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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Well, the good news is Trump hasn’t entirely lost his mind … or so he says

He Claims He ‘Aced’ a Cognitive Abilities Test. But What the Hell Does That Mean?
By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport Opinion Editor

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment
Donald Trump, 74, bragged last week during a Sean Hannity interview that he had “aced” a recent cognition test at Walter Reed Hospital.

Trump boasted that doctors witnessing the test “said that’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did.” He then challenged Democrat Joe Biden, 77, to match him.

But haven’t we skipped over something here?

Doctors wanted Trump to take a cognition test? Is that a normal thing for presidents?

Trump said he asked to take the test after criticisms over his inability to walk down a ramp with ease at West Point, needing to hold a glass of water with both hands and multiple occasions of slurring and mispronouncing words.

While none of us wants to render opinions about presidential mental health, we do want assurances that the guy in charge is at least in charge of his mental faculties.

That he asked for the test sounds in incredible. What was he going to do if it was not perfect? Step aside?

There were no results of the test made public, and Trump has gone to the hospital at least twice in recent weeks with no explanation.

Get out of jail free

VIDEO: Law and Order

New grant funds joint cybersecurity project

Navatek and URI College of Engineering win $3.8 million contract for cyber-physical systems research

I took this photo at the 2013 ribbon-cutting at Navatek. The young guy
at the far right is my nephew, Dr. Christopher O'Reilly (Will Collette)
DISCLOSURE: I wrote about Navatek when it first came to Rhode Island (Click HERE). They have become a model for how URI can generate new jobs for the state. They hired my nephew Chris fresh out of URI with his marine engineering BA - He's now DOCTOR Chris, Ph.D. So I have a pretty obvious bias when it comes to this company (and my nephew). - Will Collette

The U.S. Office of Naval Research has awarded Navatek LLC of Rhode Island a $3.8 million contract to develop autonomous systems to combat threats to cyber-physical systems (CPSs), bringing with it the University of Rhode Island’s College of Engineering as its partner in the project. 

CPSs include marine vessels, unmanned vehicles, water treatment plants, power grids and smart buildings. The marriage of cybersecurity and systems engineering will ensure that these critical systems become more resilient to avoid or survive damage if attacked.

The program goal is to advance research of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) resiliency in the face of physical and cyberattacks for shipbuilding and manufacturing. It will include the development of autonomous systems that can respond quickly to attacks that leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence, and digital twin concepts coupled with hardware and software. 

The result of this research will be a set of procedures, architectures, and devices that will be used to retrofit existing or new manufacturing processes for the U.S. Navy.

With its extensive expertise in cyber security and micro grids, URI will construct the lab facility and develop artificial intelligence systems for this project.

“Our long-standing partnership with Navatek has brought University expertise, faculty and students, together with industry leaders to strengthen an area essential to the protection of our technological infrastructure,” URI President David M. Dooley said. 

Study highlights another environmental threat to lobsters

Microplastic Pollution Harms Lobster Larvae
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Microfiber pollution in the ocean impacts larval lobsters at each stage of their development, according to new research. 

A study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin reports that the fibers affect the animals’ feeding and respiration, and they could even prevent some larvae from reaching adulthood.

“In today's ocean, organisms are exposed to so many environmental factors that affect how many make it to the next stage of life,” said Paty Matrai, a study author and senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. 

“Lobsters play a fundamental role in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem as well as the state’s economy, and it is important that we understand how pollutants impact their development.”

Killing the messenger

Public health officials under siege
Flipboard: Trump calls Inslee a 'snake' amid coronavirus outbreak ...
The problem starts here.
The vilification of public health officials in the COVID-19 crisis reminds us of their vital role as the crossing guards of science.

When their vigilance gives us the green light to eat, drink, and recreate, we hardly notice them waving us onto normal activities, barely knowing their names.

When the light turns yellow for bacterial beach closures, stay-indoor smog alerts, long-pants advisories for Lyme disease ticks and temporary restaurant closures for rats and roaches, most people accept these measures from health commissioners to assure safety, despite any grumbling over momentary inconvenience.

Even in instances when the light goes red, such as for citywide drinking water contamination, most people are thankful for the guard waving the STOP! sign, even if they have to trudge to the store for bottled water.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put public health officials in a more perilous place—alone in the middle of the intersection, with horns honking in gridlock—caught between the common good and the often-toxic American drive for so-called personal freedom.

