The Shandaken town board held a special session at 2 PM on Wednesday,
May 26 to adopt a resolution that officials said would protect
home rule when it comes to issues that they claim the City of
New York is trying to usurp.
The board's Republican majority passed the measure by
a vote of 3-2 after long debate. But following more than two
hours of talk, many present were still unclear on what exactly
it was the board had passed and why. Or whether the proceedings
were truly kosher.
At meeting's start, Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. handed
out a resolution that had been passed by the Delaware County
town of Middletown recently to hire a law firm to seek "party
status" at the issues conference now underway as part
of the environmental review of the Belleayre Resort at Catskill
Park. The project is slated to straddle both towns.
Attorney Jeff Baker made a formal late plea on behalf of Middletown,
and the Coalition of Watershed Towns of which Shandaken is a
part, at the start of the adjudicatory "Issues Conference"
taking place in Margaretville last week.
But at the town board meeting Wednesday, called the day after
those hearings started with no official Shandaken representatives
in sight, but the town planning board on file as one of four
petitioners for full party status, Cross scratched out the words
Middletown and Delaware County and wrote in Shandaken instead.
Republicans Cross, Jane Todd and Joe Munster supported it. Democrats
Edna Hoyt and Paul VanBlarcum opposed.
The resolution states that the City's Department of Environmental
Protection is reviewing and commenting on issues related to
local land use that have nothing to do with the protection of
the City's drinking water, which comes from the region.
Cross thinks if the City gets away with reviewing these issues
once they will do it again on every other project proposed and
use the power as a way to stop progress.
"That basically would curtail all development in the watershed,"
But the resolution only protests the City's efforts, and
appears to only be an authorization to allow Cross to seek party
status at the issues conference, thus giving the resolution
the look of being a symbolic gesture. It was only a month ago
when the town board decided NOT to seek party status on the
advice of town attorney John Darwak, because they had no resources
to pay experts and lawyers to testify.
In Middletown's case, the resolution gives the law firm
of Young and Sommer LLC the ability to seek party status and
discuss the home rule issues that Middletown hired a consultant
to review. While Young and Sommer would appear at the issues
conference, via Baker, armed with Middletown's consultant's
report, it remains unclear how the firm would represent Shandaken's
Like Middletown, Shandaken was given $50,000 by the City to
review the project. But CRoss and his majority did not like
the report it recieved, prepared by Ferrendino and Associates,
which is highly critical of the project. Councilwoman Todd said
she thought that Ferrendino's report reflected the City's
interests too much.
Cross admitted that Wednesday's decision to seek party
status was a complete reversal, but claimed that it came only
after he reviewed the City's comments on the project,
which were issued over a month ago on April 23. While it is
clear that Shandaken's Republican majority does
not want the City to address local issues, it is not clear what
the town will say about them. Cross didn't know if Young,
Sommer would use the Ferrendino report, which is also on record
as part of the town's Planning Board's petition.
No one on the town board had any idea what Young Sommer would
specifically do for Shandaken, but the majority did want to
make it clear that they thought home rule was important.
The board fielded complaints that the meeting was unnecessary
and hastily called. Cross ignored pleas to have the town attorney
review the resolution. Others complained of the meeting's
2pm start time, saying it was difficult for people who work
"It is what it is," Cross said.
Councilman VanBlarcum said the town board "screwed"
the town when it decided earlier this month not to seek party
status and use the Ferrendino findings.
The subject of traffic was already brought up at an Issues Conference
on May 27, to be answered by Crossroads on June 8 when the proceedings
As of press time, it was unclear whether anyone from the town
would be able to speak at the upcoming issues' conference
dates, especially when they address community character issues
that the Ferrendino report addressed, and which Cross is now
saying he wants to talk about himself.
In an interview on Tuesday, Cross said that he was planning
on attending all of the upcoming Issues Conference sessions,
and was hoping to address matters regarding traffic, affordable
housing, and changes to community character addressed in the
Crossroads' DEIS. He further said that he wanted to be
there to make sure the New York City DEP did not overstep its
bounds, as referenced in the recently-passed resolution.
