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Monday, June 24, 2019

RI joins other states asking for action on Teflon-type chemicals

As Trump rolls back enforcement, RI and other states petition for more action.
Contamination found in Quonnie water supply; could be in private wells too

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit has joined environmental commissioners from the other New England states and New York in urging faster federal action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. 

Charlestown gets its drinking water from wells. An exception is
Quonnie where tests found PFAS-types of contamination in drinking
water. In addition to Teflon, PFAS is commonly associated with
military bases, especially old and abandoned ones like the Ninigret
Auxiliary Air Field ( site of Ninigret Park and the National Wildlife 

Refuge). PFAS from operations, especially firefighting,
could be in many private wells that are not generally tested for PFAS.
The states need guidance and help from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) on classifying PFAS in a standard way, warning the public about them, and mitigating the effects of this group of chemicals.

"Addressing the public health and environmental threats from per- and poly-fluorinated compounds is incredibly complex and important scientific work," said Director Coit. 

"This is an issue that affects every state, including Rhode Island, and federal action is urgently needed. We are asking Congress to direct EPA to step up the pace and provide us with the tools we need to effectively protect our citizens and our environment."

Either one fits

No photo description available.

VIDEO: Red Hunt

 To watch this video on YouTube:

URI gets its own board, thanks to Sosnowski

Proposal for separate URI board included in budget bill

Image result for sue sosnowski and URIThe budget bill passed by the House of Representatives includes the creation of a Board of Trustees for the University of Rhode Island.

The provision, initially proposed in separate legislation (2019-H 6180, 2019-S 0942) sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski, would move the state’s sole university out from under the auspices of the Council on Post-Secondary Education, which also oversees Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.

URI President David M. Dooley testified in support of that bill, saying URI needs its own board to ensure that decisions affecting it are made with an eye toward its mission and to provide greater agility in hiring and making other decisions.

The move was recommended by the New England Commission of Higher Education when it reaccredited the university last year, saying URI’s needs as a research institution and economic driver for the state are unique among the state’s public institutions of higher learning, and that the board has a potential conflict of interest with the university in its efforts to unify services at the state’s three public higher education institutions.

Herring lovers alert

By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor

Image result for river herringA decision to add two species of river herring to the federal endangered species list is due from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) later this month, and it could have significant implications for southeastern New England.

Alewives and blueback herring, collectively called river herring, were once abundant in rivers and nearshore waters from Canada to South Carolina, but dams, climate change, and overfishing have contributed to their decline by as much as 98 percent.

“Historically, they used all the big and small rivers on the entire Atlantic Seaboard,” said Erica Fuller, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, who has been advocating for increased management of the species for years. “They were the fish that fed the settlers; they were everywhere. There’s even a story of General Washington feeding the troops with alewives.”

But, she added, the species have been at historic lows for decades.

River herring play a vital ecological role, according to scientists. They spawn in freshwater rivers and spend most of their lives at sea, so they carry nutrients to and from both ecosystems. 

They also provide food for an abundance of wildlife, from whales and seals to bluefin tuna, striped bass, bluefish, and seabirds. But as more and more rivers were dammed, the fish lost access to their spawning grounds and populations declined.

Good news for a change

After Serious 911 Mishaps, Rhode Island Will Now Pay for Better Training

Image result for 911 in Rhode IslandRhode Island lawmakers are moving forward on a spending plan that includes money to train all 911 call takers to respond to cardiac arrests and other medical emergencies.

The $220,000 earmarked in the budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins July 1, follows an investigation by The Public’s Radio and ProPublica that raised questions about whether the lack of training for the state’s 911 call takers is costing lives.

The funding would, among other things, pay to train all 911 call takers to provide guidance over the phone on how to perform CPR on a person whose heart has stopped. The House Finance Committee approved the full budget by a vote of 12 to 3 shortly before midnight Friday, and it will be taken up by the full House later this week. EDITOR'S NOTE: the full Budget passed.

“It’s gonna save peoples’ lives, without question,’’ said Dr. Joseph R. Lauro, an emergency physician and member of the Rhode Island chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, which helped lead the push to improve training.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

It’s over: two perspectives

Fossil fuel plant - and threat to Charlestown water - is likely dead
By Will Collette

Image result for invenergy and Narragansett
Photo by Steve Ahlquist
The 4-year running battle against Invenergy's proposed billion dollar power plant in Burrillville seems to be finally over after the state Energy Facility Siting Board rejected their application, citing "no need" for the facility.

