News That Matters
Good Friday Morning,
It's time to mess with the time again, setting our mechanical clocks back to real-earth time. You know, when it's noon and the shadow from the gnomon leans due north. It will be lighter in the mornings and darker in the afternoons and will, as it always does, take a while to get used to it.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
News That Matters
Good Thursday Morning,
What's up with Costco? Well, their in-store profits are up but they're having a bit of trouble with what they call "cannibalism" which is when one Costco draws store from another. This is due to market saturation and the company plans to slow expansion plans for 2009 and into the future.
Not Multiple Choice:
One of those two statements is supposed to be true. Can you guess which one?
On Saturday and Sunday, November 22nd and 23rd, Concerned Residents of Carmel & Mahopac will hold its annual food drive for the benefit of Putnam Community Action Program. CRCM volunteers will collect food in front of two area supermarkets to provide enough food for Thanksgiving dinners for hundreds of needy residents of Putnam County. We are seeking volunteers, children and adults, who can give at least two hours of time to this very worthy cause. If you are able to participate in this important community service event, or would like further information, please call Jerry or Judy Ravnitzky at 628-6681.
The NYJN endorsed John Hall for reelection to Congress.
Personally, I'm pretty tired of the deluge/barrage/cascade of Presidential election news and I have been for the past two years. I am sure we are all agreed on this. If not, write to tell us why you like this constant, never-ending election season.
Next Wednesday begins PlanPutnam's Annual Fund Drive. It will run until November 30th, as usual and I shall remind you all repeatedly until then. If you'd prefer I didn't, click here.
And lastly, if you have any upcoming events you'd like posted here tomorrow morning, get them in to me by this afternoon.
And now, the News:
The Journal New
CARMEL - A Long Island-based developer looking to build and operate a 123-room hotel on Route 6 - the county's first major hotel - has announced it will not move ahead until the "economy recovers."
"We are putting our plans for the hotel on hold," said Albert L. Salvatico, president of Jaral Properties Inc. in Garden City, in an Oct. 9 letter to the Putnam County Economic Development Agency.
Salvatico said delays in securing approvals soured the project's timetable. Hotels are reporting low occupancy rates, and securing $23 million in financing would be difficult during this unprecedented down economy. He also cited a 2006 lawsuit by environmental groups as delaying the process.
The initial hotel plans were submitted in 2001 following a public referendum that allowed the sale of town-owned land for the project, which also would include a conference center.
Natural News, October 20, 2008
Straight to the Source
As farmers struggle to mitigate the increasing cost of transporting produce from farm to store and schools face smaller budgets and increasing concerns over the nutritional content of school lunches, some schools opt to bring the farm to the lunch table.
The concern over the nutritional value of school lunches isn't unwarranted: 15% of children ages 6-19 are considered overweight, according to a recent study conducted by CDC epidemiologist Cynthia Ogden, PhD. Between pre-packaged, highly processed lunches and vending machines loaded with sugary snacks and sodas, it is little wonder parents also worry about fueling their kids' minds. Many are asking the schools to do more, pointing out that the National School Lunch Program isn't passing muster.
Nearly half of the children in the U.S. who attend private and public schools participate in the NSLP, a federally assisted meal program that dates back to 1946. While the NSLP does provide a low-cost (and in some cases, free) means of delivering lunch through subsidies to schools, the program has been widely criticized in recent years for contributing to America's obesity epidemic. According to the Sustainable Table, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the problems with our food supply, our children are not meeting the RDA of vitamins and nutrients under the current NSLP guidelines. Couple that with the skyrocketing price of food, which extends beyond the family table to the school cafeterias as well. Forced to consider lower-priced alternatives to fresh foods, many schools have no alternative but to rely on the cheaper, less healthy fare. A number of districts across the country are taking matters into their own hands and breaking the mold. Instead of doling out sodium and fat-laden chicken nuggets for lunch, they are opting to assist local farmers and provide healthier, locally grown foods to students.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
(10-28) 15:24 PDT NEW YORK, (AP) --
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is navigating the global economic slowdown by scaling back its store growth and capital expenditures while focusing on remodeling existing locations and creating smaller outposts.
The goal, Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe told analysts on its second day of the company's annual meeting with Wall Street analysts, is to continue to increase its cash flow to invest in its business, while delivering returns to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, plans to open a total of 212 stores in the U.S. in fiscal 2009, which ends in January, and from 157 to 177 stores in fiscal 2010. That compares with 243 stores opened in the prior year.
The scaled-down expansion comes as Wal-Mart told analysts Tuesday that total sales growth will moderate to 8 percent in fiscal 2009, below the 8.6 percent pace last year. For fiscal 2010, Wal-Mart predicts sales growth at 5 percent to 7 percent.
First came the mortgage crisis. Now comes the credit card crisis.
