Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

UPDATED: Goodbye and Good Luck!

Progressive Charlestown – the Final Edition
By Will Collette

The Gray People have finally won....
Well, we made it just past four years. Tom Ferrio and I put up the first Progressive Charlestown articles in January 2011. Since then, we have published more than 7,800 pieces that attracted two million page-reads.

We did our best to give you a different point of view than the one pushed by Charlestown’s landed gentry and rulers in the Charlestown Citizens Alliance. 

We also did our best to entertain and inform with everything from cartoons and Henri the Cat videos to serious articles on health, the environment and the economy.

We covered local events, promoted local non-profits and small businesses and tried not to miss any of Mystic Aquarium’s rescued seal releases.

VIDEO: Henri sells out...for bacon

Yes, allergy sufferers, the pollen is back!

Continue, below, for the types of pollen that's out there and the forecast.

There must be alternative routes to the middle class

I know a high school senior who’s so worried about whether she’ll be accepted at the college of her choice she can’t sleep.

The parent of another senior tells me he stands at the mailbox for an hour every day waiting for a hoped-for acceptance letter to arrive.

Parents are also uptight. I’veheard of some who have stopped socializing with other parents of children competing for admission to the same university.

Competition for places top-brand colleges is absurdly intense.

With inequality at record levels and almost all the economic gains going to the top, there’s more pressure than ever to get the golden ring.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Humble, Hard-Working Quahog Keeps R.I. Running

By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff
Tongue Salt animated GIFEDITOR’S NOTE: While the CCA-controlled Charlestown town government tries to put the brakes on shellfish aquaculture, the economic and environmental benefits are clear. But the CCA Party is more beholden to its political campaign contributors, many of them non-residents, who own properties on our salt ponds.

WARWICK, R.I.  The man largely responsible for introducing Rhode Island to oyster aquaculture affectionately refers to these bivalves as “squishy critters that live between two ashtrays.” Despite his playful manner in describing these mollusks with rough irregular shells, Bob Rheault hardly underestimates their importance:

“Oysters were critical in the development of our species. They’re a high-protein source of food.”

VIDEO: Don't do April Fools pranks

How to make your own organic compost


Warmest Winter on Record

The northeast was one of the few spots in the entire world to suffer record cold during this winter

NOAA data showing average land and sea surface temperatures for December 2015 to February 2015. The warmest winter on record
December 2014-February 2015: Warmest winter on record

Despite the headline-grabbing record cold and snowfall in the eastern U.S., spring comes to the northern hemisphere on the heels of the warmest winter on record

According to the latest report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average global land and sea surface temperature for the period of December 2014 through February 2015 was 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit (0.79 Celsius) above the 20th century average of 53.8° F or 12.1° C.

Even as record snow and cold hammered much of the central and eastern United States, most of the rest of the globe experienced warmer than average temperatures.

Hot poop challenge issued to Charlestown’s CCA Party – match the zoo

By CATHERINE SENGEL/ecoRI News contributor

Three elephants are responsible for up to 80 percent of the waste produced by the zoo’s 280 animals. (Roger Williams Park Zoo)
Three elephants are responsible for up to 80 percent of
the waste produced by the zoo’s 280 animals.
(Roger Williams Park Zoo)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Charlestown Citizens Alliance could help a local business, Earth Care Farms, and the environment by following the example of Roger Williams Zoo and donating their b.s. for composting. – WC

PROVIDENCE — Ron Patalano, director of operations at Roger Williams Park Zoo, has high praise for his staff. 

After all, it takes a mighty amount of shoveling to fill the two 30-yard Dumpsters of animal excrement that are hauled away weekly as part of the zoo’s recycling program.

The source of approximately 80% of Charlestown's bovine excrement
Added to the grass clippings, vegetable scraps, animal bedding, hay and other natural materials trucked to Earth Care Farm in Charleston for composting, are 624 tons of manure produced annually by the zoo’s 280 inhabitants.

Keeping yards and buildings waste free “is not an easy job,” Patalano noted.

Kitty of the week

Meet Whiskers!
Animal Rescue League of Southern RI 

Well hello, I am Whiskers. 

Spring is in the air and nothing says renewal like a new family member.  I am a sweet 3 year old female looking to spring into a new forever home with a swagger in my step. 

A place to call my own with someone to share love would make for a great new beginning to this season. 

I am good with other cats and I will be very quick to adapt to your home....which hopefully can be our home soon enough. 

