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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

“Moscow Mitch” sets the stage for Russia to hack the 2020 elections

Blocks debate on election security legislation passed by Democratic House

Image result for moscow mitchSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earned the nickname "Moscow Mitch" Friday after blocking lawmakers from taking action to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections just as the legislature he leads concluded that Russians meddled in the 2016 elections in all 50 states.

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" anchor, Joe Scarborough, coined the name on his show Friday morning, condemning the Kentucky Republican for refusing to defend the country's electoral system when McConnell blocked the Senate from considering a House bill.

That bill would invest nearly $800 billion in strengthening election systems across the country, mandate the use of paper ballots to prevent election results from being hacked, and require all campaigns to notify authorities if they are offered assistance from a foreign country.

The nickname took off on social media.

Trump at Ground Zero

Pic of the Moment

Love it or leave

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No, you are not under attack by mutant ticks

No, Lyme disease is not an escaped military bioweapon, despite what conspiracy theorists say
Sam Telford, Tufts University

Related imageCould Lyme disease in the U.S. be the result of an accidental release from a secret bioweapons experiment? 

Could the military have specifically engineered the Lyme disease bacterium to be more insidious and destructive – and then let it somehow escape the lab and spread in nature?

Is this why 300,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with this potentially debilitating disease?

It’s an old conspiracy theory currently enjoying a resurgence with lots of sensational headlines and tweets. Even Congress has ordered that the Pentagon must reveal whether it weaponized ticks.
And it’s not true.

Ticks can indeed carry infectious agents that could be used as biological weapons. Military research has long focused on ticks. Sites around Long Island Sound, near the military’s Plum Island research lab, were some of the first places where the American Lyme disease epidemic was identified.

But there was no release of the Lyme disease agent or any other onto American soil, accidental or otherwise, by the military.

America’s packaged food supply is ultra-processed

Americans are over-exposed to products high in calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt

how it's made chips GIF by DiscoveryAmericans are over-exposed to products that are high in calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study that reports the United States packaged food and beverage supply in 2018 was ultra-processed and generally unhealthy. 

Since about 80% of Americans’ total calorie consumption comes from store-bought foods and beverages (packaged and unpackaged), the food and beverage supply plays a central role in the development of chronic disease including obesity and cardiovascular disease.  

The study was published July 24 in the journal NutrientsIt aims to provide new information for consumers, researchers and policymakers to encourage food manufacturers to reformulate or replace unhealthy products and to inform the U.S. government on where action may be needed to improve the healthfulness of the U.S. packaged food and beverage supply.

Trump does not have the Constitutional authority to change asylum law

He can enforce the law, but can't change it
Jean Lantz Reisz, University of Southern California

Related imageSince his inauguration, President Trump’s immigration policies have been frustrated by the laws the U.S. Constitution requires him to “faithfully execute.”

While the Constitution has been interpreted to give the president power over foreign affairs, Congress has the power to make laws determining which immigrants can enter, stay, become citizens of, or must leave the U.S.

The Constitution requires the president to enforce those immigration laws, but the president’s immigration policy often controls how those laws are enforced.

Throughout his presidency, Trump’s immigration policy has clashed with immigration law and the Constitution. 

Trump has attempted to create or repeal immigration law without the required congressional action. He’s done this through tools of enforcement, mainly executive orders and regulation changes.

That has meant that the Trump administration’s major changes to the country’s enforcement of immigration laws have been reversed, stopped or seriously modified by the federal courts. The latest change by President Trump to U.S. immigration law was announced on July 15.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

VIDEO: Impeach Trump because it’s the RIGHT thing to do, even if not politically expedient

The Real Reason For Impeachment
By Robert Reich

To watch this video on YouTube: 

In today’s political climate, the question of whether or not to impeach the President of the United States is often thought of in political terms.

But there is a much deeper concern at the heart of the question.

An impeachment inquiry in the House is unlikely to send Trump packing before Election Day 2020 because Senate Republicans won’t convict him. And it’s impossible to know whether an impeachment inquiry will hurt or help Trump’s chances of being reelected.

Does this mean impeachment should be off the table? No. 

