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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

So answer me that

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Move over, Benedict Arnold

DEM plans Charlestown party on October 13

DEM Invites Public To Free Family Festival At Burlingame Campground  On Sunday, October 13

Burlingame Family Festival in Charlestown
DEM graphic
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Division of Parks and Recreation invites Rhode Islanders to a fun-filled, family festival at Burlingame State Park and Campground in Charlestown on Sunday, October 13. 

The Burlingame Family Festival will be held from 11 AM to 5 PM and will feature live music by folk duo Atwater-Donnelly, storytelling by the Tomaquag Museum, face painting, food trucks, an all-ages art contest, and a host of activities and giveaways from DEM, the Charlestown community, and environmental groups.

"We invite families to get outdoors on Columbus Day weekend and enjoy a fun day together at the Burlingame Family Festival," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "We're excited to welcome folks to explore nature at Burlingame State Park while enjoying arts and crafts, music and storytelling. I hope Rhode Islanders will come out to Charlestown and join us for this special fall program!"

Admission to the festival is free with a donation of non-perishable food or $4 per carload to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and its local partner, RICAN. The event is sponsored by Washington Trust, iHeart Media, Arlington RV, Charlestown Chamber of Commerce, and the South County Tourism Council.

UPDATED: Charlestown resident contracts EEE virus

DEM Mosquito Advisory

 UPDATED: state news outlets are reporting that two new cases of EEE were detected in patients, one a child in Coventry and the other a 50-year old Charlestown resident. A West Warwick man was the first diagnosed case this year - he died last week.

Health Department officials describe this year's mosquito season as especially dangerous and was the reason for widespread anti-mosquito spraying. All three confirmed EEE cases were believed to have been contracted BEFORE the spraying occurred. 

The CDC says that the US averages only 7 cases of EEE each year nationwide. But this year, there have been 12 confirmed cases so far in just Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island alone. Mortality is high: one out of three patients afflicted will die.

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today confirmed that with aerial mosquito treatments that were applied in parts of Westerly, Charlestown, and Hopkinton over night, the state has completed spraying in the four areas of Rhode Island that state officials have assessed to be at critical risk for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus. 

In all, the state treated parts of 21 communities over three nights with a pesticide formulated to kill adult mosquitoes. The flight crew used the pesticide, called Anvil 10+10, at an extremely low concentration, dispersing a total of 556 gallons across 115,179 total acres – meaning that 6/10 of an ounce, aerosolized, was used to treat an acre. That's the equivalent of slightly less than four teaspoons per acre.

For a discussion of the effects of the pesticide Anvil, CLICK HERE.

EEE is a rare but serious illness that spreads when people are bitten by infected mosquitoes. RIDOH announced September 9 that the individual who had contracted the state's first human case of EEE this year passed away on September 8. This was Rhode Island's first fatal human EEE case since 2007.

In the latest round of trapping, RIDOH's State Health Laboratories tested the remaining 69 pools, or samples, that DEM collected from 28 traps set September 3 and 5, finding all samples negative for both EEE and West Nile Virus (WNV). 

DEM is confirmed that EEE has been detected in a second deer, in Richmond, in addition to the first deer case of the disease that was announced yesterday. 

How many Americans believe in climate change?

Probably more than you think, research in Indiana suggests
Matthew Houser, Indiana University
Vice President Mike Pence opposed federal action
to address climate change as governor of Indiana.
Michael Conroy/AP
Indiana certainly doesn’t look like a state that’s ready to confront climate change. Its former governor, Vice President Mike Pence, has questioned whether human actions affect the climate.

In 2016 the majority of Indiana residents voted for Donald Trump, who rejects mainstream climate science. And the state ranks first in the proportion of its population that identifies as conservative – a position that generally means resisting calls to address climate change.

Given these realities, it would be easy to assume that all Hoosiers largely doubt climate change and humans’ contribution to it. The truth is surprising.

