There were lots of answers and plenty of questions, as
Phoenicia’s wastewater committee met with about
50 hamlet residents at Parish Hall February 19.
No, Main Street wouldn’t be ripped up. Pipes to
service the buildings on each side of it would instead
be installed through the parking lots that run behind
them. Phoenicia would stay open for business during the
2-year construction period when 40,000 linear feet of
sewer pipe, buried as deep as 15 feet would go in, starting
as early as this fall. In answer to a question from Steve
Newman concerning the line of hemlocks in front of his
home, project manager John Brust of Delaware Engineering
confirmed their days were probably numbered. “When
you do a project like this, “he said, “trees
do come down. The contractor will replace them with the
same kind of tree” but not with mature trees like
the ones being removed.
“So we’re not shitting around here,”
warned town special wastewater attorney Kevin Young, preparing
people for the reality of construction and, among other
things, the hamlet’s entry into the sludge processing
business. Young’s $1,200 per meeting fees are coming
straight out of the $11+ million project budget provided
by New York City, of which the town’s wastewater
committee has so far spent about $220,000.
As for the hamlet’s newest and least anticipated
business, current plans call for the purchase of a $300,000
“belt filter press” which, if all goes right,
will arrive along with a contract from Fleishmanns to
use it to process their effluent as well as Phoenicia’s
own… before trucking it all out of town and hopefully
far away. Lucky for Phoenicia’s ratepayers it seems,
there’s extra effluent around.
All however, did not flow perfectly smoothly for the committee.
Bart Guglielmetti, a former town justice who owns the
1890 House and whose comments appeared to carry considerable
weight, took issue with what he characterized as the business
community’s open-ended liability for the project’s
operating and maintenance costs. “Anytime there’s
flood, damage, cost overruns… the businesses have
an unknown amount of liabilility,” he said. He also
raised the question of eminent domain in acquiring easements,
saying “I don’t like the threats that are
coming around now,” as well as objecting to committee
members querrying commercial tenants instead of affected
property owners directly.
In answer to questions both from Guglielmetti and from
Lonny Gale on possible cost overruns, at least one reassuring
fact emerged at the meeting: The committee’s unanimous
insistence that no portion of the project’s construction
cost or potential cost overruns would be funded by anyone
hooked up to Phoenicia’s wastewater system.
“The good news” said Young, “is there’s
no debt… The cost of construction is going to have
to come 100% from the City. We’re not going to bond
it.” Once plans and estimates are finalized, the
committee hopes to negotiate a funding increase from DEP
above that already committed and for the full amount required
to build the plant. Lacking such a commitment from the
city, the committee is in apparent agreement no construction
will proceed. Both Young and committee chairman Charlie
Frasier expressed their belief however, that such a commitment
will ultimately be forthcoming.
Tom Reynaldo seemed to capture the essence of the issue
succinctly, saying, “They (the city) need us to
have sewers but we don’t need us to have sewers.”
Similarly Judy Appleby, speaking for STS which hopes to
expand its operations based on access to the system, said
“it sounds like the benefit goes to NYC.”
The committee advised however, that the group should for
now put such plans on indefinite hold. The next scheduled
meeting of the committee is Feb 28 at Parish Hall.
Portal Still Open
Schoharie Reservoir dam repairs that have necessitated
the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s
funneling of an extra 575 million gallons of water a day
through the Shandaken Portal and Esopus Creek into the
Ashokan Reservoir moved a few steps forward, ahead of
schedule, this past week, according to the city’s
press office. According to a press release last Friday,
February 17, a 200-foot by 5.5-foot notch at the Gilboa
Dam was to be completed by Saturday, February 18, to help
lower levels in the Schoharie Reservoir, decreasing its
chance of flooding, and facilitating the installation
of anchoring cables over the coming months to bring the
dam up to modern safety levels.
Also mentioned by the DEP was the fact that testing for
a series of siphons at the dam was set to begin this week,
with each set to start removing 125 million gallons a
day from the reservoir, for a total of 500 MGD, when all
the siphons are set to be operational by March 3. A smaller,
interim notch had been cut into the 80-year old dam the
previous week to help with the current work, although
DEP spokesman Ian Michaels noted this week that much work
was completed by the contractors for the job, Jett Industries,
while water levels were still high.
“I am enormously pleased that the notch has been
completed ahead of schedule. This significantly reduces
the possibility of a dam failure,” noted DEP Commissioner
Emily Lloyd in the February 17 press release. “I
hope this will lessen the concerns of area residents.”
