Wednesday, February 9, 2011

News That Matters - Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - The "Pass This On" Edition

News That Matters

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This edition of News That Matters is the, "Pass This On Edition" meaning that you're almost required to forward a copy to pretty much everyone you know who lives in Putnam County, especially if you live in Philipstown. Why? Because Philipstown - quite mysteriously - has the fewest readers. But wherever you are forward this issue on to those you don't think are readers. They'll thank you!

Good Wednesday Morning,

News That Matters has climbed from 26,125th place in the blog world to 26,044th though inching is more like it I guess. But considering we're not even trying we'll be in the top one-hundred in 27 years, 6 months and 21 days.

In light of the Huffington Post being purchased by AOL for $315 million, News That Matters is also for sale for the the bargain-basement price of $180,000, fully negotiable.

Before some right-wing CEO from Garrison snaps us up and the weekend Things To Do editions become lists of regional prayer breakfasts featuring Sarah Palin or Dick Cheney as their keynote speakers, if your organization is having an event that is actually of interest please send it to us ASAP in plain text format. Save the PDF and JPG files for your general email lists.

There are two important meetings taking place tomorrow (Thursday) evening.
One in Carmel at 7PM, where the Putnam County Legislature will most likely vote to request that the State allow Putnam County to continue our 1% sales tax extension for another year.

They will use every excuse in the book why it's essential: They'll blame "unfunded mandates" as if those programs would be paid for by someone else if Albany handled them. They'll cry and beg and moan and be all haughty but in the end they could cut the county budget and odds are they don't have the cajones to do it in any meaningful way.

Here's what we need to hear County Executive Eldridge and Legislative Chair Tamagna say: "The county has a plan to cut government spending by $11 million this year, by an additional $15 million next year and by $18 million the year after thus negating the need for the sales tax extension."

(And a ban on any new senior housing developments would certainly help keep the budgets in line.)

Watch for a huge contingent of flag-waving Tea Baggers to come out to fight against the extension. Okay, they're essentially dead in the area. Maybe just former county Legislator Maryellen Odell will speak against it?

The second meeting is taking place in Garrison at the Desmond Fish library from 7PM - 9PM. State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef has invited Assemblyman Kevin Cahill to discuss his bill A447 which would shift the burden of school funding from property taxes to income taxes. Joining Mr. Cahill will be Frank Mauro from the Public Policy Institute, Edmund J. McMahon, the director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy and Martin Reid, Deputy Director of Government Relations from the NY School Boards Association. At the Desmond Fish Library, 472 Route 403 (at the intersection of Route 9D). Call 914 941-1111 for more information.

Got Duct Tape?  The Kent Public Library Does!

Teens in grades 9-12 are invited to join us for Duct Tape Creations today at 3:30pm. They have a large supply of multicolored duct tape available for you to make your own unique Duct Tape Creations! Space is limited and registration is required. Click here to register.

(Un)Friendly Neighbor of the Month:

From the January 30, 2011 edition of the New Yorker Magazine, "Fox Among the Chickens" by Peter J. Boyer

Roger Ailes, for his part, had grown impatient with the charge that he and his wide were trying to impose a Fox News sovereignty upon an enlightened and un-willing Hudson Highlands. "There have been days when I've been tempted to just take a couple of Fox News trucks and park 'em on the street, so they could assume we were up there doing something," Ailes says. "We have very studiously avoided bringing Fox News into the community. Now they act like it's come in, because we moved there. But if they continue to push me, why, we might have to introduce it someday and just scare the hell out of them"

For $29.95 you can buy a neoprene or spandex wristband with 2 holograms on it, each infused with specific energies that when worn are reported to enhance athletic performance. Power Balance has sold 3 million of these babies with no guarantees of success, yet several famous sports figures have endorsed them including Lamar Odom and Shaquille O'Neal. But does it work? Can it? The Power Balance website says this:
While we have received testimonials and responses from around the world about how Power Balance™ has helped people, there is no assurance it can work for everyone. That's why we offer a no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. If you're not satisfied, just return the product within 30 days with proof of purchase.
But that wasn't good enough for Brian Casserly of Greenwood Lake in Orange County who is suing the company. His lawyer claims that it's "biologically impossible for two holograms to affect your strength or performance".

