Wednesday, August 25, 2010

News That Matters - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

News That Matters

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

"So virulent is the Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats — that it has also rendered Gen. David Petraeus’s last-ditch counterinsurgency strategy for fighting the war inoperative. How do you win Muslim h...earts and minds in Kandahar when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York? " NY Times Columnist, Frank Rich.

Good Wednesday Morning,

Over the weekend I took the Sarah Palin Shrine down from the website and replaced it with a Bill O'Reilly Shrine and visitor counts have plummeted! Maybe a Ronald Reagan Shrine would do the trick?

As a show of just how exciting the County Executive's race is this year, out of more than 1000 readers only 34 of you have voted in our county executive preference poll. To date, Other has 17 votes, MaryEllen Odell has 12 votes, and Senator Leibell has 5. Fully 50% of those who polled would prefer to vote for someone other than the two announced candidates so it may be time to recruit someone as a write-in candidate after the September primary. Anyone out there want to take on the Senator? Don't forget what he did to Joe D'Ambrosio since that's probably in the offing for you if you dare to take a shot at it.

New York State is preparing to alter code in our Endangered and Special Species law. Public comments will be accepted through September 20th. You can find the information you need here.

A happy 80th birthday to the Mid-Hudson (Franklin D Roosevelt) Bridge linking Poughkeepsie with Highland. The second span to cross the Hudson River after the Bear Mountain Bridge. With a main span of 1500' and secondary spans of 750' each the bridge at it's midpoint rises 135' above the Hudson River. When completed in 1930 it was the 6th longest suspension bridge in the world. In comparison, the Bronx-Whitestone bridge is 770' longer with a main span of 2300' but has 2" inches less clearance above the river.

We're officially out of resources...
From GOOD Magazine:

This past weekend, on August 21 to be exact, we hit "Earth Overshoot Day" for 2010 and it's not a fun occasion, unfortunately. It's the day on which we "exhaust our ecological budget for the year." So from now on, if we eat more threatened fish, chop down more trees, and emit more carbon (and we will), it's all on credit. The idea of Earth Overshoot Day was developed by the always-interesting New Economics Foundation. They calculate it with this formula:

[ world biocapacity / world Ecological Footprint ] x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day Day

I can't find the details of their methodology. Obviously, different resources are used and replenished at different rates and it's unclear how they convert them all into a common unit of measurement. But the point is this: This thing we're currently doing cannot last. I'll understand if you don't feel like marking this "GOOD."

A manager of a McDonald's in Glendale, Arizona asked a woman to the leave the shop after she began breastfeeding her infant. He probably shouldn't have done that as Arizona law protects such. (I cannot believe we need laws for that kind of thing!) Anyway, a week later dozens of mothers dropped in at the store for a "nurse-in". McDonald's says the manager made a mistake and that it's stores, while not allowing breastfeeding directly, honor all local and state laws.

Each time I finish a painting job or complete a large website for a customer, I buy myself a small treat. Last week it was a bag of Sun Chips. (Yeah, my life ain't that exciting.) When I got home, after putting other groceries away I opened the bag and wondered why it felt funny and was so noisy. Yeah, noisy. And I don't mean noisy like the aluminized plastic bags most chips come in but NOISY. I'm looking at the packaging and notice that it's "100% compostable".
According to the website the bag should break down completely in 14 weeks inside a working compost pile that can maintain 130F. As most of us can do that only for about a week or so before the temps drop off, the bag will then continue to degrade at the same rate as other items in your pile as most of the complex polymers were broken down during the initial blast of heat.
The bags are made from PLA, better known as polylactic acid, a bioplastic made by a company called NatureWorks, a joint venture between Cargill and a Japanese company known as Teijin. And guess what the prime source material is for PLA? Corn. Of course! But so long as there are enough carbohydrates in a substance (i.e., sugar and wheat) they can be used as well.

Here's what NatureWorks has to say:
Branded as Ingeo™ biopolymer, the resin is ideal for packaging manufacturing. Applications using Ingeo™ biopolymer can be clear, opaque, flexible or rigid. Ingeo™ biopolymer provides gloss and clarity similar to polystyrene, and exhibits tensile strength and modulus comparable to hydrocarbon-based thermoplastics. Like polyester, Ingeo™ biopolymer resists grease and oil, and offers an excellent flavor and odor barrier. And Ingeo™ biopolymer provides heat sealability at temperatures equivalent to polyolefin sealant resins.
I just wish they would make it quieter.

