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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Climate scientist Kim Cobb to lead Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

New climate expert comes to Rhode Island

Brown University

 (AP Photo/John Amis)
Kim Cobb, an award-winning climate scientist whose research focuses on building capacity for climate solutions, has been appointed director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, effective Friday, July 1.

As director, Cobb — currently a professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Tech — will work closely with IBES faculty to advance the institute’s commitment to studying the interactions between natural, human and social systems, and preparing future leaders to envision and build a just and sustainable world.

Brown Provost Richard M. Locke shared news of Cobb’s appointment in a letter to the University community.

Hot medical news

Researchers Look into Health Benefits of Active Component of Chili Peppers

By Science News Staff / Source

You’re at an Indian, Mexican or Thai restaurant. You bite into a reddish substance. Immediately, your tongue tingles, you feel a rush of heat, you break out in a sweat. You’ve just met capsaicin!

Capsaicin is the chemical compound found in the internal membranes of chilli peppers that produces the burning sensation in the mouth when ingested.

The heat varies depending on the variety of pepper and is measured on the Scoville scale.

Applied to the skin as a topical cream, capsaicin can relieve some arthritis pain or the pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia, the most common complication of shingles.

At first application, the cream often causes a burning sensation, local redness and inflammation.

So are we suffering additional pain to relieve the initial pain?

“It may seem paradoxical, but yes, we’re fighting fire with fire,” said Professor Réjean Couture, a researcher in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Montreal.

“Capsaicin activates a nociceptor (pain receptor) located at the end of the sensory neurons in the skin (C-fibers).”

“When this nociceptor is stimulated by too much capsaicin through repeated topical application, the C-fiber is eventually depleted of the neurotransmitters that send pain signals to the brain.”

“In short, we hypersensitize the system and then desensitize it to temporarily alleviate the pain caused by the shingles virus or other types of neurogenic inflammation involving C-fibers.”

Though it is possible to relieve pain by applying capsaicin cream to your skin, the most common way to make contact with capsaicin is of course eating it.

“When ingested, it has potential antioxidant, anticarcinogenic and anti-obesogenic benefits,” said Professor Valérie Marcil, a researcher in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Montreal.

“First of all, capsaicin may affect the life cycle of cancer cells by promoting apoptosis, the programmed death of cells.”

“This is a mechanism that often does not work normally in cancer cells. They survive and multiply, when they should have been destroyed by apoptosis.”

“But there is evidence that capsaicin can help destroy some cancer cells. Also, the capsaicin molecule is believed to have anti-obesogenic properties, as it increases energy expenditure and the feeling of satiation.”

“But capsaicin is not a panacea. And while its benefits have been demonstrated in in vitro studies, its effectiveness in humans has not been proven.”

“This is the case with all nutrients,” she said.

“In real life, you don’t eat nutrients, you eat food. And a food isn’t a drug. We have to be careful in talking about the powers of food, since the actual effects are often the result of a combination of factors.”

In 2021, a team of researchers from the Institute of Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Charité, and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin provided evidence that capsaicin is a promising complementary option for treating antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

While it is not potent enough to replace antibiotics, it can reduce the quantity of antibiotics needed to treat bacterial infections and decrease the risk of developing resistance.

“This is an avenue worth exploring,” said Professor Yves Brun, a microbiologist in the Department of Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Montreal.

“Approaches that combine two molecules have a number of advantages, since they can have a synergistic effect.”

“Capsaicin is well absorbed by the body and does not appear to be toxic, at least at the ingested dose. However, we don’t know its mechanism of action, so that’s where further research should start.”

“The underlying molecular mechanisms must be better understood and the translation of in vitro results into in vivo models will need to be validated in future clinical trials.”

“But whether the effects are antioxidant, anti-obesogenic, antibiotic or just delightfully hot, there’s no reason to forego hot sauce!”


Samuel Füchtbauer et al. 2021. Antibacterial properties of capsaicin and its derivatives and their potential to fight antibiotic resistance – A literature survey. European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology 11 (1); doi: 10.1556/1886.2021.00003

Why Tucker Carlson worries about his manhood. Maybe it's the bowtie.

Tucker Carlson pulls from an old playbook as he stokes anxiety about a masculinity crisis

Conor HeffernanUniversity of Texas at Austin

Bodybuilder Charles Atlas sought to turn Americans from
 ‘Chump to Champ.’ Lee Lockwood/Getty Images
Promotions for “The End of Men,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s forthcoming documentary, lament “The total collapse of testosterone levels in American men.”