Cross said that he had never objected to the Planning Board
being represented at the hearings, or the submission of the
Ferrendino report. He added that with town planners not being
represented, it was now affordable for the town board to be
represented at the hearings.
Town supervisor Bob Cross Jr. said this week that there's
been a number of good news stories percolating out of town hall
of late, many of which will be ready for front pages once formally
finalized in the coming weeks. He said that talks with Crossroads
Ventures, developers of the Belleayre Resort currently undergoing
state DEC review, are promising the gift of 3 1/2 acres of property
along Route 28 near the Phoenicia Diner for the building of
a Community Center, whether or not the project is approved and
contingent only on the condition that it be completed within
seven years. They are also talking about covering all additional
town service expenses, including a new ambulance, per discussions
Cross has been undertaking.
On other fronts, Cross said that work should be starting on
the Pine Hill Water System in the summer months, and finishing
on the Phoenicia Water System Filtration Plant. A new Infiltration
Gallery for the latter will be planned and funded by the fall.
It has been brought to The Times' attention that the "Dean"
mentioned by Coalition of Watershed Towns' Chairman Pat Meehan
as having attended a May 14 meeting on New York City Department
of Environmental Protection's comments regarding Crossroads
Venture's DEIS proposal for the Belleayre Resort was not project
developer Dean Gitter, but Delaware County Watershed Commissioner
Dean Frasier. Furthermore, it seems that Meehan, although giving
most of the report on the meeting that spawned a resolution
by CWT to object to the DEP's comments, to be possibly
followed with legal action, had not attended the meeting, being
in a private session with DEP Commissioner Christopher Ward
simultaneous to the gathering in Margaretville.
CWT Attorney Jeff Baker, who wrote the resolution against the
city over the weekend between the "ad hoc meeting to discuss
issues involving the DEP's comments" and the official May
17 monthly meeting of the CWT, said this past week that "no
one from Crossroads" was present at the May 14 ad hoc gathering
of "between 20 and 25 people."
"It was just some discussions among people in the watershed,"
Baker said. "It was not unlike some of the meetings that
were held when the Coalition was first formed in 1991."
Later, Olive superintendent and CWT board member Bert Leifeld
and Olive board member and CWT alternate Bruce La Monda said
that they both attended the May 14 meeting, which they said
was chaired by Baker and Crossroads Ventures' attorney Dan Ruzow,
with whom Baker had served as co-counsel for the Coalition during
its early 1990's battle with New York City over regulatory issues,
which ended in the 1997 signing of a Memorandum of Agreement
brokered by NYS Governor George Pataki. They added that they
had heard about the meeting from Ruzow, who they believe had
When asked about Ruzow's attendance, and co-chairing of the
May 14 meeting, Baker (who served as attorney for Shandaken
when the town was seeking to get review funds from Gitter in
2003) noted that, "He's not from Crossroads. He's a lawyer.
I never said he was not there." He added that the meeting
had been chaired by he, Ruzow and Catskill Watershed Corporation
Executive Director Alan Rosa.
Asked how the meeting was first called, Baker said he couldn't
remember. Asked how it's agenda had been set, he added, "I've
had conversations with Dan Ruzow and he's voiced his concerns
concerning the City's comments and I've looked at them. We're
not taking positions on Crossroads. Our concern is with City
policy as reflected in its comments, some of which may effect
the Crossroads Project."
He added that his resolution was copied from a similar resolution
recently passed by Delaware County against the DEP's comments,
and written by Kevin Young, a partner in his Albany-based law
firm. Baker also noted that he had worked alongside Ruzow at
Whiteman, Osterow and Hanah for nearly a decade, ending in June,
Ruzow described the May 14 meeting as being "an attorney's
meeting" chaired by he, Baker and Young. Rosa, he added,
was not in Delaware County at the time. He said the meeting
was called when he, Baker and several Delaware County officials
"made some calls."
Leifeld and La Monda said that attendance at the meeting included
several officials from Delaware County, Langdon Chapman from
State Senator John Bonacic's office, State Assemblyman Clifford
Crouch, who represents much of Delaware County, Schoharie County's
Charlie Buck, Middletown Supervisor Len Utter, Shandaken Town
Supervisor Bob Cross, Jr., Shandaken Councilman Jane Todd and
Ward Todd, CWC Vice President, former Ulster County Legislative
Chairman and current director of the Ulster County Chamber of
"Ruzow was making a pitch," said La Monda. "He
kept saying it wasn't because he was from Crossroads but I just
kind of laughed to myself whenever he said that."
