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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sunshine heals

Put a panel on it
By Jen Sorenson

Click here to learn more about the healing power of the sun.

The Fake Thing

With a newfound exercise obsession, Coca-Cola and other companies are trying to shift the blame for what they're doing to our health.
New rule (as Bill Maher would say): If you make billions of dollars a year selling unhealthy food, you don’t get to tell us to work out.

It was one thing when Cookie Monster began telling kids to eat vegetables. Cookie Monster doesn’t earn a living by selling cookies, and vegetables are a fantastic alternative to cookies.

But it was a totally different story when Ronald McDonald went all Richard Simmons on us, visiting schools to tell kids to work out.

Exercise is a great idea, but it’s not diet advice. Yet this is a frequent tactic of many of the corporations that rake in profits by selling us junk.

Take Coca-Cola’s shameless new fitness campaign. “Are you sitting on a solution?” asks a photo on the company’s website, depicting two people cuddled up, sitting on a beach. The thing is, they’re drinking the problem: Coca-Cola.

Simplier eggplant

Photo and text by KARA DiCAMILLO in

When I think of eggplant, it’s usually a dish that is so smothered in tomato sauce and cheese that you can barely even taste the eggplant. With this recipe, I kept the same concept as the traditional version, yet made it simpler. The result is not only a pretty presentation, but you can also taste each flavor of the ingredients. It’s a perfect side dish or as an antipasto to enjoy the flavors of summer.

Enviro News Wrap

Ignorance Doesn’t Stop Journalists Misleading Public on Environment; Climate and National Security, more…
GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

It’s because of article like this one by Jennifer Hickey published in NewsMax that so many Americans are confused about environmental issues and renewable energy. The article’s main qualms with wind power are that it does not produce enough energy, has unanticipated effects (killing birds) and costs more than originally thought. The article implies that every other energy source (oil, gas, coal) kills no animals, has no extra costs and only took a couple of years to develop. We need real, honest, balanced journalism if common non-expert citizens are going to understand complex issues like renewable energy.

Fixing RI Part 2

Why go green? 
By John Berard in Rhode Island’s Future
- See more at:

In Part 1, I presented a suite of “big ideas” that Rhode Island leaders need to embrace in order to correct out state’s economic course. To recap: they must realize that Rhode Island is its own economic entity and gear policy accordingly. They must look outward and tap into international markets. And they must develop and steward a unique, exportable product.

This product? Sustainability.

Environmental non-profits like the Sierra Club have been championing this for years. Former Congressional candidate David Segal included this as a significant piece of his platform in 2010, and our current Congressional delegation - our junior Senator in particular –  have pushed for environmentally-friendly carbon-reducing initiatives at the federal level. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dog Tricks

Blood marker may predict suicide

People who killed themselves had higher levels of specific gene

A substance that has been found at elevated levels in the blood of people likely to kill themselves could lead to a simple diagnostic test for suicide risk, researchers report August 20 in Molecular Psychiatry.

Right now, clinicians rely on people’s self-reported symptoms and feelings to decide who is in need of immediate help, but a person intent on suicide isn’t always forthcoming. An unambiguous blood test would show clinicians who is in immediate danger.

Sweating it out

Heat Waves to Become Much More Frequent and Severe

Climate change is set to trigger more frequent and severe heat waves in the next 30 years regardless of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) we emit into the atmosphere, a new study has shown.

Extreme heat waves such as those that hit the US in 2012 and Australia in 2009 -- dubbed three-sigma events by the researchers -- are projected to cover double the amount of global land by 2020 and quadruple by 2040.

The False Choice between Security and Liberty

How much of our privacy and how many of our constitutional rights are we willing to give up to protect this country from violent attack?

Even before Edward Snowden disclosed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was harvesting seemingly every detail of our digital lives, our nation has been wrestling with a Faustian bargain: How do we maintain fundamental American rights of liberty and privacy while responding to the need to keep our country safe?

For many Americans, the debate never really hit home until Snowden leaked details of the government’s massive domestic surveillance programs.

What is the people’s right to know?

