Wednesday, December 31, 2008

News That Matters - December 31, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Wednesday Morning,

An article in this morning's paper explains how Caroline Kennedy's "shine", as they call it, makes it difficult for anyone else to get face-time with the Governor. You know? In the article,  Michael Gormley writes:

"In the meantime, supporters of a half-dozen other contenders, including state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and several experienced members of Congress, are pushing their candidates' names and records but gaining little public attention - even as they argue they are more qualified and have earned a shot at being New York's junior senator."

You can see that my candidacy is in the same shape as Kirsten Gillbrand's or Andrew Cuomo's. Going into the New Year I'm still hopeful Governor Paterson will come to his senses, shake off the paparazzi, and makes the right choice. Yeah, I can beat Rudy in 2010. And if not him, then maybe Bondi.

What's in the News:
  1. 2009 to Arrive Not a Second Too Soon
  2. Coffee, tea available for drivers tonight
  3. Take a cab on New Year's Eve - it's free
  4. The Best Journalism of 2008

Beginning tomorrow you will no longer need an account at the NtM Weblog in order to post comments to stories there. You will need an email address and a real name however, just to maintain a modicum of respectability. However, In order to create new posts you'll still need an account and many of you have already created one. Stop on in, read the news and commentary, and get involved in the discussions!

If the weather clears in time this evening, an amazing sky show will be taking place. Venus and the slender crescent Moon will gather together high in the southwestern sky for a beautiful conjunction visible for hours after sunset. The two brightest objects in the night sky can be seen through city lights so everyone can enjoy the show. You got a taste of that last night and if it's any indication of what will be out there tonight you won't want to miss this.

If you're not like vast majority of people who will be staying close to the hearth tonight and you're still looking for something to do, the Carmel Fitness and Racquet club is holding an open house. (off Routes 6 and Old Route 6 in Carmel) Starting at 7PM this evening and running until 1AM, for ten bucks (non-members) you get full use of the facilities. Bring a pot luck dish and your choice of beverages. 845-225-0888

If you are going out tonight, Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties are apparently the safer place to be in the region. Free cab rides, provided by a local business, run from  4PM today until 2AM tomorrow morning. Sweet, eh?

If you're looking for something to do tomorrow, you can kick off the Quadricentennial anniversary of Henrik Hudson's "discovery" of the river that flows both ways, with a hike along the Wappinger's Greenway Trail to the Hudson River. The hike starts from the Market Street industrial park and runs for about 2 miles along the creek to a point overlooking the Hudson in New Hamburg. Meet to depart 12:45 PM in the parking lot of Staples, between Rtes 9 & 9D (on the 9D side) or at 1 PM in the parking area of the Market St. Industrial Park. Call to confirm. Georgette Weir, 845-462-0142.  

Whatever you do, be safe!

And now, the News:

  1. 2009 to Arrive Not a Second Too Soon
  2. Coffee, tea available for drivers tonight
  3. Take a cab on New Year's Eve - it's free
  4. The Best Journalism of 2008

2009 to Arrive Not a Second Too Soon

By Joe Rao Skywatching Columnist
posted: 26 December 2008

Wait a second. The start of next year will be delayed by circumstances beyond everyone's control. Time will stand still for one second on New Year's Eve, as we ring in the New Year on that Wednesday night. As a result, you'll have an extra second to celebrate because a "Leap Second" will be added to 2008 to let a lagging Earth catch up to super-accurate clocks.

By international agreement, the world's timekeepers, in order to keep their official atomic clocks in step with the world's irregular but gradually slowing rotation, have decreed that a Leap Second be inserted between 2008 and 2009. 

The extra second, ordered by the world's nominal timekeeper, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, will be marked officially at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday in Greenwich, England, the home of what is popularly known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) – Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to the more technically inclined – the standard time for the planet.

