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Friday, May 31, 2013

Diving off the deep end...


GAP in conscience


Gap’s Reputation Collapse

By Jen Sorenson


What's a big-name brand going to do when its name is linked to the deaths of more than 1100 workers? Click here to find out.

Dem or Dino, Part 2

Policy-wise, Linc Chafee might best belong as a Democrat, and he often finds common ground with the progressive movement, but personally my favorite thing about our governor was how he seemed to relish his independence. He seemed to have no friends or natural allies on Smith Hill and he didn’t seem to care.

Chafee had thrown off the shackles of party politics and was willing to go it alone for the Ocean State. Or so I told myself. But now, he will soon have the dubious distinction of running for office under more party labels than Buddy Cianci. Linc Chafee, the principled independent is now a DINO.


Enviros Losing Ground on Slopes and Setback Bills

By TIM FAULKNER/ ecoRI.org News staff

PROVIDENCE — Several bills have been swept up in the pro-business “moving-the-needle” agenda pushed by pro-business advocates.

On May 29, the House Budget Committee passed a bill (H6063) that creates a new Executive Office of Commerce. In its latest draft, the legislation was revised so that the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Department of Administration and Coastal Resources Management Council are free from direct oversight by the new commerce office. The original draft was strongly opposed by environmental groups such as the Environment Council of Rhode Island and Save The Bay, the DEM and Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

The original draft gave ultimate permitting authority and environmental oversight to the new commerce director. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill June 4.

Wetlands and slopes. Efforts to oppose the so-called “slopes” and “setback” bills largely failed. The setback bills (H5425 and S672) call for the creation of a task force to oversee the drafting of uniform standards for building next to wetlands, waterways and septic systems. Municipalities such as Charlestown, which has no public septic and water systems, initially opposed the setback bill for fear it wouldn't allow the town to regulate its environmentally sensitive land and preserve its natural space.

DEM says winter moth caterpillars are defoliating trees throughout Rhode Island

Water is Critical to Counteract Stressed Trees

PROVIDENCE [DEM news release] - The Department of Environmental Management reports that winter moth caterpillars are prevalent throughout Rhode Island and are causing defoliation on oak, maple, ash, basswood, elm, beech and fruit trees.

According to Bruce Payton, deputy chief of DEM's Division of Forest Environment, some Rhode Island communities including Warwick, Cranston, Exeter, Richmond and Lincoln reported the emergence of millions of winter moths, Operophtera brumata, from late November through December.



Fresh local food for school kids

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI.org News staff

PROVIDENCE — More locally grown food could be incorporated into school lunches. The Senate recently passed a bill (S513) that promotes serving local fruits, vegetables and dairy products in school cafeterias.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Frank Lombardo III, D-Johnston, said he wants students to eat healthy foods, noting that just as important is the health of local farms.

“We have a lot of farms in Rhode Island that could use the business,” Lombardo said after the 36-0 Senate vote on May 21.


DEM says air quality will be unhealthy again this afternoon

All RIPTA routes, excluding special services, will be free on FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2013
(Too bad Charlestown doesn't have a bus stop)

Providence, Rhode Island, May 30, 2013 - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is predicting that air quality will reach unhealthy levels in all of Rhode Island in the afternoon on Friday. A very humid air mass with west to southwest winds will be present at that time, which will lead to unhealthy air conditions. 

The poor air quality will be due to elevated ground level ozone concentrations. Ozone is a major component of smog and is formed by the photochemical reaction of pollutants emitted by motor vehicles, industry and other sources in the presence of elevated temperatures and sunlight.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Experiment in the wild


From Fake Science, Charlestown's #1 authority

Obama and Nixon

The truth about the Nixonian Presidency of Barack Obama
By Ruben Boling

Pull down the shades, draw the blinds and click here.

Dem or DINO?

Chafee tours Charlestown with Reps Larry Valencia &
Donna Walsh
By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

While Gov. Chafee’s party affiliation flip-flop has been near-universally declared a political ploy, it’s also been near-universally declared that he is now in the party that matches his political ideology. But is he?

Chafee certainly has bona fide progressive credentials when it comes to non-economic policy. As our senator his principled and at-the-time unpopular stand against war against Iraq is one of the most commendable political positions of the so-called “war on terror.” And as our governor, he’s been a great champion for civil liberties, both on marriage equality and the death penalty.


