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Monday, April 12, 2021

Highly symbolic

By Nick Anderson


Except leave us your money


By all measures, COVID is much worse than the flu

Substantially higher burden of COVID-19 compared to flu, new research shows

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

In a paper published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, physician-researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) assessed the relative impact of COVID-19 on patients hospitalized with the viral infection in March and April 2020, versus patients hospitalized with influenza during the last five flu seasons at the medical center. 

Overall, the team demonstrated that COVID-19 cases resulted in significantly more weekly hospitalizations, more use of mechanical ventilation and higher mortality rates than influenza.

COVID-19 and influenza are both contagious respiratory viral diseases that can lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory failure in severe cases. 

However, detailed comparison of the epidemiology and clinical characteristics of COVID-19 and those of influenza are lacking.

"COVID-19 has been compared to influenza both by health care professionals and the lay public, but there's really limited detailed objective data available for comparing and contrasting the impact of these two diseases on patients and hospitals," said corresponding author Michael Donnino, MD, Critical Care and Emergency Medicine physician at BIDMC. 

"We compared patients admitted to BIDMC with COVID-19 in spring 2020 to patients admitted to BIDMC with influenza during the last five flu seasons. We found that COVID-19 causes more severe disease and is more lethal than influenza."

I’m pregnant. Here’s why I decided to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Though the official advice from health authorities remains cautious, the evidence is piling up.

Liz Essley Whyte, Reporter for the Center for Public Integrity

I was hoping my doctor would be more helpful.

I’m a journalist who’s spent the last year reporting on the U.S. government’s response to the pandemic. But one thing my job teaches me every day is how little I know. 

So as a pregnant woman, I thought it would be prudent to follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ask my doctor whether I should get a COVID-19 vaccine.

His answer: “It’s a personal choice.”

That wasn’t exactly useful advice, though I understood why he gave it. If you’re like most Americans wondering whether to get a coronavirus vaccine, the medical and scientific experts have one thing to say: “Yes!” We have gold-standard scientific evidence proving the vaccines are safe and effective. But if you’re pregnant, the official answer can be a lot more confusing. 

That’s because the initial clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccines excluded anyone pregnant or lactating, following the decades-long norm for new medical treatments. There are many reasons for this: Pregnant women are more complicated physiologically, and scientists must evaluate the health of both mother and fetus. 

The practice also relates to the history of a drug called thalidomide: Regulators writing rules for clinical trials in the 1970s could look at the recent discovery that the drug many doctors had prescribed for morning sickness caused babies to be born with missing limbs or other birth defects. 

Rhode Island 911 system is still messed up

The Emergency 911 System Where Callers Still Don’t Always Get Proper CPR Instructions

by Lynn Arditi, The Public’s Radio and ProPublica

Series: A 911 Emergency

Rhode Island’s Deadly 911 Flaws

It’s been nearly two years since Rhode Island lawmakers approved funding to train all 911 call takers to provide CPR instructions over the phone, but new data shows no improvement in people’s chances of receiving CPR in the critical minutes prior to the arrival of first responders.

Only about one in five people who went into cardiac arrest in their homes or someplace other than a hospital or health care setting in Rhode Island last year received CPR before police, fire or emergency medical providers showed up, according to data provided to The Public’s Radio by the state Department of Health. The state’s bystander CPR rate has remained between 19% and 21% since 2018.

“The needle hasn’t really moved,” said Jason Rhodes, the health department’s chief of emergency medical services.

For people who go into cardiac arrest, getting CPR during the first few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Every minute of delay in performing CPR on people in cardiac arrest decreases their chances of survival by as much as 10%, according to the American Heart Association.

Rhode Island’s bystander CPR rate is less than half the national average, according to the nonprofit Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival, which collects data on regions that encompass about 40% of the nation’s population. (Rhode Island does not participate in CARES but models its data collection on it.) Rhode Island’s survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests also remains well below the national average.

