Monday, November 29, 2010

News That Matters - Monday, November 29, 2010 - The Four Loko Edition

News That Matters

News That Matters
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Good Monday Morning,

22.1 degrees this morning just before the sun came up. Welcome to winter!

The fund raising appeal which ran through last Friday did not find  anyone new. But the same people who have always helped you read for free were back and if I had their permission I'd publish their names so you could go to their homes and personally thank them.

The idea of a subscription based or value-add newsletter came up again over the weekend and since I spend around 3 hours a day - every day - producing this, the concept is looking pretty tasty right now.

Stay tuned. Keep in mind that at $0.25 cents an issue that works out to around $40 a year. And that does not include the myriad stories that hit the website from other sources such as Outdoors New York and ProPublica.

And though I know that the vast majority of you would lose access to the full content of News That Matters and that organizing around important issues would be that much more difficult, it's a risk we may have to take. It's just not fair to those who are willing to purchase access so that you can read for free. You know, I'm just saying'.

News Shorts

Guglielmo Remembered

You don't have to read the papers to know that Kent has lost another citizen this week. John Guglielmo, known to all far and wide, has passed on.

Philipstown rewarded

Kudos to Philipstown for their receiving a $10,000 grant from the Hudson River Valley Greenway authority to help them develop a new zoning code.

Clean Water Projects Awarded

$56,000 to the Town of Kent for its water quality improvements,
Putnam County Department of Highways and Facilities received $267,000 for (are you ready?) the Putnam National Golf Club parking lot and Putnam Valley got $750,000 for Oscawana Lake.

Hydrofracking "Thwarted"?

Last week governor Paterson said,
"This is a very good example of public participation. Our DEC...originally ruled that hydrofracking would not affect the water quality in the area but we've received additional information and have not been able to come to a conclusion as to whether or not this is a good idea.  Even with the tremendous revenues that will come in at this time...we're not going to risk public safety or water quality, which will be the next emerging global problem after the energy shortage. At this point, I would say that the hydrofracking opponents have raised enough of an argument to thwart us going forward at this time."
But note the last line: "opponents thwart us going forward at this time." The governor is not saying that those of us who believe drinking water is more important than corporate profits have convinced him and his agencies that this is a bad idea. He actually says otherwise. What he's saying is that we have "frustrated, foiled, prevented, crossed and or obstructed" the smooth sailing the 'frackers expected as they spread into NYS like a plague of locusts.

I've read the emails from environmental groups who think otherwise, who think the governor believes we're correct in our opposition, but I encourage them to get a dictionary and to lay his statement against the truest semantic test. He hates us. We have indeed "thwarted" his efforts to rake in the bucks and worry about the problems when it's someone else's job to do so. With his attitude I'm happy we've gotten this far and encourage you to not let up the pressure. The 'frackers aren't and neither should we.

The War in Afghanistan Crosses a Milestone:

From Time Magazine - On Saturday Nov. 27, the United States and its allies will reach a grim milestone: they will have been in Afghanistan a day longer than the Soviet Union had been when it completed its 1989 withdrawal. What's more, the U.S. announced during last weekend's NATO summit that it intends to spend at least four more years, and possibly longer, in the Hindu Kush. Even then, many Afghans — perhaps even the president installed by the U.S. invasion — appear to doubt that the Americans will succeed where their erstwhile Cold War nemesis failed.
Read More

Leaking the Truth

Wikileaks has released another batch of government documents and this time authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are in a tizzy. Apparently there's something in there about how the US and Great Britain feel about each other and the diplomatic embarrassment meter is about to go off the charts. The NY Times released the batch last evening and let me tell you: it's fascinating.

See the article below.

Feature Article: An Evening With Four Loko & Joose

In the quest for knowledge we sometimes have to experience things for ourselves. Anyone who has eaten or drunk something they found wonderful or seen something so spectacular that it knocked their socks off can tell you about it but you'll never truly understand until you taste, swallow or see for yourself. Pictures of the Grand Canyon are nothing compared to actually standing on the rim yourself. A slice of New York cheesecake cannot be adequately described in words.
And thus it was this past Saturday evening with a 23.5 ounce can of Four Loko, ostensibly "Cranberry Lemonade" flavored, and one of Joose, Fruit Punch flavor. These are the fruit-flavored malt beverages the nation is in a tizzy over and I'm willing to bet not a single politician or FDA official calling for their banning have ever actually drunk one. In fact, thanks to reader AI I read an article wherein an FDA spokesman repeatedly conflates two different issues so that the final outcome amounts to a lie. Had he actually drunk of these beverages he would have had a much tougher time selling his propaganda.

