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Friday, February 28, 2014

New report from local think tank turns back the clock

Our Energy Future Requires Intelligent Conversation
By FRANK CARINI/ News staff

other animated gif on GiphyIt’s imperative that the United States soon have an open and honest discussion about how to better incorporate renewables into the country’s energy mix. But is such a discussion even possible? Are we truly willing to intelligently invest public and private dollars into a sector that will help ensure the nation’s energy future and protect its environment?

If a recently released energy report by a local think tank is any indication, this much-needed 21st-century conversation is stuck in the 1990s. Some of the claims in the 19-page report would be laughable if they weren’t so tired and shortsighted: climate-change science needs to be debated, windmills kill bats and birds, and coal and natural gas continue to be the least expensive sources of electricity.

Mike Stenhouse, founder of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, said the Ocean State needs “open and honest debate” regarding the effectiveness of its renewable-energy mandates, but the organization’s report is littered with claims that are no longer debatable.

Be careful out there

The Gun
By Tom Tomorrow

How to stay safe? Click here.

Uninsured? NOW is the time to sign up!

Wood River Health Services to get the insured enrolled before the March 31 deadline

Charolette Romagnano, Outreach and Enrollment
Specialists at Wood River Health Services, displays
new kiosks available to assist with
insurance exchange enrollments
HOPE VALLEY, RI – With the deadline approaching for the Health Insurance Marketplace fast approaching, Wood River Health Services is stepping up its efforts to help those still without coverage to get enrolled with several outreach events in the Westerly area and the addition of two kiosks at the Hope Valley health center.

Open Enrollment for 2014 coverage ends March 31, 2014. Anyone who hasn’t enrolled in coverage by then, generally can’t enroll in 2014 Marketplace coverage. There is an exception for those who have a qualifying life event that provides a special enrollment period.
Those without health coverage by March 31 may have to pay a penalty.

Outreach and Enrollment Specialists from Wood River Health Services will be on hand at Tower Street Community Center on March 10 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and at the Jonnycake Center on March 11 from 9 a.m. until noon to provide education and information. Attendees will also be able to book appointments for enrollment sessions.

UPDATE: Parks and Recreation Plans - Things To Do

Our friends in the Charlestown Parks and Recreation Department keep giving us new activities to tempt you to get out of the house. 

Here is the March update of the list, below the break.

The Best Way to Keep Our Water Safe

Once we stop relying on fossil fuels, we can forget about coal-related accidents.

oil Animated Gif on Giphy
2014 has been a bad year for drinking water. First, a coal industry chemical spill left West Virginia residents in nine counties with water so polluted they could only use it to flush their toilets. And now 82,000 tons of coal ash have found their way into a river that supplies drinking water to parts of North Carolina and Virginia.

Coal ash, by the way, is what remains after coal is burnt for electricity. And it’s chock full of stuff you don’t want in your drinking water, like cadmium and arsenic.

Free Sunday Concert

Down with cesspools

Tanzi bill would begin statewide cesspool phase-out

STATE HOUSE –As a means to protect the public and the environment, Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) has introduced legislation to eliminate cesspools in Rhode Island.

Cesspools – buried chambers that receive sewage from a building for disposal into the ground – release untreated human waste into the environment, often in direct contact with groundwater. New cesspool construction was banned in Rhode Island in 1968, and since then new buildings have generally been connected to municipal sewers or built with onsite septic systems that safely treat waste.

Under legislation passed in 2007, by this year all cesspools within 200 feet of coastal waters and public drinking water supplies were required to be replaced either by state-approved on-site wastewater treatment systems or connections to sewer systems. 

But that still leaves thousands of other cesspools in use across the state that threaten the environment and public health, and Rhode Island needs a plan to eliminate them.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Charlestown tapas

Ten tasty news tidbits
By Will Collette

Charlestown Zoning Official featured in ProJo story

Our own Joe Warner who oversees zoning and housing rules for the town of Charlestown got a nice mention – and photo – in a major Providence Journal article on the impact of drastically higher flood insurance on properties along our waters. Joe was quoted as saying that some coastal property owners are skipping expensive additions in favor of making their houses more storm resistant.

