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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

This Year’s Environmental Hits and Misses in Legislature

PFAS ban, climate council funding bills pass; CRMC reform, bottle bill, environmental justice bills fail

Local legislators Victoria Gu, Tina Spears, Megan Cotter do well

By Rob Smith / ecoRI News staff

Victoria and Tina (Credit: The Public's Radio/Cheryl Hatch)
It’s over. While Rhode Islanders slept June 13, the General Assembly was working overtime to pass its last slate of legislation before adjourning for the year.

Lawmakers and their respective committees had been meeting daily starting last week, while the chambers wrangled over what non-budgetary bills to pass in the closing days of the session.

Environmental groups aren’t walking away from the Legislature’s session with everything on their wish list, but they aren’t walking away with nothing either. The Environmental Council of Rhode Island, a coalition of some 40 environmentally minded organizations and nonprofits, got around half of the three big named priorities passed before the end of the session.

Some high-profile misses: environmental advocates failed to secure support for reforming the Coastal Resources Management Council; a bottle deposit bill; or more stringent environmental justice requirements for the permitting industry. But environmental agencies are walking away with funding and staff increases, and the state passed a ban on forever chemicals intentionally introduced into consumer products.

A total of 34 environmental bills were considered or passed over the last week and a half of the session. Here’s the highlights of which measures made it:

Consumer PFAS Ban Act (H7356/S2152): Two years after introducing limits for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, lawmakers returned this year to pass a thinner version of regulations barring the chemicals from consumer products. 

The ban, expected to go into enforcement in 2027, applies to most consumer products into which PFAS is intentionally introduced for its water-resistance, grease-resistance, or other notable properties. It includes certain articles of clothing, cookware, and other items. It does not include certain industrial applications, such as some consumer electronics and photography equipment.

Trust me!

Storm's brewing


"Communities are strongest when they come together"

URI celebrates Pride Month in South County 

Dawn Bergantino 

Communities are strongest when they come together. While equality should be celebrated all year long, Pride Month offers an important opportunity for communities to come together and celebrate love, respect, joy and progress toward LGBTQ+ equal rights as well as to recognize where there is still progress to be made.

As cities and towns across Rhode Island celebrate Pride Month in June, the University of Rhode Island Gender and Sexuality Center is playing a major role in the celebration of Pride in South County. For more than a decade, the Center has prided itself on providing education, engagement, and support for those who are queer or questioning, as well as the greater URI campus community. 

Now in its fourth year as one of South County Pride’s most significant sponsors, Center Director Annie Russell, who is also co-president of the South County Pride Foundation, notes that the concept for the event began in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic when many Pride celebrations throughout the state were cancelled.

We're having a heat wave...

Warnings posted for most of New England

Prepare for a rush of people coming to Charlestown, coastal South County to escape extreme heat. Our area forecast to be 10-20 degrees cooler

How Will We Know When To Sound the Pandemic Alarm about Bird Flu?

Bird Flu Tests Are Hard To Get. 


Stanford University infectious disease doctor Abraar Karan has seen a lot of patients with runny noses, fevers, and irritated eyes lately. Such symptoms could signal allergies, covid, or a cold. This year, there’s another suspect, bird flu — but there’s no way for most doctors to know.

If the government doesn’t prepare to ramp up H5N1 bird flu testing, he and other researchers warn, the United States could be caught off guard again by a pandemic.

“We’re making the same mistakes today that we made with covid,” Deborah Birx, who served as former President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, said June 4 on CNN.

To become a pandemic, the H5N1 bird flu virus would need to spread from person to person. The best way to keep tabs on that possibility is by testing people.

Scientifically speaking, many diagnostic laboratories could detect the virus. However, red tape, billing issues, and minimal investment are barriers to quickly ramping up widespread availability of testing. 

At the moment, the Food and Drug Administration has authorized only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s bird flu test, which is used only for people who work closely with livestock.

State and federal authorities have detected bird flu in dairy cattle in 12 states. Three people who work on separate dairy farms tested positive, and it is presumed they caught the virus from cows. Yet researchers agree that number is an undercount given the CDC has tested only about 40 people for the disease.

Monday, June 17, 2024

We Shouldn't Need a Secret Tape to Know Who Samuel Alito Is

Alito privately admits his bias

ROBERT REICH in Robertreich.Substack.Com

I’m no fan of secret recordings designed to entrap public officials into saying things they’d rather not have the public hear, but Justice Samuel Alito’s remarks to filmmaker Lauren Windsor at the Supreme Court Historical Society dinner on June 3 — released Monday — confirm everything I assumed about Alito’s approach to the law.