Chipping away at the stonewall
By Will Collette

Even though Charlestown seems to be pulling back a bit from its near-total ban on release of public records under the state open records law, there are still some serious unsettled issues about Charlestown’s open government policies. 

Hopefully, some of those issues will be addressed soon by the RI Attorney General’s decision on the formal complaint I filed with the state Attorney General that alleges Charlestown violated the Access to Public Records Act.

QUICK BACKGROUND: I filed the complaint on July 21 after Town Clerk Amy Weinreich claimed she no longer maintained custody of public court filings in Charlestown's lawsuits, specifically the Town’s July filing with the court seeking to regain “standing” in the Whalerock wind turbine case and Whalerock’s argument against it. I filed an appeal with Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz and he stood by Ms. Weinreich’s claim that she no longer maintained custody of these records.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The worst kind

Fact Terrorist
By Ted Rall

Click here to learn how to spot them.

In our nature?

Human Brains Are Hardwired for Empathy, Friendship
Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy -- the ability to put ourselves in others' shoes. A new University of Virginia study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us -- friends, spouses, lovers -- with our very selves.

SERIOUS BUG ALERT: West Nile detected in Charlestown

DEM samples test positive (just in time for Rhythm & Roots)

Be careful out there
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Department of Health, (HEALTH) announce that two samples of mosquitoes collected on August 19 have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). 

These findings are not unexpected at this time of the year. Test results on the remaining 140 pools of mosquitoes collected on August 19 are pending at the RI Health Department laboratory.

One sample, or pool, of mosquitoes was collected in the Cross Mills area of Charlestown, and was a species that can bite both birds and humans. Given this positive finding, DEM and HEALTH are advising individuals attending the RI Rhythm and Roots Music Festival this weekend in Charlestown's Ninigret Park to take extra care to avoid mosquito bites.

The second positive WNV mosquito pool was collected in West Kingston and was a species that feeds exclusively on birds.

Pump with care

Warning Labels for Gasoline Pumps?
From: Allison Winter,

Tobacco packaging warning messages have recently been required on cigarettes and other tobacco products in many countries worldwide in an effort to enhance the public's awareness of the harmful effects of smoking.

In a similar fashion, a Canadian campaign is calling for all gasoline pumps to have warning labels on nozzles to inform consumers on the effects fuels have on climate change.

The Food Stamp Fracas

Republican deficit scolds turned into free-spending corporate socialists this summer when they doled out the most generous farm subsidies in U.S. history.

“Stop the moochers!” shouted a flock of GOP budget whackers in the House of Representatives.
It was back in July, before they flapped away for their five-week long summer break. This was the battle cry of conservative House lawmakers as they ripped all food stamp funding out of the Farm Bill in a symbolic move.

They say they’re shocked that use of this safety-net program has jumped so dramatically in recent years. Crying that “those” people are costing us money, the House approved a version of the Farm Bill that stripped out the long-running program that gets food to the poor.

RI Ethics Commission rules Tina Jackson violated state ethics law

GOP candidate for state Representative racks up more violations
By Will Collette

When you've been arrested and convicted for as many crimes as 2012 Republican House candidate and Charlestown Republican activist Tina Jackson has, obeying civil regulations and government rules seems to hold little meaning.

I recently reported that Jackson has now failed to file the last five campaign finance disclosure reports and now owes fines of just under $1600 to the state Board of Elections.

I just received a letter from the RI Ethics Commission notifying me that they have upheld my complaint against Jackson for failing to file the required annual financial disclosure form that all candidates for public office must file. Though that complaint took a while to reach that point, this one was a slam dunk since (a) Tina Jackson was a candidate for public office (and her campaign committee is still active, according to the Board of Elections); (b) candidates must file financial disclosure reports and (c) she didn’t.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Herbs that heal

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Bright Planetary Nebula NGC 7027 from Hubble 

It is one of the brightest planetary nebulae on the sky -- what should it be named? First discovered in 1878, nebula NGC 7027 can be seen toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus) with a standard backyard telescope.

