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Monday, October 25, 2021

“It doesn’t matter if you believe in climate change; your insurance company does”

Some Rhode Island Flood Insurance Rates About to Skyrocket

ROGER WARBURTON/ecoRI News contributor 

Most Rhode Island homeowners will see an increase of about $10 a month
next year on their flood insurance premiums. (FEMA/ASFPM Flood Science Center)

For Rhode Islanders, an increase in flood insurance rates is coming, perhaps as soon as next year. And, perhaps surprisingly, to inland property owners as well as those along the coast.

“It doesn’t matter if you believe in climate change; your insurance company does,” Nick VinZant, a senior research analyst for QuoteWizard, a subsidiary of an online mortgage company, recently told The Washington Post.

For the first time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is about to incorporate climate risk into the cost of flood insurance. 

The impact will be a dramatic increase in the cost of flood insurance. 

In Rhode Island, many policyholders will see their premiums go up and continue to increase by as much as 18 percent annually for the next 20 years.

At that rate, a flood policy that costs $1,000 today could cost $5,230 in 10 years and an astonishing $27,400 in two decades.

The new assessment, called Risk Rating 2.0: Equity in Action, will more accurately reflect the threat of flooding in a changing climate, according to federal officials.

Most Rhode Island homeowners will see modest increases in their flood insurance, starting at $120 a year in addition to what they already pay. Others will actually see their insurance costs decrease as flood insurance rates are distributed more equitably and wealthy homeowners pay a fairer share of the burden.

The distribution of monthly projected flood insurance increases for
Rhode Island. (FEMA/ASFPM Flood Science Center)
In fact, some wealthy homeowners could see their insurance costs increase by as much as $14,400 annually.

Vin Zant also told The Washington Post that the current system is not equitable. 

He said moderately priced homes were overinsured and million-dollar mansions were underinsured. Middle-income policyholders were helping to subsidize the rich.

The First Street Foundation developed the new flood-risk rating system. This new technology allowed analysts to study the environs around every home and led to a stunning find: inland homes, even in states such Vermont and Iowa, are at risk from increased flooding caused by the climate crisis.

Houses that were thought to be safe from flooding and didn’t require insurance, will now require it. The changing climate will impact inland homeowners who live close to rivers, creeks, and streams. These homes will see overflows during more frequent and severe rains and storms, and price increases in their government-backed flood insurance.

More than 5 million people have government-backed flood insurance, which provides $1.3 trillion in coverage in 22,550 communities across the United States, according to the recent Washington Post story. As of last year, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program was $20 billion in debt.

When First Street launched the new system in June 2020, it discovered 6 million new at-risk properties that FEMA’s outdated models had missed.

“Not only are we seeing rates change,” VinZant said, “but the number of people who should have flood insurance is astronomically higher than what it is now.”

It is no surprise then that wealthy policyholders in coastal states are complaining. The Washington Post reported that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., sought to extend the current system by another five years.

Roger Warburton, Ph.D., is a Newport, R.I., resident.

Data source: FEMA: Analysis: Fact Sheet; Zip code layer: Esri; Generalization: Mapshaper. Presentation of FEMA data was supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Maps © 2021 ASFPM Flood Science Center. ArcGIS Online Maps & Dashboards designed by Jason Hochschild.

Be afraid, be very afraid

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

 

Booooo safe for Halloween


 

It’s mating season for deer – keep on alert for deer running across roadways

With Deer Mating Season Here, DEM Cautions Drivers that More Deer-Vehicle Crashes Occur Now than at Any Other Time

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is advising motorists to be on high alert for deer crossing roadways, particularly at dawn and dusk. 

The deer breeding season (known as the "rut") is currently underway and will continue through November and much of December. 

Deer tend to move around far more frequently during this time, and November is typically the peak period for collisions with motor vehicles.

Hitting a deer can easily total your car and, depending on its severity, the average collision can cost between $2,500 and $6,000 in repairs, according to auto body industry estimates. 

