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Friday, June 30, 2017

The illusion of reform

Image result for trumpcare death panels

The Senate’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not a healthcare bill. It’s a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, paid for by a dramatic reduction in healthcare funding for approximately 23 million poor, disabled, and working middle class Americans.

America’s wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples) would get a tax cut totaling $346 billion over 10 years, representing what they save from no longer financing healthcare for lower-income Americans.

That’s not all. The bill would save an additional $400 billion on Medicaid, which Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump are intent on shrinking in order to cut even more taxes for the wealthy and for big corporations.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

Magical thinking

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Obstruction of Justice, then and now

Pic of the Moment

Offshore National Monument is good for the economy


How can we help ensure that our New England ocean economy continues to thrive? The answer: maximize protection for biological hot spots that nurture vulnerable populations of fish and other sea life. That’s exactly why our country created undersea monuments.

However, it’s not clear that everyone got the message. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited New England last week as part of his review of more than two dozen national monument designations.

The Trump administration apparently plans to scale back or even revoke federal monument protections for some of our nation’s most treasured lands and ocean areas. One monument in the cross hairs is the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts — the first marine national monument off the Atlantic Coast.

There are countless, well-documented scientific reasons for protecting these treasures. But there’s another motivation for New England, and the United States, to preserve this marine monument: economics.

Call to curb Triclosan use

Hundreds of scientists call for caution on anti-microbial chemical use
Read earlier story on Triclosan's rising levels in kids.

Image result for TriclosanTwo ingredients used in thousands of products to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses linger in the environment and pose a risk to human health, according to a statement released today by more than 200 scientists and health professionals.

The scientists say the possible benefits in most uses of triclosan and triclocarban—used in some soaps, toothpastes, detergents, paints, carpets—are not worth the risk.  The statement, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, urges “the international community to limit the production and use of triclosan and triclocarban and to question the use of other antimicrobials.”

They also call for warning labels on any product containing triclosan and triclocarban and for bolstered research of the chemicals' environmental toll. 

Merchants of death have a lot in common

Can the tobacco and fossil fuel industries be compared?
By Ali Abel, Faculty of Law

Image result for Can the tobacco and fossil fuel industries be comparedAre there similarities between the tobacco industry and the fossil fuel industry when it comes to legal liability?

Could, for example, energy companies that rely on fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases be held accountable for the damage caused by climate change?

Two researchers in the Faculty of Law have set out to answer these important questions.

Professors Sharon Mascher and Martin Olszynski, along with co-author Meinhard Doelle of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, have written the paper, From Smokes to Smokestacks: Lessons from Tobacco for the Future of Climate Change Liability, which will be published in the Georgetown Environmental Law Review.

The research builds on a growing collection of work in the literature on the responsibility of corporations, and particularly what are sometimes referred to as the carbon majors, for a share of the costs associated with climate change.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Vilifying teachers goes mainstream

Image result for vilifying teachersIn 2010, the corporate reform movement emerged as a national phenomenon. “Waiting for Superman” was the rage that fall, aided by a massive Gates-funded PR program, asserting that bad schools were caused by lazy, greedy teachers.

Suddenly, the push for privately managed charter schools and attacks on teachers merged as a coherent “reform movement,” helped along by $5 billion in Race to the Top federal funding and Arne Duncan’s persistent snide comments about “bad” teachers, low standards, the promise of charter schools, and the necessity to judge teachers by the test scores of their students.

Conservative Stanford economist Eric Hanushek was at the center of the fray, pointing out in 2010 that conservatives and liberals now agreed that teachers were the biggest problem in schools.


Pic of the Moment

Trump's America

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Did Three Mile Island cause a spike in thyroid cancer?

Possible correlation shown between the partial meltdown at TMI and thyroid cancers
Penn State College of Medicine

Image result for three mile island accidentPenn State College of Medicine researchers have shown, for the first time, a possible correlation between the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station and thyroid cancers in the counties surrounding the plant.

Three Mile Island (TMI), located near Harrisburg, Pa., had a partial meltdown accident on March 28, 1979. 

During the accident, radiation was released into the environment, which the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission said was in small amounts with no detectable health effects.

Looking at tumor samples from people verified to have lived in the areas around TMI at the time of the accident, remained in the area, and subsequently developed thyroid cancer, researchers observed a shift in cases to cancer mutations consistent with radiation exposure from those consistent with random causes.

In this retrospective cohort study - meaning the patients in the study already had thyroid cancer and were known to have been exposed to the TMI accident - lead researcher Dr. David Goldenberg, professor of surgery, and colleagues identified 44 patients who were treated at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for the most common type of thyroid cancer, papillary thyroid cancer, between 1974 and 2014. The patients were then divided into two groups: at risk and control groups.

New anti-smoking measures go to the Governor

Assembly adds e-cigarettes to indoor smoking ban

Image result for e-cigarette banE-cigarettes and vaporizers will join cigarettes in being banned from most indoor public places in Rhode Island under legislation that passed the General Assembly and is now headed to the governor.