In the article, Joe noted that this is not an option readily available to the less affluent. Joe is doing his part to abate costs. He completed the course of study and was certified as a Flood Plain Manager, which puts Charlestown in a position to qualify for FEMA’s Community Rating System that could result in major discounts on flood insurance.

Even if Joe wasn't in the ProJo article, it would be noteworthy since the ProJo rarely covers anything south of Warwick anymore.

Charlestown Police get major marks for equipping officers with anti-overdose kits

From the CPD Facebook page
Charlestown PD is among the pace-setters in equipping its officers with life-saving doses of naloxone, a drug that counters the effects of a heroin overdose. Rhode Island has seen a sharp spike in deaths from heroin overdoses since the first of the year – 45 as of mid-February.

I saw Lt. Patrick McMahon on Channel 10 talking about this and holding the kits that CPD staff will be carrying. McMahon noted that about half of CPD’s officers are also certified as EMTs; those who are not will be trained. The story hit the AP newswire and I’ve seen it pop up all over the US. Congrats!

Among some members of the far-right, this kind of humane conduct is seen as a sign that the apocalypse is coming. Tea Party Republican Governor of the state of Maine, Paul LePage, refuses to sanction first responders to carry naloxone, saying that it only encourages more drug use by giving addicts a “false sense of security.” Let ‘em die, says Maine Guv LePage.

Why bother?

Minimum Wage 
By Pat Bagley

Click here to see if it's worth the bother.

Chocolate news couldn't be better unless scientists discovered chocolate helps you lose weight

Why dark chocolate is good for your heart

funny animated gif on GiphyIt might seem too good to be true, but dark chocolate is good for you and scientists now know why. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.

Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. What's more, the scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect. This discovery was published in the March 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal.

Would You Like a Shot of Formaldehyde with That?

It took a lawsuit to force Pepsi to stop labeling its chemical-spiked Naked Juice brand as "all natural."

The delightfully naughty movie star Mae West liked to joke: “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”
Less delightful are some of the purity claims of such food manufacturing giants as PepsiCo, which has long marketed a line of its Frito-Lay snack foods as “Simply Natural.”

Natural? Anyone who’s even looked at one of the company’s strangely-puffed, caterpillaresque, and cheese-powdered “Cheetos” would have a hard time believing nature had anything to do with that junk. Sure enough, PepsiCo has quietly dropped the volatile “natural” claim from its snack packages, rebranding them with just the word “Simply.”

The multibillion-dollar food maker says the shift is merely a routine adjustment of its marketing scheme — but it comes only after consumer groups have taken Pepsi, Campbell Soup, and other manufacturers to court in the past couple of years, successfully challenging their use of the “natural” phrase as deceptive hype.

Head-to-head comparison

Keystone XL vs. Renewable Energy

A head-to-head comparison demonstrates the overwhelming superiority of renewable energy over the Keystone XL. If approved, the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas. In addition to risks from spills and potential water impacts, the pipeline will facilitate the mass extraction of Canada’s global warming causing tar sands.

The Earth is getting warmer and we know that this will have calamitous costs, we also know that fossil fuels are the principle source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Increased levels of GHGs have significant harmful impacts on our health, our environment, and our climate.

We are currently on track for catastrophic global warming if we continue with business as usual. If we want to have a shot at keeping global temperature increases under the internationally agreed upon upper threshold of 2 degrees Celsius, we must radically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

Homeland security research at URI

Sen. Reed Meets with URI researchers leading efforts to reduce threats from explosives, cyber attacks

KINGSTON, RI – February, 25, 2014 -- U.S. Sen. Jack Reed met February 24 with University of Rhode Island professors from chemistry, engineering and cyber security to see firsthand some of the leading research they are conducting on explosives, explosives detection, and cyber security, and discuss efforts to strengthen URI’s role in physical and cyber security study.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How generous is Charlestown?

Is charity the answer to our community problems?
By Will Collette

Screen shot from GoLocalProv report
When the CCA Party majority on the Charlestown Town Council killed a Democratic proposal for a Homestead Tax Credit of $1000 off the property taxes of full-time residents, one of the “practical” arguments given by CCA Party Councilor Dan Slattery and Council Boss Tom Gentz was that giving middle-class permanent residents a tax break would cause resentment among the town’s nonresident owners of multimillion-dollar beach properties.