Oklahoma’s Biblical Irony

Sen. Coburn's underlying logic goes to the heart of the snake oil that Republicans are selling the American people these days.
There’s an almost biblical irony to Oklahoma’s latest tornado disaster. Not a funny irony, but the grim, tragic kind so common to acts of God.

Four months before this twister, five of Oklahoma’s seven members of Congress — including both of its senators — all Republicans, had voted against a bill providing funds to states hit by Superstorm Sandy. They thought that the money, $50 billion of it, should come from cuts in other federal programs, not fresh borrowing.

Now, with the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore lying in ruin, not so much.


Clock is ticking on state income tax justice

With state revenue projections lower than expected, progressive Providence Rep. Maria Cimini thinks income tax increases are more likely – and warranted – than corporate tax cuts.

“I’m concerned that for too long we’ve been penny wise and pound foolish,” Cimini said in an interview this morning.

In previous years, social services have been cut to balance the budget and preserve tax cuts to the wealthy.


Unhealthy ozone levels, high pollen count in South County on Thursday

RIDEM warns that our local air quality is rated as UNHEALTHY due to high ozone on Thursday.

Air pollution levels are predicted to drop to "Moderate" on Friday.

The pollen count will be high through Saturday.






Lawrence and Memorial takes title at Westerly Hospital on June 1

Cut-backs in staff, services and facilities already started
By Will Collette

I doubt that many people were surprised to see that 45 Westerly Hospital workers were pink-slipped right after Lawrence and Memorial Hospital of Stonington jumped the final hurdle in their $69 million deal to buy the troubled hospital. You could see it coming a mile away.

Most of the 45 laid-off workers were in Westerly Hospital’s business office whose functions are being merged with L&M. There will still be a cashier’s office at Westerly to collect on patient bills, but not much more.

Thirty of the 45 laid-off workers are non-union; 15 are members of Service and Maintenance Workers Unit Local 5104. L&M sent 600 letters to Westerly Hospital workers “inviting” them to apply to keep their jobs after L&M’s June 1 take-over. Workers who did not receive letters assume, as they should, that they are on the lay-off list.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What a shame!


Smallest government since Eisenhower


Hopeful news on diabetes

Immune Protein Could Stop Diabetes in Its Tracks, Discovery Suggests
Melbourne researchers have identified an immune protein that has the potential to stop or reverse the development of type 1 diabetes in its early stages, before insulin-producing cells have been destroyed.
The discovery has wider repercussions, as the protein is responsible for protecting the body against excessive immune responses, and could be used to treat, or even prevent, other immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Professor Len Harrison, Dr Esther Bandala-Sanchez and Dr Yuxia Zhang led the research team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute's Molecular Medicine division that identified the immune protein CD52 as responsible for suppressing the immune response, and its potential for protecting against autoimmune diseases. The research was published today in the journal Nature Immunology.


Importing green energy defeats goal of green energy independence

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI.org News staff

PROVIDENCE — Fossil-fuel companies and environmental groups remain united in their opposition to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s plan to buy Canadian hydroelectric power for Rhode Island. Chafee’s Energy Reform Act of 2013 compels the state to buy 150 megawatts of electricity annually for 15 years from large-scale hydropower facilities, presumably from the Canadian hydropower industry.

Chafee has been pushing hydro power from Canada as an abundant and inexpensive renewable energy since he toured power plants in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011. According to the Canadian Hydropower Association, 60 percent of Canada’s electricity comes from hydropower. Industry groups say capacity could more than double. Many regions north of the border are aggressively building dams and courting states in the Northeast to buy this power to help meet long-term renewable energy benchmarks.


Town mum on Camp Davis land transfer to Narragansett Tribe

No comment on Friday meeting with RI Transportation Department
Camp Davis (orange wedge) currently bisects
Narragansett tribal lands (purple). Town owned lands are in yellow
By Will Collette

Last week, I reported that the state Department of Transportation was acquiring the old Camp Davis property off South County Trail from the Providence Boys and Girls Club. 

RIDOT intends to transfer ownership of that 105 acre parcel to the Narragansett Indian Tribe in a land swap/compensation deal that offsets RIDOT’s disturbance of an ancient, buried Narragansett village by the I-195 relocation project in Providence.

According to Rep. Donna Walsh, RIDOT would attach use restrictions to the land, but those restrictions had not been negotiated.