During these four years, Charlestown got swept up when a Narragansett tribal official signed a deal with Invenergy to supply the plant with cooling water pumped from the aquifer where we all draw our water. This action drew swift and powerful response both from townspeople and from an apparent majority of the Tribe itself.

It was a rare instance of close cooperation between tribal members and the town's non-indigenous population and led to the Tribe canceling its deal with Invenergy.

Two reporters, Steve Ahlquist for UpRiseRI and Tim Faulkner for EcoRI, have proposed us with the most consistent and detailed coverage of this issue, including how this fight involved Charlestown and, of course, the big picture.

That big picture is how building a billion dollar fossil fuel plant is exactly the wrong thing to do when we face a global crisis from climate change fueled by mankind's addiction to fossil fuels.

Here are two articles by Steve and Tim where they each give their take on the impact of the EFSB's decision.

Not sure if this is a cartoon or a valid prediction

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

This has got to be an impeachable offense

Pic of the Moment

Those clever gulls

Dexterous herring gulls learn new tricks to adapt their feeding habits
University of Southampton

finding nemo seagulls GIFObservations of herring gulls have shown how the coastal birds have developed complicated behavior to 'skin' sea creatures to make them safe to eat. Researchers think this feeding habit may be a response to urbanization and changes in food availability.

The gulls (Larus argentatus) of Dún Laoghaire Marina at Dublin in Ireland have found a novel way of disposing of the tightly fixed outer layer of sea squirts -- an organism which they have learnt to pluck from the underside of pontoons by diving or floating on the water.

Sea squirts, or ascidians, are filter feeding creatures which have an outer layer, known as a 'tunic', designed to give protection from predators. This tunic is unpalatable to gulls, however, those living around Dún Laoghaire have overcome this using a particularly clever method.

The birds grasp the sea squirt's tunic in their beaks, shake it to loosen the soft edible inner body, then switch to hold the inner body (again with their beaks) and shake again until the inedible outer layer is removed.

USA lags behind EU, Brazil and China in banning harmful pesticides

It’s getting worse under Trump
BioMed Central

Image result for pesticides and trumpMany pesticides that have been banned or are being phased out in the EU, Brazil and China, are still widely used in the USA, according to a study published in the open access journal Environmental Health.

Study author Nathan Donley at the Center for Biological Diversity, USA said: "The USA is generally regarded as being highly regulated and having protective pesticide safeguards in place. This study contradicts that narrative and finds that in fact, in the last couple of decades, nearly all pesticide cancellations in the USA have been done voluntarily by the pesticide industry. Without a change in the US Environmental Protection Agency's current reliance on voluntary mechanisms for cancellations, the USA will likely continue to lag behind its peers in banning harmful pesticides."

Donley identified pesticides that are approved for outdoor agricultural use in the USA and compared them to pesticides approved in the EU, China and Brazil. 

Backyard Wild Kingdom

How to handle raccoons, snakes and other critters in your yard (hint: not with a thermos)
Leslie Burger, Mississippi State University

No photo description available.
This graphic is from Fake Science which is, as the
name implies, a comic site, NOT literal science fact.
I heard a local story of a man who, in his excitement to kill a rattlesnake, used the only thing he had available ─ his thermos bottle.

The next scene in this drama has the man in the hospital receiving anti-venom to treat a snake bite.

Encounters with wildlife are becoming more common in towns and neighborhoods as urbanization increases, and people often do not know what to do in these situations.

Many species of urban wildlife, such as butterflies, bees, beetles, lizards, bats and most birds, are benign or even beneficial, helping to control mosquitoes, pollinate flowers and trees, recycle nutrients, and provide many other hidden ecological services.

But there can be also some associated health concerns, as some species bring the risk of parasites or disease. For example, some snakes like rattlesnakes or copperheads can be venomous.

Habitat loss to fragmentation, urbanization and expanding agricultural production means suburban and urban spaces will increasingly become options for wildlife searching for new homes. It is not just snakes, but also coyotes, foxes, raccoons, deer and even bears.

As a wildlife biologist and extension educator, my job is to help people more fully understand wildlife for the betterment of both people and animals. People generally enjoy wildlife.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Too much. We have to stop this.

