Wednesday, January 28, 2009

News That Matters - January 28, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract."  - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Good Wednesday Morning,

I was going to head over to the Cultural Center on Lake Carmel this morning to put up a fresh coat of paint in the theater space but looking outside and seeing that the snow is supposed to turn to ice and freezing rain, I think I'll pass on going out today, something you should consider as well. Stay home. Stay warm. And if the power goes out under the weight of the ice this afternoon, standard PlanPutnam neighborly advice becomes the rule: check on your neighbors, even if you don't think they need checking on.

IBM has started laying off employees, with four or five hundred slated for the Hudson Valley. Lee Conrad, a union leader at IBM, points to three factors: low productivity, a general slimming down and the movement of jobs offshore. Read that last one again and remember it next time IBM comes hat-in-hand for more tax breaks. I think their new slogan should be, "Whats Good For IBM is Good For India" or how about instead of Big Blue, we call them Big Curry?

The Open Space Institute announces it's 2009 McHenry Awards for young leaders in environmental stewardship and projects. There's more information here.

After years of complaining that environmentalists were stopping Putnam county from reaping sales tax benefits by their refusal to allow the county to become a regional shopping mecca, County Executive Bondi said, “The high cost of gasoline drove people to reconsider their shopping destinations. While the trend was very helpful, we can all see that this is something we cannot rely on for the future.” He was referring to reports that sales tax revenues in the county declined substantially over the past year. See the article below for more on this one.

Website Watch:

Everyone has a wiki these days. A wiki is a collaborative encyclopedia meaning that articles are written and edited by people like you, contributing their expertise on a particular subject. The latest wiki is WikiTrash, a repository of information about, well, trash! According to their site:

We started on September 17, 2008, and we already have 189 articles on trash. You can find precise descriptions of how to get rid of your trash in a sustainable and ecological manner, how to sensibly recuperate trash, and more. All red links on this wiki indicate articles yet to be created. You can start such a new article first by clicking on the red link, and then filling in the information that is known to you. It doesn't have to make too much sense (yet) - someone else will edit/correct your entry later on anyway. Check the recent changes to see what's been going in the past couple of days. And note that this is a continuous work in progress that's just been started - please add more information wherever you think it's needed.

The Dynamic Earth [Macromedia Flash Player]

The history of the Earth from the perspective of the physical sciences is a fascinating one, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History brings it alive in a unique fashion with this site. After a dramatic introduction, visitors can explore the Earth's history in four sections: "Gems and Minerals", "Rocks and Mining", "Plate Tectonics and Volcanoes", and "The Solar System". Each section uses interactive graphics, demonstrations, photographs, and other rich visual materials to take the geologically curious into the world of the inner Earth, plate tectonics, meteorites, and a host of related topics.

And now, the News:

  1. Putnam collects $51 million in sales tax in 2008
  2. Road to Ruin: Twenty-Five People at the Heart of the Meltdown
  3. OSI Protects Forestland in the Catskill Delaware Watershed
  4. New Day For Smart Growth
  5. Judge rejects GE's 'Superfund' challenge
  6. EPA and General Electric Update Hudson Dredging Agreement
  7. Crisis on the Schaghticoke
  8. Emperor penguins face extinction
  9. Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency

Putnam collects $51 million in sales tax in 2008

Carmel — Putnam County collected more in sales tax last year than ever before yet county lawmakers are worried.

Commissioner of Finance William Carlin told members of the legislature’s Audit Committee Tuesday $51 million was collected in sales tax receipts for 2008 which was $5.1 million more than in 2007 and $2.2 million greater than budgeted for last year.

Despite the rosy picture, Carlin expressed concern since sales tax numbers declined dramatically during the fourth quarter with October, November and December figures down by nearly $700,000.

The total revenue was a dramatic decrease from the $5.7 million in sales tax revenue collected in September—an amazing $601,000 more than the same period in 2007.

Read More

Road to Ruin: Twenty-Five People at the Heart of the Meltdown

Monday 26 January 2009
by: Julia Finch, Andrew Clark and David Teather, The Guardian UK

The worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression is not a natural phenomenon but a man-made disaster in which we all played a part. In the second part of a week-long series looking behind the slump, Guardian City editor Julia Finch picks out the individuals who have led us into the current crisis.

Alan Greenspan, chairman of the US Federal Reserve 1987-2006

Only a couple of years ago, the long-serving chairman of the Fed, a committed free marketeer who had steered the US economy through crises ranging from the 1987 stockmarket collapse through to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, was lauded with star status, named the "oracle" and "the maestro." Now he is viewed as one of those most culpable for the crisis. He is blamed for allowing the housing bubble to develop as a result of his low interest rates and lack of regulation in mortgage lending. He backed sub-prime lending and urged homebuyers to swap fixed-rate mortgages for variable rate deals, which left borrowers unable to pay when interest rates rose.

For many years, Greenspan also defended the booming derivatives business, which barely existed when he took over the Fed, but which mushroomed from $100 trillion in 2002 to more than $500 trillion five years later.