The Town of Charlestown had its first opportunity to officially hear about the plan at a meeting on Friday, May 24. The town delegation included Charlestown’s Special Counsel “Injun Joe” Larisa who is on a monthly retainer of $2,050 just to sit and wait for the opportunity to oppose anything that might be of benefit to the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Charlestown has paid Larisa more than $300,000 since 2007 to fight the Tribe.

He bills the town extra – at $130 an hour – when he actually has to do anything.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shocked, SHOCKED!

IRS: Destroyers of Freedom
By Matt Bors
Experience the horror by clicking here.

You say “yuck,” I say “yum!”

By MELISSA PALMISCANO/special to ecoRI.org News

Red tendrils and green blades churn in the waves like a giant salad in a spinner. Thin, wiry branches ensnare the ankles of those who are brave enough to wade through the shallows. The water is lovely — you just have to make it past all the seaweed.

Most Rhode Island beach-goers and waterfront property owners have had at least one unpleasant experience with heavy seaweed deposits along shore, which attract bugs and emit a rotten egg scent. However, the problem of excessive seaweed growth is not unique to Narragansett Bay. 


During the past 50 years, many coastal ecosystems have suffered from chronic blooms of seaweeds, also known as macroalgae. Macroalgae are divided into three phylogenetic groups of similarly colored species — chlorophytes (green seaweeds), rhodophytes (red seaweeds) and phaeophytes (brown seaweeds).


This is what consensus looks like


Pollen goes down tomorrow, then through the roof


Scandal Season at the Obama White House

If Karl Rove is running a social welfare outfit, I'm the Queen of Romania.
Queen Mary of Romania (1873-1938)
It’s not an easy task, defending President Barack Obama from his enemies.

The “scandals” keep popping up like dandelions — all of them explainable, after a fashion. Taken together, the explanations begin to sound like “the dog ate my homework.” For example:

No one would deny that the attack on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that took the lives of four Americans, including our ambassador, was a serious matter.

And no one would claim that the administration’s actions either before or after the attack were above reproach. The affair was handled clumsily at best and incompetently at worst.

But an impeachable offense? A Watergate level cover-up? Only in the fevered dreams of the House’s right-wing loons like Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Rep. Steve King of Iowa.



If you pay for your own Blue Cross, READ this article

Health Department holds hearings Wednesday and Thursday on Blue Cross request to drastically change Direct Pay premiums
By Will Collette

The Rhode Island Health Department’s Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner will hold public hearings on the request by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island to increase premium rates for the Direct Pay class. This proposal is going to affect 15,821 people.

The average rate hike being requested by Blue Cross for existing Direct Pay customers will be approximately 18%. However, this average reflects an incredibly broad range of proposed new premium schedules that range from increases of 59% for some subscribers to decreases of up to 62% for others. Since the overall change is an average of +18%, there are likely to be a lot more losers than winners under the proposed new rates.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Wolf Blitzer is an idiot

Wolf, Theologian
By Tom Tomorrow

Click here for CNN's chance encounter with Oklahoma's only atheist. Think of the odds!

Tree Amnesty Clarification

You need a town residency form
By Will Collette

In my report on the May 13th Town Council meeting, I mentioned a report by Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz that there was a "tree amnesty" in effect that allows residents to bring storm-damaged trees to the town transfer station and dispose of them at no charge.

After hearing that some residents were being turned away for lack of some kind of paperwork, I checked with Town Hall and found out that you really do need a form, a residency form to prove you are a Charlestown resident, in order to take advantage of the "tree amnesty."


Gist gets it wrong

Deborah Gist is not only raising hackles with the education community here in Rhode Island, she’s doing it on a national level too! On Tuesday, Chiefs for Change released a letter attacking labor leader Randi Weingarten for opposing high stakes testing. Gist is on the board for Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change group and she co-signed the letter.

Only problem is, according to the Washington Post, Gist and the letter criticized Weingarten for something she didn’t say.



Don’t Fence Me In

The prosperous are further isolating themselves physically, as well as economically, from the rest of us.

No job now,
Provides the pay,
To let me find,
A place to stay.

Many folks with big incomes are responding to the tensions of America’s growing economic inequality by moving into gated communities. This isn’t new, just growing more common. Ten percent of us are already gated in one way or another.