Partly because it appears there as only an indistinct spot, it is rarely referred to with a moniker. When imaged with the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, however, great details are revealed.

Studying Hubble images of NGC 7027 have led to the understanding that it is a planetary nebula that began expanding about 600 years ago, and that the cloud of gas and dust is unusually massive as it appears to contain about three times the mass of our Sun. 

Pictured below in assigned colors, the resolved, layered, and dust-laced features of NGC 7027 might remind sky enthusiasts of a familiar icon that could be the basis for an informal name.

Please feel free to make suggestions -- some suggestions are being recorded, for example, in an online APOD discussion forum.

Street lights for sale?

Rhode Island is first in the nation with utility tariff so municipalities can own streetlights
Charlestown's plan for its light poles. Let there be light. Not.
By Representative Deborah Ruggiero (Jamestown, Middletown)

Streetlights may not sound exciting, but the Municipal Streetlight Investment Act, which I championed this legislative session, with co-sponsors Reps. Donna Walsh, Teresa Tanzi and Larry Valencia, and is now law in Rhode Island, can save our cities and towns about $3 million a year.

Legislation like this isn’t a one-person show, I’m grateful for the collaboration from so many key players. The research was developed with a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation and included a great team with Jeff Broadhead from Washington County Regional Planning Council, environmental attorney Seth Handy, researcher Dan Carrigg and Commissioner Marion Gold from the Office of Energy Resources. Thanks to Senate and House leadership for their support.

Currently, streetlights in Rhode Island are owned by the utility company, which for the most part is National Grid. The utility charges cities and towns a standard rate approved by the Public Utilities Commission.

Rhode Island will be the first in the nation with a utility tariff that offers street lighting controls as an option to ALL municipal customers. This allows more efficient street lighting because now cities and towns can control the fixtures to use energy-efficient lights like LEDs. LEDs are also bright white (not that “dirty yellow” of sodium lights) so bicycles and people are shown clearly.

What we're seeing now: Sit-ins, civil rights and climate action

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses crowd during the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy National Archives
In 1961, 57 percent of Americans thought sit-ins and freedom rides hurt rather than helped the civil rights movement. 
Any guesses where public opinion on climate action is polling today?
Daily Climate Staff Report

Editor's note: This is the first installment of a new feature looking at trends behind the headlines.
Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech during the civil rights march in Washington, D.C.

60 percent of Americans oppose "non-violent civil disobedience" protesting government or business actions contributing to climate change. That's about where the nation was in 1961 on civil rights.

As the nation marks that landmark, it's worth a moment to contrast public opinion in the 1960s on civil rights sit-ins against the public's view today concerning civil disobedience on climate change.
Last week researchers at Yale and George Mason universities released survey results showing that 60 percent of Americans opposed "non-violent civil disobedience" protesting government or business actions contributing to climate change.

That's about where America was in 1961 when a Gallup Poll asked whether "'sit-ins' at lunch counters, 'Freedom Buses,' and other demonstrations by Negroes will hurt or help the Negro's chances of being integrated in the South?"

Overwhelming Risk

Rethinking Flood Insurance in a World of Rising Seas
Our coasts face growing risks from sea level rise. Today's flood insurance system encourages development that increases these risks -- and taxpayers nationwide pay the price.

Sea level is rising and increasing the risk of destructive flooding events during powerful coastal storms. At the same time, increasing coastal development and a growing population are putting more people and more property in harm's way.

This risky pattern of development is being reinforced by the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program, which sets artificially low insurance rates that do not reflect the true risks to coastal properties. When major disasters strike, taxpayers nationwide are left liable for billions of dollars in insurance claims and disaster relief.

If you want to hunt things…

DEM offers two workshops

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish & Wildlife, in partnership with RI Pheasants Forever and the Federated RI Sportsmen's Clubs, will offer a free training workshop and orientation for junior pheasant hunters aged 12 to 14 on Saturday, September 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Great Swamp Shooting Range in West Kingston. The session is open to all junior hunters who have completed a hunter education class.

