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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A pattern?


Despite the pandemic, green energy smashed records in 2020

Costs drop, production grows along with clean tech market

By for Common Dreams

Despite the difficulties associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, the world added a record amount of new renewable energy capacity in 2020, according to data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

IRENA's annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 shows that global renewable energy capacity grew by more than 260 gigawatts (GW) last year, beating the previous record set in 2019 by nearly 50%.

Last year marked the second consecutive year in which clean energy's share of all new generating capacity increased substantially, with renewables accounting for over 80% of all new electricity capacity added in 2020.

Total fossil fuel additions, by contrast, fell by more than 6% last year—from 64 GW worth of new electricity capacity in 2019 to 60 GW in 2020.

Vaccine guilt

It can be real, but it should not stop you from getting a shot

For some, a shot has been accompanied by pangs of guilt. 
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
Over 100 million Americans have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. If you are one of them, you might feel lucky, relieved and possibly a little guilty.

Vaccine guilt – a feeling associated with getting immunized before others – is a phenomenon that has been reported in both the U.S. and overseas.

With the vaccine rollout expanding to more and more people, those who are able to work from home, can safely socially distance, or don’t have underlying medical conditions increasing their COVID-19 risks might wonder: Isn’t there someone who needs this more than I do?

As a medical ethicist and social philosopher, I believe people have good reason to feel vaccine guilt. But at the same time, they have every reason to still get vaccinated.

Vaccine guilt began nearly as soon as COVID-19 vaccinations did. The first COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for emergency use in December 2020, and eligibility was narrowly restricted to front-line health care workers, other essential workers and those whose age or medical conditions placed them at greatest risk if they contracted COVID-19. But even among this first at-risk cohort, reports emerged of vaccine recipients feeling vaccine guilt.

With the U.S. now administering millions of doses a day and President Joe Biden vowing to expand eligibility to every adult by May 1, 2021, or possibly earlier – and some states reaching this target sooner – one might think vaccine guilt is going away. But it isn’t.

Why you should expect more Suez-like supply chain disruptions and shortages at your local grocery store

Again with the toilet paper

A Target in Sheridan, Colorado, was very low on paper towels
 in November 2020. AP Photo/David Zalubowski
When the Ever Given container ship choked off traffic in the Suez Canal for almost a week in late March 2021, it made big headlines around the world.

The price of oil rose, and companies fretted as hundreds of ships carrying everything from coffee and cattle to toys and furniture were delayed. 

Experts estimated that every hour traffic remained stuck cost the global economy over US$400 million in lost trade.

Yet many people I spoke with, including students and professional colleagues, didn’t seem to have a clue about what was happening, why it mattered or how it affects them.

As a supply chain expert, I was truly surprised. If nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic should have made it abundantly clear how easily a disruption in the supply chain or a sudden increase in demand for a product can lead to empty grocery store shelves and other problems that might directly affect you.

Without a change of course, I expect this problem to only get worse.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Policies defined by racism

The Bigot Party

By Robert Reich

Republicans are outraged – outraged! – at the surge of migrants at the southern border. 

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, declares it a “crisis … created by the presidential policies of this new administration.” 

The Arizona congressman Andy Biggs claims “we go through some periods where we have these surges, but right now is probably the most dramatic that I’ve seen at the border in my lifetime.”

Donald Trump demands the Biden administration “immediately complete the wall, which can be done in a matter of weeks — they should never have stopped it. They are causing death and human tragedy.”

“Our country is being destroyed!” he adds.

In fact, there’s no surge of migrants at the border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended 28 percent more migrants from January to February this year than in previous months. But this was largely seasonal. 

Two years ago, apprehensions increased 31 percent during the same period. Three years ago, it was about 25 percent from February to March. Migrants start coming when winter ends and the weather gets a bit warmer, then stop coming in the hotter summer months when the desert is deadly.

To be sure, there is a humanitarian crisis of children detained in overcrowded border facilities. And an even worse humanitarian tragedy in the violence and political oppression in Central America, worsened by U.S. policies over the years, that’s driving migration in the first place.

But the “surge” has been fabricated by Republicans in order to stoke fear – and, not incidentally, to justify changes in laws they say are necessary to prevent non-citizens from voting.

Republicans continue to allege – without proof – that the 2020 election was rife with fraudulent ballots, many from undocumented immigrants. 