Moreover, nationally, there were 190 deaths from collisions with animals in 2018, according to the Insurance Information Institute. There were 1,163 reported vehicle-deer collisions in 2020, according to DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

To avoid hitting a deer, use the Insurance Information Institute's defensive driving tips:

I hope he talks about seafood prices

Author, speaker and chef Barton Seaver to discuss ‘The Future of Seafood’ on Nov. 2

By Gianna Cardarelli

Barton Seaver is one of the world’s leading sustainable seafood experts and educators. Before leaving the restaurant industry to pursue interests in sustainable food systems, he was an award-winning chef leading top seafood restaurants in Washington, D.C.

He is set to discuss “The Future of Seafood: How Marine Food Systems Can Support Healthy Oceans and Communities” on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. as a part of the University of Rhode Island’s Honors Colloquium.

Those who wish to attend in person must register in advance.  The program is also going to be streamed live.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis:  ALL attendees will be REQUIRED to show either a vaccination card OR a university ID.  Also, everyone attending will be required to be masked while inside the building.  Virtual viewing is open to all.

Progressive Charlestown readers ask: “Where’s my daily summary?”

It’s still there, but different

By Will Collette

This is the top part of the last daily summary sent out with
the old system
Last summer, readers stopped getting daily summaries of articles posted in Progressive Charlestown. Instead, they started getting a thing called “follow.it” with “Progressive Charlestown – New Message” in the subject line.

With my deepest apologies, please accept my belated explanation of what happened and why.

What happened is the old tech gadget we used to automatically send out daily summaries went so obsolete that its owners simply dropped it. 

PC Supreme Tech Master Tom Ferrio found a substitute, “follow-it”, and made the swap, transferring the addresses of all PC subscribers to the old system to the new one. I don't say this often enough, but thank you, Tom, for the role you play to help Progressive Charlestown survive.

This is the new vehicle
Anyway, that was supposed to generate an e-mail to you to ask you if you were OK with the switch. Many of you didn’t notice this among all the other spam-like garbage you see every day. Perfectly understandable.

While Tom did his end to set up the new (and frankly better looking) alternative notice, I didn’t post any sort of notice to warn subscribers of the change and to invite new subscribers. My bad.

This is the new look (sample)
You can get the new “follow-it” daily summaries whether you subscribed before or want to start getting it simply by using the box in the right hand column that says “GET NEW POSTS BY E-MAIL.”

Just add your e-mail and click on “SUBSCRIBE.”

When you subscribe, you will receive notices like the one below, with links you can use to connect to specific articles. 

It’s free and if you don’t like it, you can unsubscribe.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Slyke of Hand, Part 2: Spit in my face and call it rain

Van Slyke touts land scam as grand achievement

By Will Collette

Read Part 1 HERE.

This is the second part of a series of articles debunking an 8-point manifesto published by CCA senior Town Council member Bonnie Van Slyke. Van Slyke, at least for now, lives in Arnolda. Van Slyke’s article is entitled “Ignore deception and focus on accomplishments.”

In this “Slyke of Hand” series, I intend to take Van Slyke at her word, looking at the truth behind the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) deceptions about its so-called “achievements.”

Here’s one of Van Slyke’s eight bullet points:

·         Preservation of Critical Natural Resources—The Council voted to acquire, with the help of a $400,000 Natural Heritage grant, over 66 acres of forested open space along Alton Carolina Road (Rt. 91) that will protect important natural, scenic, ecological and agricultural resources.

This statement refers to an effort led by Van Slyke and CCA co-founder and Planning Commissar Ruth Platner, to spend town and state funds to buy Tucker Estates. Using the CCA's majority grip on the Town Council, Platner got her wish when the Council voted to buy the land for $900,000.

Ruth Platner announced the completion of the deal like this:

The Charlestown Town Council voted to acquire this property as protected public open space at the April 12, 2021 Town Council meeting. The real estate closing to purchase the property took place on September 30th. The land was acquired with funding from a $400,000.00 Natural Heritage grant from the state and the remainder in town open space funds approved by voters in a 2015 referendum.

I couldn’t help but notice the constant reference to the $400,000 in state money - which incidentally is our money, too – and no specific mention of the $500,000 of Charlestown taxpayer money.

