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Monday, August 29, 2016

Drinking green tea to prevent artery explosion

Kyoto University

Japan's favorite beverage might be offering more than just a relaxing tea break.

According to new research, green tea could prevent a deadly condition in the body's main artery. A Kyoto University team has found that abdominal aortic aneurysm -- a condition in which the main artery becomes overstretched and bloated -- developed less frequently in rats that drank green tea polyphenol, a major component of green tea.

Without treatment, abdominal aortic aneurysms eventually rupture and lead to death 50% of the time.

Generic Price Gouging

Even “low price” substitutes cause sticker shock
By Phil Mattera in the Dirt Diggers Digest

Mike Luckovich
For more cartoons by Mike Luckovich, CLICK HERE
Price gouging by the producer of EpiPens has been creating a hardship for those suffering from severe allergies, but it is also revealing the truth about the one segment of the drug industry that was thought to have some decency.

Mylan, the corporation behind the EpiPen scandal, is best known as a leader in the production of generic drugs, which were supposed to weaken the stranglehold of the pharma giants. 

Building on the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act, Mylan and the other generic firms began to have an impact. Mylan introduced cheaper versions of brand-name medications for Parkinson’s disease, depression, arthritis and other ailments.

In the past decade or so, however, Mylan began to stray from its mission. The company became preoccupied with growth and was soon appearing in the business news more in connection with mergers than with product announcements. 

Challenged Over 'Racist' Remarks, Maine Governor Leaves Unhinged Voicemail

Top contender for worst Governor in the nation

"I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a 
racist, you cocksucker," Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday in a 
voicemail to a state legislator. 
(Photo: Maine Department of Education/flickr/cc)
Maine's Donald Trump-supporting, race-baiting, Republican Governor Paul LePage has gotten into hot water—again—after leaving a state lawmaker an expletive-laced and threatening voicemail on Thursday.

In the phone message, LePage—who was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014—demands that Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine "prove" that he's a racist, calls him a "son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker," and says: "I am after you."

Gattine has denied that he called the governor racist after his latest diatribe on the racial background of drug dealers in the state. LePage on Wednesday said that "90 percent of drug dealers coming into Maine are black or Hispanic."

The Portland Press Herald reports:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Despite a history of problems, regulators grant Millstone nuclear plant license revisions

Issues remain about nuclear waste storage, plant reliability, safety, environmental impact and security
By Will Collette

Image result for fukushima nuclear disasterI have been cutting back on articles about the Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford, CT. 

Even though Charlestown is only 20 miles downwind from the troubled facility, well within the danger zone, and the plant has been rife with problems, it seems as though Charlestown town government could care less.

Even though the Town Council, comprised entirely of members of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party), frequently adopts resolutions and sends letters about matters having little or no bearing on Charlestown, Millstone seems to be totally off their radar. 

Out of sight, out of mind, even though, as the wind blows, it’s practically in our backyard.

Let’s review the issues. Millstone is our local nuke. If there’s an accident at the plant, the prevailing winds will carry any released radiation right to us.

Any of a number of problems could cause an accident – failure of the reactor cooling system (and they’ve had recurring problems with their cooling system), a fire at the radioactive waste storage site where millions of pounds of high-level wastes are stored on-site for lack of any other place to put them, or a terrorist attack.

It took Millstone years after the 9/11 attacks to hold its first emergency drill, though apparently they are starting to catch up, having just recently won praise from FEMA for its August 16 six-hour emergency drill.

That contrasts with last May when a majority of Millstone’s security guards voted “no confidence” in Millstone management or contractors when it comes to the safety and security of the plant.

"Humane" border control

Pic of the Moment

VIDEO: American workers aren't quitters

 Watch this video on YouTube:

NOT a nice surprise

Global warming's next surprise: Saltier beaches
New Jersey Institute of Technology

joyfulnoiserecordings  beach dead ocean skeleton

Batches of sand from a beach on the Delaware Bay are yielding insights into the powerful impact of temperature rise and evaporation along the shore that are in turn challenging long-held assumptions about what causes beach salinity to fluctuate in coastal zones that support a rich network of sea creatures and plants.

The findings have implications for the migration and survival of invertebrates such as mussels and crabs as global warming drives temperatures higher.

Boosting solar energy conversion efficiency

"Who would have expected that an electrical insulator could be used to improve solar energy conversion?"