Carlson’s central premise is that modern society has devitalized American men. Strength, drive and aggression are no longer in vogue, and Americans, as a result, are become weaker. This, the film implies, has ramifications for the country itself.

The purported remedies – which include tanning one’s testicles – have been easy fodder for critics. But as a historian of physical culture, I see Carlson’s claims as part of a rich heritage of skeptics shouting from the rooftops that American men are becoming devitalized, lazy and effeminate.

Over the past century, these hustlers and politicians have claimed that society is making men weaker. They’ve explained that physical weakness is indicative of moral rot and weakness of character. They have cited recent social problems as evidence. And their rallying cries often have stoked anxieties about some stronger, foreign enemy.

Building ‘he-men’ after the Great Depression

Here's our home-growth example of toxic manhood, Blake
"Flip" Filippi
In the 1930s, fitness guru Charles Atlas – whose real name was Angelo Siciliano – embarked on one of the most successful fitness campaigns of all time.

He released a cartoon advertisement titled “The Insult that Made a Man Out of Mac” that told the story of a “97-pound weakling” who is embarrassed at the beach by muscular bullies. Shamed, the boy goes home, builds muscle using Atlas’ workout course, and returns to defeat the bully.

The text accompanying these ads was equally inspirational. Atlas promised to build “he-men,” to make “weaklings into men” and to turn Americans from “Chump to Champ.” The ads appeared in comic books, pop culture magazines and fitness journals. For millions of young Americans, “Mac” was a part of their comic book reading experience.

Older Americans were also susceptible to this messaging.

When interviewed by the New York Post in 1942, Atlas’ business partner, Charles Roman, noted that the Great Depression had been a boon for business, since working-age men tended to link unemployment to a lack of physical prowess.

In this regard, Atlas and Roman were not alone.

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Democrats' Secret Sauce for Winning the Midterms

It could counter Biden's rock-bottom ratings. 


The beginning of May before midterm elections marks the start of primary season and six months of fall campaigning. The conventional view this year is Democrats will be clobbered in November. Why? Because midterms are usually referendums on a president's performance, and Biden's approval ratings are in the cellar.

But the conventional view could be wrong because it doesn't account for the Democrats' secret sauce, which gives them a fighting chance of keeping one or both chambers: Trump Sauce.

According to recent polls, Trump's popularity continues to sink. He is liked by only 38 percent of Americans and disliked by 46 percent. (12 percent are neutral.) And this isn't your normal "sort of like, sort of dislike" polling. 

So this mess is unnecessary?


It's settled all right

For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE.


Don't feed the bears

DEM Reminds Residents to Remove Backyard Food Sources that Attract Black Bears

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is reminding Rhode Islanders to remove potential food sources from their properties as black bears emerge with warmer weather. 

Bird feeders, unsecured trash cans, livestock feed, and other easily available household and backyard food sources attract bears primarily in early spring, during droughts, or in the fall when they are trying to put on weight for hibernation. 

Thus far in 2022, eight confirmed black bear sightings have been reported to DEM. These include one sighting each in Exeter, North Smithfield, and Richmond, two in West Warwick, and three in South Kingstown from Jan. 11 to May 1.

Black bears are generally shy and unaggressive and will avoid interactions with humans. Until their natural food sources become more available in the spring, however, black bears may be destructive when scavenging from trash cans and visiting bird feeders, beehives, chicken coops, rabbit hutches, and compost piles in search of food. 

Bears can easily become dependent on readily available backyard food sources and quickly become a nuisance. Black bears have an excellent sense of smell, will investigate odors they identify as an easy meal, and will regularly frequent a site once a food source is identified.

Five Foods That Are Better for You When Cooked

Some more surprises


Some people choose to follow a raw food vegan diet. They do this because they believe eating food in its natural state has several health benefits. For example, vegan raw food diet fans say it is easier to lose excess weight, and that they have extra energy. 

However, not every vegan-friendly food is better for you in its raw state. Here are five vegan foods that are healthier when you cook them:



Do you love fresh raw tomatoes in your salad bowls? If so, you are not alone. Many people love raw tomatoes. Of course, raw tomatoes are great for your health. They contain vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous. 

