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Saturday, December 31, 2016

I’m Not Cheering the End of 2016

This year was tough. But whatever comes next, it's not going to be good.

Image may contain: 2 people, textIf you thought 2016 was bad, I have bad news: Buckle up.

Hopefully 2017 won’t bring the deaths of more beloved celebrities, and I doubt we’ll see the killing of any more famous gorillas.

But one element that made 2016 terrible isn’t going anywhere. It’s actually getting worse.

You can call it the Trump phenomenon, polarization among Americans, or whatever you want to call it. From my vantage point, Trump’s transition team is making some troubling decisions that are going to reverberate well into next year, and the ones to come after it.

Even before the man’s in office, Trumpocracy is already beyond my worst nightmares. It’s so awful that it’s hard to even keep track of everything I need to be angry about. But here’s my best attempt.

First, there’s the strange personal behavior of the man himself.

Post Apocalyse Electoral College

From polling wizard Nate Silver, how the Electoral College shapes up after Trump starts a nuclear war...

Counting all those who have not been incinerated, Trump still wins!

2017's gonna rock!

The progressive web comic about Republican excess in 2017.

Final count

If Trump cancels this program as expected, an example of what we lose

What Satellites Can Tell Us about How Animals Will Fare in a Changing Climate

Image result for polar bears and climate changeEDITOR'S NOTE: NASA's Earth Sciences program is high on the list of programs targeted for shut-down both by Donald Trump and the Republican limate-change deniers who control the Congress in a push to end funding for research on climate change. This article is a fine example of the types of research Trump and company want to stiffle. - W. Collette

From the Arctic to the Mojave Desert, terrestrial and marine habitats are rapidly changing. These changes impact animals that are adapted to specific ecological niches, sometimes displacing them or reducing their numbers.

From their privileged vantage point, satellites are particularly well-suited to observe habitat transformation and help scientists forecast impacts on the distribution, abundance and migration of animals.

In a press conference on December 26 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, three researchers discussed how detailed satellite observations have facilitated ecological studies of change over time.

The presenters discussed how changes in Arctic sea ice cover have helped scientists predict a 30 percent drop in the global population of polar bears over the next 35 years. They also talked about how satellite imagery of dwindling plant productivity due to droughts in North America gives hints of how both migratory herbivores and their predators will fare. 

Finally, they also discussed how satellite data on plant growth indicate that the concentration of wild reindeer herds in the far north of Russia has not led to overgrazing of their environment, as previously thought.

Let them eat chalk

The National School Lunch program that provides healthy free or reduced meals for children in need has joined Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as yet another program Republicans want to gut in 2017.

Image result for federal school lunch programNot only do Republicans want to take Social Security away from the American people and take away healthcare for adults and children alike, they apparently also want to let children starve at school, too.

For years, both parties supported the school lunch program, but Republicans have becomes so greedy and heartless that they are breaking that spirit of cooperation in order to ruthlessly take food out of the mouths of the children who need it most.

The program currently costs $12.7 billion, which is a drop in the bucket considering Donald Trump just called for expanding America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, which will cost way more than a school lunch.

Clearly, Trump nor the Republicans have ever heard President Dwight Eisenhower’s Chance for Peace speech calling excess military spending a theft from the American people.

Pay to play, Trump-style

Trump, Who "Can't Be Bought," Rewards Big Donors with Cabinet Roles

Dozens of President-elect Donald Trump's biggest donors are now being considered for administration positions, and the amount of financial supporters who ended up in his cabinet is "unparalleled in modern presidential history," Politico reported on December 27.

Of the 200 people that Trump has met with since the election, almost a third—73 people—are donors, Politico's Isaac Arnsdorf wrote. 

They contributed a collective $1.7 million to Trump and groups supporting him, and an additional $57.3 million to the rest of the Republican party, according to an analysis of Federal Elections Commission (FEC) records. The average donor gave about $800,000.

Donors made up about 39 percent of the 119 people Trump considered for cabinet appointments so far, and of that number, 38 percent were eventually picked, Arnsdorf writes.

