Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NtM - April, 8, 2009

News That Matters
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Good Wednesday Morning,

Last week a client of mine commented on the amount of trash found near the fire tower atop Mt. Nimham. This landed close to home especially after the year-long effort to save the mountain from a logging project was won a couple of years back and the mountain preserved in a natural state for all of us to enjoy.
We've always known the mountain was a popular spot for people and that many teens and twenty-somethings use it as a place to hang out and be tribal. All of that is well and good, and I encourage its continued use for those purposes. But please! Take your garbage out with you.
Look, if you can carry a full six-pack up the mountain you can certainly carry it back down again once it's empty. And yes, I know it's fun to drop bottles off the top of the firetower to hear them smash on the ground below but please, stop being idiots about this and have a little respect for those coming after you. Really now... do you want me climbing your roof and dropping bottles onto your back patio? Of course not. So then why would you do it to someone else?

When DEC was defending their right to log off the mountain they positioned themselves as the ultimate caretakers of the land, better suited to manage it than anyone else. But contacts with DEC over this issue have failed to elicit a positive response. It's their land and they have an obligation to do something about this. I don't care if it's passive, as in placing recycling bins up there and collecting them once a week or signing the area, or better, have a DEC cop take a drive up there almost any weekend night about 11PM... that ought to do it. There's a letter currently circulating about this and hopefully that letter - and it's receivers contacts with the DEC - will have an effect.

Write to the DEC and ask them to do something about this.

Image: Jeff Green and a poplar that was saved from being logged on Mt Nimham, December 2006.
Alternate title: Yet another treehugger.
Whatever happened to the Ball and the Goat thing? Does anyone know?

Hats off to the State of Vermont. Yesterday, early afternoon, the Vermont State legislature voted to allow same sex marriage by overriding the governor's veto of the bill. The final vote was 100-49. Four votes that switched overnight made the difference. Vermont now joins Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. New Jersey is following close behind and Washington DC is looking into the matter. New York state is far behind. Though the State Assembly voted to support the issue (Galef and Ball voted against) the Senate is still apportioning large office suites, kickbacks and payouts (er, member items) and doesn't have time for such mundane things as civil rights.

The next issue of News That Matters comes on Friday with our weekly Things To Do Edition so if your group or organization has something planned you'd like us to know about please let me know today or tomorrow.

Chag Someach Pesach! Why is this night different from all other nights? Because Passover begins tonight, one of the more important holidays on the Jewish calendar. If anyone is going downstate this evening, please stop in at my cousin's in Wantagh and send them my best. I need to be working and can't get down there.

And now, the News:
  1. Silicon photovoltaic company moves to East Fishkill
  2. A victory for water quality
  3. NYSEG rate increase request dismissed
  4. Is it a rickshaw or a car? GM sees PUMA in the future
  5. Shrinking Forests: The Many Costs
  6. Payday lenders thwart limits
  7. It’s Alive! Step Right Up and See for Yourself!
  8. 'Sexting' Hysteria Falsely Brands Educator as Child Pornographer

Silicon photovoltaic company moves to East Fishkill

HOPEWELL JUNCTION – SpectraWatt, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of advanced silicon photovoltaic cells, Tuesday announced it would move its headquarters from Oregon to the Hudson Valley Research Park, initially creating over 100 jobs within the first year of operation. That will go up to 150 by the time phase one is up and running in two years.

The company expects to be in production early in 2010. Its first factory line will have an initial manufacturing capacity of 60 megawatts; additional lines are being planned with site capacity exceeding 120 mw within the first two years of operation.

Read More

A victory for water quality

A NYJN Editorial

Both Westchester and Rockland sewer projects got a boost in the latest round of federal stimulus spending. With $55 million going to upgrades at the Mamaroneck sewer treatment plant and $35.2 million for an advanced wastewater treatment plant in Hillburn, the two counties topped the list for sewer and water projects in New York.

The appropriations are fresh evidence that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - the economic stimulus bill - is far more than "make work" or "pork" projects. The money can help address and advance vital public needs and ease the burden on local taxpayers. The real winner, too, is the environment.

For years, damage has been inflicted on the Long Island Sound from nitrogen-rich discharge that choked plant and aquatic life and downgraded water quality. The Mamaroneck and New Rochelle wastewater treatment facilities are under federal and state mandate to spend $235 million to improve the plants and reduce the amount of nitrogen released into the sound.

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NYSEG rate increase request dismissed

ALBANY – The state Public Service Commission Tuesday granted a motion by Staff of the Department of Public Service to dismiss the January 2009 rate relief filings of New York State Electric & Gas Corporation and Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation. 

NYSEG provides electric service to areas of the Mid-Hudson and Catskills regions.

“The Commission has determined the evidence in this proceeding does not indicate that NYSEG’s and RG&E’s ability to provide safe and reliable service to their customers is jeopardized,” said Commission Chairman Garry Brown. “This determination is made in consideration of the fact that the companies agreed, as part of the Iberdrola merger agreement, to not file for a rate increase within a certain time period unless they could show financial performance would fall to levels that would jeopardize the ability to provide safe and reliable service.”

