Monday, October 26, 2009

News That Matters - October 26, 2009

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

Sounds like you lie awake nights wondering if you might have insomnia.

Good Monday Morning,

"Why," someone asked the Congressman, "do you pay less for health insurance than I do?" "Because," he answered," I'm in a pool with 3,000,000 employees and our purchasing power drives the cost down." Then the gentleman went on to say he was still  against the government involving itself with health insurance and that he feared for the nation. Huh.
I don't get it. I do not understand the logic behind those who stand against significant reform of our profit-driven health care system by adding a non-profit sector to it with the power to bring millions into the pool thus lowering health care costs for everyone. It's clear some of these folks have been duped by the private insurers and their allies in Congress but please, step back for a minute and THINK! If you're defending capitalism, what's more capitalist than competition? And, if the government drives private insurance companies out of business by offering better service at a lower price, ain't that the way the game is played? (And don't give me this stuff about "even playing fields" as that's anti-capitalist. It's sink or swim that would make Adam Smith proud.) What's wrong with keeping those profits ourselves and, rather than paying billions in advertising and bonuses and dividends, that money went directly back into health care?
This past Saturday saw a candidate's forum at the Sedgewood Club in Kent. A hearty mazel tov goes out to organizer Ted May and the Sedgewood community for coming out to hear what we candidates had to say. And for the delicious cookies.

If you happen to be in Carmel this afternoon at around 1PM, Lori Kemp goes to court again to defend herself in a charge against her of, well, it's hard to say. One of the guys doing blasting on her property line was on her side of the line and all hell broke loose and now - believe it or not - she's been charged with a crime for defending what is hers. Of course, had the Town and county been progressive about these things we'd not be here now but seeing as they're owned hook, line and sinker by out-of-town developers she hasn't a chance in the world. Now the question is: can she get a fair trial? Check it out this afternoon and see.

Net Neutrality: We've talked about this before. This is where the telecoms cannot  create different levels of charges for use of the 'net depending on how you use it and where you go. Your kid, upstairs downloading illegal music is using tons of bandwidth so you say, "sure, he should pay more", and all is fine until you download that Tom Waits album from Amazon and get hit with the same bandwidth charges.
Your aunt Ida loves to browse people's vacation pictures on Flickr and when her 'net bill comes she's shocked at the costs but you, you like doing the same but at Picasa and there's no such charge for you. Why? Because Verizon (or whomever your 'net host is) has an agreement with Picasa and not with Flickr.

Do you have a popular website that sells your business or pushes your hobby to other enthusiasts? Wait until you get the bill from your ISP for all those people who visited! And that friend of yours, the one who keeps sending you those 2 megabyte treacly sweet pictures of puppies dressed as Hollywood actresses.... it's going to get expensive every time one shows up in your inbox.

Imagine Verizon (or Comcast or whatever they're called now) monitoring every mouse-click and metering every bit and byte that comes either from your machine or enters it and charges you depending on where you're going and what you're doing there. And imagine the confusion if you paid more for visiting this website as opposed to that one?

Net Neutrality is designed to prevent any of that from happening by continuing to treat the ''net as a single - level field - as it should be.

Here are the current FCC guidelines:
  • "Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice."
  • "Consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement."
  • "Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network."
  • "Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers."
Here are the two new "principals" they announced the other day:
  • Nondiscrimination
This sort of overlaps with the existing rules, in that it forbids providers from "favoring or disfavoring lawful content, applications, or services accessed by their subscribers, subject to reasonable network management."
  • Transparency
Providers must disclose to customers their network management policies before the customer signs up for service. Providers must also disclose their network management policies to content, application, and service providers, as well as to the FCC.
Not surprisingly, the telecommunications industry is going insane trying to squeeze a few more dollars out of you even if it means the ruination of the 'net as we know it. Virtual monopolies don't care.

