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Monday, November 30, 2015

To feed or not to feed

University of Alberta
Tufted Titmouse (photo by W. Collette)

Getting in touch with nature in an urbanized world can be as simple as putting a bird feeder in your backyard. However, what are the potential consequences of this act? Bird-window collisions are one of the largest threats facing urban bird populations in Canada. 

A new study out of the University of Alberta engages citizen scientists to determine the effects of feeders on bird-window collisions.

Despite the popularity of feeding wild birds, the effects of bird feeders and year-round feeding on birds have not been well documented, particularly in relationship to bird-window collisions. 

They’ve Got the Red Cup Blues

Griping over Starbucks is no way to share the Christmas spirit.

‘Tis the season to bicker about Starbucks coffee cups.

Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit like a chill in the air, Christmas songs in every store, and anger about a phony “War on Christmas.” 

Clearly, love for one another, world peace, and the Christian faith itself all ride on whether a chain that sells overpriced coffee prints an appropriate design on its red cups.

Honestly, this griping over coffee cups couldn’t be any less in the Christmas spirit than the Grinch himself.

If you’re living under a rock and haven’t heard yet, Starbucks released a simple red cup as its holiday design this year, with nothing on it besides the company’s green and white logo. 

A few Christians got steamed because the cups don’t display the reindeer or snowmen they did in previous years.

Because reindeer and snowmen are sacred religious symbols, of course.

Even Donald Trump felt the need to comment on the sacrilegious design. “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks,” he suggested. “I don’t care.” (Bizarrely, he added that he has “one of the most successful Starbucks in Trump Tower.”)

We Rise

Building Immigrant Working People Power
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President
We Rise: Building Immigrant Working People PowerA year ago President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration. Today is a fitting time to honor those who compelled him to act.

Around the country, courageous working people demanded an end to the deportation regime that was tearing communities, families and workplaces apart. 

They shut down detention centers, turned around buses, and spoke truth to power — all at great personal risk. 

They banded together to prevent the deportation of community members and loved ones who were in removal proceedings, and they won many cases. 

These brave actions and the determined clamor for #Not1More deportation led to the announcement of the historic deferred action program that will allow millions of parents to live and work without fear.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Charlestown Tapas: Another Flipper fight, local congrats, lists and more lists and more

Tasty bits of news for the sophisticated palate
By Will Collette

Filippi family continues to battle with Block Island neighbors

The Niantic tribe called Block Island Manisses and controlled the
island until attacked by Massachusetts troops in 1637
Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi’s family continues to charm its Block Island neighbors with a new battle over noise. Seems that Flip and his brother Steve have bought the classic Hotel Manisses and Flip wants to make it into a summertime late-night jazz venue

The Filippis also own Ballard’s Inn and have been fighting for months with the town after the Filippi family decided to block off public access to the beach.

This new fight brought out neighbors in droves who objected to the plan for outdoor live music during the summer. A number of residents expressed a general distrust at what the Filippis had planned in general for the Manisses.

You know, if Flip Filippi wants to further expand his family’s hotel empire, maybe he ought to step up and buy the General Stanton Inn here in Charlestown after his BFFs on the Town Council killed the most recent – and only – offer to buy the Inn to prevent it from going dark. Some nice jazz music outside the General Stanton is just what Cross’ Mill needs.


Do your duty!

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

The good old days before vaccines

Shields up

Colorado State University

In 2013, an online company called Spamhaus fell victim to one of the Internet's largest-ever cyberattacks, known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. 

Its servers were flooded with unwanted traffic from hundreds of sources, the company was temporarily forced offline, and its business was disrupted.

DDoS attacks block computers and networks from their intended users by inundating servers with data packets that are hard to distinguish from those of legitimate sources. 

It's usually a DDoS attack that forces a bank, credit card company or media outlet offline. A Colorado State University research team is creating a new line of defense against such attacks.

