Spring 2009

    Issue: Spring 2009

    Table of Contents

    • Are you greening your home? Tax laws currently provide a limited credit that you can take advantage of in 2009. The recently enacted Recovery Act expands and extends these credits to provide incentives for environment-minded homeowners.

      The Internal Revenue Code currently allows individual taxpayers a credit equal to 10% of the amount they pay for certain energy efficient improvements to the insulation of their residence plus designated amounts of the cost of residential energy property expenditures. That is: (a) $50 for each advanced main air circulating fan, (b) $150 for each qualified natural gas, propane, or oil furnace or hot water boiler, and (c) $300 for “qualified energy efficient property,” such as heat pumps, water heaters, and central air conditioners), up to a total of $500 over the lifetime of the taxpayer.

      To qualify, these “residential energy property expenditures” must meet specific energy efficiency criteria. Insulation improvements must (1) meet specified efficiency criteria, (2) be used for the taxpayer's principal residence, (3) be purchased new by the taxpayer, and (4) be expected to remain in use for at least 5 years.

      The credit was unavailable in 2008, but is available again for 2009.

      The recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “Recovery Act”) extends the credit for an additional year (2010), increase the $500 limit to $1500 for 2009 and 2010, and increases the credit amount from 10% to 30%.

      How do you get to work? Current tax laws allow employers to offer tax-free reimbursements for bicycle commuters. The Recovery Act provides parity between drivers and transit users.

      Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, starting in 2009, employers can reimburse up to $240 per year of “qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements,” which are reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during the year for the purchase of a bicycle and improvements, repair, or storage as a non-taxable fringe benefit to the employee. Employees taking advantage of bicycle commuting reimbursements cannot also take advantage of employer reimbursements for commuter highway vehicle transportation, transit passes, or parking benefits.

      Under prior law, the allowance for employer reimbursements of public transit and parking was unequal, permitting employees up to $230 per month of qualified parking reimbursements but only up to $120 per month if they choose transit pass reimbursements. The Recovery Act increases the transit pass benefits to $230 per month for 2009, and maintains the indexed amounts of parking reimbursement allowances and transit pass reimbursement allowances on parity for 2010 as well.

      *Leila Fusfeld is a vegan attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP specializing in business and individual taxes and tax-exempt organizations. www.drinkerbiddle.com

       This article does not constitute legal advice. You should contact a lawyer with respect to your own circumstances.

       

    • Cheers

      Cheers to owner Ken Bontius, the owner of Panacea Eco Shop — an all-vegan, organic, eco-grocery store located in Toronto, Canada. In addition to organic vegan food, Panacea also features natural health and beauty products, environmentally-friendly cleaning products, organic, fairly traded clothing and accessories, toys and gifts. Visit the store at:

      588 Bloor Street West
      Toronto , ON M6G 1K4 ( Canada)
      Phone: 647-350-3269
      E-mail: info@panaceaecoshop.com
      Web: http://www.panaceaecoshop.com/
      Store Hours:
      Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 7 pm
      Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm

      Cheers to Joseph Puentes , the creator of the H2O Podcast — a free, downloadable podcast focusing on the connection between environmentalism and veganism. Many of the podcasts are available in multiple languages including Spanish, German, French, Chinese and more. At the site, you can find easy instructions on how to download or listen to a podcast (no special equipment is required, other than a computer).

      Visit: http://h2opodcast.com/

      Jeers

      Jeers to Amanda Cohen , the owner of New York City vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy. Cohen, who is not a vegetarian, mocked vegans in recent interviews promoting the restaurant — calling some of the restaurant’s clientele “weirdos” and claiming that vegan restaurants are guided by ethics instead of a mission to serve delicious food. Anyone who’s visited a vegan restaurant in New York City — Candle 79, Pure Food and Wine, Blossom, Sacred Chow, for example — knows that both ethics and culinary expertise are valued. Let Cohen know that veganism is an important ethical choice that not only inspires some delicious cuisine, but seeks to preserve the lives of animals (including human ones) and the planet itself. There’s nothing weird about that.

      E-mail: info@dirtcandynyc.com
      Phone: 212-228-7732

      Jeers to former president George Bush who, on his way out of office, passed a last-minute gun rule that will allow loaded, concealed weapons in practically all of the nation’s national parks. According to the FBI, state parks are among the safest places in the United States. This new rule, a menace to humans and nonhumans alike, certainly stands to change that.

      Jeers to recording artist Chris Brown for being the latest celebrity to endorse the Got Milk campaign. Let Chris Brown know that milk is not necessary for anyone, except baby cows.

