Tuesday, December 30, 2008

News That Matters - December 30, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Tuesday Morning,

Well, it's been almost two weeks since I announced my candidacy for the US Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton and the Governor has still not called to give me the good news. I wonder what he's waiting for.

An Eagle Scout project on the Twin Hills Preserve in Patterson ran into some trouble when boards used for a boardwalk across and near sensitive wetlands were stolen. The project is back on track thanks to a donation of supplies from Home Depot. The story is below.

Jeff Hyatt, who rebuilds old trucks and tractors, some of which are on display at the Tilly Foster Farm, has besieged me with photographs, some of which will become part of the regular rotation of Highlands images at the News That Matters weblog.

According to news reports, the CD which contained the now infamous, "Magic Negro" song sent to fellow party members by Republican National Committee chair candidate Chip Saltsman, may have actually helped his bid for that party's top job.

At the top of yesterday's column I quoted former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. She had once said, "We will have peace when Arabs love their children more then they hate us." A friend, whom I dearly love, called shortly after to give me an earful, so much so that Richie, the dog and the cat, split for places unknown until the smoke settled over PlanPutnam Central and the phone line dimmed from the phosphorus white heat.

My buddy and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this issue. While I don't like the fighting going on, it has not taken place in a vacuum nor was it unprovoked. Whether the Israeli response is too much or not, neither he nor I can genuinely say because we do not live there in the midst of the fray. Sure, killing anywhere is not right, but then that sense must be equally applied.

From 2000 through 2004, Hamas killed 400 Israeli civilians and wounded 2000 more in 425 individual attacks. From 2000 through 2008 Hamas fired more than 3000 Qassam rockets and 2500 mortar shells into Israel. The greatest number of these attacks occurred after Israel pulled her settlers and troops out of Gaza, leaving the territory to internal control. Since 2006, Hamas has smuggled some 30,000 rifles and 6 million rounds of ammunition into Gaza, mostly from Iran. Yet, their people are starving and the infrastructure is a mess but there's ample money for guns, bullets and rockets? Hamas runs Gaza as a totalitarian state. Question their authority and you are arrested as a "collaborator". More than two-dozen "collaborators" have been killed by Hamas security forces since Monday.

Too many in the pro-Palestinian camp in the American Left seem to believe - without directly saying so - that it's terrible, sure, but that one bad turn somehow deserves another. That if a suicide bomber takes out a Passover Seder in Haifa or a pizza place in Tel Aviv or a bus stop filled with commuters in Jerusalem that it's kinda, sorta okay. They'll explain it away by saying that personal frustration built up so much that something had to give and that 'give' was the life of a young man so that others would die who kinda, sorta, deserved it - in some form of twisted logic. My friends tell me Hamas wants only peaceful coexistence and the right to self determination, laudable goals to be sure. But the facts do not hold up. In Hamas' own words:

  • Article Seven of the Hamas Charter states: "The time [for an Islamic state on all Israeli lands] will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!"
  • The Charter claims that the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs and Lions clubs are nothing but organizations set up to spy for Israel. (Article 28).
  • In relation to Israel, the charter says, "Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present conduct is the best proof of what is said there." (Article 32)
  • From a Hamas video released in late 2006: "My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries."

This is not the talk of peace. How can you negotiate with someone who believes The Protocols are genuine or who have pledged to their deaths to see the middle east free of Jews? Who wants to negotiate their own death?

When Hamas or Hizbollah are lobbing shells into Israeli towns, do you hear an outcry from my friends? Do they rally in the streets? Do they send emails by the thousands demanding an immediate cessation to that humanitarian crisis? 400 innocent Israeli's died and I didn't hear a single word of condemnation. Not a rally. Not an email. Nothing.

In the meantime, Israel prepares for a ground invasion which will surely result in more deaths, more destruction and more broken families. All I can do is plead with my friends to be as ardent in their condemnation of Hamas as they are with their vocal condemnation of Israel. I can only plead with them to tell  Hamas to stop the violence and hatred and to join the rest of the world community, a community which has accepted Israel's permanent existence in the middle east. Egypt, Jordan, even the Palestinian Fatah faction which runs the West Bank has agreed that Israel does and will continue to exist.

The day Hamas accepts the that there is always going to be an Israeli state on its borders and decides to spend more time loving its own children than hating the children of the Jews - that's the day when peace will come.

