Monday, August 23, 2010

News That Matters - Monday, August 23, 2010

News That Matters

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

"Politicians: You can't live with 'em and if you shoot them you can't ever vote against them again."

Good Monday Morning,

Has anyone noticed that the Borkowski and Leibell campaign signs sprouting across the county like weeds are the same? Early last week I noticed Greg Ball's signs and wrote the town of Kent asking they be removed. Yes, I knew that the primary was up and coming but his signs appeared before the 30 day legal period for that town. Not a single board member wrote back. Huh. One saving grace after the Republican primary in September is that as there won't be any opposition there shouldn't be any signs and this campaign season should be thankfully free of the usual forests of campaign signs. Last year mine were the nicest, dark green to blend in with the scenery so I'm off the hook... :)

This past Saturday was the first day of the annual Daniel Nimham Pow Wow, the largest event held each year at the Putnam County park. While thousands gathered under the shadow of that ever-present helicopter-on-a-stick, the weather gods smiled upon them and dancers danced, sellers sold their wares, and people lined up to get a taste of buffalo and other native foods and treats.
Because of an apparent change in the way the county accepts bookings for the park, the Pow Wow was sent down to the lower park rather than up at the 4H fairgrounds where it had been for the past 9 years. In the upper park a wedding was going on but they could find no peace as those coming to the Pow Wow automatically went there instead. All in all though, even though cars were using the upper field to park because parking at the lower lot was full mots of the day, most thought the more compact site was a better fit for the event.
Sitting next to the tent operated by the Town of Kent's Stormwater Committee was a woman selling ices that were proudly sold with a banner stating that they contained no high fructose corn syrup. I asked her why she would be intentionally undermining the poisoning of America but she just smiled and mumbled something about a healthier nation. Communist! Americans demand HFCS in their food! Why, just the week before last I was in the Wal*Mart looking at the ingredients of a loaf of store brand 100% whole wheat bread: Whole wheat flower, high fructose corn syrup, water... More HFCS than water! Now, that's the American Way!

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, the website credited with releasing "secret" government documents about how much we've messed up in Afghanistan, was charged with two counts of rape and molestation in Sweden. Interestingly, the Swedish government had no further information on the charge and wouldn't say anything other than, "we can confirm that he's wanted.... the allegation is suspected rape." (emphasis, mine) Another official said, "The next step is that we interrogate him. Then we'll see what happens." How about, "The next step is that we'll threaten him with Guantanamo or a vacation in a Jordanian prison unless he stops telling the truth about Afghanistan and pissing off the US government."
But that's not enough. Thirty-six hours after the charges were filed they were dropped with no comment from the Government of Sweden.
In the meantime, the Pentagon has begun asking military families, aside from soldiers in the ranks, what their feelings are on ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Among the questions were, "If your military husband were to be found wearing your lace underwear, the ones with "Wednesday" embroidered on the side, do you believe your family would still be prepared for an eventual Iranian nuclear attack?" And, "Your husband is in the shower with his platoon. Would you be embarrassed if they noticed he had a tiny wee wee and decided he could not participate in the homosexual orgy slated for later that evening?" Your tax dollars at work.

And now for something completely different:
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

And now, The News:

Net neutrality

The Daily Freeman Opinion

The Internet has been an empowering experience for the masses, bringing vast new horizons of information, social interaction and entertainment within reach.

To the extent one could get access to a computer, that empowering has been a leveling one. In accessing available information, we have been limited only by our own curiosity, creativity and knowledge.

Just reach out with that browser and grasp.

Now, however, huge American companies are making noises about ending the Internet as we have known it.

The issue is the eye-glazing, but vitally important, concept of “net neutrality,” which requires Internet service providers to treat all data equally.

In short, some companies believe their futures would be best-served by a tiered system of access, in which those who have, as in money, can get or push more information and faster.

Read More

FCC member blasts Google-Verizon plan, says it favors the rich

By Gautham Nagesh

A member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at a rally in Minneapolis Thursday denounced the net-neutrality framework proposed by Google and Verizon, saying it would create “gated communities for the affluent” on the Internet.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said the plan proposed by the companies would protect the firms' interests at the expense of consumers.

“The Verizon-Google gaggle wants to build a world of private Internets that would vastly diminish the centrality of the Internet that you and I know," Copps said at the rally. "They want a tiered Internet.”

“ 'Managed services' is what they call this,” he added. “ 'Gated communities for the affluent' is what I call them."

Copps said the Google-Verizon plan would diminish the FCC's authority to impose net-neutrality rules on wireless broadband providers, which are increasingly used to access Web services.

