Tuesday, February 10, 2009

News That Matters - February 10, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"It would be indefensible for state legislators and the governor to allow the beverage industry to retain this money while making deep cuts to environmental protection, health care, social services and other critical programs,"
Laura Haight, NYPIRG on the proposed Bigger, Better, Bottle Bill.

Good Tuesday Morning,

Congressman John Hall has taken another step towards truth in advertising and this time for the automobile business. H. R. 818 reads: "To require advertising for any automobile model to display information regarding the fuel consumption and fuel cost for that model, and for other purposes." It's a good idea.

Over the past few weeks this column has hosted thousands upon thousands of words about the lease agreement for the Tilly Foster Farm and it was this column - and your responses and actions - that improved the contract from terrible to just awfully bad.

We had to overcome knee-jerk reactions and fusillades of emotional missiles aimed in our general direction from those who usually demand accountability from their government(s) but in this instance found that to be an obstructionist point of view. They were willing to take it on faith that one of our county's most valuable properties would be managed effectively based mostly on a promise to do so and without safeguarding the publics dime.

The entire episode points to the value of an independent media for none of the local, corporate-owned, newspapers covered the issue like we did and it was News That Matters and its readers that forced a rethinking of the deal. While the deal still isn't one I would want a tenant of mine to sign the end was somewhat better than the beginning.

The very same holds true regarding CAP and the Humane Society. It was through diligent reporting here that both situations ended better than they began.

Website Watch:

Are you of an age you can remember diving under your desk with your arms over your head and your butt to the window? Have you taken a really close look at that "root cellar" you found in the backyard? Do you have fond memories of a time when - at any moment - your entire world could go up in a mushroom cloud and Soviet Tanks would invade from Mexico? Well, stress your brain no more! ConelraD brings them all back for you in fresh, living, color.

You know spring is coming. The snows are melting, the day is bright when you get up in the morning. The songbirds are practicing their first territorial and mating songs and those garden catalogs have piled up in the library, er, bathroom. But when to plant, what, and how many? Growveg.com can help. Check it out.

And now, The News:

  1. Ironic Cut: NY Healthcare Reform Program to Get Ax
  2. Metro-North: Rail riders set record in 2008
  3. Loopholes Sap Potency of Pay Limits
  4. The More You Know...
  5. Natural, Alternative Insect Repellent As Effective As DEET, Study Shows
  6. Stemming Decay Of World's Art And Cultural Heritage
  7. Effect Of Colors: Blue Boosts Creativity, While Red Enhances Attention To Detail

Ironic Cut: NY Healthcare Reform Program to Get Ax

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)  -- The trend of moving more patients from hospitals and nursing homes into less expensive, more effective home care treatment faces potential budget cuts in New York despite its potential to save governments millions of Medicaid dollars.

Gov. David Paterson's budget proposal shows the extent of the fiscal crisis, where cuts are made even to a program that saves money and provides better care for poorer New Yorkers. The state Health Department, which would have to carry out the governor's order, sees the frustration.

"Most older people do not want to go to hospitals or nursing homes," said Claudia Hutton, the department's spokeswoman. "So if we can treat them appropriately in their own homes, their attitudes are better, less depression, their appetites are better and they feel secure. This puts them in a position to enjoy better health for a longer time."

The proposed cuts scare people like David Senecal, a 54-year-old quadriplegic. He injured his spinal cord jumping into a swimming pool when he was 13 and spent years bouncing between rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and family members. In 1980, he was able to get home care and for the first time since the accident, felt independent.

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Metro-North: Rail riders set record in 2008

Ken Valenti
The Journal News

Passengers rode Metro-North Railroad at record levels last year, some of them pushed onto trains by gas costing $4 a gallon, though the monthly increases evaporated by the end of the year as gas prices came down and the sinking economy took away many people's jobs.

Metro-North reported 2008 ridership of 84.2 million, a showing that not only broke the record set the year before, when about 81 million rides were given, but exceeded that year in every month except December, when the number of monthly riders dipped by a little less than a percentage point.

"We are seeing the effects of the economic slowdown," railroad spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. "And we're going to fight to hold onto everybody we can."

The railroad projects that ridership will continue to rise this year, despite the region's economic woes.

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Loopholes Sap Potency of Pay Limits

President Barack Obama's crackdown on Wall Street pay contains loopholes, and may have limited impact in restraining compensation, according to some executive-pay consultants and management attorneys.

Some compensation professionals already are pointing out potential holes in the rules, including tactics such as changing executives' titles or rearranging pay packages. Just as past attempts by the government to restrict executive pay largely backfired, these people warn, the new curbs also may have unintended consequences.

The plan, announced Wednesday, includes a $500,000 cap on annual compensation for senior executives of companies that receive future "exceptional" government aid. Additional compensation would have to be paid in restricted stock or similar long-term incentive arrangements, which the executives could cash in only after the government is repaid, with interest.

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The More You Know...

A groundbreaking 'smart grid' test in Boulder, Colo., is delivering some surprises for both consumers and utilities


Boulder, Colo. -- A bold experiment is transforming this college town into a living laboratory by changing the way utilities manage -- and customers use -- electricity.

Participants in the project, called SmartGridCity, can go online to see exactly how much power they're using or calculate how much it cost to crank up the hot tub the previous evening.

Soon, they'll be able to program some appliances over the Web and even choose where they want their electricity to come from. They might set their dishwasher to run only when wind power is available, for instance.

The plan will also give the local utility, Xcel Energy Inc., a vastly bigger reach. To ease strain on the power grid, Xcel will be able to reach into a neighborhood remotely and temporarily turn down thermostats or shut off hot-water heaters in participating homes.

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Natural, Alternative Insect Repellent As Effective As DEET, Study Shows

ScienceDaily (Feb. 9, 2009) — Isolongifolenone, a natural compound found in the Tauroniro tree (Humiria balsamifera) of South America, has been found to effectively deter biting of mosquitoes and to repel ticks, both of which are known spreaders of diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease.

Derivatives of isolongifolenone have been widely and safely used as fragrances in cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants, and paper products, and new processing methods may make it as cheap to produce as DEET.

The authors found that isolongifolenone deters the biting of the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti (L.) and Anopheles stephensi Liston more effectively than the widely used synthetic chemical repellent N,N-diethyl-3-methyl benzamide (DEET) in laboratory bioassays. Furthermore, it repelled blacklegged ticks and lone star ticks as effectively as DEET.

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Stemming Decay Of World's Art And Cultural Heritage

ScienceDaily (Feb. 8, 2009) — The growing relationship between scientists and curators is the focus of a 4-day, UN-affiliated international conference in Caracas designed to promote innovative ways to stem the decay of some of humanity's greatest art and cultural treasures.

"With the world financial crisis and the advent of climate change effects, there is a state of emergency at the museums of several tropical countries: entire collections are compromised," says Alvaro Gonzalez, a researcher at the Caracas-based Institute of Advanced Studies (IDEA) and Director of Venezuela's Cultural Heritage Conservation Foundation, the host of the event.

Says Jose-Luis Ramirez, Director of the United Nations University's Programme for Biotechnology for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNU-BIOLAC), an event sponsor: "The normal concern about single artifacts is no longer paramount. Storing and protecting entire collections safely has become a priority and scientists have a key role: developing techniques and procedures that are fundamental to heritage conservation."

Many of the world's cultural treasures are creations made of organic materials such as paper, canvas, wood and leather which, in prolonged warmth and dampness, attract mold, micro-organisms and insects, causing decay and disintegration.

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Effect Of Colors: Blue Boosts Creativity, While Red Enhances Attention To Detail

What colour most improves brain performance and receptivity to advertising, red or blue? It really depends on the nature of the task. (Credit: iStockphoto)ScienceDaily (Feb. 6, 2009) — A new University of British Columbia study reconciles a debate that has long raged among marketers and psychologists: What colour most improves brain performance and receptivity to advertising, red or blue?

It turns out they both can, it just depends on the nature of the task or message. The study, which could have major implications for advertising and interior design, finds that red is the most effective at enhancing our attention to detail, while blue is best at boosting our ability to think creatively.

"Previous research linked blue and red to enhanced cognitive performance, but disagreed on which provides the greatest boost," says Juliet Zhu of UBC's Sauder School of Business, author of the study which will appear in the Feb. 5 issue of Science. "It really depends on the nature of the task."

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