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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

VIDEO: Robert Reich spells out the 10 things we now know about Trump's finances


Two Species of Exotic Ticks Found on Block Island

SPOILER: they were not on vacation

If they're on Block Island, are they also on the mainland?

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is announcing that two exotic species of Asian and Eurasian ticks have been detected for the first time on Block Island. 

The ticks were discovered by Dr. Danielle M Tufts, then an associate research scientists at Columbia University, as part of a research program conducted by Dr. Maria Diuk-Wasser's research group on Block Island since 2010. 

It was confirmed by DNA and morphological characteristics that they are ticks not previously found in Rhode Island.

Dr. Tufts identified the tick species Haemaphysalis longicornis and Haemaphysalis punctata when studying ticks on Block Island this summer. 

Due to similarities with native ticks, these exotic ticks were initially thought to be native tick species but on further investigation were found to be exotic species. 

Dr. Tufts then looked through archive samples previously collected from Block Island from 2010 to 2020 and determined these species have been present on Block Island for many years. 

H. Longicornis, also called the Asian longhorned tick, was first detected in the United States in 2017 in New Jersey but when archived samples were reviewed in other states, it was determined that these ticks may have been in the country since at least 2010. 

The H. punctata species is native to Europe and has not been previously detected in a natural setting in North America (it has been detected on imported animals and animal products undergoing importation inspections).

How we beat polio

What we can learn from the polio vaccination campaign

Carl KurlanderUniversity of Pittsburgh and Randy P. JuhlUniversity of Pittsburgh

Dr. Jonas Salk, left, developed the first effective polio vaccine. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

In 1955, after a field trial involving 1.8 million Americans, the world’s first successful polio vaccine was declared “safe, effective, and potent.”

It was arguably the most significant biomedical advance of the past century. Despite the polio vaccine’s long-term success, manufacturers, government leaders and the nonprofit that funded the vaccine’s development made several missteps.

Having produced a documentary about the polio vaccine’s field trials, we believe the lessons learned during that chapter in medical history are worth considering as the race to develop COVID-19 vaccines proceeds.

Fast forward to November 4

 The case of Biden versus Trump – or how a judge could decide the presidential election

John E. Finn, Wesleyan University

Imagine the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. Given the unprecedented number of mail-in votes this election, Americans may wake up and still not know who won the presidential contest between Republican President Donald J. Trump and Democratic challenger Joseph Biden.

The contest could be so close that a result can’t be known until mail-in ballots in several key states, perhaps Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan or Florida, can be fully counted.

It’s conceivable that either candidate will refuse to accept the result, whether before or after the counting of absentee or mail-in ballots. That could lead to several lawsuits to stop the counting, to keep counting or to force a recount.

Amid what will likely be a flood of charges, countercharges and a lot of heated rhetoric from campaigns and supporters, there are prescribed legal processes that will play out in the event of election challenges. Here is how that will likely work.

Where challenges begin – and often end

With only a few exceptions, states run elections. By virtue of Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution, state law governs almost every facet of the electoral process, including most aspects of voter eligibility, the location and hours of polling places, candidate access to the ballot and the members of the state’s Electoral College.

Consequently, electoral challenges must begin – and often will end – in state courts, which will apply that state’s laws.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Charlestown Voters asked to support Council Candidates

Please support these Charlestown Democrats

By Catherine O’Reilly Collette, Chair of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee

On behalf of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee, I am proud to endorse and support the three fine Democrats on the November 3 ballot for Charlestown Town Council: Deb Carney, Jodi Frank and Scott Keeley.

Each of these individuals bring experience and talent that will serve the people of Charlestown well.

I have known Deb Carney for nearly 20 years, watched her chair the Council when we first moved to Charlestown, then admired her outstanding work on the Chariho School Committee. I consider her to be one of the most talented and hard-working public servants I have ever met. She currently serves as Council Vice-President and seeks re-election.

Jodi Frank served the town for six years as a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, putting her Ph.D. in Kinesiology to good use by working on improvements in Ninigret Park and Charlestown’s public lands. She is currently finishing up her B.S. in Nursing and will be an RN early in 2021.  

I met Scott Keeley 15 years ago and have always loved his humor and breadth of knowledge. I admire the way he has taken on the issue of the people’s right to use the beach despite efforts by non-resident beachfront property owners to deny access.

