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Friday, July 31, 2020

Slash the Prices, Kill the Ads

Rx for Prescription Drugs
By Dean Baker and Gerald Scorse

vintage 1960s GIFPrescription drugs have long provided two bad examples of American exceptionalism. They cost three-to-four times more than anywhere else, and we’re one of only two countries in the world that allows prescription drug advertising to consumers.

Far better to be like everybody else. Americans deserve drug prices in line with those in other countries. They don’t deserve a constant barrage of confusing and misleading ads.   
     
Advertising is the lesser of two evils and the simplest to counter: just stop it already. Important voices have already made that recommendation.

TV commercials for prescription drugs always tell consumers to “ask your doctor.” But the companies that pay billions to run the ads aren’t listening to doctors. For the last five years, the  American Medical Association has called for a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of such drugs.

Here’s what the drug makers are ignoring: “[The AMA’s] vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices….Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”

I can see the part about lizard people - take Stephen Miller, for example

Pic of the Moment

Trump adviser rips into Stephen Miller: 'He's Waffen-SS' - U.S. News -  Haaretz.com

Joe called it

Pic of the Moment

Langevin Scores Big Wins for South County Infrastructure Projects

Legislation clears way for millions in funding for hurricane and storm risk reduction

Pawcatuck River, Rhode Island Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility  StudyCongressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) voted in favor of the Water Resources and Development Act of 2020, legislation that supports water infrastructure improvements at ports, harbors and inland waterways, as well as flood control and ecosystem restoration efforts. The legislation passed the House by a voice vote.

“The House has once again come together to pass a Water Resources and Development Act that will support water resource infrastructure across the nation,” said Langevin. 

“I’m pleased that key water projects in Rhode Island’s Second District have been taken into account. Important provisions within this legislation will help preserve natural resources, protect families and businesses, and promote prosperity and economic growth within our state by investing directly in our waterways.”

For Rhode Island, the legislation authorizes $37,848,000 in federal funding in support of hurricane and storm risk reduction as part of the Pawcatuck River Coastal Storm Risk Management Project. 

The focus area covers approximately 28 miles of coastline in Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown, and Narragansett, which is near residential and commercial properties vulnerable to flooding.


That would have made a REALLY big stuffie

Wakefield boy finds massive quahog, donates it to URI marine research center

Cooper Monaco
Wakefield resident Cooper Monaco poses with the giant
quahog he found in Westerly. (Photo by Todd)
An 11-year-old boy from Wakefield clamming with his grandfather discovered what may be the largest clam ever harvested from Rhode Island waters on July 27 and donated it to the University of Rhode Island’s Marine Science Research Facility at the Narragansett Bay Campus.

The quahog – measuring 5.75 inches across and weighing 2 pounds 7.75 ounces – is one of the largest specimens on record, though the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management does not keep quahog records. 

A typical quahog grows to about 4 inches across.

Cooper Monaco found the quahog in Weekapaug. He doesn’t want to say exactly where in case there are more to discover.


Three pediatricians explain what we know about coronavirus and kid

Yes, kids can get COVID-19 
Kathryn Moffett-Bradford, West Virginia University; Martin Weisse, West Virginia University, and Shipra Gupta, West Virginia University



Children are at risk of getting sick from coronavirus and need to
practice social distancing and mask wearing too.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File
We are three pediatric infectious disease specialists who live and work in West Virginia. The West Virginia University health system serves 400,000 children and according to our internal data, to date, 2,520 children up to 17 years of age have been tested for the coronavirus. 

Sixty-seven of them tested positive and one became sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.

We are asked almost daily about children and COVID-19: Do they get COVID-19? Should they attend day care or school, play sports, see friends and attend summer camps? What are the risks to themselves and to others?

Based on current research and our own experiences, it would seem that kids 17 years old and younger face little risk from the coronavirus. Nearly all children have asymptomatic, very mild or mild disease, but a small percentage of children do get very sick

Additionally, there is evidence that children can spread the virus to others, and with huge outbreaks occurring all across the U.S, these realities raise serious concerns about school reopenings and how children should navigate the pandemic world.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Bite it, Blake. And Joe Larisa, too

Federal judge rules for ACLU, against GOP on mail-in ballots
By Will Collette

How the GOP Plans to Suppress the Vote and Sabotage the 2020 Election -  Rolling Stone
Graphic from Rolling Stone
Despite resistance from Charlestown’s Republican state representative Blake “Flip” Filippi and Charlestown’s anti-Narragansett watchdog, Special Indian Affairs Counsel Joe Larisa, US District Judge Mary McElroy has suspended onerous requirements for mail-in voting this year.