After years of flooding Americans with credit card offers and sky-high credit lines, lenders are sharply curtailing both, just as an eroding economy squeezes consumers.
The pullback is affecting even creditworthy consumers and threatens an already beleaguered banking industry with another wave of heavy losses after an era in which it reaped near record gains from the business of easy credit that it helped create.
Lenders wrote off an estimated $21 billion in bad credit card loans in the first half of 2008 as more borrowers defaulted on their payments. With companies laying off tens of thousands of workers, the industry stands to lose at least another $55 billion over the next year and a half, analysts say. Currently, the total losses amount to 5.5 percent of credit card debt outstanding, and could surpass the 7.9 percent level reached after the technology bubble burst in 2001.
“If unemployment continues to increase, credit card net charge-offs could exceed historical norms,” Gary L. Crittenden, Citigroup’s chief financial officer, said.
Faced with sobering conditions, companies that issue MasterCard, Visa and other cards are rushing to stanch the bleeding, even as options once easily tapped by borrowers to pay off credit card obligations, like home equity lines or the ability to transfer balances to a new card, dry up.
By David Biello
Downtown Muskegon, Mich., population just over 40,000 people, has one thing on New York City's Times Square: a small-scale wind turbine powering a liquid-crystal display. Only this (smaller) billboard gives the time, temperature, wind direction and wind speed, along with the cumulative energy generated by the turbine, rather than featuring the latest ad from Samsung or Calvin Klein. It's the first sign of what Grand Rapids, Mich.–based plastics manufacturer Cascade Engineering hopes will be a revolution in wind turbines for businesses and residences.
"We're allowing [homeowners] an on-site renewable solution for their home, whether in the city or [in the country]," says Cascade marketing manager Jessica Lehti. The company's SWIFT wind turbine is also aimed at helping businesses "offset those peak loads [of electricity demand], generate on-site renewable energy, and demonstrate their commitment to renewable energy."
The SWIFT turbine, based on a design from Renewable Devices, Ltd., in Scotland, is about seven feet (2.1 meters) in diameter, weighs a svelte 190 pounds (86 kilograms), and produces an average of 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually in winds of at least eight miles (12 kilometers) per hour from its five blades. More importantly, an outer ring around the blades eliminates the steady hum associated with large-scale wind farms.
Across the country, communities are turning abandoned big-box stores like Kmart and Wal-Mart into churches, schools, libraries — even museums devoted to everything from Spam to Route 66.
Julia Christensen, an artist and professor at Oberlin College, crisscrossed the country to find out how these sprawling structures are being repurposed. Christensen first got the idea to study big boxes in her hometown, Bardstown, Ky., the bourbon capital of the world.
Bardstown has a charming, historic downtown, with little cafes and boutiques. Tourism is a vital part of Bardstown's economy. People come from all over to visit the distilleries and the 18th century mansion that inspired Stephen Foster to write "My Old Kentucky Home."
To keep the historic buildings intact, there are very strict design regulations downtown.
But like cities everywhere, the outskirts are a different story. Strip malls are just a few minutes' drive away. Wal-Mart has already opened and outgrown two buildings here.
The world's demands for natural resources like freshwater, forest products and fossil fuels exceeds supply by about one-third.
And that means that humanity is accumulating "ecological debt" at an unprecedented rate. We're paying for it with global warming, the collapse of fisheries, the degradation of freshwater and the loss of biodiversity.
That's the warning in a new report by the WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network. The Global Footprint Network warned just a month ago that -- as of Sept. 23 -- the world had extracted all the natural resources that the Earth naturally yields in a year's time, and that our debt for the year had begun to accumulate.
By Tyeesha Dixon and Kelly Brewington
Diana Moore learned the news through the neighborhood grapevine. Her family's primary-care physician of seven years would no longer accept Moore, her husband and daughter as patients - unless the family paid a $4,500 annual fee.
The physicians at Charter Internal Medicine in Columbia are overhauling the practice, ditching the insurance-dependent model and instead charging a flat yearlyfee in exchange for the promise of 24-hour access to doctors, unhurried appointments, home visits and state-of-the-art annual physicals.
Known as "boutique" medicine or "concierge" care, the national trend appears to be sweeping across Maryland as primary-care doctors feel the financial crush of rising costs and low insurance reimbursement rates. Physicians say the model allows them to trim their patient loads and give patients quality care without worrying whether insurance will cover it.
"Primary-care doctors are seeing 30 to 40 patients a day - that's too many," said Dr. Harry A. Oken, who has been with Charter Internal Medicine for more than 20 years. "It's not about the money. It's about having the time to spend with your patients to keep them healthy."
BBC Beijing correspondent
The Xin Ying Xin Ye factory lies on the dusty outskirts of Beijing.
Two lonely workers - one of them the sister of the owner - sit sewing smiling faces onto cuddly toys.