As the trees and flowers start to bloom, so can your love for a new pet.  I have a big heart and I'd be more than willing to share mine with you. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Other, Other Rite of Spring

Apologies to Igor Stravinsky and Alexander Cartwright
By Bob Yarnall
Hexagenia limbata, a.k.a. The Giant Mayfly
 - Wood River’s premier trout food

Well, here it is, the final weekend in March and it’s snowing flakes the size of Hexagenia limbata. Spring seems determined to make April Fools out of all of us, so we have that much in common with the CCA, like it or not.

In any event, perhaps it’s a good time to sketch out a working class prelude to one of humankind’s oldest sustenance activities so those of you so inclined can engage in philosophical debate about the true meaning of Henry David Thoreau’s timeless observation, "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."

Get the Nobel Prize ready

killer drones for everyone

Why can't kids start smoking at age 12, like I did?

House Health, Education and Welfare Committee hears Rep. Tanzi bill raising smoking age to 21

STATE HOUSE – Focusing on the health benefits that have come from similar adoption elsewhere, Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) testified yesterday before the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare in support of her proposed legislation that would increase the minimum age for tobacco purchases in Rhode Island from 18 to 21.

The legislation (2015-H 5225) would apply to all forms of tobacco and non-medical nicotine delivery systems, and would take effect immediately upon passage.

Representative Tanzi spoke at the committee hearing, saying she introduced the legislation because she believes the state needs to enact stronger, science-based policies to protect the long term health of youth and for the sake overall public health. She also debunked the arguments that the law would have a profound economic impact.

Compassion for the terminally ill

Why This Catholic Physician Supports Medical Aid in Dying
By Robert Olvera 
EDITOR'S NOTE: this issue is being debated locally in Letters to the Editor of the Westerly Sun. Click HERE and HERE.

Inspired by the public advocacy of terminal brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard, lawmaker in Washington, DC, and at least 16 other states -- from California to New York -- have introduced bills that would authorize the medical option of aid in dying.

This legislation would allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults in the final stages of their disease the option to request a doctor's prescription for aid-in-dying medication that they could choose to take it if their suffering becomes unbearable.

As a Catholic and a physician, I feel compelled to dispel the myths about these bills perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church, some disability groups, and the American Medical Association (AMA).

Plan ahead for this fantastic paddling adventure

Advanced Notice: Summer Bioluminescent Paddles

Summer paddling tours on a Charlestown salt pond among glowing comb jellyfish have been the most popular events ever for the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association. This year's tours are open for early registration.

Learn more below the break.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Student Debt Time Bomb

Indebted students are a force to be reckoned with.
There’s a generational time-bomb ticking — and the student debt crisis is the trip wire.

Adults under 35 disproportionately bear the brunt of escalating inequality.

America’s educated youth are graduating into an economy with stagnant wages and a torn safety net. Federal and state budget cuts, meanwhile, have spiked tuition costs and cut public services that aid young workers, such as transportation and affordable housing.

A rumble of legitimate discontent is mounting from the 40 million Americans saddled with student debt totaling $1.16 trillion — a number expected to increase to $2 trillion by 2022. College debt now touches one in five U.S. households and exceeds total credit card indebtedness.

Sounds right to me

Talking about the weather...and politics

Extreme Weather, Climate Controversy Set the Political Stage
Winter Weather is changing across the globe
A strong and steady flow of climate change news is crossing news sites and blogs this week. With the advent of fall in the Southern Hemisphere, Northern Australia is experiencing a record-setting heat wave.

Threatened with the prospect of running out of water, the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo (with a population of about 11 million people) now has to cope with severe flooding. Having been buried in snow, residents and government officials are trying to cope with severe flooding in the wake of massive snow and rainfall across northern Spain.

Here in the U.S. snow pack in the Sierra Nevada indicates drought will bite deeper into the economies and societies of California, Oregon and Washington. The governors of Oregon and Washington have declared drought emergencies for parts of the respective northwest U.S. states. California Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are proposing to spend $1.1 billion on emergency funding for flood protection and drought relief.

Residents, along with government officials and power, water and waste management providers across New England, meanwhile, are struggling to cope with all the snow that has dropped down. Snowfall in some parts of the region, such as Boston, “are blowing past all-time records,” Weather Underground’s Jon Erdman reported in a March 23 post.

Record heat, droughts, snowfall and severe flooding

Gulfstream ocean circulationIn climate science news, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reports that this winter’s Arctic sea ice maximum will almost certainly set a new low this year. And newly published scientific research reveals that Atlantic oceanic conveyor belt – sometimes known as the Gulf Stream system or more formally as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – that keeps northeastern North America and western Europe warmer than they would otherwise may be slowing down.

Of course, fossil fuel companies and their supporters in the U.S. Congress – including the new chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee James Inhofe (R-OK) – would have us believe that all this is nothing more than normal variability in the earth’s climate.