That resentment would lead to these residents cutting back on hiring locals to take care of their vacation homes (presumably they would mow their own lawns, clean their own houses and check on them during the off-season) and curtail their charitable giving.

I see what you did there

Fun with metadata
By Matt Bors

Click here if you've got nothing to hide.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Inside the Eagle Nebula 

From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust.

Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming.

Already visible are several young bright blue stars whose light and winds are burning away and pushing back the remaining filaments and walls of gas and dust.

The Eagle emission nebula, tagged M16, lies about 6500 light years away, spans about 20 light-years, and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of the Serpent (Serpens). 

This picture combines three specific emitted colors and was taken with the 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt PeakArizonaUSA.

None have been named The Hindenburg

Hydrogen Cars to Hit the Road This Spring

From: CleanTechies Guest Author, Clean Techies, More from this Affiliate 
File:FCX Clarity.jpg
Honda's version, the Honda FCX Clarity (Wikimedia Commons)

Although electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles have been considered the only plausible alternatives to conventional cars for a long time, and practically all of the world’s biggest car makers have been investing heavily in these technologies, and governments around the world have been trying to promote the use of such vehicles by offering generous incentives and financial benefits to those who choose to buy an alternative fuel vehicle instead of a gasoline-powered car, adoption has been lagging and sales have not been as strong as the auto industry had expected.

This is one of the reasons why some manufacturers have turned their focus to other types of alternative fuel vehicles, such as hydrogen cars, with the likes of Toyota, Hyundai and Honda leading the way in the development of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

Gina get your guns

No one will argue that jobs-growth and economic development are crucial topics to be addressed by the state’s gubernatorial candidates. However, Gina Raimondo’s recent choice of companies with which to publicly associate shed light on her lack of authentic integrity.

Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island general treasurer and one of the Democrats running for governor, has yet again, demonstrated an opportunistic approach to campaigning by touring Groov-Pin, a Rhode Island company that manufactures parts used in guns. 

This comes on the heels of a financial maneuver, successfully persuading the Rhode Island Investment Commission to divest retirement money from firearms companies. Madam Treasurer’s contradicting priorities multiply with her stance on “common sense gun laws.” 

VIDEO: Will Rhode Island finally take coordinated action on climate change?

Gov. Chafee Creates Climate Change Council

Text and video by TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

WEST WARWICK — A new statewide board is taking on climate change in Rhode Island. Will it succeed where other efforts for comprehensive action have stalled?

Surrounded by elected officials and state environmental leaders, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed an executive order Feb. 21 establishing the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Council (ECCC), a committee representing nine state agencies. The new committee is directed to develop policies and legislation that address the two main climate-change challenges: adapting to its impacts, and reducing, or mitigating, carbon dioxide emissions.

The ECCC is the second statewide board to confront climate change. In 2010, the General Assembly created the Climate Change Commission in partnership with the Brown University Center for Environmental Studies. The 29-member board consists of elected officials and local environmental leaders. Due to a lack of funding, the committee meets infrequently and issued only one report, in 2012.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Late to the party

"Is There Anybody Alive Out There?”
By Hank Morgan, Progressive Charlestown guest columnist
movie animated gif on Giphy

"Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is.  Do you, Mr. Jones?"- Bob Dylan,  "Ballad of a Thin Man"

Far be it for me to claim any expertise regarding the topic of UFOs and intelligent extraterrestrial life, because I'm a newcomer to this particular party, but when astronauts Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (Apollo 11, second person to walk on the moon), Dr. Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14, sixth moonwalker), and Gordon Cooper (Gemini 5 pilot) have all acknowledged that at least some Earthlings have been in touch with our cosmic neighbors, and NASA has been covering up the evidence for over half a century, it might be time to pay closer attention. (To verify this, just go to YouTube and type their names and "aliens" in the search box.)

