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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How the alt-right corrupts the Constitution

Saying you are a Constitutional expert doesn't make you one
John E. Finn, Wesleyan University

Image result for blake filippi
Charlestown's state rep. Blake "Flip" Filippi fancies
himself to be a "Constitutional expert," supporting
such ideas as "nullification" (that state and local
governments can ignore federal law, the supremacy
of the Second Amendment and who has also
supported far-right militia groups.
About 10 years ago, I spent a sabbatical on the Maine coast writing a book about the Constitution.

One afternoon, an eager reference librarian who knew about my interests invited me to a talk at the library. 

The featured speaker was a woman who proudly called herself a “Constitutional Patriot.”
The speaker was self-educated and her message was simple: Liberal elites – judges, politicians and academics – had perverted the meaning of the “True Constitution.”

Getting the Constitution “right,” in her view and in the view of a great many far-right conservative groups and organizations, all of them constitutional patriots of a sort, means understanding the Constitution as the Founders understood it.

Getting the Constitution “right” thus means returning the Constitution to its original meaning. 

It also means that the Constitution, as they read it, advances a particular and deeply conservative worldview, where “We the People” includes only those citizens who would have qualified for citizenship at the founding (which is to say, whites), a strong commitment to states’ rights and extensive – if not absolute – protections for freedom of speech and guns.

It is a view that many in the alt-right share.

Christian, conservative and white

Most observers think the alt-right are conservative extremists, defined chiefly by their loud and proud commitment to white racial superiority and privilege.

VIDEO: For 3rd year in a row, Trump gives children at White House Easter egg roll a loopy political speech

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VIDEO: Socialism for the rich

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Investment to promote green jobs

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Image result for wind energy jobsThe offshore wind industry is investing in local jobs and students through a $4.5 million gift to support education for high-school and college students.

Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource, the Boston-based utility and wind developer, recently pledged $3.5 million to the University of Rhode Island to support renewable-energy research and job training for undergraduates and graduate students.

Part of the money will support URI’s Energy Fellows Program, which prepares undergrad and grad students for entry- and mid-level jobs at companies such as National Grid, RISE Engineering, and Green Development LLC, the North Kingstown-based builder of land-based wind turbines and solar facilities.

Mary Colbert, a 2017 URI graduate, turned her Energy Fellows internship at Ørsted into a full-time job as a permitting analyst at the company’s downtown office.

Gen Xers are as depressed as the rest of us

Indicators of despair rising among Gen X-ers entering middle age
Vanderbilt University

Image result for depressed Gen-XersIndicators of despair -- depression, suicidal ideation, drug use and alcohol abuse -- are rising among Americans in their late 30s and early 40s across most demographic groups, according to new research. 

These findings suggest that the increase in 'deaths of despair' observed among low-educated middle-aged white Baby Boomers in recent studies may begin to impact the youngest members of Generation X more broadly in the years to come.

Indicators of despair -- depression, suicidal ideation, drug use and alcohol abuse -- are rising among Americans in their late 30s and early 40s across most demographic groups, according to new research led by Lauren Gaydosh, assistant professor of Medicine, Health and Society and Public Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University. 

These findings suggest that the increase in "deaths of despair" observed among low-educated middle-aged white Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) in recent studies may begin to impact the youngest members of Generation X (born 1974-1983) more broadly in the years to come.

Trump Nazis show up in Providence

Seen near Rhode Island Supreme Court
By Gryphen

Swastikas and MAGA hats seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly to white nationalists.

Courtesy of Providence Journal
Sondra Pierson was having a glass of wine at Parkside Rotisserie & Bar after work last Thursday when she saw something outside the window that shocked her.
“Everyone in the restaurant turned around, and they were like, ‘What? Is that for real?’ she said this week.
A beat-up old Cadillac with Massachusetts plates had parked near the front of the restaurant, and a man and a woman wearing Nazi paraphernalia had gotten out.
The man wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat and a red armband with a black swastika on it. The woman wore a matching armband and a swastika T-shirt.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Stop & Shop workers win pay, benefits concessions after 11-day strike

Private-sector paycheck-to-paycheck workers remind the country what collective action can achieve.

A striker at a New England Stop & Shop.New England grocery store workers have won significant concessions from the Dutch firm that rules their day-to-day lives after an 11-day strike, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) announced Monday.

More than 30,000 Stop & Shop employees walked off the job on April 11 after negotiators from Netherlands-based multinational food retailer Ahold Delhaize spent weeks insisting the grocer’s frontline workforce would have to absorb higher health care costs and major changes to retirement benefits.

