Monday, March 2, 2009

NtM - March 2, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

“The clock was turned back during the last 16 years; Clinton and Bush didn’t do much for the environment, but now I think things will change if we get out and work,” - Pete Seeger

Good Monday Morning,

Radio commentator Paul Harvey has died. Rush Limbaugh has not. There is little justice in this world.

A reader once wrote to say she was offended each time I posted a review of an event by writing, 'you should have been there.' She said I was trying to make her feel guilty. Well, tough noogies. You should have been there! The "there" in this instance refers to the Blue Horse Repertory Shakespeare Slam held at the Lake Carmel Cultural Center this past Saturday night.

The cultural center's normal floor plan was turned into a Theater in the Round configuration so that New York acting coach Roger Simon could take full use of the unique space to present sections from more than a dozen plays, creatively interwoven into a single, non-stop dialogue. It was, to steal a phrase, a rollicking good time.

Actors wearing street clothes sat within the audience so that at any moment the man or woman next to you might quite suddenly become part of the action. While there were no sword fights, there was rapid-fire action as the actors, many of whom are students of Mr. Simon's and traveled up from New York City, played their roles.

Full disclosure requires that I state that I was cast as Mustard Seed, one of four faeries (Cob Web, Pease Blossom, and Moth are the other three) who tend to the nymph Tatiana in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Like I said, You should have been there.

Biting the Hand That Funds You: The Hudson River Estuary program is working out of time, so to speak. In a contractual struggle with the State of New York, Cornell University has sent lay-off notices to program workers whose salaries are paid for by the State. The state, Cornell says, is slow in paying their bills and so to pressure them into paying up faster they have taken this approach. The ironic thing is that many of the programs Cornell manages are paid for almost entirely through state funding and without those funds the University's outreach programs would find themselves um, out of business. I'm sure there was another way Cornell could have handled this.

Lastly this Monday morning: As I was reading through the Putnam Times this weekend I noticed, again, that there seems to be page after page of legal notices for residential foreclosure sales. It makes me wonder how we allowed Congress, and both presidents Bush and Obama, to send a trillion dollars to the industry who largely caused this problem in the first place and yet have sent nothing to those victimized by it.

It would be too broad a generalization to claim each foreclosure was caused by the mortgage and banking industries since, let's be honest, many of us are living beyond our means, cooed by marketing and the American Myth that we can have - and deserve to have - everything and anything we want. But many are losing their homes due to deceptive marketing, interest rates that would make a Shylock jealous and a government which allowed the industry to write the rules.

Website Watch:

Based on the phone book, "Jeff" is the 172nd most popular first name, wedged between Peggy (#171) and Phyllis (#173). Green, is the 40th most popular last name sided by Perez (#39) and Campbell (#41). The combination, Jeff Green ranks #40,955 besting Jeffrey Warner at #40,956.

No, I didn't spend my weekend going through the phone book, though I have been known to embark on such escapades before. I went to the Name Popularity Search at If you're at work, it's a great time-waster so do so with caution! By the way, if you're curious, John is the most popular first name and Smith holds that place for surname. "Fesselmeyer" ranks 399,768. was built to help the new administration keep its pledge to invest stimulus money smartly, and to hold public officials to account for the taxpayer money they spend. They do this by allowing you, citizens around the country with local knowledge about the proposed "shovel-ready" projects in your city, to find, discuss and rate those projects. These projects are not part of the stimulus bill. They are candidates for funding by federal grant programs once the bill passes. Learn more by reading the FAQs.

And now, The News:

  1. Carmel School District forced to cut staff due to declining state aid
  2. Putnam commission considers school consolidation, competitive bidding
  3. Hall secures funding to bring solar power to Beacon City Hall
  4. Yellow Is the New Green
  5. Illness strikes bats in Morris
  6. Doctor Lobbying to Treat Poor People for Free
  7. 'Oldest English words' identified
  8. Colorado state senator compares being gay to committing murder.

Carmel School District forced to cut staff due to declining state aid

PATTERSON — A proposed budget-to-budget increase of 2.8 percent in the Carmel School District is not good enough in these trying economic times.

Years ago such a modest escalation would have been a coup for a school system the size of Carmel but with the uncertain economy and threatened reductions in state aid, administration and members of the Board of Education have been meeting regularly to reduce the budget even further. And the bad news is they are planning to cut a dozen or more positions.

Superintendent Dr. James Ryan reported Thursday based on Governor Paterson’s executive budget proposal, Carmel can expect a state aid cutback of more than $2.4 million for the 2009-2010 school year. “With a reduction on this scale, the 2.8 percent budget-to-budget increase was too excessive.”

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Putnam commission considers school consolidation, competitive bidding

CARMEL — Consolidation of local school districts and competitive bidding were on the minds of the Putnam Commission on Fiscal Vision and Accountability.

The group consisting of community leaders in the fields of business, commerce, education and elected officials met over the weekend in Carmel to continue discussions on tightening the county’s purse strings without adversely impacting Putnam’s 100,000-plus population.

Legislator Mary Ellen Odell of Carmel has been chairing the committee for the past year and periodically reports to her colleagues on the legislature about the volunteer group’s findings and recommendations.