Well, duh!

But wearing one, (and getting caught with your $29.95 pants-down), does enhance your ability to participate in the Classic American sport of trying to get rich by suing to cover your embarrassment. But here's the problem: for all this time no one in the world knew Mr. Casserly even existed. Now we all know he's a gullible sap.

From the Hudson Valley Film Commission:
Columbia University MFA thesis filmmaker seeks 1-4 bedroom modest suburban house in which to shoot a short film. Seeking a standalone house, with yard and garage. We have full liability insurance, are very professional, and always take great care of the places we shoot.

The film is about a lonely and bored man who thinks his dog, Maximo, can talk. He enlists the help of his coworker, Cynthia, to help him uncover Maximo's secret. It is a offbeat romantic comedy.

The filmmaker, Jed Cowley, has produced, directed, and edited various short films, including The Loss of a Wrestling Match, which was an official selection at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Shooting will take place Feb 21-25, with a couple days prep. Ideally, the house would be empty for those days, whether you're away on vacation or have somewhere else to stay. Some scenes take place at night, and we might have to shoot until late. Shoot days will be 12-14 hour days.

We can guarantee that your home will be treated with care and respect by our small crew. And of course we'd provide credit in the film, and DVD copies when it's finished. This is a great way to make money while you're out of town, and help some students with a fun and exciting project.

We are willing to pay a usage fee. Please email (jedcowley at gmail dot com) with photos, location, and questions. We'd be happy to tell you more about the project and logistics.

Mubarak died and met the late presidents Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser in the afterlife. They asked him: Poisoned or assassinated? He replied: Neither, Facebook!

And now, The News:

From the Field: 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.

January 29, 2011; Isla Aguirre, Seno Quo Vadis, 54°34’S, 71°59’W

Our two days in Punta Arenas seemed to drag on after such a great first part of our expedition. However, it did mean we were able to pick up Matt and buy a few things to tweak the moss dryers. On the morning of January 28 we returned to the port to board our trusty ship. Going out onto the dock, the ship, which was sandwiched between a large naval vessel and a massive cruise ship, looked even smaller. A number of the passengers disembarking from the cruise ship stopped and asked what we were doing. As soon as I hear an American accent I tell them “Your tax dollars at work!” and briefly explain the project. I think it is important for them to know that their taxes pay for something more than war.

Shortly after we untied from the dock and headed south, once again motoring through the Straits of Magellan, a pod of at least ten dolphins joined our ship. They criss-crossed in front of our ship for over an hour, seemingly doomed to a collision which never came. The same time the sea was remarkably calm; even in canals where we had previously encountered violent water, the ship hardly rocked. The captain chose to take an inland passage rather than the more commonly used Cockburn Canal. We seemed, time and again, to enter into a dead end sound, only at the last minute to watch it turn into a previously invisible sound. A short time later the passage we had just come from had similarly disappeared. Going down these narrow waterways, as opposed to wide canals, gave us a better view of the incredible forests that march up the shores. Although continuously overcast, the evening light was almost luminescent and navigating through a veritable maze of islands was a special experience. Once again I delighted in Matt’s reaction to the astounding landscapes, as I had with the others in our group the previous week.

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West Point Foundry Preserve Plans Move Ahead

By Kevin Foley

Land conservation and historic preservation organization Scenic Hudson’s plans for the group’s 87-acre West Point Foundry Preserve property inched forward at the Cold Spring Planning Board workshop last Tuesday, Jan. 25. The nearly three-hour session was spent parsing over some of the multitude of details comprising the ambitious $3.6 million proposal to create an educational and recreational historic heritage site intended to draw visitors from up and down the Hudson Valley  - – and beyond.

