Tuesday, September 30, 2008

News That Matters - September 30, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"Middle age is when you've met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else." - Ogden Nash

Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
- Jerry Garcia

Good Tuesday Morning,

If you live in Putnam Valley or along the Carmel side of that boundary, there's a special meeting of the PV Planning Board taking place tomorrow, Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 7:00 P.M. at Town Hall about a proposal for the development near Bryant Pond. The proposed development is a commercial project at Bryant Pond Road and the Taconic Parkway along with thirteen houses on a long, dead end road  all within steep slopes, wetlands and two water sheds.
The purpose of the meeting is to hold a Public Scoping Session and to receive Public Comment on the Draft Scoping Document, which has been prepared to outline the contents of issues the developer must address in the required Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Please go to www.putnamvalleyresidents.com to view the new development proposal, site plan and issues outlined by neighbors of the project.
New Stormwater Guidance Documents from the Center for Watershed Protection
Under grants from EPA, the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) has developed two new documents that will be of interest to stormwater managers and staff around the country. First, CWP has developed a new manual called "Municipal Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping Practices (Manual 9)."  This manual presents practical, "how to" guidance for developing and implementing pollution prevention practices at municipal facilities and operations such as public works yards, parks, road maintenance and repair, and many others.  Second, CWP has developed a new document called "Monitoring to Demonstrate Environmental Results: Guidance to Develop Local Stormwater Monitoring Studies Using Six Example Study Designs." This document, a joint production with the University of Alabama, presents the broad concepts and methods behind setting up special monitoring studies in support of the NPDES stormwater permitting program. The monitoring study presents a range of options for municipalities to consider depending their goals, objectives, and budgets. Both of these documents are available for free download at www.cwp.org

Another NYJN pop-up ad alert: When you click over the words "community" and "environment" in this article you get a popup ad for.... ExxonMobil.

And now, the News:

  1. Putnam food pantry grows green and healthy
  2. A Congress That Can Say "No!"
  3. The Catskills Gas Rush
  4. Highlands Coalition Executive Director to Step Down
  6. Plans for Vertical Mall Underway
  7. Solar Cell Sets World Efficiency Record At 40.8 Percent
  8. Alter Eco House is a Marvel of Green Building
  9. Arizona county officials may meet again; public is blocked the first time
  10. Pennsylvania high court upholds absolute reporter's privilege
  11. Army Alters Photographs, Issues Them To AP

Putnam food pantry grows green and healthy

Marcela Rojas
The Journal News

BREWSTER -A local food pantry has taken on the challenge to "go green" and to offer its clients more healthy food choices.

Rosemarie Bahr, executive director of the Putnam Community Action Program, said their food pantry has recently started to make the transition with help from the community. It is proving to be a success, she said.

"Through more outreach efforts, we're trying to help families live healthier lifestyles as well as take care of the environment," Bahr said this week.

Putnam CAP recently received a donation of 500 reusable bags from Trader Joe's in Danbury, Conn. The organization was using 12,000 plastic bags a year, Bahr said. They would like to have an additional 1,500 more reusable shopping bags to serve its client base, she said.

CAP's food pantry sees approximately 300 Putnam County families, or about 1,000 people, per month.

Read More

A Congress That Can Say "No!"

posted by John Nichols on 09/29/2008 @ 7:33pm

Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett, one of the few members of the US House with a steady track record of keeping his head at chaotic moments, was not impressed by the fact that the Bush White House and Democratic and Republican congressional leaders had come together to support a $700 billion bailout plan for Wall Street's worst players.

"Like the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, this bill is fueled by fear and haste," declared Doggett, a former jurist who has a habit of keeping his head when others in the House fail to do so.

What was different this time was that the populist Democrat with a record of casting votes that do not come to embarrass him, was on the winning side of the House division.

Unlike 2001, when the White House and congressional leaders forged a bipartisan combination to pass the Patriot Act; unlike 2002, when the powerful players in the executive and legislative branches crossed party lines to form a united front to give President Bush unprecedented war-making powers, the fight over the bailout plan that was backed by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate finished differently.

In one of the last monumental votes of an era of legislative dysfunction, courage and prudence prevailed over fear and haste.

The coalition that rejected the bailout bill by a 228-205 vote Monday was truly bipartisan.

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The Catskills Gas Rush

By David France
It was a weekend house—until I got a letter from the landman, telling me I was living on a huge, untapped source of natural gas. Riches beckoned. How much were my environmental principles really worth?

I first learned of the natural-gas land rush that is gripping some of the most scenic areas of New York and Pennsylvania when a thick envelope arrived in my upstate mailbox. The letter, signed by someone named Daniel F. Glassmire VI, was written in an ostentatiously baroque language that, as even he seemed to acknowledge in a dense preamble, could be mistaken for gibberish. I didn’t understand it at all until I corrected his punctuation and read it out loud.

“Hello,” it began. “My name is Danny, a young man in the way of prospecting, for about 14 months wet behind the ears but now and again really sharpening this experience of newness. Through all that—or anything else of importance (or trivia)—I would really like you to get an involved look-see into the dimensions of this Leasing proposal … I would clearly within this matter really look forward to meeting, if it would be possible, you at your residence for as long as you like, and for remaining in communication as many times as would follow for you in the best assurances of clarity. You are the decision-maker. The only possible goal would be to keep to your decision. What I have to show you is a mere compliment to where you go in decisions, and what is said through any presentation only has influence through your clear and finalizing decisions. It should hopefully be fun enough, as it ought to remain, regardless of turnout, as the stuff of interest.”

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Highlands Coalition Executive Director to Step Down

TO:          Highlands Coalition Members
FROM:      Jennifer Grossman, Co-Chair, Jim Hall, Co-Chair
DATE:      September 23, 2008

Since its inception, the Highlands Coalition has accomplished great strides and attracted the best and the brightest minds in land preservation. With a membership now of more than 180 organizations and an historic acknowledgment through the Highlands Conservation Act we have become leaders in cooperative conservation. Cultivating a strong ethic of land stewardship in a region covering four states and more than 3.5 million acres is no small task. We should all be proud of the differences we have made in our communities and energized to persist in our common mission. 

Despite our great work, though, we have not been able to generate enough financial support to meet our fundraising goals. This is clearly a very difficult economic climate and our deficiency is truly more a result of the fiscal crisis around us rather than the abilities of our strong team. As a result we have exhausted our ability to keep a full staff and have had to make the very hard decision of letting our Executive Director go. As of September 30th Jon Meade will be stepping down as Executive Director of the Highlands Coalition. Jon Meade has been a progressive and innovative leader for the Coalition for the past two years and we will sorely miss his energy, enthusiasm and friendly smile. Through Jon’s great work the Coalition has completed a strategic plan and further established the Coalition in the four states and at the federal level.

This very significant change does not mark the end of our effort or operations as the Highlands Coalition. We intend to continue with our strategic plan, to establish key conservation initiatives, and with a very committed but limited staff of Dawn Serra, as coordinator, and Teddy Eisenman, in program development, to continue our core programs. We also intend to bring on staff to implement the strategic plan and key initiatives in the Pennsylvania Highlands. We will continue to pursue our federal agenda of full funding for HCA and maintain a continued presence at critical legislative meetings.  Our state focused work will continue as we take advantage of the momentum we have built in Pennsylvania and New York. Through Coalition staff, board and members we will continue to work hard to protect this area we all care so deeply about. We are now adapting to a smaller budget, revising our strategic plan, and wanted to keep you apprised of the great capacity the Coalition still retains and intends to grow. We began as an organized effort of volunteers and will continue to rely on each and every one of you to work with us to keep the momentum going in your towns and villages, your state capitols and in Washington, DC.