The legislation (2017-S 0446Aaa, 2017-H 5821Aaa), sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Rep. Teresa Tanzi, adds the use of e-cigarettes, vaporizers, and similar products designed for electronic, vapor or aerosol delivery of nicotine, to the definition of “smoking” in the Public Health and Workplace Safety Act.

That 2005 law banned smoking in in nearly all enclosed areas of places that are open to the public, including private businesses, restaurants, most bars, public restrooms, athletic fields, health care facilities, shopping malls, bingo facilities, common areas of apartment buildings with more than four units and many other places.

Action alert on choice


The Rhode Island General Assembly is getting ready to end its legislative session without voting on the Reproductive Health Care Act of 2017 (S 274/H 5343).
Take Action Today
Call House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.
Speaker Mattiello: (401) 222-2466
President Ruggerio: (401) 222-6655
Ask them "Why won't you let the Reproductive Health Care Act come to a vote?" 
Let them know that if the General Assembly does not take action this year, we will be back next year, louder and stronger and in larger numbers.
The national attack on reproductive rights, including the right to safe, legal abortion, is unmistakable.  President Trump is appointing judges who oppose Roe vs Wade and Congress is trying to pass legislation to repeal the ACA and "defund" Planned Parenthood.
Rhode Island must act now.
Thousands of Rhode Islanders have called and written their legislators, showed up for committee hearings and met directly with their own elected officials, sent post cards and emails, marched and rallied.
The message is clear: Rhode Islanders support the Reproductive Health Care Act, which would put the basic protections of Roe vs Wade into Rhode Island law so that no matter what happens at the national level, our rights are secured.
But the Democrats who control our General Assembly refuse to let the Reproductive Health Care Act to come to a vote.
Let's ask them why.
In solidarity,

Craig R. O'Connor | Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, Rhode Island
175 Broad Street, Providence RI 02903

(401) 793-0005 

Act. No matter what.
© 2017 Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island | Privacy Policy

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Trump simply cannot control his impulses to be a jerk

Donald Trump was in a room full of Irish reporters while placing a call to their newly elected Irish leader Leo Varadkar when Irish reporter Caitriona Perry seems to have caught his eye.

What followed was awkward for everybody in the room, especially the deeply confused reporter.

Despite being married to his third wife and at that very moment awaiting a phone call with world leader, Trump decided it would be a good time to flirt with Perry.

First, picking her out of the sea of reporters, he tells her to come closer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Trump's conflicts of interest skew Middle East policy

By Tim Abel

Image result for Trump and Middle EastDonald Trump is no stranger to doing business in the Middle East, yet for some unknown reason, he could never quite crack the Qatar market.

Sure, he had been dealing in the hotel business with the Saudis for at least two decades and has his name on quite a few golf courses in the UAE.

However, no matter how hard he tried, business deals in Qatar always seemed unattainable for him.

Now a feud between these three Gulf nations broke out on June 5, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Arab allies all broke off trade, travel and diplomatic relations with Qatar as punishment for what they said was its support of terrorism.

Many scholars, however, believe that the fallout is the result of a struggle for power and autonomy.

It didn’t take long for Trump to throw his support behind the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the dispute. They are the two countries out of the three where he has business interests. 

Trump said his reason for backing Saudi Arabia and the UAE is that Qatar is a “funder of terror at a very high level,” but was this his only reason?

Yeah, what could go wrong?

For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.

Guess it depends on who is getting rammed.

Osprey continue comeback

By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor

Ospreys were driven to near extinction in the 1960s and 1970s because of the effects of the pesticide DDT. (Ed Hughes/for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island)
Ospreys were driven to near extinction in the 1960s and 1970s because of the effects of the pesticide DDT. (Ed Hughes/for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island)

Rhode Island’s osprey population is climbing, after a highly productive year in 2016, and while the wet spring of 2017 will likely cause a decrease in nesting success this year, the once-rare fish-eating hawk is a model conservation success story, according to new report issued by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, which has coordinated the monitoring of osprey nests statewide since 2010.

“We’ve had an amazing long-term trend of not just active nests but successful nests and the number of young,” said Jonathan Scoones, Audubon’s director of volunteer services who coordinates the osprey monitoring program. “Only nine of our nests were not successful this year, so it seems that our ospreys are becoming experienced at raising young.”

More than 100 volunteers recorded 159 active osprey nests in the state last year, with 150 of them successfully raising chicks, an increase of 28 successful nests over the previous year and 45 more than in 2014. The number of young ospreys that fledged from their nests skyrocketed from 186 in 2014 to 297 in 2016.

Expanded Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Records Available

Offers property owners convenient access to critical permitting documents

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has launched improved online access to onsite wastewater treatment system [OWTS] (or "septic system") records, making it easier for property owners to complete the permitting process and/or retrieve historical files.

These new features eliminate the need for customers to visit DEM offices to access records in person.

The new online features include a downloadable Certificate of Conformance for OWTS permitted, installed and approved for use (or "conformed") after 1990.

Also, the full content of DEM's files for OWTS conformed before 1990 – previously stored on microfilm – are now available online.

