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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dick Frank purged from the Zoning Board by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance

Second board member ousted as CCA stacks Zoning with CCA loyalists
The CCA Party will tolerate no deviation from their party line
By Will Collette

Long-serving member of the Charlestown Zoning Board of Review (ZBR) Richard Frank, husband of former Town Council member Marge Frank, learned at the July 17 Town Council meeting that despite his long and faithful service to town and his willingness to serve another term, he was being kicked off the ZBR.

Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) Council hit man Dan Slattery made the announcement during the usually routine portion of the town council agenda for re-appointment of volunteer commissioners who wish to be re-appointed, that he stood against Dick Frank’s re-appointment and his two CCA Party colleagues, Council Boss Tom Gentz and George Tremblay, nodded to indicate that a majority wanted to purge Frank.

The Free Market fixes our crumbling infrastructure

A bridge to where?
By Brian McFadden

Click here to see how the Invisible Hand of the free market will fix everything.

VIDEO: Go get 'em, Sheldon!

VIDEO: What better way to mark the 100th Anniversary of the First World War?

The fix is in

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Portsmouth High School's busted wind turbine, which Gov. Lincoln Chafee recently called “a symbol of embarrassment,” is getting some assistance from the state.

In June, the Portsmouth Town Council approved a funding plan to re-commission the 336-foot-tall wind turbine, which has been out of service since June 2012 because of a broken gearbox. On Monday night, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation aided the Town Council’s efforts by approving a plan to delay repayment of $270,000 in debt. The action helps the town replace the gearbox and make the project financially viable, although much less profitable.

VIDEO: Does this look familiar?

New Seth Magaziner TV characters are Caprio-esque

On the day his opponent’s brother is resigning amid scandal as chair of the state Democratic Party, general treasurer candidate Seth Magaziner comes out swinging against the status quo with his second TV ad of the campaign.

“Seth introduces ‘Insider Politics’ and ‘Mismanagement’, two consummate practitioners of the old politics that is ruining Rhode Island,” said campaign manager Evan England in an email. Here they are:

England didn’t exactly answer when I asked him if “Insider Politics” and “Mismanagement” were meant to be represent his primary opponent Frank Caprio.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Charlestown border control policy apparently violated by the state. Again.

DEM plans to buy Audubon land in Charlestown without Town Council's advice and consent
By Will Collette

If our Charlestown Town Council members are consistent with their stated principles, we are about to see another outbreak of hostilities between Charlestown and the state.

According to the Providence Journal, the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has a deal with the state Audubon Society to buy the Kimball Wildlife Sanctuary outright for $300,000 out of state open space funds that have been approved by state voters.

The Kimball property is 29 beautiful, unspoiled acres abutting Burlingame Park on Watchaug Pond.

Under the “Slattery Rule,” established by CCA Party Town Council Dan Slattery at the Council’s July 17 meeting, whenever a state or federal “agent” comes to Charlestown to conduct official business, they are expected to give advance notice and check in with Town Hall first and must present the details on the reasons for their visit.

Further, if that state or federal agency conducts business within Charlestown, they are expected to seek and accept the Charlestown Town Council’s advice and consent. Which DEM has apparently failed to do on this land deal.

About those green potato chips...

Studying Food For Safety

Next state Democratic Party chair should have principles (a work ethic would help, too)

Young Dems: replace Caprio with a liberal party chair

The Young Democrats of Rhode Island says the next chairman of the state Democratic Party should reflect “both the best interests of Rhode Island and the principles of the national Democratic Party.”

“That includes,” they said in an email, “firm commitments to reproductive justice, gun safety reforms, repealing voter ID, and making government more accessible and transparent.”

David Caprio resigned yesterday from the post after an NBC 10 Parker Gavigan scoop about his beach concession stand contract. Gavigan reported that Caprio assumed the contracts after Cranston state Rep. Peter Palumbo won the bid, dropped out and then took a job managing the concession stands for Caprio.