Those include Todd Ricketts, the nominee for deputy secretary of commerce, whose wealthy family gave about $15.7 million to Republicans in the 2016 election.; Amway heiress Betsy DeVos, nominee for education secretary, whose family spent $10.4 million this cycle and has donated to some of the senators who will vote on her confirmation; Linda McMahon, nominee to head the Small Business Administration, who gave $6 million to a pro-Trump super PAC; and Andy Puzder, nominee for labor secretary who gave $160,000 to Trump Victory joint fundraising committee.

Friday, December 30, 2016

VIDEO: Tangible results of Republican economic policies at the state level

Compare the actual numbers between Red and Blue states
By Robert Reich

To watch this video on YouTube:

For years, conservatives have been telling us that a healthy business-friendly economy depends on low taxes, few regulations, and low wages. Are they right? 

We’ve had an experiment going on here in the United States that provides an answer. 

At the one end of the scale are Kansas and Texas, with among the nation’s lowest taxes, least regulations, and lowest wages.

At the other end is California, featuring among the nation’s highest taxes, especially on the wealthy; lots of regulations, particularly when it comes to the environment; and high wages. 

So according to conservative doctrine, Kansas and Texas ought to be booming, and California ought to be in the pits. 

Examining the mind of the swing voter

For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Cartwheel Galaxy from Hubble 

To some, it looks like the wheel of a cart.

In fact, because of its outward oval appearance, the presence of a central galaxy, and their connection with what looks like the spokes of a wheel, the galaxy on the right is known as the Cartwheel Galaxy.
To others, however, it looks like a complicated interaction between galaxies awaiting explanation.

Along with the two galaxies on the left, the Cartwheel is part of a group of galaxies about 400 million light years away in the constellation Sculptor.

The large galaxy's rim spans over 100,000 light years and is composed of star forming regions filled with extremely bright and massive stars.

Pictured, the Cartwheel's ring-like shape is the result of gravitational disruption caused by a smaller galaxy passing through a large one, compressing the interstellar gas and dust and causing a star formation wave to move out like a ripple across the surface of a pond.

The solution: Turn the devices OFF before you drive

Queensland University of Technology

Image result for hands-free devices and drivingTalking hands-free on a mobile phone while driving is just as distracting as a conversation using a hand-held phone, despite one being illegal and the other not, a QUT road safety study has found.

Dr Shimul (Md Mazharul) Haque, from QUT's School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment and Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety -- Queensland (CARRS-Q), presented findings at a Driving Distraction Seminar held at QUT in November.

As part of the study, Dr Haque measured the effects of mobile phone distraction on safety including reaction time and driving performance in the CARRS-Q Advanced Driving Simulator.

Key benefits of large-scale use of universal over conventional flu vaccines


Image result for universal flu vaccineUniversal vaccines that protect against multiple strains of influenza virus at once could offer key population-level benefits over conventional seasonal vaccines, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology.

Flu-causing viruses are continually evolving. To keep up, scientists must update vaccines regularly so that people can be protected against whichever seasonal strains pose the greatest risk. 

However, researchers are working to develop universal vaccines that could protect against multiple flu strains without needing to be updated.

Research on universal flu vaccines has mostly focused on their potential effects in individual patients. To better understand their effects at the population level, Rahul Subramanian of The University of Chicago and colleagues mathematically modeled the interactions between vaccination, flu transmission, and flu virus evolution.

The model revealed that deployment of universal vaccines across large populations could reduce flu transmission more efficiently than conventional vaccines. 

Justice, not charity

It’s Time to Stop Giving Veterans Lip Service

If you think the U.S. government is too impoverished to give veterans the best care in the world, think again. America’s real problem is its eagerness to spend way more money taking people down, than lifting them up.

In this year’s $1.11 trillion discretionary budget, 54 percent was spent on making war, while only 6 percent went toward veteran’s benefits. 

It’s not hard to figure out why. 

One generates huge profits for corporations that make weapons, and the other doesn’t.

