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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Charlestown budget vote: closing arguments

CCA says we need it to bolster town’s “legal defense fund”
By Will Collette

Action Alert: Urge Your PA Rep. to Vote NO on Abortion Restriction ...Now is the time for you to make sure you have marked your Charlestown budget ballots so you can mail them to Town Hall in time for the June 1 deadline. 

I hope you will vote NO to a bad budget for the second consecutive year.

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA party), the political action committee that has controlled town government for the past ten years crafted this budget at their secret meetings in their hidden lair and sent it along to the Budget Commission and to the CCA-controlled Town Council for rubber-stamping.

This budget makes a $3 million surplus disappear without the promised opportunity for the community to tell the Town Council how IT thinks the surplus should be used. That promise was made by the CCA party after voters defeated last year’s budget – they even set aside $75,000 for consultants to come up with a credible process. But that promise was forgotten – explicitly so by CCA brainy guy Mike Chambers:
“I received the flyer yesterday. It says CCA broke a promise. Would you document that promise or send a video that shows the promise made? I just can't remember such a promise. I received the flyer yesterday. It says CCA broke a promise. Would you document that promise or send a video that shows the promise made? I just can't remember such a promise.” (NextDoor/Charlestown)
But Chambers’ memory or lack thereof is not the issue. The question is whether or not Charlestown voters will approve the new town budget for $16,812,318 and kiss the $3 million surplus goodbye.


Green Acres TV Review
Maybe the CCA's definition of "rural
character" is pseudo-farms and 

rich out-of-staters.
Their lead closing argument seems to be that Charlestown will be defenseless against assaults from “the other” – those nefarious forces constantly trying to destroy Charlestown’s rural character.

Since the CCA was first set up, it has been defined by what it is against, which is just about anything that Planning Commission Chair Ruth Platner says is a threat to our “rural character.”

I filed an open records request for any document, rule, ordinance, memo, letter or whatever that actually defines what the Town of Charlestown means by the term “rural character.”

The town’s response on August 7, 2015 was to reference two sections in the town ordinances where the term is mentioned, but is not defined.

For example, the town’s Zoning Ordinance, section 218-2(B)(2) saying one of the ordinance’s purposed is Providing for a range of uses and intensities of use appropriate to the rural character of the Town and reflecting current and expected future needs.”

I guess its like US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who wrote in his opinion on a 1964 obscenity case that he didn't know how to define pornography "but I know it when I see it."

As a practical matter, "rural character" in any given situation is whatever Planning Commissar Ruth Platner says it is. 

But let’s set aside the obvious need to actually define “rural character” and focus on the money the CCA party says it need to defend it.

The CCA party knows fear drives votes – they could have taught Donald Trump a thing or two – and they use it to the hilt. There’s always something (real or imagined) to scare voters.

Planning Commission Chair Ruth Platner wants to take $125,000 from the $3 million surplus for this Legal Defense Fund because of a number of named past boogeymen.

AMTRAK

Acela-Kenyon-1106
This is the AMTRAK photo Platner used in her article
The first one Platner cites happened in Trump’s first year in office, Charlestown joined hundreds of other New England towns in opposing a plan by AMTRAK to build the infrastructure for high-speed rail that would go through some prime farm, forest and historic properties. 

The route was a bad idea, though the idea of improving rail infrastructure is a good one. Personally, I think running new high-speed track along interstate highway right-of-ways would work better.

But the fact is, this rail plan was not going to happen and the CCA party knew it. 

Trump opposed AMTRAK just on general principle and he was not about to do the Northeast any favors. Neither was the Congress which was totally controlled by Republicans at that time. The project simply had no funding and died on the vine.

Charlestown came late to the fight against the project largely because then Town Council President Tom Gentz failed to read the advance materials the Federal Rail Administration sent to every town along the route. He also did not delegate it to any town staff.  Gentz angrily pronounced at a public meeting on the subject, “Who’s got time to read all this stuff?” Duh, that's your job, Tom.

We were not likely to have to hire any lawyers to fight this plan because even if by some miracle Trump allowed it to advance, the Connecticut resistance already had it covered.