A large guard dog barks in the yard. Otherwise the place is quiet.
"The problem we have now is that the business is not as good as it has been during the past two years. Not as many customers," says Wang Suzhen.
There is no doubt here that the global slowdown is already affecting China. A year ago there were 80 people working at the factory.
"We're thinking about giving up on toys and switching to making slippers," Wang Suzhen adds.
DENNIS TOWNSHIP - Alice Belanger McGuigan almost had a car accident when she first saw it. Amy Reef suddenly felt sick.
Maybe those are only initial reactions and Dennisville residents will get used to the historic Nathaniel Holmes Jr. House on Petersburg Road being painted pink.
The house has stood here since 1800, but until this week it was white, as are most other houses in this historic town. Now it is pink, right down to the gutters, window trim, doorways and even the picket fence in front.
It may take some getting used to. Dennisville is an old town where many homes have placards out front naming the home for the person who built it in the 19th century. This is a town that still has outhouses, but not in use, in many a backyard.
Locals are using the phrases 'shocking pink' and 'gaudy pink' to describe it. One neighbor said the owner of the house, Debra Finley, is calling it "raspberry." Finley declined comment for this story, but her neighbors are saying plenty.
"I don't like it. When I saw it, I was just sick," said Reef, who said she played in the house as a little girl.
She described the color as fuchsia, which is interesting, because McGuigan remembers "fuchsia" being used as a battle-cry decades ago in a fight against a law to regulate what people could do with their homes.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
News That Matters
"A survey by researchers at the University of Texas in 1998 found that one in four of the state's state school biology teachers believed humans and dinosaurs lived on earth at the same time." - George Monbiot
Good Wednesday Morning,
Has anyone noticed that the band "New Kids on the Block" is starting to look more and more like "The Village People"?
The NYJN recommends John Degnan for the 99th Assembly district in an endorsement so glowing you'd best put your sunglasses on before clicking here...
If you're still wondering who to vote for come election day consider that - no joke - Al Qaeda likes John McCain while Hamas prefers Barack Obama. On the other hand, neither organization backs Nader, McKinney, Baldwin or Barr. Your mileage may vary.
In the meantime, comedian Al Franken is ahead in the polls in his race to unseat Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman. Yes, that's "Me. Al Franken."
And now, the News:
The Journal News
CARMEL - Putnam's finalized county budget calls for total appropriations of $136.4 million in 2009.
That means the average homeowner will pay $2.92 per $1,000 of assessed value next year, up from $2.72 this year, or a 7.35 percent tax rate increase. The average annual tax bill would go from $879 to $901 next year.
"They nickel-and-dime us to death," said Frank Bruno, a retired New York City detective who moved to Mahopac in 1966. "Twenty bucks is no big deal, but it happens every year."
William Carlin, the county's finance commissioner, said individual tax bills would vary, especially in view of falling property assessments. The county portion of a homeowner's total property tax bill is 8 percent, Carlin said.
The county Legislature, at its last 2009 budget session Monday night, failed to override County Executive Robert Bondi's veto of four budget measures that would have increased the amount of revenue expected from sales tax and established a tax stabilization reserve fund in which to deposit $1 million in anticipated sales tax money. An override requires six votes by the nine-member board. Seven legislators attended the meeting at the County Building in Carmel.
Sales-tax revenues were up in the Lower Hudson Valley for the third quarter - but all bets are off for the rest of the year.
The latest figures released by New York state show sales-tax revenue gains in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties through Sept. 30.
Putnam led with a 16.24 percent increase, followed by Westchester's 3.24 percent gain and Rockland at 2.96 percent.
Westchester is expected to get $118.9 million, Putnam $13.7 million and Rockland $44.4 million, according to state tax records.
How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind's closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama was a Muslim and a terrorist?
Like most people on my side of the Atlantic, I have for many years been mystified by American politics. The US has the world's best universities and attracts the world's finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage.
There have been exceptions over the past century - Franklin Roosevelt, JF Kennedy and Bill Clinton tempered their intellectualism with the common touch and survived - but Adlai Stevenson, Al Gore and John Kerry were successfully tarred by their opponents as members of a cerebral elite (as if this were not a qualification for the presidency). Perhaps the defining moment in the collapse of intelligent politics was Ronald Reagan's response to Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential debate. Carter - stumbling a little, using long words - carefully enumerated the benefits of national health insurance. Reagan smiled and said: "There you go again." His own health programme would have appalled most Americans, had he explained it as carefully as Carter had done, but he had found a formula for avoiding tough political issues and making his opponents look like wonks.
by: Michael Scherer, Time Magazine
We can go to the moon, split atoms to power submarines, squeeze profits from a 99 cent hamburger and watch football highlights on cell phones. But the most successful democracy in human history has yet to figure out how to conduct a proper election. As it stands, the American voting system is a worrisome mess, a labyrinth of local, state and federal laws spotted with bewildered volunteers, harried public officials, partisan distortions, misdesigned forms, malfunctioning machines and polling-place confusion. Each time, problems pop up on the margins; if the election is close, these problems matter a great deal. Republicans and Democrats predict record turnouts, perhaps 130 million people, including millions who have never voted before.
