The Mowing War... The town’s parks have been mowed.
But like the grass that covers them the issue of who should
really do it and who should really pay for it are sure to
come up again soon.
Earlier this month tempers flared when Highway Superintendent
Richard Merwin, a Democrat, announced he would not maintain
the lawns at the town’s five parks. Although town crews
have historically taken on the responsibility, Merwin claims
he could not do it this year because the town board denied
his request to budget an additional $42,000 in the highway
department budget for the work. Merwin also came under fire
after a request came in from the Shandaken Little League for
help cleaning up the ball field at the town’s Glenbrook
Park after games. Merwin refused, saying, “It’s
not my job to go pick up their beer cans.”
Theresa Grant, the President of the Shandaken Little League,
took issue with Merwin’s suggestion that there is drinking
at Little League games and said “There are no open containers
on the little league field and Dick Merwin is not picking
up our beer cans.”
Meanwhile, town Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. has hired Ted
Byron, a fellow Republican and a former town councilman, to
maintain town parks for $12,500 for the season. Cross said
he got a bid from another company, which was higher than Byron’s.
And Cross took issue with Merwin's notion that the trouble
was due to the town board denying the highway department the
extra money for the work, noting that until the year 2000
the parks were mowed by two buildings and grounds employees
that worked for the town board and were paid out of the town’s
general budget. In 2000 those two workers and their park responsibilities
were shifted over to the highway department, along with funds
for their salaries and benefits.
"There is a fund for the mowing of the parks" says
Supervisor Cross' secretary Patty Hines, probably the person
most familiar with the town's balance sheets. It's the Trust
Agency Fund for the Recreation Department, sort of a "rainy
day" account which can be used for any recreation-related
purpose. There's about $20,000 now in this town pocket, which
has accrued over many years from subdivision fees paid to
the town planning department.
So according to Hines...the money for the mowing of town parks
this year..."is not coming out of the General Fund"
The Shandaken town board met last week, with no public announcement,
in order to grab some cash being dangled by the United States
Department of Agriculture. Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. said
Tuesday that the meeting was a necessity because the USDA
requires notification of the acceptance of funds within ten
of the funds being offered. USDA offered about $150,000 in
the form of a grant to repair a major mudslide that undermined
the Pantherkill Road in Phoenicia during last months flooding.
“We’ll take it where we can get it,” Cross
said.” We’re running out of money.”
About fifty people came to a free, invitation only barbeque
at Pine Hill lake Saturday May 21 to honor the work of the
town’s fire companies, ambulance, and police departments,
along with select staff from state-run Belleayre Mountain
during the flood in early April.
“I guess the sponsor’s the town board,”
Supervisor Cross said when extending a phone invite to the
event the day before. The public, however, was neither informed
nor invited, and signs at the event marked the area as a “Private
Party.” Area restaurants provided “incredible
amounts” of food, according to town board member Edna
Phoenicia Rotary Club president Marc Wilsey hosted the event
and presented awards, including numerous plaques, during a
recognition ceremony. Funding for the event was provided by
The reason for the event, according to organizers, “was
to say thank you for all the blood, sweat and tears and hours
of damn hard and dangerous work, and for all you do for our
community and all our citizens.”
Of the volunteers, Cross said “You gotta take your hat
off to them.”
In related news, a $50 a plate dinner was held at the Catamount
Café Monday night to raise money for the local fire
companies. The Catamount is owned by Dean Gitter, who also
owns the Emerson.
Art Snyder, Director of the Ulster County Emergency Communications
and Emergency Management Department, has announced that the
Disaster Recovery Center (DRC), which has been set up at the
Town of Ulster Town Hall, will no longer have Sunday hours.
In addition, those individuals seeking to file a FEMA claim
for lost or damaged property must do so by June 18. “Governor
Pataki declared Ulster County a disaster area on April 18th
and, by law, those victims have 60 days to file claims with
FEMA. This does not mean claims will be settled by that date,
but those people who fail to register by the 18th will not
be able to participate in the program,” stated Director
A new bill in Albany was also signed by the Governor this
past week to help homeowners with their tax bills by dropping
assessment amounts. The County Legislarure must now adopt
it for the bill to take effect.
Any questions regarding this information should be directed
to (845) 331-7000.
