Wednesday, October 22, 2008

News That Matters - October 22, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that's where we would go. I don't support gay marriage,"
- Governor Sarah Palin

Good Wednesday Morning,

Lake Carmel's Robbie Rigo filled the house at the Cultural Center on that lake last evening and with Hawaiian lei's for everyone, special effects, cool drinks and cake and coffee at the end, the crowd left happy, sated and tapping their toes. Rigo's show was an introduction to his new album, Different Sides and required several days of preparation, a staff of half a dozen and a quadraphonic stereo system, and will appear on local cable channels soon. Look for it. The man is an incredible musician.

Coming up this Saturday at the Cultural Center is Michelle LeBlanc and her jazz quintet performing her Jazz Me Blue show which you can catch at 8PM. Click here for more information and to make reservations. It'll be a cool, blue evening of jazz standards you should not miss.

Here's a question for you: whatever happened to Senator Leibell? What I mean is this: he was deeply involved in the Republican primary in the 99th Assembly District on John Degnan's side but since John lost the primary he's no longer supporting the same man? Does this mean the Senator doesn't like Mr. Degnan and doesn't believe he'd make a good Assemblyman or is it impossible for him to support a good man running on the Democratic Party line? Is there some other reason?

Here's another question: With all the noise from Albany about how bad an Assemblyman Greg Ball is, why hasn't the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee helped Degnan's campaign? Is Sheldon Silver afraid that John, once elected, won't be "loyal" to his highnesses' obedience or would Shelly prefer that Ball be re-elected so he can be used as a poster child for Assembly Republicans? I wrote DACC this week asking this question and have yet to receive a response.

Both these questions need answers and if anyone knows what they are please feel free to post them here.

Tomorrow evening at 7PM you can hear Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, journalism columnist Greg Palast and FAIR founder Jeff Cohen give a talk about campaign finance laws in Lecture Center 100 on the SUNY New Paltz campus at 7PM. The event is sponsored by the New Paltz Greens.

The Village of Nelsonville won a $1000 grant for the compiling, reprinting, and hanging of historic photos in village offices in concert with the Hudson River's 400th Anniversary celebration. Congratulations to them! Out of 400 grants awarded along the river, Nelsonville was the only winner in Putnam County. More information can be found here.

And now, the News:

  1. Congressional Candidates spar at forum
  2. A new 'gold' rush
  3. New York needs to tackle litter
  4. Green Policies in California Generated Jobs, Study Finds
  5. The Next Wave of Foreclosures
  6. Medicare spends "$15-billion a year on subsidies to insurance companies."
  7. On Health Plans, the Numbers Fly
  8. More W.Va. voters say machines are switching votes
  9. Senators to AIG: Stop Lobbying!

Congressional Candidates spar at forum

POUGHKEEPSIE -- The war in Iraq, climate change, support for farmers and education were among a host of national issues addressed during the first of three meetings between Republican congressional candidate Alexander "Sandy" Treadwell and U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Speaking at a congressional forum before about 500 people, the candidates for New York's 20th Congressional District took video questions from local residents and later from audience members at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie.

The discussion was wide-ranging but began with -- and repeatedly returned to -- the economy.

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A new 'gold' rush

A NYJN Editorial

Across upstate New York, from the Catskills to Buffalo, lies a vast natural gas field that some see as the economic savior of upstate New York and others fear is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Geologists have long known the natural gas was there, trapped in a rock formation called Marcellus Shale, which runs as far west as Ohio and as far south as Virginia. Until recently, however, it was too difficult and expensive to reach to bother with. But new drilling techniques, the escalation of energy prices and the economic downturn have now combined to make Marcellus Shale the lottery ticket that some energy prospectors, property owners and state officials are betting on.

Hedge those bets. More environmental studies are needed before we know if natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale will impact the drinking water of nine million New Yorkers, including many in the Lower Hudson Valley, who rely on New York City's water supply.

Last week, the state Assembly held a public hearing to consider the environmental impacts of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. As Jay Gallagher, of our Albany Bureau reported on Thursday, energy company representatives called for a quick environmental review so the companies can apply for permits to start drilling. Energy companies have already signed leases with property owners across the state, promising untold riches to residents and a flood of new jobs.

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New York needs to tackle litter

By Andy Stewart • October 21, 2008
Littered roadsides make places unattractive to tourists and shoppers, create safety hazards and can clog storm drains, leading to flooding. Research shows that 18 percent of litter ends up in waterways, contaminating water supplies, entrapping wildlife and degrading scenic values. The cost of litter removal burdens shopping center owners and local government, as well as volunteer groups - in Rockland alone, 4,000 volunteers participated in community cleanups coordinated by Keep Rockland Beautiful in 2008. Where does litter come from? What can we do?