The vast majority will cast their votes without a hitch. But some voters will find themselves at the mercy of registration rolls that have been poorly maintained or, in some cases, improperly handled. Others will endure long lines, too few voting machines and observers who challenge their identities. Long a prerogative of local government, the patchwork of election rules often defies logic. A convicted felon can vote in Maine, but not in Virginia. A government-issued photo ID is required of all voters at the polls in Indiana, but not in New York. Voting lines are shorter in the suburbs, and the rules governing when provisional ballots count sometimes vary from state to state. As Americans cast their ballots on Nov. 4, here are some problems that threaten to throw this election to the courts again.
Dear EarthTalk: I saw a cover line on a magazine that said, "The next world war will be over water." Tell me we're not really running out of water! -- Nell Fox, Seattle, WA
Today fully one-sixth of the world's human population lacks access to clean drinking water, and more than two million people -- mostly kids -- die each year from water-borne diseases. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) predicts that by 2025, one-third of all humans will face severe and chronic water shortages.Read More
Minneapolis - Want to understand why so many American workers find it so hard to organize unions in their workplaces? Look no further than Wal-Mart, a researcher for Human Rights Watch says.
Wal-Mart is a case study "of the abysmal workers' rights regime we have here in the United States," said Carol Pier, senior researcher on labor rights and trade for Human Rights Watch, an independent, nongovernmental organization that investigates human rights violations around the world.
By Alex Hutchinson
Published in the November 2008 issue.
Planted in the New Mexico desert near Albuquerque, the six solar dish engines of the Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia National Laboratories look a bit like giant, highly reflective satellite dishes. Each one is a mosaic of 82 mirrors that fit together to form a 38-ft-wide parabola. The mirrors’ precise curvature focuses light onto a 7-in. area. At its most intense spot, the heat is equivalent to a blistering 13,000 suns, producing a flux 13 times greater than the space shuttle experiences during re-entry. “That’ll melt almost anything known to man,” says Sandia engineer Chuck Andraka. “It’s incredibly hot.”
The heat is used to run a Stirling engine, an elegant 192-year-old technology that creates mechanical energy from an external heat source, as opposed to the internal fuel combustion that powers most automobile engines. Hydrogen gas in a Stirling engine’s four 95 cc cylinders expands and contracts as it is heated and cooled, driving pistons to turn a small electric generator. The configuration of the dish and engine represent the fruit of more than a decade of steady improvements, developed in collaboration with Arizona-based Stirling Energy Systems.
Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney says the Green Party is often "put into a box." The Green Party is not just committed to a healthy environment, she says, but bases its policy on four pillars: ecological wisdom, peace, social justice and grass roots democracy.
To that end, the former U.S. representative from Georgia says, the Green Party has not supported the war and consistently supports anti-war candidates. McKinney also points to the 2004 elections, where the Green and Libertarian parties actively investigated voter complaints in Ohio.
To address the current economic crisis, McKinney offers a 14-point plan regarding the bailout. Among other things, the plan appoints former Comptroller General David Walker as auditor, overseeing the use of bailout funds.
Tags: Virgin Islands, Wall Street Bailout
This story was printed in Politico on Oct. 26, 2008
As Congress debated the historic financial rescue package on Oct. 3, the world economy was hanging in the balance. The House already had rejected Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s emergency $700 billion banking bailout plan. The Senate, hoping to get the House to relent, added $110 billion in “sweeteners” and sent the bill back.
One of those sweeteners jumped out at Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). It would permit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to pocket $192 million in federal excise taxes collected from rum-makers in those territories.
“Madam speaker, the Senate's response to the House rejection of the Paulson plan was to add more spending. So we got tax breaks for rum,” Kaptur said from the well of the House. “You've got it right. R-U-M.”
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
News That Matters
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." - Thomas Jefferson 1802
Good Tuesday Morning,
Well, I've made it! Today marks the anniversary of my living Ten Years In Putnam County.
According to media reports Sheldon Silver announced last Friday that the Assembly Ethics Committee did not find Assemblyman Ball guilty of violating Assembly rules and has cleared him of the charges. Well, not exactly. See, the Committee didn't rule that Mr. B *did* what he was accused of or *didn't* do what he was accused of, only that there was no evidence one way or the other to establish whether there was a violation of a specific Assembly rule. Whether or not the Assemblyman sexually harassed an employee is still up for grabs.
