Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NtM - March 10, 2009

News That Matters
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Good Tuesday Morning,

Happy Purim!

I want you all to go outside at some time today with a pair of gardening clippers. Find your forsythia bush and select several long, thin branches for clipping. Snip them cleanly, bring them inside and place them in a vase of warmish water. Why? Give it a week... you'll be happy you did.

I've been getting these phone calls from an agency that tells me my automobile warranty is about to expire and if I just stay on the line someone will help me extend the original warranty. So, I press "1" and wait and when the guy/gal comes on I tell them about the Do Not Call list and to not ever call me again. I usually get as far as, "Do not...." before they hang up. I've done this about a dozen times over the past few months. The company claims to be called the "Warranty Direct Service Center" and even AT&T Mobile has tried to sue them. From the news report:

"Because spoofing is inherently integral to this kind of telemarketing, figuring out who is behind the enterprise is itself a challenge. AT&T Mobility said one number alone — 800-219-7425 — made more than 13 million calls to wireless numbers through telecom carriers Paetec Communications, Global Crossing and MCI Inc./Verizon Communications Inc. AT&T said it will need to subpoena those companies and others to determine the owner and operator of various spoofed phone numbers."

Verizon sued over the same thing. The Feds don't seem to care about this blatant violation of the DNC list and the courts appear flummoxed. By the way, I'm getting similar calls from a company that wants to help me lower my credit card rates called "Account Services" with a call center in Atlanta, GA, but I don't have a credit card.

If you're getting the same calls, contact the State AG's office and file a complaint.

Police say there are 50,000 "sexual predators" online at any one time and that they're after your child. But here's a question: everyone in law enforcement and the media is using that number but no one can say where it comes from or what it's based on. "It's extrapolated," they will say, but extrapolated from what? The next thing they'll say is that the pornography industry generates $20 billion a year in sales and so there must be 50,000 dangerous predators online. According to police and the media, porn and predatory behavior are inextricably linked. They've no proof, of course, but it sounds just scary enough for people who want to be afraid to believe them.

Scaring people keeps funding levels high, jobs secure and politicians happy. And if the fear generated is enough to cause public outrage, the fear-mongers never have to explain themselves. Remember back in the 80's when every second child was kidnapped?

Congress is about to take up a national sex offender bill which would give states the ability to define every 'sex offense', even an elementary school-aged child showing his woo woo to a classmate, as a "violent" crime and force that child to bear the Scarlett letter for the rest of his life. I don't see how this protects us from truly violent and awful people but, like I wrote above, it scares people, keeps funding levels high and makes the politicians happy.

Fear is not the way to run a democracy unless the only way to tame the population is by keeping them in constant, never-ending fear. It's time to stop being afraid of everything and to start seriously question those who want us to be afraid.

How the Goat Churns:

Talk on the street this morning says that the goat found at GB's house last week was found in the middle of the road and not on his front lawn, as implied in press releases. Moreover, police allowed the goat to be removed from the property before retrieving it for evidence. Because of that, important evidence may have been destroyed in the process.

In today's Journal News, reporter Mike Risinit picked up on the report made here the other day that the hand-painted sign left on the goat referred to GB as either an American or gay prostitute. But we still haven't seen a police report nor a copy of the sign and so far all the news we're hearing is coming from GB himself and not from the police. And I have to wonder, who is running the investigation? If there is genuine foul-play involved here and a state assemblyman has been the target, why have the police remained silent?

And Now, The News:

  1. Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008
  2. Cooking Edible Flowers
  3. Hemlock Trees Dying Rapidly, Affecting Forest Carbon Cycle
  4. High-Speed Rail Drives Obama's Transportation Agenda
  5. Metro-North Train Stations Losing Payphones
  6. Steven Holl Strikes Again
  7. Bank of America threatens former employee with lawsuit over Cuomo Merrill Lynch bonus investigation

Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008

Our industrial food system is rotten to the core. Heirloom arugula won't save us. Here's what will. —By Paul Roberts

March/April 2009
A couple years back, in a wheat field outside the town of Reardan, Washington, Fred Fleming spent an afternoon showing me just how hard it's gotten to save the world. After decades as an unrepentant industrial farmer, the tall 59-year-old realized that his standard practices were promoting erosion so severe that it was robbing him of several tons of soil per acre per year—his most important asset. So in 2000, he began to experiment with a gentler planting method known as no-till. While traditional farmers plow their fields after each harvest, exposing the soil for easy replanting, Fleming leaves his soil and crop residue intact and uses a special machine to poke the seeds through the residue and into the soil.

The results aren't pretty: In winter, when his neighbors' fields are neat brown squares, Fleming's looks like a bedraggled lawn. But by leaving the stalks and chaff on the field, Fleming has dramatically reduced erosion without hurting his wheat yields. He has, in other words, figured out how to cut one of the more egregious external costs of farming while maintaining the high output necessary to feed a growing world—thus providing a glimpse of what a new, more sustainable food system might look like.

But there's a catch. Because Fleming doesn't till his soil, his fields are gradually invaded by weeds, which he controls with "judicious" amounts of Roundup, the Monsanto herbicide that has become an icon of unsustainable agribusiness. Fleming defends his approach: Because his herbicide dosages are small, and because he controls erosion, the total volume of "farm chemistry," as he calls it, that leaches from his fields each year is far less than that from a conventional wheat operation. None­theless, even judicious chemical use means Fleming can't charge the organic price premium or appeal to many of the conscientious shoppers who are supposed to be leading the food revolution. At a recent conference on alternative farming, Fleming says, the organic farmers he met were "polite—but they definitely gave me the cold shoulder."

