Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fw: New Ken Arnold schools hire collection agency

From: "Bob Logue" <

The Valley News Dispatch news story below is self-explanatory.  But note, there is no mention of how the collection process would change for so called 'delinquent' homeowners.  The question that needs to be asked is:  Will Public Asset Managment be free to add fees to the 'delinquent' homeowners back taxes, penaties and interest.  I don't know how that firm operates, but have read in other publications that another firm immediately adds $1,000 to any back taxes for each property.  Which of course makes it even more unlikely the homeowner can dig themselves out of the hole...which means more sheriff sales.

Also, in the past, those homes 'delinquent' the longest were the ones that would be sold at sheriff sale first.  In some areas I've read about in other newspapers, how long the home is 'delinquent' no longer determines when a property will be sold at sheriff sale.  Vultures looking to get rich off someone else's misery can approach some of these collection agencies and urge them to put a more 'desirable or marketable' property up for sale before those that have been 'delinquent' longer.  So the vulture can cherry pick properties.  That way the collection company gets their money faster, as does the school district, county and municipal government.   But is that fair to someone trying to come up with the money to dig themselves out of this alleged debt when their property is rushed ahead of other properties 'delinquent' longer, but less desirable...or in other words will bring the best returns when the vultures resell it.
    The rich get richer...and the poor get evicted.

New Kensington-Arnold School District sells back tax claims to agency

By Jessica Turnbull
Friday, January 29, 2010
The New Kensington-Arnold School District will get a shot in the arm with an influx of tax revenue after it agreed to sell its claims to back taxes.
The district will receive uncollected real estate taxes upfront — about $1.43 million — from nonprofit Public Asset Management.
There is no change in the process for the taxpayers as taxes will continue to be collected by the Westmoreland Tax Claim Bureau.
"This will be an upfront injection of cash that will be added to the fund balance," said Jeffrey McVey, business manager.
In exchange for the cash influx, the district sold its tax claims for all uncollected taxes, McVey said. That means uncollected taxes will be sent by the tax bureau to Public Asset Management instead of the district, he said.
The board voted, 8-0, in favor of the agreement. Board member Eric Doutt was absent.
A transactional cost of 5 percent — estimated at $88,200 — is financed through the lender, he said. Current delinquent taxes are valued at $850,000 while delinquent taxes for the previous three years are estimated at $830,000.
"We will be able to budget our revenue more closely each year because we will have a better idea of what our returns will be," McVey said.
The district will benefit from the initial influx of cash and also will not need to deplete cash reserves in the future, he said. McVey said he spoke with business managers at other districts such as Mercer, Oil City and Clairton who are using Public Asset Management in a similar agreement.
"The only negative one of those managers said was that once you start, it is something you have to continue with," McVey said.
Terminating the agreement before the loan is paid means the district would have to repurchase the uncollected tax claims and the steady cash stream would be ended, he said.

Hi Bob: 
     Here is some very important news for you and the rest of the Undercover/Spedunkie readers...
     I had owed the City of Pittsburgh some back taxes due to my surgeries and not able to return to work as I had hoped...
     I had gotten a Notice that my house was to be Sherif sale (posted) unless I had made arrangements for making payments to the City...I went to the City Tax Offices and made payment arrangements and made sure I made these payments along with the current property taxes  (2009)...At times I even made payments that exceeded the payment amounts agreed upon...Now, I had called the City Tax Office today to ask why I haven't received the January Billing Statement for the past taxes...I was told that ALL back taxes to the City and payment agreements have been turned over to JORDAN TAX SERVICE as voted upon by the City Council!!!!
    I have recently filed a law suit against Jordan Tax Services for not give me accurate credit for a back tax year (surgery)...I had paid the tax of to Jordan in 3 checks totalling 285.00..The tax bill was for 284.00...I sent in checks for 100.00, 100.00 and 85.00...Jordan credited the checks as follows 100.00, 74.00, and 84.00...I sent a letter showing the check copies and Jordan never corrected the problem...Next Jordan said they were going to Lien the property...I went to the local Magistrates office and filed suit + an amount to pay off the back taxes to the city...
   If you know of people that are having any problems with Jordan Tax Service and have kept records of their payments and still have problems, people need to take Jordan Tax Services to court..Small Claims or their local Magistrates Office and ask for damages, pain, suffering and any type of legal expenses they have acrued...Otherwise I recommend a Class Action Law Suit....
   One other note is to File a Complaint with the Pennsylvania Attorney Generals Office, in so doing one must send to them copies of all payments (canceled checks (front and back)) along with the form back to the Attorney Generals Office...Their is a local office here in Pittsburgh..   Bert

Fw: Our Pittsburgh House will be open for Rent, March 1

From: Wilburn Hayden;
Our Pittsburgh House will be open for Rent, March 1
It looks like you all have had more snow and colder temperatures than we have had this winter. I am not complaining, even at 18F last night.

Please get the word out about our house being available to rent. Thanks.
91 S 24th STREET, South Side Flats Pittsburgh, PA 15203-2233
Levels: Basement, First Floor, Second Floor, & Loft; Bedrooms: 3 with Loft (29X13); Baths Full: 2; Lot: 20.17X40.25; Inclusions: Dishwasher, Electric Stove, Microwave/Convection Oven Combo, and Refrigerator; General Information: BRICK HISTORIC HOME, Built in 1880; First & Second Floors and Basement CENTRAL GAS HEAT & AIR; Loft: Gas Heat and Large Window AC; Fireplace/Wood Stove: Living Room which can heat all of the 1st floor; SKYLIGHT; CIELING FANS; Floors: Hard Wood except Kitchen - Tile and 1 Bedroom - Carpet Parking: On-Street Parking; Directions: CARSON TO 24TH STREET,-79.970276&spn=0.009865,0.022681&z=16

Rent: $1400.00 per month, plus utilities.
Contact: Wilburn Hayden, 647-344-0373 or   Available March 1, 2010

Underwater Hockey at swim practice was a blast

They need a Fix PA Wiki

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fw: PA Walks And Bikes PARTY!