Visit the Highlands Coalition's Website


For Release: IMMEDIATE                                       Contact: Lori O’Connell
Thursday, September 23, 2008                                           (518) 402-8000

Deadline for Applications is October 31, 2008

    New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today announced that grant applications are now being accepted for projects proposing to eradicate terrestrial invasive species.  Terrestrial invasive species is defined as a plant or animal that lives or grows predominately on land.  Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2008

    “New York State’s natural environment is threatened by an increasing number of invasive, exotic species,” said Commissioner Grannis. “DEC recognizes the need for control and management of non-native species and is committed to helping our communities protect natural resources by funding eradication projects that control and prevent the spread of these threats.”

    DEC is making up to $1 million in state grants available to municipalities and not-for-profit organizations for projects to eradicate and/or permanently remove infestations of terrestrial invasive species throughout the state.  The funding for these grants was secured in the 2008-09 enacted state budget, through the Environmental Protection Fund. State funds can be used to pay for up to one-half of the cost of selected projects.  Individual grants for terrestrial eradication proposals will be awarded for projects that range from $2,500, up to $100,000.

    Invasive species are non-native species that can cause harm to the environment and may result in ecological or economic problems.  Some terrestrial invasive plants, such as garlic mustard flower and Giant hogweed, were introduced in New York State by individuals who purposely brought them back from foreign habitats. Various species of terrestrial invasive insects, such as the Sirex wood wasp and the Asian Longhorn Beetle, also “hitchhiked” to New York in wooden shipping crates from foreign points of origin. 

    One common way many of these insect pests are moved around the country - beyond their natural rate of spread based on biology and flight potential - is on firewood carried by campers, hunters and other users of state forests.  People may not be aware they are moving the eggs or larvae of these pests, which may be hidden on or under the bark or buried deep within the logs.  Once transported to new locations, eggs may hatch, or larvae may mature and emerge to attack host trees in and around the area.  DEC advises people not to transport firewood to campgrounds or parks in an effort to limit the spread of invasive insect species and improve forest health.

    Control and management of invasive species are critical and challenging environmental concerns.  Invasive species harm ecosystems, food supplies, landscaping, industry and infrastructure and have the potential to cause millions of dollars of damage to our public and private forests.  They can rapidly and dramatically reshape the landscape of New York State while causing a threat to the state’s biodiversity.  More information about how the State is addressing this problem can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/28722.html on the DEC website or by calling 1-866-640-0652

    The 2008-09 enacted state budget includes $5 million in the Environmental Protection Fund to implement New York State’s Invasive Species Task Force recommendations.  For more information on the task force, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6989.html .
    Application materials for Invasive Species Eradication Grants have been mailed to municipalities throughout the state.  Copies are also available on the DEC website or by calling DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests at (518) 402-9425. All project applications must be postmarked by October 31, 2008.

Plans for Vertical Mall Underway

MID-WILSHIRE DISTRICT (KABC) -- Get ready for a new Los Angeles mall that promises not to contribute to urban sprawl. Plans are going ahead for L.A.'s first "Vertical Mall." Developers hope to complete the seven-story mall on Wilshire Blvd. at Vermont Ave. by 2011. But not everyone is pleased.

Never mind the traffic on the ground -- a Los Angeles developer is looking toward the sky with plans to build a vertical mall seven stories tall, with as many as 100 stores, rooftop restaurants and theaters.

The site is near the bustling intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Vermont Ave. The Metro Red Line station is a short walk away.

"We have enough stores," said passerby Judy Iott. "We have The Grove, we have downtown, Beverly Center, so I don't about the necessity of having another mall, and half the stores empty because of the economy, it's kind of foolish."

Read More

Solar Cell Sets World Efficiency Record At 40.8 Percent

ScienceDaily (Sep. 30, 2008) — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a photovoltaic device that converts 40.8 percent of the light that hits it into electricity. This is the highest confirmed efficiency of any photovoltaic device to date.

The inverted metamorphic triple-junction solar cell was designed, fabricated and independently measured at NREL. The 40.8 percent efficiency was measured under concentrated light of 326 suns. One sun is about the amount of light that typically hits Earth on a sunny day. The new cell is a natural candidate for the space satellite market and for terrestrial concentrated photovoltaic arrays, which use lenses or mirrors to focus sunlight onto the solar cells.

The new solar cell differs significantly from the previous record holder – also based on a NREL design. Instead of using a germanium wafer as the bottom junction of the device, the new design uses compositions of gallium indium phosphide and gallium indium arsenide to split the solar spectrum into three equal parts that are absorbed by each of the cell's three junctions for higher potential efficiencies. This is accomplished by growing the solar cell on a gallium arsenide wafer, flipping it over, then removing the wafer. The resulting device is extremely thin and light and represents a new class of solar cells with advantages in performance, design, operation and cost.

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Alter Eco House is a Marvel of Green Building

California's First LEED Platinum Custom Home

When hot green superstar Adrian Grenier created his exciting show Alter Eco with Planet Green and supermodel Angela Lindvall, he knew he wanted to set the first part of the show against a backdrop featuring his passion for green building. Grenier enlisted the help of Los Angeles-based contractor Richard Byrd of Byrd Development, who had recently plunged into the fast-paced world of sustainable design.

"This was our first green project, and we knocked it out in 14 weeks to stay in line with Alter Eco's shooting schedule," Byrd told TDG via phone. "It is the first custom-built LEED-certified platinum home in California."

Byrd explains that the goal for the house was a gorgeous 1920s-style Spanish manse that would blend in seamlessly with the LA aesthetic. Although the dwelling would boast many cutting-edge, deep green features, the look and feel would be contemporary, and anything but crunchy.

Read More

Arizona county officials may meet again; public is blocked the first time

County officials in Arizona may have to repeat a meeting they held last week in which several protesters and journalists were blocked from entering the room as a vote was held, according to The Associated Press.

The Maricopa County Supervisors in Mesa last week voted to cancel a police contract with the nearby town of Guadalupe, drawing the scrutiny of protesters who were angered over local illegal immigration enforcement tactics.

According to The AP, some protesters at the meeting spoke out of turn. One protester, Randy Parraz, was escorted out of the building by sheriff’s deputies and others in his group followed him out.

Police then blocked the front and side entrances to the meeting for 90 minutes to anyone who wanted in. That's when the county supervisors took their vote.

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Pennsylvania high court upholds absolute reporter's privilege

A reporter who used a confidential source to report about a grand jury proceeding can keep her source’s identity a secret, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

The high court ruled that the state shield law grants an absolute privilege to journalists, and protects their source’s identities from compelled disclosure in all cases – civil, criminal and grand jury proceedings.

“The Shield Law was enacted to protect the free flow of information to the news media in their role as information providers to the general public,” Chief Justice Ronald Castille wrote.

The suit arose when former Scranton Times reporter Jennifer Henn wrote a handful of stories about an investigation into wrongdoing at the Lackawanna County Prison. In her reporting, Henn quoted a confidential source who described secret grand jury testimony from former county commissioners.

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Army Alters Photographs, Issues Them To AP

By Megan McGinley

The Associated Press retracted two government-issued photographs last night after a photographer in Texas alerted the agency that the photos in question appeared to be doctored.

Bob Owen, chief photographer of the San Antonio Express-News, notified the AP that the photos of two deceased soldiers, who died in Iraq on Sept. 14, were nearly identical. Upon examining the photos, Owens noticed that everything except for the soldier’s face, name, and rank was the same. The most glaring similarity, Owen told CJR, was that the camouflage patterns of the two uniforms were “perfectly identical.”