Senator John McCain, a recipient of almost $900,000 in donations from the telecoms, has become their national spokesman. The Obama adminstration, contrary to the assertion that it's full of fascists kicking dogs and kidnapping school girls, is doing its best to enforce the fairness and openness that made the internet the democratic institution it is today. Write to Congressman Hall and tell him you support Net Neutrality.
You know it's winter when the Pleiades is in the evening sky in the east. Looking below this most excellent little gem of an asterism which marks the shoulder of Taurus, rises his v-shaped head, giant against the horizon. And, if you're out late enough, the hunter Orion, shield and sword at the ready, rises next. At his feet sits his faithful hunting dog and right behind him, forever threatening an attack is Scorpio the Scorpion. All together the story is told: Orion must forever protect himself from both a charging bull and the sting of a scorpion. It's a tough spot to be in!

And lastly, if you head outside this evening take a look at the moon. That bright star right next to it in conjunction is Jupiter and both make a fine target for amateurs with binoculars or telescopes. Early in the mornings Mercury is up in the eastern sky, alone in the growing glare of the sun.

News That Matters is taking a break until after the election. I'm wiped out. Working, putting the three hours each issue into this and trying to get elected to the Town Board... Yikes! Something has to give. I have to eat and I have to pay the landlord so he can pay the taxes and I have to get elected. And though News That Matters and its past incarnations (10 years running!) is my passion it's going to have to wait a week or so. There will be something next Monday but there will be no issue this Wednesday nor on Friday so you'll have to keep yourselves entertained this weekend. Get out and take a hike. See the new Coen brother's movie. Volunteer to canvass with my campaign. Just do something!

However, up in Pawling, the West Point Woodwind Quintet of the USMA Band will perform on Sunday at 3 pm at the Holy Trinity Church, 22 Coulter Ave, Pawling, NY. Be there! And tell the Peters' I sent you.

And now, The News:
  1. Putnam man killed in Greene County crash
  2. Columbia County explores government energy savings
  3. Water Bottle Deposit To Start Oct. 31
  4. Food Advocates Envision Rooftop Gardens and Vertical Farms
  5. Growing season
  6. Miami takes "giant step" toward being pedestrian-oriented city
  7. 2 Days, 3 Nights, on a Path Named for a Devil

Putnam man killed in Greene County crash

HUNTER – A Lake Carmel man was killed in a one-crash crash early Sunday morning in the Town of Hunter, State Police at Catskill reported.   Joshua Menzie, 42, of Lake Carmel was a passenger in a car driven by Eric Powell, 41, of Tannersville. Menzie was pronounced dead at the scene, troopers said.

At about 4:15 a.m., Powell was driving southbound on Greene County Route 16, Platte Clove Road, when the car ran off the road and struck a utility pole.

Powell and a second passenger, Edmond Peyroux, 32, of Tannersville, were transported to Albany Medical Center and admitted with internal injuries.

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Columbia County explores government energy savings

HUDSON – Columbia County has teamed up with the New York State Research and Development Authority to conduct a study to determine potential cost savings in its government facilities.

The several month long examination has been completed by the engineering form of Wendell Energy services.

The study looked at nine county buildings – Pine Haven Nursing Home, 560 Warren Street, County Treasurer’s Office, the County Courthouse at 401 Union Street, 401 State Street, 325 Columbia Street, the Public Safety Building, Commerce Park waste water treatment plant, and 23B Highway Garage.

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Water Bottle Deposit To Start Oct. 31

The state can start collecting 5-cent deposits on bottles of water on Oct. 31, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts lifted an injunction late Friday that had held up the state’s attempt to start the so-called Bigger, Better Bottle Bill, which will allow for the state’s deposit law to be extended to bottles of water.

Environmental groups hailed the judge’s decision, saying it will provide incentives for people to return empty bottles of water.

“Adding a deposit on water bottles will result in higher recycling rates and noticeably cleaner communities,” said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Read More

Food Advocates Envision Rooftop Gardens and Vertical Farms

By Bao Ong

New Yorkers flock to one of the city’s Greenmarkets or upscale grocery stores when they want to buy ripe heirloom tomatoes or crisp heads of lettuce. But for proponents of urban farming, local food from upstate or even just miles into New Jersey is too far. (City dwellers can relate.)