Watch for this new contribution to the "improved" CCA website

Nate totally debunks Global Warming
By Ruben Bolling

Click here for his proof positive.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

NGC 2359: Thor's Helmet 

This helmet-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages is popularly called Thor's Helmet. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across.

In fact, the helmet is more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center sweeps through a surrounding molecular cloud.

Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution.

Cataloged as NGC 2359, the nebula is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major.

The sharp image, made using broadband and narrowband filters, captures striking details of the nebula's filamentary structures. It shows off a blue-green color from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas.

Shopping for electricity?

Is North American Power Green?

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

Ratepayers are getting a stream of offers to switch from National Grid to another electric supplier. Is it worth it? North American Power’s TV and mail campaign is clearly saying “Yes.” 

Big Brother Blows It

Our expensive, illegal, and invasive spy program isn't even helpful for stopping terrorism.

President Barack Obama’s support for the NSA’s domestic spying program prompted a critic to say: “Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: ‘Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect.’”

Oh wait, that wasn’t a critic speaking — it was Obama himself. In January, he tried to shush critics by insisting that the threadbare slipcover of reforms he was throwing over the massive spy machine should convince us that all is well. So please, people, just go back to sleep.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Innovative way to fund a college education

“Pay it back, pay it forward”
By Nicholas Bottai, Special to Progressive Charlestown

Higher education is becoming more important in a world with cutting-edge technology at our fingertips. A High School Diploma no longer carries the same meaning it had when my parents were kids just a generation before.

As an Accounting major at the University of Rhode Island, I know first-hand the struggle many Rhode Island families face when attempting to put their kids through college.

The benefits of weirdness

Van Gogh, Lady Gaga and the implications of eccentricity (study)

By Martin Gardiner in Improbable Research
Gaga_FingerAttn. artists! Can you get a higher appraisal for yourself and your art by behaving more eccentrically? 

Say, by hacking off your own earlobe or “cavorting around in little more than a thong”? 

Such questions have been examined in a new study from Dr. Eric R. Igou (University of Limerick, Ireland) and Dr. Wijnand A P van Tilburg (University of Southampton, England) which tested, for the first time, the hypothesis that eccentricity increases perceptions of artistic capacity and quality of art. 

A series of experiments investigated various scenarios.
  • Whether, for example, experimental participants would rate Van Gogh’s work higher if they were first informed of the famous ear-hacking incident.
  • Or if Lady Gaga is or isn’t perceived as a highly skilled artist, depending on participants viewing photos of her behaving eccentrically or (relatively) normally.
  • Or whether ratings of Joseph Beuys’s artworks would vary if viewers were informed that he had “carried roadside stones on his head to the construction site of his cottage, and that he continued doing this for the rest of his life.”

The conclusion :

Astronomy Picture of the Day

NGC 5101 and Friends 

This sharp telescopic field of view holds two bright galaxies. Barred spiral NGC 5101 (top right) and nearly edge-on system NGC 5078 are separated on the sky by about 0.5 degrees or about the apparent width of a full moon.

Found within the boundaries of the serpentine constellation Hydra, both are estimated to be around 90 million light-years away and similar in size to our own large Milky Way galaxy. 

In fact, if they both lie at the same distance their projected separation would be only 800,000 light-years or so. That's easily less than half the distance between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.

NGC 5078 is interacting with a smaller companion galaxy, cataloged as IC 879, seen just below and left of the larger galaxy's bright core.

Even more distant background galaxies are scattered around the colorful field. Some are even visible right through the face-on disk of NGC 5101. But the prominent spiky stars are in the foreground, well within our own Milky Way.

Recycling sludge as fertilizer?

Testing for environmental contaminants in wastewater biosolids

From: Ken Kingery, Duke University in
Don Bousquet in URI Stormwater solutions
Every year waste treatment facilities in the United States process more than eight million tons of semi-solid sewage called biosolids -- about half of which is recycled into fertilizer and spread on crop land. The practice helps solve storage issues and produces revenue to support the treatment plants, but what else is being spread in that sludge?

As industry invents new materials and chemicals for modern products, many find their way to our skin and bloodstream and, subsequently, into our sinks and toilet bowls. More than 500 different organic chemicals have been identified in the biosolids used as fertilizer across the United States.

