Wednesday, May 5, 2010

News That Matters - May 5, 2010

News That Matters

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

"The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there. It's natural. It's as natural as the ocean water is." - Rush Limbaugh on the current Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Good Wednesday Morning,

It's clearly one of the most beautiful mornings - ever - out there today but the beauty of the day will be marred by the death of long-time Putnam Valley resident David Santo who passed away early yesterday. Funeral services will be held today at 1PM at the Clark David Funeral Home in Yorktown with burial at Rose Hills and King David cemetery in Putnam Valley afterward. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to David's family and friends.

I'm still looking for a surplus washing machine. If you're getting a new one don't let Sears take it away!

I'd like to thank those who have supported News That Matters with your contributions and encourage others to do the same. Remember, if you're not going to be active, at the very least you can reach into your pockets and help keep the information coming.

Action Update: For those who would like to see a little justice in our fair county there is still time to help us get the  charges leveled against Carmel resident Lori Kemp dropped and our letter writing campaign to District Attorney Adam Levy is in full swing. If you have not yet written (why is that?) there's some good information and a sample letter here in a post called, "How You Can Help Lori Kemp" which has had more than 100 visits in the past few days!

News That Matters broke the story regarding the payment of property taxes at Tilly Foster Farm. Will the county be forced to pick up he bill or will Preserve Putnam, the organization that has a 40 year lease on the property and who promised to make it self-sufficient be doing so? See the article below or at the News That Matters website. It's already one of the most read articles there.

Twenty-Eight of you have voted in our latest preference poll to see who should replace Senator Leibell in NY's 40th State Senate district. So far Mike Kaplowitz is way out in front with 57% of the vote - and not a single vote came in from the Netherlands or Russia. The poll is here, in the right-hand column. If you haven't voted, please do so.

In yet another attempt to get more money from you, the State of New York is proposing a $5 per vehicle parking fee for use of state owned parking lots at the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park. It's probably not too late to stop this silliness but you'll have to *do something about it* like write Senator Leibell or Assemblywoman Galef.

Putting things into perspective:
Since 2001 there have been 858 fires and explosions, 69 deaths and 1349 injuries on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico - alone. Millions of gallons of oil have been spilled making the Gulf one of the most polluted seas on the planet and yet, Republicans are still pushing for more drilling and exploration along US coasts. Can you believe that? Why not spend that time and effort on conservation and alternative energy? Haven't we done enough damage to our environment with oil and coal?

A cop at a recent Phillies game decided that the best way to remove a fan from running on the outfield was to shoot him with a taser. At a previous game a dog got loose and pooped on the field during a game. Security guards chased the dog down, scooped him up and gently carried him off to wild cheers from the crowd. This leaves me wondering, if the fan had just crapped on second base instead...
Between June of 2001 and August of 2008, 330 Americans have been killed in taser attacks by police. The American Medical Association says, "Concerns about the use of CEDs [Conducted Electrical devices]  fall into three general areas: (1) they are used too frequently and at lower levels on the use-of-force continuum than indicated; (2) appropriate training and supervision of CED use is lacking in some jurisdictions; and (3) CEDs may contribute to the death of suspects, either directly or indirectly."

And though they also say the use of tasers can save lives in dramatic situations the AMA concludes that adequate training is lacking and that police use these devices too frequently... like on a guy in a university library (18 times) or a rambling mentally ill woman or a baseball fan running on the field. Police think they have a "safe gun" but more than 300 deaths say otherwise.

Between 2004 and 2007 California tasered 437 inmates leading to the death of two, and Orange County (CA) has just paid out $750,000 in the tasering of a guy who was already in police custody, in a cell, handcuffed and thrown to the ground - BEFORE he was shot - repeatedly - over a 13 minute period.

In 2009, Warren, Michigan police shot 16 year old Robert Mitchell with a taser. He's now dead.

55 people have died in Florida from taser attacks. In Arizona, 30 have died. 12 in Illinois. In England, police are pushing for acceptance of the use of barbituates to subdue people. When and where will this stop?

If your town's police force uses tasers ask your town board to volunteer to be tased. I can see it now: at the next town board meeting council members who voted for the use of tasers would line up in front of the audience and their local cops would shoot them - one by one - with a taser.

I mean, they're safe right? So, why wouldn't they want to prove this to the community?

Remember, Friday brings the "Things To Do Edition" of News That Matters so if your organization or group has something planned for this weekend or early next week please get that information in to us within the next 24 hours. Please, no graphics or scans, just the text.

