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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Wind Energy Accounted for 42 Percent of New U.S. Power in 2020

Except in Charlestown, where wind energy is banned 

Yale E360 DIGEST

EDITOR'S NOTE: Even before Donald Trump claimed, without a shred of evidence, that "wind mills cause cancer," the Charlestown Citizens Alliance got Charlestown to effectively ban the use of wind energy in any form, including small-scale residential use. Using their control of the Town Council, they passed an ordinance that created so many obstacles that not one single permit has been issued for residential wind energy since the ordinance was enacted. - Will Collette

Wind energy accounted for the bulk of new power-generating capacity in the United States last year, according to a trio of new reports from the Department of Energy. In total, wind supplied 42 percent of new U.S. capacity in 2020, while solar supplied 38 percent and natural gas the remaining 20 percent.

The nearly 17,000 megawatts of land-based wind power installed in 2020 represent $24.6 billion in investments, according to the Energy Department. Iowa, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Illinois, and Missouri each installed more than 1,000 megawatts of capacity, while Texas added more than 4,000 megawatts.

Wind energy now supplies more than 10 percent of in-state power generation in 16 states, including more than 30 percent in Kansas, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota, and 57 percent in Iowa.

Put your nose in your knee?

Nasal cartilage relieves osteoarthritis in the knee

University of Basel

Human articular cartilage defects can be treated with cells taken from the
nasal septum. Image source: University of Basel, Christian Flierl

Cartilage cells from the nasal septum can not only help repair cartilage injuries in the knee -- according to researchers from the University of Basel and the University Hospital of Basel, they can also withstand the chronic inflammatory tissue environment in osteoarthritis and even counteract the inflammation.

A research team at the Department of Biomedicine of the University of Basel and the University Hospital of Basel is cultivating cartilage tissue from cells of the nasal septum to repair articular cartilage in the knee. 

The team led by Professor Ivan Martin and Professor Andrea Barbero has already succeeded in doing this in initial clinical studies on isolated cartilage damage, and they have now reported that the approach could also be suitable for degenerative joint diseases such as osteoarthritis. Their findings have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Osteoarthritis is associated with cartilage degradation, which can cause severe pain and reduce mobility. The therapeutic approach up to now aims at palliative treatment of the inflammation and pain until a knee joint replacement by a prosthetic implant becomes unavoidable. Joint prostheses, however, have a limited durability, which makes the treatment problematic, especially in younger patients.

Study of 6.2 Million Patients Reveals No Serious Health Effects Linked to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

Research will continue for 2 years.


Federal and Kaiser Permanente researchers combing the health records of 6.2 million patients found no serious health effects that could be linked to the 2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

The study published September 2 in JAMA reports the first comprehensive findings of the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), which studies patient records for 12 million people in 5 Kaiser Permanente service regions along with HealthPartners in Minneapolis, the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, and Denver Health. The work is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

I Will Build a Great Wall That Will Be Impenetrable

Except For Saws, Wind, Breaches, Ladders and Now Monsoons

By ABBY ZIMET for Common Dream

An activist paints the border wall near Ciudad Juarez in 2017, when Trump was already deemed the least popular US leader in modern history.  Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a malevolent clown promised a country that didn't want it a "perfect" and "beautiful" wall on our southern border to keep out scary brown families - aka "drugs, crime and rapists" - daring to seek a better life, and also Mexico would pay for it, "Mark my words," which, too bad for him, many did, after which they quickly realized it was a crock. 

So was the sordid, chimerical rest: In the end, instead of his much-touted, 2,000-mile wallapalooza, we got a pointless, shoddy, racist, laughably partial, "not engineered to last,” frequently sued and constantly besieged "environmental catastrophe" funded by a deeply resistant we the people after its bloated budget soared from $8 billion to over $25 billion, in part thanks to 200 sketchy "contract modifications" - aka bribes - granted to a small group of pre-selected, fat-cat GOP donors, thus rendering the wall's per-mile cost five times what it was under Bush and Obama. 

Because, grifter.

“I will build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me," said the clown, though, even then, hardly anyone did. 

Progress or socialism?