Yet tomatoes are even better for you when you cook them. Cooking a tomato increases its antioxidant properties. Once cooked, a tomato has higher levels of a phytochemical called lycopene. Lycopene makes tomatoes red and improves the health of your heart. It can also lower your risk for certain types of cancer.

Are you wondering about the most delicious way to cook tomatoes? If you are, then consider roasting vine tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme, black pepper, and olive oil. 

Commission studying CRMC reorganization issues report

Structural reforms, more funding and new priorities recommended

The special House commission studying the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) has issued a report of its work, recommending short-term changes that include swiftly filling council and staff vacancies with qualified individuals, and longer-term structural changes.

“I’m very proud of the members of my commission for their thoughtful and constructive deliberations on how the CRMC has changed over the decades and how we can make it better to serve Rhode Island today and in the future. As we contend with climate change in our state’s coastal areas, we must protect and preserve our precious natural resources. 

"The recommendations ensure that decisions made by CRMC are in sync with our state and local efforts concerning development and conservation,” said Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), chairwoman of the study commission. 

“This is not the end of the conversation; it is only the beginning. The study commission has elevated the conversation about the CRMC to a new height, setting the groundwork for short-term and long-term legislative changes for this year and many years to come."   

The report, issued by the commission yesterday, noted that CRMC was founded in 1971 “under the principle that preservation and restoration of ecological systems shall be the primary guide upon which environmental alteration of coastal resources will be measured, judged, and regulated. 

Now, fifty years later, the founding principles still hold true, but the scope of work at the Council has increased dramatically. Rhode Island is the home of the nation’s first offshore wind farm and there are proposals for multiple large-scale projects off of our state’s shores. 

Aquaculture is a growing industry and it is creating some use conflicts within the state’s waters. Also, the Council must now plan for climate change and its impact on Rhode Island’s shores.”

Sunday, May 15, 2022

CCA throws an open space temper tantrum

Torrent of lies and personal attacks follow Platner not getting her way

By Will Collette

Let’s start with a riddle: Why would the town of Charlestown spend $800,000 (or more) in town and state taxpayers’ open space funding to buy a piece of property that is ALREADY classified as open space?

Do you have an answer yet? No? Well here it is.

It’s because Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) leader and town Planning Commissar Ruth Platner wants it. We’re talking about roughly 100 acres of land at Saw Mill Pond currently owned by Carl E. Richard. The land is assessed at $312,800 because it is already classified as open space and qualifies for special tax treatment under the Farm, Forest and Open Space program.

This property has been getting the open space tax break since at least 2010, paying annual property taxes of between $2,500 and $4,000 on the 100 acres. There are NO past, present or future development plans extant for this property.

So, back to the riddle. Why does Ruth Platner want Charlestown to buy this land? She’s made the usual arguments for the ecological wonders of the land – I don’t dispute those - but still, it’s ALREADY open space and has been for many years. Why spend ±$800,000 to remove 100 acres and an average of $3,000 in property taxes off the tax rolls?

It must be that Platner doesn’t consider land to be open space unless it’s owned by town or by one of her favored organizations, like the Charlestown Land Trust.

The CCA majority voted last October to seek DEM funding to buy this land even though they insisted the vote take place WITHOUT publicly disclosing where it is, who owns it and what it costs.

It took until March for us to find that out – CLICK HERE to read the details – after DEM announced it was awarding a grant of $400,000 for up to 50% of the cost. The town could spend more than 50% as it recently did on the Tucker Estate property. It all depends on how much the appraisal can be maniputlated.

Anyway, Platner’s peculiar desire to remove yet another property from the tax rolls was dealt a setback at the May 9 Town Council meeting. The Council was supposed to approve $4,750 for a DEM-mandated appraisal of the land that can justify spending ±$800,000 ($400,000 from DEM and ±$400,000 from the town) on property currently assessed at $312,800.

Platner’s past shady deals – SPA-Gate, Tucker Estates, Y-Gate, etc. – often featured appraisals based on imaginary circumstances such as the construction of an implausible number of housing units. No doubt, that’s the plan for the Richard’s land.

But surprise! Platner lost her usual unbeatable 3-2 CCA Council majority when, out of the blue, CCA Councilor and ex-Eagle Scout Cody Clarkin recused himself for ethical reasons. That meant Platner was stymied from getting her usual bogus appraisal because Council President Deb Carney and Councilor Grace Klinger would not go along thus creating a 2-2 deadlock.