Read More

Coffee, tea available for drivers tonight

Free coffee and tea will be available to New Year's revelers traveling on the New York State Thruway at all 27 travel plazas from 11 p.m. today to 7 a.m. New Year's Day, Thruway Authority officials said.

The free service to keep travelers warm and alert has been offered for 40 years.

"Holidays are always busy travel times and motorists are encouraged to take frequent breaks if they are feeling fatigued," said Thruway Authority Executive Director Michael R. Fleischer. "Remaining alert, driving with caution and being aware of your surroundings, especially on New Year's Eve, are essential for safe and enjoyable travel."

Fuel and food services from at least one restaurant will be available at each travel plaza. For a complete list of travel plazas along the system, go to the Authority's Web site (

The Thruway Authority warns that caffeine drinks impart only short-term alertness and that frequent breaks are more helpful.

Read Original

Take a cab on New Year's Eve - it's free

Khurram Saeed
The Journal News

Many people will welcome the new year at a local bar tomorrow, but Rockland residents who have had too much to drink can, once again, take a taxi home for free.

Those who risk driving drunk can expect to find police sobriety checkpoints all around the county, as well as stepped-up patrols.

Stony Point Police Chief Patrick Brophy said having more police officers driving the roads in the county's most rural town makes more sense than roadblocks.

"We can cover more ground, observe more traffic with roving patrols," Brophy said yesterday.

For those who prefer to let someone else do the driving, Dana Distributors, the wholesaler of Anheuser-Busch products in Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties, will pay for a taxi to take you home from bars, taverns and restaurants in the three counties.

Read More

The Best Journalism of 2008

Lots of must reads all in one place.

By Conor Friedersdorf,  December 17, 2008

Every January I commit to an ambitious plan:

1) Read every major newspaper and even obscure magazines all year long.

2) Clip the exceptional stories.

3) Issue commendations at year's end in a gradual attempt to usurp the Pulitzer Prizes and National Magazine Awards.

Alas, I've neglected to execute steps one and two in 2008, so the following awards are neither exhaustive nor definitive, but rather a starting point. I'll defend any of my selections as top notch journalism that's well worth your time. But I'm also eager to add to the list -- e-mail nominees to, so long as they appeared in 2008 and are available online, and I'll append additions to the end of this story and/or post them to The Confabulum. (I spent part of 2008 working at The Atlantic, and Graeme Wood and Chris Beam are friends.)

Best Storytelling

Trouble in Paradise
by William Prochnau and Laura Parker
Perhaps you've seen Mutiny on the Bounty. Did you know it was a true story? Or that the rogue sailors kidnapped Polynesian women, sailed away to escape the British Navy, and wound up on a remote island where they proceeded to develop a society whose social mores were a bi-cultural mix of Polynesian and rogue sailor? That's just the beginning of the most fascinating story I read all year.
Best Personal Essay

The writer, an octogenarian, looks back "at a lifetime of parenting sons and being parented by them." His essay brims with all the wisdom of a life well lived, rendered with dramatic tension and ringing as true as Leo Tolstoy at his best. The personal essay form is so often the province of the young these days. We cannot compete with the best our elders can muster.

The writer, musing on "Katie Couric's long day's journey into the evening,"manages to capture a ubiquitous but little remarked upon fact of modern life -- the way in which television and its characters insert themselves into our lives, age as we do, provide us with succor, and come to feel as though we know them. It's the rare magazine piece on a celebrity that's worth reading.
Best Court Reporting

Dispatches from the R. Kelly Trial
by Josh Levin

The writer captures the absurdity of the rapper's... well, the absurdity of everything about him.

Best Profile

A Boy's Life

by Hanna Rosin

"Since he could speak, Brandon, now 8, has insisted that he was meant to be a girl," says the subhead. "This summer, his parents decided to let him grow up as one." The story,exhaustively reported and scrupulously balanced, delves into the scientific debate about the nature of gender, and asks "whether the limits of child indulgence have stretched too far."