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From: Pro Bikes <>
Date: Sat, 30 Jan 2010 18:40:36 -0500 (EST)
To: <>
Subject: PA Walks And Bikes PARTY!

Pro Bikes

Join Our List
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Dear Mark,

Hello All,

Join us Tuesday evening, Feb. 2nd, from 7 to 9pm at the Pro Bikes Squirrel Hill location for the Pittsburgh Launch Party of PA Walks and Bikes!!!

We at Pro Bikes are pleased to announce a partnership with a NEW Pennsylvania cycling and advocacy group, PA Walks and Bikes!!  This advocacy group will be fighting for safer and more convenient bicycling and walking in the state of Pennsylvania and is working to create more sustainable transportation and livable communities.  Pro Bikes is proud to support this group and unveil them to the Pittsburgh Community! 

Join us for an informative party/get-together at our Squirrel Hill location where you'll be able to find out exactly what this group is doing and how to support them!  Drinks and snacks will be served and staff will be on hand to answer any and all questions you might have.  For details, please  go to:


 go to:

for the complete detailed invitation!

Hope to see you all there!

Pro Bikes
5876 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15217

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S6 idea

Basketball star to speak about Mormon faith
Saturday, January 30, 2010

Former Utah Jazz star Thurl Bailey will speak about his Mormon faith Sunday at 6 p.m. in the Oakland Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The free talk is open to the public, and geared toward youth. Mr. Bailey, who was raised Baptist, spent eight years among Mormons in Utah before converting to the faith while playing basketball in Italy.

For details, call 412-831-7557.

Read more:

Friday, January 29, 2010

Trails in city parks to receive $3 million in improvements

Trails in city parks to receive $3 million in improvements The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the city's Department of Public Works has embarked on a $3.02 million improvement of trails in Schenley, Frick, Riverview and Highland parks.
Work has begun in Schenley Park and should be completed by mid-summer.
Wow. A park upgrade.

Newspapers that charge for content. How is the P-G+ going?

The New York Times decision started to build a wall in front of its content last week. Meanwhile, Newsday of Long Island did the same not long ago, as did the Post-Gazette. With Newsday, the subscriber-based content had a relaunch that reportedly cost $4 million. However, just 35 paying subscribers signed up, each paying $260 per year. Go figure: $9,000 in annualized revenue for $4 million.

The ones that live upon putting ink on dead trees seem hell-bent on killing their watchdog stature as well as their businesses.

So, how many subscribers have come into the fold with the Post Gazette Plus endeavor. Would love to know.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fw: Help SLB Win National Competition, Facebook Fun, This week's guests (1/30)...

SLB (Saturday Light Brigade) has entered the 2010 HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition with a request for funding that would allow us to serve more youth in their own neighborhoods via SLB Express: Digital Mobile Media Lab, a green-energy-powered van that would contain work stations and field equipment allowing hands-on instruction in digital storytelling, audio production, photography and videography. In addition to exposing youth to technology firsthand, instruction would emphasize scientific and engineering principals underlying media creation and provide career exploration. Project partners include the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and PCTV21.

An important aspect of the competition is pujblic feedback and we have been encouraged to ask you to post your support and ideas.. Please visit to read and comment on The SLB Express. Working together, we can bring a great new resource to youth in our region! Comments are due 2/13. Thanks.

Facebook for SLB

More and more people are playing our on-air puzzles and games on Facebook. You can join in on the fun at as you listen live via one of our 7 affiliates or at

This week's Saturday Light Brigade will feature great acoustic music and plenty of puzzles for your on-air participation. Special guests include:

-- 7:20 am: Sarah DiLeo previews Unblurred, the monthly arts event put on by the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative. We'll also be joined by Flora Shepherd, a puppeteer who will be holding a walk-in shadow puppet-making workshop as well as a musical, country-western puppet show with local musician Missy Raterman at Voluto Coffee, 5467 Penn Avenue, 2/5, 6 to 9 pm.

-- 8:20 am: National touring children's musician and longtime SLB friend Justin Roberts previews his 1/31 (3 pm) show at the Rex Theater..

-- 10:05 am: Pianist Billy Robertson, a fourth grade student at Donaldson Elementary School, West Allegheny School District, plays live as part of our Youth Expression Showcase.

-- 10:35 am: Our Big Brother Big Sister of the Month feature welcomes Jinny Morgan and little sister Emily to our studios. They'll be joined by Sandra Eritano, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.

-- 11:05 am: The Beagle Brothers perform live in our studios with their mix of country, old-time and honky-tonk music.

As always, you're welcome to be part of our live broadcast. Simply stop by our studios when the Children's Museum opens at 10 am. For directions, see Admission to our studios is free. Afterward, consider touring all of the museum (admission applies).

Thanks for being part of The Saturday Light Brigade!

SLB Radio Productions is a non-profit that has produced public radio from Pittsburgh since 1978. We produce a program of live music and talk ("The Saturday Light Brigade", Saturdays, 6 to noon), weekday workshops and related activities for children and adults from our studios in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No iPad will ever belong to its owner

Today, Apple launched a computer that will never belong to its owner. Apple will use Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to gain total veto power over the applications you use and the media you can view.

