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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The magic of the free market

The Return of the Invisible Hand
By Tom Tomorrow

Click here to see the marvels of the market.

Corporate Privacy is Alive and Well

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
By Phil Mattera in the Dirt Diggers Digest

Recent revelations about the electronic surveillance programs of the federal government, which are being carried out with the cooperation of large telecommunications and internet companies, show that personal privacy rights are in serious peril.

Much is being said and written about the discrepancy between the seemingly invincible status of the Second Amendment and the disintegrating Fourth Amendment. Yet the more significant contrast may be between individuals and corporations with regard to privacy and protection from government intrusion.

Cleaner Power from Innovation

Creative Approaches to Renewable Energy

Innovation is the key to the future and central to the expansion of renewable sources of energy. There are a number of innovations that could radically transform the clean energy equation.

Although renewable energy is growing exponentially around the world these sources of power have a number of shortcoming that make it difficult to scale-up so that they can replace dirty energy sources like fossil fuels.

However, those who doubt that renewable energy will be able to replace fossil fuels lack imagination. We need to get outside the box to envision a future powered entirely by clean energy.

Renewable sources of power are our only hope for the future as we cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels. Professor Lesley Hughes explains, “In order to achieve that goal of stabilizing the climate at two degrees or less, we simply have to leave about 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground, We cannot afford to burn them and still have a stable and safe climate.”

Progressive Charlestown hits another big milestone

Three-quarters of a million individual page views
By Will Collette

The Progressive Charlestown odometer registered another big number: 750,000 page views. That happened sometime early Sunday morning.

As Charlestown’s most notorious blog, we draw a lot of readers interested in our mix of local news, political scandals, things to do, jokes and cartoons, recipes, environmental coverage, health tips and whatever else that interests us, and might interest you.

“Page views” is a way of counting readership that is very different than “hits.” For a page view to get counted, a visitor to Progressive Charlestown has to actually click on an article to read it. A “hit” simply means somebody visited our website and may or may not have read anything. As a rule of thumb, it takes about ten hits to produce one page view – yes, I know, TMI.

Catching Monsanto’s Drift

Frankenwheat crops are sprouting like weeds in Oregon.

Bob Dylan once sent a two-word lyric to Ben Harper, a talented songwriter he admired. “Well well,” was the lyric, and Dylan challenged Harper to make a song of it.

He did! By adding another “well” to the title, Harper wrote “Well, well, well” — a stinging lament about America’s clean-water well going dry due to waste and greed.

I thought of his song when I heard that a wheat farmer in Eastern Oregon had gotten an unpleasant surprise in May: Some of Monsanto’s unapproved, genetically manipulated wheat suddenly cropped up in his field. He’d never planted any of these Frankenseeds, which have a foreign DNA spliced into them by Monsanto’s bio-tamperers.

Legislation by local legislators to become law

By TIM FAULKNER/ News Staff, with added notes from Will Collette

Donna Walsh measure helps to save
family farms
PROVIDENCE—Environmental bills moved quickly through the House of Representatives during a rare Friday session. Here are the actions taken on environmental legislation during the General Assembly’s Thursday and Friday sessions.

Tax break for farmers 

The passage of the 2014 budget in the Senate means that farmers receive a welcome tax break that helps prevent farmland from becoming housing developments. The new inheritance tax will value the farm as agricultural land rather than the “full and fair” value it could bring if developed. The goal is to preserve farmland for agriculture instead of selling it to developers to pay estate taxes. This measure started out as legislation introduced by Rep. Donna Walsh. Reps. Teresa Tanzi and Larry Valencia were her co-sponsors.

Mattress recycling 

The House passed the mattress recycling bill (H5799), making the new producer responsibility program all but official. The fee-based mattress recycling through retailers and recycling centers gets underway in about two years. The Senate passed the bill June 19. Rhode Island will have the second such program in the nation. In May, Connecticut became the first state in the country to sign a mattress-recycling program into law. Reps. Donna Walsh and Teresa Tanzi co-sponsored H5799.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Perspectives on pain

Painfully wrong
By Jen Sorenson

It pains me to ask you to click here.

Toxic chemicals in local fish

By FRANK CARINI/ News staff

BRISTOL — The federal government advises women who are or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children not to gorge on several marine species, namely swordfish, albacore tuna, shark, king mackerel and tilefish, because of the concentration in the tissue of these fish of methylmercury, a highly toxic organic compound of mercury.