Such collective action has become rare in the private sector, where union membership levels are at historic lows and complex ownership arrangements involving multinational holding companies have attenuated the connection between the people who do a business’ actual work and the well-to-do executives calling the shots.

VIDEO: Oliver focuses on key facts in Mueller Report

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Then and now

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The effects of TMI

Abundance of information narrows our collective attention span
Technical University of Denmark

Image result for TMIThe negative effects of social media and a hectic news cycle on our attention span has been an on-going discussion in recent years -- but there's been a lack of empirical data supporting claims of a 'social acceleration'. 

A new study in Nature Communications finds that our collective attention span is indeed narrowing, and that this effect occurs -- not only on social media -- but also across diverse domains including books, web searches, movie popularity, and more.

Our public discussion can appear to be increasingly fragmented and accelerated. Sociologists, psychologists, and teachers have warned of an emerging crisis stemming from a 'fear of missing out', keeping up to date on social media, and breaking news coming at us 24/7. 

So far, the evidence to support these claims has only been hinted at or has been largely anecdotal. There has been an obvious lack of a strong empirical foundation.

In a new study, conducted by a team of European scientists from Technische Universität Berlin, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, University College Cork, and DTU, this empirical evidence has been presented regarding one dimension of social acceleration, namely the increasing rates of change within collective attention.

Do older people need measles shots?

If my measles shot was years ago, am I still protected? 5 questions answered 
Eyal Amiel, University of Vermont

Related imageAs the measles outbreaks spread, many people are growing concerned. New York City declared a public health emergency and mandated vaccinations in four ZIP codes where vaccination rates have been low. A Israeli flight attendant is in a coma from being infected with the highly contagious disease.

As a professor who teaches courses in immunology, microbiology and vaccine public policy, I research the fundamental processes of how our bodies respond to infections and vaccines to generate protective immunity. 

In my teaching, I work with students to develop an understanding of the complexity of these issues and encourage them to engage in the public discourse on these topics from balanced and informed perspective. Given all the attention around measles, here’s what people who believe they have been vaccinated should know.

I received my vaccines more than 30 years ago. Am I still protected?

Yes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the measles component of the MMR vaccine provides lifelong protection. The mumps and rubella portions are not as long-lived. 

One dose of the MMR vaccine protects against measles at 93% efficacy (that is, 93% of individuals will receive the protective benefit of the vaccine), two doses of the vaccine provides 96-97% efficacy. 

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the CDC began recommending two doses of the MMR vaccine in 1989 in response to a measles outbreak in children who had been vaccinated by only a single dose.

New crisis: science shows umpires make wrong calls on balls and strikes

An analysis of nearly 4 million pitches shows just how many mistakes umpires make
Mark T. Williams, Boston University

File 20190405 180052 84ayxm.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1Baseball is back, and fans can anticipate another season of amazing catches, overpowering pitching, tape-measure home runs – and, yes, controversial calls that lead to blow-ups between umpires and players.

Home plate umpires are at the heart of baseball; every single pitch can require a judgment call.

Yet ask any fan or player, and they’ll tell you that many of these calls are incorrect – errors that can affect strategy, statistics and even game outcomes.

Just how many mistakes are made?

Comprehensive umpire performance statistics are not readily known, tracked or made available.

Major League Baseball doesn’t seem interested in sharing the historical data. Could it be because the numbers aren’t flattering?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

This Earth Day, beware of “Greenwashing”

Polluters cook up bogus environmental images
Related imageThis Earth Day, I’d like to warn you about “greenwashing.” That’s the practice of corporations branding their products “eco-friendly,” even when they actually pollute, to deceive environmentally concerned customers.

Even if you’ve heard nothing about greenwashing, you’ve probably read about the Volkswagen emissions scandal, “Dieselgate.”

A few years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many Volkswagen cars being sold in America had been outfitted with software that enabled their diesel engines to detect when they were being tested. This allowed the engines to improve emissions performance under controlled laboratory conditions.

But out on the road, the engines were emitting 40 times above the nitrogen oxide pollutant levels allowed in the United States. The software was simply covering that up.

Volkswagen apologized for the scandal and recalled its cars. But for customers who bought from the company thinking they were having a positive impact on the environment, the damage was already done. Volkswagen had successfully duped them — while also doing enormous environmental destruction.

Unfortunately, Volkswagen is nowhere close to alone. Greenwashing has a deep history dating back to the start of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s. Since then, no industry has been immune to greenwashing.

Understanding Black Holes

No photo description available.
From Fake Science, the only source of science information Donald Trump understands

This and that

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