Wednesday, December 8, 2010

News That Matters - Wednesday, December 8, 2010

News That Matters

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

Good Wednesday Morning,

I'm just now coming off a stomach flu. Sleeping 24 of the last 36 hours has been, um, well, a blessing.

Apparant MagnitudeThat bright star in the east upon waking is Venus, our sister planet sitting this morning at the foot of the constellation Virgo. She, along with Mercury, are the only two planets one can see in "phases" such as we see the moon because of her location in front of us toward the sun. Shining at a magnitude of -4.51 (don't ask me why negative magnitudes are brighter than positive unless you can do the math which is over there,) it is the brightest object in the sky.
If you look up a little and to the right the next bright star is Spica which is glowing at 0.95 and just above that and to the right a tiny bit more is Saturn, dim in the sky this time of year at a magnitude of 1.26 but looking good in any pair of binoculars.
But before you go out bundle up! as the weather is only promising a high today of 30º, a low tonight of 13º and a high tomorrow (Thursday) of 25º and a low tomorrow night (Friday morning) of 6º. There's a possibility of measurable snow on Friday. We don't break 40º again until Sunday and that with a chance of rain or snow. In fact, the long range forecast through the end of December shows temps only reaching the upper 30's for the rest of the month and well into January.

If you're looking for the Wikileaks site, this link was working as of 6AM this morning.
In regards to an Arab head of state, February 2009:
6.  (S/NF) Hamid Thani senses indications and warnings the Israeli  government now being formed will likely attack Iran.  He thinks the  new (Netanyahu) government will be very determined to eliminate the  threat of Iranian missiles, especially nuclear tipped ones, which  they fear may come raining down on Israeli cities.  He also stated  Israel would be justified to take such action as it must protect its  citizens just as any nation has the duty to do.  He feels that a  breakthrough in international efforts in regard to Iran's armament  programs may slow Israel's actions.  However, the COS knows that  Israel must maintain all its options.  He also knows the Iranians  have toyed with the international community for over ten years as  they built their capability.  He stated the Israelis are also very  aware of Iranian tactics.  

The Kent Recreation department has undergone some changes.
Among those are its contact information. If you need to reach them here's the new deal: Phone: (845) 531-2100, Fax: (845)306-7249, Email:

The NYJN ran yet another editorial on Senator Leibell yesterday but they've still not noted the unfairness in an editorial of his collecting his pension of ~$70,000 a year and calling for action to either stop his collecting or stopping it in the future for others in the same boat. Reporter Cara Matthews has an article about it but the editorial board consistently side-steps the issue.

However, the Poughkeepsie Journal, also a Gannett vehicle, showed a bit more gumption in an editorial yesterday morning where they wrote:
"It's downright sickening that a state senator can admit his guilt to two federal felonies yet still be eligible for an annual $70,000 pension, courtesy of New York's taxpayers."

"That scenario has got to change, and lawmakers should get to it."

Here at News That Matters we are not side-stepping like the NYJN. And though there is little we can do to change the current law today we can work to see that it is changed in the future.

Sandy Galef, the Assemblywoman for the more progressive side of Putnam County has written an article in the JN this morning that is worth a read. In it she writes:
"I have always had a problem with our system of legislative pork, and have never taken member items, even when I was criticized for not doing so. Just last year, I introduced a bill, with the support of good government groups, to overhaul the member-items process."
It should be noted that Ms. Galef does not accept member items. And in another article today by Michael Risinit, Carmel attorney William Saygh said that, "The familiarity among Putnam's legal community would have prevented any kickback schemes from hatching," but we all know just how specious that is. We know, based on past history, that sleeping with the devil is something we just do here. It's a Putnam thing.

We also hear that MaryEllen Odell
is apparently positioning herself for the County Executive's seat either as an appointment from the Legislature or in a possible special election in the spring. Coming in second in the race there's an oft heard believe that if the top vote getter cannot serve that the role should go to the second. This is perhaps not the best idea for several reasons.
For one, neither candidate reached out to Democrat, blank and independent voters during the campaign instead focusing solely on members of the Republican Party. That disregard led to more than 4000 voters opting to skip the CE's race on election day. That 104 people - on 72 hours notice - wrote someone in speaks volumes. This failure to speak to all the voters underscores their combined disdain for the majority of residents of this county who are not registered with her party. Thus, how can she properly govern?