As reported last summer, the preserve is now linked to nearby properties under the umbrella of the West Point Foundry Archaeological Site and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as having national significance. The other properties are, Foundry Dock Park, the Kemble estate (both owned by Scenic Hudson), the Chapel of Our Lady Restoration, and the Putnam County Historical Society and Foundry School Museum. Scenic Hudson’s plans include the construction of a sculptural water wheel to demonstrate power generation at the original Civil War foundry where armaments were manufactured, and a replica of a former lookout tower for testing the famous Parrott Gun artillery piece. Other amenities will include landscaped walking trails and roads, educational programs, picnic areas, as well as enhanced cultivation of the natural areas.

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EPA Stormwater Rulemaking: Submit Your Case Studies

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated a national rulemaking process to establish a new program to reduce stormwater discharges from new development and as well as redevelopment. During this process, the EPA is expected to evaluate green infrastructure design techniques that mimic natural water processes, including approaches that infiltrate and recharge, evapotranspire, and harvest and reuse precipitation. Landscape architects are currently working with many communities to employ green infrastructure design techniques that address stormwater management and other water quality issues. To show the EPA how green infrastructure works, submit case studies about successful stormwater management projects. Demonstrate to the EPA that green infrastructure is a highly-effective and cost-efficient approach to improving the quality of the water supply.

Specifically, EPA’s new rulemaking process seeks to establish requirements to control stormwater discharges from new development and redevelopment; develop a single set of consistent stormwater requirements for all Municipal Separate Sanitary Sewer Systems (MS4s); require MS4s to address stormwater discharges in areas of existing development through retrofitting the sewer system or drainage area with improved stormwater control measures; and explore specific stormwater provisions to protect sensitive areas.

In 2006, EPA requested the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a review of its stormwater program. In October 2008, NRC released its report Urban Stormwater Management in the United States (The National Academies Press, 2009), which found, among other things, that “the rapid conversion of land to urban and suburban areas has profoundly altered how water flows during and following storm events, putting higher volumes of water and more pollutants into the nation’s rivers, lakes, and estuaries. These changes have degraded water quality and habitat in virtually every urban stream system.”  The report recommends a number of actions, including conserving natural areas, reducing hard surface cover (e.g., roads, parking lots, impervious surfaces), and retrofitting urban areas with features that hold and treat stormwater. 

Throughout 2010, the EPA held a number of listening sessions across the country to hear views, ideas and input from various stakeholders. The EPA has also issued “Information Collection Requests” and other data collection questionnaires to gather information and assess what revisions are needed to its stormwater requirements. After reviewing and analyzing the data, EPA intends to issue a draft rule in September of 2011 and a final stormwater rule sometime in 2012.

 Submit your green infrastructure case studies by March 31, 2011.

Automation Domination: Robotic Hydroponic Lettuce Farm in Belgium

Today we look at an automated hydroponic lettuce farm in Belgium.

The steady march of industrial automation continues to envelop the world. Many of us have a quaint early 20th century vision of agriculture, but the truth is that the farmer of the 21st century is a machine. Case in point: lettuce. With new hydroponic techniques, companies are able to grow lettuce in large indoor fields where crops are sorted, planted, and grown automatically. Robots are instrumental to all steps of the process. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below. It shows the day to day automation for a hydroponic farm in Belgium. Those bots seem to have a pretty green thumb.

While I’m unsure of the exact location of the farm, I can tell that the robotics systems used are from Hortiplan, a horticultural automation company based out of the Netherlands. The hydroponic rows you see being filled and maneuvered are part of their Mobile Gully System. The MGS not only plants the lettuce and arranges it in the field, it also moves the crop along as it develops, and delivers it to the right part of the greenhouse for harvest. That picking is done by hand. You can see some (mediocre) clips of the process on the Hortiplan YouTube channel.