Supported by $2.7 million from the Department of Homeland Security, a CSU interdisciplinary team (computer science, statistics and computer information systems) is developing a defense service that can sniff out, ward off and protect against such large-scale online attacks. Their project is called NetBrane, short for Network Membrane.

Could it be because they need the money, don’t have sick leave and worry about their jobs?

University of East Anglia

High job demands, stress and job insecurity are among the main reasons why people go to work when they are ill, according to new research by an academic at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The study aims to improve understanding of the key causes of employees going to work when sick, known as presenteeism, and to help make managers more aware of the existence of the growing phenomenon, what triggers the behavior and what can be done to improve employees' health and productivity.

A key finding of the study, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, is that presenteeism not only stems from ill health and stress, but from raised motivation, for example high job satisfaction and a strong sense of commitment to the organisation. 

This may motivate people to 'go the extra-mile', causing them to work more intensively, even when sick.

One of the significant links to presenteeism is the severity of organisational policies used to monitor or reduce staff absence, such as strict trigger points for disciplinary action, job insecurity, limited paid sick leave, or few absence days allowed without a medical certificate.

The real war against Christmas

Courtesy of Time: 

Pope Francis told churchgoers that Christmas this year is going to be a “charade” because “the whole world is at war.” 

The pontiff put this holiday season in perspective during mass at the Basilica di Santa Maria last week. His speech comes after a rash of notable violent incidents, including the now infamous terrorist attacks in Paris, as “we are close to Christmas. There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. 

“It’s all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war,” Pope Francis said. “A war can be justified, so to speak, with many, many reasons, but when all the world as it is today, at war, piecemeal though that war may be—a little here, a little there—there is no justification.”

So according to the Pope it's not the non-religious or those who don't want to say Merry Christmas to shoppers that is threatening Christmas, but rather those who want continual war.

Gee now which political party promotes that around the world?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside

The next president of the United States will confront a virulent jihadist threat, mounting effects of climate change, and an economy becoming ever more unequal.

We’re going to need an especially wise and able leader.

Yet our process for choosing that person is a circus, and several leading candidates are clowns.

How have we come to this?

First, anyone with enough ego and money can now run for president. 

This wasn’t always the case. Political parties used to sift through possible candidates and winnow the field. 

Now the parties play almost no role. Anyone with some very wealthy friends can set up a Super PAC. According to a recent New York Times investigation, half the money to finance the 2016 election so far has come from just 158 families.

Or if you’re a billionaire, you can finance your own campaign.

And if you’re sufficiently outlandish, outrageous, and outspoken, a lot of your publicity will be free. 
Since he announced his candidacy last June, Trump hasn’t spent any money at all on television advertising.

Do as I say, not as I do

Pic of the Moment

An alternative to gift giving

Rhode Island Community Food Bank
Your Generosity Helps Touch Lives
Please Give Now to Share Food and Hope
Share Your Blessings this Thanksgiving
Dear Progressive Charlestown Reader,
Hunger is very real here in Rhode Island. Right now, 54,000 households are struggling to put healthy food on the table.
You can help change that.
Your gift of $50 will help the Rhode Island Community Food Bank put nutritious food into the hands of our hungry neighbors this holiday season!
Donate Today
#GivingTuesday is just days away. You can make a tremendous impact in the lives of our hungry neighbors with your gift to help the Food Bank provide nutritious food for those who need it most.

Together, we will feed hungry bodies and fill hearts with hope this holiday season.
Thank you,

Signature of Andrew Schiff
Andrew Schiff
Chief Executive Officer
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Share Food and Hope this #GivingTuesday
Give Now
Rhode Island Community Food Bank

Rhode Island Community Food Bank
200 Niantic Avenue
Providence, RI 02907
P: (401) 942-MEAL (6325)

See! I was right

University of Iowa

A new study from the University of Iowa finds that once people reach a conclusion, they aren't likely to change their minds, even when new information shows their initial belief is likely wrong and clinging to that belief costs real money.

The study, co-authored by Tom Gruca, professor of marketing in the Tippie College of Business, has implications for understanding financial markets. 