Many officials have figuratively been run over in rage by impatient Americans who bolted out of line because they could no longer handle sacrificing their personal desires to save lives.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Short takes on southern Rhode Island’s struggle with the pandemic

Mail voting DIY, restaurants are so screwed and more
By Will Collette

Rhode Island has been an oasis (knock on wood) of relative safety as most of the country suffers from a Trump-driven break-out of the coronavirus. 

It’s now raging in those deep-red states whose Trumpite governors joined him in declaring COVID-19 not an issue that concerns them compared to, say, protecting the Confederate flag and monuments.


Rhode Island has Mama Gina enforcing the rules, spanking miscreants and handing out stern warnings to behave (or else) as she did with Misquamicut Beach. Though I am no Gina Raimondo fan, there is no doubt in my mind that she has saved a lot of lives and perhaps locked in a spot in what I hope will be the new Biden Administration.


The Westerly Sun is reporting tonight that four Charlestown Police Officers have been placed on sick leave after testing positive for COVID-19. So has a volunteer for the Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service and has been placed in isolation.

Town Hall and the Police station have been disinfected and the state is conducting contact tracing. Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz was not clear in his remarks to the Sun whether any of the officers' colleagues who had contact with them have been quarantined.

Stankiewicz told the Sun that he believed none of the staff had contact with the infected officers. 56 town employees were tested last Friday; they are waiting for test results.

Stankiewicz and Police Chief Michael Paliotta both say that despite having 20% of the police force down with coronavirus, everything is fine and totally under control. Yep.

Fauci under attack

Pic of the MomentPerhaps the only person in the Trump Administration with any credibility on the pandemic is Dr. Anthony Fauci, 79, who is in charge of infectious disease control.

While hardly anyone else was willing to risk the wrath of Dear Leader's constant spew of nonsense, Fauci can always be counted on to try to call bullshit, albeit diplomatically.

Trump knows he can't fire Fauci outright and efforts to muzzle Fauci by blocking interviews have not worked.

So now Trump and his minions are trying to insult, minimize and defame him - says Trump, "he's made a lot of errors" while offering no examples to back up that charge. Trump surrogates have been doing the same.

Personally, I think it is time for Fauci to resign. At 79, he doesn't need the job and the crap that comes with it. I doubt he do anything inside the Trump Administration to save people's lives. It's time for a principled resignation followed by an independent campaign to get the truth out to the people. We need Tony Fauci on the outside telling the American people the truth about what's going on inside.

Frankly, I think every federal public health official who feels compromised by Trump's murderous campaign against his own people needs to resign and go public. At this point, I think anyone who stays - and I'm talking to you, Dr. Deborah Brix - is selling out their principles and trashing their reputations by aiding and abetting Trump's criminal acts. 

Elections 2020

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says '"A PEOPLE THAT ELECT CORRUPT POLITICIANS, IMPOSTORS, THIEVES AND TRAITORS ARE NOT VICTIMS... BUT ACCOMPLICES." WEARETHE MEDIA -EST. -EST.2016 2016- -GEORGE ORWELL'We saw a good result from easy-pezey mail-in voting for the Presidential primary where 83% of the votes cast came in by mail. 

But it now seems unlikely the state will again automatically send out mail ballot applications for the September 8 down-ballot primary. Lack of money.

That means you will need to do it yourself.

It’s easy if you have a computer and know how to use it. I think that applies to you since you are reading this article online.

You can download the form HERE or fill it out on-line and then print it. You must return it to the Board of Canvassers for your town (in Charlestown, at Town Hall) no later than August 18, 4 PM.

There are four reasons listed why you want to vote by mail. Unless you qualify under one of the other listed reasons, check off #4 – Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has said the state accepts fear of the pandemic as a valid reason to vote by mail.

Other key dates: 
You must be registered to vote by August 9 with your registration showing your party choice so you can vote in that party’s primary on September 8.

The General Election is November 3 and, yes, this may be the most important election in this country’s history

For the General Election, you must be registered by October 4. Applications for mail-in ballots must be received by October 13.

There is a chance that Senate Republicans will relent on their resistance to funding measures to boost voter turn-out, such as mail-in and early voting. Their long-term effort at voter suppression – such as cutting resources and forcing long lines – are becoming an embarrassment, even to them.

They are pretty sure now that if voting on November 3 turns into a shambles, they will be the ones blamed. But the one key GOP Senator who hasn’t budged in his opposition is none other than Moscow Mitch McConnell because, frankly, he doesn’t give a shit.

Restaurants are getting 86’d by the pandemic

Eleven Forty Nine
One of my favorite things about being a native Rhode Islander is our food. I love our Rhode Island specialties, such as clam cakes, and I love our huge array of restaurants serving great eating from right here and from around the world.

