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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Call for help from the Exes

The Curse of Donald Trump
Image result for living ex-presidentsI know that everyone’s talking about the final episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones and some are comparing our current woes to the battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms.

Hell, even our hopeless tinpot dictator of a president has tweeted GoT memes and in his cabinet room admired a poster of himself that promoted the economic punishment of Iran, announcing “Sanctions Are Coming." 

Apparently, Trump didn’t care that to normal people the Game of Thrones phrase from whence it came, “Winter Is Coming,” is about a cold and bitter threat to all of civilization’s survival. It was a picture of him and that’s all that mattered. HBO and series cast members have let their displeasure be known.

But I keep thinking instead about another fantasy tale, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and the decades-long spell cast over good King Theodon of Rohan – the evil magic that clouds his judgment until the spell is broken by Gandalf the wizard and Theodon becomes a hero again.

Because, let’s face it, a spell or curse sometimes seems the only reasonable explanation for why so many in the echelons of government and politics, people who should know better, have fallen under the thrall of our snake oil salesman-in-chief. 

I’m reminded of a TV show I worked on years ago in which that mentalist The Amazing Kreskin took a bunch of otherwise rational people to a New Jersey field and convinced them that flying saucers were hovering overhead.

In particular, the obsequious bootlicking that accompanies the illusion is a national embarrassment, more befitting the toadying of vassals to a Game of Thrones-like medieval king than men and women working for the president of an allegedly independent republic.

Remember that inaugural meeting of Trump’s full cabinet in June 2017? First, he announced that in his first 143 days, "Never has there been a president… with few exceptions...who's passed more legislation, who's done more things than I have." A complete and total lie, but what else is new? 

He then went around the room and had every secretary say how wonderful he was. Even soon-to-be-booted chief of staff Reince Preibus chimed in: "We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda." Please, sir, I'd like another. It’s been nothing but downhill since.

Beyond sorcery, there is, of course, a rational explanation. What they all quickly realized and the rest of us have come to know too well—including world leaders and despots—is that the only thing to which this president responds positively is abject flattery, the more outlandish and overblown the better.

Very stable genius

Pic of the Moment

Moment of clarity

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Saving a rare Richmond toad

By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor
There is just one population of eastern spadefoot toads left in Rhode Island. (Brad Timm)
There is just one population of eastern spadefoot
toads left in Rhode Island. (Brad Timm)
The state’s rarest toad is round and short-legged with bulging eyes and a spade-shaped protrusion on its hind feet that enable them to corkscrew themselves into the ground, where they stay moist and cool and avoid predators.

But there is just one population of eastern spadefoot toads left in Rhode Island, here in Richmond, and they haven’t reproduced since 2014. 

Scott Buchanan, a herpetologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), called the toads “the best example of a species that, as far as we know, is on the verge of disappearing from Rhode Island.”

University of Rhode Island herpetologist Nancy Karraker and research associate Bill Buffum are trying to forestall that possibility by building additional wetland habitat for them in several communities around the state.

The first of these manmade breeding pools were built May 13-15 on property owned by the Richmond Rural Preservation Land Trust.

“Spadefoot toads breed in the most ephemeral of vernal pools,” Karraker said. “They use what most would call a puddle in the middle of an agricultural field, with no forest canopy cover, and they’re filled by torrential storms that occur in May and June. Those big storms that produce thunder and lightning and an inch or more of rain in 24 hours brings the toads up to breed.”

When these conditions occur, the toads lay their eggs within a day, the eggs hatch into tadpoles a day or two later, and they complete their metamorphosis into toadlets and hop away into the forest three weeks after that, she said.

Unfortunately, the proper conditions haven’t occurred at the right time to inspire the toads to emerge and breed in the past five years.


