Wednesday, January 7, 2009

News That Matters - January 7, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative."  - Kurt Vonnegut

Good Wednesday Morning,

The road crews have been out since early last evening salting and sanding area roadways. But as of right now (9:15 AM) it's raining with temps at PlanPutnam Central pegged at 30.1 degrees. They've been fluctuating rapidly over the past couple of hours so until they warm up sufficiently, stay off the roads.

There's some weird stuff going on over in Southeast these days. The Town Board has canceled its contract with its wetlands inspector, Don Cuomo, and replaced him with Stephen Coleman who is an Environmental Coordinator with the Town of New Castle. I can't imagine why they would do that... oh, yes I can. I'm looking into that now and will come back with a report in a day or so. Stay tuned for that one. Southeast has never met a wetland it wouldn't pave over so why let a qualified inspector stand in the way?

What's in the News:

  1. Libel suit against free NY newspaper dismissed
  2. Help Protect NY's Environment From Budget Cuts
  3. Honoring open space stewards
  4. Bowhunting deer: Panel proposal for nature
  5. The 'McMansion' trend in housing is slowing
  6. Why Obama's Green Jobs Plan Might Work
  7. Giving The Phone Book Spammers What For

The computers which run the NY State Unemployment offices crashed twice in the past week when the weight of a surge in new unemployment claims overloaded the system. They're back up now - and fortified.

Governor Paterson gives his first State of the State Address today up in Albany. He hopes he can convince the Assembly and Senate to accept some 137 new taxes fees and $9.5 billion in spending cuts. I can't really get into the whole shebang since it's way too complicated for my little head, but every constituency in the state is up-in-arms crying over proposed cuts saying, find the money somewhere else! That somewhere else is from your pocket. People think state money just mysteriously appears! But what's necessary - honestly - is a reduction in services and for us to pick up the tab for those we want - it's really that simple. Oh, we could do with a few thousand less lawyers and lawsuits, as a start.

Combined with a reduction in services, another way out of this mess would be a return to a graduated income tax system akin to what we abandoned in 1972 when state tax brackets ran from 2%-15% of personal income. Yes, the comfortable would pay more and might have to put off the purchase of that 60" flat screen TV for the master bath. But this would raise some $5 billion and provide a good start towards a fairer state taxation system and lay the groundwork for a state takeover of education funding, a move which would reduce your property tax bills. But don't expect to find support for that in Albany until after the revolution.

We now have a new Congress in Washington though I fear it will be more of the same.

It's official: Al Franken will represent the people of the state of Minnesota in the US Senate. A real tip 'o the hat goes to the state election commission which handled this with humor, candor and an impressive amount of patience.

Caroline Kennedy is still in the running for the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton and it's news all over the place. No, the Governor has not yet called to offer me the seat, but I'm guessing he's been busy on his speech today and will call either later on or sometime this week. That would spell the end of News That Matters but it's a small price to pay for decent representation in Washington... and I can get a pony, too!

The war still rages on in Gaza. Nearly 700 Gazans have been killed in the fighting, the UN  school was hit (allegedly after Israeli troops were fired on from it) and Israel has agreed to a 3 hour per day cease fire to allow humanitarian aid into the area. Hamas says they will not attack Israeli targets during that three hour period. Well, they kinda said that. Maybe.

In the meantime, Hama's second-in-command in exile, Moussa Abou Marzouk, has called for an end to Israel's war, an end to the blockade, a total withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and fully open, unguarded borders. He rejects the idea of peace-keeping forces to monitor the borders and nixed any talk of a permanent cease-fire with Israel. "Our position is also that Israel is neither legitimate nor credible,” he said.

The Egyptians, with whom Gaza shares a border, were less than impressed and have kept their mutual border closed pending a cease-fire initiative brokered by the French which the UN should take up sometime today. It does require an international peace-keeping force to assist Egypt in stopping the smuggling of weapons into Gaza and since that has already been rejected by Hamas, anything can happen.

And now, the News:

  1. Libel suit against free NY newspaper dismissed
  2. Help Protect NY's Environment From Budget Cuts
  3. Honoring open space stewards
  4. Bowhunting deer: Panel proposal for nature
  5. The 'McMansion' trend in housing is slowing
  6. Why Obama's Green Jobs Plan Might Work
  7. Giving The Phone Book Spammers What For

Libel suit against free NY newspaper dismissed

A state court in New York dismissed a libel lawsuit last month against a free bi-weekly newspaper that published an anonymous letter alleging that a local developer was bribing officials.
The developer, Dean Gitter, sued the Phoenicia Times after the paper published a letter in March by an unnamed writer, The Daily Freeman reported. The letter alleged that Gitter, who has proposed building a large resort in the Catskills region, paid lobbyists to bribe officials.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Henry F. Zwack dismissed the suit, saying the letter-writer had merely proffered an opinion, and nothing in the letter was defamatory.

"The court finds that the letter is not actionable against defendants because the undisputed facts that plaintiff paid lobbying fees are not false or otherwise defamatory," Zwack wrote, "and the expressed opinion and personal surmise of the writer that plaintiff bribed government officials cannot (support) a defamation claim."

Read More

Help Protect NY's Environment From Budget Cuts

Governor Paterson is proposing to gut New York’s Environmental Protection Fund and undercut the efforts of the agency responsible for making sure our water is safe to drink and our air is safe to breathe. 

