Wednesday, January 19, 2011

News That Matters - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

News That Matters

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Good Wednesday Morning,

Crazy weather, no?

It's been cold - really cold - in fact, it's been far colder than normal so far this winter. The average price for propane right now is $3.06 a gallon, up nearly 10% since just last week and up from $2.80 this time last year. Home heating oil is at $3.50 a gallon, up 13.5% from last week and from $3.07 last year.
If you have a woodstove in your home you know how valuable that wood is but it also offers a lower price per BTU than fossil fuels. And if you're running low on wood or you need your driveway plowed, give Joe Greico a call (over there in the sidebar) and tell him News That Matters sent you.
There's another potential snowfall coming Thursday into Friday and so we're in it again. But you'll see, the days are slowly getting longer and we're bottoming out with the cold weather (we're coming into the time of the winter where it's traditionally coldest,) and soon enough the sap will start running and it will be spring.

Politicians tell us that people are leaving New York "in droves"
and it's all because of our high taxes. While I will certainly not argue with the tax argument I will with the "droves" that are leaving.
United Van Lines, one of the largest movers in the nation has just released a report for last year showing the number of shipments they've made into and out of each state. While New York state had 54.1% outbound that was nothing compared to 57.3% leaving Illinois or the 62% that left Michigan, the 60.1% leaving Missouri or the 62.5% leaving New Jersey. In fact, NY rates pretty middling on the list of people leaving.

So where are they all going? South Carolina, Washington, D. C., Nevada, Rhode Island and Oregon all saw significant increases.

News That Matters picked up a new supporter, AF of Cold Spring. The rest of you are still not off the hook.

And now, a word from our sponsor:

Union Place:
Jay Taylor, a resident of Baldwin Place had this to say about it:
"There will be more traffic, noise and light pollution, more crime and litter for sure," Taylor said. "We have all these problems but no tax revenue for Somers or Westchester. For Putnam, Mahopac and Carmel it's a great deal - put an unsightly development on the far side of the county that impacts people who are not voters or taxpayers and benefit from property and sales tax."
How familiar does that sound? If you live in Kent you heard the same regarding Patterson Crossing. And isn't it interesting that the same developer and county officials are involved with both?

And while we're down there, guess who is trying to get the state to do his road widening work for him on Route 6? You guessed it! Mike Griffin! Nah, Paul Camarda is, that's who. And is anyone surprised? Why are we spending county tax dollars doing the business for an out-of-state developer with deeper pockets than the county? Why are we spending any man-hours at all on this?
Dear County Executive Eldridge:

Get your stuff together and cut this crap. We hoped you would have been different.

Love and knishes, Jeff

After getting the town of Patterson to engage in what amounts to a voiding of the FEIS for Patterson Crossing by handing Mr. C. $1.5 million taxpayer dollars as a gift for his love of peace and quiet and all that is good, now Mr. C. has gone off to the state once again looking for another taxpayer funded handout. Do you want to take bets on whether he gets this one as well?

And of course I must ask, where the heck are the "smaller government, lower taxes" Republicans on this? You guessed it! They're all on the "suck at the public teat" bandwagon. How they look at themselves in the mirror in the morning simply befuddles me.

I don't know. Maybe my view of capitalism and yours is different. But in my view, if we're not going to be taking care of each other, if we aren't going to adequately educate and provide basic necessities for our communities, how can we possibly ever think of handing private corporations thousands, millions and billions of dollars that would otherwise pay for our health care, education and the food and clothing for the working classes need in order to, well, work? Isn't our system completely upside down?

We feed the wealthy and starve the poor and that's just fucked up. There, I said it. And yes, you can quote me.

Your online/media world is going to get a whole lot smaller thanks to a ruling by the FCC which gave its blessing to a merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. This action goes directly against President Obama's campaign promise of an open and diverse media market place.
According to a report in CNET News, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement that the conditions imposed by the FCC "include carefully considered steps to ensure that competition drives innovation in the emerging online video marketplace." But no one believes that's even possible and your choices of entertainment, news and information have just been dealt a significant and severe blow.