NOAA declares North Atlantic swordfish to be "fully rebuilt"
Today’s North Atlantic swordfish population is a great fishery rebuilding story.  
Twenty years ago, this predatory fish was in trouble. Their population had dropped to 65 percent of the target level. This means there weren’t enough North Atlantic swordfish in the water to maintain their population in the face of fishing by the many countries who share the resource.
Fast forward to 2009 and the international commission that manages species like swordfish declared the Northern Atlantic stock fully rebuilt. That announcement came a year ahead of the 2010 target date set in the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s (ICCAT) 10-year rebuilding plan.
“If it’s U.S.-harvested swordfish, consumers can feel confident it’s a smart seafood choice,” said Rick Pearson, NOAA Fisheries fishery management specialist. “We should reward our sustainable stewardship practices at the seafood counter.”  

Not so much

Is Trump’s trade war saving American jobs – or killing them?
Jeffrey Kucik, University of Arizona

File 20190515 60567 14cvxlp.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1With the U.S.-China trade war intensifying, there is a lot of talk about whether tariffs save American jobs – as President Donald Trump claims – or destroy them.

On May 14, for example, Trump said his tariffs helped save the U.S. steel industry.

Whether or not that’s true, many economists and industry organizations argue trade protectionism is actually hurting workers in a range of other areas, such as the solar power sector, civil aircraft and auto manufacturing.

So is the trade war making Americans better off or worse? Political economists like me have been exploring this question since Trump’s trade war began about a year ago. The answer makes a big difference to the economic welfare of American workers.

And, with the 2020 elections soon approaching, it may help determine whether Trump is able to remain in the Oval Office.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

“Enlightened self-interest” no longer works

Just When Did America Go Nuts?
Related image“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” —Matthew 24:24

“At first we thought they were just another snake cult, but now their towers are everywhere.” —Conan the Barbarian 1982

At the dawn of my congressional career, after some of us staffers endured a particularly egregious dose of idiocy, one of my colleagues was moved to compare our office to Saint Elizabeth’s, then still functioning as a mental hospital in DC (and now, fittingly, as headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security). “Not quite,” I responded. “Here the lunatics are in charge.”

That exchange, alas, has become a prophecy for the nation at large. It begins, as we are made aware by each daily tweet-storm, at the very top, but this insanity could not persist without broad and intense public support. 

It has become commonplace to characterize such supporters as haters, but while it would be dangerous to underestimate the role of sheer malice, Trumpism could only sustain itself with tens of millions of people who might not fit the profile of a hater, but are assuredly either borderline imbeciles or not-quite-certifiably insane. 

Wednesday wingnuts

Pic of the Moment

Know the enemy

Langevin push against abuse of adopted children

House Passes Langevin, Bacon Provisions to Protect Adopted Children from Rehoming

Image result for Rehoming child abuseCongressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Don Bacon (R-NE), two of the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, issued a statement regarding House passage of the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which contains provisions they authored to protect adopted children from unregulated custody transfers, a practice also known as “rehoming.”

Rehoming is the practice of parents of adopted children abandoning their child to a stranger outside the safeguards of the child welfare system, often via online forums. The Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act includes provisions from Langevin and Bacon’s Safe Home Act that give states the tools to protect children from this dangerous practice.

Could it be 42?

How many cups of coffee are too much to drink a day?
University of South Australia

Related imageLatte, cappuccino or short black, a morning coffee is an essential for many people looking to kick start their day. 

But while the humble coffee may be a vital feature of the daily grind, how much is too much?

While the pros and cons of drinking coffee have been debated for decades, new research from the University of South Australia reveals that drinking six or more coffees a day can be detrimental to your health, increasing your risk of heart disease by up to 22 per cent.

In Australia, one in six people are affected by cardiovascular disease. It is a major cause of death with one person dying from the disease every 12 minutes. 

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, yet one of the most preventable.

Investigating the association of long-term coffee consumption and cardiovascular disease, UniSA researchers Dr Ang Zhou and Professor Elina Hyppönen of the Australian Centre for Precision Health say their research confirms the point at which excess caffeine can cause high blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease.

