Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NtM - March 11, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"A survey of 34 states found that states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with $1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged."

Good Wednesday Morning,

If you'd like to see something pretty amazing, tonight provides an opportunity to see the Space Shuttle launch. Indeed. If the weather is clear, look for a spot with an unobstructed southerly view at 9:20PM this evening and scan the skies for the next 8 minutes or so. The shuttle should look like a fast moving satellite traveling towards the east. Try the firetower on Mt. Nimham or the top of Shenandoah Mt. along the Appalachian Trail in Kent.

I've often talked about putting solar panels on the roofs of commercial buildings and n fact, I think it should be part of a town's code. But developers and builders tell me they can't do it. What they're really saying is that they won't do it. Well, Atlantic City, NJ is about to unveil a plan to top their convention center with what should become the largest solar array in the United States on a commercial building. Now let's work on the Highlands Center and anything else that comes along here in Putnam County.

The Builders Association of the Hudson Valley hired one of their own to run a study on the value of home building in a community. According to the non-biased, scientifically based study whose background numbers were not available at press time, every 1000 homes you build generate $263 million in revenue compared with $149 million in costs. In other news, the City of New York, in an effort to reduce its deficit, has placed the landmark Brooklyn Bridge for sale on ebay. Starting bids are at $80,000,000.

Two animal rights activists were arrested and charged with terrorism under Federal law for releasing 300 mink from a farm in Utah. The two are alleged by federal authorities to be members of the Animal Liberation Front whom the FBI terms the "number one domestic terrorism threat" in America. I suppose if we can't stop Al Queida, we'll go after homegrown hippies instead. At least we're not going after the Jews... yet.

In an effort to generate more income, the government in the UK has adopted a plan to lower the national speed limit from 60 to 50mph. "Average Speed" cameras, placed every 6 miles on highways, will automatically send violation tickets to offenders. The reason given by the government for the change is to reduce motor vehicle accident deaths but the more predictable result will be a generous increase in government revenues.

Website Watch:

From the NRDC: Forests are being destroyed to make toilet paper, facial tissues, paper towels and other disposable paper products. You can help stop this destruction by pressing manufacturers to use recycled content and clean manufacturing processes (click here to send a message to paper giant Kimberly-Clark), and by making smart shopping decisions.

This guide will help you choose products. Visit the site here. Thanks to AC for sending this along.

I found the following on the net the other day:

Mafia Warning For Greg Ball

By Andrea Ridgers

My readers may remember the public fight over the rights to The Courage Cup back in 2007.  The fight was between the board of the nonprofit I started in 2006 and Greg Ball who once ran an event by the same name before he ran for office in New York State. You also may remember that I started the real life version of the silly ”Blonde Charity Mafia” several years ago.

Well, the Blonde Charity Mafia isn’t the only mafia who has it out for Assemblyman Ball! The Huffington Post is reporting that while not a horse head, another dead animal was left outside the home of Greg Ball with a note signed by MS-13. For those who don’t know, MS-13 is hard core organized crime organization, and scares the bejesus out of me, but I have to admit I had a good laugh over the fact that we share a common foe.  Let’s hope the rumor that Greg plans to run for Congress is untrue.

- Miss A

P.S. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ball faked the entire event to seem like he’s really a tough guy taking on corruption, and I’m not the only one who thinks this is a possibility.

She sure does bring up a lot of old, almost forgotten history.

And now, The News:

  1. Builder sues for 4th house; Cold Spring uses land for reservoir access
  2. U.S. public transit 2008 ridership highest in 52 years
  3. Schools Keep Bugs at Bay a Safer Way
  4. Israeli energy start-up turns traffic into source of electricity
  5. Virginia man pays his $350 electric bill in pennies
  6. Prison Spending Outpaces All but Medicaid
  7. Cuomo, Frank pressure Bank of America to disclose bonus info
  8. How to opt-out of Verizon's personal info-sharing scheme

Builder sues for 4th house; Cold Spring uses land for reservoir access

Barbara Livingston Nackman
The Journal News

PHILIPSTOWN - A New York City-based architect-builder is suing Philipstown and the village of Cold Spring for denying him a building permit for one of four houses he envisions on a North Highland hillside.

Alfred DeVido proposes four single-family homes on Foundry Pond Road set near a village reservoir in a woodsy landscape near Dutchess County. He already has built one house at 56 Foundry Pond Road, which has garnered state accolades for energy efficiency, and has permits to build two other houses.

A dispute exists over permission to build on a fourth lot.

The village contends construction of this fourth house would prevent access to the Cold Spring Reservoir, one of three water reserves for the village.

Read More

U.S. public transit 2008 ridership highest in 52 years

Mon Mar 9, 2009 3:17pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters Life!) - Facing volatile energy prices and a major economic downturn, Americans turned to public transportation more in 2008 than they have in over 50 years, a transit group said on Monday.

Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transit last year, up 4 percent from 2007, the American Public Transportation Association said. This is the highest level of ridership in 52 years.

"Where many of the other indicators in our economy are down, public transit is up," APTA Vice President Rosemary Sheridan told Reuters.

U.S. gasoline prices set records in 2008, rising above $4 a gallon in July. Gasoline costs began to cool off in the fall, however, as the effects of a global economic downturn began to curb oil demand.