Late last fall, the City DEP discovered that using updated
flood level statistics taking into account the 1996 deluge
that wreaked havoc throughout the Catskills, its Gilboa
dam was in need of upgrading far in advance of the 2008
date it had been scheduled for. After alerting local communities
and counties downstream from the reservoir, and including
an area as far north as the Mohawk River citiy of Schenectady,
both evacuation and remediation plans were set into motion.
With recent progress, the DEP has said, they have upped
the number of anchoring cables they are planning to drill
through the existing earthen dam into bedrock from 47
to 79, with 34 anchoring cables set to be put into place
to secure “potentially unstable parts of the dam”
by the end of July and an additional 45 cables by November.
Full repairs are still scheduled for two years hence.
As for possible flood actions, the DEP has announced that
it has installed full surveillance lighting at the Gilboa
Dam “for continuous nighttime monitoring,”
and a joint DEP/Schoharie County effort “has distributed
weather alert radios to residents of the downstream areas,”
which could go under up to 40 feet of water, in a worse-case
Water flow out of the reservoir towards New York City,
via the Shandaken Tunnel, Portal, and Ashokan Reservoir,
will not be abated by the ahead-of-schedule work in Schoharie
County, according to Michaels… at least for the
In recent press releases, the City DEP has carefully pointed
out the low snowcover figures for this winter in comparison
to recent years when flooding has occurred.
Pennies for Patients at Phoenicia Elementary School raises
a whopping $1,825.00! Phoenicia Elementary students participated
in this valuable program for the Leukemia & Lymphoma
Society over a 3 week period. They collected pennies,
nickels, dimes and quarters totaling $1,825.00! Mrs. Cahill's
3rd grade class collected the most ($463.00) and will
celebrate with a pizza party! Prizes such as computers,
electronics and sports equipment will be presented to
the top schools in the area. Christina Byron, a parent
and teaching assistant at Phoenicia, coordinated the event.
Off Station Road
The clearing of trees along the county's railroad right-of-way
adjacent to Station Road in Shandaken was "normal
maintenance" according to town Highway Superintendant
Keith Johnson. Town crews last week cleared scattered
trees up to about 10" in diameter from about 3/4
mile of the county's old Ulster & Delaware railroad
line which parallel's Station Road from Fox Hollow Road
to the old bridge abutment just west of, and on the opposite
bank of the Esopus from town hall. According to Johnson,
wood from the operation was donated to local senior citizens
and prior to the cutting, the town had obtained from the
county a court order granting permission for the clean-up.
The idea, said Johnson, was to fix several drainage problems
and also improve the town road to its end so it could
be plowed, with a vehicular turn-around around there which
would also be used later this year to remove a major gravel
bank from the Esopus, something DEC has suggested to the
Residents of several homes adjacent to the clearing project,
however, are not happy.
“There’s never been any kind of problem with
drainage here,” said Dennis Ladner, “so that
doesn’t make any sense. These were attractive trees
they cut down which enhanced the value of all the properties
here, and some were cut on properties without the owner’s
permission. They provided good screening between our homes
and the dilapidated bat factory.”
The town’s clearing operation did appear to significantly
improve vehicular access to the former Charles D. Roberts
bat factory, access to which has long been the subject
of an ongoing dispute that has limited the property’s
commercial redevelopment. Supervisor Bob Cross Jr. said
he was unaware of the town’s involvement in clearing
operation and that we’d have to ask Johnson. Johnson
reiterated that the project had nothing to do with the
factory property’s access, status, or future use.
All is calm this week for wannabe water magnate Andrew
Poncic, who awaits final word from the Shandaken Planning
Board on the completeness of the Draft Environmental Impact
Statement for his proposed water harvesting business slated
for upper Woodland Valley in Phoenicia.
It looks like the planners, who were scheduled to meet
Tuesday, February 28th, determined that they would take
the time to review the information that they had received
from Poncic and begin the process of formulating a response
requesting additional information where they feel gaps
in the document exist.
They have until mid-March to decide if the Draft is complete.
Such a determination would represent a major milestone
for Poncic, who has had his application before the planning
board for several years.
However, if the planning board does not get the information
they need, or if they feel they need more time to review
the draft, Poncic can agree to extend the timeline…….
In the dormant days near the end of winter, it’s
a pair of calm public hearings that make for town news.
Thanks to sparse attendance and an adjournment 20 minutes
before the end of the one hour slated for the dual session
at town hall Monday, it looks like the town board has
a clear field ahead as they make a run to create a new
law calling for a town building inspector and for giving
newly elected highway superintendent Keith Johnson a $2000
Tom Burt, the longtime Building Inspector supplied to
Shandaken by Ulster County, is retiring soon and Town
Officials are using his retirement as an opportunity to
create a position for a town-building inspector.