This is the first time an upper limit has been placed on safe coffee consumption and cardiovascular health.

Where the anti-vaxxers are concentrated

The counties where the anti-vaccine movement thrives in the US
Peter J Hotez, Baylor College of Medicine
Image result for anti-vaxxersAs a pediatrician-scientist who develops new vaccines for neglected diseases, I spent most of my career in the Boston-Washington, D.C. corridor.

While working in the Northeast, I had heard a few things about the anti-vaccine movement. As both a vaccine scientist and a father of four, including a daughter diagnosed with autism and intellectual disabilities, I followed the emergence of doubt over vaccine safety in the general public.

Ultimately, in scientific circles, any debate ended when an overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrated there was no association between vaccines and autism.

But then, in 2011, I relocated to Houston’s Texas Medical Center. I soon learned that, unlike in the Northeast, where the anti-vaccine movement so far seems restricted to small groups, the Texas anti-vaccine movement is aggressive, well-organized and politically engaged.

There are now at least 57,000 Texas schoolchildren being exempted from their vaccines for nonmedical reasons, about a 20-fold rise since 2003. I say “at least” because there is no data on the more than 300,000 homeschooled kids.

I’m worried these children, who are mostly concentrated either in the Austin area and towns and cities in north Texas, including Plano and Forth Worth, are at high risk of acquiring serious or even deadly childhood infections such as measles or whooping cough.

Texas also ranks near the bottom in terms of adolescent girls getting their HPV vaccine to prevent cervical canceronly four states had lower vaccination rates.

I then began to wonder about other parts of the U.S. Together with colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, where I work, we did an in-depth study of kindergarten schoolchildren who receive vaccine exemptions across the country.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The search for the dumbest Trump official on the environment

We have a winner (loser?)
Image result for mike pompeo and climate changeIn an administration loaded with thoroughbred climate deniers, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a novel approach to say the gobsmackingly dumbest thing about the climate crisis yet.

He acknowledged one of the major consequences of climate change, then slathered a planet's worth of lipstick on this particular pig.

Without actually uttering the "c" word, Pompeo told a gathering of the Arctic Council last week: 
"Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes … could [become] the 21st Century Suez and Panama Canals."
What?? This marries the effete denialism of let them eat cake with the cheap grifters' trick of two 10s for a five.

Two other remarkable things came from this vacuous statement. By all news reports, the Arctic Council delegates received Mr. Pompeo with uncommon politeness. 

And save for a few on-the-scene dispatches, the news got buried under the daily load of a dozen other Trump-related absurdities.

How DARE they?

For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE.

Well-deserved congratulations to Arrowhead Dental

A sincere thank you to all our patients who voted for Arrowhead Dental Associates in the Providence Journal Reader’s Choice Awards and The Westerly Sun Reader's Choice Awards

Your support helped us achieve the title of best dental practice in Rhode Island once again. Your trust and confidence in our services means a great deal.

From the entire Arrowhead Team, thank you.

Arrowhead Dental Associates

Arrowhead Dental Associates | 4995 South County Trail, Charlestown, RI 02813

Lifeguard testing in Charlestown tomorrow and June 27

Lifeguard Certification Tests Start May 22-23
Candidates can select a test time through new online registration program

Animated GIFThe Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced it is administering conditional Non-Surf and Surf Lifeguard Certification tests beginning this week. 

Lifeguard positions at all beaches in Rhode Island require certification and special training in first aid, CPR, and lifeguard training.

The schedule of testing is as follows:

May 22, June 12, and June 27 | 9 AM – 2 PM Prosser Grove Picnic Area, Burlingame State Park, Charlestown Non-surf tests for lifeguards working at freshwater/bayside beaches

May 23 and June 13 | 9 AM – 2 PM Scarborough State Beach, Narragansett Surf tests for lifeguards working at all types of swimming facilities

Taking the good with the bad: More sunshine = more pollen

Only 10?