Platner's and Van Slyke's boasts omit the total cost of $900,000 to buy land our Tax Assessor Ken Swain assessed at only $333,600 as you can see below.


Paying almost three times how much the land is worth is NOT a deal worth bragging about!

How the deal worked

Platner and Van Slyke argued for this deal to protect Tucker Estates from being developed. In fact, the land owner, Wakefield developer Brian Lind, did try to get town approval to build 22 housing units on that property in 2005, 15 years ago. But Platner and her plucky Planning Commission killed that project and kept it dead for these 15 years.

Platner decided to take this 15 year-old dead project to get a grant from DEM. One problem to overcome was the difficulty in coming up with an appraisal that met Lind’s bottom line price.

Swain had already caused a problem by assessing the land at only $333,600. Now Platner and Van Slyke needed an appraisal that was higher – much higher.

Using the false assumption that 22 units of housing could be built on the site, the town had two appraisals done. The first appraisal came in at $660,000 and the second at $725,000 after they tweaked some of the assumptions to get the price up.

Unanswered question: Since when is it the town's job to manipulate appraisals to increase the amount of money taxpayers will pay for a property?

These two town appraisals – based on the false assumption that 22 units can be built there – weren’t good enough for Brian Lind so he commissioned his own appraisal. To my shock and amazement, his appraisal, also using the 22 units of housing assumption, came in at $915,000.

Out of the kindness of his heart, Lind offered Charlestown (meaning the CCA, Platner and Van Slyke) a discount of $15,000 so we could buy his property for “only” $900,000.

And, oh my God, we accepted it. More details of that dirty deal are HERE.

And, oh my God, Platner and Van Slyke are actually bragging about paying more than double the assessed value and more than the town’s own appraisals for reasons that perhaps only a Grand Jury can uncover.

And Charlestown taxpayers must endure this – as an old Russian proverb put it “you piss on my face and call it rain.”

Another dirty deal

Let me remind you that this Tucker Estate rip-off overlapped with another attempted rip-off – SPA-Gate or as some call it “Oyster-gate,” a proposed land deal similar to Tucker Estates where the town was going to buy a parcel on Oyster Road at Foster Cove for many times the assessed value.

Again, DEM funds were involved. So were low tax assessments and artificially high appraisals. Like Tucker Estates, the owner’s appraisal used the assumption that the land was buildable – which it is not.

Ron Areglado, currently president of the Sachem Passage Association (SPA), presented SPA’s appraisal of $426,000 in the sales pitch to the town. By contrast, Tax Assessor Ken Swain told town Planner Jane Weidman the land was only worth $61,800 and spelled out all the reasons why the lot was unbuildable in a memo you can read below:

But even though Weidman had ASKED Swain to explain the low appraisal, only days later, she ignored them and submitted Areglado's $426,000 appraisal with the grant application to DEM.

DEM approved the application for $213,000, half of the land’s SPA appraisal value. DEM also wanted an independent appraisal, one without the fake claim that the land was buildable. That independent appraisal came back with a figure of $75,000, a figure SPA rejected, effectively ending Oyster-gate.

And another deal in the making

That brings me to the town’s latest plan for land acquisition.

On October 12. at the last Council meeting, Van Slyke got the Council to approve, on a 3-2 party line vote, another DEM grant application. Except this time, she said she would not disclose the land in question because the seller wants confidentiality. The Council members were given the identity of the seller AFTER the agenda for the meeting was set. 

Peter looks for, but can't find the answer (photo by Will Collette)
Town Lawyer Peter Ruggerio was asked his opinion whether it was legal to vote under these weird conditions. As he usually does, Peter said he didn’t know but that it was probably up to the Council. 

I don’t recall ever seeing the Council approve moving a deal forward without even saying what the property is or the amount of money involved. 

If there is a precedent for this, please let me know. And, lawyers, I’d like your opinion on whether this is legal. Write me HERE. 

So the three CCA council members voted to approve a grant application from Charlestown to DEM without knowing how much the application will be because they don’t have an appraisal nor do they know what the seller wants. 