After inspecting the photographs, the AP confirmed that the images were, indeed, Photoshopped, and issued eliminations on the two photos.

Read More

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Monday, September 29, 2008

News That Matters - September 29, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy..." - Sarah Palin

Good Monday Morning,

I have no idea what Ms. Palin is talking about and honestly, neither does she.

Tonight begins Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. L'shana Tova.

I'm currently battling a nasty virus on this machine so we're keeping this brief.

However, Congress has agreed upon a bailout plan for Wall Street that does exactly what I said last week it would do: Keep the rich, rich and make you pay for it. They threw in just enough to make you think they care about you but they don't.

The largest corporate bailout plan in history and they got it worked out in less than a week yet they can't figure out how to provide preventative health care or adequate funding for education and you think this was well thought through? Remember this: how many criminals went to jail over the savings and loan bailout? How many will go now? Write to Congress and say, NO BAILOUT for Wall Street.

And now, the News:

  1. State calls for new TZ Bridge
  2. Vetoed well testing law would have improved water safety
  3. Sterling Forest State Park turns 10
  4. A Hike Among the Ruins
  5. Grow More of Your Food, Make More of Your Own Stuff
  6. Repower America with Green Jobs Now!
  7. Let's drill our way out of the problem. But can we?
  8. 15 Things You Need to Know About the Panic of 2008
  9. Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way
  10. Poll: 60 percent of Americans oppose mandatory minimum sentences
  11. Brooklyn Man Dies After Police Use a Taser Gun

State calls for new TZ Bridge

Khurram Saeed
The Journal News

TARRYTOWN - A new $16 billion bridge that would replace the rusted, crumbling and crowded Tappan Zee could be in place in 10 years, according to a plan state officials unveiled yesterday.

The plan for the new structure spanning the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland comes after years of study by transportation experts looking for the best way to move people and freight through the region.

The new bridge, several hundred feet north of the current one, would include a rapid transit bus system upon completion. Some years after that, a commuter rail line providing Rockland residents a one-seat ride to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan also would be built, they said.

"It is now time to move ahead and to define the future," Department of Transportation Commissioner Astrid Glynn said.

Though the response among elected officials, Lower Hudson Valley residents and transportation advocates was mostly positive, many wondered who would pay for it.

The project would cost $16 billion: $6.4 billion for the bridge; $2.9 billion for the Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, system along 30 miles of Interstate 287 from Suffern to Port Chester; and $6.7 billion for the east-west rail line.

Read More

Vetoed well testing law would have improved water safety

By Sandy Goldberg, Bill McCabe and Marge Horton

The majority of the Dutchess County Legislature (15-10) passed a comprehensive local law on well-water testing. We would like to tell you what this law would have done, why it was important and why the county executive was shortsighted in vetoing this legislation.

As the Poughkeepsie Journal editorial board has said, comprehensive well testing is a public health matter. The Board of Health supports this, and the county's director of environmental health in December 2003 wrote to the Board of Health as chairman of the Private Water Quality Technical Advisory Workgroup, recommending private wells be tested at the time of sale. If this well testing had been implemented back in 2004, today we would have extensive information on private wells in this county. Our mapping of the more than 35,000 private wells would be well on its way. Instead, we continue to see this effort delayed.

The proposed and passed local law has three major components: private residents, commercial owners and landlords with private water wells. The purpose is to ensure the same water quality as provided by public water supplies. Buyers of homes have a right to know whether the water is contaminated and to work out remediation with the seller. The public doing business at commercial establishments and employees have a right to expect water meets satisfactory standards. Tenants have a right to quality water.

Read More

Sterling Forest State Park turns 10

By Laura Incalcaterra
The Journal News • September 26, 2008

WARWICK - Just 10 years ago, the preserve that became Sterling Forest State Park was still slated for massive development.

But grassroots efforts and public and private partnerships combined to protect the park, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary Sunday with a birthday party of sorts.

In a statement yesterday, State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash recalled the efforts that led to the park's creation.

"In thinking back to the origins of Sterling Forest, I recall the magnificent group of people, from both New York and New Jersey, who came together to make this preservation project a reality. Although our motivations were different, the goal was common," Ash stated.

Jim Gell, who has served as manager of the park since its opening, said Sterling Forest was important because it protected clean drinking water, and provided recreational opportunities and habitat for flora and fauna, including endangered species.

"From my perspective, it's been a great success," Gell said.

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A Hike Among the Ruins

Doodletown, N.Y.

IT was early in 1965 when the last remaining residents left Doodletown, an isolated hamlet situated in a valley tucked into a rugged crescent of land that curves to the southeast from Bear Mountain to the Hudson River across from Peekskill. Their departure ended an effort over decades by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to acquire the hamlet to expand ski slopes at Bear Mountain State Park, 45 miles north of New York City.

The ski slopes never made it past the planning stage. But hikers walking along the paths at Bear Mountain these days can see the elegance with which nature can cover human tracks, during a three-hour walk along the three main roads that once linked Doodletown’s 70 homes and the families who lived there.

“It was a lovely place to live,” said Elizabeth Stalter, 79, the author of a book about hiking through Doodletown, where she lived from 1950 to 1959. “The only drawbacks were the rattlesnakes and copperheads.”

Concrete stairs lead to where houses once stood, and stone foundations are in various stages of ruin, many pierced with maple and birch trees. Up on Doodletown Road, about 50 feet of preserved stairs to what was known as the Bambino home were pressed into the spongy layers of leaves that also covered a nearby driveway. And at the site of the home once occupied by Ms. Stalter, near the end of Pleasant Valley Road, clusters of thorny Japanese barberry rolled out from the shadows, and the lush summits of Bald Mountain and West Mountain were visible from among the trees.

Read More

Grow More of Your Food, Make More of Your Own Stuff

Blog Offers Sustainability Tips

100 years ago individuals and families would grow and make much of what they consumed, unconsciously living in a very sustainable manner. Growandmake.com has a blog which helps heighten consumer awareness of what can be practically grown or made at home. We create videos and write educational posts and articles for simple at home projects which can help you to garden year round, make your own clothing, or fill your pantry and freezer with locally grown foods. For many families and individuals it's impractical to devote the time and energy required to growing and making their day to day needs, so for most we encourage an occasional project or simple lifestyle change.

For when you can't grow or make what you consume our editors also evaluate and review a range of products based on a 5 criteria rating system for sustainability. Since you're never sure if a manufacturer is 'green washing' their product claims, we look at the entire chain required to produce and ship the product from the manufacturer origin to your home. We first evaluate the value, to ensure that the product is not an over-priced for the return. Second, we evaluate the efficiency (only applies to products which help to lower resource consumption). Third we evaluate the Shipping and Packaging to determine if it's packaged in with recyclable or biodegradable products and shipped in minimal carbon footprint manner. Our fourth criteria is the manufacturing process and if it's sustainable, neutral or has a negative environmental outcome. The last criteria applied is, longevity, which is critical in promoting re-use and keeping landfill at a minimum. When we discover a product we really like the editor creates a video review, so that you can see it in action and hear what our editor's love about the product they've evaluated.

Grow and Make editors speak with manufacturers regularly to encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices, so that they can receive our endorsement and a more positive rating and review.

Read More

Repower America with Green Jobs Now!

September 25th, 2008 | Posted by WeCanSolveIt
This Saturday, September 27th more than 600 events will take place across all 50 states in an historic National Day of Action designed to show that what’s good for the environment can help to end poverty and strengthen the economy as well.