Trump supporters believe these 10 incredibly fake facts are true
Image may contain: textAmericans, divided and polarized as they are, live in two distinct worlds. 

In one world, the earth is not flat, climate change is real and Bill and Hillary aren’t pimping kids out in the basement of a pizza restaurant.

The other world is devoid of reason, evidence and pretty much any type of historical facts. 

Despite the fact that Trump voters have been fleeced by the biggest con man in the world, they continue to devour the lies he sells on a silver platter. 

When it comes to facts, Trump supporters aren’t head over heels in love with them. 

After all, Trump’s rise came as a result of playing to uninformed and angry people’s primal and worst sensibilities. They’re right and the entire world is wrong, because that’s what their cult leader told them, and who needs Google anyway?

Here are 10 incredibly fake facts that Trump supporters believe are true.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Growth is not the same thing as progress

The Providence Journal perpetuates myths, not good economic policy
Related imageRecently, the Providence Journal again devoted its main editorial to the relatively slow rate of economic growth in Rhode Island and what to do about it. The title is “A tale of two economies” and like its namesake, A Tale of Two Cities, it is a work of fiction.

The Providence Journal does cite accurate low GDP growth numbers, but the explanation of what they mean and why they occur is a fantasy. The biggest lie is the myth that low taxes and little regulation speed up economic growth. 

I have called the Journal on this before, and specifically asked for their references and data to prove this point. I have asked editor Ed Achorn several times, I have asked their previous business reporter, I have asked economists and professors of business at the University of Rhode Island (URI) for their data and references when they stand up at public hearings or write columns and pronounce the importance of a good business climate. 

No one has ever been able to produce an honest, statistically valid study demonstrating that low taxes and little regulation correlates with rapid GDP growth rates.

Women need guidance

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.
The sad thing is that there are probably some Republicans out there who would read this and say, "yes, that's all true." What do you think, Jim?

Cut kitchen plastic use

No photo description available.

Anger more harmful to health of older adults than sadness

Associated with increased inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease, study says
American Psychological Association

yelling china GIFAnger may be more harmful to an older person's physical health than sadness, potentially increasing inflammation, which is associated with such chronic illnesses as heart disease, arthritis and cancer, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

"As most people age, they simply cannot do the activities they once did, or they may experience the loss of a spouse or a decline in their physical mobility and they can become angry," said Meaghan A. Barlow, MA, of Concordia University, lead author of the study, which was published in Psychology and Aging

"Our study showed that anger can lead to the development of chronic illnesses, whereas sadness did not."

Attorneys spring eternal

Want to see environmental health issues on TV? Don't miss the commercials

Image result for roundup tort lawyersAs springtime spreads over North America, the airwaves are rotten with lawn and garden ads – hoes from Home Depot, lawn spreaders from Lowe's and all manner of seeds, bedding, plants, topsoil and pesticides.

Lots of pesticides.

For the latter, I couldn't help but notice the most recent ads for the best-selling herbicide Roundup had a tagline I'd never seen before: "Trusted for forty years."

This could possibly be due to Edwin Hardeman. Or Dewayne Johnson.

In March, a jury awarded Hardeman $80 million, ruling his cancer was caused by his use of Roundup. The herbicide's active ingredient, glyphosate, is considered a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

Last August, Johnson was awarded $289 million by a jury that ruled his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was caused by Roundup use in his job as a groundskeeper. A judge later reduced Johnson's payout to a paltry $78 million.

Is there anyone NOT running for President?

Why are there so many candidates for president?Hans J. G. Hassell, Florida State University

Image result for democratic candidates for President 2020

Seven Democratic presidential candidates gathered on national television early in the 1988 campaign to debate each other.

The field of candidates, derided by Republicans as the “Seven Dwarfs,” pales in comparison to the 24 Democratic candidates who have – at last count – declared their candidacy for president.

The seven Democrats on the stage in 1988 represented an unprecedented number of candidates vying in a presidential primary. Now, 17 of the 24 declared Democratic presidential candidates have currently met the standards set by the Democratic National Committee to qualify for participation in this election cycle’s debates.