Here's the quote: "After an investigation which included witness interviews and a review of relevant documentary evidence, the Committee unanimously determined that a violation of the Assembly Sexual Harassment/Retaliation Policy was not established,"
Note, Silver did not say Greg didn't do it, only that a violation of the rule was not established.
It's convenient for Shelly to announce those findings at this time for it helps him protect Greg's tenure in the Assembly, which is apparently his intent.
But then, there's this from over the summer:
NYS Assembly floor debate on A02712 - Fair Pay Act
Speaker: Mr. Ball.
You gotta love this guy and the goat-milkers who vote for him.
It also seems that one of Greg's out-of-area backers, Tom Golisano, may be in for some legal trouble which could affect candidates who accepted his money. Read that story here. But then, he only donated a measly $250 to Greg's campaign out of a possible $5,000,000. Even with the money-men Ball is small potatoes.
(The image above is mine, taken at an open house at Apple Pond Farm near Jeffersonville, NY. Assemblyman Ball was not in attendance.)
And now, The News:
The Journal News
SOUTHEAST - Supervisor Michael Rights has proposed cutting property taxes by more than 10 percent in his tentative 2009 budget.
Under the supervisor's plan, residents with an average home assessment of $401,000 would pay $462 in town property taxes in 2009, down from $514 this year, officials said. The $13 million budget encompasses about a $9.14 million general budget plus $3.88 million for the town's special districts, including water and sewer.
"(Councilman) Dwight (Yee) and I went through the budget line by line looking for fat and we cut it," Rights said.
Some of that "fat," he explained, includes decreasing the attorney's contractual expenses by $65,000. This year, the town attorney's $186,970 budget included a $101,970 salary and $85,000 in contractual expenses such as fees paid to special counsel. Rights has proposed increasing the town attorney's salary to $104,519 and decreasing the contracts to $20,000.
In an ongoing effort to develop a parcel of property for multi-family housing in the Town of Greenburgh (NY), the developer was told prior to purchasing the land that it was located in a CA (Central Avenue Mixed Use Impact District) which would allow for the development of a multi-family complex containing at least 82 bedrooms. At the time of acquisition, the Town zoning map also reflected this designation. Following a significant amount of pre-acquisition due diligence (examining all available versions of prior zoning maps, retention of an architect and an appraiser), the developer purchased the property and demolished the existing structure pursuant to a Town permit. Immediately following the demolition, the developer was notified that a neighboring Nature Center opposed the development of the property containing more than one or two homes. This began a series of meetings where moratoria, conservations easements and possible condemnation of the property were discussed as the public and political leaders were voicing opposition to the proposed development of the parcel. This was followed by a “discovery” by a Town Board member that the property had actually been zoned R-20, a one-family residence district and not a CA zone, and the Town Engineer was directed to alter the zoning map to reflect change based on the fact that the previous map designation was in error.
A recent report by the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) and Greenpeace International - Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook - demonstrates that “…aggressive investment in renewable power generation and energy efficiency could create an annual US$360 billion industry, providing half of the world's electricity, slashing over US$18 trillion in future fuel costs while protecting the climate…”
Their report provides a blueprint for rapidly cutting energy-related CO2 emissions to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions peak and then fall by 2015.
"Unlike other energy scenarios that promote energy futures at the cost of the climate, our energy revolution scenario shows how to save money and maintain global economic development without fuelling catastrophic climate change. All we need to kick start this plan is bold energy policy from world leaders," said Sven Teske, Greenpeace International's Senior Energy Expert and co-author of the report.
The Top Ten list includes commonly discussed pollution problems like urban air pollution as well as more overlooked threats like car battery recycling. The problems included in the report have a significant impact on human health worldwide and result in death, persistent illness, and neurological impairment for millions of people, particularly children. According to the report, many of these deaths and related illnesses could be avoided with affordable and effective interventions.
"Our goal with the 2008 report is to increase awareness of the severe toll that pollution takes on human health and inspire the international community to act," said Richard Fuller, founder of Blacksmith Institute. "Remediation is both possible and cost-effective."
Saturday, October 25, 2008; F04
The land use and transportation policies of the 20th century are destined to change dramatically. They enabled sprawl -- the unbridled expansion of American cities that has engendered enormous unforeseen economic, social, environmental and aesthetic costs.
Instead, we are turning to a list of R-words: rethinking, redeveloping, renewing, revitalizing, retrofitting.
Those words have figured repeatedly in recent articles about major proposed suburban makeovers in Tysons Corner, Rockville Pike and downtown Columbia. Private and public entities also are developing plans for other sites in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs, as well as in the District.
Sprawling American suburbs, developed at very low densities, have been zoned and subdivided into residential enclaves designed primarily for driving convenience. Widely dispersed employment, commercial and recreational destinations, coupled with inadequate road systems, have produced severe traffic congestion and climate-changing carbon emissions while denying suburbanites the choice of conveniently walking, biking or using transit.
