Thursday, November 13, 2008

News That Matters - November 13, 2008

News That Matters
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Good Thursday Morning,

First you wonder why there's never any thoughtfully written news. Then you wonder why journalism has become so shallow, why newspapers and reporters feel they've successfully accomplished their jobs if they tell my side and your side of the story and leave an appearance of impartiality. But you're almost always left feeling hungry for more, for substance, for a look behind what he said and what she said, the back-story to the simplistic drivel that often ends up in print. Maybe you'd even like the ability to place the story in context and offer some perspective. Maybe, when we're electing a President, you might like to know that there were candidates who were on the ballot in enough states to win other than Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. If that's the way you've been feeling the last decade or so, I have news for you: it's going to get worse.

Newspapers and news organizations are downsizing like you wouldn't believe. Two major dailies are sending their copy editors overseas to cut costs. Several others have laid off hundreds of reporters and workers, all to maintain bottom line profits. But newspapers are doing just fine and the Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that the average pre-tax profit margin for newspapers is 18.5% If you're in business you know that's simply outstanding.

So why the downsizing, the cutbacks and the crappy, nay, shitty reporting one gets from local, regional and even most national news organizations? I have no clue about the downsizing but I do have a clue about quality: Most People Don't Care To Know What's Really Going On.

Most Americans want the saucy, tasty details: the child molesters and drug dealers and we'll toss in an occasional house fire or DWI crash. But when it comes to real news, the actual events that trigger the things that directly affect us in our daily lives, we mostly prefer to make believe it didn't happen and nothing will happen to us from it. Or worse, we look to political leaders for solutions. We know they're mostly full of malarkey, but we can't bring ourselves to deny the myth long enough to believe what we know to be true. If you ask a tough, pointed question you're branded a trouble-maker and meddler. And those who believe everything can be drawn down to black and white, up and down or with us or against us, will do what they can to keep you on the sidelines, buried under a deluge of negative personal adjectives.

Take the mortgage crisis for example. Why, all of a sudden, are so many people unable to pay their mortgages? What are the details of the trillion dollar Wall Street bailout? How much does the war cost each and every day? How many Americans live without access to preventative medical care? How much will it cost to repair the infrastructure that binds this nation together? These issues actually and truly matter to you, though you wouldn't know it. They affect everything you do, the economy, the mood of the nation, everything! And yet you hear nothing of substance coming from the mainstream media. A cover story, then silence. They think they've done their job... but they haven't.

There's a backstory to the news which most news outlets aren't going to bring you and those that do are usually in markets with small audiences, safely insulated from national awareness and that's why we have independent media outlets such as IndyMedia, ProPublica and News That Matters.

Coming automatically to your email box or a mouse-click away on your web browser, five days a week, is a daily column that provides you with the back story, the news behind the news. It helps fill in the gaps you're not going to get from the Gannett sheets and helps dispel the rumors you hear at the office or on FOX or from the "SEND TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW" method of news distribution that pervades our email folders and shapes contemporary American opinion.

You may not much like that comes your way. You may think I select certain subjects over others, and I do, but that's just editing. And I toss in a couple of local news stories each day - when there's something of substance or local importance. But you'll notice I rarely ever cover anything you can get by turning on the TV or listening to shock-jock radio on your way to work. I try to find angles on the news that are fresh and rewarding to the reader and that fill in the holes - some would say intentionally - left by the mainstream media.

If you were browsing the web for news you'd be deluged with flashing advertisements. If you were watching the TV you'd be interrupted every few minutes with ads for soap or tires or adult diapers or drugs you know the unpronounceable names of but whose function remains an abstract mystery. If you were listening to the radio you'd get 4 minutes of sappy advertisements for used cars and discos and stereo warehouses in between your 60 seconds of quasi-news headlines. Not so with News That Matters. Each day I scan more than 100 news sources to find and bring you news that does matter, and each day it takes a couple of hours - or more to do so. Add that up over a week, a month, or a year... and it comes to you free of charge.

With corporate owned news outlets becoming more and more obsessed with the simplistic, with the sensational, with commercial advertisements, with dutifully toeing the government and corporate lines, you need an independent media and News That Matters is an independent as you get.

Those of you who support this effort have done so year after year and I cannot begin to let you know how good that feels. But I know that many read each day do not support us - and that's not fair to everyone else... and you know who you are.

