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Friday, August 29, 2014

A practical idea that might reduce tension

Marching in unison may increase risk of use of excessive force in policing protests

In the aftermath of the Aug. 9 shooting of an 18-year-old African American man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, much of the nation's attention has been focused on how law enforcement's use of military gear might have inflamed tensions.

But what if the simple act of marching in unison -- as riot police routinely do -- increases the likelihood that law enforcement will use excessive force in policing protests?

That's the suggestion of a new study by a pair of UCLA social scientists.

Connecticut could be a model, but it's not

Connecticut is a state with many wonderful teachers, administrators, and schools. The state consistently ranks second or third in the nation on NAEP.

The state has some districts with high poverty and low test scores. Governor Dannel Malloy decided to solve their problems by aligning himself with the privatization by charter crowd. 

He hired Stefan Pryor, a co-founder of a charter chain, as his state commissioner and trusted him to enlarge the charters’ market share.

Malloy directed funding to charter chains, and things seemed to go his way until one of his favorite charter chains got in trouble. First it was revealed in the Hartford Courant that Michael Sharpe, CEO of the FUSE Jumoke charter chain, had a criminal record. Then it came out that he did not have a doctorate, even though he called himself “Dr.” For some reason, people in Connecticut seemed more disturbed by the phony credential than by the long-ago felonies.

Then came the case of “Dr.” Terrence Carter, who was in line to be the next superintendent in Néw London. It turned out that he didn’t have a doctorate either. Not to worry, he said, because he was receiving one from Lesley University in Massachusetts on August 25.

Perry Hams It Up

The Texas governor's claims that he was indicted for merely exercising his veto power is a bunch of hokum.

Lawyers will tell you that any good prosecutor could convince a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
Well, meet that ham sandwich: Governor Rick Perry. He’s a real ham — only not as smart.

A Texas grand jury indicted Perry, charging the Republican with official abuse of power. Specifically, he’s accused of threatening to veto all state funding for a public integrity unit. Among other things, that office was investigating corrupt favoritism in one of the governor’s pet projects.

Perry was trying to muscle out of office the woman who is the duly elected head of that unit, presumably to halt its inquiry. Leave office, he publicly barked at her, or I’ll take away all your money. She didn’t, and he did.

Not smart, for that’s an illegal quid pro quo, much like linking a campaign donation to an official favor. This led to the selection of a judge, the appointment of a special prosecutor, the establishment of a grand jury and the indictment of the gubernatorial ham sandwich.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

If you're on the fence about Secretary of State...

Questions about Nellie Gorbea’s track record
By Will Collette
Nellie Gorbea's former boss, former Puerto Rico Governor 
Pedro Rosselló (R), called the most corrupt governor of the century. 

I’ve met Democratic candidate for Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea on a number of occasions. 

Before I left the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee, I was in on the extensive interview the committee had with her before it decided to endorse Guillaume deRamel instead. She was always charming and friendly. 

I liked her and liked the idea of supporting a Latina, though, on balance, I liked Guillaume deRamel better.

But then I looked closer at her as I have with just about all the candidates running for state office this year. Part of it was professional interest. Even though I am retired, I spent most of my worklife doing political research. But it's also my personal interest as a voter to know more about candidates than  what they are willing to tell us.

I saw two major issues with Nellie Gorbea’s candidacy that raise questions about her qualifications to be the next Secretary of State and about her espoused progressive values.

Public records show that at least five of the non-profit organizations Nellie Gorbea has served (as staff, board member or registered agent) failed to comply with the simple annual reporting requirements set by the Secretary of State.

Ms. Gorbea also has claimed as part of her credentials that she served as an economic advisor to the Governor of Puerto Rico. However, that resume bullet point comes with some troubling history.

To get you in the mood for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19

Body Count

Graph: 'Deaths from police shootings, latest available year': Japan 0, Britain 0, Germany 8, America 409

"He represents hope"

clinton magaziner
Bob's snap - "This is as close as I got to Bill Clinton"
Bill Clinton knows how to play the room. So when the 42nd president of the United States took the podium at the Convention Center in Providence yesterday, he opened with: “I love Rhode Island.”

