Thursday, February 12, 2009

News That Matters - February 12, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." - J.R.R. Tolkien

Good Thursday Morning,

It's Charles Darwin's birthday today. Have you evolved?

If you haven't noticed, it's windy out there. The National Weather Service says that gusts of up to 55 mph can be expected from mid-morning through mid-afternoon. Hold on to your hats!

I received a phone call last evening, as I know some others have as well, to join 6100 others in a 'town hall' style meeting on the bailout with Congressman John Hall. In his introduction the Congressman says that now is not the time to point fingers or lay blame for the financial mess the nation is in.

Top row (L-R), are: Bank of New York's Robert Kelly, JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein and Wells Fargo's John Stumpf. Bottom row (L-R), are: CitiGroup's Vikram Pandit, Morgan Stanley's John Mack, Bank of America's Ken Lewis and State Street's Ronald Logue.

But Congressman, It's the perfect time to point fingers and lay blame. Why? Because we're giving a trillion dollars to the very people who screwed up in the first place and who will walk away all the wealthier and unpunished. That's why. But alas, it's Congress, so they'll look the other way like they did when whatshisname shredded the Constitution for toilet paper, a crime much greater than bungling a national banking system, by any measure.

Congress should forget the bailout: let the banks and thrifts fail and raise themselves from the detritus, limit interest rates on credit cards and mortgages to 6% with a new fee structure, let Detroit re-engineer itself and invest the bailout money instead into a national health care program, increased support for education, high speed internet access and small business loans and we'd be back in shape in just a few years, minus a few billionaires and with a healthy treasury. But no one wants common sense when the government is handing out "free" money. Your great-great grand children's money.

Will Rogers said it best: "There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you."

Here's a few links to help make sense of all this mess.
Shovelwatch: Tracking the stimulus from Bills to Building.
The Stimulus Bills: House vs Senate
Goodbye TARP! Hello Financial Stability Plan

If you've been following the elections in Israel and your head is still spinning you're in good company. Unlike the US where the system has been crafted to allow for only two political parties to ever gain or hold power, Israel's system encourages a multitude of political parties.
In the elections just finished, the left-leaning Kadima party holds 28 seats while the right-leaning Likud party holds 27. Thirteen seats are held by the socialist leaning Labor party, and 15 by the extreme right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party. It's no surprise that Israeli's living on occupied land in the West Bank voted heavily for Likud and Yisrael Beitenu while metropolitan cities like Tel Aviv voted Kadima and Labor. It's also no wonder that cities like Sderot and Beersheva, the target of thousands of missile and rocket attacks over the years voted heavily right-wing.

But polls also show that Hamas' aggressive provocations which led to the recent fighting have had a direct effect on the elections. Prior, Kadima and other left-leaning parties were in the lead and now all that has changed. Either this was a calculated effort by Hamas to undo whatever progress has been made towards peace in order to further their agenda of a genocidal Jihad against the Jews in the middle east or they're simply politically ignorant and prone to suicide - only time will tell.
Website Watch:
If the current round of taxpayer funded banking system bailouts has you as irked as it does me, visit for the latest video from these boys. You might even recognize the face.

They're coming back! The birds, that is. The great spring migration is already underway with birds wintering in the neo-tropical working their way to their northern breeding grounds. Keep an eye outside and you'll see what I mean. At the website GreyImages, photographer Sean Gray has captured many species of birds in some of the clearest photographs you'll ever see. Check him out.
Tomorrow brings our weekly Things To Do Edition so if you or your organization has an event this weekend or next week, please get it in by this afternoon.

And now, The News:
  1. Clearwater unveils its “Next Generation legacy Project”
  2. Road renovation stokes controversy
  3. Paper Water Bottle
  4. Uncovering the Perks of Albany’s Fallen G.O.P.
  5. New Jersey Utility Plans Major Solar Project
  6. American Farmland Trust Releases “9 for 09”
  7. Senate Economic Recovery Plan is Big Step Forward for Jobs, Clean Water
  8. Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects for a Two-State Solution
  9. Shrinking Communities in Scotland Vote on Creating National Park to Boost Economy

Clearwater unveils its “Next Generation legacy Project”

POUGHKEEPSIE – Environmental organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Tuesday rolled out is new “Next Generation Legacy Project,” which will see a number of educational and environmental activities at its soon-to-be new headquarters, the former University Settlement Camp in Beacon.

The group’s signature vessel, the sloop Clearwater, will also call Beacon home, said Clearwater Board Chairman Allan Shope.

“Clearwater getting a home port dock near the ferry or on the ferry dock and a building right next to that, that greets children as they come off the train from New York City will be a fantastic contribution to the City of Beacon,” he said.

Read More

Road renovation stokes controversy

By Art Cusano

PUTNAM VALLEY – A high school teacher hit a telephone pole. A parent, followed by a student, overturned their cars. All three accidents occurred on a stretch of Peekskill Hollow Road near the high school on the snowy morning of Jan. 23.

According to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, 15 accidents have taken place on the road since Jan. 31, 2009, though none involved personal injuries or fatalities.

Some officials and area residents believe that such accidents are a common occurrence and that Peekskill Hollow Road is in desperate need of renovation in order to make it a safer thoroughfare. An $8 million plan to do just that has been resurrected by the Putnam County Highway Department and the roadwork is scheduled to begin this fall.

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Paper Water Bottle

The 360 Paper Water Bottle is an innovative design solution proposed by Brandimage – Desgrippes & Laga as an eco-option to the traditional plastic water bottle. The 360 Paper Water Bottle is made from sustainable sheet stock of bamboo and palm leaves with a micro-thin PLA film barrier.