Organized by Green For All, 1 Sky and the We Campaign, the Green Jobs Now National Day of Action is targeting low-income communities and communities of color with the message that Americans from all walks of life are ready, willing, and able to build the new economy.

“A lot of the language around global warming and the unfolding financial crisis can be overwhelming,” says Van Jones, Executive Director of Green For All. “We’re organizing these events to talk about the opportunity instead, to put a positive focus on the things we can do to Repower America and help people become optimistic about the future.”

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Let's drill our way out of the problem. But can we?

Noreen O'Donnell
Journal News columnist

"Drill, baby, drill," Republicans chanted at their convention, and the refrain was catchy.

Why not drill off the Atlantic and Pacific shores? The cost of gasoline shot up this year. More oil would bring prices down, wouldn't it?

Just listen to the politicians talk about rising prices at the pump.

"With gasoline running at more than four bucks a gallon, many do not have the luxury of waiting on the far-off plans of futurists and politicians," Sen. John McCain said in a speech in June in Texas.

"As a matter of fairness to the American people, and a matter of duty for our government, we must deal with the here and now," he said, "and assure affordable fuel for Americans by increasing domestic production."

So would drilling make fuel more affordable? No, says the Department of Energy. It would not. The United States has too little oil to affect the price on the international market.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which is part of the Department of Energy, estimates that drilling would result in 200,000 barrels a day - though no one knows for sure.

Read More

15 Things You Need to Know About the Panic of 2008

A crash course in why it happened, how it's strangling the nation's finances and how it might work itself out.
By Fred W. Frailey, Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
September 19, 2008

1. It all began with cheap money. To prop up ailing economies early in this decade, central banks in the U.S. and Japan kept interest rates unusually low, which encouraged speculation. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve lowered the federal funds rate -- the rate that banks charge each other for overnight loans and a barometer for the cost of borrowing money on a short-term basis -- from 6.5% in 2000 to 1% by mid 2003. Cheap money quickly ignited a sharp rise in home values in virtually every corner of the country.

2. Financial magicians made subprime loans golden. Banks and mortgage companies fed speculation in home prices by offering cheap credit to all comers, including those who would not normally qualify. What to do with these subprime loans? Package them with thousands of high-grade loans to sell to investors. To make the subprime loans attractive, underwriters bought insurance policies guaranteeing that the loans would be repaid. With insurance on the loans, credit-rating agencies stamped such paper as triple-A-rated debt.

Read the other 13

Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way


A banking system in crisis after the collapse of a housing bubble. An economy hemorrhaging jobs. A market-oriented government struggling to stem the panic. Sound familiar?

It does to Sweden. The country was so far in the hole in 1992 — after years of imprudent regulation, short-sighted economic policy and the end of its property boom — that its banking system was, for all practical purposes, insolvent.

But Sweden took a different course than the one now being proposed by the United States Treasury. And Swedish officials say there are lessons from their own nightmare that Washington may be missing.

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.

“If I go into a bank,” said Bo Lundgren, who was Sweden’s finance minister at the time, “I’d rather get equity so that there is some upside for the taxpayer.”

Read More

Poll: 60 percent of Americans oppose mandatory minimum sentences

Attitudes about one of the toughest crime measures from the 1980s may be changing.

By Amanda Paulson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the September 25, 2008 edition

Chicago - For two decades, politicians have worked hard to polish their tough-on-crime credentials.

Now, though – at a time when concerns about crime are low, prison populations are skyrocketing, and voters are more informed about how sentencing laws play out – Americans may be starting to rethink one of the toughest crime reforms from the 1980s: mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.

In a new poll, some 60 percent of respondents opposed mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans. Nearly 80 percent said the courts are best qualified to determine sentences for crimes, and nearly 60 percent said they'd be likely to vote for a politician who opposed mandatory minimum sentences.

Read More

Brooklyn Man Dies After Police Use a Taser Gun

Published: September 24, 2008

A naked and apparently emotionally disturbed man fell to his death from a building ledge in Brooklyn on Wednesday after an officer shot him with a Taser stun gun, the police said. The police and witnesses said he had been yelling at passers-by and swinging a long light bulb tube at officers before he fell.

Officials said Inman Morales fell about 10 feet from atop a security gate at 489 Tompkins Avenue near McDonough Street in Brooklyn after being hit by a police Taser on Wednesday.
The man, identified by the police as Inman Morales, 35, was taken to Kings County Hospital Center with serious head trauma after falling about 10 feet to the ground, witnesses said. He was later pronounced dead, officials said.

Mr. Morales’s death on Wednesday afternoon was another episode in the controversial history of Taser use in the city. While Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has looked cautiously on the use of stun gun technology by the Police Department, he recently said he was open to broadening the use of the weapons after a city-commissioned study on police shooting habits urged the department to consider using Tasers more frequently instead of deadly force when applicable.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

News That Matters - September 26, 2008 - Things to Do Edition

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"The free market and communism look so damn cute on paper or over a beer."

Good Friday Morning,

There's a flood watch in effect for our area for the next 48 hours.

Last evening at rush hour, Putnam County residents gathered on the steps of the Courthouse just under the window of Congressman John Hall's office to say No Bailout for Wall Street. For about two hours demonstrators held signs such as "Wall Street broke it; let Wall Street fix it", "Main Street, not Wall Street", and "Don't give away our kids' money to the bankers & CEOs." As cars drove by or stopped in traffic, hundreds honked their horns in support. Kudos to Putnam Valley's Judy Allen for organizing and for all those who took part. Direct Action is the Only Action.

While we're on that subject, according to the latest News That Matters poll,

75% of you are against a bailout,
17% are not sure and,
  8% favor one.

The poll is still open so if you haven't voted, please do so.

Here's what Ralph Nader had to say about all this on Democracy Now! the other day:

In other words, the Democrats should say, if they’re going to concede this bailout, is to say, “Well, we want comprehensive regulation and disclosure of the financial industry to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We want criminal prosecution of the crooks on Wall Street and disgorgement of their ill-gotten gains. We want a securities derivative tax and higher margin requirements to make speculators use their money, more of their money than other people’s money, like worker pension funds, to keep down speculation, as well as to produce revenues, which might lighten the tax load on working families. And we want to give shareholders control over the corporations they own.”

It's a guarantee that Congress will do none of those things. More on Monday.

I have a complete transcript of the "Debate" schedule for tonight, or not schedule for tonight depending on whom you talk to. Anyway, here it is:

Moderator: "Gentlemen, what makes you think you're ready to be President?"
Senator McCain: "I walk on water."
Senator Obama: "I invented water."
Moderator: "Thank you gentlemen."

Moderator: "What makes you think you're ready to be Vice President?"
Senator Biden: "Did you know there are only two 'e's in Delaware?"
Governor Palin: "Um, well, I, um, think the war in Afpakiran is going well."
Moderator: "Someone please, shoot me."

It's nice to know the NYJN is reading News That Matters. Yes, they've done it again. We break a story and they run it, several days later. Sheesh. A little credit would be nice once in a while.

While floods and Presidential politics and Wall Streeters baying at the taxpayer till from their yachts and country clubs goes on unabated, here's a list of events that will calm the mind and nurture your spirits. At the very least you'll be away from your TV for a few hours.

Here's the weekly Things To Do Edition!

  1. Tonight:
  2. Saturday:
  3. Sunday:
  4. Save The Date:


Millbrook: Discussion and book reading - "A Spring Without Bees: How Colony Collapse has Endangered our Food Supply" At: 7:00pm Free! Sponsored by: the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and Merritt Books.
The disappearance of a substantial portion of the bee population in America is the topic of this discussion by David Hackenberg, former president of the American Federation of Beekeepers. Mr. Hackenberg will read from and comment upon author Michael Schacker's recent book "A Spring Without Bees: How Colony Collapse has Endangered our Food Supply."

