Wednesday, November 18, 2009

News That Matters - November 18, 2009

News That Matters
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Before we dive into the world around us this morning please do me a favor:

Pass a copy of this newsletter on to people you know who do not receive it either by subscription or who do not read it on the website. Let’s spread the news around a bit and grow our readership. Our goal? 1000 daily readers by January 1.

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Finally, click on the “donate” button above ~ and you know what to do after that. It is that time of year again. Thanks to those who have already helped out this year and in the past. But we do need to see some new faces!

Good Wednesday Morning,

From How Stuff Works: Tomorrow, Nov. 19 is World Toilet Day, a time to reflect upon how far modern sanitation has come. In the United States in 2005, less than half of one percent of the country's more than 124 million households didn't have a flushing toilet [source: U.S. Census Bureau]. That leaves 620,000 US primary households without access to modern plumbing.

Friday is normally our Things To Do Edition
but I've got little to offer this week. If your group or organization is holding an event this weekend please send me a plain text email about it for inclusion in the calendar.

Poles for Christmas trees have sprouted along Route 6 and Lake Gleneida.
Isn't it time to plant trees permanently there?
Each year trees are grown somewhere, chopped down and transported to the shores of the Hamlet's water supply, decorated, then tossed into a compost heap somewhere.

But we could lessen the waste and costs and make improvements to the landscape if we were to plant that row of trees and let them grow with us year after year. Years back when I asked the same question a prominent Carmel attorney told me that planting trees there would ruin the view. What do you think?
BREAKING NEWS (that's not): Carmel Police officers rank as the highest paid employees in that town. Here's the Top Ten paid employees in Kent:

Smith Jr, Donald $103,557
Carroll, Thomas $97,313
Beauchesne, Raymond $94,939
Di Vernieri Jr, Alexander $93,252
Champagne, Carlton $90,319
Yeager, Ronald $90,263
Raneri, Jerry $89,239
Oster, James $88,008
Locascio, Gerald $87,123
Owens, Kevin $83,919

The search for the Loch Ness monster continues unabated. In the last serious foray what researches found wasn't some aquatic remnant of pre-historic days, but 100,000 golf balls strewn across large sections of the bottom of the Loch.

Yuri Foreman, a 29 year old boxer who just happens to be studying to be a Rabbi, captured the World Boxing Association's 154 lb weight class, defeating Daniel Santos in Las Vegas last Saturday night. Tell your kids they have a choice: they can either get to work studying for their Bar Mitzvah's or they're going to have to go a round or two with Foreman.

While we're on that subject, find a way to take yourselves out to see the new Coen brother's film, "A Serious Man". You will need to bring a Jewish friend along with you in order to get the most out of it as there are inside jokes and references galore that the goyim just won't get. One of the best films these two boys (who have probably never boxed Yuri Foreman) have done.
Other films the Coen brothers have done either singly or together include "Fargo", "The Big Lebowski", Raising Arizona, O' Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "No Country for Old Men". Between them they've accumulated 6 Academy and 3 Golden Globe awards.
Glenn Beck claimed that the proposed health care reform bill includes health insurance for your dog. The bill does include money for research and the training of veterinarians but that's to deal with Swine Flu, West Nile and a whole host of other public health issues that jump from animals to people but explaining that little tidbit to his audience would have probably been too much information for his listeners to comprehend.

Assemblyman Greg Ball is in the news again. No, it's not for his record in Albany (of which there is none) but for a recent press release claiming that the government's plan to hold a trial for 9/11 defendants in NYC is a bad idea. Citing the threat of terror attacks, he claims that the world - as we know it - will end if the trials in New York move forward. He goes so far as to blame an earlier trial of those who attempted to blow up the World Trade Center with the 9/11 events. He then agrees that "civilian courts are no place to try terrorists." If not there, then where? Are we not a nation of law?
A writer to the NYJN Letters section this morning said we should try them by military tribunal then shoot them. Last time I looked this was not Saudi Arabia or Yemen or Syria. I guess she likes those places and desires us to be more like them.
It's now one year since same-sex marriage has been legal in Connecticut and since November 12, 2008 more than 1700 couples have taken the plunge. If you've noticed, the world did not end, Francisco Franco is still dead and ABBA has not made a comeback. In other words, no one has really noticed and life has gone on... but with just a little more equality.