INVENERGY AND CHARLESTOWN WATER

Progressive Charlestown: It's really most sincerely dead
Platner notes another hare-brained scheme that involved the Hail Mary pass by Invenergy, the promoters of a giant fossil-fuel plant in Burrillville, to line up contracts with owners of large amounts of water to provide back-up cooling water if needed. 

They signed a contract to that effect with a staff member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

The plan to pump Charlestown water for use in Burrillville was pretty stupid on its face. It would have been terrible for Charlestown and prohibitively expensive for Invenergy. 

The company’s scheme was pretty clear: they were losing their fight to local resistance so they triedto win supporters elsewhere in the region by spreading the promise of easy money around. It backfired on them.

Charlestown joined the popular struggle and, in the process we discovered that many if not most of our neighbors in the Narragansett Indian Tribe already opposed this plan. For once, Charlestown residents were actually united in protest against a common (though unlikely) threat.

Regrettably, Charlestown decided to deploy the town’s “Special Counsel” for Indian Affairs, attorney Joe Larisa. Larisa has been condemned by Narragansett tribal leaders as “racist” and despite that, we pay him a $24,000 retainer plus additional money if he ever actually has to do any serious legal work (Charlestown Budget, page 17C). 

Larisa is relentless is attacking any proposal the Tribe makes to try to better itself such as the effort by the Tribe to acquire the old Camp Davis property off South County Trail. I am ashamed that my tax dollars are used in this budget and past budgets to pay this guy.

THE DOLLAR STORY

Then Ruth cites the long legal battle against the proposal by the Dollar Store to open up a store near the new senior citizen affordable housing project on Old Post Road. That one did cost Charlestown a lot of money despite Ruth’s claim that they left town without a major legal challenge.”  That’s not true and I have the legal documents to prove it.

There was no popular uprising against the proposal, just objections from Platner and a few others. Grasping at straws, the town turned down Dollar Store’s application by calling the Dollar Store a “department store” and thus a prohibited use in the Crossmills Village District. Anyone who has ever been in a Dollar Store would not mistake it for Macy’s.

So the case went to court and the lawyers served and volleyed motions and briefs until Dollar Store decided it didn’t need the store in Charlestown.

I don’t like Dollar Stores, but for different reasons than the CCA. For me, it’s their questionable business practices and terrible labor record. My reasons can be translated into a policy for Charlestown that would work better than a Legal Defense Fund.

BAD ACTOR CODE

I have long said Charlestown needs “Bad Actor” provisions in its ordinances and rules on issuing permits and contracts and buying major goods and services. 

We should not be doing business with criminals as well as civil malfeasors.

We have the right to deny permits, contracts and town business to those who commit business crime or tax fraud, destroy the environment, harm their workers, can’t produce proof they have the financial wherewithal to comply with their legal obligations or have a legitimate performance bond.

We just need to establish reasonable, uniform criteria for corporate bad character and apply it without prejudice.

Now let's look at some cases Platner left out of her narrative.

COPAR QUARRY

Copar Quarries gets a half million dollar ... - Progressive CharlestownPlatner DOESN’T mention the infamous Copar Quarry battle. The quarry, located on the Charlestown-Westerly line, was owned by a trash tycoon from Connecticut who had served federal time for racketeering. 

From a legal standpoint, this was mostly Westerly’s problem, but in March 2014 Copar decided to take over the Morrone sand pit on Route 91 in Charlestown.

On June 4, 2014, Charlestown issued business license to Copar for the Morrone operation even though Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz KNEW about Copar’s checkered past. He knew because, at that time, the Copar fight was in its full fury. Plus, I personally sent Stankiewicz my research on the company.

Not to mention Copar was operating without a business license for three months.

I still don’t understand why Stankiewicz allowed that business license to be issued. Maybe this is why Copar did not make Ruthie’s list of threats that justify a Legal Defense Fund.

Copar eventually went away on its own, victim of in-fighting among the band of bad guys who ran it into the ground, not due to any lawsuits by Flip Filippi or huffing and puffing by Tom Gentz and the Charlestown Town Council.

