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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BREAKING: Charlestown does Whalerock damage control

Clarifying the Town Administrator's "clarification"

Note, August 1: it appears that The Westerly Sun has reworked their web site overnight. The link to the clarification article does not work and we can't find that article this morning.

By Will Collette

Apparently, there was a little meeting at Town Hall to do some damage control over yesterday's announcement that the Town Council intended to buy Larry LeBlanc's property, proposed site of the unpopular Whalerock wind turbine project.

The announcement was that the Council would hold a public hearing on August 22nd and then close the deal with LeBlanc on August 27 for $2,114,415.

This announcement rendered the public hearing merely a formality, but more significantly, the Town Council's plan violates past precedent, as well as the language of Charlestown's Home Rule Charter that requires land acquisitions of more than $50,000 to go to the voters.

Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz apparently tried to get a hasty correction into the Westerly Sun. In the Sun's "clarification," they report "Charlestown Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz said Tuesday the Town Council retains the choice of putting the planned purchase of the proposed Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC wind turbine site to a town-wide referendum."

Meanwhile, in another part of Florida....

A mom named Marissa
By Keith Knight

Click here so you won't miss the surprise ending.

Cool new invention

Gravity-powered lamp to enter field tests

A cheap new light that could provide an alternative to kerosene and solar lamps in rural areas will enter field testing in Africa and Asia this year.

The device, a gravity-powered LED lamp called 'GravityLight', works by attaching a weighted bag below it from a cord. As the bag slowly descends, gears convert the weight into energy — providing users with up to 30 minutes of light, depending on the weight of the bag. There are also settings to provide brighter light for a shorter period.


Double Trouble Car Accidents, Arrests
Posted by Lauren Costa (Editor) in the Narragansett-South Kingstown Patch

They'll Never Find Me in the Boys' Room

Speaking of double trouble, one Providence woman is in a bit of trouble after . The 26-year-old woman reportedly hit a traffic signal pole in Cranston before leaving the scene, with both of her airbags deployed.

Then, it happened again: the woman allegedly drove her car into an 18-wheeler truck. With her car wedged underneath the truck, she fled from the scene and ran into a school. Police said she locked herself in a boys’ bathroom stall and flushed something down the toilet.

Classic civil disobedience used at Dominion coal plant

Text and photos by TIM FAULKNER/ News staff 

SOMERSET, Mass. — There were no fire hoses or billy clubs, but it was a long afternoon for the 44 activists arrested during the July 28 protest at the Brayton Point Power Station.

In an orderly manner, police cuffed the trespassers with plastic zip-ties and escorted them from view. They had their photos taken and were driven in police wagons to the Fall River National Guard Armory for fingerprinting and booking, an ordeal that was delayed by computer issues.

Charlestown chunks

1. Tax bills
2. Sandy money maybe
3. Mageau loses
4. RISC implodes
5. Cooks cook up cookbook blog
By Will Collette

Property Tax Bills Come Due

If it’s August, that means that mosquitoes start carrying West Nile Virus and Charlestown property tax bills become due. Well, I don’t mind paying my fair share of taxes. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.

However, I must again register my disappointment with the CCA Party-dominated Town Council and Budget Commission for enacting, for the sixth year in a row, an increase to our property tax rate even though we carry substantial excess surplus funds. The rate you pay on this year’s tax bill is sixteen cents per $1000 in property value higher because the town decided to pay off the loan on the Police Station early, rather than use some of the excess surplus to keep the tax rate steady.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Breaking News - Charlestown announces deal made to buy Whalerock property

Charlestown will pay $2,114,415 for 78 acres by the end of August

By Will Collette

As you've been reading in Progressive Charlestown, the town has finally followed our advice to end the painful war over the proposed Whalerock wind turbine project on the 81 acre parcel that has been owned by developer Larry LeBlanc for the past 10 years. This project caused the CCA Party to undergo a civil war in 2009, divided the town and made a lot of local residents very crazy.

