Saturday, August 30, 2008

NtM - Collaborative Concepts Opening Reception - Sunday, August 31, 2008

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Folks, the Opening Reception for the Collaborative Concepts sculpture show schedule for today was postponed until tomorrow, Sunday, August 31st, 2008.

The Reception Center opens at 2 PM - I'll be there!

Here's the full post from the other day:

If you're in to the arts, and I know you are, this coming weekend marks the opening of the annual Collaborative Concepts show on the Saunders Farm in Philipstown. For its third season, Collaborative Concepts invited local, national, and international artists to place sculptures throughout 100 acres of an historic farm in Garrison, NY. The rolling hills and wooded glens of Saunders Farm culminate in panoramic views of the Hudson Highlands. Black Angus cattle can be seen grazing peacefully in stone-walled pastures. More than 50 site-specific artworks were chosen to complement the farm's spectacular vistas.

The exhibition is free and can be viewed from 10 am to dusk, Labor Day weekend to Oct 31 with the opening August 30 and a rain date on Aug. 31. Visitors should dress appropriately for a walk in the country. A "Mid-run" reception will be on October 11 with a rain date of Oct 12.

If you haven't been to this show, it's really worth the time to drive over and see it. For one, the trip to the Saunders Farm is a gem. Dirt roads, farms, rolling countryside and a view of Putnam County that is quickly being lost to the Paul Camarda's of our world. It's also a huge event, spread over 100 acres of rolling hillsides with expansive views to the east and a hidden view of the "gap" through the break between Storm King and Breakneck ridge... if you look for it! (Note: images are from the 2006 and the 2007 shows.)

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Friday, August 29, 2008

News That Matters - August 29, 2008

News That Matters
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Good Friday Morning,

Michael Jackson turns 50 today. Killer!

Before 80,000 people in Denver last evening, in a speech that even the right-wing bloggers have called "Reaganesque" and that newspaper headlines have termed, "soaring", Senator Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party to be their candidate in this year's presidential election. That's one-third of this drama down with two to go. Republicans meet soon and then on November 9th it's over. Finally. And if you haven't noticed, (and not to notice means you've been on an interplanetary spaceship with a broken radio), this election has been going on for more than two years and has cost hundreds of millions of dollars so far with hundreds of millions more to come - and some of that from your tax-pockets - more. For all those dollars and all this time, do we know anything more about Senators Obama and McCain than we did two years ago? Um, no.

John McCain will announce his running mate at noon today. If he's smart he'll offer it to Hillary. Now, wouldn't that be something!

More than 272,000 Americans received foreclosure notices on their homes in July this year representing a 55% increase over July of 2007.

Memorial services scheduled for today in New Orleans to commemorate the destruction of that city from hurricane Katrina three years ago, were called off due to the impending onslaught of hurricane Gustav. Instead, the National Guard is moving into the city and evacuation orders may be issues tomorrow.

This is Labor Day weekend and according to the rigid schedule we're forced to live by, this marks the end of the summer vacation season. Next week children go back to school and traditional summer vacation spots sigh a breath of relief - hoping they've earned enough to get them through the winter.

[rant] Labor Day is supposed to be a celebration of our labors and yet the only people who can celebrate are white collar workers who receive a paid day off and blue collar workers willing to loose a day's pay. Everyone else - the mass bulk of laborers, are forced to work at shopping malls and fast food restaurants and whatever other commercial establishment will remain open for the day - and that means most of them - so that those white collar guys can catch up on their Christmas shopping... or something. (Limited Christmas displays are already going up in select retail outlets, by the way. If you see one, complain to management or do what I do, unplug them!)

When I'm President, a national holiday will mean just that. A HOLIDAY. Everyone is off and no one works. If you need gas or eggs or some other good or service you're going to have to plan to get it the day before or the day after. What's the point of having holidays if millions of American workers are, um, working? Oh, and we're getting rid of this Monday thing, too. Holidays will fall on their traditional days and General Washington gets his own day back. [/rant]

If you're not one of the millions stuck working on the Sabbath this weekend, make a point to stop in at the 3rd Annual Collaborative Concepts show at the Saunders Farm (Old Albany Post Road and Philipse Brook Road in Garrison) for the Grand Opening of this year's show. If you come between 2 and 4 tomorrow (Saturday), stop in at the reception tent at the top of the hill and say hello. I'll be there volunteering for the cause.

If you're heading out to the supermarket for BBQ supplies, look for a farmer's market or farm stand along the way. Use your dollars to support local agriculture rather than trans-national corporations who ship your apples from Argentina and Oregon.

And now, the news:
  1. Putnam legislator sues sheriff after traffic stop
  2. Unlikely Heroes: Goats Rescue N.Y. Bog Turtles
  3. Rhinebeck deals with open space, affordable housing
  4. Con Ed Installs First 'Green Roof'
  5. Long-Debated Water Plant Takes Shape Below NYC
  6. Clinton Letter on Gas Drilling in NYS
  7. Britons drive to Greece on cooking fat
  8. Doorstep Astronomy: Venus Shines Bright

Putnam legislator sues sheriff after traffic stop

By Susan Elan • The Journal News • August 29, 2008

Since taking office in January, Putnam's freshman county legislator, Anthony Fusco, R-Mahopac, has tangled with the county's head of Emergency Services, the Mahopac superintendent of schools, and fellow legislators over issues ranging from ambulance service to roadside signs.

Now Fusco, who moved to Mahopac from Eastchester about four years ago, is suing the Putnam County Sheriff's Department and Sheriff Donald Smith in state Supreme Court in Carmel following a routine traffic stop in March.

The lawsuit was the "only remedy to get at the truth," said Fusco, who is representing himself and has asked in court documents for reimbursement of court costs and "reasonable attorney fees."

The case is likely to cost Putnam up to $10,000 in court and outside lawyer fees, County Attorney Jennifer Bumgarner said.

Fusco's imbroglio with the Sheriff's Office began at 2:40 a.m. March 29, when a sheriff's deputy gave him a ticket. He was accused of failing to stop at a stop sign in Putnam Valley.

Read More

Unlikely Heroes: Goats Rescue N.Y. Bog Turtles

by John Nielsen

All Things Considered, June 24, 2008 · The last of New York's wild bog turtles live in swamps that have long been sunny, mucky places full of low green plants and waist-deep mud pits. But an invading foreign weed threatens to transform the swamps and wipe out the turtle population.