Neither Carney nor Klinger bear the CCA stamp of approval. Both of them insisted that Charlestown needs to get a grip on its current open space holdings which are getting increasingly difficult to manage and maintain. 

Carney also questioned how much land has been taken off the tax rolls and introduced a map drawn up by town GIS Specialist Steve McCandless at the direction of Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz that shows how much land in Charlestown is taxed and how much is not. Here's what Stankiewicz gave her:

Platner and the CCA launched personal attacks against Carney and Klinger claiming the map was evidence of Carney’s perfidy. Hey, Ruth and your Greek chorus of acolytes – it’s a TOWN map. Deb asked Stankiewicz for a map showing taxed versus untaxed land, Stankiewicz told McCandless to do it and then Stankiewicz sent the map back to Carney, apparently without checking with Platner.

If Platner et al. have a complaint about the map, take it up with your boy Stankiewicz. And check out the map below which appears in Platner's Charlestown Comprehensive Plan. Look at how closely it matches up with the tax map above.

CCA Senior Town Councilor Bonnie Van Slyke weighed in by flashing a secret memo – a critique of the map – written by Platner's flunky Town Planner Jane Weidman to Stankiewicz and McCandless. It was cc’d to Platner and inexplicably given only to Van Slyke and not the other Council members.

Carney insisted that this memo be made public, especially since it was being discussed in open debate. Under Charlestown’s overly literal interpretation of the state open records law, the memo is not a public record because it was "sent" (cc'd) to an “elected official” (Platner).

Since Charlestown no longer honors open records requests from me, I suggest that you send a request for a copy of this memo to Town Clerk Amy Weinreich. You can use the town’s official form although state law allows you to do it with a simple e-mail to Amy. Ask for the May 9 memo on the non-taxable map.

Van Slyke and Platner advanced their dubious theory that buying private property for open space expands the tax base while developing private land diminishes the tax base and adds costs to the town. By that logic, Charlestown should outlaw private property, except I suppose, land owned by CCA supporters.

But it’s a silly “straw man” argument because what Carney and Klinger were proposing and Van Slyke and Platner were attacking is Charlestown taking a balanced and measured approach to open space acquisition and management, neither a ban and nor a continued buying orgy.

Here’s a list of what the town has already bought since the 2015 passage – by 11 votes – of a $2 million open space bond:

But Platner and Van Slyke insisted that the problem isn’t that Charlestown can’t manage all the open space it already owns but rather the failure of the Conservation Commission (and by extension, its long-time leader Councilor Grace Klinger) to secure DEM grants for trail management.

Platner pulled some historic “evidence” from her posterior claiming the Conservation Commission has always been responsible for finding funds for trails and they dropped the ball.

There is nothing in the Conservation Commission’s mission statement on the Town website that says they research and write grants. There is nothing remotely like that in the Town Charter description of their responsibilities. Noteworthy is that the Conservation Commission doesn’t have any staff.

By contrast, Platner has access to just about all the town staff, especially those in the Planning office, Building and Zoning, and GIS, plus she has Stankiewicz at her beck and call. It’s the Planning Commission that usually initiates DEM grant proposals.

In most small municipalities, it’s the responsibility of the Town Administrator (or manager) to watch for and pursue funding opportunities for the town. RFPs (Requests for proposals) come in all the time. With overall responsibility for all town departments, Stankiewicz is in the best position to direct the search for outside funding, not the unstaffed, all-volunteer Conservation Commission.

But under the CCA, it’s been the common practice to reduce Stankiewicz’s work load so he has more time to devote to advancing the CCA’s agenda through cover-ups and secrecy.

For now, Platner’s endeavor to buy the Richard’s land is in limbo unless they can convince Cody Clarkin to withdraw his recusal. However, the land remains unchanged under private ownership as a tax-advantaged open space property. 

Platner is painting this as an urgent matter, writing “The $400,000.00 DEM grant will be lost if the acquisition is not completed in the next year.” Frances Topping argues that “land once developed is lost forever from conservation protection.”

Maybe so, but so what? We don’t NEED to spend open space tax dollars to buy privately owned open space. There are no plans afoot to develop the property. And we have an election in November where we’ll see whether the CCA can add to or maybe lose some of its Council majority. Do I smell Platner panic?


