Organic livestock standards get tougher

For their meat or milk to be labeled organic, the USDA ruled today, cows must have access to pasture for at least 120 days out of the year. That goes for sheep and goats, too.

The final rule provides certainty to consumers that organic livestock production is a pasture based system in which animals are actively grazing pasture during the grazing season. The majority of organic dairy and ruminant livestock producers are already grazing animals and maintaining pastures that meet the requirements of this rule. These standards contain clear requirements that will provide greater assurance that all producers are being held to the same standards.

The rules on "finishing" are still being finalized.

Monticello mayor arrested

Times Herald-Record has the story: Mayor Gordon Jenkins and Rochelle Massey were arrested yesterday afternoon and charged with selling counterfeit goods, weapons possession and marijuana possession. Allegedly.

"How you doing?" Jenkins said to a reporter as he was taken to his arraignment.

He yelled to a photographer in the parking lot that he was doing well and implied the arrest was political. "You know there is an election coming up," he said.

Fresh: /root Grassroots Tech Cafe

When he isn't running for public office, Justin Holmes, who became locally famous (or notorious) for battling his alma mater SUNY New Paltz a couple of years ago, is saving the world from behind the counter of a new New Paltz coffeeshop. Called /root (pronounced “slashroot”), the venture opened in January at 60 Main as equal parts coffeeshop, community space and computer tech support pit crew. Along with co-founder Amanda Catherine Stauble, Holmes hopes that by teaching the community how to use open-source software, he will do his bit to “slash the roots of proprietary software and plant the seeds of freedom.” Or at least give you a hand with building your website.

WP: Mind if I type this interview on my laptop?

JH: Sure. You're running Windows on that?

WP: Well, er, yes. I installed Ubuntu, but I couldn't get it to work with my wireless card.

JH: I can help you with that.

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Woodstock Writers' Festival starts tonight

The literati descend on Woodstock this weekend for four days of workshopping, schmoozing, wining and dining. The guest list this year includes Shalom Auslander, Susan Orlean and Ruth Reichl. (If you want to get Reichl to dish about the tragic demise of Gourmet over a glass of Malbec, now's your chance.)

Orlean kicks it off tonight with a meet-and-greet at the Kleinert Arts Center. The full schedule, and tickets for individual events, can be found here.

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Clumps of mumps

Since last summer, an outbreak of mumps has been spreading in New York and New Jersey, mostly among Orthodox Jews. The AP has the story:

The 7-month-old outbreak began last summer at a boys camp in the Catskills. The campers were from Orthodox Jewish families, and cases multiplied when they returned to their close-knit communities in and around New York City.

The story is based on a CDC report that says the communities in which the virus is spreading vaccinate at about the same rate as the general population. Cultural factors may be aiding the spread of the mumps:

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October Country

L Magazine reviews the documentary about a family's hard luck in the Mohawk Valley.

The documentary's co-director, never identified or referred to by the people onscreen, who took the photographs and wrote the essays that eventually led to its making, clearly "escaped" and "made something of himself." This fact, along with the persevering wit of the clan's younger members, smuggles glints of light and hope into the sometimes oppressively dreary portrait of lower middle class American malaise.

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Census Bureau changing how it counts prisoners

The Census Bureau recently announced that they would start identifying census blocks that contain prisons. It's a move hailed by advocacy group Prisoners of the Census, which calls it a first step toward ending "prison gerrymandering."

Where prisoners get counted is a particularly pressing issue in New York State, where most of the prison population hails from the greater NYC metropolitan area, and most of the prisons are in rural upstate regions. The Census counts prisoners in the regions where they're incarcerated--numbers that are used for drawing political districts, despite the fact that prisoners can't vote. The Census numbers are also used for determining the allocation of federal and state aid.

A bill in the New York State legislature is seeking to reform prisoner counting ahead of the 2010 Census:

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Alien fighter wanted

The DEC is looking for a full-time fearless warrior in their New Paltz office to help combat the spread of exotic invasive giant hogweed. It's mostly a desk jockey job. But if you're spoiling for battle, you'll get your chance.

Occasional fieldwork will be necessary to do manual control of giant hogweed at eastern New York sites.

Beware the giant hogweed: It burrrrrrns.

Photo credit:

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The unsinkable David Paterson

The Gov. tells Don Imus this morning:

I'm black, I'm blind, and I'm still alive.

Rumors about a damning New York Times story about the Governor are flying in Albany, but the actual story has yet to materialize--prompting one Newsday columnist to quip about "news derivatives."

At this point, if the story ever comes out, it had better be able to sing and dance and get rid of ring around the collar. It's hard to imagine anything the Times prints could top the fables currently being spawned in the Albany fever swamps.

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