Inhofe's SnowballInhofe has long been known as the most vocal and strident climate change denier in the U.S. Congress. 

Late last month, Inhofe tossed a snowball on to the floor of the U.S. Senate chamber, a theatrical stunt he employed to drive home his contention that the massive amount of snow falling in the northeast is a clear sign that human activities – more specifically, greenhouse gas emissions – aren’t causing climate change.

Many others believe otherwise. The world’s leading climate scientists – those that have and continue to actually conduct primary research and have built careers studying climate – are about as sure as it’s scientifically possible to be that human activities are indeed the main factor driving climate change to a possible tipping point.

This past week in the nation’s capital, environmental and public health watchdogs say the EPA gave the U.S. oil and gas industry what amounts to a free pass by failing to propose stricter new environmental regulations governing hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” They laid a similar charge on the EPA this past December in the wake of the federal environmental agency issuing the first-ever rules governing disposal of coal ash.

Climate change debates heat up in the run-up to Paris climate talks

These latest EPA fossil fuel-related environmental rules stand in stark contrast to the vigor with which President Obama and his administration has been working to address climate change by reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, spurring development and deployment of renewable energy and supporting investments that enhance  energy efficiency.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in three environmental cases that could call into question the validity of regulations that limit emissions of mercury and other hazardous toxins from coal-fired power plants.

This and forthcoming debates in Washington D.C. and across the U.S. will collectively define national policy on energy and the environment, as well as the prospect a global climate treaty can be agreed at the upcoming U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks to take place in Paris this December.

December’s U.N. climate treaty negotiations are likely to be the last chance the community of nations will have to show that they’re serious about addressing the wide range of interconnected issues centered on climate change in our time. The results will go a long way towards determining the standard of living and quality of life for generations to come.


“America the Beautiful’’ documentary to be screened at URI, April 7

Filmmaker Darryl Roberts: America’s obsession with beauty is damaging youth, women – and men

KINGSTON, R.I. – A few years ago, filmmaker Darryl Roberts asked 200 women if they liked their bodies. Their answers shocked him: Only two said yes.

That revelation led him on a journey to explore this ugly truth, culminating in his three award-winning “America the Beautiful’’ documentaries, praised by critics for taking a brutally honest look at a national crisis.

The last in the series, “America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth,’’ will be shown, free of charge, at the University of Rhode Island April 7 at 6 p.m. in Edwards Hall, 64 Upper College Road, on the Kingston campus. Roberts is attending the screening and will answer questions afterward.

Shown throughout the country and world, the film explores the harmful effects of sexualization on young people, covering topics like child beauty pageants, teen pregnancy and rape, and the ways in which the culture of sexualization damages both boys and girls.

We caught up with the Chicago filmmaker recently to talk about his work, the media’s role in the problem and the quest for physical perfection in this country.

Let The Game of Whack-A-Mole Begin

Feds Put Forward New Payday Rules

by Paul Kiel, ProPublica

If there's any industry that has mastered the art of the loophole, it's high-cost lending. 

When faced with unwanted regulation, lenders are well-practiced at finding an opening that will allow them to charge triple-digit interest to their customers. As we have reported, they've been playing a giant, ongoing game of whack-a-mole with regulators and lawmakers in states across the country over the past decade or so.

Here's only a partial list of dodges that have been employed over the years by payday and other high-cost lenders: posing as a credit-repair organization, posing as a mortgage lender, using a bank as a front, using a Native American tribe as a front, offering cash for free to hook borrowers, lengthening loan terms when rules targeted short-term loans, larding loans with useless insurance.

But after fights in cities and states across the country, the industry now faces its most powerful foe yet. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created by the 2010 financial reform bill, has the authority to regulate high-cost loans on the federal level for the first time. 

And on Thursday morning, the agency unveiled a first draft of new rules that would sharply reduce the number of payday loans made in the country. You can expect lenders to respond by opening up their playbook.

VIDEO: March “madness” is about money

The Madness Continues, with video of John Oliver on this subject (at the end of the article)
Guest blog by Thomas Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest
Anime Basketball animated GIF

When the dust settles from March’s biggest battle, one group of winners will emerge with unimaginable spoils while others come away empty-handed. There will be heartbreaking results, ruthless opponents, and at least one pathetic defense.

And sure, there will be some pretty good basketball as well.

This is because no mere buzzer beater or timely block can match the maddest part of March: the monetary exploitation of collegiate basketball players by large corporations and their own school administrators.