Caprio is a conservative Democrat who was ousted from his legislative seat by progressive Democrat Teresa Tanzi in 2010. Caprio was recommended as chairman by former Speaker Gordon Fox.

Here’s the Young Democrats full press release:

Shortchanging Our National Treasures

State and national parks alike are underfunded in this era of tight budgets.

Jet Lane animated GIF

Fabulous vacations don’t come cheap. Hotels often run at least $100 a night, if not higher. Add in airfare, a rental car, and restaurant meals, and a family vacation becomes a privilege for those with the cash to afford them.

What’s a more affordable option? Heading to a national park, state park, or national forest.

America’s greatest vacation destinations are also our most egalitarian. You still need to get the time off work and transportation, but if you can do that, you can almost certainly afford the price tag of admission — even to the likes of the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon.

I recently took a five-day trip to Yosemite National Park, backpacking through the backcountry in gorgeous pine forests. Total cost from my southern California home: $225 including transportation.

Reject crass cruelty

The economics of refugee children

If the most important thing in the world is the Economy and all else is secondary in consideration, then human life is only valuable in as much as it contributes to the efficient maintenance of the Economy. 

In such a world the makers of things and the investors of Capital are of primary importance, while the takers of things and those incapable of meaningful contribution are at best to be considered luxuries and at worst impediments to our great society.

It is easy to understand why Terry Gorman, founder of nativist hate group RIILE, motivated by racism and misanthropy, would be so outraged by the influx of refugee children that he would hold weekly rallies to announce his special kind of awfulness to the world, but it is harder to understand the rationale of those who maintain that they are not motivated by unreasoning hatred, but by simple considerations of market forces and uncontrollable economic reality.

PRIVACY: "canvas finger-printing"

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Charlestown Tapas

Ten more tasty news bits
By Will Collette

Must Read: Good fellas take full control of quarries

Phil Armetta (photo by Stephen DeVoto,
The Westerly Sun’s ace investigative reporter Dale Faulkner had another important story in last Sunday’s Sun. Phil Armetta, the Connecticut trash tycoon who bankrolled Copar to take over the abandoned Westerly Granite quarry on the Bradford-Charlestown line on Route 216, has regained control of the company and made a truly amazing personnel decision.

That’s not good news for Westerly or Charlestown (which hosts the 2nd Copar quarry in the area on Route 91).

Armetta served time in federal prison for racketeering activities while he was running his flagship company, Dainty Waste of Middletown, CT. I’m not making this up. 

After his federal conviction, Armetta was forced to transfer control of Dainty Waste to his children, but he never gave up his ambition to be the biggest trash guy in the area.

What's next?

Hobby Lobby joins a cult
By Matt Bors

Click here to see what new religious frontiers these intrepid entrepeneurs will cross.

Saving lives

Innovative system anticipates driver fatigue in the vehicle to prevent accidents

The Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia (Biomechanics Institute -- IBV) has developed a devise integrated in smart materials capable of monitoring cardiac and respiratory rhythms in order to prevent drivers from falling asleep, in the framework of the European project HARKEN.

This nonintrusive sensor system measures heartbeat and respiratory rate embedded into the seat cover and the safety belt of the car. According to the IBV Director of Innovation in Automobile Markets and Mass Transportation, José Solaz, "the variation in heart and respiratory rate are good indicators of the state of the driver as they are related to fatigue.

So when people go into a state of fatigue or drowsiness, modifications appear in their breathing and heart rate; HARKEN can monitor those variables and therefore warn the driver before the symptoms appear."

Can't fix it if you don't know how bad it is

We're Still Not Tracking Patient Harm

Hospital Movie animated GIFby Marshall Allen, ProPublica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The health care community is not doing enough to track and prevent widespread harm to patients, and preventable deaths and injuries in hospitals and other settings will continue unless Congress takes action, medical experts said on Capitol Hill.