A Dose of Democracy in the Arab Middle East

Fahad Amir Ahmadi, Commentator for Al Riyadh: "Israel is better than all the Arab and Islamic countries with regard to democracy and political integrity..."

If you haven't noticed, the Arab world is going through political upheaval as riots and demonstrations spread across the region. The most notable has been in Tunisia where a virtual dictatorship has been overthrown, the President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country and a provisional government set in place. That government is already in tatters as demonstrators demand that it contain no members of the previous, authoritarian government.
Next up is Oman where 200 demonstrators protested against high consumer prices and government corruption. While that may not sound all that important or amazing, demonstrations, political parties and unions are banned in that country and had the demonstrations in Tunis not happened the demonstrators in Oman would have been rounded up, tortured and murdered - and not necessarily in that order.

Trade activists in Jordan, a moderately open nation chanted, "Tunisia is teaching us a lesson!" on the streets of Amman.

Protesters in Cairo, Egypt, made fun of and insulted President Hosni Mubarak this past weekend something which is highly illegal in the nation that receives billions of US AID dollars each year and is currently waging an underground war against its Christian citizens forcing many to flee as they once did Egypt's Jews. Egypt, like most middle eastern nations, is now Judenfrei by design, a little bit of ethnic-cleansing the world's Leftists seem to conveniently forget.

In Sudan, opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi was arrested for planning street demonstrations.

These demonstrations and direct actions by Arab citizens are a new phenomenon in a region of the world where questioning the government was sure to end you and your family in deep doo-doo. But the power of 60+ year existent democracy with a vibrant economy, though despised and hated and its destruction sworn, still sets an example that others want to follow.
A different sort of upheaval is taking place in Lebanon where Hezbollah caused a collapse of the Parliament over fears that indictments handed down over the murder of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will implicate their own members. Officials from both Turkey and Qatar are in Beirut doing what they can to prevent a total meltdown.
Mr. Hariri was blown to smithereens in Beirut back in 2005 and everyone pretty much agrees that Syria, through its agents in Lebanon, Hezbollah, were responsible. A BBC special broadcast on the matter was canceled just a few months ago over fears that it would set off a civil war in that fractured nation.

We need to remember that Hezbollah has long desired the destruction of Israel and is armed, thanks to the Syrians and Iranians, with an estimated 40,000 modern short, medium and long range missiles and anti-aircraft systems and has 20,000 trained militia under their command. These weapons and soldiers are garrisoned in farm houses and barns in villages spread across the south of Lebanon so that any Israeli retaliatory attack will kill innocent people, which is Hezbollah's intention. Hezbollah uses human shields and they've always used human shields and everyone knows it but conveniently forgets when the shit hits the fan and the bullets start flying. (That's just a note of reality to my anti-Israeli friends. When it happens, please remember to point your fingers in the right direction this time and stop blaming Israel for everything from the common cold to the dust bunnies under your bed.)

And just yesterday another rocket was launched by Hamas from Gaza. The total: 29 rockets fired into Israel so far this year and we're only 19 days into it. As a result, near a dozen Gazans have been killed in retaliatory strikes. If Lebanon should go postal it will get very ugly very quickly and many, many, many people will die.

And a little closer to home, "Baby Doc" Duvalier has returned to Haiti from his self-imposed exile in France where he was living off the stolen wealth of the Haitian people. With any luck he will be charged with a few thousand human rights violations, tried, convicted and hung in the main square of Port-au-Prince - and not necessarily in that order.

Volunteers Needed for Amphibian Monitoring Program

Amphibian populations are declining throughout the world, possibly due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, disease, and the introduction of exotic species.

The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP) is a nationwide effort to monitor populations of frogs and toads.  The program relies on volunteers to collect long-term data over broad geographic areas.  Volunteers drive a pre-determined route just after sunset four times during spring and summer; make 10 stops per route; and listen for five minutes at each stop.  They record the data online, then send it to the state coordinator.