The RI ACLU had filed suit on behalf of RI Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and individual plaintiffs arguing the state requirement that you must have either two witnesses or a notary’s stamp to make your mail-in ballot is an undue burden during the pandemic.

The state GOP and the Republican National Committee argued against the ACLU position, making claims similar to those of Donald Trump, that mail-in voting is rife with fraud and that Rhode Island’s restrictions, among the toughest in the nation, were needed to prevent that fraud.

They cited passages from the late Buddy Cianci’s autobiography, “Politics and Pasta,” where Cianci referenced mail ballot fiddling. Not mentioned is that for much of his political career, Buddy Cianci was a Republican.

But, like Trump, they have little in the way of actual evidence to prove that mail-in voting, with or without witnesses or a notary, is likely to lead to election fraud. It’s more about the national Republican strategy to suppress the vote, especially by those populations likely to vote against Trump and down ballot Republicans.

Studies have shown that mail-in voting does NOT lead to increased fraud and actually provides little or no gain to either party.

Data is also showing that Rhode Island’s coronavirus pandemic is on the upswing, sufficient to lead Governor Gina Raimondo to halt the re-opening process at Phase 3. The pandemic is out of control in most of the rest of the country and experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci suggest it is moving back in our direction, making an in-person primary and election a potential disease vector.

Despite a meritless claim, the GOP says it will appeal Judge McElroy’s decision. Maybe somewhere up the chain, they’ll get there case before one of the hundreds of Trump-appointed federal judges who have been rubber-stamped onto the bench by Senate Majority Leader Moscow Mitch McConnell.

RI Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said “Today’s ruling is a victory for voting rights and public health... I am appalled that the Republican National Committee is actively working to prevent Rhode Islanders from being able to vote safely and securely from their homes during this pandemic.”

Secretary Gorbea has also said she will ask the Governor to mobilize some National Guard troops to help process ballots and help with Election Day security.

They may find themselves facing federal storm troopers, a prospect that would have seemed completely ridiculous if not totally paranoid in the past.

But just in the past couple of weeks:

  • Donald Trump said he may not accept the results of the November 3 election;
  • He sent federal storm troopers to Portland, OR to suppress public protests;
  • He has threatened to send these forces to other parts of the country if he chooses to and, just today...
  • He says he thinks the election should be postponed.
  • He says that widespread use of mail ballots will lead to massive voter fraud.
Here’s what our Dear Leader tweeted this morning:
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???
At this point, I think there is almost a national consensus that Trump is unpredictable and does not feel bound by the law.

Postponing the election, for example, is not his call. Under the Constitution (Article II, Section 1), only Congress has that power. The law requires that the national election be held on “the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.”

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution also determines that the end of Presidential and Vice-Presidential terms are January 20 after the election.

Even though Trump thinks he has supreme powers, he does not have the power to change these laws. But, as one columnist wrote today, this hasn’t stopped Trump in the past.

After a while, it doesn't bother you

Today's progressive comic.

How a fascist campaigns for re-election

Pic of the Moment

Charlestown gets DEM grant for questionable land purchase

DEM will help Charlestown pay over $400,000 for a piece of land owned by CCA political supporters worth $61,900.

The Foster Cove property Charlestown wants to buy at a hugely inflated
price (see details below) is just below the one house on Oyster Drive.
Screenshot from Google Maps.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced today the award of an additional $1.4 million in grants to help communities and local organizations protect valuable green space throughout the state. 

To complement the $3.33 million previously awarded in February of this year, six projects will receive matching grants to protect 322 acres of open space and farmland across Rhode Island. 

The funding is made possible by the 2016 Green Economy Bond, which was passed overwhelmingly by Rhode Island voters, and invests $35 million in preserving open space, improving recreational facilities, and cleaning up lands and waters.

"The grants we are awarding today from our 2016 Green Economy Bond will help support the health and vitality of our lands, waters, and communities for generations to come," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. 

"We know that these investments are critical to our state's future, which is why the Beach, Clean Water, and Green Bond I proposed in my FY21 budget includes $7 million to improve local parks and recreational facilities and conserve forested land and farmland." Prest Property, South Kingstown Land Trust

Rhode Island's historic parks, bikeways and green spaces provide opportunity for public enjoyment – in addition to improving the health of the environment, strengthening the state's climate resilience, and supporting the economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Rhode Island generates $2.4 billion in consumer spending and supports 24,000 local jobs. Since 1985, nearly 12,000 acres of land have been protected.

"The open space grants being awarded today will contribute to the conservation of an incredible array of properties that delight families and support wildlife," said DEM Director Janet Coit. 