WHALEROCK

Progressive Charlestown: Charlestown chunksPlatner also doesn’t mention Larry LeBlanc’s controversial Whalerock industrial wind turbine project. 

The backstory is that LeBlanc bought the land on the Charlestown Moraine in the 1970s to deny Narragansett Electric the use of that land for infrastructure to support their proposed nuclear power plant in what is now Ninigret Park and the National Wildlife Refuge.

Charlestown was united in the anti-nuke fight and Larry was doing his part by taking key land off the board. He says he was promised by the town that they would buy the land back from him after the nuclear power plant was defeated.

That never happened, so Larry proposed various projects (some serious, some ridiculous) over the years to prod the town to keep the promise he says the town made to him.

The wind turbine project was the one that did the trick. Charlestown put most of its effort into trying a variety of legal ploys to block Whalerock, each leading to expensive court battles. 

Overall, LeBlanc kept winning in court and Charlestown kept losing. It came to the point where the only practical solution left was to give Larry what he really wanted: to buy his land as he said was his due. And so we did, for $2.1 million.

If Whalerock had been better handled, it never would have come to that conclusion. I see Whalerock as a good reason why we DON'T need a Legal Defense Fund - if we had one at the time, we would have wasted it all on futile litigation.

“Y-GATE”

Platner also doesn’t mention the sordid fight in 2012 when the CCA tried to pander to non-resident campaign donors in the Sonquipaug development to buy a derelict abandoned YMCA camp on Watchaug Pond.  

This scam involved paying almost $1 million for a rural slum, ostensibly to give Charlestown residents access to Watchaug Pond – even though more than 90% of the pond’s shoreline is state, federal, town or non-profit owned. That scam failed, but continues to echo in town politics.

Except that Veazey’s proposal for those homes had already been shot down by the Town Council the year before. So there was no reason for Charlestown to spend almost a million dollars in public money to block some “threat” that didn’t exist.

IN CONCLUSION

Every town will face challenges from time to time that call for resistance. There are time-tested ways to fight to win and ways to fight to lose. Going to court is, in my long experience in fighting LULUs (“locally undesirable land uses”), a last resort and often a waste of time and money. 

Community resistance beat the AMTRAK project and the Invenergy water scheme. Copar beat itself. The resolution to the Whalerock fight was giving Larry LeBlanc what he wanted. Dollar Store simply left.

I think the lessons to be learned from these cases are:

We need to stop being afraid of boogeymen. We need our long-overdue Comprehensive Plan, one that looks to the future not some imagine past rural paradise. We need a real definition of “rural character.”

We need to know - and focus on - what we want, not just what we don't want.

We need to fight smarter for what we believe in.

We need to stop making decisions based on cronyism.

We need to build community based on trust, mutual interest and mutual aid.

We need town policies that prohibit permits, contracts and purchases to business entities with sordid records.

We need to vote NO to this bad budget.

Trump marks Memorial Day and pandemic death toll

Image may contain: one or more people

Thanks to all those protesting patriots

After request from Reps. Tanzi, Fogarty, DOT to allow restaurants to use sidewalks for dining

No effect on Charlestown since we have no sidewalks

Best Restaurant Patios for Outdoor Dining in DC | Washington.orgAfter a request of Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty, the Department of Transportation is accepting applications from restaurants to allow them to use sidewalks on state roads outside their establishments for outdoor dining space so they can better serve customers while complying with new social distance requirements.

“Our goal is to allow this for a short term to provide our business community the opportunity to catch up on some of the lost opportunities they have suffered over these last seven weeks, and calm some fears over the uncertainty of the future,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). 

“While we realize this will not make any of our entrepreneurs whole, we do know that every creative opportunity we can provide offers hope for them to stay afloat.”

Restaurants that wish to submit an application can find it on the front page of DOT’s website, dot.ri.gov. Approved applicants must also get local approval and comply with certain conditions, which include maintaining pedestrian rights of way that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The approval will expire when the new limits on indoor restaurant dining put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are lifted.