For the past decade, Charlestown has been controlled by a single party: the Charlestown Citizens Alliance that was spawned by the Rhode Island Shoreline Coalition with its focus on the interests of absentee land-owners. They have raised our taxes just about every year since they’ve been in control, engaged in shady land deals, driven out small businesses and purged town commissions of anyone not a CCA loyalist.

Each election year, absentee property owners flood the CCA treasury with cash to try to sell Charlestown voters the same overblown story that we are under threat of unspeakable horrors to our rural way of life and only the CCA can keep us safe. You’ll see that message in the CCA flyers that will be filling your mailboxes.

It’s time to stop being driven by fear. We need to focus on positive ways to move forward: fair taxes, sensible land use, choosing qualified people for town boards and commissions and using town resources to help our community cope with the problems caused by the pandemic and a badly damaged economy.

I know Deb Carney, Jodi Frank and Scott Keeley are the best qualified people on the ballot to get the job done. I urge you to vote for them when you cast your ballot – by mail or in person - in this year’s election.

Money talks, Tovarishch


Solar power on the rise at US schools

Report finds an 81% increase in K-12 schools using solar power over the last 5 years.

Brian Bienkowski for Environmental Health News    

When Mount Desert Island High School in Maine decided to use solar power, they turned to the students.

"We have a [student] club here that helped with the project, helped choose the installer we'd go with," principal Matt Haney told EHN. "They did research on vendors and helped evaluate proposals."

About a year ago the roughly 550-student high school flipped the switch.

"We had no pushback at all on solar panels, especially since this essentially cost us nothing," Haney said. "It was a no brainer."

Mount Desert is not alone: Since 2014, the number of K-12 schools in the U.S. using solar power increased by roughly 81 percent—and now more than 5.3 million kids and teens go to a school using solar energy, according to a new report.

That increased capacity represents a 139 percent surge in the amount of solar installed over the past five years, according to the report released today by the clean energy nonprofits Generation180 and The Solar Foundation, and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

"We know from research, solar is contagious, the best indicator if someone goes solar is if their neighbor has solar," Tish Tablan, a program director at Generation180 and author of the new report, told EHN. "We want to bring solar to the heart of communities—which is schools."

The report, which is the third edition and uses publicly available data from 2014 to 2019 on school solar use, finds that solar trends at schools mirror those more broadly in the country, and that bolstered solar energy at schools is offering not only clean power but cost savings and educational opportunities.

How and when will we know that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective?

SPOILER ALERT: it won't be by November 3

William PetriUniversity of Virginia

How much longer must society wait for a vaccine? ANDRZEJ WOJCICKI/Getty Images

With COVID-19 vaccines currently in the final phase of study, you’ve probably been wondering how the FDA will decide if a vaccine is safe and effective.

Based on the status of the Phase 3 trials currently underway, it is unlikely that the results of these trials will be available before November. 

But it is likely that not just one but several of the competing COVID-19 vaccines will be shown to be safe and effective by the end of 2020.

I am a scientist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Virginia, where I care for patients with COVID-19 and conduct research on the pandemic. I am also a member of the World Health Organization Expert Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization.

Trump’s Vaccine Czar Refuses to Give Up Stock in Drug Company Involved in His Government Role

Blatant conflict of interest

By Isaac Arnsdorf for ProPublica

The executive, Moncef Slaoui, is the top scientist on Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine in record time. Federal law requires government officials to disclose their personal finances and divest any holdings relating to their work, but Slaoui said he wouldn’t take the job under those conditions

So the administration said it’s treating him as a contractor. Contractors aren’t bound by the same ethics rules but also aren’t supposed to wield as much authority as full employees.

Slaoui agreed to sell stock worth $12 million and resign from the board of Moderna, the developer of a leading potential vaccine. But Slaoui insisted on keeping his roughly $10 million stake in his former company, GlaxoSmithKline, another contender in the Operation Warp Speed vaccine race. 

“I won’t leave those shares because that’s my retirement,” he has said. GlaxoSmithKline, working with Sanofi, has started human trials for a coronavirus vaccine using similar technology to Sanofi’s flu shot. It is supported by up to $2.1 billion from the U.S. government.