Odell Kicks Ass

For those of you who did not attend the League of Women Voter's primary candidates forum in Carmel last evening you missed one heck of a show.
The room at the VFW post was over-filled with roughly 150 people, mostly Republican party operatives and mostly the Senator's, who came out to have Senator Leibell see their faces (just in case, ya know?) and for fireworks that were sure to go off between the two Republican candidates for County Executive.

The evening began with County Legislator Tony Fusco (Mr. Albano was off on a family medical emergency) and a hearty give and take between him and questioners from the audience. A question on the MTA tax was repeated again later in the evening during the CE's tit-for-tat as well as one guy who kept asking about gun owners rights, as if the county Legislature or the County Executive have any say in the matter. I figure you're either insecure that you have a gun or you're insecure because you have one. Either way, I don't get it.

The question that brought the most attention was about the Park and Ride in Mahopac on Route 6 where construction has been stopped - for the moment. Mr. F feels it's important to finish the project otherwise the monies spent In the end already will have gone to waste. Another question was whether the Mahopac Sports Association, which receives scores of thousands of dollars from municipal coffers should have the right to spend scores of thousands of dollars campaigning for preferred candidates who, in the past, just happened not to be Tony Fusco. Personally, the answer should be NO but the law permits them to do so.

But when the spotlight shone on Vinnie Leibell and MaryEllen Odell that's when things really got going.

A question came up from the audience wanting to know why/how Vinnie was able to bring huge amounts of money to 'his' not-for-profits in the form of earmarks. The Senator's feathers were ruffled with his response being that the NFP's weren't "mine" but then went off on oratory praise using the phrase "we run" in regards to the senior housing projects his the NFP's have built. While I am one to play semantics, the Senator was really quite clear - by accident. MEO responded by showing a picture of a $300,000 foot bridge earmarks paid for behind the old Lawlor Building in Patterson, home to the NFP's, saying that this was not the best use of money. The Senator responded by saying that at one point MEO was the treasurer of one the NFP's and she didn't complain 'then'. He might have responded to the question but after a generation in Albany one learns a language rich on superlatives and obfuscation and slight on substance.

The Senator lambasted the Legislature for not having a "business plan" and promised to give us a Soviet-style five-year plan, a ten-year plan and more! He complained that the county was building a $2,000,000 "Taj Mahal" for the Board of Elections to reward Tony Scannapieco, though he did not note that his number was twice what the county paid for the building on Old Route 6. He said that there was no leadership at the county level to bring commercial business to the county. He warned that the county was financially unstable because of all the homes for sale and that he would do something about it: What that was was unspecified as most of his answers dove into rhetorical semantics or were short on details of any kind.

At one point a questioner wanted to know what the county budget was and how the candidates would bring that spending under control. MEO responded that she thought the budget was around $132 million and when it was Vinnie's turn his best effort was to sternly remind the audience that the budget was $136.4 million and how could we trust MEO if she didn't even know what the budget was. Yes, that was a waste of a response on the Senator's part but typical of his responses during the evening.

During one of the Senator's answers about the cost of the State Legislature he said that the county Legislature cost "one third more than my office" and I'm thinking I must have heard that wrong. You'll have to watch the video tape to confirm and verify.

The Senator's office expenses are near $750,000 a year and if you can run an entire county Legislature with 9 paid members, committees, staff and whatnot for about a million I'd say you're doing pretty well. Though I think the Senator's intent was to deflect the outrageous costs of the office of one state senator, if I heard him right his answer was wrong, and I don't mean wrong in the facts but wrong in the analogy... one that was apparently lost on the audience.

Leibell supporter Doug Koberger, asked about a proposed mortgage tax, a revenue stream that every surrounding county has but us and that passed the County Legislature 5-4. As an aside, in order for a new tax to be levied by a county government it must be passed by the State Assembly and Senate and when MEO pressed the Senator to say whether he voted for that tax for Westchester, Rockland and Dutchess county he obfuscated by saying he didn't know, that he needed the bill number in order to find out for certain. Lame, yes, I know. But was typical of his responses. To the criticism, er, false accusation that "seniors" would have to pay the mortgage tax, MEO responded by saying that the county's proposal not only exempted seniors but that if you were to refinance with the same bank, you too, would pay no tax. The Senator had nothing to say about any of that.

