Thursday, January 22, 2009

News That Matters - January 22, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Thursday Morning,

The good news is that yesterday Caroline Kennedy removed herself from consideration for the US Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. The bad news is that the Governor has still not called me. This morning, the Albany Times-Union reports that she may be back in.

Tomorrow, being Friday, beings the weekly "Things to Do Edition" of News That Matters and as I look through my files here I don't have anything to post. Unless you send in your weekend events, it's going to be a very short post!

There's a new item over at the blog site. This is a daily post from the EPA offering simple ideas regarding environmental concerns. It changes every day so stop on over there and check it out. There's also a link to a set of photos of the Hudson Valley and several newly posted articles that are not posted here in the daily column. You should read them and post comments. So far activity there has been tilted towards Putnam Valley but there's more to the county than just Putnam Valley, no?

Website Watch:
Just in case you're one of those people who follow the lives of celebrities, is a site which will allow you to follow their deaths! If you sign up you can get a text message sent to your cellphone the moment one dies. Now your lives as paparazzi is complete!

The Putnam County Sheriff's race is getting crowded. Come primary time I'm wondering if there will be anyone left to vote or if we'll all just vote for ourselves and I can't see why so many people want that job. As of now there are candidates from Kent, Southeast, Philipstown and Patterson. We need candidates from Carmel and Putnam Valley but I'm sure, before long, people will step up.

So, it's begun. For lack of anything creative or substantial, reactionary blogs have jumped on the attack bandwagon with the new President is in office barely 24 hours. What is their complaint? (I hope you're sitting down.) They are complaining that Barack Obama is not the President because of the grammatical snafu during the oath of office. If this is the best worst they can come up with, we're in pretty good shape so far.

I'm also currently in discussion at a local radical blog over events in the middle east but we don't want to go there. It's just too silly.

And now, the News:

  1. Friends help Burmese refugee in attempt to see parents
  2. Putnam as microcosm
  3. In New York, Proposed Budget Shuts Out Zoos, Aquariums and Gardens
  4. Hinchey amendment adds accountability to TARP spending
  5. Stimulus Gives Schools $142 Billion - With Strings
  6. Did Caroline Ever Really Want It?
  7. Wild and scenic rivers in Vermont?
  8. Warming in Antarctica Looks Certain

Friends help Burmese refugee in attempt to see parents

Barbara Livingston Nackman
The Journal News

LAKE CARMEL - Thanks to the kindness of friends and co-workers, a Burmese refugee is finally going to be reunited with his parents, a meeting he has been trying to make happen for months.

Phillip Aslam's rendezvous in Bangkok, Thailand, is planned for Feb. 2. His first trip just after Thanksgiving was stalled by Thai rebels, then a second try was thwarted when he could not get a quick refund for incomplete air flights and unused hotel rooms from Liberty Travel.

Friends, whom Aslam said want to remain anonymous, stepped in to book him a new flight to Thailand. It leaves from New York on Jan. 30, and they arranged hotel rooms.

"I am overwhelmed with the kindness," said Aslam, 38, who fled Burma some 20 years ago after participating in anti-government demonstrations. "I didn't want to bother people. It's amazing how much people help when you really need it."

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Putnam as microcosm

A New York Journal News Editorial
With little more than 100,000 residents, Putnam County is about 10 percent of the size of Westchester and about one-third the size of Rockland. Putnam's condensed size often makes it seem more a small town than a sprawling county, but these days tiny Putnam seems like a laboratory model offering a glimpse into the effects of an economic downturn. Recently, the laboratory specimen started looking a little battered.

Just this week, several projects and community service programs in Putnam were delayed, threatened or faced with being eliminated because of budget woes. At the same time, public employees pitched in to help alleviate the budget crunch and tried to find new, and creative, funding solutions.

First came word that the Town of Patterson would not be getting the $1.25 million in state grants it was counting on to build a new courthouse. Town officials were readying to seek bids for the project, but then Gov. David Paterson cut funding to the state's Dormitory Authority, which would have issued the grants. The governor cited the severe financial crisis and the downturn in the bond market. Now the courthouse project will be certainly be delayed and may be scuttled altogether.

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In New York, Proposed Budget Shuts Out Zoos, Aquariums and Gardens

A zoo director calls a porcupine into his office to break the news. “There’s no easy way to say this,” the director tells the prickly animal as it squirms on its chair. “Even though you bring record numbers of people to New York and help the economy, we’re going to have to let you go.”

The humorous video — made by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which oversees the city’s zoos and the New York Aquarium — has a sobering reality behind it. In New York State’s next fiscal year, which starts in April, state financing for all 76 zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums would be eliminated under Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposed budget. This after a 55 percent reduction this fiscal year — a move that was made only last month, surprising many organizations so late in the fiscal year.