Designers of solar cells may soon be setting their sights higher, as a discovery by a team of researchers has revealed a class of materials that could be better at converting sunlight into energy than those currently being used in solar arrays.

Their research shows how a material can be used to extract power from a small portion of the sunlight spectrum with a conversion efficiency that is above its theoretical maximum -- a value called the Shockley-Queisser limit.

This finding, which could lead to more power-efficient solar cells, was seeded in a near-half-century old discovery by Russian physicist Vladimir M. Fridkin, a visiting professor of physics at Drexel, who is also known as one of the innovators behind the photocopier.

Trump’s Taxes Won’t Go Away

The candidate’s ongoing scandalous behavior can’t cover up whatever he’s hiding in his tax returns.

Image result for what's in trump's tax returnsEvery day we get a new headline on Donald Trump, each one more bombastic than the last, as reporters attempt to keep up with his latest provocation. But which headline wont fade away as we near November? His tax returns.

Or more to the point, his lack thereof.

Every U.S. presidential candidate since 1976 has released their tax returns. It’s a simple and straightforward tradition, one that sheds light on a candidate’s decision-making in personal finances, business dealings, and contributions to society.

Perhaps that’s why Trump himself said in May 2014, “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely, and I would love to do that.”

Fast forward two years later, he now says he won’t release them before November.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Not much to show for “teaching to the test”

Image result for teaching to the testNo surprise: Most students in Rhode Island “failed” the Common Core PARCC tests. As I have explained many times, the tests were designed to fail most students.

They are aligned with NAEP Proficient, which most students have never reached, with the sole exception of those in Massachusetts, where slightly more than half have reached that standard.
What is the point of giving a test that is too hard for most students?

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote to say that the tests were designed to show college readiness, and only 40% (or less) are college ready. But 70% enroll in college. Thus, he writes, a remediation crisis in college.

But really, why should schools test third graders for college readiness?

Colleges set their own admission standards; they can accept or reject whoever they want.
I wonder if Michael Phelps or Simone Boles would have tested “proficient” on PARCC?

I posed these questions to him:

Making the passing mark so high that most kids fail is insane. Does that make them smarter? Will they be denied a high school diploma? Will they be retained in grade? Will the schools become giant holding pens where most kids never get past third grade?

Mike is never at a loss for words so I expect he will answer.

Meanwhile, the RI Commissioner of Education, Ken Wagner (formerly deputy commissioner in New York state), was quoted in the Providence Journal:

Less than 22 percent of black and Latino students scored proficient in English compared to a statewide average of almost 38 percent on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a challenging test rolled out last year amid dismal results.

Less than 9 percent of English language learners reached the state standard, and that number fell to less than 6 percent for special-needs students.

Related content R.I. educators urge stay the course on standardized testsIn an interview yesterday, State Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said poverty was not to blame for the chronically low scores among urban school districts.

“If you go back 40 years, we’ve always been at a 30- or 40-percent plateau,” he said, referring to the percentage of students reaching proficiency in English and math. “Part of the story is we need to stop changing our minds. We need take a common-sense approach and stick with it for the long haul.”

Rhode Island, unlike Massachusetts, has switched state tests. It has reversed course on whether passing a test should be a high-school graduation requirement. Legislative leadership has undermined the work of education commissioners.

Math scores increased by 5 points this year, with nearly 30 percent of all students meeting the standards. Students improved in every grade level. In English, scores improved by two percentage points, with almost 38-percent reaching proficiency. Students improved in five out of eight grade levels.

Tim Duffy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, said Rhode Island is moving forward but “not fast enough.”

“The anxiety about the PARCC seems to have dissipated,” he said. “But the scores are stagnant at the upper grade levels, which reinforces that the test has to be part of the graduation requirements.”

Wagner moved this year to drop the PARCC as a graduation requirement after widespread criticism that urban students were not adequately prepared to take it, among other concerns.

The PARCC, which was originally adopted by 24 states, is down to seven. Rhode Island is the only state in New England to stick with the test, which has been confounded by technical problems and a huge opt-out movement in states like New York. Massachusetts switched to a hybrid of the PARCC and its own test, the MCAS, this past year.

Wagner denied that the test is too hard, a common criticism. Instead, he said Rhode Island has much work to do to put a rigorous curriculum in every school, ramp up teacher training and redesign the way schools, especially high schools, are structured.

High-school students across Rhode Island performed poorly on the tests. In Providence, every high school but Classical scored in the single digits on the math and English PARCC tests.