COVID gives plastic bags a reprieve

Is plastics industry stoking public fear and undermining bag bans?
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff


No scientific studies report styrene gas causing deaths - The Hindu
A return to single use plastics comes with consequences.
For example on May 7th, the LG Chem plant near Visakhapatnam,
India, leaked styrene gas into the air, killing 12 and sickening 
more
than 1,000. Styrene is the primary feedstock for styrofoam. 
 
As the stay-at-home order is lifted and Rhode Island businesses slowly reopen, many suspended bag bans and restrictions on reusable bags are still in place.

Sixteen communities have approved plastic-bag bans since Barrington passed the state’s first municipal ban in 2012. 

But since the pandemic took hold in March, more than half have paused their ordinances over health concerns and needed relief for businesses.

South Kingstown suspended its ban April 8, citing a shortage of paper bags as well as a fear that reusable bags spread the coronavirus. 

The ban is causing undue hardship for retailers, according to an executive order, and “reasonable concern about whether reusable plastic bags might serve as a vector for the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.”

Narragansett, which doesn’t have a bag ban, ordered the suspension of reusable bags out of fear that the bags might make people sick.

“The Town has been advised that the use of reusable bags brought into the store by customers may be contaminated with the COVID-19 virus from outside sources,” town manager James Tierney wrote in a March 27 press release. “PLEASE stop using REUSABLE BAGS temporarily in all retail businesses in the Town of Narragansett in an effort to avoid the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: concerns about reusable bags being a source for transmission of COVID-19 have little support in either science or experience, as THIS ARTICLE suggests. Scientists do know COVID-19 is spread primarily by droplets propelled by sneezes, coughs or simply breathing by an infected individual. Scientists DON'T know if people can be infected with coronavirus picked up from surfaces. - Will Collette

Masks help stop the spread of coronavirus

The science is simple
Jeremy Howard, University of San Francisco



Droplets ejected from people’s mouths during coughing or talking
are likely the most significant source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
Thomas Jackson/Stone via Getty Images 
I’m a data scientist at the University of San Francisco and teach courses online in machine learning for fast.ai

In late March, I decided to use public mask-wearing as a case study to show my students how to combine and analyze diverse types of data and evidence.

Much to my surprise, I discovered that the evidence for wearing masks in public was very strong. 

It appeared that universal mask-wearing could be one of the most important tools in tackling the spread of COVID-19. 

Yet the people around me weren’t wearing masks and health organizations in the U.S. weren’t recommending their use.

I, along with 18 other experts from a variety of disciplines, conducted a review of the research on public mask-wearing as a tool to slow the spread SARS-CoV-2. We published a preprint of our paper on April 12 and it is now awaiting peer review at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Since then, there have been many more reviews that support mask-wearing.

On May 14, I and 100 of the world’s top academics released an open letter to all U.S. governors asking that “officials require cloth masks to be worn in all public places, such as stores, transportation systems, and public buildings.”

Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wears a mask – as do the governments covering 90% of the world’s population – but, so far, only 12 states in the U.S. require it. In the majority of the remaining states, the CDC recommendation has not been enough: 

Most people do not currently wear masks. However, things are changing fast. Every week more and more jurisdictions require mask use in public. As I write this, there are now 94 countries that have made this move.

So what is this evidence that has led myself and so many scientists to believe so strongly in masks?


Saturday, May 23, 2020

48 reasons to boycott Channel 10

Sinclair Fined $48 Million

The Federal Communications Commission has fined Sinclair Broadcast Group $48 million as part of an agreement to end three investigations into Sinclair’s practices. It was the largest fine it has ever leveled on a broadcaster. 

From the WashPo:
Sinclair’s fine will also close FCC investigations into its failure to properly identify the sponsors of material it aired on its own and other TV stations, and how it handled negotiating agreements with other broadcasters to share programming.
The FCC’s [Ajit] Pai called Sinclair’s behavior during its attempted Tribune merger “completely unacceptable” in a statement. He said the fine should serve as a “cautionary tale” to others.


Bread baking tips

Image may contain: food, possible text that says 'BREAD BAKING TIPS 1) Make sure you photograph your bread and let everyone know you made it. 2) Throw away bread and repeat. #1 is all that matters.'

