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Sunday, August 31, 2014

STD mailing was a “scare tactic”

There is NO effort to create a “Single Taxing District”
By Rep. Larry Valencia

This originally ran as a letter to the editor. It has been published in the Chariho Times, but not the Westerly Sun.

I have a 14 year old daughter, Xaviera, who soon begins her freshman year at Chariho High School. Xavi loves Chariho; she loves her teachers – and she’s very excited! Our family loves Chariho. Xavi went to Richmond Elementary and just graduated from Chariho Middle School. She’s enjoyed her Chariho experiences. And I do everything in my power to support the Chariho School District. 

Chariho Superintendant Barry Ricci and the Chariho School Committee perform admirably. Chariho in particular serves as a great example of the benefits of regionalization.

So I was sad to read about the recent actions of the Charlestown Town Council. The Town Council sent out via their Pipeline newsletter the suggestion that a single taxing district was a likelihood. The conclusion reached by the newsletter was that this would be a disaster for Charlestown taxpayers. 

This seems like a scare tactic. We need to work together to strengthen the district, not divide it with rhetoric.

The unbearable itch

Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?

URI named one of top 50 LGBTQ-friendly universities in the country

Dooley: "This is essential to our University's identity and our mission."

KINGSTON, R.I. -- Just as classes are about to start, the leading non-profit organization working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students has issued its annual report card and has named the University of Rhode Island one of the top 50 LGBT-Friendly universities in the nation.

The Campus Pride ranking shows the best of the best, based on a five-star continuum of progress for LGBT-Friendly policies, programs and practices. 

URI received a five out of five star overall rating, as well as five out of five stars in nine of the 10 categories measured, with 4.5 out of five stars for one. The top marks are for LGBT inclusion policies, support and institutional commitment, student life, housing and residential life, campus safety, counseling and health and recruitment and retention efforts. The second-best mark was for LGBT academic life at URI.

For transparency fans

Solar energy that doesn't block the view

A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window.

It is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface.

And, according to Richard Lunt of MSU's College of Engineering, the key word is "transparent."

Time to boycott Burger King?

Burger King’s Tax Dodge is Just the Latest of Its Restructuring Schemes
By Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest
For more cartoons by Bruce Plante, click here.

Nothing says America like hamburger chains such as Burger King, yet the fast-food giant is the latest company to put tax dodging above national loyalty.

The home of the Whopper wants to carry out one of the so-called inversions that are all the rage among large U.S. corporations. Burger King is proposing to merge with the much smaller Canadian doughnut and coffee chain Tim Hortons and register the combined company north of the border, where it would be able to take advantage of lower tax rates on its U.S. revenues.

An interesting twist is that a large part of Burger King’s financing for the deal is coming from Warren Buffett, who apart from his investment prowess is known for his statements calling on the wealthy (individuals, at least) to pay more in federal taxes.

Environmental Two-Fer

College Reduces Deadly Window Strikes While Lowering Electric Costs At Same Time

Earlier this week I was sitting at the computer, minding my own business, when suddenly I heard a loud slapping sound against the window adjacent to me. 

Instantaneously I looked over to see the imprint and feathers of a panicked bird peeling itself off the window and promptly flying away. 

Unfortunately, I’ve seen this incident many times before and the crashing birds aren’t always lucky enough to be able to fly away.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Business model can't work, Part 2


In a truly wonderful article in the Sunday New York Times, David Kirp of the University of California at Berkeley lays waste the underpinnings of the current “education reform” movement. Kirp not only shows what doesn’t work, he gives numerous examples of what does work to help students.

Kirp explains in plain language why teaching can never be replaced by a machine. Although the article just appeared, I have already heard about angry grumbling from reformers, because their ultimate goal (which they prefer to hide) is to replace teachers with low-cost machines. 

Imagine a “classroom” with 100 students sitting in front of a monitor, overseen by a low-wage aide. 

Think of the savings. Think of the advantages that a machine has over a human being: they can be easily programmed; they don’t get a salary or a pension; they don’t complain when they are abused; and when a better, cheaper model comes along, the old one can be tossed into the garbage.

"And always let your conscience be your guide."

Pinocchio, Inc.
By Ruben Bolling

What if Geppetto has let himself be guided by the U.S. Supreme Court? Click here for the answer.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Wizard Nebula 
From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

Open star cluster NGC 7380 is still embedded in its natal cloud of interstellar gas and dust popularly known as the Wizard Nebula. Seen with foreground and background stars along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy it lies some 8,000 light-years distant, toward the constellation Cepheus.

A full moon would easily fit inside this telescopic view of the 4 million year young cluster and associated nebula, normally much too faint to be seen by eye.