Click here to see a videotaped experiment of an attempt by Ryan Jones to drink three Four Lokos. For reference, my attempt to finish just one carefully mimics this guy's level of intoxication at the same point. But watch this when you've got 9 minutes and 55 seconds.

The Flavor

Oh. My. God. By design this stuff tastes like battery acid so you can build your machismo cred with your peeps and prove you're tough enough to drink it. From the youth I've spoken to, the taste alone has kept them away after their initial forays into Lokoland, their bodies succumbing to an avalanche of repulsive YUCK.

One reader, SN, directly involved in our little experiment wrote, "Glad you liked the Four Loko. How did you get through an entire can? You're more of a champion then I am."

In comparison, the Joose actually did taste like "fruit punch" albeit healthily dosed with the aforementioned battery acid.

If we gave this stuff to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay not only would we have ready confessions for fear of being made to drink more there'd be no question we were torturing people. Give me waterboarding anytime and keep the Four Loko. Please!

The Effect

Within 10 minutes of the first few gulps you feel a slight drunk coming on. You can shoot down a beer and not feel the same after 12 oz of a heady brew. But with roughly 1/3 that amount of FL your head is already beginning to feel light, your face a tad numb and your fingers trying to type on a keyboard are like fat, cotton-filled sacks.

At 30 minutes you're in a full-on buzz, your body refusing to do what your brain is telling it to do. It's a familiar buzz and not-familiar at the same time. It's hard to explain.

At 60 minutes and after the can is finally empty, you're fully involved in a sloppy drunk. There is no driving a car assuming you could even find your keys. I had planned to open the Joose at this point and start the second can but I gave myself an additional thirty minutes.

The FDA reports that a full 23.5 oz can of one of these beverages contains the alcohol equivalent of 5 cans/bottles of beer or a full bottle of wine which is quite believable and probably accurate. Where the FDA fails is in their claim that the added caffeine keeps you awake by negating the "groggy" feeling you get from alcohol thus allowing you to drink more. This might be true if one were drinking coffee in between shots of alcohol over a period of time. But the brew's combination simply enhances the affects of alcohol increasing the buzz. This is why people who drink this do so by chugging - they know they won't be standing in two hours if they drink it slowly.

The Jooze Boost

At 90 minutes I opened the Joose and started in on that. You are not coming down from the first can even after the 30-minute break and you realize that even with the horrific taste and the silly, stupid drunk you were 30 minutes earlier that the high was actually pretty interesting. But, like the initial rocket-ship launch of cubensis this high keeps coming and coming and coming.

At 120 minutes I was only half-way through the second can and could not even force myself to take another sip - assuming I could even hold the can adequately enough to drink from it.

I took the dogs out for an extended wander around the field in the sub-30 degree weather in an attempt to clear my head a bit but that wasn't in the offing. Even though I had stopped drinking the drunk just kept getting stronger. (See the video above for confirmation of that.)

The rest of the evening, until I passed out, luckily on the bed, is best left to your imagination. There was no vomiting though I was close there for a while and was prepared to spend the night on the floor of the bathroom, something I haven't done in years upon years causing me to feel reminiscently young - though I would have preferred something more benign like my knees working properly again. There are some parts of youth that aren't worth repeating and a night with your head on the Porcelain Throne is one of them!

The people who shoot these things down like they're Pepsi's are doing so to prove something to their friends and to themselves. They're risk-takers as we tend to be at a certain age and let's face it, sometimes it's just a lot of fun to get shitfaced drunk and with Four Loko you can do so cheap and quick. But you really only need one.

In preparation for this story, over the weekend I watched a number of video news reports and read many, many articles and I'm sorry, the hysteria is rather typical of a nation in disarray. Yes, people have gotten sick but it's not from the drink itself it's how they're using it and that can largely be controlled.

 We need education and positive peer pressure not legislation.

Just like Irish Coffee

And you readers out there, before you get all huffy, how many times have you mixed a shot or two of Grand Marnier or Irish Cream or schnapps into a mug of coffee? Irish Coffee, anyone? Of course you have - and you know what? It's no different. It's exactly the same. And if you drank 23.5 ounces of it (around four hot, steaming whipped creme topped mug-fulls,) you'd get the same effect as a can of Four Loko or Joose.
While we punish our kids we once again set a double standard that they see, understand for what it is and knock ourselves down one more peg in their pantheon of people not to trust.