After a string of legal defeats suffered by the town and the neighbors, the only remaining path to ending the crisis to the satisfaction of most of the town was to negotiate a fair deal with LeBlanc to take and hold that land as town open space. Town Democrats weighed in to support that approach and I've been pushing it for months.

Today, the Town announced the deal and posted its sales agreement with LeBlanc's partner, James Barrows who will, in turn, fulfill his obligation to LeBlanc under a December 31, 2012 sales-leaseback agreement to pay LeBlanc $2 million for the property. The leaseback agreement also commits Barrows to pay LeBlanc $500,000 if he cancels the wind turbine project, which is obviously going to happen since Barrows is selling the land to the Town.

After an accident at the local nuclear power plant

From Fake Science, Charlestown's leading choice for science facts

It's about time!

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

PROVIDENCE — The first meeting of the Distributed Generation Contracts Board was held July 18, three years after the committee was created. Nevertheless, it seems the renewable energy program the committee oversees ran smoothly without the oversight.

The board was created in 2011, along with the legislation that launched Rhode Island's innovative distributed generation (DG) contracts program — a four-year pilot program that offers fixed pricing for large, utility-scale wind turbines. The term “large” is relative. Most projects are much smaller than multi-turbine wind farms, but they are bigger than solar arrays for homes and businesses.

The committee may not be in existence for long, however. The DG program expires at the end of 2014. Legislation to extend the program failed in the General Assembly this year. National Grid opposed the legislation extending the program.

Rhode Island Takes Important Step to Crack Down on Wildlife Poaching

State passes legislation required to join Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact

Stepping up the national battle against poachers, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed legislation that allows Rhode Island to become a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. The national law enforcement network prevents wildlife violators who have lost their hunting, trapping or fishing privileges due to illegal wildlife crimes, such as poaching, in member states from circumventing those license revocations in Rhode Island.

Elise Traub, director of wildlife protection for The Humane Society of the United States said: “The Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact is a valuable resource for cracking down on poaching and will ensure that the Ocean State is not a destination for poachers looking to circumvent their home state’s punishment. We’re so grateful to Representative Patricia Serpa and Senator Catherine Cool Rumsey for sponsoring this bill and to the entire Rhode Island legislature and Governor Chafee for supporting this much needed legislation.”

What it costs Charlestown taxpayers to wage endless war against the Narragansetts

And for what purpose?
Camp Davis: the next battleground in the CCA Party's
war on the Narragansetts?
By Will Collette

The Narragansett Indian Tribe has had a hard time with the white settlers since the Great Swamp Massacre in 1675 when Massachusetts and Connecticut militias nearly exterminated the tribe. 

The tribe’s lands were taken and divided up among the white settlers and many of the surviving tribe members were sold into slavery

The tribe kept its traditions and identity alive against all odds and, in the 1970s, they fought to win back at least a little of what they lost, by winning federal recognition that they exist and by bringing suit to reclaim nearly the entire land mass of Charlestown. 

That lawsuit resulted in the RI Indian Lands Settlement Act and Joint Memorandum of Understanding that gave the tribe the bulk of its present tribal lands in Charlestown on the pledge they would accept restrictions on that land, among them being no gaming establishments without the town’s approval.

In recent years, Charlestown taxpayers have paid more than $300,000 to the ethically-challenged, controversial ex-East Providence mayor Joe Larisa to serve as “Town Solicitor for Indian Affairs” to fight the Narragansett Indian Tribe on anything the Tribe wants to do. 

He pursues that task with zeal, earning him the label of “racist” by tribal elders and leaders.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Testing your reflexes

From Fake Science, Charlestown's leading scientific authority

Another tick-borne disease, this one viral

Scientists Prove Ticks Harbor Heartland Virus, a Recently Discovered Disease in the United States

Scientists have for the first time traced a novel virus that infected two men from northwestern Missouri in 2009 to populations of ticks in the region, providing confirmation that lone star ticks are carrying the recently discovered virus and humans in the area are likely at risk of infection. The findings were published online in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lone star ticks are found in Charlestown. I know because I've been bitten by one. It's a tick bite that actually hurts.