And now, The News:

Who is paying the taxes at Tilly Foster?

Who is paying the $19,500 owed in property taxes at Tilly Foster Farm?

That’s a good question which Legislator Dan Birmingham would like an answer to.

In a three page memo dated today, Legislator Birmingham asks County Executive Bondi this very question and lays out the properties that are taxable and hopes that you and I will not be picking up the tab.

The three properties are:

56.-1-20.3 The Cottage – assessed at $375,000
56.-1-32.1 The rental house – assessed at $250,000
56.-1-20.4 The Country Store – assessed at $100,000

Each of these taxable parcels are being used by Preserve Putnam as income generating facilities and hold a combined property tax liability of somewhere around $19,500… or so.

Mr. Birmingham writes in part:

If I recall during these many public discussions [on the contract] , the County was assured by Preserve Putnam on numerous occasions that Tilly Foster Farm would be “self sufficient” and that the cost of the operations of Tilly Foster Farm would be borne exclusively by Preserve Putnam

I certainly hope that you would agree with me that this tax liability should not be paid for by the taxpayers of Putnam County. I would hope that when the tax bills are sent to the County (as legal owner of these parcels) that such bills would be hastily forwarded to Preserve Putnam for its prompt payment.

You can read the full memo here.

Grants to Protect Endangered Species in Hudson Valley

Private landowners interested in enhancing and restoring critical bog turtle habitat could be eligible for a federally funded grant program totaling approximately $150,000. With bog turtle populations declining in New York State and throughout their range, the Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) for Bog Turtle Management and Protection directs funding to projects on private property that will help the survival of bog turtles and more than 30 other at-risk species through enhancement and protection of critical habitat.

The LIP is administered by DEC and funded through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. LIP participants must provide 25 percent in matching funds to implement their projects.

Bog TurtlesA hand holding a bog turtle

The survival of the bog turtle will depend on the cooperation of private landowners as nearly all of the turtle's habitat is on private land.

Bog turtles-New York's smallest turtle-can live for 40 years or more but are slow to reproduce and are on the state's endangered species list. In the Northeast, 95 percent of bog turtle habitat is on private land, so survival of the species in the wild is impossible without the collaboration of private landowners.


Grant recipients are eligible for awards ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the project. To maximize the program's benefits, DEC will limit LIP eligibility to private landowners within the focus area, which includes portions of Columbia, Greene, Ulster, Dutchess, Putnam, Sullivan and Orange counties. Visit DEC's website to see a map of the focus area.

Applications must include plans to restore and manage bog turtle habitat within the focus area. Activities related to this goal include management of vegetation, restoration of hydrology and connection of habitats. Applicants or landowners must also identify a source for the 25 percent in non-federal matching funds required as part of the program.

The deadline for pre-application submission is June 1, 2010.

Read More

Water Quality Scorecard

Incorporating Green Infrastructure Practices at the Municipal, Neighborhood, and Site Scale

EPA's Smart Growth Program, in conjunction with the Office of Water, has released Water Quality Scorecard: Incorporating Green Infrastructure Practices at the Municipal, Neighborhood, and Site Scale.This scorecard offers policy options for protecting and improving water quality across different scales of land use and across multiple municipal departments.

Many communities across the United States face the challenge of balancing water quality protection with accommodating new growth and development. Conventional development practices cover large areas with impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, and buildings. Once such development occurs, rainwater cannot infiltrate into the ground. Instead, it runs off the land at much higher levels than would naturally occur. The collective force of this runoff scours streams, erodes stream banks, and carries large quantities of sediment and other pollutants into waterbodies each time it rains.

Communities are recognizing the importance of managing water quality impacts of development at a variety of scales, including the municipal, neighborhood, and site levels. Green infrastructure is a comprehensive approach to water quality protection defined by a range of natural and built systems that can occur at all three scales.

Read More

Jordan River to run dry by next year

Unless urgent action is taken, large sections of the Lower Jordan River, which runs from Lake Kinneret to the Dead Sea, will dry out next year, according to a study released on Sunday by EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME).

The NGO ran tests over a year to determine how much water would be needed to rehabilitate the river and damage had been caused by the lack of water in it. Israel, Jordan and Syria divert 98 percent of the flow for their respective country’s use.

In the 19th and early 20th century, 1.3 billion cubic meters of water cascaded each year down rapids and rolled over waterfalls on the way down to the lowest point on Earth – the Dead Sea.

