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March 26, 2007
Ward Lake: Swan with Ducks
Front Page Photo by Carl Thompson
DAY MARCH 26: Celebrating the Alaska Purchase By JUNE ALLEN
- It was at the end of March 1867 that the sale of Russia's possessions
on the far northwest shoulder of North America was negotiated.
It was a curious transaction in that the sellers didn't particularly
want to sell and the buyers were not all that interested in purchasing
such a huge, seemingly worthless chunk of real estate. And even
at the successful end of the negotiations between representatives
of the two nations, the United States Senate approved the purchase
of Alaska by only a single vote! It was the popular and powerful
Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts who eased the passage
of the treaty allowing the sale - and who also suggested that
the nameless frozen properties in the North Pacific be named
Portrait of Secretary
of State William H. Seward, officer of the United States government.
Created 1860 - 1865. Civil War photographs / compiled by Hirst
D. Milhollen and Donald H. Mugridge, Forms part of Selected Civil
War photographs, 1861-1865.
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
It was two years after the
close of the War Between the States and the assassination of
President Abraham Lincoln that the Purchase of Alaska was engineered.
At the time, Washington D.C. was a springtime quagmire of muddy
and rutted, manure-fouled streets. Men carried side arms and
spat tobacco juice. The seemingly lawless nation's capital still
wore the in-progress look of a "created" community,
the progress halted by the empty coffers of a country devastated
by a long and costly civil war.
The two men who engineered
the Alaska Purchase, U.S. Secretary of State William Henry Seward
and Russian diplomat Edouard de Stoeckl - couldn't have been
William Henry Seward had been
Secretary of State under President Lincoln - against whom he
ran unsuccessfully for the presidential nomination in 1860. After
Lincoln's assassination, Seward remained as Secretary of State
under President Andrew Johnson.
Seward was born to a wealthy
family in New York state, became a lawyer like his judge father,
and entered politics at a young age, becoming a two-term governor
of New York before he exercised his presidential ambitions. As
Lincoln's "right hand," he was said to have been an
effective secretary of state. - More...
Monday - March 26, 2007
raised about Army board's disability assessments By MICHAEL
GILBERT - The Army is rethinking the way it evaluates wounded
and injured soldiers who are no longer fit for duty because of
post-traumatic stress disorder and certain other conditions.
But a board at Fort Lewis,
Wash., continues to move soldiers with those medical problems
through the Army's disability-assessment system, even though
the new guidelines have yet to be published, according to attorneys
who represent soldiers.
n effect, soldiers must argue
their case without knowing the rules by which the board will
size up their injuries, say the three Army lawyers who represent
soldiers before the Fort Lewis Physical Evaluation Board, or
Attorneys from the Office of
Soldiers' Legal Counsel stated their objections in a letter to
the PEB president, Col. John O'Sullivan.
"A soldier's statutory
right to a full and fair hearing is fundamentally violated if
they are not provided the standards upon which they are to be
judged in advance of the hearing," they wrote.
Meanwhile, in a letter sent
after visiting Fort Lewis several weeks ago, the Army's top civilian
lawyer raised concerns about a possible "Wal-Mart greeter
test" in determining whether soldiers are well enough to
be denied benefits.
The PEB decides whether wounded
and injured soldiers from across the Western United States should
receive retired pay and military benefits such as health-care
coverage and base privileges, or one-time severance payments
with no benefits, or no compensation at all.
The three attorneys who wrote
the letter are Maj. Damon D. Gulick, Lt. Col. Ronda W. Sutton
and Steven E. Engle, a civilian who is the chief of office.
They said that until the new
rules are distributed, the soldiers and their lawyers "do
not know what evidence to gather, marshal and present that will
be most relevant" to the board's decision-making in each
A board official and an Army
Human Resources Command spokesman declined to comment late last
The Army's Physical Disability
Agency is in the midst of a rewrite of the guidelines for rating
the severity of injuries such as PTSD; lost range of motion in
joints such as the neck and shoulders; sleep apnea; and other
The revisions are apparently
in response to complaints that have come to light in the wake
of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal last month. Since
then, soldiers and their advocates have raised questions about
the fairness of the Army's system for determining whether wounded
and injured soldiers are fit for duty, and if they're not, how
to compensate them for their disabilities.
Fort Lewis is home to one of
three Physical Evaluation Boards in the Army. The others are
at Walter Reed in Washington and at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
A fourth, mobile board is occasionally convened to address case
backlogs around the country. - More...
Monday - March 26, 2007
Ward Lake: Girl with Swan
Front Page Photo by Hamilton Gelhar
ties to oil price could spell trouble for farmers By MIKE
MEYERS - After 70 years of efforts to stabilize farm incomes
from the perils of swings in crop prices, government might have
found a new way to inject risk into the business of farming -
The consensus view is that
corn growers are better off thanks to ethanol. It's a key reason,
along with reducing oil imports, that billions in taxpayer subsidies
are being devoted to the alternative fuel.
