived with the federal government. Twenty-two
percent favored racial profiling to identify potential terrorist
threats. And 29 percent thought undercover agents should infiltrate
Muslim civic and volunteer organizations to keep tabs on their
activities and fund-raising.
Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan
opened the first U.N. seminar on confronting Islamophobia with
a plea not to judge Muslims by the acts of extremists who target
and kill civilians. “We should not underestimate the resentment
and sense of injustice felt by members of one of the world’s
great religions, cultures and civilizations,” he said.
“And we must make the re-establishment of trust among
people of different faiths and cultures our highest priority,”
Annan added, saying that failure to do this threatens world
peace and development.
Seyyed Hussein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George
Washington University, said Islamophobia was a question not
only of fear but also of hatred - often by people who know little
about the religion. Nasr said most people view Islam as an intolerant,
monolithic religion bent on ruling the Western world when in
reality, there are various schools of Islamic thought, the religion
is not anti-Western and the Islamic dynasties over the centuries
accepted both Jews and Christians fleeing persecution.
The US government is quietly threatening to withhold hundreds
of millions of dollars of foreign aid aimed at combating terrorism,
resolving conflicts, and building democracy unless countries
agree to shield Americans from prosecution at the UN permanent
war crimes tribunal. An amendment to the 3,000-page budget bill
before the House of Representatives would punish countries,
even close allies in the war on terrorism, that have joined
the International Criminal Court and have declined to promise
they would not send American citizens to the court without US
Since 2002, the US government has withheld military aid from
countries that refused to sign such a bilateral agreement. But
the new amendment in this year’s budget bill goes a step
further, revoking other nonmilitary assistance to governments.
The amendment targets an economic support fund designed to foster
democracy and human rights around the world, as well as promote
the rule of law in Muslim countries to bolster counterterrorism
Supporters of the amendment are “so irrationally paranoid
of the International Criminal Court that they are literally
willing to shoot themselves in the foot in opposing it,”
said William Pace, head of the Coalition for the International
Criminal Court, based in New York, a global network of more
than 2,000 organizations that support the tribunal. “It
will completely cut the legs out from underneath US credibility
on peace initiatives, antiterrorist activities that the US is
trying to fund, and support.”
US officials say they have a right to punish countries who refuse
to protect Americans from the court. Although the United States
is not a party to the court, US officials worry that American
soldiers could be prosecuted for war crimes in politically motivated
proceedings when an alleged crime is committed on the territory
of a nation that is a member.
“US dollars are not free,” a State Department official
said on condition of anonymity.
The Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union plans to file
a federal lawsuit Tuesday against one of their state’s
school districts that is requiring students to learn about alternatives
to the theory of evolution. The ACLU said its lawsuit will be
the first to challenge whether public schools should teach “intelligent
design,” which holds that the universe is so complex that
it must have been created by some higher power.
The Dover Area School District was believed to be the first
in the nation to mandate intelligent design when it voted 6-3
in October in favor of including the concept in the science
curriculum. Administrators have declined to comment on the mandate,
which applies to ninth-grade biology classes in rural south-central
The ACLU has said intelligent design is a more secular form
of creationism, a Biblical-based view that credits the origin
of species to God, and may violate the constitutional separation
of church and state.
The American Medical Association is weighing support of importing
prescription drugs from outside the United States as the nation’s
physicians address pleas from patients over the high cost of
medicines. The largest U.S. doctors group, representing a quarter
million physicians, is being asked by members to put its considerable
lobbying clout behind federal legislation that would find a
way to safely import drugs from outside the United States. Already,
several states have bucked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
policy against importation and set up state-sponsored initiatives
to purchase lower-cost drugs from Canada or elsewhere. The issue
is expected to come before Congress early next year and could
gain momentum should the AMA’s 545-member policy-making
House of Delegates back some form of importation.
The nation’s tab for prescription drugs continues to rise
10 to 15 percent a year by most estimates, and an increasing
number of patients seek relief by buying drugs from Canada and
other countries where prices can be 20 to 80 percent cheaper.
Because various resolutions supporting safe importation have
the support of large state delegations, including the California
Medical Association, a measure putting the AMA on record in
support of importation is seen as having a good chance to pass.
Currently, less than an estimated $1 billion worth of prescription
drugs are purchased by U.S. citizens from Canada and elsewhere
each year. That number is rising, although still dwarfed by
U.S. drug purchases of more than $230 billion a year. Some doctors
have said they shared concerns of the pharmaceutical industry
that legalized importation would merely bring drug price controls
of other countries to the United States.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the
industry lobbying organization that includes drug giants Pfizer
Inc., Merck & Co. and North Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories
among its members, said price controls in the United States
would hurt the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to fund
research and therefore hurt development of potentially life-saving
The energy industry and some of its executives have contributed
over a million dollars to President Bush’s inauguration
fund. In all, 26 donors gave over $4.5 million.
Occidental Petroleum Corp., whose business stands to benefit
from the president’s actions in regard to Libya, donated
$250,000, as did Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly
traded oil company. Other donors from the energy sector included
Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who gave $250,000; and former
Enron President Richard Kinder, who left the firm five years
before it collapsed and now is CEO of one of the largest energy
transportation and storage companies in the country. Kinder
also gave $250,000.
Energy provider Southern Co., which owns utility companies in
Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, gave $250,000. The
Nuclear Energy Institute, the policy organization of the nuclear
industry, gave $100,000.
