Wednesday, December 15, 2010

News That Matters - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

News That Matters

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Good Wednesday Morning,

"A dusting to an inch" must mean something in scientific terms as in, 3.5 inches, which is how much snow fell here Monday night into Tuesday. Then it got cold again. And though this morning's 14 degrees wasn't as cold as last week's 8.2 it's still an unusually early blast of winter cold. If you've got elderly or infirm neighbors please check up on them to make sure they're okay.

"Hay, a former Marine and successful, self-made businessman who grew up in foster care..." The only thing missing in Cara Matthews' article is that he turned a barrel of water into wine and raised the dead. Tell me that the guy who once remarked that illegal immigrants can bring plague isn't setting himself up to be the next county executive.
Everyone in local politics seems to be scurrying around like rats on a sinking ship to snare the remnants of power left behind by Senator Leibell's brush with the law and it's not a pretty sight. And while Mr. Hay says he's been recommended to fill in for the Senator he is pretty much touting himself - and the weak-willed are going along.

But other names are out there as well. Paul Eldridge, the county personnel director, is floating to the top as being a qualified outsider though if he's been in county government then he's clearly not an outsider. Bob Bondi would most probably give us another year but then, why bother holding elections? Maryellen Odell would love to have the spot: she was forced into an election and during the primary half of the registered Republicans who participated thought she would be a viable choice. But I wrote at some length last week why this would not be the best of ideas. Even Sheriff Don Smith's name keeps surfacing as either an immediate care-taker replacement or as someone to run next November to fill in the remainder of a shortened term.

But I still maintain that there's some down-sized mid-level corporate executive somewhere in Putnamland whose unemployment benefits have run out that would be a better choice than all of the above and of course, Jeff Green is still available and not doing much over the winter. Imagine the political coup that would be!? Putnam County run by a social-libertarian with no political ties to anyone. What a breath of fresh air!

But alas, the powers that be (read: the county Legislature) will select someone they know, trust and can manipulate and thus the county will continue on the same way it has for the past 20 years...
The Putnam County Chambers of Commerce are celebrating the recession by handing out awards at their 2nd Annual Ice Breaker Networking Extravaganza at the Villa Barone tomorrow night (Thursday) and if you've got an extra $60 laying around you can break ice with the rich and famous as they give their "2010 Putnam County Chambers of Commerce Entrepreneurial Spirit Award" to Harold Lepler. Write here for more information.

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News Shorts:

Jingle Bells was the first song ever played to humans in space. On December 16, 1965, Walter Shirra and Tom Stafford played on a harmonica with actual mini-jingle bells that old saw.

The quiet little Delaware, NY county town of Sydney Center finds itself in the middle of a brouhaha after the town board decided to "investigate" a small cemetery where local Sufi's bury their dead. Coming to the defense of the Sufi's was Tom Schimmerling a son of Holocaust survivors and the rest is, as they rarely say, that sanity ensued. The townsfolk, absent their elected reps, came together in a show of something unseen these days in these divided United States and rallied to the Sufi's defense.

The largest prison protest in United States history is going on as we speak in the state of Georgia. Prisoners in three prisons in that state are on strike. What are they striking for? Better educational opportunites beyond the GED, food that has actual nutritional value, an end to money laundering and confiscatory rates, and vocational opportunities so that when they get out they'll be better educated and have some sort of skill which will (drum roll please...) give them a chance to not end up back in prison. Global Tel-link, the company hired to provide communications between prisoners and their families charges each prisoner $55 per month for a once-weekly 15 phone call to/from their families and J-Pay, the company hired to handle money transfers charges a 10% fee for each transfer.
How has the state of Georgia responded to this non-violent self-imposed lock-down? With severe beatings, by turning off heat in 30 degree weather and shutting off hot water.  Georgia has the highest prisoner-to-resident ratio in the country with 60,000 people in prison and 150,000 on probation.

So what? It seems the US media has kinda, sorta skipped this story.
If you happen to be serving in the US Air Force and were looking at the NY Times for your news on the web, you can't get there anymore. In order to stop personnel from reading diplomatic cables released by the Gray Lady the Air Force has blocked the domain from their servers. Not much freedom in the Land of the Free, is there...