How To Speak Teabag is a short video from cartoonist Mark Fiore. Mark Fiore is an editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a web site featuring his work.

In order to lessen the number of cars in the heart of Bruges (The Netherlands), the city has built car-parks where parking is cheap and free transportation is available into and around the city while in the heart of the city, one-way streets and no-parking zones make it difficult to drive there. Signs on all major roads leading into Bruges direct drivers not to the city itself but to those car-parks instead. Meanwhile, congestion pricing, now widespread in Europe, has lessened traffic and improved air quality in every city in which it has been instituted and has made walking easier and safer with a decline in pedestrian/vehicle accidents.

And now, The News:

Southeast budget would raise taxes

By Michael Risinit • • November 17, 2009

SOUTHEAST — Homeowners can expect to pay about 4.7 percent more next year in town property taxes under Southeast’s 2010 budget.

The $14.4 million budget would raise a homeowner’s annual tax bill by about $24 to $531.

The Town Board last week voted 3-2 to approve the budget plan put forth by Councilmen Paul Johnson, Richard Honeck and Roger Gross.

That capped a debate between their plan and Supervisor Michael Rights’ tentative 2010 proposal.

Rights ultimately proposed a spending plan without a tax increase.

In doing so, he suggested the town sell its non-highway vehicles and cut funding to outside agencies, such as the Brewster Library.

Read More

Pfizer to Leave City That Won Land-Use Case


>From the edge of the Thames River in New London, Conn., Michael Cristofaro surveyed the empty acres where his parents’ neighborhood had stood, before it became the crux of an epic battle over eminent domain.

“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company, announced it would leave the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the United States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.

The announcement stirred up resentment and bitterness among some local residents. They see Pfizer as a corporate carpetbagger that took public money, in the form of big tax breaks, and now wants to run.

“I’m not surprised that they’re gone,” said Susette Kelo, who moved to Groton from New London after the city took her home near Pfizer’s property. “They didn’t get what they wanted: their development, their big plan.”

Read More

Healthcare Rx from my Socialist Fire Department

Written by Greg Palast

Tell me where it hurts, Mr. President.

    What's killing you, Barack, is what's killing us all: an evil germ called "Medical Loss Ratio."

    "Medical Loss Ratio" [MLR] is the fancy term used by health insurance companies for their slice, their take-out, their pound of flesh, their gross - very gross - profit.

    The "MLR" is the difference between what you pay an insurance company and what that insurer pays out to doctors, hospitals and pharmacists for your medical care.

    I've totted it up from the raw stats: The "MLR," insurance companies' margins, is about to top - holy mama! - a quarter trillion dollars a year. That's $2.7 trillion over the next decade.

    Until the 1990's, insurers skimmed only about a nickel on the dollar for their "service," Wendell Potter told me. Potter is the CIGNA insurance company PR man who came in from the cold to tell us about what goes down inside the health insurance gold mine. Today, Potter notes (and I've checked his accuracy), porky operators like AIG have kicked up their Loss Ratio by nearly 500 percent.

    The industries' slice is growing to nearly a quarter of your insurance bill. All of it just paperwork and profiteering.

    President Obama is never going to pull the insurance company piggies from a trough this big, especially when the industry has made room for Congressional snouts.

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New snowmobile trail rules adopted for Forest Preserve

November 15, 2009 by newyorkoutdoors

By MIKE LYNCH, Enterprise Outdoors, link to original post

The state Adirondack Park Agency approved new guidelines for snowmobile trails Friday, Nov. 13, 2009.

The rules are intended to improve the safety of snowmobilers while lessening the environmental impact on the Forest Preserve during the process of constructing, maintaining and locating trails.