I know you're reading but I wonder why you hesitate. For instance, if I look at the logs I know there are regular readers at the State House in Albany. I know that other media organizations monitor what we produce here. If I follow IP addresses I have a pretty good idea of which major corporations  and government entities are reading. So, come on guys, on your salaries you can afford to throw a few bucks our way to keep the News coming each day.

(And if you're a reporter at the Journal News, I know you grab stories broken first here and do so without attribution. Spread the wealth, okay?)

There are some 500 daily subscribers on this list and uncounted more who read News That Matters on the web at its various outlets and we're now accessible on national blogs and news services. We've grown - quite amazingly over time and that growth signifies the importance of a non-corporate voice contributing information and knowledge. Now it's time for you to contribute something back.

It's easy. Click here. Or, would you prefer another 15 days of unrelenting guilt?

And now, the News:

  1. Undeveloped watershed - A Journal News Editorial
  2. NYC Proposes Bike Parking Rules in New Buildings
  3. A closer look at Obama’s energy plan
  4. Atlas of hidden water may avert future conflict
  5. Streams in peril
  6. Collins Lake down to the dregs
  7. Two organizations launch ‘Our Water Our Future’
  8. Wilderness designations shouldn't wait
  9. Why Sarah Palin Still Matters

Undeveloped watershed

It's good to see that clean water and common sense prevailed in the sale of an undeveloped 30-acre property that drains right into the Village of Mount Kisco's main drinking-water supply. Mount Kisco now plans to buy the property near Byram Lake for $475,000 and preserve it as open space.

The property is owned by the Rene Dubos Center for Human Environments, which, despite its name, is not an environmental organization, but one devoted to education and research. The center had sought to sell the land to Michael Cappelli, a luxury housing developer and brother of Westchester's mega-developer, Louis Cappelli. The Center and Cappelli had a deal worth $1.2 million, or more than twice the current sale price, but that agreement couldn't withstand the loud objections to the sale that came from many quarters, including officials from Mount Kisco and neighboring North Castle, the Westchester county executive, the state Attorney General's Office and the Westchester Land Trust.

Read More

NYC Proposes Bike Parking Rules in New Buildings

NEW YORK (AP)  -- The city is proposing new rules that will greatly expand bicycle parking in apartment and office buildings around New York, where officials are taking ambitious steps to make this one of the most bike-friendly places in the nation.

City officials believe that making bike parking more available in buildings will motivate more New Yorkers to cycle to work or to perform errands on bike.

Surveys show that the lack of secure bicycle parking is a stumbling block preventing New Yorkers from riding bikes. Some people are leery of leaving even locked bikes on the street for fear they will get stolen, and many places restrict people from parking bikes on the sidewalk in front of buildings.

``It will really transform the culture of the city, from a car-oriented city to a bike-oriented city,'' Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said.

Read More

A closer look at Obama’s energy plan

Economy may slow it, but ‘green’ jobs may grow it.

By Mark Clayton| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor/ November 12, 2008 edition

If President-elect Barack Obama enacts the energy plan he laid out during his campaign, American taxpayers will each get a $500 rebate check – funded by a windfall profits taxes on big oil companies.

But that’s just for starters. Besides taxing oil giants more, Senator Obama’s detailed 30-point energy agenda calls for big changes to address carbon emissions, fuel efficiency for vehicles, and domestic and renewable power and efficiency.

While many candidates’ platform promises are cast aside when political opposition looms, the Obama energy plan seems integral to his promise to get the economy restarted, some experts say.

“Obama’s energy plan is much more than a campaign laundry list,” says Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank chaired by John Podesta, who heads the Obama administration’s transition effort. “It really is a centerpiece of Obama’s economic development strategy for the nation, for energy security, and rebuilding our cities and infrastructure,” Mr. Hendricks says.

Among more than two dozen bullet points, Obama’s energy plan includes:

Read More

Atlas of hidden water may avert future conflict

24 October 2008 by Catherine Brahic

They are one of the world's greatest and most precious natural resources, yet are entirely hidden. Now, for the first time, a high-resolution map shows where underground aquifers store vast amounts of water.

The map of "blue gold" (pdf format, 4 MB) is the result of nearly a decade of sometimes difficult talks between neighbouring governments, mediated by UNESCO. The hope is that it will help pave the way to an international law to govern how water is shared around the world.

Aquifers are underground layers of rocks or sediments from which water can be extracted - normally by drilling boreholes or digging wells. They hold 100 times the volume of freshwater that flows down rivers and streams around the world at any time.