If we knew the name of the seller, we could at least check the town’s tax assessment, but because of the secrecy, we can’t do that either. 

The 3-2 vote broke down like this: Council President Deb Carney and Councilor Grace Klinger voted NO. CCA Councilors Van Slyke, Cody Clarkin and Susan Anderson voted YES to a blatant violation of any reasonable sense of open government, if not in itself a crime.

Bye-bye, Bonnie

Coincidentally, CCA senior Town Councilor (and main proponent for this secret land deal) Bonnie Van Slyke just listed her Arnolda property with Lila Delman for $2,995,000. It consists of three parcels. One is 10.58 acres of vacant land described as “buildable” and zoned R3A. The smallest of the three parcels is zoned as “R2A Open Space 30%.” The combined assessment is $1,133,400, a little more than one-third of the asking price. 

Her own house is being sold “as is.” Further, the description notes, This is an unsurpassed opportunity to renovate or build your own palatial coastal retreat.”  

Based on the language of the sales pitch, Van Slyke’s current house is treated as a tear-down and the buyer is advised to either build a new McMansion or sub-divide the property. 

Could Van Slyke be teeing up to pitch her own home as the next big CCA land deal?  Probably not because that would be an ethical step too far. But we can’t know that for sure because the CCA Councilors approved Van Slyke’s secrecy motion on a party line vote. 

All we know for sure are the incredible lengths the Charlestown Citizens Alliance will go to run Charlestown and do their dirty deals in secret. If I had a crystal ball, I can see a grand jury in the CCA’s future.

FOLLOW-UP: Rail Roar

In Part I of Slyke of Hand, I wrote about the uproar sparked by the CCA over what they claim is a reincarnation of AMTRAK’s Old Saybrook-Kenyon bypass, a thoroughly unpopular plan that was thoroughly defeated in 2017. But Ruth Platner says – without evidence – that “They’re Back.

Here's a photo from that ground-breaking, put out by the Providence p.r. firm
New Harbor Group, the consultants hired by Charlestown Town Administrator
Mark Stankiewicz to fight to invisible terror of a new AMTRAK line through
Charlestown. Does Ruth Platner know Stankiewicz just hired
people who are working for the CCA's enemy?
I’m surprised she didn’t go nuts when the Independent ran an October 14 article entitled Groundbreaking hints at future of rail in South County.”

The article described the ground-breaking for a new Mill Creek Rail Yard at Quonset Point. That will allow up to 58 more rail cars to bring cargo to businesses located there.

As you might expect, there was talk about more jobs and tax revenue for the town and business activity for the state. The 200 businesses at Quonset already employ more than 12,000 at a payroll of $1.3 billion. That’s 1 of every 6 manufacturing workers in the state. Quonset also generates $136 million in state and local tax revenue.

Funding for improved rail includes a $3 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, supplemented by a $1 million match from the QDC.

The report also notes that RI’s members of Congress have also secured $160 million in federal grants to improve freight rail in the state and the state has invested another $75 million over the past decade.

Since the CCA and Platner have seized upon any efforts to improve rail transport within a 200 mile radius as “proof” that the AMTRAK boogeyman wants to destroy Charlestown, her silence on this is surprising – maybe it means she doesn’t follow the Independent.

There, not here


 

Different symptoms, COVID versus flu

Neither one is pleasant. Both can kill. Both can be prevented. Get your shots as soon as you can.

 

Simple safety tips for trick-or-treating

Keep COVID from playing tricks

Meg SorgPurdue University

Experts give trick-or-treating the green light this year. 
Anchiy/E+ Collection via Getty Images
The air is getting chillier, pumpkins are perched on porches and kids across the country are planning their spooky costumes. 
As a professor of pediatric nursing and a mom to four young children, I know the excitement and anxiety that pandemic holidays bring to children and parents alike.

Halloween 2020 brought creative ways to trick or treat while minimizing the spread of infection (candy catapult, anyone?). 

But scientists have since determined that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 via candy wrappers is low.