New York lawmakers are considering the Governor’s proposal and we need to fix it before it’s too late. Click here to ask state lawmakers to defend New York’s environment.

New York State has one dedicated funding source for all things green. The Environmental Protection Fund supports projects across the state that run the gamut from protecting our drinking water to fixing up neighborhood parks.

Read More

Honoring open space stewards

Updated: 01/03/2009 12:16:48 AM EST

Five acres isn't a grand estate. But when you're a kid with a need to explore, it's room enough.

"I remember that land," said Betsy Schimelpfenig, who with her brothers and sisters grew up on property her parents owned on East Pembroke Road. "We grew up in those woods. It was an interesting place to grow up."

"I live in Wyoming now," Schimelpfenig said. "Growing up in those woods may have had something to do with that."

Today, there's a sign at those five acres honoring Schimelpfenig's mother, Dr. Emily Wellstood.

An anesthesiologist at Danbury Hospital from 1963 to 1986, Wellstood was also an environmentalist and conservationist. An early member of the Swampfield Land Trust -- now the Land Trust of Danbury -- she gave the five acres on East Pembroke Road to the trust in 1979.

"She was involved with the land trust and the Hanahoe Clinic," Schimelpfenig said. "Indian tribes and poor children were things she cared about all her life."

Read More

Bowhunting deer: Panel proposal for nature

Greg Clary
The Journal News

The region's record-high deer population is damaging forests and hurting the health of the animals themselves, according to a new Westchester County study.

So, what's the best way to bring the deer population under control?

More hunting on public land to reduce their numbers, the three-year analysis concludes.

"We don't want to eliminate the deer, but we want them to be a complementary part of the system," said County Executive Andrew Spano, who set up the 20-person panel. "People have to see the damage that is being done by the deer and that this is a necessity, not only for the deer-human interactions, but for the whole bio-system."

In some locations, sampling counts show deer herds are six or seven times as high as experts say is healthy for the animals.

Read More

The 'McMansion' trend in housing is slowing

Economic hard times, plus shifting neighborhood and urban values, are key factors.
By Patrik Jonsson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 6, 2009 edition

Atlanta - Complete with an Oval Office and Lincoln Bedroom, the Atlanta White House became a symbol of developers reshaping the urban landscape by tearing down modest ranches and bungalows and plopping McMansions in their place.

New York finance blogger Rolfe Winkler calls it a "delicious story" rife with symbolism about overheated real estate and leveraged dreams that sparked the biggest national real estate slump since the Great Depression.

But the plight of this White House also marks a major shift in the transformation of American neighborhoods – perhaps the end of the McMansion era. Indeed, it may allow thousands of communities from Pasadena to Pittsburgh to more accurately balance the living requirements of modern Americans with a widespread desire to maintain older neighborhoods.

"We're advising communities to take advantage of this slowdown and use it as a cooling-off period," says Adrian Fine, a regional director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington. "It gives them a little more time to have a less heated and less controversial discussion to protect a specific neighborhood and balance that with the need for growth and development."

With housing prices off by 18 percent in 20 US cities in the last year and new home starts at a 26-year low, bulldozers have slowed their march across American cities and towns.

In Westport, Conn., teardown permits are down in the last year by 33 percent – a figure that experts say can be extrapolated nationwide, though teardown trends do have significant regional variations. Analysts expect the lull to last at least five years, perhaps 10.

Read More

Why Obama's Green Jobs Plan Might Work

Sunday 04 January 2009
by: Marla Dickerson, The Los Angeles Times

Some states - including Michigan - already see renewable energy as their future: It's the only sector that appears to be making room for more employees despite the recession.

    Hemlock, Michigan - While Detroit's automakers struggle to rebuild their sputtering operations, the key to jump-starting Michigan's economy may lie 80 miles northwest of the Motor City.

    This is the home of Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. It makes a material crucial for constructing photovoltaic panels. And that has turned this snow-covered hamlet into an unlikely hotbed for solar energy.

    On Dec. 15, the same week that General Motors Corp. and Chrysler begged $17.4 billion from taxpayers to stave off collapse, Hemlock announced a $3-billion expansion that could create hundreds of jobs. It's a rare piece of good news for this battered Rust Belt state, whose 9.6% unemployment rate is the nation's highest.

Read More

Giving The Phone Book Spammers What For

By Sam Glover, 12:18 PM on Mon Jan 5 2009, 10,298 views

How can you tell the number of vacant houses on a block? Easy. Just look for the houses with phone books piling up on the porch. The phone book spammers count those property-value killers into their circulation numbers, which is how they sucker businesses into buying listings in the yellow pages. Minnesota blogger Ed Kohler is even angrier about phone book spam than I am, and is on a bit of a mission to never have a phone book on his property again. So he got a little pissed when Verizon, a company he has no business relationship with, tossed one on his steps.

First, Ed tried returning a Verizon phone book to their local office in Eagan, MN, tossing it on their local office's putting green like they tossed it onto his front step, as documented in this video:

But why waste gas? One of Ed's readers says she has "chased down delivery trucks and [thrown] phone books back at them." She also got Verizon to come back for its trash one day when her shot missed.

Read More

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