After Windsor told Alito that, as a Catholic, she couldn’t see herself getting along with liberals in the way that needs to happen for the polarization to end, and that the Supreme Court should be about “winning,” Alito responded:

“I think you’re probably right. On one side or the other — one side or the other is going to win. I don’t know. I mean, there can be a way of working — a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really can’t be compromised. So it’s not like you are going to split the difference.”

When Windsor said people must fight to return our country to a “place of godliness,” Alito said, “I agree with you. I agree with you.”

Spot the mistakes

Thank Boeing for push for high speed rail


The disproportionate toll that COVID-19 took on people with diabetes continues today

Diabetics remain at highest risk for COVID

Jamie Hartmann-BoyceUMass Amherst

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide have diabetes.
 Halfpoint Images/Moment via Getty Images
At the start of the pandemic, many people living with diabetes were wondering what COVID-19 meant for them. 

Diabetes was already known to put people at higher risks from other infectious diseases, including flu. Would it be the same with COVID-19? At the time, all scientists could do was make educated guesses.

In 2024, things look very different. A great deal more research is available, as well as effective vaccines, and life has in many ways returned to something like normal.

COVID-19 hasn’t disappeared, however, and for the more than 400 million people living with diabetes worldwide, very real risks and impacts from the pandemic remain.

I specialize in drawing on and combining existing evidence to inform health policy across a range of areas. I’ve been studying COVID-19 and diabetes since the start of the pandemic and have experienced firsthand some of the many ways in which COVID-19 has affected people with diabetes. 

I’ve lived with Type 1 diabetes for the past 30 years. And at the start of the pandemic, I had a lot of questions about what COVID-19 meant for me.

Rhode Island fisheries and beaches are already being heavily impacted

The warming ocean is leaving coastal economies in hot water

Warm water expands, raising sea levels, which worsens
storm surge during hurricanes. It’s only one risk
from warming oceans. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Ocean-related tourism and recreation supports more than 320,000 jobs and US$13.5 billion in goods and services in Florida. 

But a swim in the ocean became much less attractive in the summer of 2023, when the water temperatures off Miami reached as high as 101 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius).

The future of some jobs and businesses across the ocean economy have also become less secure as the ocean warms and damage from storms, sea-level rise and marine heat waves increases.

Ocean temperatures have been heating up over the past century, and hitting record highs for much of the past year, driven primarily by the rise in greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Scientists estimate that more than 90% of the excess heat produced by human activities has been taken up by the ocean.

That warming, hidden for years in data of interest only to oceanographers, is now having profound consequences for coastal economies around the world.

Harlan Crow Provided Clarence Thomas at Least 3 Previously Undisclosed Private Jet Trips, Senate Probe Finds

Enough! Thomas must resign!

By Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan and Alex Mierjeski for

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ decadeslong friendship with real estate tycoon Harlan Crow and Samuel Alito’s luxury travel with billionaire Paul Singer have raised questions about influence and ethics at the nation's highest court.

Billionaire political donor Harlan Crow provided at least three previously undisclosed private jet trips to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in recent years, an investigation by Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats has found.

The flights, which were detailed by Crow’s lawyer in response to inquiries from the committee, took the justice to destinations including the region near Glacier National Park in Montana and Thomas’ hometown in Georgia.

The committee launched its investigation in response to ProPublica reporting last year that revealed numerous undisclosed gifts Crow provided to Thomas, including private school tuition for a relative and luxury vacations virtually every year for more than two decades. 

Democrats on the committee authorized a subpoena for information from Crow last November, but the subpoena was not issued, and the new information came as a result of negotiations between the Senate and Crow’s attorneys.

It’s possible more revelations are yet to come. The office of the panel’s chair, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that a report detailing the full findings of committee Democrats’ investigation would be released later in the summer.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

If a corporation gets busted for misconduct and no one knows, did it really happen?

Say their names

By Philip Mattera, director of the Corporate Research Project, for the Dirt Diggers Digest 

Regulatory agencies and prosecutors seek to punish misbehaving corporations in the hope they will change their practices and obey the rules. That happens occasionally, but all too often corporate offenders go on to break the law again, sometimes repeatedly.

The prevalence of such recidivism is one of the main conclusions that arises from the data on enforcement actions—numbering more than 600,000—my colleagues and I have collected in Violation Tracker.

Now one of the more aggressive federal regulators is planning to assemble an official resource on rogue corporations. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just announced it will create a registry of companies that have broken consumer protection laws and that are subject to court orders regarding their ongoing behavior.

Guns over kids

By Dennis Goris

Compare and make the smart choice