The old-fashioned way to save endangered species such as the bog turtle was to build a fence around them to keep people and farm animals away. That method has been turned upside down in New York's Hudson River Valley, where domestic goats and cows are instead trotting to the rescue of the turtles and their murky swamp home.

The mud pits that fill the region's swamps are actually a mess of hidden streams that the bog turtles use like freeways, says Jason Tesauro, who works for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Read More

Rhinebeck deals with open space, affordable housing

By William J. Kemble, Correspondent

RHINEBECK - Town Board member Dod Crane has proposed forming an Open Space/Affordable Housing Committee to review needs in those two areas under the town's Comprehensive Plan.

The possibility of creating a joint committee to handle both areas was reviewed during a board meeting on Monday, when officials said the seven-member panel would be charged with making recommendations about updating town zoning laws.

"What I tried to do is develop some initial responsibilities ... some tactical things that I thought should get done in the near term, and then charter them with some longer-term responsibilities for open space and affordable housing," Crane said.

The committee would include of representatives from the Town Board, the town Planning Board, the town Zoning Board of Appeals and the town Comprehensive Plan Committee.

Read More

Con Ed Installs First 'Green Roof'

POSTED: 11:17 am EDT August 28, 2008

NEW YORK -- More than 21,000 plants atop a Con Edison facility in New York City are helping reduce the building's energy costs.

It is the utility's first "green roof," an energy-saving plant system designed to improve air quality and conserve energy.

Con Ed said Thursday that the plants keep its three-story training and conference facility in Long Island City, Queens, cooler by absorbing heat and reducing the need for air conditioning. It projects that the green roof will save the building up to 30 percent in energy costs.

Read More

Long-Debated Water Plant Takes Shape Below NYC

NEW YORK (AP)  -- It requires enough concrete to build a sidewalk from New York to Miami and enough pipe to reach the top of the Empire State Building 140 times over. Workers carved out enough dirt from the ground to fill more than 100,000 dump trucks.

The colossal effort is a water filtration plant being built 10 stories beneath a Bronx driving range, a one-of-a-kind project intended to become a nearly invisible part of the city's infrastructure.

But the plant has been anything but hidden so far.

The plant's completion date has been pushed back six years, and its price tag, initially estimated at $660 million and pegged at $1.24 billion in 2004, is now $2.8 billion. Costs, delays, seven-figure fines and a brush with a high-profile Mafia case have sharpened criticism of the city's handling of a project that three city watchdog agencies and a group of community leaders are monitoring.

Read More

Clinton Letter on Gas Drilling in NYS

Mr. Alexander M. Grannis
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, New York 12233

Dear Commissioner Grannis:

I write to express my concerns about the potential environmental impacts of expanded natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation in New York. Given my concerns, I am happy to learn that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is committed to updating the Environmental Impact Statement for drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Expanded natural gas drilling can provide significant economic benefits to landowners and local economies, and can help to increase domestic supply of a valuable energy source. However, drilling also presents threats to local water supplies, air quality, and roads and other infrastructure in the absence of adequate regulatory protections. Unfortunately, current federal protections are fairly weak. Oil and gas companies have been granted exemptions from compliance with certain provisions of important federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Community Right to Know Act.

Read More

Britons drive to Greece on cooking fat

ATHENS, Greece, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A group of eco-conscious Britons said they have completed a 2,330-mile drive from London to Athens, Greece, using fuel made from cooking fat.

Participants said their environmentally friendly convoy was designed to call attention to the existence of cheaper and more eco-friendly biofuels, Kathimerini reported Thursday.

"There is no reason why Joe Public cannot do this, save themselves a bit of money and help save the environment because they are not using fossil fuels," the leader of the expedition, Andy Pag, 34, said at the British Embassy in Athens after the journey.

Pag said nine cars toured Europe for the 10-day "Grease to Greece" expedition. He said the cars relied on frying oil donated by restaurants and cafes they passed along the way. Pag said restaurant managers were enthusiastic about the project and were glad to put their "waste product" to good use.

Read More

Doorstep Astronomy: Venus Shines Bright

By Joe Rao Skywatching Columnist

Currently, the planet Venus is visible, albeit very low in the western evening sky right after sundown. Those with obstructions such as trees or buildings toward the west may not be able to see Venus yet, thanks to its low altitude. But this current evening apparition of Venus is going to evolve into a very good one in the coming days and weeks, so let's get into a fuller explanation of what is to come.

Venus passed superior conjunction (appearing to go behind the sun as seen from Earth) back on June 9. Initially, it was mired deep in the brilliant glare of the sun. Nonetheless, in the days that followed it moved on a steady course toward the east and pulled ever-so-slowly away from the sun's vicinity.

And now, during the last days of August and into early September, Venus has finally begun climbing up out of the sunset glow in earnest and is now about to reclaim its role as the brilliant "evening star," a title it has not held since the end of July 2007. Look for it now with binoculars shortly after sundown very low in the southwest. Venus will stand about 10 degrees high in the western sky at sundown (your clinched fist held at arm's length is roughly 10 degrees wide) and will touch the horizon just a few minutes shy of a full hour after sunset, giving less experienced sky watchers a chance to get a good glimpse.

