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Sunday, December 31, 2017

VIDEO: The Big Picture: How We Got Into This Mess, And How Get Out of It

To watch this video on YouTube:

If you read the entire GOP tax law, you'll find...

For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE.

Real Social Security fraud

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'This Man Is a Monster'

Trump Under Fire for Dismissing Entire HIV/AIDS Council by FedEx Letter
Image result for trump & aidsIn a decision denounced as "dangerous" and "appalling," President Donald Trump has enraged members of the public health and LGBTQ communities by reportedly firing the remaining 16 members of his HIV/AIDS council in letters delivered to them by FedEx on December 28.

Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) had resigned in protest earlier this year, as Common Dreams reported, on the grounds that the Trump administration "has no strategy to address the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—most concerning—pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease."

Scott Schoettes, a Lambda Legal senior attorney who resigned from PACHA in June, tweeted about Thursday's firings, claiming Trump has "no respect for their service" and warning about what future HIV/AIDS policy may look like under this president:

Five ways Trump is endangering your life and health - in secret

Image result for Dark DeregulationAt an event on December 14 to tout his administration’s efforts to rid the federal government of what he contends is burdensome red tape, President Donald Trump used oversized gold scissors to cut a piece of red ribbon strung between two stacks of paper.

In short order, he promised, his administration would excise some 165,000 of the more than 185,000 pages in the Code of Federal Regulations.

That’s no easy task. Changing federal regulatory laws can mean a congressional slog. And for federal agencies to rescind rules, they must engage in a time-consuming process that opens them to public scrutiny and potential legal challenges.

But there are ways to get around these impediments. Collectively, you might call them dark deregulation.

Here are five techniques being used by the Trump administration.

It Ain’t Just Mueller That Could Take Trump Down

One way or the other
As we stumble to the end of the chaotic first calendar year of the Trump administration, the president's critics have fallen into the habit of constantly monitoring American democracy’s vital signs. 

It's almost as if the nation's political institutions are hospitalized, with nurses bursting in at all hours to announce, "Just checking."

By many reckonings, this has been a bad few weeks for the venerable patient, born 228 years ago in Philadelphia.

The Republican Senate, skipping all committee hearings, rushed through a tax-break bill filled with hand-written corrections without allowing Democrats time to read it. Michael Flynn -- the president's first national security adviser who led chants of "Lock her up" at the Republican National Convention about Hillary Clinton -- pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Trump himself retweeted three vicious anti-Muslim videos that originated with a British ultra-nationalist group.

Wait, there's more.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pope continues to condemn Trump policies

Pope Francis Appeals for Peace amid Conflicts Supported and Inflamed by Trump
Related imageWith a focus on the impact of war, conflict, and inequality on the world's children, Pope Francis delivered a Christmas Day sermon in Rome's St. Peter's Square on Monday that catalogued a multitude of concerns with policies pushed by President Donald Trump as well as previous U.S. presidents.

The Pope restated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was inflamed earlier this month by Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—implicitly siding with the Israelis in the decades-long dispute over the ancient city.

Noting that children "suffer because of growing tensions" in the region, he expressed hope that "the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders."

Science and your New Year's Resolutions

Using Science In Your New Year's Resolution
Fake Science, which strictly follows Donald Trump's order to never be "evidence-based."

We now live in an alternative universe

Image may contain: 7 people, beard and text
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroy ourselves.“ - Abraham Lincoln

What could possibly go wrong?

URI to launch Artificial Intelligence lab
artificial intelligence GIFStudents across the University of Rhode Island will soon have access to a new laboratory where they can explore research involving robotics, wearable technology, smart cities and public policy.

The Artificial Intelligence Lab, or AI Lab, is scheduled to open in fall 2018 at the Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons on the Kingston campus. The lab is the first of its kind in a college library nationwide, says the lab’s team.

The lab will support two complementary goals. On the one hand, it will enable students to explore projects on robotics, natural language processing, smart cities, smart homes, the Internet of Things and big data, with tutorials at beginner through advanced levels. 

