Wednesday, May 6, 2009

News That Matters - May 6, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you (Almost Daily) by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Wednesday Morning,

Peekskill Hollow Road There's a meeting at 6:30PM at the County Courthouse tonight to discuss this issue. Physical Services committee chair Vinnie Tamagna has called for a special meeting on Peekskill Hollow Road so that the opposing sides can duke it out. There's a lot of information out there, some of it good while some of it misses the mark so this should be an interesting and informative event.

Greg Ball has softened his position on illegal immigration and has calmed his rhetoric over the past few months all in preparation for the race which is now an official thing. But that goat thing still rankles.
Who are the "Greenest" countries in the world? Yale University thinks they know. While the United States came in at #39, the top five are, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Costa Rica. You can read the report here.

One promise Barack Obama made during his campaign was to have the US armed forces join the rest of the developed world by rejecting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" a policy that has cost millions of dollars replacing qualified and trained military personnel and that severely damaged our ability to work in the Arab speaking world just after 9/11, by ejecting dozens of Arabic speaking interpreters. And supporters of the current President were pleased to see the the website,, use the word, "repeal". But alert readers of the site noticed a not-so-subtle change between April 30th and May 1. Now the site says, "He supports changing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security," Just what does that mean? In fact, the White House's original 756 words devoted to GLBT issues were replaces with a paltry two sentences. See ChangeTracker for more.

On that, the NYS Assembly will vote, most likely today, on AB7732 which is NY's version of a new marriage bill that will finally grant equal rights to all New Yorkers. Assemblywoman Galef's office has indicated she will vote in favor this time around. Call her to offer your support for the bill at (518) 455-5348. Now that Greg Ball is in the race for Congress it will be interesting to see how he votes. He, along with Ms. Galef voted against this last time around but it's a popular measure in the 19th CD so along with his moderated rhetoric on immigration and other issues, will he vote in favor?

If you haven't been over to the blog in a while, here are some of the stories posted there which did not make it into News That Matters.
Lastly this fine, sunny Wednesday morning, Friday brings you the "Things to Do" edition of News That Matters and so standard alerts are in order: if your group or organization is having an event this weekend or in to next week, get that information in before tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon.

And now, The News:
  1. Putnam road project awakens protest
  2. Building a Culture of Trust in Politics
  3. Biofuel Squeezed From Algae Could Be New Cash Crop
  4. Up on the Roof
  5. Going Dutch
  6. Wind energy impact
  7. Obama Reverses Bush Rule On Mountaintop Removal Mining
  8. One nation, seven sins

Putnam road project awakens protest

Barbara Livingston Nackman

PUTNAM VALLEY - Putnam's longest road, Peekskill Hollow Road, is set for an $8 million, nearly 3-mile renovation that is not as much as county officials had wanted and far more than many local residents can accept.

Construction is to begin in the fall, but county legislators are hosting a special meeting to thrash out the plan tomorrow at the Putnam County Courthouse.

"We need to turn up the heat on those who continue to support this ill-conceived, destructive proposal, and convince them this project is not in our town's (or county's) best interests," wrote resident Victor Tiship, urging his neighbors to attend the meeting. "The rural character of PHR is an important and essential element of the identity of Putnam Valley."

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Building a Culture of Trust in Politics

Posted by Joe Brewer May 2, 2009

A culture of trust is vital to solving the big problems of our age.

Without trust, there can be no hope of real and lasting positive change in the world. Our challenges are too big to solve on our own. We must be able to work together and collaborate on an unprecedented scale to build a stable economy, restore health to our communities, and manage the tremendous global changes unfolding around us.

And yet we live in a world filled with manipulative messages, the very presence of which threatens the foundation of democracy. From a very early age, our hidden motivations (in the form of emotional tendencies and networks of associated knowledge embedded in our unconscious minds) have been exploited to trick us into thinking we need things that we don’t.

And now this pervasiveness of sophisticated commercial marketing has corroded the fabric of political engagement. We no longer trust most of the information we receive. Our skepticism is a cultural pathology - a deeply rooted belief that those in power are trying to trick us. Unfortunately, this distrust is grounded in the truth that we have indeed been tricked many times in the past.

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Biofuel Squeezed From Algae Could Be New Cash Crop

The Hartford Courant

Texas has its switch grass. Iowa has its soybeans.

And now, Connecticut has its algae.

In a quest for a biofuel crop native to Connecticut, researchers at the University of New Haven have begun collecting the green scum from Long Island Sound and investigating whether oil squeezed out of it can be cost-effectively turned into biodiesel — a cleaner-burning diesel substitute. The study is part of a race heating up across the country to find the next generation of biofuel sources, and algae research is only, well, skimming the surface.

Universities and private investors from California to Rhode Island are extracting oil out of everything from acorns to weed-like shrubs to poplar trees, in the hopes of reviving the country's foundering biodiesel and ethanol fuel industries. The theory is that by cultivating an abundant range of local crops, producers can save on shipping costs — and stabilize the volatile corn and soy prices that have threatened the fragile biofuel industry.

