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Monday, February 8, 2016

It’s Not All in Your Head

Your emotions could be making you sick.

We often hear about public health crises related to poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking. But what about chronic stress?

Canadian physician Gabor Maté studies the mind-body connection. He argues that chronic stress plays a big role in the development of disease.

It should come as no surprise that that emotions can impact physical health. When we’re sad, we cry. When we’re embarrassed, we blush. When we’re nervous, we might have lumps in our throats or butterflies in our stomachs.

Clearly, our feelings aren’t just experienced in our heads.

On-line retail champ succeeds at a price

Amazon Delivers Exploitation
By Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest

The 2015 financial results just announced by leave no doubt: the “everything store” is well on its way to dethroning Wal-Mart as the king of retail. Unfortunately, it also seems intent on taking over the role of the worst employer.

Amazon’s revenues leaped 20 percent last year to $107 billion as it dominated online commerce, especially during the holiday season. Profitability remained weak, but that’s a result of heavy spending to build a network of distribution centers enabling superfast delivery. It’s not because Amazon is generous to its 150,000 employees.

On the contrary, lousy working conditions have been a fact of life at Amazon since its earliest years. 

In 1999 the Washington Post published a story about the pressure put on customer service representatives to work at breakneck speed. “If it’s hard for you to go fast,” one Amazon manager told the newspaper, “it can be hard for you here.”

Amazon — which adopted the employee motto “Work hard, have fun and make history” — successfully opposed union organizing drives at its distribution centers using traditional retrograde employer tactics such as captive meetings and the closing of facilities where pro-union sentiment ran too high.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fixing our roads and bridges

By Steve Ahlquist in Rhode Island’s Future
2016-02-03 Building Trades State House 001

RhodeWorks is going to happen and nothing is going to stop it.

The idea of installing 14 tolling gantries and charging trucks up to $20 to transport goods through our state is key to Governor Gina Raimondo’s plan to generate the funds needed to repair Rhode Island’s crumbling bridges and roads.

There is a logic to this: Trucks are heavy and do the most damage to the roads so they should pay their share.

In her State of the State address, Governor Raimondo said, “While we’re at it, let’s reject the politics of procrastination and pass RhodeWorks.” Both House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed have strongly supported the program.

The revised RhodeWorks plan is cheaper, and is to include a strict prohibition on tolling cars without a public referendum.

Voting your self-interest

For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.

Magaziner will chair national panel on Financial Literacy

Work will support national effort to provide information and training for smart financial decisions
Seth, speaking in Charlestown (photo by Will Collette)

PROVIDENCE, RI -- General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has been selected to serve as the 2016 Chairman of the Financial Literacy Committee for the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST).

"As Treasurer, supporting the financial well-being of all Rhode Islanders is among my top priorities. So I'm honored to take a leadership role in the effort to promote financial literacy across our nation," Magaziner said. 

"Far too many people don't have the financial education they need to navigate the complex financial system. As State Treasurers, we have a vital role to play in empowering all people to manage their finances, support their families and reach their financial goals."

High drug price trend has 'infected' generics, experts say

American Society of Hematology

Pharmaceutical companies use several strategies to keep affordable generic drugs from the market, illustrating an emerging trend that authors say is becoming as harmful to consumers as high-cost brand-name drugs, authors report in a new article.

An article published online today in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), suggests that pharmaceutical companies use several strategies to keep affordable generic drugs from the market, illustrating an emerging trend that authors say is becoming as harmful to consumers as high-cost brand-name drugs.

The market price of pharmaceuticals, some costing patients more than $100,000 per year, increases public health spending and sometimes forces patients to make life-or-death decisions when they cannot afford their medications. 

The authors write that approximately one in five Americans admit they do not fill their prescriptions because of cost. From an economic standpoint, in 2013 the United States spent nearly 40 percent more per capita on pharmaceuticals than the second highest spender, Canada.

Manna from Hell

While soldiers who go to war risk death, the big corporations that go to war reap perpetual profits.

War is hell.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a global corporate peddler of rockets, drones, bombs, and all the other hellish weaponry of military conflict. In that case, war is manna from hell. So bring it on.

Indeed, it seems as if Beelzebub himself is in charge these days, with U.S. military forces enmeshed in at least 135 countries in 2015 alone. 

Plus, such chicken hawks as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are maniacally beating their flabby chests and screeching for even more military adventurism.

