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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Can vaccinated people still spread the coronavirus?

New COVID vaccines are great, but not 100% perfect. Nothing is.

Deborah FullerUniversity of Washington

Vaccinated people are wondering whether they can ease social
 distancing and mask-wearing. AP Photo/Darko Bandic
Editor’s note: So you’ve gotten your coronavirus vaccine, waited the two weeks for your immune system to respond to the shot and are now fully vaccinated. Does this mean you can make your way through the world like the old days without fear of spreading the virus? 

Deborah Fuller is a microbiologist at the University of Washington working on coronavirus vaccines. She explains what the science shows about transmission post-vaccination – and whether new variants could change this equation.

1. Does vaccination completely prevent infection?

The short answer is no. You can still get infected after you’ve been vaccinated. But your chances of getting seriously ill are almost zero.

Many people think vaccines work like a shield, blocking a virus from infecting cells altogether. But in most cases, a person who gets vaccinated is protected from disease, not necessarily infection.

Every person’s immune system is a little different, so when a vaccine is 95% effective, that just means 95% of people who receive the vaccine won’t get sick

These people could be completely protected from infection, or they could be getting infected but remain asymptomatic because their immune system eliminates the virus very quickly. The remaining 5% of vaccinated people can become infected and get sick, but are extremely unlikely to be hospitalized.

Vaccination doesn’t 100% prevent you from getting infected, but in all cases it gives your immune system a huge leg up on the coronavirus. Whatever your outcome – whether complete protection from infection or some level of disease – you will be better off after encountering the virus than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Can QAnon survive another 'Great Disappointment' on Thursday March 4?

History suggests it might

Richard AmesburyArizona State University

The big question looming over QAnon: What happens after March 4?
 Rick Loomis/Getty Images
Thursday could be a big day. On March 4, Donald Trump will be triumphantly returned to power to help save the world from a shadowy syndicate of Satan-worshipping pedophiles – or at least that is what a small fraction of American citizens believe.

But before you circle the date and dust off the MAGA hats, a note of caution: We have been here before. 

Adherents of the same conspiracy theory, QAnon, had previously marked Jan. 20, the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration, as the big day. 

As Biden ascended the steps of the Capitol to take the presidential oath of office, tens of thousands of adherents of QAnon were eagerly awaiting the imminent arrest and execution of Democratic politicians in a “storm” that would upend the social and political order. It didn’t happen.

In the aftermath of this disappointment, some disillusioned QAnon followers left the fold. But as evidenced by the new date of March 4 – chosen because it was the day for presidential inaugurations until the 20th Amendment was adopted in 1933 – some hardliners claimed they had simply gotten the date wrong. When – or if – that date too passes without incident, a new date may emerge.

It might be thought that enough failed predictions would eventually discredit a prophet. But as a philosopher of religion, I know history suggests a more complicated set of possibilities. 

Apocalyptic movements rarely simply dissolve when prophecies are seen to fail. Indeed, such crises have in the past presented believers with fertile opportunities to reinterpret prophecies. They have even strengthened movements, giving rise to new theories that attempt to explain the shortcomings of earlier ones.

Dump DeJoy


Next Monday, on-line briefing on ways to use free tax services

Tax Time Allies Virtual Community Briefing

Featuring Congressman Jim Langevin,

General Treasurer Magaziner, Secretary of State Gorbea,

Tax Administrator Savage and others!

Please join Congressman Jim Langevin, along with community and civic leaders to learn how to empower lower and moderate income taxpayers to use FREE IRS and RI-sponsored tax preparation services like Free File and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). 

Now is the most critical time to connect low and moderate income taxpayers with all of the free tax preparation services available to them, and get answers to COVID-19 related tax questions.

We'll be sharing the top three actions to help eligible taxpayers file their taxes safely and for free, and new tools and resources you can use to inform them now.

Monday, March 8, 2021

2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. 

Zoom Webinar

Register Now by Clicking Here!

Registration is Free but Required

 Already registered? Please share this invitation with your network.

If you have questions or to register by phone call Lori Baux

at 202-265-8148 or email

 About Tax Time Allies 

We are a group of organizations partnering to help low and moderate income taxpayers take control of their finances and save more of their hard-earned money. When every nickel matters we want to ensure they know about and have access to free tax preparation expertise and services. The Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation is proud to be the presenting sponsor and financially support the Tax Time Allies Campaign. 