Rhode Island’s 911 system was the subject of a 2019 investigation by The Public’s Radio and ProPublica that raised questions about whether the lack of training for the state’s 911 call takers was costing lives. Among the findings: a 6-month-old baby in Warwick died in 2018 after a 911 call taker gave incorrect CPR instructions to the family.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

To make a plan for everyone, everyone should be involved

Charlestown Comp Plan process is flawed

By Frank Glista

This article originally appeared as a letter to the editor of the Westerly Sun and is reprinted here with permission from the author. Thanks, Frank.

On April 14, the Charlestown Town Council and the Charlestown Planning Commission will have its first joint public hearing regarding the rewrite of its Comprehensive Plan, which is 367 pages in length.

For those of you who may not know what a Comprehensive Plan is, here is a generic definition: “Comprehensive planning is a process that determines community goals and aspirations in terms of community development. The result is called a comprehensive plan or general plan, and both expresses and regulates public policies on transportation, utilities, land use, recreation, and housing.”

Now, the last Comprehensive Plan was in 1991, which was started in 1990 and completed in 1992, taking about 15 months to complete. An update was done in 2006 and approved by the Rhode Island Department of Administration in 2008. This five-year update expired in 2013. So, from 2013 to 2021, the Charlestown Planning Commission has been working on this new rewrite. Why has it taken so long you ask? Good question.

Let’s do a little exercise in comparison:

Issue #1: The 1991 plan allowed numerous groups of citizens to participate in the process. Each element of the plan had it own Citizens Advisory Committee which held public meetings. Seven committees were formed with 35 citizens participating in total.

There were also four public workshops, two public hearings and 10 Citizens Advisory Committee meetings for the public to provide input.

Along with meetings with the Town Council, town administrator, town staff, board and commission members and outside agencies, there was a total of 110 individuals who worked on the 1991 plan.

In comparison, for this rewrite, no public hearings have been scheduled until April 14 and no Citizen Advisory Committee has ever been formed. The result? Citizens have had difficulty participating in the process.

Issue #2: The Pipeline, which contained a survey for this rewrite, was mailed out to the entire list of Charlestown households and P.O. boxes in 2015, which consisted of 5,177 recipients.

Copies were also left in the library (50) and Town Hall (150).

As of July 13, 2015, the Planning Department received 87 responses. 78 from residents, 7 from seasonal residents and 2 from non-resident Charlestown land-owners.

Only four questions were asked, with one having a rating chart.

In comparison, the 1991 questionnaire had 16 questions, with one being an essay-type question. Another was a 15-question ranking system. In total, there were 31 questions.

Opinion: This process has not been inclusive. 78 residents responding to the 2015 Comp Plan survey is not representative of an open forum for discussion. Neither is it when the Planning Commission, which is made up of one partisan group, places the Comp Plan at the very end of their monthly meeting agenda where you would need to sit for three or four hours before being heard.

When the public is allowed to participate, the Comprehensive Plan gets completed in 15 months. When the process is not inclusive, the process takes more than 7½ years.

We now have a perfect opportunity to step back, complete the Townwide Surplus Survey, form Citizen Advisory Committees, hold public hearings and most importantly, let the residents fully participate in the process.

Danger! Danger!


How much of the country's corporate welfare gets paid


Low-cost solar-powered water filter removes lead, other contaminants

Pufferfish-inspired device relies on sunlight to produce clean drinking water

Princeton University

In a study conducted at Princeton University, researchers placed the gel in lake water where it absorbed pure water, leaving contaminants behind. The researchers then placed the gel in the sun, where solar energy heated up the gel, causing the discharge of the pure water into the container. Image credit: Xiaohui Xu

A new invention that uses sunlight to drive water purification could help solve the problem of providing clean water off the grid.

The device resembles a large sponge that soaks up water but leaves contaminants -- like lead, oil and pathogens -- behind. To collect the purified water from the sponge, one simply places it in sunlight. The researchers described the device in a paper published this week in the journal Advanced Materials.

