Wednesday, September 23, 2009

News That Matters - September 23, 2009

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

Good Wednesday Morning,

Believe it or not, many communities across the United States ban clotheslines. Those communities claim they're tacky and white-trashy and assume everyone wants to blow their money on running an electric/gas clothes dryer when the Good Olde Sun will do the trick for nothing. But some communities are fighting back and several states now have "Right To Dry" laws on the books. Imagine needing to do that!?

Votes in several races from last Tuesday were re-tallied yesterday and absentee ballots counted as part of the county-wide recount forced by Jim Borkowski in the Sheriff's race. Later last evening Mr. Borkowski conceded that hotly contested race to Sheriff Don Smith who now faces Kevin McConville in November.
With the ongoing recount, a vote or two here or there was picked up or lost and the outcome of most races did not change. But in Kent where a clerical error gave John A. Greene a huge win over his Republican opponents last Tuesday the numbers have now been corrected and he has fallen to a strong second place. The figures (as of 8:11PM yesterday) are Tartaro: 640, Greene: 605, Maxson: 438. Due to the Sheriff's recount, write-in ballots have not yet been counted but they will be today and due to that many races are still undecided with the Kent Town Council Independence Party race most likely going to the Republican Machine. I'm wondering how many of them have actually read the Independence Party's platform?

Patty Villanova has maintained her come-from-behind campaign to earn a spot on the Republican ticket in Putnam Valley though that could change once write-in's are counted.
Glenn Beck says that John McCain would have been worse for the country than Barack Obama and that he would have voted for Hillary. I've checked with authorities at the USGS but they insist hell has not frozen over.

In a recent issue of the New Yorker magazine there's an article, "The Cost Conundrum" by Atul Gawande asking the question why Medicare payments for patients in McAllan, Texas is twice as high as pretty much anywhere else. From that article is an out-take that pretty much sums up why medical care for all of us is so expensive. The writer says;
"I gave the doctors around the table a scenario. A forty-year-old woman comes in with chest pain after a fight with her husband. An EKG is normal. The chest pain goes away. She has no family history of heart disease. What did McAllen doctors do fifteen years ago?

Send her home, they said. Maybe get a stress test to confirm that there’s no issue, but even that might be overkill.

And today? Today, the cardiologist said, she would get a stress test, an echocardiogram, a mobile Holter monitor, and maybe even a cardiac catheterization."

A link to the full article is below.

From Environmental Advocates of New York:

When the New York State Senate returned to Albany on September 10th, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted the right way on legislation that will save New Yorkers money by increasing the energy efficiency of an estimated one million homes and businesses and create new green jobs.

Green Jobs-Green New York, which passed by a vote of 52 to 8, takes our state one step further on the path to a cleaner, more sustainable economy, creating thousands of green jobs while making our homes and small businesses more energy efficient. That means smaller utility bills, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and new jobs when our economy needs them the most. Click here to see if your senator supported green jobs for a greener New York.

In the meantime, Sandy Galef has proposed a bill in Albany that will reimburse homeowners for upwards of 55% of the cost of a green roof installation. More info on that is here.

And now, The News:

  1. Putnam bike path parking generates controversy and compromise
  2. One DEC failure leads to the fear of too many more
  3. Town Violated Telecommunications Act In Failure to Allow Provider to Fill Gap in Service
  4. DEC may ban chainsawing in wilderness areas
  5. Obama lashes out at U.S. banks over student loans
  6. Reform or Bust
  7. Sorry, Sir, Firefighting Is A Pre-Existing Condition
  8. Lies My Parents Told Me: Parents Use Deception To Influence Their Children
  9. The Cost Conundrum

Putnam bike path parking generates controversy and compromise

Barbara Livingston Nackman

CARMEL - Town officials are set to restrict roadside parking near the Putnam County Trailway to appease bicyclists who need a place to park their vehicles and neighbors who say parking is dangerous.

The Carmel Town Board tossed out a proposal Sept. 16 that would have banned all parking on Willow Road and Willow Spur.

In a work session Wednesday, the board will discuss a compromise allowing parking on the east side of the streets and to improve the road shoulders.