However, the unspoken issue has as much to do with political corruption, as it does with the failure of true capitalism.

Despite the illusion that big American corporations are the epitome of capitalism, many are heavily dependent on government assistance, contracts, tax breaks, and special rules in order to make money and stay in business.

For proof of just how much government help these so-called capitalists need, one needn’t look any further than the military contractors and other lobbyists that spend billions to create siphons between taxpayer money and the lawmakers who steer it. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Year, New Council, New start

Thinking about ways to make Charlestown a better place for all
By Will Collette

Image result for charlestown ri new years eve bonfire
Don't miss Charlestown's 10th Annual (and possibly last)
New Year's Eve bonfire at Ninigret Park at sundown
Since the launch of Progressive Charlestown in 2011, we’ve offered an alternative voice to Charlestown residents.

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance, the town’s dominant political party, started in 2006 to fight then Town Council President and former Democrat Jim Mageau. The CCA had effectively drowned out all other voices.

They still do and as a result, the CCA Party has controlled the town of Charlestown since 2008. CCA endorsed candidates currently hold every elected position in town.

But I have a feeling that this year could be different. For the first time in six years, the Town Council is no longer controlled by CCA Party hardline ideologues.

This could open the door to some honest discussion about issues that have long been ignored, and consideration of ideas that could benefit all in this town, not just those who support the CCA Party.

We also have a recent, unifying issue cutting across political divisions: opposition to Amtrak's proposed rail relocation program.

In the hope that new Town Council leadership will bring a new open-mindedness to ideas not necessarily emanating from the CCA Party Steering Committee, I offer this outline of ideas worth a fresh look.

I have written about most of them in the past and plan to write more about them in the future. But in the meantime, in the spirit of a new year and a greatly re-shuffled Town Council, let’s think about what Charlestown can do to make itself a better place to live, work and play.


The Worst Part of 2016

Image may contain: 1 person, meme and text

This disease has hit local bat population hard

Penn State

Image result for white-nose syndrome in bats

A newly discovered virus infecting the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats could help scientists and wildlife agencies track the spread of the disease that is decimating bat populations in the United States, a new study suggests.

Regional variations in this virus could provide clues that would help researchers better understand the epidemiology of white-nose syndrome, according to Marilyn Roossinck, professor of plant pathology and environmental microbiology, College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State.

White-nose syndrome is a particularly lethal wildlife disease, killing an estimated 6 million bats in North America since it was identified in 2006. The disease, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, first was found in New York and now has spread to 29 states and four Canadian provinces.

Helpful ways to prevent food waste

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Luc Dang, founder of Phood Solutions, showed how his new software and hardware service can reduce food waste before food is even prepared. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
Luc Dang, founder of Phood Solutions, showed how his new software and hardware service can reduce food waste before food is even prepared. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, here are few reminders about food. It particular, the food we don’t eat.

A recent summit at Johnson & Wales University called "Spread the Surplus: Getting Wasted Food to Hungry People" offered hope that millions of tons of unused food is being diverted from landfills.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food scrap accounts for 21.6 percent of all trash, the most of any item in the country's waste stream. Here are some ways, programs and projects designed to reduce the amount of food wasted:

Indivisible: A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda

Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.

We are former progressive congressional staffers who saw the Tea Party beat back President Obama’s agenda. We see the enthusiasm to fight the Trump agenda and want to share insider info on how best to influence Congress to do that.

If you want to do your part to beat back the Trump agenda and understand that it will require more than calls and petitions. For that reason, we prepared Indivisible, 2016 to help you resist. You should use this guide, share it, amend it, make it your own, and get to work.

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President-Elect.

In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Amtrak plan and Charlestown

Assessing the odds
By Will Collette

With Donald Trump taking power on January 20, who can really predict what will happen to Amtrak’s misguided plan to cut a swath through some of our area’s most important protected natural resource areas?

The fact that Trump will be our next President, despite losing the popular vote by nearing 3 million, is the ultimate proof that predictions are dangerous in these crazy times.

