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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Warmer temperatures lessen COVID-19 spread, but control measures still needed

Depends on public behavior

Imperial College London

New research shows transmission of the virus behind COVID-19 varies seasonally, but warmer conditions are not enough to prevent transmission.

The study, led by Imperial College London researchers and published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to incorporate environmental data into epidemiological models of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19.

The team show that temperature and population density are the most important factors determining how easily the virus spreads, but only in the absence of mobility-restricting measures, such as lockdowns.

First author of the study Dr Tom Smith, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: "Our results show that temperature changes have a much smaller effect on transmission than policy interventions, so while people remain unvaccinated, governments mustn't drop policies like lockdowns and social distancing just because a seasonal change means the weather is warming up.

"However, our work also suggests that lower autumn and winter temperatures may lead to the virus spreading more easily in the absence of policy interventions or behavioural changes."

Friday, June 18, 2021

Schartner family wants to turn Schartner Farms into robot-run mega-greenhouse

Massive Greenhouse Proposal Pits Need for Local Food Production Against Town’s Rural Character

By BRIAN P. D. HANNON/ecoRI News staff

Those behind the project say the proposed greenhouse operation could yield 650,000 pounds of tomatoes per acre, with an expansion eventually to 1,000 total acres. (istock)

A huge greenhouse project producing local food using advanced growing techniques and renewable energy seems on the surface to be an unassailable win for Rhode Island, but the planned launch raises concerns in the small community where millions of tomatoes would be grown.

Rhode Island Grows LLC says its pending operation at Schartner Farms off South County Trail in Exeter will reduce the supply chain Rhode Islanders rely upon for produce shipped from other states and bring needed revenue to the state’s agricultural sector.

But the industrial scale and location of the venture, which broke ground June 1, is a source of questions from municipal officials and opposition from at least one contingent of residents in Exeter.

Rhode Island Grows bills itself as “an advanced controlled environment vegetable produce company.” In simple terms, the company plans to grow a lot of tomatoes in high-tech greenhouses.

The company’s website projects the site could yield 650,000 pounds of tomatoes per acre, with an expansion to 350 acres in five years and eventually to 1,000 total acres. There would be five employees per acre, according to Rhode Island Grows. The company aims for distribution in six states, noting there is a market of 47 million people in the corridor between Boston and New York.

The key to the project is a technology called controlled environment agriculture (CEA), an automated, hydroponic system for cultivating crops in a closed setting. The system, which can grow food on a large scale even within the confines of a city, has resulted in extensive agricultural production in the Netherlands despite the nation’s diminutive size, according to Rhode Island Grows.

In a video on its website, Rhode Island Grows chairman Tim Schartner and chief financial officer Frederick Laist explain the aims of the operation, which would use the temperature-controlled greenhouses to establish conditions for maximum plant procreation throughout the year.

“By growing here in Rhode Island we can pick produce at five in the morning and get it on a supermarket shelf in New York City in time for someone to pick it up and buy it on their way home for dinner,” said Laist, who projected plants grown to 27 feet tall, lasting about 11 months and each producing 100 pounds of tomatoes.

The process would use 1 percent of the water normally deployed in field agriculture, while all electricity would be produced on site. The company plans to install “significant solar arrays” resulting in “near a negative carbon footprint,” Laist said.

Schartner, whose family owns the farmland, said robotics within the greenhouses would prevent contact with human hands before the tomatoes reach stores. While the work would primarily be computerized, he said the operation would provide full-time employment and training for its employees and the resulting production would benefit Rhode Island’s economy.

“We can produce incredible wealth just by producing our own food,” Schartner said in the video.

Rhode Island Grows did not respond to ecoRI News questions submitted by email.

VIDEO: The new Republican Party


Body language tells the story


Sticky baseballs

Explaining the physics of the latest scandal in Major League Baseball

It used to be spit balls, but now sticky baseballs are giving
 pitchers an advantage. Tage OlsinCC BY-SA
Cheating in baseball is as old as the game itself, and pitchers’ modifying the ball’s surface is part of that long history

Adding to the lore of cheating is a new scandal involving pitchers who may be applying sticky substances – what players refer to as “sticky stuff” – to baseballs.

Major League hitters are striking out this season nearly one in every four times they step to the plate, compared with one in six times in 2005.