This event will be held at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies 65 Sharon Turnpike/Rt 44A Contact: 845 647-6487


The event you’ve been waiting for – nine musicians, video projections by Bob Hauver, the history of music from the Big Bang to the Renaissance to Jazz to “Let It Be” – arrives on Saturday. Midhat Serbagi’s Classical Planet with solo violinist Eric Grossman, cellist Gerald Kagan, recorder player Ralph Zeitlin, violinist Paul Ehrlich, bassist Kevin Callaghan, guitarist Steve Lamattina, saxophonist Ed Xiques, guitarist Steve Leonard and violist Serbagi will be presented at the Lake Carmel Cultural Center this Saturday (9/27) at 8 p.m.
Presented by the Reed Memorial Library in partnership with Arts on the Lake, the admission contribution is $10 ($9 for members).  Reservations can be made at rsvp@artsonthelake.org.  Tickets can be pre-paid on our website via PayPal.
Hear flamenco guitarist extrodinaire Alan Goodman at the Cafe Mozart at 308 Mamaroneck ave. in Mamaroneck, ny 10543 (914) 698-4166 from 8PM. Come enjoy some flamenco guitar and ukulele!!! He has a new amplifier so he can now play louder than the espresso machine!!!! Good food, good music, many drinks....but please, remember to listen responsibly!!!!

Join the Putnam County Historical Society at Cold Spring's 31st Annual Harvest Festival
from 10 am- 5 pm. Bring the kids to the PCHS table for a historic Apple Head Doll craft on the lawn of St. Mary's Church at the corner of Chestnut and Main Streets in Cold Spring. Also, enjoy a farmers market, craft vendors, great food and music. The Harvest Festival is sponsored by the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce. Call 845-265-4010 or visit  www.pchs-fsm.org For more information.


If you're up for a hike in the Catskills, you can join the Catskills 3500 Club for a trail work day on Table and Peekamoose mountains.meet at 8 :45 a.m. at the Denning trailhead.  If you are interested in joining the trail crew that day - you can earn a service patch - you will need to bring work gloves, eye protection and either a saw, loppers or hand clipper (or all  three!). Contact Elie Bijou at (518) 523-6434 for more information.

Arts on the Lake's second annual Fall Work Day is scheduled for this Sunday (9/28), 1-5 pm, rain or shine.  There’s plenty to do to get the exhibit space ready, the stage put away, the children’s classroom set up and the kitchen reorganized.  All members and friends are invited – camaraderie ensured, refreshments supplied.  Indicate your willingness and talents to Coordinator of Volunteer Services Mary Schreiber at rsvp@artsonthelake.org or (845) 228-AotL (2685).

The Town of Kent CAC is hosting their annual Mt. Nimham Festival today. The fun starts at 1PM at the firetower just off Gipsy Trail Road in Kent.

Clearwater Gathering to Unveil New Leadership Center - The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater’s Annual Gathering on Sunday, Sept. 28 will mark new milestones for the venerable environmental advocacy and educational organization, featuring Clearwater’s planned new headquarters at Beacon’s University Settlement Camp and the launch of the nonprofit’s new Center for Environmental Justice and Leadership.
“The Annual Gathering will be an opportunity to present what we plan to be our new home to the membership and the public,” said Clearwater Executive Director Jeff Rumpf. “At the same time, I will share our vision for the new Center for Environmental Justice and Leadership, which will represent the next step in Clearwater’s evolution as America’s environmental flagship.”

Also featured during the all-day event will be keynote speakers Congressman John Hall and Beacon Mayor Steve Gold, who will each describe the opportunity to build on the region’s rich environmental resources to develop “Green Cities” in the Hudson Valley. Gold has stated his desire to build Beacon’s reputation as a center of new environmental thinking by hosting Clearwater, Scenic Hudson’s signature Long Dock development, the Beacon Rivers Institute, the Beacon Sloop Club, and the River Pool at Beacon.

Although the Annual Gathering is free and open to the public, those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by phone or e-mail. By phone, please call Adrienne Pettit at the Clearwater office at 845-454-7673 ext. 101 or e-mail office@clearwater.org. For more information about the event please visit www.clearwater.org
Celebrate the Ten Year Anniversary of Sterling Forest State Park on Sunday, September 28th 2008 from 9AM to 3PM. At 16 Old Forge Road, Tuxedo, NY 10987 (845) 351-5907. Events will include hikes, bicycle tours, birding, history talks, "sporting" demos, live raptors, info tables, the new Historic Iron Mining Trail.

Save The Date:

If you're an Obama supporter in this election, there's a gathering on Monday night at Chill, a wine bar at 173 Main Street in Beacon. Featured will be live music and rumor has it Pete Seeger will be making an appearance. There's a suggested donation of $25.

Tuesday evening marks the beginning of Rosh Hashannah.

Revolutionary Roads is the theme for an event hosted by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) on Thursday, October 2 at 7 PM. West Point Museum Specialist, Paul Ackermann, leads a virtual tour of some of the area's historic, Revolutionary War-era roads. Using old maps and the latest satellite imagery available, Paul will present some new discoveries as well as raise some intriguing questions. The event will be held at the Fort Montgomery Visitor's Center. Cross the Bear Mountain bridge and head north at the traffic circle. The center is a short way up, also on the left.

Michelle LeBlanc's famous "Jazz Me Blues" will be on October 4th from 6pm - 8pm at the Putnam Valley Town Park - Leonard Wagner Park. Featuring pianist Tom Kohl, bassist Bill Crow, Joe Stelluti on sax and Ron Vincent on drums. http://www.pvsunsetseries.com

Kate Hoekstra, a local portrait and still life painter from Putnam Valley will exhibit in a group show at the Howland Cultural Center, in Beacon, NY, from October 4-26. When you go, tell her I sent you!

On October 4th, The Town of Carmel is hosting a Litter Cleanup Day. Call 628-7474 for more information.

On Saturday October 5th, The Fall Visual Arts Show opens at Arts on the Lake with an Opening Reception from 1PM until 5PM.

Auditions for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson will be held on Tues., Oct. 7th and Wed. Oct. 8th from 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Twas the month before Christmas and the whole town was anticipating the  Christmas Pageant! All except Mrs. Armstrong, the one who always ran it. She was in the hospital in traction 'til the New Year. Mild mannered housewife,  Grace Bradley, was imposed on to produce the pageant. When the town family of  ne'er-do-wells introduces mayhem amongst angels, baby angels and shepherds,  Bradley show she has nerves of steel and, with the help of the Spirit of Christmas, triumphs over the forces of evil and her husbands lethargy. The perfect Christmas show for the whole family to see or participate in. Call 845 598-1621 or e-mail our producer or visit us online at www.brewstertheater.org
The outdoor Collaborative Concepts show, currently ongoing at Saunder's Farm in Philipstown (Old Post Road and Highland Road) will have a mid-show reception on Saturday, October 11 (the 12th in case of rain). During the initial Opening Reception more than 800 people trekked onto the farm. Don't miss this! Stop in at the reception tent at the top of the field and say "hello".

The Overlook Mountain fire tower summer lecture series began in June with a talk about bears. Then came rattlesnakes, geology, and forest history. On Sunday, October 12 the series will finish with poetry. Richard Parisio, an educator for the DEC who carries quotations from Nineteenth Century Catskills nature essayist John Burroughs in his pockets to help identify bird calls, will lead a hike from the Overlook Mountain parking area starting at 10 a.m. to appreciate the arrival of autumn. Then at 1 p.m. the group will gather at the summit cabin for a poetry salon to share pieces by our favorite poets, including ourselves. We'll celebrate the spirit of the natural world transformed into words.
For information, contact Will Nixon at will@willnixon.com or 845-679-5853, or Dick Voloshon at volo@hvc.rr.com or 845-679-2580. The 2.5 mile hike up  Overlook follows an old carriage road that climbs 1400 feet. To reach the Overlook Mountain parking area from the village green, take Rock City Road 2.5 miles. This walk is sponsored by the Overlook Mountain Fire Tower Stewards.
The Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce will team up with the Poughkeepsie Journal to sponsor a Congressional Forum that will enable those attending to submit questions to the candidates. Five of the six candidates for three local congressional races have confirmed they will participate in the 6 p.m. event Oct. 21.
The three incumbents running for re-election have agreed to attend: John Hall, D-Dover, in the 19th Congressional District; Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, in the 22nd; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Hudson, in the 20th.

Hall's Republican opponent, Kieran Michael Lalor, and Hinchey's GOP rival, George Phillips, will also appear. The chamber is waiting for Sandy Treadwell, Gillibrand's Republican opponent, to confirm he will participate. Go here for more information.

“Meet the Candidates: Oct 25, The Sedgewood Club" The Sedgewood Club in Kent Cliffs will be hosting their annual “Meet the Candidates” event at the Boathouse on Saturday, October 25th at 3 pm. The address is 1026 Barrett Circle West, Kent Lakes. For those of you who have not attended in prior years, we hold this event just prior to each election to give our friends and neighbors in Kent Lakes a chance to meet the people who are running for office in our town, the county and the state.

The 4th annual Regional Conference on Green Buildings and energy efficiency is on Nov. 13th in Orange County.  This year the theme is focusing on energy efficiency in housing as a regional priority for economic vitality.  Among many others, one of the speakers is a key person working on the Cambridge Energy Alliance, which Joel Tyner and others in Dutchess Co. are already working to emulate.  The cost will be reasonable, probably $40.  Anyone interested in sponsoring or exhibiting should contact me off the list.  Last year we had 150 people and were full so this year we've got a bigger space with room for 200+. Write to Simon Gruber for more information.

Considering the Costs and Benefits of Nuclear Power: Pros and Cons of New Plants
On October 22, 2008 at the New York City Bar Association's Great Hall 42 West 44th Street
>From 8:30 – 11:30 am (8:30 – 9:00 am continental breakfast)
Should new nuclear energy be in our future? The challenges of global warming, geo-strategic problems of access to fossil fuels and increasing demand for global energy resources have generated both controversy and urgency regarding nuclear power.  The panel will review the technical, financial, environmental, health and proliferation issues and discuss the pros and cons of constructing new plants.

Introduction: Edna Sussman, Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney, LLP
An International Perspective by:  Maggie Lemmerman, Energy Policy Adviser, Global Issues Group, British Embassy, Washington  

Pro’s and Con’s of New Nuclear Energy -- Panelists:
  • Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies
  • Carey W. Fleming, Senior Counsel - Nuclear Generation, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, LLC
  • Dr. Edwin Lyman, Senior Staff Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Caren Byrd, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley Investment Banking Division
Eileen D. Millett, Gibbons P.C.

Closing Remarks:  Nancy Anderson, Sallan Foundation

  • Energy, Environmental Law, and International Environmental Law Committees of the New York City Bar Association
  • Sallan Foundation
  • Environmental Law Institute
This event is free and open to the public but registration is required.  To register, please contact Judith Wallace at wallace@clm.com.  Please contact Chris Fazio at fazio@clm.com or 212-238-8754 if you have any questions.
And, if nothing else gets your attention, perhaps it's time to can up those cucumbers:



8 pounds of 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
2 gallons water
1¼ cups canning or pickling salt (divided)
1½ quarts vinegar (5 percent)
¼ cup sugar
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice
3 tablespoons whole mustard seed
About 14 heads of fresh dill OR 5 tablespoons dill seed

Yield: 7 to 9 pints

Procedure: Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch slices off blossom ends and discard, but leave ¼ inch of stem attached. Dissolve ¾ cup salt in 2 gallons water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain. Combine vinegar, ½ cup salt, sugar and 2 quarts water. Add mixed pickling spices tied in a clean, white cloth. Heat to boiling. Fill jars with cucumbers. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seed and 1½ heads fresh dill (or 1½ teaspoons dill seed) per pint jar. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids and process pints for 10 minutes or quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath, or use the low-temperature pasteurization treatment explained on the last page.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

News That Matters - September 25, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself. We believe in the free market as the best tool to sustained prosperity and opportunity for all." - 2008 Republican Platform

Good Thursday Morning,

Only 11 of you voted in yesterday's poll? What's up with that? I though my readers were more involved, up-to-date and active? Vote!

Do you support a bailout for Wall Street?
Yes: I support the bailout
No: I do not support the bailout
Not Sure
free polls

The Putnam Valley Business Association cordially invites the Community to its “Business Expo” today, Thursday, Sept.25th from 1-6pm at Sinapi Ceola Manor in Jefferson Valley . FREE Admission, FREE Food, Free Prizes and Giveaways!  Grand Prize is a vacation in Chenay Bay, St. Croix. Free Seminars including:  Learning to sell on eBay, Communication skills training, internet banking, Preventing heart disease.  Register for Seminars on www.PVBA.org

Support Your Colons! Though we missed it, yesterday was National Punctuation Day, a yearly celebration on September 24, to bring awareness to the proper use of punctuation marks. Based on what I read (and too often on how I write) every day should be National Punctuation Day! Learn more here.

So, you think you're paying the highest property taxes in the known universe? If you're listening to Paul Camarda, Bob Bondi or Greg Ball you need a lobotomy. Sorry, wrong article.

So, you think you're paying the highest property taxes in the known universe? If you're listening to Paul Camarda, Bob Bondi or Greg Ball you might think you are. But the NYJN reports that Putnam falls outside the top 10 counties in property taxes with a median tax bill of $6,860. Westchesterites shell out a median $8,422 to top the nation - so now you know why they're all moving up here! Here's the Top 20  list:

1) Westchester, N.Y.: $8,422, 2) Hunterdon, N.J.: $8,224, 3) Nassau, N.Y.: $8,153
4) Bergen, N.J.: $7,797, 5) Somerset, N.J.: $7,597, 6) Rockland, N.Y.: $7,535
7) Essex, N.J.: $7,535, 8) Morris, N.J.: $7,281, 9) Union, N.J.: $7,007
10) Passaic, N.J.: $6,928, 11) Putnam, N.Y.: $6,860, 12) Suffolk, N.Y.: $6,763
13) Monmouth, N.J.: $6,494, 14) Lake, Ill.: $6,089, 15) Hudson, N.J.: $6,007
16) Fairfield, Conn.: $5,962, 17) Middlesex, N.J.: $5,861, 18) Sussex, N.J.: $5,803
19) Mercer, N.J.: $5,734, 20) Warren, N.J.: $5,673

McCain Supports Bailing Out of Debate
Urges Comprehensive Debate Bailout Package.

Saying that "desperate times call for desperate measures," GOP presidential nominee John McCain announced today that he would personally bail out of Friday's scheduled presidential debate.

"As of today, I am officially bailing out of the debate," Sen. McCain told reporters in Washington today.  "And I invite Sen. Obama to join me in this bailout effort."