Kingston-based Ulster Savings Bank is readying plans to open
a branch in Phoenicia. According to John O’Reilly, Assistant
Vice President of Marketing for Ulster Savings, they see the
area as one “that is quite an opportunity for us.”
They have applied to the New York State Banking Department
for permission to open the branch, which would occupy the
building that housed the former Phoenicia Auto and Hardware
Store, right across the street from the Key Bank, Phoenicia’s
long time solo banking facility. O’Reilly said a vault
would need to be installed.
As for when it would open, O’Reilly said it was still
more “if than when.” That remains uncertain until
they get word from the Banking Department, but the brass at
Ulster Savings are hoping for opening the doors this fall.
A few years ago several business owners invited area banks
to come to Phoenicia and meet with the community, which said
they’d welcome the possibility of a more competitive
According to the county Treasurer’s Office 2004 annual
financial report, Ulster County spent $270.2 million, $19.5
million more than the $250.7 million took in through taxes
and other revenue sources last year, and ended the year with
just $1.2 million in reserve, a fund balance decrease of $12.4
million from the previous year. Ulster’s situation is
in sharp contrast to neighbors Dutchess and Greene Counties,
both of which ended 2004 with surpluses. It has been determined
that the county may have to take out short-term loans to meet
its financial obligations throughout the year, the first time
it has had to do so since the early 1990s, because of the
lack of a fund balance to act as a financial stabilizer.
Several factors contributed to that operating loss including
the loss of $3.9 million in Intergovernmental Transfer Program
payments to the Golden Hill Health Care Center, larger-than-expected
retirement costs, an increase in medical and hospital premiums
and principal payments on county debt, plus the fact that
sales tax was about $1.5 million less than expected.
About 65 percent of county spending is mandated, leaving spending
in areas such as the Golden Hill Health Care Center, the sheriff’s
road patrol and the Office for the Aging as discretionary…
all of which are now looking at possible cuts. New revenue
sources, including a possible home heating tax, property transfer
tax, mortgage tax, and higher motor vehicle registration fees,
are currently under consideration.
According to state Senator John Bonacic, when Governor George
Pataki releases his much anticipated legislation in the coming
weeks to settle land claims with five Indian tribes, including
the Seneca-Cayugas, in return for casinos, it will stipulate
that a casino can only be built with the approval of the local
county legislature. If the governor’s legislation does
not include such a condition, Bonacic said he would insist
on an amendment to ensure local control. According to Bonacic,
a service agreement between the Ulster County Legislature
and the tribe would be required before the process could proceed
If the Oklahoma-based Seneca-Cayuga Indian tribe is successful
in gaining approval to operate its casino in Saugerties, it
would mark the first time in U.S. history that a tribe is
permitted to do so outside of the state where its reservation
The Seneca-Cayuga tribe is proposing to build just under four
million square feet of resort/casino/retail space, a 900-room
hotel, a 750,000-square-foot convention center, a 20,000-seat
sports and entertainment arena, a PGA-level golf course, and
five parking garages to accommodate approximately 23,000 parking
spaces at the Winston Fawm site of the 1994 Woodstock reunion
In April, 2003, Pataki and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer,
through their attorneys, wrote a letter to the federal government
which stated that awarding jurisdiction to out-of-state tribes
would “open a Pandora’s box.”
“The governor flip-flopped; that’s exactly what
he did,” said Bonacic, who believes Pataki has since
come to view casino revenues as a means of funding a court-ordered
increase in aid to New York City schools of some $26 billion
over the next six years.
Pataki withdrew legislation in mid-April authorizing five
casinos in the Catskills to settle land claims with the Seneca-Cayugas;
the Wisconsin Oneidas; the Stockbridge-Munsees of Wisconsin
(whose claim reportedly involves less than an acre of land);
the landless Cayuga Nation of New York; and the Akwesasne
Mohawks, whose land borders the Canadian provinces of Ontario
and Quebec as well as New York State. Pataki spokesperson
Todd Alhart has said that the state needed to revise the agreements
in light of a March 29 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which held
that the New York Oneidas could not purchase property and
operate it as tax-exempt holdings without going through the
federal land-to-trust process. Federally approved Indian trust
lands are considered sovereign, the reason Native Americans
are able to operate casinos on them in states where gambling
is otherwise illegal.