Sickness and death are, of course, the worst this terrible pandemic has done to us. But high on my list of tragedies is what is now and will be in the future the grim fate of our state’s dining establishments.

We’re going to lose a lot of our favorite places to eat out. Even under Phase 3 re-opening criteria, restaurant owners are finding that the numbers just don’t work. 

Attaining social distancing by lowering how many people can be served, increasing the distance between tables, adopting careful sanitary standards and dealing with asshole customers who don’t want to wear masks make a tough business all the more difficult.

Popular North Kingstown restaurant shuttered by COVID-19 |
We’ve already lost the great 1149 Restaurant in East Greenwich and the Oakley Family Restaurant at the junction of Routes 2 and 102.

Two Little Fishes in Westerly got a lot of notice last week for closing indoor dining because there were just too many asshole customers who would not comply with state rules. They also abused the staff doing their jobs by reminding them. I really hope these jerks are out-of-state summer people and not locals.

I also hope the state will strictly enforce the re-imposed restrictions on travelers coming from coronavirus hotspots, requiring a 2-week quarantine.

One casualty deserved to close: Harris Bar and Grill in Coventry was shut down on July 3 by the state Department of Business Regulation for failing to comply with Phase 3 rules for re-opening despite repeated warnings from state inspectors.

After losing their Fourth of July trade, Harris made the required changes and was re-inspected and allowed to reopen on July 8.

Chain restaurants that once dotted Rhode Island are also taking a beating. Gone or going chains include TGIFridays, Cosi, Ruby Tuesday, Friendly's, Roy Rogers, the high-end McCormick and Schmicks and Benihana. Bankruptcy has been filed by: Chuck E. Cheese, Wendy's and Pizza Hut, 

No Powwow this year

Sadly, the Narragansett Indian Tribe has called off its 345th Annual Powwow almost always held in August due to coronavirus concerns. This powwow was one of the important events that kept the Narragansett Tribe going during the generations of institutional racism from the town of Charlestown and the state, as detailed HERE. The annual powwow was one of the proofs the Tribe highlighted to win federal recognition of the Tribe.

Down that slippery ramp

For more cartoons by Nick Anderson, CLICK HERE.

RIP, Richard Rose

No photo description available.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour will give URI lecture on-line Thursday

Topic: ‘Truthful Not Neutral in a Time of Dissent’

Christiane Amanpour Tells Us Why It's Crucial to Shine a Light on ...
She did great international reporting
Long before she was an award-winning chief international anchor at CNN, Christiane Amanpour was an eager journalism student at the University of Rhode Island interning at Rhode Island’s WJAR-TV station with its veteran investigative reporter, Jim Taricani.

Thirty-plus years later, Amanpour ’83, H ’95, will pay tribute to her former mentor on Thursday, July 16, at noon as she delivers the second installment of the Taricani Lecture Series on First Amendment Rights, hosted by the Harrington School of Communication and Media.

This summer’s free virtual series honors the memory of Taricani H ’18, a Rhode Island journalism icon for his coverage of corruption and organized crime, his heroic stance in protecting a confidential source in 2004, and his advocacy of a federal shield law to protect journalists. 

The three-part series is a prelude to the annual Taricani Lecture, which begins next spring.

As an intern in the early 1980s, Amanpour worked with Taricani on numerous investigative stories, learning the time-tested tools of tracking down leads, verifying information, and getting to the truth, said Laurie White-Taricani, Jim’s wife, who, along with the Taricani family, endowed the lecture series.

Amanpour and Taricani became friends. And when a job opened up at a new 24-hour cable news network, he told her to go for it, even though it was an entry-level position, taking in overnight satellite feeds and recording them on video.

There’s science as well as art to making tequila

Study reveals science behind traditional mezcal-making technique
Kevin Stacey, Brown University

oaxaca mezcal GIFArtisanal makers of mezcal have a tried and true way to tell when the drink has been distilled to the right alcohol level. 

They squirt some into a small container and look for little bubbles, known as pearls. If the alcohol content is too high or too low, the bubbles burst quickly. But if they linger for 30 seconds or so, the alcohol level is perfect and the mezcal is ready to drink.

Now, a new study by a team of fluid dynamics researchers reveals the physics behind the trick. Using laboratory experiments and computer models, the researchers show that a phenomenon known as the Marangoni effect helps mezcal bubbles linger a little longer when the alcohol content is around the sweet spot of 50%. 