It will also serve as a hub for ideas—a place for faculty, students and the community to explore the social, ethical, economic and even artistic implications of these emerging technologies.

Critics say Trump wine is like Welch’s grape jelly with alcohol

One of America’s top wine experts brutally reviews Trump Wines 
Image result for trump wine reviewAfter the Charlottesville protests turned deadly, Trump held a series of press conferences where he infamously made statements equating the neo-Nazis and white supremacists with the peaceful protesters, stoking even more anger.

During one press briefing in particular, Trump took the occasion to promote one of his company’s products, Trump Wines, which he said were made in a nearby winery in Virginia, that he said was the largest in the state. 

Trump had said that he owned the winery – and he did buy it in a deal that was a huge bargain – but it is now actually owned and overseen by his son, Eric.

That set a journalist from Vanity Fair off on a quest to learn more about Trump Wines and the winery – which he learned wasn’t the largest in Virginia – making about 45,000 cases a year, compared to at least two other area wineries that produce 60,000 cases a year or more.

On its website, the Vanity Fair journalist read, Trump’s winery said it had “the most acres planted in Vitis Vinifera, the classic species of wine grapes, of any East Coast vineyard,” which he learned was also “way off.”

Trump, he reports, has 210 acres while Pindar, on Long Island, New York, has 500 acres and produces almost twice as many cases of wine per year.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Trump's winery is in line to get a substantial tax cut under the GOP tax bill Trump recently signed, plus a tax CREDIT of between fifty cents and a dollar per gallon. This amazing subsidy was one of the many goodies lobbyists managed to get tucked into the bill. It's also another one of the many ways the tax bill personally benefited Trump and his family. - W. Collette

Then came the big question: how good is the wine produced by Trump Wineries?

A look back and a look forward at the big stories on the environment

Environmental justice: What we’re watching as the year ends

Related imageLast year ended with momentum.

Flint—though still dealing with dirty water— had put environmental justice back on the map. It was no longer a topic tucked into academic papers and progressive media. National broadcasters and newspapers descended on mid-Michigan.

Then the standoff at Standing Rock. Tribes rallied. Then came activists. A large swath of society was simply done being told that dirty energy was the future.

Another interesting thing happened: The disparate justice movements—social, economic, criminal, environmental— started working together.

Then President Trump took office. Led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the administration has systematically undone environmental protections—and, in doing so, has rolled back progress on stopping environmental injustices.

In a hard hitting op-ed this month, founding member of the EPA's Office of Environmental Justice, Mustafa Santiago Ali wrote: "At a campaign stop in 2016, candidate Donald Trump asked African Americans, "What do you have to lose?"

"After almost a year with him in office, the answer is clear for people of color; we have everything to lose," wrote Ali, now the senior vice president of Climate, Environmental Justice, & Community Revitalization at Hip Hop Caucus.

Among the dozens of scrapped regulations, Trump has overturned rules on harmful pesticides, methane reporting, a freeze on coal leases and the calculation for the social cost of carbon.

More rollbacks are in progress, including: scrapping the Clean Power Plan, water protections, coal ash discharge regulations and various vehicle emissions standards.

Though not yet rolled back—the administration has signaled it will set its sights on mercury emission limits at power plants, regulations at hazardous chemical facilities, and limits on landfill emissions. 

The administration has also taken far fewer actions—civil penalties and forced retrofitting to cut pollution—against polluters than previous administrations.

But, believe it or not, there's a whole world out there beyond DC. Here are environmental justice issues at home and abroad that we're tracking.

Friday, December 29, 2017

In Puerto Rico, no electricity until May – and Trump doesn’t care

Trump isn’t actually concerned with grid reliability — just ask Puerto Rico

Related image

During his first year as head of the Department of Energy, Secretary Rick Perry has been almost singularly focused on one thing: realizing President Donald Trump’s empty promise to revitalize coal as a power source in the United States.