"Our collective action in patient safety pales in comparison to the magnitude of the problem," said Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine. "We need to say that harm is preventable and not tolerable."

Better than nothing

Fish oil may benefit alcohol abusers

Omega-3 fish oil might help protect against alcohol-related neurodamage and the risk of eventual dementia, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Many human studies have shown that long-term alcohol abuse causes brain damage and increases the risk of dementia. The new study found that in brain cells exposed to high levels of alcohol, a fish oil compound protected against inflammation and neuronal cell death.

Can the problems of charter schools be fixed?

Asians Class animated GIFAndy Smarick, a partner at Bellweather Associates, a senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a former deputy commissioner of education in New Jersey for Governor Christie, and a man with a long list of other affiliations with conservative groups and politicians, loves charter schools. He sees them as the wave of the future, replacing “failing” public schools in urban and suburban areas and bringing everyone the excellence that thus far has been elusive.

Smarick sees two conversations going on today about charter schools. To one side are those like himself who are trying to figure out the new paradigm of schooling, in which privately-managed charter schools are a permanent part of the landscape. This conversation deals with finance, governance, how to get it right. It assumes that charter schools are a permanent part of the landscape and the question to be solved is one of tinkering.

On the other side are people who worry about whether charter schools are a blight that damages public education and should be closely scrutinized for their finances, their boasts, and their policies governing admissions and suspensions. This side refers to hedge fund managers, privateers, and exorbitant executive salaries, and makes big headlines out of what Smarick considers the extraordinary miscreant.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How are property values determined at Charlestown’s “fake” Fire Districts?

Why they taxed so much lower than you
A conversation with Charlestown Tax Assessor Ken Swain
By Will Collette
Building Photo
Tennis courts owned by the Quonochontaug Central Fire District.
A total of 12.72 prime acres assessed at only $89,800

Now that we’ve all gotten our new Charlestown property tax bills and now must figure out how to pay them, it’s time to revisit some baffling questions about how the property assessments that drive your tax bills get formulated. 

By the way, even though you just got your tax bill and it says it is due on August 1 - this Friday - note that you are not delinquent until September 1. You've got 30 days grace to make the payment.

A few weeks ago, I reported on the local phenomenon of fake Fire Districts. These are shoreline neighborhoods that have managed to get chartered as fire districts even though they have no fire houses, fire equipment or fire fighters. Two of them are in Charlestown - the Quonochontaug Central Fire District and the Shady Harbor Fire District.

Instead of fire services, these two Fire Districts have accumulated a lot of prime shore property that now contain a couple of well-heads so they can supply their neighborhoods with public drinking water, beaches, docks and moorings, tennis courts and recreational areas. The Fire Districts also contract with Dunn’s Corner Fire District to actually provide fire protection. They also collect trash, maintain and plow roads and would probably walk your dog or give you a mani-pedi if you asked them. They roll all of these services and amenities up into the Fire District Tax they charge residents.

That makes those fire district taxes higher than, for example, those households covered by the Charlestown Fire District. But those fire district fees - and all they include - are treated like property tax and are deductible from state and federal income tax – other Charlestown citizens can’t deduct their trash fees, snow-plowing, costs of maintaining their wells, road maintenance, club memberships, mooring fees, etc. from their income taxes.

Adding to the deal, the properties owned by Shady Harbor and Quonochontaug Central are barely being taxed at all by the town of Charlestown. All of Shady Harbor’s holdings are exempt from Charlestown property tax. While Quonochontaug Central does pay some Charlestown property taxes, the assessments on its prime properties is, at least to me, shocking.

Good news, bad news

So smart we're dumb.

Plan ahead - DEM training lifeguards for next year

Those with Current Conditional Certification Must Also Take Test

I Lifeguard animated GIF

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Parks and Recreation will administer surf and non-surf lifeguard certification tests, beginning on August 4, to certify lifeguards for the year 2015.

