By The Associated Press

NYC councilmen win Dem runoffs for citywide jobs


Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Taiwan-born John Liu is one step closer to becoming New York City’s first Asian-American in citywide office after winning the Democratic primary runoff for city comptroller.

Also Tuesday, Councilman Bill de Blasio beat Mark Green in the Democratic primary runoff for public advocate.

Liu, whose family emigrated from Taiwan when he was a child, beat fellow City Councilman David Yassky 56 to 44 percent, according to complete but unofficial returns.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Liu noted how he and his parents “came here with hope and determination.”

Now, decades later, “there is much at stake for the future of this city,” he said.

Turnout was 7 to 8 percent for both races. That means a relatively small number of the city’s 3 million registered Democrats played an important role in choosing two members of the party’s next class of power players.

The comptroller is the chief financial officer of the city, analyzing the budget, auditing city agencies and overseeing the $80 billion municipal pension system. The public advocate acts as City Hall watchdog and steps in if the mayor cannot serve. Along with the mayor, they are two of the city’s three citywide elected officials.

Their terms run four years. The seats were open because City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. is running for mayor against billionaire incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum decided not to run again.

Both Liu and de Blasio are favored in the general election against their lesser-known Republican opponents. Joe Mendola, a lawyer who has never held public office, is running for comptroller. Alex Zablocki, an entrepreneur and aide to a state senator from Staten Island, faces de Blasio for public advocate.

If de Blasio and Liu win in November, they will inherit pulpits where they can increase their profiles and push their Democratic agendas. Bloomberg is a former Republican who is no longer registered with a party.

“I will be your voice,” de Blasio told supporters Tuesday night, “and whenever your government is not there for you, I will stand up for you.”

De Blasio prevailed 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent over Green, who held the job of public advocate when the position was created in 1993.

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The job was conceived when the City Council essentially renamed the post that was known as City Council president. The powers, including serving as a watchdog of City Hall and casting a vote if the City Council is tied, remained largely the same.

But among its most important duties is succeeding the mayor in the case of an emergency.

No public advocate has ever succeeded a mayor, and a City Council president has only done it once, in 1950.

Vincent Impellitteri took over as acting mayor after Mayor William O’Dwyer resigned amid a corruption scandal that year. He also later won a special election and served three more years.

Only one mayor, William Jay Gaynor, has died in office since the city’s five boroughs were consolidated in 1898. After Gaynor died in 1913, from injuries related to a shooting three years prior, he was succeeded by the president of the Board of Aldermen, which predates the City Council.

De Blasio, a Brooklyn city councilman, has worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign manager for her U.S. Senate run in 2000.

His birth name was Warren Wilhelm, but from a young age he went by Bill de Blasio, and changed it officially in 2001.

Nakakuni confirmed as US attorney for Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — Florence Nakakuni has been confirmed by the full U.S. Senate as Hawaii’s first female U.S. attorney.

Nakakuni has been an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Hawaii since 1985, and she has worked as chief of the drug and organized crime section the last four years.

Nakakuni was nominated in July by President Barack Obama. She replaces Edward Kubo Jr., who has served in the post since 2001.

Sen. Daniel Inouye says her extensive legal experience will help her handle the responsibility.

The District of Hawaii includes Hawaii, Saipan, Guam and American Samoa.

Relief flight slated for American Samoa

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaiian Airlines is sending a special relief flight from Honolulu to American Samoa to aid tsunami victims.

The carrier says the 2,300-mile flight scheduled to depart Wednesday afternoon will carry food, water, bedding and other necessities, as well as airline volunteers to help in relief efforts.

Hawaiian says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Coast Guard personnel and volunteer physicians from the Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team are also expected to be on the flight.

The supplies were bought with money donated by Hawaiian and Bank of Hawaii or donated by various retailers.

Hawaiian said it would resume its regularly scheduled twice weekly Honolulu-Pago Pago service Thursday.

More pickers heading into woods for matsutakes


(Klamath Falls) Herald and News

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CRESCENT LAKE, Ore. (AP) — By day they’re unseen, slipping quietly and secretly into the forests of far northern Klamath County.

If their searches are successful, they appear at night, carting baskets of freshly picked matsutake mushrooms for buyers in booths at Crescent Lake Junction and Chemult.

Early in the picking season, which began in late August, the matsutakes weren’t plentiful, but with the mushrooms selling at $25 to $30 a pound, pickers were pocketing enough money to leave with smiles.

Since then, however, prices have dipped, some nights as low as $7 a pound for the top grades. Depending on the overseas demand — most are sold to Japan — prices vary, in recent nights climbing between $13 and $15 a pound. Buyers say the prices have been kept low because of high volumes of matsutakes being harvested in Canada. Still, on an average night, an estimated 5,500 pounds of matsutakes are being sold at buying stations in Chemult and Crescent Lake Junction.

Despite the relatively low prices, Tami Kerr, special forest product coordinator for the Deschutes National Forest’s Crescent Ranger District, said the number of searchers is high, probably because of the economy.

“It’s a pretty busy year. This is the fullest our camp has been in seven or eight years,” Kerr said, referring to the seasonal matsutake pickers’ campground south of Crescent Lake.

“There are a lot of people here. It’s being driven by the economy. It’s definitely not the mushrooms,” Kerr said.

Mushroom pickers have been frustrated by the weather. Dry, warm weather is great for hikers, campers and other forest users, but not for mushroom pickers. They hope for rain, higher humidity and below freezing nights that help grow the matsutakes.

“We need that freeze. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” said Joy Thaivisack, who’s spending his 19th matsutake season at Crescent Lake. He picked the first two years, and since then has worked as a buyer.

Thaivisack has been around long enough that he remembers 1993, when he paid up to $640 a pound for top-grade matsutakes.

“We spent a million dollars because of the prices,” he recalled. “I like to see the triple digit figures.”

Kou Cho and Yao Lee, who make annual fall visits to the Crescent Lake Junction area from Sacramento, pick for the exercise and the money. So far, they’re getting lots of exercise.

“There are no mushrooms,” Cho said.

Like others — and estimates of the number of pickers varies from 800 to 1,200 — Cho and Lee wish for rain. Although thunderstorms have periodically soaked nearby areas, the usual prime picking areas remain dry.

As Kerr explained, “We’ve had about 15 minutes of rain total since the first of June.” In the past few days, a forest fire on the Willamette National Forest has blown dense smoke into the region, creating a bleak atmosphere.

Still, Thaivisack remains optimistic.

“It’s coming alive,” he said of the harvest. “We should be in the peak in the next week or 10 days.”

Crescent Lake Junction takes on an international flair when matsutake mushroom pickers make their way to far northern Klamath County.

Joy Thaivisack, who has spent the past 19 seasons at the Crescent Lake area, says the majority of pickers are Asian-Americans “because mushroom (picking) has always been part of our culture.”

In Japan, where he estimates 65 to 70 percent of matsutakes are sent and sold, Thaivisack says the hard-to-find mushrooms are a symbol of good luck.

“Brides and grooms wait until this time of year for matsutakes because they are good luck,” he said.

During the picking season, he and other buyers use cell phones to stay in communication with managers coordinating overseas sales.

Thaivisack says different buyers work for companies with different markets, which is why prices for mushrooms vary at the booths.

Prices have stayed relatively low — compared to 1993 when a pound fetched upward of $640 a pound because they are commercially harvested in China, the No. 1 producer of matsutakes, and because Japan has developed a cultivated species of mushroom that serves as an alternative to matsutakes.

“It looks different, but the taste is the same,” Thaivisack says.


Information from: Herald and News,

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