In addition to showing the scientific underpinnings of something artisans have known for centuries, the researchers say the findings reveal new fundamental details about the lifetimes of bubbles on liquid surfaces.

The study, a collaboration between researchers at Brown University, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Université de Toulouse and elsewhere, was published on July 3 in the journal Scientific Reports

When Roberto Zenit, a professor in Brown’s School of Engineering and the study’s senior author, first heard about the bubble trick, he said he was instantly intrigued.    

Good thing we have Space Force

As Risks of Space Wars Grow, Policies to Curb Them Lag
By Ramin Skibba

star wars space GIF by LEGOOn April 22, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced a successful launch of what they described as a military reconnaissance satellite, which came after several failed attempts. 

The satellite joined a growing list of weapons and military systems in orbit, including Russia’s test of a missile system designed to destroy satellites, also in April, and India’s test of an anti-satellite weapon, which the country launched in March 2019.

Experts like Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation (SWF), a nonpartisan think tank based in Broomfield, Colorado, worry that these developments — all confirmed by the newly reestablished United States Space Command — threaten to lift earthly conflicts to new heights and put all space activities, peaceful and military alike, at risk. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Only 10 Charlestown businesses received major federal pandemic aid

Disappointing results from federal Payroll Protection Program
By Will Collette

Shelter Harbor golf course, one of the largest recipients of federal
pandemic aid to small businesses in Charlestown
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a popular part of the CARES Act, the only major legislation to come out of Trump’s Washington to address the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Largely written by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and grudgingly accepted by Senate Republicans, the CARES Act was designed to provide desperately needed relief to individuals and small businesses imperiled by the economic crash caused by the pandemic.

Over 600,000 PPP loan-grants were issued. Borrowers were assured the loans would be forgiven if they met the terms of the loan, mainly by retaining workers and jobs the PPP money was supposed to help.

Nationally, PPP was a mess – there wasn’t enough money and ran out quickly. A lot of that money went to big companies, businesses with shady records or connections to the Trump family as my Washington friend and colleague Phil Mattera of Good Jobs First details in the article below my local reporting on PPP in Charlestown.

It took a while to get the Trump administration to release the names of the recipients of PPP funding. In fact, that fight is on-going since Trump only reluctantly agreed to release the names of businesses that received $150,000 or more.

In Rhode Island, 2,453 companies were on that list. Among the biggest employers in the state to receive major PPP funding are Brown University, Taco Inc., KVH Industries, Moses Brown School, the Pawtucket Red Sox who are leaving Rhode Island to go to Worcester, the Foxy Lady strip club and Rhode Island Public Radio.

Only 10 employers in Charlestown received PPP funds. These include:

In the range of $150,000 to 350,000:
  • Construction contractor C & C Investments with 14 employees;
  • Larlham Landscape with 18 employees;
  • Ocean House Marina with 25 employees;
  • Stedman and Kazounis plumbers with 23 employees;
  • H.D. Randall real estate with 23 employees;
  • RMJC LLC, the legal name for Ray Mott’s Mott Chace Sotherbys Realty, with 17 employees;
  • Charlestown Rathskeller with 65 employees and
  • The Nordic Lodge with 54 employees.
Only two Charlestown employers received funds in the PPP’s next category, the $350,000 to $1 million range:
  • Arrowhead Dental with 71 employees and
  • Shelter Harbor golf course with 60 employees.
Many of these Charlestown businesses are well-known and for the most part well-respected. I hope they have been able to use the funding to keep going and of course, to “protect paychecks” for their workers.

But I wonder why there aren’t more Charlestown recipients. Yes, Charlestown is small, but only 10 PPP payouts out of almost 2500 statewide is ridiculous.

I suggest Charlestown’s Town Council or at least its Economic Improvement Commission should look into why such a low participation rate and what steps the town should undertake to save jobs and small businesses in Charlestown. 

Charlestown's unemployment rate for May, the latest numbers available, show 16% unemployment. In addition to an unprecedented high unemployment rate, the state's data also shows that around 10% of Charlestown's work force has dropped out of the labor market since March. 

Now here is Phil Matera’s review of PPP at the national level.

Before and after

After months of pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 American deaths among 3.4 million, Trump FINALLY wears a face mask - the simplest, cheapest way to stop the spread of the virus in a visit to Walter Reed Hospital....


And After...

RI Food Bank re-opens kids' meal program

Kids Cafe Meal Program Returns 

The Kids Cafe at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank provides meals to children in collaboration with community organizations like the East Providence Boys & Girls Club and the Pawtucket YMCA. When the COVID-19 public health pandemic first hit, sites were closed and the program was put on hold until it was safe for kids to return.