Any candidate who passes one of these tests will be certified through September 30, 2015. Lifeguards who received a conditional 2014 surf or non-surf certification must take and pass one of these tests.

Surf tests will be given daily from Monday, August 4 through Friday, August 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett. Non-surf tests will be given daily from Tuesday, August 12 through Friday, August 15, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Prosser Grove Picnic area in Burlingame State Park in Charlestown. No appointment is necessary. For those who pass, there is a $10 fee for the 2015 state certification card.

Cinnamon seasoning – Yes. Cinnamon challenge – NO!

Preventing foodborne illness naturally: with cinnamon
Challenge Cinnamon animated GIF
The cinnamon challenge - eating a spoonful of cinnamon - BAD IDEA!
Seeking ways to prevent some of the most serious foodborne illnesses caused by pathogenic bacteria, two Washington State University scientists have found promise in an ancient but common cooking spice: cinnamon.

Recent findings published in Food Control journal online suggest Cinnamomum cassia oil can work effectively as a natural antibacterial agent in the food industry. The study results add to a body of knowledge that will help improve food safety and reduce or eliminate cases of food poisoning and related deaths.

Easy and simple

6 Green Living Principles Every Household Should Learn
By: Guest Contributor, Jonathan James More
Sometimes, you are presented with too many ideas on how to maintain sustainability in your living space and are unsure which ones are the most effective. The challenge is to put those concepts together and come up with the best game plan for a greener living.

Here are 6 green living principles your household should learn and live by.

1. Your Electricity Bill Tells a Lot

You can start at home. Try to consume less energy and you’ll realize that it will not only benefit the environment, but it would also yield higher savings for your family. Use natural sunlight rather than electricity during the day. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D and can boost your mood.

Our local companion animal of the week

Meet Buckaroo!
From the Animal Rescue League of Southern Rhode Island 

Howdy, Buckaroo here.  I am the resident long-hair white and black cat with quite the personality here at the Animal Rescue League of Southern RI. 

Initially, I was slow to adapt to other cats but I have learned to be more welcoming as I have settled in here at the shelter. 

My dream for this summer and many more to come, is a forever home where I can catch a nice breeze by the window and watch the captivating world outside. 

I’d love a forever family that can give me the permanent type of daily routine and schedule that I like and plenty of open indoor space to roam. 

I am a happy-go-lucky type of cat who appreciates the simple things in life and is hoping to share that same view with my forever friends in my new home someday. 

Are corporations “citizens” with the rights of people if they are not headquartered in the United States?

By Robert Reich
Does the Swiss Franc talk in US politics?
Dozens of big U.S. corporations are considering leaving the United States in order to reduce their tax bills.

But they’ll be leaving the country only on paper. They’ll still do as much business in the U.S. as they were doing before.

The only difference is they’ll no longer be “American,” and won’t have to pay U.S. taxes on the profits they make.

Okay. But if they’re no longer American citizens, they should no longer be able to spend a penny influencing American politics.

Some background: We’ve been hearing for years from CEOs that American corporations are suffering under a larger tax burden than their foreign competitors. This is mostly rubbish.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

VIDEO: New border regulations for Charlestown

Town Councilor Dan Slattery sets out “protocol” for visits to Charlestown by outside government officials
By Will Collette
Our new color-coordinated Town Council. 
Screen shot - the video is so much improved that 
even screen shots look good

When the Charlestown Town Council met in its newly refurbished chambers on July 17, we got to see how pretty that room can be. Plus, the Clerkbase-delivered sound and video is vastly improved. 

It looked to me like all five Town Council members decided to mark the occasion by color coordinating. The three Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) boys, Boss Tom Gentz and his cohorts Dan Slattery and George Tremblay, all wore matching blue shirts. The two Council women, Paula Andersen and Lisa DiBello, wore pink. They sat boy-girl-boy-girl-boy. See photo to the upper left.