As a concession, Slaoui committed to donating any increase in the value of his holdings to the National Institutes of Health.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

VIDEO: How Donald Trump plans to steal the election. Not a joke.

 To watch this video on YouTube:

We have lots of it

 By Bill BramhallNew York Daily News

Don't forget


Great Whites don't really want to kill you

Complicated Relationships Entwined to Produce Shark Attacks

By GRACE KELLY/ecoRI News staff 

In the waning days of July, Julie Dimperio Holowach was swimming off the coast of Harspwell, Maine, with her daughter. What was a fun day in the surf and sun turned tragic when she was bitten by a great white shark and died as a result of her injuries.

The ensuing talk in the press and by New England beachgoers centered upon the rising seal population and its role in attracting sharks to local waters. Culling was discussed, and one headline read, More Seals Means Learning To Live With Sharks In New England, painting a picture that it’s the rotund sea mammal’s fault we’ve entered “Jaws” 2.0.

But the relationship between sharks, seals, and humans is more nuanced and complex.

Of sharks, seals, and humans, a John Steinbeck quote from “Of Mice and Men” seems appropriate: “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

Metformin for type 2 diabetes patients or not?

Researchers now have the answer

Lund University

Metformin is the first-line drug that can lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients. One third of patients do not respond to metformin treatment and 5 per cent experience serious side effects, which is the reason many choose to stop medicating. 

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have now identified biomarkers that can show in advance how the patient will respond to metformin treatment via a simple blood test.

"Our study constitutes an important step towards the goal of personalised care for diabetes patients because it can contribute to ensuring that the right person receives the right care as soon as there is a diagnosis," says Charlotte Ling, professor of epigenetics at Lund University, who led the study.

The troubling launch of Sputnik

Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine Stunt Could Cast a Long Shadow

September 24, 2020 by Olga Dobrovidova

In August, the Russian government unveiled, with pomp and flair, “the world’s first registered vaccine against Covid-19.” 

Although the vaccine — known officially as Gam-COVID-Vac but marketed as Sputnik V for a global audience — has yet to demonstrate its safety and efficacy in a phase III trial, an emergency use authorization was issued to make it available for limited use in the general public. 

This month, the horse finally caught up with the cart, as the vaccine developers published, in The Lancet, the results of phase I and phase II trials gauging the vaccine’s safety and its ability to provoke an immune response.

I have to confess that, as a science journalist-turned-science communicator, I am eerily attracted to the Sputnik V vaccine. Its rollout has been so significant, layered, and in-your-face that I, like countless other commentators, simply can’t look away — even though we know that making us look is what this game is about.

I am not at all in a position to comment on the validity of research results presented in the Lancet paper, or on the recent criticism the paper received, not yet from the pages of a journal but in an open letter from more than three dozen scientists. 

However, since even the authors of the study acknowledge that “further investigation is needed of the effectiveness of this vaccine for prevention of Covid-19,” it is perhaps more fitting for now to discuss the Russian vaccine case for what it already is: a public relations exercise. By that measure, I think there are a few takeaways that are especially relevant for science journalism and science communication.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Trump's appeals to white anxiety are not 'dog whistles' – they're racism

Let's take a hard look at Trump's language

Bethany AlbertsonUniversity of Texas at Austin

President Donald Trump’s rhetoric is often referred to as “dog whistle politics.”

In politician speak, a dog whistle is language that conveys a particular meaning to a group of potential supporters. The targeted group hears the “whistle” because of its shared cultural reference, but others cannot.

In 2018, The Washington Post wrote that “perhaps no one has sent more dog whistles than President Trump.”

When Trump this year planned a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma – the site of one of the worst acts of racial terror in U.S. history – on the Black holiday of Juneteenth, the media called the rally a “racist dog whistle.” 

That suggests that white nationalists would view the timing as an overture, while others would miss the date’s racism. Journalists have also referred to Trump calling COVID-19 “the China virus” as a dog whistle.

Be safe, not sorry


VIDEO: The Choice

 To watch this video on YouTube:

Kill germs without killing yourself

Disinfection dangers: How to avoid viruses without exposing yourself to toxics

Aly Cohen and  Frederick vom Saal for the Environmental Health News

The coronavirus has changed just about every routine in our lives, cleaning and disinfecting now among them.