From Media Matters: For years, Rush Limbaugh has referred to first lady Michelle Obama as "Michelle, my belle." But in recent months, Limbaugh has repeatedly called Obama "Michelle, my butt" and then acted as though he misspoke. Read More.

Former Massachusetts governor and candidate for President Mitt Romney wants to end unemployment insurance and have workers pay for their own.

Have you ever wondered why butter doesn't really burn? It's because there's PBDE, a flame retardant, in it. Oops!

The good news is that fewer teens in the United States are binge drinking and smoking cigarettes. The other news is that they've taken to marijuana instead. Many point to the government's failure at legalization and control as a reason why it's so damned easy for kids to get. That, and it grows pretty much everywhere. Get ready for a deluge of false information from the government about the dangers of smoking marijuana dug up from 1930's era propaganda.

A 12 year old British boy didn't want his local youth center closed and so he posted an article to his Facebook page saying he was going to protest in front of MP David Cameron's office. The result was that the British version of Homeland Security stormed his school and pulling him out of class, helmets, shields, guns and all. They threatened to arrest him for "organizing". In the end he did picket - watched closely by armed guards just in case Justin Beiber showed or something. A spokesman for the local police said, "This was not to dissuade his protest but to obtain information to ensure his and others' safety." Uh huh.

Sarah Palin urged Americans not to "forget Haiti" which one assumes she can see across the Bearing Straights.

Now that the "blockade" of the Gaza territory is effectively over the Fatah government in Judea and Samaria is complaining that Hamas is importing counterfeit money to pay their employees. Hamas also charges a 14.5% import fee on all goods brought through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, now open after being closed for the last three years. While this may seem innocuous, independent Gaza businessmen are complaining that the Hamas government is using those funds to buy land which they then lease to more "friendly" businessmen in exchange for kickbacks, bribes and support. But that's nothing compared to a video shown on Hamas' official government TV channel which encourages god to "count them and kill them to the last one, and don't leave even one," One of which, you might ask? See the video.

Looking for a new unusual vacation spot? The government of Ukraine is opening the Chernobyl nuclear plant for tourism next year. The highlight of the tour will be watching contractors build a new shell that will cover plant #4, the one that exploded. It's said that it will be large enough to cover the Statue of Liberty or Paris' Notre Dame cathedral.

Halliburton has agreed to pay the Nigerian government $250 million to drop bribery charges lodged against them.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched on September 5th, 1977 and is now 10,800,000,000 miles from earth. So far out that detectors on the craft have noticed that particles from our sun are no longer moving outward but are now moving sideways meaning that it's getting closer to the very edge of our solar system and ready to enter interstellar space. The most amazing thing about this is that after all this time it's still sending data back!

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, immigrants are responsible for the current drought in the desert southwest.

Because we don't have enough laws on the books and because there is a dearth of new stupid laws the City of Opa-Locka, Florida will now fine you $250 if you're wearing low-riders. City Commissioner Timothy Holmes said, "Dress like somebody. Be Somebody. It's time for us now to try to teach our people how to dress." Holmes added, "That might get rid of some of the crime on the street." I have no comment.

Three times a week. Fifty two weeks of the year you get News That Matters in your email box.
Don't you think it's time to join those who support this remarkable effort?

There's nothing like it anywhere else in the region and it's only the support
of its readers that keep it going. Join them! Do it today.

And now, The News:
  1. Efficient lighting could save U.S. $9 billion annually
  2. State announces energy efficiency program for homeowners
  3. Teatown fills the 'doughnut hole' with Croft purchase
  4. Chris Hedges: Happy as a Hangman
  5. Vandalism mars Hanukkah in Indiana college town
  6. The Pentagon Continues to Overpay for Everything; Let's Fix It
  7. U.S. Army veteran in Colombia feels like he's caught in a no-fly trap

Albany crook gets caught; cue violins

By Ken Hall

When another Albany crook finally gets caught, we know what to expect because we have a lot of experience.

The crook in the latest case, Vincent Leibell, said he was sorry only after bargaining like crazy to limit the fines and keep prison time to a minimum. In the time between that solemn appearance in court to admit his guilt and the sentencing a few months later, we will get lots of sad and sympathetic comments from those who can't believe that such a nice guy did all he said he did.

By the time the judge imposes the sentence, the court inbox will be full of testimonials from people who got a lot of our taxpayer money from the crook — in this case, a veteran of the Assembly and the Senate who dispensed millions over the years, making sure to skim some for himself — and from those who proudly served with him.

