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A repository of random thoughts, odds and ends, and not-quite-fully-formed ideas.

Archive for December, 2007

On vacation


I’m off until after New Year’s Day.

No posts until then.

Enjoy the holidays.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, December 21st, 2007 at 10:11 pm |

Criticizing the EPA


Gov. Eliot Spitzer is criticizing the EPA for refusing to grant California a waiver for the strict motor vehicle standards it adopted.

New York and 11 other states had adopted the same standards. After they were upheld by the courts, most recently this month, the EPA blocked them.

It’s the latest in a battle with the Bush administration over how to address climate change.


Govenors, mayors and other politicians, Democrats and Republicans, are increasingly looking for what they can do without the backing of the federal government.

“That EPA would deny this request because, in its mind, there are no ‘compelling and extraordinary conditions,’ is incomprehensible,”  Spitzer said in a statement. “The challenge of climate change is upon us, and is clearly worsening with time.”

The EPA administrator said this week a federal standard was preferable to individual state actions. A new federal energy bill sets a goal of 35 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2020.

The California law would have cut carbon exhaust 30 percent by 2016.

PHOTO: Associated Press/Mike Groll

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, December 21st, 2007 at 5:28 pm |
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Airlines’ challenge dismissed


Good news for airline passengers.

A federal judge threw out the airline industry’s challege to New York’s law requiring food, water, clean toilets and fresh air for passengers when they’ve been stuck on the ground for more three hours.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn decided those were not airline services that could be regulated only by the federal government but health and safety provisions.

Sensible decision.

Especially considering last winter’s debacle at John F. Kennedy International Airport when some passengers were left with none of the above.

The industry group could appeal. Its argument is that only federal authorities should be regulating airlines, not the 50 states.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 9:12 pm |
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Trans-fats banned


Westchester County has banned trans fats from restaurant cooking oils.

There seems to be little question that trans fats aren’t good for you. The hydrogenated oils raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol and have been linked to heart disease.

That doesn’t stop people from grumbling about the meddlesome nanny state. Only why would you want to eat trans fats?

The measure must now be ratified by the New York State Department of Health.

In the meantime, you can find out which restaurants in Westchester have voluntarily stopped cooking with trans fats. Here’s the “list.”:http://www.westchestergov.com/health/TransFat/TF.htm

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 7:14 pm |
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In this season of giving


Here’s what happens when candidates campaign in late December.

Mike Huckabee, the Baptist minister, wished us all Merry Christmas. What really matters at this time of year is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, he said.

Barack Obama, sitting in front of a Christmas tree with his family, told us that what united us as a people was more powerful and enduring than anything that set us apart.

Hillary Clinton offered holiday gifts: universal health care, alternative energy, bring troops home, middle class tax breaks and universal pre-K.

Rudy Giuliani gave us a different list: peace with strength, a safe America, lower taxes, strict constructionist judges. A fruitcake, too, and a wish that all the presidential candidates could get along. And he laughed.

John Edwards pledged during this season of miracles to remember the less fortunate.

Now John McCain reminds us of the North Vietnamese guard who loosened the ropes binding him and on Christmas day silently drew a cross in the dirt.


Political ads in December. Who else?
PHOTO: Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona talks to reporters following a campaign stop in Salem, N.H. on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 4:25 pm |
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A meeting of (mayors’) minds


Clinton Young of Mount Vernon and Mary Foster of Peekskill were both invited to lunch today with Michael Bloomberg.

The New York City mayor organized the lunch with 15 of the newly elected mayors in the tri-state region to talk about challenges they all face.

They’re holding a press conference at City Hall right now and they were just talking about Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal — charging motorists to drive into the city during business hours.


It’s smart thing to do for this independent mayor who is always blasting political partisanship, and the people who oppose his plans.

And of course, he’s being asked about the presidential race.

He’s trying to influence the race, he said. But will he get in it?

UPDATE: The press conference ended. They were scheduled to tour New York City’s 311 customer service center.

PHOTO: Bloomberg at the climate change conference in Bali. AP Photo/Ed Wray

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 2:40 pm |
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An interview with al-Qaida


You’ve got to wonder how this will turn out. Al-Qaida is taking questions from journalists.

