Monday, February 22, 2010

News That Matters - February 22, 2010

News That Matters

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

Good Monday Morning,

Remember George Washington? It's his birthday today.

We pause here to wish a speedy recovery to a Kent neighbor from Farmer's Mills Road who surprised two burglars in his home last week and and was found badly beaten and semi-conscious several hours later by coworkers wondering why he'd not come back from lunch. He's currently in hospital but late reports say that the police have been able to interview him. Let's hope the guys get caught soon.

Yet another Quick Poll!
There's a lot of talk lately about closing some state parks and reducing services in others due to budget constraints (see below). We'd like to know which open spaces you use in Putnam County. The poll is broken down into several parts. Please answer each section in turn pressing the VOTE button after each. Then pass the URL onto others you know who live here. The poll will close on Tuesday evening and we'll release the results on Wednesday. Keep in mind that this is an unscientific poll with a margin of error of +/- 134%.

Sure signs of spring:
Ladybugs have taken over my windows again. As soon as the sun is up in the morning they're everywhere including the cat's bowl which sits against a bay window. And I can assure you, he does not like it one bit. Now I know where the word "caterwauling" comes from!
Tomatoes in Pots
Now is the time to start thinking about your gardens.
Some of you have already been through the catalogs and ordered your seeds for this growing season. Others buy plants from the Home Depot later on (though I do suggest finding a decent organic provider instead.)
It's not too early to go outside and look at the garden area even if it's still under the snow. You can plan in your mind or better, on paper, where this will go or how that area over there no longer gets the sun it used to and if you need to call in a tree guy like Joe Greico to get the trees trimmed back to increase the amount of sun reaching your garden beds. With the price of produce in the market having a productive garden is a good investment.

How did things go last year? With the blight and the fact that it never got warm, tomatoes and potatoes probably didn't do all that well but let's see what comes around this growing season. Onions and garlic need virtually no care at all and their tops can be harvested all season long making an excellent addition to your kitchen.
So get to planning for planting! And if it turns out you only have a small porch or deck, cherry tomatoes and herbs like basil and mint grown in pots can do amazingly well with only a little care. And don't forget to get some nasturtiums in the ground or in pots this year. These tasty plants which grow best in poor soil bring you not only flowers that are beautiful but the flowers and the leaves are edible, adding a peppery tang to salads.

By the way, only Communists don't have gardens. Okay?
The website that sends the third most visitors to News That Matters is

Floating IslandsLooking for something useful to do this Thursday evening? The Lake Carmel Community is hosting a presentation on "Floating Islands". The press release reads:
"A very interesting “technology” has been developed by the company, Floating Islands International. Using constructed 'floating islands' that support naturally occurring fauna, there is a great deal of evidence that these “bio havens” greatly increase the removal of pollutants while reducing unwanted nutrients - a major problem in our lake."

The program begins at 7PM at the Community Center and will be followed by a companion talk on stormwater management for the lake given by yours truly. Call 845-306-5602 for more information.

Arden Point
View northward from Arden Point State Park - February 20, 2010
West Point is on the left and Mt. Taurus is in the middle distance.
Contrary to emails being posted by every environmental group on the planet, Fahnestock State Park is *not* slated to be closed by the governor. Only the Taconic Outdoor Education center has been targeted for reduced services.
With that said, the only two state parks in the region marked for closure by the Governor are Wonder Lake and Arden Point.

Arden Point sits on a peninsula just south of the Garrison train station and is accessible via a trail network that terminates at a bridge over the Metro North train tracks. If the bridge is closed by some barrier the park could be "closed". There are no maintained facilities at the park. No running water, no physical structures. In order to effect an actual "closure" State Park police would have to patrol the area which is something they do not do now and would represent an increase in police services which, considering the park costs nothing to "operate", would not be fiscally prudent.