During the arguing over the Richard’s property, Platner claimed the 2015 Open Space Bond's thin margin of support (11 votes) was due to a concerted campaign against it.

Council President Carney said there was no such campaign, though there was indeed a broad effort to block the CCA majority from giving away the Moraine Preserve to the Charlestown Land Trust. We had purchased that land for $2.1 million to block the Whalerock windfarm proposal and to benefit the CCA client group, the Sachem Passage Association. 

The Open Space bond was a separate, free-standing item.

Nu-uh, said Ruth. She said she remembered receiving a flyer in the mail attacking the open space bond and was pretty sure it came from the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee.

Well, that’s a lie and here’s the proof. This is a screenshot of the front and back of the card Charlestown Democrats sent to voters who responded by voting by large margins to reject the Whalerock giveaway and approve the $1 million recreation bond. Read it and you’ll see no mention of the Open Space Bond.

There was only one public dissent to the Open Space bond, and that was from me. In a Progressive Charlestown article on May 31, 2015, the day before the election, I wrote this:

Read the article for more discussion of this point. Then I added this closing to the section on why I personally was going to vote NO:

I stand by what I wrote in 2015 and believe Charlestown's record over the past seven years bears me out. 

Also, I seriously doubt that my remarks on the night before the election had anything to do with the Open Space bond's near defeat. I'm good at this stuff, but I'm not that good. 

There were also two additional misstatements made at the May 9 Council meeting that need correction since they pertain to our Town Budget – many, maybe all, of you – have received your mail-in ballot and can send it in at any time.

Both wrong statements were made by Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz. He reported to the Council that the Budget locks in the current tax rate (the tax per $1000 of assessment) at $8.22. That statement is wrong on two counts. 

First, the current rate is $8.18 not $8.22. Second, the final rate will be calculated by Tax Assessor Ken Swain based on the final calculations of key factors that make up the rate. This will happen before the bills are finalized, printed and mailed in early July. 

The second false statement by Stankiewicz is that Charlestown’s share of Chariho School system costs will be cut by $134,686 due to voter rejection of the second and final Chariho budget proposal. Council President Deb Carney later gave the correct figure, which is actually a reduction of $265,000 or nearly double what Stankiewicz claimed. Stankiewicz challenged Carney on this figure and she asserted this was the latest number. She confirmed that the following day.

Stankiewicz should know these numbers. It’s his job and he is well paid to do it correctly. Including the flap over the map he gave to Carney, that’s three unforced errors on important matters by Stankiewicz in just one segment of one Council meeting. This is the kind of sloppy management that contributed to the $3 million "oopsie" controversary that started last January.

Pro-life in action


What's next on the agenda after Roe?




Bans Off Our Bodies

Rhode Island rallies and marches for abortion rights

By Uprise RI

Rhode Island joined with hundreds of other cities and towns on Saturday as part of a nationwide “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally against the United States Supreme Court which seems poised to reverse Roe v. Wade per a leaked draft opinion

Hundreds of people gathered at the Rhode Island Supreme Court on South Main Street, holding signs and chanting.

Of special interest in Rhode Island is the passage of the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) (S2549 / H7442), which would allow the state Medicaid program to cover abortion and allow coverage for abortion in state employee health plans. 

Right now, leaders in the Rhode Island General Assembly have no interest in passing this bill, despite wide spread support from rank and file legislators.

“We’re mad as hell at a system that strips away our reproductive rights and further criminalizes pregnancy outcomes which is a direct result of white supremacy,” said Gretchen Raffa, Vice President, Public Policy, Advocacy and Organizing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, who organized the event. 

“We are made as hell at a system that bans abortion, yet doesn’t give people the resources they need to have healthy pregnancies and births…”

“Those of us who have worked in the abortion advocacy space were not surprised when that opinion was leaked but we’re still reeling and feel punch in the gut seeing our fears written out in that archaic language,” said Dr. Anna, an OB-GYN and proud abortion provider.

“I’m here to say that they can try to make this illegal if they want to, but we’re still going to do what we have to do to make sure that we can live the lives that we want and make sure that our communities are then care of,” said Kamika Ross, representing the Women’s Health and Education Fund (WHEF). “And that when we do decide to have kids, that we can raise them in an environment where we don’t have to be scared of them going out.”

