Monday, August 17, 2009

News That Matters - August 17, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you (Almost Daily) by PlanPutnam.Org
Interior/Exterior House Painting by someone
you can trust.

Good Monday Morning,

Forecast for Newburgh, NY
Monday, Aug 17: 125 AQI Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Ozone

A reader remarked the other day the he's finding News That Matters rather boring these past few months. "What happened to the fire in your belly?" he asked?
I've been told that when you're running for office it's important to tread lightly on issues that might affect the way voters perceive you. That if you piss them off on one issue they'll reward your political opponents with their votes even if they agree with you on every other issue.

But then I got to thinking, would I be true to myself if I continued trying to play the consummate politician? Do I want to win an election through ways and means I routinely criticize in this column? The answer, after thinking about it rather carefully is, no. I'd much rather lose an election by being open and forthright than win one by not being so. And though we generally elect those who bullshit (i.e., promise, hide, obfuscate, etc.,) the most, I'd rather not win that way.

The fire will be back. Read on...
[A private note to candidates for county Sheriff: Grow Up.]
Website Watch:
I'm not sure what to make of We Hate Gringos but suffice to say it focuses on Greg Ball's opposition to health care reform. Keep in mind that the sometime Assemblyman has spent his entire adult life with a government sponsored (taxpayer funded) health care plan and a recent article tells the story of how, when he was a child and became ill, the goodness of strangers allowed him a speedy recovery. Now he wants none of that for the rest of us and has mounted a campaign to achieve that goal. If a taxpayer funded health care program is good enough for him, why not for the rest of us?
Well now. National Democrats have managed to bungle it one more time. I just don't understand why the majority national party, with control of the White House and the Congress (and, if you believe the talking heads also control Hollywood and the media) can't bring a single genuine issue to the table and see it through to a successful completion. In this case it was health care reform that's been left in the dust and 300,000,000 Americans will continue to be pillaged by a rapacious industry in ways that simply boggle the mind.
Maybe it's because the average US Senator has raked in more than $37,000 a year in campaign contributions from the health insurance industry? Or that privately funded special interest groups spend $17.4 million each day congress was in session lobbying Washington? (Which adds up to more than $3 BILLION a year.)
Apparently, for reasons I simply cannot understand, some of those with private insurance and small, struggling businesses, like paying 30% or more than they should. They seemingly enjoy the run-around every time they seek medical care and/or reimbursement or the arbitrary decisions of what's covered and what's not. They also have no fear of losing coverage if they should loose their jobs. Perhaps someone can explain all that to me or maybe I should ask Sarah Palin since she's the one everyone seems to think is on key here and who is winning the day. With our current Congressman refusing to support HR676 and the next Congressman not in support of anything other than delusions, I'm giving up on Washington. Maybe next year I'll run for Congress on a platform of dissolving the federal government.
Contrary to popular belief I am not all-consumed by the health care reform debate though I do have a vested interest. Several years ago (2004) I took ill and not carrying insurance I called every doctor in Kent and a part of Carmel and asked if they would see me based on what I could afford to pay: every single one said, "no". A call to the County social services folk netted a response that said, go to Danbury or Westchester and use a fake name. (No joke!)
After more than a week of a debilitating illness I checked myself into the emergency room at Putnam County Hospital and to this day I am still struggling to pay down the bill, one that includes the full cost of care, not the 40% an insurance company would pay. In other words, those of us who cannot afford health insurance are subsidizing the insurance companies.

And now, The News:
  1. Protect residents from dangerous blasting
  2. NY water bottle bill may move forward
  3. Healthcare group launches campaign to back Obama's reform plan
  4. The Spaceship Down the Street
  5. Tasting the Light: Device Lets Blind "See" with Their Tongues
  6. A new fight at Civil War site
  7. How dependent are we on foreign oil?
  8. A far better use for mountains
  9. Strict judge issues 6 months jail time for "loud and boisterous" yawn
  10. Consumers In U.S., Canada Pay More For Wireless

Protect residents from dangerous blasting

In response to Lori Kemp's plight concerning the blasting situation near her property ("Woman accused of assaulting worker at site," July 14 article): It is about time that the Carmel Town Board passes an ordinance to protect the residents of Carmel when developers are blasting adjacent to occupied homes. Other nearby towns have similar ordinances, and it is about time that the Carmel Town Board passes a suitable blasting code to prevent this situation from happening again. Let's worry less about the beautification of Mahopac and worry more about the residents' safety and peace of mind.

Robert Laga

Read the Original

NY water bottle bill may move forward

Gannett News Service

ALBANY _ A Manhattan judge has lifted an injunction that delayed a law that places nickel deposits on bottles of water and requires beverage companies to return 80 percent of unclaimed bottle deposits to the state, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced today.