URI Humanities series explores historical memory, memorials and commemoration

Year-long series opens Sept. 29 with author Clint Smith III

Tony LaRoche

A stone monolith outside the library pays tribute to the
Kingston Campus’ history as an ancestral home
of the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

Amid the struggle for racial justice last year in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, more than 90 monuments memorializing Confederate leaders of the Civil War were removed. In several cities, statues of Christopher Columbus were defaced.

The discussion of monuments and societal memory moves to the University of Rhode Island campus as the Center for the Humanities opens a year-long series exploring society’s collective decisions and dialogue about what to commemorate, a discussion deeply rooted in the social, cultural, and political experience of the nation.

Memorials and Commemoration in the U.S,” which will include virtual and in-person presentations, will focus on themes of race, ethnicity and sovereignty on the local and national levels. All events are free and open to the public. Registration is required.

“The question of historical memory has become so politicized. We’ve all become very conscious of that in the context of the controversies over statues of Columbus and Confederate memorials,” said Evelyn Sterne, director of the Center for the Humanities. “Our speaker series looks at the pressing question of how memory is constructed and revised.”

The series opens Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 5 p.m. with a virtual talk hosted by the Harrington School of Communication and MediaClint Smith III, an author, poet and staff writer at The Atlantic, will discuss his No. 1 New York Times bestseller, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, which explores how different sites in the nation reconcile their relationship to the history of slavery. Ammina Kothari, the new director of the Harrington School, will moderate a discussion following Smith’s lecture.

Good news, bad news

Evolution now accepted by majority of Americans

University of Michigan

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's "good news" that the science of evolution is now accepted by a majority, but bad news that (a) it took so long and (b) that the percentage is only 54%. - Will Collette

The level of public acceptance of evolution in the United States is now solidly above the halfway mark, according to a new study based on a series of national public opinion surveys conducted over the last 35 years.

"From 1985 to 2010, there was a statistical dead heat between acceptance and rejection of evolution," said lead researcher Jon D. Miller of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. "But acceptance then surged, becoming the majority position in 2016."

Examining data over 35 years, the study consistently identified aspects of education -- civic science literacy, taking college courses in science and having a college degree -- as the strongest factors leading to the acceptance of evolution.

COVID-19 vaccines effective against Delta variant

How Pfizer, Moderna and J&J Compare


COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalizations and emergency department visits caused by the Delta variant, according to data from a national study. That data also indicate that Moderna’s vaccine is significantly more effective against Delta than Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

“These real-world data show that vaccines remain highly effective at reducing COVID-19 related hospitalizations and emergency department visits, even in the presence of the new COVID-19 variant,” said study author Shaun Grannis, M.D., M.S., Regenstrief Institute vice president for data and analytics and professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine.

“We strongly recommend vaccinations for all who are eligible to reduce serious illness and ease the burden on our healthcare system.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Rhode Island COVID transmission rate and deaths jet up

Vaccine mandates needed now more than ever

By Will Collette

When Tuesday’s COVID transmission rate was updated at 2 PM, I was shocked to see it at 236.3 per 100,000 when it was “only” 208 yesterday. The Health Department also reported six more COVID deaths.

I don’t recall seeing such a steep one-day jump in either transmission or death for months.

The rate of transmission tells us how widely COVID is passing through the population. For perspective, the transmission rate was only 12 per 1000,000 on July 4 so our community transmission rate has increased by nearly a factor of 20.

The total number of RI’s COVID dead crossed 2,800.

Meanwhile, accidental Governor Dan McKee is trying to decide whether to go through with his own plan to mandate vaccination for health care workers.

I think it’s a no-brainer: any health care worker who doesn’t believe in vaccination should not be a health care worker. Period. I would not want to be treated by one.

Yet 33 state Representatives including Charlestown’s own Blake “Flip” Filippi, village idiot Justin Price, conservative Westerly Democrat Sam Azzinaro and Charlestown’s Probate Judge Bob Craven signed a letter to McKee asking him NOTto mandate vaccination of health care workers.

I was surprised to see Bob Craven’s name on the list so I e-mailed him.

Dear Bob,

I ask you to reconsider signing on to Doc Corvese’s and Flip Filippi’s letter asking the Governor to lift the COVID vaccine mandate on health care workers.

Frankly, at this stage of the pandemic, it is a disgrace that ALL health workers aren’t already vaccinated, especially since they were top priority and first in line when the vaccines came out last winter.

Unvaccinated health care workers – especially those who work in nursing homes – should have been fired last March if they failed to get vaccinated in January and February.