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." ~Thomas Paine

Hamas Charter source: The Palestine Center

Just so my readers don't think I'm leaning too hard on the Left, here's a tasty tidbit for you from the Right:

"Kwanzaa itself is a nutty blend of schmaltzy '60s rhetoric, black racism and Marxism. Indeed, the seven "principles" of Kwanzaa praise collectivism in every possible arena of life -- economics, work, personality, even litter removal. ("Kuumba: Everyone should strive to improve the community and make it more beautiful.") It takes a village to raise a police snitch....

Guess who!? (answer at the bottom)

FYI: Here is a chart of the incoming Obama administration, all in one place: I figure we should know who will be leading this nation for the next four years.

Vice President Joe Biden
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
President pro tempore of the Senate Robert Byrd
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Attorney General Eric Holder
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Commerce Bill Richardson
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Daschle
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

And now, the News:

  1. Missing planks don't stop boys' project
  2. Southeast officials spar over videographer bidding process
  3. They'll see green: Youth garden program ducks budget ax
  4. Coalition sues over mining ruling
  5. Tenn. Sludge Spill Challenges 'Clean Coal' Future
  6. EPA: Rivers high in arsenic, heavy metals after sludge spill
  7. Canada's vast oil cache hides dirty environmental secret
  8. Modified Plants May Yield More Biofuel
  9. Excessive Police Violence Evident In Emergency Care Cases, Say US Doctors

Missing planks don't stop boys' project

Michael Risinit
The Journal News

PATTERSON - Just as the Grinch was unsuccessful in preventing Christmas from coming, whoever may have pilfered Steven Maddock's planks was similarly ineffectual in halting his Eagle Scout project.

In the spring, Maddock, a Mahopac High School senior, will be inducted as an Eagle Scout and the Putnam County Land Trust will hold a grand opening for its newest section of trail.

Maddock built the 1,500 feet of trail, which twists through rocky outcroppings in the trust's Laurel Ledges Natural Area in Patterson, as his service project over the summer to attain the Boy Scouts' highest level of achievement.

Along with the necessary organizing, fundraising and labor, Maddock had a chance to play "Encyclopedia Brown," the main character in a series of children's detective novels. That was because someone or several someones may have stolen eight 16-foot planks from the trail's site earlier this year.

Read More

Southeast officials spar over videographer bidding process

Marcela Rojas
The Journal News

SOUTHEAST - A contract awarded to the second-highest bidder for rights to videotape Town Board meetings has touched off a bitter firestorm among officials over the town's bidding process.

The board recently voted 3-2 to allow Euro Video Productions of Carmel to tape its meetings starting in January, with Supervisor Michael Rights and Councilman Dwight Yee dissenting. Euro Video owner Carl Holman is charging the town $275 for the first two hours of taping and $40 for each hour after, officials said.

Another bidder, Advicom, a media company run by Jack Miller that has been recording Town Board meetings since January, proposed a flat fee of $100 per meeting, officials said.

Read More

They'll see green: Youth garden program ducks budget ax

By Jenny Lee-Adrian
Poughkeepsie Journal

The Green Teen Community Gardening Program is one of several programs that survived budget battles between the county executive and Legislature with its funding intact.

Although Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus made cuts in contract agency funding, the Legislature restored money for Cornell University Cooperative Extension programs, including Green Teen, in the 2009 budget.

Participants in the program, youth ages 7 to 19, learn about food, farming, entrepreneurship and leadership by working in community gardens in Beacon and Poughkeepsie. One goal of the program is to prevent risky and criminal behavior.

The Green Teen program will receive about $96,000 from the county, Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Linda Keech said.

County money this year was used to match additional funds, and the program received about $243,000 from grants, foundations and other sources, Keech said.

Read More

Coalition sues over mining ruling

Revisions allow waste into streams

By James Bruggers

A coalition of environmental groups including Kentucky Waterways Alliance has sued the Interior Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to overturn a new rule that will make it easier for mining companies to dump waste rock into streams.

The revisions, made final Dec. 12, will let mining companies disregard a 100-foot stream buffer zone if they are able to convince regulators that no other option was available and that they had taken steps to minimize harm to the environment.

Attorneys with Earthjustice, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance filed the legal challenge yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The suit was filed on behalf of the Kentucky environmental group as well as the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Read More

Tenn. Sludge Spill Challenges 'Clean Coal' Future

Michael Reilly, Discovery News
(Image from: The Tennessean.com)
Dec. 25, 2008 -- When an earthen wall holding back 525 million gallons of ash slurry gave way at the coal-fired Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee in the wee hours of Monday morning, the resultant flood ruined a picturesque rural landscape, inundated more than a dozen houses, and blanketed as much as 400 acres of land with potentially toxic muck.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. And initial tests by officials at the Tennessee Valley Authority suggest the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers, major sources of drinking water for the denizens of Knoxville, Tenn., escaped major contamination.