But what about fish that are more commonly caught in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound, especially by recreational anglers? Since 2005, Roger Williams University marine biologist 
David Taylor has been studying the methylmercury content in the tissue of bluefish, striped bass, black sea bass, tautog, and winter and summer flounder.

Governor and DEM push local agriculture

Farm Fresh Rhode Island boosts sales for more than 60 Rhode Island producers

PROVIDENCE - Governor Lincoln Chafee, Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, and DEM agriculture chief Ken Ayars joined USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O'Brien and others at Farm Fresh Rhode Island to highlight a recent public-private partnership to increase local food distribution across New England.

Farm Fresh Rhode Island operates as a food hub by offering aggregation, storage, marketing and distribution services to over 60 producers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut and connecting them with additional regional buyers. It is one of 220 food hubs around the country.

Valencia vows to bring Voter ID legislation back to table next year

Will try to roll back voter ID before the 2014 election

STATE HOUSE – Changes to the state’s voter identification law may be off the table for the 2013 legislative session, but Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton) hopes to come back with an improved version of his bill to quell the concerns of citizens who still believe the ID requirement disenfranchises elderly, disabled and low-income individuals.

Under current law, Rhode Islanders will have to show photo identification at the polls beginning next year. Representative Valencia’s original bill, which the House Judiciary Committee heard in March and held for further study, called for a full repeal of the voter ID law. 

The amended version of his legislation (2013-H 5776A) proposed freezing the requirements in place for the current year, which allows voters to show a birth certificate, a social security card or a government-issued medical card if he or she does not have a photo ID.

DEM sez only use local wood

Don’t spread invaders around

Asian Long-horned beetle
 PROVIDENCE - As campers and other vacationers prepare for their upcoming getaways, the Department of Environmental Management is urging them to refrain from transporting firewood to and from other areas, and to use, instead, only local firewood at their campsites and summer cottages.

There are many species of insects and diseases that can be spread through the movement of firewood including Asian Longhorned Beetle, emerald ash borer, and Sirex woodwasps, none of which are currently found in Rhode Island. Emerald ash borer, first detected in North America near Detroit in 2002, has since killed more than 25 million ash trees in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. More than 75 percent of emerald ash borer infestation sites with known origins resulted from firewood movement.

Town Democrats ask Gov. Chafee to veto land use bills

Charlestown Democratic Town Committee condemns recent state legislation
By Will Collette
Governor Chafee at last year's Economic Development forum at the
General Stanton Inn in Charlestown
At its June 10th meeting, the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee decided to formally ask Governor Lincoln Chafee, a newly minted "D," to veto two pieces of pro-business land use legislation that are deeply unpopular in Charlestown and many other rural and suburban Rhode Island municipalities.

Commonly called the "Slopes" and the "Setback" bills, these bills share the common theme of restricting the authority of local government to regulate land uses to fit special local environmental conditions.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Make better balloon animals

From Fake Science, Charlestown's favorite scientific reference source.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Star Forming Region NGC 3582 
From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

What's happening in the NGC 3582 nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57.

Visible in this image are dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars.

detailed study of NGC 3582, also known as NGC 3584 and NGC 3576, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun's formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth.

The image below was taken at the Desert Hollow Observatory north of PhoenixArizonaUSA.


Driving to Endanger

A First Time ‘Drink Driver’

When one of your first statements to an officer is that you are “drinking drive” instead of “drunk driving,” you’re going to have a bad time. Police pulled over Warwick man who was allegedly driving 105 mph on Route 37 in Cranston.

Though his speech was reportedly slurred and he was lethargic, officers were able to decipher that the man was repeatedly apologizing and said it was his first time “drinking drive.”

After blowing a .187 on a preliminary Breathalyzer, he was brought to the police station in Cranston. En route, he continued his apologies. His wife will also be happy to know that he professed his love for her to the officers.

Wal-Mart Hit and Run

Car Tech 2013

Self-Parking Cars, Green Dealerships, and Robot-Auto-Talk

Photo of MyFord Touch by Randy Stern

by Frank Wood

Imagine your car being able to drive itself. Companies like Google are already starting to make this a reality, among other groundbreaking technologies. Some future trends for cars might end up being as common as air conditioning, while others will taper off into obscurity. Either way, half the fun is speculation. From the evolution of green vehicles to technological advancements, the future of cars is quickly becoming the present.