At one point someone mentioned they were upset that there was no Democrat in the race at which point Ann Fanizzi stood from her chair, applauding furiously, arms flapping like a goose ready to fly, searching the audience for a glimpse of Lynne Eckardt, the chair of the Democratic party to 'zap' her with the evil eye glowing from a bemused and excited face. An audience member, noting Ms. Fanizzi's obvious glee at the intentional cut, yelled out that she should run for CE to which the Senator asked her if she wanted to. But we know that's not going to happen and the matter was put to rest. An embarrassing moment for her. An amusing one for the audience.

I have no horse in this race and will not cast a vote for either candidate in November and I'm seeking a qualified person to run as a write-in candidate who is brave enough to stand against the Senator should he win the primary three weeks hence or to stand against the MEO/Camarda/Ball triad should MEO win. But when the night was done it was clear who had "won" and that was Maryellen Odell. Her answers were on-point. She was well prepared, refused to bicker over bullshit (such as the amount of the county budget) and when closing statements were made where the Senator said he wasn't interested in "rhetoric" and then dove into a strictly rhetorical argument for support, MEO just hit nail after nail after nail on the head with single shots.

No Federal Dollars for PV Firehouse

According to a press release published by Putnam Valley resident Patty Villanova, FEMA has rejected an application for funds for a new firehouse in Putnam Valley. From the release:
After numerous FOIL requests by taxpayer advocate Patty Villanova, the Putnam Valley Fire Department  released an e-mail dated July 21st from FEMA, notifying the Department that their grant application for a new firehouse has been rejected. The controversial request was submitted to FEMA on July 10, 2009, and was a major issue in last November’s town board election. The new station is estimated to cost over $9 million dollars and loss of the grant money means that the entire cost would be paid for by the taxpayers. The proposal is currently being reviewed by the Planning Board for economic and environmental impacts.

You can read the full release here.

Mountaintop removal uses explosives to blow off the tops of mountains and get to the coal seams beneath. Over 500 mountains have been destroyed thus far, and the practice leads to air and water pollution, causing cancer, gallbladder disease and asthma in communities downwind and downstream. Blasting cracks foundations and huge ponds of toxic coal slurry loom over communities. One, the Brushy Fork Impoundment in Pettus, WV, would kill 998 by Massey Energy’s own estimates if it failed, spilling seven billion gallons of coal slurry over twenty-six miles downstream.
To see what this looks like from the air, point your mapping program (Google maps/earth, Yahoo... whatever) to this location: 37.951589,-81.605072 and select the satellite view and keep in mind that his is happening but a half a days drive away.
To put that seven billion into perspective: the Boyd's reservoir in western Kent holds 1.1 billion gallons of water, a one day supply for water users in Putnam, Westchester and New York City. The Bog Brook holds 4.4 billion gallons. And the West Branch reservoir holds 8 billion gallons of water so imagine a lake of toxic slurry reaching from Mahopac into western Kent and from Lake Gleneida west to Washington Street, working its way up the Horsepound Brook and backing up to Dixon Road. Imagine driving across route 301 and instead of a lake of healthful, fresh drinking water you'd driving across this:

Now add a good summer storm to the mix, a weak, temporary earthen dam like the one in the image and... look out!

The Danskammer power plant along the Hudson is a recipient of strip-mined coal and thus some of your homes are a part of the problem. NYSEG also uses strip-mined coal and hence I'm part of the problem as well. Is there a solution? Of course: move the nation off coal and fossil fuels and retool the nation on renewables and conservation practices that the rest of the world seems to think are just fine, keeps their mass transit moving, their factories producing and the home lights burning all without the massive destruction of the Appalachian mountains of which the Taconics, on which we live, are a spur.

Last Friday in this space I wrote out a detailed explanation of the Islamic Cultural Center being built in lower Manhattan. And though it is not a mosque, for reasons I will never understand, that's what you keep telling me. Look, I hate to be a prick about this but the facts are the facts: it's not a mosque, it's not at ground zero and that's that. If you say otherwise you're playing a dangerous and disingenuous semantic game with possible global implications.

And opposition hasn't always been opposition. Laura Ingraham, a darling of FOXNews watchers the world over and sitting in for Bill O'Reilly, thought it a good idea. On December 21st of last year she had this to say while interviewing Daisy Khan, Abdul Rauf's wife:
INGRAHAM: "I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it. [Mayor] Bloomberg is for it. Rabbis are saying they don’t have a problem with it. [...] I like what you’re trying to do and Ms. Khan we appreciate it and come on my radio show some time."
Watch the full video here.
So how did all this get started? Salon has written a respectful report which you should read here.