The guidelines were approved 10-1. Commissioner Richard Booth cast the dissenting vote, saying the State Land Master Plan should be amended before these guidelines were approved.

The guidelines will move snowmobile trails from the interior of wild forest areas to the outskirts while also creating community connector trails. They would also allow tracked groomers on community connector trails. Snowmobile trails would also be required to have the same character as foot trails.

For the most part, the snowmobile guidelines were hailed by those involved as a major accomplishment and an example of how the state Department of Environmental Conservation, APA, snowmobile groups, local government leaders and environmental organizations could work together to achieve rules that would satisfy everyone.

“It think that the theme of balance is something we have to look for in setting public policy, and to that end I think that what you passed today represents that balance,” said Mike Fischer, president of the New York State Snowmobile Association.

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Chickens come home to roost in backyards around the USA

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Special for USA TODAY

PORTLAND, Maine — For months, Daniel Strauss has looked out the window of his home on busy Stevens Avenue and noticed as many as six chickens pecking at the soil of his backyard.

The hens' owner, Jennifer Rudin, wasn't sure at first whether her city neighbor would appreciate the chickens' free-ranging, which has become routine for them since Portland approved backyard chicken farming earlier this year. But having seen how adaptable chickens are, Strauss is planning to get a few of his own.

"They eat insects, they fertilize the yard – I don't really see any downside to them," Strauss says, adding that he'd also welcome fresh eggs. "The more food you can get from your own backyard, the better."

A trend in backyard chicken farming is taking hold as urbanites, eager to scoop up flavorful organic eggs, discover how easy it is to get started. A simple coop, a pen and a little feed are such a low entry bar that people are flocking to try their hand at keeping chickens in a tough economy.

Read More

Central Kings students wear pink to send bullies a message


Central Kings Rural High School students
David Shepherd and Travis Price

CAMBRIDGE, UK — Two students at Central Kings Rural High School fought back against bullying recently, unleashing a sea of pink after a new student was harassed and threatened when he showed up wearing a pink shirt.

The Grade 9 student arrived for the first day of school last Wednesday and was set upon by a group of six to 10 older students who mocked him, called him a homosexual for wearing pink and threatened to beat him up.

The next day, Grade 12 students David Shepherd and Travis Price decided something had to be done about bullying.

"It’s my last year. I’ve stood around too long and I wanted to do something," said David.

They used the Internet to encourage people to wear pink and bought 75 pink tank tops for male students to wear. They handed out the shirts in the lobby before class last Friday — even the bullied student had one.

"I made sure there was a shirt for him," David said.

They also brought a pink basketball to school as well as pink material for headbands and arm bands. David and Travis figure about half the school’s 830 students wore pink.

Read More

How the US Funds the Taliban

By Aram Roston
November 11, 2009

But Popal was more than just a former mujahedeen. In 1988, a year before the Soviets fled Afghanistan, Popal had been charged in the United States with conspiring to import more than a kilo of heroin. Court records show he was released from prison in 1997.

Flash forward to 2009, and Afghanistan is ruled by Popal's cousin President Hamid Karzai. Popal has cut his huge beard down to a neatly trimmed one and has become an immensely wealthy businessman, along with his brother Rashid Popal, who in a separate case pleaded guilty to a heroin charge in 1996 in Brooklyn. The Popal brothers control the huge Watan Group in Afghanistan, a consortium engaged in telecommunications, logistics and, most important, security. Watan Risk Management, the Popals' private military arm, is one of the few dozen private security companies in Afghanistan. One of Watan's enterprises, key to the war effort, is protecting convoys of Afghan trucks heading from Kabul to Kandahar, carrying American supplies.

Welcome to the wartime contracting bazaar in Afghanistan. It is a virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex-military officers joining hands with former Taliban and mujahedeen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.

In this grotesque carnival, the US military's contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban. "It's a big part of their income," one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts--hundreds of millions of dollars--consists of payments to insurgents.

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