The former leader of the free world also has a fondness for Seth Magaziner, for whom he was here campaigning.

“He represents hope,” Clinton said, invoking both our state motto and his famous 1991 campaign slogan, when it was he coming from nowhere to best a political insider during an economic downturn.

Magaziner was just eight-years-old then, but he was already a Clinton supporter. 

He wrote a letter to the editor in the Bristol Phoenix extolling the virtues of the 32-year-old Arkansas governor. “I think that’s what put him over the top,” Magaziner joked. His father, Ira Magaziner, is a longtime friend and adviser of Clinton’s, who worked in the White House and now heads the Clinton Global Initiative.

“He’s a total policy wonk, and that’s why I love talking to him,” Seth said when I asked him about the behind-the-scenes Bill Clinton.

Ira Magaziner
Seth's father and long-time Clinton advisor, Ira Magaziner
Clinton did have a good sense of Magaziner’s policy proposals, speaking at length about his so-called “blueprint” that would create an infrastructure bank, a clean energy fund and investing a greater portion of the pension fund in emerging local businesses.

“You’ve been through a really rough time since this financial crash,’’ Clinton said. ‘‘You deserve as many good jobs as quickly as you can get them, and Seth Magaziner will help you get them.’’ He said Rhode Island’s treasurer’s office has more constitutional authority than many other states, and that Magaziner’s so-called “blueprint” will help improve Rhode Island’s economy.

“He really did read the whole thing,” Magaziner told me afterwards. “Of course I was nervous when I knew he was reading it but I was excited when I heard that he liked it.”

Magaziner said he first mentioned the Clinton last summer that he was considering running for general treasurer. I asked him if Clinton offered any advice.

“He won his campaign based on promoting ideas and his advice to me was to do the same here,” Magaziner said. “Anyone who is running for treasurer right now has to be talking about those core economic issues. He understood, especially given everything Rhode Island is going through, that’s what people would want to hear.”

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.

Twice as strong as expected

Link between vitamin D, dementia risk confirmed

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in older people, according to the most robust study of its kind ever conducted.

An international team, led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that study participants who were severely Vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The team studied elderly Americans who took part in the Cardiovascular Health Study. They discovered that adults in the study who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 per cent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind, and the risk increased to 125 per cent in those who were severely deficient.

Why Young Dems endorsed Kathy Fogarty, not Rep. Dickinson

Rep. Dickinson didn’t return YDRI questionnaire

Dear Representative Dickinson,

Hey, remember that time when you called me up regarding the YDRI PAC endorsement, and we ended up having a real nice chat at that coffee place in West Warwick? “The Daily Grind” it was called, over on Cowesset Ave. I was very late (apologies) but you were gracious and we talked for a good while over pastries and coffee. 

Remember, we hung out until the place closed? We ended up standing on the curb still chatting for ten minutes after they had locked the doors. You were just full of stories of the old days in the General Assembly (I hadn’t realized you had served back then!) and you eagerly shared some of your political wisdom with me.

Remember how multiple times throughout the conversation I said that in order to be considered for the YDRI endorsement, you would have to fill out our questionnaire? I think I said it at least three times, and you told me you had a “policy” of not filling out questionnaires. And remember I said ok, then the best you could hope for was no endorsement in the race, but we couldn’t possibly endorse you without a questionnaire?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Charlestown Tapas

A veritable buffet for the mind
By Will Collette

Another one of the Tribe’s economic development efforts blocked

The Navy said NO to a request from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that 225 acres from the long-closed Newport Navy base be transferred to the BIA for the use of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. The tribe sought the land for economic development purposes, though it explicitly stated a casino would NOT be part of their plans. 

BIA would not agree to accept full responsibility for liabilities that might be attached to the Navy land, such as environmental problems. Old military land is notorious for the presence of hazardous waste – that was an issue when the Charlestown Naval air field was turned over to Charlestown and the US Wild & Wildlife Service.