Secondly, do we really want to hand the county over to Greg Ball? The alliance between Ms. Odell and the Senator-elect runs deep and it's clear that she was a creation of his in the personality battle between himself and outgoing Senator Leibell. Ball is now the highest ranking Republican in the county yet he is not favored within the party organization. If MEO becomes the county executive then the top two spots in county government will be in his hands. And, seeing that he has come to us as a Vice President of Exceed Development and his temporary Chief of Staff is the president of that development corporation, how far away are we from simply handing the county to Paul Camarda? Right now Mr. C. has to go through the appearance of formality but as we've seen in Carmel and Patterson, where corrupt town boards are in his pocket, those formalities are only paper thin.

Then there's the tea bagger thing. MEO and Greg Ball, along with incoming State Assemblyman Steve Katz all proudly ran for office as tea baggers. You know, smaller government, lower taxes, no handouts. So where were they when the Town of Patterson gave $1.5 million taxpayer dollars to Paul Camarda? Where were the baggers when the County Legislature tired to do even more earlier this year? Is the mantra only for *some* Americans and not for all? Their silence underscores the lies they've perpetrated on the American people for the last two years. Oh sure, we see them moaning and groaning in Washington but where are they when it comes to local issues - the ones that actually matter? Are these the folk you want running Putnam County?

And just in case you need a reminder of who the 'baggers are, there's this:

It's your county. You decide.

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The Wars in Putnam Valley

Once again residents of Putnam Valley are at war with their elected government, this time over an "incentive zoning" proposal (which you can read here). There will be a meeting at 6PM this evening in that fair town to discuss it.

Putnam Valley resident Kate Hoekstra had this to say:
This is one of the most worrisome attempts ever by our Town Board to garner more power to itself.

If there is so apparent a need for more liberal zoning, why can't the Planning Board be trusted to provide it -- as it always has?

Is there such a need?  As far as I know, need has NOT been demonstrated. If this were a grant proposal it would be summarily denied before the first page was read. There is no statement of need. NOTHING of such scope should ever be done unless need is demonstrated. In sum, this legislation is a guarantee that a handful of people will be allowed to continue to disregard public opinion as well as our Comprehensive Plan and our Planning Board. That adds up to a power grab. One has to ask why? This legislation has "Camarda and shopping center, garbage disposal center (Remember 301?), Sports Arena and Conference Center at Bryant Pond" written between the lines. I don't want a shopping plaza in my neighborhood--however "tasteful".  Do you? Do you NEED it?

This is Mr. Tendy's guarantee that he will never again have to put up with arguments from the public while he's about doing what he wants to do anyway.  One would think that, in the current climate of corruption and "public be damned" attitude of lawmakers, our Board would be more circumspect than to dare to propose such legislation. This is not the time to ask us to trust blindly. History is filled with examples of rulers who first got absolute power such as this legislation provides, and then went on the destroy the places they ruled.  Power corrupts...absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The Putnam Valley Residents Coalition has this to say:
We would like to present to you a map of our town's undeveloped land parcels that are 30 acres or more in size.  As you can see they are located in every neighborhood and have the potential to be developed using the proposed law. We urge [you] to attend the Wednesday, Dec. 8th Public Meeting at Town Hall at 6 P.M.
The law as it is currently written applies to the whole town, not specific areas and gives a laundry list of amenities the developer can chose to offer the town as a trade off for higher density development.
The law allows commercial development in areas currently zoned residential.
The law makes the Planning Board only advisory, which means their comments and expertise can be ignored.
The law is so general, that it will incur lawsuits against the town regarding specific development proposals that will have a negative impact on a neighborhood.
The law allows high density development in one part of town and allows a developer the option of preserving land in another part of town, not contiguous to the developed land.
Finally, with more development of a higher density comes higher taxes to the town as a whole. Town services and school enrollment costs can never be fully recouped by the taxes levied on the development, requiring residents in the rest of the town to pick up the tab.
To view the proposed law you can you can go to our website: the tab is on the right hand side of the home page.

And now, The News:

Revealed: Assange ‘rape’ accuser linked to notorious CIA operative

By David Edwards

One of the women that is accusing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sex crimes appears to have worked with a group that has connections to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

James D. Catlin, a lawyer who recently represented Assange, said the sex assault investigation into the WikiLeaks founder is based on claims he didn't use condoms during sex with two Swedish women.

Swedish prosecutors told AOL News last week that Assange was not wanted for rape as has been reported, but for something called "sex by surprise" or "unexpected sex."

One accuser, Anna Ardin, may have "ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups," according to Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett, writing for CounterPunch.