The rational fear of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) spread has led to an enormous growth in the creation and use of a multitude of products that we use to wipe, spray, and fog, particularly where we eat, sleep, commute, shop and study.

But in the U.S., the history of the use of toxic chemicals has often been followed years later with public health agencies realizing that potential adverse effects on health were downplayed as everyone focused on supposed benefits. 

This approach has often led to massive overuse of different classes of chemicals, which is the case now with cleaning and disinfecting chemicals. 

We are faced with a pandemic that is causing unprecedented, exponential use of cleaning and disinfection products, and we already are finding evidence this is leading to downstream health issues in humans and wildlife.

From oven cleaners, air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergent and softeners, to chemical wipes and mildew sprays, the drive to make your home, office buildings, schools and shopping areas sparkling clean and eliminate germs has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Cleaning products and disinfectants are among the most toxic products sold today.

COVID-19 study links strict social distancing to much lower chance of infection

Researchers say similar studies could predict local trends in infectious outbreaks

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Social Distancing GIF by GIPHY News

Using public transportation, visiting a place of worship, or otherwise traveling from the home is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of testing positive with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, while practicing strict social distancing is associated with a markedly lower likelihood, suggests a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For their analysis, the researchers surveyed a random sample of more than 1,000 people in the state of Maryland in late June, asking about their social distancing practices, use of public transportation, 

SARS-CoV-2 infection history, and other COVID-19-relevant behaviors. They found, for example, that those reporting frequent public transport use were more than four times as likely to report a history of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, while those who reported practicing strict outdoor social distancing were just a tenth as likely to report ever being SARS-CoV-2 positive.

The study is believed to be among the first large-scale evaluations of COVID-19-relevant behaviors that is based on individual-level survey data, as opposed to aggregated data from sources such as cellphone apps.

Covid Contracts and the Fraudsters

Knowing they are crooks, but giving them taxpayer money anyway

By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Diges

If you needed a plumber or a caterer, you would avoid a service provider who had in the past tried to bill you for work not performed or grossly overcharged for what was completed. 

The Trump Administration takes a different approach. In selecting contractors to provide the goods and services the federal government needs to deal with the pandemic, it has turned to dozens of corporations with a history of cheating Uncle Sam.

This finding emerges from a comparison of the recipients of coronavirus-related contracts to the data in Violation Tracker. The analysis focuses on a list of about 175 larger corporations and non-profits that account for nearly half of the roughly $12 billion in contracts awarded so far for laboratory services, medical equipment and much more.

Among this group, 69 contractors, or more than one-third of the total, have paid fines and settlements during the past decade for healthcare fraud and other violations relating to the federal False Claims Act or related laws. They have been involved in 189 individual cases with total penalty payments of $4.7 billion.

These are not trivial matters. Twelve of the contractors paid total penalties of more than $100 million and the average per parent company was $27 million.

The company with the largest penalty total is pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which received a $13 million contract from the Department of Health and Human Services and whose separate covid-19 vaccine effort is being touted by the Trump Administration. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Trump’s stealth attack on the environment

 Pandemic Spawns Dangerous Relaxation of Environmental Regulations

By Joel A. Mintz and Victor B. Flatt

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of worrisome and needless regulatory relaxations that have increased pollution across the United States. Recent reporting by the Associated Press and other outlets has documented more than 3,000 pandemic-based requests from polluters to state agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for waivers of environmental requirements. 

Numerous state governments, with the tacit encouragement of the EPA, went along with many of those requests. All too often, those waivers — requested, ostensibly, to protect American workers from exposure to the coronavirus — were granted with little or no review, notwithstanding the risks the resulting emissions posed to public health and the environment.

Beware of corporate lies on the pandemic

 Spotting corporate hypocrisy and fake solidarity

By Jim Hightower 

COVID-19 has been a doubly-deadly disaster for millions of Americans, destroying both life and livelihoods. But one of the most heartening responses to the crisis has come from the least-expected place: corporate executive suites.

This spring, numerous CEOs made headlines by showing some class solidarity. If we’re having to wallop our workers because of a pandemic, these bosses told media interviewers, the least we can do is cut our own salaries.

Yes — all in this together! Only… not really.