Outside the energy sector, New Orleans Saints football team
owner Tom Benson gave $50,000 and his companies gave $200,000.
Northrop Grumman Corp., the world’s largest shipbuilder
and second-largest U.S. defense contractor, gave $100,000. Michael
Dell, chairman of Dell Inc., the world’s largest personal
computer maker, gave $250,000.
Meanwhile, peace and justice activists from the Mid-Hudson region
have chartered buses to Washington Jan. 20 to bring local residents
to a protest at the inauguration, even though it’s looking
like the capital will be locked down for the occasion. The 55-seat
buses will leave from Kingston, Poughkeepsie and New Paltz early
in the morning, returning in late evening. A round-trip ticket
costs $40. For reservations email firstname.lastname@example.org or call
The major national antiwar group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War
and End Racism) is negotiating for a permit to hold a rally
along the Inaugural Parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue but
is already facing difficulties.
The Pentagon is engaged in bitter, high-level debate over how
far it can and should go in managing or manipulating information
to influence opinion abroad, senior Defense Department civilians
and military officers say. Such missions, if approved, could
take the deceptive techniques endorsed for use on the battlefield
to confuse an adversary and adopt them for covert propaganda
campaigns aimed at neutral and even allied nations. Critics
of the proposals say such deceptive missions could shatter the
Pentagon’s credibility, leaving the American public and
a world audience skeptical of anything the Defense Department
and military say - a repeat of the credibility gap that roiled
America during the Vietnam War.
The efforts under consideration risk blurring the traditional
lines between public affairs programs in the Pentagon and military
branches - whose charters call for giving truthful information
to the media and the public - and the world of combat information
campaigns or psychological operations. The question is whether
the Pentagon and military should undertake an official program
that uses disinformation to shape perceptions abroad. But in
a modern world wired by satellite television and the Internet,
any misleading information and falsehoods could easily be repeated
by American news outlets.
The military has faced these tough issues before. Nearly three
years ago, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, under intense
criticism, closed the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence,
a short-lived operation to provide news items, possibly including
false ones, to foreign journalists in an effort to influence
overseas opinion. Now, critics say, some of the proposals of
that discredited office are quietly being resurrected elsewhere
in the military and in the Pentagon.
Pentagon and military officials directly involved in the debate
say that such a secret propaganda program, for example, could
include planting news stories in the foreign press or creating
false documents and Web sites translated into Arabic as an effort
to discredit and undermine the influence of mosques and religious
schools that preach anti-American principles.
Administration officials say they are increasingly troubled
that a nation that can so successfully market its cars and colas
around the world, even to foreigners hostile to American policies,
is failing to sell its democratic ideals, even as the insurgents
they are battling are spreading falsehoods over mass media outlets
like the Arab news satellite channel Al Jazeera.
“In the battle of perception management, where the enemy
is clearly using the media to help manage perceptions of the
general public, our job is not perception management but to
counter the enemy’s perception management,” said
the chief Pentagon spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita.
Meanwile. the Bush administration has dozens of intercepts of
Mohamed ElBaradei’s phone calls with Iranian diplomats
and is scrutinizing them in search of ammunition to oust him
as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency,
according to three U.S. government officials.
Republicans say that Democrats have abused the filibuster by
blocking 10 of the president’s 229 judicial nominees in
his first term — although confirmation of Bush nominees
exceeds in most cases the first-term experience of presidents
dating to Ronald Reagan. Describing the filibusters as intolerable,
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has hinted he may resort to
an unusual parliamentary maneuver, dubbed the “nuclear
option,” to thwart such filibusters. At issue is a seldom-used,
complicated and highly controversial parliamentary maneuver
in which Republicans could seek a ruling from the chamber’s
presiding officer, presumably Vice President Cheney, that filibusters
against judicial nominees are unconstitutional. Under this procedure,
it would take only a simple majority or 51 votes to uphold the
ruling — far easier for the 55-member GOP majority to
get than the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster or the 67
votes needed to change the rules under normal procedures.
President Bush’s re-election was viewed negatively by
a majority of people in several European countries - including
those in Britain, America’s strongest ally in the war
in Iraq, Associated Press polling recently found. And the president
was not the only one viewed unfavorably. Americans generally
were seen in an unfavorable light by many in France, Germany
and Spain, countries not supportive of U.S. Iraq policies.
At least seven in 10 in France, Germany and Spain said they
have an unfavorable view of President Bush. Just over half of
the French and Germans said they have an unfavorable view of
Americans in general, and about half of Spaniards felt that
Especially inclined to have an unfavorable opinion of Bush in
those countries were people between ages 18 and 24. A majority
of all respondents in France, Germany and Spain said they were
disappointed that Bush won a second four-year term, defeating
Democrat John Kerry.
Polling found that Bush is viewed favorably by a majority of
people in the United States. But that is not the case in Australia,
Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. A majority
of people in Britain, America’s strongest ally in the
Iraq war, have an unfavorable view of Bush. Six in 10 Britons
said they were disappointed he was re-elected. In Canada, about
the same number of Canadians said they were disappointed with
Just over half of the people in France, Germany and Spain had
an unfavorable view of Americans, but a solid majority in Australia
(69 percent), Britain (60 percent), Canada (80 percent) and
Italy (56 percent) expressed a favorable opinion.
Australia, Britain and Italy are U.S. allies in the Iraq war.
Canada did not send troops to support the U.S.-led coalition
in Iraq but did send them to Afghanistan.