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Archive for March, 2009

Catholic group under investigation

March
31

A controversial group which had to admit its founder molested seminarians is under investigation by the Vatican.

The Legionaries of Christ had wanted to build a seminary and university in New Castle and Mount Pleasant.

It once enjoyed Pope John Paul II’s favor, but then its founder was disciplined by the Vatican.

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has taken the extraordinary step of ordering a Vatican investigation of the Legionaries of Christ, the influential, conservative religious order that has acknowledged that its founder fathered a child and molested seminarians.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the No. 2 man in the Vatican, said church leaders will visit and evaluate all seminaries, schools and other institutions run by the Legion worldwide.
Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said in a statement made public Tuesday that the Vatican was stepping in “so that with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue, you will overcome the present difficulties.”
The Legion revealed in February that its founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel of Mexico, had fathered a daughter who is now in her 20s and lives in Spain. Maciel died in 2008 at age 87.
The disclosure caused turmoil inside the religious order and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi. The groups teach that Maciel was a hero whose life should be studied and emulated.
The news also raised many questions — from the order’s critics and defenders alike — that the Legion still hasn’t publicly answered, about whether any current leaders covered up Maciel’s misdeeds and whether any donations were used to facilitate the misconduct or pay victims.
There is no way to predict the outcome of the evaluation. Germain Grisez, a prominent moral theologian at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, has said the Legion should be shut down.
In a statement Tuesday, the director of the religious order, the Rev. Alvaro Corcuera, expressed his “deep gratitude” for the review, called an Apostolic Visitation.
Yet, the Holy See undertakes these extraordinary investigations when it considers a group unable to correct a major problem on its own. In 2002, at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal, the Vatican ordered an evaluation of all U.S. seminaries.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
| | 131 Comments »

Bottle Bill nears approval

March
30

The expanded Bottle Bill is included in the budget that legislators in Albany will vote on.

The new bill would include water bottles, require that 80 percent of the unclaimed deposits be returned to the state and increase the handling fee for retailers and redemption centers to 3 1/2 cents per container.

Environmental groups support the bill, some industry do not.

Stay tuned.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, March 30th, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
| | 113 Comments »

Serving the nation

March
27

The U.S. Senate, this week, took a step toward establishing Sept. 11 as a national day of service; the House had approved a similar measure earlier.

Here’s a statement from My Good Deed, founded by David Paine and Jay Winuk after the terrorist attacks. Winuk, who lives in Putnam, lost his younger brother, Glenn, a volunteer firefighter who ran to the towers to help.

WASHINGTON, DC, March 26, 2009 – The U.S. Senate today joined with the U.S. House of Representatives in passing historic national service legislation (ServeAmerica Act S. 277) which, like the House GIVE Act, includes a key provision that would formally authorize federal support for establishing the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America as a “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) worked closely with U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), co-sponsors of the ServeAmerica Act, to include language supporting the 9/11 Day of Service observance, a program long advocated by the MyGoodDeed.org organization. The 9/11 nonprofit organization was founded in 2002 with widespread support from the 9/11 family community to establish September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  Now passed, the House and Senate bills will proceed to conference to reconcile any differences. A final bill approved by both houses of Congress is expected to be delivered to President Barack Obama for his signature within days.

“For more than seven years, we have worked along with many 9/11 families, first responders, volunteers, and rescue and recovery workers with the hope that one day we would be able to formally establish 9/11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, “ said David Paine, founder and president of MyGoodDeed.org. “Today we stand just a pen stroke away from creating a historic observance that ensures that the lives of those lost are forever remembered in a constructive and compassionate way by millions of people for generations to come.”
“I could not be more proud to work to pass this important provision,” said Senator Schumer in a press release. “September 11 should not only be a day for mourning – it should be a day to think about our neighbors, our community and our country. We can take a tragic day in our nation’s history and turn it into a force for good. “

GO TO www.MyGoodDeed.org  to read more.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, March 27th, 2009 at 7:13 pm |
| | 120 Comments »

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Eileen Fisher grant winners

March
25

Today I wrote about the $10,000 grants that the Eileen Fisher, the clothing designer in Irvington, awards to five women-owned businesses each year. She looks for qualities such as innovation and environmental sustainability.

Here are two more photos.

The loyale clothing line is eco friendly and committed to fair labor practices. Jenny Hwa used her grant to open this new office in Manhattan.

And here’s a package of truffles and other chocolate from Chocolations in Mamaroneck. Note the shredded paper, no packing peanuts.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
| | 142 Comments »

Talk of the day

March
25

The resignation letter from Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit, to Edward M. Liddy, the chief executive of A.I.G., has to be one of the most talked about news items of the day.

The letter was published this morning as an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.

What comes across first is DeSantis’ anger. Anger that no one stood up for him and other employees in the financial products unit who were not responsible for the meltdown. He had nothing to do with the credit default swaps, he says.

And he goes on to defend his receiving a retention payment of $742,006.40 after taxes (which he plans to donate to the needy.) He worked up to 14 hours a day, he says, and was receiving $1 as salary.