If you are 16 or over and are interested in becoming a volunteer, come to the local training session on Wednesday, February 23, from 6:00-7:30pm at Fahnestock State Park's Hubbard Lodge.

For more information, or to register, contact Suzanne Beyeler, Ph.D., at the Hudson River Estuary Program at 845/551-8445 or visit

And now, The News

Carmel's Watson Pharmaceuticals to be empty by March

By Michael Risint for the NYJN

CARMEL — By early spring, the home of what used to be Putnam County's second-largest private employer will be empty and, according to company and county officials, attracting, it is hoped, serious interest in the commercial real estate market.

The 20 employees who remain at Watson Pharmaceuticals' plant in Carmel will be gone by the end of March, said Patty Eisenhaur, a spokeswoman for the California-based company.

They are the last of some 600 workers Watson once employed in Carmel and at sites in Southeast and Danbury, Conn.

The reductions began in 2008 as the company consolidated operations in the United States and India. In 2007, it shut down plants in Puerto Rico and Phoenix.

Read More

Bill Buck in Cape Horn

Ed. note: NYBG scientist and Mary Flagler Cary Curator of Botany, Bill Buck is currently on expedition to the islands off Cape Horn, the southernmost point in South America, to study mosses and lichens. Follow his journeys on Plant Talk.

January 18, 2011, Punta Arenas, Chile

Say hallelujah! On Sunday evening the barricades were lifted temporarily and I was able to get my luggage. Ah, the joys of clean clothes! The barricades were opened at about 7 p.m. and thousands of people flocked to the airport. However, the road to the airport was only to be open until 9:30 p.m., and the road from the airport (it is a divided highway) only until 11 p.m. So, Juan and Ernesto took advantage of the window and went to the airport to get not only my luggage but also their own. They were able to get my luggage and Ernesto’s, but Juan’s was locked in the DAP Airline office and no one was there from that airline. Fortunately, Juan only had collecting equipment there, and not his clothes. So, we are able to collectively provide him with what he needs.

On Monday, the protests continued, only growing larger. However, most stores opened, so we took advantage of it and did what little shopping we needed to do. The most interesting experience was when we went to a department store to buy pillows for our bunks on the ship. I had decided bringing a pillow was too bulky and easier just to buy here. We went to the bedding department and were told they were out of pillows. However, all the beds on the floor were made and had pillows on them. I pulled a pillow out of the pillow case and said that this was just fine with me. The sales person shrugged and led me to the cash register. Both Jim and Blanka followed suit and they bagged up our pillows. When I asked how much they were, he said they were free, a “souvenir” for us! So, they were out of pillows to sell, but what pillows they did have were free. Can you see that happening at Macy’s?!

Read More

Widow, 85, missed last house payment; fights fees

PHILADELPHIA – An elderly New Jersey widow billed $5,800 after missing the final payment on her 30-year mortgage can pursue her lawsuit against the debt collectors, a U.S. appeals court ruled.

Lawyers for Dorothy Rhue Allen call the fees charged by two banks and a law firm "unfair or unconscionable" and say they violate state and federal consumer-protection laws.

Allen, now 85, had borrowed $40,000 to buy the Deptford, N.J., home in 1976. She failed to make the final $432 payment in 2006 because she was in the hospital, her lawyer said.

"She's just a wonderful little old lady that got sick," lawyer Lewis Adler told The Associated Press on Friday.

Lenders are under scrutiny in New Jersey and across the country for the way they handled foreclosures during the recent real-estate bust. Six lenders — none involved in Allen's case — have been summoned before the New Jersey Supreme Court to fight for the right to stay in the foreclosure business.

The alleged systemic abuses include so-called "robo-signing," in which employees signed hundreds of documents without checking them for accuracy.

Read More

Hospital Visitation Regulations Go Into Effect Today

"There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital.  In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean – a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them."

