Monday, September 20, 2010

News That Matters - Monday, September 20, 2010

News That Matters

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

Good Monday Morning,

It was a glorious weekend and I'm hoping everyone had a chance to spend as much of it outside as possible. The trees are starting to turn from the lack of water but it's also that time of year where the bright, vibrant green of summer has turned dull with just a hint of rust. It's only a few more weeks before fall's colors are fully ablaze. How nice will our fall display be this year? Word has it that because of the drought colors will not be as vibrant.

There may, or may not, be a change to the look and feel of the PlanPutnam/News That Matters website this week. I'm always toying with formats that will enable me to cram as much information as possible onto the front page without being cluttered.

When I awoke this morning Orion was directly overhead, a sure sign that the solstice is upon us. Don't forget to join us this Saturday for a party to celebrate the changing of the seasons. The invite (open to all, even Greg Ball) is here. And you are encouraged to drop in for a little while. We start around 3PM and end when the last person goes home. It will be chilly so bring a jacket and if the general congeniality isn't enough, we'll have the bonfire going to help keep us all warm. It's a BYOB/F type of thing and if you're driving and taste testing the barleycorn, bring a tent. There's plenty of room.

Acosta the Wonder Dog usually rides in the back of the truck but because I've been shuttling Guatemalans into and out of Brewster over the past few weeks (at least that's what Consumer Affairs thinks) there hasn't been room for him so he's been riding in the front seat. (The truth is the back is filled with my gear.)
I've always wondered how he manages not to fall over when I take turns or stop suddenly and now since he's riding shotgun of late I can see what he does.... and you will not believe it.

I swear this is true:

He sees turns in the road ahead and leans into them before I get to them, the deeper the turn, the further he leans. He sees a stop sign ahead and moves backward on his haunches to ease the coming lack of forward momentum - and this is before I apply the brakes. In traffic he sees tail lights come on in front of me and does the same. I've long known that when I say, "Hold On!" if something comes up or there's an unexpected stop or turn, that he does *something* and now I know... he practically lies back on his haunches and splays his feet.

I've had to lean the seat back pretty far to give his butt room to move back but there's dog-snot all over the front window. He still won't stick his head out the side window like a normal dog nor swim, for that matter but I'm impressed all the same.

The NYJN Editorial board reports that they will be net-casting their interviews with local candidates. If you happen to have nothing to do during regular working hours you can tune in. Here's the schedule for races in Putnam County:
  1. Tuesday September 21 at 11AM they'll be talking to Maryellen Odell and Vincent Leibell
  2. Wednesday, September 22 at 3PM they'll be hosting the Gouldman/Galef race for the Assembly
  3. October 5th at 4PM they'll be doing the Ball/Kaplowitz race for State Senate
  4. October 6th at 3PM will be the Katz/Tully race for Assembly.
Tune in here.

News Shorts:

Ed note: Let's face it, this is what you come here for. No where else in this fair county will you find actual news that matters (or doesn't, depending on your take). We bring you the news, real news. Even if it's as silly as all get-out.

I would also like to personally thank the national Republican party for providing so much of what gets published here. Though they may take control of the nation come January they give us something to laugh about while we're sitting in that canoe without paddles, rushing down that chasm to the waterfall at the end.

  • According to the World Bank, Palestinians spend $803 million on "security" and just $56 million, nearly 80% of that for salaries, on Economic Development. They seem to be taking a page from our own book.
  • Freedom! Hamas Style. Hamas operatives set fire to an amusement park along the beach in Gaza City the other day. The government had shut the park down in August when men and women were seen 'mixing' together and the fire was to insure it not open again.
  • Remember last week how I reported on the story about how Pennsylvania was alerting local police about possible terrorist threats from peaceful organizations in that state? One of them is now suing. The Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition has brought suit against the state for a violation and loss of their civil rights - and rightly so. More power to them.
  • Indiana Representative Mike Pence was the top choice in a 2012 Presidential straw poll held at this past weekend's "Values Voter Summit" in Washington DC. Pence received 24% of the vote, Mike Huckabee, 22%, Mitt Romney 13% Newt Gingrich 10% and Sarah Palin 7%.
  • Eric Lawrence Pidrman is going to be spending the next two years in prison for telling US Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite that he had 27 people who were going to make sure she "doesn't live to see her next term". Ms B-W was a supporter of Obamacare, the massive government handout to insurance companies and he, watching too much MSNBC and FOX took things a little too far.
  • But wait! It gets better! Gregory Lee Giusti, 49, of San Fransisco pleaded guilty last week to sending death threats to Nancy Pelosi. Why did he do it? He told the judge he was upset with her passing Obamacare. His mother said, "Greg frequently gets in with a group of people that have really radical ideas and that are not consistent with myself or the rest of the family, which gets him into problems," she said. "I say Fox News, or all of those that are really radical, and he, that's where he comes from."
  • Mainstream Republicans in Delaware are beside themselves. In the primaries last Tuesday their party faithful overwhelmingly voted for Tea Bagger Christine O'Donnell. But not only is O'Donnell about to come under investigation for election fraud and has resurrected those patently false claims about "death panels" but the party is telling its members that their vote for Ms. O'Donnell was really a vote for Democrat Chris Coons. That Ms O'Donnell is so far to the right that most voters will vote for the Democrat instead. I'm not buying that, at least not this year, but we'll see in 40-something days.
  • New Yorker James Clooney (no relation to the actor, George) ran up a $47,000 debt in ONE NIGHT at the Penthouse Executive Club in Manhattan. Wow. But that's a pittance compared to Missourian Robert McCormack who racked up (that's a pun!) a $241,000 bill at New York's Scores.
  • The Montana GOP's new platform is out and ready for the election this year with one of its core tenets being the criminalization of gays and lesbians. Honest. No Joke. By the way, it's been officially part of the party platform since 1997. So to all you Log Cabin Republicans out there... what the hell is wrong with you?