Urban farming may seem improbable in a metropolis where real estate is at a premium and green space is virtually nonexistent outside Central Park. But as Americans grow increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it is grown in this Michael Pollan-inflected era, small plots of farms dotting New York’s rooftops could be the new wave of agriculture, according to urban planning experts and farmers.

“People care deeply about being green,” said Jennifer Nelkin, a greenhouse director and one of the founders of a small company called Gotham Greens. “Whether it’s the food, environment, renewable energy or any other issue, people want to do something to help out.”

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Growing season

Galvanized by the local food movement, 20-somethings are turning to small farms to make a fresh start

By Mara Lee
Sunday, October 25, 2009

On a sunny morning in July, Alicia Jabbar's tank top is wet with sweat along her spine from the nape of her neck to the small of her back. She climbs onto the horizontal ledges at the bottom of a metal stake next to an ankle-high tomato plant. Jabbar, who's wearing two ponytails under a baseball cap, has to use all of her body weight to push the stake into the earth. When she's done with a row, she stands on tiptoes in her running shoes to drop a metal cylinder with two handles on the top of each stake.

Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang. The noise echoes off the trees.

"Twelve more rows," she says.

"What time is it?" her friend Jessica Stanley calls. She's busy looping string from a box at her waist around the stakes to support the tomato plants.

"Ten-thirty, and we're halfway done," Jabbar, 26, replies. They've been working since 7 a.m. and staking for the past two hours. "Sore back?"

Stanley says with a sigh: "There's no way to avoid it. I try to move my hands in a different way -- doesn't matter. Well, I guess I'll pound with you."

Stanley, 26, who's working in a camisole tank top, lives in an uninsulated barn on the farm and spends more than 50 hours a week weeding, mulching, harvesting and selling at farmers markets.

Just a year ago, she was making $110,000 a year at Cisco Systems in Herndon, often telecommuting from the two-bedroom condo she owns in Georgetown. Now, she makes $7 an hour. She and Jabbar, along with Jabbar's fiance, Steve Hirschhorn, work for Chip and Susan Planck on Wheatland Vegetable Farms in Loudoun County.

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Miami takes "giant step" toward being pedestrian-oriented city

Historic adoption makes Miami largest city to replace auto-oriented conventional zoning with new urbanist code

After a 4-1 vote by city commissioners, the city will no longer have the conventional zoning code that helped make much of the city chiefly navigable by car and created harsh juxtapositions between new high-rises and existing fabric such as bungalows and small storefront buildings. Replacing it city-wide is a new urbanist form-based code — based on the Smartcode model code template — that calls for convenient, walkable neighborhoods and gentler transitions between high-intensity and lower-scaled development. The new code known as Miami 21 "promises a healthier city and friendlier walking corridors," reported the Miami Herald in its coverage of the vote. The new code will take effect 120 days after passage.

The vote was a major victory for Miami's visionary Mayor Manny Diaz, who said the results of the new code will one day invite Miami to be considered alongside cities such as Chicago, New York, and even Paris that are famed for world-class urban neighborhoods. "I'm going to tell you that history will judge us right,'' he said.

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2 Days, 3 Nights, on a Path Named for a Devil


NIGHTFALL came after the rain had stopped, and in the wet woods columns of fog twisted around dripping trees. It was 10 p.m. on a summer Friday, the forest moonless and still at the trailhead to the Devil’s Path.

An opening in the woods off the parking lot looked like a dark door. Beyond, a small trail edged into the night, its route unseen. The Devil’s Path, an east-to-west voyage along the spine of the Catskills, is often cited as the toughest hiking trail in the East. In 25 miles it ascends six major peaks, plunging into deep valleys between climbs.

“From end to end the Devil’s Path is one of the more challenging trails around,” said Josh Howard, a director at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which publishes detailed maps of area trails, including the Devil’s Path.

Backpackers hoping to complete the route face a total climb and descent of more than 14,000 feet. Steep ascents include cliff bands and traverse terrain that is vertical enough at times to be confused with a mountain climb.

“It’s straight up and straight down, and then you do it over again,” said Mr. Howard, 33, who once hiked the entire trail in a one-day feat of endurance.

Read More

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