And in 2016 the GOP used two debate stages to accommodate the 17 declared candidates.

I study political parties and their role in electoral politics. And I believe the rise in the number of presidential candidates in recent years results from divisions within the party coalitions and from easier access to vital campaign resources – money and media – that were not present in previous election cycles.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ask local legislators Flip Filippi, Elaine Morgan and Justin Price where they stand on mandatory vaccination

The quiet war on vaccines in the Rhode Island State house

There is a quiet war going on at the Rhode Island State House over vaccines. Currently, vaccines for children are mandatory for both public and private schools. The only exceptions are for medical and religious reasons.

But bills submitted by Representative Michael Morin and Senator Maryellen Goodwin would allow for exceptions to also be granted for “personal” and “philosophical” reasons.

This, as the United States is currently suffering the worst measles outbreak since the 1990s.

Before I proceed further, let me state this with certainty: Vaccines are safe. Vaccines save lives. Those saying that there are links between vaccines and autism are woefully misinformed or lying. Countless studies have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

The side benefits of abortion ban

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

Then and now

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Making public policy based on actual fact…What a concept!

Brown launches new lab for evidence-based policy research
Brown University

The Policy Lab at Brown will work in concert with government leaders and experts to develop evidence-based policy programs that improve lives and strengthen communities.

Whether it’s taking on the opioid crisis or devising strategies to improve educational outcomes, scholars at Brown University are driven by the belief that their work will have an impact in their communities, in society and the world.

To both expand upon on that commitment and to generate new evidence and insights that inform policies with real-world impact on individuals and communities, Brown has launched a new applied policy research center. 

The Policy Lab at Brown will convene experts from the University, government and the greater community to develop data-driven solutions to critical problems that affect people both in Rhode Island and beyond.

The science of fine chocolate

Great chocolate is complex mix of science, study finds
University of Edinburgh

 Scientists have uncovered the physics behind the process – known as conching – which is responsible for creating chocolate’s distinctive smooth texture.

The findings may hold the key to producing confectionary with lower fat content, and could help make chocolate manufacturing more energy efficient.

Trump administrative refuses to join global effort against on-line hate

"To be honest, I do not understand the United States," said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

show internet GIFThe White House announced Wednesday it will not join a global initiative, launched in the wake of a massacre in New Zealand two months ago, to tackle racist and extremist online content.

"By not standing alongside other world leaders to fight hate," said the Southern Poverty Law Center in response, "President Trump has shown once again that he doesn't understand the importance of white supremacy in fueling terrorism."

The Christchurch Call—which has the backing of 17 countries plus the European Commission and eight major tech companies including Twitter, Google, and Facebook—was launched Wednesday by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The initiative comes exactly two months after the terrorist attack on worshipers at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which a gunman who professed racist hatred against Muslims and immigrants livestreamed his slaughter of  51 people.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Is the economy booming for YOU?

The untold story of Trump’s ‘booming’ economy

Image result for untold story of Trump’s ‘booming’ economyAmericans are not happy, and for good reason: They continue to suffer financial stress caused by decades of flat income. 

And every time they make the slightest peep of complaint about a system rigged against them, the rich and powerful tell them to shut up because it is all their fault.

One percenters instruct them to work harder, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop bellyaching. Just get a second college degree, a second skill, a second job. Just send the spouse to work, downsize, take a staycation instead of a real vacation. Or don’t take one at all, just work harder and longer and better.

The barrage of blaming has persuaded; workers believe they deserve censure. And that’s a big part of the reason they’re unhappy. If only, they think, they could work harder and longer and better, they would get ahead. They bear the shame. They don’t blame the system: the Supreme Court, the Congress, the president. And yet, it is the system, the American system, that has conspired to crush them.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, unemployment is low and the stock market is high. But skyrocketing stocks benefit only the top 10 percent of wealthy Americans who own 84 percent of stocks. And while more people are employed now than during the Great Recession, the vast majority of Americans haven’t had a real raise since 1979.