And that new town building inspector will be….Tom
On Monday, the board held a public hearing on the creation
of the law needed to make Burt’s hiring legal. The
proposed law outlines the duties of the building inspector
and also spells out when a building permit is required
and when one is not.
Details of the arrangement with Burt were scarce Monday,
but the town board appears to have made up its collective
mind that this is the route to take.
“He’s gonna have an office in his house and
work on an as needed basis,” said Supervisor Robert
While he was quick to note that the arrangement has the
benefit of saving office space, Cross added that Burt
lives in High Falls. No salary has been set for the job,
but Cross thinks it will be “around $25 an hour.”
The Supervisor said that Burt’s own estimate of
what his job would cost the town is about $20,000 a year.
Cross said there is no salary cap planned at this time.
“We haven’t sat down to figure it out yet,”
To justify the position, Cross points to all the building
permit fees that Ulster County has been getting for decades
from Shandaken. In 2004, there were $17,700 worth of permits
issued. In 2005 that went up to $18,500. Once the town
has it’s own building inspector, Cross said, those
permit revenues would come into town coffers and presumably
pay for the brunt of Burt’s salary.
Residents at the sparsely attended hearing, like Mount
Tremper resident Kathy Nolan, cautioned the board that
unless they carefully review all the details the hiring
could end up costing the town more than is taken in from
The job was described a part time, and there was no mention
of health benefits.
Glenn Miller, the town Code Enforcement officer, said
that Shandaken is the only town in Ulster County that
does not yet have it’s own building inspector.
There was a building inspector in Shandaken until the
late 1980’s. Since then Burt has been handling the
duties through Ulster County. Under the new proposed law,
permit requirements would remain as they currently are.
A permit is required for any and all construction except:
Necessary repairs that don’t change structural features;
Alterations costing less than $10,000, which don’t
affect structural features, fire safety features, do not
involve electrical work and do not include installing
heat units, chimneys or flues.
As for Johnson, the longtime Excavator/logger, who also
serves as the Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals,
has asked taxpayers to up his salary to what his predecessor
got upon retiring last year. When Dick Merwin bowed out
last December, he was making $40,154 a year and was the
highest paid public official in the town. Knowing Merwin
was going, the town board adopted a 2006 budget showing
the salary for whomever Merwin’s replacement was
to be only $36,000.
Once elected Johnson, who soundly defeated challenger
Ken Berryann, had second thoughts about the cut in pay
and wants the salary upped to Merwin’s 2005 rate.
However, getting a raise after the budget had been adopted
is not that simple.
The Town Board held a public hearing because they must
actually adopt a law to give Johnson a financial boost.
Making matters worse, the law change proposed at the hearing
called for an increase only to $38,000, which Johnson
said he wants to see changed to $40,154.
The law, subject to a permissive referendum, calls for
his pay hike to be retroactive to January 2006.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer recently unveiled a plan
to create a direct rail connection from Stewart International
Airport to midtown Manhattan to streamline commutes that
now require city fliers using the airport to take Metro-North’s
Port Jervis and Pascack Valley rail lines and transfer
at Secaucus Junction in New Jersey to get into Manhattan.
The proposed new project by New Jersey Transit and the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, known as “The
Tunnel,” would see the construction of a new tunnel
under the Hudson River that would make possible a direct
Metro-North ride from Orange County to a new 34th Street
station in Manhattan, with a rail link from Salisbury
Mills on the Port Jervis line to Stewart.
Schumer said the new tunnel would be federally funded
and would not directly affect New York taxpayers.
With Ulster County also facing development pressure, Schumer
said a shuttle for residents to the non-stop train service
at Stewart might be possible, along with an unstated,
but hoped for, opening up of eventual rail links up this
side of the Hudson.
“As the region grows, mass transit is very important,”
the Senator said. “This is the first step.”
An engineering firm made a successful balloon launch last
week to gauge the visual impact of a 180-foot cell tower
proposed for the town. The large red sphere, which suffered
an unsuccessful launch attempt the week before due to
winds, floated at least twice as high as the nearest treetop
early Wednesday morning.
A drive along the main roadways in the vicinity showed
the balloon to be visible in a few locations, but for
the most, part trees and hillsides keep it hidden. Many
locals are wondering, though, whether coverage will be
anywhere as complete as promised..
The results of the test are expected to be reviewed by
the Shandaken Planning Board next month. Masterpage hopes
to begin erecting the tower in April.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for a company hired by Masterpage
to build a wireless telephone tower in Shandaken says
he's aware the town supervisor is not satisfied with the
pace of the project, but insists it's on schedule.
"We're on target for April 2006 to start construction,"
Neal Cafalone of the tower contractor, Strick Telecom,
said on Tuesday.
Cafalone said he expects to appear before the town Planning
Board next week with a complete application and site plan
for the board to review.
During his re-election campaign last year, Supervisor
Robert Cross Jr. reported to local media that construction
of the tower would begin before Christmas 2005, or, worst
case, this coming April. As March approached, the company
had yet to submit a site plan.
Masterpage has proposed to build a tower on town-owned
land near Glenbrook Park on state Route 42. The company
is also expected to find two other tower locations and
use all three to blanket the majority of the town with
As for not yet submitting a site plan to the Planning
Board, Cafalone said that is due to the planners themselves.
"A full-blown visual impact analysis needs to be
completed as part of the application," he said. "This
cannot be completed until the balloon test is complete,
again, all weather dependent. The Planning Board informed
us at the last meeting we attended that they would like
the complete package before they proceed with a public
hearing. Therefore, this is the route we are taking."
Cafalone said Masterpage proposes to build a 180-foot,
non-guyed tower. The proposed tower, he said, is designed
to accommodate all of the town's emergency service antennas
as well as support four cellular carriers, which he said
exceeds the town code request for future co-location.
Last fall, the Town Board authorized Cross to enter into
a lease agreement with Masterpage Communications to use
the town site. At the time, Cross was cautioned about
locking into an agreement too quickly.
Critics said the town property would be a key location
for any provider that intended to come to town. Once Masterpage
had a lock on it, they said, there would be little incentive
for other companies to build anywhere else because they
would not be able to include that site in their tower
The Ulster County Legislature’s Administrative Services
Committee is pushing a provision in New York State Real
Property Tax Law (Section 469) to allow families an exemption
in assessed value if they build or renovate living quarters
for senior parents and grandparents. The measure is allowed
by New York State Law, and must be adopted by individual
towns, cities, villages, counties and school districts
in order for families to receive the exemption.
This matter was brought to Chairman Parete’s attention
by Marbletown Supervisor Vincent Martello. The Town of
Marbletown adopted this exemption, which is enacted by
the passage of a local law last year. Martello has since
informed neighboring towns about the measure and has been
lobbying the towns, the Rondout Valley School District,
and now the County, to follow suit.
Under the provisions of the law, families wishing to take
advantage of the exemption must comply with specific conditions
in order to qualify. Basic qualifications are as follows:
The living quarters must be for a senior parent or grandparent,
62 years of age or older. It must be the senior parent/grandparent’s
primary place of residence. The family must apply to their
local municipal assessor, with the proper documentation,
and must reapply for certification on an annual basis.
The construction/reconstruction must meet local zoning/building
requirements. The total exemption may not exceed the lesser
of (a) the increase in assessed value attributable to
the new construction/reconstruction (b) 20 % of the total
assessed value of the property (c) 20% of the median sale
price of residential property in the County.
The Legislature would need to adopt a local law in order
to enact the exemption. Should the Legislature adopt the
measure, it would be in effect for 2007 County taxes.
For further information, please contact Robert Parete,
Chairman of the Ulster County Administrative Services
Committee at 845-340-3627 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also proposed is possible state legislation which would
permit Ulster County to give volunteer firefighters and
emt's up to a 10 percent reduction in their real property
taxes. If the State Legislature enacts the requested legislation,
then Ulster as well as municipalities and school districts
within the County would be eligible to enact the tax relief.
Ulster County is looking to cut its workforce by 10 percent
over the coming two years to counter a cash flow deficit
and impending budget crisis based on a projected fund
balance deficit of $1.15 million left by its predecessor
GOP legislature. The county currently has about 2,000
full-time equivalent county employees and could save about
$3 million from a total payroll of $70 million. Action
is needed immediately, county officials are saying, to
avoid a reduction in Ulster’s bond rating for future
The projected deficit would be the third consecutive decline
in the county’s fund balance, after an unencumbered
year-end balance of $16.01 million in 2004 represented
a reduction of $8.9 million, or 35.7 percent, from the
year before, and then last year’s year-end fund
balance was $6.88 million, down $9.13 million, or 57.05
Ulster County decided in recent weeks to finally cut its
ties with Bovis Lend Lease, the company that’s been
overseeing construction of the county’s long-delayed
new jail now over $12 million over budget and nearly two
years behind schedule. Members of the county Legislature’s
Law Enforcement Center Oversight Committee voted in February
to terminate the county’s month-to-month contract,
effective Feb. 28, and replace them with Ralph Johnson,
who already has been retained on a per-diem basis of $175
per day out of a $40,000 line item already approved by
The delays and cost overruns at the new jail were key
issues in last year’s election of a new 21-12 Democratic
majority to the county legislature.