Read More
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

News That Matters - August 28, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Thursday Morning,

Today, in 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech before 200,000 demonstrators at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

"I don't own a cell phone or a pager. I just hang around everyone I know, all the time. If someone wants to get a hold of me, they just say 'Mitch,' and I say 'what?' and turn my head slightly." - Mitch Hedberg

Democrats meeting in Denver last evening made history by choosing the first black American to achieve the presidential nomination from a major political party. The vote to do so ended a two year primary battle. Two years! Can you believe it? Just hang on, all this will be over in another couple of months, and I for one, can't wait. I don't even care who wins, I'm just tired of the constant barrage of media coverage that offers nothing and no real information about the candidates' positions. It's all the same blather with no real choice. Imagine if the Democrats had balls and allowed Denis Kucinich to run?
Both Senators, Obama and McCain, keep moving their positions towards what they perceive as the political center so that in the end the only difference between them is the way they cut their hair. The vote that matters is for Congress and the question is, should Democrats be rewarded for two years of acquiescing to the nations most unpopular President, a man whose policies have led to a rapid decay of the American Empire and the greatest disparity of income in our history? I'll leave that up to you. Some of my readers actually support the President's policies but I have to imagine it's a lonely place to be.
There were two interesting - and somewhat competing articles in the Putnam County Courier, sometimes known as the "Camarda Gazette". In an editorial, the paper pushes Patterson Crossing as the solution to everything from acne to hemorrhoids and promises that completion of the mall will not only solve our national energy crises and have Israeli's and Palestinians dancing the hora in the rose-petal covered streets of Tel Aviv. The County Executive promises, however, that if PC isn't built that county property taxes will rise, as if they won't go up in any case with normally increasing costs for product and services.
Yet in another article, Putnam's ex-IDA Chief Kevin Bailey says,
"Small business will succeed since the mom and pop stores have had to learn how to compete with the big box stores. When the large stores moved into our neighboring counties of Dutchess and Westchester, small business was concerned about surviving. The little guys learned how to compete. Big box stores have major flaws and small business can exploit those imperfections. Most people enjoy shopping in a smaller business because service is so much better. Price may be a few cents more but service is worth something today. Besides, most small businessmen and businesswomen give back to their community,"
Then he goes on to say that big box stores be placed at...
"strategic locations along the interstate highway system. People tell me I am contradicting myself since I am a fan of small business. When a larger business opens off an interstate highway, shoppers will flock to that enterprise thus adding a customer base to nearby small business establishments. Everyone is a winner!"
Tell that to Dill's. If traffic is drawn to the Interstates it means - logically - they're drawn *away* from traditional small business locations.
We still don't know when it was and who was in the room when the Patterson Chamber of Commerce voted to endorse Patterson Crossing. My sources tell me it was an "executive decision" and that the membership wasn't asked. Sweet, eh?

Assemblyman Ball and challenger John Degnan met in Yorktown last evening for another debate. The JN has an article about it (see below) but I'm waiting for sponsor Bruce Apar's take on the matter. I'm sure it was exciting.

My neighbor is flying over the house again. And again. And again. He likes to do things like flips and loop-de-loops and fly skywards to stall speed then cutting the engine in again. I really hope he doesn't crash in the field. If he does, I'll have to put the jeep into 4-wheel to get over the mangled wreckage just to get out of here. What a pain.

My dinner last night, (and largely for the past few weeks), came from locally grown and produced foods. Was yours? If not, please take a look at your spending habits. Supporting local agriculture, farmer's markets and the like, is the best way to fight dependence on foreign energy sources. Besides, it's healthier. Honest.

Anyway, that's it for this morning... now, the News:

  1. Ball and Degnan again clash at debate
  2. Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits
  3. The Numbers Prove it: We're Building Smarter
  4. Meeting to focus on well-testing plan
  5. Green Roofs Offer More Than Color for the Skyline
  6. The World Spends $300 Billion Subsidizing Fossil Fuels
  7. Judges consider whether FBI violated free speech

Ball and Degnan again clash at debate

Michael Risinit
The Journal News

YORKTOWN - Term limits. That was Assemblyman Greg Ball's answer last night when asked during a debate with his Republican opponent what dream legislation he would like to see passed in Albany.

"The New York state Legislature is dysfunctional," Ball, R-Patterson, said. "The problem is too much power is concentrated in too few hands."

He didn't offer a number on how many terms were enough. But John Degnan, his opponent in the upcoming GOP primary, would most likely argue that this term, Ball's first, should be his last.

"Wouldn't it be great if anybody listened to Mr. Ball in the Assembly?" asked Degnan, faulting Ball for not being the lead sponsor on any legislation that passed. "He's persona non grata in the body he's been elected to."

Read More

Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits


When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20 percent.

Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.

Read More

The Numbers Prove it: We're Building Smarter

Energy Star-Certified Homes Defy The Sagging Real Estate Market

At the end of the day, the way the economy impacts most people concerns their own bottom line. Whether a developer or buyer of a home, it all basically boils down to how much I can make and how much I can save. Or, as this was defined in the 1992 presidential election, "It's the economy, stupid."

The following information just released by the New York State Builders' Association (NYSBA) may clarify some of the economic impact recently caused by going green, (or at the least, Energy Star certified): "Preliminary figures for the NYSERDA program show that the market share for 2008 of ENERGY STAR homes will exceed last year's record of 17.4 percent of all homes built, as compared to permits issued. Through July, over 1,500 ENERGY STAR homes were completed during the year, resulting in more than $1.5 million in builder incentives. This translates to about 25 percent more homes and builder incentive dollars than at this point in 2007."

Builders in upstate New York alone have delivered 12,500 ENERGY STAR homes and received nearly $14 million in incentives.

Read More

Meeting to focus on well-testing plan

Steinhaus sets Thursday hearing
By Jenny Lee
Poughkeepsie Journal

Dutchess County residents will get a chance to voice their opinion on a proposed mandatory well-testing law at a public hearing Thursday.

Executive William Steinhaus has called the meeting for 10 a.m. Thursday in the County Office Building, City of Poughkeepsie.

Dutchess has about 30,000 private wells, according to county officials.

Steinhaus has 30 days to take action on the law, since he received it during the second week of August. Last year, Steinhaus vetoed a similar measure.

The law would require the seller of a home with a private well to test it before the closing of a sale and then send the results to the Health Department.

Read More

Green Roofs Offer More Than Color for the Skyline

The thousands of recently planted green and purple shrublike sedum lining the roof of Con Edison’s training center in Long Island City look a bit out of place in the shadow of Manhattan’s skyline.

But the tiny absorbent leaves and modest but hardy roots of the sedum — typically found in desert climates — are at the center of a growing effort to reduce greenhouse gases, rainwater runoff and electricity demand in New York.

This month, Gov. David A. Paterson approved tax abatements to developers and building owners who install green roofs, or a layer of vegetation and rock that absorbs rainwater, insulates buildings and extends the lives of roofs. Sedum, which soaks up water quickly and releases it slowly, is an ideal plant for the job.