Wonder Lake State Park has a single parking lot along Ludingtonville Road in Kent. Wonder Lake, like Arden Point, has no maintained facilities. Assuming the parking lot was "closed" there are other access points for the preserve which are easy enough for anyone to use. State Park police or other park employees would have to go into the park to seek those using it to ticket or arrest them and charge them with whatever hikers and dog walkers are charged with under these circumstances. This is also not a fiscally prudent move as State Park police aren't in there now and, like Arden Point, would represent an increase in their patrols thus necessitating an increase in their budgets. The point is, when it comes to a state park with no built facilities, just what does "closed" mean?

The story is far from over. Parks & Trails New York, one of the leading advocates for state parks in New York is pushing the state legislature to use $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for operational purposes within the state park system to avoid closure of some and reduced services at others. However, EPF monies are there for the purchase of open space lands and the state has already dipped their hands into this fund for other budget purposes.

Ed Goodell, Executive Director of the NY/NJ Trails Conference wrote this in an email Saturday:
We need to make sure that we are not advocating the cannibalizing of the EPF, even for Parks.

The language of the OPRHP doc posted on PTNY's site (attached) may inadvertently lead people to think that continuing to support this off-load (previously for capital projects, now for seasonal staff) is the only way to keep these parks open.

The Trail Conference message is that both the EPF and Parks have been disproportionately and unwisely cut in this budget. ( Restoring the Parks budget is relatively easy, restoring the EPF, especially the land acquisition that is so important to our work, is a much heavier lift.

We all know the fight for open space and funds for the acquisition of additional lands always comes after a hard and determined battle. I encourage PTNY and their followers to find another course of action.

Two Peas in a Pod?
"There are people that are out there so frustrated that say 'Hey it's time to lock and load.'" 
- Bob Schulz, founder of the anti-government We the People Foundation.

"The end game is [in Carmel] April 15th. So lock and load and bring the pitchforks."
- Greg Ball quoted by the Journal News.
Libertarian talk show host Alex Jones claims, and this is a bit complex, that the neocons remaining in government (publicly fronted by Glen Beck, Limbaugh, et. al,) will stage a fake assassination attempt on the President and blame it on the Left so that Homeland Security and other Federal agencies will then have an excuse to eradicate them. Why? According to Jones, the 9/11 Truth Movement is gaining ground and the last thing the neoconservatives want is for the real truth surrounding 9/11 to be known as that would put an end to them once and for all.

Urban Elephants writes: "The top candidate for the GOP nomination for the 19th Congressional District, Nan Hayworth, has been so unimpressive that sources tell me the National Republican Congressional Committee [NRCC] has all but given up on the race."

The Conservative Political Action Conference held a Presidential Straw Poll on Sunday. Texas Libertarian congressman Ron Paul was the winner with 31% of the vote. Second place went to CPAC's (un)official favorite Mitt Romney with 22%. Trig's mom, Sarah, barely registered in the tally.

And now, The News:

NY State Data Security Breach  

The stream of security breaches beginning in February 2005 has left more than 88 million Americans at risk for identity theft, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization that monitors security breaches. For example,, an online recruitment site, discovered that hackers had broken into its password-protected resume database. As a result of this breach, the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of 1.3 million job seekers were stolen, leaving these individuals vulnerable to identity theft. In another security breach, the State University of New York at Stony Brook experienced a security breach, resulting in the Social Security numbers and University ID numbers of 90,000 faculty, staff, students, alumni and other community members being visible via Google’s search engine for a period of two weeks. In August of 2007, the financial information belonging to 280,000 New York City retirees was exposed when a laptop belonging to a New York City financial information services Agency consultant was stolen from a restaurant.

Data security is a key issue for the CPB. Thus, great emphasis has been placed on identity theft, Internet security, information privacy and security breaches. The CPB has dedicated resources about these and additional issues on this website for consumers and businesses. Consumers are urged to visit this page to access important information and check for regular updates and security and data breach alerts. 

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Kennedy cites obstacles to green U.S.

MILLBROOK — In Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s ideal world, every house would be a green power plant and every homeowner would be an energy entrepreneur.

Before that can happen, three obstacles need to be addressed, the environmental activist and Hudson Riverkeeper lawyer told a crowd of scientists during a Friday night talk at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook.

He said government subsidies given to energy industries such as coal, oil and nuclear power need to be stopped to level the market playing field; rules that restrict access to the current national grid need to be eliminated; and the grid that carries power needs to be upgraded for long-haul transmission.