Putnam County officials are working, as well, to find other parking options for the trail, which follows the old Putnam railroad from Westchester County to the Danbury, Conn., border.

Read More

One DEC failure leads to the fear of too many more

The word to remember is "failure." That's the way the state Department of Environmental Conservation describes the operation of the sewage treatment plant for the Brigadoon subdivision in Highland Mills.

Failure is not too strong a word when what is supposed to be treated sewage, up to 90,000 gallons a day, contains human feces and other waste pouring into local waterways, posing what the DEC calls an "imminent danger" to people and "irreparable damage" to the Moodna Creek watershed.

Failure also describes something else, something that poses a danger beyond one pricey subdivision and one watershed. That's the failure of the DEC to clean up a mess that has been going on for at least four years, in the department's own documentation.

The record contains one harsh warning after another, one visit after another, one account of failure after another, none of which has made any difference. If anything, the record shows a situation that has become worse over the years while the department continues to turn out paperwork.

Read More

Town Violated Telecommunications Act In Failure to Allow Provider to Fill Gap in Service

In 2002, Nextel (an Omnipoint/T-Mobile competitor) commenced litigation against the Town of LaGrange after the Town had denied Nextel’s application to replace an existing radio tower with new tower.  The Nextel/Town lawsuit was settled in 2004, with the Town agreeing to allow Nextel to construct a new 150 foot monopole tower to replace the radio tower.  But that was as far as the settlement would go – the settlement agreement explicitly required that any future modifications or alterations at what is referred to in the opinion as the “ATC tower” must comply with the Town Zoning Code (and reserved all rights to challenge the Zoning Code as applied to any such modifications or alterations).

In 2003, T-Mobile attended a pre-application meeting with the Town to discuss three potential options for curing a gap in coverage by the installation of new wireless facilities:  (1) collocation on the ATC tower (which was then the subject of ongoing litigation between Nextel and the Town); (2) construction of a new monopole tower at different site; and (3) collocation on a Con Ed transmission tower.  T-Mobile’s engineers analyzed each potential option using sophisticated propagation tools, and determined that the ATC tower furnished the most complete remedy for the service gap.  Nevertheless, and principally due to the ongoing litigation between Nextel and the Town, T-Mobile submitted an application to construct a new tower, which met with significant resistance.

Read More

DEC may ban chainsawing in wilderness areas

Use of brush saws, mowers and generators also set for restriction

By MIKE LYNCH, Enterprise Outdoors

Proposed environmental conservation regulations governing wilderness, primitive and canoe areas in the state Forest Preserve would add the operation of chainsaws and other motorized equipment to the list of things banned in those lands, except under special permits.

The additional language would be added to Section 196 of the state Department of Environmental Conservation lands and forest regulations that currently address use of motorized vehicles, boats and aircraft in the Forest Preserve, which is protected by the state Constitution as being "forever ... wild forest."

In addition to chainsaws, the list of banned motorized equipment would include brush saws, rotary or other mowers, rock drills, cement mixers and generators.

Currently, motorized equipment is only banned in the High Peaks and William C. Whitney wilderness areas.

These rules would also apply to all state-owned lands in the Catskill Park that are classified as wilderness or primitive bicycle corridor.

A public-comment period on the proposed regulations opened on Wednesday and will end on Nov. 2. Written comments may be mailed to Peter Frank, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12333. E-mails should be directed to

Read More

Obama lashes out at U.S. banks over student loans

By Caren Bohan

TROY, New York (Reuters) - President Barack Obama criticized the largest U.S. banks on Monday for trying to thwart legislation that would overhaul federal student loan programs.

He singled out in particular banks that have received bailout money from the federal government, saying they want to maintain the status quo on student loans because they get an "unwarranted subsidy" from it.

The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved legislation that would cut major banks and student loan giant Sallie Mae out of a large slice of the $92 billion university student loan business, shifting most lending into a program run by the U.S. Education Department.

Read More

Reform or Bust


In the grim period that followed Lehman’s failure, it seemed inconceivable that bankers would, just a few months later, be going right back to the practices that brought the world’s financial system to the edge of collapse. At the very least, one might have thought, they would show some restraint for fear of creating a public backlash.