"This year, the grant criteria also included a category aimed at planning for impacts of climate change. I am so proud to partner with cities, towns and organizations that work hard to protect the special places in their communities. Rhode Islanders continue to support environmental bonds – like the Green Economy and Clean Water Bond – which provide needed funds that catalyze and make possible the protection of open space, farmland and habitat across our beautiful state."

Grants up to $400,000 – which may cover up to half of the project cost – were awarded to help preserve lands that offer significant natural, ecological or agricultural value and those that connect or expand existing protected lands. 

DEM's successful open space grant program has provided funding for the preservation of nearly 12,000 acres of land across the state since its inception in 1985. DEM has worked with partners in every municipality to complete 185 easement transactions with land trusts and local communities to date, furthering the mission of preserving Rhode Island's precious resources and increasing the public's access and enjoyment of our natural lands. 

Over the years this grant program has resulted in the protection of places used by residents and tourists alike for outdoor recreation – and has also contributed to the economic health of the state. 

These natural assets play a big role in the state's tourist economy by providing opportunities for the public to camp, fish, hunt, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors, and at the same time bring revenue to the local economy.

The open space grants being awarded today to protect 322 acres of open space and farmland include:

Town of Charlestown – Sachem Passage: $213,000 grant to acquire a 4.27-acre parcel on Ninigret Pond adjacent to Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. The property has an existing canoe launch that will be maintained by the town for public boating access. Located on Foster Cove, this new boating launch provides a unique opportunity to increase public access to the northern shore of Ninigret while protecting important coastal habitat that supports a variety of wildlife species.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The assessed value of this property is $61,900. Charlestown will have to come up with matching funds for this DEM grant. The current owner, the Sachem Passage Association (SPA), is a key supporter of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party). This will be the second time Charlestown Taxpayers will be giving the SPA a large sum of money.

In 2013, Charlestown paid $2.1 million to rescue the SPA after its botched campaign to block the construction of commercial wind turbines. After a dismal showing in the courts, the only recourse was the town's purchase of the land. 

The property in this case is a white elephant for the SPA, long a subject of protracted litigation. In my opinion, the SPA has already gotten enough of our taxpayer money for its loyalty to the CCA. This is a bad deal for Charlestown.    -Will Collette

  

This Saturday, free drop-off to recycle your electronic waste

This Saturday (9 AM-noon) at the Charlestown Mini-Super, you can leave your old electronic gear - just about anything with wires - with the crew of Indie Cycle LLC. 

Indie Cycle is 10 years old, Charlestown-grown, woman-owned business now operating around the state. Their August 1 drop off is the first of three dates in Charlestown for the rest of 2020.


Yale study shows pandemic benefits don’t affect people’s choice to work

Study debunks Senate Republicans who are trying to cut the expanded pandemic benefits unemployed
A new study by Yale economists out this week debunks the repeated GOP talking point that the $600 federal expansion of unemployment benefits has disincentivized people from returning to work.

The findings were published the same day Senate Republicans released a coronavirus relief proposal which critics condemned as an "utter disgrace" that will "unleash widespread suffering" on people nationwide.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed in late March provided those who qualified for unemployment insurance (UI) with an extra $600 per week on top of state benefits.

The boost meant total payments for some low-wage or middle-class workers exceeded their normal weekly incomes. With the GOP in the Senate now refusing to pass an extension approved by the Democrat-controlled House, those added benefits are set to expire on July 31.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

VIDEO: Re-imagining public safety


What to do if you've been "disappeared"


For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

VIDEO: Trump and the Saudis


To watch this video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNsGxiFalVQ

Full Moon paddle on Saturday


 Full Moon Paddle
This Saturday, August 1st,
6:30 pm
Join WPWA for a dusk adventure. What a better way to beat the heat than a calm, evening paddle. We will launch from the WPWA campus onto the Wood River. This wide section of river is great for beginners.  As we paddle out, spot the numerous painted turtles or the frequently sighted Great Blue Herons. Beavers are around at dusk, often gracing us with their stealthy swims or loud tail slaps.
Boats are available to be borrowed, you may reserve them through the registration link.  3 tandem kayaks are also available, great for an adult to share with a child under 11. The registration link will indicate if there are any tandems still available. The group will launch at 7:00/7:15 pm and paddle for over an hour.  
Face coverings and social distancing are required at the launch and take out, and any time people are closer than 6’ apart. You do not have to wear a face covering while paddling, but you need to have something with you at all times for this purpose. Avoid bunching up at the launch site; wait for other paddlers on the water. Do not attend if you are ill. 
Cost is $15 for members, $20 for non-members.  WPWA members at the Trout level or above have free access to kayaks. *But Dragonfly level and non-members will be charged an additional $20 per boat.
If you are a WPWA Otter, Osprey, or Eagle Member, the program is free and you will not be asked for payment when you register online.
For More Information Contact: Kassi Archambault: kassi@wpwa.org
PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED. Go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/full-moon-paddle-tickets-115206146686 to register.  
Our Contact Information
Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association
203 Arcadia Road
Hope Valley, RI 02832
401-539-9017
www.wpwa.org

Love avocados?