With those words on April 15, 2010 President Obama directed HHS Secretary Sebelius to initiate rulemaking to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors.  The President further advised that the rule should ensure that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges based on factors including sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Today the new Hospital Visitation Regulations go into effect. 

This policy impacts millions of LGBT Americans and their families.  The President saw an injustice and felt very strongly about correcting this and has spoken about it often over the years.  I want to thank HHS Secretary Sebelius and her team for their resolve to see this rule implemented.  In fact, long before this rule was finalized, back in June, 2010 the Secretary laid the groundwork by reaching out to leaders of major hospital associations asking them to encourage their member hospitals to not wait for the formal rulemaking to run its course regarding patient-centered visitation rights suggested by the President.

This significant policy change is due in no small part to the journeys of two incredibly courageous and passionate women, Janice Langbehn and Charlene Strong.  Both lived through unimaginable experiences with the loss of their wives and life partners.   While I never had the opportunity to meet Janice’s wife Lisa Pond, or Charlene’s wife Kate Fleming, I have had the honor to meet and work with Janice and Charlene.  I want to thank them for bringing us all into their lives and for sharing themselves and their families with us, and for using their voices to make lives better for LGBT families.

Brian Bond is Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement

Read More

Chase Admits Overcharging Troops on Mortgages, Improperly Foreclosing

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

by Marian Wang

JPMorgan Chase acknowledged this week that it overcharged some 4,000 military families for their mortgages and wrongfully foreclosed on at least 14. It's not clear how much the mistakes have cost these families, but the bank told NBC News that it’s collectively refunding about $2 million to those affected. It has also promised to restore the homes that were lost.

According to NBC, the bank violated a law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which grants active-duty troops some protection from foreclosure and caps their mortgage interest rates at 6 percent.

The mistakes came to light after a Marine captain and his wife were overcharged, fought debt collection attempts for years, and finally filed suit. From NBC:

Read More

New Study: Tea Partiers Three Times More Likely to Say Violence Is Warranted

When a survivor of the Tucson shooting told a Tea Party leader, "You're dead," he was arrested and committed. Why is Glenn Beck any different?

January 19, 2011  |  

I have documented numerous examples of right-wing advocacy of violence, as have many others. But nobody crosses further over the line, or more often, than Glenn Beck. And here is the ultimate display of deliberate hostile intent. It is an overt call for violence and an instruction to viewers:

“Tea parties believe in small government. We believe in returning to the principles of our Founding Fathers. We respect them. We revere them. Shoot me in the head before I stop talking about the Founders. Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government.

I will stand against you and so will millions of others. We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don’t. The radicals that you and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep’s clothing — change the pose. You will get the ends.

You’ve been using them? They believe in communism. They believe and have called for a revolution. You’re going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you.

They are dangerous because they believe. Karl Marx is their George Washington. You will never change their mind.” ~ Fox News, June 10, 2010

This cannot possibly be justified as acceptable political discourse. This is not merely an expression of opinion. It is not metaphorical. It is a call to arms. And Beck’s audience is listening. They have heard him say that “The country will be washed with blood.” They have heard him warn that he may have to speak in code:

Read More

U.S. Government Opens 5,000-Acre Area Where Americans Can Go Blow Off Steam

RATON, NM—Federal officials on Friday unveiled a new 5,000-acre national park where frustrated Americans can blow off some steam by smashing rows of televisions with a bat, screaming at the top of their lungs into a canyon, or playing tracks by Motörhead and the Angry Samoans at extreme volumes. "I'm as angry as anyone that we can't pass an energy bill or end Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who christened the facility by igniting the contents of a trash barrel, which he then upended and kicked down a rocky slope. "But in the meantime, the least we can do is give people a place to go where they can just fucking have at it." Opening day also included an unscheduled appearance by President Obama, who calmly entered the park, let loose a furious stream of undiluted profanity, punched several trees for 55 minutes, and then returned to Washington.

Read More

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