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Friday, July 31, 2015

A Slick Maneuver

The Iran deal could trigger an end to restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports.
What a relief. In exchange for Iran taking steps to guarantee that it can’t build nuclear weapons, the sanctions that have choked off its access to world markets will end without a single shot.

Instead of celebrating this diplomatic breakthrough, conservative lawmakers are plotting to scuttle the pact. And despite their opposition, some Republicans are milking this accord for a pet project: ending all limits on U.S. crude sales.

“Any deal that lifts sanctions on Iranian oil will disadvantage American companies unless we lift the antiquated ban on our own oil exports,” Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowskideclared a few weeks back.

It’s an enticing argument. Why should Washington help Iran freely sell its oil while denying the U.S. industry the same liberty?

Avoid commercial water test scams

URI students travel the state to educate well owners about how to protect drinking water

KINGSTON, R.I. –Jessica Janiec and Mahrukh Shaikh are spending the summer visiting farmers’ markets and other venues around Rhode Island to educate private well owners about how to reduce the chance of their drinking water becoming contaminated. Every week they visit three or four different sites, and their important message is always met by a receptive audience.

According to Janiec and Shaikh, it is the responsibility of the well owner to test and regulate the quality of their wells. Unfortunately, commercial enterprises sometimes offer free water tests in unsuspecting neighborhoods as a means of selling unnecessary water treatment systems. 

So the students, working with URI’s award-winning residential pollution prevention program Home*A*Syst and with funding from the Rhode Island Department of Health, are spreading the word about proper well water testing wherever they can.

Survivors of mass stranding find home at Mystic Aquarium

Pups Named Through Public Participation

Ripley and Clara playing in the water. (Mystic Aquarium) 

Mystic, CT: In their ongoing ocean conservation efforts, Mystic Aquarium will provide a permanent home for two rescued California sea lions. The two new residents-a male and female- are part of an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) for the species in California.  In 2015, a record number of sea lion pups were found stranded on California beaches emaciated and dehydrated.

Several attempts to re-release these rescued two-year old pinnipeds back into the ocean were unsuccessful. As a result, NOAA Fisheries deemed them non-releasable.  

The adorable duo arrived at Mystic Aquarium from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA on Friday, June 26. Since their arrival, the sea lion pups have been receiving ongoing veterinary care and enrichment training in Mystic Aquarium’s Aquatic Animal Study Center.

During rescue and rehabilitation, marine mammals are often numbered and not named. Now in good health and in permanent care, Mystic Aquarium engaged the public to find names for these important new ambassadors of the species.

Captain Kirk is NOT a Republican

Ted Cruz Fact-Checked By William Shatner After Making Comments About Captain Kirk
Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said that Star Trek’s Captain Kirk was “likely” a Republican and Captain Picard a Democrat in a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine.

Noting that Cruz was a known “Star Trek” fan, Ana Marie Cox of The Times asked him who he preferred – Captain Kirk or Captain Picard, Cruz responded: “Absolutely James Tiberius Kirk.”
Cruz then offered what he called “a little psychoanalysis:”
If you look at ‘‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’’ it basically split James T. Kirk into two people. Picard was Kirk’s rational side, and William Riker was his passionate side. I prefer a complete captain. To be effective, you need both heart and mind.
He added:
The original ‘‘Star Trek’’ was grittier. Kirk is working class; Picard is an aristocrat. Kirk is a passionate fighter for justice; Picard is a cerebral philosopher. The original ‘‘Star Trek’’ pressed for racial equality, which was one of its best characteristics, but it did so without sermonizing.
Asked if he had “a suspicion about whether Kirk would be a Democrat or a Republican? Cruz answered: “I think it is quite likely that Kirk is a Republican and Picard is a Democrat.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Job listings and more

South County economy: Jobs and housing still the big problems
By Will Collette

Even though the state’s economy is bouncing back from the great Recession, South County and Charlestown in particular, are not bouncing back as quickly as the rest of the state.

Over the past several months, Charlestown’s unemployment rate has dropped three full percentage points from our 2014 annual average, going from 8.7% to 5.7% in June. 

That’s great news, but we can and should do better. Even though our rate has dropped, we are still higher than the statewide average and we still have an average of 250 Charlestown households have at least one adult who is unable to find a job.

We need more jobs in Charlestown itself (since we have no link to public transportation) and that means we need new and expanded businesses. Charlestown’s reputation as an anti-business town was reinforced by its over-the-top negative reaction to just the idea of a Dollar Store opening a store in Charlestown.