Dubbed Heartland virus or HRTV, the infection causes fever, headaches, and low white blood cell and platelet counts. The two men infected in 2009, who live about 70 miles apart, were sufficiently ill to require hospitalization. 

Gay Marriage legal in RI starting Thursday

Here’s how to get your license in Charlestown
By Will Collette

In Providence, they’re expecting a bit of a crush so they are recommending that same sex couples act NOW to get a license so they can get hitched later this week without delay when the state’s new law permitting same sex marriage kicks into effect.

In Charlestown, you have to get your license from Town Clerk Amy Weinreich at Town Hall.

According to the Charlestown website, here’s the deal:

Plan ahead. Take Lifeguard tests for next season starting August 5th

Those with Current Conditional Certification Must Also Take Test

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Parks and Recreation will administer surf and non-surf lifeguard certification tests, beginning on August 5th, to certify lifeguards for the year 2014.

Any candidate who passes one of these tests will be certified through September 30, 2014. Lifeguards who received a conditional 2013 surf or non-surf certification must take and pass one of these tests.

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

The only sure result of Detroit's bankruptcy is that armies of lawyers will make bales of money.

The other shoe finally dropped in Detroit.

The once-proud city — variously known as “Motown,” “the Arsenal of Democracy,” and “the City of Champions” — filed for bankruptcy. There’s a local effort to head off the filing, but most people don’t think it will get anywhere.

Detroit’s the largest American city ever to do this, and it’s been coming for a long time. Detroit’s been a mess for decades, but that shouldn’t blind us to how astonishing the event is.

Turbine Tidbits

While we wait on negotiations to buy LeBlanc’s 81 acres…
By Will Collette

No more Zoning hearings until August 28

As most Progressive Charlestown readers know, the Charlestown Town Council finally decided to follow the course of action we’ve been advocating for months as the only sensible solution to ending the three-year old Whalerock wind turbine crisis: negotiate a fair price for the 81 acre site for the proposed wind farm with developer Larry LeBlanc so the land can be preserved as open space. The Zoning Board of Review, accordingly, has suspended hearings on Whalerock’s application for a Special Use Permit until August 28 at the earliest.

Related Whalerock development plan warmly received by Planning Commission

Under the leadership of CCA Party’s Ruth Platner, the Charlestown Planning Commission has earned the reputation of the place where good ideas go to die. But one part of the on-going Whalerock negotiations got its first airing and a very warm reception on July 24. The PC heard from representatives of NIN LLC, the company formed by Larry LeBlanc’s Connecticut partner James Barrows on a plan to carve out two, 2-acre lots from the 81 acres to be used to build new housing. Listen to the discussion by clicking here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Endangered species returns

Happy Days
By Bill Day

Click here to celebrate the return of Jim Crow.

No difference?

Eat Well, Walk More, Live Longer

Americans die younger than citizens of most other rich countries.

We just got some bad news. Or maybe it’s some good news.

study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Americans don’t live as long as citizens of most other rich countries. How is that good news? Because many of our top risk factors are things we can change.

By and large, people who reside in the world’s wealthy countries live longer than we do. We’re the anomaly. We’ve got the money. We can make the changes — if we want to.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,”

But Rhode Island doesn’t make the cut

Providence – Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center released Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar Statesa new report highlighting the solar energy boom across the country. The report outlines the twelve states that have made a considerable contribution to the nation’s rise in solar power. Rhode Island, however, missed the cut and failed to rank among the twelve.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” said Channing Jones, Program Associate with Environment Rhode Island. “The progress of other states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, set big goals and get good policies on the books.”


Breaking INTO Jail
Summer Reading at the ACI

After reading a police report out of Cranston, we really want to know what book literally drove a woman back to jail. The 30-year-old woman from Johnston made sure Cranston police knew she was back in town and on a mission as she drove toward the Adult Correctional Institutions with hazards flashing and horn beeping. 