An analytical firm looked at the books of nearly all major U.S. corporations, finding that a mere fraction had made any cuts to senior executive pay. The few that did only made little nicks in the boss’s take-home, rather than real cuts.

The trick is that the “sacrifices” only applied to official salaries. They are the tiniest part of a chief executive’s compensation, which mostly is made up of bonuses, stock options, etc.

Yuge endorsement


VIDEO: Goodness

 To watch this video on YouTube:

UPDATED: Serious fire risk in Charlestown and southern New England

Don’t toss lit cigarettes out your car windows, no open burning

By Will Collette

CFD fighting the fire on Pasquiset Trail
UPDATE: since I published this article earlier this week, DEM and state officials have upgraded the threat of wild fire to extreme due to our worsening drought.

This is from DEM's statement today:

DEM is warning Rhode Islanders of extreme fire danger as the drought that has gripped the state, and now the New England region, continues following months of below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures.

With nine fewer inches of rain this year than last causing extremely dry conditions, DEM is urging residents to take precautions when using charcoal grills and matches while outdoors, disposing of cigarettes, cutting the grass with gasoline-powered mowers, and doing many other things we often take for granted.

The National Weather Service has issued an alert warning most of Southern New England to be careful while we face weather conditions that have elevated our fire risk.

We haven’t had rain in many days, long enough for Gov. Gina Raimondo to declare a drought advisory on September 17.  

Lack of rain, dry brush and plant growth, breezy weather and low humidity literally raise red flag concerns for fire fighters and first responders.

On September 20, Charlestown-Richmond Fire, aided by Cross’ Mills and Carolina-Richmond Fire Districts and DEM contained a fire to an acre of brush on Pasquiset Trail. There were no injuries or damage to buildings.

An apple a day?

Good nutrition can contribute to keeping COVID-19 and other diseases away

Grayson JaggersUniversity of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system. Stevens Fremont via Getty Images

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. 

But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Hear the word “nutrition,” and often what comes to mind are fad diets, juice “cleanses” and supplements. Americans certainly seem concerned with their weight; 45 million of us spend US$33 billion annually on weight loss products. But one in five Americans consumes nearly no vegetables – less than one serving per day.

When the emphasis is on weight loss products, and not healthy day-to-day eating, the essential role that nutrition plays in keeping us well never gets communicated. Among the many things I teach students in my nutritional biochemistry course is the clear relationship between a balanced diet and a strong, well-regulated immune system.

Along with social distancing measures and effective vaccines, a healthy immune system is our best defense against coronavirus infection. 

To keep it that way, proper nutrition is an absolute must. Although not a replacement for medicine, good nutrition can work synergistically with medicine to improve vaccine effectiveness, reduce the prevalence of chronic disease and lower the burden on the health care system.

Video: Who should get a COVID-19 vaccine first?

A life or death choice

Nicole HassounBinghamton University, State University of New York

Production limits mean that not everyone can get access to a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s developed.. GIPhotoStock via Getty Images

A committee of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is readying a report with recommendations for equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. In this Q&A, bioethicist Dr. Nicole Hassoun of Binghamton University breaks down the elements in the recently published draft report from the committee and explains the key questions around vaccine distribution.

Thursday, September 24, 2020



By Pat BagleySalt Lake Tribune


 Image may contain: text that says 'If you hired a guy to MAKE YOUR HOUSE GREAT AGAIN, and he hired his incompetent children, stole your money, gave it away to your richest neighbors, let everyone get sick, killed your grandma, backed over your mailbox, burned down your house and blamed it on your black friends next door... ...would you hire him again?'

FDA Approves First Drug to Be Used as Tool for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s

Butler Hospital picked as study site for new drug

Memory and Aging Program News

Tau PET Detects AD Dementia. AD patients (left) accumulate tau tangles throughout the brain. [Courtesy of Ossenkoppele et al., ©2018, American Medical Association. All rights reserved.]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Tauvid (flortaucipir F18) for intravenous injection as the first drug used to help image a distinctive characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain called tau pathology. 

The approval comes one month after publication of the results of the national A16 study, which showed that Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging used in combination with flortaucipir tracer was successful in confirming the presence of tau protein in the brain, helping to establish an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in patients suspected of having the disease. 

Butler Hospital was one of 27 study sites across the U.S. to participate in the study, through a partnership between its Memory and Aging Program, which facilitated the study and Rhode Island Hospital, which conducted the imaging.