Sen. McCain said he would be putting together what he called "a comprehensive debate bailout package," which could include bailing out of the other two scheduled debates as well.

When asked what motivated his dramatic bailout proposal, Sen. McCain said, "When I woke up this morning and I saw those terrible numbers, I knew that a bailout was necessary to keep those numbers from getting worse."

Mr. McCain refused to answer a reporter's question about whether he was talking about economic numbers or poll numbers, saying, "I am bailing out of any response to that question." ...

Comedian Andy Borowitz

John McCain says he's suspending his campaign for President so he can grandstand from his desk in Washington, D.C. during this "historic" bailout of his friends and allies. Barack Obama, being a black man, does not have the same friends on Wall Street. He can't hardly even join their country clubs. In order to seem more Presidential McCain is also canceling the debate scheduled for tomorrow night apparently to avoid answering any economic questions.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was in New York this week to meet her first foreign dignitaries. While she can see Russia from her house, which according to her makes her foreign policy experience essential, she has yet to actually speak to anyone from another country... unless you count the Lower 48 as another country. Many Alaskans, including the Palin family, do.

Yesterday Congress passed the "Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights", the first congressional legislation that targets consumers as opposed to the credit card industry. Just a few years ago MBNA (now out of business) wrote the new bankruptcy laws and other banks and financial institutions wrote the new credit card laws, once which allow companies to pretty much charge what they want on whatever terms they desire without telling you. It's nice to be in charge! The "Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights" passed on a vote of 312-112 with one Democrat and 111 Republicans voting NO. The list of those who voted NO is here. US consumers hold nearly $1 TRILLION in credit card debt and in 2007 the industry earned $18.1 billion in profits based on fees alone. Kudos to John Hall for co-sponsoring, one of 155 to do so.

The Senate, however, was out to lunch and will probably not take up their side of the bill until all their campaign donations are in and counted for this reporting period.

On the other hand, Congressman Hall still refuses to cosponsor HR2060, the Internet Radio Equality Act which nullifies a ruling made by the Copyright Royalty Judges which, in effect, charges internet broadcasters the same rates as full blown commercial radio stations. The net effect has been the loss of thousands of small, independent radio stations since the summer of 2007 when the Copyright board issued the new rules. By the way, there are 150 co-sponsors of that bill so it's not like Congressman Hall would be alone. Write John Hall and tell him to co-sponsor this important legislation.

According to Kieran Lalor's streetside campaign signs, his sole claim to higher office seems to be that he's an IRAQ VET. Those two words have popped up on virtually all his signs but I find it rather ironic. Here's a guy running for Congress against the one Congressman who has worked hardest to clean up the Veteran's Administration, to institute programs to assist soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan and Iran...) in ways that even Sue Kelly couldn't accomplish. It's even more ironic that Congressman Hall has had to work against the President and Republicans in Congress in order to achieve these victories. In other words, Mr. Lalor's signs should read, "IRAQ VET THANKS JOHN HALL" for Mr. Lalor surely benefits from Mr. Hall's work on his behalf.

Wait! It gets better. It's been a bad week for Mr. Lalor. Not only did he withdraw his "Energy Whatever" party line due to too many legal problems to count, but he's also been touting his endorsement by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The only problem is, they didn't endorse him. He did receive an endorsement from the VFW PAC which, though the name sounds similar, is an entirely different organization and legally separate and apart. Didn't we hear something similar from Greg Ball about an NRA endorsement that never was?
It's like deja vu all over again.

Setting Mr. Lalor's comedy aside for just a moment, here's something that is sure to scare the bejeezus out of you:

The Town of Dover Planning Board has received an application from Wind Rose Dutchess, LLC (the “Applicant”) to construct a 230- to 260-unit residential membership club with recreational amenities including a golf course and clubhouse, equestrian center, riding and hiking trails, tennis courts, pool areas, spa, fitness area, helicopter landing pad, and a kid’s camp on 1,145 acres (the “Proposed Project”) in the Towns of Dover and Pawling, Dutchess County, NY. The Project Site comprises eight tax parcels. Two of these parcels, totaling 653.99 acres, are located in the Town of Dover. Six of the parcels, totaling 490.80 acres, are located in the Town of Pawling.
- Wind Rose - Draft Scoping Document

How's that for scale? The project, called Wind Rose, is proposed for a lightly trafficked rural road and abuts the Appalachian Trail. Can you imagine the impact, not just on America's most historic scenic hiking trail but on the Great Swamp? A draft scoping document is circulating. You can get more information from the Coalition for the Responsible Growth of Dover. If I were you, I'd write to Beth Coursen, Supervisor of Pawling and Ryan Courtein, Supervisor of Dover and tell them it's a stupid, stupid idea.

"I know, it's tough not to feel a little shaken, unnerved, openly disgusted. A $700 billion bailout ... by an already nearly bankrupt U.S. Treasury? Two trillion for a failed war in Iraq? Ten trillion in national debt and a $480 billion budget deficit (not counting the $700B for the bailout and it could be much more) and a record trade deficit, with all those numbers nearly double (if not far more) of what they were in 2001?" - Mark Moford

And now, the News:

  1. Legislature gives raises to 6 in 2009 budget, boosts library funding
  2. Southeast highway chief pleads guilty to misconduct
  3. Legislators urge sales-tax reserve fund
  4. 700 billion fluffy nothings
  5. Open Space Institute Releases New Report
  6. Tests ordered on Delaware River Basin (Before Gas Drilling Starts)
  7. Expand Mountain Biking Trails in the Bluestone Wild Forest
  8. Solar Panels Are Vanishing, Only to Reappear on the Internet
  9. A Building That Blooms and Grows, Balancing Nature and Civilization
  10. Abdication by Palin (Anchorage speaks)
  11. A Nobel Prize for Pete

Legislature gives raises to 6 in 2009 budget,
boosts library funding

Susan Elan
The Journal News

CARMEL - The Putnam County Legislature last night restored funding to libraries and arts and historical organizations that County Executive Robert Bondi had cut in his $136.3 million proposed county budget for 2009.

The Legislature also put back the salary line for one of four jobs - an auto mechanic position - eliminated in the Highways and Facilities Department in 2009 while granting hefty salary increases to a half-dozen county employees.

"Since the county executive presented his budget several weeks ago, banks have gone out of business, the stock market has lost 1,000 points, the feds are planning a massive bailout (of Wall Street) and people are losing their jobs and homes," said Legislature Chairman Tony Hay, R-Southeast, who voted against every increase proposed at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting last night.

Read More

Southeast highway chief pleads guilty to misconduct

Marcela Rojas
The Journal News

Southeast Highway Superintendent Mike Fila pleaded guilty to official misconduct, a misdemeanor, in Town Court this afternoon.

Fila, 38, who was brought into court in handcuffs, resigned from his $81,000-a-year, elected position under a plea agreement reached with the Putnam County District Attorney's Office. He declined to comment and directed questions to his lawyer Harry Kutner of Mineola, Long Island.

"It's an unfortunate episode for Mr. Fila," Kutner said. "He's a good person who didn't think through what he was going to do."

Town Justice Richard Vercollone sentenced him to a one-year conditional discharge that, along with the resignation, includes paying restitution to the town of up to $1,000. An exact figure will be determined by Fila's attorney and the D.A.'s Office within 30 days.

Read More

Legislators urge sales-tax reserve fund

Susan Elan
The Journal News

CARMEL - Most Putnam County legislators want to establish a new reserve fund in which to deposit excess sales-tax revenue to be used solely to reduce county property taxes.