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Is it a rickshaw or a car? GM sees PUMA in the future

Photo by the author
Free Press Washington Staff

NEW YORK — Having conquered the world of passenger vehicles, General Motors Corp. showed off its vision of future transportation today that’s either exciting or frightening, depending on whether one cares about driving.

GM and Segway unveiled the Project PUMA, a two-seat rickshaw minus a rick that uses the Segway’s electric systems to glide around on two wheels. Capable of carrying 700 pounds in a frame about half the size of a Smart car, the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) can spin on a pin and “bows” to let passengers in and out.

The PUMA — a name that suggests someone at GM or Segway may be a hard-core Hillary Clinton supporter — can hit 35 miles an hour and travel 35 miles on a charge. The mockup vehicle had no creature comforts beyond seat belts, but GM vice president of research Larry Burns says the PUMA could “fundamentally change how we move around cities.”

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Shrinking Forests: The Many Costs

Lester R. Brown

In early December 2004, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo “ordered the military and police to crack down on illegal logging, after flash floods and landslides, triggered by rampant deforestation, killed nearly 340 people,” according to news reports. Fifteen years earlier, in 1989, the government of Thailand announced a nationwide ban on tree cutting following severe flooding and the heavy loss of life in landslides. And in August 1998, following several weeks of record flooding in the Yangtze River basin and a staggering $30 billion worth of damage, the Chinese government banned all tree cutting in the upper reaches of the basin. Each of these governments had belatedly learned a costly lesson, namely that services provided by forests, such as flood control, may be far more valuable to society than the lumber in those forests.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the earth’s forested area was estimated at 5 billion hectares. Since then it has shrunk to just under 4 billion hectares, with the remaining forests rather evenly divided between tropical and subtropical forests in developing countries and temperate/boreal forests in industrial countries. Since 1990, the developing world has lost some 13 million hectares of forest a year. This loss of about 3 percent each decade is an area roughly the size of Greece. Meanwhile, the industrial world is actually gaining an estimated 5.6 million hectares of forestland each year, principally from abandoned cropland returning to forests on its own and from the spread of commercial forestry plantations. Thus, net forest loss worldwide exceeds 7 million hectares per year.

Unfortunately, even these official data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) do not reflect the gravity of the situation. For example, tropical forests that are clearcut or burned off rarely recover. They simply become wasteland or at best scrub forest, yet they still may be counted as “forest” in official forestry numbers. Plantations, too, count as forest area, yet they also are a far cry from the old-growth forest they sometimes replace.

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Payday lenders thwart limits


WASHINGTON (AP) — The payday loan industry, threatened by Congress with extinction, has deployed well-connected lobbyists and hefty sums of campaign cash to key lawmakers to save itself.

The strategy has paid off.

Now a top Democrat who once tried to ban the practice is instead pushing to regulate it — a result, he says, of the industry's lobbying clout.

The lawmaker, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., says his bill does have crucial protections for borrowers and represents the best deal he can manage in the face of the industry's aggressive lobbying. Consumer groups are condemning the bill as a loophole-riddled gift to the industry.

Read More

It’s Alive! Step Right Up and See for Yourself!


Coney Island was looking pretty good for being dead. A new gear had been put on the Wonder Wheel. The sun licked at the windows of the Freak Bar. There was the smell of fresh-laid paint.

But the condolence calls kept coming: disbelief from Boston, despondency from London. Friends came by on maudlin visits. Ferris wheel lovers sent their deep regrets.

“My own mother calls from Tucson — true story,” said Kenneth Hochman, a marketing executive who does a lot of work in Coney Island. “And she’s from Brooklyn, mind you.” Just the sort of woman who keeps track.

“So she calls a couple of months ago and says: ‘What? You didn’t tell me Coney Island closed?’ ” Indignant rimshot. “My own mother,” he said.

Last September, when the Astroland amusement park, a three-acre sliver of the area, was shut down in a battle with its landlord, erroneous reports went out around the world that all of Coney Island was a corpse. Overnight, it seemed, obituaries were composed. Carnie barkers were invited to their own wakes.

Read More

'Sexting' Hysteria Falsely Brands Educator as Child Pornographer

By Kim Zetter April 03, 2009 | 9:41:16 AMCategories: Crime

It was an incident that began innocently enough, but nearly ruined the life and three-decade career of a veteran high school teacher and administrator.

Rumors had been flying at Freedom High School in South Riding, Virginia that students were distributing nude pictures of each other on their cell phones. It's a phenomenon, known as "sexting," that's become increasingly worrisome to educators across the country, and Ting-Yi Oei, a 60-year-old assistant principal at the school, was tasked with checking it out.

The investigation was inconclusive, but led to a stunning aftermath: Oei himself was charged with possession of child pornography and related crimes -- charges that threatened to brand him a sex offender and land him in prison for up to seven years. Transferred from his school and isolated from colleagues, Oei spent $150,000 and a year of his life defending himself in a Kafkaesque legal nightmare triggered by a determined county prosecutor and nurtured by a growing hysteria over technology-enabled child porn at America's schools.

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