Reports indicate that she was screaming that she needed to go back to jail to finish a book – WHAT BOOK?! – and “save Jesus.” She did not appear to be on drugs or drunk, though police said she would yell random statements about various topics. 

General Assembly OKs Cathie Cool Rumsey firearms safety study

Assembly approves task force on firearms safety and behavioral health

They can start by studying this genius
STATE HOUSE – Legislators today voted to approve legislation to create a task force to address ways for the state to address firearms safety and behavioral health.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero and Sen. Catherine Cool Rumsey, is a key element of the package of legislation introduced earlier this year in the General Assembly to address gun safety following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We want a government at least as good as Nordstom's

Privacy ends where the parking lot begins
By Ted Rall

Click here to add a file to the NSA database.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Beautiful Trifid 

The beautiful Trifid Nebula is a cosmic study in contrasts. Also known as M20, it lies about 5,000 light-years away toward the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius.

A star forming region in the plane of our galaxy, the Trifid illustrates three different types of astronomical nebulae; red emission nebulae dominated by light emitted by hydrogen atoms, blue reflection nebulae produced by dust reflecting starlight, and dark nebulae where dense dust clouds appear in silhouette.

The bright red emission region, roughly separated into three parts by obscuring dust lanes, lends the Trifid its popular name. But in this sharp, colorful scene, the red emission is also surrounded by the telltale blue haze of reflection nebulae. 

Pillars and jets sculpted by newborn stars, below and left of the emission nebula's center, appear in Hubble Space Telescope close-up images of the region.

The Trifid Nebula is about 40 light-years across.

What’s Driving America’s Flagging Vital Signs?

Inequality is behind the nation's dismal life expectancy rates.

Let’s talk life expectancy.

The stats first. They tell a shocking story: Americans now live shorter lives than men and women in most of the rest of the developed world. And that gap is growing.

Back in 1990, shouts a new study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the United States ranked a lowly 20th on life expectancy among 34 major industrial nations. The United States now ranks 27th — despite spending much more on health care than any other nation.
Americans, notes the AMA journal, are losing ground globally “by every” health measure.

Media reports on this new study blamed all the usual suspects for America’s disappointing health: poor personal health habits, inadequate access to health care, and just plain poverty.

Solar passes 100 gigawatt threshold

By Richard Matthews 

Globally, we have surpassed the 100 GW threshold of installed solar power.  As reported in Triple Pundit, India and Spain have both achieved grid parity and Italy is also competitive. Grid parity is the holy grail of renewable energy, it is the point at which  generating electricity is equal in cost, or cheaper than conventional grid power.

The falling costs of solar panels are making solar energy competitive and this trend is expected to continue. The cost of Chinese solar panels is expected to drop to a new low of 42 cents per watt by 2015, which will make power generated from solar cheaper than both coal and most forms of natural gas within a decade.

Exceptionally Mediocre on a Global Scale

America became great through deliberate and determined public investments in the common good, not hocus-pocus exceptionalism.

America the Beautiful! America the Greatest! We’re No. 1, right?

Absolutely, naturally, and indisputably. 

At least that’s the theocratic pronouncement of far-right-wing nativists who preach the dogma of American “exceptionalism.” 

They use the concept as a not-to-be-questioned litmus test of our patriotism.

Never mind that on many crucial measures of national achievements, our Good Ol’ U.S. of A has slipped in recent years. A simple-minded assertion that we’re No. 1 doesn’t make it so.

McFinancial Planning

When McDonald's attempted to help its underpaid workers stick to a budget, the fast food giant exposed how much the burger chain's wages fall short of what's needed to survive in America.

The actual budget McD's gave its workers - work two jobs, keep rent to $600 or less, health insurance at $20 month!!! and pay nothing for heat and you're gonna do fine. Oh, and there's nothing budgeted for food so I guess they expect their workers to eat for free on McD's tab, right?
At last, a fast food giant that gives a damn about the economic hardships low-wage workers face.
Not only does McDonald’s care, but, by golly, the good executives who sit atop the Golden Arches are goosing-up the meager $8.25 an hour that their workers have been getting paid. As you can imagine, hair-netted hamburger-flippers everywhere would be very grateful to see their hourly wage boosted to $10.