“The ability to seek healthcare should not be predicated on who you are, where your benefits come from or how much money you make,” said Harshita Ganesh, a law student and board member with The Womxn Project. 

“We should be doing more to make sure that when somebody faces an unintended pregnancy that they are always the one that gets to decide whether they choose adoption, abortion, become a parent, or add to their family and that they should have access to safe, affordable medical care.”

Tammy Brown and Emma Gauthier, also Womxn Project board members, told the crowd that they can help pass the EACA by being at the Rhode Island State House of Thursday, May 19 at 4pm to attend the House Finance Committee hearing that will take public comment on the bill.

Democratic candidate for Governor Nellie Gorbea
“I need each and every on of you to call the Governor, call the Senate President and call the House Speaker and tell them that this legislation is not optional! That sticking up for our rights and our bodies and our decisions is not optional!”

“We have 36 sponsors in the House. We have 21 sponsors in the Senate, a clear majority,” said Senator Bridget Valverde (District 35, North Kingstown, Narragansett), speaking about the EACA. “but just like in 2019, with the Reproductive Privacy Act, we face opposition from legislators who don’t want to take a vote on this bill. So just like in 2019, we need to shake the State House. We need you to show up in person, and make noise…”

“Today the people who are on Medicaid and the people who have state health insurance plans cannot use their insurance coverage to access abortion care,” said Representative Liana Cassar (Democrat, District 66, Barrington, East Providence). 

“We all know that when we don’t have insurance coverage for any healthcare issue, we put that care off or we don’t get it at all. When it comes to abortion care, that makes the care more dangerous and it makes that care more expensive…”

“I’m sorry that we have to be here right now. I’m sorry we have to be here asking for the right to make our own choices. I’m sorry that there are people in power who could afford an abortion,” said C.J. Miller with the Rhode Island Queer PAC. “I’m sorry there are people in power who are not compassionate, who don’t give a damn about any single one of you today, including myself, a former foster youth!”

After C.J. spoke, he and Senator Tiara Mack (Democrat, District 6, Providence) led the crowd on a march from the Rhode Island Supreme Court to the Rhode Island State House.

The rally ended with a series of chants outside the Rhode Island State House. 

Those interested in working for the passage of the EACA are encouraged to find out more from The Womxn Project here and attend the House Finance Committee hearing on Thursday, May 19 at 4pm at the State House.

What Is the Difference Between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?

You may benefit from testing to find out 


A scratch test is one of the best ways to find out what triggers an allergic reaction.
It's pretty painless
Many people confuse food allergies and food intolerances, but they’re two different things.

Understanding the difference is important if you experience allergy-like symptoms after eating certain foods.

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy occurs when your immune system overreacts to certain proteins in foods. When you consume foods you’re allergic to, it triggers immune cells in your bloodstream to release chemicals, such as histamine, that cause allergy symptoms such as:

  • Hives
  • Skin rash
  • Itching of the lips, mouth, tongue, throat, and face
  • Redness or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, throat, and face
  • Swelling of the skin around the eyes

With a food allergy, your immune system mistakes proteins in certain foods as harmful, triggering an immune response. Food allergies can be mild or life-threatening. The most serious is called an anaphylactic reaction which causes symptoms such as:

  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain
  • Trouble breathing or chest tightness
  • Feeling as though your throat is closing
  • Swelling of the mouth, lips, or tongue
  • Skin redness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Complete loss of consciousness

One distinguishing feature of food allergies is that the symptoms start almost immediately, or within minutes, of eating a food you’re allergic to. 

Shellfish, eggs, peanuts, soy foods, wheat, sesame, tree nuts, fish, and milk are some of the common foods many people are allergic to.

A corpse in a barrel in a drying reservoir

The climate crisis also threathens lobsters, wine, maple syrup and a myriad of other pleasures of life

Peter Dykstra for the Environmental Health News for Environmental Health News

This is actually a Halloween prop
A grim story about human remains found in a barrel exposed by the receding shoreline of Nevada's Lake Mead caught my eye this past week.

For me, it had all the elements: I grew up in a North Jersey town known for housing a few Mafia celebs, like Willie Moretti, the real-life inspiration for The Godfather’s legbreaker, Luca Brasi.

A few miles away were the heavily-polluted Meadowlands, a once-gorgeous wetland that had become, among other things, the alleged final resting place of countless Mafia debtors, rivals, and no-account Goodfellas.

