Wednesday, February 11, 2009

News That Matters - February 11, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"The days where we're just building sprawl forever, those days are over."
- President Barack Obama

Good Wednesday Morning,

We bid farewell this morning to the Putnam County Courier, a newspaper that has been publishing for more than 150 years. I will miss seeing the paper's reporter, Eric Gross, at virtually every event I attend. Blaming the economic downturn, Taconic Press is closing its doors (see article below) leaving only two media outlets to cover all of Putnam County, the New York Journal News and News That Matters and only one of those isn't owned by a major corporation with an agenda.
If you live over on the west side of the county and you hear sirens between 10 and 11 AM this morning, it's just a test of the emergency alert system at the Indian Point nuclear power plant. No need to change your underwear, it's only a test.

Website Watch:
You've already answered your emails and the meeting doesn't start for another hour and your boss is already off for the day. What to do? If you're a geek for the strange, weird and beautiful and can stand a dose of English Follies, archeology and industry, Britain From Above, a product of the BBC is for you. Short videos (around 2 minute) take you on an interesting tour of England's past, present and yes, even the future.

And now, The News:

  1. Taconic weeklies shutting down
  2. A Colorado school district does away with grade levels
  3. Revenge of the Tax Code
  4. Garden Conservancy rescues public garden nearly destroyed by Katrina
  5. Community wind projects can work in Sullivan, say advocates
  6. Honey, eat your dirt
  7. FUEL Hits Theatres
  8. Track the Stimulus (Decoder Ring Included!)
  9. Venezuela synagogue suspects held

Taconic weeklies shutting down

Reports: Group to cease printing in Dutchess, Putnam

By Craig Wolf
Poughkeepsie Journal

MILLBROOK — The Taconic Newspapers group of weekly papers will print their last editions this week.

The Journal Register Co., which owns the seven local weeklies, is ceasing operations for the papers, each of which serves a portion of Dutchess County, plus the Putnam County Courier and three magazines.

Employees were informed today. Tom Cincotta, publisher of the Millbrook-based weeklies, says the closings are a result of the bad economy that has hurt the newspaper industry nationwide. The papers will put out their last editions Thursday.

The Journal Register Co.’s Web site states the circulation of the weeklies in Dutchess was 11,875 and for Putnam, 3,648. A company spokesman in Yardley, Pa., could not be reached today.

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A Colorado school district does away with grade levels

To overcome low test scores and a high dropout rate, the district is implementing radical reforms.

By Amanda Paulson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Westminster, Colo. - School districts across the US are trying to improve student performance and low test scores. But few have taken as radical an approach as Adams 50.

For starters, when the elementary and middle-school students come back next fall, there won't be any grade levels – or traditional grades, for that matter. And those are only the most visible changes in a district that, striving to reverse dismal test scores and a soaring dropout rate, is opting for a wholesale reinvention of itself, rather than the incremental reforms usually favored by administrators.

The 10,000-student district in the metropolitan Denver area is at the forefront of a new "standards-based" educational approach that has achieved success in individual schools and in some small districts in Alaska, but has yet to be put to the test on such a large scale in an urban district.

"There was a sense of urgency to attend to what wasn't happening for kids here," says Roberta Selleck, district superintendent, explaining why she decided to go with a drastic approach. "When you see the stats for the whole school district over time, we realized we are disconnecting [from] our kids."

The change that's getting by far the most attention is the decision to do away with traditional grade levels – for kids younger than eighth grade, this first year, though the district plans to phase in the reform through high school a year at a time. Ultimately, there will be 10 multiage levels, rather than 12 grades, and students might be in different levels depending on the subject. They'll move up only as they demonstrate mastery of the material.

Read More

Revenge of the Tax Code

By Chris Edwards
Sunday, February 8, 2009; B02

If it were a movie, it would be called "Revenge of the Tax Code." The complex income tax, which has bedeviled average Americans for years, is biting back at the elite who helped create it. Tom Daschle, former chief lawmaker in the Senate, withdrew his Cabinet nomination because of an "unintentional" $128,000 tax mistake. Rep. Charles Rangel, chief tax-writer in the House, is also entangled in a tax scandal, as is Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Nancy Killefer, another high-ranking nominee who has withdrawn.

What is going on here?

Whether you believe the excuses of these folks or not, it's common for both taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service to make big errors. "The question of what constitutes gross income remains a source of confusion for many taxpayers," according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS. Daschle's mistake was to ignore the fact that all "accessions to wealth," or unearned income, including the benefits from his chauffeur, are taxable unless the code explicitly excludes them.