I'm not a believer in making things illegal because people do stupid things or because marketers do their marketing thing. As an adult I should have the right to chose and select on my own.

We raised the drinking age to 21 some years back with the result that kids binge-drink to make up for what they perceive as lost time. But kids are going to drink - and be drinking at 14, 15, and beyond and by making them criminals we've done them and ourselves no good - and by banning drinks like this we only force them to engage in further illicit activity. I would ask why we do these things but the answers are really rather simple: political expediency. We live in a society that is unwilling to adequately educate and to allow hands-on learning through personal experience. We want everything to be perfect, just the way we (mis)remember it from our own childhoods.

Click here to see a commercial for Four Loko that just might make your kids think twice.
By banning drinks like Four Loko and Joose (and even extending this to the prohibition on marijuana and other drugs), we've criminalized the actions of 35 million teen-aged Americans and removed any chance at education via personal experience except in the darkest basements and closed rooms, hiding from  adults who think they're "helping" only to find that they've made things worse.

When kids experiment with alcohol or other alternatives and they get into trouble they will seldom go to the hospital or their doctor or their parents for fear of criminal repercussions. And if they do get caught we punish them by refusing them higher education or suspending them from school, by forcing even casual users into abusive rehabilitation programs, by breaking them financially or forcing them into "community service", often tearing families apart at the same time.

And all that over what amounts to a very small hill of beans when taken in perspective of the greater ills around us.

The result is what you'd expect: these kids do not learn to respect adults or authority but rather the opposite. We make them bitter, angry people who will one day be charged with changing your diapers and one of them will one day have his finger on The Button. Wouldn't you prefer something different?

If we were a nation that educated children rather than lectured at them, if we had a system of education that encouraged experimentation rather than putting everything into neat little forbidden boxes and if we treated these issues (sex, alcohol, drugs, etc.,) as health issues and not as criminal issues our societal problems would be less, our children healthier and truly educated and more inclined to participate in their own communities.

In the end, there's nothing wrong with caffeinated alcoholic beverages like Four Loko or Irish Coffee. But there is something wrong in the way we approach these issues and deal with them.

Has Homeland Security overstepped its bounds - again?

Remember the Department of Homeland Security? You know, the guys that are supposed to keep us safe from Canadian terrorists by forcing you to carry a passport when returning from that wholly owned subsidiary of USA, Inc.,? Now they're in the business of shutting down websites that have nothing to do with politics or terrorism or national security. No joke. See the article below for an example of how warnings made back in the day about DHS  expanding their role *outside* their purview have been accurate. Did I mention they're doing it without warrants? See the article below.

And now, The News

NY Enacts Law Directing Preparation of Model Local Zoning Guidelines for Granny Flats

In August 2010, Governor Paterson signed A.3397/S.4981, amending Section 2020 of the Elder Law directing the State to develop model planning and zoning guidelines for communities to create compact, mixed-use senior housing and residential accessory dwelling units, called “granny flats.”  The new law also directs the State Office of Aging to recommend mixed-use-age-integrated housing or redevelopment demonstration projects in urban, suburban and rural areas of the state.

The sponsor’s memo accompanying the bill explains:  

Read More

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

"Good morning. How are you? It's been great, hasn't it? I've been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I'm leaving. (Laughter) There have been three themes, haven't there, running through the conference, which are relevant to what I want to talk about. One is the extraordinary evidence of human creativity  in all of the presentations that we've had  and in all of the people here. Just the variety of it  and the range of it. The second is that  it's put us in a place where we have no idea what's going to happen, in terms of the future. No idea  how this may play out."

"I have an interest in education -- actually, what I find is everybody has an interest in education. Don't you? I find this very interesting. If you're at a dinner party, and you say you work in education -- actually, you're not often at dinner parties, frankly, if you work in education. (Laughter) You're not asked. And you're never asked back, curiously. That's strange to me. But if you are, and you say to somebody, you know, they say, "What do you do?" and you say you work in education, you can see the blood run from their face. They're like, "Oh my God," you know, "Why me? My one night out all week."

Read More (and watch the video) No, really. Watch it. It's great.

Kingston City seeing boom in new businesses old businesses doing new things

Flying in the face of a moribund economy and an always-say-die attitude which dogs the city, a cornucopia of new businesses have popped up in the last few months and existing businesses have undergone transformations. Like green shoots sticking up from a burned-out building, the entrepreneurial spirit has found a toe-hold in what many say is an impossible environment for trade. Writers Lynn Woods and Crispin Kott profiled some of the newbies just in time for the retail world’s highest holiday.

Gargoyles, 330 Wall St.