And does anyone find beauty in sprawl?
What can you buy in America for $1,000? A flat-screen television, perhaps. A weekend break in the sun. Or a three-bedroom suburban home with stripped wood floors and a garage in the country's motor capital.
Property markets on both sides of the Atlantic have plunged, but nowhere has the collapse been more spectacular than in the down-at-heel industrial city of Detroit. Prices are so low that it is possible to buy a repossessed house for the cost of a couple of months' rent.
"If you've got just a little money coming in, you can afford to live here," says Lolita Haley, a resolutely upbeat estate agent in Detroit's inner suburbs. "I've had people call me from as far away as India in search of property at these prices."
Haley's firm, Prime Financial Plus, has homes on its books for as little as $649 (£411). But these tend to be in poor shape, damaged by vandals. For something classier, buyers will need to dig deep - by writing a cheque running into four figures.
The princely sum of $1,250 would be enough to secure 14918 Stansbury Street, a three-bedroom brick house on a tree-lined street with a garden.
October 26, 2008 at 6:56AM by Jim DiPeso | comment
Rural values, family, and tradition are the warp and woof of conservative messaging. For better or worse, Sarah Palin has hit those hot buttons repeatedly at campaign rallies where the cultural prejudices of Big Media windbags are distinctly unwelcome.
Nothing could be more destructive of those conservative values than mountaintop removal coal mining. The high explosives and draglines that are gouging an alien topography onto West Virginia and neighboring states also are butchering old ways of life in the mountains.
The Bush administration has proposed a rule that would exacerbate the damage by easing stream buffering requirements. Since those requirements are largely honored in the breach, the rule would legitimize what has been going on anyway.
But it's not just Republicans who kowtow to mountaintop removal. At a Society of Environmental Journalists conference October 18, Congressman Nick Rahall, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, listed all the great things that flattened mountains can be used for. Imagine the shopping centers that could be built, said Rahall.
You would have thought that Richard Pombo was still chairing the committee.
Many of us may be too dependent on over-the-counter painkillers to treat the occasional headache, especially given their potential side effects. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can increase the risk of heart and circulation problems - including heart attack and stroke - and is also tough on the digestive tract. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been linked to nausea, diarrhea, and kidney and liver problems. Many natural health-care practitioners disparage drugs for merely masking symptoms of larger problems.
All headaches are not the same, and gobbling down pain pills will not address the causes. Some headaches are caused by tension; others stem from sinus congestion, caffeine withdrawal, constipation, food allergies, spinal misalignment or lack of sleep. And then there are migraines, which researchers think are neurological: The brain fails to constrict the nerve pathways opening arteries to the brain, resulting in a pounding headache as blood flows in unchecked. Assessing what kind of headache you may have can help lead the way to a solution.
To ease tension headaches, the Farmers' Almanac recommends applying an ice pack to the neck and upper back, or getting someone to massage those areas. Soaking the feet in hot water can also divert blood from your head to your feet, easing any kind of headache pain in the process.
Monday, October 27, 2008
News That Matters
"Did you too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name?" - Walt Whitman
Good Monday Morning,
What a crazy weekend! First, let's welcome new readers this morning and hope they can take away something good from this column. Then let's wag a collective finger at the weather people for predicting "a few showers, mainly after noon" on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon I attended two events of note. At 3PM the Sedgewood Club in Kent graciously opened their doors to a candidate's forum which included pretty much everyone running for office in Kent.
Congressional candidate Kieran "Drill Now!" Lalor was the first to strike out when he refused to thank John Hall directly and without equivocation for his work on veterans affairs. He mumbled, "yeah" but then launched into a non-germane tirade that was well, a little weird. More than a decade in the Marines and he's only a corporal? A Law School graduate and he's working as a night watchman?
Second to strike out was Bill Gouldman, candidate for Assembly in the 90th district who says he supports a property tax "cap" which amounts to a guaranteed 4% yearly property tax increase. Ms. Galef, who was endorsed by the NYJN this morning, agrees.
All was going well for Mr. Gouldman until he mentioned he owned four homes scattered around the country. This came after the revelation that though he's lived in Putnam Valley for a decade, he only registered to vote there a year and a half ago. The point being that he's been a tad disingenuous about property taxes when he hadn't even voted on a local school budget in all that time. Anyway, I guess he thought he was being cavalier about it but the audience started mumbling amongst themselves and the words "like McCain's wife" were overheard, accompanied by snickers, from more than one quarter. That will pretty much finish up his political career - as it should. I'm sure he's a nice man but he's totally unprepared to run for the State Assembly. And how he became a Party Boss in Putnam Valley underscores the defects in the party he bosses.
The second event was in Southeast, a fund raiser for John Degnan which was attended by more than 30 people and raised over $4000 for his campaign. Congressman John Hall spoke for a while before turning the floor over to the other John for his remarks. All in all it was a wonderful event.
