Thursday, February 19, 2009

NtM - February 19, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Thursday Morning,

You'll notice that the subject header this morning reads, "NtM" rather than "News That Matters". I write the latter several hundred times each year and by shortening it to its initials I can save thousands of keypresses. You're all getting this for free (thanks to saints among you who are donors and supporters) so saving a little here and there goes a long way. In two weeks I'll be dropping vowels from these articles to save even more time and bandwidth. Come April 1st I'll start visualizing the column and you'll get it via remote-transference. Just my part to save and conserve.

Correction: That's Paul Feiner, not Joel, who is the supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh as wrote yesterday. Thanks to MR for pointing that out.

Patterson Democrats are looking for a candidate to take on County Legislator Mary Conklin this coming November. If your stomach is strong enough for a political campaign, contact Ken Harper.

What's In The News?
  1. Help healing all wounds
  2. Environmental Impact Of Building Construction Can Now Be Predicted
  3. Beacon is fast becoming environmental hub
  4. GreenWheel Turns Pedal Bike Into Electric Hog
  5. Historic property in Franklin Park accidentally torn down
  6. A Guide for Local Officials: Climate Smart Communities
  7. No Photo Ban in Subways, Yet an Arrest
  8. Rote Memorization Of Historical Facts Adds To Collective Cluelessness

The Assemblyman Who Shall Not Be Named (AWSNBN) raised nearly $357,000 for his race last year according to a rather interesting report put together by NYPIRG on state campaign funding during the 2008 election cycle. That report is here. For all state races last year, Putnam County residents donated a little more than $142,000 or about a buck and a half per resident. But look closer at those numbers and you'll see that the AWSNBN raised most of his funds from outside the county.

From the Department of Homeland Security:

"In sum, ecoterrorists adhere to a utopian ideological construct that borrows from, and merges together, several complementary philosophies and “are dedicated to the ideal of all living beings (plants, animals, even ecosystems as a whole) living together without being ‘commodified’ as resources or used, oppressed or destroyed for economic reasons.”

Sounds logical to me and really, we are just one species on this planet inter-dependent with every other. According to that report, the Federal government believes that "eco-terrorists" are more dangerous than Al-Queda or Hizbollah and has named them the number one threat to 'our way of life'.  Federal agents have infected, er, infiltrated many groups they consider to be "eco-terrorists" and show up at their meetings, shades of the old COINTELPRO. The Feds name the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the National Humane Society and The National Wildlife Association as related eco-terrorist organizations and among the terrorist activites listed in the report is... pie-throwing. To be sure, there have been acts of true violence but does that require a need to investigate the Audubon Society?

So the next time you're out there birdwatching, at a CAC or a land trust meeting look around... just who are these people and why is that guy over there taking notes?

Wal-Mart's profits were down 8% in the last quarter. The culprit? A strong US dollar.

From the Your Tax Dollars Misspent Department: Reuters reports that Citi and Morgan Stanely are paying out $3 billion to keep their brokers from "fleeing" to other companies.

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand keeps a gun under her bed. Apparently that's news.

UN authorities in Gaza want a stockpile of unexploded bombs from the recent war returned. The stockpile went missing after it was entrusted to Hamas for guarding. Is anyone surprised?

A taxpayer watchdog group in the Town of Kent, Kent Fiscal Watch (KFC) is upset with the town for its apparent lack of information regarding an ongoing lawsuit filed against the town by the latest developers for the Kent Manor site on Nichols Street. They want to know whether the town's insurance will cover the costs if we loose the suit.

While I can't disagree (I'd like to know too), I know enough that any information the town gives out could end up in the wrong hands and hurt us in the long run. If the town should say that yes, insurance will cover us, that gives the developer the ability to sue to whatever that amount might be. KFC's call for the town to assure residents that the sky will not fall would only play into the developer's hands and weaken our abilities in court.
When it comes to these types of things, no matter how much we may hate it, we really do have to take a step back and trust the legal beagles even if we don't trust them - or the judge - very much.

The larger unanswered question is how the county allowed Kent Manor to run up millions of dollars in unpaid taxes without foreclosing on that property. Now, that's a story for KFC to investigate!

From the "Yeah, I Can't Believe It Either Department"

Sunni Muslim clerics gathered in Turkey the other day at a conference dubbed the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign and called for yet another jihad against Israel. Mohammad Nazzel, a senior Hamas official based in Syria said, "There will be no agreement with Israel... only weapons will bring respect." and then told the meeting, "Don't worry about casualties."