Hadassah Zuberi Ben-Dor opened her vintage shop and wholesale salvage business Gargoyles at the end of August, having relocated from Philadelphia to Kingston. Having sold her 10,000-square-foot building in Philly, she was looking for something more affordable when she read about Kingston in a New York Times article. She visited the city, liked it, and subsequently bought the three-store building in Uptown.

Read More

Text of State Department letter to Wikileaks

WASHINGTON | Sun Nov 28, 2010 9:11am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Text of a letter from the State Department to Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, and his lawyer Jennifer Robinson concerning its intended publication of classified State Department documents. The letter, dated November 27, was released by the department.

Dear Ms. Robinson and Mr. Assange:

I am writing in response to your 26 November 2010 letter to U.S. Ambassador Louis B. Susman regarding your intention to again publish on your WikiLeaks site what you claim to be classified U.S. Government documents.

As you know, if any of the materials you intend to publish were provided by any government officials, or any intermediary without proper authorization, they were provided in violation of U.S. law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action. As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing.

It is our understanding from conversations with representatives from The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, that WikiLeaks also has provided approximately 250,000 documents to each of them for publication, furthering the illegal dissemination of classified documents.

Read More

Homeland Security shuts down dozens of Web sites without court order

By Daniel Tencer
The Homeland Security Department's customs enforcement division has gone on a Web site shutdown spree, closing down at least 76 domains this week, according to online reports.

While many of the web domains were sites that trafficked in counterfeit brand name goods, and some others linked to copyright-infringing file-sharing materials, at least one site was a Google-like search engine, causing alarm among web freedom advocates who worry the move steps over the line into censorship.

All the shut sites are now displaying a Homeland Security warning that copyright infringers can face up to five years in prison.

According to a report at TorrentFreak, the search engine that was shut down -- -- neither hosted copyrighted material nor directly linked to places where it could be found. Instead, the site opened new windows to sites that did link to file-sharing materials.

"When a site has no tracker, carries no torrents, lists no copyright works unless someone searches for them and responds just like Google, accusing it of infringement becomes somewhat of a minefield," writes Torrentfreak, "Unless you’re ICE Homeland Security Investigations that is."

Read More

Ex-West Point cadet talks about resigning rather than coming out as lesbian

By John Seewer
Katherine Miller got pretty good at hiding her sexuality in high school, brushing off questions about her weekend plans and referring to her girlfriend, Kristin, as "Kris."

She figured she could pull it off at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, too. After all, "don't ask, don't tell" sounded a lot like how she had gotten through her teen years.

But something changed when she arrived at West Point two years ago. She felt the sting of guilt with every lie that violated the academy's honor code. Then, near the end of her first year, she found herself in a classroom discussion about gays in the military, listening to friends say gays disgusted them.

"I couldn't work up the courage to foster an argument against what they were saying for fear of being targeted as a gay myself," Miller told The Associated Press in an interview this week. "I had to be silent. That's not what I wanted to become."

Read More

Chinese pupils trash dinner hall in protest at cost of meals

Tania Branigan, Beijing
Generations of British children could sympathise with the impulse to riot over school dinners. But the Chinese teenagers who rampaged through their cafeteria this week were protesting at the rocketing prices of meals rather than the quality of the food.

While British students took to the streets to demonstrate against rising tuition fees, those at a school in Guizhou trashed the dinner hall after learning that the cost of dishes had gone up by an average of 0.5 yuan (5p).

The south-western province is one of the poorest in China, with more than 5.5 million people living in poverty – 15% of the country's total, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The incident underscores the government's concern that rising food prices could lead to instability. Last week Beijing announced it would sell commodities from its reserves and ordered local officials to take measures including clamping down on speculation, increasing vegetable planting and offering subsidies to low-income households.

"Price inflation is not merely an economic matter … It is also political and social," Mao Shoulong, a professor of administrative management at Renmin University, told the Global Times.

Read More

Can leaving the leaves save Westchester homeowners some green?

How do we balance saving tax dollars and changing our daily lives?

County Executive Rob Astorino wants to cut 1 percent from Westchester's budget — which, by the way, accounts for less than a quarter of our property taxes.

His proposed budget savings has mobilized parents upset over cuts in day care, activists who don't want mental health clinics closed, and environmentalists concerned that air and water quality will take a hit.

The Town of Greenburgh is floating a much smaller savings idea that might sound good to municipal bean counters but also might be too hard to sell.

How about saving upward of $400,000 by requiring residents to compost their leaves rather than have the town pick them up?

Read More

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