Over the past six weeks they’ve introduced 250 bills in 43 states designed to make it harder for people to vote – especially the young, the poor, Black people, and Hispanic-Americans, all of whom are likely to vote for Democrats – by eliminating mail-in ballots, reducing times for voting, decreasing the number of drop-off boxes, demanding proof of citizenship, even making it a crime to give water to people waiting in line to vote.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Rhode Island, state Trumplicans are trying to stop efforts to make easier voting measures adopted during the pandemic permanent parts of RI election law, using the same false narrative being used by the national GOP. CLICK HERE for details.

Just like they always do


By Michael de Adder

AIDS Care on-line art auction begins April 22




 We are thrilled to bring back one of our previous signature events with a twist! We are pleased to feature Rhode Island purveyors, artists and goods. As spring blooms with hope and renewal, JOIN US FOR. . .


Giving Tree Auction

Auction opens APRIL 22, 2021

through MAY 7, 2021





AIDS Care Ocean State (ACOS) has continued its vital services to all in need

throughout this pandemic, keeping clients and Rhode Islanders safe and secure. As with most non-profits, it was necessary to end all in-person events and learn to be creative with our fundraising.


 Interested in joining us to support this great cause?




401- 521-3603  





They're loud and proud in Charlestown

DEM Offers Tips on Preventing Conflicts with Coyotes

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is advising Rhode Islanders that with the beginning of spring, they are likely to see an increase in coyote sightings as adult coyotes enter the pup-rearing season and begin to search for food for their litters. DEM reminds residents to remove any potential food sources from their properties and not to feed coyotes or any wildlife.

Coyotes are keenly intelligent, extraordinarily adaptable, and willing to eat almost any available food – whether natural, including small animals, birds, insects, and fruits; scavenged roadkill; or easily obtainable human-provided sources such as garbage, pet food, birdseed, and compost. The key to minimizing interactions and conflicts with coyotes is reducing food sources available to them around our homes and neighborhoods.

Coyotes that rely on natural food sources remain wild and wary of humans. Feeding coyotes – or any wild animal – however, makes them less fearful of people and they can become casual or even bold when encountering people.

Did they say drink Beetlejuice?

No. Beetroot Juice Consumption May Help Improve Cardiovascular and Cognitive Health

Science News Staff / Source

Drinking beetroot juice, which is rich in inorganic nitrate, promotes communities of oral bacteria associated with healthier blood vessels and brain function, according to new research led by the University of Exeter.

Aging is hallmarked by reduced nitric oxide production with associated detriments to cardiovascular and cognitive function.

“We are really excited about our findings, which have important implications for healthy aging,” said Professor Anni Vanhatalo, a researcher at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter.

How worried should you be about coronavirus variants?

A virologist explains his concerns

A COVID-19 patient in an ICU unit in a hospital in Capetown, South
Africa, in December 2020. A variant emerged in South Africa that has
since spread to other parts of the world. Other new variants could
emerge elsewhere. Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images
Spring has sprung, and there is a sense of relief in the air. After one year of lockdowns and social distancing, more than 171 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. and about 19.4% of the population is fully vaccinated. But there is something else in the air: ominous SARS-CoV-2 variants.

I am a virologist and vaccinologist, which means that I spend my days studying viruses and designing and testing vaccine strategies against viral diseases. 

In the case of SARS-CoV-2, this work has taken on greater urgency. We humans are in a race to become immune against this cagey virus, whose ability to mutate and adapt seems to be a step ahead of our capacity to gain herd immunity. Because of the variants that are emerging, it could be a race to the wire.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Filippi doesn’t know how government works

Or if he does, he’s offering up a twisted point of view

By Will Collette

Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi represents Charlestown, Block Island and parts of Westerly and South Kingstown. It’s been a matter of dispute since he first emerged on the political stage whether he actually lives in any of those four towns, but that’s a subject for another day.

The Rhode Island General Assembly just passed and Governor McKee signed the landmark “Act on Climate” bill that actually requires the state to take its goals to fight the causes and impacts of climate change seriously. The four towns Flip represents are perhaps the four most vulnerable to climate-driven sea level rise, severe storms and changes to fish habitats in the state.

But for reasons he does not actually explain, Flip has been adamantly opposed to actually doing something real to prevent the threats to our economy, homes and lives from the changing climate.

When the bill passed and McKee signed it, Flip put out an extraordinary statement (above, left) conjuring up the specter of empowered “unaccountable bureaucrats” who will impose terrible costs on small businesses, municipalities and low income Rhode Islanders (as if he has ever expressed any concern about them in the past.

According to e-mails put out by the state Trumplican Party, this bill will force you to give up your home heating furnace, your car, maybe your whole house. It will make the tragic loss of incandescent light bulbs pale by comparison.