They of all people should know better that we cannot control this pandemic without more people getting vaxxed. Fortunately, unvaccinated health workers are outliers; most health care workers understand the value of vaccines and have been vaxxed. These outliers will not be missed.

This is not about personal choice but about public health and safety. Vaccine mandates wiped out smallpox and polio.

You probably know that Ray Hull has already withdrawn his name from this letter. I hope you will do likewise and urge other House leadership who signed on to take their names off.

I received a one-line reply:

“We can’t make people get a vaccine and I don’t want there to be a lack of health care workers”

I challenged Bob on both points, sending him a link to the US Supreme Court’s Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) which is the controlling decision affirming vaccine mandates as well as examples of the many other court-approved measures where the public health rights of the public override individual choice.

Further, health care workers had been eligible for the vaccines since January and should have gotten their shots long ago. I have not hear back from Bob on my second message.

Hospitalizations and deaths in Rhode Island, as elsewhere, are still largely limited to the unvaccinated, including many children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. 

A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shows Rhode Island to have the third-highest per capita rate (behind Tennessee and South Carolina) of all states for COVID infections in children.

One prominent death last week was Barrington Police Sergeant Gino Caputo after an agonizing five weeks. WPRI reports his widow Cindy Caputo “said her husband chose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because he was healthy, had no underlying medical conditions and rarely got sick.”

Sgt. Caputo’s sister Rosamaria Gallucci said:

“A lot of people are going back and forth on vaccination, but the truth is, they really need to get vaccinated. They need to get vaccinated because this is a perfect example of what will happen if they don’t.”

Just over half of all Americans have been fully vaccinated. Roughly 64% of all Rhode Islanders (including the young, ineligible children) have been fully vaccinated. The outliers – the Trumpnuts and anti-vaxxers – represent a public health threat to all of us.

Our 133,000 young Rhode Island children under 12 are especially vulnerable. They are being hospitalized and dying. Many will suffer long-term effects.

Those of us who have been fully vaccinated face the threat of vaccine-resistant mutations of the coronavirus. One such mutation is already out there, the “mu variant,” which has been detected in Rhode Island.

According to Health Department data, as of September 14, 145,000 eligible Rhode Islanders have not been vaccinated.

This minority has chosen to threaten the lives of small children, the state’s economy and our well-being. The fact that some of them are health care workers is a disgrace.

We cannot simply allow ourselves to continue to drift through this pandemic without a sharpened focus on what it takes to end it.

That means mandatory masking, vaccination and social distancing. It means major upgrades in ventilation and air quality in schools, businesses and public places. It means restricting travel from states where it is official policy to allow COVID to run wild, such as Texas and Florida.

Hospitals and other health care facilities should have triage measures in place to put the willfully unvaccinated at the bottom of the priority list for ER and ICU treatment.

Let’s stop coddling the unvaccinated. They are, by choice, putting themselves and all of us in harm’s way.

Famous last words


Doing the right thing


It’s Not Just COVID-19

Most Respiratory Viruses Actually Spread by Aerosols


Phases involved in airborne transmission of respiratory viruses. Credit: From Wang et al., ‘Airborne transmission of respiratory viruses’ ( N.CARY/SCIENCE

Conventional wisdom on viral disease transmission needs revision, international science team finds.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind today’s global coronavirus pandemic, spreads primarily by inhalation of virus-laden aerosols at both short and long ranges — and a comprehensive new assessment of respiratory viruses finds that many others probably do as well. 

SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, influenza, measles, and the rhinoviruses that cause the common cold can all spread via aerosols that can build up in indoor air and linger for hours, an international, interdisciplinary team of researchers has reported in a review published in Science on August 27, 2021.

Over the last century and at the beginning of this pandemic, it was widely believed that respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, mainly spread through droplets produced in coughs and sneezes of infected individuals or through touching contaminated surfaces. 

However, droplet and fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 fails to account for the numerous superspreading events observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, or the much higher transmission that occurs indoors versus outdoors.

Motivated by a desire to understand the factors leading to the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers from Taiwan, the United States, and Israel sought to identify as clearly as possible how the coronavirus and other respiratory viruses spread. 