He says equity analysts who issue written forecasts about stocks may be subject to this confirmation bias and do not let new data significantly revise their initial analyses.

Gruca found this confirmation bias in student traders participating in the Iowa Electronic Markets over a 10-year period during which they bought and sold real-money contracts to predict the four-week opening box office receipts for a new movie. The students analyzed markets for a total of 18 movies released between 1998 and 2008.

The CIA Is an Ethics-Free Zone

Members of America's spy agency don't even learn the rules.
 joined the CIA in January 1990.

The CIA was vastly different back then from the agency that emerged in the days after the 9/11 attacks. And it was a far cry from the flawed and confused organization it is today.

One reason for those flaws — and for the convulsions the agency has experienced over the past decade and a half — is its utter lack of ethics in intelligence operations.

It’s no secret that the CIA has gone through periods where violating U.S. law and basic ethics were standard operating procedure. During the Cold War, the agencyassassinated foreign leaderstoppled governmentsspied on American citizens, and conducted operations with no legal authority to do so. That’s an historical fact.

I liked to think that things had changed by the time I worked there. CIA officers, I believed, were taught about legal limits to their operations — they learned what was and wasn’t permitted by law.

I was wrong.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Even Donald Trump is outraged, but for the wrong reasons

By Harry Rix in Rhode Island’s Future

“The worker deserves his [or her] wages.”
- Apostle Paul (1 Tim 5:18)

Let’s get real. Any adult working for $7.25 an hour is being exploited, and the $9.60 Rhode Island minimum beginning January 1, 2016 also falls far short of being just.

Ask any Haitian garment worker: Survival requires servitude—-even if paid a scandalous 64 cents an hour.

Slavery is forced labor which legally rescinds all freedoms. A poverty wage is wage slavery, legally allowing employers to pay wages which eliminate many freedoms: The freedom to obtain decent housing; the freedom to take a paid vacation or sick day; the freedom to spend time with children; the freedom to retire; and, for some families, even the freedom to eat every day of the month.

Of course, the minimum wage promotes at least one freedom: The freedom to work two or three jobs.

Getting ready for Christmas


What else would you call it?

How to Be a Merry Environmentalist

You don’t have to be a Grinch to get rid of this wasteful holiday tradition.

Here’s something to consider this holiday season: Stop sending greeting cards.

I know this sounds like a tip from the Grinch, but this well-meaning tradition causes very real environmental consequences. Americans mail over 1.6 billion holiday cards to each other each year. 

This exchange of festive greetings generates over 40,000 tons of waste.

These cards, with their accompanying envelopes, are hardly the only wasteful holiday tradition — think single-use decorations, uneaten leftovers, and of course all that wrapping paper. Yet changing this practice would take a lot of pressure off our forests and climate.

Our planet loses 15 billion trees every year. When a tree dies, it releases carbon it’s stored over its lifetime — significantly contributing to global climate change. According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment, deforestation releases nearly 1 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere annually.

Good dog!

URI students training puppies to be guide dogs for blind individuals

Kaitlin Kohut (right) leads her dog Tessi during
a training session at URI. 
Photos by Nora Lewis
KINGSTON, R.I. –It was serendipitous that Caitlyn Landry and Kaitlin Kohut became roommates as freshmen at the University of Rhode Island. They didn’t know each other and had grown up many miles apart, but both had an interest in training dogs to be service animals for the blind.

Kohut, a native of Holbrook, N.Y., had been a volunteer at the Guide Dog Foundation on Long Island as a high school student, and Landry, of Vernon, Conn., said she had always wanted to raise a guide dog, “but I wasn’t allowed to because my mom thought I’d get too attached to it,” she said.

Now they’re getting their chance. The two students formed the Puppy Raisers club at URI, and, along with students Katie LaBlue, Sarah Appleton and Jenna Beauchemin, became certified through the non-profit Guiding Eyes for the Blind to train dogs to become guide dogs. Now four yellow Labrador retrievers spend all day every day with the students as part of their training.

