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.”