How Trump treats the National Guard

Parks are open: stay safe

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Is seltzer water healthy?

Gee, I always wondered
Rahel Mathews, Mississippi State University

Hard Seltzer GIF by Bud LightMy health conscious friends and colleagues tell me that they need an alternative to soda but plain water is too boring. They, like many people, are turning to sparkling water and flavored seltzer water.

Carbonated waters are being promoted as the low-calorie or zero-calorie alternative to soda. In a 12-month period from August 2018 to August 2019, sales of sparkling water increased by 13% compared to the previous year.

But is it really a healthy alternative?

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I get this question all the time. As with much of nutrition, the answer is not a clear yes or no.

Researchers have studied sparkling water, though not extensively, for its effects on teeth, bones and digestion. Is it bad for you? Probably not. Is it good for you? Maybe. Is it better than soda?

Definitely.


We're not ready for this either

Bankruptcy courts ill-prepared for tsunami of people going broke from coronavirus shutdown
Paige Marta Skiba, Vanderbilt University; Dalié Jiménez, University of California, Irvine; Michelle McKinnon Miller, Loyola Marymount University; Pamela Foohey, Indiana University, and Sara Sternberg Greene, Duke University



The courts are sheltering in place too. 101cats/Getty Images 
As more Americans lose all or part of their incomes and struggle with mounting debts, another crisis looms: a wave of personal bankruptcies.

Bankruptcy can discharge or erase many types of debts and stop foreclosures, repossessions and wage garnishments. 

But our research shows the bankruptcy system is difficult to navigate even in normal times, particularly for minorities, the elderly and those in rural areas.

COVID-19 is exacerbating the existing challenges of accessing bankruptcy at a time when these vulnerable groups – who are bearing the brunt of both the economic and health impact of the coronavirus pandemic – may need its protections the most.

If Americans think about turning to bankruptcy for help, they will likely find a system that is ill-prepared for their arrival.

It’s a hard road

There are many benefits to filing bankruptcy.

For example, it can allow households to avoid home foreclosure, evictions and car repossession. The “automatic stay” triggered at the start of the process immediately halts all debt collection efforts, garnishments and property seizures. And the process ends with a discharge of most unsecured debts, which sets people on a course to regain some financial stability.

The process helps the average household erase approximately US$50,000 in unsecured debt – such as payday loans and credit card and medical bills.

We know from our empirical research, however, that filing for bankruptcy comes with costs. In a Chapter 7 case, known as a liquidation when a debtor’s property is sold and distributed to creditors, households may be required to surrender some of their assets. The post-bankruptcy path to financial stability is often bumpy.

In a Chapter 13 reorganization case, households must commit to making monthly payments equal to their disposable income for three to five years. But the majority of people, unfortunately, are unable to keep up with their payments for that long and do not end up eliminating their debts.

Monetary costs can also be substantial. Attorney fees average $1,225 to $3,450. Court fees are over $300. And of course, there are also other downsides, such as social stigma, negative credit and lower future earnings.

Pent-up demand

Nonetheless, struggling Americans may find bankruptcy one of few viable options to address their worsening money problems, particularly as the pandemic shows no signs of ending soon.
Yet, as a consequence of nationwide shelter-in-place orders, consumer bankruptcy filings have declined significantly in recent weeks.

In the last 10 days of March, when states began issuing such orders, we found that Chapter 13 filings fell 45% compared with the last 10 days of March 2019, based on a docket search on Bloomberg Law. Filings in all of April – when most states were under lockdown – plunged 60%, while Chapter 7 filings were down 40%.



Friday, May 22, 2020

Short Takes #14: South County’s struggle with COVID-19

Summer starts as we all start going nuts
By Will Collette

By Mike ThompsonDetroit Free Press
The summer season is here as we all are going nuts while trying to decide whether it’s worth risking death to not have to cook at home.

Fortunately, take out options in Charlestown will be greatly improved this weekend. The Hitching Post has re-opened for the summer. Take-out only for eating at home or al fresco. Best clam cakes in Rhode Island!

I was by there this afternoon and every parking space was filled.