Belleayre Mountain will host a Shandaken Day & Race
on Sunday, March 12 to help raise funds for the production
of the documentary "Shandaken Remembered: From Beginnings
to Bicentennial", a recent film produced by Shandaken
residents to capture the story of the Town's rich history
and exuberant Bicentennial Celebration. All profits of
the Shandaken Day & Race at Belleayre Mountain and
the sale of the film DVD will go to the Empire State Railway
Museum in Phoenicia, NY & the Shandaken Museum in
Pine Hill, NY.
Shandaken Day at Belleayre Mountain will include a race
on the Nastar course, open to skiers and snowboarders
of all ages. Cost of the race will be $20, which will
include an all-day lift ticket to Belleayre and the fee
to race. Shandaken residents will receive a special rate
of just $15 when they show proof of residency. Pre-register
with Belleayre Mountain at 845-254-5600 ext. 428 or by
stopping by the Guest Service Desk at the mountain. Day
of race registration will be held in the Overlook Lodge
between 8 - 10:30 am, and the race will start at 11 am.
A showing of the documentary "Shandaken Remembered"
will take place continuously throughout the day in the
Frost Valley YMCA, along with Senior Girl Scout Troop
358, is organizing “It’s All About Me,”
the first annual Teen Girls’ Wellness Weekend on
March 11-12. Topics will include Natural Skin Care; Yoga:
Learn a new, relaxing way to stay in shape and improve
flexibility; How to Deal: Discussions on how to handle
emotions regarding both the physical and emotional aspects
of dating, body image and self-confidence; an Open Forum:
“Teen Talk,” in which girls pick the topics
and anonymously ask the questions they might otherwise
be afraid to ask; Self Defense and Safety courses; and
a host of outdoor activities including hiking, climbing,
cross-country skiing, snow tubing and broomball.
The Teen Girls’ Wellness Weekend package includes
one-night accommodations in Frost Valley’s Quirk
Super Lodge with linens, five meals (Saturday breakfast
through Sunday luncheon), all workshops and activities,
plus a welcome breakfast for participants and their families.
Limited financial assistance is available for this event.
The program drop-off time is 9 a.m. Saturday. Participants
should bring warm clothes for outdoor weekend activities,
fun games and music, an extra blanket and a great attitude.
Spaces are limited.
For program information on or to make a reservation for
the Teen Girls’ Wellness Weekend, please contact
Bob Eddings, Community Programs Director, at (845) 985-2291,
ext. 305 or e-mail to: email@example.com.
A National Counterterrorism Center, or NCTC, government
database of alleged international terrorism suspects or
associates includes 325,000 names, four times more than
when the central list was created in 2003. The NCTC name
repository began under its predecessor agency in 2003
with 75,000 names. Civil liberties advocates and privacy
experts have expressed surprise over the size of the NCTC
database and said it heightened concerns that large numbers
of innocent people may be included on government terrorism
The NCTC database is a compilation of reports supplied
by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and
other agencies, the report said. Officials refuse to say
how many names on the list were linked to the NSA’s
controversial domestic eavesdropping program.
Meanwhile, about a fifth of Americans think federal agents
have listened in on their phone calls, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup
Poll suggests. Twenty-one percent of the 1,000 adults
who replied to the survey said it was very likely or somewhat
likely their conversations had been wiretapped, while
52 percent said it was not at all likely. Twenty-four
percent said it was not too likely.
Shortly after 9/11, President Bush authorized the National
Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance of
communications — phone calls, e-mails and text messages
— between people inside the United States, including
Americans, and terrorist suspects overseas, bypassing
a secret court set up to provide warrants for such surveillance.
The Bush administration has said the program is designed
to monitor terrorists, while critics say the spying is
illegal and may infringe on the civil liberties of Americans.
According to the poll, Americans appear to be split over
the legality of the domestic eavesdropping program. About
49 percent of respondents said the president had definitely
or probably broken the law by authorizing the wiretaps
and 47 percent said he probably or definitely had not.
Those numbers were similar to a question about whether
the program is right or wrong — 47 percent said
it was right and 50 percent called it wrong.
A federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to
release documents about its warrantless surveillance program
or spell out what it is withholding, a setback to efforts
to keep the program under wraps. At the same time, the
Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
said he had worked out an agreement with the White House
to consider legislation and provide more information to
Congress on the eavesdropping program.
