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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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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