Wednesday, December 22, 2010

News That Matters - Wednesday, December 22, 2010

News That Matters

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“Despite promising to fulfill President Obama’s campaign promise of enacting network neutrality rules to protect an open Internet, the FCC has instead prioritized the profits of corporations like AT&T over those of the general public, internet entrepreneurs and local businesses across the country,” -
Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative. Read More

Good Wednesday Morning,

I've added two new feeds to the News That Matters website and dropped NY Outdoors. The added feeds are: which concerns itself with local, sustainable agriculture and food recipes (like this incredible recipe for cranberry-cheese bars) and Adirondack Lifestyle which is self explanatory.
NY Outdoors was dropped as they seem to have no original content and of late their feed was naught but advertisements in the guise of 'news'.

The feeds coming in now are from:
Dissertation to Dirt
, a blog about starting up a CSA farm.
, which appropriately enough checks political facts.
The Sunlight Foundation,
the Land Use Professionals Blog,
Left of the Hudson
Plant Talk
, which is from the NY Botanical Gardens.
And the last is ProPublica. Just about the only objective investigative news service out there.

You can find stories from these sources by visiting the website at:

There's some good reading in there!
For those of you who support the locally-based Chuckie Goodnight Foundation for the Environment, their 2011 calendar is out and it's great! Check out their website by clicking on their link over there in the sidebar.

For those reading this edition of News That Matters who have not helped support us this year you owe a debt of gratitude to those that did and continue to do so. You can assuage your guilt by clicking here. Thanks!

The US Census Bureau announced it's results yesterday afternoon stating that as of April 1, 2010 there 308,745,538 people living in the United States, a 9.7% increase over the previous decade, marking the slowest growth since the Great Depression. The first Great Depression, that is. While the southern regions grew at a 14.3% the northeast grew at only 3.9%, the slowest rate in the nation.

Some of you out there might have come from Long Island, Nassau County in particular, and you'll remember a politician named Joe Margiotta. Let me quote a few lines about him from his Wikipedia article:
"Joseph M. Margiotta (c. 1927 – November 28, 2008) was an American political boss who ran the Nassau County, New York Republican Party, considered "one of the most powerful political organizations in New York State", for 16 years until his 1983 convictions on federal charges.

"Margiotta became chairman of the Nassau Republican Party in 1967, exercising control over political appointments and patronage jobs, and playing an active role in issues including allocation of cable-television franchises and bridge tolls. Residents would often call a local Republican committeeman to deal with issues like broken streetlights instead of calling a county agency.

"He was convicted in 1981 for his involvement in a scheme in which a Long Island insurance company would split its commissions with Republican politicians, with some $678,000 brought in over a decade. The government's case relied on the presumption that Margiotta's influence over county government made him a public official subject to federal extortion laws, even though he was not an elected official. Margiotta insisted that he had not broken any laws, stating that "I've been convicted because I’ve been a successful political leader". After his conviction on federal mail fraud and conspiracy charges as part of the municipal insurance kickback scheme, he was forced to resign from his post and spent 14 months in prison."
Now, tell me... does this sound currently familiar? But I'm not done! This is from Mr. Margiotta's obituary in the New York Times:
"For most of the 20th century, as Long Island was transformed into suburban tracts, the Nassau Republican Party was one of the most potent forces in the daily lives of the growing population. For years, Mr. Margiotta cemented that role, choosing protégés who rose to political prominence while also playing a direct role in shaping even mundane decisions like bridge tolls and cable-television franchises.

"While Mr. Margiotta was chairman, some residents would call the local Republican committeeman, rather than a county agency, to get a broken streetlight fixed. Over the years, he rewarded loyalty by recommending party supporters for political patronage jobs on municipal payrolls.

“Certain people try to, you know, make patronage look as if it’s dishonest or improper,” he told The New York Times in a 1982 interview. “It’s a fact of life. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
There. Now I'm done.

The other day I mentioned that Bank of America was no longer handling donations to Wikileaks. This, from ProPublica, says a little more about BoA's banking methods:
On Friday, Arizona and Nevada both filed suit against Bank of America, saying it deceived homeowners trying to avoid foreclosures. The suits allege that Bank of America knowingly misled homeowners in the loan modification process, regularly promising quick help when the process instead dragged out over months if not years, foreclosing on homeowners during the modification process despite promises that homeowners would be safe and making “false” promises to homeowners that their trial modifications would become permanent, among other complaints.