But it wasn’t just the urban schools that underperformed. At Burrillville High School, only 17 percent of the students scored proficient on the English test. In North Kingstown and South Kingstown, approximately a third scored proficient and in Westerly, 21 percent did.

Wagner says the tests are not too hard. Surely that can’t be an excuse for the vast majority that “failed.” Can’t blame poverty.

The real problem, he says, is that we need to stick with the PARCC no matter how many kids fail.
Tim Duffy of the state’s school committees wants PARCC to be a graduation requirement (Wagner disagrees). What will Rhode Island do with all those kids who never pass?

At this point, it would be a very large majority. Will they drop out? Will they get jobs without a high school diploma? Will they stay in third grade or fourth grade until they pass? Will third grade become a huge parking lot where few students make it to fourth grade?

Please, someone, explain how this would work. And Commissioner Wagner, how many years will it take until most students in Rhode Island “pass” the PARCC test, a feat not accomplished by any other state except Massachusetts? Will students with disabilities stay in school for the rest of their lives?

VIDEO: The perfect end game

To watch this video on YouTube:

Petition to save Social Security

Tell Congress: Don't dismantle Social Security!
Join the thousands of people who have already committed to protecting Social Security, for our seniors today and for generations to come. Sign the petition today!

Eighty-one years ago this month, the Social Security Act was signed into law. Since then, generations of Americans have relied on this critical program, and today Social Security continues to keep millions of Americans out of poverty.

But despite Social Security’s resounding success, Republicans under Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are pushing extreme budgets that would slash essential funding by privatizing or even dismantling the program. These right-wing proposals run against the basic promise of Social Security: that after a lifetime of hard work, Americans will have access to the benefits they’ve earned.

It’s no wonder so many in the workforce are worried about what would happen if we ended this cornerstone of economic security for our seniors.

I’m committed to protecting Social Security, for our seniors today and for generations to come. Will you sign the petition to stand with us and tell Congress to protect Social Security?

Bizarre Trump “doctor’s note” explained…sort of

To watch this video on YouTube:

Donald Trump’s doctor didn’t follow standard medical procedure when he proclaimed the Republican nominee to be in good health, according to a newly released video.

Dr. Harold Bornstein, who has reportedly been Trump’s physician for 35 years, confessed that he took only five minutes to write up the assessment of Trump, who he described in the letter as in “excellent” health.

The four-paragraph letter — the only medical information released by Trump — was written and released in December but has drawn fresh scrutiny in recent days as Trump’s allies have questioned Hillary Clinton’s health, despite a more detailed two-page letter from her doctor that said she has no serious issues.

Unique perspective to the study of climate change

URI graduate student awarded humanities grant for climate change study

URI grad student Alanna Casey poses in front of a historic ship at San Francisco Maritime National Park, where she is conducting research on climate change. (Photo by Jennifer He.)

URI grad student Alanna Casey poses in front of a historic ship at San Francisco Maritime National Park, where she is conducting research on climate change. (Photo by Jennifer He.)

Alanna Casey is bringing a unique perspective to the study of climate change at national parks in the United States.

A graduate student in the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Marine Affairs who already earned a master’s degree in history from URI, she is analyzing three parks from the perspective of science, policy and history to help them prepare for the inevitable challenges they will face as sea level rises due to the warming climate.

“I’m taking a dual approach,” said Casey, a native of San Ramon, Cal., with an undergraduate degree from Smith College. “I’m conducting historical research, archival work and oral histories to get historical perspectives on how the parks may have adapted to changes in the past, and I’m also interviewing site managers about how this information can be interpreted in the present.”

If the Clinton Foundation is so corrupt, why did Donald Trump donate to it?

Trump Gave 6-Figure Donation to Clinton Foundation

Image result for trump & clinton foundationDonald Trump donated at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, sparking controversy in light of his recent call to “shut it down.”

Trump published a statement regarding the Clinton Foundation on his website this Monday, calling it “the most corrupt enterprise in political history:”

"Hillary Clinton is the defender of the corrupt and rigged status quo. The Clintons have spent decades as insiders lining their own pockets and taking care of donors instead of the American people. It is now clear that the Clinton Foundation is the most corrupt enterprise in political history. What they were doing during Crooked Hillary’s time as Secretary of State was wrong then, and it is wrong now. It must be shut down immediately."
Later that day, Steve Doocy of Fox News asked Trump about his statement:

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