Despite the much improved visuals and sound system, a lot of the content was the same. There was more in the on-going saga of the Churchwoods senior citizens housing project, although for once, there was some great news (details here). 

There were was the outrageous purge of Zoning Board member Richard Frank and more pointless blathering about the bogus threat posed by Charlestown’s partners in the Chariho School District (the dreaded STD issue). I’ll cover those issues separately.

Today, let’s look at another issue that was revisited at the last Council meeting, the sales contract by the state Water Resources Board with the Glista family to buy a parcel of undeveloped land to hold in reserve for open space and potential future use as a source of clean water. For truly amazing reasons, the CCA Boys on the Town Council are trying to monkey-wrench this deal.

This explains Gina Raimondo's investment reasoning

Why People Believe Hedge Fund Managers

The Bear and Bullshit markets

By Zach Weinersmith

Click here for the best explanation yet why General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is willing to pay such huge fees to the state's pension fund managers.

Incorporate Your Uterus

Miss R•EVOLutionaries’ Call To Action

The clever folks over at  Miss R•EVOLutionaries have come up with a brilliant plan – women should incorporate their uteruses: 

The End of Pot Prohibition As We Know It

Without federal leadership, you can count on marijuana legalization to keep spreading one state at a time.
For more cartoons by Andy Singer, click here.
By Emily Schwartz Greco and William A. Collins

How much longer will it take before the United States declares a truce in the Drug War?

This latter-day prohibition is taking an immense toll. And the stakes ought to be low, given that most Americans don’t want anyone jailed for being caught with small amounts of pot.

But it does require some courage to pipe up. So thank you, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, for joining the swelling chorus that wants to see marijuana legalized.

“The distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction,” Stevens said during an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon in April.

Ending the Taxpayer Subsidy for Exorbitant Executive Bonuses

How much is enough?
By Lloyd Doggett 

There is an outrage in our tax code and it's costing you money.

Federal law currently gives publicly held corporations a special tax deduction when they pay their executives huge "performance-based" bonuses. The deduction can be worth millions of dollars. The more they shower their executives with such pay, the less publicly-held corporations pay in federal taxes.

And when giant companies don't pay their fair share, that tax burden is then shifted onto small businesses and working families.

Public outcry over huge pay packages and corporate tax dodging has nothing to do with envy. It's based on an understanding that a top-heavy economy -- where more and more money goes to the wealthiest 1 percent and less and less to the middle and bottom -- is not only unfair, it's unstable.

Tie on your lobster bibs!

"A place ‘full of joy where people laugh and have fun"

What did we learn from Gist’s dissertation?

In Deborah Gist’s dissertation, which the Providence Journal reports on, Rhode Island commissioner of education writes that the firing of the Central Falls teachers was “the most difficult experience and greatest challenge for me personally and professionally throughout the case study period.”

She writes, “Trust was at the heart of the issue in Central Falls… There was also a lack of what is known as ‘collective efficacy’ in which each team member believes that the shared effort of the team will result in a positive result…”

So has Rhode Island’s often polarizing education chief learned much about building trust and engendering collective efficacy since studying this situation as part of her U Penn doctorate?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Red Cross: How We Spent Sandy Money Is a ‘Trade Secret'

The charity is fighting our public records request for information on how it raised and spent money after the superstorm.

Sandy damage at Ninigret NWR. Red Cross still hasn't accounted for
all the Sandy relief money it raised.
by Justin Elliott in ProPublica

Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy?

The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a "trade secret."

The Red Cross' "trade secret" argument has persuaded the state to redact some material, though it's not clear yet how much since the documents haven't yet been released.

As we've reported, the Red Cross releases few details about how it spends money after big disasters. That makes it difficult to figure out whether donor dollars are well spent.

The Red Cross did give some information about Sandy spending to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been investigating the charity. But the Red Cross declined our request to disclose the details.

