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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bits and pieces

Threats, Lies, Spies, Lawn Chairs and Anemomenophobia?
By Will Collette

Threats? What happened after Council member Lisa DiBello said she received threats? At September’s Town Council meeting, Council member Lisa DiBello made a point of saying she had gotten a lot of messages by e-mail and phone about her position on the ordinance to totally ban all wind energy generators in Charlestown. She seemed pretty agitated, though she didn’t say if the threats came from opponents or supporters of the wind energy ban. I asked the Charlestown Police whether Councilor DiBello filed a complaint – it is a serious crime to threaten an elected official – but apparently she didn’t. More DiBello drama or reality? Or just a little reality TV, a la Judge Mathis, on Clerkbase.

Lies? And that segues into a new report by a group of researchers in Estonia who say they have discovered a way to use magnetic impulses that made it impossible for test subjects to lie. They laid magnets on the skull at various points and found they could prevent lying if they hit the right spot. "Spontaneous choice to lie more or less can be influenced by brain stimulation," researchers wrote in Behavioural Brain Research (which I read for their restaurant reviews).

The Thomas Jefferson cruises off Ninigret Pond
Spies? For those of you who saw it, it was quite an interesting looking vessel. NOAA’s research ship The Thomas Jefferson criss-crossed the waters just off Ninigret on its on-going mission to map the seafloor in Block Island Sound and help update navigational maps. It’s strikingly different than the usual tankers, cargo container haulers and sail boats I usually see plying those waters. Made me do a bit of a double take. 

Lawn Chairs? WPRI  reported that Charlestown Police busted a moving van after an officer working a construction detail noticed none of the men were wearing seat belts. The officer found four guys in the back of the van seated in lawn chairs. When their names were run through the controversial Secure Communities database, two of the men, Ronison Fernandes and Angelo Dumont-Nunes, were found to have entered the US illegally. The men were arrested and then turned over to the Bristol County Sheriff's Department. There was no information on whether the employer of these men (and the one responsible for the unsafe conditions that led to the traffic stop) is being held responsible.
Ronison Fernandes (Charlestown PD)

Letters? At the tail end of the October 11 Town Council meeting, the Council acted on two surprising controversial subjects. Once again,  Council President Gentz imposed his will. One topic was whether Charlestown should sign on to protests by Hopkinton and Westerly against proposed tolls near Exit 1 on I-95. Councilor Avedisian raised the sensible point that RI needs the revenue to keep our roads and bridges safe (21% of RI bridges are deficient), but Gentz, Deputy Dan Slattery and their ally Lisa DiBello decided Gentz should draft a letter (it should be on the November agenda). Vote: 3-2….Then Gentz said he should craft a letter weighing in on the fight among the South County Chambers of Commerce over names. The South Kingstown Chamber started the fight by renaming itself the South County Chamber of Commerce, triggering protests from all the other South County Chambers who feel disrespectedwere not even consulted, never mind willfully annexed. The vote authorizing Gentz to write the letter (also likely to be on the November agenda) was 4-0, with Lisa DiBello abstaining for some unexplained reason.

Tolls? Speaking of tolls, Ted Nesi wrote an interesting piece on a 225 year old dispute that almost kept Rhode Island from joining the United States. After the Revolutionary War, Rhode Island insisted on charging tolls on the post road (now our own US Route 1) much to the distress of the other states. Rhode Island initially boycotted the Constitutional Convention because we suspected the new Constitution might deny us the right to levy tolls – and we wanted the money. By a very narrow vote, Rhode Island voted to ratify the Constitution, the last of the 13 colonies to do so. I wonder how Tom, Deputy Dan and Lisa would have voted in 1786?

Evictions? The City of Providence has served eviction notices on the Occupy Providence protesters, telling them to vacate Burnside Park by sundown on Sunday. Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Pare personally delivered the notices to the protesters. Occupy Providence says they’re not leaving.   Pare says they are, but “peacefully.”  Some cities, most notably Oakland where an Iraq War vet was critically injured, have used extensive police force to break up protesters’ occupation camps. We'll see what happens after the Sunday deadline.

The new Altaeros floating wind turbine
Anemomenophobia?  Somebody should sedate Deputy Dan Slattery before he reads about this (Deputy Dan has a terrible fear of the health dangers of wind energy). A Boston-based startup called Altaeros  just won a major competition for Compelling Renewable Energy Projects for its design of a floating wind turbine. These wind generators resemble jet engines and are filled with helium so that they will float approximately 2000 feet off the ground to catch more consistent and productive winds at that elevation. These 100-kilowatt blimps, or aerostats are small, compared to industrial sized turbines, and can each generate enough power for about 40 homes. Just imagine a small fleet of these cruising over Charlestown’s air space, not tethered to Charlestown, of course, since we HATE wind energy, but maybe coming over from Westerly, South Kingstown or Richmond