Net-neutrality regulations would prevent Internet providers from favoring some websites over others. 

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How will a Portland superstar effect New York City as its new Sustainability Director?

New York has been doing a great job of becoming a greener and greener city in recent years, but one city that has probably outdone it is Portland, Oregon. A model of sustainable development and progressive urban planning and design, it seemed that Portland was used as a best practice model in every class I took as a graduate student in city and regional planning.

Rit Aggarwala, who previously led the PlaNYC 2030 sustainability agenda as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability, is reportedly off to California to live happily ever after with his new bride. And replacing him in NYC is David Bragdon. Bragdon was, most recently, “the president of the Portland, Oregon Metro Council, an elected body that oversees regional planning, protection of natural areas, handling of solid waste and recycling, and management of regional facilities for over one and a half million people in the Portland metro region,” Bonnie Hulkover of TreeHugger reports.

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Slowing urban sprawl, adding forests curb floods and help rivers

August 19, 2010 by Brian Wallheimer

Controlling urban growth and increasing forested land are the most effective ways to decrease future water runoff and flooding, according to a Purdue University study.

Bryan Pijanowski, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources, used a model to simulate Michigan's Muskegon River watershed runoff rates from 1900 through the present and forecast them 30 years into the future. Several scenarios, including forest regrowth, urbanization, and buffers between development and streams, were analyzed to estimate their impact on rivers and streams.

"Changes in the land's surface feed back to runoff. Urban sprawl and impervious surfaces are the biggest culprits," Pijanowski said. "If you're able to control development, it is the most effective way to save our river ecosystem."

Pijanowski said urban areas in the United States would double in 20 years at the current rate. In the model predictions, doubling the urban area in the Muskegon River watershed would increase runoff by 1 1/2 times.

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Where’s the World’s Most Painful Commute

I was just writing earlier on the power of cities and the progressive transportation choices cities can take to turn the world around (environmentally, economically, and otherwise). Looking at this from a different (and perhaps more negative) angle, IBM recently released a global “Commuter Pain Study.”

For the study, IBM surveyed 8,192 motorists in 20 cities on six continents. The majority of respondents said that traffic had gotten worse in the past 3 years.

Interestingly, no U.S. cities were in the top 10. Thought traffic was bad in the U.S.? Try booming megacities in Asia and Latin America. “The congestion in many of today’s developing cities is a relatively recent phenomenon, having paralleled the rapid economic growth of those cities during the past decade or two. By contrast, the traffic in places like New York, Los Angeles or London has developed gradually over many decades, giving officials more time and resources to address the problem,” IBM reports.

And if you thought there wasn’t anything worse than being at work and are a fan of “Would rather be golfing” stickers, you might be surprised to see the number of people who said they’d work more if their commute time were significantly reduced (see the chart below).

Read More

Lake Erie Mess a Sign of Environmental Backsliding


Forty years after Lake Erie became a national poster child for water pollution, and only two decades after it was declared restored, the troubled lake is serving as a warning sign for the nation’s waters this summer.

The shallowest of the Great Lakes, and ordinarily the most productive in fish, Erie has been plagued all summer by massive algae blooms reminiscent of those in the 1960s that led Life magazine to declare the lake dead.  At the same time, researchers have reported the startling finding that phosphorus pollution running into the lake from its western tributaries is the highest since measurement began in the 1970s.  Runoff from agricultural lands and sewage overflows are among the culprits.The lake’s worsening conditions have prompted beach advisories, in part because of toxic “blue-green algae.”  Recent heavy rains have exacerbated algae by triggering municipal sewage overflow dumping.

Read More

In This Town, Open Arms for a Mosque

By Peter Applebome

Like most of upstate New York, Utica has seen better days. The population, more than 100,000 for much of the past century, is now around 60,000. Most of the old textile and manufacturing jobs are gone. That said, a flood of immigrants and resettled refugees, Bosnians, Burmese, Somalis, Vietnamese, Iraqis and many others, who now make up about a quarter of the population, have almost stopped the population decline. The Bosnians, in particular, have refurbished much of the housing, and Utica feels like a place with a pulse and maybe even a future.

“I’ve been here for eight years, and to watch the transformation, new stores, new restaurants, has been amazing,” said Peter D. Vogelaar, executive director of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. He said an estimated 600 houses had been purchased by refugees, helping to prop up the housing market. “Utica is a model for a small community in terms of integrating and acculturating emerging populations.”

