9:38am

Fri October 22, 2010
Morning news round-up

Unemployment numbers mixed in September

Jobs report

Papers across the state are looking at how their regions fared in the most recent jobs report from the state labor department.  The Buffalo News reports that the Buffalo-Niagara region continued to lose jobs in September, for a three month losing streak.  In Syracuse the Post-Standard reports that  unemployment in three local counties (Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego) dropped by a tenth of a percent in September, and a half a percent over the previous year.  The drop was more dramatic in the Binghamton area, according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, which notes a year-over-year drop in unemployment from 8.2 percent in September 2009, to 7.6 percent this year.

Insurance rate hikes

The state has ruled on whether or not health insurers would be able to boost rates this year.  In the Buffalo area, the Buffalo News reports that Independent Health will be able to ask for up to 9.3 percent more from larger employers.  In central New York, Excellus will be able to boost rates between 5.4 percent and 12.5 percent, according to the Post-Standard.  The health firms argued that they needed to amp up rates to deal with higher usage of health care and rising costs.

Endangered Wi-Fi

Wireless service in downtown Binghamton is getting a lot of use - but it's not getting the funding that city council hoped would surface, so the legislature is thinking about terminating the service.  The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports:

"When we first looked at free Wi-Fi for the center city, it was supposed to pay for itself in a number of years. I predicated my support based on that," said City Council President Martin J. Gerchman, D-2nd District.

That hasn't happened, and it's unfair to keep asking taxpayers to support a service that benefits only a small section of the city, he added.

Radiation fix

A former processing site for nuclear waste has been contaminating groundwater with radioactive Strontium-90 outside Buffalo.  But now there's a fix, reports the Buffalo News:

The method they've settled on — an in-ground permeable wall that works much like gravel in a Brita water filter — is expected to trap radioactive Strontium-90 for at least 20 years as groundwater passes through.

Engineers working on the project say it uses less energy, is more effective and cheaper than the traditional way of cleaning water — pumping it from the ground and treating it.

Goodbye to Grannis

The Department of Environmental Conservation has let go commissioner Pete Grannis.  He was fired on Thursday after a DEC memo about job cuts was leaked to the Times-Union.  Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell report for the Gannett papers that Grannis was asked to step down, but refused and was instead fired by the Paterson administration.  Grannis told the Times-Union that the Paterson aide that demanded his resignation was a "thug."

Full circle

A regional foodbank in Rochester is converting rotting food to ethanol to power its fleet of delivery trucks.

Foodlink distributes more than 11 million pounds of food to the community and food pantries a year. But Tom Ferraro, Foodlink's founder and executive director, said the operation has tons of spoilage each year that is disposed of in local landfills. Disposal and fuel costs are two of the Foodlink's largest expenses. The partnership is a step toward eliminating both.

Madoff lawsuit

A Syracuse financial firm is being sued by 21 area unions for losing some $150 million in retirement funds to Bernie Madoff's pyramid scheme, reports the Post-Standard.

Gas tax is off the table

An attempt to tax natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania is "clearly dead" according to the Associated Press, quoting the state's governor, Ed Rendell:

He said the failure to enact a tax on drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation will harm the environment, make it harder for local governments to deal with the impact of drilling and cause the state government financial problems.

Next generation lightbulbs

The hunt is on for replacements for incandescent and fluorescent lighting, the Times-Union reports.  Old-fashioned, energy-sucking bulbs will begin to be banned in 2012 so manufacturers like GE are hustling to bring new products online.  Among the potential replacements, writes the paper:

GE is focusing its research efforts largely on solid-state lighting. It unveiled a prototype LED bulb Thursday at its Niskayuna laboratories that produces as much light as a 100-watt halogen bulb using one-third the energy, and with an innovative cooling system that used a bellows to force air currents around the LEDs to cool them and lengthen the bulb's life.

Thirsty?

There could be water on the Moon, reports the New York Times.  Reporter Kenneth Chang offers this (moderately hilarious) hypothetical:

If astronauts were to visit this crater, they might be able to use eight wheelbarrows of soil to melt 10 to 13 gallons of water. The water, if purified, could be used for drinking, or broken apart into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel — to get home or travel to Mars.

But of course, that would require having a wheelbarrow on the moon.

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