Thursday, October 30, 2008

News That Matters - October 30, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

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.

Additionally, BJ's and Sam's Club are also drawing share both internally and from each other while the three behemoths battle for your dollars. As the economic depression comes on all three corporations expect to find profits rising, not through expansion into new markets but by concentrating on the markets they already have.

What does this mean for Patterson Crossing? Well, unless Paul Camarda has a contract in hand, it doesn't look good. Linens & Things closes at the end of the year and that store has the space to accommodate a Costco without the cost of building a new store, if they really want to be in this market.

Still, the company is planning on 25 new stores in 2009 so one still could be near here.

Not Multiple Choice:

  1. Kathy Doherty has resigned as Supervisor.
  2. Patterson's Planner Rich Williams was budgeted out of existence.

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.

When I'm finally President, Presidential campaigns will be forbidden to begin until April of the year in which the election will be held. Primaries will run in June and conventions in August. That's more than enough for any one nation to stand.

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:
  1. Plans for Putnam's first major hotel 'on hold'
  2. Farm-To-School Programs Grow Students' Appreciation for Locally Grown Food
  3. Wal-Mart scales back expansion in tough economy
  4. Consumers Feel the Next Crisis: It’s Credit Cards
  5. Tilting at Windmills: Is Small-Scale Turbine Power Viable--Or Just an Illusion?
  6. Once A Wal-Mart: The New Lives Of Big Boxes
  7. 'Ecological Debt' Leading to Different Kind of Credit Crunch
  8. For a little more, the doctor will see you now
  9. China faces getting rich less quickly
  10. Pink house has some in Dennisville seeing red

Plans for Putnam's first major hotel 'on hold'

Barbara Livingston Nackman
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.

Read More

Farm-To-School Programs Grow Students' Appreciation for Locally Grown Food

    * By Diane Raymond
      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.

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Wal-Mart scales back expansion in tough economy

By ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Business Writer

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.

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Consumers Feel the Next Crisis: It’s Credit Cards


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.

Read More

Tilting at Windmills: Is Small-Scale Turbine Power Viable--Or Just an Illusion?

A new plastic turbine can capture energy from the wind gusting over your roof
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.

Read More

Once A Wal-Mart: The New Lives Of Big Boxes

All Things Considered, October 20, 2008
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.

Read More

'Ecological Debt' Leading to Different Kind of Credit Crunch

World Demand for Natural Resources Exceeds Supply by One-Third

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.

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For a little more, the doctor will see you now

'Boutique' plans enrich care for some but exclude many

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."

Read More

China faces getting rich less quickly

By Quentin Sommerville
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.

Pink house has some in Dennisville seeing red

(Published: Saturday, October 25, 2008)

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.

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