Tuesday, January 13, 2009

News That Matters - January 13, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Tuesday Morning,

I hope you've got your long-johns on! The National Weather Service says it's going to get cold - and they mean really cold.

Starting this evening with a low of 15º, Wednesday's high of 19º will seem not so bad. But the temps stay cold with tomorrow night's low of 8º and Thursday's high of 16º. Thursday night the temps drop to -6º with predicted wind chills of -24º. But that's balmy compared to Friday's high of 13º with a low that night of 4º. Saturday will seem almost like Miami with a high of 22º. Oh yeah, and another couple of inches of snow.

If you've pets that normally stay outside, bring them in. Make sure the water in the bird feeder is kept from freezing and keep the cold water trickling if you've got a raised cottage like I do and the pipes are exposed to the weather.

What's in The News:
  1. Putnam to launch domestic abuse court
  2. Solar industry getting brighter in Hudson Valley
  3. 3,125 Square Miles of New Parks, Trails, Scenic Rivers and Wilderness
  4. Groups Challenge Bush Administration Last Minute Rule to Protect Mountaintop Removal
  5. Zoning Board Improperly Denied Requested Area Variance From Road Frontage Requirement
  6. Tax breaks will get another look
  7. Iowa Planning 500 MW Wind Farm
  8. Asking for TARP Funds Takes Only 27 Minutes

If you've got neighbors who are older, ill or infirm, invite them over or make sure they have adequate heat in their homes. Run your car a few times a day just to keep things moving and the battery charged, especially before you turn in for the night.

If the power goes out and you're forced to use the fireplace, get the fire good and hot to build up a healthy pile of coals then shut the damper almost all the way to maintain as much heat as possible. It's the coals that generate heat, not the fire. And most important, be careful. Rolled up towels placed along the inside base of your doors will help keep out some drafts (didn't you weatherize back in October?) and close curtains and blinds to retain heat lost via windows. If you don't need to be upstairs, turn the heat off up there, block off the staircase and stay on the first floor - easier to heat that way.

One thing you will want to do is to go out to a wooded area when the weather is coldest to hear the trees snap! in the cold. The remaining moisture inside the trees freeze up and create pressure that results in a rifle-crack sound as the wood explodes outward. It's spooky and cool all at the same time.

Here's a heart-warming essay on living in Quebec's cold weather from John Mahoney's Log Cabin Chronicles

More and more police departments are resorting to the use of tasers including several here in Putnam County. Though they've been known to kill people insurance companies like them. Apparently its cheaper to pay out when someone dies as opposed to the multitude of times people have their heads bashed in. 98% of emergency room doctors claim they regularly treat people who have been excessively mishandled by police.

The latest case of a taser death took place over the weekend when a 17 year old boy was killed in Martinsville, VA. And we've all seen the you-tube video of a UCLA student being tasered multiple times for the great crime of not leaving a university library fast enough for campus security or the 16 year old Missouri boy who, after falling and breaking his back, was tasered 19 times. In another recent incident, police refused to check the medical card or medical ID bracelet a woman offered as reason she could not be handcuffed and tasered her into submission instead. She has filed a $5 million lawsuit and the officer has been placed on permanent leave. A police spokesman said, "If a prisoner represents that she has a health condition, which shall be adversely affected by the use of handcuffs or other authorized restraints, officers shall, to the extent consistent with their own safety, make reasonable inquiry for verification." Sometimes, that is. Certainly not in that case.
There's a developer in the Town of East Fishkill who wanted a road abandoned by that town to make better use of the land he owns on which he is planning a new housing  development called "Four Corners". The town said no, so he sued. Last week the courts said, Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! and ruled in favor of the town. Next stop: Williams Cross Road in Kent.

And now, The News:
  1. Putnam to launch domestic abuse court
  2. Solar industry getting brighter in Hudson Valley
  3. 3,125 Square Miles of New Parks, Trails, Scenic Rivers and Wilderness
  4. Groups Challenge Bush Administration Last Minute Rule to Protect Mountaintop Removal
  5. Zoning Board Improperly Denied Requested Area Variance From Road Frontage Requirement
  6. Tax breaks will get another look
  7. Iowa Planning 500 MW Wind Farm
  8. Asking for TARP Funds Takes Only 27 Minutes

Putnam to launch domestic abuse court

Susan Elan
The Journal News

Putnam expects to open a new court that will enable a single judge to hear domestic violence and related cases, such as divorce and child custody, under one roof by early next month.

The creation of Putnam's Integrated Domestic Violence Court will eliminate inconsistent judicial orders and bring a quicker resolution of cases, experts in Putnam say. The current system can require victims, defendants and lawyers to appear multiple times in a local criminal court or County Court, in addition to Family Court.

"There will be no conflicts in orders of protection with one judge because he will know the whole process," Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy said.

County Judge James Rooney will serve as the IDV Court judge. Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess and Orange counties already have IDV courts.

Read More

Solar industry getting brighter in Hudson Valley

Nonprofit helps firms to reinvent, get projects
By Alexa James
Times Herald-Record
January 13, 2009 6:00 AM

KINGSTON — The Solar Energy Consortium mobilized in 2007 with an aggressive economic goal: Turn the Hudson Valley into a solar energy powerhouse.

Capture the skills and factories tied up in the region's struggling semiconductor companies, and reposition them to develop high-tech solar devices. Marry that with smart start-ups, and corner the market.