Pic of the Moment

And we don’t want to go back

Renewable Energy Capacity Now Exceeds Coal in U.S.
Yale E360 DIGEST

Image result for renewable energyRenewable energy now generates more electricity in the United States than coal.

Solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal totaled 21.56 percent of U.S. generating capacity as of April, according to a report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Coal, meanwhile, accounted for just 21.55 percent of capacity, down from 23.04 percent last year.

Pass the ketchup and a barf bag

Edible insects? Lab-grown meat? The real future food is lab-grown insect meat

girl watch GIFLivestock farming is destroying our planet. It is a major cause of land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration, deforestation -- and of course, climate change. 

Plant-based diets, insect farming, lab-grown meat and genetically modified animals have all been proposed as potential solutions. Which is best? All of these combined, say researchers.

Livestock farming is destroying our planet. It is a major cause of land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration, deforestation -- and of course, climate change. 

Plant-based diets, insect farming, lab-grown meat and genetically modified animals have all been proposed as potential solutions. Which is best?

All of these combined, say researchers at Tufts University.

Writing in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, they explain why lab-grown insect meat -- fed on plants, and genetically modified for maximum growth, nutrition and flavor -- could be a superior green alternative for high volume, nutritious food production.

VIDEO: How much does climate change affects the risk of armed conflict

As global temperatures climb, the risk of armed conflict is expected to greatly increase 
Stanford University

Image result for four horsemen of the apocalypse

Intensifying climate change will increase the future risk of violent armed conflict within countries, according to a study published today in the journal Nature

Synthesizing views across experts, the study estimates climate has influenced between 3% and 20% of armed conflict risk over the last century and that the influence will likely increase dramatically.

In a scenario with 4 degrees Celsius of warming (approximately the path we're on if societies do not substantially reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases), the influence of climate on conflicts would increase more than five times, leaping to a 26% chance of a substantial increase in conflict risk, according to the study. 

Even in a scenario of 2 degrees Celsius of warming beyond preindustrial levels -- the stated goal of the Paris Climate Agreement¬ -- the influence of climate on conflicts would more than double, rising to a 13% chance.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Can society survive without empathy?

In a deeply unequal America, many of our deepest pockets are keen to find out.
Image result for melania trump I don't careAs anyone who keeps a household budget can attest, the unexpected happens all the time. A refrigerator evaporator fan motor fails. Some part on your car you never realized existed breaks down. A loved one passes away and you have to — you want to — be at the funeral 1,000 miles away.

“Unexpected” expenses like these will, sooner or later, hit all of us. But not all of us, says new research out of the Federal Reserve, can afford them.

In fact, nearly 40 percent of Americans “would have difficulty handling an emergency expense as small as $400,” the Fed says.

A fifth of American adults, it adds, had major unexpected medical bills last year. An even larger share “skipped necessary medical care in 2018 because they were unable to afford the cost.”

Meanwhile, 17 percent of American adults can’t afford to pay all their monthly bills, even if they don’t experience an unexpected expense.


For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

Simple solution


Another solar tech advance

Breakthrough in new material to harness solar power
University of Toledo

solar energy mirror GIF by Sandia National LabsThe most affordable, efficient way to harness the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source in the world is one step closer to reality.

The University of Toledo physicist pushing the performance of solar cells to levels never before reached made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make the new material.

Working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab and the University of Colorado, Dr. Yanfa Yan, UToledo professor of physics, envisions the ultra-high efficiency material called a tandem perovskite solar cell will be ready to debut in full-sized solar panels in the consumer market in the near future.

Perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry, would replace silicon, which -- for now -- remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the sun's light into electrical energy.

The science of sunscreen

Sunscreen Prevents Cancer, Right? Well, It’s Complicated.
By Teresa Carr

sunscreen GIF"Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97: Wear sunscreen." So begins a hypothetical graduation speech written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich that rippled through pop culture that year — long before "going viral" was even a thing.

"If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it," Schmich continued. "The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience."

Australian film director Baz Luhrmann would later reach the number 10 spot on the Billboard charts with a spoken-word version that adapted Schmich's words over a soulful beat.

