Wednesday, August 26, 2009

News That Matters - August 26, 2009

News That Matters
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Good Wednesday Morning,

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy has died at the age of 77.

When I started knocking on doors a few weeks ago the first question asked was, "How are you going to cut my taxes?" (A 30 acre theme park built over Lake Carmel called "SybilLand" of course!) and now it's, "Wow, What great weather!" And I would agree as this week should be the nicest since April.
But what happened to summer? We had spring from April into July then one week of summer and now the typical - but beautiful - late August weather has kicked in. I'm hoping winter doesn't come around until January if only to give the garden a chance to produce some food.
Over in New Jersey, where municipal leaders almost always live in interesting times Atlantic City councilman John Schultz avoided prison by agreeing to plead guilty in a scheme orchestrated by former council President Craig Callaway to blackmail Councilman Eugene Robinson. The two lured Robinson to a motel room and secretly taped him having sex with a prostitute. Keep in mind, these are the people we elect through a political process that encourages such behavior.

To offer more support to the placement of a composting toilet at Farmers Mills Park in Kent as opposed to an expensive fixture with plumbing, water, septic and leach fields, the Village of Cold Spring is considering their use at the West Point Foundry which is managed by Scenic Hudson. According to Scenic Hudson, the county health department has given its 'unofficial blessing' to the plan. Let's see Kent move in the same direction. It will save tens of thousands of dollars.

For those of you not yet excited about the opening of our region's newest state park on October 2nd, Walkway Over the Hudson has released it's schedule of events. On Friday, October 2nd from 7-10PM the weekend kicks off with a Grand Illumination of the Walkway; 1,000 paper lanterns, River of Light Promenade, light exhibition, hot air balloon display and fireworks. Volunteers are being sought to participate in the Grand Illumination which will release 1000 paper lanterns into the sky and should be more than stunning. The new park is only 22 feet wide yet stands 212 feet above the river! More information can be found here and here. The Poughkeepsie Journal covers the story here and a complete schedule can be found here.

Google Maps, the mainstay of where you are and how you're going to get there has added traffic coverage to its maps. And, not just on major interstates. Now they cover major arterials as well. As I'm writing this (about 7:45am) the map shows traffic on Route 6 in the Hamlet of Mahopac, a slowdown on northbound 684, and building traffic on Route 6 as it enters Southeast from Carmel. No surprises there, but it gets better. Built into the system is historic data(!) so you can predict when and where traffic will build to better plan your trips to save time and gas. (Ed Note: at 8:03 AM there's a slow down on the north-bound Taconic Parkway. 8:12AM - Don't even go near Route 100 through Somers.)

And now, The News:
  1. Hamlet a reminder of E. Fishkill's rural past
  2. When Nature Calls at the Foundry Preserve
  3. The incredible shrinking home
  4. EPA Orders Village of Port Chester, N.Y. to Fix the Way it Handles Stormwater; Comply with Clean Water Act
  5. Swine flu precautions extremely necessary
  6. Federal Reserve loses suit demanding transparency
  7. DOJ raps NY over abuse at juvenile detention centers
  8. Dying for Affordable Health Care - the Uninsured Speak

Hamlet a reminder of E. Fishkill's rural past

By Anthony P. Musso
For the Poughkeepsie Journal

As surrounding farmland slowly transformed into large, single-family home developments, East Fishkill's Wiccopee has been the town's sole hamlet to retain the rural character it featured in the mid-1800s.

A local movement began in 2004 to secure historic designation for the hamlet, which is situated on property originally owned by Beacon's Madam Catharyna Brett as part of the 1685 Rombout Patent.

Named for American Indians who lived in the region, Wiccopee was also known as Johnsville for a time before reverting to its original moniker. Its historic business district ran along Fishkill Hook/Hook roads, south of Route 52.

In all, 19 buildings in Wiccopee, including the hamlet's 1825 Methodist Episcopal Church, are included in the town's survey of historic structures.

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When Nature Calls at the Foundry Preserve

by Michael Mell

The lead agenda item for the July 21, 2009, Cold Spring Village Board meeting was a presentation by Scenic Hudson about their plans for the West Point Foundry Preserve. Of specific concern was their desire to use composting toilets, which do not require running water or a sewer connection. Three of these fixtures are proposed, with a combined capacity of 400 uses a week. Waste would be collected for distribution to composting sites in the area.

At issue is the village code requirement that any sanitary facility (toilet) within 150 feet of a sewer line is required to tie into that line and the location of the proposed toilets falls within this radius. Scenic Hudson attorney George Rodenhausen, of Rapport Meyers Whitbeck Shaw & Rodenhausen, told the board that composting toilets have been successfully used at other parks operated by Scenic Hudson and that they "have no odor . . . and will not damage the site." He further acknowledged that this is "an alternate way to deal with sewage," but one that is consistent with "the message of the site."

The conflict with village code arose during an earlier presentation made to the Cold Spring Planning Board. According to Rodenhausen, the Planning Board agrees in theory with Scenic Hudson's arguments, but cannot move until the code issue is resolved. The Department of Health, Rodenhausen said, has given its "unofficial blessing" to the project. For planned events, where large numbers of people are expected, additional conventional portable toilets would be used. "If the sewer department signs off," asked Mr. Rodenhausen, "can the board consider this?" He concluded his arguments by offering to assist the Board in writing an "amendment to the code," if they chose to move in that direction, and also stipulated that Scenic Hudson would pay any required sewer fees.

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The incredible shrinking home

The size of newly built homes fell in 2008 for the first time in almost 15 years. Is the McMansion era on the wane?

By Les Christie, staff writer
Last Updated: August 11, 2009: 3:03 PM ET

NEW YORK ( -- For the first time in almost 15 years, the size of new homes built in the United States is shrinking.