The tax-stabilization reserve fund would be applied to the county's 2010 budget and would ensure that sales tax dollars benefit property owners directly instead of being used to initiate new county programs, said Putnam Legislator Dan Birmingham, R-Brewster, who proposed the fund.

Plan opponent and Legislature Chairman Tony Hay, R-Southeast, said any surplus the county received would be needed to make up the shortfall in state funding that Putnam can expect as Wall Street unravels.

Even before the Wall Street debacle, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned in mid-July that the increasing reliance by counties on sales taxes during the past decade has left them more vulnerable to an economic downturn.

For the first eight months of the year, Putnam is ahead $5.2 million in sales-tax receipts versus the same period last year, said Birmingham, who wants $1 million in sales tax to go into the new fund in 2009.

Read More

700 billion fluffy nothings

Staggering bailouts? Body counts? Global warming stats? They're just numbers, silly
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Relax, people, it's just a number.

It's just a bunch of zeroes. It's merely 700,000,000,000, and if you look closely and blur your eyes just right and then hit yourself in the face with a brick, you'll soon see that each and every one of those cute little circles is filled with goodness and candy and the sweet sighs of puppies and pie.

Really, what could such a ginormous number possibly mean to everyday hard-workin' plebes like you and me? What does all that wild speculation about imminent recessions and the total collapse of the U.S. economy and "the end of Wall Street" actually mean for us all on a day-to-day basis? In a word, nothing. In five more: happy safe terrorist-free nothing. After all, "the fundamentals of our economy are sound." And besides, we're all just "a nation of whiners." There now. Better?

Don't you already know? If eight miserable years of Bush have taught us anything, it's that numbers like these don't actually mean anything, or have any real effect or significance, be they astronomical bailouts, soldier body counts, the costs of a lost war, evidence of global warming, insane oil profits, you name it.

Read More

OSI Releases a New Report

Forestland For Sale:Challenges and Opportunities for Conservation over the Next 10 Years

New York, NY - September 17, 2008 - The Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Forest, a 146,000-acre parcel in northern New Hampshire that makes up 4 percent of the state and was purchased by a private investor in 2002, is up for sale again.

A forestland sale this size would normally be cause for great concern within the conservation community.  This time, however, it isn’t, as its owner has placed a strong conservation easement on the forest, preventing future development and requiring that its buyer manage it in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Read More

Tests ordered on Delaware River Basin

Bucks County Courier Times

Officials will spend $25,000 to have parts of the Delaware River Basin tested before gas drilling begins in Upper Bucks, a move they say is needed to provide comparison data should drilling contaminate the waterways.

The Lower Delaware River Wild and Scenic Management Committee, a group of governmental representatives from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, voted Monday to conduct random samplings of streams, creeks and aquifers around the river.

Officials call the testing a protective measure. If the waterways were to become contaminated, they argue, this baseline, pre-drilling data could be used to make the case that drilling was the cause.

Read More

Expand Mountain Biking Trails in the Bluestone Wild Forest

Open Space Institute and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

New York, NY - September 1, 2008 - Combining land conservation, recreational and economic development goals for the Catskills, the Open Space Institute (OSI) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced recently the acquisition of nearly 20 acres of prime recreation land at the southeastern gateway to the 300,000-acre Catskill Forest Preserve.

The 19.52-acre Frazer property was purchased by the Open Space Conservancy, OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, for $146,920. It will be conveyed to DEC and managed as part of the Catskill Forest Preserve. Funding for this phase of the acquisition came from the Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Endowment, a permanent fund that was transferred to the Open Space Conservancy in 2001. State acquisition will be funded by the Environmental Protection Fund.

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Solar Panels Are Vanishing, Only to Reappear on the Internet


DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. — Solar power, with its promise of emissions-free renewable energy, boasts a growing number of fans. Some of them, it turns out, are thieves.

Just ask Glenda Hoffman, whose fury has not abated since 16 solar panels vanished from her roof in this sun-baked town in three separate burglaries in May, sometimes as she slept. She is ready if the criminals turn up again.

“I have a shotgun right next to the bed and a .22 under my pillow,” Ms. Hoffman said.

Police departments in California — the biggest market for solar power, with more than 33,000 installations — are seeing a rash of such burglaries, though nobody compiles overall statistics.

Investigators do not believe the thieves are acting out of concern for their carbon footprints. Rather, authorities assume that many panels make their way to unwitting homeowners, sometimes via the Internet.

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A Building That Blooms and Grows,
Balancing Nature and Civilization


SAN FRANCISCO — Not all architects embrace the idea of evolution. Some, fixated on the 20th-century notion of the avant-garde, view their work as a divine revelation, as if history began with them. Others pine for the Middle Ages.

But if you want reaffirmation that human history is an upward spiral rather than a descent into darkness, head to the new California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park, which opens on Saturday. Designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano on the site of the academy’s demolished home, the building has a steel frame that rests amid the verdant flora like a delicate piece of fine embroidery. Capped by a stupendous floating green roof of undulating mounds of plants, it embodies the academy’s philosophy that humanity is only one part of an endlessly complex universal system.

This building’s greatness as architecture, however, is rooted in a cultural history that stretches back through Modernism to Classical Greece. It is a comforting reminder of the civilizing function of great art in a barbaric age.

The academy building is the last in a series of ambitious projects to be conceived in and around the park’s Music Concourse since the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Herzog & de Meuron’s mesmerizing de Young Museum, enclosed in perforated copper, opened three years ago. Scaffolding is to come down at the concourse’s neo-Classical band shell this week after a loving restoration.

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Abdication by Palin

When did the McCain campaign take over the governor's office?

Gov. Sarah Palin has surrendered important gubernatorial duties to the Republican presidential campaign. McCain staff are handling public and press questions about actions she has taken as governor. The governor who said, "Hold me accountable," is hiding behind the hired guns of the McCain campaign to avoid accountability.

Is it too much to ask that Alaska's governor speak for herself, directly to Alaskans, about her actions as Alaska's governor?

A press conference Thursday showed how skewed Alaska's relationship with its own governor has become.

McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Ed O'Callaghan announced that Todd Palin will not comply with a subpoena to testify about his role in Troopergate, the Legislature's investigation into whether Palin abused her power in forcing out former public safety commissioner Walt Monegan.

O'Callaghan also announced that Alaska's governor is "unlikely" to cooperate with the investigation by the Alaska Legislature about questionable conduct by Alaska's chief executive.

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A Nobel Prize for Pete

Thanks for your help in the grassroots effort to get the Nobel Peace Prize for Pete Seeger.   This is our first newsletter.   As we promised, we have not bothered you with emails or given your name to other causes, no matter how worthy. So far news has spread by word of mouth and emails among friends and between organizations. Please check out our new web site http://www.nobelprize4pete.org and use the resources, pictures, sponsors and stories to help promote this campaign. You can also sign the petition by clicking on the "Sign the Petition" link. Who would have thought when I started this petition just about one year ago that it would have been so heartily supported?

By this time you probably want to hear news of the progress of this campaign. The bad news is that our petition was off line due to some sort of   "technical difficulties" for almost a month, and I'm sure we lost some signers and confused many people. The good news is that it is up again and has nearly twenty thousand (20,000) signatures!

Now we need your help. Our most urgent goal is to get Pete nominated before February 2009, the Nobel committee's deadline. Do you know anyone who works at an organization that might be officially able to nominate Pete? In order to do this, we urgently need help finding a person or agency that will pledge to nominate him. The American Friends Service Committee was interested but gave us no assurance that they would present his name. Qualified nominators include some elected representatives, university professors, and previous Nobel Peace Prizewinners. Please help us find a nominator! Spreading the word is critical.

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