Made with telescope and camera firmly planted on Earth, the image reveals multi light-year sized shapes and structures within the Wizard in a color palette made popular in Hubble Space Telescope images.

Recorded with narrowband filters, the visible wavelength light from the nebula's hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur atoms is transformed into green, blue, and red colors in the final digital composite.
But there is still a trick up the Wizard's sleeve. Sliding your cursor over the image (or following this link) will make the stars disappear, leaving only the cosmic gas and dust of the Wizard Nebula.


Paying to get rejected is wrong

Open gov’t groups blast Kilmartin on public records law

Calling it “a new low” in the state’s enforcement of the Access to Public Records Act (APRA), five open government groups blasted an opinion issued by the Attorney General’s office which held that public bodies can charge members of the public for the time it takes to compose a letter denying an open records request.

That interpretation of the law was embodied in an AG advisory opinion, Clark v. Department of Public Safety, issued yesterday. It arose in the context of a Rhode Islander who had sought BCI and personnel records for an individual in the State Fire Marshal’s office. When the requester was denied access to the records on the grounds that they were confidential by law, he was charged a $15 fee. He then filed an appeal with the AG, leading to yesterday’s opinion. (The complaint raised a number of other APRA objections, which were also rejected in the opinion.)

Size DOES matter

Size matters when convincing your brain to eat healthier foods


Variety may trump virtue when it comes to the struggle to eat healthy, says a Vanderbilt marketing professor who studies consumer self-control and endorses "vice-virtue bundles" combining nutritious and not-so-nutritious foods.

"We suggest a simple … solution that can help consumers who would otherwise choose vice over virtue to simultaneously increase consumption of healthy foods (virtues) and decrease consumption of unhealthy foods (vices) while still fulfilling taste goals -- 'vice-virtue bundles,'" Kelly L. Haws, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management, said.

The idea is to not give up entirely foods that provide pleasure but aren't nutritious. Instead, the focus should be on lowering the portion of the "vice" foods and correspondingly raising the portion of a healthy food to replace it.

“Articles of faith are not easily uprooted”

U.S. Climate Denial Will Not Die Quietly
Those engaged in efforts to enlighten climate deniers can learn a great deal from the long history of the anti-evolution movement. Almost one hundred years ago this month, a young high school teacher by the name of John Thomas Scopes went on trial for teaching Darwinian evolution. To this day, the science of evolution has been under siege.

Climate denial is like resistance to evolution in that it is an irrational position rooted in faith rather than facts.  Although those who resist evolution and those who deny climate change are often intellectually vacuous, the web of lies they weave is surprisingly pernicious.

It took 44 years to get the highest U.S. court to rule in favor of evolution (in 1968 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Arkansas statute outlawing the teaching of evolution). Despite this ruling and the wealth of scientific evidence, resistance to evolution persists.

Friday, August 29, 2014

“Powerlessness is a self-fulfilling prophesy.”


Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.

A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election. 

Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother? 

A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions.


Buckets of awareness

Fill a bucket with bracelets and ribbons for maximum awareness
By Brian McFadden

Click here for the full bucket list.

Something for all those Harley riders cruising up and down Route One

US08789808-20140729-D00000Gotta get this!
By Martin Gardiner in Improbable Research

If you sometimes make use of a urinal, and yearn for the sound of revving motorbikes whilst doing so, a new US patent might be aimed at you.

Californian inventor Anthony Moley has just received a patent for his “Urinal with operation controlled via a replica of a motorcycle handlebar.” 

The new invention, which provides rearview mirrors, a throttle and a horn is summed up like this:

A practical idea that might reduce tension

Marching in unison may increase risk of use of excessive force in policing protests

In the aftermath of the Aug. 9 shooting of an 18-year-old African American man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, much of the nation's attention has been focused on how law enforcement's use of military gear might have inflamed tensions.

But what if the simple act of marching in unison -- as riot police routinely do -- increases the likelihood that law enforcement will use excessive force in policing protests?

That's the suggestion of a new study by a pair of UCLA social scientists.

Connecticut could be a model, but it's not


Connecticut is a state with many wonderful teachers, administrators, and schools. The state consistently ranks second or third in the nation on NAEP.

The state has some districts with high poverty and low test scores. Governor Dannel Malloy decided to solve their problems by aligning himself with the privatization by charter crowd. 

He hired Stefan Pryor, a co-founder of a charter chain, as his state commissioner and trusted him to enlarge the charters’ market share.

Malloy directed funding to charter chains, and things seemed to go his way until one of his favorite charter chains got in trouble. First it was revealed in the Hartford Courant that Michael Sharpe, CEO of the FUSE Jumoke charter chain, had a criminal record. Then it came out that he did not have a doctorate, even though he called himself “Dr.” For some reason, people in Connecticut seemed more disturbed by the phony credential than by the long-ago felonies.

