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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Replacement plastics could be just as bad

BPA replacements in plastics cause reproductive problems in lab mice
Cell Press

Related imageTwenty years ago, researchers made the accidental discovery that the now infamous plastics ingredient known as bisphenol A or BPA had inadvertently leached out of plastic cages used to house female mice in the lab, causing a sudden increase in chromosomally abnormal eggs in the animals. 

Now, the same team is back to report in the journal Current Biology on September 13 that the array of alternative bisphenols now used to replace BPA in BPA-free bottles, cups, cages, and other items appear to come with similar problems for their mice.

"This paper reports a strange déjà vu experience in our laboratory," says Patricia Hunt of Washington State University.

The new findings were uncovered much as before as the researchers again noticed a change in the data coming out of studies on control animals. 

What New England stands to lose

As Trump threatens to shrink the NE Canyons Marine National Monument, diverse marine life threatened
New England Aquarium

Related image

Airborne marine biologists were amazed by the sheer abundance and diversity of large marine wildlife in their recent aerial survey of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the only marine national monument on the East Coast, about 150 southeast of Cape Cod. 

Scientists with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium documented more than 600 animal sightings in just four hours, including a "superpod" of about 250 common dolphins and a rare sighting of a giant manta ray.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Ten years after the Crash of 2008, why are big banks still acting like banksters?

The Persistence of Bank Misconduct
By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

Image result for wells fargo steal from customersTen years ago this month, the financial crisis erupted, and within a matter of weeks the banking landscape was transformed. Merrill Lynch was taken over by Bank of America. Lehman Brothers collapsed.

AIG had to be bailed out by the federal government. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last two independent investment houses, were forced to become bank holding companies subject to stricter regulation.

JPMorgan Chase took over Washington Mutual. Congress was compelled to create the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.

What were the consequences of the widespread misconduct that caused the meltdown? Lehman turned out to be the only major institution to suffer the fate of liquidation. 

No top executives at any banks faced personal criminal or civil charges. The federal government sold off its holdings in the companies that were bailed out.

Which side is he on?

Image may contain: 6 people, text

Monday night under the moon

Full Moon Paddle This Monday
Join our friends from the Exeter Land Trust for a full moon paddle on the upper Wood River!  Your host Joram Northup organized this RI Land Trust Days Event as a great way for you to kick off Autumn 2018. He will take you on an easy paddle from the WPWA campus upstream through Frying Pan Pond.  Once there you'll enjoy a spectacular view of the moon while surrounded by the peaceful sounds of nature.  The event is FREE and launches promptly at 7pm. "Free" means this program will fill up fast, so register now!
Beginners and children are welcome. Bring your own boats, paddles and PFD’s or borrow them from WPWA with a $20 donation. Dress for an early fall evening, and bring your headlamp. PFD's and shoes are required on all WPWA paddles. Bathrooms available at the WPWA campus. 
For more information and to register Click Here
Here's another program you might enjoy......
URI Cooperative Extension to Host a
Well Water Workshop in Hopkinton
October 10, 2018 at the  Hopkinton Town Hall, 1 Townhouse Road from 6-7 PM. 
During the workshop you will learn about: Regular water testing; Well water protection; Good housekeeping practices to protect your drinking water quality.
CE staff will answer your questions and provide you with a packet of resource materials.  RI Department of Health annual water testing kits will be available at the program. Programs are free and open to the public.  Please join us by registering now!
Or call 401-874-4918 to register.
Our Contact Information
Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association
203 Arcadia Road
Hope Valley, RI 02832

Next: a sugar overdose epidemic?

Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Northwestern University

Image result for jujubesSomeday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology. And the pills will reduce their pain as effectively as any powerful drug on the market, according to new research.

Northwestern Medicine scientists have shown they can reliably predict which chronic pain patients will respond to a sugar placebo pill based on the patients' brain anatomy and psychological characteristics.

"Their brain is already tuned to respond," said senior study author A. Vania Apkarian, professor of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "They have the appropriate psychology and biology that puts them in a cognitive state that as soon as you say, 'this may make your pain better,' their pain gets better."

Stormy's Secrets

Stormy Daniel’s new book, “Full Disclosure” will be released October 2, 2018. 
Image result for stormy daniels & trumpIf the law supposes that, the law is a ass—a idiot.
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

The law can be confusing, and I am happy to offer an explanation of one legal concept that has confused many readers untutored in its ways. The concept for which I hope to provide clarity is known as “non-disclosure.”