My research focuses on the human dimensions of climate change, including public opinion. In a recent statewide survey, I found that the majority of Indiana residents supported taking action on climate change. However, most Hoosiers underestimate just how widespread this view is in their state.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Deeply stupid diplomacy

Image result for stupid trump cartoonDonald Trump is a deeply stupid man, and that stupidity is just one of the many ways he is undermining American national security. The latest example was reported this week:

President Donald Trump has left the impression with foreign officials, members of his administration, and others involved in Iranian negotiations that he is actively considering a French plan to extend a $15 billion credit line to the Iranians if Tehran comes back into compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Trump has in recent weeks shown openness to entertaining President Emmanuel Macron’s plan, according to four sources with knowledge of Trump’s conversations with the French leader.

Two of those sources said that State Department officials, including Secretary Mike Pompeo, are also open to weighing the French proposal, in which the Paris government would effectively ease the economic sanctions regime that the Trump administration has applied on Tehran for more than a year.

The deal put forward by France would compensate Iran for oil sales disrupted by American sanctions. A large portion of Iran’s economy relies on cash from oil sales. Most of that money is frozen in bank accounts across the globe.

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The $15 billion credit line would be guaranteed by Iranian oil. In exchange for the cash, Iran would have to come back into compliance with the nuclear accord it signed with the world’s major powers in 2015.

Tehran would also have to agree not to threaten the security of the Persian Gulf or to impede maritime navigation in the area. Lastly, Tehran would have to commit to regional Middle East talks in the future.

Let's be clear: At the end of May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran was still in compliance with the deal. Iran has been in compliance all along. It was Trump who first threatened to break the deal.

Explain, please

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Never Mind

Pic of the Moment

What is that Chickadee saying?

Building Blocks of Bird Babble Identified
University of Zurich

Image result for chestnut-crowned babbler
Chestnut-crowned babbler (Wikipedia)
Stringing together meaningless sounds to create meaningful signals is a core feature of human language. 

Investigating whether animals share this basic combinatorial ability has been complicated by difficulties in identifying whether animal vocalizations are made from smaller, meaningless sounds, or building blocks. 

New research by scientists at the Universities of Zurich, Exeter, Warwick, Macquarie and New South Wales has addressed this question in the calls of the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps) – a highly social bird from the Australian Outback.

Here’s something Danish that Trump won’t want to buy

Denmark to ban PFAS in food packaging
Image result for denmark pfasDenmark will ban the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in paper and cardboard used in food packaging within the next year under a proposal from the country's Ministry of Environment and Food.

The ban, estimated to take effect by July 2020, would make Denmark the first country to ban the class of chemicals from food contact materials. PFAS chemicals are often used as water and grease repellents, winding up in paper and cardboards that come into contact with food. The compounds can then migrate into the food and people.

Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to multiple health impacts, including testicular and kidney cancers, decreased birth weights, thyroid disease, decreased sperm quality, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, asthma and ulcerative colitis.

Trump’s radical deregulation even alarms the industries it is supposed to benefit

No one is safe from Trump’s radical agenda
By Amy Sinden

plant pollution GIFThe Trump EPA last month proposed a new plan to remove oil and gas developers’ responsibility for detecting and fixing methane leaks in their wells, pipelines and storage operations. This proposal to axe the Obama-era methane rule is notable for two reasons. 

First, it is a huge step backward in the race to stabilize the climate, just at the moment scientists warn we need to move forward with unprecedented speed. 

Second, it’s the latest in a growing list of Trump rollbacks opposed by the very industries they’re purportedly intended to help.

The Obama EPA put the methane rule in place for good reason: Methane is a powerful driver of climate disruption. While it doesn’t linger in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, for the 10 or 20 years it does stay up there it packs 80 times the heat-trapping punch. 

There’s increasing evidence that such methane leaks may be far greater in number and volume than previously thought. Unless stopped, they threaten to undermine global efforts to stem the climate crisis.

Monday, September 16, 2019

2020: Russiagate redux?

How disinformation could sway the 2020 election
Paul M. BarrettNew York University

What people read online could really disrupt society
and politics. igorstevanovic/ 
In 2016, Russian operatives used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to sow division among American voters and boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

What the Russians used to accomplish this is called “disinformation,” which is false or misleading content intended to deceive or promote discord.

Now, with the first presidential primary vote only five months away, the public should be aware of the sources and types of online disinformation likely to surface during the 2020 election.