We owe our veterans better than this


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rep Gohmert Wins Nincompoop Roundup

His recent musing about al-Qaeda operatives "acting Hispanic" to cross the U.S.-Mexican border landed him at the top of the heap.
My state of Texas seems to have an inordinate share of nincompoops in public office. But it’s only fair that office holders from other states be considered before deciding which one is the nincompoopiest of all.

Give credit to Pennsylvania, for example, whose GOP governor, Tom Corbett, recently scored big nincompoop points by explaining why his state ranks 49th in job creation. “Many employers,” the guv grumbled during a radio interview, “say ‘we’re looking for people, but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test.’”


Planetary alignment should be visible Monday and Tuesday night

Rare line-up and forecast for clear skies make for good viewing

By Will Collette

The weather forecast for Monday calls for clear and sunny during the daytime and a nice clear night. Tuesday’s forecast is almost as good.

That’s nice timing because there’s a rare planetary alignment going on for the next few days visible over Charlestown just after sunset.

The planets Jupiter, Venus and Mercury will be bunched up a few degrees over the northwestern horizon at dusk, about 30 to 45 minutes after sunset.

CAUTION: do not try to find these planets while the sun is still in the sky. You won't find them, and you could also hurt your eyes.


Settling on a temporary compromise

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI.org News staff

PROVIDENCE — Developers and environmentalists are finding common ground on setting statewide standards for building near wetlands and septic systems. At a recent Senate hearing, many former opponents of the bill (S672) declared their tentative support to create a commission to settle the matter.

Russell Chateauneuf, chief of the ground and wetland program for the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM), said a commission is likely the best approach for developing uniform standards.

“That I believe is the goal," he said. "Whether or not that is achievable 100 percent, will be up to the task force to decide.”


Here comes the Sun...and the pollen


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Less Beer, More Can

Budweiser's new squeezed-looking cans short the customer by nearly an ounce.
Budweiser zaps its beer cans with a shrink ray
By Jim Hightower

Anyone who says that America has lost its innovative edge in technology and manufacturing hasn’t chugged a can of Bud recently. The buzz is back, baby!

Well, actually, Budweiser is no longer American. It’s now part of a Belgian outfit called Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest maker of suds.

And the brew crew overseeing the “King of Beers” knows what we American quaffers want in a beer: a new and improved can.

Huh?



State Beaches and Parks ready for Memorial Day Weekend

Major Repairs Have Been Completed at Facilities Damaged by Hurricane Sandy
RIDEM News Release


PROVIDENCE - Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer outdoor recreation season, and Rhode Island's state beaches and parks are ready for the crowds. 

Although some of the beaches and parks managed by the Department of Environmental Management have been open on a limited basis this month to accommodate early beach-goers and advance season pass sales, the Memorial Day weekend is when DEM recreational areas go into high gear.


NOAA predicts active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season

Era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes continues

NOTE: you can track the path of potential and actual tropical storms by using the National Hurricane Center storm tracker.

In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year.

For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).


Friday, May 24, 2013

Once upon a time

A Bedtime Story
By Tom Tomorrow

Click here to be lulled into unconsciousness.

Don't crush and don't toss that bulb!

By ecoRI.org News staff

Fluorescent bulbs, although energy efficient, contain small amounts of mercury and therefore are hazardous and must be disposed of properly. Many businesses  and homeowners aren’t aware that it’s illegal to throw fluorescent bulbs out with the trash.

When broken, incinerated or buried in a landfill, fluorescent bulbs release mercury into the air, water and soil.

For those who have tried to do the right thing with these mercury-containing bulbs, it’s not always easy to dispose of them properly. Some stores take back fluorescent bulbs, but those programs are typically meant for individuals.


More accountability for corporate welfare

Tanzi’s transparency bill passes House

STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi to increase accountability and transparency in tax credit programs and state agency reports.

The legislation (2013-H 6066A) is one of the 18 bills backed by House leaders as part of their effort to address economic development efforts in Rhode Island.

Under the bill, the Office of Revenue Analysis’ Unified Economic Development Report would be required to include a costs/benefit analysis of each of the state’s tax credit programs.



Even if you can find a rental...


The rent in Rhode Island is too damn high , according to a new report from HousingWorks RI.

To afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in Rhode Island a renter would need to earn more than $47,000 per year. About half of Rhode Island residents earn less than that.