You won’t be getting take out at that Rocky Point-styled "Shore Dinner Hall" on Route One in Westerly. They’re out of business, which is no surprise, given their high prices for mediocre clam cakes. The past few seasons, it looked like their only real business was with day trippers and summer people.

I will miss 1149 in East Greenwich, a great restaurant that was a favorite for family dinners for us as well as political meetings.

Lots of other businesses are closing in addition to the big retailers J.C. Penney and Pier 1 who are closing stores in RI after the pandemic was the last straw pushing them into bankruptcy. The mini-malls in Westerly seem to have almost as many vacant spots as functioning businesses these days.

Charlestown official information

First, thank you to all town workers who come to work every day, even though many of you could (or should) work from home. I mentioned this a few “Short Takes” ago as I puzzled over how little official pandemic information comes out of the town. That information gap was one of the reasons I started writing these "Short Takes."

The town website has a special COVID-19 tab, but all it contains is a list of town staff phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (the political action committee that controls town government) is still the de facto town government information site, and that’s not right.

Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz started sending out mass e-mails after my earlier criticism. These e-mails are almost entirely comprised of cut-and-pasted copies of Governor Raimondo’s executive orders. These are often very lengthy and are offered with no commentary.

Some of that material is applicable to Charlestown; most of it is not. And just dumping the executive orders into an e-mail is not helpful.

In my opinion, we should expect our town government to translate these orders to explain how they apply specifically to Charlestown. After all, I presume each of these orders is read by somebody at Town Hall and the implications for Charlestown are discussed.

So why not share that with the rest of us?

By the numbers

Rhode Island unemployment has soared to 17.8% heading for 25%. More than a quarter million RI workers have applied for benefits.  55,000 self-employed, independent contractors and small business owners are hoping to receive benefits under the special program created to help them because they are ineligible for regular unemployment.

According to the data mavens at WalletHub.com, Rhode Island has the 7th highest unemployment rate. The worst is Nevada with just a touch under 30%. While most of our New England neighbors are in the same boat, the state with the lowest unemployment right now is Connecticut with “only” 8%.

Charlestown’s unemployment in March was 6.6% - when DLT posts the April numbers, they will almost certainly show Charlestown somewhere around the state’s 17.8% figure.

The problem with benefits

Unemployment benefits had been frozen for thousands of Rhode Islanders after discovery of an identity theft scam where applications were filed by internet crooks using stolen personal information.

Legitimate accounts are starting to get unfrozen. If you had your benefits stolen or wrongfully suspended, CLICK HERE for the form to start the process of getting your money back. RI Labor and Training promises that anyone wrongfully denied will get retroactive payments.

Law enforcement officials say this scam was generated by a Nigeria-based internet fraud gang that may have used personal information stolen during the big security breech at the Equifax credit agency a couple years ago. 

Eight states were targeted, including Rhode Island. For some reason, Washington state bore the brunt of this assault.

And don’t get me started about the botched small business relief effort. The grants and loans program was supposed to help small businesses survive and keep their workers on payroll. Instead, the program was either totally botched or sabotaged by the Trump Administration.

In an interesting twist, Rhode Island giant CVS says it is returning $43.3 million received in pandemic stimulus money because (a) they never asked for it; (b) they should not have qualified for it and (c) the money could be better used elsewhere.

Rhode Island’s Dolt Rebellion takes a hit

While we still have a scattering of wingnuts protesting against pandemic counter-measures, a little sanity returned to the town of Narragansett. Narragansett made headlines when its Town Council President Matthew Mannix proposed a resolution directing town police to ignore state directives on masks, social distancing and safe business re-opening.

He withdrew his resolution when a majority of his fellow council members said they would vote against it.

Though he acknowledged that he received lots of pushback, he said he was simply wanted pandemic responsibility to be a personal responsibility, not a government mandate. He said “Over the past few years, we have somehow forgotten those principles of private property and personal responsibility.”

Contrast this position with data from new study showing that the United States could have prevented up to half of the 90,000+ COVID-19 we have suffered had stay-at-home orders been issued a week to 10 days sooner.