Yes, the NCAA Tournament is in full swing and nothing has changed. Once again, unpaid, logo-covered young men race up and down the court on every channel round the clock, creating billions in revenue for some, millions in salary for others and little for themselves.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bailouts and Bad Actors

“The global financial system is dominated by big banks that seem to have little respect for the law”
By Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest

Newly released transcripts of the 2009 meetings of the Federal Reserve’s open market committee show that monetary policymakers were still agonizing over whether they were doing enough to stabilize the teetering global financial system.

These documents have a special interest for me because, as I discussed in last week’s Digest, my colleagues and I at Good Jobs First recently collected a great deal of data about the Fed’s special bailout programs in 2008 and 2009 as part of the extension of our Subsidy Tracker database into the federal realm. The Fed’s info is part of the more than 160,000 entries we have amassed from 137 federal programs of various kinds. Subsidy Tracker 3.0 will go public on March 17.

Preview of the 2016 Election

Sneak Peak
By Tom Tomorrow

The 2016 election is coming! Run! Hide! Or click here.

Wanna be a lifeguard?

Lifeguards Needed for All State Swimming Facilities Including Lincoln Woods, Fort Adams, Goddard, Misquamicut, Scarborough and East Matunuck

Water I animated GIF

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management is continuing its efforts to fill a variety of seasonal employment positions at state parks, beaches and campgrounds this summer. There are still many jobs available throughout Rhode Island for residents 16 years of age or older. Work on weekends and holidays is required of most summer positions.

"These seasonal positions will help DEM get our beaches, parks and campgrounds ready for the upcoming summer season," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Plus, they're a great employment opportunity for those who enjoy working outdoors and interacting with the public."

DEM is particularly in need of seasonal laborers and lifeguards. There are several levels of lifeguard positions available at various state parks and beaches throughout the State, including Lincoln Woods, Fort Adams and Goddard Memorial state parks, as well as at Misquamicut, Scarborough, and East Matunuck state beaches. 

Pay ranges from $9.50 to $12.75 per hour based on location and position level. Lifeguards work 40 hours a week including weekends and holidays. Information on becoming a lifeguard and the requirements needed for a position can be found at

In addition to lifeguards and seasonal laborers, DEM is still accepting online applications for a variety of seasonal positions. They include, but are not limited to, park ranger - levels, I, II and III, beach managers, lifeguard captains, recreational area clerks, restroom attendants, student researchers, clerical support aides, technical support interns, policy interns and technical field interns. Pay ranges from $9.00 to $13.75 per hour, and most seasonal employees work 40 hours a week including weekends and holidays.

Although park ranger level I applicants may be 16 years of age, those applying for seasonal park ranger positions at levels II and III must be 18 years of age or older. Park rangers patrol park areas, assist visitors, inspect facilities, and assist with routine operation of state parks and beaches. These positions involve a great deal of public interaction and applicants must possess good communication skills.

Apply Online – Visit our online application system Apply RI at www.Apply.RI.Gov

The state's job application process has been automated and is available online

This new, user-friendly job application website lists all seasonal job announcements for available positions at state offices, beaches, parks and campgrounds and includes descriptions and pay ranges and provides those interested with an easy way to apply. 

Available Seasonal/Internship positions are posted on the website's "Seasonal & Internships" tab. First-time users must create an account and select a Username and Password. After an account has been established, applicants can build an application by clicking on the "Build Job Application" link. 

This application can be saved and used to apply for more than one job opening. Paper applications are no longer being accepted.

For those who do not have online access, a computer kiosk is available in DEM's Office of Human Resources at 235 Promenade Street, Room 350, Providence, weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to electronically apply for seasonal positions.

"To me, there's no better way to spend the summer than working at one of our beautiful Rhode Island state recreational facilities. So be sure to visit today to apply for these seasonal employment opportunities," added Director Coit.

The Department encourages minorities to pursue careers in the environmental field. Seasonal positions give individuals a chance to explore jobs in the areas of agriculture, parks and recreation, fish and wildlife management, forest environment, water resources, management services, and policy and planning.

VIDEO: Have we gotten past race? - URI talk on April 7

The killings of Trayvon Martin, other African American men among topics

KINGSTON, R.I. –The killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida three years ago sparked a nationwide debate about racial injustice in America, especially after the killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted.

Then came more killings – Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice – and the nation exploded. There were riots in Missouri, demonstrations in New York, candlelight vigils in Cleveland -- and even a peaceful gathering at URI.

Writer, activist and former URI history professor Peniel E. Joseph will discuss these horrific deaths and race relations in America during a talk next month at the University of Rhode Island for the annual humanities festival.