We've launched a petition calling out Apple's new product for what it is: a frightening step backward for computing and for media distribution. Can you read it, sign it, and share with friends?

Also, when you've signed, please take the time to share the petition on sites like and Reddit:

Defective by Design's John Sullivan is on the ground at the Apple event with a group of protesters, letting the public and journalists know about the "Restriction Zone" Apple is constructing around their products. We'll be posting images from the event throughout the day, so sign the petition and please check back frequently and help us circulate these images.

This summer we saw the dangers of DRM on ebook readers, when Amazon deleted hundreds of copies of George Orwell's 1984 from readers' computers while they slept. Applying this control to a general purpose computer marketed especially for media distribution is a huge step backward for computing, and a blow to the media revolution that happened when the web let bloggers reach millions without asking for permission.

DRM and forced updates will give Apple and their corporate partners the power to disable features, restrict competition, censor news, and even delete books, videos, or news stories from users' computers while they sleep-- using the device's "always on" network connection.

Apple can say they will not abuse this power, but their record of App Store rejections gives us no reason to trust them. The Apple Tablet's unprecedented use of DRM to control all capabilities of a general purpose computer is a dangerous step backward for computing and for media distribution; we demand that Apple remove DRM from the device.

Thank you for your support!

The Vancouver Olympic Blues

by Dave Zirin
When I arrived in Vancouver, the first thing I noticed was the frowns.

The International Olympic Committee has leased every sign and billboard in town to broadcast Olympic joy, but they can't purchase people's faces. It's clear that the 2010 Winter Games has made the mood in the bucolic coastal city decidedly overcast. Even the customs police officer checking my passport started grumbling about "$5,000 hockey tickets." Polls released on my first day in Vancouver back up this initial impression. Only 50 percent of residents in British Columbia think the Olympics will be positive and 69 percent said too much money is being spent on the Games.

"The most striking thing in the poll is that as the Olympics get closer, British Columbians are less likely to see the Games as having a positive impact," said Hamish Marshall, research director for the pollster, Angus Reid. "Conventional wisdom was that as we got closer to the Olympics, people here would get more excited and more supportive." If the global recession hadn't smacked into the planning last year, with corporate sponsors fleeing for the hills, maybe the Vancouver Olympic Committee would be on more solid ground with residents. But public bailouts of Olympic projects have decisively altered the local mood.

I spoke to Charles, a bus driver, whose good cheer diminished when I asked him about the games. "I just can't believe I wanted this a year ago," he said. "I voted for it in the plebiscite. But now, yes. I'm disillusioned." This disillusion is developing as the financial burden of the Games becomes public. The original cost estimate was $660 million in public money. It's now at an admitted $6 billion and steadily climbing. An early economic impact statement was that the games could bring in $10 billion. Price Waterhouse Coopers just released their own study showing that the total economic impact will be more like $1 billion. In addition, the Olympic Village came in $100 million over budget and had to be bailed out by the city.

Security was estimated at $175 million and the final cost will exceed $1 billion. These budget overruns are coinciding with drastic cuts to city services. On my first day in town, the cover of the local paper blared cheery news about the Games on the top flap, while a headline announcing the imminent layoff off 800 teachers was much further down the page.

As a staunch Olympic supporter, a sports reporter from the Globe and Mail said to me, "The optics of cuts in city services alongside Olympic cost overruns are to put it mildly, not good."

But these aren't just p.r. gaffs to Vancouver residents, particularly on the eastside of the city where homelessness has spiked. Carol Martin who works in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, the most economically impoverished area in all of Canada, made this clear: "The Bid Committee promised that not a single person would be displaced due to the Games, but there are now 3,000 homeless people sleeping on Vancouver's streets and these people are facing increased police harassment as they try to clean the streets in the lead up to the Games."

I strolled the backstreets of the downtown eastside and police congregate on every corner, trying to hem in a palpable frustration and anger. Anti-Olympic posters wallpaper the neighborhood, creating an alternative universe to the cheery 2010 Games displays by the airport. The Vancouver Olympic Committee has tried to quell the crackling vibe by dispersing tickets to second-tier Olympic events like the luge. It hasn't worked.

The people of the downtown eastside and beyond are developing a different outlet for their Olympic angst. For the first time in the history of the games, a full-scale protest is being planned to welcome the athletes, tourists, and foreign dignitaries.

Bringing together a myriad of issues, Vancouver residents have put out an open call for a week of anti-game actions. Different demonstrations on issues ranging from homelessness to indigenous rights have been called. Protesters from London and Russia, site of the next two Olympics will be there. Expect a tent city, expect picket signs, expect aggressive direct actions. Tellingly, according to the latest polls, 40 percent of British Columbia residents support the aims of the protesters, compared to just 13 percent across the rest of Canada. Harsha Walia of the Olympic Resistance Network said, "We are seeing increasing resistance across the country as it becomes more visible how these Games are a big fraud."

The Games will also coincide with the largest and longest-standing annual march in Vancouver, the Feb. 14 Memorial Women's March meant to call attention to the hundreds of missing and murdered women -- particularly indigenous women -- in British Columbia. The Vancouver Olympic Committee asked the Memorial March organizing if they would change the route of the march for the Olympic Games. As Stella August, one of the organizers with the downtown eastside Power of Women Group, said to me, "We are warriors. We have been doing this for 19 years and we aren't going to bow down to the Olympics."