We’re also seeing mixed results in our local housing market. High-end home sales near the water are surging so far this year, lifting the state’s real estate market to almost pre-recession levels. That is good news for sellers of one million dollar-plus homes, but not so much for the rest of the market.

VIDEO: John Oliver takes on prison sentencing

Directly on YouTube at

A Heavy Question about the State of America’s Health

An unsustainable lifestyle is more deadly for most Americans than those extra pounds they're ashamed of.
The media and even some experts continue to miss the boat on obesity. Consider this recent example.

“Being overweight or obese increases the risk of a variety of chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” reported the Los Angeles Times. “Extra weight also can make people more vulnerable to certain types of cancer.”

Does that drive home the point that being fat kills you? Apparently not enough. It went on, adding, “The more you weigh, the greater the health risk.”

However, this doesn’t entirely align with the data.

Katherine M. Flegal, a scientist at the Centers for Disease Control, found that people who are overweight face a lower mortality risk than Americans at an officially “healthy” weight. Furthermore, healthy-weight Americans have the same mortality risk as their mildly obese counterparts.

Another bad day for Ground Level Ozone

Some good news: We're almost into August and DEM has found no mosquitos carrying West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis or other diseases dangerous to humans. 

Getting Down to Business in Cuba

U.S. companies are more eager than ever to set up shop.

In case you missed it, the United States and Cuba now have diplomatic relations for the first time in 54 years. Unfortunately, the outdated economic embargo is smothering the tremendous potential this opening offers.

First, some background.

The embargo, put in place in the early 1960s to punish the revolutionary government, has held back the Cuban economy and poisoned U.S.-Cuban relations for decades.

When Washington spurned Cuba, the Soviet Union became the island’s top trading partner, taking some of the sting off the embargo. But after the USSR collapsed in 1991, Cuba plunged into a deep economic crisis.

Venezuela mostly replaced Russia as a reliable supplier of cheap oil years ago. Now Cubans fear that turmoil in the South American nation will knock out this lifeline too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

And many more!

Medicare turns fifty next week. It was signed into law July 30, 1965 – the crowning achievement of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. It’s more popular than ever. 

Yet Medicare continues to be blamed for America’s present and future budget problems. That’s baloney.

A few days ago Jeb Bush even suggested phasing it out. Seniors already receiving benefits should continue to receive them, hesaid, but “we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they’re not going to have anything.”

Bush praised Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to give seniors vouchers instead. What Bush didn’t say was that Ryan’s vouchers wouldn’t keep up with increases in medical costs – leaving seniors with less coverage.

The fact is, Medicare isn’t the problem. It’s the solution.

Pawsox owners stop listening

Is this the end of the "We're not listening" tour?

Were they ever listening to begin with?

Picture PAWTUCKET--Rhode Island's social media sphere is alight with rumors of the premature end to Pawtucket Red Sox management's so-called "Listening" tour. Earlier this year--in the face of OVERWHELMING public disapproval of the team's initial exorbitant ask for public subsidies to build a new stadium in Providence--team ownership announced that they would hit the road and hold public meetings in all of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns to try to win public support for the proposed multi-generational financial black hole.

After the initial  proposal, several grassroots organizations popped up to express reactions that ranged from mild dissatisfaction to full-blown outrage with the team's proposal to subsidize the new stadium 100 percent on the backs of Rhode Island's already overburdened taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the rumored end to the "Listening tour for the hard of hearing"--much like the few stops made on the tour--raises more questions than it answers.

Is this a roundabout admission that the tour was just a PR stunt, and public input on the stadium was never welcome or wanted?

Is it a tacit admission that Lucchino, Steinberg, et al. continue to think that Rhode Islanders are a bunch of ignorant rubes who don't know what's in our own best interest?

After the premature end of the 2015 legislative session, House Speaker Nick Mattiello hinted that a special session may be in order to address the stadium proposal. Rhode Islanders await the announcement of this session with bated breath.

The last--and most important--question is this: Is the end of this supposedly democratic process of public input merely a sign that business as usual continues in Rhode Island, and team ownership has finally greased the right palms, in the right dollar amounts, and issued the correct winks and nods to the people in the right positions--like a third base coach to a runner stealing second--for the General Assembly to cram this inappropriate use of public dollars and public space down our collective throats?

Green energy for potato heads

Make A Home Power Station

Coming soon!

Really bad day for ground ozone levels

Unhealthy air in Charlestown and south coast
Providence, Rhode Island, July 29, 2015 - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is predicting that air quality will reach UNHEALTHY levels in portions of Rhode Island during the afternoon and evening hours on Wednesday. 