In 2009, just 20 to 30 of water pooled and sluggishly flowed through the river’s channels – all of it sewage. Sewage runs from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan into the river. However, two new sewage treatment plants, one in the Beit She’an area and the other in the Jordan Valley Regional Council area, are set to begin operating over the next year and a half.

While FoEME praised the construction of the two plants, it warned that unless fresh water replaced the amounts of sewage water that would be removed, the once mighty Lower Jordan River would become a cracked and dry riverbed through much of its 100-km. length.

Read More

Under Arizona immigration law, overgrown lawns, barking dogs could trigger questioning, lawmaker says

The controversy over a hard-line immigration law signed by Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010, shows no signs of ebbing -- despite a last-minute change to the law's language designed to placate some of the laws' critics.
Generally speaking, the law, which would go into effect in 90 days, makes being an illegal immigrant a state crime and requires legal immigrants to carry papers that confirm their legal status.

One of the key questions to emerge during and after the law's passage has been what standard law enforcement officers will need to use before questioning individuals about their immigration status. Critics have argued that trivial justifications could lead to immigration status checks that could get someone deported.

On April 30, Brewer signed a package of changes to the law that were intended to clarify what sorts of actions could trigger immigration-related questions. Here's the new version of the language telling police the circumstances under which they will be expected to check on an individuals' immigration status:

"For any lawful stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town in this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation."

Read More

Toilet paper wipes out 27,000 trees a day

Worldwide, the equivalent of almost 270,000 trees is either flushed or dumped in landfills every day and roughly 10 percent of that total is attributable to toilet paper, according to the latest issue of World Watch magazine.

"Meanwhile, growing populations, adoption of Western lifestyles, and sanitation improvements in developing countries are driving the increased use of toilet paper," the magazine added. "The result is that forests in both the global North and South are under assault by paper companies competing to fill consumer demand."

Wikimedia Commons image by Tristanb

"Steadily increasing demand for toilet paper in developing countries is a critical factor in the impact that toilet paper manufacturer have on forests around the world," says author Noelle Robbins in a Worldwatch Institute news release. "And with the increasing pressure to reduce and discontinue the use of old growth forests, the move is on to tree plantations."

But according to Robbins, this cure could be worse than the disease, Worldwatch said.

Read More

Connections In Congress May Aid BP Lobby Effort

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is quickly becoming a serious ecological disaster. At the same time, the event has become a political hot potato as the various parties involved attempt to protect themselves from blame. British Petroleum (BP), the owners of the oil lease site where the sunken rig was drilling, is gearing up their lobbying team to present their case to congressional investigators. Thanks to their long-established connections, they may find some in Congress who are willing to listen.

The Center for Responsive Politics ranks BP as one of the top donors to political campaigns over the twenty years having given in excess of $6 million to congressional and presidential campaigns. The ten biggest recipients of BP contributions still in Congress are Rep. Don Young ($73,300), Sen. John McCain ($44,899), Sen. George Voinovich ($41,400), Rep. John Dingell ($31,000), Sen. Mary Landrieu ($28,200), Rep. Joe Barton ($27,350), Sen. Jim Inhofe ($22,300), Sen. Mitch McConnell ($22,000), Rep. John Culberson ($20,950) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison ($19,500).

BP has focused a good portion of their campaign contributions on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. The committee is scheduled to begin hearings on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Wednesday. Since 1989, BP has contributed a total of $195,550 to the current 51 members of the committee. Rep. Barton is the ranking member of the committee. Rep. Dingell is chairman emeritus and was recently deposed as chairman by Rep. Henry Waxman. Other top recipients include Rep. Ralph Hall ($14,500), Rep. Fred Upton ($13,100) and Rep. Roy Blunt ($12,500).

Read More

The 7 Stupidest Statements Made About the BP Gulf Oil Spill

The BP oil spill is on par to outpace the Exxon Valdez oil spill in terms of size, impact, and devastation, which is no small feat. The Valdez spill cost billions of dollars to clean up, killed hundreds of thousands of animals, and registered a debilitating effect to the coastal ecosystem. And yet, we see, once again, that there's no shortage of people who seem to forget easily, or are downright ignorant of the catastrophe an oil spill of this magnitude presents. To illustrate, I bring you the 7 stupidest things said about the BP oil spill so far . . .

Some of these statements are made out of pure ignorance, while others are clearly intended to downplay the impact of the event, and any ramifications it might have on offshore drilling in general. Without further ado:

Read More

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