In addition to discussing a plan calling for video arraignments of prisoners incarcerated at the Putnam Correctional Facility and the creation of a four day work week, issues centering on consolidation of school systems and the bidding process highlighted the four hour long session

Putnam Valley Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Space told the group surveys nationwide have indicated “taxpayer dollars would not be saved to consolidate a district with more than 2,000 pupils because support positions must be created. Compared to other industries education has one of the lowest employee-to-management ratios found anywhere. The research is out there. Communities don’t financially gain when large districts are consolidated.”

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Hall secures funding to bring solar power to Beacon City Hall

BEACON – Congressman John Hall (D-Dover Plains) Friday announced that solar panels will soon be installed on the roof of Beacon City Hall as part of a larger effort to help promote alternative energy, bring more jobs to the region, and, ultimately, reduce our nation’s independence on oil.

The 19th Congressional District representative joined City of Beacon Mayor Steve Gold and residents at City Hall to discuss the future of alternative energy, and how municipalities play a role in its promotion.

“In securing funds for solar panels, we are not only providing cheaper energy to City Hall, we are showing the residents we care about the environment, and that we are working towards a cleaner, safer, energy independence,” said Hall. He also noted that it should put local construction laborers to work, setting off a trend he hopes will take off once more appropriations come into place.

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Yellow Is the New Green

Woolley, England

IN the far reaches of Shaanxi Province in northern China, in an apple-producing village named Ganquanfang, I recently visited a house belonging to two cheery primary-school teachers, Zhang Min Shu and his wife, Wu Zhaoxian. Their house wasn’t exceptional — a spacious yard, several rooms — except for the bathroom. There, up a few steps on a tiled platform, sat a toilet unlike any I’d seen. Its pan was divided in two: solid waste went in the back, and the front compartment collected urine. The liquids and solids can, after a decent period of storage and composting, be applied to the fields as pathogen-free, expense-free fertilizer.

>From being unsure of wanting a toilet near the house in the first place — which is why the bathroom is at the far end of their courtyard — the couple had become so delighted with it that they regretted not putting it next to the kitchen after all.

What does this have to do with you? Mr. Zhang and Ms. Wu’s weird toilet — known as a “urine diversion,” or NoMix (after a Swedish brand), toilet — may have things to teach us all.

In the industrialized world, most of us (except those who have septic tanks) rely on wastewater-treatment plants to remove our excrement from the drinking-water supply, in great volumes. (Toilets can use up to 30 percent of a household’s water supply.) This paradigm is rarely questioned, and I understand why: flush toilets, sewers and wastewater-treatment plants do a fine job of separating us from our potentially toxic waste, and eliminating cholera and other waterborne diseases. Without them, cities wouldn’t work.

But the paradigm is flawed. For a start, cleaning sewage guzzles energy. Sewage treatment in Britain uses a quarter of the energy generated by the country’s largest coal-fired power station.

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Illness strikes bats in Morris

Sick mammals found in Denville, Rockaway Twp.; no human risk
By Rob Jennings • Daily Record • January 24, 2009

ROCKAWAY TWP. -- An illness not seen before in New Jersey is believed to be afflicting local bats, prompting the winged mammals to leave hibernation and search for food, state and local officials said Friday.

Three brown bats -- two recovered in Rockaway Township and one in Denville -- were sent to the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin and tentatively diagnosed with White Nose Syndrome, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

White Nose Syndrome, first diagnosed in New York in 2006, causes bats to lose stored body fat. The disease drew its name from the white, powdery fungus that grows on the bat's muzzle, said DEP principal zoologist Mick Valent.

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Doctor Lobbying to Treat Poor People for Free

GRAND VIEW, N.Y. (AP)  -- A suburban New York doctor is lobbying government officials to let him treat poor people for free.

Dr. Lloyd Hamilton of Grand View, in Rockland County, has formed a not-for-profit group [LoHud] called Doctors Within Borders.

The Harvard-educated doctor also hopes to interest other health-care professionals to donate their time to take care of the area's needy.

Hamilton worked for years in a clinic run by the Rockland County Department of Health. But it has been closed for financial reasons.

Hamilton wants to use that site for a new clinic.

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'Oldest English words' identified

Some of the oldest words in English have been identified, scientists say.

Reading University researchers claim "I", "we", "two" and "three" are among the most ancient, dating back tens of thousands of years.

Their computer model analyses the rate of change of words in English and the languages that share a common heritage.

The team says it can predict which words are likely to become extinct - citing "squeeze", "guts", "stick" and "bad" as probable first casualties.

"We use a computer to fit a range of models that tell us how rapidly these words evolve," said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading.

"We fit a wide range, so there's a lot of computation involved; and that range then brackets what the true answer is and we can estimate the rates at which these things are replaced through time."

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Colorado state senator compares being gay to committing murder.

On the floor of the Colorado state senate on Monday, Republican Sen. Scott Renfroe equated “homosexuality as a sin with murder” during a debate on a bill that would allow same-sex partners of state employees to be covered by health care benefits. “I’m not saying this (homosexuality) is the only sin that’s out there,” said Renfroe. “We have murder. We have all sorts of sin. We have adultery. And we don’t make laws making those legal, and we would never think to make murder legal.” ProgressNow Colorado posted the audio.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said in a statement that Renfroe’s comments were “outrageously offensive” and should “warrant condemnation by all fair-minded people and should be ignored by the Colorado legislature as they move forward in passing overdue protections to state workers.” You can tell Renfroe what you think of his comments here.

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