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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Whatever

In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?

Children's social skills may be declining as they have less time for face-to-face interaction due to their increased use of digital media, according to a UCLA psychology study.

UCLA scientists found that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other digital screen did substantially better at reading human emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who continued to spend hours each day looking at their electronic devices.

"Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs," said Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology in the UCLA College and senior author of the study. "Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues -- losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people -- is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills."

Kitty of the Week

Meet Brody
From the Animal Rescue League of Southern RI

Hi, my name is Brody.  What can I say?  I am a playful yet shy cat who really misses being in a home. 

I would really like a new home, a place where I can be loved and return the favor without other animals making me nervous. 

Adventure is my game, and if you could share your home with me I will not only entertain myself, but with time, I will follow you around the house ready for whatever adventure may come next. 

I like to nuzzle and get head scratches. All I ask is that you give me a little time to adapt and get comfortable once again. 

Beyond that, I will love every minute of calling your home mine as well.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How the CCA Party won the 2012 election

Understanding the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, Part 2
By Will Collette
Click here for Part 1

152886 600 Labor Day cartoons
Prepare yourself for a deluge of CCA Party lies and fear-mongering
For more cartoons by Joel Heller, click here
After the Charlestown Democrats failed to wrest control of Charlestown town government from the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) in 2012 despite a good slate and effective fund-raising, I spent a good deal of time thinking about how the CCA Party did it.

Town Democrats ran three candidates for Town Council and four candidates for the Planning Commission and managed to get one candidate elected for each body – Paula Andersen for Council and Brandon Cleary for Planning. 2012 was the first time since 2004 that Charlestown Democrats ran a serious endorsed slate (the Mageau slate in 2006 were not endorsed).

Rep. Donna Walsh was the town’s top vote-getter (2547 Charlestown votes), swamping her two Charlestown-based opponents Tina Jackson and Kevin Prescott, although it helped that both had extensive criminal records.

Charlestown went heavily for Cathie Cool Rumsey, helping her to defeat incumbent Republican Senator Frank Maher. Charlestown voted by large margins for President Obama, Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Langevin.

Democratic votes were great in three out of Charlestown’s four electoral precincts, where Paula Andersen, Donna Walsh, Cathie Cool Rumsey, President Obama, Sen. Whitehouse and Rep. Langevin won by good to excellent margins. 

Only Precinct Three which includes Charlestown’s wealthiest neighborhoods (East & West Beach, Quonochontaug, Shady Harbor, etc.) was a glaring weak spot for the Democrats. Ironically, Cathy and I live in the third precinct.

Looking strictly at the numbers, it was like that crass old joke about the Lincoln Assassination (“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”) because in the end, the CCA Party still firmly controlled all the levers of power in Charlestown. 

If you analyze the Charlestown elections in 2008, 2010 and 2012, you can pretty much figure out how the CCA Party plans to win in 2014 – through lots of out-of-state money, fear-mongering and lies, and an effective get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort, especially in Precinct #3.

Policing Wall Street

What if Ferguson cops went after bankers?
By Jen Sorenson

It's fun to think about, so click here.

VIDEO: The history of the minimum wage

Give Workers Something to Cheer About

Labor Day should be a day on, not a day off, in the effort to reclaim the American dream for working people.

Labor Day is supposed to be a celebration of workers, but it’s been a long time since workers have been celebrated — or for that matter, have had a reason to celebrate. That’s because the union movement that gave us this holiday is, at least numerically, a shadow of its former self.

If we really want to give workers something to cheer about, we need to revitalize unions.

It’s no coincidence that prosperity was widely shared when unions were at the height of their power in the decades after World War II, and that inequality has soared as unions have been weakened.

That’s what I conclude in Inequality: Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions, a new Campaign for America’s Future report. My analysis tracks the simultaneous decline in the power of the labor movement and the fortunes of middle-class workers. It makes the case in simple terms.

Unions DO make a difference

Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers, union vs. non-union.

Clamping Down on the Labor Extortion Racket

Mass mobilization for higher pay is leading to minimum wage increases across the nation.

This Labor Day, you can mull some good news about American jobs for a change.

Take the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — please! That poverty pay is a shameful stain on our extremely rich nation.

But don’t count on Washington, D.C. to lift our wage floor. Indeed, pigheaded Republican Congress critters refuse to consider it. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, has even called for abolishing the minimum wage.