Europe has had green roofs for decades, and cities like Chicago and Seattle have added many of them in recent years. But there are fewer in New York because of the cost of installing them compared with the benefits, which can be hard to quantify. The new one-year abatements, though, can cut as much as $100,000 a year from a building’s taxes, and are expected to turn what has largely been a hidden luxury into a standard feature of a little-seen part of the city’s landscape.

“This is just the beginning,” said Kari Elwell Katzander, a partner in Mingo Design, a landscape design firm in Manhattan that works on green roofs. “It’s not just about the green roof. This transcends into various ways to make buildings more green.”

Read More

The World Spends $300 Billion Subsidizing Fossil Fuels

The Cost of Eliminating Fossil Fuels? Maybe No More than the Cost of Burning Them
August 27, 2008 at 8:57AM by Dan Shapley

The world is spending $300 billion every year to subsidize fossil fuels that pollute the air, wreck the climate ... and run the world's economy.

So what if we, as taxpayers, stopped spending $300 billion on coal, oil and natural gas, and started spending it instead on wind, sun and water?

That's the question at the heart of a new report from the United Nations Environment Program, which concludes that eliminating fuel subsidies would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but might just inspire new economic growth. (Further, it concludes that fossil fuels subsidies sold as a way to help the poor keep the lights on actually do more to help the rich.)

Read More

Judges consider whether FBI violated free speech

Wed Aug 27, 2008 7:12pm EDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A panel of federal appeals court judges pushed a U.S. government lawyer on Wednesday to answer why FBI letters sent out to Internet service providers seeking information should remain secret.

A panel of three judges from the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on whether a provision of the Patriot Act, which requires people who are formally contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for information to keep it a secret, is constitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in 2004 on behalf of an undisclosed Internet service provider against the U.S. government challenging the so-called National Security Letters (NSL) as well as gag orders placed on the recipients.

The appeals courts on Wednesday questioned a lawyer representing the U.S. government on whether the FBI violated free speech rights in placing the gag orders.

Read More

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

News That Matters - August 27, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Wednesday Morning,

"One is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason." - Oscar Wilde

Today is Lyndon Johnson's birthday and in 1859, the first successful oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania and by 2059 if the Congress has their way, we'll all have one in our backyards!

The Greg Ball 'stalking' story is out and on the national airwaves. The Assemblyman blames rival candidate John Degnan for the mess, Degnan claims he's not responsible - and I'll believe Degnan. There are more people involved in this race than is readily apparent. Though Mr. Degnan has too often been on the receiving end of Mr. Ball's false attacks (i.e., the slumlord story as just one example,) I just don't think John has it in him to hit back like this.

Yeah, Mr. Degnan went after Greg's questionable reasons for leaving the Air Force before his contract was up, but as the race has moved forward John has moved away from that and tried to discuss issues beyond the hot-button ones like  bringing respectability and accountability to the 99th Assembly district, property taxes and energy and issues that actually matter.

The question remains however, just who is behind the weekly articles in the Putnam Times? That's a question only they can answer - and should - for the public good. They don't have the staff to do this research on their own and the viciousness and persistence of the attacks is unlike their previous one-sided attempts to belittle other candidates - who were most often local Democrats.

The Putnam Times, often called The "Republican Times" due to their ideological political slant, has had a checkered past and it was only recently that they began to become more of a newspaper than a crap-rag. At some point about two years ago they began to cover actual - real - stories, mostly by reporting on Kent Town Board meetings. That coverage, based on my experience, was generally objective and signaled a welcome change from the past. It also so angered the sitting board that they dropped the Times as one of the "official" newspapers for the placement of town legal notices. Yet, that reporting served to alter perceptions of the old board enough to sweep them out of office. It set off a revolution within the town's Republican party that splintered the "old boy network" that was keeping us down, and brought about a new generation of representatives who have served the town well. For that, we owe the Times some thanks.

Then came this election cycle with their repeated attacks on Greg Ball. Something changed there - twice - and we should know why, who, how and when. Though the Times owes us no explanation it would be nice to clear the air.

Long time readers of PlanPutnam and News That Matters know that I don't like this type of political gamesmanship and in this instance I really am stuck between a Ball and hard place. For all of Assemblyman Balls' past attacks on his competitors using lies, deceit and misinformation, he fully deserves what's come around to bite him on the ass. And if he were to run honorable campaigns, ones based on pertinent issues and facts rather than the smear campaigns he likes to run (and by extension, those who have run similar campaigns based on his successes), we'd all be better served.

But I still don't like it and once this election is over I can only hope the taste of Ball's tactics will be so sour in our collective mouths that we discredit any candidate who runs such a campaign in the future. Let this be the end of it.

To my Republican readers, all I can do is to encourage you to look more objectively at this race and decide whether you are tired of being viewed as a mean spirited, white supremacist enclave in the Hudson Valley - unless it should happen to be true, and this is the brush with which you paint yourselves. Though this primary election is about many other issues issues, racism is the one that has bubbled to the surface and could be your legacy if you vote to continue this game.

In the end, if you decide to allow the Assemblyman to continue carrying your  flag on September 9th, you will, as Alexis de Tocqueville said, get the government you deserve.

Farmer's Markets, as you're probably getting tired of me reminding you, are in full swing now. During the next few weeks local fruits and vegetables will be bountiful in this area.  Putnam Valley's two farmers markets are filled with produce that you may not have in your garden or even the supermarket - and it hasn't traveled 3,000 miles to get here.
Please make an effort to stop by one or both of their two weekly markets to experience incredibly fresh produce, local products and support your local farmers and vendors. You'll be surprised to find out how much you can buy for $5.00 or less.
On Wednesdays, the PV market is at Adams Corners Grange from 3-7 P.M. (Mill Street and Peekskill Hollow Road) and on Fridays it's at Tompkins Corners Methodist Church from 3-7 P.M., 729 Peekskill Hollow Road. I'll see you there!
If you're out for fresh, local produce, Betsey Ryder's Farm Stand is open every day at all hours on Starr Ridge Road in Southeast. On Saturdays you can visit the Cold Spring Farmer's Market from 8:30AM until 1:30PM, the Brewster Farmer's market from 9AM until 2PM and Cascade Farms in Patterson runs from 9AM until about noon. In other words, get the heck out of the supermarket and support local agriculture.