One thing is certain: if you are in Vancouver, and competitive curling doesn't get your blood pumping, there will be quite the spectacle outside the arena.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Education Week: Scholars Identify 5 Keys to Urban School Success

Education Week: Scholars Identify 5 Keys to Urban School Success Scholars Identify 5 Keys to Urban School Success

Heinz Endowments: Special Initiatives

Heinz Endowments: Special Initiatives The Heinz Endowments is seeking proposals for programs in targeted priority areas that will improve and increase life opportunities for African American boys and young men.

Reboot FCC dot gov


Tempers flare during wage debate

Tempers flare during wage debate: "Tempers flare during wage debate
City Council members squabble over competing bills"

Bruce Kraus ruins South Side a little more...tries to BAN NEW RESTAURANTS - Pittsburgh - Pennsylvania (PA) - Page 2 - City-Data Forum

Bruce Kraus ruins South Side a little more...tries to BAN NEW RESTAURANTS - Pittsburgh - Pennsylvania (PA) - Page 2 - City-Data Forum: "Bruce Kraus ruins South Side a little more...tries to BAN NEW RESTAURANTS"

Symposium on corruption = fit for Pittsburgh

If you don't understand history, it is easy to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Saving Communities is planning a symposium on corruption, in March 2010.

This March 21 marks the 100th anniversary of the day when 41 indictments were handed down against Pittsburgh city councilmen, industrialists and banking executives for graft, bribery and corruption. Even more council members avoided indictment by rushing to turn themselves in on the promise of reduced sentences for big offenses and clemency for smaller ones, provided that incumbent grafters resigned from office. One council member, thinking he had missed the deadline, even interrupted court proceedings by rushing into the courtroom, falling on his knees before the judge and tearfully begging to be included in the clemency deal for those who "came clean."

It was (and probably still is) the greatest municipal scandal in US history, and it resulted in a complete restructuring of Pittsburgh's city government. That is, the existing city charter was dissolved and all the council members were fired. A new charter was created by the state legislature, and new city council members were appointed by the
governor to serve until elections could be held.

The strong-mayor "boss" system common to machines in the late 1900s was replaces with a strong-council, weak-mayor system. The new council proceeded to replace contract patronage with civil service, to substitute the more progressive land value tax for property tax, and to enact other measures that were favored by progressive-era reformers.

Over the years, organizations representing the same interests that had corrupted the old government have slowly modified the structure in the direction of resembling the original corrupt structure, and have added new incentives for corruption, including, but not limited to, corporate-welfare subsidies. Central to these undemocratic modifications has been the return of the strong-mayor system. The new structure of county government, with a very strong executive and a very weak, underpaid and understaffed council, is even worse.

The proposed symposium is NOT about pointing fingers at this or that elected official. Rather, it is about how some structures of government are inherently more corruptible than others. We do not want to distract from the question of structure by focusing on personality.

Some opening topics will be,

1.) A description of Pittsburgh's most corrupt era, and the scandal that
finally toppled it.
1.a.) The notorious Magee-Flinn machine.
1.b.) The failure of earlier reforms that merely cast new players into old
1.c) The final scandal
1.d) The "ripper" bill that abolished Pittsburgh's government.
1.e.) Sources
1.e.1.) Lincoln Steffens, "Pittsburg, A City Ashamed"
1.e.2.) George Swetnam, Pittsburgh's bicentennial historian
1.e.3.) Contemporary newspaper articles, etc.

3). The original, corrupt structure
3.a.) Strong mayor
3.b.) Bi-cameral council

4.) The central reforms of the Progressive Era, how some reforms were
incorporated into the new government, and how others were prevented.

5.) The gradual restructuring of government once these reforms were in
place, to resemble the original, corrupt structure.

5.a.) Home rule charter
5.a.1.) Expanded mayoral powers, weakened council
5.a.2.) Line item veto
5.a.2.a) Stronger than Presidential veto that was struck down
5.a.2.b.) Results in new bill passed without a majority on council
5.b.) Council by district
5.b.1.) Increases the mayor's leverage
5.b.1.a.) Mayor's can punish a council member's entire district.
5.b.1.b.) District interests vs. city interests
5.b.1.c.) Can play one district off against another
5.b.2.) Only a problem within a strong-mayor system

The following are some contemporary issues to address: The key is that we tie these issues to the theme of the symposium - how they accommodate

1.) The curse of the strong executive: Why systems dominated by the
legislative branch are inherently more democratic and less corruptible.

1.a.) Councils inherently more democratic
1.a.1.) More accessible to ordinary people
1.a.2.) Deliberates in public

1.b.) Roots of the strong-executive model
1.b.1.) Monarchy
1.b.2.) Appointed colonial governors
1.b.3.) Alexander Hamilton and the "Federalists"
1.b.4.) Continued support from special interests

2.) "Privatization," particularly in the form of contract-patronage and
monopoly franchises. Possible sub-topics include:

2.a.) Contract patronage

2.a.1.) HIring Sabre Systems as an excuse to get one whistleblowing
assessor with a seniority of 83 by laying off 85 assessors, and the
botched assessments that resulted.

2.a.2.) Private tax collectors, etc.

2.b.) Franchise patronage - government-licensed monopolies

2.b.1.) A comparison of Duquesne Light to Cleveland's "Muni Electric."
(This could be a simple price and value comparison, but we might also
find interesting histories.)

2.b.2.) Proposals to turn public utilities over to private firms on long-
term leases.

3.) The domination of banking interests on public policy.
3.a.) Banking corruption in the early 1900s
3.b.) The influence of bond-selling on public policy today.