Thank the toxodon
Jeffrey Miller, Colorado State University



The finicky fruit took some time to adapt to California’s
climate. Print Collector via Getty Images
Given avocado’s popularity today, it’s hard to believe that we came close to not having them in our supermarkets at all.

In my new book “Avocado: A Global History,” I explain how the avocado survived a series of ecological and cultural close calls that could have easily relegated them to extinction or niche delicacy. 

Instead, the avocado persevered, prospered – and became one of the most Instagrammed foods in the world.


Noted national education expert spotlights criticism of Raimondo’s back-to-school push


North Smithfield Public Schools - Super's Blog
Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'Robert Reich @RBReich The school attended by Trump's son, Barron, will not reopen in September to protect students from Covid-19 Meanwhile, Trump is pushing for schools to reopen, despite the concerns of public health experts. All children should be protected from the virus, not only rich kids.'
The Providence Journal published a scathing editorial about Governor Gina Raimondo’s dereliction of duty in demanding the full opening of schools next month while failing to provide sensible plans to do so.

It is titled “Rhode Island’s Education System Goes from Mediocre to Just Plain Chaotic.”

Raimondo is a former venture capitalist who redesigned the state’s pension system by cutting them. She is also a “reformer” who welcomes charter schools and is a favorite of DFER. And she is chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

The editorial begins:


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Groups challenge state vote-by-mail requirements that put voters at risk during COVID-19 pandemic

Getting your ballot witnessed/notarized stymies anti-pandemic effect
By UpriseRI 


RI Board of Elections supports voting by mail, will the General Assembly  allow it? | News BreakAttorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Rhode Island, the Campaign Legal Center, and the law firm Fried Frank filed a federal lawsuit  challenging Rhode Island’s witness/notary requirements for voting by mail throughout the 2020 elections.

The case was filed on behalf of two voting rights advocacy groups — Common Cause Rhode Island and the League of Women Voters Rhode Island — and Rhode Islanders with significant medical vulnerabilities that place them or members of their household at a heightened risk of severe illness or death if they contract COVID-19.

The lawsuit seeks to block provisions of a state law that require Rhode Islanders who vote by mail to have two witnesses or a notary sign their ballot envelope, even in the midst of a highly contagious and deadly pandemic. These requirements necessitate face-to-face and hand-to-hand interaction between voters and others who pose a potentially fatal risk to the voters’ health.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Republican National Committee (RNC) has filed a request with the court to intervene in this case, since fighting mail-in voting is a key part of national Republican voter suppression plans. 

Joining them in this request to intervene is state Republican leader Brandon Bell and none other than Charlestown's Special Counsel for Indian Affairs, Joe Larisa. Joe appears to be taking some time off from his surveillance of the Narragansett Indian Tribe to take part in an effort to deprive ALL Rhode Islanders of their civil rights. Question: Will he be try to slip some of his costs onto Charlestown?     - Will Collette

A first pitch can tell you a lot

Image may contain: 3 people, text that says 'ttyimages See the difference? RIDIN' WITH BIDEN'

Trump won't try to out-pitch Tony Fauci's opening day pitch at the Washington Nationals opener.



















It actually turns out that Trump was NEVER INVITED to do the opening pitch at that game - he made it up because he was pissed at Fauci.

Here's Trump strongly focusing on the "China Virus"
Donald Trump golfs with NFL great Brett Favre at Bedminster club | Golf |  The Guardian


Here's Dr. Fauci's opening day pitch....

Entertainment Break: Fauci throws out 1st pitch on MLB Opening Day and it's  juuust a bit outside | Disrn

It was just a little high and outside. As one observer commented, Dr. Fauci demonstrated good social distancing by throwing the ball six feet away from the catcher. Fauci may be a lousy pitcher but is a true American hero.

His pitch was good enough to make Topps' limited edition baseball card of him a record-setter before it sold out. Just over 51,000 were sold. The prices on EBay today ranged from $150 to $2,000.
Dr. Anthony FAUCI TOPPS NOW WASHINGTON NATIONALS FIRST PITCH BASEBALL CARD






VIDEO: Building the wall


Pandemic upside: less roadkill

By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor

Photo by Will Collette
As automobile travel declined following stay-at-home orders during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, so too did the vehicle-related mortality of the nation’s wildlife. 