As a result, many families lost access to a daily healthy meal for their kids. Now that childcare centers and summer program sites have reopened, Kids Cafe is back in action with the chefs of the Food Bank's Community Kitchen preparing a fresh afternoon meal for participating kids every weekday.

Learn more about our Kids Cafe program at the Pawtucket YMCA in this story from our Winter/Spring newsletter. 

The Latest Numbers from our
Response to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues, the Food Bank is working to meet the increased demand for food assistance in our communities. Thanks to the support of our generous donors, we're working to provide our member agencies with enough healthy food to make sure that no one goes hungry.

Since the start of the pandemic, food distribution has increased 45% compared to the same time period last year (March through June).

We have distributed 20,555 Meals4Kids boxes containing one week's worth of shelf-stable breakfast, lunches and snacks for young people.

In collaboration with FEMA and the RI Emergency Management Agency, we have given out individual and family meal boxes through towns and municipalities totaling nearly 300,000 meals.

As we move into summer, we will have even more access to fresh, healthy produce through our community gardens and local as well as national farm businesses. Our team will work with food pantries and meal sites around the state to ensure that guests receive these fruits and vegetables.

For all of the updated information on our response during this crisis, visit the COVID-19 page on our website.

And thank you for your continued support. 

Copyright © 2020 Rhode Island Community Food Bank, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Rhode Island Community Food Bank
200 Niantic Ave
Providence, RI 02907-3150

Hopkinton planners reject trading trees for commercial solar

Town Council could ignore board’s advisory opinion as it has a handful of other times
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Thirteen acres of trees would be cleared for the latest solar proposal in Hopkinton, a 3.9-megawatt project off Old Hopkinton Cemetery Road. (ESS Group)

Thirteen acres of trees would be cleared for the latest solar proposal in Hopkinton, a 3.9-megawatt project off Old Hopkinton Cemetery Road. (ESS Group)

Developers continue to eye farms and forest for building utility-scale solar arrays in this rural community in southwest Rhode Island.

The latest proposal is a 3.9-megawatt system for a hillside off Old Hopkinton Cemetery Road. On paper, the Fothergill-Crandall Lane solar array occupies 46 acres of woodlands and wetlands, including a swamp and stream. 

About 13 acres of trees would be cleared to make way for 11,588 solar panels. The property is owned by Maitland Fothergill of Cumberland. The applicant is Centrica Business Solutions, a global energy company based in the United Kingdom.

The Planning Board, however, isn’t happy with this ground-mounted solar project — one of some two dozen that have been approved or proposed during the past several years.

“If we continue to remove forests of this size, we will be paying literally and figuratively for decades,” Planning Board member Emily Shumchenia said.

Charlestown Residents United warns another dirty deal in the works


Monday night, the Town Council will hold their monthly meeting. There are two agenda items regarding the purchase of a property located at 634 Charlestown Beach Rd, on the beachfront.

The first item would authorize the Town Administrator to execute a purchase agreement on the property, which includes a $49,900 non-refundable deposit.

The second item would add a vote to our November 2020 election ballot to authorize the Town to purchase that property for $2.5 Million.

Purchase of this property, adjacent to our existing Town Beach, may be a good thing. But there are some major concerns.
1. The asking price is $2.5 million. The property is assessed at $1.2 million and an appraisal estimates its fair market value at $1.45 million. This $2.5 million price is a huge premium over both the assessed and appraised values.  
2. The Purchase & Sales agreement requires the Town to give the sellers a non-refundable deposit of $49,900. This would happen before we vote on the purchase.
3. If the voters reject the purchase on the November ballot, the property owner will keep the deposit money.

Asking the voters whether or not they want to purchase this property is a good thing. Paying more than double the assessed price, and gambling with $49,900 of the tax payers money is not. 

Charlestown Residents United believes
1. This price is too high compared to the fair market value and for the small amount of beach frontage it will add to the Town Beach and
2. A purchase agreement with a non-refundable deposit should NOT be signed until the voters authorize the purchase.

Click here (page 7 of the document) for the backup information for the Town Council meeting.

The meeting is Monday, July 13, starting at 7 pm. Attendance is only online only with instructions here.

Thank you, Tim Quillen, Chairperson, Charlestown Residents United

Charlestown Residents United (CRU) is a Political Action Committee dedicated to providing a voice to all Charlestown residents.

Paid for by
Charlestown Residents United
P.O. Box 412
Charlestown, RI 02813