What happened to the 'anti-aggression' part?

I keep saying that spring has sprung and the proof is in this image taken on Tuesday:

If you squint, those little green things are the tips of daffodils ready to make their appearance in the perennial garden on the south side of my cottage. There's also creeping flox, butterfly bush, wild daises, spearmint, peony, creeping thyme and I'm working on getting some transplanted chamomile going. This spring I'll be adding more perennial herbs. How's your garden doing?

And now, The News:

  1. Help healing all wounds
  2. Environmental Impact Of Building Construction Can Now Be Predicted
  3. Beacon is fast becoming environmental hub
  4. GreenWheel Turns Pedal Bike Into Electric Hog
  5. Historic property in Franklin Park accidentally torn down
  6. A Guide for Local Officials: Climate Smart Communities
  7. No Photo Ban in Subways, Yet an Arrest
  8. Rote Memorization Of Historical Facts Adds To Collective Cluelessness

Help healing all wounds

A NYJN Editorial

Military leaders are taking seriously their duty to heal the psychic scars of war along with the physical injuries. There's clear evidence of a growing problem - the suicide rate has grown each year since 2004; a staggering 20 percent of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder .

Rep. John Hall's proposed "COMBAT PTSD Act," which stands for Compensation Owed for Mental Health Based on Activities in Theater, is the next step in acknowledging the price our troops often pay with long tours of duty in war zones. The Dover Plains Democrat's legislation would allow any veteran diagnosed with PTSD who served in combat to automatically get treatment and benefits for the service injury of PTSD. Now, veterans must "prove" that a specific stressor during a war triggered their PTSD, even if they have already been diagnosed with the condition. Veterans must track down incident reports, buddy statements, present medals, and leap other hurdles to validate to the VA that their PTSD was a result of their war service.

Read More

Environmental Impact Of Building Construction Can Now Be Predicted

ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2009) — A team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) has developed a method that makes it possible to evaluate the environmental impacts caused during the construction of buildings in advance. Before beginning the works, with just the project data, the new method makes it possible to predict up to 37 environmental impacts. This information, according to the creators, could help improve environmental management in the construction processes.

"This model identifies in advance the environmental impacts associated with carrying out a particular construction project, making it possible to program the inclusion of environmental improvement procedures or apply preventive measures right from the project study, planning and preparation phases", Marta Gangolells, a member of the Group of Construction Research and Innovation (GRIC) at UPC and one of the authors of the study, explained to SINC. The technique can be applied to the construction of both single-family homes and apartment buildings.

Read More

Beacon is fast becoming environmental hub

BEACON – The continuing redevelopment and growth in Beacon has brought with it an expanding environmental movement which began several years ago with the Beacon Sloop Club.

That has expanded and grown even more to the point where the city is fast becoming an environmental hub for the Mid-Hudson Valley, said Clearwater Executive Director Jeff Rumpf.

“Beacon Institute, Scenic Hudson, Clearwater, Sloop Club, river pool, these are organizations that are just really ready to show the world, in a demonstration site, but also are going to reach thousands of people, how to put the ‘eco’ into the ‘economy’.”

Clearwater is the latest entrant into the Beacon environmental lineup as it moves its headquarters and new education center to the city and makes it the sloop Clearwater’s new permanent home port.

Read More

GreenWheel Turns Pedal Bike Into Electric Hog

Eric Bland, Discovery News
Feb. 18, 2009 -- The next time you change a bike tire, think about upgrading your power as well. Scientists at MIT are testing a new power generation, storage and propulsion system known as the GreenWheel that will turn any pedal bicycle into an electric hog.

"Just take the wheel off, put a GreenWheel equipped wheel on in its place, plug it in and it should work just fine," said Ryan Chin, one of the GreenWheel designers. "The whole thing has been designed so all the parts except the throttle are enclosed in the wheel."

From the outside, the GreenWheel has the radius of a small dinner plate and is about 2 inches thick. Inside the aluminum frame sits the three major GreenWheel components: an electric generator, batteries and an electric motor.

For now, installing GreenWheel on your own does require a moderate level of technical knowledge or a trip to a bike shop. The GreenWheel can be installed on any bike frame or wheel size, but the original spokes have to be replaced with shorter spokes. Michael Chia-Liang Lin, a master's student at MIT developing the GreenWheel, called his parents in Taiwan, who own a bike shop, to figure out how to respoke the wheel.