So when drought-parched Lake Mead gave up the skeletal remains of a potential Western wiseguy, I was fascinated.

Lake Mead drought

Lake Mead is in desperate shape. Along with Lake Powell, upstream on the Colorado River, Mead is the key to prosperity for the booming cities, suburbs and farms of the desert Southwest – Arizona, Southern California, and, of course, Las Vegas. In addition to the unfortunate guy in the barrel, decades of overuse capped off by several years of brutal, climate-driven drought has exposed an intake pipe for Southern Nevada’s 2.2 million people.

They’re running out of water. Putting megacities like Phoenix and Vegas in a desert was never a good idea. They were always destined to run out of water, some day. But the rampant growth and a years-long, killer drought have made the crisis immediate.

And with the corpse-in-a-barrel story, we have one more link between climate and popular culture: The Sopranos meets fossil fuels.

It hardly made a wave, thereby joining the long rap sheet for climate change’s impact on our culture. Mostly, it’s things we’re losing.

Lobsters, fluke and whales

Offshore, New England lobsters could meet the same fate. Warming waters are chasing much of the food chain northward. Connecticut and Long Island lobstermen are struggling with a dwindling catch; within decades, Maine lobsters may only exist on the state’s license plates.

Summer flounder, or fluke, are a popular target for both sport and commercial fishermen. North Carolina commercial boats hold most of the permits for fluke in the $22 million industry, but they have to motor north to New Jersey to find the fish.

Northern right whales winter and calve off the Georgia and Florida coasts. They feed in summer in the Gulf of Maine. For now. The 300 or so remaining whales are what’s left after centuries of whaling. Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear risk taking more But three recent studies indicate that climate change may be a final blow. The zooplankton that are right whales’ primary food source are increasingly scarce in the whales’ northern range.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

How a Supreme Court decision limiting access to abortion could harm the economy and women’s well-being

Wrong on so many levels

Michele GilmanUniversity of Baltimore

The Supreme Court appears on the cusp of ending Roe v. Wade. 
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
A leaked draft suggests the Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that gave women the right to terminate a pregnancy.

But reproductive health isn’t just about abortion, despite all the attention the procedure gets. It’s also about access to family planning services, contraception, sex education and much else – all of which have also come under threat in recent years.

Such access lets women control the timing and size of their families so they have children when they are financially secure and emotionally ready and can finish their education and advance in the workplace. After all, having children is expensive, typically costing almost US$15,000 a year for a middle-class family. For low-income working families, child care costs alone can eat up over a third of earnings.

And that’s why providing Americans with a full range of reproductive health options is good for the economy, at the same time as being essential to the financial security of women and their families. As a law professor who represents people experiencing poverty, I believe doing the opposite threatens not only the physical health of women but their economic well-being too.

The law does not equal justice


Yeah, that's different


Global Bird Populations Steadily Declining

Study conclusion mirrors shocking losses previously shown in North America

Cornell University

High or medium-impact threats affecting five globally threatened bird species and the underlying drivers of these threats. Data from BirdLife International. Graphic courtesy Lees et. al. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, May 2022.

Staggering declines in bird populations are taking place around the world. So concludes a study from scientists at multiple institutions, published today in the journal Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Loss and degradation of natural habitats and direct overexploitation of many species are cited as the key threats to avian biodiversity. Climate change is identified as an emerging driver of bird population declines.
"We are now witnessing the first signs of a new wave of extinctions of continentally distributed bird species," says lead author Alexander Lees, senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom and also a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 

"Avian diversity peaks globally in the tropics and it is there that we also find the highest number of threatened species."

The study says approximately 48% of existing bird species worldwide are known or suspected to be undergoing population declines. 

Populations are stable for 39% of species. Only 6% are showing increasing population trends, and the status of 7% is still unknown. The study authors reviewed changes in avian biodiversity using data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s "Red List" to reveal population changes among the world's 11,000 bird species. 

Seriously, you can learn construction at Brown

Learning In partnership with Providence’s Building Futures, Brown jump-starts careers in construction

Brown University

Not long ago, Christian Domenech had a job, but he didn’t have a career: “I was a non-union carpenter working for a privately owned business,” the Providence resident said. “But what I really wanted was to join a union.”