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Taking the measure of beach cleanliness

Stanford researchers develop a new way to forecast beach water quality

BY MICHELLE HORTON, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Less than two days of water quality sampling at local beaches may be all that’s needed to reduce illnesses among millions of beachgoers every year due to contaminated water, according to new Stanford research. 

The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, presents a modeling framework that dependably predicts water quality at beaches after only a day or two of frequent water sampling. The approach, tested in California, could be used to keep tabs on otherwise unmonitored coastal areas, which is key to protecting the well-being of beachgoers and thriving ocean economies worldwide.

“This work combines knowledge of microbiology, coastal processes and data science to produce a tool to effectively manage one of our most precious resources and protect human health,” said senior author Alexandria Boehm, a Stanford professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Measuring concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) – which denote the presence of fecal matter and can lead to unsafe water conditions – at beaches ensures the health and safety of the public. While all ocean water contains some degree of pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses, they’re typically diluted to harmless concentrations. 

March 31 deadline set for $150,000 Specialty Crop Grant applications

Attention arugula farmers

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that more than $150,000 in farm viability grants is available for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Rhode Island. 

The funds are from the US Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant program. Specialty crops are defined by this federally supported program as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, and nursery crops including floriculture including Christmas Trees, cut flowers, honey, hops, and turf grass production.

Grant awards may be used for research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health, product development, education, "buy local" initiatives, and for programs that provide for increased consumption and innovation, improved efficiency and reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental concerns and conservation, and development of cooperatives.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA Office of Management and Budget has provided flexibilities to grant applicants and grant recipients and additional funding to states to assist farms from the impacts of COVID-19. Funds must still meet the requirements of the specialty crop grant program, but there is an emphasis on projects that provide COVID-19 assistance/ relief.

How could rising sea level impact the National Flood Insurance Program?

Can you continue to count on coverage?

Society for Risk Analysis

Insurance policy premiums from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) allow policyholders to maintain a lower, grandfathered rate even when the risk escalates. But as coastal flooding increases due to rising sea level and more intense storms, new research published in the journal Risk Analysis suggests this grandfathered policy could lead to big losses for the NFIP.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Coastal Resources Management Council is a mess

Expired Terms and Illegal Appointments Cast Doubt Over Rhode Island's Powerful Coastal Council

By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

The Coastal Resources Management Council board is currently two members short. Jerry Sahagian, left, Michael Hudner, middle right, and Donald Gomez, right, have all been on the board for a decade or more. Lisette Gomes resigned from the board more than two years ago but she is still listed as a board member. (ecoRI News)

All seven appointed members to the currently shorthanded Coastal Resources Management Council board have expired terms. There’s also the question of whether some of the appointments are against the law.

The terms of six board members expired in January of last year, while Joy Montanaro’s term expired Jan. 31, 2016, according to the secretary of state’s website.

Three years ago the General Assembly passed legislation that gave the governor sole authority to make appointments to the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) board.

These structural changes to the unpaid board that oversees waterfront development and coastal regulations made it the last state entity to abide by Rhode Island’s separation-of-powers rule, something the state Supreme Court had ruled on in 2008, when it noted that the Legislature should be barred from making appointments to the CRMC board.

A separation-of-powers amendment to the state Constitution was approved by Rhode Island voters in 2004. Prior to the passage of this legislation, two members of the House and Senate were permitted to serve on the powerful CRMC board. The speaker of the House appointed two members from the general public and two from coastal communities. The governor made eight appointments.

After separation of powers were approved, the House and Senate stopped appointing state legislators to the board, but legislative appointment powers weren’t revised in CRMC’s enabling statute until the Legislature, after a decade of ignoring a court ruling, finally took action in 2018.

The push for this belated reform was led by Save The Bay, the Conservation Law Foundation, and Common Cause Rhode Island. John Marion, the executive director of the latter, argued that the CRMC board was a separation-of-powers holdout because the General Assembly wanted to keep its authority to appoint members who supported an agenda that favored coastal development.

The state’s business lobby preferred CRMC’s original board makeup and appointment system and opposed the changes.

Card tricks


If you work and feel sick, read this

'Be a macho man'

Why some men respond aggressively to threats to manhood

Duke University

When their manhood is threatened, some men respond aggressively, but not all. New research from Duke University suggests who may be most triggered by such threats -- younger men whose sense of masculinity depends heavily on other people's opinions.