Agreements dealing with non-disclosure known as “non-disclosure agreements” may be created when two people have been involved in an event that one of the participants doesn’t want anyone else to know about. 

In that case, the person seeking confidentiality may pay the other person a sum of money, in exchange for which that person agrees not to disclose anything about the event.

Current events offer a perfect example of how a well-arranged non-disclosure agreement works. For purposes of this example, I will use two fictional people, one of whom will be referred to as Donald and the other as Stormy.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Pay attention

Why women don’t report sexual assault
Delays should never be used to discredit accusers like Christine Blasey Ford.
Image result for Christine Blasey FordWhen Christine Blasey Ford came forward to report that President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, sexually assaulted her in 1982, you could cue the response: Why didn’t she speak out then? Why didn’t she go to the police?

There’s a long, long list of reasons why a woman wouldn’t speak out even now, and no doubt it was even more difficult in the pre-Anita Hill world of 1982.

I can’t speak for everyone who has faced sexual assault, but I can speak for myself.

Young Brett learns from The Master

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

Obama is a bad hombre

Writing by the sea

Emerging writers will explore Beachcombing Your Memoir  
Carolina Fiber and Fiction Center

Emerging writers and those who just need a bit of inspiration and direction, will gather on Saturday, October 6 for Beachcombing Your Memoir, a day long retreat sponsored by the Carolina Fiber and Fiction Center.

“Everyone knows someone who has a desire to write a memoir and that’s because we all have a story to tell. But few actually bring that desire to fruition,” says co-facilitator, Patricia Chaffee who hopes to change that.

Writers of all level of ability are invited to participate in this inspirational, educational event presented by Pulitzer Prize nominee and author Grace Farrell and award-winning journalist, Patricia Chaffee.

Eat your prunes

Dietary fiber reduces brain inflammation during aging
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Image result for high fiberAs mammals age, immune cells in the brain known as microglia become chronically inflamed. In this state, they produce chemicals known to impair cognitive and motor function. That's one explanation for why memory fades and other brain functions decline during old age. 

But, according to a new study from the University of Illinois, there may be a remedy to delay the inevitable: dietary fiber.

Dietary fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut. When these bacteria digest fiber, they produce short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, as byproducts.

We see what we want to see

People show confirmation bias even about which way dots are moving
Cell PressImage result for confirmation bias and trump

People have a tendency to interpret new information in a way that supports their pre-existing beliefs, a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. 

Once they've made a decision about which house to buy, which school to send their kids to, or which political candidate to vote for, they have a tendency to interpret new evidence such that it reassures them they've made the right call. 

Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on September 13 have shown that people will do the same thing even when the decision they've made pertains to a choice that is rather less consequential: which direction a series of dots is moving and whether the average of a series of numbers is greater or less than 50.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

It's inevitable

What Happens When the Next Financial Crisis Strikes?
By Allan Sloan for ProPublica

Image result for Crash of 2008It came as a nasty surprise to almost everyone a decade ago when we found ourselves on the cusp of a worldwide financial collapse.

Most business journalists — including me — failed to see the 2008 disaster until it was almost upon us. But these days, predicting meltdowns has become positively trendy. 

With stocks at or near record levels, unemployment low and the economy booming, it’s become conventional journalistic wisdom to predict that evil days lie ahead. And not very far ahead. The recent New York Times editorial, “Inviting the Next Financial Crisis,” is just one example.

But I don’t think that today’s obvious problems will cause tomorrow’s crisis. Why? Because obvious problems usually don’t cause crises. You get a crisis when problems combine in unpredictable and unforeseen ways.

In 2008, complex financial instruments that almost no one understood — based on various pools of shaky loans — inflicted huge losses on giant companies like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and American International Group almost overnight. 

Those institutions didn’t realize their portfolios were toxic until financial sepsis had already set in. Worse, a series of financial relationships among those players and others, intended to reduce risk, ended up accelerating it.

However, there is one clear and present danger to the financial system that almost no one seems to be discussing in public. 

In fact, multiple experts whispered about it to me and said they discuss it behind closed doors but don’t breathe a word elsewhere for fear of becoming the target of a presidential tweetstorm. So I’ll do it, at the risk of being called a peddler of “fake news.” I think the biggest danger of financial problems exploding into a worldwide meltdown involves … Donald Trump.

You Only Count as Dead if It Happens Right Away

For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE.

No thanks

Why some people don’t get colds

Fighting the cold virus and other threats, body makes trade-off, says study
Yale University

season 9 ugh GIF by Curb Your EnthusiasmA Yale research team has revealed how cells in different parts of the human airway vary in their response to the common cold virus. Their finding, published in Cell Reports, could help solve the mystery of why some people exposed to the cold virus get ill while others don't, said the researchers.

