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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thank you, National Grid

Lights are back and so is Progressive Charlestown
One of at least six trees we lost
By Will Collette

Helluva storm and omigod, what a mess! But a tip of the hat to National Grid for getting most of Charlestown powered up tonight.

Reconciled to several more days without power, Cathy and I visited Cathy's family in Portsmouth for a nice meal (made from stuff that had just thawed in our freezer), a hot shower, and to run a load of dishes through their dishwasher.

While we were there, we checked the National Grid website to see the status of repairs and saw that we weren't due to get power restored until Friday.

Well, at least we were clean and had lots of clean cat food bowls.

Trick or Treat

For more from Mike Luckovich, click here.

One Nation, Under Surveillance

The cell phone has become the instrument of choice for tracking your every move.
If on cell phones,
You rely;
Say hello,
To the FBI.

DEM offers advice on how to deal with black bears

Pet Owners Advised Not to Let Their Dogs Run Free So That Dogs Do Not Harass the Bear
PROVIDENCE (DEM) - The increased publicity about black bear sightings in Rhode Island has prompted the Department of Environmental Management to issue some tips on how to live with bears and discourage them from becoming nuisance animals.

Over the past few days, the Department received video footage and reports confirming the presence of a black bear in Cranston, as well as reports of bear sightings in North Kingstown and East Greenwich. As black bear populations continue to increase in neighboring states it is likely that the presence of bears in Rhode Island will become a more frequent occurrence.

Drug safety harmed by deregulation

The Deadly Consequences of Weak Regulation

By Phil Mattera in the Dirtdiggers Digest

Unfortunately, it seems to take a public health crisis for the United States to remember the importance of diligently regulating companies such as drugmakers and food processors. And it is only during such crises that people realize that, despite the whines of corporate-friendly politicians, our problem is that such businesses are regulated too little rather than too much. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Merging NGC 2623 

NGC 2623 is really two galaxies that are becoming one. Seen to be in the final stages of a titanic galaxy merger, the pair lies some 300 million light-years distant toward the constellation Cancer.

The violent encounter between two galaxies that may have been similar to the Milky Way has produced widespread star formation near a luminous core and along eye-catching tidal tails.

Filled with dust, gas, and young blue star clusters, the opposing tidal tails extend well over 50,000 light-years from the merged nucleus. Likely triggered by the merger, accretion by a supermassive black hole drives activity within the nuclear region.

The star formation and its active galactic nucleus make NGC 2623 bright across the spectrum. This sharp cosmic snapshot of NGC 2623 (aka Arp 243) is based on Hubble Legacy Archive image data that also reveals even more distant background galaxies scattered through the field of view.

False claims harm credibility

Are Environmentalists basing positions on science, or not?
From: Fred Pearce, Yale Environment360 on
On issues ranging from genetically modified crops to nuclear power, environmentalists are increasingly refusing to listen to scientific arguments that challenge standard green positions. This approach risks weakening the environmental movement and empowering climate contrarians.
From Rachel Carson's Silent Spring to James Hansen's modern-day tales of climate apocalypse, environmentalists have long looked to good science and good scientists and embraced their findings. 


Man Blames Mystery Mechanic for Accident
Many children pin blame on their imaginary friends. One Woonsocket man nearly did the same – blaming a hit-and-run accident on an imaginary mechanic. According to reports, the 27-year-old man had sideswiped a car earlier in the day and left the scene.

When officers confronted the man about the accident, he told them his mechanic named “Miguel” was driving the vehicle earlier in the day and was trying to set him up.  Furthering police’s suspicions, the man was unable to provide Miguel’s last name, address or phone number.

"Paved paradise to put up a parking lot..."

The University of Rhode Island is removing about 15 acres of
farmland in the Flagg Road/Plains Road area to build a
parking lot and new road. (Frank Carini/ecoRI News)
By FRANK CARINI/ News staff
KINGSTON — Rhode Island’s diminishing quantity of farmland recently took another hit — some would even call the loss a decisive blow.