3.) The proliferation of authorities
3.a.) Neither political nor economic accountability
3.b.) Their role in strengthening the strong-mayor system
3.c.) Off-loading debt onto authorities to evade constitutional debt

4.) Tax Increment Financing and other corporate-welfare subsidies.

5.) The impact of complexity on accountability.

6.) Things we could afford to do if we weren't doing things we shouldn't

7.) What can we do about it?

If you have an interest in this symposium, or have ideas on speakers,
topics, etc., please contact Dan Sullivan, as he wants to involve people from across the political spectrum.

Dan Sullivan, director
Saving Communities
631 Melwood Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (USA)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fw: [DW] New Service - World Government Data from the Guardian (UK) also includes US, Australia, New Zealand, more coming #gov20

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

-----Original Message-----
From: Steven Clift <>
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:17:21
To: newswire<>
Subject: [DW] New Service - World Government Data from the Guardian (UK) also includes US, Australia, New Zealand, more coming #gov20



Data, data, data. There's loads of it out there and more coming your
way as governments open their statistics vaults around the world.

First the US with, then Australia and New Zealand followed
suit. Now it's the UK's turn with

And that's in addition to the cities and US states that have made
government data available too: London launched very recently - you can
get the full set of links for government data sites around the world

Ever since the government appointed Sir Tim Berners-Lee as its open
data Czar (working with Prof Nigel Shadbolt from Southampton
University) it was obvious the issue was going to be big for the
government, but what does it mean for you?

You now have tens of sites around the world providing you access, but
how do you find them?

Well, this is now the place. To coincide with the launch of, we have created the ultimate gateway to world government

At World Government Data you can:

• Search government data sites from the UK, USA, Australia, New
Zealand and London (this comes under United Kingdom, if you want to
browse) in one place and download the data (more sites to come)
• Help us find the best dataset by ranking them
• Collect similar datasets together from around the world
• Browse all datasets by each country

It's all been put together with the help of developer Ben Firshman and
is the culmination of our year-long project to make data widely
available to everyone.

And, even better, we have an API available. Even though all of these
government data sites have enormous quantities of data, they are not
in the same formats. What we have done is put them into a unified
form, meaning developers have the opportunity to write applications
that compare data between different countries. If you want the data in
Atom or JSON just change the "/search" to "/search.atom" or
"/search.json" in the url. There will be full documentation on this
soon. Watch this space.

The whole project is only going to increase in size and scope. As Ben
Fry has said: "This is only going one way: there is no trend towards
less data"

Steven Clift -
Executive Director - http://E-Democracy.Org
Follow me -
New Tel: +1.612.234.7072

Group home for Newswire - Steven Clift's Democracies Online Newswire:

Replies go to members of Newswire - Steven Clift's Democracies Online Newswire with all posts on this topic here:

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Silver Lining for Vikings Fans (Politically)

by Dave Zirin

This is a day to empathize with the agony amongst the long-suffering fans of the Minnesota Vikings. With a trip to the Super Bowl in their buttery grasp, they fumbled it all away. In a game they largely dominated from start-to-finish, the Vikes lost in overtime to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game, 31-28. Miscues, interceptions, and some questionable calls will have Vikings Nation asking "what if" for the next nine months.

Yes, there is misery in Minnesota. But there is also a silver lining, and I'm not talking about the joy in Green Bay at the spectacular fall of Minnesota QB Brett Favre. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was locked and loaded to arrive at the Minnesota State Legislature on February 4 - three days before the Super Bowl - to press for a new $1 billion stadium with $700 million to be paid by the taxpayers. The Vikings, like many teams, is holding up the specter of moving the franchise to Los Angeles if they don't get a nine-figure welfare check. With the state's phony populist absentee governor Tim "Glass Jaw" Pawlenty saying little more than, "We have to keep the Vikings no matter what," Wilf was ready to roll the state's taxpayers. But now that the team has failed to reach the Big Game, the wind is out of Wilf's sails and Zygi is no longer coated with stardust. This isn't to say that Wilf won't emerge triumphant, but without the team in the Super Bowl, it's much more apparent that he will have a fight on his hands.

As Minnesota resident and dogged stadium opponent Willard Shapira wrote, "Most communities around the U.S. have caved in to such outrageous demands but socially concerned Minnesotans are fighting the Vikings tooth and nail. Others around the U.S. battling big-money and establishment power politics would take heart from a public victory over the Vikings and their gang of arrogant, plutocratic conspirators in business, politics and the media."

Remember that Minnesotans repeatedly rejected the Twins billionaire owner Carl Pohlad's efforts to get a new baseball stadium on the public dime. Despite their votes, Pawlenty rammed the $500 million facility through the legislature and it opens for business this spring. Now the owner called "the Big Bad Wilf" wants his piece of the public pie, recession be damned. The Vikings failure to make the Super Bowl makes his effort far more perilous.

On the flip side, and ever so ironically, New Orleans first trip to the Super Bowl makes it a near impossibility for the Saints owners, the Benson family, to fulfill their pre-Katrina dreams of moving their franchise to the City of Angels. If they made that move, I'm convinced that the Crescent City would implode with grief. Now, as a Super Bowl team, that move becomes a political impossibility.

Therefore in one tense contest to see who would ascend to the Super Bowl, two sets of owners saw their most treasured dreams to burn tax payers and break hearts go up in smoke. That's something all fans should cheer. Even in Minnesota.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at]
Do not comment on the MR & Running Mates blog. Use the link above.

A Running mates blog gotta wonder about top end running speed

Human running speed of 35-40 mph may be biologically possible

http://blog. /2010/01/ human_running_ speed_of_ 3540_mp.html#

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's record-setting performances have unleashed a wave of interest in the ultimate limits to human running speed. A new study published Jan. 21 in the Journal of Applied Physiology offers intriguing insights into the biology and perhaps even the future of human running speed.

The newly published evidence identifies the critical variable imposing the biological limit to running speed, and offers an enticing view of how the biological limits might be pushed back beyond the nearly 28 miles per hour speeds achieved by Bolt to speeds of perhaps 35 or even 40 miles per hour.

The new paper, "The biological limits to running speed are imposed from the ground up," was authored by Peter Weyand of Southern Methodist University; Rosalind Sandell and Danille Prime, both formerly of Rice University; and Matthew Bundle of the University of Wyoming."

The prevailing view that speed is limited by the force with which the limbs can strike the running surface is an eminently reasonable one," said Weyand, associate professor of applied physiology and biomechanics at SMU in Dallas."

If one considers that elite sprinters can apply peak forces of 800 to 1,000 pounds with a single limb during each sprinting step, it's easy to believe that runners are probably operating at or near the force limits of their muscles and limbs," he said. "However, our new data clearly show that this is not the case. Despite how large the running forces can be, we found that the limbs are capable of applying much greater ground forces than those present during top-speed forward running."

In contrast to a force limit, what the researchers found was that the critical biological limit is imposed by time — specifically, the very brief periods of time available to apply force to the ground while sprinting.In elite sprinters, foot-ground contact times are less than one-tenth of one second, and peak ground forces occur within less than one-twentieth of one second of the first instant of foot-ground contact.

The researchers took advantage of several experimental tools to arrive at the new conclusions. They used a high-speed treadmill capable of attaining speeds greater than 40 miles per hour and of acquiring precise measurements of the forces applied to the surface with each footfall. They also had subjects' perform at high speeds in different gaits. In addition to completing traditional top-speed forward running tests, subjects hopped on one leg and ran backward to their fastest possible speeds on the treadmill.

The unconventional tests were strategically selected to test the prevailing beliefs about mechanical factors that limit human running speeds — specifically, the idea that the speed limit is imposed by how forcefully a runner's limbs can strike the ground. However, the researchers found that the ground forces applied while hopping on one leg at top speed exceeded those applied during top-speed forward running by 30 percent or more, and that the forces generated by the active muscles within the limb were roughly 1.5 to 2 times greater in the one-legged hopping gait.

The time limit conclusion was supported by the agreement of the minimum foot-ground contact times observed during top-speed backward and forward running. Although top backward vs. forward speeds were substantially slower, as expected, the minimum periods of foot-ground contact at top backward and forward speeds were essentially identical.

According to Matthew Bundle, an assistant professor of biomechanics at the University of Wyoming, "The very close agreement in the briefest periods of foot-ground contact at top speed in these two very different gaits points to a biological limit on how quickly the active muscle fibers can generate the forces necessary to get the runner back up off the ground during each step."

The researchers said the new work shows that running speed limits are set by the contractile speed limits of the muscle fibers themselves, with fiber contractile speeds setting the limit on how quickly the runner's limb can apply force to the running surface.The established relationship between ground forces and speed allowed the researchers to calculate how much additional speed the hopping forces would provide if they were utilized during running."

Our simple projections indicate that muscle contractile speeds that would allow for maximal or near-maximal forces would permit running speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour and conceivably faster," Bundle said.Related links:Journal of Applied Physiology: "The biological limits to running speed are imposed from the ground up"!

Peter Wey and Matthew Bundle Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hearing Protection for Instrumental Student and Instructors

Loud sounds are the number one cause of permanent hearing loss and this type of hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. 

The result of noise exposure is ringing in the ears (tinnitus), poor pitch and loudness perception, and hearing loss.  Hearing loss impacts individuals across life activities – social, school, work, and home. 

School age children are the fastest growing population of noise-exposed individuals suffering from permanent hearing loss.  Day in and day out, instrumental music students (e.g., band and orchestra members) and their instructors are being exposed to potentially damaging levels of noise during practices and performances. 

Our goal is to educate instructors about these dangers and equip them and their students with appropriate non-custom musician earplugs.  The overall goal is to promote healthy listening habits in students that will last their whole lives.  This work is part of the Musicians’ Hearing Center which is part of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  We provide this program at no charge to the Pittsburgh Public Schools.  We are happy to come to schools and educate music instructors, students, and/or parents.  We supply non-custom musician earplugs to instrumental students and instructors (instructors are welcome to re-order each year and during the year if more earplugs are needed). 

A number of elementary, middle, and high schools already take advantage of this program.  If your school is interested in this program, contact Catherine Palmer (Director, Audiology, UPMC) at or 412-647-6089. 

Providing hearing protection during instrumental practice and performance is no different from providing safety goggles during chemistry instruction or football helmets during football activities.  The sound levels achieved in group practice and performance (orchestra and band) are loud enough to damage hearing permanently over time.  Musician earplugs allow students and instructors to be exposed to a safe level of sound and maintains the fidelity of the sound so they can play and hear the music correctly.

Please feel free to forward this/advertise this wherever you think appropriate.