The inspiration for the device came from the pufferfish, a species that takes in water to swell its body when threatened, and then releases water when danger passes, said the device's co-inventor Rodney Priestley, the Pomeroy and Betty Perry Smith Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Princeton's vice dean for innovation.

Important events in Charlestown this week





We have two very important town government meeting during the week of April 11:

·     On Monday, April 12, the Town Council will hold their monthly meeting,

·     On Wednesday, April 14, the Town Council and the Planning Commission will hold a joint public hearing on the proposed new Comprehensive Plan.

Town Council Meeting 

The Town Council meeting agenda can be viewed here.

The supporting documents are quite important this month but we warn you that it is over 1,000 pages before you view them here.

 There is quite a list of important agenda items on the schedule.

·     Considering the contract to expand our animal shelter, tabled last month to get a legal opinion.

·     Discussion of the proposed 2021-2022 town budget prior to the budget hearing scheduled for May 3.

·     Considering the purchase of a property for open space, valued on the tax rolls at $333,600, for $900,000. An article critical of that purchase can be read here.

·     Anything regarding beach access seems to raise emotions and there are two agenda items regarding town-owned beachfront lots, beach access, and possible parking and bike racks. The details can be read in the supporting documents starting at page 558 and 809. 

Monday's meeting will be virtual, with attendance by phone or computer. Details on joining in are available in the agenda and on the town website here. 

Public Hearing on the Comprehensive Plan 

This meeting on Wednesday, April 14, is where the new Comprehensive Plan will be discussed. The agenda can be viewed here. The town website has a page with information about the Comprehensive Plan. 

Details on joining that virtual meeting are available in the agenda and on the town website here. 

The current Comprehensive Plan expired in 2013 but the Planning Commission is pushing to get the new one approved now, while in-person meetings are not permitted and before the town-wide survey, which could give valuable input, is completed. The CCA-aligned members on the Town Council argued against a public hearing on amending the ordinance regarding the Charter Revision Commission because of the pandemic, but argue that it's okay to hold a public hearing on the more important Comprehensive Plan right now. 

Roadside Litter Pick-up Day 

April 17 will be our annual roadside pick-up day. Information can be viewed here. There are more convenient drop-off options this year. Please participate!

Thank you and stay safe, Tim Quillen

Chairperson, Charlestown Residents United




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








Charlestown Residents United

P.O. Box 412

Charlestown, RI 02813


Make preventive care a top priority

A pandemic lesson: Older adults need to go back to their doctor 

Laurie Archbald-PannoneUniversity of Virginia

Older patients should reconnect with their doctors for a wellness
visit. Roberto Silvino/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Older people have borne a higher burden of illness and death from COVID-19, with people 65 and older experiencing higher rates of hospitalization and death. That’s only part of the sad story, however. 

In many instances, older people stopped seeing their doctors, and standard clinical care for their chronic medical conditions and preventive care was postponed.

When medical clinics reopened, after initial shutdowns in the spring of 2020, many patients didn’t return. National surveys and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that nearly a third, or about 32%, of U.S. adults reported delaying routine care because of the pandemic from March to July 2020. 

In fact, a national survey from the Harvard School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR found that one in five U.S. households had trouble getting medical care when they needed it during the coronavirus outbreak. That was most often because of challenges getting an appointment, which resulted in poor health outcomes in more than half, or 57%, of the cases.

While care for medical emergencies is critical, preventive care is also important to optimize health, especially among older adults. As a geriatrician and professor of medicine, I think one of the best things the U.S. health care system could do is to make 2021 the Year of Preventive Care, particularly for older adults.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

After the insurrection, America's far-right groups get more extreme

The danger of more extremist violence from the radical right 

Matthew ValasikLouisiana State University and Shannon ReidUniversity of North Carolina – Charlotte

The U.S. Capitol on lockdown, defended by the National Guard. 
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
As the U.S. grapples with domestic extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, warnings about more violence are coming from the FBI Director Chris Wray and others. The Conversation asked Matthew Valasik, a sociologist at Louisiana State University, and Shannon E. Reid, a criminologist at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, to explain what right-wing extremist groups in the U.S. are doing. 