Best Review

Big Kills

by Anthony Lane

The writer cinches this award with the first paragraph alone:

What is it like being Timur Bekmambetov? No artist should be confused too closely with his creations, but anybody who sits through “Wanted,” Bekmambetov’s new movie, will be tempted to wonder if the life style of the characters might not reflect or rub off on that of the director. How, for example, does he make a cup of coffee? My best guess, based on the evidence of the film, is that he tosses a handful of beans toward the ceiling, shoots them individually into a fine powder, leaves it hanging in the air, runs downstairs, breaks open a fire hydrant with his head, carefully directs the jet of water through the window of his apartment, sets fire to the building, then stands patiently with his mug amid the blazing ruins to collect the precious percolated drops. Don’t even think about a cappuccino.
Read the rest here.

Covering the Economic Disaster

The single best piece of financial journalism ever produced. You'll even understand it!

"The era that defined Wall Street is finally, officially over. The writer, who chronicled its excess in Liar’s Poker, returns to his old haunt to figure out what went wrong."

Foreign Affairs

In Afghanistanan ethnic minority group that traces its lineage to Genghis Khan is proving to be an excellent source of recruits as Allied forces try to professionalize the police force. Why are they so professional in comparison to other Afghan policemen? Is using a minority group to police the majority setting the stage for horrific reprisals once Western forces leave the country? The writer answers these questions in an elegantly written, exceptionally contextualized piece reported while running through grape fields, avoiding Taliban ambushes and IEDs.

This dispatch from "the deadliest pieces of terrain in the world for U.S. forces" chronicles Army outposts where "men spend their days in a surreal combination of backbreaking labor—building outposts on rocky ridges—and deadly firefights, while they try to avoid the mistakes the Russians made." This piece made me appreciate, more than anything else I've read, the dangerous conditions braved by Americans on the front lines.

Best Campaign Coverage

  • The Magazine Industry!

Whether measured by scoops, quality of analysis or enjoyability of the read, newspapers were handily outshone by magazine writers covering election 2008 -- notable mentions go to John Heilemann at New York, John Dickerson and Chris Beam at Slate, Marc Ambinder and Josh Green at The Atlantic, and Camille Paglia at Salon.

The writer tours Ohio, capturing the disaffection of working class voters.
Story I'd Most Want Every Mayor in America to Read

The NYPD Diaspora
by Heather MacDonald

Want to reduce the murder rate in your city? The writer argues that crime-fighting techniques pioneered by the NYPD are doing just that all over America as former New York cops become police chiefs elsewhere.

Excellent Articles to Read Together

The writer argues that renewing the culinary culture should be a conservative cause.

The writer pens a letter to our next president about our blinkered agricultural policies.

Best Article on a Topic You Don't Actually Need to Know Anything About

Every interesting fact related to elevators, and the story of one man trapped inside one. Will he live? Will he die?

The writer demonstrates his genius by penning a whole story about the comments section of a Brooklyn Web site -- and it's somehow gripping from start to finish!

Best Piece of Meta Criticism

How Wood Works: The Riches and Limits of James Wood
By William Deresiewicz

If you like great literature, critics, and getting deep into the weeds about the ways in which they intersect, this piece is for you.

Best Legal Story

Too Weird for the Wire by Kevin Carey

"How black Baltimore drug dealers are using white supremacist legal theories to confound the Feds."

Best Non-Fiction Book

The Dark Side
by Jane Mayer

This exhaustively reported look at the Bush Administration's use of torture and other illegal methods in the War on Terror has an ideological edge to it. No matter, for the facts presented are too powerful to be ignored, though that is just what segments of the right-leaning press is doing.
Best Story About an Absurd Topic

Hot for Creature
by Eric Wills

"Thirteen years ago, William Dranginis saw Bigfoot. Fifty grand, a van, and a camera in a log later, the quest continues."

Conor Friedersdorf is the assistant managing editor for Culture11.

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