Eat Yogurt!

Study shows yogurt consumption reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes

Credit: © bit24 / Fotolia
New research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) shows that higher consumption of yoghurt, compared with no consumption, can reduce the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes by 28%.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge found that in fact higher consumption of low-fat fermented dairy products, which include all yoghurt varieties and some low-fat cheeses, also reduced the relative risk of diabetes by 24% overall.

Lead scientist Dr Nita Forouhi, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, commented "this research highlights that specific foods may have an important role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and are relevant for public health messages."

Let the sunshine in

east providence solar memeJust about everyone I talk to about renewable energy says that they want solar panels on their roof. Not only do you get the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping save the planet, but in the long run it’s a great investment.

Even without any support through state incentives, solar systems will pay for themselves in a little over a decade, after which they generate energy cost savings for decades. For most people though, that 10 year pay-back period is just a little too long, and the upfront capital just a little too large to justify the investment. 

As a result, Rhode Island’s residential renewable energy industry has been anemic in the years since 2010 when the State’s renewable energy tax credit program was phased out.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

More on the international Smarties® menace

Smarties® doc hopes maggot threat will "dissuade children from snorting"

 John McDaid  hard deadlines
doctor who animated gif on Giphy
As every parent will agree, the best way to get kids to NOT do something
is to tell them not to do it. If that doesn't work, tell them about
scary maggots
Editor’s Note: John McDaid is the driving force behind hard deadlines, a great hyper-local blog that focuses on Portsmouth. I belatedly found out that he was the one who broke the local Portsmouth Middle School Smarties® hysteria story that not only got picked up by local media (which is where I spotted it) but went viral around the world. This article was noted prominently in the piece on Smarties® snorting on, the leading site for checking whether stuff you read on the internet is b.s.

After breaking the story of the Portsmouth school district "Smartie snorting" memo, harddeadlines reached out to the doctor who was quoted, Dr. Oren Friedman, Associate Professor, Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania. We asked if he had specifically studied Smartie snorting and if he could comment on the incidence and prevalence of Smarties-related maggot infestation. Here's his unedited reply.

It's inevitable

One rich guy
By Tom Tomorrow

if you want to know what life is like for this poor guy, click here.

How the herd instinct leads to bad decisions on vaccinations

Social norms strongly influence vaccination decisions, the spread of disease
Our response to societal pressures about vaccination has a direct effect on the spread of pediatric infectious diseases in areas where inoculation is not mandatory, says new research published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

By incorporating social norms into predictive mathematical modelling, a research team from the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo found that they can foresee the observed patterns of population behavior and disease spread during vaccine scares -- times when anti-vaccine sentiment is strong.

"If vaccination is not mandatory and disease is rare, then a few parents will be tempted to stop vaccinating their children," said Professor Chris Bauch of Waterloo's Faculty of Mathematics, and one of the study authors. "More parents adopt this behavior as social norms begin to change and it becomes increasingly acceptable to avoid some vaccines. Obviously, when enough parents are no longer vaccinating, the disease will come back."

Coming soon to your grocery store

California Drought May Cause Higher Food Prices for All Americans

From: Gina-Marie Cheeseman, Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate 
desert Animated Gif on Giphy

Living in rural Fresno County these days means reading about the drought in the local newspaper every day, seeing reports about it on the local news and praying for rain. The Fresno area is smack dab in the middle of California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley. It is considered to be the "agriculture center of the world."

Valley farmers supply many of the nation’s fruit and vegetables. The Valley is also home to cotton, dairy and cattle ranches. As California enters its third year of drought, farmers are hit particularly hard. Lack of water means making tough decisions, and some farmers have to idle acres of land. Some ranchers have to sell off livestock. That will affect the economy of the Valley because farming is the area’s economy.

The drought will also have effects outside of the Valley and the state. Every American may soon see higher food prices at the grocery store. 

VIDEO: Why no revolution?

Robert Reich Gives Three Reasons Why Americans Are Not Revolting Against Inequality
University of California Economics professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains why, despite increasing income inequality and the dissolution of the middle class, Americans aren’t rising up and revolting.

He breaks down the specifics with three examples: