World and Nation

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Two More Deaths in NYC Are Connected to Swine Flu

Two more deaths linked to swine flu — both of adults in their 40s — were reported by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Wednesday, bringing the total H1N1-related fatalities in the city to seven.

The department said that six of the seven people who had died — including Mitchell Wiener, an assistant principal at a public school in Queens, who was the first swine flu death in the city — had underlying conditions that could interfere with normal breathing. The seventh death is still under investigation. The city will not release the underlying medical conditions, citing medical confidentiality. Officials would not disclose where in the city the latest two victims lived.

However, the department did release an analysis that showed some 80 percent of the more than 300 people hospitalized with swine flu since mid-April have one or more underlying conditions that put them at risk. Asthma, which affects 10 percent of New York City children, is by far the most common underlying condition, affecting some 41 percent of those hospitalized.

Paterson Shelves Plan to Revamp Ethics Oversight

Gov. David A. Paterson shelved his plan to overhaul the state’s ethics oversight commission on Wednesday after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver unveiled a far different proposal that would preserve the Legislature’s tradition of regulating itself.

Paterson said he had hoped to reach a compromise on the issue by the fall during a special legislative session, but the developments appeared to indefinitely prolong the life of the State Commission on Public Integrity, which oversees lobbying laws and ethics enforcement for the executive branch.

In May, the governor called for the resignations of the 12 sitting commissioners after the state inspector general, Joseph Fisch, issued a scathing report raising questions about their independence. The report accused the panel’s director of repeatedly leaking confidential information about an inquiry into the Spitzer administration to a top Spitzer aide.

The commissioners refused to step aside and rebutted the report, throwing the state’s ethics enforcement into limbo.

On Wednesday, the governor and legislative leaders held a public meeting to discuss an overhaul of ethics oversight in the wake of the Fisch report. Paterson and Senate Democrats have proposed creating a single independent ethics and lobbying commission with jurisdiction over both branches of government. The new commission would encompass the much-maligned Legislative Ethics Commission, which has had no public record of enforcing ethics violations.

But at the meeting Silver unveiled a complex proposal that appeared to doom any chance of swift action. His plan would create four commissions charged with ethics and lobbying oversight of the executive branch and the Legislature. The plan would break up the Legislative Ethics Commission and create a special commission for the Assembly, similar to the Office of Congressional Ethics in the U.S. House of Representatives. Members of the new commission would be appointed by the Assembly’s leaders.

In Greenwich, Big Discounts on Big Homes

Even in tough times, some things never change. So workmen were busy on Wednesday unloading a Gatsbyesque armada of vintage cars for this weekend’s Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, a show of classic yachts and automobiles from makers like Rolls-Royce, Pierce-Arrow, Lagonda and Cord.

But, alas, in tough times some things do change. So just as harried home sellers elsewhere are deciding to drop prices in the face of the real estate meltdown, some in Greenwich are, too.

The difference is that given stratospheric starting prices for houses the size of mega-malls the adjustments tend to be a little more drastic than that of your neighbor who dropped his asking price from $599,000 to $559,000. Instead, in Greenwich, we’re no doubt seeing some of the biggest price drops in the history of residential real estate.

Judge’s Nomination Prompts a Republican Balancing Act

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was not happy when he heard other Republicans toss around terms like “racist” in reference to Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court nominee.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee and the senator responsible for winning Republican Senate races next year, Cornyn worried that such disparaging attacks on the first Hispanic Supreme Court candidate would not only poison the confirmation hearings, but also undercut his party’s standing with an increasingly important voting bloc.

He quickly challenged the standing of the judge’s critics, like former Speaker Newt Gingrich, noting that they were not Republican officeholders and held no real responsibility for passing judgment on President Barack Obama’s choice for the court.

“We are going to treat this nominee with the respect that she is entitled to,” Cornyn said in an interview this week.

Cornyn personifies the competing pressures Republicans face as they sort through how to handle the nomination of Sotomayor, who is under attack from the right but is a symbol of pride for Hispanic Americans.

As a conservative former Texas Supreme Court judge, Cornyn might be expected to make a tough intellectual case against Sotomayor. But as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he also has to worry about how the confirmation battle plays across the nation. And his own future back home is tied somewhat to Hispanics who will be closely watching the confirmation proceedings.