Construction on the University of Rhode Island campus, at Flagg Road and Plains Road, has forever removed a significant portion of agricultural land from the state’s supply. The building of a 330-vehicle parking lot and a new road began about a month before Rhode Island voters are asked to approve $20 million in bond money (Question 6on the Nov. 6 state ballot) for Narragansett Bay restoration, open space protection, state park improvements and, yes, farmland preservation.

Attacks on Democrats and on Progressive Charlestown all part of a playbook

Misdirected e-mails describe attack strategy being used by CCA, GOP
By Will Collette

It really sucks when you mistype an email address. Especially if that sends it to your opposition.

According to misdirected e-mail traffic we received last June, there was some buzz among South County Republicans about Progressive Charlestown and what to do about it.

It started when Clay Johnson, the Republican opponent to incumbent Rep. Larry Valencia, sent a link to one of my articles to Sen. Frank Maher, who is attempting to defend his seat against strong Democratic challenger Cathie Rumsey.

Maher forwarded the e-mail to other GOP strategists in South County, including influential Hopkinton Republican Scott Bill Hirst.

Monday, October 29, 2012

If you hate cauliflower, try this

Photo and text by KARA DiCAMILLO/ News contributor
Growing up one of the vegetables that I disliked the most was cauliflower. It was one of those vegetables that came in the frozen medley, along with diced carrots and peas, and it never really had any flavor.
A few years ago, a friend served cauliflower with dinner so I thought I would give it another try and I actually enjoyed it. The important thing that I’ve learned with cauliflower is that you need to make it flavorful. Just by using a few simple ingredients like olive oil and garlic makes cauliflower so much tastier.
I found a beautiful head of cauliflower at the farmers market this past week. My recipe is derived from “Barefoot Contessa,” and after making it I promise you won’t find that cauliflower is no longer flavorful. If you serve it at a dinner party, you just might find that there will be new cauliflower lovers among the bunch.

UPDATED: power outages spreading

Hurricane Sandy Updates – Monday, Oct. 29
Stay safe, stay inside and stay informed by reading this blog.
By Stephen Greenwell, Email the author with running updates on Charlestown by Will Collette

Power outages in Charlestown are starting to spread as more powerful wind gusts blow into the area.

I will probably need to shut down soon - have had two flash outages in the past few minutes.

Humming down the highway

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
Despite sluggish sales and public skepticism, advocates for electric vehicles (EVs) are optimistic that battery-powered cars will take hold in Rhode Island.
Since EVs rolled out nationally in 2010, car buyers have mostly steered clear of plug-in vehicles. Some 41,000 have sold so far in the United States — well short of the 1 million targetd for 2015 by President Obama. Low demand prompted Toyota to cancel one of its EV models. GM scaled back production of its plug-in hybrid, the Volt. Globally, sales of Mitsubishi and Nissan models are down from last year.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Charlestown declares local emergency

Evacuation of beachfront areas has begun as of Sunday evening.
Storm surge forecast: 5 to 7 feet for South County coast
Our Town Council met at 3 pm Sunday to hear a briefing from Kevin Gallup, Charlestown's Emergency Management Agency Director.

The Council voted to declare a local state of emergency, following the recent State declaration. This permits activation of evacuation plans.

A recorded informational message will be kept updated at 213-6920. If you have an issue or concern you may call 364-1212 (extension 0) and you will be forwarded to someone in our Emergency Operations Center who can give you information or arrange assistance.

Read on for an evaluation of the upcoming weather conditions from Sandy and details about the evacuation and town services.

“Those who make anonymous postings are cowards”

Anonymous blogs, tax revenue plans, and objectivity
By Joe Dolock. 