We'll find out in a couple weeks how many people get sick or die so some right-wing dolts can go to the gym.

A glimmer of good news

Public pension portfolios across the US took a terrible beating due to the pandemic-driven market crash.

You no doubt saw losses in your own IRA; pension funds losses were catastrophic.

But even though Rhode Island’s pension fund value fell by 9.5%, we did better than most of the other states. We are in the top 5% of the 546 public pension funds.

State Treasurer Seth Magaziner credits what he calls his “Back to Basics” investment strategy that was designed to be balanced and thus less prone to market collapses such as that we suffered.

Check points are gone

Those National Guard and State Police checkpoints that intercepted out of state visitors to tell them about the state’s 14-day quarantine rule are gone.

Partly the reason is that they have served their purpose.

Unstated: Trump decided to terminate National Guard coronavirus deployments at 89 days, one day short of allowing Guard members to qualify for military benefits including education credits.

To our National Guard, I say thank you for your service and my apologies for the soulless sociopath in the White House who thinks so little of you.

Free Stuff

The state is offering retailers, restaurants, grocers, manufacturers and other business with 50 or less workers a free month’s supply of face masks for workers and cleaning supplies to help them re-open safely.

The one catch is that businesses will need to complete a COVID-19 control plan, and file it with the state. Templates for those plans are available at www.reopeningRI.com.

Raimondo’s popularity

For most of her term as Governor, Gina Raimondo was among the least popular governors in the country. However, her performance during the pandemic has boosted her popularity to among the highest. More than 80% of Rhode Islanders think she’s doing in good job, no matter what Republican House leader Blake “Flip” Filippi says.

She is the most popular Democratic governor and among the top rank when you include Republican governors. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, one of the few top Republicans to buck Donald Trump, is the nation’s most popular governor with 85% approval. Of all the Republican Governors, Hogan has been the most outspoken in pushing against Trump's nonsense.

Freedom not fear


For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.

Trump's son Donald Jr. calls Biden a pedophile. Did he mean like this?

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Some just get others to do their dirty work

Not all psychopaths are violent; a new study may explain why some are 'successful' instead
Virginia Commonwealth University

Trump is a Psychopath!!! - The Haven - MediumPsychopathy is widely recognized as a risk factor for violent behavior, but many psychopathic individuals refrain from antisocial or criminal acts. Understanding what leads these psychopaths to be "successful" has been a mystery.

A new study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University sheds light on the mechanisms underlying the formation of this "successful" phenotype.

"Psychopathic individuals are very prone to engaging in antisocial behaviors but what our findings suggest is that some may actually be better able to inhibit these impulses than others," said lead author Emily Lasko, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. 

"Although we don't know exactly what precipitates this increase in conscientious impulse control over time, we do know that this does occur for individuals high in certain psychopathy traits who have been relatively more 'successful' than their peers."


VIDEO: Ticks are hard to stop

How the Lyme disease epidemic is spreading and why ticks are so hard to stop
Durland Fish, Yale University



Ticks that transmit Lyme disease continue to expand
their range. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty 
In the 1970s, an epidemic of mysterious arthritis-like symptoms began spreading among children in the lushly wooded area around Lyme, Connecticut. 

Scientists traced the cause to tick bites and named it Lyme disease, but why it had suddenly appeared there was a mystery.

Similar symptoms had been documented on Long Island, New York, years before. Doctors there called it “Montauk spider bite” or “Montauk knee.” 

 It would take until 1990 before scientists found museum specimens of ticks from Long Island and were able to connect the same tick-borne bacteria to both locations and suggest how Lyme disease might have started its modern spread.

As a researcher who studies how disease travels based on geography, I have been following Lyme disease’s spread for nearly four decades. 

Over that time, Lyme disease cases increased from a few hundred reported in 1982 to more than 33,000 in 2018. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the actual number of Lyme disease cases is about 10 times greater than those reported. 

For people infected, the symptoms can be debilitating, including fever, fatigue and muscle and joint pain that can last for months or years after treatment, and in some cases cause neurological disorders and heart infections.

