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Friday, March 31, 2017

“We Americans still stand united about core principles”

Don’t lose heart

We're roughly two months into the Trump Presidency, and it is the worst start to a time in office I have ever seen. I am not alone in this conclusion. Many Presidential scholars are saying it’s the worst start of any Presidency in the history of the country.

Now William Henry Harrison in 1841 talked too long in the cold of his inauguration. He caught pneumonia and died a month later. So, yes, I suppose you could say that his time was worse.

Rutherford B. Hayes had a tough time taking over in his first and only term (1877) after a convulsive, controversial election by the House.

But worse than President Trump’s first months? Doubtful at best.

Abraham Lincoln had a terrible time at the beginning—states withdrawing from the Union, civil war beginning and early political mistakes. But he was laying the groundwork for his becoming one of the best, most important Presidents ever.

Is Trump, in a different time and in different ways, laying such groundwork? Well, there may be people who will argue he is. But given present evidence, that’s not likely to become a widely held opinion.

Art of the Deal

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Cure for fake science?

Critical thinking instruction in humanities reduces belief in pseudoscience
North Carolina State University

Image result for north carolina bathroom law
North Carolina could have used some "critical thinking" before it
enacted its famous "Bathroom Bill."
A recent study by North Carolina State University researchers finds that teaching critical thinking skills in a humanities course significantly reduces student beliefs in "pseudoscience" that is unsupported by facts.

"Given the national discussion of 'fake news,' it's clear that critical thinking -- and classes that teach critical thinking -- are more important than ever," says Anne McLaughlin, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.

"Fundamentally, we wanted to assess how intentional you have to be when teaching students critical thinking," says Alicia McGill, an assistant professor of history at NC State and co-author of the paper. 

Wearing Your Brain on Your Sleeve

Wearable devices could spot clues to early dementia and Alzheimer’s
By Ian Evans

Image result for Rhoda AuIn 2014, more than 93,000 people in the United States died from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The complex nature of Alzheimer’s makes it difficult to understand and predict, until it’s too late. Boston University professor and neuropsychologist Rhoda Au is trying to change that. 

Through the use of wearable digital devices, Au is collecting an enormous amount of data on people over time with the hope of finding the minute physical changes that correspond with the slow mental decline of Alzheimer’s.

Au, who discussed her research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston in February 2017, says that what she really wants is to never do another Alzheimer’s test in the lab again. 

“It’s really labor-intensive to bring people [into the lab],” she says, and it doesn’t give a full picture of an illness. Cognitive decline can change day-to-day or even hour-to-hour, but lab tests are just a snapshot and don’t provide the important nuances. 

Instead of lab tests, Au wants to use wearable devices to try to detect cognitive decline through how people live their daily lives.

Cheney calls Russian intervention on Trump’s behalf an “act of war”

Image result for dick cheneyIn a more innocent time, say, 2015, you’d be hard pressed to find a person willing to call Dick Cheney a voice of reason, (except perhaps, when talking about his daughter’s right to marry the woman she loves), but in a speech at the Economic Times’ Global Business Summit, he appeared to be just that, only in his very neo-con way.

Cheney called Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election an “act of war.”
“There’s no question that there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic fundamental democratic processes,” said Cheney. “In some quarters that could be considered an act of war.”“I would not underestimate the weight that we as Americans assign to Russian attempts to interfere with our process,” said Cheney, finishing the thought.Source: Business Insider
Feeling a little conflicted? Who can blame you?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Priorities, continued

The Cost of Trump's Wall Compared to the Programs He's Proposing to Cut
By Joe Sexton for ProPublica

Image may contain: textThe fiscal 2018 price for President Trump's border wall is in: $2.6 billion. That's a cost to U.S. taxpayers, not a cost many people any longer think will be picked up by the Mexican government.

As first installments go, it's a pretty big number. Indeed, its size can be appreciated in one powerful way by setting it against some of the many budget cuts Trump proposed this week.

One year of spending on a border wall is the equal of, well, the federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting plus the $231 million given to the country's libraries and museums plus the $366 million that goes to legal help for the poor.

Actually, the tab is nearly three times the cost of those combined budgets.

Care about the arts? Wondering where the next "Hamilton" might come from?

The federal government could increase the annual combined spending on the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities by 900 percent or so and still not get to the $2.6 billion.

Do you hate the Guv'mint?

For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.

To-do list

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PRIVACY: Danger, danger!

Fighting off mass cyber-attacks
Saarland University

Image result for mass cyber attacksResearchers from the Competence Center for IT Security, CISPA, at the Saarland University have developed a kind of early warning system for this purpose. Details and first results will be presented by the scientists at the computer fair Cebit in Hannover.

These mass cyber attacks, known as "Distributed Denial of Service" (DDoS) attacks, are considered to be one of the scourges of the Internet. 

Because they are relatively easy to conduct, they are used by teenagers for digital power games, by criminals as a service for the cyber mafia, or by governments as a digital weapon. 