A version of this letter was published in the Westerly Sun on October 26, 2012. Reprinted with permission of the author.
My name is Joseph S. Dolock and I am running for the Planning Board here in Charlestown.
Over the past two weeks there have been two letters published by your paper regarding anonymous postings to different blogs in Charlestown.
First, I would like to give my opinion regarding anonymous postings.
I think those who make anonymous postings are cowards. By being anonymous, they can cheat, pass out half-truths, misinformation and even disinformation. They can try to ruin a person and his or her families’ reputation in the community. But there is no free lunch for cowards. You will never know when, where, or who will expose you.

Common Cause rates Walsh 100% ethics and open government

Walsh ranked among the highest by Common Cause
Donna at work in her office as vice-chair of the
House Environment Committee
STATE HOUSE News Bureau – Rep. Donna Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, Westerly, South Kingstown) scored one of the highest marks in the General Assembly on the 2012 Common Cause Legislative Scorecard, released this week.

Representative Walsh received a final score of 81 on the grassroots organization’s 10th biennial tally, putting her in a tie for the second-highest mark among the 113 members of the House and the Senate. The score is based on a two-year voting record of legislators on a number of government reform issues valued by Common Cause.

“I’m proud to stand with Common Cause on many government reform issues. Honest government is very important to citizens, and I’m committed to efforts that shed more light on the system,” said Representative Walsh, who for years has been sponsoring legislation to require an open selection process of magistrates based on merit.

UPDATED: State Dems say "take your yard signs in on Sunday"

Put safety first, ahead of campaigning
By Will Collette

Tropical Storm force wind forecast as of Sat. PM
UPDATED: If you're not signed up for Charlestown's Emergency notification program, you should be. Click here. If you are, you've probably already received a couple of test warnings.

The RI Democratic Party put out an alert this afternoon recommending that in the interest of public safety, people should take their political yard signs down in anticipation of high winds from Hurricane Sandy.

Though the storm track continues to show landfall on the Delaware-New Jersey state line, this is a humongous storm and we will feel its effects. 

Latest storm track prediction from the National Hurricane Center:

Sign of the times: Taxes and WTF?

Strange message from the CCA
Very strange campaign sign spotted on Old Post Road
By Will Collette

The first part of this CCA sign’s message – that tax rates should be equal for all property owners – is clear enough, though the “of course” answer is hardly self-evident.

That’s because the CCA only wants you to look at tax RATES, while ignoring the other key factor that determines how much tax you pay – the tax ASSESSMENT. They also don’t want a review that examines whether it really is fair to apply the same RATE to all properties, regardless of use. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Feds rebuff Deepwater critic

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
Newport resident Benjamin Riggs Jr. had one of his two complaints against wind energy in Rhode Island turned back Thursday.
His Aug. 22 complaint filed against the Deepwater Wind project off Block Island was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Riggs had urged FERC to reject the 20-year power-purchase agreement between Deepwater Wind and National Grid because of an alleged violation of the Federal Commerce Clause.

Apparently, Suite Crime Does Pay

The executives responsible for the financial industry's pervasive fraud are paying no personal price.
What should we, as a society, do with all those reckless financial industry execs who helped trigger the Great Recession and the tidal wave of foreclosures? Should we put these power suits behind bars? Or should we forgive and forget, and lavish down upon them hundreds of millions of dollars in new rewards?
These questions now stand answered. The Equilar executive pay data firm recently reported that for just one year of their post-Wall Street-meltdown "labor," the five highest-ranking execs at 18 top U.S. financial firms, taken together, pocketed stock awards now worth nearly a half-billion dollars.
Meanwhile, not one high-profile financial industry executive has yet seen the inside of a jail cell, despite massive instances of fraud at the firms they've been leading.


Dog vs Mail Carrier
Dog Bites Postal Worker
East Greenwich Police may have thought a reported dog bite was a prank. According to reports, police received a call that a Rottweiler-shepherd mix had charged at a woman and lunged at her arm. Normally, we wouldn’t include such a routine police item, but considering the victim’s profession – a postal worker – we made an exception. (We thought this just happened in the movies.)