“The dogs come to school with us, we take them to class if the teacher allows, and we have a home base on campus where the dogs can stay if they aren’t allowed in a lab or other class,” said Landry, a junior animal science major whose dog is named Katie.

The dogs are almost never alone, since most of the more than 40 other members of the Puppy Raisers – many of whom are in the process of becoming certified to train guide dogs – are happy to serve as sitters or walk them around campus.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Even Republicans Agree: Money Isn’t Speech

If political speech is measured in million-dollar campaign contributions, then by definition it isn’t free.

In today’s so-called “democratic” election process, Big Money doesn’t talk, it roars — usually drowning out the people’s voice.

Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of “free speech.” Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to “speak” in election campaigns.

But wait — if political speech is measured by money, then by definition speech isn’t free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money.

That’s plutocracy, not democracy.


Donald Trump suggests that Syrian and Muslim refugees should have to register with the police in the United States. Maybe he has a point: Native Americans would still be alive if they hadn't allowed British terrorists to slip in alongside religious refugees.
For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE

Black Friday fights

Use this new tool to check holiday toy gift safety

Violation Tracker and Toy Safety
By Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest

The holidays are nearly upon us, and that means that millions of parents are facing the annual ordeal of shopping for toys. Along with designating children as naughty or nice, shoppers may want to pay attention to the track record of the companies producing and selling the items that show up on wish lists.

Violation Tracker, the new database of corporate misconduct, can help identify which companies have the worst safety records when it comes to toys and other items for children. Among the agencies from which the database has collected environmental, health and safety enforcement data is the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which pays close attention to hazards in items used by young people.

The CPSC maintains a database of voluntary recalls and sends letters to companies asking for corrective action, but it also imposes civil penalties in cases of egregious violations. The following list, takenfrom Violation Tracker, shows the companies with the largest CPSC penalties since the beginning of 2010.

Stop Shopping, Start Living

REI is doing its part to preserve the spirit of Thanksgiving.
Imagine if retailers held a nationwide super-spectacular sales day — and no one came.

I don’t mean customers. Picture sales staff, cashiers, and even managers not showing up to open the doors for the usual frenzy of mass, crass, crazy consumerism.

Maybe it’s silly — some would say even un-American — to think that stores wouldn’t open to cash in on a hugely promoted retail bonanza.

Yet here it is: REI, the national purveyor of outdoor gear and sporting goods, says it will no longer participate in the shopping spectacle known as “Black Friday.” This ritual of non-stop door-buster sales now overwhelms Thanksgiving.

This holiday is meant to be a calm, family-oriented time to get away from all the hubbub of life and reflect on our blessings. Yet in recent years, such national chains as Macy’s and Wal-Mart have led a corporate assault on Thanksgiving with a buy-buy-buy blitz of consumer come-ons.

Taking a closer look at the face of terror

Blogger T.C. Weber, aka “Dad Gone Wild,” writes about the many refugees and immigrants already in Tennessee, in his son’s school.

“It’s funny. As I read all the comments about Syrian refugee children and their potential arrival in the United States over the next couple months, I marvel at people’s opinions and their lack of knowledge.

I have a unique perspective because my children both attend a school where there is a high population of English Learners and children in poverty.

"It also serves a large population of refugees. Refugees that arrive from all over the world, places with terrorist organization every bit as active as those in Syria, just without the headlines.

"There are students at my kids’ school who, just last year, lived in fear of violence. Some of them might have been carrying rifles themselves; after all, they arrived from war-torn countries like Somalia and Nigeria were the recruitment of children as soldiers is an established practice.

"The possibility also exists that their parents may have been complicit in acts that you or I would find reprehensible. Last year, an older boy from Africa woke his mother by pouring hot coffee on her as she slept, but now he is a student here.

"Yet somehow we’ve welcomed them all and done our best to educate them with remarkably few incidents due to the dedicated professionals who interact with these children every day. In Nashville those professionals are among the best in the country and the districts plan among the boldest

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