Monday, December 15, 2008

News That Matters - December 15, 2008

News That Matters
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"What the civil rights movement has revealed is that it is necessary for people concerned with liberty, even if they live in an approximately democratic state, to create a political power which resides outside the regular political establishment. While outside, removed from the enticements of office and close to those sources of human distress which created it, this power can use a thousand different devices to persuade and pressure the official structure into recognizing its needs."  Howard Zinn
Good Monday Morning,

One of my readers complained that they felt uncomfortable when, on some Mondays, I say that 'you all missed something terrific!' regarding an event over the weekend. Well, I won't today. But I will say that the Arts on the Lake puppet production this past weekend went very well and those who were there enjoyed it immensely. Three sold-out performances and on Sunday, standing-room only. I'll post some pictures to the AotL website in a couple of days. Not that I want you to see what you missed, just as a general informational thing.

The other day someone threw a shoe at George Bush during a press conference in Iraq. Two shoes, actually. I figure by the 4th the Secret Service would have gotten a hold of the guy. They clearly weren't on their toes even though it was their sole responsibility.

There's a BBC news video of the event which shows the man throwing his shoes from three different camera angles - and in slow motion as well. This is followed by the President answering a reporter's question where he actually seemed to know what he was talking about. He was candid, and comfortable and only put that monkey-face of his on once. The video is here and it's worth a look. I suppose once you're leaving the helm of an empire you've ruined, everything takes on a candid and comfortable mien.

Congress is about to bail out the Big Three automakers. Congress could say to the automakers, "Hey, we're happy to help you out of this mess you've gotten yourselves in but here are the rules to tap into the largess of the taxpayers:

1) CAFE standards are going to be improved so that each vehicle in the passenger car class must reach 40mpg on the highway - minimum - by 2012. The higher the mpg rating of your car fleet goes, the lower we'll set the interest rate for repayment of our loans to you. Light trucks, no less than 30mpg.
2) Stop trying to weaken environmental rules and regulations. Clean fueled vehicles are essential and mandatory.
3) Quit building crap cars.
4) Trains, buses and other forms of mass transit had better be in your business plans over the next 5 years - and into the future.

What's In The News:
Instead, they didn't. Senate Republicans said that they'll bail out the automakers if they can get their employees to take a significant pay and benefits cut with two years still left in the current contract. This, they say, will bring them more in line with what foreign-owned automakers based in the US pay their employees.

But those numbers are complex and even if accomplished, would only save Detroit about $800 per vehicle while gutting the benefit program of retired autoworkers. As it is, the Big Three charge less for their vehicles than the competition but people still prefer the more expensive vehicles... and for good reason. Forcing Americans, via the market, into buying cars that break and which consumer groups find less than desirable is not a solution but it is the one your elected reps have settled on.

The problem is that it's not what Detroit is paying workers that has caused financial problems, it's that they manufacture crap cars no one wants and have for a decade.

In the meantime, Bank of America, which was given $25 billion of your children's tax dollars, is laying off 30,000 employees but no one from the Executive staff has gotten a pink slip. Their million dollar salaries are secure while the $35k guys go on the dole.

Citigroup is letting off 53,000 workers - and that's after the $25 billion we handed them. But Wall Street still intends on giving out $14 billion in year end bonuses to their top executive staffs. Jeez, where did that $14 billion come from? Have you checked your pockets for spare change lately?

While I fully understand the economic impact of allowing GM and Chrysler to fail, I believe that under Chapter 11 they will be forced to build better, more efficient cars that can compete with those of the foreign industries who are building successful cars and doing so on American soil with American labor. While this should be an essential and central part of the proposed bailout plan it's not. Someone ought to ask Congress just why that is.

And now, the News:

Brewster Schools honored with Environment Excellence Award

By: Eric Gross , Staff Reporter


The Brewster School District has been recognized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with an Environmental Excellence Award for using what DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis called "innovative and environmentally sustainable practices."

Brewster was the only school system in New York State to receive the recognition. The Putnam school was joined by Union College in Schenectady, the NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, the Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Aslan Environmental and Kingston City Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A contingent of educators led by Superintendent Dr. Jane Sandbank traveled to Albany last week where a formal ceremony was held at DEC headquarters.

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2 honored for Seven Hills Lake rescue

Ernie Garcia
The Journal News

KENT - Police, state parks officials and the U.S. Coast Guard recognized two Seven Hills Lake men yesterday for rescuing a canoeist from freezing water last year.