Still, the extremely contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to show moderate-to-high rates of infection in many areas of the country, and it continues to sicken children and teens at a higher rate than the dominant strain that devastated the world in 2020. 

Parents may be wondering if participating in Halloween fun and games is safe, or if they would be better off staying home this year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said that kids can indeed still enjoy a safe, fun Halloween. But here are a few simple precautions that trick-or-treaters can take.

Ivermectin is a Nobel Prize-winning wonder drug – but not for COVID-19

Great drug when used for the right reasons

Jeffrey R. AeschlimannUniversity of Connecticut

While ivermectin was originally used to treat river blindness,
it has also been repurposed to treat other human parasitic infections.
 ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images
Ivermectin is an over 30-year-old wonder drug that treats life- and sight-threatening parasitic infections. 

Its lasting influence on global health has been so profound that two of the key researchers in its discovery and development won the Nobel Prize in 2015.

I’ve been an infectious disease pharmacist for over 25 years. I’ve also managed patients who delayed proper treatment for their severe COVID-19 infections because they thought ivermectin could cure them.

Although ivermectin has been a game-changer for people with certain infectious diseases, it isn’t going to save patients from COVID-19 infection. In fact, it could cost them their lives.

Let me tell you a short story about the history of ivermectin.

How many people get 'long COVID'? More than half

Half of COVID survivors experience lingering symptoms six months after recovery

Penn State

SOURCE: JAMA 2020;324(6):603-605
More than half of the 236 million people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 worldwide since December 2019 will experience post-COVID symptoms -- more commonly known as "long COVID" -- up to six months after recovering, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers. 

The research team said that governments, health care organizations and public health professionals should prepare for the large number of COVID-19 survivors who will need care for a variety of psychological and physical symptoms.

During their illnesses, many patients with COVID-19 experience symptoms, such as tiredness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, sore joints and loss of taste or smell.

Until recently, few studies have evaluated patients' health after recovering from the coronavirus. To better understand the short- and long-term health effects of the virus, the researchers examined worldwide studies involving unvaccinated patients who recovered from COVID-19. 

According to the findings, adults, as well as children, can experience several adverse health issues for six months or longer after recovering from COVID-19.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of 57 reports that included data from 250,351 unvaccinated adults and children who were diagnosed with COVID-19 from December 2019 through March 2021. Among those studied, 79% were hospitalized, and most patients (79%) lived in high-income countries. Patients' median age was 54, and the majority of individuals (56%) were male.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

How Right-Wing Media Outlets Kills People Who Take Their Advice

Dying for ratings

By Thom Hartmann for the Independent Media Institute

Tucker Carlson is, in fact, vaccinated. Why?
Because Fox News MANDATES it.
It happened three times yesterday, and I only watched or half-watched a few hours of TV news. It happens every day, it seems.  


Somebody wonders out loud (yesterday’s most prominent was Alex Witt with Dr. Anthony Fauci) why over 60 million Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated are still refusing — including hospital workers in some parts of the country.

 

Everybody treats it like it’s a confounding question with no easy answer.  The actual answer, though, is pretty straightforward: the psychopaths running the rightwing media ecosystem dominated by Fox “News” and social media, and echoed by 1500 radio stations across the country, have decided people dying and being disabled is both profitable and politically advantageous to them.

 

When Joe Biden was elected president the Republican Party and their joined-at-the-hip rightwing media did a sudden about-face from praising Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” to encouraging their followers to remain unvaccinated so President Biden would struggle to get the economy back on sound footing. 

 

That, they figured, was their best bet to take back Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024, and they’ve stayed on-message ever since Biden took office on January 20th.  As I noted in considerable detail back in July, death is their political strategy

 

And now, as if to put a punctuation point on it, the headline at Raw Story warns: Fox News host uses Colin Powell's death to launch anti-vax rant: “Fully-vaccinated are dying of Covid.

 

Almost 750,000 Americans have died of Covid and recent research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that at as many as half of the 45 million Americans who’ve been diagnosed with the disease will suffer long term consequences, the main ones being dementia, exhaustion and damage to the heart and kidneys.

 

Real courage


 

Where was Fox?