There’s a non-political question that Congress should consider: Is enforcing the United States Constitution important for its own sake — even if it goes nowhereeven if it’s unpopular with many voterseven if it’s politically risky?


 To watch this great video on YouTube:

Still time to sign up

Will Charlestown get a piece of this?

DEM Announces $4 Million More in Funding to Help Communities, Local Groups Protect Open Space

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The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced that $4 million in open space matching grants is available to help communities and local organizations protect valuable green space throughout the state.

The Open Space Grant Program's 2019 grant round is now open, with a deadline of October 25, 2019. Funding provided through the 2016 Green Economy Bond and the 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond – which Rhode Island voters approved by a margin of almost 80 percent last November – is capitalizing the grants.

DEM closes down shell-fishing

Winnapaug Pond and a major part of Point Judith Pond closed indefinitely
By Will Collette

Image result for Winnapaug Pond
Winnapaug Pond
Heavy rain on July 22-23 apparently caused so much run off that the DEM and the state Health Department have closed all of Winnapaug Pond and a swath of Point Judith Pond to shell-fishing due to unhealthy levels of bacteria.

These levels are so high that you are urged to discard any shellfish you either harvested or bought after July 23 from those two areas

The levels are so high, it prompted this notice:
“Shellfish from water with high bacteria levels could result in gastroenteritis, RIDOH advises. The symptoms of gastroenteritis could include nausea, vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea, headache, and fever. It can be a serious health concern for young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.”

Economic toll of failure to act on climate change

Climate change to shrink economies of rich, poor, hot and cold countries alike unless Paris Agreement holds
University of Cambridge

Image result for climate change and economyPrevailing economic research anticipates the burden of climate change falling on hot or poor nations. Some predict that cooler or wealthier economies will be unaffected or even see benefits from higher temperatures.

However, a new study co-authored by researchers from the University of Cambridge suggests that virtually all countries -- whether rich or poor, hot or cold -- will suffer economically by 2100 if the current trajectory of carbon emissions is maintained.

In fact, the research published today by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that -- on average -- richer, colder countries would lose as much income to climate change as poorer, hotter nations.

Under a "business as usual" emissions scenario, average global temperatures are projected to rise over four degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This would cause the United States to lose 10.5% of its GDP by 2100 -- a substantial economic hit, say researchers.

A quest to find Amelia Earhart’s plane

URI’s Ballard to head expedition

amelia earhart wave GIF by US National ArchivesUniversity of Rhode Island Professor of Oceanography Robert Ballard and his team aboard the E/V Nautilus will begin a quest in August to find Amelia Earhart’s airplane, National Geographic has announced.

Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared more than 80 years ago during her around-the-world flight. Earhart’s plane was reported missing July 2, 1937, during the second-to-the last leg of the flight after taking off from Lae, Papua New Guinea.

Ballard, the man who found the Titanic, will depart Aug. 7 from Samoa for Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island that is part of the Micronesian nation of Kiribati, National Geographic said in its announcement. The expedition will be filmed by National Geographic for a two-hour documentary airing Oct. 20. In addition to his work at URI, Ballard is an explorer-at-large at National Geographic.

Since discovering the Titanic in 1985, Ballard’s reputation has only grown as a marine and ocean explorer.

He also found the German Battleship Bismarck, the lost fleet of World War II warships off Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier Yorktown, and John F. Kennedy’s boat PT-109. He also discovered the sunken remains of ancient ships along historic trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

Monday, July 29, 2019

AG Neronha talks about state open government laws

A guide to Open Government in Rhode Island
Related imageThe Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office held their 21st Annual Open Government Session on July 19. The three hour session sought to explain how the Open Meetings Act (OMA) and the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) work.

The Open Meetings Act are the laws that govern the ways in which governmental meetings are noticed and conducted, and the rights of the public when attending such meetings, under the law.

The Access to Public Records Act are laws that govern how the public can access information normally not released by the government. ARA allows the public to see and review public documents for themselves.

Both Acts seek to put checks on government power, and allow the public access into the decision making process.

Artist's reception Saturday

THIS SATURDAY - August 3rd / 5:30 - 8pm

Charlestown Gallery

Jennifer Knaus - For the Birds
August 3rd - August 26th

Artists Reception - Saturday August 3rd / 5:30 - 8pm

Charlestown Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition featuring new paintings by artist Jennifer Knaus.