I haven’t heard much sympathy for DeSantis today.

Even if you think AIG should have defended its employees, the amounts are too large. The world has changed thanks to the mess created by DeSantis’ co-workers.

My salary is not the same as it was last year. It’s been cut.

The stock market has plummeted.

Why do men like DeSantis think they should still receive large payments? Because they had contracts? What if the company had gone under? What would that contract have been worth? Anything? If AIG kept assuring them that the contracts would be honored, they should direct their anger at AIG.

As Barney Frank keeps saying, the public owns the company now and the public wants those contracts re-negotiated.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
| | 244 Comments »

Employees returning bonuses

March
24

Fifteen AIG employees who received some of the largest bonuses have agreed to give them back, New York state Attorney Andrew Cuomo announced.

That’s more than $30 million in payments.

Nine of the 10 people who got the largest payments said they would return them, Cuomo said. Fifteen of the top 20 likewise agreed.

Some of the others have refused; some are still considering it.

“I applaud the employees who are returning the bonuses,” the Associated Press quoted Cuomo. “I think they are being responsive to the American people.”

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
| | 225 Comments »

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Fare hike moves forward

March
23

From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK (AP) — Transit officials took a step Monday toward imposing drastic service cuts and steep fare increases that would raise the cost of a single subway ride from $2 to $2.50, even while holding out hope that state lawmakers might still come to the rescue.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is saddled with a $1.2 billion budget deficit that is largely blamed on the ailing economy. A bailout plan that would avoid the worst of the fare increases and service cuts has become bogged down amid bickering in Albany, prompting Monday’s decision.
MTA board chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger urged the agency’s finance committee to adopt the fare hikes and service cuts even though he called them “horrific.” At a news conference after the vote in Manhattan, Hemmerdinger was asked if he had any message for Albany: “How about: ‘Help!”’ he said.
“This represents as good a job as human beings can do to divide the pain as equally as we can,” he said.
Gov. David Paterson said Monday that the MTA board should go ahead with its proposal but that he would continue to try to negotiate an alternative with the Senate’s Democratic majority.
Paterson said there remains enough disagreement with Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith so that no deal is imminent, but an alternative with lower fares and less or no changes in service could replace it.
The full MTA board will vote Wednesday on the fare increases, which would take effect June 1.
The MTA adopted a budget in December designed to close a $1.2 billion gap in its operating budget by raising fare and toll revenues by 23 percent. The board also approved sweeping service cuts, including eliminating 21 local bus routes.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, March 23rd, 2009 at 4:54 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

“Give the bonuses back”

March
23

A new CBS polls shows a majority of Americans want the government to recover the $165 million AIG gave out in bonuses.

Further most Americans think it is unacceptable that companies receiving government bailouts award any bonuses.

The argument that they are necessary to retain good employees? The public doesn’t think so. Only 6 percent thought the companies propped up with public funds should be able to distribute to whomever they chose.

On 60 MInutes last night, President Obama panned a House bill to try to tax back the money at a rate of 90 percent.

Laws should have broad applicability, the president, a former constitutional law professor, said. They should not be directed at a small group of individuals. And he’s right.

The House gave in to the anger of the moment. Will the Senate? It’s supposed to be the more deliberative body. Will it live up to its billing?

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Monday, March 23rd, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Fare hikes loom

March
20

The MTA is threatening to approve steep fare hikes and service cuts next week if the state doesn’t come through with help to close its $1.2 billion operating deficit.
This after Democrats in the state Senate proposed funding the transit authority’s operating budget but putting off dealing with its long-term capital problems.
The plan got panned by just about everyone — from the governor to mass transit advocates.
Thursday night talks among legislative and Gov. David Paterson broke down without results.
I wrote about the standoff this week — and heard from readers after I criticized lawmakers for failing to tackle hard choices.
The MTA is a mismanaged agency, they argued. It should be forced to cut salaries for union workers and executives; its senior management should be replaced.
No doubt there are train and bus riders throughout the region who agree, but lawmakers still need to make decisions about transportation in this area.

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, March 20th, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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Spring arrives

March
20

Snow showers and crocuses. Spring begins today (and it is the festival of Nowruz, the Persian new year).

Here are some flowers on a colleague’s lawn.

For Nowruz, which means new day, President Obama sent a message to Iran.

“So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran’s leaders,” Obama said in a video. “We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community.”

And just in time for spring, news that the first lady, Michelle Obama, is planting a garden at the White House. The vegetables, fruits and herbs grown on the South Lawn will be used in the White House kitchen — including cilantro, romaine and red leaf lettuce, hot peppers, spinach, collards, berries and Thai basil.

She breaks ground today.

PHOTO: First lady Michelle Obama takes part in the groundbreaking of the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 20,2009, with students from Washington’s Bancroft Elementary School. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Posted by Noreen O'Donnell on Friday, March 20th, 2009 at 11:19 am |
| | Comments Off on Spring arrives

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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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