And it will be done to you by nameless, faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats. They will come in the middle of the night to seize your propane grill.

This is all total crap, of course, showing that Flip is either ignorant about how government and law works, or is just deliberately lying. You pick.

Filippi yelling about something (Steve Ahlquist)
Let’s start with this bureaucrat thing. If Blake Filippi ever does come up with a worthy idea that gets legislated into law – something that hasn’t happened in his six years in office – it would be those nameless, faceless bureaucrats that would actually carry it out.

Every public employee is accountable to a chain of command. They do not get to scheme up evil things to do to the citizens with impunity. Flip is insulting each of them by implying that they do.

Scarcely a week goes by without some public employee - civil service or political - getting excoriated in the media for doing something that causes complaint. Hardly a month goes by without someone who messed up getting fired or resigning under pressure.

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what some anonymous public employee might do. That time is better spent worrying about what arrogant or corrupt elected officials might do.

As for the changes to our lives that might come from this legislation and more generally from collective efforts to fight climate change, let’s reflect on the purpose of government.

The Preamble to the US Constitution demands that government “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

That mandate led to many changes just in my own 71 years on this planet. When I was growing up in Pawtucket, we had a backyard incinerator to burn trash. The textile mills along the Blackstone River dumped anything they wanted into said river.

We were just figuring out how to run mass vaccination programs to stop smallpox and polio and debating over whether vaccination should be mandatory. We had cars putting out black exhaust from leaded gas while riders were free from seat belts and airbags.

I got my smallpox and polio vaccinations and didn’t catch either disease but did suffer through all of the “routine” childhood diseases – measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough, etc. – things that should no long plague any child except those with anti-vaxxer parents.

That backyard incinerator is gone, as are the textile mill toxics (along with the mills themselves, though that’s another story). The Blackstone is now clean and a National Park.

Cars have changed. Appliances have changed. Just about everything mechanical or electronic has changed as science and technology advances. Homes have changed – most people think about energy savings and efficiency not because some pointy headed bureaucrat told them to, but because it’s in their self-interest.

Filippi and the Trumplicans are trying to get you worked up about your oil furnace as if the bill signing means you must “CALL YOUR HEATING OIL COMPANY TO SAY GOODBYE,” as the RI Trumplican Party March 29 e-mail heading screamed.

Frankly, I wish I could do that. Though I like our oil dealer, I have no love of oil. After Cathy and I returned to Rhode Island and set up our home in Charlestown, our oil furnace broke. Natural gas, which we had in DC, was not an option, though propane was.

I journeyed up to the Veissman heating showroom at their Warwick headquarters to try to learn more about high-efficiency heating and ultimately ended up buying their furnace. It’s a good furnace, for oil, but it’s still oil. According to the technicians during their annual check-ups, it runs at “top efficiency” for oil, which is around 88-89%.

Given the high price of oil, not to mention our interest of cutting our carbon footprint, we took advantage of the now defunct Solarize Charlestown program to get solar panels installed on our roof. It cut our electric bills by more than half and we generally get a monthly check from National Grid for the excess electricity our panels generate. On Friday, we got our monthly check for $52.87.

We used RISE to get a free energy audit that spotted further ways we could save energy and money from simple and inexpensive improvements, such as adding insulation in key areas or changing a vent.

We would add a residential-sized wind turbine if Charlestown allowed it – which it doesn’t.

My point is that like so many other changes, we may chafe at the initial investment or early inconvenience, but the odds are we will like the results or at minimum get used to them.

In every aspect of life, bureaucrats work to implement decisions our elected officials make to “promote the general welfare.” Whether we like them or not, we adjust.

I quit smoking in 1990 largely because smoking restrictions were getting on my nerves. It was the best personal health decision I ever made, not to mention a welcome change to family and friends who had endured my smoke.

We all have our opinions about the changes we have had to make to cope with the pandemic. If we had adhered to the restrictions earlier and more strictly, we might have saved half a million lives.

Finally, Flip’s display of ignorance about the Act on Climate law completely neglects to note that we do not make such serious changes without support and community effort. From Congress to the State House to Town Hall, we should expect to see support for changes to our carbon footprint come in many forms, ranging from subsidies to tax credits.

On that subject, while Charlestown is still in the budget process, why not add a property tax INCENTIVE to encourage more Charlestown property owners to invest in energy efficiency? That’s one way to help keep Quonnie from drowning.

Most of Charlestown's high priced property threatened by climate-driven sea level rise and storms

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