"Our results suggest that the more social pressure a man feels to be masculine, the more aggressive he may be," said Adam Stanaland, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology and public policy at Duke and the study's lead author.

"When those men feel they are not living up to strict gender norms, they may feel the need to act aggressively to prove their manhood -- to 'be a man'."

A study of despair

Why even try? Using brain science to answer one of life’s biggest questions

Brown University

What makes a person decide to turn off the TV and switch on their brain to complete work for their job?

The assumption, by researchers and Netflix-bingers alike, is that the amount of mental effort a person invests in a task is influenced by the reward they stand to gain — so in this case, the effort results in a paycheck, and successful efforts could result in ego-pumping praise from a supervisor, a bonus, a promotion or perhaps even a new, higher-paying job.

But what if the person doesn’t believe that their efforts matter, and the reward will be the same no matter how hard they try? How does that person decide how much effort to expend — if any at all?

New research from a team of Brown University researchers, published on Monday, Feb. 15 in Nature Communications, shows that the amount of mental effort invested in a task is influenced not just by what a person stands to gain, but also the degree to which that outcome will depend on their performance. 

In three related experiments, the researchers demonstrated that participants performed better on tasks when there was a bigger potential prize and when they felt like their efforts made a difference in earning that prize.

Quiet, please

Noise pollution impacting marine animals worse than previously thought

Genevieve Tarino for the Yale E360 DIGEST

Anthropogenic noise pollution is plaguing our oceans and stressing marine fauna far more than previously understood, researchers concluded in a new analysis of more than 10,000 academic papers published in the journal Science.

Human-generated noise disrupts the behavior, physiology, and reproduction of marine organisms so much that it can lead to an increased risk of mortality.

In recent decades, the level of marine noise pollution has increased significantly due to the intensification of fishing, shipping, and infrastructure development. Human activity has not only made the ocean noisier, the analysis found, but it is also drowning out the sounds of its marine animals. 

“The landscape of sound — or soundscape — is such a powerful indicator of the health of an environment,” Ben Haplern, an ecologist at University of California, Santa Barbara and coauthor of the study, said in a statement

Sunday, February 28, 2021

CCA revives institutional racism in Charlestown

Re-hires Indian fighter Joe Larisa as ProJo draws attention to slavery on local plantations

By Will Collette

Violating normal rules of procedure, as well as rules of decency, the ruling Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) forced a third vote by the Town Council to re-hire, notorious attorney Joseph Larisa (left) as Charlestown Special Counsel for Indian Affairs, winning a 3-2 party line vote.

Larisa’s contract renewal for an annual payment of $24,000 a year plus expenses to monitor the behavior of our neighbors, the Narragansett Indian Tribe, was rejected by the Council in December.

But in January, CCA Councilor Susan Cooper, who had apparently been told that her December vote to reject Larisa’s contract renewal was not in keeping with her duty to obey all CCA Party directives, moved in January to reconsider Larisa’s re-hiring but failed on a 2-2 tie vote.

The third time was the charm when, at its regular February meeting, the Council took up the measure again. This time, the CCA Party Council majority prevailed and Injun Joe was re-hired at his old salary of $2,000 a month plus expenses to read news clips and the internet. If he has to do any real lawyering, he can charge Charlestown an additional $130 an hour.

It’s hard to decide where to begin to examine the substance and symbolism of this despicable action, a continuation of our town’s deep-seated problem of institutional racism (detailed HERE).

Following history’s direct line

Great Swamp Massacre monument
Since Larisa is but one episode in Charlestown’s long war with the Narragansett Indian Tribe, let’s start with history. In that, we are aided by an interesting article by G. Wayne Miller of the Projo, who wrote a February 26 article, “Two prominent R.I. families, Champlins and Stantons, had slave labor in 1700s Charlestown.”

Miller was aided in writing the article by the Charlestown Historical Society. The article details an often-forgotten detail of Charlestown’s history – Charlestown and its leading families built their prosperity on the backs of slaves.

While Miller focuses on the use of enslaved Africans, other historians describe the use of Narragansett Indian slaves, tribal members who survived the Great Swamp Massacre in 1675 and later during the King Phillips War. In 1755, one out of three residents of “Narragansett County,” of which Charlestown was part, were slaves.