First, the Russians will be back. Don’t be reassured by the notorious Russian Internet Research Agency’s relatively negligible presence during last year’s midterm elections.

The agency might have been keeping its powder dry in anticipation of the 2020 presidential race. And it helped that U.S. Cyber Command, an arm of the military, reportedly blocked the agency’s internet access for a few days right before the election in November 2018.

Temporarily shutting down the Internet Research Agency won’t be enough to stop the flow of harmful content.

Why you should brush your teeth

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Even Faux News knows he's nuts

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Partners celebrate completion of new homes in Charlestown

Shannock Falls offers 43 affordable apartments adjacent to historic Shannock Village
Kyrie Perry, Rhode Island Housing 

State and local officials joined with representatives of RIHousing, Women’s Development Corporation (WDC), Washington County Community Development Corporation (WCCDC), and funding and community partners to celebrate the completion of new rental homes in Charlestown.

The 43-unit affordable apartment development known as Shannock Falls is comprised of two separate sites in Charlestown and Richmond. 

The Charlestown site features 11 apartments in four buildings, with 32 units at the Richmond location. Located along the banks of the Pawcatuck River, the design of the new buildings is consistent with the historic architectural detailing of the surrounding area.

The Zantac® cancer scare: what we know (and don't)

Media raises the alarm, but based on what?
By Will Collette

Image result for ranitidine cancer scareLast week, many network news shows featured stories about the Food and Drug Administration’s discovery of a cancer-causing chemical called NDMA in some batches of Zantac and its generic versions.

Since millions of Americans – including me – take ranitidine to control heartburn and acid reflux, the news caused quite a stir even though the news reports were very sparse on details.

The reason for the sparse details stem from the statements from the FDA and its European counterpart, the European Medicines Agency that did not contain a lot of crucial information. I have reprinted both agencies’ statements below.

We don’t know exactly how the NDMA got there, though I have seen some accounts that say a chemical reaction between ranitidine’s ingredients could cause its formation.

We don’t know if all, most or only a few batches of ranitidine contain NDMA.

We also don’t know what levels of NDMA are present, though we do have this observation in the FDA statement:
Although NDMA may cause harm in large amounts, the levels the FDA is finding in ranitidine from preliminary tests barely exceed amounts you might expect to find in common foods.
We don’t know if there’s a technological “fix,” such as a reformulation that eliminates NDMA from the medication. We DO know there will be further, deeper study of this issue by the FDA and the EMA.

We don’t really know why the FDA and its European colleagues decided to issue their statements. 

Under Trump, we have rarely seen federal regulatory agencies put a lot of zeal into protecting public health over corporate profits. That makes the FDA statement, amplified by the European’s parallel statement, all the more concerning.

Despite that inference, neither agency is telling patients to stop taking ranitidine. Instead, you are told to keep taking the medication if you need it or talk to your doctor about treatment alternatives.

Except your doctor probably doesn’t know more about this issue that what’s been published. Further, treatment alternatives are limited since the entire class of “sartan” stomach acid inhibitors have this same issue. Last June, we went through a similar health scare with Prilosec® and its generics.

So what do you do? Personally, I do plan to discuss this with my doctor when I see her later this month. She also takes ranitidine so I plan to follow her lead.

We live in a world full of risks. We have to make daily choices about such risks versus whatever benefits those risks deliver. Not to minimize the Zantac alarm, I personally don't see enough information yet to make an intelligent decision about ranitidine's risks versus its benefits.

Here are the complete statements issued by the FDA and EMA.

“Don’t be evil”

Exorcising Evil at Google
By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

throwing up the exorcist GIFFor the past two decades, Google’s Code of Conduct has included the phrase Don’t Be Evil. 

It used to be at the beginning of that document but now it is relegated to the end, appearing almost as an afterthought.

That turns out to be appropriate, given that Google can no longer pretend to be a paragon of virtue. 

The latest example of this move to the dark side is the announcement by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General that Google is paying $170 million to settle allegations that its subsidiary YouTube committed serious violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

It was said to have done this by collecting personal information from under-age viewers of online videos without their parents’ consent.

Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. will be facing more headaches. There have been recent reports that a large group of state attorneys general are getting ready to announce a major antitrust investigation of Google, whose search engine is essentially a monopoly and which has dominant positions in other areas as well.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

“I’m from Dow Chemical and I’m here to help you"

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Acres of parking lot will be removed and capped to contain contaminated soil outside Centredale Manor and Brook Village Apartments in North Providence, near the Johnston line. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
Acres of parking lot will be removed and capped to contain contaminated soil outside Centredale Manor and Brook Village Apartments in North Providence, near the Johnston line. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

The new director of the New England office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the latest and perhaps final phase of the cleanup of one of Rhode Island’s most polluted properties.

Before joining the EPA on Aug, 22, Dennis Deziel worked as a top lobbyist for Dow Inc., the chemical giant with a woeful environmental record. The company has a decades-long history of infamous pollution and public health scandals such as Agent Orange, Union Carbide, and defective breast implants. 

After dioxin contamination occurred at its chemical manufacturing plant in Midland, Mich., Dow concealed documents from government officials. The company was allowed to edit an EPA report about the company's pollution.

In 2013, Dow was ordered to pay $1.2 billion for the company’s involvement in a scheme to fix the price for urethane, the chemical used to make foam for furniture, packaging, and vehicles.

Deziel began work as EPA’s Region 1 administrator after five years at Dow as its director of federal government affairs. 

He visited the Centredale Manor Superfund site on Sept. 9 to formally announce a settlement with the owners of the contaminated site who are paying $42 million toward a $100 million cleanup. The work involves a 1.5-mile stretch of wetlands and commercial and residential property along the Woonasquatucket River. 

The cleanup includes potentially draining Allendale and Lyman Mill ponds to excavate some 156,000 cubic tons of contaminated sediment and removing and capping about 9 acres of parking lot. Contaminated soil will be sent to the state landfill or to a designated hazardous waste facility.

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Capping" contaminated sites is a popular "clean-up" option mainly because it is a lot cheaper than the alternatives. But being cheapest is far from being best. First, remember that at least some of the contaminated material is left in place. If the site was leaking into groundwater before, it will continue to do so except now it will have tons of capping material on top of it, squishing the material down and out the sides. Caps will inevitably leak and water will infiltrate through the sides. However, the site will look "clean" and for many politicians and even some residents, that's enough.   -Will Collette


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From the RI Community Food Bank

Empty Bowls Tickets Now On Sale!

Presented by Citizens Bank

Thursday, October 17, 2019
5:30 to 8 pm
Rhodes on the Pawtuxet

This special event brings together hundreds of local artists, over 35 local restaurants, and nearly 1,000 members of the community to envision a world without hunger, where all bowls are filled.
  • General Admission: $50 in advance/$60 at door
  • Patron Admission: $150 per person
    Includes VIP bowl selection, one drink ticket and our gratitude for your generous donation.
The concept is simple: guests choose a handmade bowl, enjoy delicious restaurant tastings, and go home with their bowl as a reminder that their support helps us fill all the empty bowls in our community.

Empty Bowls Raffle!

Enter for a chance to win a private five-course dinner for 8 at The Dorrance, complete with cocktail and wine pairings. Raffle tickets are $50 and only 150 will be sold. You do not need to be present to win.

Call 401-942-6325 to purchase your raffle tickets in advance.

Join us for a Community Volunteer Day

Saturday, October 5
9 AM to 12 PM
Rhode Island Community Food Bank
We need your help preparing food donations to distribute to our neighbors in need. Come out to the Food Bank and help us sort and pack food boxes and repack fresh produce. 
Children aged 7 and up are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.
Advanced registration is required.

Take a Tour With Us!

Do you want to learn how the Food Bank distributes 11.6 million pounds of food each year? 
Come out to the Food Bank and let us show you! This half-hour walking tour of the Food Bank takes you through our facility to show you how much we get done.
If you've ever wanted to visit, now's the time. We can work with your schedule to set up a tour. Email our Communications Coordinator Sam Howard.
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Our mailing address is:
Rhode Island Community Food Bank
200 Niantic Ave
Providence, RI 02907-3150