So while Charlestown and other communities in the path of Amtrak’s planned track relocation mobilize to fight the proposal, here are some factors to consider.

The science behind meat inspections

Da, это хорошо

VIDEO: Study links one of the worst parasites – the earworm - to capitalism

By Martin Gardiner in Improbable Research

Image result for earworm effectAlthough the cognitive neurosciences are currently conducting research to determine the brain networks that might be implicated in the production of ‘earworms’ – what about their role in contemporary capitalism’s encroachment on human cognitive capacities?

For a discussion on this subject see the work of Eldritch Priest who is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at New York University and Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts.

The professor approaches the earworm from a deliberately speculative perspective in his essay ‘Earworms, Daydreams and Cognitive Capitalism’ (Theory, Culture & Society, October 4, 2016)

Can't have too many billionaires

Trump and the Reverse Revolving Door
By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

Image may contain: 3 people, meme and textLate in his presidential campaign Donald Trump seized on the issue of government ethics, and since the election he has talked about putting stricter limits on the ability of federal officials to move into jobs with government contractors. That process, called the revolving door, creates the possibility that an official will skew decisions in favor of a future employer.

What Trump has not discussed is a related phenomenon that can also have a pernicious effect on federal policymaking: the appointment of lobbyists and corporate executives to public posts in which they are likely to pursue policy in a way that benefits their former (and probably future) employers and business interests. This is known as the reverse revolving door.

Not only has Trump not challenged that practice, he has embraced it with gusto — and personally embodies it. 

Along with retired generals and conservative zealots, his proposed cabinet includes hedge fund investor Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, vulture investor Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary and fast food executive Andy Puzder as Labor Secretary. 

And now comes the coup de grace: the nomination of ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Destruction and Mayhem

An Administration of Losers?

In a sense, human history could be seen as an endless tale of the rise and fall of empires. In the last century alone, from the Hapsburgs and Imperial Japan to Great Britain and the Soviet Union, the stage was crowded with such entities heading for the nearest exit.

By 1991, with the implosion of the USSR, it seemed as if Earth’s imperial history was more or less over. After all, only one great imperial power was left.

The Russians were, by then, a shadow of their former Soviet self (despite their nuclear arsenal) and, though on the rise, the Chinese were, in military terms at least, no more than a growing regional power.

Left essentially unchallenged was the United States, the last empire standing.

Even though its people rejected the word “imperial” as a descriptive term for their “exceptional” country—just as, until oh-so-recently, they rejected the word “nationalist” for themselves—the world’s “sole superpower” was visibly the only game in town.

Its military, which already garrisoned much of the planet, was funded at levels no other country or even groups of them combined could touch and had destructive capabilities beyond compare.

And yet, with the mightiest military on the planet, the United States would never again win a significant war or conflict.

Prepare to be screwed

The Republican guide to screwing the working class
For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE

Help feed hungry neighbors

Rhode Island Community Food Bank

Help feed our hungry neighbors.

Your gift is matched

Right now, thousands of Rhode Islanders are struggling with hunger.
These are working parents who are forced to choose between utilities and groceries, children who are afraid to admit their bellies are empty, and seniors scraping by on limited incomes.
Your gift before the end of the year ensures that our neighbors have access to the nutritious food they need.  
Help Families in Need
We are so grateful for your support. Your gift truly makes a difference for children, families and seniors who would otherwise go hungry this winter.
Warm regards,
Signature of Andrew Schiff
Andrew Schiff
Chief Executive Officer
P.S. There is still time to make a gift of appreciated securities before the tax year is over! To learn more, please visit our website.