Fw: Policy Brief: More Reassessment Bluster from the Chief Executive

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From: "Allegheny Institute" <>
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2010 11:37:24 -0500
To: <"Undisclosed-Recipient:;"><Invalid address>
Subject: Policy Brief: More Reassessment Bluster from the Chief Executive

Policy Brief

An electronic publication of

The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy


January 21, 2010                                                                                                       Volume 10, Number 5

  More Reassessment Bluster from the Chief Executive


"Allegheny County will comply with the court-ordered 2012 reassessment…"—press release from the Chief Executive, December 4, 2009


"I will do everything in my power to make sure [a 2012 reassessment for Allegheny County] does not happen"—quote from the Chief Executive from a County Council meeting, January 19, 2010.  Further, in speaking to reporters the Executive indicated that as Governor he would put an end to court ordered re-assessments claiming that his power to do that derived from the Supreme Court's ruling that the assessment issue is the purview of the Legislature.


The Executive's comments raise two questions.  First, what has transpired in the last forty five days to make him change his position on complying with the timeframe proposed by the County and accepted by Judge Wettick?  It is a virtual repeat of the incident that took place at an October hearing on determining a reassessment timeline when the County's Solicitor told Judge Wettick that "at this point, the County's position is that when we are told do get it done, we will get it done" only to have the Executive threaten to appeal the Judge's proposed timeline to Commonwealth Court shortly thereafter. 


Second, and more important, exactly what does the Executive mean when he says he plans on "doing everything in his power" to stop the reassessment?  There are several avenues he might try, all of which have deficiencies that will prevent the 2012 re-assessment from proceeding.


  • He could try to convince the Legislature to pass a bill instituting a moratorium on court-ordered reassessments.  Such a bill passed the House last summer but has languished in the Senate ever since; and for good reason. Enactment of a moratorium law would create a constitutional crisis by having the Legislature and the Governor countermanding a direct order of the Supreme Court regarding a constitutional issue. The bill would lead to an immediate court challenge and force the Supreme Court to declare the bill null and void. Who would enforce the law?  The situation would devolve into a crisis of massive proportions.  

If the Legislature and the moratorium bill were to prevail, the separation of governing powers would be out the window with unimaginable consequences for the state.  If the Legislature wants to do something to get around court ordered re-assessments, it should pass a constitutional amendment removing the "uniformity clause" from the constitution as it applies to property taxes or to ban property taxes altogether. Do they have the wherewithal to tackle the issue in a constitutional manner?  


  • He could try to convince the Legislature to study the issue, particularly as to how other states conduct reassessments.  The Court of Common Pleas has already provided a comprehensive picture of assessment practices around the nation, as has the Allegheny Institute. The Supreme Court decision even noted that "twenty two of our sister states require annual reassessments, while twenty six permit reassessments to be conducted at intervals over one year, although they still require periodic reassessment".  If the Executive is trying to find another state that allows for indefinitely long base year assessments, he is not going to find evidence to bolster his case.  Then too, it is a virtual impossibility that the state will have new assessment method in place by the time the court ordered reassessment goes into effect in Allegheny County. 


  • Should he attain the office of Governor, he has indicated he would try to stop court ordered reassessments including Allegheny County's.  Again, this raises issues created by a legislative moratorium. The same separation of powers problem arises.  

What's more, using the Executive's own argument that the Supreme Court has ruled that fixing the state's assessment situation is the purview of the Legislature, why would that give the Governor power to unilaterally issue an order to stop court ordered re-assessments?  Besides, the Supreme Court did not mean in its comment about the Legislature having the responsibility for reforming state assessment laws that it could countermand a direct order of the Court.


So what is left?  Here are some suggestions.  If the Executive is worried about "backdoor tax increases", that is, the revenue taxing bodies can garner after a reassessment without changing its millage rates, then push for a revenue neutral windfall.  If he is worried about any type of property tax increase (like the scores of them that occurred in Allegheny County during the time of the base year) then push for taxpayer referendum on all tax increases.  If he wants all counties treated the same, then move the assessment function to the state level, have assessments every three years, and eliminate the base year option altogether.


All of these options could happen, but none of them can, or should, absolve the County from carrying out a reassessment for 2012.  After all, it is what they promised, no matter how grudgingly, to do.   


Further, the Legislature has a moral obligation to move aggressively to rewrite the state's laws as they apply to property assessments for tax purposes. There are plenty of better models around the country to emulate. It is not rocket science. The problem is that any new law will have to require re-assessments in counties that have not done one in the past two or three years. Granted this presents a political nightmare for legislators, but it must be faced and dealt with.  

Jake Haulk, Ph.D., President                                                              Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst

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Join John Sullivan from Defective by Design at the Apple 'tablet' launch in SF.

A Message from
On Wednesday, Apple's having a launch at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for what everyone is calling the iSlate or iPad -- a tablet computer based on the iPhone. The company who once announced to the world that they opposed DRM on music has been pushing DRM in every other area of their business -- and we're here to tell them enough is enough. Come help create the counter story in the media -- take photos, talk to the press, and have fun with a little bit of theater to show that Apple is not the force for creative expression they claim to be.

Can you imagine a world where the same restrictions of the iPhone and iPod touch are applied to your laptop or tablet PC? That could very well be Apple's announcement on Wednesday -- their latest restriction.
We'll be there to warn the public and the media outside the event about Apple's support for DRM and proprietary software. We got through to Steve Jobs before on music DRM, and convinced iTunes to drop it. We know we can have success here. But we need to repeat that effort and show that DRM on Apple computers means that people who are actually interested in creativity and freedom will go elsewhere.

We'll post the precise time and meeting location for our group next week -- since Apple's event starts at 10am, attendees will be showing up at 9am, and we will want to be ready and outside the Theater by then to hand out flyers and talk to people.

