Friday, December 26, 2008

News That Matters - December 26, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Stan: I thought you were going to kill yourself.
Cartman: I tried. Went to sleep in my mom’s car in the garage, with the engine on.
Stan: And you didn’t die?
Cartman: Freakin’ hybrids. They just don’t do the trick any more.

- South Park, Elementary School Musical

Good Friday Morning,

Today is Boxing Day.

Yesterday was a beautiful winter day - sunny skies, relatively warm temps and for me at least, busy, busy, busy! I'm hoping it was the same for all of you who celebrate that holiday.

As we go into the weekend I do not have many events to post (I've been lazy and you've been remiss in sending me things) but there is one event, at least, worth your attention.

Tomorrow (Saturday) evening there's the 4th in a series of Rock Concerts at the Cultural Center on Lake Carmel hosted by Arts on the Lake. The show starts at 5PM and will run until about 10PM. Bands schedule are:
Horror Hotel
Kid Jerusalem
The Parthenon
Ken Connolly and the Southeast Connection
Adam and the Animals
Tickets are $6 ($5 for AotL members). There's more information at the AotL website, at Facebook and at Myspace. The image here is from the last show - which sold out, as have all the previous shows. It's a fun, safe, drug and alcohol free environment and something to do on a Saturday night. See you there!

And now, the News:

  1. Six to Eight Black Men
  2. The Christmas Day Lade
  3. 186 acres protected on Overlook Mountain
  4. Dutchess legislator calls for better trash management
  5. Giant snowman rises again in Alaska — mysteriously
  6. Christmas On The Margins
  7. Wal-Mart Elves Get Back $640 Million in "Stolen" Benefits

Six to Eight Black Men


In the years before central heating, Dutch children would leave their shoes by the fireplace, the promise being that unless they planned to beat you, kick you, or stuff you into a sack, Saint Nicholas and the six to eight black men would fill your clogs with presents. Aside from the threats of violence and kidnapping, it's not much different from hanging your stockings from the mantel. Now that so few people have a working fireplace, Dutch children are instructed to leave their shoes beside the radiator, furnace, or space heater. Saint Nicholas and the six to eight black men arrive on horses, which jump from the yard onto the roof. At this point, I guess, they either jump back down and use the door, or they stay put and vaporize through the pipes and electrical wires. Oscar wasn't too clear about the particulars, but, really, who can blame him? We have the same problem with our Santa. He's supposed to use the chimney, but if you don't have one, he still manages to come through. It's best not to think about it too hard.

While eight flying reindeer are a hard pill to swallow, our Christmas story remains relatively simple. Santa lives with his wife in a remote polar village and spends one night a year traveling around the world. If you're bad, he leaves you coal. If you're good and live in America, he'll give you just about anything you want. We tell our children to be good and send them off to bed, where they lie awake, anticipating their great bounty. A Dutch parent has a decidedly hairier story to relate, telling his children, "Listen, you might want to pack a few of your things together before you go to bed. The former bishop from Turkey will be coming along with six to eight black men. They might put some candy in your shoes, they might stuff you in a sack and take you to Spain, or they might just pretend to kick you. We don't know for sure, but we want you to be prepared."

This is the reward for living in Holland. As a child you get to hear this story, and as an adult you get to turn around and repeat it. As an added bonus, the government has thrown in legalized drugs and prostitution--so what's not to love about being Dutch?

Read More

The Christmas Day Lade

By Marty Collins

The old barn stood wearily back by the woods. It was a pleasantly misshapen little structure, constructed, more than likely, in random sections over a period of years. Each addition stood slightly askew like a last-minute thought slapped together with wood and nails.

Both the old yellow farmhouse and the odd little L-shaped barn had been empty for quite some time before we bought them. And, while no domestic creature had inhabited the barn for several years, the musky scent of horse, hay and leather still lingered in every cobwebbed corner of each box stall and was ingrained in the thick, sturdy, wide-planked floorboards.

It didn't take us long to stock the barn with our own assortment of farm animals. Within weeks of our late summer arrival, the sides of the small structure seemed to heave with the weight of several hefty ewes and a pretty little white goat, named Daisy. They were joined by Gypsy, the charming gray and white tabby who adopted us one night and became the first of our many barn cats.

But, of all the creatures who ever lived in the barn, there was one special resident whose arrival was destined as if by magic and whose appearance in the barn one very rainy Christmas morning was the answer to the Christmas Eve dreams of two young boys.