According to the software enterprise Kaspersky, some 80 countries were affected in the last quarter of 2016 alone, and counting. 

Whole body vibration may be as effective as regular exercise

Mouse study is the first to show less strenuous alternative can benefit bone health
The Endocrine Society

A less strenuous form of exercise known as whole-body vibration (WBV) can mimic the muscle and bone health benefits of regular exercise in mice, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology.

WBV consists of a person sitting, standing or lying on a machine with a vibrating platform. When the machine vibrates, it transmits energy to the body, and muscles contract and relax multiple times during each second.

Many people find it challenging to exercise regularly and that is contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemics. These disorders can increase the risk of bone fractures. Physical activity can help to decrease this risk and reduce the negative metabolic effects of each condition.

"Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combatting some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes," said the study's first author, Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, Ph.D., of Augusta University in Augusta, Ga. 

Let Jared do it. Right.

Image may contain: 1 personThe White House has announced that Trump will name his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to run a new Office of American Innovation – described as a SWAT team of strategic consultants staffed by former business executives, designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington and help make government work more like a business. 

It’s good to have fresh thinking about how government might function more efficiently. But it’s important to remember that government is not a business. The purpose of government is not to show a profit. It is to achieve the common good.

Precisely because there are many different views about the common good, government leaders must be capable of listening and responding to many different opinions and perspectives. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Save lives!

By Jennifer Boylan in Rhode Island’s Future

Image result for guns and domestic violenceMy weekly local paper always includes a police report which usually contains typical small town incidents—petty crime, disorderly teenagers, bounced checks, identity theft, and the like.  

But last week’s police report (The Barrington Times, March 15, 2017) contained a truly alarming incident.

Barrington Police charged a resident with a laundry list of serious charges:  “domestic-felony assault, domestic-kidnapping, domestic-simple assault/battery, domestic-refuse/relinquish telephone, and use of a firearm while committing a crime of violence.”

The report said that the resident “had an AR-15 assault rifle and had threatened to do bodily harm against the female victim” who lived at the home and was able to escape.  The female victim has taken out a restraining order against her alleged abuser.

Hey, fake Floridians! Check out Florida's latest theme park

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

World Happiness Day report says Americans are not very happy

But much of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand are.
Editors: John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs

Image result for why are Americans sadThe first World Happiness Report was published in April, 2012, in support of the UN High Level Meeting on happiness and well-being. 

Since then the world has come a long way. Increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. In June 2016 the OECD committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the center of governments’ efforts”. In February 2017, the United Arab Emirates held a full-day World Happiness meeting, as part of the World Government Summit. 

Now on World Happiness Day, March 20th, we launch the World Happiness Report 2017, once again back at the United Nations, again published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and now supported by a generous three-year grant from the Ernesto Illy Foundation. 

Some highlights are as follows.

At the Mystic Aquarium

Mystic Aquarium 860.572.5955

Upcoming Events

Pancakes with Penguins
Meet one of our African penguins as you enjoy a delicious breakfast buffet in the Main Gallery.
Click for more

Reading Day
Hear stories throughout the Main Gallery and Exploration: Wild! about the sea and beyond.
Click to learn more

Spirit Week
Celebrate what makes Mystic great with live entertainment, hands-on fun and monster machines!
Click for more

Breakast with Easter Bunny
Kick off Easter weekend with breakfast in the Main Gallery and photo ops with the Easter Bunny.
Click for more

Nature Play
Join us in the Sea School Green and build a boat using items scavenged from the Green.
Click for more

Volunteer Open House
Tour the Aquarium with a current volunteer and learn about different opportunities available.
Click for more

Mystic Aquarium | 55 Coogan Boulevard | 860.572.5955

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PRIVACY: Victory at last for the GOP. Too bad about your privacy

Pic of the Moment

South County Hospital and URI sign a deal

Collaboration to help improve health care in South County

Citing their shared vision to improve population health, the University of Rhode Island and South County Health, a nonprofit health care provider based in South Kingstown, have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance education for health professionals and advance the well-being of local communities.
“The University’s academically robust programs related to health and health care make it a uniquely qualified partner for South County Health, as we work to advance our common goals of educating highly skilled health care professionals and improving the health of the communities where we live and work,” said Bryan Blissmer, acting director of URI’s Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation.
In 2016, URI created the Academic Health Collaborative — comprising the Colleges of Health Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacy — to further innovation across disciplines in the rapidly changing landscape of population health and health care.

RussiaGate cover-up under way

Trump minion shuts down public hearings as White House panics
By Gracie Lou 

If Trump had nothing to hide, House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes would not be the source of yet another disaster in the Trump-Russia controversy.

Bigly problems erupted in the Trump White House on Monday, when FBI director James Comey publicly confirmed that the Trump campaign had been under investigation since last July for potentially criminal acts and collusion with a foreign power, which is less alarming way to say that Trump & Co. might be guilty of treason.