And while the "speech" is still sometimes misattributed as a real commencement address delivered by Kurt Vonnegut, the writer went on record with The New York Times to deny authorship. "What I said to Mary Schmich on the telephone was that what she wrote was funny and wise and charming,"

Vonnegut told the newspaper, "so I would have been proud had the words been mine."

More than two decades later, it remains a delightful essay, even if its most enduring conceit — that sunscreen is a certain and safe defense against the cancer-causing effects of the sun — is less rooted in science than most of us have come to believe.

Chase just tried to screw its credit card holders.

Here’s how you can fight back.
Image result for JPMorgan Chase sucks Chase, the banking behemoth that provides credit cards to thousands of Americans, sent an email to many of its customers which seeks to strip those customers of most of their rights to sue the bank if the bank violates the law. 

Though the email gives those customers the ability to opt out of this effort to strip away their rights, the instructions on how to do so are buried deep in the email — deep enough that the bank likely hopes that no one will read that far.

The subject of the email is “Important information regarding changes to your Chase account.” A copy of this email was forwarded to ThinkProgress by a Chase customer who received it.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Add crimes against humanity to the list of impeachment articles

Horror on the Border: Slew of Recent Incidents Highlight Human Rights Crisis
There has been a steady stream of heartbreaking news at the southern border under the President Donald Trump administration, including the jailing of children and deaths of detained migrants. 

Five stories in just the last several days punctuate the crisis:

The four month-old baby separated from his father at the border

The New York Times reported Friday that the youngest child taken from his parents at the southern border over the past three years under the Trump administration's separation policy is four month-old Constantin Mutu, from Romania. 

Constantine and his father, Vasile, were apprehended in Texas by border patrol agents. Vasile, who has a criminal record, was detained and deported to Romania while Constantin was sent to live with a fister family in Michigan. 

Time to go

VIDEO: How is Trumponomics working for you?

To watch this video on YouTube:

Saving eagles

AI-Backed Sensors Help Reduce Wind Turbine Risks to Protected Birds
Image result for IdentiFlightOn a Wyoming wind farm, there’s an unusual addition amid the familiar, massive wind turbines. 

A newly built tower, which stands only about 33 feet tall, appears small in comparison to the neighboring 328-feet-tall wind turbines. 

Atop the miniature tower sits an array of cameras — a layer of devices is arranged in a circle and one camera is stationed above swiveling in different directions. 

Suddenly, to the west, a speck appears in the sky. The top camera swivels to face the speck, which is steadily growing larger on the horizon. 

Within seconds, the camera has identified the approaching object as a golden eagle, one of only 40,000 left in the United States — and one that is flying directly toward the wind turbine’s deadly spinning blades.

Although wind farms utilize a renewable source of energy and therefore do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, wind turbines’ blades, revolving at 170 miles per hour, can kill birds on contact. 

The harm that turbines have already imposed on protected avian wildlife, such as the golden eagle, has dampened conservationists’ enthusiasm for them, but a camera detection system called IdentiFlight is helping the wind energy industry become safer for protected birds.

Why we like some chocolate and not others

Sensing food textures is a matter of pressure
Penn State

chocolate GIFFood's texture affects whether it is eaten, liked or rejected, according to Penn State researchers, who say some people are better at detecting even minor differences in consistency because their tongues can perceive particle sizes.

That is the key finding of a study conducted in the Sensory Evaluation Center in the College of Agricultural Sciences by a cross-disciplinary team that included both food and speech scientists specializing in sensory perception and behavior. 

The research included 111 volunteer tasters who had their tongues checked for physical sensitivity and then were asked their perceptions about various textures in chocolate.

"We've known for a long time that individual differences in taste and smell can cause differences in liking and food intake -- now it looks like the same might be true for texture," said John Hayes, associate professor of food science. "This may have implications for parents of picky eaters since texture is often a major reason food is rejected."

The perception of food texture arises from the interaction of a food with mechanoreceptors in the mouth, Hayes noted. It depends on neural impulses carried by multiple nerves. 

Despite being a key driver of the acceptance or rejection of foods, he pointed out, oral texture perception remains poorly understood relative to taste and smell, two other sensory inputs critical for flavor perception.

We must do more, not less

Current vaccination policies may not be enough to prevent measles resurgence
BioMed Central

Image result for vaccination saves livesCurrent vaccination policies may not be sufficient to achieve and maintain measles elimination and prevent future resurgence in Australia, Ireland, Italy, the UK and the US, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.