"It was kind of a bitch-fest against the City, was what
it was," said Leifeld.
"There were a lot of people spouting off about the city
being the big bully here," added La Monda, noting that
the attorneys seemed to have been fuelling the anger.
"I was there for background," noted Ruzow of the May
14 meeting from which a decision to battle New York City over
its comments about Gitter's project was spawned. "I'm also
outside counsel for the CWC, primarily because of my institutional
memory. I was there not as an advocate but to explain what the
City's comments meant, considering the Coalition's history."
As part of the "history" Ruzow was mentioning, he
and Baker helped put together a series of lawsuits against New
York City following the Coalition's wishes. Ruzow recalled meetings
with Pataki in the "Red Room" executive chambers of
the state Capital between Coalition members and the governor,
as well as between the governor and several business leaders
in the Catskills region. He said he was unsure which meetings
Gitter might have attended, only that he was an Alternate, like
La Monda, to the CWT for a number of years.
When asked about the involvement of former Coalition Vice President
Anthony Bucca in current proceedings, Ruzow said, "He's
far from all this stuff. He's working for the DEC now."
An attorney for the agency's same department that oversees Administrative
Law Hearings, Bucca was hired by the DEC three years ago with
a provision that he go no where near the Gitter proposal. Bucca
had previously worked as a lawyer for Gitter's enterprises.
"Tony's not involved at all. He has no connection to this
case at all and I have had no conversations with him,"
said DEC Administrative Law Judge Richard Wissler during a break
in the May 25 Issues Conference regarding Bucca.
"Lou Alexander, who heads the legal division that oversees
all this, has advised me that Bucca's involvement in this case
simply isn't there," said Environmental Attorney Marc Gerstman
before the Issues Conference Tuesday. "And Lou has a lot
of integrity. My understanding is that all of this clear."
In addition to representing an ad hoc consortium of 11 national,
state and local environmental organizations at the Issues Conference,
Gerstman is serving as co-counsel, with Baker, for the Friends
of Hudson in their current fight against the St. Lawrence Cement
Plant expansion planned for Columbia County.
DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty worked with Baker, Ruzow and Bucca
throughout the original watershed hearings as the Governor's
represwentative at the time. She is currently also having the
St. Lawrence DEIS adjudicated in Hudson.
Save Head Start!
Faced with the very real possibility that the Head Start center
in Phoenicia might close next month, a group of parents with
children in the pre-school program held a conference Monday
to alert public officials and media to their plight: If Head
Start does not receive another 11 applications by the end of
June, the doors would be shut.
These moms, some holding newborns while serving yogurt covered
strawberries to guests, appear to be politically savvy and capable
of assembling the troops. Present for the session in a tiny
modular building filled with mini chairs and finger paintings,
were Ulster County legislative Majority Leader Michael Stock,
Shandaken Supervisor Robert Cross Jr., Shandaken Councilwoman
Jane Todd, and several media representatives. Olive Town Supervisor
Bert Leifeld couldn't attend but sent a message committing
support to saving the center. Congressman Maurice Hinchey, also
unable to attend, has been briefed on the matter and parents
expect to discuss the federally Funded program with him further.
After an hour, Stock,Todd and Cross were huddled on the steps
of the Center behind the Phoenicia Elementary School, agreeing
that getting the word out to the right families seems to be
the main issue. With thunder and lightning hinting at an impending
storm, they began tossing ideas around that would help boost
recruitment efforts and fill the program for another year.
"We've got to keep it open. We will keep it open,"
Informed that a family getting assistance from the County Department
of Social services, whether it be food stamps, HEAP, or any
other services, is automatically eligible to have children in
the free program, Stock said he would contact his colleagues
at the department to discuss outreach. Todd, a successful grant
writer, seemed to be mulling over the transportation problem
and ways to get around it.