The most important target of our litter prevention message is the habitual offender. It only takes one motorist "litterbug" or negligent property owner to foul the environment for all of us. In Rockland County, people can report the license plates of "litterbugs" to Keep Rockland Beautiful and, through our partnership with the Sheriff Department, vehicle owners will receive a warning letter. Keep Putnam Beautiful has a similar program.

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Green Policies in California Generated Jobs, Study Finds

OAKLAND, Calif. — California’s energy-efficiency policies created nearly 1.5 million jobs from 1977 to 2007, while eliminating fewer than 25,000, according to a study to be released Monday.

The study, conducted by David Roland-Holst, an economist at the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley, found that while the state’s policies lowered employee compensation in the electric power industry by an estimated $1.6 billion over that period, it improved compensation in the state over all by $44.6 billion.

Built into that figure were increases of $1.2 billion in the light industrial sector, $11.2 billion in wholesale and retail trade, $7.3 billion in the financial and insurance sectors and $17.8 billion in the service sector.

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The Next Wave of Foreclosures

by Sharona Coutts, ProPublica - October 17, 2008 9:43 am EDT

As financial markets stagger from one low to the next, it's easy to forget that the subprime mortgage debacle -- which has been blamed for kick starting the contagion -- still has a ways to run.

More than half a million mortgages, worth about $110 billion, will have their intro "teaser" interest rates reset over the next six months, according the latest available data from First America CoreLogic, a mortgage industry research group.

The majority of these mortgages -- about three quarters of them -- will likely spring to 10 percent interest, which will be unaffordable for many borrowers, said Guy Cecala from Inside Mortgage Finance.

"None of these loans are sustainable at 10 percent. Nobody in their right mind would continue to pay them at 10 percent," Cecala said.

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Medicare spends "$15-billion a year on subsidies to insurance companies."

Barack Obama on Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 in a debate in Hempstead, N.Y.

That's a fair estimate

In the final presidential debate Oct. 15, 2008, moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News asked each candidate for specifics about programs they would cut in order to balance the federal budget.

"We spend $15-billion a year on subsidies to insurance companies," Sen. Barack Obama said. "It doesn’t -- under the Medicare plan -- it doesn’t help seniors get any better. It’s not improving our health care system. It’s just a giveaway."

Obama used the same example when asked a similar question in the first debate.

"We right now give $15-billion every year as subsidies to private insurers under the Medicare system," Obama said. "Doesn’t work any better through the private insurers. They just skim off $15-billion. That was a giveaway and part of the reason is because lobbyists are able to shape how Medicare works."

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On Health Plans, the Numbers Fly


Economics, it is said, is the dismal science. Anyone paying close attention to the campaign debate over the economics of health care might wonder about the science part.

As Senators Barack Obama and John McCain battle over how best to control spending and cover the uninsured, they are both filling their speeches, advertisements and debating points with authoritative-sounding statistics about the money they would save and the millions of Americans they would cover.

But the figures they cite are invariably the roughest of estimates, often derived by health economists with ideological leanings or financial conflicts. Over time, these forecasts have become so disparate and contradictory as to be almost meaningless.

How many of the country’s 45 million uninsured would gain coverage under Mr. McCain’s plan to reconfigure the tax treatment of health benefits?

Consultants paid by Mr. McCain concluded that his plan would cover 27.5 million of the uninsured. But four health economists who looked into the McCain plan at the urging of David Cutler, a health care adviser to Mr. Obama, reached a far different conclusion. They estimated in a peer-reviewed article in the journal Health Affairs that the number of uninsured would grow by 5 million after five years.

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More W.Va. voters say machines are switching votes

In six cases, Democratic votes flipped to GOP

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Three Putnam County voters say electronic voting machines changed their votes from Democrats to Republicans when they cast early ballots last week.

This is the second West Virginia county where voters have reported this problem. Last week, three voters in Jackson County told The Charleston Gazette their electronic vote for "Barack Obama" kept flipping to "John McCain".

In both counties, Republicans are responsible for overseeing elections. Both county clerks said the problem is isolated.

They also blamed voters for not being more careful.

"People make mistakes more than machines," said Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright.

Shelba Ketchum, a 69-year-old nurse retired from Thomas Memorial Hospital, described what happened Friday at the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield.

"I pushed buttons and they all came up Republican," she said. "I hit Obama and it switched to McCain. I am really concerned about that. If McCain wins, there was something wrong with the machines.

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Senators to AIG: Stop Lobbying!

by Sharona Coutts, ProPublica - October 17, 2008 3:55 pm EDT

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty ImagesTwo senators have asked AIG to stop lobbying after we and the Wall Street Journal reported ($) that the company, which has taken $123 billion in public money in the past month, was still paying lobbyists.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican, wrote a letter to AIG to ask them to immediately stop lobbying against a new law that would increase regulation on the mortgage industry.

"We are troubled that AIG is fighting against more robust oversight and regulation, given the company's role in the credit crisis and financial market instability," the senators wrote, according to the Journal.

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