"The thing I've always loved about this institute and the scientists who work here … they recognize that we aren't protecting the environment for the sake of the fish and the birds, we're protecting it for our own good," Kennedy said.

William Schlesinger, president of the Cary Institute, said Kennedy is a "provocative speaker."

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Plan to truck hydrofracking wastewater to Finger Lakes shelved, for now

Stephen D. Cannerelli / The Post-Standard Sharon Daggat and her husband have a 52 acre farm in the Steuben County town of Pulteney. They are concerned about Chesapeake Energy wanting to store hydrofracking wastewater in an empty natural gas well next to their property. Daggat looks out her kitchen window at her vineyard on Feb. 10.

A drama that linked Pennsylvania, a tiny Finger Lakes town and 663 million gallons of chemical-laden water is foreshadowing a problem New York will face if it allows high-volume natural gas drilling.

Oil and gas companies drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania are running out of ways to dispose of the millions of gallons of wastewater produced by “hydrofracking” the Marcellus Shale.

One gas company proposed a solution: Bring the dirty water to New York’s Finger Lakes.

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The Truth About Energy Independence

by Jim DiPeso

People who grew up during the 1930s and '40s can remember a day when the United States produced more oil than the rest of the world combined.

Those days are gone. U.S. oil production peaked in the early 1970s. The current U.S. share of global oil production is less than 10 percent. As demand rocketed upward over the decades and domestic production fell, we became more dependent on imported crude oil and petroleum products. Today, imports supply nearly 60 percent of total U.S. petroleum demand.

Transportation's dependence on petroleum is almost total. What are the chances of restoring self-sufficiency in transportation energy? America's Energy Future, a report sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, sheds some light on this question.  The best near-term option is greater fuel efficiency. By the 2030s, we could take a bite out of imports, given generous assumptions about developing alternative fuels, some quite carbon-heavy. Beyond the 2030s, the best hope is widespread vehicle electrification using battery-electric drives and/or fuel cells.

Let's look at some numbers. Total U.S. petroleum demand is 19.5 million barrels per day.  Total daily crude oil production from U.S. oilfields is a shade below 5 million barrels per day. Once you net out other factors - production of usable natural gas liquids, imports of gasoline and other refined products, and exports - yes, U.S. producers on the hunt for market advantages export some 1.8 million barrels daily in crude oil and refined products - net imports of liquid fuels total 11.1 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

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Curtis Mitchell Dies After 10 Calls to 911 Over Two Days

(Feb. 18) -- It took 10 calls to 911 and almost 30 hours for paramedics to reach Curtis Mitchell. But by the time they made it to his Hazelwood, Pa., home, he was dead.

"I sat up here with him, watching him die," Mitchell's longtime girlfriend, Sharon Edge, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They didn't do their jobs like they were supposed to."

Pittsburgh officials, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, apologized to Mitchell's family and have enacted a new policy for responding to emergency calls.

"We should have gotten there," Public Safety Director Michael Huss told members of the local media. "It's that simple."

So why didn't they?

The Pittsburgh area was buried in 2 feet of snow when Mitchell, 50, began calling emergency dispatchers around 2 a.m. on Feb. 6. In his first 911 call, he complained that his "entire stomach was in pain," according to a report by Dr. Ron Roth, medical director for Pittsburgh's Public Safety Department. His symptoms were judged to be non-life-threatening.

After two hours passed without paramedics showing up, Mitchell placed a second call, learning an ambulance was stuck in the snow near a local bridge. He was asked if he could walk four blocks to meet the ambulance, but he said his pain was too severe. The call was canceled.

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Tracy (CA) Council chooses paramedic fee collector

by Cassie Tomlin/ TP staff

"Tucker said one person joked if her husband has a heart attack, she’ll be tempted to light the kitchen table on fire to dodge the fees."
The City Council on Tuesday voted to approve a contract with a company that will later this year bill residents when the fire department responds to medical emergencies and car accidents.