Topics that will be covered during the workshop include proper gear and clothing; rules and regulations for pheasant hunting; pheasant habitat and behavior, with live pheasants on hand for demonstration and discussion; gun safety in the field; introduction to hunting dogs; clay target shooting; and information about the October 12-13 junior pheasant hunting weekend.

DEM will provide safety gear, along with 12 and 20-gauge ammunition. Participants may bring their own shotgun or borrow one that will be provided during the session. Lunch and assistance will be provided by RI Pheasants Forever and the Federated RI Sportsmen's Clubs.

Pre-registration is required. To register, contact DEM's hunter education office at 539-0019.

And this one to train dogs to point at birds… 

Post-Whalerock document dump

Town unloads lots of records about the Whalerock deal AFTER the deal was done
These documents raise questions that should have been addressed
By Will Collette

FYI: the closing on the Whalerock deal DID NOT happen on August 27 as proposed. 

In Charlestown’s Bizarro World, the key to intelligent and informed debate is for the public to have access to information about important issues after the decisions have already been made by the CCA-Party controlled Town Council. No reason why the Whalerock wind turbine controversy should be any different.

On Friday, August 23, the day after the Town Council majority’s decision to spend every nickel of available open space/recreation bond money to buy the Whalerock property, the town sent me key documents containing crucial detail which I assume they expected me to cover in Progressive Charlestown. 

In Washington where I worked for 25 years, a Friday release of mounds of important documents on controversial subjects is called taking out the trash.” Lawyers use the term document dump.”

As readers know, I have advocated the town’s purchase of that property since 2011 and have been pushing it hard since we reached the final stages of the battle. Also, since the Town Council has made the deal and decided not to give voters the final say, the issue is pretty academic at this point.

However, unless Charlestown totally embraces Niccolò Machiavelli’s principle that “the ends justify the means,” it makes sense to review the process Charlestown used to get to an end point that more or less lines up with what most residents wanted to happen. That meant wading through over 300 pages of documents.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Who's on first?

Green ideas for returning students

Smart Ideas for Back-To-School
Within the next few weeks millions of children (and adults) will be forced to say goodbye to summer and head back to school. As much of challenge it is transition from summer mode to school mode, I find back to school preparations and shopping particularly tasking. 

Even when sticking to the list of absolute necessities considerately provided by my teachers, I always wonder if I am making the right decisions, ecologically and financially. 

Below I have compiled a list of tips for students and parents who want to make  eco-friendly decisions when heading back to school.

Bad bugs trapped in Tiverton


PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that test results from one mosquito pool, or sample, from a trap set in the southern part of Tiverton has been confirmed positive for Highlands J Virus. 

The positive Highlands J result was from a species of mosquitoes that bites birds. Highlands J virus is a bird disease that doesn't affect humans, but which is an indicator that environmental conditions are appropriate for the transmission of other mosquito-borne viruses. 

Raimondo “Smart Money Tour” comes to South Kingstown on Tuesday

State Treasurer will explain how to better manage your money, presuming you have any
By Will Collette

State Treasurer Gina Raimondo brings her pre-Gubernatorial candidacy declaration road show to our area on Tuesday. According to the Narragansett-South Kingstown Patch, Raimondo will be at the South Kingstown Senior Center, 25 St. Dominic Rd., Wakefield from 10-11 a.m. TODAY (August 27).

Charlestown is not on her schedule, so this is the best we can expect.

I’m hoping that Raimondo will come with plenty of tips for retirees who now face greatly diminished pension payments as a result of the state’s pension “reform” cutbacks which she spearheaded. 

One of the key elements to dealing with your finances is to make a good plan that is realistically based on your projected income and expenses. That’s what many retirees did as they prepared for their own retirement – they calculated their incomes based on the pension income they were promised and which many of them actually paid for, and they made adjustments in their lifestyles, such as down-sizing their homes.

Raimondo took those plans and threw them out the window. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Be safe with fire

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 271 
What will become of these galaxies? Spiral galaxies NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 are passing dangerously close to each other, but each is likely to survive this collision.