Sullivan County legislators have already voted by a margin
of two to one in favor of casinos there, according to Bonacic,
who believes the Seneca-Cayugas are “fishing”
to “test the pulse” in Ulster County. “I’m
not so sure the political climate is as receptive to casinos
in Ulster County,” he said.
The state is under a court order to settle its land claim
with the Cayuga Nation. The Seneca-Cayugas are a party to
that lawsuit and they have agreed to drop their claims in
return for a casino. Following an appeals process, the Federal
District Court awarded the Cayugas a $250 million judgment
and 64,000 acres of land. The state will have to pay interest
on that amount until the settlement is concluded.
Meanwhile, the New York Oneidas reportedly have an option
on the former IBM recreation facility in Lake Katrine.
Last week, Ulster County Legislators Peter Kraft, Robert Parete,
Michael Berardi and Legislative Candidate Brian Cahill sent
out a call for the immediate formation of a special county
committee to discuss and prepare for casino development proposals
in the Towns of Saugerties and Ulster.
Materials available at town hall in advance of a scheduled
May 26 public hearing to address "corrections and or
adjustments" in the town's zoning map show two instances
in which districts are slated for "correction" to
higher intensity use. The Phoenicia Plaza on Route 28 is located
on what the current map shows as a residential parcel, but
is operated as a pre-existing Highway Business use under a
determination from the Zoning Board of Appeals last year.
The new map proposes to redesignate it Commercial-Light Industrial
which would allow uses including a gas station or an expansion
of existing propane storage facilities. The second proposed
change would increase the density from R5 to R1.5 for residential
parcels along Route 28, east of Pine Hill.
According to the 2004 annual report issued by the Ulster County
Traffic Safety Board, more than 4,000 people were injured
and 31 people died in traffic accidents in Ulster County last
year. Speed and driver inattention were listed as the leading
causes of accidents locally, factors compounded by the general
lack of wide shoulders along the roads, which provides some
buffer for out-of-control vehicles.
Officials said in cases where a vehicle goes slightly off
the road, high speed and the lack of a proper shoulder on
most local roads can cause drivers to overreact and lose control
of the vehicle, rather than slowing down and gradually steering
back onto the roadway.
Another pattern that has led to numerous accidents in the
area, which was a contributing factor in many fatalities,
is drivers crossing the center line of the roadway into oncoming
Fifty percent of the fatalities did not have a seat belt on,
and half of those were back-seat riders not wearing a seat
belt, and half of those were ejected from the vehicle.
Motorcycle, and pedestrian and bicycle crashes were up over
the previous year, and in most cases, the accident was the
fault of the walker or rider and not the driver.
The 11-member bipartisan Ulster Constitutional Charter commission
backed the 2003 public referendum that calls for shrinking
the Legislature from 33 to 23 members, who will run in single-member
districts, rather than the multi-member districts currently
in place, beginning with the 2011 election.
A substantial change recommended by the Charter Commission
is shifting the responsibility for drawing new Legislature
districts every 10 years from the Legislature to an independent
body of at least seven members, a move several commissioners
said would add more integrity and transparency to that process.
The commission also recommended that legislators’ salaries
should be determined by an external body rather than by the
Legislature. Another change the panel favored was shifting
from two-year to staggered four-year terms for legislators,
a move many felt would give lawmakers greater independence
in the move away from having legislators spend more time trying
to get re-elected than doing the county’s business.
The commission was split on the issue of term limits. Some
said term limits would allow for a greater level of participation
in the Legislature by the public, while others said they thought
that term limits would result in some of the most qualified
members of the Legislature being tossed out of office despite
being effective lawmakers.
The commission hopes to finalize its recommendations in the
late summer or early fall. The recommendations then will be
put before the public for input and adjustments will be made
as deemed necessary to reflect public input. Then a final
charter document will be given to the Legislature at the end
of 2005. The Legislature’s approval of the charter is
required before it can go to the public for a vote. Ulster
County currently operates under provisions of the New York
State Home Municipal Law. A county charter allows a more individualized
form of county government in which the structure, duties and
balance of power can be tailor-made to the county’s
The Friends of the Shandaken Dog Kennel, along with the Supervisor
and town board, are inviting the public to a dedication ceremony
May 28 at 1PM at the town's new dog kennel located behind
town hall on Rt.28. The new facility was constructed recently
using some $23,781 in donations raised, including from a fundraising
event at Parish Hall last October, along with volunteer labor.