Then came the case of “Dr.” Terrence Carter, who was in line to be the next superintendent in Néw London. It turned out that he didn’t have a doctorate either. Not to worry, he said, because he was receiving one from Lesley University in Massachusetts on August 25.

Perry Hams It Up

The Texas governor's claims that he was indicted for merely exercising his veto power is a bunch of hokum.

Lawyers will tell you that any good prosecutor could convince a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
Well, meet that ham sandwich: Governor Rick Perry. He’s a real ham — only not as smart.

A Texas grand jury indicted Perry, charging the Republican with official abuse of power. Specifically, he’s accused of threatening to veto all state funding for a public integrity unit. Among other things, that office was investigating corrupt favoritism in one of the governor’s pet projects.

Perry was trying to muscle out of office the woman who is the duly elected head of that unit, presumably to halt its inquiry. Leave office, he publicly barked at her, or I’ll take away all your money. She didn’t, and he did.

Not smart, for that’s an illegal quid pro quo, much like linking a campaign donation to an official favor. This led to the selection of a judge, the appointment of a special prosecutor, the establishment of a grand jury and the indictment of the gubernatorial ham sandwich.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

If you're on the fence about Secretary of State...

Questions about Nellie Gorbea’s track record
By Will Collette
Nellie Gorbea's former boss, former Puerto Rico Governor 
Pedro Rosselló (R), called the most corrupt governor of the century. 

I’ve met Democratic candidate for Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea on a number of occasions. 

Before I left the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee, I was in on the extensive interview the committee had with her before it decided to endorse Guillaume deRamel instead. She was always charming and friendly. 

I liked her and liked the idea of supporting a Latina, though, on balance, I liked Guillaume deRamel better.

But then I looked closer at her as I have with just about all the candidates running for state office this year. Part of it was professional interest. Even though I am retired, I spent most of my worklife doing political research. But it's also my personal interest as a voter to know more about candidates than  what they are willing to tell us.

I saw two major issues with Nellie Gorbea’s candidacy that raise questions about her qualifications to be the next Secretary of State and about her espoused progressive values.

Public records show that at least five of the non-profit organizations Nellie Gorbea has served (as staff, board member or registered agent) failed to comply with the simple annual reporting requirements set by the Secretary of State.

Ms. Gorbea also has claimed as part of her credentials that she served as an economic advisor to the Governor of Puerto Rico. However, that resume bullet point comes with some troubling history.

To get you in the mood for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19



Body Count

Graph: 'Deaths from police shootings, latest available year': Japan 0, Britain 0, Germany 8, America 409

"He represents hope"


clinton magaziner
Bob's snap - "This is as close as I got to Bill Clinton"
Bill Clinton knows how to play the room. So when the 42nd president of the United States took the podium at the Convention Center in Providence yesterday, he opened with: “I love Rhode Island.”

The former leader of the free world also has a fondness for Seth Magaziner, for whom he was here campaigning.

“He represents hope,” Clinton said, invoking both our state motto and his famous 1991 campaign slogan, when it was he coming from nowhere to best a political insider during an economic downturn.

Magaziner was just eight-years-old then, but he was already a Clinton supporter. 


Twice as strong as expected

Link between vitamin D, dementia risk confirmed


Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in older people, according to the most robust study of its kind ever conducted.

An international team, led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that study participants who were severely Vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The team studied elderly Americans who took part in the Cardiovascular Health Study. They discovered that adults in the study who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 per cent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind, and the risk increased to 125 per cent in those who were severely deficient.

Why Young Dems endorsed Kathy Fogarty, not Rep. Dickinson

Rep. Dickinson didn’t return YDRI questionnaire



Dear Representative Dickinson,

Hey, remember that time when you called me up regarding the YDRI PAC endorsement, and we ended up having a real nice chat at that coffee place in West Warwick? “The Daily Grind” it was called, over on Cowesset Ave. I was very late (apologies) but you were gracious and we talked for a good while over pastries and coffee. 

Remember, we hung out until the place closed? We ended up standing on the curb still chatting for ten minutes after they had locked the doors. You were just full of stories of the old days in the General Assembly (I hadn’t realized you had served back then!) and you eagerly shared some of your political wisdom with me.

Remember how multiple times throughout the conversation I said that in order to be considered for the YDRI endorsement, you would have to fill out our questionnaire? I think I said it at least three times, and you told me you had a “policy” of not filling out questionnaires. And remember I said ok, then the best you could hope for was no endorsement in the race, but we couldn’t possibly endorse you without a questionnaire?