A Bank of America executive told the Arizona Republic that he was “disappointed” in the suits and said the bank is already working to improve its processes and programs. “We and other major servicers are currently engaged in multistate discussions to address foreclosure-related issues more comprehensively,” he said.

The Arizona case also says the bank repeatedly violated the terms of a multi-state, $8.68 billion settlement with Countrywide (now a subsidiary of Bank of America) to provide loan modifications for homeowners with troubled loans. A recent investigation by the Nation magazine tore into the settlement, calling it a “fiasco” that failed to help homeowners as promised.

We pulled out some highlights from the two lawsuits. You can read the full Arizona and Nevada suits for yourself.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have looked over the history of integrating both Blacks and then women into the armed forces with an eye on a method of doing the same with gay men and women. Since you cannot tell if someone you're serving with is gay or lesbian they've decided that gay troops should wear pink triangles.

To stem the flow of cheap pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, President Obama is poised to sign into law the "Northern Border Counter Narcotics Bill". This bill, being sold as a bill to fight importation of drugs like cocaine and marijuana, would significantly penalize anyone who purchases Canadian drugs - of any kind - and brings them to the United States. All this because Canadians sent the equivalent of one truck-full load of marijuana across the border last year. How's that for a Christmas present for Big Pharma and the Congressman they own. Er, donated to.

And now, The News:

Green Infrastructure Examples for Stormwater Management in the Hudson Valley

You can use the links below to explore some examples of stormwater management projects in the Hudson River Valley that use a green infrastructure approach.

The green infrastructure approach to stormwater management includes a wide array of practices to manage, treat, and reuse runoff from rain events while maintaining or restoring natural hydrology through infiltration and evapotranspiration. On a regional scale, practices in green infrastructure include preservation and restoration of natural landscape features, such as forests, floodplains, stream buffers and wetlands, coupled with policies that reduce overall imperviousness in a watershed. On the local scale, green infrastructure consists of site and neighborhood-specific practices, such as bioretention, rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavements and cisterns. Green infrastructure practices generally include any projects defined as better site design or low impact development.

Read More

Residents Divided About PA’s Agreement With Drillers Over Water Contamination

This article was first posted at ProPublica: Articles and Investigations by ProPublica.

by Nicholas Kusnetz

A version of this story will be published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Residents of Dimock, Pa., said they were surprised — and in some cases upset — by the settlement that state environmental regulators reached last week with Cabot Oil & Gas, which the Department of Environmental Protection says contaminated 18 water wells with methane from its gas drilling operations.

The homeowners were told in September that the DEP was going to provide them with fresh water by building a pipeline from a nearby water treatment facility. A state infrastructure fund would have fronted the $11.8 million cost of the project, and the DEP was going to seek reimbursement from Cabot.

But last week the DEP announced that the pipeline project was dead and that Cabot had agreed instead to give the homeowners $4.1 million and provide treatment systems for their well water. The 19 families who draw water from the wells will be offered payments equal to twice the value of their homes, with a minimum payment of $50,000. The settlement also gives the DEP $500,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.

Some of the residents are outraged by the change in plans, even though they say they will accept Cabot’s offer.

Read More

Religious Right Attacks Environmentalism As 'Deadly' And 'Destructive' In New DVD Series

Various conservative Christian leaders have united with the Cornwall Alliance for the release of a shocking new 12-part DVD series, "Resisting The Green Dragon," that attempts to debase and discredit the environmental movement by portraying it as "one of the greatest deceptions of our day" that is "seducing your children" and "striving to put America and the world under its destructive control."

The hyperbolic accusations spewed throughout the video give it the appearance of a ridiculous parody, calling environmentalism "deadly," a "cult" and a "spiritual deception." Unfortunately, the comical PSA is anything but a joke.

In the video, David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, attests that environmentalists' "false assertions are based more on their own morbid pessimistic fears, not on any good science," while the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Dr. Richard Land, says, "Environmentalists have a long history of believing and promoting exaggerations and myths" -- statements both so steeped in irony that they are hardly worth parrying.

Read More

For those reading this edition of News That Matters who have not helped support us this year you owe a debt of gratitude to those that did and continue to do so. You can assuage your guilt by clicking here. Thanks!

