Thursday, February 5, 2009

News That Matters - February 5, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Thursday Morning,

Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable complained about the President's new rules for corporations that feed at the public trough. He says that $500,000 isn't a lot of money for a Wall Street Executive and that pay scales there are different than they are elsewhere and finally, that Wall Street will have a tough time finding people to take these jobs in the future. What he's really saying is that Wall Street got hit square in the face with a dose of reality and they doesn't like it one bit.

Plant Putnam - Putnam County Seedling Sale
Spring will be here sooner than you think!

And with that, comes sprucing up the yard, and making decisions about plant materials for your property.  The Putnam County Soil & Water Conservation District is once again offering a variety of trees and shrubs to assist landowners in providing food and shelter for wildlife, groundcover for erosion control, and natural native beautification.  Every year we try and offer a variety, but if you’ve been holding out, just waiting for something different to come along, this is your year!  Sure, we have the old stand-bys, but who would have ever thought, ferns, and yes, even blueberries and raspberries!  Now we still have our low cost transplants of Eastern White Pine, White Spruce, and Colorado Blue Spruce but we also have a variety of seedlings and shrubs such as Butternut, Buttonbush, Washington Hawthorne, Red Bud, Sargent Crabapple, Strawberry-bush, and Swamp Rose Mallow are just several of the trees and shrubs available.  The tried and true Myrtle and Pachysandra are there as well as five different ferns, Trumpet Vine and Daylilies.  Trees are sold bare root, and are hand dipped in a moisture protection gel, wrapped and bagged.  Orders need to be placed by March 25th.  Call 845-878-7918 or go to for an Order Form.     

We've always been told that there is a three year plan to make the Tilly Foster Farm self sufficient and I've been asking for a copy of it to see just how that's going to be accomplished. The document, "Plan to Save Tilly Foster Farm: Three Years to Self Sufficiency" arrived yesterday and I read it with great anticipation.

Well, it took about 60 seconds. You read that right: 60 seconds to read through its scant four paragraphs. Basically, it says this:

Year One: Bring in rare farm animals and open a museum of old farm equipment.
Year Two: Sell the throngs T-Shirts, penny candies and baseball caps.
Year Three: Sell the throngs a catering hall and a bed and breakfast.

Yeah, that's it. I'm not sure I would call that a business plan. Would you?

Don't forget the meeting tonight at the Emergency Services Center on the Donald Smith Campus in Carmel at 6:30PM followed immediately by the full leg at 6:45. Wear boots. Really high boots.

While everyone is following the race for Sheriff, in Kent there's a council seat up for grabs and Supervisor Doherty is also up for re-election. Rumors have it that Karl Rhode will try to keep his seat and that Pat Madigan will make yet another comeback appearance on the political stage. Scuttlebutt also has it that Bill Heustis might take on Supervisor Doherty. Rumors! It's all just rumors! But this could be my year at a go (finally! as some have said) for that council seat. What's going on in your town this year?

Sarah Palin is back in the news. Um, Sarah who?

Website Watch:

I'm always hearing that everyone is moving away from Putnam County for one reason or another. High taxes, a lousy singles-scene, too long a drive to your job downstate. Well, here's some help for you. Free Cardboard Boxes is a website where you can offer your old, or seek out new cardboard boxes, much like FreeCycle. Now you don't have to worry about finding a box to hold your Van Halen records.

Have you ever wondered how Verizon stays in business? Listen to this 3 minute recording. Apparently, no one there could discern the difference between $0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents... except the customer.

Tomorrow brings the weekly Things to Do Edition of News That Matters  so if your club or organization has something neat going on, please let me know by this afternoon.

And now, the News:

  1. 200th anniversary of President Lincoln’s birth
  2. South Salem wolf killed in the wild
  3. Record 19 Million U.S. Homes Stood Vacant in 2008
  4. Dark Days for Green Energy
  5. Wait A Second!
  6. Bluetooth Tech Blocks Texting While Driving
  7. 'No need to probe Hamas because its war crimes are so blatant'
  8. Evidence of torture 'buried by ministers'

200th anniversary of President Lincoln’s birth

Newburgh - The Lincoln Bicentennial Memorial Committee of Newburgh, N.Y. is proud to announce the unveiling and dedication of a new monument honoring the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The stone monument bears a 27" x 22" bronze plaque featuring a bas relief of Lincoln’s profile and the entire text of his Gettysburg Address.

The recent inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African-American president stands as a powerful affirmation of the ideas expressed by President Lincoln in that historic declaration - none more so than the nation’s commitment to "a new birth of freedom" for all Americans.

The dedication ceremony will be held on Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. in the city park located at the intersection of Forsythe Place, Nichol Place and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in the City of Newburgh. It will be followed by a reception at the historic Karpeles Museum, located at 94 Broadway in Newburgh.

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South Salem wolf killed in the wild

Sean Gorman
The Journal News

LEWISBORO - An endangered Mexican gray wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem was found shot dead after being released into the Arizona wild, the center announced today.

The five-year-old female, known as F836, was discovered by the side of a highway near Pinetop, Ariz., about 70 miles from where she was released in November with a male wolf.