If you're upset with Democrats in Washington, the one person not to complain to is Susan Spears who runs Congressman Hall's district office in Carmel. But if you're brave, give it a go. Just remember... you were warned.
Yesterday I attended a showing of "What Would Jesus Buy", sponsored by the Kent CAC. It's a great film which follows the Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping on a cross country trip during the days leading up to Christmas, 2005. Hat's off too George Baum for thinking this one up.
Ashley Todd. Yikes! From the first report out the whole story seemed suspicious. Was I supposed to believe that this woman stayed still while a Big Bad Black Guy "carved" a "B" into her face so gently that he never broke her skin? I was reminded of another young woman, one who testified all teary-eyed before an adoring Congress, that Iraqi troops were killing babies in incubators in Kuwait City. Oh yeah, now you remember. At least the latter was a show organized by politicians intent on hoodwinking the public, while the former was apparently an independent act. The politicians got away with it! Not so lucky for Ms. Todd.
There's no need for political parties to steal elections in Ohio, Florida or any of the other states where clear evidence showed massive voter fraud in the last two Presidential elections, throwing the tally in a bloodless coup. Dieblold is doing it for you. They've created vote flipping wherein you touch the screen for one candidate and the machine tallies the one of its choice. Sweet, eh? By the 2012 election you won't even have to leave your house - let "Diebold Do The Voting" for you. Read more about all that here, here and even that venerable outlet of honesty and integrity, FOXNews, is in on it here.
Residents of Patterson claim to have seen something in the woods, something they believe looks an awful lot like a mountain lion. DEC officials claim there's no such thing, that these large cats have been gone from the area for generations. Some claim, nah... it's a bobcat. If you've a small dog that yips and barks, placing it out in the yard on a leash is not a good idea... or is, depending on your tolerance for small dogs that yip and bark. Whatever, it's rather nice to know there's still some wildness around these here parts.
And now, the News:
Monday, October 20, 2008
Hail, Hail – the gang was all there for the illegal backroom pre-meeting before the 6PM planning board meeting. I went in and stood at the doorway (there was no seating available). They were discussing White Rock Road, which was on the agenda for a public hearing. They were angry that the applicant hadn’t submitted the amended plans and specs on time. They did say that he has mostly held to the timetable that the board, engineer, planner, and wetlands inspector had set for him to clean up the mess that had been left by his predecessor. They were discussing whether to close or adjourn the public hearing, before that hearing had even happened.
At 6:15 they came out and opened the meeting. The White Rock Road public hearing was delayed.
Read More at the News That Matters Blog
The Journal News
MAHOPAC - Gary Kiernan, running as a Democrat for the Putnam County Legislature in Mahopac's District 8, has unpaid taxes still outstanding and a personal bankruptcy filing in his past.
He has touted his 30 years of business experience as his main credential for his first try at public office.
When asked about the two years of unpaid taxes that equal roughly $20,000 on an automotive garage that he and his brother, Patrick, own in Putnam Valley, Gary Kiernan said that was something he needs to clear up with his brother. The candidate said his brother is the one who has taken control and manages the property at 824 Peekskill Hollow Road.
The tax bills have been sent to Gary Kiernan at his home on Teakettle Spout Road in Mahopac.
"I really don't know anything about this," he said Friday, sounding surprised when told there was an amount past due.
By: American Rivers
Washington, DC, Oct. 16, 2008 - Stormwater that dirty, oily runoff from streets and parking lots that contaminates local streams is a leading cause of water pollution in Ohio and around the country. Today, American Rivers and Midwest Environmental Advocates released a new report, "Local Water Policy Innovation: A Road Map for Community Based Stormwater Solutions" to help citizens tackle this pervasive problem and ensure clean water in their communities.
"Polluted stormwater is a huge problem nationally, degrading America's streams and rivers," said Gary Belan, Director of American Rivers' Clean Water Program. "However, it's a problem that can be solved at the local level by citizens and community leaders alike. This report gives people the tools to make a difference."
On his blog, Mike Tidwell, the founder of the Chesapeake-area climate group and author of Bayou Farewell, decried the situation, saying his work hardly amounts to terrorism: “Since 2001, I have devoted my life entirely to the peaceful promotion of windmills and solar panels to solve global warming. Apparently not everyone liked my work, however.”
The Journal News
Can't land a hawk? It's probably not you, but him. Or it could be the pigeon. "Any commitment?" Bob Erickson of Carmel called out to his fellow bird banders crouched behind a wall of piled rock slabs.
In front of the wall, amid the scrubby oaks turning brown and blueberry bushes tinged red, stood several steel poles. Three almost-invisible nets stretched among the poles, forming a sort of U-shaped volleyball court. On the ground inside the U, sat possibly the world's most nervous pigeon - safe, but nervous.