Domenech was one of the 87% of American construction workers who didn’t belong to a union, according to federal data. Like many non-union workers, he didn’t have a steady stream of guaranteed work, nor did he have comprehensive benefits.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic halted construction projects across Rhode Island, some permanently, Domenech decided to make a change. He joined the construction pre-apprenticeship program at Building Futures, a Providence nonprofit that allows Rhode Islanders from all backgrounds to learn the fundamentals of a wide variety of construction trades without paying tuition or incurring debt. 

After five weeks of classroom and hands-on instruction, Domenech went to work as an apprentice carpenter for Sweeney Drywall. A year later, he completed his apprenticeship, joined the local carpenters’ union and began to enjoy competitive pay and benefits.

Domenech’s workplace since 2020? The site of Brown University’s future Performing Arts Center, slated to open in 2023.

While it’s no secret that new construction at Brown produces state-of-the-art facilities for students, faculty, staff and visitors, it also plays a role in jumpstarting construction careers for Rhode Islanders. 

Alito opinion drew on words of 17th century misogynist witch-hunter

Draft Overturning Roe v. Wade Quotes Infamous Witch Trial Judge With Long-Discredited Ideas on Rape

by Ken Armstrong for ProPublica

Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676).
When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, in a draft opinion obtained and published this week by Politico, detailed his justifications for overturning Roe v. Wade, he invoked a surprising name given the case’s subject. In writing about abortion, a matter inextricably tied to a woman’s control over her body, Alito chose to quote from Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century English jurist whose writings and reasonings have caused enduring damage to women for hundreds of years.

The so-called marital rape exemption — the legal notion that a married woman cannot be raped by her husband — traces to Hale. So does a long-used instruction to jurors to be skeptical of reports of rape. So, in a way, do the infamous Salem witch trials, in which women (and some men) were hanged on or near Gallows Hill.

Hale’s influence in the United States has been on the wane since the 1970s, with one state after another abandoning his legal principles on rape. But Alito’s opinion resurrects Hale, a judge who was considered misogynistic even by his era’s notably low standards. Hale once wrote a long letter to his grandchildren, dispensing life advice, in which he veered into a screed against women, describing them as “chargeable unprofitable people” who “know the ready way to consume an estate, and to ruin a family quickly.” Hale particularly despaired of the changes he saw in young women, writing, “And now the world is altered: young gentlewomen learn to be bold” and “talk loud.”

Hale became Lord Chief Justice of England in 1671. In his time (Hale’s contemporaries included Oliver Cromwell and Charles II), Hale was a respected, perhaps even venerated, jurist known for piety and sober judgment. He wrote a two-volume legal treatise, “The History of the Pleas of the Crown,” that has proved influential ever since.

Alito, in his draft opinion, invokes “eminent common-law authorities,” including Hale, to show how abortion was viewed historically not as a right, but as a criminal act. “Two treatises by Sir Matthew Hale likewise described abortion of a quick child who died in the womb as a ‘great crime’ and a ‘great misprision,’” Alito wrote.

Even before “quickening” — defined by Alito as “the first felt movement of the fetus in the womb, which usually occurs between the 16th and 18th week of pregnancy” — Hale believed an abortion could qualify as homicide. “Hale wrote that if a physician gave a woman ‘with child’ a ‘potion’ to cause an abortion, and the woman died, it was ‘murder’ because the potion was given ‘unlawfully to destroy her child within her,’” Alito wrote.

Courts have long leaned on precedents established by old cases and the scholarship of legal authorities from centuries gone by. But what happens when you trace citations back to their ancient source? In Hale’s case, you sometimes find a man conceiving precepts out of thin air. Other times it was the opposite, as he clung to notions that were already becoming anachronistic in the last half of the 17th century.

Consider the marital rape exemption. In “Pleas of the Crown,” Hale wrote, “The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract.” So, according to Hale, marriage, for a woman, amounts to contractual forfeit, in which she loses legal protection or recourse should her husband sexually assault her.

Hale’s pronouncement became the accepted common law and served as foundation in the United States for immunizing a husband accused of raping his wife. And where did Hale’s pronouncement come from? What did he base it upon? Who knows? “Hale appears to have been the first to articulate what later would become an accepted legal principle, that a husband cannot be charged with raping his wife,” according to a footnote in one law review article. Another law review article, titled “The Marital Rape Exemption: Evolution to Extinction,” called Hale’s pronouncement “an unsupported, extrajudicial statement” lacking in authority.