If you're in to the arts, and I know you are, this coming Saturday marks the opening of the annual Collaborative Concepts show on the Saunders Farm in Philipstown. For its third season, Collaborative Concepts invited local, national, and international artists to place sculptures throughout 100 acres of an historic farm in Garrison, NY. The rolling hills and wooded glens of Saunders Farm culminate in panoramic views of the Hudson Highlands. Black Angus cattle can be seen grazing peacefully in stone-walled pastures. More than 50 site-specific artworks were chosen to complement the farm's spectacular vistas.

The exhibition is free and can be viewed from 10 am to dusk, Labor Day weekend to Oct 31 with the opening August 30 and a rain date on Aug. 31. Visitors should dress appropriately for a walk in the country. A "Mid-run" reception will be on October 11 with a rain date of Oct 12.

If you haven't been to this show, it's really worth the time to drive over and see it. For one, the trip to the Saunders Farm is a gem. Dirt roads, farms, rolling countryside and a view of Putnam County that is quickly being lost to the Paul Camarda's of our world. It's also a huge event, spread over 100 acres of rolling hillsides with expansive views to the east and a hidden view of the "gap" through the break between Storm King and Breakneck ridge... if you look for it! (Note: images are from the 2006 and the 2007 shows.)

The AERY Theatre Company is getting ready to perform a series of short plays at the Philipstown Depot Theatre beginning on September 5th. More information is here. News That Matters reader Judy Allen will be directing Mark Jacob's play, "Of, By and For the People" on the 5th. Tickets are $12 and $15 (Do I get my comp tickets now?)

The Brewster Theater Company, presents, Bringing Books to Life. The workshop is designed to teach children acting and expression in a fun and exciting environment. Events are held at the Brewster Public Library and this time around shows: "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" on September 27th  2:30-4:00, suitable for children ages 5-9. There is a limit of 15 children. Cost for the workshop is $10.  People interested in registering can call the Brewster Library at 845.279.6421. For more information visit

On Wednesday, September 10th at 7 p.m. the Cary Institute will host a free public lecture by Eric Chivian, MD. A physician by training, Chivian has spent the last 17 years investigating how human health depends on the vitality of natural ecosystems. His talk will explore how biodiversity influences biomedical research, disease spread, and food production.
Chivian is the Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. He was the co-recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. In 2008, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The lecture will be held in their auditorium, located at 2801 Sharon Tpk. in Millbrook, NY. A book signing will follow the lecture; copies of Sustaining Life will be available for sale. If you need more information? Contact (845) 677-7600×121 or e-mail
The Trailside Museums and Zoo at Bear Mountain State Park, is offering a special event as part of the Ninth Annual Hudson River Valley Ramble in September. A total of 202 events will take place from Saratoga County and the Capital Region to New York City on the weekends of September 13-14, September 20-21 and September 27-28. The Ramble is sponsored annually by the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, Hudson River Valley Greenway and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Estuary Program.
On Sunday, September 21st, at 12:00 noon, history buffs and interested visitors will meet our knowledgeable docents at Trailside Museums and Zoo's amphitheater, for a walking tour, recounting the Revolutionary War battle for Fort Clinton, one of the Twin Forts of the Popolopen. You will retrace the steps of the battle, see the last remaining pieces of Fort Clinton at the West Redoubt, and experience the superb archaeological collection from both Forts Clinton and Montgomery in our unique history museum.

Admission fees for Trailside Museums and Zoo are: $1.00 ages 13 and up, $0.50 ages 6-12, FREE ages 5 and under. Parking is located at the Bear Mountain State Park main parking lots and costs $6.00. Bear Mountain State Park can be reached via Exit 19 off the Palisades Interstate Parkway, Route 9W, or Exit 130A off NY Route 17 eastbound
If you're getting News That Matters from someone else (and I know many of you are), get your own copy each day either by subscribing through the link up there to the right, by visiting PlanPutnam, Blogspot or No Country For Sane Men on the 'net.

(And remember, our Annual Fund Drive starts the day after election day and runs through the last day of November. If you appreciate News That Matters, just keep that in mind.)

And now, the News:
  1. Upstate New York Town Loses Its Government (Don't get any ideas...!)
  2. NYC's Drinking Water Wins State Taste Test (We drink that water, too.)
  3. Mushrooming Workshop Offered at Glynwood (...of the non-psychedelic variety.)
  4. Keep Putnam Beautiful 2008 Showcase Award Nominations Sought
  5. Drought pulls river flow to lowest recorded level
  6. After White House Pressure, Agency Scales Back Whales Protection Rule
  7. The Surprising Way Wind Turbines Kill Bats
  8. Wiggling Plastic at River Bottom to Generate Electricity
  9. Woman humiliated by airport bra incident (I feel safer, don't you?)

Upstate New York Town Loses Its Government

ALBANY, NY (AP)  -- With eight months on the job, small town Supervisor Thomas Dias finds himself faced not with a crisis in government, but no government all.

The problem? Three veteran Ancram town board members abruptly resigned over three days leading up to last Thursday's monthly meeting. That leaves the rural, 200-year-old Columbia County town with a government unable to even pay its July bills.

``I said, `Wow!' I was really surprised,'' Dias said when he received the first resignation. He immediately sought guidance from an expert at the New York State Association of Towns, a lobbying and government resource organization.

``He said this is what is called an 'indeterminate possibility,''' Dias said, ``that something like this will probably never happen, so there is no way to plan for it.''

Dias is trying to get Democratic Gov. David Paterson to appoint at least one town councilman so the five-member board has a quorum and can conduct business until replacements are chosen by voters in the fall. The town is solidly Republican. Dias won election last fall on an independent line after losing a GOP primary.

Ancram is a Hudson Valley town of 1,500 people once known for its lead mines. It is part of a county where gentrification is causing friction between local families living there for generations and Manhattanites buying weekend and vacation homes.
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NYC's Drinking Water Wins State Taste Test

NEW YORK (AP)  -- Add this to New York City's list of superlatives: the best-tasting drinking water in the state.

The nation's biggest city beat 150 other communities to take first place in Tuesday's tap water taste test at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. Second prize went to Pulaski, a village of roughly 2,400 people about 40 miles north of Syracuse. Albany won last year.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd says Tuesday's victory demonstrates the importance of maintaining the city's celebrated water system.