Free bus rides return for the elderly and disabled

Tanzi pleased at restoration of no-fare RIPTA pass program

Related imageRep. Teresa Tanzi said she is very pleased that the she and fellow members of the House were able to provide funding in the state budget bill to restore no-fare RIPTA bus passes for elderly and disabled Rhode Islanders.

Since February, elderly and disabled Rhode Islanders who meet income-eligibility requirements have had to pay 50 cents a ride, plus 25 cents for transfers, for rides that were previously free for them.

The budget bill (2017-H 5175Aaa) approved by the House of Representatives provides funds to restore the no-fare passes for two years, at a cost of $5 million per year.

Over this two-year period, the General Assembly is requesting that the administration find a permanent solution so that vulnerable Rhode Island residents will continue to have access to the no-fare passes.

Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown), who serves on the House Finance Committee and is chairwoman of its Subcommittee on Human Services, worked behind the scenes to free up funding to ensure the restoration.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

VIDEO: Required viewing for Flip Filippi, Justin Price and Elaine Morgan

To see this video on YouTube:

Lost in translation

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Consistency, the hobgoblin of small minds

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How cats came to rule the world.

Ancient DNA reveals role of Near East and Egypt in cat domestication
KU Leuven

DNA found at archaeological sites reveals that the origins of our domestic cat are in the Near East and ancient Egypt.

Cats were domesticated by the first farmers some 10,000 years ago. They later spread across Europe and other parts of the world via trade hub Egypt.

The DNA analysis also revealed that most of these ancient cats had stripes: spotted cats were uncommon until the Middle Ages.

Five subspecies of the wildcat Felis silvestris are known today. All skeletons look exactly alike and are indistinguishable from that of our domestic cat. As a result, it's impossible to see with the naked eye which of these subspecies was domesticated in a distant past.

URI group investigates impacts of diet, exercise on development of dementia

Disciplines from across University, community partners bring new perspectives to research
Faculty, staff and graduate students from a broad range of disciplines at the University of Rhode Island are taking on one of society’s most vexing health challenges: how to prevent or slow the onset of dementia through changes in diet and exercise.

What sets the Lifestyle Interventions Group apart is its inclusion of disciplines beyond the typical confines of brain science, as well as its engagement with organizations, communities and individuals from around the state. 

This holistic perspective expands and enriches avenues of investigation, with the objective of providing the scientific underpinnings to support practical changes in behavior that can improve people’s lives, said William Renehan, associate director of the George and Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience at URI and a founder of the group.

The idea that simple changes in behavior could reduce the risk of developing dementia intrigues Renehan, who noted that separate studies by the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Association looked at the role of exercise and diet in the context of dementia and reached starkly different conclusions. 

Flying Will Get More Complicated If The Dept. Of Homeland Security Gets It’s Way

Just when you didn’t think flying could get any worse, it very well may.

It is possible in the near future your electronic life is going to be more difficult when you fly the not so friendly skies.  

The Department of Homeland Security announced that they are thinking about expanding the electronics ban to more than 371 airports. 

 The idea is to extend the ban to Europe, Africa, and maybe some domestic airports.  So far no other country has an electronic ban, however Britain is talking about one.

Homeland Security secretary John Kelly told a House of Representatives panel that they are looking at an additional 71 airports. 

CNBC reported that Kelly will be attending a conference next week in Malta  “to present what we think are the minimum increased security standards … and present those to people to say if you meet these standards we will not ban large electronics.” Homeland security refused to say which were the 71 airports under consideration.

So what will happen if the airports do not cooperate with the US?  They will be put on an “affected airports” list.

Monday, June 26, 2017

State Police interview owner of George’s of Galilee for threat against state Senator

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

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Server is sick? Tough! Work or don't get paid.
A pair of public documents contain conflicting theories about who sent state Senator Maryellen Goodwin a threatening email this week concerning earned sick time legislation that said, in part, “The more you meddle with the hand that feeds you, the more you risk getting bit. We are fucking fed up and extremely close to violent opposition.”

Kevin Durfee, owner of George’s of Galilee, concedes he owns the email address the threatening message came from, but in a subsequent email to Goodwin he said he “did not write the email nor do I agree with what was written.”

State Police report filed a day before Durfee sent Goodwin the second email suggests otherwise.

In the report, provided to several news organizations by House Spokesman Greg Pare, the man police “identified as the sender” told them “he was upset with the upcoming legislation that would have an effect on his business” and “apologized for the email that he sent,” according to the report.

The police report says “he will send the Senator an apology letter immediately.”

The email to Goodwin does not contain any apology.

Both the email and the narrative from the police report are pictured below.

Wingnuts of the Weekend

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At the Charlestown Gallery, starting July 1


The Really BIG Summer Group Show 2017

25 Artists
Paintings, Sculpture, Photography

You are invited to attend an artists reception:
Saturday, July 1st / 5:30 - 8:00PM

Over 100 new works of art
Showing from July 1st - July 31st

Charlestown Gallery
5000 South County Trail, Charlestown RI (401) 364-0120

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