Wednesday, July 29, 2009

News That Matters - July 29, 2009

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"He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it - namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain." - Mark Twain

Good Wednesday Morning,

The Kent Manor Saga continues on August 13th, so says Judge O'Rourke. Not citing any reasons and warning everyone not to talk about it, the case has been reschedule until then. Shhhhh! Someone might just answer the question; how come for all those years the county didn't foreclose on that property? I know, I know, I keep asking the same thing over and again. Yet still, no one has an answer. If you want to know what's really going on with Kent Manor, answer that question.

Last week I wrote about a volunteer at the 4H Fair who said he wouldn't ride his bicycle in Mahopac because it was too dangerous.
A day later a bicyclist was hit by a car in that fair burg nearly 5 years to the day after he was first struck by a car near Buckshollow Road and Route 6. Yesterday, the news reported that an Asheville, NC firefighter shot a man for riding his bicycle on a busy road. Luckily, the rider's helmet saved his life.
What's going on out there? With the price of gasoline certain to climb as the US drags its feet moving to alternative energies and as we dismantle and defund our mass transit systems under the guise of saving taxes, more and more people are riding bicycles and scooters and mopeds for their daily transportation needs. I also wrote last week that perhaps the County sheriff's might defer some of their night-time DWI efforts to making the streets safer for bicycles and this morning, barring some other effort on their part, I'll reiterate that call.

I also call for Town, County and State highway departments to better manage the roads under their care for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. This should include regularly cleaning shoulders and repairing broken and cracked pavement that prevents bicyclists from being able to ride safely in them. And better marking of commonly shared roads should be essential, something which many communities have been doing for decades... but not Putnam County, at least not yet. Unless explicitly signed, bicycles and cars share the same roads and follow the same rules and regulations. Our highway and public safety departments must begin to allow for this slower mode of transportation and drivers need to educate themselves and be aware.

Remember when we were kids we'd ride our bikes to school, to the store, to our friends' houses?

It's time for our own children and grandchildren to be able to do that too. When they ride to soccer practice or ballet, other activities and their friends' homes, children learn about responsibility and freedom. For the health of our society we need to return to those times. Look, those kids are our future and with the ability to think on their own, to be responsible, to enjoy the same sense of freedom we had, I cannot see how they can grow into responsible, mature and well rounded adults. Besides, with the price of gasoline taking a larger and larger chunk from your earnings, bicycles make good sense.

And so FOXNews, the quasi-parent organization that owns, in some sort
of far-out and remote fashion, Putnam County's bookend
newspapers, saw the middle east on July 27th.
It does solve the Iraqi problem... we just make it disappear!

Reports say that nearly 1 in 100 Americans (2.3 million) are behind bars for some sort of crime, from the victim less to the horrific. In fact, there's no country on the planet that imprisons more of its citizens than we do giving us the largest prisoner population in the world. Seven percent of those prisoners are held in private facilities and in Colorado, since privatization, six times more people are in prison than before privatization  began. Across the nation county prisons are in the business of housing other counties prisoners in a massive redirection of taxpayer funds from one municipality to another. Is there a connection between this money-making business and the number of prisoners? I'll leave that up to you.
But the next time you want to hold a tea party over taxes, consider what we're doing with so many people behind bars at costs that run as high as $35,000 for each prisoner per year. (~$80,000,000,000) Then add to that the costs involved leading up to incarceration. And not just the actual legal costs, but the costs incurred by families and businesses from an increase in welfare as a breadwinner is now locked up, to the loss of productivity and retraining that smaller companies are forced to spend to replace employees incarcerated for minor crimes. In a word, it's staggering - and it's breaking us.

If you feel we're a kinder, gentler and safer nation because of it, fine. But I'm not so sure the money spent is worth it and that other methods might be more effective both with recidivism and cost. What do you think?

And now, The News:
  1. Kent Manor damages case adjourned until August
  2. Walking the Land Where the Drilling Rigs Will Go
  3. Monthly Charge Would Apply To Solar Users Even If They Use No Electricity
  4. To win the 21st Century’s version of the Space Race, we need to start learning (and stop underfunding) science.
  5. Walkway project artists are named
  6. Wachovia, BofA, Citibank Sued Over 'Bad-Faith' Overdraft Fees
  7. Pentagon Furious at Fox News Analyst for Calling For Execution of Captured Soldier

Kent Manor damages case adjourned until August

Michael Risinit

KENT - Lawyers are due back in front of state Supreme Court Justice Andrew O'Rourke in Carmel next month as part of the discussions over how much money Kent will have to pay to developers for delaying the construction of hundreds of townhomes known as Kent Manor.

O'Rourke spent yesterday morning speaking with lawyers for the town and those representing RFB LLC, Kent Acres Development Ltd. and Lexington Development Corp. About 1:30 p.m. yesterday, he agreed to the town's request to adjourn the matter until Aug. 13.

O'Rourke also warned both sides that he would find them in contempt of court should they discuss the matter outside his courtroom.

Read More

Walking the Land Where the Drilling Rigs Will Go


I spent a weekend near Hancock, N.Y., along the East Branch of the Delaware River. This is an old fishing haunt of mine and in some ways, not a lot has changed. The woods were bright with leaves, and there was still a sharp boundary between well-kept farms and the wildness beyond.

There is plenty of change in the Catskills, much of it driven by energy development. The great scar of the Millennium Pipeline, which will someday bring natural gas from Ontario to New York City, comes straight over the mountains and down to the river. Yet that is nothing when measured against the huge changes that will come if New York State gives the go-ahead to gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

The Marcellus Shale is an enormous, subterranean layer of rock that runs from the Lower Adirondacks down through the Catskills and to western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Geologists believe there are colossal amounts of clean-burning natural gas trapped there. And for many months now, representatives from energy companies, whose job is to persuade property owners to sign development leases, have been fanning out across New York’s Southern Tier with contracts in hand. While prices have fluctuated, some landowners have gotten as much as $3,500 per acre, plus 20 percent royalty, far more than people who signed early leases received.