Millions more animals than usual survived their often-treacherous attempts to cross roadways to reach breeding grounds and foraging habitat or to escape predators.

That is the conclusion of a study by scientists at the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis. They found that 45 percent fewer wild animals were killed by vehicles in Maine compared to the previous month, and roadkill declined by 38 percent in Idaho and 21 percent in California during the same period.

The study noted that about 1 million wild creatures typically die on U.S. roads every day, so it’s likely that tens of millions escaped a crushing death. Most were probably small animals such as frogs, snakes, and salamanders for which road mortality is a leading cause of death, according to Fraser Shilling, the director of the Road Ecology Center.


Of course it is!

Chocolate is good for the heart
European Society of Cardiology

ice cream chocolate GIFEating chocolate at least once a week is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

“Our study suggests that chocolate helps keep the heart’s blood vessels healthy,” said study author Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

“In the past, clinical studies have shown that chocolate is beneficial for both blood pressure and the lining of blood vessels,” he continued. “I wanted to see if it affects the blood vessels supplying the heart (the coronary arteries) or not. And if it does, is it beneficial or harmful?”

The researchers conducted a combined analysis of studies from the past five decades examining the association between chocolate consumption and coronary artery disease (the blockage of the coronary arteries). The analysis included six studies with a total of 336,289 participants who reported their chocolate consumption.


WARNING: Charlestown under heat warning thru Tuesday, bad air quality too

It's hot and nasty outside even here on the coast
Data charts assembled by Will Collette from state and federal sources.

Image

This is the "Feels Like" index that combines temperature and humidity. Charlestown "feels like" 90 degrees. In today's chart, the "feels like" temp for Charlestown is 89.
Image
Tuesday's air is a slight improvement over Monday.

Unhealthy ozone levels are due to accumulated vehicle emissions at ground level. Outdoor cooking that adds smoke to the air is not a good idea.
Image

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Research on voting by mail says it's safe

Mail-in voting is safe, reliable and trustworthy
Edie Goldenberg, University of Michigan



A Pennsylvania election worker processes mailed-in ballots for the
state’s primary election in May 2020. AP Photo/Matt Rourke 
As millions of Americans prepare to vote in November – and in many cases, primaries and state and local elections through the summer as well – lots of people are talking about voting by mail

It is a way to protect the integrity of the country’s voting system and to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus, which continues to spread widely in the U.S.

I am a political scientist and part of a National Academy of Public Administration working group offering recommendations to ensure voter participation as well as public confidence in the election process and the outcome during this coronavirus pandemic. 

To meet that goal, our work has found that state and local governments will need to make significant adjustments to their voting systems this year – changes that will likely require new federal funding.

Our recommendations – which include ways to reduce health risks from in-person voting as well as to expand access to, and ease the process of, mail-in voting – are based on a thorough review of the evidence.

Some critics – including President Donald Trump – have cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in voting, even though some of them have voted by mail in the past. 

Conservative groups are suing to limit mail-in voting, and some federal judges seem reluctant to defend voters’ rights if it means intervening in state-level decisions. The president’s reelection campaign is suing to block mail-in voting at the same time it pushes his backers to be ready to vote by mail.

The evidence we reviewed finds that voting by mail is rarely subject to fraud, does not give an advantage to one political party over another and can in fact inspire public confidence in the voting process, if done properly.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Second helpings at the corporate welfare trough

Double-Dipping by PPP Healthcare Loan Recipients
guinea pigs GIFHealthcare providers have faced significant challenges during the pandemic, but it was still surprising to see that sector show up as the largest recipient of assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program. 

That’s because hospitals and other providers were already receiving tens of billions of dollars in federal aid from other CARES Act programs.

To the growing list of PPP defects we can add: double-dipping by healthcare recipients.

Take the case of Bronxcare, which operates a number of health facilities in New York City. Two of its units were revealed to have gotten PPP loans worth $2 to $5 million each (the amounts were disclosed as ranges). Previously, it received more than $100 million from the HHS Provider Relief Fund.

The Great Plains Health Alliance, a health system headquartered in Kansas, received seven PPP loans worth up to $11 million. Previously, it received more than $24 million in grants under the Provider Relief Fund as well as $16 million in expedited funds through the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.  

The Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York received a PPP loan worth between $5 million and $10 million after having received more than $40 million from the Provider Relief Fund and over $35 million in accelerated Medicare payments.

Bronxcare, Great Plains and Erie County Medical are all non-profits, but double-dipping can also be found among for-profit healthcare providers.