Gone fishin'

DEM stocks local waterways with trout for fall fishing
RIDEM News Release

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife has stocked approximately 6,000 rainbow trout in several locations throughout the state this month for the fall freshwater fishing season.

DEM Fish & Wildlife staff finished stocking the hatchery-raised rainbow trout this week in Silver Spring Pond in North Kingstown, Beaver River in Richmond, Wyoming Pond in Richmond and Hopkinton, Wood River in Exeter, Hopkinton and Richmond, Upper Pawtuxet River in Coventry, Blackstone River in Cumberland and Lincoln, Round Top Ponds in Burrillville, and Stafford Pond in Tiverton. Earlier this month, trout were stocked in Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond, Carbuncle Pond in Coventry, Spring Grove Pond in Glocester, and Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods.

Charlestown real estate continues to rebound

Bad news for the Charlestown Citizens Alliance
By Will Collette

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) doesn’t have much interest in what happens in the lives of Charlestown’s working families, except when it comes to housing prices. 

The CCA’s hope and dream is to evade Charlestown’s legal, ethical, and moral obligation to boost its stock of affordable housing opportunities to at least 10% of its housing stock by exploiting the 25% drop in Charlestown housing prices since the beginning of the Great Recession.

The CCA’s plan is to get changes to the state law that would allow the town to meet its obligation by simply slapping an “affordable” label on homes whose values have fallen below $220,000. That's roughly what a family earning 80% of average median income can afford.

Mind you, this “affordable” label is not intended to help those homeowners but simply to evade state law. Frankly, I doubt many Charlestown homeowners would appreciate their homes being labeled like that since seeing so much of their homeowner equity vanish was not anything they wanted.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Princess and the blog

A CCA bedtime story

By Linda Felaco

Once upon a time, in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a prince named Cliff. Prince Cliff lived on an organic subsistence farm in a small passive solar palace he had built himself. For the past 10 years, he’d had an open building permit to enlarge his palace with native granite stones he cut and shaped himself. He’d never paid a heating bill, much less the taxes on the additional square footage, since the town building official had never issued a certificate of occupancy.

Prince Cliff wanted to marry a princess to share his palace and organic farm with him, but he couldn’t seem to find a suitable wife. He despised lies and slander, but none of the princesses in the kingdom ever seemed to think that the things Prince Cliff called lies and slander really were lies and slander. He just couldn’t be certain that any of them truly were princesses.

Then, one dark and stormy night, a young woman who had been caught in a downpour while riding her bicycle through the woods sought shelter in Prince Cliff’s palace.

Big Food Fight

If the products they sell us are as great as they say, what are General Mills, Kraft, and other processed food giants hiding?
I'm going to sell you something to eat, but I won't tell you what's in it. Trust me, the ingredients are perfectly safe — but I absolutely oppose telling you what you're eating. I also won't let independent scientists study the ingredients. And I'm making a bundle of money by selling these unlabeled products. But trust me, they are safe. Go ahead, take a bite.
Does that sound ridiculous? Well, chances are, your pantry is full of products made by companies that are spending millions in California to avoid telling consumers what's in their food. On Election Day, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, a measure to require mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. Coca Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, Kellogg, and Nestle have each kicked in more than half a million bucks to defeat the measure. And even if Californians win the right to know what's in their food, the rest of the country may remain in the dark.

Buy Local - a social movement

By KYLE HENCE/ News contributor
PORTSMOUTH — Talk of health, culture, agriculture and the local economy permeated a well-attended discussion of the benefits of “Green Eating” at the Green Valley Country Club.
The Oct. 18 event featured Casey Riley, Newport Harbor Corporation’s chief operation officer, and Jonathan Cambra of The Boat House in Tiverton. They each prepared and served dishes made primarily with locally sourced ingredients including locally caught tautog and cornmeal from Kingston’s Kenyon’s Mill.

CCA reveals location of secret clubhouse - it's TOWN HALL!