The kennel is being dedicated to Mary Gormley's dog Snuffy,
Cost Of War?
Fighting in Iraq has been prolonged and remains intense enough
that it has pushed the total cost of US military operations
since Sept. 11, 2001, close to that of the Korean War. And
despite the yawning federal deficit, Congress hasn’t
blinked at this price even though the costs for Pentagon operations
are likely to pile up in years ahead. By 2010, war expenses
might total $600 billion, according to the Congressional Budget
Office. Much depends on when - and how many - US military
personnel can be withdrawn from the Iraqi theater of operations.
The demands and unpredictability of war have, in essence,
turned the defense budget into a two-part allocation. First
is the regular budget request, which contains acquisition
and research and development funds as well as personnel and
operations costs, and which Congress considers in its normal
appropriations process. Second is the supplemental appropriations
- the add-on emergency spending requested by the administration
later in the year. Congress gave final passage to a 2005 supplemental
defense bill just this past month.
The cost of the US military in Iraq is running about $5 billion
a month. Overall, Congress has approved about $192 billion
for the Iraq war itself, according to an analysis by the Congressional
Research Service. Another $58 billion has been allocated for
Afghanistan, and some $20 billion has gone for enhanced air
security and other Pentagon preparedness measures in the US.
That has far exceeded the $85 billion inflation-adjusted price
tag of the 1991 Gulf War, which was largely paid for by contributions
from US allies.
As for all military operations combined, add in the $50 billion
in war spending the Senate Armed Services Committee last week
added to the fiscal 2006 defense budget bill, and the total
will surpass $320 billion in US funds… close to the
Korean war level of $350 billion [in today’s dollars].
The Congressional Research Service pegs the cost of US operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan at an additional $458 billion through
Late news further revealed that the $82 billion in wartime
supplemental funding that was approved May 10 by Congress
still won’t be enough to pay for military operations
through the rest of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30,
since congressional aides have reported that the services
have indicated they will need even more money by August —
possibly even earlier —to cover rising operational and
maintenance costs of the protracted war in Iraq. The exact
amount is unknown because defense and service officials have
just started their review, but lawmakers expect a request
for about another $50 billion before summer’s end.
Eighty-nine Democratic members of the U.S. Congress recently
sent President George W. Bush a letter asking for explanation
of a secret British memo that said “intelligence and
facts were being fixed” to support the Iraq war in mid-2002.
The timing of the memo, published by the Times of London was
well before the president brought the issue to Congress for
approval. British officials did not dispute the document’s
authenticity, and Michael Boyce, then Britain’s Chief
of Defense Staff, told the paper that Britain had not then
made a decision to follow the United States to war, but it
would have been “irresponsible” not to prepare
for the possibility.
The White House has not yet responded to queries about the
congressional letter, which was released on May 6 and “raises
troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications
for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration...”
“It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take
military action, even if the timing was not yet decided,”
the memo released in London said. “But the case was
thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD
capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”
Britain’s attorney general advised that “the desire
for regime change was not a legal base for military action”
and two of three possible legal bases — self-defense
and humanitarian intervention — could not be used. It
further charged that inadequate plans were being made for
the aftermath of an anticipated invasion.
The Bush Administration has called the memo, and the letter
from Democrat congressmen, “nothing new” even
though denying such matters in the past two years.
State Assemblyman Daniel L. Hooker, R-Saugerties, introduced
two bills on May 3 requiring the teaching of “intelligent
design” in New York state public schools and allowing
the posting of the Ten Commandments on government property.
Hooker is the sole sponsor of both bills which have been referred
to committee. The Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS), a
nonprofit think tank in Albany that promotes secularism in
government and education, opposes both bills, noting how Ten
Commandments and “intelligent design” controversies
have arisen in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Tennessee and
“I am shocked that a legislator in a progressive state
like New York would propose such backward and unconstitutional
legislation,” said Tim Gordinier, IHS director of public
policy and education. “Both bills would violate the
First Amendment protections against government establishment
of a religion. The government has no business promoting religion,
yet that is precisely what Assemblyman Hooker is proposing.”