Epidemics and pandemics can worsen xenophobia, bigotry

Trump and his "kung-flu" and "China virus" ethnic slurs

University of Pittsburgh

When viruses, parasites and other pathogens spread, humans and other animals tend to hunker down with immediate family and peer groups to avoid outsiders as much as possible.

But could these instincts, developed to protect us from illnesses, generalize into avoidance of healthy individuals who simply look, speak or live differently?

Jessica Stephenson, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, coauthored a paper exploring the answer, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B.

One example noted in the study showed that black garden ants exposed to a fungus clustered together in groups much smaller than researchers could predict by chance, which effectively limited the spread of disease. Similar behaviors seen among 19 non-human primate species were also credited for lowering direct spread of parasites.

Human beings share these same biological impulses to separate into modular social groups. However, when pathogens are spreading, humans tend to also adopt a set of behaviors that are "hypervigilant and particularly error prone," the researchers wrote.

Fight seizure of the Supreme Court by any means necessary

Stop Trump from stealing another Supreme Court seat

By Aaron Regunberg

By Ed Hall
We are not saying an all-out procedural fight guarantees success. But when our fundamental rights are on the line for a generation, our elected leaders have a responsibility to exhaust every option before conceding defeat.

This week, after mourning the loss of pathbreaking icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hundreds of Rhode Islanders rallied at the offices of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse with an urgent call: to fight the confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court pick by any means necessary.

Our most fundamental rights to bodily autonomy, to free and fair elections, to accessible healthcare, and to a livable planet are on the line. And while Democrats do not have a majority in the U.S. Senate, they can still fight Republican’s seizure of our courts — if they are willing to use the procedural tools at their disposal.

The Senate runs on the unanimous consent system. That means that Senate Democrats have the power to grind the chamber to a halt by systematically denying unanimous consent agreements on every motion Mitch McConnell wants to make. 

Trump debunked

6 ways mail-in ballots are protected from fraud

Charlotte HillUniversity of California, Berkeley and Jake GrumbachUniversity of Washington

Election workers are part of the protections ensuring that mail-in ballots aren’t fraudulent. Will Cioci/Wisconsin Watch via AP

Voter fraud is very rare, whether people vote in person or by mail. That much is clear from a large body of research.

One of us is a political scientist at the University of Washington, and the other is a former elections commissioner who now studies voting laws. We can explain why voter fraud is so rare – especially for mail-in ballots, which have drawn both the interest and concern of many people this year.

The goal, of course, is to make sure that ballots received by mail are legitimate – that they are cast by registered voters, not by others lying about their identity, and that each voter casts only one ballot in a single election. 

The mail-in voting process has several built-in safeguards that together make it hard for one person to vote fraudulently, and even more difficult to commit voter fraud on a scale capable of swinging election outcomes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

End conditions that KEEP people poor

Latest poverty data highlight barriers to economic security for RIers, especially communities of color

By Economic Progress Institute in UpRiseRI

People across Rhode Island continue to face dire economic hardship — particularly Rhode Islanders of color and those with low incomes — as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, making the need for bold action at the state and federal levels clearer than ever. 

That’s the picture painted by new data released from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the ongoing Household Pulse Survey.

Rhode Island’s overall poverty rate in 2019 was the 2nd highest in New England with 110,000 – more than 1 in 10 Rhode Islanders struggling to afford basic needs. However, the 2019 data do not reflect the economic hardship currently experienced by Rhode Islanders due to COVID-19.

Definitely what Churchill would do in the same situation


By Matt WuerkerPolitico

Nailed it a year ago

 Note the date

Something else to worry about

Researchers ask: how sustainable is your toothbrush?

, Media Relations Officer, Trinity College Dublin 

Although the toothbrush is a widely recommended healthcare device worldwide, there is currently little quantitative data available for its impact on the planet. 

The research study, in collaboration with Eastman Dental Institute at University College London, is published in the British Dental Journal. It represents the first time a life-cycle assessment (LCA) has been used to measure environmental consequences of a healthcare product.

Healthcare is a major emitter of environmental pollutants that adversely affect health, but awareness of these effects remains low both in the industry and in the general consumer population. 