In Leibell's case, we didn't have to wait. Dean Skelos, leader of the Republicans in the state Senate, noted that his colleague would be "paying his debt to society." Beyond that, he said, "my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time."

This difficult time? That makes it sound as if a tornado hit Leibell's house in Patterson or some elderly relative died. Paid his debt? To begin with, people in Putnam County just wasted a lot of money on an election for county executive, an election they will have do do over because Leibell can't serve in the office he won. He'll be in prison, and so far he has not said anything about paying back that debt.

Read More

Efficient lighting could save U.S. $9 billion annually

Electrician Jesus Berrios shows off the various locations where compact fluorescent light bulbs have been installed throughout New York's Grand Central Station on May 6, 2008.

Replacing incandescent lighting with energy-efficient alternatives could save the United States $9 billion a year and avoid the carbon dioxide emissions of 11 million midsize cars, says a United Nations report.

Energy-efficient lighting could save $5.5 billion a year in China, which uses 12% of its electricity for lighting, $1 billion annually in Indonesia and $900 million in Mexico, according to an analysis of 100 countries by the U.N. Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility. These groups, working with lighting companies Osram and Philips, released the findings this week at the U.N. climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico.

President Obama and his family attend the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse, just south of the White House, on Thursday. The tree has efficient LED (light emitting diode) lighting.

By J. Scott Applewhite, AP

Worldwide, a shift from incandescent lamps to efficient alternatives would reduce electricity demand for lighting by more than 2%, the U.N. reports.

"In reality, the actual economic benefits could be even higher," Achim Steiner, U.N. Under-Secretary General and UNEP executive director, said in a statement. "A switch to efficient lighting in Indonesia, for example, would avoid the need to build 3.5 coal-fired power stations costing U.S. $2.5 billion and similar findings come from other country assessments."

"Among the low hanging fruit in the climate change challenge," he added, "a switch to far more efficient lighting must rank as among the lowest."

Yet despite these environmental and economic savings, the study says incandescent lamps account for 50% to 70% of lighting sales worldwide. It notes, however, that about 40 countries including the United States currently have plans to phase out old bulbs.

Read More

State announces energy efficiency program for homeowners

By Jacob Fischler

ALBANY -- The state and the Energy Research and Development Authority has announced the start of a program to provide homeowners with free or reduced-priced energy assessments and low-interest loans to finance energy-saving improvements.

The program comes from the Green Jobs-Green New York Act signed into law last year.

"The Green Jobs-Green NY program will build on the significant efforts our state has already taken to help put New Yorkers to work in the clean energy economy," Gov. David Paterson said in a statement.

Free energy audits will be available to anyone with an income up to 200 percent of their county's median income level. Reduced price audits can also be attained by anyone making up to 400 percent of their county's median income.

The state also will provide loans to homeowners to fund projects to make their homes more energy efficient.

Read More

Teatown fills the 'doughnut hole' with Croft purchase

By Brian J Howard

YORKTOWN — Eight months after announcing plans to acquire its founding donor's estate, Teatown Reservation has closed the deal on The Croft.

Fundraising is continuing, but donations and short-term bridge loans from the Open Space Institute enabled Teatown to close on the $3 million purchase.

The 59-acre acquisition joins Teatown's stock of 834 acres of open space and fills a "doughnut hole" between the preserve and neighboring county parkland it manages.

"It's a very significant step for Teatown," Executive Director Fred Koontz said. "This is a very strategic piece of property that's been on our priority list for many years."

The property, which lies across Spring Valley Road from Teatown's Nature Center, was the home of former General Electric President Gerard Swope in 1922. Swope died in 1957, and his family donated the first 194 acres of what would become Teatown Reservation.

Read More

Chris Hedges: Happy as a Hangman

The creation of a permanent, insecure and frightened underclass is the most effective weapon to thwart rebellion and resistance as our economy worsens. Huge pools of unemployed and underemployed blunt labor organizing, since any job, no matter how menial, is zealously coveted. As state and federal social welfare programs, especially in education, are gutted, we create a wider and wider gulf between the resources available to the tiny elite and the deprivation and suffering visited on our permanent underclass. Access to education, for example, is now largely defined by class. The middle class, taking on huge debt, desperately flees to private institutions to make sure their children have a chance to enter the managerial ranks of the corporate elite. And this is the idea.

Public education, which, when it functions, gives opportunities to all citizens, hinders a system of corporate neofeudalism. Corporations are advancing, with Barack Obama’s assistance, charter schools and educational services that are stripped down and designed to train classes for their appropriate vocations, which, if you’re poor means a future in the service sector. The eradication of teachers’ unions, under way in states such as New Jersey, is a vital component in the dismantling of public education. Corporations know that good systems of public education are a hindrance to a rigid caste system. In corporate America everyone will be kept in his or her place.

Read More

U.S. Recruited Nazis More Than Thought, Declassified Papers Show

After World War II, American counterintelligence recruited former Gestapo officers, SS veterans and Nazi collaborators to an even greater extent than had been previously disclosed and helped many of them avoid prosecution or looked the other way when they escaped, according to thousands of newly declassified documents.

"In chilling detail, the report also elaborates on the close working relationship between Nazi leaders and the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini..."
With the Soviet Union muscling in on Eastern Europe, “settling scores with Germans or German collaborators seemed less pressing; in some cases, it even appeared counterproductive,” said a government report published Friday by the National Archives.

“When the Klaus Barbie story broke, about his escaping with American help to Bolivia, we thought there weren’t any more stories like that, that Barbie was an exception,” said Norman J. W. Goda, a University of Florida professor and co-author of the report with Professor Richard Breitman of American University. “What we found in the record is that there were a fair number, and that it seems more systematic.”

In chilling detail, the report also elaborates on the close working relationship between Nazi leaders and the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who later claimed that he sought refuge in wartime Germany only to avoid arrest by the British.

In fact, the report says, the Muslim leader was paid “an absolute fortune” of 50,000 marks a month (when a German field marshal was making 25,000 marks a year). It also said he energetically recruited Muslims for the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military command, and was promised that he would be installed as the leader of Palestine after German troops drove out the British and exterminated more than 350,000 Jews there.

Read More

The Pentagon Continues to Overpay for Everything; Let's Fix It

In the first "Solutions: Making Government Work" column, editor Dina Rasor outlines an essential first step toward regaining control over the notoriously corrupt Department of Defense contracting system. It's not going to be easy, but if the political will can be summoned to take this step, voters may handsomely reward politicians who show bravery on this issue. To attack the problem, Rasor draws on her three decades in the trenches of the battle between the military-industrial complex and those who seek to cut waste and punish fraud. Believe it or not, this fight has not always been one-sided. The Pentagon can be beaten.

This is the debut of a new column for Truthout to look for realistic and achievable solutions to the problems in the federal government. For more on the background and goals for this column, click here.

Every part of Washington, DC, is scrambling to find some way to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. Even in tough times, it is rare for the powers in Washington to consider looking to any part of the Department of Defense (DOD) budget to cut, especially during wartime. But the DoD budget has risen dramatically since 2001, and some in Congress are looking for fraud, waste and abuse in the DoD budget to weed out.

Read More

U.S. Army veteran in Colombia feels like he's caught in a no-fly trap

By Kelly Lynch, CNN

(CNN) -- A 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Army veteran sits in a bare apartment in a poor part of the Colombian capital, Bogota. He wants to come home, but he can't. He thinks it's because he's on the federal government's "no-fly list."

Raymond Earl Knaeble is one of an unknown number of Americans stranded overseas. They can't fly home, but no one will tell them why.

In Knaeble's case, he went to the airport in Bogota on March 14 to board a plane for Miami, Florida.

"I had a job offered to me and one of the requirements to secure the job was that I had to take a medical exam. It was scheduled for March 16 in the U.S.," Knaeble said.

When he arrived at the gate, however, an airline official denied him a boarding pass. He was instructed to contact the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.

"They told me I couldn't fly with the airline, with any airline," he said. "My heart sank. They didn't give me a reason why. I've been stuck in Colombia without any explanation."

Knaeble, a resident of California, believes he has been placed on the federal no-fly list. The list is maintained by the FBI and indicates who might be a risk to civil aviation, specifically those suspected of being domestic or international terrorists. This list is disseminated among various government agencies like the Transportation Security Administration, for use in screening passengers.

Read More

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