Typically when galaxies collide, a large galaxy eats a much smaller galaxy. In this case, however, the two galaxies are quite similar, each being a sprawling spiral with expansive arms and a compact core.

As the galaxies advance over the next tens of millions of years, their component stars are unlikely to collide, although new stars will form in the bunching of gas caused by gravitational tides. Close inspection of the image taken by the 8-meter Gemini-South Telescope in Chile shows a bridge of material momentarily connecting the two giants.

Known collectively as Arp 271, the interacting pair spans about 130,000 light years and lies about 90 million light-years away toward the constellation of Virgo.

Recent predictions hold that our Milky Way Galaxy will undergo a similar collision with the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years.

NOW they tell us

LSD and Other Psychedelics Not Linked With Mental Health Problems, Analysis Suggests
The use of LSD, magic mushrooms, or peyote does not increase a person's risk of developing mental health problems, according to an analysis of information from more than 130,000 randomly chosen people, including 22,000 people who had used psychedelics at least once.

Researcher Teri Krebs and clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience, used data from a US national health survey to see what association there was, if any, between psychedelic drug use and mental health problems.

The authors found no link between the use of psychedelic drugs and a range of mental health problems. Instead they found some significant associations between the use of psychedelic drugs and fewer mental health problems.

The results are published in the journal PLOS ONE and are freely available online after 19 August.

What Is the Going Rate for a Generator?

Don’t feel like reliving the pioneer days this storm season? 
A generator is your best bet, but what does it cost to keep your life up and running?
Written by Shira Boss from the Narragansett-South Kingstown Patch

We’re a little too accustomed to the hunker-down-in-the-dark, pioneer-lifestyle of power outages thanks to freak Nor’easters and superstorms. Generators are the obvious way to keep some of your creature comforts, but how much do they cost here in town and where did you buy one?

Odds are most of us aren’t going to pedal our way to power with a DIY bicycle-powered generator. Portable units are the most commonly purchased and start at around $400, like this unit from Champion, sold at Sears. Generators like these provide about 3,500 watts and can run a refrigerator, sump pump, and lights – but not the air conditioner.

Mystic Aquarium to the rescue right off Charlestown coast

Leatherback turtle rescued from fishing rope off RI
We don’t know too much about the giant leatherback turtles, the world’s second biggest reptile behind the crocodile, that summer offshore of the Ocean State and all over the Eastern Seaboard.
We know they come to feast on jellyfish. We know the females lay eggs in surf-side nests in South America, the Caribbean and as far north as Florida and that the males never again return to shore. 

But we don’t even know how long they live. After they hatch they swim sometimes thousands of miles out into the deep sea and even researches don’t see much of them again.

Until, that is, they are in trouble.

We measure time as “BC” and “AC”

“Before Copar” and “After Copar”
By Sue Clayton

Woody Hill Marsh (from Misquamicut Runner)
I live in Charlestown on the town line with Westerly, the frontline of the battle against the Copar Quarry in Bradford. 

This is my third article in Progressive Charlestown where I try to describe what it is like to live with such an unneighborly neighbor. In this article, I will talk about how life used to be, “before Copar,” and how our community might heal “after Copar.”

Recently, the Charlestown Town Council decided to spend 2.1 million taxpayers’ dollars to buy almost 80 acres owned by Larry Leblanc. This money is to be spent to halt the possible building of a wind turbine farm on that acreage.

I wondered why the Westerly Town Council hasn't considered doing something similar with the quarry site, since it is also an environmentally important location that abuts the Woody Hill management area. Access could have been provided for people to enjoy the area. Westerly may not realize what is being lost.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Berries are good for you

An $11 Trillion Stimulus?

Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
Reading through a recently released Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report at first reveals the obvious: eating more fruits and vegetables is healthier for you. But the report, The $11 Trillion Dollar Reward, goes further in placing a dollar value on the benefits of a healthier society. The UCS study suggests a revamp of our nation's agriculture policy is in order to get more local fruits and vegetables on the table and less reaching out of a car window to grab another bagged fast food meal.