While everyone agrees that there are enough familes in the Onteora
school district that would benefit from the program, rural difficulties
play a large part. Some transportation to get kids to Head Start
is provided, but it is minimal. In a territory covering Shandaken,
Olive, Woodstock and Hurley, officials are well aware that many
applicants shy away because they can't get their kids
to Phoenicia and pick them up a few hours later.
But not Jennifer Carmody, a single Mom whose three year old
daughter Shealia has blossomed thanks to the program. Carmody
said her little girl, once introverted and friendless but now
outgoing and social, has been given so much from the program
that even though life circumstances forced the two to move to
Saugerties three months ago, Jennifer makes the drive everyday
to Phoenicia so Shealia can keep learning and stay with the
friends she has made. Carmody sees it as vital for her child,
and that makes it worth fighting for.
"This is her school, not mine. It is hers," Carmody
Michelle Conklin, Head Start's Assistant Program Director,
says the agency is doing everything it can to recruit enough
children needed to keep the classroom open -- but on Monday
found herself at odds with some parents who disagreed. They
say that Head Start can alter its policy and drop the enrollment
figures down a bit, but Conklin would not discuss the matter,
instead saying that unfortunately rules are rules. She said
the Bush Administration has been cracking down on programs,
making sure they are fully enrolled so Uncle Sam can get the
most bang for the buck.
Head Start has staff for its recruitment efforts, Conklin said,
and noted that one staffer logged 95 miles of driving to find
kids for the program. Parents say try harder.
Conklin had no idea what would happen to the building if it
closed. Though Head Start serves the entire County, the building
in Phoenicia is the only one the agency owns. Although she called
the one room schoolhouse model "a dinosaur," she
said her agency is fully committed to keep it going.
Parents reminded reporters that last September Head Start officials
closed the doors due to low enrollment. It was reopened after
a grassroots recruitment effort, much like the one that started
Monday, was launched.
Anyone with pre school age children who think they would like
to have their children participate in the program should call
(845) 338-8750, ext. 139. Applications will be taken over the
Hillary Clinton recently made the opening remarks at the Mid-Hudson
Pattern for Progress' 40th anniversary conference. Representative
Maurice Hinchey introduced the senator, praising her for campaigning
upstate in areas that did not typically see candidates. Clinton
lauded the accomplishments of Pattern, which is a public policy
planning institute concerned with regional progress. Clinton
called the area "the most beautiful place in the entire
country", emphasizing the need to maintain open space
and farmland, but simultaneously attract appropriate businesses.
The senator also noted the need for more housing, so that people
who wish to remain in the area, or return after college can
afford to do so.
A new set of studies finds that parents who involve themselves
in their kid's homework by scolding, lecturing, or attempting
to control their performance tend to only hurt the quality of
their homework. According to the results of the study, children
responded best when their parents gave positive support, but
did not assert authority or guide their work. The researchers
concluded that promoting independent problem solving is the
most effective way to improve a struggling child's homework
performance. Two variations on the study were conducted. In
one study, mother/child pairs were given "simulated"
homework assignments and observed. In a second study, researchers
observed parent/child interactions surrounding real school assignments
through the course of two weeks. Both studies found that
when parents expressed disappointment, directed their children
through the work, or punished them, the children lost confidence
and performed even more poorly. When parents attempted to discuss
the problem with their children, but allowed them to offer their
own solutions, grades rose.
Forty-eight congressional Roman Catholic Democrats have sent
a signed letter to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, protesting a
proposition made by the Task Force on Catholic Bishops which
would deny communion to politicians who support abortion.
Legislators on both sides of the abortion issue signed the letter.
In the letter, the legislators state that denying communion
based on politics would have "the effect of miring the
church in partisan politics and allowing the church to be used
for partisan purposes." The Task Force on Catholic Bishop,
which McCarrick chairs, is considering how the church should
deal with legislators whose legislative voting diverges from
church guidelines. The church has expressed opposition to abortion,
the death penalty, same-sex marriages, war without just cause,
and a number of other issues which are argued over in the political
arena. Judie Brown, president of the American Life League,
which is the biggest American pro-life educational organization,
wrote a response to the legislators stating that there was nothing
worse for the church than "perpetuating the lie that you
can be a Catholic in good standing and support abortion."