Thomas O'Connor, 42, and Richard Allen, 56, received a commendation award from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and a Life Saving Award from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for their rescue of Marc Rapaport, 41, on Nov. 25, 2007.

Rapaport's canoe turned over in choppy water, and he was not wearing a life jacket. He was unable to swim to the shore because the cold water numbed his limbs, so all he could do was hold on to a floating branch.

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Taconic remains closed in Columbia County

Some won't get power back until Wednesday
By Rasheed Oluwa
Poughkeepsie Journal

The Taconic State Parkway remains closed north of Route 199, as some communities in the central and northern areas of Dutchess will remain in the dark until Tuesday or even Wednesday.

State police say the parkway is scheduled to reopen by Tuesday morning, but may open earlier depending on the progress of the cleanup.

While most of Dutchess and Ulster counties can expect to have power restored by tonight, some communities in the central and northern areas of Dutchess may have to wait until Tuesday or even Wednesday for their lights to turn back on.

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Hunt for gas lead drillers to NYC watershed

NEW YORK (AP) — The hunt for the natural gas fields that could help make the U.S. more energy independent has brought developers to the edge of the watershed for one of the world's biggest cities.

Now drilling in the Marcellus shale formation, which some estimate could meet the nation's natural gas needs for the next decade, has raised fears of tainted drinking water in New York City.

"The Marcellus gas shale represents such a threat to the watershed," Albert Appleton, former commissioner of the city's Department of Environmental Protection, said Friday at a city council environmental protection committee meeting. "No risk to drinking water is acceptable."

To extract the gas, well operators blast millions of gallons of water treated with chemicals into horizontal cracks a mile under the earth, a process commonly known as fracking.

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Agencies Revise Guidance to Protect Wetlands and Streams

EPA Contact: Enesta Jones, (202) 564-7873 or 4355 /
Army Contacts: Doug Garman, (202) 761-1807 or Gene Pawlik, (202) 761-7690

(Washington, D.C. - Dec. 3, 2008) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army are issuing revised guidance to ensure America's wetlands, streams and other waters are better protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The guidance clarifies the geographic scope of jurisdiction under the CWA.

"We are providing improved guidance today to ensure the information is in place to fully protect the nation's streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water. "The guidance builds upon our experiences and provides consistent direction to our staff and the public."

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Louisiana Most Corrupt State in the Nation

Mississippi Second, Illinois Sixth, New Jersey Ninth
Louisiana is the most corrupt state in the nation.

That’s according to an analysis of government data released today by Corporate Crime Reporter.

Louisiana (1), Mississippi (2), Kentucky (3), Alabama (4) and Ohio (5) are the top five most corrupt states in the country, according to the analysis.

Rounding out the top ten are Illinois (6), Pennsylvania (7), Florida (8), New Jersey (9), and New York (10).

“If you type the word ‘corruption’ into Google News, the vast majority of news stories that come up are from overseas,” said Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, a print weekly legal newsletter based in Washington, D.C. “But public corruption is booming right here in the USA.”

“There have been more than 20,000 public officials and private citizens convicted of public corruption over the past two decades,” Mokhiber said. “That’s an average of 1,000 a year for the last twenty years.”

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Fed Refuses to Disclose Recipients of $2 Trillion (Update2)

By Mark Pittman

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve refused a request by Bloomberg News to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

Bloomberg filed suit Nov. 7 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act requesting details about the terms of 11 Fed lending programs, most created during the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The Fed responded Dec. 8, saying it’s allowed to withhold internal memos as well as information about trade secrets and commercial information. The institution confirmed that a records search found 231 pages of documents pertaining to some of the requests.

“If they told us what they held, we would know the potential losses that the government may take and that’s what they don’t want us to know,” said Carlos Mendez, a senior managing director at New York-based ICP Capital LLC, which oversees $22 billion in assets.

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Holland Township (NJ) man names son after Adolf Hitler

Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Express-Times

HOLLAND TWP. | In a living room decorated with war books, German combat knives and swastikas, a 2-year-old boy, blond and blue-eyed, played with a plastic dinner set.

The boy, asked his name, put down a tiny plate and ran behind his father's leg. He flashed a shy smile but wouldn't answer. Heath Campbell, 35, the boy's father, encouraged him.

"Say Adolf," said Campbell, a Holocaust denier who has three children named for Nazism.

Again, the boy wouldn't answer. It wasn't the first time the name caused hesitation.

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