The new law was supposed to take effect June 1, but U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ruled on that day that it wouldn’t take effect until April 1, 2010. A trade association and two bottling companies had filed a lawsuit alleging that some of the legislation’s provisions were unconstitutional.

But Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts ruled this week that most provisions of the law could take effect immediately.

“Our victory will ensure that the most critical elements of the bill move forward expeditiously, resulting not only in cleaner communities and new, green jobs but also in over $100 million in added revenue for New York,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Read More

Healthcare group launches campaign to back Obama's reform plan

Adverts from Americans for Stable Quality Care will saturate airwaves in key states

Daniel Nasaw in Washington, Thursday 13 August 2009 18.10 BST 

An unusual consortium of healthcare companies and patient advocates has launched a massive advert campaign to support Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul effort, in an attempt to counter frenzied opposition from conservatives and health insurance groups.

The $12m campaign by a new group, Americans for Stable Quality Care, will saturate the airwaves in key states during Congress's summer recess. Legislators have departed Washington for their constituencies and are gauging support for the Democrats' healthcare reform proposal.

The group hopes to regain US news coverage that has been dominated in recent weeks by images of angry, riled-up opponents of Obama and the Democrats' healthcare plans, shouting at Democratic congressmen and senators during constituent meetings. Several protesters have shown up carrying guns.

Read More

The Spaceship Down the Street



ON a high berm in this bucolic town — one known for its almost-exaggeratedly adorable Colonial, Federal and Victorian houses — sits a copper-clad, lozenge-shaped, monumental structure.

A steel H-beam juts out from the side of its prow-like front; vast concrete piers anchor it to a concrete platform, painted in a brooding matte black.

The building looks very much like a spaceship, which is what locals here have been calling it since its arrival in the late 1980s — a term that was at first derogatory and is now used with increasing affection. (It was even memorialized as such in early 2002 in Zippy the Pinhead, a comic strip.)

But the structure created by the architect Wilfred J. O. Armster is no alien craft. Nor is it an office building or a rich man’s folly, as many of the tourists who still flood the driveway to gawk and take pictures believe.

It is a condo, made up of 13 lofty, light-filled apartments (mostly one-bedrooms) that slice the building crosswise, from west to east.

On balance, it is inhabited by the sort of people who view Mr. Armster, 70, as an iconoclastic artist, and his building, their home, as a piece of sculpture.

Read More

Tasting the Light: Device Lets Blind "See" with Their Tongues

A pair of sunglasses wired to an electric "lollipop" helps the visually impaired regain optical sensations via a different pathway

By Mandy Kendrick

Neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita hypothesized in the 1960s that "we see with our brains not our eyes." Now, a new device trades on that thinking and aims to partially restore the experience of vision for the blind and visually impaired by relying on the nerves on the tongue's surface to send light signals to the brain.

Legal blindness is defined by U.S. law as vision that is 20/200 or worse, or has a field of view that is less than 20 degrees in diameter. The condition afflicts more than one million Americans over the age of 40, according to the National Institutes of Health. Adult vision loss costs the country about $51.4 billion per year.

About two million optic nerves are required to transmit visual signals from the retina—the portion of the eye where light information is decoded or translated into nerve pulses—to the brain's primary visual cortex. With BrainPort, the device being developed by neuroscientists at Middleton, Wisc.–based Wicab, Inc. (a company co-founded by the late Back-y-Rita), visual data are collected through a small digital video camera about 1.5 centimeters in diameter that sits in the center of a pair of sunglasses worn by the user. Bypassing the eyes, the data are transmitted to a handheld base unit, which is a little larger than a cell phone. This unit houses such features as zoom control, light settings and shock intensity levels as well as a central processing unit (CPU), which converts the digital signal into electrical pulses—replacing the function of the retina.

Read More

A new fight at Civil War site

Preservationists face an uphill battle to block a proposed Wal-Mart

By Faye Fiore

One hundred and forty-five years after Gen. Ulysses S. Grant first fought Gen. Robert E. Lee, another conflict is brewing on the Wilderness Battlefield: whether to let Wal-Mart build a superstore where 29,000 soldiers were wounded or killed.

To stand on the battlefield at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in rural central Virginia is to go back in time. It looks almost as it did on May 5, 1864, when 160,000 troops clashed over two bloody days -- a tangle of woods that trapped men in brutal, hand-to-hand combat and gave the field its name. The farmhouse that served as a Confederate hospital stands restored. Lt. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's amputated arm is buried at the battlefield.

Across the street is where Wal-Mart wants to build its big-box store, about a quarter mile from the part of the battlefield that is today a national park.