Sunday, Monday, Wednesday OPEN 11 - 4
Thursday, Friday, Saturday OPEN 10 - 5
CLOSED Tuesday
Always Open by Appointment

Charlestown Gallery | 401-364-0120 | 5000 South County Trail, Charlestown, R|

Mouse – Tick conspiracy?

Mouse, not just tick: New genome heralds change in Lyme disease fight
University of California - Irvine

Related imageAs Lyme disease increases, researchers have taken a significant step toward finding new ways to prevent its transmission. The experts, who include a pioneer in Lyme disease discovery, have sequenced the genome of the animal carrying the bacteria that causes the illness. 

The advance by researchers at the University of California, Irvine and colleagues provides a launching pad for fresh approaches to stopping Lyme disease from infecting people.

Results of their study appear today in Science Advances.

The scientists dedicated four years to decoding the genetic makeup of the white-footed mouse Peromyscus leucopus, which harbors the Lyme disease-causing bacteria. Unlike mice that scurry into human homes, these rodents inhabit forests, shrubbery and wetlands. People become infected when a tick bites them after feeding on a white-footed mouse carrying the bacteria.

If you have a private well, you may end up taking your medicine twice

Active pharmaceutical ingredients can persist in the environment
By Riley Steinbrenner

Image result for prescription drugs in well waterHomeowners who rely on private wells as their drinking water source can be vulnerable to bacteria, nitrates, and other contaminants that have known human health risks. 

Because they are not connected to a public drinking water supply, the homeowners are responsible for ensuring that their own drinking water is safe.

Similar to concerns that public drinking water treatment plants face, groundwater wells may be impacted by another group of contaminants — and they might be part of your daily use!

Ingredients in personal care items, over-the-counter and prescription medicines, and even food and drink products are introduced into domestic wastewater streams and can persist through treatment technologies. 

Good riddance, Pawsox

Pawsox  shows how not to apologize after Chick-fil-A Pride Day, Sean Spicer flap
Image result for pawsox & sean spicerThe Pawtucket Red Sox, the top minor league team in the Boston Red Sox farm system, offered a partial apology on Thursday for a Pride Night celebration that featured former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer and a cross-promotion with Chick-fil-A, the notoriously anti-LGBTQ fast food chain. 

But while the team acknowledged that having Spicer throw out the ceremonial first pitch on that night of all nights “wounded” many in the LGBTQ+ community and allies, it offered an explanation for the Chick-fil-A promotion that only made things worse.

The Rhode Island-based team hosted its annual Pride Night last Friday. It also hosted a wounded veterans nonprofit — which chose to be represented by Sean Spicer, a native of the nearby town of Barrington — as well as a promotion sponsored by the local Chick-fil-A franchise at the same game. 

Given that the Trump administration and Chick-fil-A have both become lightning rods for their anti-LGBTQ records, their tone-deaf inclusion on a night meant to celebrate the LGBTQ community spurred national backlash.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Send him back, continued

Trump, Go Back Where You Came From

Image result for trump go back where you came fromEvery presidential election year, Frontline, the superb investigative TV series on PBS, produces an in-depth look at the Democratic and Republican candidates. It’s called “The Choice,” and invariably offers some insights that likely you won’t see anywhere else.

When I first watched the 2016 edition, three things struck me as revelatory—aside from that now-infamous Omarosa Manigault soundbite from the program that began, “Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.” Yikes.

Today, after two and a half years of a Trump White House, these three remembered moments seem more pertinent than ever. 

First up was journalist Marie Brenner, who recalled Trump’s brother Robert telling her, “Donald was always the kid in the family who would start throwing birthday cake at all the parties, that you would build up a tower of blocks, he would come knock your blocks down.”

Second were the memories of fellow cadets at New York Military Academy, where young Donald was sent to deal with his behavior issues. One said that as a teenager, Trump “had a very Hugh Hefner Playboy magazine view of success.” 

Another agreed: “Our lives came from Playboy magazine. That’s how we learned about women. That was all of my adolescence. And that’s why getting out of military school was difficult. You had to realize that you couldn’t just follow the Playboy philosophy.”