Rangel claimed that his error was due in part to "cultural and language barriers" and also stemmed from his failure to note that all foreign income needs to be reported, including the $75,000 he earned by renting his Dominican Republic beach house. It may be a bit hard to believe the 19-term congressman from New York when he claims, as he did last year, that "I never had any idea that I got any income." But the global sweep of the income tax does seem to surprise people. If you have a savings account in Mexico, that's taxed. If you move to London to work, you are taxed. Even if you scrap your U.S. citizenship and move to a mountaintop in Tibet, the IRS will still chase after you.

Read More

Garden Conservancy rescues public garden nearly destroyed by Katrina

Bill Cary
The Journal News

Thanks to the preservation efforts of the Cold Spring-based Garden Conservancy and a very forgiving, garden-friendly climate, the historic gardens at Longue Vue in New Orleans have come through remarkably well since they were nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Two feet of brackish water sat on most of the 8-acre estate for nearly two weeks after the storm, destroying about 60 percent of the plant life at Longue Vue, a public garden adjacent to the 17th Street Canal. High winds brought down more than 200 trees, including three magnificent magnolias and a huge 100-year-old red oak.

"The remaining pine trees look like broccoli stalks," says Amy Graham, director of horticulture.

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Community wind projects can work in Sullivan, say advocates

LOCH SHELDRAKE – New York State has implemented a “Renewable Portfolio Standard”, requiring that 25 percent of electricity sold in the state come from renewable sources by 2013.  Right now, New York is at about 20 percent, with most of that coming from hydro power.

Pace Energy & climate Center, affiliated with Pace University, and a private company, Sustainable Energy Developments (SED), say wind could, and should, make up the balance, and then some.  Representatives of both co-sponsored a forum on community wind energy at Sullivan County Community College, which is constructing its own wind turbine.

About 15 people attended the two-hour forum.

Todd Olinsky-Paul, an energy policy analyst with Pace, says the economy, and cost of energy in New York, make wind a viable option.

“It has to do with the price of electricity, the retail-wholesale price of electricity, which varies from place to place.  In New York, for example, electricity prices tend to be very high, which makes it more viable, even though the wind resource may be a little lower in this state.” 

Read More

Honey, eat your dirt

The Ottawa Citizen

Parents know that children should eat more fruits and vegetables, but probably don't know that there's something else missing from their kids' diets: dirt.
Parents know that children should eat more fruits and vegetables, but probably don't know that there's something else missing from their kids' diets: dirt.
Photograph by: Rod MacIvor, Canwest News Service

Parents know that children should eat more fruits and vegetables, but probably don't know that there's something else missing from their kids' diets: dirt. No, that's not a typo. Children need to eat a little dirt now and then to develop healthy immune systems. Problem is, in many countries, people have become too clean for their own good.

In recent years, a greater percentage of children in developed nations have developed allergies or other immune system disorders, such as asthma. In October, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that some three million American children have food or digestive allergies, an 18-per-cent increase from the decade before. In the mid-1990s, 11 per cent of Canadian children aged 11 and younger suffered from asthma. But by 2001, nearly 70,000 more had been diagnosed with the chronic condition, pushing that percentage up to 13 per cent.

Read More

FUEL Hits Theatres

GreenMuze Staff  

FUEL is the latest energy solution film to hit the mainstream market. The film’s hilarious tagline is: “America is addicted to oil…time for an intervention.” This feature length documentary spent a whooping 11 years in production and is from director, Josh Tickell, a young activist and a powerful new voice in the documentary film world.

FUEL opens in select theatres in the USA from February 6th through March 19th. People can support the film to help it achieve a wider release.

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Track the Stimulus (Decoder Ring Included!)

by Michael Grabell, ProPublica - February 9, 2009 12:00 am EST

Stimulus watchers, join our squadron of citizen journalists. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to dig into the unfolding stimulus package, uncover stories and track how well billions of dollars are being spent in your community.

Your Stimulus Squadron decoder ring, with tips and resources to get you started, are right here. (Don't worry. We won't make you drink any Ovaltine.)

Your first assignment: Dive into the House version and the Senate version of the stimulus plan, code-named "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." Be on the lookout for anything that looks like an earmark. According to a 2007 reform bill, an earmark is any provision that aims spending at a specific program, recipient or congressional district, often at the member's request.

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Venezuela synagogue suspects held

Jewish leaders say tensions have risen in recent weeks

Eleven people - including seven police officers - have been arrested over the ransacking of a synagogue in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

Armed men broke into the building last week and daubed slogans including "Jews get out" on the walls before destroying religious objects.

Critics of President Hugo Chavez have accused him of stoking anti-Semitism by pursuing anti-Israeli foreign policies.

But Mr Chavez condemned the attack and promised to find those responsible.

At least one of those arrested was reported to be a security guard working at the synagogue.

Read More

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