John Sullivan, a veteran of our anti-Apple protests, will be there representing the FSF and coordinating the
action. Please join John, and bring friends. Let us know you're coming by replying to this email.

Fw: [DW] Amazing local to local exchange at CityCamp this weekend

------Original Message------
From: Steven Clift
To: newswire
To: E-Democracy.Org Projects Group
To: mnvoices
Subject: [DW] Amazing local to local exchange at CityCamp this weekend
Sent: Jan 24, 2010 8:56 AM is playing a convening and support role at CityCamp in
Chicago this weekend. There are 100+ locally inspired folks passionate about
tranparency, participation, and things Gov 2.0 in cities and local places
mixing it up.

I am learning how to session sort on the fly for this unconference. Watch
for the short session summary videos coming soon.

Check out the links on the top right from:

See the amazing round of introductions in center column.

The #citycamp tag has the vibe on Twitter and
http://citycamp.posterous.comis the group blog.

Later today we will launch LocalLabs an online group for locally inspired
software developers:

Steven Clift

Group home for Newswire - Steven Clift's Democracies Online Newswire:

Replies go to members of Newswire - Steven Clift's Democracies Online Newswire with all posts on this topic here:

For digest version or to leave Newswire - Steven Clift's Democracies Online Newswire,
with "digest on" or "unsubscribe" in the *subject*.

Newswire - Steven Clift's Democracies Online Newswire is hosted by Democracies Online -

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Viddler and Swimming Videos

Youtube is the undisputed leader of video-sharing, sorta like Allderdice High School swimming has been the undisputed champion of city swimming. YouTube, now owned by Google has a world-wide market share of 66%. YouTube is the boss in the market, but it isn't the best. Especially when it comes to the purpose we seek for coaching. Check out our swimming videos at Viddler, not YouTube.

Youtube and Viddler have significant differences.

Viddler has innovative features in its player. With Viddler, we can include and attach comments and tags to particular times in the video.

Probably the most significant difference between Youtube and Viddler is their encoding strategy. Files are converted to a fixed bit-rate. Youtube resamples the video to give a consistent quality at this bit-rate. Viddler does not resample the video, so the quality depends on how well the input video matches the output bit-rate.

Youtube encodes to a fixed format. Video is 320×240 25fps FLASH video, using H.263 at around 250Kbit/s. Audio is 22050Hz mono using MP3 at 64Kbit/s.

Viddler attempts to preserve the original format, changing the specs only when required to match the requirements of FLASH. Video is at the original frame size, 30fps FLASH video, using the VP6 at 400Kbit/s. Audio is in the original format (max 44Khz) using MP3 at 48Kbit/s. VP6 is the “flagship” codec for Flash Player 8, intended to deliver better quality at lower bit rates.

Youtube encodes to a lower bit rate so may work better over slower links. Youtube’s format is constant, so the quality is constant. Viddler encodes to a higher bitrate and uses more compression, so it is capable of delivering better quality although at the cost of more data and CPU processing. Viddler’s video format is variable, so the quality is also variable.

Youtube’s 320×200 format is OK for 4:3 video, but is not good for other formats. For example, 16:9 video is letterboxed so the effective resolution of the frame is only 320×180. Viddler retains the original size, so can support 16:9 or any other format.

Youtube has a limit of 10 minutes and 100Mb on uploaded videos. Viddler's limit is 500Mb without any time ceiling.

Viddler has a decent batch process if you use a more modern browser.

Viddler allows for comments in the video window seek bar.

Tags for videos and comments fit into Viddler and FaceBook too.

The comment points are displayed in the seek-bar, and you can see the comments by mousing over the comment points. Clicking jumps to that point. Comments pop up as playback reaches that point. Anyone can add narratives or explanations to a race, or highligh interesting times. Outside viewers, fans, other coaches and team mates can add their own comments as it is allowed. Those are then be shared with other viewers.

Viddler’s player generates a link to each clip. For web pages and catalog, one can embed code itself.

Viddler requires the FLASH 9 player. Youtube requires only FLASH 7 players, which means that its videos will work on a larger variety of systems including “embedded browsers” (eg. Opera the Nintendo Wii game console).

Both Youtube and Viddler have “members”, “friends” and “groups”. Youtube also has “subscribers”. Viddler also has “forums”, which seem to be implemented using “groups” on Youtube. Both sites have video “tags” and descriptions. Viddler has both “global tags” which apply to an entire video, and “timed tags” which apply to a specific time in a video. It also has timed and global comments.

Youtube allows videos to be public or private. For private videos you can nominate up to 25 users who are allowed to view the video. This is useful for example, if you just want to share a file with family members. Video files are not downloadable, although there are third-party web sites (eg. which allow you to retrieve the encoded FLASH file.

Viddler allows videos to be public, private (only accessible to you), or shared (accessible to you and your “friends”). In addition to viewing rights, Viddler allows you to control who is allowed to comment, tag, embed, or download your video. You have separate controls over downloading the original file, or the encoded flash version. This allows you to distribute high quality videos in their original format which can effectively be viewed on-line via the FLASH player. Viddler also allows you to create a “secret URL” which can be used to access a private video. This means that you can share a private video with users that are not members of the system, something that is not possible on Youtube.

Viddler offers the user many compelling features not found on Youtube:

* Support for videos longer than 10 minutes, with upload sizes to 500Mb.
* Improved control over access to shared videos
* Improved navigation via streaming play, timed tags and timed comments (note: streaming play currently unavailable)
* Support for any resolution format including 16:9
* Extensive statistics and link reporting