Read More

Schools Keep Bugs at Bay a Safer Way

A new EPA plan would cut school pesticide use by 70 percent or more, but some say children and teachers should be protected by mandates, not voluntary guidelines

By Crystal Gammon and Environmental Health News

Fifteen years ago, a young boy in Bloomington, Indiana, was frequently sick with respiratory problems and other ailments. His symptoms appeared suddenly, and were so severe that he visited his doctor monthly and missed many school days.
His mother began to suspect that something in his elementary school classroom was the culprit. School officials discovered that pesticides had been sprayed on the school grounds and inside the boy’s classroom the day before his latest illness.
“His teacher really did not like bugs, so she’d asked specifically for her classroom to be sprayed,” said Jerry Jochim, an environmental technician at the Monroe County Community School Corporation.
The incident prompted the school district in 1997 to become one of the first in the nation to overhaul its pest control program, spraying pesticides only as a last resort. Relying on better housekeeping rather than chemicals, schools there have cut pesticide use by 92 percent and also have saved money and reduced complaints about insects and rodents
Now, many public schools across the United States soon will be following in Monroe County’s footsteps, under a plan unveiled in January by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Read More

Israeli energy start-up turns traffic into source of electricity

By Reuters

An Israeli energy start-up wants to turn irritating rush-hour traffic into a source of electricity.

Innowattech, an energy company affiliated with Israel's Technion Institute of Technology, said special generators placed under roads, railways and runways can harvest enough energy from passing vehicles to mass-produce electricity.

The generators contain material that produces electricity when mechanical force is applied, like the pressure from a passing car's tires.

The process, known as piezoelectricity, has been used for years on a smaller scale, including in barbecue lighters and a dance club where the pounding feet of dancers light the floor.

Uri Amit, chairman of Innowattech, said the company's technology will be the largest application of piezoelectrics to date, with a single 1-km (half-mile)-lane of highway providing up to 100 kw of electricity, enough to power about 40 houses.

Read More

Virginia man pays his $350 electric bill in pennies

By DAVID McGEE, Bristol Herald Courier


Rather than get upset about his $350 electric bill, John Almany found a unique way to pay it — in pennies.

Almany said he and his brother Gary came up with the idea in January. After finding enough banks to supply the pennies, Almany delivered more than 29,000 to Bristol Virginia Utilities.

"I thought I'd make light of the situation," Almany said. "Everybody gets mad, but there's nothing anyone can do about it."

Their first challenge, Almany said, was finding that many pennies.

"I called some nearby banks to see if I could exchange cash for pennies," Almany said. "We got all the way to the w's in the phone book. One bank gave me $170 in pennies and the other $123."

After trading in the cash, Almany and his brother spent about an hour removing the coins from the 50-cent rolls and dumping them into two large, black duffle bags.

That many pennies weighs about 170 pounds, so the two men worked to carry the duffle bags into BVU's Lee Highway office.

Read More

Prison Spending Outpaces All but Medicaid


One in every 31 adults, or 7.3 million Americans, is in prison, on parole or probation, at a cost to the states of $47 billion in 2008, according to a new study.

Criminal correction spending is outpacing budget growth in education, transportation and public assistance, based on state and federal data. Only Medicaid spending grew faster than state corrections spending, which quadrupled in the past two decades, according to the report Monday by the Pew Center on the States, the first breakdown of spending in confinement and supervision in the past seven years.

The increases in the number of people in some form of correctional control occurred as crime rates declined by about 25 percent in the past two decades.

As states face huge budget shortfalls, prisons, which hold 1.5 million adults, are driving the spending increases.

States have shown a preference for prison spending even though it is cheaper to monitor convicts in community programs, including probation and parole, which require offenders to report to law enforcement officers. A survey of 34 states found that states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with $1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged.

Read More

Cuomo, Frank pressure Bank of America to disclose bonus info

The Associated Press

Monday, March 09, 2009

NEW YORK — New York's attorney general and a key congressman are demanding that the chief executive of Bank of America Corp. immediately disclose details about individual bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch&Co. employees in December.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America acquired Merrill on Jan. 1.

The joint letter from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis comes as Cuomo's office and Bank of America fight about whether details of individual bonuses should be made public.

On Friday, Cuomo asked a judge to reject a request from Bank of America to keep information confidential about the bonuses. Bank of America on Thursday requested a temporary confidentiality order be expanded to cover anyone who testifies on individual bonuses granted by Merrill. The order originally applied just to the testimony given by former Merrill Chief Executive John Thain.

Bank of America spokesman Scott Silvestri said Monday's letter is broader, and goes beyond Merrill Lynch to include all recipients of government funds, including Bank of America.

Read More

How to opt-out of Verizon's personal info-sharing scheme


When you sign up with Verizon, it sends out a tiny-print leaflet to customers informing them (under the vague title above) that they'll share subscribers' personal information unless you explicitly opt out. It does not provide instructions on how to do so without calling them, customers report that calling them is no help, and even when you log into your account, Verizon has made the online copies of this legalese document inaccessible to some of its own subscribers.

I can get to mine, so here it is: DownloadDocument.pdf.

David Weinberger and Read Write Web scald Verizon for this awful situation, and Weinberger figured out a direct link to the opt-out page.

Here are detailed instructions:

Read More

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