What the UNESCO map reveals is just how many aquifers cross international borders. So far, the organisation has identified 273 trans-boundary aquifers: 68 in the Americas, 38 in Africa, 155 in Eastern and Western Europe and 12 in Asia.

Each trans-boundary aquifer holds the potential for international conflict - if two countries share an aquifer, pumping in one country will affect its neighbour's water supply.

Read More

Streams in peril

What used to be tranquil waterways teeming with life are now barren and hazardous. But Mecklenburg County aims to fix that.

By Bruce Henderson
Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 05, 2008

Hidden by undergrowth, a nameless trickle of a stream has carved a channel 10 feet deep into the red clay of a Cornelius neighborhood. County water-quality staff call it the Little Grand Canyon.

But this is not nature at work. It's a symptom of the development that is overwhelming Charlotte-area suburban streams, threatening water supplies, while gobbling 56 acres of raw land a day.

Nearly three-fourths of Mecklenburg County's major streams are considered impaired. Those new to that list are usually on the city's outskirts.

Read More

Collins Lake down to the dregs

Recent storms little help to bone-dry Collins Lake
November 04, 2008 11:06:00 PM

The valve that supplies water to Browns Valley Irrigation District irrigation users has been shut off, after several months of rationing, until Collins Lake recovers to normal levels.

Saturday, the water supply was halted altogether to users, district General Manager Walter Cotter said, because there was sufficient rainfall for irrigation customers. The precipitation, though, was not enough to bring the lake back to normal levels.

"I don't know what that means," Cotter said, referring to a "normal" level.

Cotter said the district Board of Directors will discuss lake levels every week until it feels the lake is at a level in which water can again to provided for irrigation.

The lake received 2.75 inches of rain over the weekend.

Scheduled releases of water for Nov. 7 and 8 were also canceled, Cotter said, because of the rainfall last weekend.

Read More

Two organizations launch ‘Our Water Our Future’

The Buffalo Audubon Society and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper are joining forces to raise awareness about water-restoration issues, thanks to a grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation that could total $1 million over three years.

Objectives include a communications campaign, waterfront tour and educational program, involving students and volunteers in the practice of river-keeping, and advocacy for environmental restoration and green infrastructure in the region’s future.

The program, called “Our Water Our Future,” will help Buffalo Niagara “do what other waterfront cities have done, to start the process of cleaning up our rivers and beaches and to turn liabilities into assets,” according to William Hudson, executive director of the Buffalo Audubon Society.

Read Original

Wilderness designations shouldn't wait

The lame-duck Congress should pass new protections for Oregon this year

November 07, 2008 6:00 AM

All eyes are now on Barack Obama's transition team and the new Congress that will convene next year. But between now and then, there is unfinished business to attend to.

Included in that business is a package of bills that would create two new wilderness areas in southwest Oregon and expand a third in the northern part of the state. The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2008 includes 150 separate bills. Those affecting Oregon have been years in the making and they should pass now, before a new Congress convenes with its focus on huge national issues such as the faltering economy and major health-care reform.

Sen. Gordon Smith won't be among those returning to Washington in January. He'll be coming home, replaced by Jeff Merkley, who defeated him in Tuesday's election.

But for the rest of this year, Smith is still a senator.

He worked with Sen. Ron Wyden to craft a compromise that would expand the Mount Hood Wilderness, one of the Oregon bills in the package. Smith and Wyden both support the two new southwest Oregon wilderness areas also included in the omnibus measure.

Read More

Why Sarah Palin Still Matters

Some readers think my continuing attempt to expose all the lies and flim-flam and bizarre behavior of Sarah Palin is now moot. She's history - they argue. Move on. I think she probably is history. Even Bill Kristol and his minions in the McCain-Palin campaign may not be able to resuscitate her political viability now. But even if she is history, she is history that matters.

Let's be real in a way the national media seems incapable of: this person should never have been placed on a national ticket in a mature democracy. She was incapable of running a town in Alaska competently. The impulsive, unvetted selection of a total unknown, with no knowledge of or interest in the wider world, as a replacement president remains one of the most disturbing events in modern American history. That the press felt required to maintain a facade of normalcy for two months - and not to declare the whole thing a farce from start to finish - is a sign of their total loss of nerve. That the Palin absurdity should follow the two-term presidency of another individual utterly out of his depth in national government is particularly troubling. 46 percent of Americans voted for the possibility of this blank slate as president because she somehow echoed their own sense of religious or cultural "identity". Until we figure out how this happened, we will not be able to prevent it from happening again. And we have to find a way to prevent this from recurring.

Read More

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