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State Reform panel yet to gather

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has hit the ground running with plans for budget cuts and the push for an on-time budget. But one of the key components of his plan to revitalize state government, the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission, has yet to hold its first meeting, and not all of its members have been named.

While some lawmakers are agitating to get started, the Cuomo camp says work has already begun in-house. And the delay in naming all 20 members of the SAGE Commission could actually be the result of Cuomo's strategy.

According to those with knowledge of situation, the governor is reaching out to nationally known business leaders to serve alongside lawmakers on SAGE. By enlisting marquee names -- including some Republicans -- Cuomo will attempt to armor himself for a fierce pushback by lawmakers, public sector unions and others when he tries to carry out SAGE's mission, which is to downsize state government by 20 percent.

Cuomo already has a well-known name from the business world, Paul Francis, heading the commission. Francis, who was state budget director under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, has also served as chief financial officer for and retailer Ann Taylor.

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Bard College Named Nation's No. 1 Dinner Party School

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY—The Princeton Review announced this week that Bard College has topped its annual ranking of the nation's biggest dinner party schools.

The liberal arts college, which is located in New York's Hudson Valley and last year placed third on the list, has long been notorious for its active dinner party scene and consistently ranks near the top in such categories as roasting pine nuts with friends while discussing summer internships, and cooking with woks.

"Whether it's an intimate gathering of friends making vegetarian lasagna or an all-out potluck for studio-art majors, Bard students like to throw dinner parties, and they like to throw dinner parties hard," an excerpt from the rankings read. "It's almost impossible to walk the campus of this 2,000-student college on a Friday night and not hear the sound of Yellow Tail Pinot Noir bottles uncorking and Brian Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets album wafting across the quad."

"Potential applicants are advised to save some room for homemade vegan snickerdoodles, because this is one dinner party school that is not for lightweights," the excerpt concluded.

In surveys conducted by the Princeton Review, more than 80 percent of the students at Bard said they attend dinner parties "frequently to quite frequently," and another 60 percent said they regularly neglect their studies in order to pick up artisanal cheeses at the market in town.

The article quotes students who described the school's rampant "seven days a week" dinner party culture and the widespread popularity of on-campus herb gardening.

"People go crazy here with the dinner parties," said freshman Michael Lee, who claimed he knew about the school's reputation for all-evening-long dinner parties when he applied for admission, but found it even more pervasive than he'd expected. "I've been to dinner parties where guys show up with baguettes under both arms and just go for hours talking about Joanna Newsom or whatever. It's nuts."

Other students on campus claimed that some dinner parties carry on into brunch the next morning, and in many cases produce leftovers that can "last all weekend."

Bard administrators said steps in recent years to curb the school's rampant dinner party culture have met with mixed results.

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What Can The US Do In Egypt?

An Editorial by Jeff Green

Anti-American sentiment is beginning to find a place among pro-Democracy demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Cairo. President Obama is taking his time demanding that Hosni Mubarak resign his office and/or leave the country, taking his stolen $70 billion wealth with him.

But President Obama has recent history staring him down: The last time the United States took the side of pro-Democracy demonstrators was in 1979 when President Carter withdrew support for the Shah of Iran with the result being the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the shit-storm that has caused since. But Kohmeini's rise had more to do with US reluctance (Carter, Ford, Reagan, Bush I) to face down Mr. Khomeini than anything else. And when pro-Democracy Iranians took to the street by the hundreds of thousands in 2010, the United States remained largely silent while the government of Iran slaughtered thousands of Iranians and quashed the demonstrations with an iron fist. At the same time our allies increased their investment in that country and contracted for additional oil exports thus strengthening the Iranian government.

But Egypt is not Iran and the "dreaded" Muslim Brotherhood is not likely to move toward a theocratic constitution as Egypt, unlike Iran of 1979, depends almost entirely on foreign tourists and hard currency for its survival. Additionally, the demonstrators in Egypt present a cosmopolitan and progressive face that is different than their neighbors, is more western and looks to a future free from theocratic dominance.

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