Perry’s crusade for coal began in April, when he ordered the DOE to conduct a study on grid reliability — namely, whether renewable energy was accelerating the retirement of coal-fired power plants and threatening the reliability of the U.S. energy grid. 

The study, which was finally released in August, did not find that renewable energy was having that effect, instead pointing to low cost and abundant natural gas as the primary factor in coal’s decline.

Nonetheless, in September, Perry followed up the grid study with a proposed federal rule that would effectively subsidize power plants that keep at least a 90-day supply of fuel on site — namely, coal and nuclear plants. In defending the rule before Congress, Perry used the example of a series of blackouts that occurred in Texas while he was governor.

Where the wild Trumps are

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

Yet another blow to the power plant/Charlestown water deal

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Related imageWhen will the proposed fossil-fuel power plant be operational? According to the developer, Chicago-based Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, the start date is June 1, 2021. But the list of doubters is growing.

To become a reality, the Clear River Energy Center must be approved by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB). That process has been delayed two years by permitting and water-use issues. 

Now, a new lawsuit filed by two energy developers claims the project can’t meet its already-past-due deadline and wants Invenergy to hold off from selling electricity from the proposed power plant into the power grid.

Don’t go there

NO safe ice in Rhode Island yet
DEM Advises Public on Ice Fishing and Hypothermia Safety

snow running GIFThe Department of Environmental Management advises anglers and other winter recreationists to be aware of ice fishing and hypothermia safety. 

This is especially important now during school vacation and holidays when families will be enjoying the outdoors.

Despite the early cold spell, the Department of Environmental Management says that, as of today, there is no safe ice at Rhode Island state parks. 

VIDEO: It’s time to rethink chemical exposures —“safe” levels are doing damage

Is there really a "safe" exposure level?
Brian Bienkowski for Environmental Health News

To watch this video on YouTube"

We've all heard the old adage—"the dose makes the poison." Well—for many pollutants—it may be time to reexamine that.

Some of the most common, extensively tested chemicals — radon, lead, particulate matter, asbestos, tobacco and benzene — appear to be proportionally more harmful to a person's health at the lower levels of exposure, according to a new review of decades of research.

"Not only is there no apparent safe levels or thresholds, but at the lowest levels of exposure, there is a steeper increase in the risk," said author Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor and researcher at Simon Fraser University.

The key word here is proportionally—smoking three packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years is obviously worse for your lungs than a little secondhand smoke from time to time. However, the point is that for the nonsmoker exposed to secondhand smoke, the risk is "extraordinarily large," Lanphear said.

Lanphear, a renowned environmental health expert, has for years been a leading voice on how low levels of lead can have big impacts on kids' health. 

In a commentary published in PLOS Biology journal he summarizes key research on low levels of exposure to lead and other toxics and argues, in largely ignoring such exposures, most health and regulatory agencies are not fully protecting public health.

One of Charlestown’s favorite tax dodges continues to be protected by Congress

The Billion-Dollar Loophole

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Charlestown, many property owners, including Town Council and Planning Commission members and Charlestown Citizens Alliance leaders, use this tax loophole - click HERE and HERE. So does Donald Trump whose questionable use of conservation easements to avoid millions in taxes at his Mar-A-Lago Florida estate and private club was uncovered just before Christmas. - Will Collette

The idea seems like the perfect marriage of environmentalism and capitalism: Landowners give up their right to develop a piece of property, and in exchange they receive a special tax deduction. 

Nature is preserved and everybody benefits.

That’s traditionally how what are known as “conservation easements” worked. In California’s Napa Valley, for example, a former biology professor and museum director named Giles Mead agreed not to develop 1,318 hilltop acres in 1983 and got a deduction in return. The property, Mead Ranch, features vernal pools and rare and endangered plants. 

Two entirely new species were discovered there. Bears, bobcats and mountain lions roam the grounds. Mead allowed groups of hikers, birders, and plant enthusiasts to visit. He sometimes greeted them with glasses of wine from the family’s vineyard. Since Mead’s death, his daughter has kept the property available to the public.