In June, the council decided to charge people when the Tracy Fire Department responds to non-fire incidents within the city limits. Since ambulances aren’t always the first to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency, the city’s fire department goes out on emergency calls, too.

The new fees are a way for the city to make extra money while it suffers a $9 million budget deficit this fiscal year.

On Tuesday, the council approved via a 4-1 vote (with Councilman Steve Abercrombie dissenting) a contract with ADPI-Intermedix, based in Oakland, to send the bills. The city expects to have a billing system ready next month, but doesn’t yet know when it will actually start charging.

Residents will pay $300 for every fire department response to a medical emergency. Non-residents can expect to pay $400. There is no set cost for a fire department visit to a car accident.

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Companies to build high-speed rail cars in the US

It's been decades since iconic American companies such as Budd and Pullman built passenger-train cars that let Americans sleep or dine in comfort as they rolled across country by rail.

But President Obama's $8 billion plan to kick-start high-speed rail construction in 13 areas around the country has US and foreign companies announcing plans to expand or build new factories to produce equipment for these passenger trains.

On Thursday, American Railcar Industries, a St. Charles, Mo.-based freight car manufacturer owned by investor Carl Icahn, announced a joint venture with Columbus, Ohio-based US Railcar to again manufacture passenger cars in the United States, at least initially at facilities in Arkansas.

"One of US Railcar Co.'s goals is to reestablish American-owned passenger train production in the United States," said Barry Fromm, one of the directors of the joint venture, in a statement.

The same day, the US rail division of German conglomerate Siemens AG announced that it had completed purchase of 20 acres of land adjacent to its existing 34-acre light-rail manufacturing plant in Sacramento, Calif. That new land would be the site for manufacturing high-speed-rail passenger trains traveling at up to 220 miles per hour.

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James O'Keefe and the myth of the ACORN pimp

Last September, when the ACORN scandal that his website helped launch was breaking in the press, Andrew Breitbart wrote a column for The Washington Times detailing the rollout of the undercover, right-wing gotcha. He recalled a 2009 meeting with "filmmaker and provocateur James O'Keefe" that took place in Breitbart's office in June. It was there that O'Keefe played the columnist the surreptitiously recorded videos he'd made with his sidekick, Hannah Giles, and which captured the two famously getting advice from ACORN workers on how prostitutes could skirt tax laws.

In his Times column, Breitbart was quite clear about what he saw that day in his office: He watched videos of O'Keefe "dressed as a pimp" sitting inside ACORN offices "asking for -- and getting -- help" from the misguided employees.

But today we know that's almost certainly not true. Breitbart didn't huddle in his office and watch clips of O'Keefe "dressed as a pimp" chatting with ACORN employees, because based on all the available evidence, O'Keefe wasn't dressed as a pimp while taping inside the ACORN offices.

Make no mistake: Last fall, both Breitbart and O'Keefe, with the help of Fox News, did their best to confuse people about that fact. It's true the duo seemed to purposefully push that falsehood and mislead the public and the press about the ACORN story. And more importantly, they did it to make the ACORN workers captured on video look like complete jackasses for not being able to spot O'Keefe's pimp ruse a mile away.

But the story was not true.

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World's Top Firms Cause $2.2 Trillion of Environmental Damage, Report Estimates

The cost of pollution and other damage to the natural environment caused by the world's biggest companies would wipe out more than one-third of their profits if they were held financially accountable, a major unpublished study for the United Nations has found.

Black clouds over the central business district, Jakarta. The report into the activities of the world's 3,000 biggest public companies has estimated the cost of use, loss and damage of the environment. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

The report comes amid growing concern that no one is made to pay for most of the use, loss and damage of the environment, which is reaching crisis proportions in the form of pollution and the rapid loss of freshwater, fisheries and fertile soils.

Later this year, another huge UN study - dubbed the "Stern for nature" after the influential report on the economics of climate change by Sir Nicholas Stern - will attempt to put a price on such global environmental damage, and suggest ways to prevent it. The report, led by economist Pavan Sukhdev, is likely to argue for abolition of billions of dollars of subsidies to harmful industries like agriculture, energy and transport, tougher regulations and more taxes on companies that cause the damage.

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