It is clear that a new religious war has begun pitting American Christians against the world's Muslims. Jim Bender a Republican Senate candidate from New Hampshire, jumped on to the hysteria bandwagon and said that Muslims don't need "another" mosque in NYC since there are already 100 others in the city. Logical extension says that Jews don't need "another" synagogue in Exeter, New Hampshire or that the Church of Christ, Scientist doesn't need "another" prayer hall in Charleston, West Virginia or that the LDS doesn't need "another" tabernacle in Las Vegas, Nevada or that the Buddhists don't need "another" temple in the Hudson Valley. If this is where Republicans want to lead the nation they walk a dangerous line and not just the line drawn over religious tolerance in the United States, but they endanger our troops in Afghanistan and are doing nothing more than inviting an angry response from international terrorist groups right here at home. Can't they see past their hatred to the bigger picture?

And now, The News:

Earth's green carbon sink on the wane : Nature News


Satellite data indicate that carbon storage by plants is decreasing despite climate warming.

The capacity of plants to act as a carbon sink could be on the decline.

As global temperatures have risen in recent decades, the amount of atmospheric carbon being converted into plant biomass has increased in step. However, in a paper published today in Science, ecologists Maosheng Zhao and Steve Running at the University of Montana in Missoula report a surprising reversal of this trend over the last decade, despite its having been the warmest on record1.

In 2003, a study on which Running was a co-author, led by Ramakrishna Nemani, who is also at the University of Montana, reported an increase in plant productivity between 1982 and 1999. The researchers attributed that trend to a warmer climate and increased solar radiation2. Zhao and Running expected to find a similar increase for 2000-2009 — an expectation that was not met.

Along with the oceans, plants are doing us a great service by taking up about half of all fossil-fuel carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere, says Running. "This is the first indication that it might be slipping."

Read More

We've gone into the ecological red

From New Economics

On 21 August our environmental resource budget ran out. Now we're living beyond the planet's means to support us.

At the weekend, Saturday 21 August to be precise, the world as a whole went into "ecological debt".

That means in effect that from now until the end of the year, humanity will be consuming more natural resources and producing more waste than the forests, fields and fisheries of the world can replace and absorb. By doing so, the life -support systems that we all depend on are worn ever thinner. Farms become less productive, fish populations crash and climate regulating forests decline. All become less resilient in the face of extreme weather events.

The date is arrived at by comparing our annual environmental resource budget with our ecological footprint – the rate at which we spend it.

The more we overshoot the available budget, the earlier in the year we start to go into the ecological red. Collectively we started to live beyond our means in the 1980s. Since then the date has crept earlier and earlier in the year. Improved measurement and data bring the latest date forward by a whole month in comparison with last year's date. It now takes about 18 months for the planet to generate what we consume in just 12.

Read More

Slow-Speed Rail: the Budding “Trails-to-Transportation” Movement

by Nadine Lemmon

Photo: Katy Silberger
The Trestle Bridge in Rosendale, crossing over the Rondout Creek.

High-speed rail between major city destinations is a front-page story across the nation. Big players, stimulus money, and a short timeframe are coalescing in a sustained effort to provide alternatives to the interstate and air travel. In rural and suburban communities, where population densities don’t attract major public transit dollars, a less glamorous and more incremental story is unfolding. The “Rails-to-Trails” movement is slowly morphing into a “Trails-to-Transportation” movement.

The “Rails-to-Trails” movement started in the mid-’60s, after a substantial consolidation of the rail industry led to the closure and abandonment of many lines. The movement was driven by a certain ideology—environmentalists wanting to get “back to nature,” redefine public space, and simply go for a walk. The effort was relatively inexpensive and often hurdle-free. After purchasing a portion of the property from the railroad companies, volunteers would take out the tracks, use the old rail ties in their home gardens, and once a year, come out to the “linear park” to cut back the brush.

Today, new ideologies are in place—and with those ideologies come new priorities. Environmentalists, many of whom were a part of the 60s Rails-to-Trails movement, are now looking at rail trails as part of a non-motorized transportation network.  Keith Laughlin, president of the national nonprofit Rails-to-Trails now sees his organization as a transportation advocacy group: “There was a time when people viewed having these trails in their communities as a nice-to-have thing, but not a necessity. But what we’re seeing is an increased demand at the local level, and the trails are now viewed as critical infrastructure for a livable 21st century community.”