As a sports physicist and longtime baseball fan, I’ve been intrigued by news reports that applying sticky substances to balls can make pitches spin faster. And if pitchers can throw their fastballs, curveballs and sliders with more spin than in previous years, their pitches will be tougher to hit. How does science explain all this?

BOLO alert out for new invader

URI scientists ask Rhode Islanders to watch for arrival of another invasive insect

Todd McLeish

Another troublesome invasive species is expected to arrive in Rhode Island this summer, and experts at the University of Rhode Island are asking the public to keep an eye out for it.

The spotted lanternfly, which feeds on more than 70 different plants and is particularly damaging to grape vines, is native to China, India and Vietnam and was first detected in the United States in 2014 in southeast Pennsylvania. It has since spread into eight other states, including New York and New Jersey, and last year it was found in several locations in Connecticut.

“We expect it to arrive here imminently; this summer is very possible,” said Lisa Tewksbury, an entomologist at the URI Biocontrol Lab who monitors invasive species.

Spotted lanternflies are sap-feeding leafhoppers, and they look quite distinctive. In their earliest nymphal stages, they are black with white spots, and later they turn red with black and white markings. The inch-long adults look like a gray spotted moth with scarlet hindwings. They can gather in massive numbers, making them a nuisance even when they aren’t damaging trees and plants.

What are the ethics of giving back money that doesn't belong to you?

The answer may surprise you

Kate Padgett WalshIowa State University

Keeping what is not rightfully one’s own reveals a lack of integrity
 and kindness. 
Mohammed Asad/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
In Monopoly, a player who draws the card that says “BANK ERROR IN YOUR FAVOR. COLLECT $200” gets to keep the money.

But what happens when such a mistake occurs in real life?

Kelyn Spadoni, a 911 dispatcher, recently received quite a bit more than the US$80 she was expecting when financial brokerage firm Charles Schwab mistakenly transferred more than $1.2 million to her account, apparently because of a software glitch. 

When she discovered the extra money, she promptly transferred those funds to her other accounts and bought a new car and house, among other purchases.

One could ask whether it was unethical for her to keep the money instead of trying to return it. As a scholar who studies the ethics of debt and finance, I believe the answer is more complex than a simple “yes” or “no.”

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Supreme Court affirms tribal police authority over non-Indians

Impact on Charlestown Police and Narragansett Tribal Police unknown

Kirsten CarlsonWayne State University

The actions of a Crow Nation police officer were in question at
the Supreme Court. Crow Nation
The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the sovereign power of American Indian tribes on June 1, 2021, ruling that tribal police officers have the power to temporarily detain and search non-Indians on public rights-of-way through American Indian lands.

In most communities in the United States, the local government has the authority to investigate and prosecute both misdemeanor and felony crimes. 

And local police can detain and search individuals suspected of state and federal crimes, at least until handing them off to the appropriate authorities.

Tribal governments – the local governments in Indian country – have the power to prosecute tribal citizens on tribal lands. When it comes to non-Indians, though, the situation is different. In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that tribal governments could not prosecute non-Indians for any crimes in Indian country. 

Tribal governments have to rely on state and federal governments to prosecute non-Indians – which doesn’t happen often. Effectively, non-Indians have been able to commit crimes in Indian country with impunity.

Tribal police are often the first responders to reported crimes on tribal lands, regardless of whether the victims or the alleged perpetrators are American Indians or not. Now, with this latest ruling, the court has clarified that tribal police can search non-Indians suspected of state or federal crimes in Indian country and detain them until handing them off to federal or state authorities.



Father's Day Paddle






Depicted here and below are two kids who hopped in a canoe with WPWA safety guide, Michael, and had a great time! 



Easy and Exciting Paddle for Father's Day


Sunday, June 20th, 10am - 12pm



Share a boat, or simply share the water.

Canoes, two person kayaks and various life jacket sizes are available.


We will launch from WPWA Campus on the Wood River and paddle up to Frying Pan Pond. Water levels in the pond have been quite high and vegetation has been low, making a loop around the pond enjoyable. This section of river and pond are wide with little flow, making it easy for beginners. Afterwards, feel free to bring your own lunch and eat on the WPWA decks on the Wood River or in the grass.