Under its current configuration, a bike powered solely by a single GreenWheel (front, rear or both wheel can be equipped with a GreenWheel) has an estimated range of 25 miles. Pedaling the bike doubles the range under electric power, provided the rider isn't traveling at the nearly top speed of 30 miles an hour. The bike can be charged by pedaling or by plugging it into the electric grid.

Read More

Historic property in Franklin Park accidentally torn down

by The Associated Press
Saturday February 14, 2009, 10:49 AM
Township officials in Franklin Park are trying to figure out why a tavern on a historic property that dates to Colonial times was torn down last week.

The demolition on the Route 27 property began on Wednesday and was stopped a day later, but not before most of the former Chauncey's Pub had been demolished.

Township Manager Ken Daly tells Gannett New Jersey that the building's owner, Nitin Khandwala, put the incorrect address on an application to tear down the building. A zoning official approved the request, not realizing it was the historic site.

Read More

A Guide for Local Officials: Climate Smart Communities


Climate change affects every community in New York -- economically, socially and environmentally. As the first line of response in emergencies, as the proprietors of critical infrastructure and as the governments with immediate responsibility for public health and safety, municipalities face a critical challenge in confronting and responding to climate change.

Why Our Climate is Changing

Naturally occurring greenhouse gases (GHGs) like water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane help keep temperatures on earth stable. By trapping heat near the surface of the earth -- a natural phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect -- GHGs keep the planet warm enough to support life as we know it. Since the industrial revolution, however, human activities have been adding significantly to the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere. Higher levels of atmospheric GHGs enhance the greenhouse effect, altering the earth's energy balance and resulting in the warming of its surface, ocean, and atmosphere.

By the year 2100, average global temperatures are expected to be between 2.5 degrees F and 10.4 degrees F higher than 1990 temperatures, according to the nearly 2,500 scientists who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). How much warming we experience will depend on how much GHG we emit. Warming is already having significant effects on climate, and will continue to change local climates for decades to come.

Read More

No Photo Ban in Subways, Yet an Arrest

In the map of New York’s most forsaken places, it would be hard to top the Freeman Street stop on the No. 2 line in the Bronx, late on a February afternoon. Around 4:30 last Thursday, Robert Taylor stood on the station’s elevated platform, taking a picture of a train.

“A few buildings in place,” he noted. “Nice little cloud cover overhead. I usually use them as wallpaper on my computer.”

Finished with his camera, Mr. Taylor, 30, was about to board the train when a police officer called to him. He stepped back from the train.

“The cop wanted my ID, and I showed it to him,” Mr. Taylor said. “He told me I couldn’t take the pictures. I told him that’s not true, that the rules permitted it. He said I was wrong. I said, ‘I’m willing to bet your paycheck.’ ”

Mr. Taylor was right. The officer was enforcing a nonexistent rule. And if recent experience is any guide, one paycheck won’t come close to covering what a wrongful arrest in this kind of case could cost the taxpayers.

Read More

Rote Memorization Of Historical Facts Adds To Collective Cluelessness

ScienceDaily (Feb. 16, 2009) — As fans of talk-show host Jay Leno’s man-on-the-street interviews know, Americans suffer from a national epidemic of historical and civic ignorance. But just because most Americans know more about “American Idol” than they do about American government doesn’t necessarily mean it’s entirely their fault.

Americans’ historical apathy is also an indictment of the way history is taught in grades K-12, according to a University of Illinois professor who studies and teaches historical instruction.

Brenda M. Trofanenko, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education, says that teaching history by rote – that is, by having students memorize historical dates and then testing them on how well they can regurgitate that data on a test – is a pedagogical method guaranteed to get students to tune out and add to our collective civic and historical cluelessness.

“Everybody thinks of history as being really boring – and it is, if it’s solely the recitation and recalling of facts,” Trofanenko said. “The concern is always, ‘Our kids don’t know history!’ But if we’re just talking about the recall of facts and dates, that’s not solely what you want to know about history.”

While Trofanenko does believe there should be a baseline body of historical knowledge taught in school, the memorization and recall methods of inundating students with red-letter historical dates neglects contextualizing those events within the broad sweep of history.

Read More

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