A new report states that Al-Qaida has some 18,000 potential
terrorists spread throughout the world, and that the war in
Iraq has helped the group grow. The International Institute
of Strategic Studies, a London based think tank, stated in its
annual report that Al-Qaida is probably preparing plans
for attacks on the United States and Europe, and is likely seeking
weapons of mass destruction in order to cause maximal damage
and casualties. The report also suggests that the wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq have actually helped the Al-Qaida cause, and boosted
recruitment of fighters many Islamic nations. Of the worsening
situation in Iraq, an IISS researcher stated at a news conference
that it could take as many as 500,000 United States and Allied
troops to rebuild political stability in Iraq. The report also
attempts to project Al Qaida's numbers, estimating 20,000
fighters were trained in camps in Afghanistan before U.S intervention,
2,000 of whom have been killed or captured since.
Brits To Quit?
Britain's support for United States policy in Iraq may
falter over the issue of whether or not Saddam Hussein and other
senior members of the Baath party should be executed. Last week
the British Foreign Office suggested that Britain would boycott
the upcoming Hussein trial if there is any intention of pursuing
a death penalty. British policy and the European Convention
on Human Rights mean that the British cannot hand over prisoners
if their is any possibility of them being executed. The Foreign
Office has not stated which Baath Party officials are in British
custody. This is not the only issue which is causing tension
between the U.S and Britain. The Foreign Office has also expressed
frustration over the lack of U.S preparation in the planned
hand over of power in Iraq to an Iraqi administration. June
30 is the planned date for this transfer of power, though British
officials now view this date with some skepticism.
A federal judge has dismissed criminal charges raised against
the environmental group Greenpeace . This brings an end to a
bizarre case which drew national attention and criticism from
Bush administration detractors and advocates of free speech.
The case stemmed from an incident in 2002 in which two Greenpeace
activists boarded ship near Miami Beach which they believed
was carrying 70 tons of illegally imported Brazilian mahogany.
The pair spent a weekend in jail, but the attorney's office
took the additional step of raising charges against the group
itself. The charges made use of an antiquated 1872 law meant
to keep brothel owners from boarding ships and tempting sailors
with women and liquor. The law had been unused for 113 years.
However, U.S district judge Adalberto Jordan dismissed the case
before Greenpeace lawyer's even had to offer a defense.
John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace, stated
that " The Bush administration and its allies are bent
on chilling dissent."
A new Iraqi poll indicates a large increase in support for Moqtada
al-Sadr, a radical Shia cleric currently fighting coalition
forces. The poll conducted by the Iraq center for Research
and Strategic Studies also finds that nine out of ten Iraqis
view U.S troops as occupiers and not liberators or peacekeepers.
The poll was held before the exposure of the Abu Ghraib prison
abuse scandal, which suggests U.S credibility was severely
diminishing even before those brutal acts were made public.
The poll claimed to have drawn from a representative sample
of 1600, made up of Shia, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. More than half
of the people surveyed wanted the coalition to leave Iraq, as
compared to only 20 percent in October. The U.S must now persuade
Iraqis that the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi
run government will mean the end of occupation. The poll also
shows that that the troops leaving Iraq is more important to
Iraqis than the formal status of the government.
County legislators recently learned that the Ulster County Law
Enforcement Center is going to cost taxpayers no less than $5
million more than the projected of cost of $71 million, and
could potentially cost $21 million more. The facility, which
is currently under construction, includes a new 404 bed county
jail. The new total cost does not take into account the long
term interest payments on the bonds necessary to build the jail.
The project marks the largest capital project the county has
ever attempted. It is nearly one year behind schedule.