      Chris Brown
      c/o Jive Records
      137 W 25th St ,
      New York, NY 10001-7200

      Jeers to the Swedish-based, global home-furnishing retailer Ikea for selling reindeer animal products (in the form of salami) in the cafeterias of its Swedish-based stores, according to an article that appeared in London-based Telegraph newspaper (“Ikea Accused of Animal Cruelty for Selling Reindeer Meat; 3 Dec. 2008). According to the article, 70% of the reindeer killed are calves. Snow mobiles, helicopters and motorcycles are used to hunt down and kill stressed animals who have no means of escape. Contact Ikea, and urge them to set a policy that would take reindeer and other animals out of their stock for good.

      Phone for the North American Corporate Headquarters: 610-834-0180

      E-mail: custrel@ushelp.ikea.com

    • When my copy of Great Chefs Cook Vegan by Linda Long arrived in the mail, at first I didn’t know what to do with it. Does this hardcover book belong on my coffee table, or alongside my large collection of cookbooks? Surely, this handsome book doesn’t belong anywhere near my kitchen, where it would likely suffer from unintentional splatters and spills.

      Linda Long’s photographs dazzle, blurring the line between food and art seamlessly. I know of no other vegan cookbook that features the sheer abundance of gorgeous color photography, as every recipe gets its own photograph. I spent two days looking at the photographs and reading the essays by the great chefs before deciding what to make first. The chefs were asked to present their very best and most inventive vegan recipes — taking into account presentation, flavor, texture and the health-giving properties of plant-based food. The results are a dream come true.

      Each featured chef has a biography page that precedes the recipes. Accompanied by Long’s portraits, these are engaging reads on chefs who have trained at some of the world’s best culinary schools, then gone on to acclaimed restaurants, earning the top awards in the field. One may ask: Isn’t it all at least slightly intimidating? Thankfully, the well-written and instructive recipes smooth out the complexity suggested by the photographs; and the chefs’ stellar backgrounds certainly don’t make these dishes off-limits to the cook who needs guidance. Although the recipes do presume the reader will have some interest or experience in the kitchen, I found the instructions easy to follow, and I am by no means a talented chef.

      The first recipe I decided to make — mainly because the photo is so striking — was David Burke’s Vegetable Carousel Torte with Pommes Soufflés Filled With Peas. The torte comprises layered fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes, with a sumptuous basil oil. As with every recipe, there are instructions with how to plate and serve the dish. We like this recipe so much, we’ve reprinted it in Priscilla Feral’s new cookbook, The Best of Vegan Cooking.

      Chef Joseph Huber’s Chocolate Stuffed Michigan French Toast with Rice Krispies served with Peach-Strawberry Compote is probably the longest titled recipe I’ve ever encountered — or attempted to make. But, as you might have guessed, this is the final word in French toast, the best I’ve ever eaten. The recipe calls for making your own bread, but I purchased a fresh loaf of bakery bread and left it out overnight to dry slightly.

      The dish is layered, with two slices of toast stuck together by a melted chocolate sauce, then topped with a fruit compote and maple syrup; the Rice Krispies are used as both stuffing and coating, giving the French toast an unexpected texture and bite. This recipe also appears in The Best of Vegan Cooking. Despite the title, the recipe is actually fairly easy and straightforward.

      Also easy is the Curried Cauliflower With Currants and Pine Nuts by Chef Cat Cora. The combination of sweet currants with the pungent curried cauliflower is mouth-watering. I consider myself a major cauliflower fan, and this recipe offers a delicious new way to appreciate this nutritious and versatile vegetable. It tasted even better a day after preparation, once the flavors had time to meld.

      The Summer Vegetable Pilaf With Carolina Gold Rice by Chef Anne Quatrano is delightful and another dish that’s easy to prepare. Seasoned with marjoram, garlic, onion, and sherry vinegar, the vegetables and rice come to life with nuanced flavor. The butter beans make the dish filling. It’s a perfect side dish to any meal, or a light meal all unto itself.

      There are so many dishes that I want to try: Cat Cora’s Kiwi Parfait made my mouth water just looking at it; and just try uttering the name of Charlie Trotter’s Warm Venezuelan Chocolate Cake with Merlot-Infused Cherries, Lemon Bergamot, and Chocolate Gelato without an autonomic mouth-watering response. Then there’s Dan Barber’s Cauliflower Steak with Quinoa, which sounds (and looks) so inventive and lovely… the list is endless.

      Great Chefs Cook Vegan is not your everyday, go-to cookbook — and that’s precisely what makes this tome special, completely out of the ordinary. These recipes are the work of artists who’ve considered the minute details and properties of food. Linda Long has produced a masterpiece.

    • ERROR

       

    • For the horses exploited in New York City’s horse-drawn carriage industry, a new page in history was written at City Hall on Friday, January 30 th. Hundreds of animal advocates came out to testify at a historic public hearing for Intro 658-A, Council Member Tony Avella’s bill to ban the industry and give the horses secure future refuge.