For Americans troubled by the prospect of federal agents
eavesdropping on their phone conversations or combing
through their Internet records, there is good news: A
little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose
is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected
in the fight against terrorism. Unfortunately, however,
the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, initially
proposed by the bipartisan commission that investigated
the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, andwas created by the intelligence
overhaul that President Bush signed into law in December
2004, has never met and exists today only on paper.
Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and
concern over the qualifications of some of its members
— one was treasurer of Bush’s first campaign
for Texas governor — has kept the board from doing
a single day of work.
Critics, including the Sept. 11 commission, say the inaction
shows the administration is just going through the motions
when it comes to civil liberties.
Scientists at the recent American Association for the
Advancement of Science, the nation’s largest gathering
of scientists, didn’t just defend evolution - they
rallied in support of it. Many spoke out over the weekend
against what they called religious pressure in public
schools. And they enlisted the help of about 300 teachers
from across the Midwest who attended the conference to
discuss the national debate over evolution.
“We are not rolling over on this,” Alan Leshner,
chief executive of AAAS and executive publisher of the
journal Science, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s
too important to the nation and to the nation’s
Some teachers told of parents who insist they abandon
high school biology texts in favor of biblical creationism
or intelligent design - the theory that life is so complex
that it must be the work of a supernatural designer. They
told of school board pressure in the science classroom.
Scientists also announced the formation of the Alliance
for Science, a new organization of scientists, scientific
groups and supporters. The goal is to fight what they
see as an assault on science from religious conservatives.
The new organization will seek to create graduate fellowships,
increase funding for research, train math and science
teachers, and build tax incentives for research and development.
Mead Johnson and Co. is recalling about 41,500 cans of
its Gentlease powdered infant formula because they may
contain small metal particles. The Evansville, Ind., company
has not reported any injuries, but the metal particles
could seriously harm a baby’s throat and respiratory
system. Symptoms could include coughing and difficulty
breathing or swallowing. Any symptoms would be likely
to appear within three to four hours of feeding.
The recalled 24-ounce cans of formula were stamped on
the bottom with lot code BMJ19 and “use by”
date 1 Jul 07. They were sold at major retail stores nationwide.
If you have fed some of this batch of Gentlease to your
baby and are concerned about the child’s health,
contact your doctor.
This recall is being conducted in cooperation with the
Food and Drug Administration. Consumers who have cans
of this batch of Gentlease should stop using them immediately
and call Mead Johnson for more information at 888-587-7275.
Populations of boys born in stressful times enjoy an advantage
their whole lives, living longer, on average, than males
born in times of peace and prosperity. A new study adds
to earlier findings that pregnant women are more likely
to miscarry male fetuses than females fetuses during times
of stress. It shows that this tendency to miscarry males
has a culling effect, said Ralph Catalano of the School
of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley,
who led the study.
“The populations are hardier because they lost the
weak ones earlier,” Catalano said in a telephone
interview. “No individuals got stronger —
it’s just that the weak ones aren’t there.”
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, also solidify what biologists have
long known — that males are the weaker sex.
“Statistically, it is clearly true,” Catalano
said. “Compared to men, (women) are biological fortresses.”
On average, around the world, about 105 boys are born
for every 100 girls. But males are more likely to die
young in general, and by the time couples are courting
the ratio is fairly even. Except after hard times.
There are two competing theories as to why, Catalano said.
One was that a stressed pregnant woman produces more of
a hormone called cortisol, which in turn damages fetuses.
Damaged fetuses are frequently miscarried. “Because
male fetuses are more fragile than female fetuses, they
are more likely to be damaged,” Catalano said.
Cortisol often makes a male fetus kick and squirm, and
a second theory holds that a mother’s body will
miscarry a male fetus that does not kick or wiggle strongly
enough and which is, presumably, weak.
“It’s not in her evolutionary interest to
have a weak son in times of stress,” Catalano said.
“He may not survive or may not be competitive for
Both theories predict that fewer boys would be born, but
they would have different long-term outcomes, Catalano
said. Either all the male fetuses are damaged a little,
and the boys who are born are weakened, or the miscarriage
process culls the weak fetuses and leaves the strong ones.
So they looked at the data. In Sweden, which has been
keeping records since the 18th century,after the most
stressful times such as a famine, men’s lives were
four months longer than in happier times.
“The weak boys got culled out and those boys that
survived are hardier on average. They live longer,”
For an individual, this might be a small difference but
over a population it is significant, Catalano said.
Catalano said he has seen the same effects in action today.
“In California after 9-11 we reported that the sex
ratio in California went down,” he said. “Many
more males than you would expect died after September
11 in utero.”