Mind your peas, and your other legumes

New MIND diet may significantly protect against Alzheimer's disease
Rush University Medical Center, Science Daily

 animated GIF

A new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, even if the diet is not meticulously followed, according to a paper published online for subscribers in March in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

Rush nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PhD, and colleagues developed the "Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay" (MIND) diet. The study shows that the MIND diet lowered the risk of AD by as much as 53 percent in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately well.

"One of the more exciting things about this is that people who adhered even moderately to the MIND diet had a reduction in their risk for AD," said Morris, a Rush professor, assistant provost for Community Research, and director of Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology. "I think that will motivate people."

PRIVACY: It's justing having a little nap

Despite Wave of Data Breaches, Official Says Patient Privacy Isn't Dead

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica

This story was co-published with NPR's Shots blog.

It's hard to keep track of even the biggest health data breaches, given how frequently they seem to be happening. Just Tuesday, health insurer Premera Blue Cross disclosed that hackers broke into its system and may have accessed the financial and medical records of some 11 million people. The intrusion began last May but wasn't discovered until January and wasn't shared publicly until this week.

Among the information that may have been taken about the insurers' members and applicants: names, dates of birth, email addresses, street addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, member identification numbers, bank account information, and claims information, which may include sensitive medical details.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

VIDEO: Climate change and the war of communication

Merchants of Doubt: Sowing the (Tobacco) Seeds of Denial
From the introduction of snow balls on the floor of the Senate as “scientific evidence” that global warming isn’t happening to smear campaigns aimed at actual climate scientists, the real battle over climate change is one of narrative, not science.

“The one thing we’ve learned,” says Robert Kenner, director of the upcoming documentary Merchants of Doubt, “is that when you explain science to people, it hardens those who don’t believe in the science.”

“I didn’t think that we’d have a chance of getting anyone to go to the theater to see a film about climate change,” says Kenner. Merchants of Doubt isn’t a film like Al Gore’s 2006 An Inconvenient Truth, trying to convince its audience on the science of global warming. Instead, it is a “film about doubters and how people are able to stop us from believing inconvenient science.”

The communication war around climate change is rooted in the 1950’s, when “Big Tobacco” realized they had a potential PR nightmare on their hands. The objective then is the same now: confuse the issue and delay or stop action. Business-as-usual is the only profitable path forward.

VIDEOS: here are a couple of Father's Day suggestions

With thanks to Dave Barry for spotting these:

 And this for the Father's Day Party....

Burlingame opening delayed till April 24

Harsh winter pushes back start dates for state recreational facilities

PROVIDENCE - DEM is also advising campers that there will be a delay in the opening of George Washington State Campground in Glocester and Burlingame State Campground in Charlestown due to the remaining snow cover, wet conditions, and the inability to provide potable water at the campgrounds. 

George Washington campground facilities are expected to open on April 18, and Burlingame State Campground is scheduled to open on April 24.

April 10, kids get drilled for free

Wood River Health Services to hold free kids dental clinic
Little Barbara Bigelow was so happy with her smile,
she grew up to become a dental hygienist
at Wood River Health Services!
(Used with her permission)

Children without dental insurance will be able to get free care, and those with insurance will be seen at no cost to the parent at Wood River Health Services’ first Give Kids a Smile Day on April 10.

Appointments are being taken for children only that entire day, and entertainment, activities and give-a-ways in the lobby of the health center. To make an appointment, call (401) 387-9601.

Nearly one in four children aged two to 11 years old have untreated cavities in their baby teeth, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many children enrolled in Medicaid receive no dental services throughout the year.

Give Kids A Smile is held annually to provide free, easily accessible dental services to local, qualifying children. Wood River Health Services also hopes to raise awareness of the epidemic of untreated dental disease occurring locally and nationally and create local partnerships to increase access to oral health care to solve this crisis.

The end of dirty fuels?

The Fossil Fuel Industry has Reason to be Nervous
Movie Oil animated GIF(editor’s note: this piece originally appeared in the Green Market Oracle)
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Concerns about climate change, the demise of coal and the rise of renewable energy are making the fossil fuel industry nervous. While the fossil fuel industry initially dismissed the divestment movement, it’s size and scope give them reason to be fearful.

The fossil fuel industry has a lot of skin in the game. In 2013 alone they spent $670 billion looking for more coal, oil and gas reserves. All of this will be worthless as we begin to seriously decrease our consumption of fossil fuels.

ExxonMobil’s vice president of public and government affairs, Ken Cohen, said the divestment movement is “simply … out of step with reality.”  The science indicates that Cohen is dead wrong. There have been a vast number of warnings coming from a wide variety of sources including, AGUIEAIPCCPwCWorld Bank, and the World Meteorological Organization, stating that our current emissions trajectory is catastrophic.