Assembly bill A08036 requires that all students in New York
state public schools, from Kindergarten through Grade 12,
receive instruction in both “theories” of intelligent
design and evolution. The bill also requires the board of
education or the trustees of every school district to provide
appropriate training and curriculum materials for the teachers.
“Intelligent design” promotes the idea that life
is simply too complex to have been created without an “intelligent
Assembly bill A08073 would allow for the Ten Commandments
to be displayed as a historical document in public buildings
and on public grounds in New York state.
The Institute for Humanist Studies offers an online course
on “Evolution, Creationism and the Nature of Science”
The Bush administration and Senate Republican leaders are
pushing a plan that would significantly expand the FBI’s
power to demand business records in terror investigations
without obtaining approval from a judge. The proposal, which
is likely to be considered in a closed session of the Senate
intelligence committee in the coming weeks, would allow federal
investigators to subpoena records from businesses and other
institutions without a judge’s sign-off if they declared
that the material was needed as part of a foreign intelligence
investigation. Furthermore, the proposal, part of a broader
plan to extend antiterrorism powers under the law known as
the USA Patriot Act, was concluded by Republican leaders on
the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in consultation
with the Bush administration, Congressional officials said.
Administration and Congressional officials who support the
idea said the proposal would give the FBI a much-needed tool
to track leads in terrorism and espionage investigations that
would be quicker and less cumbersome than existing methods.
They pointed out that the administrative subpoena power being
sought for the FBI in terror cases was already in use in more
than 300 other types of crimes, including health care fraud,
child exploitation, racketeering and drug trafficking.
But word of the proposal has generated immediate protests
from civil rights advocates, who said that it would give the
FBI virtually unchecked authority in terror investigations,
and the plan is likely to intensify the growing debate in
Congress over the balance between fighting terrorism and protecting
Support for the idea among many Democrats and some Republicans
in Congress is uncertain, and the Senate intelligence committee’s
plan to push the proposal could set off a struggle with the
Senate Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee has joint
authority for oversight of foreign intelligence surveillance
law - which would be expanded under the current proposal -
but its members have shown some reluctance to expand the FBI’s
Up to 20 million Britons are expected to protest against world
poverty as part of the biggest mobilisation against global
inequality ever seen this summer. In addition, 250,000 campaigners
are planning to attend a rally in Edinburgh to coincide with
July’s G8 summit where key talks among world leaders
could witness British Prime Minister Tony Blair securing a
historic deal to help Africa’s poor. Meanwhile, the
BBC is understood to have cleared its schedules on the same
day as the Edinburgh march in anticipation of a huge global
event. Although the show of public support is expected to
help bolster Blair’s efforts to secure a breakthrough
on debt, aid and trade, concern is rising in Whitehall that
the key measures are failing to win US support. Although officials
maintain that plans to double international aid to around
$100 billion a year and eradicate much of the debt of poor
countries remain intact, privately they warn that agreement
may not be reached during the talks.
A series of protest marches in Paris, New York and Berlin
among others will culminate in the Edinburgh rally when tens
of thousands will encircle Edinburgh to create a ‘human
The U.S. Army ordered a one-day suspension this month of its
recruiting efforts, already made difficult by the Iraq war,
to confront incidents of misconduct by its recruiters. The
incidents included a Texas recruiter threatening a man with
arrest if he did not show up at a recruiting station for an
interview and Colorado recruiters telling a high school student
how to get a phony diploma from a nonexistent school, Army
officials said. On May 20, all 7,545 recruiters at 1,700 recruiting
stations nationwide were counseled by Army officials about
what is permitted and what is not in the effort to coax people
to enlist, officials said.
The Army is already struggling to meet recruiting goals, with
potential recruits and their families wary about volunteering
to serve during wartime. Aiming to sign 80,000 recruits in
fiscal 2005, the Army has missed its goals in three straight
months, including falling 42 percent short in April, and is
16 percent behind its year-to-date recruiting target.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has announced that it will allow
recruits to sign up for just 15 months of active-duty service,
rather than the typical four-year enlistment.
America abolished the draft in 1973 during the tumult of the
Vietnam War era and has since relied on a military made up
exclusively of volunteers. This is the first time the new
all-volunteer army has faced a serious, long-term war.
Under the new plan, new recruits will be offered the option
of serving 15 months on active duty after completing their
training, and then two years in the part-time Army Reserve
or National Guard. The soldier then would spend nearly seven
years in the Individual Ready Reserve, which requires no training
and until recently was rarely mobilized, or serve in a program
like the Peace Corps.
