Wednesday, February 4, 2009

News That Matters - February 4, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Wednesday Morning,

Back in the fall when I brought the orchids inside I added a handful of compost to each pot. Within a few weeks, one of the pots developed a tomato plant from a stray seed that had not composted down properly. As I write this, that plant has grown up to take over a goodly portion of my kitchen greenhouse window and the first ripe tomato will be ready in just a few days with many more to come. Talk about a jump on spring!

In our poll about how you think the County legislature will deal with the Tilly Foster lease agreement, you said,

They'll accept the lease as is: 61%
They'll make a few small cosmetic changes: 33%
They'll make substantive changes: 6%

All in all this means that the vast majority of you think they'll do the wrong thing. We'll see!

Looking for a corporation that knows how to do it right? Call ExxonMobil. While General Motors sells off its Congressmen and Chrysler tries to sell it self to Botswana, Serbia or Outer Mongolia, EM brought in 45.2 Billion dollars in 2008, beating their own record of 40.6 billion set in 2007. But that's nothing compared to the $1 TRILLION we spend each year on defense and 'defense related' spending.

GOP leaders in Congress have been working hard to remove "pork" from the President's economic stimulus package. As I look through the list they've provided I'm finding a total of about 19 billion out of a total 900 billion dollars worth of spending. Within that list are such items as improvements to sewer systems, monies for substance abuse problems, energy efficiency programs, STD eradication programs, computers for community colleges and rural waste disposal programs. Also on the list is near $700 million for a new Department of Homeland Security building and coming from the GOP, the folks who forced that one on us in the first place, I find that quite odd.

While we're talking about billions, the hundred billion dollar a year War on Drugs simply cannot hide the fact that not only is it America's most expensive joke, but that it's also proven itself to be, well, a little backwards. If marijuana did all the bad things to you the government claims it does, how do they explain President Obama and Michael Phelps? One got to be President and the other, one of the world's greatest athletes. There was another President who was once a coke fiend and the one before him smoked but didn't inhale. Anyway, there's another place we can save a hundred billion a year.

Okay, maybe the coke fiend was a bad idea.

The City of London, England, has all but shut down due to the worst winter storm in 18 years. A weather system moved in with a vengeance and dropped a whopping 8 inches of snow on the British capitol stopping bus and rail service and closing Gatwick airport for half a day. In Birmingham, the 2" of snow that fell caused schools to close for 2 days. England's national weather service warns of another crippling snowstorm for this evening with estimates of a full inch of snow falling across southern England and warns Englanders to be prepared for the worst. Huh.

And now, The News:

  1. Updating "Bottle Bill" is a No-brainer
  2. ''Green'' Management of Stormwater Runoff Key for Long-Term Water Quality
  3. Smaller, More Comfortable, More Energy Efficient and More Affordable
  4. The pending scramble for water
  5. Banks Getting TARP Money Lending Less Than Other Banks
  6. DEC Licenses More Than 15,000 Junior Hunters in the Program's First Year
  7. Which stimulus is better: tax cuts or spending?

Updating "Bottle Bill" is a No-brainer

DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis recently urged support of the "Bigger Better Bottle Bill," saying it would reduce litter, keep million of containers out of our landfills, help in the fight against global warming, and generate badly needed revenue.
An Easy Choice

"As Governor Paterson has made clear, New York is facing a staggering budget deficit and must make many hard choices, but updating New York's 27-year-old Bottle Bill is not one of them," Grannis said. "Expanding the law to cover non-carbonated beverages such as fruit juice, water and sports drinks is long overdue."

Since the original Bottle Bill was enacted in 1982 requiring a five-cent deposit on beer and carbonated drinks, roadside litter has been reduced 70 percent. More than 90 billion containers and 6 million tons of glass, aluminum and plastic have been recycled, resulting in saving more than 50 million barrels of oil and eliminating 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases-a sum equal to getting 600,000 cars off the road for one year.

Grannis noted that a flaw in the current law is that the five-cent deposit applies only to beer and carbonated beverages. In his 2009-10 Executive Budget, Governor Paterson proposed expanding the law to apply to non-carbonated beverages.

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''Green'' Management of Stormwater Runoff Key for Long-Term Water Quality

As communities become environmentally conscious and involved, they modify and reach beyond old development-impact reduction methods to more interlinked, efficient and cost-effective strategies at site, neighborhood and regional levels, writes EPA Development, Community, and Environment Division (DCED) Acting Director Lynn Richards in her ''Managing Stormwater Runoff: A Green Infrastructure Approach'' paper in the Planning Commissioners Journal (Winter 2009), calling decisions ''about where and how our towns, cities and regions grow'' the first and perhaps the most important for long-term water quality.