To successfully achieve and maintain measles elimination in these countries in the medium to long term, further country-specific immunization efforts may be needed in addition to current strategies. 

Measles elimination has been defined as the absence of endemic measles transmission in a region or other defined geographic area for twelve months or longer.

A team of researchers at the Bruno Kessler Foundation and Bocconi University, Italy used a computer model to simulate the evolution of measles immunity between 2018 and 2050 in seven countries; Australia, Ireland, Italy, Singapore, South Korea, the UK and the US. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

PRIVACY: Electronic Peeping Toms and you

Big tech surveillance could damage democracy
Chase Johnson, Boise State University

Related imageData is often called the oil of the 21st century.

The more tech companies know about their users, the more effectively they can direct them to goods and services that they are likely to buy. The more companies know about their users, the more competitive they are in the market.

Custom-tailored capitalism is what has made Google, Facebook, Amazon and others the richest companies in the world. This profit incentive has turned big tech into a competitive field of mass intelligence gathering. The better and more comprehensive the data, the higher profits will be.

But this business model – what I consider spying machines – has enormous potential to violate civil liberties. Big tech is already being used abroad to enhance the power of repressive regimes, as my work and others’ has shown.

While it is not presently a direct threat to U.S. democracy, I worry that the potential for future abuses exists so long as big tech remains largely unregulated.

The adventures of Tariff Man

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

Saturday: Artists' reception at the Charlestown Gallery

Charlestown Gallery

The BIG Summer Group Show
June 8th - July 8th
Artists Reception - Saturday June 22nd / 5:30 - 8pm

Over 100 new works of art!

Sunday, Monday, Wednesday OPEN 11 - 4
Thursday, Friday, Saturday OPEN 10 - 5
CLOSED Tuesday
Always Open by Appointment

Charlestown Gallery | 401-364-0120 | 5000 South County Trail, Charlestown, R|

Saturday: Pizza!

No photo description available.

Want some carcinogen with your Cheerios?

Tests Come as Bayer-Monsanto Fined More Than $2B in Roundup Cancer Cases

Related imageA toxic weedkiller linked to cancer was detected in every sample of oat-based cereals and snack products in a new round of laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group.

All but four of the 21 products contained levels of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto’s Roundup, higher that what EWG scientists consider protective for children’s health with an adequate margin of safety.

The highest levels of the weedkiller were detected in General Mills’ Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch at 833 parts per billion, or ppb, and Cheerios, with 729 ppb. EWG’s health benchmark for children is 160 ppb. A child would only need to eat a single 60 gram serving of food with a glyphosate level of 160 ppb to reach the maximum dose considered safe by EWG.

This is the third round of glyphosate tests by EWG, and it confirms the findings from the first two in August and October last year. Tests of 94 samples of oat-based foods found glyphosate in all but two samples, with 74 samples at levels of glyphosate above EWG’s health benchmark.

General Mills has so far refused the growing call from consumers that the company get glyphosate out of the foods it markets to children. More than 236,000 people have signed a petition to General Mills, Quaker and other companies calling on them to use oats that were not sprayed with the weedkiller.

Origins of the "good guy with a gun" myth

How the 'good guy with a gun' became a deadly American fantasy
Susanna Lee, Georgetown University

humphrey bogart yes GIFAt the end of May, it happened again. A mass shooter killed 12 people, this time at a municipal center in Virginia Beach. Employees had been forbidden to carry guns at work, and some lamented that this policy had prevented “good guys” from taking out the shooter.

This trope – “the good guy with a gun” – has become commonplace among gun rights activists.

Where did it come from?

On Dec. 21, 2012 – one week after Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut – National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced during a press conference that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Ever since then, in response to each mass shooting, pro-gun pundits, politicians and social media users parrot some version of the slogan, followed by calls to arm the teachers, arm the churchgoers or arm the office workers. And whenever an armed citizen takes out a criminal, conservative media outlets pounce on the story.

But “the good guy with the gun” archetype dates to long before LaPierre’s 2012 press conference.

There’s a reason his words resonated so deeply. He had tapped into a uniquely American archetype, one whose origins I trace back to American pulp crime fiction in my book “Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction and the Decline of Moral Authority.”

Other cultures have their detective fiction. But it was specifically in America that the “good guy with a gun” became a heroic figure and a cultural fantasy.