The scholars are co-authors of “Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White,” published in September 2020; they track the activities of far-right groups like the Proud Boys.

What are U.S. extremist groups doing since the Jan. 6 riot?

Local chapters of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Groypers and others are breaking away from their groups’ national figureheads. For instance, some local Proud Boys chapters have been explicitly cutting ties with national leader Enrique Tarrio, the group’s chairman.

Tarrio was arrested on federal weapons charges in the days before the insurrection, but he has also been revealed as a longtime FBI informant. He reportedly aided authorities in a variety of criminal cases, including those involving drug sales, gambling and human smuggling – though he has not yet been connected with cases against Proud Boys members.

When a leader of a far-right group or street gang leaves, regardless of the reason, it is common for a struggle to emerge among remaining members who seek to consolidate power. That can result in violence spilling over into the community as groups attempt to reshape themselves.

While some of the splinter Proud Boys chapters will likely maintain the Proud Boys brand, at least for the time being, others may evolve and become more radicalized. 

The Base, a neo-Nazi terror group, has recruited from among the ranks of Proud Boys. As the Proud Boys sheds affiliates, it would not be surprising for those with more enthusiasm about hateful activism to seek out more extreme groups. Less committed groups will wither away.

Look at that ass

By Pat BagleySalt Lake Tribune


Q-Anon is having a convention in Dallas. Seriously.

Star attractions include Sidney Powell, Gen. Michael Flynn and Allen West. Seriously

View their promo video below or click here for YouTube.

Invasive species costing over 1. 3 trillion over 4 decades

A very costly mistake


Japanese knotweed is one of the worst invasives around here,
though when they are young, you can cook and eat them like aspargus
An invasive exotic species is one deliberately or unwittingly introduced by humans into a new habitat, where it becomes an environmental menace. 

In addition to the loss of biodiversity and other ecological impacts resulting from its presence, an invasive species can lead to economic losses in certain sectors, including agriculture, tourism, and public health. 

Though biological invasion is the second leading cause of species extinction, decision makers and the general public are still largely unaware of the issue.

After five years of study, the international research team directed by scientists from the Écologie, Systématique et Évolution (CNRS / Paris-Saclay University / AgroParisTech) research unit have reached an estimate of the cost to human society of invasive species: at least $1.288 trillion in the period from 1970 to 2017. 

While this yields an annual average of $26.8 billion, the yearly bill actually tripled each decade. In 2017 alone, it hit $162.7 billion, or 20 times the combined budgets of the WHO and the UN Secretariat that year.

Be sure to get the right kind of bat box

Love bats? Think twice about that bat box, experts say

By Lauren Quinn 

Bats are better off in tall, four-sided bat boxes (pictured) than many other designs on the market. Photo by Michael Durham

Ever thought about buying or building a bat box to help bats? Think carefully about the design and where you put it, University of Illinois researchers say.

Here’s why: Bats and their pups can overheat and die in poorly designed or placed bat boxes, and in a warming climate, it could happen more often.

Illinois bat ecologists Joy O’Keefe and Reed Crawford recently synthesized the available data on bat boxes, also known as bat houses or artificial roosts, to raise awareness of the issue and motivate change in bat box design, marketing, and consumer education. Their recommendations are published in Conservation Science and Practice.

Widening political rift in U.S. may threaten science, medicine

Study finds conservatives less willing than liberals to participate in research

Washington University in St. Louis

The lightning speed with which scientists developed and tested the COVID-19 vaccine is a true scientific triumph -- one that would not have been possible without the more than 70,000 volunteers who participated in clinical trials of the vaccine.

Public participation is critical to the success of any medical research. Yet recruiting volunteers for trials is increasingly challenging. 

New research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests the widening ideological gap in the U.S. may contribute to these challenges.