Help Hungry Rhode Islanders

Rhode Island Community Food Bank

Rhode Island Community Food Bank
200 Niantic Avenue
Providence, RI 02907
P: (401) 942-MEAL (6325)

Watershed Association working on AMTRAK proposal

Northeast Corridor Expansion and Final Environmental Impact Statement
The Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) is reviewing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and gathering facts to understand the potential impacts of this proposed re-routing of train rail lines through the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed in RI and CT.  This FEIS is a multi-state planning document that is thousands of pages long and will take a lot of time for WPWA to carefully review.
WPWA recognizes the potential environmental and economic benefits of improving and expanding high speed rail service. However, the proposed route causes us serious concern about the potential for negative impacts to habitat, surface and ground water, as well as public, private and conservation lands. 
Comprehensive consideration at a high level was given to selecting this route from three route alternatives.  RI and CT were consulted and did comment on the route selection process in what is known as the Tier 1 assessment phase that culminated in the recently published FEIS.  One or more of these alternatives would have ended Acela service to TF Green airport, URI/Kingston, and the metro Providence area. One alternative even had the train bisecting the Scituate reservoir!
Absent from the Tier 1 Assessment is ANY citation that the rivers proposed to be traversed are afforded protection from development by WPWA’s ongoing Wild and Scenic study sponsored by the National Park Service.  This was likely an oversight based on the timing of the FEIS’s development and the passage of the Wood Pawcatuck Protection Act in December 2014.  The yet to be funded, but federally mandated Tier 2 review process will address this oversight and is the appropriate point in the process in which the affected towns, landowners, and conservation organizations will be heavily consulted.  
You can count on WPWA with its legal standing granted by the RI legislature to participate in the review and comment that occurs as part of Tier 2, if that phase eventually receives funding.  During that process WPWA will receive, carefully review, and thoughtfully comment on the more route- and site-specific information that will be provided by the Federal Railroad Commission. Our comments will expand upon those already submitted by the US Environmental Protection Agency related to their serious concerns specifically related to surface, aquifer and drinking water. 
The WPWA has committed to partnering with other conservation organizations that operate on a watershed-wide basis like the RI & CT Nature Conservancy. Together we will work with the state’s Congressional delegation to defend the natural and human resources that may be affected. We encourage our neighbors and community partners to engage in the public process, and to assist in determining acceptable alternatives to the proposed route.
To view the FEIS click on this link
To make a tax deductible donation toward WPWA’s efforts, click the donate button.    
Our Contact Information
Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association
203 Arcadia Road
Hope Valley, RI 02832

Dog of the Week

Meet Ward
Animal Rescue Rhode Island

Ward is still looking for a forever companion.

He has been with us much too long, so we are offering a reduced adoption fee to the right owner.

He is a one year old lab mix that still has a ton of puppy energy and will need to continue training in his new home, which ARRI is willing to provide.

He will make an excellent companion for someone with an active lifestyle.

He loves other dogs, but it is not recommended he go to a home with cats or young children at this time.

Can you help him get a fresh start for the New Year?

Middle-class about to get carpet-bombed

Waging Class War in Comfort

In a typical corporate board of directors meeting, what do CEOs see when they look out across their richly lacquered boardroom tables? They see . . . lots of other CEOs.

That’s no accident. CEOs today purposively pack their corporate boards with their pals, who often turn out to be current or former chiefs at other corporations. Everybody who’s anybody just feels more comfortable that way

President-elect Donald Trump, a big-time business chief himself, certainly seems to want to feel comfortable, too. 

No other President-elect has ever packed his cabinet with more business bigwigs.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Snap out of it!

As the era of Trump approaches, some of you are succumbing to the follow four syndromes:

1. Normalizer Syndrome. You want to believe Trump will be just another president – more conservative and pompous than most, but one who will make rational decisions once in office.

You are under a grave delusion. Trump has a serious personality disorder and will pose a clear and present danger to America and the world.

2. Outrage Numbness Syndrome. You are no longer outraged by what Trump says or what he does – his incessant lies, his cabinet picks, his bullying, his hatefulness  – because you’ve gone numb. You can’t conceive that someone like this is becoming President of the United States, so you’ve shut down emotionally. Maybe you’ve even stopped reading the news.

You need to get back in touch with your emotions and reengage with what’s happening.  

Temper tantrum

Mike Luckovich
For more cartoons by Mike Luckovich, CLICK HERE