So where’s the good news? Maybe right where you live.

Millions of low-wage workers themselves — from fast food workers to adjunct college professors — are organizing and mobilizing. They’re pushing local leaders to take action against the immoral inequality that’s ripping our society apart and sinking our economy.

Charlestown Police puts out APB for this hairy guy

Marmalade cat on the loose

From the CPB Facebook page. Please call the number if you spot this lost kitty.


Happy Labor Day!


Sunday, August 31, 2014

STD mailing was a “scare tactic”

There is NO effort to create a “Single Taxing District”
By Rep. Larry Valencia

This originally ran as a letter to the editor. It has been published in the Chariho Times, but not the Westerly Sun.

I have a 14 year old daughter, Xaviera, who soon begins her freshman year at Chariho High School. Xavi loves Chariho; she loves her teachers – and she’s very excited! Our family loves Chariho. Xavi went to Richmond Elementary and just graduated from Chariho Middle School. She’s enjoyed her Chariho experiences. And I do everything in my power to support the Chariho School District. 

Chariho Superintendant Barry Ricci and the Chariho School Committee perform admirably. Chariho in particular serves as a great example of the benefits of regionalization.

So I was sad to read about the recent actions of the Charlestown Town Council. The Town Council sent out via their Pipeline newsletter the suggestion that a single taxing district was a likelihood. The conclusion reached by the newsletter was that this would be a disaster for Charlestown taxpayers. 

This seems like a scare tactic. We need to work together to strengthen the district, not divide it with rhetoric.

The unbearable itch

Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?

URI named one of top 50 LGBTQ-friendly universities in the country

Dooley: "This is essential to our University's identity and our mission."

KINGSTON, R.I. -- Just as classes are about to start, the leading non-profit organization working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students has issued its annual report card and has named the University of Rhode Island one of the top 50 LGBT-Friendly universities in the nation.

The Campus Pride ranking shows the best of the best, based on a five-star continuum of progress for LGBT-Friendly policies, programs and practices. 

URI received a five out of five star overall rating, as well as five out of five stars in nine of the 10 categories measured, with 4.5 out of five stars for one. The top marks are for LGBT inclusion policies, support and institutional commitment, student life, housing and residential life, campus safety, counseling and health and recruitment and retention efforts. The second-best mark was for LGBT academic life at URI.

For transparency fans

Solar energy that doesn't block the view

A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window.

It is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface.

And, according to Richard Lunt of MSU's College of Engineering, the key word is "transparent."

Time to boycott Burger King?

Burger King’s Tax Dodge is Just the Latest of Its Restructuring Schemes
By Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest
For more cartoons by Bruce Plante, click here.

Nothing says America like hamburger chains such as Burger King, yet the fast-food giant is the latest company to put tax dodging above national loyalty.

The home of the Whopper wants to carry out one of the so-called inversions that are all the rage among large U.S. corporations. Burger King is proposing to merge with the much smaller Canadian doughnut and coffee chain Tim Hortons and register the combined company north of the border, where it would be able to take advantage of lower tax rates on its U.S. revenues.

An interesting twist is that a large part of Burger King’s financing for the deal is coming from Warren Buffett, who apart from his investment prowess is known for his statements calling on the wealthy (individuals, at least) to pay more in federal taxes.

Environmental Two-Fer

College Reduces Deadly Window Strikes While Lowering Electric Costs At Same Time

Earlier this week I was sitting at the computer, minding my own business, when suddenly I heard a loud slapping sound against the window adjacent to me. 

Instantaneously I looked over to see the imprint and feathers of a panicked bird peeling itself off the window and promptly flying away. 

Unfortunately, I’ve seen this incident many times before and the crashing birds aren’t always lucky enough to be able to fly away.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Business model can't work, Part 2


In a truly wonderful article in the Sunday New York Times, David Kirp of the University of California at Berkeley lays waste the underpinnings of the current “education reform” movement. Kirp not only shows what doesn’t work, he gives numerous examples of what does work to help students.

Kirp explains in plain language why teaching can never be replaced by a machine. Although the article just appeared, I have already heard about angry grumbling from reformers, because their ultimate goal (which they prefer to hide) is to replace teachers with low-cost machines. 

Imagine a “classroom” with 100 students sitting in front of a monitor, overseen by a low-wage aide. 