Barn and Tree Swallows often swoop and dive above us at the Pond. Painted Turtles sunbathing is a common sight. Cross your fingers to see Egrets and Great Blue Herons.


·         Contact Email:

·         Participant Cost:

o    Free for Otter and Osprey Members

o    $15 per Member




Earworms: the world's most hated parasites

Music listening near bedtime disruptive to sleep

Baylor University

The #1 cause
Most people listen to music throughout their day and often near bedtime to wind down. But can that actually cause your sleep to suffer? 

When sleep researcher Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, realized he was waking in the middle of the night with a song stuck in his head, he saw an opportunity to study how music -- and particularly stuck songs -- might affect sleep patterns.

Scullin's recent study, published in Psychological Science, investigated the relationship between music listening and sleep, focusing on a rarely-explored mechanism: involuntary musical imagery, or "earworms," when a song or tune replays over and over in a person's mind. 

These commonly happen while awake, but Scullin found that they also can happen while trying to sleep.

Data actually proves infections go up when people let down their guard

New model accounts for the effect of behavior changes to predict COVID-19 cases

Brown University

By adding behavioral components to an infectious disease model, Brown University researchers have developed a new modeling approach that captures the peaks and valleys in new COVID-19 cases seen over the past 16 months.

The approach, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could be useful in forecasting the future trends in the current pandemic, as well as in predicting the course of future ones.  

“We know that people’s behavior matters in terms of how an infection is spread,” said Vikas Srivastava, an assistant professor of engineering at Brown and principal investigator of the research. “We wanted to see if we could quantify those behavioral aspects, incorporate them into a model and see whether that model is able to capture waves of infection rates we saw in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

4 new findings shed light on crowdfunding for charity

GoFundMe has its limits

Jacqueline AckermanIUPUI and Jon BergdollIUPUI

People are mobilizing billions of dollars by chipping in. 
Orbon Alija/E+ via Getty Images
Raising money online from a group of donors, known as crowdfunding, is relatively new. The term was coined in 2006 by entrepreneur Michael Sullivan.

But having lots of people chip in to support a cause or help out their friends and loved ones is a long-established practice. The pooling of contributions has occurred throughout human history.

It’s hard to know exactly how much money changes hands today through GoFundMe, Indiegogo, Kickstarter and the thousands of other crowdfunding platforms out there. 

Without any U.S. oversight or coordination, gathering accurate and complete data is next to impossible. But there’s no doubt that crowdfunding is on the rise.

Still, estimates exist. Online crowdfunding campaigns are raising more than US$34 billion a year around the world, according to one, up from around $1.5 billion in 2011. Another source pegs the amount of money raised via crowdfunding in North America alone at $17 billion in 2020.

Although these campaigns help pay for everything from hospital bills and COVID-19 relief for restaurants to college tuition and launching new companies, little research about it has been done. To see which kinds of charitable crowdfunding campaigns garner support and why, we teamed up with other colleagues at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Here are four of our main findings.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Why the Second Amendment protects a 'well-regulated militia' but not a private citizen militia

In most states - even Texas and, yes, Rhode Island - armed private militias are illegal

Eliga GouldUniversity of New Hampshire

The Second Amendment declares the importance of state-government
authorized militias, like these National Guard troops guarding the
California State Capitol building. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
When a federal judge in California struck down the state’s 32-year-old ban on assault weapons in early June 2021, he added a volatile new issue to the gun-rights debate.

The ruling, by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez, does not take effect immediately, because California has 30 days to appeal the rejection of its assault weapons ban. 

Most coverage has focused on Benitez’s provocative analogy between an AR-15 and a Swiss army knife. But the case raises troubling questions about the meaning and proper role of “militias” under the Second Amendment.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claimed that California’s assault weapons ban unconstitutionally restricted citizens’ Second Amendment rights by preventing them from using assault weapons for home defense and other legal purposes. California’s defense was that assault weapons are more dangerous than other firearms and therefore subject to additional restrictions.

In his ruling, Benitez asserts that citizens have a right to own a private assault weapon not just for defense of a gun owner’s home, but also for “citizens’ militias” engaged in homeland defense.

If the founders were alive today, I believe they would be very concerned – because the Constitution is clear that the only militias protected by the Second Amendment are “well-regulated” units authorized and controlled by state governments, not a private citizen militia.

And Trump gave Putin a free pass