But after a year of economic hemorrhaging and with more layoffs announced daily, what's become of this nonprofit consortium and its big plans?

"Actually, we've been doing really well," said President and Chief Executive Officer Vincent Cozzolino, rattling off half a dozen partner companies who are hiring.

TSEC partners tallied 70 new solar industry jobs in Ulster County in 2008. "Statewide, by the end of 2010, we predict between 1,400 and 2,500 new jobs," Cozzolino said, "just to make the products."

Take FALA Technologies in Kingston, where TSEC is headquartered. For 65 years, the company specialized in research and manufacturing for the semiconductor industry. Six months ago, it started dabbling in "solar appliances." Now its factory floor is brimming with solar-powered water heaters and road signs.

Read More

3,125 Square Miles of New Parks, Trails, Scenic Rivers and Wilderness

Congress to declare South Park a National Heritage Area, along with dozens of new national parks, wilderness areas and trails.

The Senate is close to approving a big bill that will preserve more than 2 million acres of wilderness, affecting nearly every state in the U.S. The new protected lands would add up to more than 3,125 square miles -- nearly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

The bill -- actually 160 bills rolled into one -- had been blocked by filibuster and the threat of filibuster by a single Senator - Republican Tom Coburn or Oklahoma. Coburn didn't make the League of Conservation Voters list of the "Dirty Dozen" lawmakers who had voted consistently against environmental protection, but he has a dismal voting record, having scored no better than 11%, by LCV's estimation, since 2005.

But the bill was approved for voting with a strong majority from both parties, so it looks like it will finally pass, despite Coburn's effort.

Read More

Groups Challenge Bush Administration Last Minute Rule to Protect Mountaintop Removal

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has joined with a coalition of environmental groups to take the Bush administration to court over a controversial rule change by the federal Office of Surface Mining and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the waning days of the administration’s power. The legal challenge would overturn the lastminute repeal of the stream buffer zone rule — an environmental law that, since 1983, has prohibited surface coal mining activities within 100 feet of flowing streams.

Attorneys with Earthjustice, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance filed the legal challenge today in federal district court in Washington, DC on behalf of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Tennessee-based Save Our Cumberland Mountains, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and two other West Virginia- based groups: Coal River Mountain Watch and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Read More

Zoning Board Improperly Denied Requested Area Variance From Road Frontage Requirement

The petitioner, owner of a 9,200 square-foot parcel in the Town’s Residence “B” District, desired to construct a one-family dwelling on the lot.  The zoning ordinance requires a minimum street frontage of 55 feet, and since petitioner only had 45.23 feet of frontage, it applied for an area variance, and in the alternative, a determination that they were exempt from the requirement under the zoning ordinance. The zoning board denied the variance and determined that the petitioner was not exempt from the frontage requirement. The petitioner appealed. Although the petitioner initially appealed only the zoning board’s denial of their request for an exemption, the Court noted that their failure to cross-appeal the variance denial does not preclude the Court from reviewing this since the petitioner was the prevailing party in the Supreme Court and was not aggrieved by the judgment appealed from.

Read More

Tax breaks will get another look


Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on tax incentives and grants for Iowa’s businesses or residents, some of which are depriving the state of revenue, tax reform advocates say.

And legislative leaders - who acknowledge they are facing the greatest financial squeeze since the 1980s farm crisis - say it's time to evaluate and possibly chop some of the incentives when the 2009 session of the Iowa Legislature convenes at 10 a.m. Monday.

Up for grabs are more than 200 sales, income or property tax exemptions as well as dozens of tax credit programs that range from tax breaks for the purchase of argon gas to programs that refund millions of dollars every year to companies doing research in Iowa.

The exemptions - many decades old - were put into place for Iowa to remain or become competitive for high-paying jobs and skilled workers.

But many of the incentives have been on autopilot, dragging on for years without an examination of what benefits they provide to Iowans.

Read More

Iowa Planning 500 MW Wind Farm

Written by Megan Treacy  
Monday, 12 January 2009

Other countries have unveiled plans recently for large-scale renewable energy projects, but the U.S. has some impressive projects of its own. Trade Wind Energy is planning a very ambitious wind farm in Iowa. One that will cost $1.5 billion and, when completed, will generate 500 MW of energy.

The wind farm will consist of 335 turbines, each able to power 500 to 1,000 homes, that means that if all goes as plannned, this project could power a total of 167,500 to 335,000 homes. The turbines will be placed 1,000 feet apart on land that will be leased from area property owners, many of which are farmers. Trade Wind Energy says that some leases have already been signed and neighboring farmers are supportive of the project.

Read More

Asking for TARP Funds Takes Only 27 Minutes

Journalists have written so much about the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), better known as the federal bailout, that it’s hard to find a new angle. Seems like everyone's clamoring for a piece of the collective capital. Maybe that's because it takes less than half an hour to ask for it.

It turns out that the application for TARP funds is surprisingly simple. Interested parties can find the complete guidelines for the TARP Capital Purchase Program here. The application is just two pages long. As a test, we decided to fill it out. Including the time it took us to explain this project to our chief financial officer, the TARP application took a mere 27 minutes to complete.

To put it in perspective, here are five things that take longer than filling out the TARP application.

  1. Applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): 4 hours.
  2. Watching Wall Street: 2 hours, 5 minutes.
  3. Making a tuna noodle casserole: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
  4. Applying for New York State unemployment insurance benefits: 30 minutes.
  5. Applying for food stamps in New Jersey: 30 minutes.
Read More
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