Think of the savings. Think of the advantages that a machine has over a human being: they can be easily programmed; they don’t get a salary or a pension; they don’t complain when they are abused; and when a better, cheaper model comes along, the old one can be tossed into the garbage.

"And always let your conscience be your guide."

Pinocchio, Inc.
By Ruben Bolling

What if Geppetto has let himself be guided by the U.S. Supreme Court? Click here for the answer.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Wizard Nebula 
From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

Open star cluster NGC 7380 is still embedded in its natal cloud of interstellar gas and dust popularly known as the Wizard Nebula. Seen with foreground and background stars along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy it lies some 8,000 light-years distant, toward the constellation Cepheus.

A full moon would easily fit inside this telescopic view of the 4 million year young cluster and associated nebula, normally much too faint to be seen by eye.

Made with telescope and camera firmly planted on Earth, the image reveals multi light-year sized shapes and structures within the Wizard in a color palette made popular in Hubble Space Telescope images.

Recorded with narrowband filters, the visible wavelength light from the nebula's hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur atoms is transformed into green, blue, and red colors in the final digital composite.
But there is still a trick up the Wizard's sleeve. Sliding your cursor over the image (or following this link) will make the stars disappear, leaving only the cosmic gas and dust of the Wizard Nebula.


Paying to get rejected is wrong

Open gov’t groups blast Kilmartin on public records law

Calling it “a new low” in the state’s enforcement of the Access to Public Records Act (APRA), five open government groups blasted an opinion issued by the Attorney General’s office which held that public bodies can charge members of the public for the time it takes to compose a letter denying an open records request.

That interpretation of the law was embodied in an AG advisory opinion, Clark v. Department of Public Safety, issued yesterday. It arose in the context of a Rhode Islander who had sought BCI and personnel records for an individual in the State Fire Marshal’s office. When the requester was denied access to the records on the grounds that they were confidential by law, he was charged a $15 fee. He then filed an appeal with the AG, leading to yesterday’s opinion. (The complaint raised a number of other APRA objections, which were also rejected in the opinion.)

Size DOES matter

Size matters when convincing your brain to eat healthier foods


Variety may trump virtue when it comes to the struggle to eat healthy, says a Vanderbilt marketing professor who studies consumer self-control and endorses "vice-virtue bundles" combining nutritious and not-so-nutritious foods.

"We suggest a simple … solution that can help consumers who would otherwise choose vice over virtue to simultaneously increase consumption of healthy foods (virtues) and decrease consumption of unhealthy foods (vices) while still fulfilling taste goals -- 'vice-virtue bundles,'" Kelly L. Haws, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management, said.

The idea is to not give up entirely foods that provide pleasure but aren't nutritious. Instead, the focus should be on lowering the portion of the "vice" foods and correspondingly raising the portion of a healthy food to replace it.

“Articles of faith are not easily uprooted”

U.S. Climate Denial Will Not Die Quietly
Those engaged in efforts to enlighten climate deniers can learn a great deal from the long history of the anti-evolution movement. Almost one hundred years ago this month, a young high school teacher by the name of John Thomas Scopes went on trial for teaching Darwinian evolution. To this day, the science of evolution has been under siege.

Climate denial is like resistance to evolution in that it is an irrational position rooted in faith rather than facts.  Although those who resist evolution and those who deny climate change are often intellectually vacuous, the web of lies they weave is surprisingly pernicious.

It took 44 years to get the highest U.S. court to rule in favor of evolution (in 1968 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Arkansas statute outlawing the teaching of evolution). Despite this ruling and the wealth of scientific evidence, resistance to evolution persists.

Friday, August 29, 2014

“Powerlessness is a self-fulfilling prophesy.”


Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.

A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election. 

Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother? 

A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions.


Buckets of awareness

Fill a bucket with bracelets and ribbons for maximum awareness
By Brian McFadden

Click here for the full bucket list.

Something for all those Harley riders cruising up and down Route One

US08789808-20140729-D00000Gotta get this!
By Martin Gardiner in Improbable Research

If you sometimes make use of a urinal, and yearn for the sound of revving motorbikes whilst doing so, a new US patent might be aimed at you.

Californian inventor Anthony Moley has just received a patent for his “Urinal with operation controlled via a replica of a motorcycle handlebar.” 

The new invention, which provides rearview mirrors, a throttle and a horn is summed up like this:

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