She was one of only 50 Mexican gray wolves in the wild and one of only about 400 living in the world. The wolf had stayed at the South Salem center for several years as part of a captive breeding program for endangered species.

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Record 19 Million U.S. Homes Stood Vacant in 2008

By Kathleen M. Howley

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- A record 19 million U.S. homes stood empty at the end of 2008 and homeownership fell to an eight-year low as banks seized homes faster than they could sell them.

The number of vacant homes climbed 6.7 percent in the fourth quarter from the same period a year ago, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a report today. The share of empty homes that are for sale rose to 2.9 percent, the most in data that goes back to 1956. The homeownership rate fell to 67.5 percent, matching the rate in the first quarter of 2001.

The worst U.S. housing slump since the Great Depression is deepening as foreclosures drain value from neighboring homes and make it more likely owners will walk away from properties worth less than their mortgages. About a third of owners whose home values drop 20 percent or more below their loan principal will “hand the keys back to the bank,” said Norm Miller, director of real estate programs for the School of Business Administration at the University of San Diego.

“When you’re underwater and prices continue to fall, you tend to walk,” Miller said in an interview. “It’s a downward spiral that’s tough to stop because it feeds on itself. Foreclosures encourage other foreclosures and falling prices discourage buying.”

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Dark Days for Green Energy

Wind and solar power have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting.

Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 to 50 percent declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.

Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.

“I thought if there was any industry that was bulletproof, it was that industry,” said Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., where DMI Industries of Fargo operates a plant that makes towers for wind turbines. Though the flat Dakotas are among the best places in the world for wind farms, DMI recently announced a cut of about 20 percent of its work force because of falling sales.

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Wait A Second!

Keeping track of the civil rights opinions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Brought to you by Bergstein & Ullrich, LLP.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Retaliation: we know it when we see it

It's a little easier to prove retaliation claims because the sequence of events often tells the story. The plaintiff engages in protected activity (such as free speech, or a complaint about discrimination) and her termination takes place shortly thereafter, permitting an inference of retaliation. You know it when you see it, and the Courts deal with these cases one by one. Here's another one.

The case is Espinal v. Goord, decided on February 2. I wrote about Espinal in a different context (PLRA grievance exhaustion) here. But Espinal has another interesting holding: when to draw an inference that government officials have retaliated against someone in violation of the civil rights laws.

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Bluetooth Tech Blocks Texting While Driving

Eric Bland, Discovery News
Feb. 4, 2009 -- Teenagers are notorious for bad driving and animated cell phone conversations, and doing the two simultaneously is an especially deadly mix. Now in an effort to reduce the number one killer of teens, a Utah company is using Bluethooth technology to create a special driving mode that makes it impossible for a driver to talk or text when the car is on.

"The recent stats show that texting on the phone has overtaken drunk driving fatalities on public roads," said Ronn Hartman of Accendo LC, the company working to commercialize the technology. "This is all about saving lives and safer driving."

Every year more than an estimated 330,000 people are injured in cell-phone-related accidents, which kill more than 2,000 people annually. Recent studies have shown that talking or texting on a cell phone can be as dangerously distracting as drunk driving.

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'No need to probe Hamas because its war crimes are so blatant'

Feb. 4, 2009
Rebecca Anna Stoil , THE JERUSALEM POST

Human rights groups argued Wednesday that a detailed probe into Hamas's firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli communities is not necessary, because it constitutes such a "blatant" war crime. By contrast, Israel's actions are more complex, and therefore do require such investigation, they said.

War crimes, said Sarit Micha'eli of B'tselem, are those actions that violate Article III of the Geneva Convention, and it was clear that Hamas was in violation of the requirement of distinction between civilian and military targets.

"It makes it quite easy regarding Hamas. It is quite clear that they are attacking and targeting civilians. When someone straps a bomb on themselves or fire missiles at civilians, the details are less important. It is clearly a war crime without even looking at the details," she said. "Even if they fired a Kassam missile as a military target, the fact that it is an inaccurate weapon, it would still count as an indiscriminate attack.."

"With Israel things are more complicated because Israel states it does not deliberately target civilians and that it safeguards them. With Israel, you have to investigate each specific incident because even if a civilian is killed in an attack, it doesn't mean its necessarily a war crime. Targeting civilians is a war crime, but the damage to civilians in a given situation isn't indicative of a war crime."

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Evidence of torture 'buried by ministers'

Judges condemn secrecy over files detailing treatment of suspect by CIA

    * Richard Norton-Taylor
    *, Wednesday 4 February 2009 21.50 GMT

The government was accused tonight of hiding behind claims of a threat to national security to suppress evidence of torture by the CIA on a prisoner still held in Guantánamo Bay.

An unprecedented high court ruling today blamed the US, with British connivance, for keeping the "powerful evidence" secret, sparking criticism from lawyers, campaigners and MPs, who claimed the government had capitulated to American bullying.

Two senior judges said they were powerless to reveal the information about the torture of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, because David Miliband, the foreign secretary, had warned the court the US was threatening to stop sharing intelligence about terrorism with the UK.

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