This perpetual warmongering is music to the ears of the people who serve as the CEOs and biggest investors in the war machine. It means a windfall of perpetual profits for them.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Monday night’s Town Council might, just might, be less boring than usual

Kids, schools and Ninigret on the agenda
By Will Collette

I wonder what it must feel like to be part of the Town Council, 100% controlled by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party), if you’re not invited, or even allowed, to come to the secret monthly meetings of the CCA Party Steering Committee (only Town Council Boss Tom Gentz is also a CCA Steering Committee member).

After all, the Steering Committee where all the real decisions about what happens in town, and particularly at Town Council meetings, really get made. I know I wouldn’t be able to sit still and be someone else’s meat puppet.

But hey, they got you on the Town Council, for what it’s worth, and that’s probably worth a little sublimation of free will.

We have another Town Council meeting coming on Monday night. Last month’s meeting was, as I predicted, incredibly dull and incredibly short. This month, the Council has some issues before it that might even still up a little energy.

If anyone is awake after the presentation on the town audit, they may wake up when the Council discusses a couple of Chariho School District issues which don’t seem to be all that controversial in themselves. But so much of the CCA Party base hates Chariho and wants to see it replaced with a string of charter schools, perhaps run by Ron Areglado or Donna Chambers, that they might take the opportunity to disparage the school district.

The CCA Party’s official position – I’m not making this up – is that children, especially those of school age, are parasites (also CLICK HERE) and that Charlestown will do everything it can to discourage families with children from settling in Charlestown.

A little further down the agenda is discussion of awarding a contract to upgrade the playground facilities at Ninigret Park. This agenda item is much more likely to bring the CCA Party base out – remember October 2014 when they attacked the idea of building an open shelter to protect the children from storms.

That project was practically free while this proposal will cost close to $200,000. I think the objections raised by some Arnolda residents to the children’s shelter had less to do with the cost but more to do with their abhorrence for the sounds of children playing.

The Council will also discuss the annual license application for the Rhythm & Roots festival and options the town has for what it collects in event fees for the use of the park. That’s one subject where there are a lot of differing opinions that generally don’t break according to Charlestown’s usual party lines.

Here's the agenda:

True chemistry

For more cartoons by Keith Knight, CLICK HERE

Drowning the Oil Industry

The Iranian gusher means prices won’t rebound anytime soon.

With oil cheaper than bottled water, the average American driver saved $540 at the pump last year.
But oil prices are also battering Alaska’s economy, rattling the stock market, and leaving thousands of workers in states like North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas jobless.

Can things get any worse for the oil industry and the folks who rely on it? Sure.

The biggest short-term reason is Iran. Having honored the terms of its landmark nuclear deal, the Middle Eastern nation is now at liberty to export more oil after years of sanctions. 

That’s why the commodity has slid as low as $26.55 a barrel — about half of what it fetched a year ago. And that was following a steep slide from the summer of 2014.

Iran has oodles of oil ready to ship at a time when global producers are already pumping 2 million more barrels daily than consumers need. 

The market is also bracing for a long-term gusher. Iran, with the world’s fourth-largest reserves, could eventually ramp up its exports by another million barrels a day.

Still lots of power outages across South County

Heavy snow and ice still taking a toll
By Will Collette

As of 1 PM, National Grid reports there are over 1,300 power outages across the state affecting 20,000 households.

Many of them are in South County as the effects of yesterday's ugly little snow storm linger.

Click here for the National Grid interactive map of outages and Click here to report an outage.

When I drove over to the Mini-Super this morning to drop off a load of electronic waste with Indie Cycle LLC (great people), I noticed a number of mailboxes were knocked off or damaged by snow plows. When the snow is as heavy and wet as the stuff produced by this storm, that kind of damage is inevitable.

However, the state does have a process you can follow to get either a mailbox replacement or up to $50 compensation if a state DOT truck knocked over your mail box. CLICK HERE for my past reports on this problem.

Why are habits so hard to break?

Duke University
Booking photo from the Smoking Gun

By now, you might have discovered that taming your sweet tooth as a New Year's resolution is harder than you think.

New research by Duke University scientists suggests that a habit leaves a lasting mark on specific circuits in the brain, priming us to feed our cravings.

Published online Jan. 21 in the journal Neuron, the research deepens scientists' understanding of how habits like sugar and other vices manifest in the brain and suggests new strategies for breaking them.

"One day, we may be able to target these circuits in people to help promote habits that we want and kick out those that we don't want," said the study's senior investigator Nicole Calakos, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology and neurobiology at the Duke University Medical Center.

Zuckerberg’s Get-Away Car

The Facebook founder's “philanthropy” lets him stash his billions without paying taxes.

Let us now praise “Lord Zuckerberg, The Magnificent!”