But the mud has done much more than just sully a countryside. Americans' energy consumption habits are a top-tier political issue, and as we look for new ways to curtail global warming, wean ourselves from oil, and find sources of clean energy, coal's role is still unclear.

So the accident raises a serious question: Is there such a thing as "clean coal"?

America's thirst for energy generates leaves between 122 and 129 million tons of waste from spent coal each year. Most of that is fly ash, a fine, talcum-like powder. Bottom ash, boiler slag, and sulfur-rich solids left over from scrubbers in the plants' smoke stacks all have to be disposed of, too.

Read More

EPA: Rivers high in arsenic, heavy metals after sludge spill

    * Story Highlights
    * "Several heavy metals" found in levels above safe drinking-water standards
    * TVA pledges cleanup; officials say treatment facility tests show water is potable
    * Breach at retention site has released more than a billion gallons of coal waste
    * 15 homes damaged, at least 300 acres covered; area residents evacuated

KINGSTON, Tennessee (CNN) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has found high levels of arsenic and heavy metals in two rivers in central Tennessee that are near the site of a spill that unleashed more than a billion gallons of coal waste.

The agency said it found "several heavy metals" in the water in levels that are slightly above safe drinking-water standards but "below concentrations" known to be harmful to humans.

"The one exception may be arsenic," the agency said in a letter to an affected community. "One sample of river water out of many taken indicated concentrations that are very high and further investigations are in progress."

However, arsenic was not detected in a water intake facility near Kingston, Tennessee, where the spill happened, said EPA spokeswoman Laura Niles.

The metals were found in the Emory and Clinch rivers, near the site of a major spill last week that unleashed enough sludge to fill 1,660 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Read More

Canada's vast oil cache hides dirty environmental secret

FT. MCMURRAY, Canada - From here in the far north of Canada through a web of transcontinental pipelines down to a network of refineries ringing the Chicago area, a new supply of precious oil has begun flowing into the gas tanks of more Americans, tapped from a source so vast it could one day furnish close to half of U.S. oil needs for 50 years or more.

This Canadian oil is stable and reliable. It promises to substantially reduce America's future dependence on volatile Middle Eastern sources of oil. And much of it is profitable to produce even with oil prices hovering around $50 per barrel, which explains why some of the world's largest oil conglomerates have invested tens of billions of dollars here despite wild short-term swings in international oil prices.

But what few American consumers know as they routinely fill up their tanks is that this new petroleum bonanza, drawn from dense, tarry deposits known as oil sands, ranks as what environmentalists call the dirtiest oil on the planet. Extracting it causes widespread ecological damage - and could accelerate global warming.

Read More

Modified Plants May Yield More Biofuel

ScienceDaily (Dec. 26, 2008) — Plants, genetically modified to ease the breaking down of their woody material, could be the key to a cheaper and greener way of making ethanol, according to researchers who add that the approach could also help turn agricultural waste into food for livestock.

Lignin, a major component of woody plant material,, is woven in with cellulose and provides plants with the strength to withstand strong gusts of wind and microbial attack. However, this protective barrier or "plastic wall" also makes it harder to gain access to the cellulose.

"There is lots of energy-rich cellulose locked away in wood," said John Carlson, professor of molecular genetics, Penn State. "But separating this energy from the wood to make ethanol is a costly process requiring high amounts of heat and caustic chemicals. Moreover, fungal enzymes that attack lignin are not yet widely available, still in the development stage, and not very efficient in breaking up lignin."

Researchers have previously tried to get around the problem by genetically decreasing the lignin content in plants. However, this can lead to a variety of problems -- limp plants unable to stay upright, and plants more susceptible to pests.

Read More

Excessive Police Violence Evident In Emergency Care Cases, Say US Doctors

ScienceDaily (Dec. 24, 2008) — Excessive police violence is evident in the types of injury and trauma emergency care doctors are treating in the US, indicates research published in Emergency Medicine Journal.

The findings are based on 315 responses to a representative survey of 393 academic emergency care doctors across the USA.

There are around 800,000 police (law enforcement) officers in the USA, and figures for 2002 show that just short of the 45 million people who had a face to face encounter with one, did so at the behest of the officer.

Almost all (99.8%) of respondents believed that the police use excessive force to arrest and detain suspects.

And a similar number (98%) confirmed that they had treated patients who they suspected had sustained injuries/bruising inflicted by police officers.

Read More

[Answer: Ann Coulter]

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