The question of whether you have signed or not has created a new social fault line in local society. Some owners argue that they have not only a right, but an obligation to exploit the resources on their property. Others insist their duty is to protect the land. Before the drilling starts, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation must decide where wells can safely be drilled and devise rules to prevent pollution. The rules, which the department expects to release in the fall, should be tightly drawn. At a bare minimum, they should protect municipal water supplies. Drilling should be forbidden altogether in Ulster, Greene and Delaware Counties, where there is lots of shale and New York City’s water originates.

Read More

Monthly Charge Would Apply To Solar Users Even If They Use No Electricity

Christin Ayers, 7NEWS Reporter

DENVER -- Solar energy customers are worried a new fee proposed by Xcel Energy would punish new customers for getting solar panels.

The monthly fee, which would pay for distribution and transmission of energy, would go into effect in April 2010 and would have to be paid to Xcel, regardless of whether the solar customer used any electricity that month. Customers who got solar panels before April 2010 would not have to pay the fee.

Tom Henley, an Xcel Energy spokesman, initially told 7NEWS that implementing the fee would level the playing field for electricity users who are currently subsidizing connectivity fees for solar users, who sometimes use no electricity in a given month and therefore, pay no electrical fees.

“We just don't think it's fair that customers that don't have solar panels on their homes should subsidize these solar panel customers any further,” said Henley.

But when pressed, Henley admitted that currently, no Xcel electric customers pay extra to fund solar connectivity fees. In reality, Xcel absorbs those fees. The money from the proposed fee would not go into the pockets of electric customers, but would go back to Xcel.

Read More

To win the 21st Century’s version of the Space Race, we need to start learning (and stop underfunding) science.

As our nation celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing last week, one sad truth went barely mentioned: America has lost its scientific lead. Indeed, if we were running the Space Race on today’s scientific landscape, the United States would be stuck on the launch pad. Over the past quarter century, federal funding in the physical sciences has dropped by nearly half as a portion of our gross domestic product. Our students trail their peers in most developed countries—and some developing countries—in math and science. Given our chronic national scientific illiteracy, and without the educational resources to make us global leaders again, our prospects in the great Clean Energy Race of the next few decades aren’t all that good.

“We know that our country is better than this,” President Obama told the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting a couple months back. He continued:

A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering; to set a goal of reaching space and engaging every citizen in that historic mission. That was the high water mark of America’s investment in research and development. And since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation’s great discoveries.
  I believe it is not in our character, the American character, to follow. It’s our character to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again.

Read More

Walkway project artists are named

Poughkeepsie Journal staff

The Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission and Walkway Over the Hudson have selected scores of local artists who will lead delegations from every village, town and city in the two-county area in a grand procession across the Walkway Oct. 3.

The parade representing Dutchess and Ulster counties will be the centerpiece of the Walkway's opening.

"The procession will flow in two directions, like the great Hudson itself, crossing at the mid-point of the span.  The procession invites the participation of every locality in the valley as the bridge - known as 'The Great Connector' - once again brings together folks from both sides of the river in one festive event," said Jeanne Fleming, Coordinator of the celebration.

In the tradition of the Hudson River School of Painters, each artist has been commissioned to represent their town's history by creating an "emblem" that will lead their contingent in the parade.

Each emblem will be 3 feet in diameter and will depict some aspects of the history of the valley.

In addition, the artist will conduct workshops - for kids, other artists, citizens, officials, senior citizens - to make at least 25 flags depicting important symbols and scenes from their town. These flags will later be sewn into a commemorative quilt that will be displayed in the Walkway Visitor Center.

Read More

Wachovia, BofA, Citibank Sued Over 'Bad-Faith' Overdraft Fees

John Pacenti
Daily Business Review
July 27, 2009

Georgetown University student Melanie Garcia became alarmed last summer when her Wachovia branch in Miami Springs charged her two overdraft fees for covering debit card transactions with insufficient funds in her account.

Garcia then discovered something peculiar about her purchases. At least four transactions were held for three days, and a check with the highest amount was processed first, depleting her account when smaller and earlier transactions could have been processed without a fee.

She ended up being charged $88 for $57.39 in overdraft protection. Outraged by this incident and at least one other, the graduate student decided to sue last September.

"Wachovia routinely enforces a policy whereby charges incurred are posted to consumers' accounts in nonchronological order designed to maximize the number of overdraft fees," the lawsuit claims.

Read More

Pentagon Furious at Fox News Analyst for Calling For Execution of Captured Soldier

By David Edwards and Stephen Webster, Raw Story
Posted on July 24, 2009, Printed on July 28, 2009

According to NBC's top Pentagon correspondent, the Department of Defense is furious with Fox News analyst Ralph Peters, who said on July 19 that the Taliban should murder 23-year-old Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, captured after he strayed from his post, to save the Army "legal hassles and legal bills."

Peters, a well-known Neoconservative and frequent Fox News guest, attempted to clarify his shocking statement on Tuesday night's O'Reilly Factor, telling right-wing host Bill O'Reilly he believes that Bergdahl had "deserted" his unit and deserved no sympathy. He did not apologize. O'Reilly added that Bergdahl must be "crazy."

However, Wednesday night MSNBC's Rachel Maddow fired back, interviewing Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's top Pentagon correspondent, who said the Department of Defense is furious with Peters and Fox News, adding there is no evidence that Bergdahl is a deserter.

Read More

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