But a number of economists
and financial market observers have started to second-guess the
assumption that ethanol is nothing but good news for corn growers.
Their argument, in short, is
that farmers, who have always been beset by droughts, floods,
insect invasions and other caprices of nature, now must also
contend with the regular seesawing of oil prices.
"Tying a large part of
agriculture to oil is to introduce vagaries and risks to an already
risky business," said C. Ford Runge, director of the University
of Minnesota's Center for International Food and Agricultural
Ethanol production was supposed
to ease risks for farmers by giving them the opportunity to invest
in plants that produce the alternative fuel. So far it has. Corn
prices have soared and ethanol profits, boosted by federal and
state subsidies, delivered what an analyst at A.G. Edwards of
St. Louis called " a stellar year" in 2006.
More stellar years could lie
ahead if oil prices stay high. But if oil comes down, demand
for ethanol could fall as well.
"If you're a believer
that oil prices are coming down to the $40 range, there could
be headaches all around," said Ron Oster, senior associate
analyst at A.G. Edwards. "By investing in ethanol, (farmers
are) betting on higher oil prices." - More...
Monday - March 26, 2007
rbST ... in your milk? By GEORGE RAINE - Richard Cotta, CEO
of California Dairies Inc., the nation's second-largest dairy
cooperative, is guided by a simple business philosophy: "If
you want milk with little blue dots, you'll have it, as long
as you are willing to pay for it."
So, when a string of major
customers, including supermarket giant Safeway, came to his co-op
saying they would no longer accept milk from cows treated with
a genetically engineered growth hormone, the co-op bowed to the
In January, California Dairies'
board voted to ask its members not to inject synthetic bovine
growth hormone into their cows. If they do, their milk will have
to be segregated and they'll pay a surcharge.
"Consumer demand is obvious,"
The action by a co-op that
ships 50 million pounds of milk every day is part of a sweeping,
consumer-driven agricultural makeover, in which suppliers are
forced to adapt to a changing marketplace. Demand for natural
foods is rising, while increasing numbers of consumers are avoiding
products that rely on antibiotics or growth hormones. And food
retailers are listening.
Recombinant bovine somatotropin,
or rbST, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration 14
years ago. Injected every two weeks into cows, it sustains lactation
by stimulating cows' appetites so they eat more and produce more
milk, perhaps an extra 5 quarts per day.
The hormone supplements the
natural bovine somatotropin (bST), or bovine growth hormone,
produced in a cow's pituitary gland. St. Louis' Monsanto Co.,
which developed the synthetic hormone known by the trade name
Posilac, says the increased milk output translates to an average
increase in net profit for dairies of $100 a year per cow.
The synthetic hormone may have
been used in 20 percent to 30 percent of the nation's cows since
it became available in January 1994, according to some estimates.
Monday - March 26, 2007
tips to help you get your taxes done By SARAH WELCH and ALICIA
ROCKMORE - Ah, tax time. Just the mention of it is enough to
inspire the most organized of us to wince. It seems like every
year around this time, we say to ourselves, "OK, so next
year I'm going to get it together so I'm not going to be a crazy
person come April 17th."
Then you go back to scouring
the house for receipts, deciphering new tax codes, and wishing
your spouse were an accountant. Since there's no way to go back
in time and get a system in place to make the tax process easier,
a routine that will make next year's tax time even less stressful.
we've come up with some helpful hints to streamline and de-stress
this year's task.
1. Review Last Year's Return
The best way to start in on
this year's taxes is to get out last year's return to review
it. Look and see what deductions you made, what changes you made
in your life that may affect this year's return, and note if
there are any carry-over losses you might have forgotten about.
2. Visit IRS Online
Even the Internal Revenue Service
knows how complicated the tax process can get. By visiting the
IRS Web site at irs.gov, you can get clarification on all of
your tax questions, learn what tax laws have changed, and, most
importantly, see what does and doesn't qualify as a deduction.
(Sorry, as much as they seem like it, cats are not dependants.)
3. File Return Electronically.
In 2006, more than 70 million
people filed their tax returns electronically. Not only is it
faster and easier to fill out, it's more accurate as well. Plus,
if you qualify for a refund, the waiting time for e-filers is
half that of paper filers.
4. Can't Pay? Don't Panic.
A huge source of tax-time stress
comes from the realization that you may not be able to pay what
you owe come April. Don't worry. There are options. You can apply
for an IRS installment agreement, which lets you break up your
payments. There are also various options for charging your balance
to a credit card. Visit irs.gov for more information.
5. Made a Mistake? It's OK.
Did you already send in your
return, only to discover that you forgot a deduction, or made
a few errors on it? Instead of turning yourself in to the proper
authorities, simply fill out a 1040x form, which lets you amend
your original return up until three years after the original
6. Make Process A Family Affair
Everyone is involved in taxes,
so everyone should be involved in putting them together. Couples
should sit down and divide tasks between them, while families
with children can get them involved so everyone has an understanding
of what it takes to run a household. - More...
Monday - March 26, 2007
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