Out in the sky was a flapping ink-blot of a bird, a sharp-shinned hawk. The trick on a recent fall morning was to convince the far-away hawk the pigeon was an available, tasty meal.
The pigeon wore a special harness, providing some protection should a raptor get its sharp talons on the bird and tethering the bird to the banders. Pull the tether and the pigeon would wave its wings, movement the hawk could spot from thousands of yards away. But, alas, ... a few tugs and no fluttering.
"This pigeon's not cooperating," Paul Kupchok of Patterson said.
The finding quashes the misperception that plants are “sitting ducks”--at the mercy of passing pathogens--and sheds new light on a sophisticated signaling system inside plants that rivals the nervous system in humans and animals.
The research was led by Harsh Bais, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, former postdoctoral researcher Thimmaraju Rudrappa, who is now a research scientist at the DuPont Co., Kirk Czymmek, associate professor of biological sciences and director of UD's Bio-Imaging Center, and Paul Paré, a biochemist at Texas Tech University.
The study is reported in the November issue of Plant Physiology and also is featured on the journal's cover. Rudrappa is the lead author of the research paper.
“Plants are a lot smarter than we give them credit for,” says Bais from his laboratory at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.
A woman accused of being a potty mouth is now getting thousands from the city of Scranton.
According to the ACLU, the city of Scranton has agreed to pay Dawn Herb a settlement of $19,000 for "improperly" charging her with cursing at her overflowing toilet.
The mess started at Herb's former home on Luzerne Street in Scranton in October, 2007.
Herb said waste was overflowing from her toilet and leaking into the kitchen so she began screaming profanities in her bathroom.
Overheard by neighbors, the Scranton mom was then charged with disorderly conduct.
"I know nothing about toilets so I did my best and unfortunately we don't have the best language when we're upset, but am I a criminal? No. I'm just a single mom who had a situation that had to be taken care of," Herb said the day she was charged last year.
The courts agreed. In December of 2007 the charges were thrown out of court.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 24, 2008; D01
The troubled insurance giant American International Group already has consumed three-quarters of a federal $123 billion rescue loan, a little more than a month after the government stepped in to save the company from bankruptcy.
AIG has borrowed $90.3 billion from the Federal Reserve's credit line as of yesterday, the bulk of it to pay off bad bets the company made in guaranteeing other firms' risky mortgage investments. That's up from roughly $83 billion AIG had borrowed a week ago, and the $68 billion level it reached a week before that. The news comes as the company's new chief executive warned Wednesday that the government's financial lifeline may not be enough to keep AIG afloat.
The high volume of taxpayer funds that the trillion-dollar corporation tapped within five weeks also has others fretting that the largest government bailout in history may still not be adequate. AIG began reporting unusual multimillion-dollar losses this spring as a result of its heavy exposure to risky mortgages, and the U.S. Treasury decided that its failure would probably bring down several other major investment firms and banks whose fortunes were tied to AIG.
But Wall Street analysts said this is a vulnerable juncture for the insurance giant. It's now in a deep trough -- from which it may either emerge leaner and meaner or never return.
SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist
During the next few weeks on some clear moonless early morning, if you are fortunate to be far from any haze and bright lights, keep a close watch on the eastern horizon about two hours before sunrise. If you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of a ghostly column of light extending upward into the sky.
Many have been fooled into thinking that it's beginning of morning twilight and indeed the Persian astronomer, mathematician and poet Omar Khayyam (1050? -1123?) referred to this ghostly glow as the "false dawn" in his poem, The Rubaiyat.
That faint ghostly glow was once thought to be solely an atmospheric phenomenon: perhaps reflected sunlight shining on the highest layers of Earth's atmosphere. We know now that while it is indeed reflected sunlight, it is being reflected not off our atmosphere, but rather off of a non-uniform distribution of interplanetary material; debris left over from the formation of our solar system.
These countless millions, if not billions of particles – ranging in size from meter-sized mini-asteroids to micron-sized dust grains -- seem densest around the immediate vicinity of the sun, but extend outward, beyond the orbit of Mars and are spread out along the plane of the ecliptic (the path the sun follows throughout the year). Hence the reason for the name Zodiacal Light is because it is seen projected against the zodiacal constellations.
FINDLAY, Ohio (CNN) –- In an interview posted online Wednesday, Sarah Palin told Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” that she is confident God will do “the right thing for America” on Nov. 4.
Dobson asked the vice presidential hopeful if she is concerned about John McCain’s sagging poll numbers, but Palin stressed that she was “not discouraged at all.”
“To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder,” she told the influential Christian leader, whose radio show reaches millions of listeners daily. “And it also strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day putting this in God’s hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.”
Dobson praised Palin's opposition to abortion rights, to which the governor affirmed that she is “hardcore pro-life.”