Obamacare: Helpful law already paying big dividends

By Susan Davis,

There is no more painful or helpless feeling for a parent than fearing for the health of your child. A year ago, Julie and Brooks felt this way. They could not get health care coverage for their two young children. They were denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition; they have diabetes.

I share their story because today, thanks to the new health care law, their children, and many children like them with serious conditions, will have health insurance.

Susan, a constituent from La Jolla, had breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. Her insurance company refused to authorize follow-up restorative surgery. She was demoralized by the treatment she received from her insurance company, on top of the physical and mental strain from her condition. She came to my office for help. After intervention by my staff and the California Department of Managed Care, her insurance company complied with existing law and what was clearly its responsibility.

I share Susan’s story because many people believe that if they have insurance they don’t need laws to protect their consumer rights. Wrong! Hers is an example of the need to keep a watchful eye on the insurance industry for its compliance with the law.

Read More

Pentagon Health Plan Won’t Cover Brain-Damage Therapy for Troops

This article was first posted at ProPublica: Articles and Investigations by ProPublica.

Versions of this story were co-published with NPR and Stars and Stripes. For more coverage, listen to NPR’s All Things Considered.

During the past few decades, scientists have become increasingly persuaded that people who suffer brain injuries benefit from what is called cognitive rehabilitation therapy — a lengthy, painstaking process in which patients relearn basic life tasks such as counting, cooking or remembering directions to get home.

Many neurologists, several major insurance companies and even some medical facilities run by the Pentagon agree that the therapy can help people whose functioning has been diminished by blows to the head.

But despite pressure from Congress and the recommendations of military and civilian experts, the Pentagon’s health plan for troops and many veterans refuses to cover the treatment — a decision that could affect the tens of thousands of service members who have suffered brain damage while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tricare, an insurance-style program covering nearly 4 million active-duty military and retirees, says the scientific evidence does not justify providing comprehensive cognitive rehabilitation. Tricare officials say an assessment of the available research that they commissioned last year shows that the therapy is not well proven.

But an investigation by NPR and ProPublica found that internal and external reviewers of the Tricare-funded assessment criticized it as fundamentally misguided. Confidential documents obtained by NPR and ProPublica show that reviewers called the Tricare study “deeply flawed,” “unacceptable” and “dismaying.” One top scientist called the assessment a “misuse” of science designed to deny treatment for service members.

Read More

Journalists at Pentagon daily barred from WikiLeaks


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has banned journalists with the popular defense daily Stars and Stripes from consulting leaked diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, prompting charges of censorship.

"The editorial independence of Stars and Stripes and its readers' right to news free of censorship are being threatened by an overly broad and misdirected response to the Wikileaks debacle," the daily wrote.

"Amazingly, the government wants to bar this newspaper's journalists -- along with most federal workers -- from reading information already plastered all over the public square."

In the article, the daily's ombudsman Mark Prendergast revealed that the Pentagon communications department had advised that "access to any classified information hosted on non-DoD systems from any government-owned system is expressly prohibited" even if it was now in the public arena.

Although Stars and Stripes is officially authorized by the Pentagon it is editorially independent and its journalists are guaranteed the right of freedom of expression contained in the US Constitution.

Read More

The Viral Spiral of 2010

Yet another year full of bogus chain e-mails.

There’s a reason they call chain e-mails "viral" — their transmission is swift, extensive and very hard to stop. They tend to contain indignant, outraged messages that are nearly always false and often malicious. We can’t say exactly which virus these nasty messages resemble, but it isn’t one whose effects go away on their own while you drink plenty of fluids.

In 2010 we continued to see new outbreaks of viruses that we first refuted years ago. And in addition, there were a large number of new infections. Despite what you may have been told:

  • It’s not true that the White House is planning to tax all credit card transactions.
  • Muslims are not being exempted from the new health care law.
  • President Obama did not order up a private jet for the family’s pet dog, Bo.
  • Speaker Pelosi’s spending for liquor on congressional trips isn’t notably different than that of her predecessor. And Pelosi herself doesn’t even drink alcohol.
  • The new health care law does not contain a 3.8 percent "sales tax" on the sale of all personal residences.
  • Obama did not cancel the National Day of Prayer nor did he participate in a Muslim prayer event at the Capitol.

Here are this year’s most virulent and pestilential inbox-busters.

Read More

For those reading this edition of News That Matters who have not helped support us this year you owe a debt of gratitude to those that did and continue to do so. You can assuage your guilt by clicking here. Thanks!
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