Monday, February 14, 2011

News That Matters - Monday, February 14, 2011

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Good Monday Morning,

It's Valentine's Day a holiday brought to you courtesy of Hallmark Cards(tm).

The predicted high temperature for today is 48F with a cold front blowing in this evening leaving us with a high barely above freezing tomorrow. But the temps moderate during the week as the long-awaited thaw sweeps east across the nation. And though most of the snow should melt this week be prepared for those March and April nor'easters that blow up the coast bringing heavy, wet snows to the region.

Is everyone aware that the new "Patch" media sites popping up all over the place are owned by AOL and thus may fall under Arianna Huffington's new management? Just sayin'....

water damage on interior wallsIf you have water stains on interior walls from the ice dams that built up on your roofs this winter, now is the time to get estimates on repairs and repainting.

To be sure, the work cannot be done until after the ice has melted and the weather moderates a bit. But from the widespread problems that so many Putnam area homes and businesses have encountered, contractors are going to be busy come spring so it's best to lock in a price now before the demand outstrips the available manpower and prices rise to Westchester levels or you end up using unscrupulous, non-licensed contractors to pay a lower price for inferior work.

And just in time for spring renovations and repairs, one of News That Matters' long-time sponsors is offering special rates for News Th Matters readers. Act now to save some money and support local businesses.

I had to drive to Morris County in New Jersey to find work this past weekend because, well, I can't describe the scene here in Putnam without cursing and calling people names. But what struck me was the price of gasoline once I crossed the state line and it turns out it's the state tax on gasoline that makes the difference.
Here in NY the state adds 65.6 cents onto every gallon while in New Jersey they add, 32.9 cents per gallon. The Federal tax is 18.4 cents, unchanged since 1994. For the record, in Connecticut they add  63.6 cents and in Pennsylvania it's 50.7 cents.

What this means is that on a 20 gallon fill-up we pay $13.12 in state taxes and $3.68 cents in Federal tax and then, of course, there's Putnam County's share of around 27 cents. That's a total of $17 in taxes.

So does that mean that when I see a price of $3.35 for regular that the price of the gasoline is actually only $2.50? It would be if it weren't for all the taxes paid along the way which the oil companies pass on to you and the money [Fill In Gas Company Here] keeps as profit to pay its shareholders.
While we're talking about the price of fuel, I needed 100 gallons of propane and I'm locked into purchasing it from Burnwell. When the woman quoted me $7.99 a gallon I told her I'd burn the furniture instead. Then I realized the reason I had called in the first place was because I was out of gas, hence the overwhelming smell of mercaptan that pervaded the house. So I called her back and she lowered the price to $6.99. When I asked why my landlord was paying $3.12 she said it was because they use more than 1000 gallons a year compared to my measly 100 (now that the leaks have been fixed). So the more carbon based fuel you use the less you pay which encourages you to use more. But if you're frugal and use only a little you pay a lot.
Not only is that bass ackwards, but when I'm President the government will own the utilities with the result that a) the profit motive will have been removed thus passing those savings onto everyone and b) the more you use the more you will pay thus rewarding conservation practices that will wean us off fossil fuels and on to renewables and better construction techniques for homes and businesses.

Demonstrations may, or may not be, taking place in Iran as of this writing. Last week calls for a renewed version of the "Green Revolution" for this morning were thwarted by the Iranian government who was shutting down and restricting internet services over the weekend. But a Facebook page in support had 43,000 supporters and on the 7th of February the Iranian government hung two protest organizers from the massive demonstrations that took place in 2009.

Southeast resident Cathy Croft reports:
Five towns in Putnam County, Philipstown is not included, have been discussing an IMA to deal with enhanced MS4 regulations. An Attorney, George Rodenhausen has been hired by the communities. Mr. Rodenhausen was involved with the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).  To date, $35K has been spent in legal fees.  The County is currently paying the amount.  Ultimately Southeast will be responsible for paying 20% of the cost.

What was not mentioned at last night's meeting is there will be a Special Meeting of the Putnam County Legislature Called By The Clerk At The Request Of The Chairman To Be Held At The Putnam County Emergency Operations Center, 112 Old Route 6, Carmel, New York 10512 on Monday, February 14, 2011 at 7PM.

Carmel resident Lori Kemp's response to the county maintaining its high sale tax rate was this:
I celebrated this passing by taking a quick drive to CT.  I filled up on gas, bought some cigs and other taxable items - I estimate the 15 minute ride saved me about 35 bucks versus the 52 cents it cost me to get there.  Since the County seems so worried about Paul Camarda's bottom line, I'm also guessing that my little shopping spree in CT helped to keep Paulie's property taxes in check,  and so by example, I was kinda "shopping Putnam."
To which Brewster resident Mike Santos replied,
Lori, the Putnam County government refuses to acknowledge that what you did is commonplace, encouraged by their own stubborn addiction to stealth tax, and is the cause of what they like to call the "Putnam Paradox".