A very hot and humid air mass with southwest winds will be present at that time, which will lead to unhealthy air conditions. The poor air quality will be due to elevated ground level ozone concentrations. 

Ozone is a major component of smog and is formed by the photochemical reaction of pollutants emitted by motor vehicles, industry and other sources in the presence of elevated temperatures and sunlight.

Dump your old computers and electronics – safely and for free – Saturday, August 1

Indie Cycle and Charlestown Mini-Super host another electronics recycling day

Mini-Super owner Charlie Beck adds his contribution
Charlestown Mini-Super and Indie Cycle, LLC will hold an electronic waste drop off event on Saturday, August 1, 2015 from 9 AM – 12 Noon at the Mini-Super located on 4071 Old Post Road. 

The drop off event is free and open to anyone.

Both companies are based in Charlestown and are pleased to support this important environmental service that prevents hazardous material from being dumped in the landfill and instead, will make sure these discarded items are recycled.

When Children Hurt, Schools Can Help

Nobody should lose out on a good education because of a bad experience.

What happens when children witness violence? It’s more common than you think, and the effects can be devastating.

More than 1 in 4 American children have been exposed to violence, according to a recently published study from the journal Pediatrics.Researchers found that these children endured significant psychological fallout — including depression, anger, and fear.

Many kids who experience trauma act out, and the ones most likely to be punished are students of color and students with disabilities. 

Traumatized children are more likely to be suspended from school, and are far more likely to drop out. Teens who drop out are more likely to later abuse drugs, fall out of the workforce, and end up homeless.

Instead of punishing these kids for something beyond their control, schools should support them and find ways to help them feel safer.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Little Bay Faces Big Threats

By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

The natural resources of the Pawcatuck River and Little Narragansett Bay play a major role in southern New England’s economic success, especially for the boating industry. (Joanna Detz/ecoRI News photos)
The natural resources of the Pawcatuck River and Little Narragansett Bay play a major role in southern New England’s economic success, especially for the boating industry. (Joanna Detz/ecoRI News photos)

ABOARD THE ELIZABETH MORRIS — Little Narragansett Bay is quietly tucked away between its noisier neighbors — Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound. But this watershed on the Rhode Island-Connecticut border plays a vital role in southern New England’s economy. Boats of all sizes, from yachts to canoes, dot the water, especially on summer weekends. Tourist visit the area to swim, fish, observe wildlife, dine and shop.

The fact that the 317-mile Little Narragansett Bay/Pawcatuck River watershed is stressed and impaired is cause for concern, both economically and environmentally.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Infrared Trifid 

The Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, is easy to find with a small telescope, a well-known stop in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius.

But where visible light pictures show the nebula divided into three parts by dark, obscuring dust lanes, this penetrating infrared image reveals filaments of glowing dust clouds and newborn stars.

The spectacular false-color view is courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astronomers have used the Spitzer infrared image data to count newborn and embryonic stars which otherwise can lie hidden in the natal dust and gas clouds of this intriguing stellar nursery.

As seen here, the Trifid is about 30 light-years across and lies only 5,500 light-years away.

Moving closer to a universal flu vaccine

American Society for Microbiology
Each year, scientists create an influenza (flu) vaccine that protects against a few specific influenza strains that researchers predict are going to be the most common during that year. 

Now, a new study shows that scientists may be able to create a 'universal' vaccine that can provide broad protection against numerous influenza strains, including those that could cause future pandemics. The study appears inmBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Red Cross doesn't know where the Haiti money went

Confidential Documents: Red Cross Itself May Not Know How Millions Donated for Haiti Were Spent

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica, and Laura Sullivan, NPR, 

The American Red Cross is under pressure this week to answer detailed questions from Congress about the spending of nearly half a billion dollars it raised after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

But internal documents newly obtained by ProPublica and NPR call into question whether the Red Cross itself has an accurate accounting of how money was spent.

The reports, assessments from 2012 of some of the group's health and water projects, conclude that the charity failed to properly track its own spending, oversee projects, or even know whether or not they were successful. The documents also cast doubt on the accuracy of the Red Cross' public claims about how many Haitians the group has helped.

An internal evaluation of one of the group's water and sanitation projects found there was "no correct process for monitoring project spending."

Another report concluded that the Red Cross' figures on the number of people helped in a hygiene promotion project were "fairly meaningless."

The findings parallel ProPublica and NPR's earlier reporting about the Red Cross' troubled Haiti program. The group has so far not given details of how it spent the almost $500 million in donations for Haiti.