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Mushrooming Workshop Offered at Glynwood

Using fresh mushrooms from the woods and slides, Glynwood Center in Cold Spring will hose a Mushrooming Lecture & Foray with Gary Lincoff. The event will focus on edible mushrooms and their look-alikes, so that each participant can become adept at recognizing the best edibles in the area and how to avoid making mistakes. They will also discuss how to prepare local wild edible mushrooms to bring out their best flavors and textures, and how to preserve them for future use.

The workshop will begin with a slide lecture which will be followed by lunch provided by Glynwood. The foray will take place after lunch, after which participants will return to the classroom for discussion. Terrain is moderately steep, so please wear appropriate shoes. Check the weather and dress appropriately.

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Keep Putnam Beautiful 2008 Showcase Award Nominations Sought

Nominations are now open for the 2008 Showcase Awards offered by Keep Putnam Beautiful. Anyone can nominate their own project or those of others.

In addition to public recognition for their accomplishments in beautifying Putnam County, recipients of a Showcase Award will receive a plaque suitable for outdoor display.

Categories to be awarded include: Best New Residential Construction; Best Residential Renovation; Best New Commercial Construction; Best Commercial Renovation; Best Municipal Or Public Project and the catch-all "other"

Judges will use the following criteria when considering nominations: Exteriors Only; Use of site; Innovation; Visual Appeal; Date of Project; Located in Putnam County

Beautification projects help residents and businesses preserve property values, provide better drinking water and reduce litter and recognize those who have done an outstanding job in helping to beautify Putnam County.

Application Deadline is Sept 5, 2008. Projects must have been completed between January 1, 2008 and August 31, 2008.

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Drought pulls river flow to lowest recorded level

ASHEVILLE - Stream flows in the French Broad River have reached their lowest levels since record-keeping began in 1895 and likely will continue to drop as the region's drought drags on.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Sunday that the river at Pearson Bridge in Asheville was flowing at a rate of 121 million gallons a day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

That rate falls well below the median stream flow of 781 million gallons a day for this time of year and below a previous low of 139 million gallons a day measured in 2002.

"I've been working in river programs for 27 years, and I've never seen the river this low," said Bill Eaker, environmental services manager for the Land-of-Sky Regional Council.

Read More

After White House Pressure, Agency Scales Back Whales Protection Rule

by Paul Kiel - August 26, 2008 12:10 pm EDT

The Bush administration has not been shy in questioning the conclusions of government scientists. Years-long rulemaking processes have been shunted by White House questions and objections, reports and congressional testimony heavily edited, and in some cases troublesome scientists entirely removed from areas of responsibility. In one survey, nearly half of EPA scientists who responded complained of political interference.

Here is another episode. Yesterday, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued new proposed guidelines for the protection of North Atlantic right whales. According to the new rules, ships will have to slow to 10 nautical miles per hour within 23 miles of certain ports at certain times of year. While a significant measure to protect the whales, of which only about 300 remain, prior guidelines had extended the protected zone to about 34.5 miles from shore.

Read More

The Surprising Way Wind Turbines Kill Bats

Scientists have known since 2004 that wind farms kill bats, just as they kill birds, even though the flying mammals should be able to avoid them. Many biologists thought that the bats, like their avian counterparts, might be falling victim to the fast-spinning turbine blades. But an examination of 188 hoary and silver-haired bats killed at a wind farm in southwestern Alberta in Canada between July and September in 2007 showed that nearly half showed no external injuries—as would be expected if the giant blades had smashed the flying mammals to the ground.

Instead, 90 percent of the 75 bats the researchers ultimately dissected had been killed by burst blood vessels in their lungs, according to results presented in Current Biology—suggesting that the air pressure difference created by the spinning windmills had terminated them, not contact with the blades.

Read More

Wiggling Plastic at River Bottom to Generate Electricity

Eric Bland, Discovery News
Aug. 26, 2008 -- For centuries humans have dammed rivers and streams to grind grain and later, generate electricity. Now a new, more subtle form of freshwater power is about to make its debut in the old steel town of Vandergrift, Penn.

Using a grid of electricity-generating smart materials on the bottom of the Kiskiminetas River, combined with a host of energy conservation efforts, Vandergrift hopes to generate between 20 and 40 percent of the city center's electricity.

"Vandergrift is trying to be the model green town," said Lisa Weiland, a scientist at the University of Pittsburgh who is involved in the project.

Vandergrift, which is northeast of Pittsburgh, was originally supposed to be the model steel town, but now, as Weiland says, it is "reinventing itself and going for sustainability."

That sustainable power will most likely come from a grid of undulating strips made of polyvinylidene fluoride or PVDF, a material that generates a slight electrical current when it is moved, in this case, by the currents and eddies in the Kiskiminetas River. Such materials are described as piezoelectric, and the resulting electrical current would pass to small substations along the river's edge before charging a group of batteries.

"There are other materials that give better performance or have higher energy densities," said Weiland. "But we're willing to sacrifice a little power to keep the ecosystem happy."

The Kiskiminetas River, or the Kiski, as it's more informally known, is about 40 yards wide where it passes Vandergrift. Weiland currently plans to lay a grid, 30 yards wide and about a mile long, down on the river bed to help power the city.

Read More

Woman humiliated by airport bra incident

OAKLAND, Calif., Aug. 26 (UPI) -- A woman said she was humiliated at an Oakland, Calif., airport when confronted by Transportation Safety Administration officers about her underwire bra.

Nancy Kates said she was en route to visit her mother in Boston when her bra set off the metal detector at Oakland International Airport, attracting the attention of TSA officers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

Kates said she was subjected to an intrusive search by a female officer.

"The woman touched my breast. I said, 'You can't do that,'" Kates said. "She said, 'We have to pat you down.' I said, 'You can't treat me as a criminal for wearing a bra.' "

She said the TSA agents allowed her to walk through the metal detector a second time after removing her bra and the device was not triggered. However, she said a search of her carry-on luggage caused her to miss her flight.

Kates said she was considering possible legal action against the airport.

"It's actually a little funny in a way, but a sad, sad commentary on the state of our country," Kates said. "This is bigger than just me. There are 150 million women in America, and this could happen to any of them."