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Cooking Edible Flowers

Does anything taste better than a spring flower added to your salad, desserts or as a savoury garnish to vegetable dishes? Flowers are not just intended to look lovely in a vase, many are delicious to eat and add an extra depth of flavour to food.

Cooking with flowers has a long history and today, flowers are making a comeback in the kitchen as more than just a sweet garnish, but as an important component of consuming a varied organic and local diet. Flower varieties and their toxicity may vary in different locations so always check with a qualified specialist to ensure the flowers you are considering are safe to consume. Never consume flowers grown with pesticides or toxic chemical soil additives.

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Hemlock Trees Dying Rapidly, Affecting Forest Carbon Cycle

ScienceDaily (Mar. 10, 2009) — New research by U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists and partners suggests the hemlock woolly adelgid is killing hemlock trees faster than expected in the southern Appalachians and rapidly altering the carbon cycle of these forests. SRS researchers and cooperators from the University of Georgia published the findings in the most recent issue of the journal Ecosystems.

"The study marks the first time that scientists have tracked the short-term effects hemlock woolly adelgid infestations are having on the forest carbon cycle," said Chelcy Ford, SRS ecologist and co-author of the paper.

Eastern hemlock, a keystone species in the streamside forests of the southern Appalachian region, is already experiencing widespread decline and mortality because of hemlock woolly adelgid (a tiny nonnative insect) infestation. The pest has the potential to kill most of the region's hemlock trees within the next decade. As a native evergreen capable of maintaining year-round transpiration rates, hemlock plays an important role in the ecology and hydrology of mountain ecosystems. Hemlock forests provide critical habitat for birds and other animals; their shade helps maintain the cool water temperatures required by trout and other aquatic organisms in mountain streams.

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High-Speed Rail Drives Obama's Transportation Agenda

Sunday 08 March 2009

by: Dan Eggen  |  The Washington Post

The Northern Lights Express is little more than an idea - a proposal for a 110-mph passenger train between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn., that has crept along in fits and starts for years.

But the slow ride may soon be over. The project is one of dozens nationwide that are likely to benefit from President Obama's initiative to fund high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs, including $8 billion in stimulus money and $5 billion more over the next five years in the administration's proposed transportation budget.

The money represents the first major step toward establishing a genuine high-speed train network in the United States and has sparked a stampede among states, advocacy groups and lobbyists who are not accustomed to this level of funding.

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Metro-North Train Stations Losing Payphones

Paul Murnane Reporting
WCBS Reporter

STAMFORD, CT (WCBS 880)  -- The Stamford train station is not alone in losing its largely ignored banks of payphones.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) official here in Connecticut says, in fact, plenty of stations have had some or all of their phones yanked out. It may be a tall order in the cell phone age to find another company to put some in.

Some commuters admit this morning they hadn't even noticed the empty spaces until now.

One commuter asked, "What happens if you don't have a cell phone and need to call somebody? You'd be out of luck. How do you call 911? How do you call 411? How do you do anything?"

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Steven Holl Strikes Again

Shenzhen’s Vanke Center Aiming for LEED Platinum

Steven Holl didn’t stop with the Linked Hybrid in Beijing, he is also the architect for the Vanke Center in Shenzhen, a new mixed-use “horizontal skyscraper” aiming for LEED Platinum. I was lucky enough to visit the construction site last week, and this post will describe the unique concept and display some of my photos.

(Quick caveat: most of this info was provided to me in Chinese... I’m pretty good with the language, but I might have missed something...)

“Horizontal Skyscraper” Maximizes Open Space
The Vanke Center, despite being only 35m tall, is one of the largest skyscrapers in the world. It just happens to be horizontal. In fact, if the Vanke Center were stood up vertically, it would be as tall as the Empire State Building. The building houses apartments, condos, offices, and a hotel, and will be the new headquarters for China Vanke, one of the country's largest real estate developers.

And in addition to just looking cool, this interesting form actually has multiple green functions.

Open space
The building essentially has zero footprint on the ground, which creates more space for social interaction as well as more greenery. Although this landscaping could create additional environmental pressures, the designers have thoughtfully minimized this impact through the use of a rainwater capture system. Shenzhen’s wet, tropical climate provides plenty enough rain to keep the plants green, and rainwater gutters on the roof collect this water and use it for irrigation and filling the several fountains throughout the grounds. Moreover, the additional green space means there is more opportunity for rain water to percolate into the ground before running off into local sewers, lessening the strain on municipal water infrastructure.

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Bank of America threatens former employee with lawsuit over Cuomo Merrill Lynch bonus investigation

BY Greg B. Smith

Bank of America vowed to sue a former employee if he cooperates in a state probe of $3.6 billion in Merrill Lynch bonuses doled out just before the bank took over the faltering firm.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Friday asked a judge to reject the bank's efforts to obstruct his ongoing investigation. Cuomo cited an e-mail threat to Greg Fleming, a former Merrill exec he subpoenaed Thursday in his probe of a flurry of bonuses that came just before the taxpayer-financed takeover.

Fleming was warned not to reveal "confidential, proprietary information of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch regarding bonuses," in an e-mail from Bank of America's lawyer, Lewis Liman, sources said. The message went to Fleming's lawyer, Jonathan Polkes.

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