Read More

OSI Protects Forestland in the Catskill Delaware Watershed

Ongoing water protection efforts continue with purchase of parcel once owned by musician Richie Havens

NEW YORK, NY — January 15, 2008 — The Open Space Institute announced today the protection of 189 acres of forestland in the Delaware County town of Kortright as part of its ongoing conservation efforts in the Catskill/Delaware watershed.

Conservation of the land helps prevent incompatible development within the watershed, protecting the source of clean drinking water for more than 9 million people in New York City and several surrounding counties—nearly half of the state’s population.

OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, acquired the property with funds from the Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Endowment, a permanent fund that was transferred to the Open Space Conservancy in 2001.

Read More

New Day For Smart Growth

LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE • New laws would encourage regional cooperation, saving money and land

    January 27, 2009

Progress, the late poet Ogden Nash observed, might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long. That might describe the state's postwar rush to suburbia.

Stoked by VA mortgages and cheap cars and gas, development marched outward. Cities lost population as former villages boomed. But what boomed was mostly sprawl — ill-planned, low-density, auto-dependent, single-family residential or strip mall construction on what had been forest or farmland.

Only belatedly did the citizenry realize that progress has a cost, in addition to infrastructure and services expenses, air and water pollution, energy use and social isolation. It diminishes the open lands that support agriculture, water supplies, wildlife habitat and the traditional visual character of the Connecticut countryside.

Read More

Judge rejects GE's 'Superfund' challenge

By RICHARD RICHTMYER | The Associated Press
    January 27, 2009

ALBANY, N.Y. - The federal law that can force companies to spend millions cleaning up contaminated sites has again been upheld by a judge, who ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency can force General Electric to dredge PCBs from New York's Hudson River.

GE sued in 2000, just before the EPA ordered the company to pay for dredging contaminated sediments along a 40-mile stretch of river north of Albany. Its plants released about 1.3 million pounds of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, into the river between 1946 and 1977, the year the federal government banned the substance.

A 197-mile section of the river has since been declared a Superfund site.

In its lawsuit, the company challenged the EPA's unilateral authority to order cleanup projects under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, also known as Superfund.

Read More

EPA and General Electric Update Hudson Dredging Agreement

Release date: 01/26/2009

Contact Information: Kristen Skopeck (518) 747-4389,

(New York, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that the federal government has reached an agreement with the General Electric Company (GE) to modify a November 2, 2006 consent decree requiring the company to dredge portions of the Hudson River. The modification of the 2006 consent decree requires GE to pay a portion of the costs of protecting the Waterford, Halfmoon, and Stillwater, New York water supplies during dredging, and to improve its program for monitoring water quality and further protect the Waterford and Halfmoon water supplies. Notice of the modification was published in the Federal Register today, beginning a 30-day comment period, which concludes on February 25. Dredging is scheduled to begin in the Hudson River this spring.

EPA is also updating the community health and safety plan, which protects communities along the river during the Hudson River cleanup work. The plan, which will be available soon for review, is being updated to include contact information to assist community members who have questions or concerns about dredging operations. In addition, it will detail the criteria that will be used to decide when Halfmoon and Waterford should use their alternative water supply. EPA will take comments on the revised plan for 30 days following its release to the public.

Read More

Crisis on the Schaghticoke

By Gale Courey Toensing
HARTFORD, Conn. – In the mid-1970s, at the height of the American Indian Movement, Russell Means came to Connecticut to support the late Golden Hill Paugussett Chief Aurelius Piper Sr. in his fight to protect the tribe’s half-acre reservation in Trumbull, which was being encroached upon by a non-Indian neighbor.

Now some 40 years later, Means, who is perhaps the most famous Indian activist in the world, will travel to Connecticut to support Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky in his struggle to protect the tribe’s 400-acre reservation in Kent, which is being bulldozed and desecrating by a non-Indian intruder.

Read More

Emperor penguins face extinction

Emperor penguins, whose long treks across Antarctic ice to mate have been immortalised by Hollywood, are heading towards extinction, scientists say.

Based on predictions of sea ice extent from climate change models, the penguins are likely to see their numbers plummet by 95% by 2100.

That corresponds to a decline to just 600 breeding pairs in the world.

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Emperor penguins, the largest species, are unique in that they are the only penguins that breed during the harsh Antarctic winters.

Colonies gather far inland after long treks across sea ice, where the females lay just one egg that is tended by the male. That means that the ice plays a major role in their overall breeding success.

Read More

Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency

On October 3, 2008, President Bush signed into law the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.” This bill extended tax credits for energy efficient home improvements (windows, doors, roofs, insulation, HVAC, and non-solar water heaters). Tax credits for these residential products, which had expired at the end of 2007, will now be available for improvements made during 2009. However, improvements made during 2008 are not eligible for a tax credit.

The bill also extended tax credits for solar energy systems and fuel cells to 2016. New tax credits were established for small wind energy systems and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Tax credits for builders of new energy efficient homes and tax deductions for owners and designers of energy efficient commercial buildings were also extended.

Read More

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