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

News That Matters - August 26, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Tuesday Morning,

"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."
- Samuel Clemens

Today in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney warned that Iraq would have nuclear weapons "fairly soon". Oops!

Last evening the County's Physical Services committee voted to send a request for $325,000 of EoH funds to assist in the purchase of the development rights on 129 acres of the Ryder Farm in Southeast to the full Legislature for their approval. The vote was 3-0.

We should thank Tony Hay for briefly setting aside his Audit Committee meeting and to Vinnie Tamagna for handling the situation deftly. Thanks also go to Eileen Goren for all her work, the Putnam County Land Trust, and the Open Space Institute.

Betsey Ryder brought along other members of her family, including one cousin who drove down from New Hampshire, and spoke to the committee after a short video presentation on the importance of the farm that's been in the family since 1795. There were many in the audience willing to take their turn at the mic and were prepared to do so but Legislator Tamagna, sensing that we were all in favor, moved the question, received a second, and took a voice vote.

The committee also voted to begin construction of another phase of the Putnam County Trailway. (See Susan Elan's article below.)

The next step will be for the full legislature to vote on this next Tuesday evening, September 2nd. Watch this space for more information on that vote to which you all may be called out to attend. As of this writing, Legislators inclined to vote in favor are, Tamagna, Odell, Olivario, Intrary, Birmingham and McGuigan. We don't yet know about the others so stay tuned. The hard part comes when we get to Mr. Bondi... for his support we may have to fight rather hard.

There was one interesting tidbit that came out of the Audit committee meeting - county revenues drop when crime is low. How so? If crime is high we can rent jail space to counties who have run out of their own. When crime is low, we cannot. So in the future, please ask your friends and families who live out of county to become criminals or ask Legislators to make the remaining 3% of all we do illegal so that we can keep the county property tax rate lower. Thanks.

The front page of the Putnam Times, the organ of the Putnam County Republican machine and a newspaper that is as peripatetic politically as a newspaper could ever be, this week carries the headline "Washington Woman Got Order Of Protection On Assemblyman Ball".

Aside from poor grammar, an art at which the paper excels, the article carries a facsimile of a legal document filed in 2003 in Washington, D.C. by a Linda____. According to the article, the soon-to-be Assemblyman claims to have a sexually transmitted disease and traveled as far as Israel to harass her. "Stalking" is the word used in the document.

This should either put to rest the persistent rumor that the Assemblyman is a closeted gay man or give credence to it based on his inability to woo a women while, we assume, in uniform. Honestly, what gay man or straight woman could resist a dashing young Air Force officer in uniform?

Further in the paper the Putnam Times continues with Part 5 of it's character assassination of the Assemblyman, this week carrying a series of Letters to the Editor culled, I would think, from other sources. Next week we're promised a look into the Assemblyman's private life. I can't wait.

Look, I really don't like Greg Ball as an Assemblyman, (unless he comes around in uniform and then my knees turn to jelly and my heart skips a beat). What he's done to the public image of Putnam County is a crime. But I also don't like the method the Putnam Times is using against him. It reeks of unnecessary meanness - as they've never taken on any other candidate for public office in this base, in-the-gutter, FOXNews manner. I'd have more respect for them if they approached the issue with a good deal less sensationalism and practiced well prosed investigative journalism instead. But that's just me.

Should I assume that if I ever decide to run for office the Putnam Times will treat me the same way they've treated the Assemblyman? Or, they should hire me as their editor. Personally, I'd prefer the latter.

Hint to the Times - my skeletons are not in the closet, they're in the garage on the right side, against the wall, behind the snowthrower.

If you're getting News That Matters from someone else (and I know many of you are), get your own copy each day either by subscribing through the link up there to the right, by visiting PlanPutnam, Blogspot or No Country For Sane Men on the 'net.

And now, the News.

  1. Putnam to begin new phase of bike trailway
  2. Ball's plan would only increase taxes (Letter to the Editor)
  3. Valley Views: Hudson River a gold mine left untapped for too long
  4. Uninsured pay $30 billion for health care: study (It's no free ride!)
  5. Border fence design blasted as causing flooding
  6. New Stadiums: Prices, and Outrage, Escalate 
  7. Tax loopholes seen costing billions annually
  8. That Troubled Terrorism List

Putnam to begin new phase of bike trailway

Susan Elan
The Journal News

The county will soon start construction of a nearly 4-mile stretch of the Putnam Trailway system.

The new $9.3 million portion of the trail system for bicycle riders and pedestrians will run from Seminary Hill Road in Carmel to Putnam Avenue in Southeast.

Putnam's portion of funding for the project is $1.6 million, with the rest covered by state and federal grants, said John Lynch, the county's commissioner of planning, development and public transportation.

Putnam has already completed a 7-mile section of the paved bikeway, which runs from the Westchester County line at Baldwin Place to Seminary Hill Road.

Putnam legislators were considering a bond resolution to pay for the county's portion of the new construction when the Physical Services Committee met last night. It would be voted on by the full board Sept. 2.

Although Putnam faces a tough 2009 budget season, legislators are expected to approve trailway funding.

"We have never denied funding for the bikeway," said Legislature Chairman Tony Hay, R-Southeast, a fiscal conservative. "It's one of the best recreational opportunities in the county and one of the best things done on behalf of the taxpayers."

Read More

In Ms. Elan's article there is another ad-link with the word "environmental" bringing up an advertisement for ExxonMobil. "More Energy, Fewer Emissions". This is the second time in a week - at least - that I've noticed this.

What's with the Gannett Corporation trying to link ExxonMobil with a positive environmental message? I'm sure the spoiled shores of Alaska's Prince William Sound and that corporation's walking away from the mess are proof enough of where ExxonMobil stands on environmental issues... and it ain't pretty.

In another JN article, the word "energy" is also an ad-link and guess who pops up? Yuppers! The corporation that earned $12 BILLION in profits last quarter while you were shelling out $4.30 for a gallon of her black treacle.

Ball's plan would only increase taxes

Greg Ball shows his lack of basic understanding of finance and tax with his proposed "property tax cap." In fact, all this alleged "cap" does is guarantee that your taxes will increase. By guaranteeing an increase in the budget with this proposal, the districts have no incentive to reduce taxes, and taxing authorities will inevitably increase the budgets (and taxes) the maximum 4 percent whether necessary or not.