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Up on the Roof

A lofty idea is blossoming in cities around the world, where acres of potential green space lie overhead.

By Verlyn Klinkenborg
Photograph by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel

If buildings sprang up suddenly out of the ground like mushrooms, their rooftops would be covered with a layer of soil and plants.

That's not how humans build, of course. Instead we scrape away the earth, erect the structure itself, and cap it with a rainproof, presumably forgettable, roof. It's tempting to say that the roofscape of every city on this planet is a man-made desert, except that a desert is a living habitat. The truth is harsher. The urban roofscape is a little like hell—a lifeless place of bituminous surfaces, violent temperature contrasts, bitter winds, and an antipathy to water.

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Going Dutch


[Ed note: I recommend finding 20 minutes to read the entire article.]

PICTURE ME, IF YOU WILL, as I settle at my desk to begin my workday, and feel free to use a Vermeer image as your template. The pale-yellow light that gives Dutch paintings their special glow suffuses the room. The interior is simple, with high walls and beams across the ceiling. The view through the windows of the 17th-century house in which I have my apartment is of similarly gabled buildings lining the other side of one of Amsterdam’s oldest canals. Only instead of a plump maid or a raffish soldier at the center of the canvas, you should substitute a sleep-rumpled writer squinting at a laptop.

For 18 months now I’ve been playing the part of the American in Holland, alternately settling into or bristling against the European way of life. Many of the features of that life are enriching. History echoes from every edifice as you move through your day. The bicycle is not a means of recreation but a genuine form of transportation. A nearby movie house sells not popcorn but demitasses of espresso and glasses of Dutch gin from behind a wood-paneled bar, which somehow makes you feel sane and adult and enfolded in civilization.

Then there are the features of European life that grate on an American sensibility, like the three-inch leeway that drivers deign to grant you on the highway, or the cling film you get from the supermarket, which clings only to itself. But such annoyances pale in comparison to one other. For the first few months I was haunted by a number: 52. It reverberated in my head; I felt myself a prisoner trying to escape its bars. For it represents the rate at which the income I earn, as a writer and as the director of an institute, is to be taxed. To be plain: more than half of my modest haul, I learned on arrival, was to be swallowed by the Dutch welfare state. Nothing in my time here has made me feel so much like an American as my reaction to this number. I am politically left of center in most ways, but from the time 52 entered my brain, I felt a chorus of voices rise up within my soul, none of which I knew I had internalized, each a ghostly simulacrum of a right-wing, supply-side icon: Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Rush Limbaugh. The grim words this chorus chanted in defense of my hard-earned income I recognized as copied from Charlton Heston’s N.R.A. rallying cry about prying his gun from his cold, dead hands.

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Wind energy impact

A report looks at the environmental benefits and drawbacks of wind power.
By Wed, Apr 29 2009 at 2:27 PM EST

Wind farms are growing in popularity across the country as states, communities, and companies look to clean, renewable energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. But the government hasn’t given these groups sufficient guidance on what environmental factors to consider before planting turbines, according to a report released by the National Research Council.
Congress mandated the report, “Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects,” which details the environmental consequences of onshore wind projects in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It looks into impacts of wind farms on carbon dioxide, wildlife, and humans, and also offers guidelines for planning and developing wind farms.

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Obama Reverses Bush Rule On Mountaintop Removal Mining

Why coal is a bad bet, and Obama is a good poker player.

By Dan Shapley

Mining is mining -- it involves tearing up earth to reach valuable deposits. It's inherently destructive.

But no mining method reaches the level of destructiveness of mountaintop removal mining, a practice that employs mind-bogglingly large machinery to lop off mountaintops in Appalachia, dump the debris into mountain streams and valleys, and walk off with the coal.

It's brutally efficient, as long as you don't care about the environmental impacts. The impact, to put it succinctly, is the sure death of those buried streams and whatever life had thrived there.

The Bush Administration saw that destruction as minimal, compared to the economic benefits of mining and burning coal. The Obama Administration, though, is taking a much more progressive and long view on the subject. It is moving to reverse an 11th hour Bush Administration rule that would have made it easier for companies to obliterate Appalachia to exploit coal deposits.

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One nation, seven sins

Geographers measure propensity for evil in states, counties

The question of evil and where it lurks has been largely ignored by the scientific community, which is why a recently released study titled “The Spatial Distribution of the Seven Deadly Sins Within Nevada” is groundbreaking: Never before has a state’s fall from grace been so precisely graphed and plotted.

Geographers from Kansas State University have used certain statistical measurements to quantify Nevada’s sins and come up with a county-by-county map purporting to show various degrees of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride in the Silver State. By culling statistics from nationwide databanks of things like sexually transmitted disease infection rates (lust) or killings per capita (wrath), the researchers came up with a sin index. This is a precision party trick — rigorous mapping of ridiculous data.

Their findings were presented Tuesday at the Association of American Geographers’ annual meeting at the Riviera, where Kansas State geography research associate Thomas Vought fielded questions while standing next to a poster of his research. Seven maps of Nevada, in seven different colors, for seven different sins.

The darker a county, the more evil it is.

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