For example, the team reviewed numerous studies of superspreading events observed during the COVID pandemic, and found the studies consistently showed that airborne transmission is the most likely transmission route, not surface contacts or contact with large droplets. One common factor at these superspreading events was the shared air people inhaled in the same room.

Many were linked to crowded locations, exposure durations of one hour or more, poor ventilation, vocalization, and lack of properly worn masks. The researchers also reviewed evidence collected from many other types of studies—air sampling, polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based and/or cell culture studies, epidemiological analysis, laboratory and clinical studies, and modeling work—and concluded that airborne transmission is a major, or even dominant transmission pathway for most respiratory diseases, not just COVID-19.

The case for boosters AND masks

With time and without masks, COVID-19 vaccines wane in protection, study finds

University of California - San Diego

Marvin Tolentino / Alamy Stock Photo
In a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine, publishing online September 1, 2021, an interdisciplinary team of physicians and public health experts at University of California San Diego measured the effectiveness of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines among health workers at UC San Diego Health, most notably during the emergence of the highly transmissible delta virus variant and coincident with the end of the state's mask mandate, allowing fully vaccinated persons to forgo face coverings in most places.

The letter's authors report that the effectiveness of both the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines significantly waned over time. Both vaccines were granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration in December 2020, with vaccinations of the UC San Diego Health work force beginning the same month for health care workers with direct, patient-facing duties.

In the letter, the authors note that from March through June 2021 vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic infection was estimated to exceed 90 percent; by July, however, it had fallen to approximately 65 percent.

"The decline in effectiveness is not entirely surprising," said co-senior author Francesca Torriani, MD, professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and program director of Infection Prevention and Clinical Epidemiology at UC San Diego Health.

"Clinical trial data suggested decreased effectiveness would occur several months after full vaccination, but our findings indicate that confronted by the delta variant, vaccine effectiveness for mildly symptomatic disease was considerably lower and waned six to eight months after completing vaccination."

Dr. Ashish Jha’s advice

It’s time to ‘turn a public health moment into a public health movement’

Brown University

At the start of his first “State of the School” address, one year into his tenure as dean of the Brown School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish K. Jha urged the audience to look around and take in the moment — a public health moment if there ever was one. 

“Here we are: Open tent. Socially distanced. Many of you wearing masks,” Jha said. 

Multiple effective vaccines against COVID-19 are freely available, yet people are taking health and safety precautions because, he said, the world is still fighting a pandemic that has exposed “weaknesses in our national public health system and the inability of that system to meet the urgent challenges of our time.” 

Speaking to a Brown public health community of faculty, staff and newly arrived undergraduate and graduate students on Wednesday, Sept. 1, on the University’s Simmons Quad, Jha referred to the pandemic as a lens through which the school and the country as a whole could view lessons learned — and a focal point for charting a path for what needs to happen next.

“As a school, we have important and urgent opportunities to confront what COVID has exposed,” Jha said. “Because throughout history, pandemics have opened a window for action that wasn’t open before. How we choose to act is up to us.”

Jha detailed how COVID-19 has exposed challenges to community health across the world: systemic racial inequities that resulted in a disproportionate rate of COVID-19 deaths among people of color; failure of public health systems to effectively collect data, perform tests, trace contacts and vaccinate populations; deadly and widespread effects of science denial; and the dangerous efficiency of social media to amplify and disseminate misinformation, with real-world negative health consequences.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The cost of ignorance

Medicare bills for unvaccinated surpass $2 billion for June and July alone

Walter Einenkel, Daily Kos Staff

There are myriad reasons people should get vaccinated. For one, it is safer than catching COVID-19. For two, if you are vaccinated and do contract COVID-19, the more severe and potentially harmful outcomes of your illness are greatly reduced. 

For three, you add greater protection to those around you, in your home and community, who are not able to get the vaccine. The sooner people can slow and stop the widespread availability of the virus, the sooner it can be brought under control.

But if protecting yourself and others from a deadly virus doesn’t appeal to you and you are still on the fence about getting vaccinated, just think with your pocketbook. According to CNN, who analyzed health care costs to Medicare of both the vaccine and hospitalizations, the cost differential is enormous. 

In fact, on average, it costs about 150 times more to end up hospitalized with COVID-19 than it does to get fully vaccinated (two shots of Pfizer or Moderna, or one shot of J&J), which costs you nothing because it’s subsidized.