Coming Sunday

Casting a Spotlight on Frankenfoods

A legislative victory in Connecticut is the first for American consumers who are demanding the right to know if our food is genetically engineered.
For more from P.S. Mueller, click here
By Jill Richardson

Do you have a right to know how your food is produced?

Look at any label on something made for human consumption. Whether it’s a bite-sized candy bar, a box of cereal, or a gallon of pickles, you’ll see lots of information: a list of ingredients, allergen warnings, calorie counts, vitamins, and even whether that item contains trans-fats.

What won’t you see? Whether your food was genetically engineered.

But this might change in the near future. Consumers across the nation are demanding that information. Connecticut recently became the first state to pass a law requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

More Charlestown shorts

DiLibero vies for new gig; Dems want your stuff; preparing for the next storm; WCCDC wants board members; Gentz and Tremblay get mad
Bill DiLibero in
happier times
By Will Collette

Bill DiLibero vying for a new job!

Charlestown’s poorly treated former Town Administrator Bill DiLibero is vying for a new gig as interim Town Manager for East Greenwich. As Progressive Charlestown readers will remember, DiLibero was the target of one of  Charlestown’s most outrageous hatchet jobs when the CCA Party – who had praised, honored and given raises to Bill – decided to use him as a scapegoat to divert attention from their mismanagement of Charlestown government and their “Y-Gate Scam.” Bill was ousted after the CCA Party’s “Kill Bill” campaign made his position in Charlestown untenable. Best wishes that you get the new gig!

Some prime goods from last year's sale
Dems want your stuff!

The annual Charlestown Democratic Town Committee yard sale is coming up on July 6. CDTC’s top fund-raiser Frank Glista is still looking for salable goods that will bring in some cash, so please contact Frank by e-mail or at (401) 364-3723.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The trick to better ZZZZs

Quality of Waking Hours Determines Ease of Falling Sleep

The quality of wakefulness affects how quickly a mammal falls asleep, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers report in a study that identifies two proteins never before linked to alertness and sleep-wake balance.

"This study supports the idea that subjective sleepiness is influenced by the quality of experiences right before bedtime. Are you reluctantly awake or excited to be awake?" said Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa, professor of molecular genetics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UT Southwestern. He is principal author of the study published online in May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A More Sustainable Future for Us All

The Sierra Club strongly supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
John Muir at Yosemite

Like many great Americans, Sierra Club founder John Muir was an immigrant. It’s only because the Scottish-born environmentalist visionary, who arrived in the United States at the age of 11 after a six-week sea voyage from Glasgow, was able to take advantage of the opportunities in his adopted country that the Sierra Club exists at all.

Today, however, the nation’s immigration system is broken. Nearly 165 years after Muir’s arrival on our shores, we’re forcing approximately 11 million people to live in the shadows.

Many of these undocumented people work in the fields, mop floors, care for other people’s children, and take low-wage jobs to support their families. Many suffer from workplace exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides, and many more live in areas with perilous levels of toxic air and water pollution.

Extreme weather caused $110 billion in damage in 2012

Second costliest year on record for severe weather, with 11 separate billion-dollar disasters, NOAA reports.
Daily Climate staff report

Severe weather cost the nation $110 billion in damages in 2012, the second-costliest in history, according to disaster information released June 13 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

All told the United States saw 11 weather and climate disasters last year with losses exceeding $1 billion in damages. 

Eat Real

Too many diets are about hype, not health.

Is it just my friends, or is nearly everyone on an absurd diet these days?

One friend says she’s on a “primal” diet. She’s trying to eat like cavemen and will devour wild game when she can get it. Another goes on a month-long “detox” fast each year. Somehow, he survives on nothing but lemonade spiked with maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

And I wish I could convince another buddy that he doesn’t have to eat high-fiber cereal that appears to be made from heavily sweetened sawdust.

Wind Turbines vs. almost everyone, round 4

The Zoning Board of Review holds their fourth meeting on the Whalerock wind turbine project.

By Tom Ferrio

When Will announced that he reached his limit sitting on the metal chairs at the elementary school, I decided that I should volunteer to attend the next meeting and write it up for Progressive Charlestown.