Warm weather is arriving and people are beginning to seek outside respite from COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. This is the same time that ticks are beginning to search for their next meal, and the risk of getting Lyme disease rises. 

Its spread to new areas involves a complex interplay among animals that may aid in helping scientists slow its continuing advance.


RI Nurse worked hard to "do everything right"

She Fought to Keep COVID-19 Out of Her Nursing Home. Then, She Got Sick.
By Lynn Arditi, The Public’s Radio and ProPublica


She Fought to Keep COVID-19 Out of Her Nursing Home. Then, She Got ...
Lakesha Gomez. ProPublica-The Public's Radio photo
From her bed in the intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital, Lakesha Lopez wanted to send a message to her staff at the nursing home.

The 40-year-old director of nursing at Bannister Center for Rehabilitation and Health Care, in Providence, had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. She had pneumonia in both lungs.

One floor above her in the hospital, Bannister’s 70-year-old receptionist lay tethered to a ventilator, fighting for her life.

Lopez raised her cellphone above her head and tapped the record button.

“I just want you to know I did everything right,” Lopez, a mother of five, said in the April 11 video. “I did everything to keep it out of my building … and look, I still contracted it.”

State health officials and Bannister’s operator said the nursing home was following state guidance for protecting residents and employees from infection. An April 14 inspection by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, found Bannister in compliance with infection control standards.

But one thing that experts say is key to preventing the spread of the coronavirus in nursing homes — testing all residents and staff — did not begin at Bannister until the day after the first employee diagnosed with COVID-19 had died.

More than three-quarters of all COVID-19 related deaths in Rhode Island are linked to nursing homes and assisted living centers, according to data released Thursday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s one of the highest rates of the 35 states and the District of Columbia publicly reporting those deaths. Massachusetts is at 63%.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Trumps Checks Out From The Pandemic Fight

Whether Overwhelmed, Bored or Just Plain Lazy, He’s Done Fighting the Disease
By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport Opinion Editor

Trump abruptly ends news briefing after contentious exchanges with ...Apart from the rah-rah claims from the White House, the theme repeatedly popping up is that Donald Trump has simply given up fighting the coronavirus—even with more than 83,000 U.S. deaths.

In a variety of ways, Trump’s promotional turn to recovery and re-opening a dead economy, one that lacks consumer confidence and record joblessness, is being seen as quitting the underlying cause for continuing concern.

Trump did return to the testing issue —selectively picking statistics to declare that his administration has successfully provided enough testing —for those who self-select as ill—to allow the country’s initial return to work. It was another zig in chaotic zag-zagging policy-setting at the White House.

There is now a long string building towards this conclusion: Trump has forcefully put the fighting in the hands of governors, taking no responsibility for government missed efforts towards testing, workplace safety, even aid to states. 

His daily, repeated remarks, personal refusal to wear a mask or physically distance, his insistent support for protests to lift state lockdowns, his effective disbandment of a supervising task force and shelving of workplace guidance from the Centers for Disease Control all contribute to an unmistakable conclusion that he is done with disease.


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Living with coyotes

DEM Offers Tips on Preventing Conflicts with Coyotes

Learn about coyotes | Mass.govKeenly intelligent, extraordinarily adaptable, and willing to eat almost any available food – whether natural, including small animals, birds, insects, and fruits; scavenged roadkill; or easily obtainable human-provided sources such as garbage, pet food, birdseed, and compost – Rhode Island's coyotes are on the move again.

Typically, adult male and female coyotes breed in late winter and the female gives birth to a litter of 4 to 8 pups in April. Consisting of the adult pair and the pups, this social unit will be maintained until the pups become yearlings and disperse on their own or get booted out by their parents. Noisy, hungry pups must be fed. 

That means adult coyotes will be seen and heard foraging and hunting for food in rural, suburban, and even urban Rhode Island neighborhoods over the next several months. 

As daylight hours increase, adult coyotes may spend more time actively foraging during daytime than they would at other times of the year. 

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) advises Rhode Islanders that the No. 1 key to minimizing interactions and conflicts with coyotes is reducing food sources available to them, either intentionally or unintentionally around our homes and neighborhoods.