Charlestown landowners also systematically took tribal lands as their own especially after the 1880 General Assembly declaration that the Tribe no longer existed. By 1882, Charlestown landowners had stolen all but two acres of the Tribe’s land.


Some believe, as I do, that these actions constituted genocide under the definition used by the United Nations and the International Criminal Court:

“The International Court of Justice defines the crime of genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.’”

History shows that between 1675 and 1882, the Narragansetts were slaughtered, enslaved, dispersed and displaced, had their land stolen and then declared nonexistent as a Tribe. By any reasonable reading of international law on genocide, this was it.

The war continues today

The Tribe never accepted this and a century later, the Narragansetts organized to fight back, filing suit in 1975 for the return of their land. 

In 1978, a compromise was reached when Congress passed the Settlement Act that restored 3,200 acres of the Tribe’s land with conditions that limited their sovereign use of that land.

In 1983, the Tribe won official recognition from the federal government. Far from settling affairs between the Tribe and the rest of Charlestown, it simply created new venues for conflict.

In 1992 and 1995, the Tribe proposed either a bingo hall or a casino as a way to bring income into the Tribe. Both plans were beaten down by objections and lawsuits from the town.

Unfinished cottages: elderly affordable housing or
Narragansett casino. You be the judge
In 1991, the Tribe alarmed Charlestown’s elite by buying 31 acres to use for affordable housing for the Tribe’s low-income elderly. 

The Tribe did not ask for Charlestown’s permission, triggering lawsuits to block what some Charlestown leaders felt was a way to sneak a casino into town, despite how totally impractical the site was for a casino.

As photos of the site show, the unfinished cottages could have held at least three slot machines or one roulette wheel each, at least in the fevered minds of some Charlestown leaders.

The Tribe petitioned the US Interior Department to take those 31 acres under trust, thus removing that land from state and local jurisdiction. In 1998, the Interior Department announced that it was granting the Tribe’s petition.


That brought Governor Donald Carcieri into the fight. 

Carcieri had little sympathy for the Tribe as he demonstrated when he ordered the infamous 2003 Smoke Shop raid – a melee between Tribal members and State Police. See photo, left.

The State filed suit to block the Interior Department from taking those 31 acres into trust.

Eventually, the case led to the Supreme Court’s 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar decision signed by Justice Clarence Thomas. 

The Court majority ruled the Interior Department could not take those 31 acres into Trust because the Narragansetts (as well as 500 other Indian tribes across the US) had no rights under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) that establishes the relationship between Indian nations and the federal government.

Why, you might ask? The Court ruled that Congress was not clear whether the IRA applied to tribes recognized after the law was enacted in 1934, notwithstanding the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal justice under law.

Charlestown leaders – i.e. the CCA Party – worry Congress might enact a “Carcieri Fix” that clarifies Congress’s intent to treat all Native American tribes equally. That would up-end Charlestown’s domination over the Narragansetts and end the second class status of tribes recognized after 1934. 

Click HERE for a clear explanation of what the Carcieri Fix means from the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Why Charlestown should fire Joe Larisa (again)

One hour of work on retainer, one hour at $130.
Net hourly rate: $1,090
Larisa takes credit for the Carcieri decision but in fact, he was not hired by Charlestown until 2003, five years after the Governor filed the case. 

Larisa’s main duty as Charlestown’s Indian Affairs lawyer has been to watch and wait for any action that might change the effect of the Carcieri Supreme Court ruling.

In the CCA pitch to re-hire Larisa, the CCA councilors stressed how important it is to have an experienced Indian fighter like Larisa on hand to fight any change to the Carcieri status quo even though that case was not his

CCA councilors Cody Clarkin, Susan Cooper and Bonnie Van Slyke argued that Larisa’s experience is both unique in the state and invaluable.

Except that’s not true. Larisa wasn’t even hired when Charlestown waged the lawsuit that morphed into Carcieri v. Salazar. 

Plus, according to Council President Deb Carney, Larisa’s knowledge is not unique: Claire Richards who was on the case is still at the Attorney General’s Office. If the Carcieri case is re-litigated, it won’t be Larisa doing it, but the state.

Also, there’s a reason why no other town has a professional Indian fighter on its payroll: Charlestown is the only town that is in a state of perpetual war with the Narragansetts.