I have news for you Will; the seating was not a problem at all. I sat through the entire meeting with hardly a hint of pain!

Click past the break to read my report on the meeting.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Metadata Mining Is Mega Awful

There's no shortage of complaints about the nation's massive surveillance dragnet now that We the People know about it.
For more from Matt Bors, click here.
By Jim Hightower

It’s good to know that our friendly, über-secret National Security Agency is out there every day, protecting our freedom. By violating it.

A whistleblower has blown the lid off the NSA’s super-snoop program of rummaging electronically through about a billion phone calls made every day by us average Americans. This revelation prompted Al Gore to tweet: “Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?”

Wishing for Mayberry

Disaster Relief Grants Available for Historic Properties Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Preliminary applications for relief grants should be submitted to the RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission by August 1, 2013.

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy churned up the Atlantic coast. Twenty-four states from Maine to Florida and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Wisconsin felt the impact of the largest recorded Atlantic hurricane and the second costliest in United States history.

In Rhode Island, the storm surge peaked at high tide around 8:30 p.m. on Monday, October 29 with winds of up to 86 mph in Westerly and gusts over 50 mph in most parts of the state. While there were reports of damage across the state, Block Island, Westerly, and many of the communities on the Atlantic coast bore the brunt of the hurricane.

Assembly approves Biodiesel Heating Oil Act of 2013

Big win for the environment and for local Democratic sponsors

Tanzi, Sosnowski and Walsh pull off another win
for the environment
STATE HOUSE – With the Senate’s passage of a House bill, the General Assembly approved legislation yesterday that could position Rhode Island as a leader in an emerging biofuels market.
The legislation (2013-H 5802Aaa), sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), would require all No. 2 distillate heating oil sold in the state to contain a specified percentage of a bio-based product. 

The Senate companion bill (2013-S 0816A), sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), has been placed on the House calendar for today.

“The General Assembly’s top priority has been job creation this year, and this legislation definitely has that in mind,” Senator Sosnowski said. 

New Saltwater fishing guide is out

Publication Available at Numerous Venues throughout RI Including Bait and Tackle Shops, Marine Supply Stores, Town Halls, Chambers of Commerce
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces the publication of the first annual Rhode Island Recreational Saltwater Fishing Guide, which is now available at bait and tackle shops, marine supply stores, town halls, chambers of commerce, and other locations throughout the state.

"This new guide is designed to help make the already great experience of saltwater fishing in Rhode Island even better," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "It's a guide designed to serve the interests of all saltwater fishermen – newcomers to the sport as well as seasoned anglers."

Langevin applauds Supreme Court on Marriage Equality

Landmark decision affirms equal protection under the law
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) is calling today’s Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 enormous victories for equal rights. Less than two months after legislation was signed to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, these rulings build momentum for supporters of marriage equality nationwide.

“Today’s decision to strike down DOMA will go down in history alongside other groundbreaking civil rights cases such as Brown v. Board of Education. There is simply no place for discrimination in our law or our society,” Langevin said. 

Gordon Fox - head DINO

Gordon Fox's leadership strategy
By Samuel Bell in Rhode Island's Future

Progressives have always had a complicated relationship with House Speaker Gordon Fox.  Though deeply concerned that Fox’s very conservative economic policies are destroying our state, we have always supported the House leadership team because Fox’s likely successors, Helio Melo and Nick Mattiello, are even more conservative than he is.

When Speaker Fox faced the progressive voters of the East Side in November, they were angry—angry at the bevy of red-state legislation Fox had actively pushed for.  Fox promised to change. 

He promised to sunset the ALEC-backed voter ID law he supported, a law he passed even though the chairwoman of the national Democratic Party called him to beg him to reconsider.  He promised to consider not bailing out Wall Street on the 38 Studios deal he helped orchestrate. 

Unshackle patients

Put an end to unnecessary restraints
By Dr. Joanne Eichinger via Cheryl Dowdell

The Rhode Island legislature is currently considering a bill, H-6088, that would curtail a serious problem for the disabled by regulating the use of restraints and curb their misuse. Local state Representative Larry Valencia (D) is the lead co-sponsor of the bill.

The bill is currently being held in the House Judiciary Committee.

With only a little time left, we urge you to contact your state representatives and senators to ask them to pass this bill before this session of the General Assembly ends.