A growing number of recent easement donations, however, are driven by a more commercial reward — an outsized tax deduction for wealthy investors. Known as “syndications” (or “syndicated partnerships,” since they’re typically offered in that structure), they’re deals orchestrated by middlemen with the goal of big payoffs for all of the participants, many of whom have never visited the land in question.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Fredo in the White House

Here is where Trump’s rolling chaos is leading us in 2018
By John Colarusso for THE CONVERSATION

donald trump GIFDonald Trump is wearing thin. He is inherently boring. Everything he says or tweets is so familiar, no matter how offensive, that it’s hard to pay attention to him anymore.

He generates crisis, offence and chaos every day, and yet he is devoid of information. 

He doesn’t tell us anything that we haven’t already heard. 

He is like a political thunderhead giving off rolling thunder, but in his case it is rolling chaos.

Nevertheless, let us examine where this chaos may be heading in 2018. There are signals in the madness that do contain information.

Tax cut will create jobs!

For more cartoons by Matt Bors, CLICK HERE.

Seven more words to ban


Holy Mackerel!

Weekly fish consumption linked to better sleep, higher IQ
University of Pennsylvania

 Children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have IQ scores that are 4 points higher, on average, than those who consume fish less frequently or not at all, according to new findings from the University of Pennsylvania published this week in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal.

Previous studies showed a relationship between omega-3s, the fatty acids in many types of fish, and improved intelligence, as well as omega-3s and better sleep. But they've never all been connected before. 

This work, conducted by Jianghong Liu, Jennifer Pinto-Martin and Alexandra Hanlon of the School of Nursing and Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Adrian Raine, reveals sleep as a possible mediating pathway, the potential missing link between fish and intelligence.

From the Mystic Aquarium

No empty nest syndrome here!

December marked the beginning of breeding season for the African penguins at Mystic Aquarium. Every winter, the Aquarium provides its penguins the opportunity to nest at night in a climate controlled location behind their exhibit. The penguin team fills the room to mimic sand found in their natural habitat, and place huts along the walls for each mating pair. Nesting materials are then scattered throughout the room for the penguins to collect and use as they settle in for breeding season.

Why is nesting season so important for our African penguins? With the continued decline in wild populations of African penguins, Mystic Aquarium, along with other accredited zoos and aquariums, are working collaboratively to help reverse this devastating trend. As part of our participation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) African Penguin Species Survival Plan, this program helps to ensure the healthy breeding population of endangered African penguins.

Click here to learn more about African penguins and the conservation efforts underway to help save the wild populations.

Animal Spotlight: Tyonek update

Back in October, we introduced you to Tyonek, a male beluga whale calf that was found orphaned in Western Cook Inlet, Alaska. Now after two months of around-the-clock care, we are proud to share that he is doing well! Tyonek continues to become stronger each day and has mastered the art of eating from a specially-crafted bottle catered to his needs. To date, Mystic Aquarium has sent five trainers to Seward, Alaska to assist with the care of Tyonek. It has been an awe-inspiring experience for each as they engage in the collaborative efforts to help make Tyonek strong and healthy.

To learn more about Tyonek's ongoing care, read our Beluga Rescue Collaboration blog here.

You Can Help

Did you know you can recycle your incandescent and LED holiday lights? In doing so, you'll help to prevent the toxins and electric cables from entering area landfills. Check with your local municipal recycling location to see if they collect old holiday lights or give your local Home Depot a call - they tend to offer a seasonal trade-in program where you can receive a discount on the purchase of new holiday lights in exchange for your old and damaged lights.

AppDownload our app!
Mystic Aquarium now has an app! Get directions, find events, navigate our campus, learn about encounters and more. Click here to download the app to your phone now.

Mystic Aquarium's Corporate Sponsors 
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The mission of Mystic Aquarium is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research.