New homes are now 7% smaller -- or the size of one average-sized room. To be precise, the median square footage of newly built homes fell to 2,065 square feet in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This caps off 2008, when home size fell every quarter, marking first year of declines since 1994. That could indicate that the romance between Americans and morbidly obese McMansions has finally cooled.

"A new ethic is arising right now that will become commonplace -- as commonplace as is recycling today, when just a few decades ago it was rarely, if ever, done," said Sarah Susanka, author of the book, "The Not So Big House."

"As more and more people build or remodel homes that satisfy in quality rather than quantity, there will be a huge shift in what we perceive as desirable."

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EPA Orders Village of Port Chester, N.Y. to Fix the Way it Handles Stormwater; Comply with Clean Water Act

Release date: 08/24/2009
Contact Information: John Senn (212) 637-3667,

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered the village of Port Chester, N.Y. to improve the way it handles run-off from rainwater and correct violations of the federal Clean Water Act after EPA sampling revealed high levels of two types of bacteria in village stormwater. Stormwater, which is from rainfall or melting snow, can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants from surfaces before it flows into a waterbody. Port Chester discharges stormwater into the Byram River, which empties into Long Island Sound.

“Improper management of stormwater can have serious environmental consequences for our harbors, rivers, lakes and streams,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “Long Island Sound is already a stressed waterbody, and run-off is one of the bigger culprits, so it’s important that EPA remains vigilant in holding accountable anyone who doesn’t handle their stormwater properly.”

In June 2008 and April 2009, EPA sampled stormwater at several locations around Port Chester and both times found levels of the bacteria fecal and total coliform that exceeded New York’s state water quality standards. Both bacteria can lead to health problems in people and many aquatic species. Port Chester’s failure to control discharges of the polluted stormwater violated requirements of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, a program under the federal Clean Water Act that regulates stormwater discharges associated with sewer systems. Port Chester also failed to fully implement its stormwater management plan, which New York State requires of municipalities that discharge stormwater.

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Swine flu precautions extremely necessary

The watchwords on dealing with swine flu come down to this: Be alarmed but don't panic.

Certainly, a special presidential advisory panel just reported some frightening numbers: The group cited a "plausible scenario" of wide-scale infections later this year in the United States leading up to possibly 30,000 to 90,000 deaths, mostly among young children and young adults.

Schools throughout the country, including the mid-Hudson Valley, are taking these matters seriously. On Sunday, the Journal reported on the preparations going on in local schools, ranging from reviewing cleaning procedures, communicating with health officials and educating parents and students about hygiene and prevention. School officials also have talked about contingency plans in the event of a pandemic and will be meeting with Dr. Michael Caldwell, the Dutchess health commissioner, to continue to coordinate an overall strategy geared to prevention.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was quick to note Tuesday that massive school closings wouldn't stop the spread of the virus, touting vaccinations as the best defense against H1N1 flu, more commonly known as the swine flu. Confirmed cases have continued through the summer months when schools are typically closed, but there is a concern that once schools are back in session there will be renewed opportunity for the virus to spread.

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Federal Reserve loses suit demanding transparency

Mon Aug 24, 8:39 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Monday ruled against an effort by the U.S. Federal Reserve to block disclosure of companies that participated in and securities covered by a series of emergency funding programs as the global credit crisis began to intensify.

In a 47-page opinion, Chief District Judge Loretta Preska of the federal court in Manhattan said the central bank failed to show that disclosure would cause borrowers in the Federal Reserve System to suffer "imminent competitive harm," by stigmatizing them for using Fed lending programs.

"The board essentially speculates on how a borrower might enter a downward spiral of financial instability if its participation in the Federal Reserve lending programs were to be disclosed," she wrote. "Conjecture, without evidence of imminent harm, simply fails to meet the board's burden."

Monday's ruling comes as lawmakers and investors demand greater disclosure in how the government manages a series of programs designed to lift the economy out of its deepest recession in decades.

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DOJ raps NY over abuse at juvenile detention centers

August 24, 2009 at 4:14 pm by Irene Jay Liu

Children at four of New York’s juvenile detention centers have faced excessive force and lack of proper mental health treatment in violation of their constitutional rights, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice made public today.

The report details how staff at the four facilities — the Lansing Residential Center and the Louis Gossett Jr. Residential Center in Lansing, N.Y., and two facilities, one for boys and one for girls, at Tryon Residential Center in Johnstown, N.Y. — have “routinely” used “uncontrolled, unsafe applications of force” to gain control in every type of situation, departing from “generally accepted standards” as well as state policies determined by the state Office of Children and Families.

“Anything from sneaking an extra cookie to initiating a fistfight may result in a full prone restraint with handcuffs,” according to the report.

The report said the excessive use of force has led to an “alarming” number of serious injuries, including concussions, broken or knocked-out teeth, and spinal fractures.

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Dying for Affordable Health Care - the Uninsured Speak

Friday 21 August 2009

by: Ed Pilkington  |  Visit article original @ The Guardian UK

In a week of claim and counter-claim about the merits of healthcare provision in the US and UK, Ed Pilkington travelled to Quindaro, Kansas, to see how the poorest survive.

In the furious debate gripping America over the future of its health system, one voice has been lost amid the shouting. It is that of a distinguished gynaecologist, aged 67, called Dr Joseph Manley.

For 35 years Manley had a thriving health clinic in Kansas. He lived in the most affluent neighbourhood of Kansas City and treated himself to a new Porsche every year. But this is not a story about doctors' remuneration and their lavish lifestyles.

In the late 1980s he began to have trouble with his own health. He had involuntary muscle movements and difficulty swallowing. Fellow doctors failed to diagnose him, some guessing wrongly that he had post-traumatic stress from having served in the airforce in Vietnam.

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