So while some other communities grapple with English-only movements, Utica’s City Hall does its best to provide information in all the languages its residents speak while they learn English. The city and the Muslim community together came up with a plan to save the old church building, its basement underwater, which would have cost the city $1 million to demolish.

Read More

Scandals: Why we can't live without them

By Laura Kipnis

It's only when a great scandal breaks after a protracted dry spell that you realize how much delight other people's transgressions provide the community and how monotonous things get when everyone plays by the rules. Life had been a bit sluggish on the scandal front this summer compared with last (who can forget lovelorn governor Mark Sanford's transcendently excruciating press conference last June on the subject of his "dear friend" from Argentina?), so when the first of Mel Gibson's secretly recorded rants surfaced in mid-July, scandal junkies everywhere perked up. Microphone-studded earrings! A personality publically disintegrating, a career in ruins! His agent dropped him; an upcoming movie project hit the skids; the blogosphere lit up like a petroleum fire. All of which almost offset the crushing disappointment when the usually voluble Illinoisan, Rod Blagojevich, chose not to testify at his corruption trial, an event many of us had been keenly awaiting. For once he keeps his mouth shut? Why now?

After all, culture needs scandal: It's a social purification ritual, a necessary feature of the system, with the socially noncompliant branded and expelled, allowing the system to reassert itself and flex its muscle. Stay in line … or else. Scandal has crucial functions to perform: If communities are enclaves of shared norms, then scandals are what consolidate a community. They organize our hatreds. The media may whip things up for motives of its own, but it's our proprieties that have to be breeched, and we care about these breeches deeply. Especially we who play by the rules: Ours is the glee of bitter conformists.

Read More

'Patriot' Paranoia: A Look at the Top Ten Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theorizing has flourished as a virtual art form in all nations and across all political persuasions. But the American radical right has to be considered a strong contender for the title of modern conspiracy champion. A vast body of academic literature exists exploring this history, of which Richard Hofstadter's 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" is the most famous. Hundreds of books and articles have chronicled the rise (and fall) of an unceasing march of disparate conspiracy-based movements that, at different points in American history, have trembled before and warned against imaginary threats posed by Catholics, Mormons, Jews, American Communists, Freemasons, bankers, and U.S. government officials and agencies.

Scholars continue to debate the psychological and sociological origins of conspiracy theories, but there is no arguing that these theories have seen a revival on the extreme right in recent years. Over the last two decades, a far-right conspiracy culture of self-proclaimed "Patriots" has emerged in which the United States government itself is viewed as a mortal threat to everything from constitutional democracy to the survival of the human race. This conspiracy revival — which has been accompanied by the explosive growth of Patriot groups over the last year and a half — kicked into overdrive with the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, who is seen by Patriots as a foreign-born Manchurian candidate sent by forces of the so-called "New World Order" to destroy American sovereignty and institute one-world socialist government.

Since Obama's election, the constituent theories within the overarching narrative of the New World Order have increasingly made inroads into the mainstream national discourse. Thanks to conservative cable news hosts like Glenn Beck (of Fox News) and Lou Dobbs (formerly of CNN), conspiratorial rants about FEMA concentration camps and the "North American Union" have been beamed directly into the living rooms of millions of Americans. Websites popular with Tea Party conservatives, meanwhile, have further stoked fears of a socialistic one-world government takeover by "un-American" forces. Joseph Farah's, for example, has grown its influence by peddling paranoia about the president's birth certificate and AmeriCorps' "domestic armies." Earlier this year, the John Birch Society, a group with a long history of hatching and promoting wild conspiracy theories (including the idea that President Eisenhower was a communist agent), co-sponsored the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual powwow of leading conservatives and Republican Party figures. Speakers at this year's conference included such mainstream names as Washington Post columnist George Will, former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Read More

The Full-Blown Palestinian Civil War

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Before trying to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the US Administration might do well to recall that last month marked the third anniversary of the war that erupted between Fatah and Hamas.

This war has so far claimed the lives of hundreds of Palestinians and resulted in the emergence of two separate states -- one in the Gaza Strip, and another in the West Bank. The Palestinians are probably the only people in the world who have two governments, two prime ministers and almost two of everything.

It is a war between a party that won a free election in January 2006, Hamas; and another that lost the vote, Fatah.

The war was triggered largely by Fatah's refusal to accept its defeat, and Hamas's insistence on clinging to power.

The infighting is also the result of a series of grave mistakes that were committed by the Americans and Europeans over the past few years.

The first mistake was to ignore warnings by Israel and Fatah that a free parliamentary election was likely to lead to a Hamas victory.

Read More
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