Read More

Today's Dream Homes:

Smaller, More Comfortable, More Energy Efficient and More Affordable

Green building is permeating -- and lifting up -- the limping housing market. Also see 30+ Ways to Save Money by Going Green

Buyers are losing interest in an energy-draining dream home that comes with high costs and wasteful space. The economy has swiftly changed us from seeking abundant to practical living. A real estate ad that sings praises about all of the space that a home has to offer, like this dream home described below in an ad, now has a buyer's head spinning with dollar signs and question marks above.

"Lavishly outfitted Old World style home perfect for anyone looking for a free and spacious environment, with high arching doors and high ceilings throughout. A 23-foot ceiling with an arched window above in the great room gives a very spacious feeling. The grand foyer sets the tone, with a curving staircase that leads to a loft overlooking the main room and leading to the numerous upstairs rooms."

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The pending scramble for water

Dominic Waughray , Senior director, head of environmental initiatives, World Economic Forum, Geneva

More countries are set to face water shortages. In 2008, Saudi Arabia ceased to be self sufficient in wheat production. It is looking to access land overseas to grow crops, possibly in Pakistan or the Horn of Africa.

China is acquiring agricultural land in Southern Africa for similar purposes.

And Daewoo Logistic is looking to lease land in Madagascar, to grow food for South Korea.

Other countries in South Asia and the Gulf are considering similar moves.

Read More

Banks Getting TARP Money Lending Less Than Other Banks

by Paul Kiel, ProPublica - February 3, 2009 11:29 am EST

People withdraw money at a Citibank ATM location in New York. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)Given the current economic climate, it's not much of a surprise that the nation's banks are lending less. But here's a sad verdict on the TARP: According to a Washington Post analysis, banks that have received the Treasury Department's billions are lending less on average than banks that didn't get taxpayer money [1].

To be precise, a recent Federal Reserve analysis found that the volume of loans at banks fell about one percent in the last three months of 2008. The Post found a decline "more than twice as large" among TARP participants.

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DEC Licenses More Than 15,000 Junior Hunters in the Program's First Year

DEC recently released preliminary results showing that more than 15,000 junior hunters took advantage of a new law signed by Governor David A. Paterson to create a "junior big-game" hunting license and expand outdoor opportunities. DEC also released preliminary results indicating that the 2008 deer hunting harvest will match the previous year's totals, though it will be less than expected. Meanwhile, bear harvest totals ran high, with a new record set in the Allegany range and likely in the Catskill range. Final, official harvest numbers will be available in February after deer hunting concludes in Westchester and Suffolk counties.
Junior Hunters

Governor Paterson this year signed a new law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to hunt big game for the first time. Records indicate 15,651 junior hunters took advantage of the new opportunity, harvesting about 3,679 deer.

"The junior big-game license has proven extremely popular," Commissioner Grannis said. "We were very excited to see so many young hunters afield and we have received many letters and e-mails from parents and enthusiastic hunters about their experiences this year."

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Which stimulus is better: tax cuts or spending?

Some analysts say government spending is more reliable because consumers often pocket tax breaks.

By Peter Grier| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor/ February 3, 2009 edition

Yes, President Obama’s economic recovery bill would shower billions in government spending on everything from rural Internet service to inner-city schools. But as the Senate debates the stimulus bill, lawmakers increasingly are focused on another section of the plan: its tax cuts.

Republicans are pushing to reorient the legislation as much as possible to tax reduction. They’ve already convinced the Democratic leadership to add a $71 billion provision that would soften the blow of the alternative minimum tax, a levy that was originally intended to affect the wealthy, but now hits many middle-class families.

It’s true that tax cuts might boost the economy more quickly than spending, say many economists. But there is debate as to whether their effect is as lasting or effective per dollar as direct government outlays.

The irony is that the biggest cuts in Mr. Obama’s plan, which put money directly into taxpayer pockets, may not be particularly efficient at jolting the economy back to life. That’s because people may choose to save a portion of the cash.

“I think we ought to be considering a range of tax cuts that are directly linked to spending, or household investment,” says William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

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Saudi Arabia Arrests Christian Blogger

Written by The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said  the Saudi authorities on Tuesday 01/13/2009  detained Hamoud Bin Saleh and blocked his blog " Masihi Saudi (Saudi Christian)-" due to his opinions and announcement at his blog that he converted from Islam to Christianity.

Based on information obtained by ANHRI, the Saudi authorities jailed the young blogger at the infamous Eleisha political prison in Riyadh; a prison which in 2004 witnessed the arrest of the reformists Matrouk el Falih, Ali el Domini and Eissa al Hamed.

The 28-year-old alumni of the al Yarmouk University in Jordan has been arrested twice before; for nine months in 2004 and last Nov.

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