Researchers found evidence that Americans approach opportunities to contribute to medical research with either a general aversion or an inclination to participate. This research concludes that propensity is driven, at least in part, by political ideology.

While much attention has been given to Black people's distrust in the medical system and research in particular, the current study -- published in Scientific Reports -- is the first to demonstrate the effect of political ideology on willingness to trust science and participate in medical research.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Day shocked by Flip’s answer

Filippi refuses to step up to support COVID vaccination campaign

By Will Collette

In the past few days, Charlestown’s state Representative Blake “Flip” Filippi (R-who knows?) has gone on record with just about every media outlet in the region to discuss his position on the importance of getting vaccinated so we can finally end the pandemic.

To paraphrase an old joke, the most dangerous place to be is in between Flip Filippi and a TV camera.

Anyway, in interview after interview, Flip has stated his position is that he has no position. He also refuses to say whether he has been vaccinated or plans to. As the TV news shows would tag the story, “BREAKING NEWS!”

At a time when we need to convince the vaccine-hesitant (especially Republican men of whom he is one) to get their shots for the common good, as well as their own protection, our guy Flip says get the shot if you want but he doesn’t really give a shit. 

Except I believe he does. He has been a leading campaigner AGAINST public schools administering HPV shots that actually prevent cancer. I repeat, shots to PREVENT cancer. 

Yet this hypocrite puts on a pink t-shirt to show his support for breast cancer "awareness." I guess Flip will flip his position when science comes up with a vaccine to actually prevent breast cancer - "awareness" he can support but an actual cure? No way.

I’m not surprised that Flip takes this position, given his HPV opposition not to mention his support of private armed militias, his extreme far-right views against any form of gun control and, most recently, against taking effective action to slow down climate change.
Maybe he's just scared of needles

When he first surfaced on the political scene, he appeared to have no fixed convictions on anything, other than his own self-promotion. 

As he has become the de facto head of the RI Trumplican Party, he is now all over every issue, taking the most extreme hard-right position he can.

It was interesting to read a column a few days ago in the New London Day. Though the Day is not a paper of record here, it is for our eastern Connecticut neighbors. They cover lots of story of interest to us, such as the troubled Millstone Nuclear Power plant just 20 miles away.

One of their senior writers, David Collins undertook a survey of local legislators. He reported that regardless of party, eastern Connecticut political leaders strongly supported the vaccination program for everyone.

Nearly all answered affirmatively when Collins asked if they either had been or will be vaccinated. But then he got Flip’s response and Collins wrote this: 

Most shocking to me was the response in Rhode Island by Rep. Blake Filippi of Block Island, whose district also covers Charlestown and parts of South Kingstown and Westerly, telling the newspaper it was none of anyone's business.

"Respectfully, I won't respond to any query that seeks details on such personal and private medical decisions," he told the newspaper.

If Filippi is so adamant about the secrecy of his health, especially as it pertains to public health, he ought to give up elected office and live as privately as he likes.

If the lawmaker got a shot and won't admit it because of some perceived political bias against vaccination among his constituents, then shame on him.

If he didn't get a shot because of some medical complication, he could say that and surely no one would press him for details.

Filippi is the House minority leader, and failing to address the issue of vaccinations and how they can help us all is a decided failure of leadership.

I know people on Block Island who have had to devote a day to getting a shot, going off island by ferry and then traveling on the mainland to a place where they could get an appointment.

It's too bad that Block Islanders didn't enjoy the kind of accommodation residents of Fishers Island got. New York state leaders, recognizing the challenge of getting off Fishers Island and the risks of a pandemic where there isn't full emergency care, vaccinated every resident of the island on the island.

But then it seems clear Block Island's representative wasn't going to help them get better access to vaccines.

I especially agree with this Collins’ observation: “If Filippi is so adamant about the secrecy of his health, especially as it pertains to public health, he ought to give up elected office and live as privately as he likes.”

Let’s remember that in 2022.