There is currently little evidence or guidance regarding the sustainability of specific healthcare interventions, services or devices.

Researchers considered different manufacturing models of the toothbrush and measured the environmental impact (carbon footprint) and human health impact (DALYS) of the toothbrush. 

The electric toothbrush, the standard plastic brush, the plastic brush with replaceable head, and the bamboo brush were used. The team found that the electric toothbrush was comparatively harmful for planetary health.

The findings highlight the human health burden of the toothbrush manufacturing process. The electric toothbrush causes 10 hours of disability measured in Disability-Adjusted Life years or DALYS mainly for the people associated with the process of making and producing the devices.  This is five times higher than a normal plastic brush.

The team found that the most environmentally sustainable toothbrush was not bamboo, as could perhaps be popularly believed, but a hypothetical continually recycled plastic toothbrush.

Poorly Protected Postal Workers Are Catching COVID-19 by the Thousands.

 It’s One More Threat to Voting by Mail.

By Maryam Jameel and Ryan McCarthy for ProPublica

The stakes felt especially high. Her husband, a postal worker in the same facility, was at high risk because his immune system is compromised by a condition unrelated to the coronavirus. And the 20-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service knew that her job, operating a machine that sorts mail by ZIP code, would be vital to processing the flood of mail-in ballots expected this fall.

By mid-August, more than 20 workers in her building had tested positive for the coronavirus. Then, in a list of talking points on her supervisor’s desk, she spotted a reference to a new positive case at the plant. 

She had heard that someone she’d worked with closely a few days earlier was out sick, but no one at USPS had told her to quarantine, and no contact tracer had reached out to her. Although USPS’ protocol is to tell workers when they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, that didn’t happen, she and another postal worker familiar with the case said.

Asking around, she learned that a colleague she’d partnered with to load mail into the sorting machine had been infected. She phoned her doctor, who advised her to quarantine and get tested. Later that week, she tested positive and began suffering body aches, a sore throat and fatigue.

“They should’ve told anybody who worked with him, ‘You need to go home.’ What is it going to take, somebody to die in the building before they take it seriously?” said the worker, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

In recent weeks, furors over Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s cost-cutting initiatives, and over President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated warnings of voter fraud, have overshadowed a significant threat to the Postal Service’s ability to handle the expected tens of millions of mail-in ballots this fall: a rapid rise in the number of workers sidelined by COVID-19.

The total number of postal workers testing positive has more than tripled from about 3,100 cases in June to 9,600 in September, and at least 83 postal workers have died from complications of COVID-19, according to USPS. Moreover, internal USPS data shows that about 52,700 of the agency’s 630,000 employees, or more than 8%, have taken time off at some point during the pandemic because they were sick, or had to quarantine or care for family members.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Short Takes: Charlestown unemployment climbs to 13.2%

National toll passes 200,000

Reopening colleges and schools yields predictable results

By Will Collette 

Our Cretin-in-Chief said this YESTERDAY
As the nation passes the 200,000 mark for coronavirus deaths, Rhode Island is back on the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut list of states too sick for its residents to be allowed to visit without quarantine. We remain banned in Boston and the rest of Massachusetts. 

So in a nutshell, if you want to visit NY, NJ, CT or MA for more than 24 hours, you must quarantine for two weeks. You can still go to jobs, medical appointments, shop, etc. but you have to get out of town by sundown. 

We seem to be backsliding as case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 climb again as the predictable result of reopenings. We have ourselves to blame. Or Gina Raimondo for her obsession with reopening schools for in person learning. 

I get it that parents want to send their kids back to school or colleges if only to get them out of the house for a little while. I get it that people feel cooped up not being able to go to restaurants, bars, public events, the beach, etc. I get it that the hospitality industry is dying. 

What I don’t get is why people won't do the most basic and simple things – like wearing an effective face covering, washing your hands and social distancing. These simple acts are fundamental to doing these things we miss doing, with relative safety. 

About the only way Trump will get his election
day vaccine is if it comes from Putin
Governor Gina Raimondo had gotten high marks for leadership during the pandemic until she got on her high horse to demand a return to in-person learning at the state’s schools. 

And re-open they did on September 14. In the first two days alone, 19 new COVID cases were detected and Gina said “By in large we’re having a great week.” WTF??? 