Democratic Legislators plan to launch an investigation into
how the costs have skyrocketed so far beyond projections. If
findings are conclusive, Democrats say they will seek further
investigation from the county district attorney or state attorney
general. The Democrats are in a 17-16 minority in the legislature,
and claim they have been systematically excluded from decisions
regarding the jail project. On May 24, Democrats held a press
conference in which they scrutinized costs going all the way
back to the beginning stages of the project. In seeking out
appraisals for the project, Democrats learned that prices were
instead set merely using "comparable" on similar
New Federal Guidelines suggests checking children with high
blood pressure for heart and blood vessel damage, problems which
are rising as obesity grows among American youth. The guidelines
encourage doctors to start checking children for high blood
pressure at age 3 during routine checkups, just as they do with
adults. These updated guidelines are to presented at the meeting
of the American Society of Hypertension and will be printed
in the July issue of "Pediatrics". They were authored
by the National High Blood Pressure Education Program. The government
now estimates that around 16 percent of U.S children are overweight.
The chances of high blood pressure and diabetes increase with
Thunderstorms hit the area on May 24, causing power outages
but no serious damage, according to officials. Around 200 homes
in Ulster and Greene counties lost power. At around 8:30 pm
the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Woodstock
and Saugerties. However, there were no reports of a tornado
actually touching down, and no damage related to a tornado was
Forrester Research, a technology market research group, has
stated that the movement of U.S white-collar jobs overseas is
speeding up faster than has been previously predicted. Analysts
say the number of U.S business service and software jobs moving
abroad will be around 588,000 in 2004, as compared to 315,000
in 2003. By 2005, the loss of jobs will up 40 percent over this
year. The loss of domestic jobs, and the current "jobless
recovery" have become an area of debate in the current
economic climate, and have been an important issue in the current
U.S presidential campaigns. Despite concerns, government officials
say the impact of offshoring on U.S employment is minimal. Forrester
states that the jobs most likely to be moved offshore are located
in the areas of customer service call operation, and low level
computer programming and web design. At a slightly lesser risk
are biotech, legal research, and architectural jobs.
No Paper Trail
A District Judge has dismissed Florida Democratic Rep. Robert
Wexler's lawsuit insisting upon a paper trail for digital
touch screen voting machines in Florida, the site of the butterfly
ballot debacle in the 2000 presidential election. Wexler has
made several attempts to force a paper trail, which he argues
would be necessary in the event of a recount. U.S District Judge
James Cohn in Ft. Lauderdale threw out the suit, saying he had
no jurisdiction. Wexler said the fight would continue in state
court. If a close election like the one in 2000 were to occur
and require a manual recount, such a recount would be impossible
with the touch screen voting machines. Wexler states that is
unconstitutional that 52 Florida counties have optical scanning
machines that would allow for recounts, while 15 other counties,
including Miami-Dade, have paperless machines.
Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" and
Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine have been subpoenaed to testify
before a federal grand jury about whether the Bush White House
leaked the identity of an undercover C.I.A agent to the media.
Lawyers from both NBC and Time said they will fight the subpoenas.
NBC stated that the subpoena could have a "chilling effect"
on it's ability to effectively report the news. Network
president Neal Shapiro said that "Sources will simply
stop speaking with the press if they fear those conversations
will become public." The issue revolves around events last
summer in which the position of a CIA officer named Valerie
Plame was exposed to the media under unclear circumstances.
Democrats have accused the Bush administration of revealing
the identity of Valerie Plame in an attempt to get back at her
husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who has criticized
the administration and the war in Iraq. Wilson had disputed
claims made in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union
address in which the president claimed Iraq could be trying
to buy uranium from Niger. Wilson traveled to Niger and found
nothing to suggest any truth to the claim. Legal experts say
that subpoenas involving the press are very unusual, because
they undermine their ability to effectively report.
According to the Congress' General Accounting Office,
Bush administration videos promoting the new Medicare law in
the form of fake news reports violate rules against using public
money for propaganda. The videos were produced by the Health
and Human Services Department. The videos were put on
airwaves in at least 40 television stations in March. The GA0
says the administration was wrong to send out videos in which
the material did not identify itself as originating from the
government; instead the videos take the guise of an independent
news report. Senator Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat
who urged the GAO investigation, says that Bush's reelection
campaign should pay for the videos, which cost 43,000 to produce.
Lautenberg says he will introduce legislation calling for this
reimbursement. A representative for the Health and Human Services
Department placed the blame on television stations for not identifying
the source of the videos themselves, while a White House spokesman
declined to comment.