Some famous names have lined up in opposition: Actor Robert Duvall, a self-described descendant of Lee; the state's Democratic governor and its top Republican lawmaker; 253 historians and several preservation groups.

They say they have nothing against another Wal-Mart (there are already four in a 20-mile radius), just not one so close to a national shrine.

In a letter rallying his troops, O. James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust, envisioned "cars full of people who probably could not care less that one of history's most monumental battles was fought there" and "an explosion of sprawl that could engulf the existing battlefield."

Read More

How dependent are we on foreign oil?

Nearly 40 years after the peak of U.S. oil production, black gold is becoming a black sheep.

By Russell McLendon

Oil helped fuel the United States' prosperous 20th century, and the growing country built its infrastructure with that in mind. But the sprawling suburbs and far-flung freeways ended up locking America into long-term dependence on the nonrenewable sludge, which passed coal as the nation's favorite fossil in 1951.
U.S. oil production peaked 19 years later, and America suddenly was faced with outsourcing a pillar of its business model. From 1900 until 1969, the country's oil imports had risen by an average of 70.7 million barrels per decade, but in the '70s they rose by nearly 1.9 billion. Making matters worse was political instability in the Middle East, where the United States got much of its imported oil at the time. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War and again during the 1979-'81 Iran hostage crisis, Americans cut back on oil use, and gasoline consumption dipped for the first time since World War II. But that conservative spirit didn't last.

Read More

A far better use for mountains

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Among the most destructive environmental abuses in this nation, the most deliberate, unconscionable and widespread has to be the form of coal-mining known as "mountain-top removal" mining. Indeed, "mining" is hardly the word for this premeditated, callously calculated, man-made catastrophe.

A few men using enormous amounts of explosives essentially blow away the top of southern Appalachian mountains, sending tsunami-like cascades of rocks, trees and debris into the valleys below. The crushing avalanche chokes and poisons streams and wells that long have nourished valley towns and farms and wildlife habitat -- all to expose coal seams that soon will be depleted.

And when they finish scrapping off the coal -- coal that should be mined by customary deep-shaft mine methods, and would employ far more miners if so taken -- the mountain destroyers merely shove back an unstable pile of rocks. Where the mountain and forests and wildlife used to be, they end up planting Japanese bunch grass, the only vegetation that still may grow on theses pitiful sites.

This abuse, in reality an irreligious and immoral assault on some of the most beautiful and valuable mountains and valleys in this country, is neither necessary nor sensible, sustainable nor efficient.

Read More

Strict judge issues 6 months jail time for "loud and boisterous" yawn

Updated 1:31 PM EDT, Tue, Aug 11, 2009

Make sure you get plenty of sleep before going to court.

Clifton Williams didn't and he's been sentenced to six months in jail for yawning.

"I was flabbergasted because I didn't realize a judge could do that," Williams' father, Clifton Williams Sr., told the Chicago Tribune. "It seems to me like a yawn is an involuntary action."

Williams, 33, attended his cousin's July hearing at Will County Courthouse in Joliet. His cousin, Jason Mayfield, pled guilty to a felony drug charge. As the judge sentenced Mayfield to two years probation, Williams let out a yawn, an involuntary faux pas in such a formal setting.

Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak thought the yawn was criminal and sentenced Williams to six months in jail, the maximum penalty for contempt of court without a jury trial.  Rozak's order said that Williams "raised his hands while at the same time making a loud yawning sound," causing a disrespectful interruption in court.

So in a strange turn of events Mayfield, the felon, will be able to walk freely, while Williams, the yawner, will have to spend at least three weeks behind bars for his offending yawn. But it's not out of character for Rozak.

Read More

Consumers In U.S., Canada Pay More For Wireless

Wireless industry respectfully requests that you ignore this

by Karl Bode

The latest OECD data suggests consumers in Canada, Spain and the United States pay the most for calls and text messages of all 30 ranked OECD nations. Unlike Europe, callers in Canada and the US pay to receive messages -- but even factored in North American customers are paying considerably more than dozens of other countries. On average, the OECD found that Americans pay $635.85 on cell phone service, compared to $131.44 per year in the Netherlands or $137.94 per year in Sweden.

The study highlights how prices have decreased 21% for low-usage (360 calls per year, 390 SMS, 8 MMS) consumers, 28% for medium usage, and by about 32% for high usage (1680 calls per year, 660 SMS)consumers. Still, a medium use customer in the United States (780 calls per year, 600 SMS, and eight MMS) pays $53 a month for service, compared to $11 a month for service in the Netherlands.

Read More

Sign up to have
News That Matters
Delivered to your email inbox!

 Visit our Sponsor!

Copyright © 2009 News That Matters