Mark Zuckerberg, the wunderkind of Silicon Valley who co-founded Facebook and amassed roughly a gabillion dollars in personal wealth, is now being hailed as a new giant of American altruism.

This started after the tech titan and his wife Priscilla Chan announced the birth of their first child. 

While delivering what could have been routine news, they announced that in honor of baby Maxima’s birth, they intend to donate $45 billion — 99 percent of their Facebook wealth — to charity.

The Wall Street JournalThe New York Times, and other media outlets swooned at Zuckerberg’s selfless act: “Philanthropy Pledge Sets New Giving Standard,” gushed Bloomberg

Lost in the fog of media adulation are two important facts: (1) the $45 billion didn’t actually go to charity, and (2) it wasn’t really a donation.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Jimmy Carter blasts campaign finance ruling as creating legalized bribery.

Former president Jimmy Carter blasted the controversial Citizens United ruling during BBC Radio interview.

Speaking to John Humphrys of BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Carter related that the way politics is being funded amounts to “legal bribery.” 

Speaking in the wake of the Iowa caucuses, Carter said the infusion of money in politics was the greatest change since he was elected president in 1976, noting that: 
““When I ran against Gerald Ford, or later Ronald Reagan, we didn’t raise a single penny to finance our campaign against each other … nowadays you have to have hundreds of millions of dollars to prevail.”
I didn’t have any money. Now there is a massive infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for all the candidates. Some candidates like Trump can put in his own money but others have to be able to raise a $100m to $200m just to get the Republican or Democratic nomination. That’s the biggest change in America.

VIDEO: how Moses Brown kids found out school was cancelled.

To see this amazing video on YouTube:

To see his great no-school announcement from last year:

Climate Planning: The Heat Is On

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Ozone, fine particulate matter, pollen and mold all influence air quality, and all are made worse by rising temperatures. Two groups considered especially vulnerable are children and the elderly. Children are more susceptible to poor air quality because their bodies are still developing. (RIDOH)
Ozone, fine particulate matter, pollen and mold all influence air quality, and all are made worse by rising temperatures. Two groups considered especially vulnerable are children and the elderly. Children are more susceptible to poor air quality because their bodies are still developing. (RIDOH)

Climate-change reports in Rhode Island and Massachusetts address most of the essential health topics. But there is a significant difference in how the states are implementing changes and addressing inadequacies.

In Massachusetts, a 2014 report recognizes that climate change burdens residents as well as state and local agencies. The average temperature is projected to increase 10 degrees by 2101. Days above 90 degrees are expected to increase six times; days above 100 degrees are projected to increase 10 times. The elderly, low-income families and the sick are the most likely to suffer from this additional heat.

Health officials say a lack of air conditioning and vegetation make matters worse. Heat intensifies air pollution and prompts asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. Increased rainfall increases runoff that carries toxic chemicals and pathogens, polluting groundwater and swimming areas.

Power outages spread

About 800 in Charlestown are in the dark
By Will Collette

The heavy wet snow has caused some sporadic power outages in South County. One of the biggest right now is in Wood River Junction. It extends into Charlestown.

If want to get a real-time look at outages here and around the state, CLICK HERE.

If you want to report an outage, CLICK HERE, although you'd need a back-up generator or cordless, wireless device to use that link since your PC won't work very well without power. Duh.

This is my least favorite kind of snow because of its weight. I rather have a foot of dry powder than this crap.

Continue on to see a screen shot of the National Grid outage map for the Charlestown area.

The Election Moves On

Marco Rubio is no longer a pipsqueak rolling in the mud with Jeb Bush.
Before the Iowa caucuses were mercifully laid to rest, I predicted that the surging Donald Trump — he of what George H.W. Bush called “the Big Mo” — would win the Republican contest handily. Bernie Sanders, I believed, would be confounded by the complexity of the Democratic rules and lose more or less badly.

What happened? Senator Ted Cruz handed The Donald his head and Bernie overcame a 40-point disadvantage to finish in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton.

That’s why they pay me the big bucks. Accuracy.

Hillary Email ‘Scandal’ Unraveling

Well, they say all good things must come to an end and for Republicans, it’s beginning to look like their favorite Anti-Hillary Clinton talking point is unraveling right before their eyes. 

It seems they may have to actually focus on the issues instead of obsessing over a manufactured scandal. (I’m kidding, of course!)