Where are the meetings advertised? When did the last one occur? When is the next one? Do they meet the requirements of the state Open Meetings Act?
Did the CCA write its manifesto on
town hall - in invisible ink?
By Will Collette

I don’t normally respond to the rantings and rambles of Mike Chambers, “The Voice of the CCA,” because most of his stuff is ridiculous on its face. My colleague Linda Felaco does devote time and energy to fact-checking the craziest of Chambers’ stuff. To try to cover all the ridiculous Chambers’ rants is just not worth it.

But in a recent Chamberpot, Chambers made a remarkable claim that could have serious legal repercussions.

As Chambers got wound up singing the praises of the CCA, he made this remarkable claim:

“And they provide an open forum for discussion of ideas, even if those ideas are in conflict with CCA policy and they do it in a civil manner with respect for the opinions of others. These forums are commonly held at regular intervals in the town hall as proposed by the CCA officers.”

Fact-checking CCA's E-mail

CCA’s fictional view of Charlestown politics
By Will Collette

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s recent e-mail blast to its list is about as close to fiction as you can get this side of J.K. Rowling, but with none of the suspense.

The CCA missive trots out even more whoppers about the CCA’s achievements versus the alleged shortcomings and evil intentions of Charlestown Democrats. From the same folks who have been preaching “civility” for six years, they dish out another giant dose of dishonest invective. But they’ve been getting away with this for six years, so what the hell, they’re going to try it again.

Let’s go through the CCA’s message, item by item.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

UPDATED: DiBello files campaign finance report 10 days late

Throwing in the towel or hoping for a deal?

Screen shot from Councilor DiBello's Oct 4
appearance on "Let's Make a Deal"
By Will Collette

Welcome, Westerly Sun readers. If you're looking to see what all the fuss is about Lisa DiBello, please read this article and scroll down to the bottom to read other recent coverage of Ms. DiBello. 

Last week, I reported that Town Council member Lisa DiBello maintained her consistent record of scorn for accountability by failing to file her required campaign finance disclosure form with the Board of Elections. She was the only candidate for town office to fail to file on time.

DiBello also failed to file when she first ran in 2010. She has also apparently never filed federal reports on her charity, A Ray of Hope, and never filed a state report on the charity on time. It's not just about paperwork, but about accountability and transparency.

A little late for this, Gordon

First he promised to bring a vote on marriage equality if he gets re-elected, now he says he’ll force the House of Representatives to take another look at the newly enacted voter ID law too.

“Should I be fortunate to be re-elected, I will be sponsoring legislation to include a ‘sunset provision’ in the law,” said Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, in an email to me on Monday evening. “The sunset would force a ‘re-look’ at the law, which means legislative hearings would be held to learn the effectiveness of the law and whether modifications need to be made. That would include looking at the more restrictive provisions set to be enacted for the 2014 election cycle.”

Give farms the chance to survive

 By KEVIN PROFT/ News staff
You’re a farmer. You’ve worked the land for years, but one or two bad seasons could force you out. To help diversify your revenue stream, you start a small roadside fruit and vegetable stand to sell produce to locals on the honor system. Over the next few seasons, its popularity grows, so you build a small structure to house a farm store, which incorporates a light lunch menu and requires a new hire.

A devoted following develops and the extra cash from the store is really helping with the monthly bills. Things are going well and you are considering looking into the town’s requirements for starting a small restaurant on the property.

Rep. Donna Walsh gets funding for Southern RI Volunteers

Rep. Walsh brings home funding for local charity

Rosemary Gribbin, Rep. Walsh and Deb Tanner
(News Release) Rep. Donna Walsh (District 36) presented Wakefield-based Southern Rhode Island Volunteers with a $1000 check to support their work for communities across southern RI. In Charlestown, they operate the Charlestown Community Center in Ninigret Park.

With a major focus on the elderly, SRIV delivers meals on wheels, transports the elderly to medical appointments, offers respite care, and helps with food shopping and delivery as well as helping older people not feel alone. They also run a program to collect old cell phones to help military personnel on active duty stay in touch with their families and friends at home.