While in Cuba, Ardin worked with the Las damas de blanco (the Ladies in White), a feminist anti-Castro group.

Professor Michael Seltzer pointed out that the group is led by Carlos Alberto Montaner who is reportedly connected to the CIA.

Shamir and Bennett also describe Ardin as a "leftist" who "published her anti-Castro diatribes (see here and here) in the Swedish-language publication Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas put out by Misceláneas de Cuba."

Shamir and Bennett noted that Las damas de blanco is partially funded by the US government and also counts Luis Posada Carriles as a supporter.

A declassified 1976 document (.pdf) revealed Posada to be a CIA agent. He has been convicted of terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of people.

Read More

Lame duck's golden eggs

By James M. Odato Capitol Bureau

ALBANY -- Even as he urged lawmakers to help him cut spending, Gov. David Paterson last week quietly authorized $16.7 million in grants from a fund he controls -- to pay for chess tournaments in New York City, foreign trade offices in Chile and Australia, and to promote a New Jersey Super Bowl in four years with the National Football League.

In an act one policy analyst called "outrageous," Paterson's budget director on Nov. 30 signed 20 grants from the governor's member item account.

The discretionary awards -- from the community projects fund -- are for new contracts, mostly to New York City organizations. And in many cases, the money will not go to a New York state community.

The grants are well above traditional amounts some of the recipients usually receive from the state -- such as the $500,000 for Chess-in-the-Schools Inc. for schools in New York City. It helps pay for chess competitions and supplies as well as programs to encourage college enrollment.

Other awards are going out of state -- such as $5 million to New Meadowlands Stadium Co. in New Jersey for the NY/NJ Super Bowl XLVIII Host Committee Inc.

The money was approved the day after Paterson demanded the Legislature return to pare spending and assist in reducing a $315 million budget gap so this year's shortfall won't roll into next year's $9 billion deficit. The governor said he wants the Legislature to work with him to make cuts "to clear my conscience" that he had done whatever he could to spare the next administration a bigger budget mess.

Read More

Resigned NY pol admits to tax evasion, obstruction

Associated Press - Wall Street Journal

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A Republican state legislator who served 28 years before resigning last week admitted Monday that he filed false tax returns and tried to influence a grand jury investigating him for corruption.

Ex-Sen. Vincent Leibell of suburban New York City pleaded guilty to tax evasion and obstruction of justice, both federal felonies. He is likely to spend 18 to 24 months in prison, according to federal guidelines.

After listening, his head bowed, to a recitation of the charges and evidence against him, Leibell said, "Guilty, your honor," to the two counts. His wife was in the gallery. He apologized to family, friends and constituents, saying: "I deeply regret these actions."

Besides resigning from the Senate, Leibell gave up the position of Putnam County executive, to which he was elected in November.

The 64-year-old Leibell admitted he filed false tax returns for 2003 through 2006, failing to report a total of $43,000 in kickbacks from attorneys who did business with a not-for-profit organization he founded. He demanded half the money they made, court documents say.

Read More

BoA admits fraud

Bank of America will pay US$137.3 million to settle allegations that it defrauded schools, hospitals and dozens of other state-run organisations. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - US BANKING giant Bank of America has admitted it committed fraud in the bond derivatives market and will pay US$137.3 million (S$179.9 million) in damages, the government said on Tuesday.

'Bank of America entities have agreed to pay a total of US$137.3 million in restitution to federal and state agencies for its participation in a conspiracy to rig bids in the municipal bond derivatives market,' the Department of Justice said in a statement.

According to the agreements, Bank of America employees engaged in illegal conduct, including bid rigging, in connection with the marketing and sale of tax-exempt municipal bond derivatives contracts, the department said.

Read More

Raul Castro Celebrates With Cuban Jews

By Paul Haven

HAVANA — President Raul Castro celebrated Hanukkah on Sunday with Cuba's tiny Jewish community, a heavily symbolic act at a time when his government is holding a Jewish-American subcontractor on suspicion of spying.

Neither Castro nor those assembled at Havana's Shalom synagogue mentioned the name Alan Gross during the gathering, which was broadcast on the state-television newscast Sunday evening. But Gross's one-year detention without charge was the elephant in the room.

The U.S. government says Gross was in Cuba as part of a USAID program to distribute communications equipment to the island's 1,500-strong Jewish community, and both the State Department and Gross's wife, Judy, made fresh appeals this week for his release. The leaders of Havana's two main Jewish groups have denied having anything to do with him.