Rhinovirus is a leading cause of the common cold, asthma attacks, and other respiratory illnesses. 

When the cold virus enters the nose, cells that line the airways, known as epithelial cells, respond and often clear the virus before it can replicate and trigger symptoms. 

But in other cases, individuals exposed to the virus get either mildly or seriously ill. A team of researchers, led by Ellen Foxman, set out to determine why.

See MISS SAIGON, at a discount, and support AIDS Care Ocean State

Miss Saigon
at the PPAC!

Support AIDS Care Ocean State's mission of providing quality housing, case management, medical and nursing care, and prevention to adults, families, adolescents and children who are affected by or at risk for HIV infection. AIDS Care Ocean State will act as an advocate for individuals and families at risk, while providing those support services needed to ensure and maintain a high quality of life for the people we serve.

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AIDS Care Ocean State, 18 Parkis Avenue, Providence, RI 02907

The many faces of Florence

The list of risks from major storms expands.

Image result for manure lagoonsAs Hurricane Florence continues its wet, windy rampage, here's my attempt to gather some of the stray baggage that hurricanes leave us.

Bolstered projections—and populations 

In October 1954, Hurricane Hazel tore through the Caribbean and the Bahamas, killing as many as 1,000, mostly in Haiti. Hazel hit the Carolina coast, flattening beachfront structures from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, north to the Outer Banks. The storm turned inland, with flooding rains contributing to 95 more deaths in the U.S. Remnants of the storm killed 81 more in the Toronto area, making Hazel a billion-dollar storm in Canada alone (in 2018 dollars.)

Two important differences separate a 1954 killer storm from a killer storm today: First, weather prediction and risk communication were still relatively primitive back then. Today the lifesaving role of both government and TV meteorologists has been key in keeping death tolls low.

But with climate change increasing the frequency and intensity of storms, even those lower death tolls are a hollow victory.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Payback time

One tiny tax reform, billions for America
By Gerald E. Scorse, Progressive Charlestown guest contributor

Image result for minimum ira distributionIt’s no secret that the federal government needs more revenue going forward. Congress could put the Treasury on autopilot to raise billions (and ultimately tens of billions) year after year. 

Guided by fairness, it could enact spend-down rules for non-retirement accounts that mirror those for retirement accounts: at age 70 ½, require minimum distributions and tax all gains at ordinary income rates.

Let’s look first at the tax policy drawn up by lawmakers to govern the original individual retirement accounts (IRAs) in 1974. Then let’s see how the same policy points to duplicate rules for regular, non-retirement holdings.

Congress gave generous tax breaks to IRAs all through the build-up years. In fact they’re tax-free, starting with contributions and including realized and unrealized capital gains, capital gains distributions, and dividends. If markets rose (a solid long-term bet), compounding would add hugely to the value of the breaks.

On the back end, legislators turned the accounts into a fair and far-sighted bargain. They elected to tax all withdrawals as ordinary income—including the capital gains, normally taxed at much lower rates (currently 15%). Under this mandate, taxes that were forgiven all along are continually recouped at ordinary income rates as retirees cash in.

The vetting process

Pic of the Moment

Support great local environmental journalism

Eat, drink and support environmental journalism. 

September 30 @ Troop PVD
2-3 p.m. VIP Hour | 3-5 p.m. Main Event

Enjoy tasty food from Troop PVD and cash bar with wine, cocktails, and Revival beer. Acoustic guitarist Gregory Peters will strum some tunes during the main event in the courtyard next to Troop PVD. Everything at this lively ultra-green party will be eaten, imbibed, recycled, or composted. All proceeds will be upcycled to support our environmental journalism.

Online ticket sales close Sept. 23. Questions? E-mail Joanna at Don't want to pay online? You can mail a check to ecoRI News, 10 Davol Sq., Suite 100, Providence, RI 02903.

Raffle Prizes include a kayak with gear from Ocean State Job Lot; gift cards to KNEAD Donuts, Pepe's Pizza and Matunuck Oyster Bar; tickets to performances at GAMM Threatre and Trinity Rep; gift baskets from Equal Exchange and Greenwich Cove Meadery, and original artwork by local artists. We'll also auction off a one-week stay at Cold Spring Resort in New Hampshire with a winter rental package and paddling trip from Ski Fanatics.

You can only win if you come to the Bash.

Thanks to our sponsors