A dismal two-thirds of the nation’s 18 million Type
2 diabetics don’t have their blood sugar under control,
putting them at high risk of the disease’s nastiest
complications, even death. Yet most are unaware they’re
doing so poorly, frustrated diabetes specialists have said.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the illness, and
experts estimate a third of the people who have it don’t
know. An additional 41 million have ‘’pre-diabetes,’’
an impaired sugar tolerance that can lead to the full-blown
Type 2 diabetes sneaks up on you, as the body gradually loses
its ability to use insulin, a hormone crucial to converting
blood sugar into energy. High glucose levels damage blood
vessels and nerves - eventually leading to blindness, kidney
failure, amputations of feet and legs and heart disease. Diabetes
is the nation’s sixth-leading killer.
Tight control of blood sugar, either through diet and exercise
alone or with a variety of medications, can prevent that damage.
The best measure of control: the A1C test, a way of tracking
average blood-sugar levels over two or three months.
‘’The American public largely doesn’t understand’’
this disease, said Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who urged
patients ‘’to take their treatment seriously.’’
A new report finds that the number of reported bias crimes
and civil rights violations against Muslims in the United
States soared to its highest level last year since the period
immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The
Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which
did the study, attributed the increase to lingering animosity
toward Muslims and a growing use of anti-Muslim rhetoric by
some political, religious and media figures.
Notable bias or discrimination cases cited in the report include
the barring of singer Cat Stevens and Islamic scholar Tariq
Ramadan from entering the United States and the arrest of
a Muslim lawyer from Oregon jailed as a “material witness”
in the terrorist bombing of Madrid trains based on a fingerprint
that turned out to belong to someone else.
“We believe the disturbing rise in anti-Muslim hate
crimes and in the total number of civil rights cases, both
of which will be outlined in our news conference, can be attributed
at least in part to rising Islamophobic rhetoric in American
society,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, the council’s
The council counted 1,522 incidents in which Muslims reported
their civil rights had been violated in 2004, a 49 percent
increase over 2003. Another 141 incidents of confirmed or
suspected bias crimes were committed against Muslims, a 52
The report did contain some good news. Workplace discrimination
complaints - 23 percent of all 2003 complaints - fell to less
than 18 percent last year. Complaints involving government
agencies fell from 29 percent in 2003 to 19 percent last year.
The European Union and United States edged closer to a World
Trade Organization showdown recently as airplane maker Airbus
said it hoped to win controversial funding from Britain for
a new jet intended to compete with Boeing Co.’s latest
offering, the 787 Dreamliner. Airbus, owned 80 percent by
top European aerospace company EADS and 20 percent by Britain’s
BAE Systems Plc, has also asked France for new loans, a spokeswoman
for France’s transport ministry told Reuters.
Washington warned it could resume a World Trade Organization
case aimed at getting the government loans declared illegal
under world trade rules.
The United States and the EU suspended competing WTO cases
over government aid for Airbus and Boeing in January in the
hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement. However, they failed
to achieve that by an April deadline. EU officials said negotiations
with the United States to avert a trade war were still underway.
The bilateral clash reflects the corporate battle between
Airbus and Boeing. The U.S. company, which dominated the market
for decades, is fighting back after losing the lead in deliveries
in 2003. The EU says that the United States showers it own
aid on Boeing through government contracts and state tax breaks.
The discovery of a pernicious wasp in New York, the first
time it’s been found in the wild in this country, has
scientists worried about a scourge that has devastated pine
forests in other parts of the world. E. Richard Hoebeke, a
Cornell University entomologist, collected the Old World woodwasp
on Sept. 7 in Fulton County northwest of Albany as he sifted
for bark beetles caught in screening traps. He identified
the adult female bug on Feb. 19. The invasive insect species,
Sirex noctilio Fabricius, has ruined up to 80 percent of pine
trees in areas of New Zealand, Australia, South America and
South Africa, Hoebeke said. If established in the United States,
it would threaten pines coast-to-coast, particularly in the
The woodwasp, which is native to Europe, Asia and northern
Africa, kills pines and sometimes other conifers by introducing
a toxic mucus and spores of a toxic fungus when the female
lays her eggs through the bark and into the sapwood. The only
other woodwasp in the United States was found in 2002 in Indiana
but that was in a warehouse, not the wild, Hoebeke said.
Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will test
areas around where Hoebeke found the woodwasp. If one of those,
or another species of interest, is found, the researchers
will set traps in greater density to determine the scope of
infestation. Because the bug likes stressed wood, scientists
will also examine facilities such as mills that make packaging
materials out of wood that is unfit for uses like construction.
They’ll also use aerial photography to identify stands
of pine that look unhealthy.
The wasp is about an inch long and has a broad waist and distinct
antennas. Since 1985 U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service inspectors have intercepted
seven male woodwasps at border points; all had come with tile
and marble imports from Spain and Italy.
Heated criticism has been growing over ‘double standards’
by Washington over human rights, democracy and ‘freedom’
as fresh evidence emerged of just how brutally Uzbekistan,
a US ally in the ‘war on terror’, put down recent
unrest in their country. Outrage among human rights groups
followed claims by the White House that appeared designed
to justify the violence of the regime of President Islam Karimov,
claiming - as Karimov has - that ‘terrorist groups’
may have been involved in the uprising. Critics said the US
was prepared to support pro-democracy unrest in some states,
but condemn it in others where such policies were inconvenient.
Witnesses and analysts familiar with the region said most
protesters were complaining about government corruption and
poverty, not espousing Islamic extremism.
Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, tried to deflect
accusations of the contradictory stance when he said it was
clear the ‘people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative
and democratic government. But that should come through peaceful
means, not through violence.’
Uzbekistan is believed to be one of the destination countries
for the highly secretive ‘renditions program’,
whereby the CIA ships terrorist suspects to third-party countries
where torture is used that cannot be employed in the US. Dozens
of suspects have reportedly been transferred to Uzbek jails.
The CIA has never officially commented on the program, but
flight logs obtained by the New York Times show CIA-linked
planes landing in Tashkent with the same serial numbers as
jets used to transfer prisoners around the world. The logs
show at least seven flights from 2002 to late 2003, originating
from destinations in the Middle East and Europe.
Critics say the US double standards are evident on the State
Department website, which accuses Uzbek police and security
services of using ‘torture as a routine investigation
technique’ while giving the same law enforcement services
$79 million in aid in 2002. The department says officers who
receive training are vetted to ensure they have not tortured
Wine lovers may buy directly from out-of-state vineyards,
the Supreme Court ruled recently, striking down laws banning
a practice that has flourished because of the Internet and
growing popularity of winery tours. The 5-4 decision overturns
laws in New York and Michigan that made it a crime to buy
wine directly from vineyards in another state. In all, 24
states have laws that bar interstate shipments. The state
bans are discriminatory and anti-competitive, the court said.
‘’States have broad power to regulate liquor,’’
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. ‘’This
power, however, does not allow states to ban, or severely
limit, the direct shipment of out-of-state wine while simultaneously
authorizing direct shipment by in-state producers... If a
state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do
so on evenhanded terms.’’
While the ruling only involves wine sales, industry groups
expect that it will soon apply to beer and other alcoholic
beverages currently regulated through state-licensed wholesalers
The Washington-based Institute for Justice says the 24 states
that ban direct shipments from out-of-state wineries 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.
Ending one of the last fights from the contentious 2004 presidential
campaign, the Ohio Supreme Court has declined to punish four
attorneys who had challenged the results in court, ruling
against Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro’s attempt to
have the lawyers sanctioned for filing “a meritless
claim” against the vote that gave President Bush a win
in Ohio and, as a result, enough electoral votes to win a
second term in the White House. In legal documents filed with
the state Supreme Court, the lawyers had said the challenge
they filed on behalf of 37 voters included enough evidence
of voting irregularities to back up their allegations of widespread
fraud. They later withdrew the claim. Petro, a Republican,
asked for sanctions against the lawyers. If the court had
sanctioned the lawyers, they could have been forced to repay
attorney’s fees and court costs. President Bush beat
Democratic Sen. John Kerry by about 118,000 votes in Ohio,
which turned out to be the pivotal state in the Nov. 2 election.
The lawyers’ election challenge was withdrawn in early
January, with those contesting the results saying it was clear
their argument would be dismissed as moot with Bush set to