      This day marked the first time in NYC history that a bill that would end the carriage industry had a public day of reckoning. And what a day it was!

      At high noon, a spirited and well-attended press conference began on the steps of City Hall, headed by Council Member Avella, with speakers from the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, Friends of Animals, and TV ‘Golden Girl’ Rue McClanahan.

      The hearing started at 1pm. It lasted until nearly 8pm to hear out the huge number of people who came to testify. Many waited several hours for their turn to speak.  

      Vibrant yellow and blue Friends of Animals signs (“I Support Intro 658-A; Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages”) were held by supporters who filled the seats at City Hall. There were so many people in attendance that an additional room had to be acquired in addition to the seating in the chambers and balcony. This is very unusual for a public hearing, and demonstrated the importance of this issue for so many people.

      The carriage industry had their line-up of drivers, stable owners, lobbyists and PR people, but supporters of their horses far outnumbered them.

      The City Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee held a dual public hearing, both on Intro 658-A, and on a carriage industry-backed bill that would institute a pay raise for the carriage drivers and weaken the already dismal oversight and regulatory powers held by New York City agencies and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is a misguided and dangerous bill which would allow even more flagrant abuses of power within the horse-drawn vehicle industry.

      Notable testimony included that of equine veterinarian Holly Cheever, who called this Manhattan tourist attraction “an inappropriate anachronism.” Mary Xanthos, a Manhattan-based vet, testified: “There are so many violations witnessed regularly by me, that I believe neither the ASPCA nor the [Heath Department] can regulate this industry properly, and it certainly cannot regulate itself.”   

      Dr. Deborah Tanzer, a psychologist with a clinical practice in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, testified that the horse-drawn carriage industry’s “lesson to our children is an immoral one. We are saying it is alright to treat horses this way. That it is alright that they are imprisoned, exploited, and sad.  Far from teaching compassion and empathy, this message desensitizes us, with harmful consequences for us all.”

      Tanzer added, “The link between abuse of animals and violence against humans is well documented, including by the FBI.  In this case, witnessing the situation of the carriage horses inevitably desensitizes adults and children alike, planting dangerous seeds for the future. For the sake of the horses, our children, and ourselves, it is time to ban horse-drawn carriages forever.”

      Elizabeth Forel, President of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages said: “I wonder why we are not a better, more compassionate people than to continue to allow these horses to be exploited for profit,” adding: “Times are changing and the paradigm is shifting.”

      Indeed, the horse-drawn carriage industry is a blight on New York City’s moral progress, but the City Council has the opportunity to set a wonderful precedent for the rest of the world by changing that.

      Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals, testified that “[m]any thousands of our New York City members strongly support Intro 658-A, Tony Avella's bill to end the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City.” Feral continued:    

         “There is no way to improve the lives of more than 200 horses forced to endure a daily existence contrary to their basic needs, in a chaotic   
      environment totally at odds with their physiology. We also oppose Intro 653-A, a regulatory bill that assumes there is a way to make a wrong situation justifiable. Let New York City get the horses out of shackles, off the streets, and into sanctuaries where they can live their remaining years in dignity.  Do the horses need a union to get there?”

      What You Can Do

      If you are a NYC resident, continue to send letters    and make phone calls   to your Council Member’s District Office, asking them to support the ban on horse-drawn carriages (Intro 658-A), to  oppose to Intro 653-A. You can locate your Council Members here: http://www.council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml. Or call 311 to get contact   information on Council Members.

      Actions for those who live outside of New York City

      The Council Committee on Consumer Affairs needs to hear feedback from everyone in support of Intro 658-A, the bill to ban the industry, and opposed to Intro 653-A , the industry-backed regulatory bill. Please contact the Council Members listed below and be the voice for the horses , preferably by mailing a handwritten letter, or calling them at the District Offices listed below. Tell them it’s time to end this industry once and for all.

      A date has not yet been set for the vote. Press these Council Members to vote on this bill, and in support of it. If it passes through them, it will then move on to the rest of the Council for a vote, so please speak out. 

      Leroy Comrie (Chair of the Consumers Affair Committee) – 718-776-3700
      District Office Address
      113-43 Farmers Boulevard
      St. Albans , NY 11412

      Oliver Koppell -718-549-7300
      District Office Address
      3636 Waldo Avenue
      Bronx, New York 10463

      Charles Barron – 718-649-9495/9496
      District Office Address
      718 Pennsylvania Ave.
      Brooklyn, New York 11207

      James Gennaro –718-217-4969
      District Office Address
      185-10 Union Turnpike
      Fresh Meadows, New York 11366

      John Liu –718-888-8747
      District Office Address
      135-27 38th Avenue
      Suite 388
      Flushing, New York 11354

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