Well, yes, but McDonald’s didn’t become a giant by paying fair wages, so actually raising the $8.25 wage isn’t the goose the executives are giving to their workers’ paychecks.

Instead, the burger chain has launched a website that instructs employees on how to stretch that eight-and-a-quarter by better budgeting.

Point taken, Bob

Backroom dealing at the General Assembly
Bob Craven undercuts Donna Walsh's symbolic win on ethics in judicial appointments
By Will Collette

For more than a decade, Rep. Donna Walsh (D-Charlestown) has fought an uphill battle for a piece of common sense ethics legislation. Donna wants Rhode Island’s judge magistrates to be chosen based on merit, rather than as a political patronage reward. ProJo columnist Ed Fitzpatrick likened Donna’s long-haul struggle to the plight of Sisyphus, condemned by the gods to push a rock up a mountain, only to have it roll down as it neared the top.

Her merit selection for magistrates bill usually dies in committee. This year, her efforts got a bit of a bump when Donna took a stand for principle in the House Judiciary Committee when the committee was asked to pass a bill creating a special license plate for one of those politically-selected magistrates who was retiring.

To the shock of the House leadership who assumed this bill would simply breeze through committee, the bill was defeated by a surprise vote of 6 to 5. This earned Donna a “hot” spot on GoLocalProv’s weekly, “Who’s hot and who’s not” column.

As Donna told the Providence Journal, “I couldn’t vote for this when we can’t even get the magistrate bill out of committee.”

Friday, July 26, 2013

Walk a mile in someone else's shoes

An Immigrant's Story
By Ruben Bolling

Click here for the sad tale

Dolphins name themselves with a whistle

To call a dolphin, just whistle a squeaky shout-out.

Bottlenose dolphins answer to high-pitched bursts of sound — but each animal responds to only one specific trill, its “signature whistle,” Stephanie King and Vincent Janik of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland report June 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Free salt-water fishing on Sunday

DEM says no license required

PHOTO by Will Collette after a Mystic Aquarium seal release (little head in
the foreground, left of center, is Hershey the Seal) at the Charlestown
Breachway Beach

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that in conjunction with Governor Chafee's Bay Day, all Rhode Islanders and visitors can fish in Rhode Island saltwaters without a saltwater fishing license on Sunday, July 28.

Free saltwater fishing for anglers is just one of the many activities available to the public on Governor's Bay Day. Free parking will be available at all Rhode Island state beaches and family-friendly activities will be offered at Colt State Park, Roger Wheeler State Beach, and Scarborough State Beach.

Concert on Sunday in the Park

It’s a much bigger problem

Limiting Global Warming Is Not Enough
So far, international climate targets have been restricted to limiting the increase in temperature. But if we are to stop the rising sea levels, ocean acidification and the loss of production from agriculture, CO2 emissions will have to fall even more sharply.

This is demonstrated by a study published in Nature that has been carried out at the University of Bern.

The ultimate objective of international climate policy is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. To do this, greenhouse gases are to be stabilised at a level that is acceptable for humans and for the environment.

Third Annual Rhode Island Great Outdoors Pursuit

Free Parking at All State Beaches on July 28 in Celebration of Bay Day

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management will host the third event of the 2013 Rhode Island Great Outdoors Pursuit on Sunday, July 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in conjunction with Governor Lincoln Chafee's Bay Day at Colt State Park in Bristol.

The Pursuit event is open to the public and will feature a host of activities such as a tide pool touch tank, healthy cooking demonstration and farmers' market, electronics recycling drop-off, and hula-hooping. There is no cost to register and all activities are either free or low-cost. The general public who do not wish to register are also invited to participate in all activities. More information is available online at