And now, The News:

Op-Ed Columnist - Message to Muslims - I’m Sorry

By Nicholas D. Kristof

Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.

That’s reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I’m going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.

I’m inspired by another journalistic apology. The Portland Press Herald in Maine published an innocuous front-page article and photo a week ago about 3,000 local Muslims praying together to mark the end of Ramadan. Readers were upset, because publication coincided with the ninth anniversary of 9/11, and they deluged the paper with protests.

So the newspaper published a groveling front-page apology for being too respectful of Muslims. “We sincerely apologize,” wrote the editor and publisher, Richard Connor, and he added: “we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.” As a blog by James Poniewozik of Time paraphrased it: “Sorry for Portraying Muslims as Human.”

Read More

Hedge Fund Kings Love Nan Hayworth

by: Florida Greenwood
Sun Sep 19, 2010 at 09:30:38 AM EDT

While John Hall was in his district last night, donating his time and talents to save the Beacon Theater, Nan Hayworth was living the high life beyond her district boundaries, partying with Hedge Fund Kings Steven Shapiro and Charlie Parkhurst in tony Greenwich, CT. 

Wall Streeters Shapiro and Parkhurst have worked for both large investment banks and for so-called salon firms, tiny entities which can hold billions in assets. Shapiro headed Intrepid Capital Investments, which managed to lose nearly 90 percent of investment capital between 2007 and 2009. Parkhurst, a former managing director at Smith Barney, moved on to Archeus Captial Management, which shut down when its hedge funds went from $3 billion to $700 million in assets in three years. After helping to form Centerlight Capital Management in the dust of Archeus, Parkhurst has gone on to be a trader at the British Investment Bank Barclays.

Despite investors losing their shirts on Archeus and Intrepid investments, times must not be too bad for Shapiro and Parkhust, neither of whom are residents of New York State or the 19th Congressional District. Prior to last night's high-price soiree at Shapiro's mansion (just check out this Google maps image), both have donated $2,400 to Hayworth's campaign.

Hayworth is a multi-millionaire herself. Her husband runs the mammoth Mount Kisco Medical Group, which is comprised of more than 200 physicians. In its early stages, the campaign has largely been self funded with Hayworth giving several six-figure checks to her own campaign. 

Read More

New Lawsuit Filed in Fracking Country

September 15, 2010, 10:33 am

More than a dozen families in Susquehanna County, Pa., filed a lawsuit late Tuesday against the Southwestern Energy Production Company, asserting that a succession of “releases, spills and discharges of combustible gases, hazardous chemicals and industrial wastes” from the company’s nearby drilling sites had contaminated their drinking water and made them sick.

In simpler terms, it’s the latest salvo against hydraulic fracturing — a long-used and highly contentious drilling technique that has come under more intense scrutiny as energy prospectors descend on newly accessible gas deposits under vast areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York.

It’s not the first such lawsuit, and it comes amid a flurry of other legal, regulatory and political maneuvering around the topic at the local, state and federal levels.

Read More

A Feud With a View

By Brian McGrory
Boston Globe Columnist

MARBLEHEAD — Don’t get me wrong, normally I love it when the well-to-do fight among themselves.

But what’s unfolding between a pair of moneyed neighbors on a narrow lane in this seaside town is enough to make even the most diehard fans of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous queasy. Forget about passing the popcorn. Make it Tums, because the Battle on Bubier Road is not destined to end well.