But now that we’ve stepped back a few paces from the brink — thanks, let’s not forget, to immense, taxpayer-financed rescue packages — the financial sector is rapidly returning to business as usual. Even as the rest of the nation continues to suffer from rising unemployment and severe hardship, Wall Street paychecks are heading back to pre-crisis levels. And the industry is deploying its political clout to block even the most minimal reforms.

The good news is that senior officials in the Obama administration and at the Federal Reserve seem to be losing patience with the industry’s selfishness. The bad news is that it’s not clear whether President Obama himself is ready, even now, to take on the bankers.

Read More

Sorry, Sir, Firefighting Is A Pre-Existing Condition

By Carrie McLaren

According to internal insurance industry documents recently released to the press, the reasons health insurers cite to deny insurance to private individuals is limited only by one's imagination: cops. firefighters, construction workers, and war correspondents are among the occupations that some insurance companies have considered deal breakers. Similarly, acne, allergies, ADD, and even bunions have caused companies to deny customers coverage.

The nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog released the documents, which date from 2003 to 2006. Known as underwriting guidelines, the materials were used by insurance sales personnel to find customers healthy and low-risk enough to cover. PacifiCare Underwriting Guidelines (2003), for example, instructed underwriters to deny coverage to athletes, loggers, police, firefighters, migrant workers, war coorespondents, and many other "ineligible occupations."

Read More

Lies My Parents Told Me: Parents Use Deception To Influence Their Children

ScienceDaily (Sep. 23, 2009) — Parents say that honesty is the best policy, but they regularly lie to their children as a way of influencing their behaviour and emotions, finds new research from the University of Toronto and the University of California, San Diego.

Surprisingly little scholarship has been published on the subject of parental lying, so Gail Heyman, professor of psychology at UC San Diego, Diem Luu, a former UCSD student, and Kang Lee, professor at the University of Toronto and director of the Institute of Child Study at OISE, set out to explore the under-researched phenomenon. They asked U.S. participants in two related studies about parents lying to their children – either for the purpose of promoting appropriate behaviour or to make them happy.

In one of the studies, many parents reported they told their young children that bad things would happen if they didn't go to bed or eat what they were supposed to. For example, one mother said she told her child that if he didn't finish all of his food he would get pimples all over his face. Other parents reported inventing magical creatures. One explained, "We told our daughter that if she wrapped up all her pacifiers like gifts, the 'paci-fairy' would come and give them to children who needed them...I thought it was healthier to get rid of the pacifiers, and it was a way for her to feel proud and special."

In the other study, the researchers surveyed college students' recollections about their parents' lying and obtained similar results: parents often lie to their children even as they tell them that lying is unacceptable.

Read More

The Cost Conundrum

What a Texas town can teach us about health care.
by Atul Gawande

It is spring in McAllen, Texas. The morning sun is warm. The streets are lined with palm trees and pickup trucks. McAllen is in Hidalgo County, which has the lowest household income in the country, but it’s a border town, and a thriving foreign-trade zone has kept the unemployment rate below ten per cent. McAllen calls itself the Square Dance Capital of the World. “Lonesome Dove” was set around here.

McAllen has another distinction, too: it is one of the most expensive health-care markets in the country. Only Miami—which has much higher labor and living costs—spends more per person on health care. In 2006, Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per enrollee here, almost twice the national average. The income per capita is twelve thousand dollars. In other words, Medicare spends three thousand dollars more per person here than the average person earns.

The explosive trend in American medical costs seems to have occurred here in an especially intense form. Our country’s health care is by far the most expensive in the world. In Washington, the aim of health-care reform is not just to extend medical coverage to everybody but also to bring costs under control. Spending on doctors, hospitals, drugs, and the like now consumes more than one of every six dollars we earn. The financial burden has damaged the global competitiveness of American businesses and bankrupted millions of families, even those with insurance. It’s also devouring our government. “The greatest threat to America’s fiscal health is not Social Security,” President Barack Obama said in a March speech at the White House. “It’s not the investments that we’ve made to rescue our economy during this crisis. By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care. It’s not even close.”

The question we’re now frantically grappling with is how this came to be, and what can be done about it. McAllen, Texas, the most expensive town in the most expensive country for health care in the world, seemed a good place to look for some answers.

Read More

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