This brings us to the merits of employing Larisa. Is he, as Councilor Cody Clarkin claims “worth it?”

In his letter requesting re-appointment, Larisa claims his victories not just include Carcieri v. Salazar (not his case), but also the Smoke Shop case (not his case). He claims the central role in addressing two police brutality civil rights cases brought by tribal leaders.

Speck leaves court after guilty plea to drug dealing
He omits any mention of his central role in the 2014-15 fiasco over the false arrest of two young members of the Tribe by the later discredited former Charlestown Police officer Evan Speck. Speck was convicted of drug offenses.

Read the unrefuted details of the case in this court filing HERE.

Larisa used the misdemeanor trial in Charlestown v. Gonsalves and Barber as a grandstand for his belief that the Narragansett Indian Tribe has no sovereign authority, a theory that was thoroughly rejected by Judge Joseph Houlihan in his ruling against the Town.

Larisa does not address charges by Tribal elders who have called him racist. I can’t see into Larisa’s heart to determine if he has racist intent, but I can look at his actions to see clear racist effect. But to the CCA Party, Larisa is a heroic figure standing up for the Town’s supremacy over the Tribe.

CCA Councilors Susan Cooper and Bonnie Van Slyke argue we need to have Larisa under retainer so he won’t represent interests contrary to Charlestown’s. But he already does!

There is consensus in Charlestown against a Charlestown casino, but no consensus to block the Tribe from making any economic progress. 

Nonetheless, as Charlestown’s official Indian fighter, Larisa worked to block the Tribe from getting into other gaming interests elsewhere, including fighting the statewide referendum on the Tribe’s proposal for a casino in West Warwick, and the Tribe’s attempts to buy into Twin Rivers and the new Tiverton casino.

If all we want is to block a casino here, it would have been in our interests to help the Tribe find opportunities that don’t adversely affect Charlestown. But instead, Larisa has worked to block every such effort by the Tribe. From this, I conclude the CCA’s real agenda is to use Larisa to block the Tribe from gaining any economic power to make them easier to dominate.

Scout’s Honor

On February 5, I sent Councilor Cody Clarkin (left) a detailed account of the reasons why he should vote “no” to re-hiring Larisa. I had hoped his history of service to the town when he was an Eagle Scout would mean he shared the Scouts’ strong stand against institutional racism.

I was wrong. At 6:40 PM, February 8, 20 minutes before the start of the Council meeting where he voted the CCA line to re-hire Larisa, Clarkin sent me this e-mail:

Hi Mr. Collette,

I wanted to thank you for all of the articles and stories regarding Joe Larisa. As a lifelong resident, I have been aware of most of the big happenings in town over the past fifteen years but I cannot express my thanks enough that there are people like you that care about all of the happenings. The ones that go under the radar or aren’t big enough to garner the wider attention, still deserve to be understand [SIC] and recorded.

I have taken your comments under consideration over the weekend and today while I thought about this item. I do believe Charlestown is better served with an Indian Affairs lawyer at this time. Going through Larisa’s bills there are big items, like the Invergy [SIC] or Railroad fight, that included large bills. Without the retainer, those bills could go up drastically.

In the coming months if there is a time that you are available to meet over Zoom or a phone call it would be great to get to meet you and open a dialogue on other issues the town is facing or will face. Let me know if you are interested and if you are when would work best for you.

Best, Cody Clarkin

Clarkin is correct in noting the large number of hours Larisa claimed for the Invenergy and AMTRAK fights. However, as I have detailed in earlier articles, Larisa had no useful role to play in either campaign.

In the Invenergy fight, his intervention only served to wipe out the good will built between Tribal members and the town through collaboration to protect Charlestown drinking water. 

If anything, Invenergy and AMTRAK are two examples of Larisa padding his bills and his C.V.

Through the CCA Party’s abuse of its power, we have had a major setback in the fight against institutional racism.

Rather than acknowledge our long, shameful history with the Tribe and follow the example of the Chariho School District that set up a special taskforce to examine institutional racism in the school system, Charlestown has made a murky regression.

I agree with Council President Carney’s closing words on this subject: “It’s time to rethink our relationship to our Narragansett friends.”

The new Trumplican Idol. Bow down and worship

This new symbol of worship - the Golden Trump - was unveiled at the Conservative Political Action Conference. It was made in Mexico. It is NOT a joke.