People are not stupid. About two-thirds of Putnam residents live in the eastern half of the county, and within easy driving range of Connecticut. They will shop where prices are lower, and Connecticut stores start with a two-and-three-eighths price advantage. People know that "shopping Putnam" does not keep theirtaxes lower, it merely means they are paying an artificially inflated stealth tax instead.

Were the sales tax rate lowered to 6 and-three-eighths, fewer Putnam shoppers would go to Connecticut, and sales tax receipts would probably rise. Oh, wait, that was Ronald Reagan's theory! We can't be espousing Reagan's economic theories in Putnam. It may be illegal.

In the meanwhile, it is local retailers who suffer loss of business because Putnam Legislators want to hide from the taxpayers the true cost of supporting an obsolete and bloated county government.

Courtesy of Sarah Palin:

“And nobody yet has, nobody yet has explained to the American public what they know, and surely they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak and no, not, not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done on a national level and from DC in regards to understanding all the situation there in Egypt. And, in these areas that are so volatile right now, because obviously it’s not just Egypt but the other countries too where we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need strength and sound mind there in the White House. We need to know what it is that America stands for so we know who it is that America will stand with. And, we do not have all that information yet.”


In the land of the Pharaohs:

I'm wondering if Americans could do *anything* as a social group for 18 days straight without breaking into warring factions or the FBI infiltrating and inciting violence.

And now, The News:

Bill Buck in Cape Horn

This article was first posted at Plant Talk by Plant Talk.

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.

February 4, 2011; unnamed sound directly east of Seno Mama, 54°35’S, 71°34’W

Yesterday was a busy day and I didn’t finish working on my specimens until 10:30 p.m., at which time I just wanted to hit my bunk, not my notebook! The day before yesterday we worked in a beautiful wet forest and we all collected lots of specimens, almost all of which were saturated with water. Not surprisingly, we’re baling in more collections than our drying system can handle, especially with five bryologists in the field. Most collections take about two days to dry on the lowest rack and longer on the upper shelves. At this point we all have wet specimens awaiting dryer space. And it certainly didn’t help that I made almost 100 collections yesterday.

After awhile I am sure that all these places are starting to sound the same to you, especially since you are not here. Quite honestly, at this point, many of our sites are even beginning to merge in my mind. I can distinctly remember the moment when I collected a moss and what the microhabitat looked like, but on which island or in which sound I found it is another story entirely. I assume that this will only get worse in the upcoming days because we are now hitting various sounds that go into the southern shore of Isla Grande (i.e., the large island) of Tierra del Fuego.

Yesterday afternoon we stopped at our final two small islands. We anchored in the canal separating Isla Brecknock from Isla Macías. The last time we divided our group between two islands Jim felt he got the less interesting island and so this time I let him pick first. He and Matt chose Isla Brecknock because it is the larger of the two islands and had a nice waterfall descending near where we were. Blanka, Kimmy, and I took Isla Macías.

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Cold Spring man suffers from mistaken ID

Marcela Rojas for the NYJN

Robert Viggiano, a Cold Spring father of two, is trying to clear his name after being confused with another Robert Viggiano who faces an attempted child rape charge.

Even the suspect's wife apparently feels bad for Viggiano since she has contacted him to apologize for any inconveniences he may be experiencing.

Viggiano, who has a plumbing and heating business in the village, said he hasn't slept in days and has a constant headache. His nightmare started Wednesday when the other Viggiano, also with a Cold Spring business, was arraigned in Yonkers on charges of attempted first-degree rape. The 48-year-old Fishkill resident, an electrician who owns Energy Services of New York, is accused of trying to arrange sex with a 10-year-old girl.

"It's had a bad effect on us," said Viggiano, 47. "People calling up questioning, thinking it may have been me."

The calls, he said, have even extended to his wife's co-workers from those inquiring, "Did you hear about Robert?" His wife, Marisa, is a nurse at Putnam Hospital Center.

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GOP cynicism boggles the mind

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, with                   House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., right, and                   House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks                   to reporters outside the White House in Washington.                   Friday night, Feb. 11, 2011. (Photo: Associated                   Press)

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington. Friday night, Feb. 11, 2011. (Photo: Associated Press)

EASTON, Md. — February 13, 2011 — When the Republicans under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner strutted into the House, flexing their political muscle and promising to do the people’s business, something they accused the Democrats of neglecting, they said it would be all about jobs and the economy.  As of today there are no GOP job bills on the horizon. 

Is this incompetence or cynical politics?  You decide.

Actually the House Republicans are making good on their promise not to work as hard the Democrats did by passing fewer bills.  Fewer bills supposedly translate into less government.

Just look at their schedule for the last two months and you will see they’re already keeping their promise.  When not taking off for official holidays, they are barely there:  two weeks on and one week off.  And Fridays are usually travel days.

No wonder there are no jobs bills.

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Congress Voting to Kill Public Radio

Extremists in Congress have introduced six — yes, six — bills that would slash all funding for NPR, PBS and other public media.

Now, they’re rushing the issue to a vote, trying to pull the plug on the news, arts and educational programming on which more than a hundred million Americans rely. The vote to cut all funding could happen as soon as next week!