Similar effects were seen after the collapse of East Germany
in 1991, he said, when unemployment soared in the former
Plan D Nightmare
The complexity of the new Medicare drug benefit is keeping
many seniors from signing up. For others, it’s simply
the math. After weighing the specific plans available
to them under the new benefit, seniors are concluding
that they’ll end up paying more for the medications
they currently take than if they continue with no coverage
at all. Taking into account monthly premiums and co-payments
— which under some policies can run as high as 50%
to 75% of a drug’s retail price — they think
they can get a better or equal deal doing what they’ve
always done: asking doctors for samples and ordering from
pharmacies in Canada.
It is unclear how many people have made such calculations.
But of the 14.3 million people enrolled in the drug benefit
as of January, only 3.6 million signed up voluntarily.
(Others, like low-income beneficiaries who were in both
Medicaid and Medicare programs, were automatically enrolled
in a drug plan.) The deadline for enrolling is May 15.
Anyone who wants to enroll after that faces a “penalty”
in the form of higher premiums.
To some extent, the government has encouraged people to
compare and select plans based on their current drug expenses.
Both Medicare and the federally subsidized health plans
offering the new drug benefit suggest seniors use their
current list of drugs to calculate their best option.
Medicare’s online drug-plan finder sorts and compares
plans for them the same way. But this approach may be
short-sighted, because it neglects to take into account
a senior’s future drug needs, which are likely to
be more expensive. Consequently, making a decision based
on current needs could prove costly.
There are also potential legal issues for some people
who are deciding to go it alone. The Food and Drug Administration
says it’s illegal to import medicines from abroad,
but so far it hasn’t moved to intervene in the mail-order
pharmacy operations or prosecute individuals. Generally,
the agency turns a blind eye to purchases for personal
use. The FDA does support the U.S. pharmaceutical industry’s
warning that buying drugs from foreign pharmacies carries
safety risks, a claim that Canadian pharmacies reject.
In a recent upstate power play over New York City, the
State Senate, under John Bonacic’s lead, has passed
legislation stripping city regulators of the power to
determine how much water four of its Catskills reservoirs
should hold. Several New York City Democrats joined with
the 45 lawmakers voting yes to giving the state Department
of Environmental Conservation power to lower reservoir
levels in an effort to reduce flooding downstream.
As of now, it’s up to the city’s Department
of Environmental Protection to make the call on lowering
the water levels. But that bureaucracy has been under
fire of late for alleged bogus dam inspection reports,
poor dam maintenance and perceptions in the Catskills
that it neglected actions to control recent flooding throughout
Bonacic’s bill was first introduced in the Senate
in 1997 but was never before voted on. Assembly Democrats,
who must noe enact a similar bill to bring the measure
to lifem held a hearing on DEP reservoir oversightrecently
and several other bills imposing new regulations on the
DEP are pending in both house of the Legislature.
“3Enactment of this legislation would cripple the
city’s ability to operate its water system”
DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd said in prepared testimony
at the hearing. City officials contend the legislation
would put city residents at risk.
‘The bill threatens the public health and safety
by asking millions of people who rely on the city’s
system to accept the possibility that sufficient water
may not be available,” stated an opposition memo
Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s office sent to lawmakers.
Bonacic said the legislation would give DEC more control
over the water levels in the Neversink, Rondout, Ashokan
and Schoharie reservoirs, two of which were listed as
at or above 100 percent capacity in recent weeks.
Dissent often carries a price in official Washington,
especially in the war years of the Bush presidency. Since
the Sept. 11 attacks, the number of insiders alleging
wrongdoing in government - either through whistle-blower
channels or directly to the press - has surged, as have
reprisals against them.
That’s the message from a recent congressional hearing
on protections for national security whistle-blowers -
the first in more than a decade. “The system is
broken,” says Rep. Christopher Shays (R) of Connecticut,
who chaired the House Government Affairs subcommittee
Disclosures of flawed prewar intelligence, secret prisons
and prisoner abuse, and warrantless surveillance by the
National Security Agency have launched a debate on the
conduct of the war on terror within Congress and the American
public. Critics say some of those disclosures also compromised
“At the Central Intelligence Agency, we are more
than holding our own in the global war on terrorism, but
we are at risk of losing a key battle: the battle to protect
our classified information,” wrote CIA director
Porter Goss in The New York Times.
The struggle over dissent in dangerous times is not confined
to national security matters, however. It appears to be
settling deeper into the federal bureaucracy, where government
scientists and even analysts at the scholarly Congressional
Research Service - who are not actually blowing any whistles
but who are staking out positions that deviate from the
administration’s - report efforts to control their
contact with the press and public.
