Monday, June 8, 2009

News That Matters - June 8, 2009

News That Matters
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“It’s the combined taxidermist and veterinarian approach: either way you get your dog back,”
- David Himmelstein, an internist at the Harvard Medical School on why health insurers hold tobacco stocks.

Good Monday Morning,

As reported yesterday, there' s good news this morning if you live at or near Peach Lake. In the second round of stimulus funding, the Town of North Salem and the Town of Southeast will be the recipients of $13 million to address failing septic systems at Peach Lake. By the way, this is an example of what those "tea party" folk call "creeping socialism."

Realizing that treating post traumatic stress disorder quickly costs 25% of what an untreated case costs, Congressman John Hall introduced HR952 which attempts to speed the process at which returning soldiers are treated for PTSD. The Hudson Valley Psychological Association praised the congressman for his work on this. Now it's a matter of getting Congress to care.

The United States ranks 64th globally in voter turnout for its national elections with, on average, 49.3% of eligible voters participating. Some of the nations scoring higher are, Uruguay(2), Ghana(10), Panama(21), Uganda(28) Lithuania(39) and Mexico(54).
When it comes to spending on education, we rank 37th, behind Cuba(1), Yemen(5), Kenya(20) and Slovenia(28).

As to life expectancy at birth, we're #47 on the list at 78.14 years while Canada(8), Iceland(14) and New Zealand (17) rank better. All western nations with national health care systems rank higher  and yet, we spend the most of any nation (15.4% of the GDP) than anyone else. We're number 1 and it's killing us!
Just so you know the Department of Homeland Security is working to protect you, back in April they requested Yahoo to provide them information which included acronyms commonly used in personal online sex advertisements. It's funny, I always thought DHS was involved in the more mundane occupation of stopping international terrorism but we should all feel safe(r) knowing what they're really protecting us from!

Many of you received email invitations to the 2nd Annual Garden Party yesterday but for those who did not, yours is here.

And now, the News:

  1. Kent Democrats going after most offices
  2. Consolidation of School Districts - Will it Work? You decide.
  3. Consolidation of governments, school districts topic of forum
  4. Hudson River access provided with state funds
  5. Clean up a River for National Rivers Month
  6. Big Box Reuse
  7. Health insurers want you to keep smoking, Harvard doctors say

Kent Democrats going after most offices

Michael Risinit

KENT - Voters in town this year will find a packed ballot, as the town Democratic Committee has added candidates to just about all of the races.

With the exception of Republican Supervisor Kathy Doherty, every other elected official in Kent is facing a challenge from either a Democrat or a candidate cross-endorsed by the Democrats. The Kent Democrats recently announced their slate.

"In the last year or so we have concentrated our efforts on building a membership dedicated to Democratic principles. The result has been a willingness among residents to participate in providing a decent alternative to the people of Kent," Kent Democratic Chairman Paul Spiegel said.

Lou Tartaro, chairman of the Kent Republican Committee and a councilman running for re-election, said he was "slightly surprised" at the number of candidates put forth by the Democrats.

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Consolidation of School Districts - Will it Work? You decide.

As many of you may know consolidation of school districts has been discussed as a means to reduce expenses. However prior to consolidating school districts there must be a comprehensive proposal designed to demonstrate how the proposed consolidation would benefit both the communities involved and better serve the educational interests of the student population.
The uppermost question right now is will a consolidated school district save the taxpayers money?
To keep this example simple only the consolidation of the Brewster and Carmel School Districts is used as an example.
The NYS Report Cards for the Brewster and Carmel School District for the school year ending in 2008 reports the following key information:

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Consolidation of governments, school districts topic of forum

FISHKILL - Over 100 Pattern for Progress members gathered at the Fishkill Holiday Inn Friday to hear panelists talk about a topic much discussed over the past few years in New York State – consolidation of government services and school districts.

Though the forum was created to discuss not-for-profits and healthcare, much of the attention was drawn by members in the audience to school district funding and government spending of social programs.

Proponents of government and school district consolidation have traditionally viewed the move as a monetary one, while opponents argue that consolidation will decrease services. The argument seems to remain the same, but Pattern President Jonathan Drapkin hopes a balance can be struck to benefit everyone.

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Hudson River access provided with state funds

TIVOLI -- Assemblyman Marc Molinaro of Red Hook and Tivoli Village Mayor Tom Cordier announced the village has secured a $300,000 matching grant from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for the Tivoli Waterfront Park project.

This follows an agreement reached last year to purchase waterfront property on the Hudson River from CSX Railroad, granting the entire town of Red Hook its only public riverfront access point.

“This grant will go a long way in helping the Village of Tivoli purchase and protect this waterfront property, giving the public something it has lacked for far too long: access to the Hudson River,” said Molinaro.

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Clean up a River for National Rivers Month

River Cleanups Offer Chance to Help Communities
Heather Hamilton, American Rivers, 202-347-7550 X 3056
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202-347-7550 X 3100

June 5, 2009

Washington, DC — June is National Rivers Month and, to commemorate it, American Rivers is encouraging Americans to celebrate their local rivers by participating in or organizing a river cleanup. Hundreds of river cleanups across the country are scheduled during June and throughout the year. Volunteers can find a nearby river cleanup or information and tools to organize their own at

Each year, millions of tons of trash end up in the nation’s rivers. National River Cleanup was launched in 1991 to help keep the country’s rivers clean and trash-free. Since then, the program has grown significantly and more than 800,000 volunteers have participated in 6,000 cleanups across the country. 

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Big Box Reuse

Julia Christensen

America is becoming a container landscape of big boxes connected by highways. When a big box store upsizes to an even bigger box "supercenter" down the road, it leaves behind more than the vacant shell of a retail operation; it leaves behind a changed landscape that can't be changed back. Acres of land have been paved around it. Highway exits lead to it; local roads end at it. With thousands of empty big box stores spread across America, these sites have become a dominant feature of the American landscape.

In Big Box Reuse, Julia Christensen shows us how ten communities have addressed this problem, turning vacated Wal-Marts and Kmarts into something else: a church, a library, a school, a medical center, a courthouse, a recreation center, a museum, and other civic-minded structures. In each case, what was once a place to shop has become a center of community life.

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Health insurers want you to keep smoking, Harvard doctors say

By Brendan Borrell in 60-Second Science Blog 

Health and life insurance companies in the US and abroad have nearly $4.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks, according to Harvard doctors.

“It’s the combined taxidermist and veterinarian approach: either way you get your dog back,” says David Himmelstein, an internist at the Harvard Medical School and co-author of a letter published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The largest tobacco investor on the list, the 160-year old Prudential company with branches in the US and the UK, has more than $1.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks. The runner-up was Toronto-based Sun Life Financial, which apparently holds over $1 billion in Philip Morris (Altria) and other tobacco stocks.  In total, seven companies that sell life, health, disability, or long-term care insurance, have major holdings in tobacco stock.

Why is it a big deal? “If you own a billion dollars [of tobacco stock], then you don’t want to see it go down,” says Himmelstein, “You are less likely to join anti-tobacco coalitions, endorse anti-tobacco legislation, basically, anything most health companies would want to participate in.”

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