A few brave members of Congress have spoken out against this assault on public media, and sided with the American people. With your help, we can get more members to take a stand:

It’s a disgrace to see the extremes to which members of the “People’s House” will go to silence what the public says, in poll after poll, are their most valued sources of news and programming. These outrageous political attacks need to stop. Here’s why:

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Brewery Ommegang Statement on Hydrofracking for Shale Gas.

 Brewery Ommegang has completed a close examination of the development of hydrofracking for natural gas in Otsego County. We reviewed detailed and extensive information provided by gas industry professionals, publications and supporters of hydrofracking who propose that drilling is safe, necessary, and will be an economic boost to Otsego County. We also reviewed information from gas industry professionals who are opponents of hydrofracking, as well as environmental and historic groups who contend that the permitting procedure is flawed, drilling is not safe, our currently pure water is endangered; and economic benefits will not be realized. We have endeavored to be thoroughly objective in our analysis and we will make available the information we have gathered to anyone who is interested in understanding both sides of the argument.

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Chamber of Commerce’s lobbyists solicited hackers to sabotage unions and smear its political opponents

ThinkProgress has learned that a law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the big business trade association representing ExxonMobil, AIG, and other major international corporations, is working with set of “private security” companies and lobbying firms to undermine their political opponents, including ThinkProgress, with a surreptitious sabotage campaign.

According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. Hunton And Williams’ attorney Richard Wyatt, who once represented Food Lion in its infamous lawsuit against ABC News, was hired by the Chamber in October of last year. To assist the Chamber, Wyatt and his associates, John Woods and Bob Quackenboss, solicited a set of private security firms — HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop tactics for damaging progressive groups and labor unions, in particular ThinkProgress, the labor coalition called Change to Win, the SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and

According to one document prepared by Team Themis, the campaign included an entrapment project. The proposal called for first creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” to give to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then to subsequently expose the document as a fake to undermine the credibility of the Chamber’s opponents. In addition, the group proposed creating a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with Change to Win. View a screenshot below:

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Nation turned its back on rights abuses

Natalie O'Brien
February 13, 2011

Mamdouh Habib went from being a Lakemba coffee-shop owner looking for a new life to a terrorism suspect, tortured, jailed without charge, vilified and finally paid hush money by the federal government. The Sun-Herald traces his journey.

TEN years ago Mamdouh Habib left his home in Birrong in Sydney's west on an Emirates flight bound for Dubai, then Pakistan and ultimately disaster.

It was July 2001, just a few months before the September 11 attacks when Osama bin Laden would become the world's most wanted man.

But the father of four says he was already being hounded by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and by the time he boarded the plane, he had had enough. Never afraid to speak his mind, Habib had experienced run-ins with and received threats from another Lakemba man, Bilal Khazal, whom he described as a bully and is now in jail for terrorism-related offences. He had just lost his contract cleaning business and he felt Australia was no longer the place to bring up his family.

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Congressman Ron Paul booted from conservative group for anti-war views

The conservative group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) announced Saturday that Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) would be expelled from the group's National Advisory Board because of his "delusional and disturbing alliance with the fringe Anti-War movement."

"It is a sad day in American history when a one-time conservative-libertarian stalwart has fallen more out of touch with America’s needs for national security than the current feeble and appeasing administration," YAF’s Senior National Director Jordan Marks said in a statement.

"Rep. Paul's refusal to support our nation's military and national security interests border on treason, aside from his failure to uphold his oath to the United States Constitution and defend our country and citizens against all enemies, foreign and domestic," Marks continued.

According to the group's founding statement of principles, the Sharon Statement, "American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?"

Supporters of Ron Paul shouted down former Vice President Dick Cheney at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday, in a sign of a growing foreign policy rift on the American right.

Young Americans for Freedom helped to found the CPAC 38 years ago along with other conservative organizations, such as the American Conservative Union.

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Gay rights champion aims to become Republican presidential candidate

Fred Karger, a gay candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, campaigns at a town hall meeting in Keene, New Hampshire Photograph: Matthew Cavanaugh

Fred Karger walked into a coffee shop in Manhattan looking every inch the sort of man who wants to be a Republican presidential candidate.

The long-time "Grand Old Party" operative, who has served three different Republican presidents, had close-cropped grey hair and wore a sharp blue business suit. He clutched a folder of campaign literature and handed out a T-shirt emblazoned with "Iowa 2012". But one key detail made Karger a little different in a Republican field swirling with names like Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. On his suit lapel Karger wore a badge pairing the Stars and Stripes with the rainbow colours of the gay rights movement.

Karger, 61, whose 2012 presidential exploratory committee is perhaps the furthest advanced of any potential Republican candidate, is openly gay. When he officially declares his run, he will not only be the first gay Republican presidential candidate but also the first such candidate from any political party in American history. "I am a fighter and I am trying to change the Republican party and to open it up to everybody. If every gay person left the Republican party and went to the Democrats, that would be stupid. I believe in smaller federal government and personal responsibility just like my hero, Ronald Reagan," Karger said over a chicken salad sandwich and a cola.

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