Wednesday, July 14, 2010

News That Matters - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

News That Matters

News That Matters
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Good Wednesday Morning,

It rained. Finally. Too late for the berry crop but it rained and for that I am thankful.

Wow! The top news at the online edition of the NYJN is that Bobby Kennedy has filed for divorce. In the meantime, home foreclosures are rocking our communities and destroying families, unemployment benefits are running out for millions, millions more have no health insurance, there's a little oil gusher in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico that is being felt over thousands of miles of coastline, local governments are corrupt and ineffectual, we're fighting wars against enemies we've created out of thin air.... and the list goes on. But set all that aside so we can focus on the private life of a guy who has done good works for our communities and the river that binds us all together. Yeah, that's journalism in 2010.

Today is Bastille Day

It was on July 14th 1789 that residents took up arms against the monarch and stormed the Bastille, a prison in Paris. The aim wasn’t to free those inside as much as it was a direct challenge to what had become a regime immune to pleas from the people for meaningful assistance and change. Those involved got their ideas from their brethren on this continent and modeled both their movement and their constitution on what our founding fathers had created a few years earlier. The French version, adopted in August of that year, was called the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and led to the establishment of the First Republic.

Tax or Fee? You Decide

I was told the other day that the $250 bribe, er, tax, er, fee, er, whatever... that contractors must pay to Putnam County for the right to work is not a tax but a fee and I should quit my bitching about it because yes, we contractors are provided a service by the county. What that service is may be hard to define but if everyone from the Code Enforcement officer to the county Legislature tells me I'm getting something other than my entry into the protection racket, I don't know what that is.

So I decided to find out what a tax is and what a fee is: Form the Wiki:

Tax: To tax (from the Latin taxo; "I estimate", which in turn is from tangō; "I touch") is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. (emphasis, mine)

Fee: A fee is the price one pays as remuneration for services. Fees usually allow for overhead, wages, costs, and markup.

From Websters:
Tax: noun
1. a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc.

1. a charge or payment for professional services: a doctor's fee
So, though the county insists that it's only a fee failure to comply comes with a legal punishment, thus it is a tax.

This is your Assembly District on Drugs

Check out this map of AD22 in Brooklyn:

And this is New York's 51st Senate District:

And there's dozens more like it across this state and other states as well.

Remember those experiments where they gave spiders a dose of LSD and set them off to spinning webs? That's what must have happened in Albany during the last redistricting. And while I don't necessarily support Andrew Cuomo for Governor I do support his call for an independent redistricting panel - and you should, too.

In other news:

  • In case you have forgotten, there's still tens of thousands of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico each and every day. Yes, I know you've forgotten. When the new BP stations open in Carmel feel free to buy your cigarettes there as NYS needs your tax dollars, but please buy your gasoline elsewhere. Thanks.
  • While New Jersey lawmakers instituted a 2% cap on yearly property tax increases, New York lawmakers were at the Yankees away game - on Mars.
  • Gary Harper didn't have the $500 he needed to get a DNA test to prove that the boy his long-ago ex girlfriend claimed he was the father of wasn't his but the State of Michigan decided he was the father anyway and billed him for $22,500 in back child support. But he did finally get the test and as he expected he is not the fatherbut the state still wants him to pay the money because under the law you have a narrow window to prove paternity - or not - and Mr. Harper missed that window.
  • From Media Matters: With the death of legendary New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner today, [Rush] Limbaugh had what he must have thought was the perfect opportunity to open his show with a little good old-fashioned race-baiting, saying that Steinbrenner -- "that cracker," as Limbaugh called him -- "made a lot of African-American millionaires." Limbaugh later stated that Steinbrenner "knew when to die," because there is currently no estate tax. He went on to read a couple of Washington Post stories about bad news for President Obama and declare that the newspaper needs "a suicide watch" in its newsroom. Eventually, Limbaugh got around to explaining how liberals were just like "Muslim extremists" -- liberals apparently "want to be told how to live," too.
  • In over 500 stories about the "peace flotilla" the Reuters news agency has not once mentioned that passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara were members of the Turkish group, the IHH, which has been banned from operating in Germany and other European countries because of their terrorist ties to Hamas which includes direct cash payments.
  • Remember the other day when we were talking about Iran? Religious police in the northern Iranian city of Tabriz, raped and killed 26 year old Elnaz Babazadeh for not following proper dress code. Were you also aware that Iran sits on the UN Commission of Women's Rights? How's that for, well, don't even get me going...

And now The News:

Rail trail funding approved for southern Westchester

WHITE PLAINS – The Westchester County Board of Legislators Monday night approved $3.25 million in bonding for construction of the final link in Yonkers of the South County Trailway.  

The trail, which will run on the former Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad right of way, will travel 2 ½ miles Eastview to the Yonkers-New York City line.  

The new link will make, with the exception of a half mile section in the Village of Elmsford, a continuous 36 mile corridor from the Putnam County border to the Yonkers-New York line.   