If whistle-blowers and others “do not see an option
for dissent within the system, then the system is in bad
shape,” says Steven Aftergood, director of the Project
on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.
“Secrecy has become a growth industry.... It makes
it harder for ordinary citizens ... to ask questions ...
and to hold officials accountable.”
While federal workers have had whistle-blower protection
since 1989, a 1999 US court ruling requires these workers
to have irrefutable evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse
to be eligible for protection. Last year, House and Senate
committees each passed bills that strengthened protections
for whistle-blowers, but neither bill has come to the
floor for a vote. Only the Senate version includes national
The federal Environmental Protection Agency last month
proposed a big change in how companies report pollution
data. If the Bush administration gets its way, companies
will tell the public a lot less about pollution by reporting
less often on fewer chemicals.
In the Capital Region, 16 facilities would no longer have
to report anything to the EPA about the toxic substances
they emit, according to analysis from OMB Watch, a Washington
D.C.-based open government group.
Environmentalists and elected officials, including Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer, are urging the feds to back off.
They say the Toxic Research Index has helped communities
and researchers investigate threats to local health and
safety while encouraging companies to cut pollution.
The proposal is designed to reduce the paperwork burden
on companies and would save 165,000 work hours each year,
according to the EPA. The agency points out that most
information would still be public, except for relatively
small amounts of chemicals from certain facilities.
Advocates aren’t buying the burden argument. They
point out that the EPA’s own data shows it costs
companies just $430 to $790 for each chemical they report
Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know
Act in 1987, in the wake of the release of the deadly
chemical methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India, which killed
nearly 3,000 people.
The TRI data, available at http://www.epa.gov/triexplorer,
is heavily used by researchers, community groups, journalists
and even state and local officials. The state Department
of Environmental Conservation has urged the EPA to maintain
the current system.
A Death Test?
There’s a new test for baby boomers and their parents,
and it’s one where you definitely want a low score.
The 12-question test measures risk of dying within four
years, and the more points you get, the greater your risk.
Created for people older than 50 by researchers at the
San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the quiz
is designed “to try to help doctors and families
get a firmer sense for what the future may hold,”
to help plan health care accordingly, says lead author
Dr. Sei Lee.
“We know that patients and families want more prognostic
information from doctors,” said Lee, who helped
develop the test. “It’s a very natural human
question of, ‘What’s going to happen to me?”’
The test measures risk factors linked with mortality,
including 2 points just for being male. Diabetes, smoking,
and getting pooped trying to walk several blocks each
also get two points, and points accrue with each four-year
increment after age 60. Zero to 5 points says your risk
of dying in four years is less than 4 percent. With 14
points, your risk rises to 64 percent.
The test doesn’t ask what you eat, but it does ask
if you can push a living room chair across the floor.
Roughly 81 percent accurate, the test can give older people
a reasonable idea of their survival chances, the researchers
say, warning not to try it at home, saying a doctor can
help you put things into perspective.
The test is based on data involving 11,701 Americans over
50 who took part in a national health survey in 1998.
Funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging,
the researchers analyzed participants’ outcomes
during a four-year follow-up. They based their death-risk
survey on the health characteristics that seemed to predict
death within four years.
More Gay Bans
Efforts to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children
are emerging across the USA as a second front in the culture
wars that began during the 2004 elections over same-sex
marriage. Steps to pass laws or secure November ballot
initiatives are underway in at least 16 states.
Florida has banned all gays and lesbians from adopting
since 1977, although they can be foster parents. State
court challenges and a campaign by entertainer Rosie O’Donnell
to overturn the law have failed. A pending bill would
allow judges to grant exceptions. Utah prohibits all unmarried
couples from adoption.
Fueling the political activity: — Ballot victories.
Social conservatives view family makeup as the next battleground
after passing marriage amendments in 11 states in 2004.
— Election-year politics. Republicans battered by
questions over ethics and Iraq “might well”
use the adoption issue to deflect attention and draw out
conservatives in close Senate and governor races in states
such as Missouri and Ohio, says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe,
University of Southern California political scientist.
The aim is to replicate 2004, says Julie Brueggemann of
the gay rights group PROMO: Personal Rights of Missourians.
She says marriage initiatives mobilized conservative voters
in 2004 and helped President Bush win in closely contested
states such as Ohio. Republicans “see this as a
Republican pollster Whit Ayres is skeptical. Adoption,
he says, “doesn’t have the emotional power
of the gay marriage issue because there is no such thing
as the phrase ‘the sanctity of adoption.’