In a 2008 survey of Ulster County (NY) residents, 21% of the respondents said they used non-motorized transportation to get to work and 35% used it for shopping and errands; 68% said they don’t use non-motorized transport because there are too many cars or motorists drive too fast. This potential demand for safer routes could be met by a connected network of protected trails.

Read More

Zapping spuds with electricity 'makes them healthier', scientists claim

The UK Telegraph

''We knew from research done in the past that drought, bruising and other stresses could stimulate the accumulation of beneficial phenolic compounds in fresh produce," said Dr Kazunori Hironaka, who led the study.

''We found that there hasn't been much research on the healthful effects of using mechanical processes to stress vegetables.

"So we decided in this study to evaluate the effect of ultrasound and electric treatments on polyphenols and other antioxidants in potatoes.

Dr Hironaka, whose team presented their findings at the 240th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston, Massachusetts on Sunday, added: "Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are considered to be of nutritional importance in the prevention of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, various cancers, diabetes and neurological diseases."

Experts say potatoes, the world's fifth most widely consumed plant food, are already a good source of antioxidants, including vitamin C and compounds called polyphenols.

Read More

New credit card restrictions take effect


Washington (CNN) -- New rules designed to protect credit card users from "unreasonable late payment and other penalty fees" went into effect Sunday as a result of the Credit Card Act of 2009.

The rules block credit card companies from charging more than $25 for late payments except in extreme circumstances, prevent them from charging customers for not using their cards, and requires them to reconsider rate increases imposed since January 1, 2009, according to the Federal Reserve, which approved the regulations.

They are the final provisions of federal legislation that placed new restrictions on credit card interest rates and fees, completing the most comprehensive overhaul of the credit card industry in history.

The banking industry has already made changes in response to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, a spokesman said Sunday.

Read More

100-km Chinese traffic jam enters Day 9

CBC News

A nine-day traffic jam in China is now more than 100 kilometres long and could last for weeks, state media reported Monday.

Thousands of trucks en route to Beijing from Huai'an in the southeast have been backed up since Aug. 14, making the National Expressway 100 impassable, Xinhua News reported.

A spokesman for the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau reportedly told China's Global Times newspaper that the backup was due to "insufficient traffic capacity … caused by maintenance construction."

The construction is scheduled to last until Sept. 13.

Stranded drivers appear to have few options when it comes to dealing with the jam.

At least some drivers have complained that roadside vendors have increased their prices to take advantage of the traffic jam. One truck driver said he bought instant noodles from one vendor for four times the original price.

Another driver, Wang, told Xinhua he'd been stuck in the traffic jam for three days and two nights.

Read More

In Gaza, it's not easy being green

Hamas crushes initiatives that might contradict with message that Palestinians are suffering because of Israeli blockade

Sunday, August 22, 2010
By Theodore May, GlobalPost

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- In the small central Gaza town of Deir el Belah, one family has made a cottage industry out of green innovation.

"There was a period in Gaza when there was no gas or you had to wait for hours in line to get gas. So we made the oven according to our needs," said Maher Youssef Abou Tawahina, who, along with his father, runs a hardware shop in town.

Abou Tawahina is referring to a solar-powered oven that he and his family invented two years ago. The oven, which sits in the family's backyard, takes five minutes to heat up using electricity. Then, its glass ceiling uses the sun to continue the heating process. The oven is not quite hot enough for baking bread, he said, but it's perfect for roasting chicken.

The idea of the solar-powered oven was so well received around Deir El Belah that orders poured in from around the neighborhood. Abou Tawahina said that he and his father built over 30 of them until the insulating glass became unavailable on the market.

Read more:

Subscribe to the News That Matters RSS Feed and stay up-to-date.

FBNews That Matters
on Facebook

Support Our Sponsors

Interior/Exterior House Painting by someone you can trust. (845) 225-2104 House

Joe Greico's
Out On A Limb

All types of tree work, all aspects of lawn maintenance, snow plowing and more!

82 Hortontown Rd.
Kent Cliffs, NY 10512
T- (914)224-3049
F- (845)231-0815

Town of Kent Conservation
Advisory Committee

Mt. Nimham Fire Tower

Explore the outdoors in the Town of Kent, New York

Chuckie Goodnight Foundation
To educate children on how to be good stewards of the earth.

Chris Casaburi

(845) 531-2358

Brown Ink
Commercial Printing

600 Horsepound Road,
Kent Lakes, NY 10512
(845) 225-0177
Greg Brown

One Click ButterCutter
A Putnam County Owned Business Enterprise

Copyright © 2010 News That Matters