Charlestown town government puts considerable effort into blocking tribal aspirations, even when they are outside of Charlestown, but in this case, there is no evidence that Charlestown or its hired gun attorney Joe Larisa played any role in blocking the tribe’s bid for the Newport Navy land. We’ll know for sure when Larisa’s next set of bills to Charlestown come in.

Frank Maher replaced as Hodgson campaign manager

Everything is Obama's Fault

Well, not quite everything
By Liza Donnelly

Click here to see what's not Obama's fault.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Rings Around the Ring Nebula 

It is a familiar sight to sky enthusiasts with even a small telescope. There is much more to the Ring Nebula (M57), however, than can be seen through a small telescope.

The easily visible central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from three different large telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star.

This remarkable composite image includes narrowband hydrogen image, visible light emission, and infrared light emission.

Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star.
The Ring Nebula is about 2,000 light-years away toward the musical constellation Lyra.

Solar Power Gets Hot, Hot, Hot

It's hard to rig the rules against increasingly competitive green energy options.
Climate Desk Factory animated GIF

With so many homeowners and businesses making greener energy choices, private utilities — along with big oil, gas, coal, and nuclear companies — see the writing on the wall.

Unlike some other denizens of the fossil-fueled set, this gang isn’t beating oil wells into solar panels, retiring nuclear reactors, or embracing wind and geothermal power. Instead, these guys are trying to coax lawmakers into rigging the rules against increasingly competitive new energy alternatives.

You see, the bulwarks of conventional energy are good at math. And the math is increasingly not in their favor.

Solar panels are growing so affordable, accessible, and popular that sun-powered energy accounted for 74 percent of the nation’s new electric generation capacity in the first three months of this year. 

Do gut bacteria rule our minds?

In an ecosystem within us, microbes evolved to sway food choices
It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us -- which outnumber our own cells about 100-fold -- may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.

In an article published in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem -- our digestive tracts -- they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

Pell refutes Taveras’ challenges to his resume

Cites national leaders who support his experience, qualifications to be Governor

PROVIDENCE, RI -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell today released the following statement regarding questions of his experience:

"It’s unfortunate that Mayor Taveras has chosen to make this race for Governor about my resume, instead of his ideas for our state.

"I’m proud of my experience, and I’m grateful that leaders who I respect and admire, such as the former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, the former Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, and the former Under Secretary of Education of the United States, have chosen to speak out on my behalf.

"The Mayor’s ads are a return to old politics that he once disavowed as a candidate for office. His attacks against me are an attempt to distort my record, not inform the public about my real experience.

"The leaders I worked with know first hand about my experience in the Coast Guard, at the White House, and at the Department of Education. Their statements speak for themselves about my qualifications to lead our state.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Larisa on the warpath

Joe Larisa collects $8,200 from Charlestown
By Will Collette
Read on to see what you got for this money

Yeah, well, blame me. In the lead item in the July13 Charlestown Tapas, I raised the question of what ever happened to Charlestown’s Special Counsel for Watching the Narragansetts in Case They Do Something Joe Larisa

Based on documents sent by Town Hall in response to my resolving open records request, Larisa had not submitted his bill for his $2,050 monthly retainer in several months.

Plus there was an articlein the Providence Journal that reported Larisa had moved his family out of state to South Dartmouth, MA.

Did the town finally decide to end the perpetual war against the Tribe and let Larisa go? Did he leave without submitting a final bill? Have we finally come to our senses in Charlestown?

Nah, no such luck.

All my inquiry managed to do was to get Larisa to catch up on his invoices for four months, rather than his usually two-month-at-a-time drill.

The bills (click here to read) cover his “work” on behalf of Charlestown for the months of March through June.

During that time, Larisa “worked” for a grand total of ten billable hours. If you’ve ever employed a lawyer, you know that “billable” hours are not usually the same as actual hours.

Anyway, we got a grand total of ten billable hours out of Larisa, for which we paid him $8,200. The simple math puts his effective hourly rate at $820. To be fair, we would have paid him the same amount if he did nothing since his contract with Charlestown guarantees him $2,050 a month.

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