Castro wore a suit and a yarmulke, the head covering which observant Jews wear as a symbol of their deference to God, and was given the honor of lighting the first candle of the menorah. It was the first time in more than a decade that either Castro or his brother Fidel appeared with the Jewish community at a religious celebration like Hanukkah.

The brothers have gone out of their way to show their support for the Jewish people in recent months.

Read More

Defend WikiLeaks or lose free speech

By Dan Gillmor

Journalists cover wars by not taking sides. But when the war is on free speech itself, neutrality is no longer an option.

The WikiLeaks releases are a pivotal moment in the future of journalism. They raise any number of ethical and legal issues for journalists, but one is becoming paramount.

As I said last week, and feel obliged to say again today, our government -- and its allies, willing or coerced, in foreign governments and corporations -- are waging a powerful war against freedom of speech.

WikiLeaks may well make us uncomfortable in some of what it does, though in general I believe it's done far more good than harm so far. We need to recognize, however, as Mathew Ingram wrote over the weekend, that "Like It or Not, WikiLeaks is a Media Entity." What our government is trying to do to WikiLeaks now is lawless in stunning ways, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald forcefully argued today.

These are also acts of outright censorship. No, Amazon is not bound by the First Amendment. But if it's bowing to government pressure, it's helping a panicked government tear up one of our most basic freedoms.

And, no, the government's campaign is not fully working. Internet "mirror" sites are springing up to host WikiLeaks' material faster than governments can take them down. But WikiLeaks is the beneficiary, in this respect, of a wide swath of support from people who will make it part of their life's mission to help prevent this particular instance of censorship from succeeding. How ready or able will they be to defend free speech every time it's threatened in the future?

Read More

Red Sea Sharks Made in Israel?

Firas Al-Atraqchi - Assoc. Professor of Practice in Journalism at American University in Cairo

A German tourist was mauled to death by a shark off Egypt's Red Sea coast Sunday, but if popular rumors on the street are to be believed, it was the Israelis who did it.

The attack came days after authorities claimed they had hunted and killed a shark believed to have injured three foreign tourists in previous incidents.

The Egyptian government says that the attacks occurred because a trawler dumped dead sheep into the Red Sea which caused a feeding "frenzy". Marine biologists say overfishing may have forced the sharks to look in new waters for food.

While Egyptian media are treating the incidents as rare, perhaps in a bid to encourage the millions of foreign tourists who visit Sinai's coast every year that the area is safe, there have been several reports in the past decade of shark attacks.

That hasn't dampened the imagination of conspiracy theorists, however. A popular account has it that Israel is "dumping" hungry sharks in the Red Sea in a bid to weaken Egypt's thriving tourism industry.

Read More

'Naughty' joke gets Santa Claus fired from Macy's

Santa Claus has been canned from Macy's, and he's anything but jolly about it.

His fans aren't happy, either. And there are many.

John Toomey, known for 20 years at the Union Square Macy's in San Francisco as "Santa John," was told Saturday he'll have to take his "ho, ho, hos" elsewhere because an adult couple complained about a joke he cracked.

The joke has been in his Santa bag for decades. But after thousands of tellings, the 68-year-old retired caretaker for the elderly finally hit the wrong recipients - apparently an older woman and her husband, who considered it inappropriate.

Toomey - who stays in Oroville most summers and winters in San Francisco while he does the kiddie-on-the-knee gig - said he'd never had complaints before about the joke, which he saves for the occasional grown-up who visits him.

"When I ask the older people who sit on my lap if they've been good and they say, 'Yes,' I say, 'Gee, that's too bad,' " Toomey said Monday.

Read More

April 11, 1954: The most boring day in the 20th century

City computer buff William Tunstall-Pedoe has worked out that April 11, 1954 was the most uneventful day in the whole of the 20th century.

Every day something of significance happens, a person is born who is destined for fame, there is an event in the arts or sports, history is created. With 300 million of these facts fed into the “brain” of True Knowledge, Tunstall-Pedoe’s Cambridge company, the computer was asked: “What was the most boring day in the 20th century?”

Unlike a search engine, which finds relevant web pages statistically using key words, True Knowledge is able to reason. ‘Boring’ is a subjective term. A 14-year old has a very different idea of boring to a 45-year old. In this case it used “uneventful” and found the day when nothing much happened.

Tunstall-Pedoe, who founded True Knowledge, said: “We are building a learning engine that will be a powerful source of knowledge, able to store and process ‘factoids’, bits of information about people, places, events, businesses, and answer questions in an intelligent way.

Read More
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