Rhode Island is almost at 24,000 total cases and we have had 1,099 deaths. Charlestown has had 37 confirmed cases. 

Colleges and universities are doing far worse with clusters of new cases cropping up everywhere. The recent hard spike in RI cases has been blamed on the surge in cases at Providence College. As of Tuesday, they tallied 176 coronavirus cases. 

Though deaths and hospitalizations are less common among young people (7% of RI COVID deaths were people under 60), when they bring COVID-19 home and give it to their older family members and that's when we see more people needing hospitalization or an undertaker. 

Still, it could be worse – just look at the Dakotas, Iowa, Texas and those other red states where mask-wearing is a social/political taboo and too many people still believe Donald Trump’s bullshit. 

Included in that bullshit is his blathering about a vaccine. Yes, the chances are we will have a safe and effective vaccine, but the only way we will have one before Election Day is if it comes from Russia. Last month, Putin announced the approval of "Sputnik V" and it is being injected into Russians despite warnings from international health experts that the data supporting Sputnik's safety and effectiveness is shaky.

We remain the worst in the world by just about every metric: highest case rates, deaths, death toll and hospitalizations. And we can’t stop the virus until EVERYONE starts to consistently behave like you care about your own health and those of others. 

Charlestown unemployment climbs to 13.2% 

Screen shot from the RI Department of Labor and Training table for Charlestown

While the nationwide unemployment rate dropped a bit, Rhode Island increased to an official rate of 12.8% giving RI the second-worst rate in the country, behind Nevada. 

In addition, we had more than 13,000 “gig workers” (self-employed, contractors, part-timers, etc.) file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in a single week, making the state total 277,406. 

Since the beginning of the Pandemic Recession, Rhode Island has paid out more than $1 billion for jobless claims, most coming from federal relief dollars. But there is only a trickle of that funding left in the pipeline. 

Charlestown’s unemployment rate in August climbed to 13.2% - worse than the state average of 12.8%. This reverses several months of drops in joblessness from our all-time record of 18.9% in April. Remember: these numbers don’t include gig workers receiving special pandemic relief or those whose benefits have expired. 

I have repeatedly called upon the town of Charlestown, controlled by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, to focus on practical ways the town can act to help the one out of five Charlestown households hurt by the pandemic recession. Their answer: buy more open space at inflated prices from their cronies. 

Vote early, though not often, and by mail 

After Rhode Island defeated a challenge from the RI Republican legal team that included state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi and Charlestown special counsel for Indian Affairs Joe Larisa, every registered voter in RI will receive an application for a mail-in ballot. 

That’s an application for a ballot, not an actual ballot. You’ll have to wait for all those forged ballots to arrive from all those alien sources that are so worrying our Dear Leader into believing the 2020 election is doomed to fraud failure. 

Concern about COVID-19 is a valid excuse (check box #4). 

You should get your application any day now and should return it without delay, given the uncertainty of mail service after Trump administration monkey-wrenching. 

Even though Dear Leader has been giving voters illegal advice to vote twice – once by mail and then again in person – DON’T DO THAT. Rhode Island gives you an easy way to check not only your voter status but to track your mail-in ballot. CLICK HERE. 

Screen shot from the RI Secretary of State 
voter tracking tool showing the dates for my
mail-in ballot for the Sept. 8 primary

I used it to determine how my mail-in ballot for the state primary was handled. It showed my application for a primary ballot was received on August 7 and the ballot was sent a week later. My completed ballot was received on August 27. It was accepted and counted. 👉

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has been staying on top of this process. Her staff have created some very user-friendly tools to make the whole process easy. 

So you do NOT need to follow Trump's idiotic advice to vote twice so you can "confirm" whether your mail-in ballot was received and counted. 

Rhode Island's got that covered.

Yet another horrible blow 

Just Born Quality Confections, the makers of everyone’s favorite Peeps®, has again suspended production, saying they will not be producing their annual Halloween, Christmas or Valentine specialties at their Bethlehem, PA plant. 

They had suspended production just before Easter but started up again on a limited basis in mid-May, but now they are cutting back again. 

Said the company:

“This situation resulted in us having to make the difficult decision to forego production of our seasonal candies for Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day in order to focus on meeting the expected overwhelming demand for Peeps for next Easter season, as well as our everyday candies.”