Students with disabilities are disproportionately restrained or secluded in school settings. Restraint is a nation-wide problem that often causes injuries, some of them deadly.

Five months ago, Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome, died while being restrained by mall security officers. Ethan had attended a movie at a local theater in Maryland. When Ethan verbally refused to leave the theater after the movie ended, and while his support staff had gone to get their car, mall security was called, and Ethan was restrained face-down, resulting in death (

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Uncle Sam’s Vast Dragnet

We have a right to be left alone unless the government can give us a very good reason to the contrary.

For more from P.S. Mueller, click here
By Donald Kaul

In 1929, Secretary of State Henry Stimson dismantled the department charged with breaking codes and learning other nations’ secrets. Asked why, he said:

“Gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s mail.” Some sources quote him less elegantly as saying “each other’s mail,” but you get the gist. And boy, have we ever come a long way.

We still pay lip service to our “right to privacy,” but in reality we don’t have one. When you make a phone call, send email, buy something online, or arrange for an automatic withdrawal from your bank, you open up your life to people who would seek to mine it for their own purposes, good and evil.

Privacy? That’s so 20th century.

Scientists Confirm Tsunami Hit Narragansett Bay

A small tidal wave hit the Rhode Island coast on June 13.
The June 13 wave was slightly smaller

A small tsunami hit the Narragansett Bay earlier this month, causing sea levels in the bay to rise and fall several feet within 20 minutes.

A straight line thunderstorms - called a derecho - apparently triggered a tidal wave on June 13, a University of Rhode Island scientist told The Providence Journal . A derecho is a straight line of thunderstorms that sweeps across the country in an eastward direction and can cause hurricane-force winds.

Feeding the Economy

The government should expand the food stamp program, not shrink it.

I never paid much attention to the food stamp debate in Congress before. But I’m on food stamps myself these days, so I’m tuning in this time around.

Officially called SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — food stamps are one of those things that deficit-conscious lawmakers always want to cut and hunger advocates always want to increase.

Surf’s up Sunday

Skim boarding tour hits Charlestown on Sunday, June 30
By Cheryl Dowdell

Once again, right here at beautiful Charlestown Town Beach on June 30th, 2013, the North East Skim Tour is bringing its summer series kickoff to our sunny shores.

Budget priorities out of whack

Do you support the compromises made to put together this year’s state budget?  Would you support them if you knew they will cause people to die?  Statistically speaking, one cut is likely to cause as many as 30 deaths over the next few years.

The problem with discussions of the state budget is that they’re usually conducted in the abstract.  We talk about budget numbers and cutting a little here and moving this number into that column and it’s all rather academic and somewhat bloodless.  To make it a little less bloodless, I’d like to look at just one number and see what it really means.  And since we’re talking about blood, let’s look at the Medicaid cut.

Charlestown Shorts

Whalerock whoopee cushions, Dems want your stuff, big win on signs, fraud alert, why Lisa DeBello abstains
By Will Collette

Whalerock Hearing #4 on Wednesday

The fourth Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBR) hearing on developer Larry LeBlanc’s application for a Special Use Permit for his proposed wind farm will start at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, June 26 at the Charlestown Elementary School and will go until 10:30 PM.

I’m not going. I’ve had it. Maybe one of my colleagues will cover it. Three sessions at three hours each was bad enough - four hours? Faggedaboudit!

Besides, I know how this chapter will end – the ZBR is going to vote down the application and Larry LeBlanc is going back to Superior Court where – due to the ineptitude of the ZBR and the Town – LeBlanc stands a good chance of winning, perhaps this time for good. Unless, of course, we decide to do the right thing.

I can also tell you in advance what will happen at Hearing #4. Here goes: “blah, blah, blah, blah, I object, blah, blah, no, I object, boo, hiss, blah, blah, turbines make your brain explode, blah, blah, here’s something I read on the internet, blah, blah, fake science, blah, blah, blah.” Caution: the chairs at the school are very hard and this next meeting will be one hour longer than usual. Bring a seat cushion.

Dems want your stuff!

The annual Charlestown Democratic Town Committee yard sale is coming up on July 6. CDTC’s top fund-raiser Frank Glista is still looking for salable goods that will bring in some cash, so please contact Frank  by e-mail or at (401) 364-3723.