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186 acres protected on Overlook Mountain

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 3:06 AM EST

WOODSTOCK — The Open Space Institute has announced the protection of 186 acres of the California Quarry property on Overlook Mountain.

The property is expected to provide expanded recreational opportunities and views of the Catskills, the Hudson River Valley and parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The acquisition of the property from the town of Woodstock is the institute’s fifth on Overlook Mountain in the last five years, with a total of 569 acres preserved to date.

The California Quarry property sits on the southeastern slope of Overlook Mountain, in an area the state has targeted for conservation because its alpine ecosystem is considered susceptible to inappropriate residential development. There is an active quarry on the parcel to which the town of Woodstock will retain access for local use.

The parcel adjoins previously protected state land on three sides and will be conveyed to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for management as part of the Catskill Forest Preserve.

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Dutchess legislator calls for better trash management

By Mid-Hudson News Network

POUGHKEEPSIE — Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner has called for creation of a Zero Waste Task Force.

Tyner, which chairs the Legislature’s Environmental Committee, said the task force would research and implement best practices in waste management and increase recycling and composting using job-creating examples proven successful in Massachusetts, California and Nova Scotia.

Tyner, D-Clinton, said Dutchess County should stop spending “millions of our county tax dollars annually on our county incinerator.” He said the county can create jobs and save money by shifting to zero waste.

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Giant snowman rises again in Alaska — mysteriously

By MARY PEMBERTON, Associated Press
Wed Dec 24, 7:29 pm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A giant snowman named Snowzilla has mysteriously appeared again this year — despite the city's cease-and-desist order.

Someone again built the giant snowman in Billy Powers' front yard in an east Anchorage neighborhood. Snowzilla reappeared before dawn Tuesday.

Powers is not taking credit. When questioned Tuesday afternoon, he insisted Snowzilla just somehow happened, again.

For the last three years, Snowzilla — to the delight of some and the chagrin of others — has been a very large feature in Powers' yard. In 2005, Snowzilla rose 16 feet. He had a corncob pipe and a carrot nose and two eyes made out of beer bottles.

This year, Snowzilla is estimated to be 25 feet tall. He's wearing a black stovepipe hat and scarf.

"Have you seen him?" Powers asked when reached by telephone at his home, the sound of excited children in the background. "He's handsome."

Snowzilla has consistently risen outside Powers' modest home. His children — he is the father of seven — collected snow from neighbors' yards to make the snowman big enough. Each year, Snowzilla got a bit bigger.

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Christmas On The Margins

According to government data, as of September, 31.5 million Americans were using the food stamp programme, up 17% from the previous year. That's 10% of the US population. These are staggering figures.

They bring to mind another staggering figure I recently came across that I have been unable to remove from my subconscious. It is $163,987,000 – the salary that Henry Paulson, now secretary of the US Treasury, took home in 2006 for his services as CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Two years later, Goldman Sachs required a massive bail-out from taxpayers. Many of these taxpayers may soon be applying for food stamps.

When Paulson sits down to his sumptuous Christmas feast, paid for with some of the spoils from that nine-figure salary, I hope he will he spare a thought for the 10% of Americans who have barely enough to eat.

I'm sure that if he ever witnessed first hand the humiliation of a person unable to pay for their food at a supermarket checkout, he would feel compelled to redistribute his millions among the 31.5 million food stamp recipients.

Maybe then they could afford a decent Christmas dinner next year.

Read More

Wal-Mart Elves Get Back $640 Million in "Stolen" Benefits

By Al Norman

'Twas the settlement before Christmas.

On the eve of the holidays, Wal-Mart's Santa is stuffing millions of dollars into the stockings of his little helpers. After years of litigation, its payback time for millions of Wal-Mart workers who had their time "stolen" from them by the world's largest retailer. No rest breaks, no meal breaks, unpaid hours---it's all coming due in a whopping Christmas "bonus" courtesy of Wal-Mart's legal team.

While America is distracted by the holiday recession, Wal-Mart has decided to settle some old scores and begin the New Year by clearing the decks of 63 lawsuits filed against it by its current and former workers.

Together with lawyers representing the plaintiffs, Wal-Mart issued a press release announcing legal agreements that will cost the company and its shareholders between $352 million and $640 million. Wal-Mart has been battling these class action lawsuits for years. How much Wal-Mart will end up stuffing into stockings will depend on how many of its employees file claims.

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