Robert Redford spoke at Bard for this year's commencement
address, and made a call for the return of debate with government
leaders. The actor and director emphasized the importance of
free expression and independent thinking, and his objection
to the suppression of any sort of artistic form. "I mean,
we can go to war based in part on lies but not have any public-domain
art debated on its strengths or weakness," said Redford,
in reference to the war in Iraq and Disney's refusal to
distribute Michael Moore's politically charged film "Fahrenheit
9/11". Redford spoke before 397 graduating students and
around 2,500 onlookers.
Fun In Iraq?
In an unorthodox approach to rebuilding order in Iraq, U.S Army
officials are hiring suspected members of a Shiite Muslim militia
group to help rebuild a dilapidated amusement park which was
once a major attraction. The park once drew thousands with a
Ferris wheel and bumper cars. Army officials simply believe
that if they offer enemy fighters a way to make a living and
occupy themselves, perhaps they won't attack U.S forces.
Across Iraq, the U.S is spending billions of dollars to help
fix damaged infrastructure and create jobs. The amusement park
plan is meant to enlist followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr to instead engage in public works. Army officials have
attempted to hire these al-Sadr followers by recruiting at a
mosque whose members are loyal to the cleric.
Pope John Paul II recently warned several U.S bishops that American
society is turning away from spirituality in favor of materialism,
causing a "soulless vision of life." In order to
combat this, the pope stated that the U.S church must find a
way to appeal to the nation's youth. The pontiff declared
that "Taking up this challenge...will require a realistic
and comprehensive reading of the 'signs of the times,'
in order to develop a persuasive presentation of the Catholic
faith and prepare young people especially to dialogue with their
contemporaries about the Christian message and its relevance
to the building of a more just, humane and peaceful world."
All bishops are required to visit the Vatican every five years.
This year it was the turn of American bishops to attend.
The board of trustees at Ulster County Community College has
unanimously approved the college's $19.07 million budget
for 2004/05, allowing county lawmakers to vote on the plan in
June. The budget is 2.96 percent larger than last year's
fiscal plan, and would call for a $50 increase in tuition per
semester. This increase brings the total cost of tuition to
$1,500 per semester. In UCCC's proposed 2004/05 budget,
34 percent of revenue comes from tuition, 33 percent comes from
county contribution, and 26 percent state funding. The remaining
7 percent comes from other sources like rental of college facilities
and contract courses in continuing education. A public hearing
is scheduled for 7:30 p.m on June 2 in the student lounge
Vanderlyn Hall on the Stone Ridge campus. The county legislature
will vote on the budget on June 10.
Writers in the Mountains will launch their summer schedule of
workshops with three classes in diverse genres taught by professional
writers and will also offer the popular "Critics Corner"
led by WIM board member Barbara Apoian. This season
WIM welcomes back playwright Barry Jay Kaplan,who will teach
"Writing the 10-minute Play," and novelist Mermer
Blakeslee teaching an 8 session class in writing fiction.
Joining the WIM faculty for the first time is Melora Wolff,
who will teach "Creative Non-Fiction." Participants
will be hard-pressed to choose among these excellent and stimulating
workshops. All of them are sure to fill quickly, so register
early. Full scholarships are available . To
register or to inquire about any of these workshops,
go to www.catskillwriters.org, or call (607) 326-7908.
The Department of Homeland Security is close to awarding the
largest contract in its short history for a complex system which
would track visitors to the United States even before they arrive.
The system, which could cost as much as $15 billion, would utilize
a network of databases in tracking foreigners. The right to
the contract has come down to three final bidders. These are
Lockheed Martin, Computer Sciences, and Accenture, a Bermudan
company. With a "virtual border" in place, actual
border patrols will become secondary, as the ability to track
visitors will be part of the network. Computer sensors and databases
would be utilized to determine visitor identities, and how long
a visitor is allowed to stay. The government began investigating
the feasibility of a virtual border following 9/11 and fears
that terrorist could enter the country with ease.The proposed
virtual border has already drawn concern from privacy advocates,
who say such as system could be used to determine far more than
has been implied. Another concern is the fact that Accenture
is not a domestic company, and some object to the Department
of Homeland Security outsourcing its contracts to non-U.S companies.
Maybe our town government can do this for Shandaken, too?