He added, “The things that we talked about at that time in 1964 really are very close to the kind of way [Trump] talks now.”

But the third thing, the one that especially stuck in my head, is something Frontline reported Trump had learned from nature’s own Nazi, his martinet of a father Fred. It was a theory, according to the narration, Donald “especially liked.”

Reality versus whatever

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There’s a new presidential seal, just for Trump

Former Republican Who Doctored Presidential Seal Is Happy Trump Stood In Front Of It
Image may contain: textIn a widely publicized misstep, the organizers of a college Republicans’ event in the nation’s capital projected a doctored version of the U.S. presidential seal behind Donald Trump for a minute or two on stage this week.

One person suspected of finding and showing the image ― with its references to Russia and Trump’s golf habit ― was swiftly fired.

But the man who created the doctored, satirical seal has only kind words for whoever pulled the stunt.

“I love them,” said Charles Leazott, a former Republican and graphic designer who was tracked down by The Washington Post on Thursday. 

Leazott created the seal as a joke just after the 2016 election and told the Post he never expected it to blow up in the news.

Balloons cause disproportionate seabird deaths

By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor

During a single day in May, Little Compton, R.I., resident Geoff Dennis collected 282 balloons on the local beaches he regularly walks. (Courtesy photo)
During a single day in May, Little Compton, R.I., resident Geoff Dennis
collected 282 balloons on the local beaches he regularly walks.
(Courtesy photo)
After a helium-filled balloon is released, it’s soon out of sight and quickly out of mind. 

But a new study out of Australia provides additional evidence that we should pay much more attention to balloons, because they can have devastating consequences to marine life.

A team of researchers from the University of Tasmania found that balloons are more deadly when ingested by seabirds than any other kind of plastic debris. 

An examination of 1,733 dead seabirds found that 32 percent had ingested plastic debris, and while soft plastics such as balloons accounted for only 5 percent of the items ingested, they were responsible for 42 percent of the seabird deaths.

Fragments of balloons composed just 2 percent of all ingested plastic, yet the birds that ingested balloon pieces were 32 times more likely to die than if the bird had ingested a hard plastic like a LEGO brick or lollipop stick.

The researchers said balloons are especially lethal because they can be easily swallowed and squeeze into a bird’s stomach cavity.

Do we need a Canadian wall? Do THEY need one?

America's OTHER desperate caravan
Image result for canadian wall
Canada prepares its border wall to stop U.S. illegals
While Donald Trump fans the embers of xenophobia in our country by demonizing caravans of desperate Central Americans headed north, there are other northern-bound caravans he doesn’t mention.

These are U.S. citizens crossing our northern border into Canada, seeking relief from the profiteering cartels that run our country’s predatory health system. 

These people are among the millions of Americans who’ve literally been sickened by the price gouging of pharmaceutical giants.

For example, the Washington Post reports that from 2012 to 2016, drug makers have nearly doubled the U.S. price of life-saving insulin

Gone are the days of the "steady job"

Americans miss stability and a shared sense of purpose in their jobs 

silent film GIF by Charlie ChaplinOn the surface, the well-being of the American worker seems rosy.

Unemployment in the U.S. hovers near a 50-year low, and employers describe growing shortages of workers in a wide array of fields.

But looking beyond the numbers tells a different story. My new book, “The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty,” reveals that some Americans are experiencing an erosion in the world of work that is hurting their well-being, relationships and hopes for the future.

We can’t simply blame the rise of the gig economy. It’s also a result of a growing impermanence in the U.S. economy, with more short-term jobs that lack security and decent benefits. At the same time, worker wages continue to stagnate, which underscores the breadth of the problem.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

You can sprinkle it on your granola

Trump’s next environmental disaster: Reclassifying nuclear waste as ‘safe’

homer simpson episode 3 GIFEDITOR'S NOTE: The Energy Department's efforts to simply redefine nuclear waste represent a serious danger to Charlestown. Charlestown is only 25 miles downwind from the troubled Millstone Nuclear Power plant outside of New London, CT. 

3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear rods - currently classified as high-level nuclear waste - are currently stored there, more or less permanently since there is no place to send this deadly waste. 