Monday, July 27, 2015

We’re all we’ve got

A new report finds more U.S. children living in poverty than before the Great Recession. According to the report, released Tuesday from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 22 percent of American children are living in poverty (as of 2013, the latest data available) compared with 18 percent in 2008.

Poverty rates are nearly double among African-Americans and American Indians. Problems are most severe in South and Southwest. Particularly troubling is a large increase in the share of children living in poor communities marked by poor schools and a lack of a safe place to play.

Which brings me to politics, power, and the progressive movement. 

Don't open the door

The progressive comic about religious pathogens.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Ultraviolet Rings of M31 

A mere 2.5 million light-years away the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, really is just next door as large galaxies go.

So close and spanning some 260,000 light-years, it took 11 different image fields from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite's telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in ultraviolet light.

While its spiral arms stand out in visible light images of Andromeda, the arms look more like rings in the GALEX ultraviolet view, a view dominated by the energetic light from hot, young, massive stars.

As sites of intense star formation, the rings have been interpreted as evidence Andromeda collided with its smaller neighboring elliptical galaxy M32 more than 200 million years ago. The large Andromeda galaxy and our own Milky Way are the most massive members of the local galaxy group. 

Wednesday event for the kids at Mystic Aquarium

No reservation or pre-registration required. Just go to Mystic Aquarium. CLICK HERE for more information.

Human activities are jeopardizing Earth's natural systems, health of future generations

The Lancet
A new report released by The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, calls for immediate, global action to protect the health of human civilization and the natural systems on which it depends. 

The report, Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch, provides the first ever comprehensive examination of evidence showing how the health and well-being of future generations is being jeopardised by the unprecedented degradation of the planet's natural resources and ecological systems.

"This Commission aims to put the health of human civilizations, and their special relationship with the larger biosphere, at the centre of concerns for future planetary sustainability. Our civilization may seem strong and resilient, but history tells us that our societies are fragile and vulnerable. We hope to show how we can protect and strengthen all that we hold dear about our world," says Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancetand one of the report authors.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hydrogen the cause

URI researchers announce cause of Salty Brine Beach explosion

Hydrogen blast brought down the Hindenburg

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit today praised scientists from the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (URI GSO) for determining the cause of the July 11 combustion incident at Salty Brine State Beach in Narragansett.

According to Dr. Arthur Spivack, an oceanographer with expertise in geo-chemistry at URI GSO, it is very likely the incident was caused by the combustion of a build-up of hydrogen gas in the beach sand, due to the corrosion of an abandoned copper cable that was previously used by the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

A Pause to Refresh

Progressive Charlestown is taking it easy for a while.

The pace of putting up about 6 articles per day has been a bit extreme.

While we relax and refresh we will be posting articles at a slower rate. Readers who have subscribed to our email service will continue to get notice of new articles (you can still sign up in the right sidebar).

Thanks for your readership.

Sosnowski-Tanzi bill praised

Will Protect the Environment, Put People Back to Work
Image result for Sosnowski & tanziPROVIDENCE, RI - Governor Gina M. Raimondo marked the passage of legislation to protect our water supplies and put people back to work with a ceremonial bill signing at the Save the Bay Center. (H 5668 and S 369)

Many Rhode Island homes have outdated underground wastewater systems. These systems, often cesspools, are inefficient and ineffective and contribute to public health and environmental hazards. This legislation replaces outdated systems at the point of sale and improves neighborhoods and local infrastructure.

Eco-Friendly Ways to Clean Your Home

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that indoor levels of pollutants can be 2 to 5 times higher (and occasionally more than 100 times higher) than outdoor pollutants.

Indoor pollution is caused from a wide range of issues, ranging from tobacco products to damp carpet to household cleaning and maintenance products. Many of these frightening indoor pollutants can be eliminated from your household by switching cleaners. Fortunately, there are numerous eco-friendly ways to clean your home inside and out without resorting to harsh chemicals.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lighting a Legal Fuse

People from Seattle to Fiji are filing lawsuits over global warming.
Climate action is finally gaining ground in Washington. No, not that Washington.

Following their victory in a Seattle court, eight children are pressing Washington State’s Department of Ecology to crack down on carbon pollution. The agency has until August 7 to reach an agreement with the youths, who sued after the department rejected their petition. Otherwise, the kids will go back to court.

“I hope our voices are heard,” said Aji Piper, a 14-year-old and one of the plaintiffs.

Judge Hollis Hill, for one, is listening. She agreed with the teens and tweens in a first-of-its-kind ruling, citing a “historical lack of political will to respond adequately to the urgent and dire acceleration of global warming.”