At first blush a new NBC News report seems like bad news for Clinton and her campaign. Journalists seemed to confirm that her emails contained “references” to CIA operatives who were conducting espionage overseas. Sounds bad, right?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Attorney General’s office allows Hopkinton to keep Morgan documents secret

Ruling says town may refuse to disclose files on complaints that Sen. Elaine Morgan impersonated police officer
By Will Collette

Right-wingnut Sen. Elaine Morgan (Tea Party-Hopkinton, Charlestown, Exeter, Richmond,  W. Greenwich) was the subject of citizen complaints against her for abusing her office as Hopkinton’s elected Town Sergeant. 

The complaints charged that Morgan used her town uniform to pretend she was a police officer when, in fact, she had no police powers.

Those complaints were filed with Hopkinton Police and with the Hopkinton Manager but were never formally investigated and no charges were ever filed.

The existence of those complaints is a fact. It’s also a fact that the town of Hopkinton never actually investigated those complaints. We know this because the Town of Hopkinton admitted it.

But that leaves us with some glaring questions: 
  • What did Morgan actually do that drew those complaints?
  • How did the town handle these serious charges against an elected town official who now happens to be the state Senator not just for Hopkinton, but also Richmond, Exeter and the northern half of Charlestown?

Unfortunately, you’ll probably never know.

Poor Donald

For more cartoons by Lalo Alcaraz, CLICK HERE

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Infrared Portrait of the Large Magellanic Cloud 

Cosmic dust clouds ripple across this infrared portrait of our Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

In fact, the remarkable composite image from the Herschel Space Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope show that dust clouds fill this neighboring dwarf galaxy, much like dust along the plane of the Milky Way itself.

The dust temperatures tend to trace star forming activity. Spitzer data in blue hues indicate warm dust heated by young stars.

Herschel's instruments contributed the image data shown in red and green, revealing dust emission from cooler and intermediate regions where star formation is just beginning or has stopped.

Dominated by dust emission, the Large Magellanic Cloud's infrared appearance is different from views in optical images. But this galaxy's well-known Tarantula Nebula still stands out, easily seen here as the brightest region to the left of center.

A mere 160,000 light-years distant, the Large Cloud of Magellan is about 30,000 light-years across.

Floating junk threatens our coastal ecology; presentation next Monday

Ocean scientist to discuss marine debris, invasive species from Japanese tsunami at Graduate School of Oceanography, Feb. 11

NARRAGANSETT, R.I., Feb. 4, 2016 – It’s been nearly five years since an earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan, killing nearly 16,000 residents. But what few people realize is that the catastrophe also swept tons of debris into the ocean. 

Docks, baskets, buoys, and boats —mostly made of plastic, fiberglass and styrofoam—were ejected into the Pacific Ocean and turned into floating ecosystems with seaweeds, crabs, clams, worms, barnacles, fish and many other species.

Eventually, the debris landed on the coast of North America from Alaska to California, as well as in Hawaii, providing researchers with a unique opportunity to study how ocean rafting may transport invasive species. 

One of those researchers is marine biologist James Carlton, who will present his discoveries during a talk Feb. 11 at the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Institute. Free and open to the public, the talk will start at 4 p.m. in the Institute’s auditorium on the Graduate School of Oceanography’s Narragansett Bay campus, 215 South Ferry Road.

“Uh, oh, better keep watch on that Mako!”

URI researcher uses “shark race” to study movement patterns of mako sharks

URI shark expert Brad Wetherbee (center) and colleagues from
Nova Southeastern University tag a mako shark as part of the Great
Shark Race. Photo by George Schellenger
KINGSTON, R.I. –Mako sharks are one of the fastest swimming animals in the ocean, and they travel great distances between various feeding grounds -- and sometimes for unknown reasons. 

But they are also sought after by fishermen around the world because they taste so good, raising concerns for the health of their populations.

That’s why a University of Rhode Island shark expert joined colleagues at Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation in establishing the Great Shark Race, an effort to draw attention to the plight of mako sharks while tracking the movements of the animals throughout the Atlantic. 

Are you middle-class?

“Middle class” doesn’t have a definite, official definition. But the Pew Charitable Trust defines it as households that earn between 67 and 200 percent of a state’s median income. 

Based on this metric and some statistics, Business Insider came up with a list of how much you have to earn to be considered middle class, depending on your state.

Pew analyzed numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey (the most recent) and found that the middle class has shrunk in every state between 2000 and 2013. 

Business Insider looked at the survey, too, then crunched some numbers based on Pew’s definition of “middle class” to come up with their list.

You can see the full results below. 

In the left column, they list the median household income for each state. 

The middle column is the minimum you have to earn to be considered middle class, based on Pew’s definition. 

And the right column is the upper range of middle class.

Head to Business Insider’s full link for more information.

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