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Paradise for Fishermen Becomes One for Scientists

Just off New York City lies the Hudson Canyon, a deep gash in the seabed that runs for hundreds of miles. Charter boats and commercial fishermen have long known that the canyon’s headwaters swarm with tuna, swordfish, monkfish, tilefish, red crabs and other sea life.

Now, scientists have discovered a surprising potential reason for at least part of the canyon’s riches — methane bubbling up from the seabed.

A team from Rutgers University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has made three trips to the canyon since 2007 and is preparing another voyage next month. It has already found high levels of methane in the waters and, tracking chemical and geologic clues, now sees the natural gas, which is associated with oil deposits, as a possible first meal in a long food chain.

On the coming expedition, the team plans to use a robotic submersible equipped with a camera to photograph areas of the floor and sides of the canyon for the first time. The scientists hope to gather evidence of deep creatures that live directly and indirectly on the methane, perhaps including clams and crabs, mussels and tube worms.

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Kucinich Pushes To End Tax Subsidies For Junk Food Advertising

As First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the NAACP convention in Kansas City about childhood obesity Monday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) continued his work behind the scenes to stem junk food advertising to kids. A new bill introduced by Kucinich could raise billions of dollars in revenue to fund child nutrition and anti-obesity initiatives by preventing companies from writing off advertising of junk food targeted at kids.
"The Institute of Medicine estimates that in 2004 more than $11 billion was spent on all types of food marketing and advertising, with approximately $10 billion devoted to food and beverage advertising aimed at children."

Taxpayers are effectively subsidizing the spread of the obesity epidemic, Kucinich says, since under current federal law marketing expenses for the junk- and fast-food industries are tax-deductible. The legislation offers an easy win for increasingly hysterical deficit hawks, and would provide much-needed funds for Democrats looking to pass more aid programs, such as renewed unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.

"I commend the First Lady for her dedication to stopping the epidemic of childhood obesity and for shedding light on the problem of food marketing to children," Kucinich wrote in a letter to colleagues. His measure, HR 4310, would prohibit any company from claiming a tax deduction for expenses derived from advertising to children any fast food or food of limited nutritional value. He cites a study suggesting that eliminating the federal subsidies of food advertising directed at youth could significantly reduce obesity rates.

Read More

Jews, Arabs Work Together to Save Hevron's Olive Trees

by Maayana Miskin

Residents of the Hevron area are concluding a weeks-long battle to save ancient olive trees next to the city. The project brought together Jews and Arabs from Hevron.

The ancient trees of Tel Hevron – some of them up to 2,000 years old – were endangered by a parasitic plant known as divkon hazayit. The plant was first discovered growing on the trees last year, and quickly multiplied, threatening to devastate the area.

The danger was spotted by Noam Arnon, spokesman for Hevron's Jewish community, who noticed the invasive species taking root while hiking through the area. He contacted the Ministry of Agriculture and the IDF Civil Administration to warn them.

Ministry of Agriculture workers were sent to the region and confirmed that without treatment, many trees could die. They created a plan of action to save the trees.

Over the course of several weeks, volunteers from both the Jewish and Arab communities of Hevron went from tree to tree and pruned off the invasive species. Olive tree branches found to be infected were cut off and burnt.

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Automated Debt-Collection Lawsuits Engulf Courts

As millions of Americans have fallen behind on paying their bills, debt collection law firms have been clogging courtrooms with lawsuits seeking repayment.

Few have been as prolific as Cohen & Slamowitz, a Woodbury, N.Y., firm that has specialized in debt collection for nearly two decades. The firm has been filing roughly 80,000 lawsuits a year.

With just 14 lawyers on staff, that works out to more than 5,700 cases per lawyer.

How is that possible?

The answer to that question is at the heart of a growing debate over the increasing use of the nation’s legal system to collect on bad debts.

Like many other firms, Cohen & Slamowitz relies on computer software to help prepare its cases. While many of the cases represent legitimate claims, critics say the lawsuits are too often based on inaccurate or incomplete information about the debtor or the amount owed.

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Monkeys trained as battlefield killers in Afghanistan

By People's Daily Online

Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents are training monkeys to use weapons to attack American troops, according to a recent report by a British-based media agency.

Reporters from the media agency spotted and took photos of a few "monkey soldiers" holding AK-47 rifles and Bren light machine guns in the Waziristan tribal region near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The report and photos have been widely spread by media agencies and Web sites across the world.

According to the report, American military experts call them "monkey terrorists."

As a form of cruel political means, wars are launched to meet political goals through conquest, devastation, assaults and other means.

In a sense, the emergence of "monkey soldiers" is the result of asymmetrical warfare. The United States launched the war in Afghanistan using the world's most advanced weapons such as highly-intelligent robots to detect bombs on roadsides and unmanned aerial vehicles to attack major Taliban targets. In response, the Taliban forces have tried any possible means and figured out a method to train monkeys as "replacement killers" against American troops.

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