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Valley Views: Hudson River a gold mine left untapped for too long

By Martin Ginsburg

The Hudson River is one of the most majestic waterways in the world. So why doesn't New York state promote it as a prime tourism attraction?

By failing to harness the river's awesome potential, the state is squandering a golden opportunity to bring people from around the world to the Hudson River Valley to rediscover the river's grandeur and its diverse waterfront communities.

July 2009 will mark the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial - the 400th anniversary celebrations of the voyages of discovery made by Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain in 1609, and the 200th anniversary of the launching of Robert Fulton's steamboat on the Hudson River in 1807.

The timing for revitalizing tourism in this region could not be better. With the impending quadricentennial casting a well-deserved spotlight on the river, we must seize the moment to promote the Hudson's unique role in our state's history and in its future.

Flowing from Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondacks to the Upper New York Bay in New York City, the 315-mile waterway - nicknamed "America's Rhine" - practically begs to be activated. Tourism is the second-largest industry in the state, but New York tourism should not be limited to New York City. City residents would venture north to the Hudson Valley if vibrant destinations beckoned to attract them.

Read More

Uninsured pay $30 billion for health care: study

Mon Aug 25, 2008 11:09am EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans who go without health insurance for any part of 2008 will spend $30 billion out of pocket for health care and they will get $56 billion worth of free care, according to a report released on Monday.

Government programs pay for about three-quarters, or roughly $43 billion, of the bills for these uninsured people, Jack Hadley of George Mason University in Virginia and a team at the Urban Institute reported.

"Physicians' donated time and forgone profits amount to $7.8 billion. After government payments to hospitals are subtracted, private philanthropy and profit margins are responsible for at least an additional $6.3 billion," they wrote in the report, published on the Internet at

"From society's perspective, covering the uninsured is still a good investment. Failure to act in the near term will only make it more expensive to cover the uninsured in the future, while adding to the amount of lost productivity from not insuring all Americans," Hadley said in a statement.

On average, an uninsured American pays $583 out of pocket toward average annual medical costs of $1,686 per person, Hadley's team reported in the journal Health Affairs. The annual medical costs of Americans with private insurance average far more -- $3,915, with $681, or 17 percent, paid out of pocket, the report found.

"The uninsured receive a lot less care than the insured, and they pay a greater percentage of it out of pocket. Contrary to popular myth, they are not all free riders," Hadley said.

Read More

Border fence design blasted as causing flooding

Associated Press Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Flooding caused by a border security fence in southwestern Arizona shows the structure is being built too quickly and without regard for the environment, critics say.

Debris and water backed up at the fence during a storm July 12, leading to flooding at the port of entry at Lukeville and Sonoyta, Mexico, and at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

"One of the reasons for it was the debris that accumulated on the fence itself," said Lee Baiza, superintendent of the monument, a lush desert tract overseen by the National Park Service.

Environmental groups have criticized how the Army Corps of Engineers and federal contractors have designed and built a range of fencing and vehicle barriers along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Read More

New Stadiums: Prices, and Outrage, Escalate

No American market has witnessed anything like it: two baseball teams and two football teams will open three new stadiums within 17 months and 20 miles of one another, with everything set to be in place by the fall of 2010.

But even as fans of the Mets, the Yankees, the Giants and the Jets look forward to state-of-the-art stadium architecture, better sightlines, wider concourses and more bathrooms, some of them are also facing startling increases in ticket costs during a serious economic downturn.

The teams are confident market research supports the increases, but season-ticket holders say the price they are being asked to pay in the new stadiums — the Mets’ $800 million Citi Field, the $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium and the $1.6 billion (and climbing) Jets-Giants stadium — is turning them into something other than fans. Instead, interviews with two dozen fans indicated, they are starting to feel like unwitting bankers.

“You’re asking me for money and giving me nothing in return,” said Steve Kern, a construction executive from Boonton Township, N.J., who owns two Jets season tickets. “I won’t be sharing in the revenues or get any perks.”

Kern, who organized a small protest outside the Jets-Giants exhibition game Saturday, said he objected to the sale of personal seat licenses, the one-time fees that simply give fans the right to buy season tickets at the new stadium the Jets and Giants will share.

The Giants have said they will charge from $1,000 to $20,000 a seat for their personal seat licenses; once fans buy the seat licenses, they will still have to pay from $85 to $700 a ticket. The Jets are expected to unveil their ticket plan Tuesday.

Read More

Tax loopholes seen costing billions annually

Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:43am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tax and accounting loopholes that largely benefit rich taxpayers and companies cost the government $20 billion a year even as the pay gap between chief executives and employees has widened, two groups said on Monday.

The biggest loss comes from a "stock option accounting double standard" that allows corporations paying executives stock options to deduct more than their actual expenses, they said.

For example, when UnitedHealth Group Inc paid CEO William McGuire 9 million stock options, it put on its financial statement that the compensation cost the company nothing, according to the Institute for Policy Studies and the group United for a Fair Economy.

But it claimed a tax deduction of $317.7 million, the groups said.

That practice alone costs the U.S. government $10 billion a year, the groups said.

Read More

That Troubled Terrorism List

Published: August 24, 2008

A half-billion-dollar emergency program to repair the nation’s main and deeply flawed terrorist watch list is “on the brink of collapse,” according to a Congressional investigation. That means that warning signs of a terrorist attack could again be lost in the chaos.

The new program, known as Railhead, is intended to fix the problems with the current outmoded program. That database — begun as an urgent priority after the Sept. 11 attacks — has been bedeviled by an array of problems, including the inability to do basic searches to find suspects’ names.

Bush administration officials have been pronouncing Railhead a success. But the investigation by a House Science and Technology subcommittee found it crippled by serious design flaws, management blunders and runaway contractors. Hundreds of private contractors from dozens of companies involved were recently laid off as government managers finally ordered a fresh overhaul in the face of “insurmountable” problems.

Some of the flaws discovered are mind-bogglingly basic. The Railhead database, it seems, also has fundamental problems with its search function. It failed, for example, to handle multiple word searches connected by “and” and “or,” and it could not offer matches for slight misspellings of suspects’ names.

Read More
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