Ayman al-Zawahri, the group’s second in command, will answer them, according to an article from the Associated Press.

The invitation was issued by al-Qaida’s media branch, Al-Sahab. It asked that the questions be sent to the Web forums where al-Qaida traditionally posts its messages. The deadline is Jan. 16.

Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahri have given a few interviews to Western and Arabic press but none since the Sept. 11 attacks, the AP says.


As you can imagine there’s been lots of analysis: that Zawahri is trying to appear to be a sophisticated politician, that al-Qaida is desperate to appear in control in Iraq.

And there will be lots of criticism: that this is just a propaganda stunt by terrorists.

But all of that aside, what would you ask?

PHOTO: Ayman Al-Zawahri and Osama bin Laden on Al Jazeera.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 1:54 pm |

The quotes of the year


Here are the year’s best quotes as compiled by the editor of The Yale Book of Quotations.

At the top of the list: “Don’t tase me, bro.”

That was from the student being removed from a speech by Sen. John Kerry.


Second, Lauren Upton, the Miss Teen America contestant on why one-fifth of Americans can’t locate their country on a map:

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and Iraq and everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for us.”

Again please.

Also on the list, according to the Associated Press:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University, “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, “(I have) a wide stance when going to the bathroom.”

PHOTO: University of Florida student Andrew Meyer struggles with university police as officers try to remove him from a question and answer session with Sen. John Kerry in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Independent Florida Alligator, Andrew Stanfill)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007 at 5:58 pm |
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A Magna Carta of your own


A copy of Magna Carta, the document with which King John of England put himself, his heirs and all of England’s future sovereigns under the rule of law, was sold at auction at Sotheby’s last night for $21 million.

It dates to 1297 and was issued as part of Edward I’s Confirmation of the Charters. One of 17 known to exist, it is the only one in the United States and it has been on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The Magna Carta was a basis for the U.S. Constitution. As the National Archives Web site notes: “the American Constitution is ‘the Supreme Law of the Land,’ just as the rights granted by Magna Carta were not to be arbitrarily canceled by subsequent English laws.”


And it gives this comparison:

Here are the Fifth Amendment guarantees in the Bill Rights:

“No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

Here is Magna Carta:

No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned…or in any other way destroyed…except by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to none will we deny or delay, right or justice.”

The copy had been owned by Ross Perot’s Perot Foundation. It was bought by David Rubenstein, a founder of the private equities firm The Carlyle Group. He told reporters that he would leave it at the National Archives, according to Reuters.

You can find more information “here”:http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta on the National Archives Web site. There’s a translation too.

PHOTO: The copy of the Magna Carta on display at the National Archives

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007 at 1:50 pm |


Stranded at the airport


An airline trade association is challenging New York’s law that requires airlines to provide food, water, clean toilets and fresh air to passengers stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours.

You might think airlines would be rushing to assure passengers they would be taken care of. Instead the airlines are trying to stop the law from taking effect on Jan. 1.

There is a rationale behind this court case.

The Air Transport Association tells the Associated Press it is not a question of providing for passengers, only of whether the state of New York should be able to tell airlines what they must do.

That might be.


But here’s the problem. The airlines, in particular JetBlue, did not provide for their passengers last winter. New York’s law after all was passed after long delays left passengers at John F. Kennedy International Airport stranded for more than 10 hours with no food or water, no air conditioning and overflowing toilets.

“I would love for Washington to step forward, set a standard for the whole country and take care of business once and for all,” Assemblyman Mike Gianaris, the Queens Democrat who sponsored the legislation, told the AP. “They didn’t do it.”

His comments were echoed by state Sen. Charles Fuschillo, a Long Island Republican who sponsored the legislation in the Senate.

PHOTO: JetBlue Airways passengers wait for flights at John F. Kennedy Airport on Feb. 15. AP

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, December 18th, 2007 at 5:31 pm |

About the author
Noreen O'DonnellNoreen O'Donnell For the last 20 years, Noreen O'Donnell has written about Hillary Clinton's run for the Senate, rebuilding Ground Zero, the Korean immigrants who travel north each day from Queens to work in nail salons, deadly runaway fire trucks and other stories in Westchester and Putnam counties. Now she's a columnist.

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