Here's the Bill

So much for the Bill of Rights.

Concert tomorrow...but rain date is August 10 (fingers crossed)

Women: go shoot ‘em up on August 2 at the Great Swamp Shooting Range

“Dress appropriately…closed toe shoes are required”

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish & Wildlife will offer the third annual "Women's Day at the Range" on Saturday, August 2 at the Great Swamp Shooting Range in West Kingston. The free event is designed to introduce women to the world of shooting sports.

DEM Director Janet Coit said, "Don't miss this opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends and hone your skills on the target range." According to Director Coit, this educational and fun-filled program has continued to grow in popularity each year. One hundred sixty-two individuals took part in the first program, and last year attendance grew to 360 participants of all ages and skill levels.

No prior experience is necessary. Participants will test their skills with shotguns, handguns, rifles, and bow and arrow. All firearms, ammunition, and safety equipment will be provided along with one-on-one instruction from DEM's range safety officers and hunter education instructors. 

Running for Their Lives: The Child Migrant Crisis

U.S. policies stoked the gang violence Central American kids are fleeing.

As the Department of Homeland Security tries to deliver busloads of Central American children and families to places of temporary safety, shrieking demonstrators in California, Arizona, and other states are barring the way and demanding these kids be dumped over the border.

These outbursts resemble the ugly mentality that, in 1939, prompted our government to send a ship with more than 900 German Jews aboard back to Europe where many were eventually killed by the Nazis. 

Like them, many of the Central American children will be murdered if they are returned home.

That’s what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees concluded after interviewing hundreds of these kids.

URI engineering student helping NASA get to Mars

Internship has Westerly resident working on new fuel cell

KINGSTON, R.I. –Patrick Brown always wanted to be an astronaut. He may never make it to space, but the technology he’s helping to develop just may help humans reach Mars.

The University of Rhode Island chemical engineering student from Westerly is interning at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. He is part of a team developing a new solid oxide fuel cell system that is lighter and more robust than anything in existence. 

The system takes methane – which can be produced from natural resources on Mars – and converts it to hydrogen, which can power fuel cells that generate electricity. For it to work, the team must understand exactly how to extract hydrogen from methane and how to do it on a planet never closer than 34 million miles away.

“Sure, a chemist could explain how these reactions work,” Brown said. “But the engineering side tells you how these things fit into a practical piece of technology you can bring into space.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pull of Rhode Island’s Rivers is Powerful

Story and photos by DAVID SMITH/ecoRI News contributor

EDITOR'S NOTE: For those of you who recognize the name, yes, that's the same Dave Smith who was a long-time journalist at the Westerly Sun and editor of the Charlestown Press. 

Three of the four paddlers completed the eight-day trek in canoes. The group’s journalist used his kayak.
It seems that there were three phases to the eight-day, 18-town, 101-mile-long Paddle Across Rhode Island and denial was not one of them. The four of us who made the trip starting on July 6 knew exactly what we were up against.

Well, we didn’t know about the chafing, blisters and sunburns that awaited us, but then again, perhaps we didn’t want to know. Could that be considered denial? Maybe.

Anyway, the first phase, at least in my case, tested whether my body could take the wear and tear. The second phase entailed the realization that giving up was not an option. Early on so many people praised our effort to bring awareness to the rivers and natural beauty of Rhode Island. Too many other people were vested in the trip and us.

And before you say that Rhode Island is not 101 miles long, let me explain that we didn’t travel in a straight line. Our route took us up rivers and on portages that traveled east to west.

Tough to admit defeat


Rampant Charter School Rip-offs

Here is the latest federal government report on fraud, waste, and abuse in the charter sector. 

It was released in May 2014 by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education. The most common type of fraud identified was embezzlement.

Here is the summary of their findings:

With the increase in funding that schools are receiving through the Recovery Act, we issued a report that highlighted past OIG investigations involving fraud at charter schools.