The international design company explains that they created the 360 Paper Water Bottle in response to the quantity of water bottles being consumed around the globe. “It’s no secret that blow-molded plastic bottles are filling landfills, but according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), 2.7 million tons of plastic PET bottles hit US shelves in 2006. Of that 2.7 million tons, four fifths went into landfills. In 2005, 7.5 billion gallons of water were on US shelves,” explains Brandimage.

Read More

Uncovering the Perks of Albany’s Fallen G.O.P.


ALBANY — Democrats took control of the State Senate last month after more than four decades of Republican rule, then set out to determine how the Senate’s own budget of nearly $100 million and its attendant perks were being distributed.

They are still trying to figure it out.

They recently realized there are some 75 employees working at the Senate’s own printing plant, a plain brick building on the outskirts of Albany. On Long Island, they found a small television studio, which had been set up — all with public money, with two press aides on hand to help operate it — for the exclusive use of Republican senators to record cable TV shows.

Democrats also came across what they are calling the “Brunomobile,” a $50,000 specially outfitted GMC van, with six leather captain’s chairs (some swiveling), a navigation system, rearview camera and meeting table. Joseph L. Bruno, the former Senate majority leader who was recently indicted on corruption charges, traveled in the van after his use of state helicopters sparked a feud with the Spitzer administration.

Then there are the parking spots, always at a premium near the Capitol. Democrats had been given roughly one spot per senator — there were 30 Democrats last year — and guessed there were perhaps double or even triple that controlled by the majority. Instead, they have learned, there are more than 800.

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New Jersey Utility Plans Major Solar Project


Public Service Electric and Gas, New Jersey’s largest utility, said it would unveil a five-year, one-of-a-kind plan on Tuesday to install solar panels on 200,000 utility poles in its service territory.

The project, which the utility must first present to state regulators for approval, would also include putting solar panels on schools and municipal buildings, low-income housing and areas like closed garbage dumps.

The utility expects to spend $773 million on the project, which it said would generate 120 megawatts of electricity, one-third of which should come from the panels on utility poles. That amounts to barely 1 percent of the power consumed in the state, but is about 7 percent of the state’s goal of power generated from renewable energy sources by 2020.

By then, 22.5 percent of the state’s electricity is supposed to come from renewable sources, according to New Jersey’s energy master plan.

Most solar panels on utility and municipal properties power single items, like traffic lights and parking meters. These panels, however, would feed directly into the electrical grid. By selling the electricity into the wholesale market, the utility expects to offset some of the cost of installing the panels.

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American Farmland Trust Releases “9 for 09”

Farm and Food Policy Recommendations for the Obama Administration 
Jennifer Morrill: 301-792-6238 (cell),
Washington, D.C., January 23, 2009—American Farmland Trust (AFT) has issued nine farm and food policy recommendations to help guide the Obama administration towards implementing a progressive farm, food, energy and environment agenda. “At the start of a New Year and administration, American agriculture is facing both enormous challenges and opportunities.  If employed, these recommendations will help reform those shortcomings and meet those opportunities in the years to come,” says Jon Scholl, AFT President.
“Protecting farmland, promoting sound stewardship and ensuring viable farms and ranches are important objectives in any strategy to improve agriculture’s capacity to be part of the solution to the issues that challenge our nation,” says AFT President Jon Scholl.  “The new administration can play a vital role in ensuring that the agricultural spaces, which provide clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat across the country, remain in place.”

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Senate Economic Recovery Plan is Big Step Forward for Jobs, Clean Water

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
By: American Rivers

Statement by Betsy Otto, American Rivers

Contacts:  Betsy Otto, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550 x3033
               Angela Dicianno, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550 x3103

Washington, DC -- American Rivers today applauded the U.S. Senate for passing H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which will create jobs, put our nation on the path to economic growth, and transform the way we manage clean water and rivers, bringing real health and quality of life benefits to communities nationwide.

American Rivers praised Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) for their leadership on the bill.  American Rivers also thanked Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) for their work on the clean water provisions in the bill. 

The Senate version of H.R. 1 includes $2 billion for drinking water under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and $4 billion for clean water under the Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs. 

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Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects for a Two-State Solution

This report reviews the prospects of a two-state solution in the context of possible signs of progress and doubts raised in U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian circles during the Annapolis process (including questions of urgency). After outlining possible alternatives to a two-state solution, the report analyzes the policy challenges facing either an urgent or a more deliberate U.S. approach to promoting a two-state solution-including implications for Congress-on matters such as foreign aid, security assistance, Israeli settlements, and the treatment of Hamas (a militant Palestinian group that is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, or "FTO").

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Shrinking Communities in Scotland Vote on Creating National Park to Boost Economy

Is creating a national park for the chief purpose of economic development a good idea? Or does it ultimately diminish the conservation value of other national parks?

That is what I asked myself after reading this article from the BBC, about how a western region of Scotland known as “Harris Island” is voting on whether or not to attempt to make the area a national park (Harris is not actually an island).

The area’s population has decreased by 25% over the last twenty years, prompting residents to search for methods to develop Harris’ economy and halt its declining population trend. Other than that, the BBC has provided little additional information.

Luckily, I was able to learn more by digging up an older article from a Scottish newspaper known as The Herald. The campaign to make the area a national park was kick-started by a group known as the North Harris Land Trust, a conservation group that “aims to manage, develop and conserve the assets of North Harris in a sustainable manner for the benefit of the community and the enjoyment of the wider public.”

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