The New York Times highlighted Comey’s comments at the hearing:
The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” he continued, adding that the investigation included looking at whether associates of Mr. Trump were in contact with Russian officials, and whether they colluded with them.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

VIDEO: We have no real government

Let’s not make it worse by confirmed Trump’s pick for Supreme Court

To watch this video on YouTube:

House Speaker Paul Ryan, in his press conference following the demise of his bill to replace Obamacare, blamed Republicans who had failed to grasp that the GOP was now a “governing party.”

“We were a 10-year opposition party, where being against things was easy to do,” said Ryan. “You just had to be against it. Now, in three months’ time, we tried to go to a governing party where we actually had to get 216 people to agree with each other on how we do things.” 

It was, he said, “the growing pains of government.”


Welfare cheats

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Scientists harness solar power to produce clean hydrogen from biomass

Using sunlight to generate hydrogen fuel
Dr Erwin Reisner

One of the challenges facing modern society is what it does with its waste products. As natural resources decline in abundance, using waste for energy is becoming more pressing for both governments and business.

Biomass has been a source of heat and energy since the beginning of recorded history.  The planet’s oil reserves are derived from ancient biomass which has been subjected to high pressures and temperatures over millions of years. 

Lignocellulose is the main component of plant biomass and up to now its conversion into hydrogen has only been achieved through a gasification process which uses high temperatures to decompose it fully.  

“I looked at my watch and saw it was time to go”

URI chemical engineering professor researches sensors to detect cancer
Image result for biomarkersIn the fight against cancer, early detection is crucial. Early detection means looking for so-called “biomarkers’’ that signal the start of cancer, often decades before the symptoms of the disease surface.

While knowing what to look for is a complicated process, looking for changes in the biomarker is a much harder problem. 

A new technique reported this week in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering by University of Rhode Island Chemical Engineering Assistant Professor Daniel Roxbury and researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center features an implantable sensor that can detect a wide range of clinically relevant biomarkers—both in biofluids from people and from live animals.

MicroRNA, or miRNA, which is a nucleic acid like DNA, is present in plants and animals. Out of the thousands of identified miRNA sequences, a subset is highly elevated in a number of human cancers.

These potential biomarkers can be found in blood, urine and saliva, and detecting them is a high priority for biomedical researchers. Methods to detect miRNA, from a blood test, for example, require going to a clinic and are limited to a few measurements a year for the patients.

An ideal solution would enable patients to monitor cancer biomarkers from the convenience of their own home and alert a doctor when miRNA levels start to change.

The Press Is Essential, Whether Presidents Like It or Not

If you want to make journalism better, subscribe to your local paper.

The U.S. has a robust, free, and fair media. No wonder that makes Donald Trump angry.

Trump has such notoriously thin skin that some have taken to calling him Trumplethinskin. His staff says he watches TV and reads the news obsessively, looking for praise for himself.

And we know, in part, exactly what Trump is watching. Why? Because he often tweets about exactly what just appeared on Fox News, right after it airs.

Just to get this straight, the leader of the free world — the most powerful man on the planet, with the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus at his disposal — is getting his information about the world from TV, like the rest of us.

What’s more, he’s often getting it from pundits instead of from unbiased journalists. While fewer of us seem to notice every day now, there’s a difference.

The job of a journalist isn’t to give his or her own opinion. The job of a journalist is to inform readers of the unbiased truth — after it’s been carefully fact-checked.

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Loony and rudderless"

Image result for trump is nutsI spent much of this past week in Washington – talking with friends still in government, former colleagues, high-ranking Democrats, a few Republican pundits, and some members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. 

It was my first visit to our nation’s capital since Trump became president.

My verdict:

1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered, and fearful – than I’ve ever seen it.

2. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats versus Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.

3. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.

Dear Dairy

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

Delusions of something

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Wrong again

Renewable energy generation once again far exceed government expectations

Forecasts from the Energy Information Administration have consistently underestimated the growth of renewable energy development in the United States, a trend that persisted through 2016.

The latest EIA Electric Power Monthly report shows continued rapid growth from all renewable energy sources through December 31, 2016. Electrical generation from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower sources accounted for 15.34 percent of the total for the year, up from 13.65 percent in 2015.

EIA 2016 short term forecast falls short – again

In its January 2016 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA forecast “that total renewables used in the electric power sector to increase by 9.5% in 2016.”  In fact, according to EIA’s own current data, renewable generation from all sources expanded by 12.56 percent in 2016. Non-hydro renewable generation grew by 17.26 percent.


Pic of the Moment

Kitty of the week

Meet Doodles
Animal Rescue Rhode Island

Doodles is a 1 year old male who absolutely adores other cats.

He is hoping for a home with 1 or 2 feline friends who like to play as much as he does.

He also enjoys interactive play with his humans, and will make you laugh with his goofball antics at times.

Though he can be a little hesitant at first, once comfortable he has quite the motor on him.