In fact, all signs are pointing to one of the neighbors being forced to remove — read: demolish — his 3,500 square foot house on the first Monday of October.

Let’s dwell on this fact for a moment. A neighborhood squabble has escalated to the point where a very nice house with ocean views and sea breezes is going to be knocked down. I’m not certain what this says about these people, their town, and this society, but I am certain that it’s nothing particularly good.

It began in the early 1990s, when Wayne Johnson decided that he didn’t need all the space in his rambling Marblehead house any longer. His lawyer had his land surveyed and determined there was enough property for two lots.

The town’s building inspector agreed, a decision that was affirmed by the Marblehead Zoning Board of Appeals.

Read More

Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes

By Mireya Navarro
For the NY Times

“My dishes were dirtier than before they were washed,” one wrote last week in the review section of the Web site for the Cascade line of dishwasher detergents. “It was horrible, and I won’t buy it again.”

“This is the worst product ever made for use as a dishwashing detergent!” another consumer wrote.

Like every other major detergent for automatic dishwashers, Procter & Gamble’s Cascade line recently underwent a makeover. Responding to laws that went into effect in 17 states in July, the nation’s detergent makers reformulated their products to reduce what had been the crucial ingredient, phosphates, to just a trace.

While phosphates help prevent dishes from spotting in the wash cycle, they have long ended up in lakes and reservoirs, stimulating algae growth that deprives other plants and fish of oxygen.

Read More

Missouri Judges Take Prison Costs Into Account in Sentencing

By Monica Davey
For the NY Times

ST. LOUIS — When judges here sentence convicted criminals, a new and unusual variable is available for them to consider: what a given punishment will cost the State of Missouri.

For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might now learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690.

Legal experts say no other state systematically provides such information to judges, a practice put into effect here last month by the state’s sentencing advisory commission, an appointed board that offers guidance on criminal sentencing.

Read More

Critics Still Wrong on What’s Driving Deficits in Coming Years

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Special Series: Economic Recovery Watch

Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush’s policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade — that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4). Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years (see Figure 1).

The deficit for fiscal year 2009 was $1.4 trillion and, at nearly 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the largest deficit relative to the size of the economy since the end of World War II. If current policies are continued without changes, deficits will likely approach those figures in 2010 and remain near $1 trillion a year for the next decade.

The events and policies that have pushed deficits to these high levels in the near term, however, were largely outside the new Administration’s control. If not for the tax cuts enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush that Congress did not pay for, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were initiated during that period, and the effects of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression (including the cost of steps necessary to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term.

Read More

Ancient Medical Kit Held Veggie Pills

Discovery News

Advanced DNA analysis of 2,000-year-old tablets has revealed that vegetable pills may have been part of an ancient travel medical kit, according to a new study.

The kit was recovered from a shipwreck found some 200 meters (656 feet) from one of the most beautiful beaches in Tuscany. The wreck is estimated to date back to 140-120 B.C. and was partly excavated in the 1980s and 1990s by a team of the Archeological Superintendency of Tuscany.

"It wasn't an easy task. The wreck is covered by marine plants and their roots. This makes it hard to excavate it. But our efforts paid off, since we discovered a unique, heterogeneous cargo," underwater archaeologist Enrico Ciabatti told Discovery News.

Made from pinewood, oak and walnut tree, the ship, named "Relitto del Pozzino" after the beach near where it was found, carried ceramic vases (amphoras) for wine from Rhodos; glass cups from the Syro-Palestinian area; ceramics possibly from Athens and Pergamon; a pitcher in Cypriot style; and lamps from Asia minor.

Read More

Discrimination hurts, but how much? A lot, if you're a teen, study finds


It's tough being a teen. Are you in or are you out? Are you hanging with the right crowd? Are you dressing and talking and acting the right way? For adolescents who are ethnic minorities, on top of this quest to "fit in" is the added layer -- and the burden -- of dealing with discrimination, say UCLA researchers.

In a new study, the researchers found that adolescents from Latin American and Asian backgrounds experienced more discrimination than their peers from European backgrounds and that the discrimination came not only from other adolescents but from adults as well. The level of discrimination also impacted these teens' grade-point averages and their health and was associated with depression, distress and lower levels of self-esteem.

The findings appear in the current online edition of the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

For the study, lead author Virginia W. Huynh, a graduate student in the laboratory of Andrew J. Fuligni, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, recruited 601 high school seniors, equally divided between males and females, and asked them to maintain a daily diary for two weeks to record any discriminatory events or comments they experienced. They were also asked to separately record on a four-point scale any physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches or general pain.

Read More

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