The state cuts, combined with a precipitous drop in endowment funds and corporate donations, have organizations from the New York Botanical Garden to the Niagara Falls Aquarium to the Utica Zoo reeling.

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Hinchey amendment adds accountability to TARP spending

WASHINGTON – The first $350 billion in financial bailout money approved by Congress had no accountability or disclosure requirements so Congress and the American people had no idea how the banks used the money, argues Congressman Maurice Hinchey.

With that in mind, Hinchey (D-Hurley) introduced an amendment to the resolution approving the expenditure of the remaining $350 billion that would require accountability.

He explained it on the floor of the House Wednesday. “This amendment just asks and makes it clear that upon the passage of this legislation that the Secretary must provide information with regard to where that money has gone and how that money was spent.”

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Stimulus Gives Schools $142 Billion - With Strings

Monday 19 January 2009
by: Greg Toppo, USA Today

    The USA's public schools stand to be the biggest winners in Congress's $825 billion economic stimulus plan unveiled last week. Schools are scheduled to receive nearly $142 billion over the next two years - more than health care, energy or infrastructure projects - and the stimulus could bring school advocates closer than ever to a long-sought dream: full funding of the No Child Left Behind law and other huge federal programs.

    But tucked into the text of the proposal's 328 pages are a few surprises: If they want the money - and they certainly do - schools must spend at least a portion of it on a few of education advocates' long-sought dreams. In particular, they must develop:

  • High-quality educational tests.
  • Ways to recruit and retain top teachers in hard-to-staff schools. 
  • Longitudinal data systems that let schools track long-term progress.

    "The new administration does not want to lose a year on the progress because of the downturn in the economy," says Rep. George Miller (D-California), who chairs the House Education Committee. "So I think these are all things that are clearly doable."

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Did Caroline Ever Really Want It?

If the news is true that Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn her bid for the Senate, then one of two things has happened. The first possibility is that David Paterson decided some days ago to go with another candidate, and gave Kennedy the opportunity to save face by withdrawing her name from consideration. You know: the old "You Can't Fire Me! I Quit!" shtick.

The second possibility, not entirely mutually exclusive with the first, is that Kennedy was just not all that into being a senator in the first place.

The sequence of events is fairly easy to imagine:

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Wild and scenic rivers in Vermont?

Could Vermont be on the road to acquiring its first two officially designated Wild and Scenic Rivers? In a public lands bill passed last week, the U.S. House included a study of the Trout and Missisquoi Rivers to conclude whether portions of both should receive a level of federal protection.

Personally, I think of Vermont as a place of Wild and Scenic Brooks. The play of sparkling water running over granite is one of the chief attractions of hiking Vermont's mountains. But down in the lowlands, Europeans settler began domesticating our bigger rivers almost as soon as they arrived, harnessing them for water power to drive grist mills and sawmills.

So "wild" isn't the first word that springs to mind when I contemplate the Missisquoi, placidly winding its way through the farmland of Franklin County. But Chris O'Shea of the Missisquoi River Basin Association takes a different, more expansive view of "wild" that may be more appropriate in this day and age. Here's what he told a U.S. House committee last year (you can read his complete comments here):

“Where these rivers run there are no shopping malls, no big box stores, no multiplexes, no four-lane highways, no gated communities, no stoplights. What’s there, is open spaces of forests and fields, beautiful four-season open space that stretches from Lake Champlain to the Green Mountains and beyond. The defining factor in all that open space is the Missisquoi River, it’s broad flood plain lending itself to agriculture from the time of the Abenakis to the days of Agrimark. In summer it’s a ribbon of green, in winter a frozen white wonder. If you love to hunt or fish, skate or swim, paddle or pedal, you will love where these rivers run.”

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Warming in Antarctica Looks Certain


Antarctica is warming.

That is the conclusion of scientists analyzing half a century of temperatures on the continent, and the findings may help resolve a climate enigma at the bottom of the planet.

While some regions of Antarctica, particularly the peninsula the stretches toward South America, have warmed rapidly in recent decades, weather stations including the one at the South Pole have recorded a cooling trend. That ran counter to the forecasts of computer climate models, and global warming skeptics have pointed to Antarctica in questioning the reliability of the models.

In the new study, scientists took into account satellite measurements to interpolate temperatures in the vast areas between the sparse weather stations.

“We now see warming is taking place on all seven of the earth’s continents in accord with what models predict as a response to greenhouse gases,” said Eric J. Steig, a professor of space sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and the lead author of a paper appearing Thursday in the journal Nature.

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