It’s bad out there for American workers. Last month, their ranking dropped for the third year running in the World Happiness Report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a UN initiative.

Breaking news


What about after they're born?

Pic of the Moment

“Bank Local” initiative expands

Treasurer Magaziner's small business loan program expands reach

State Treasurer Seth Magaziner's BankLOCAL initiative, which incentivizes banks and credit unions to make loans to small businesses in Rhode Island, has expanded its reach by welcoming two new banks, BankNewport and Freedom National Bank.

"Small businesses are essential to Rhode Island's economy. Too many entrepreneurs and small business owners have difficulty getting loans to expand their businesses and hire more people," said Treasurer Magaziner. "With the BankLOCAL program, we are moving millions of dollars to community banks and credit unions when they make loans to small businesses in Rhode Island."

Treasurer Magaziner's BankLOCAL initiative moves the State's cash -which has historically been deposited in big national and international banks- back home to Rhode Island credit unions and local banks. 

Since the program launched in 2017, BankLOCAL has moved more than $26 million back to Rhode Island, supporting loans to more than 235 small businesses.

Add avocado to your diet

Avocados, as a substitution for carbohydrates, can suppress hunger without adding calories
Illinois Institute of Technology

avocado satisfying GIF
See the next page for another great
avocado prep technique
A new study released by the Center for Nutrition Research at Illinois Institute of Technology suggests that meals that include fresh avocado as a substitute for refined carbohydrates can significantly suppress hunger and increase meal satisfaction in overweight and obese adults.

As rates of obesity in the United States continue to rise, the findings from Illinois Tech suggest that simple dietary changes can have an important impact on managing hunger and aiding metabolic control.

The new research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, assessed the underlying physiological effects of including whole and half fresh Hass avocados on hunger, fullness, and how satisfied subjects felt over a six-hour period. 

Researchers evaluated these effects in 31 overweight and obese adults in a randomized three-arm crossover clinical trial. These dietary changes were also shown to limit insulin and blood glucose excursions, further reducing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease by adding healthy fats and fibers into a regular daily diet.

Will avarice and incompetence end the NRA?

Financial woes are at the heart of the NRA's tumult
Brian Mittendorf, The Ohio State University

The National Rifle Association’s 2019 annual convention in Indianapolis drew around 80,000 gun enthusiasts, an arsenal of firearm-accessory vendors and appearances by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

It also produced an unusual display of disunity at the top.

The NRA’s now-former President Col. Oliver North lost his job after accusing Wayne LaPierre, the gun group’s long-serving CEO, of financial improprieties. LaPierre countered by accusing North of extortion. The New York attorney general’s office is now investigating the NRA’s finances.

The increasingly complicated and public drama may seem to have come out of nowhere. But it’s actually a culmination of years of financial problems.

As an accounting scholar who researches nonprofit finances, I have seen the crisis at the NRA slowly unfold in its tax filings. From my perspective, some key financial red flags underlie the NRA’s current struggles.

Friday, May 17, 2019

How to Build the Green New Deal

Cities and States May Already Have Answers
Image result for local green new dealOver the past several months, legislators in Washington have engaged in heated conversations about the Green New Deal, the potential plan to help the United States to cool the planet by quickly and equitably curbing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy sources.

The hotly debated idea has both vocal supporters and detractors. But even for those who champion the mission, there’s still a lot to figure out about how it would be developed and implemented.

The good news is that any effort to bring the Green New Deal to fruition wouldn’t need to start from scratch. Proponents can, and should, look to states and cities for help and inspiration, says Caitlin McCoy, a fellow at Harvard Law School who specializes in in climate, clean air and energy. 

McCoy just authored a new policy paper that shows areas where state and local governments have been leading and how understanding their progress is crucial to crafting any new sweeping federal legislation.