Most of the radiation released from the Fukushima reactor disaster caused by Japan's 2011 earthquake came from radioactive waste fires.The last thing we need is for the Trump administration to lighten up on regulating this material.   - Will Collette

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to redefine what constitutes high-level radioactive waste, cutting corners on the disposal of some of the most dangerous and long-lasting waste byproduct on earth—reprocessed spent fuel from the nuclear defense program.

The agency announced in October 2018 plans for its reinterpretation of high-level radioactive waste (HLW), as defined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982, with plans to classify waste by its hazard level and not its origin.  

By using the idea of a reinterpretation of a definition, the DOE may be able to circumvent Congressional oversight. And in its regulatory filing, the DOE, citing the NWPA and Atomic Energy Act of 1954, said it has the authority to “interpret” what materials are classified as high-level waste based on their radiological characteristics. 

That is not quite true, as Congress specifically defined high-level radioactive waste in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and any reinterpretation of that definition should trigger a Congressional response.

Make America Grateful Again

For more cartoons by Keith Knight, CLICK HERE.

So unfair

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Your tax dollars at work

Why are Atlantic and Gulf coast property owners building back bigger after hurricanes?
Eli Lazarus, University of Southampton and Evan B. Goldstein, University of North Carolina – Greensboro

U.S. coastal counties are densely populated and extensively developed. They also are directly exposed to sea level rise and storms, which scientists predict will become more destructive as climate change progresses.

But despite forward-looking environmental management and land-use planning intended to reduce future risk, development trends in many coastal locations are running in the opposite direction.

As geoscientists, we are interested in natural physical processes of coastal change and in how human decisions interact with natural processes.

In our research on broad development trends in hurricane alleys of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts, we have found that houses rebuilt in the years following a hurricane typically increased in size relative to their original footprints.

In other words, these homes were built back bigger in places known to be vulnerable to coastal hazards. Recognizing the emerging pattern of these risky investments is an important step toward understanding why people are making them in the first place.

As critics point out, federal disaster aid and subsidized flood insurance are funded with taxpayer dollars, so Americans far from the coasts effectively subsidize development in hazardous areas.

An aspirin a day challenged

Widespread aspirin use despite few benefits, high risks
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Image result for low-dose aspirin ask your doctorMedical consensus once supported daily use of low dose aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke in people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). 

But in 2018, three major clinical trials cast doubt on that conventional wisdom, finding few benefits and consistent bleeding risks associated with daily aspirin use. 

Taken together, the findings led the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to change clinical practice guidelines earlier this year, recommending against the routine use of aspirin in people older than 70 years or people with increased bleeding risk who do not have existing cardiovascular disease.

Treasure Trove of evidence to debunk climate change denial

New Library of Fossil Fuel Industry Documents Provide Key Ingredient Against Climate Denial and Inaction
Image result for fossil fuel industry documentsOn every front, academics, journalists and policymakers compare the fossil fuel industry to the tobacco industry. The two industries share the same playbook: strategies of delay, exculpating blame by making the consumer responsible, denying scientific consensus, publishing industry-funded science and fostering public confusion over the real impacts of their products.

A major difference between the two industries, however, is the timescale and scope of the harms caused. 

While public health professionals are executing coordinated efforts for a “tobacco endgame” to reduce smoking and tobacco prevalence to five percent of the population or less, with the possibility of ending the tobacco epidemic in certain areas within a couple decades — we’re far from making similar progress when it comes to climate change.

Even if all fossil fuel production and consumption ended today, the fallout from 50 years of delay caused by industry obfuscation will have ramifications for humans and other species for centuries or even millennia. 

If disruptive climate change continues unabated, the impacts on the planet may be essentially irreversible, at least as far as any humanly relevant scale.

That’s why it’s important to know what we’re up against with the fossil fuel industry — and that’s why the University of California at San Francisco’s Industry Documents Library now houses a trove of information on the fossil fuel industry, providing an essential complement to the already nearly 15 million and growing internal industry documents from the tobacco, food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Monday’s Charlestown Budget vote

Slightly improved, but still questions remain
By Will Collette

After handily defeating the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) version of the town budget on June 3, this Monday we get to vote on a new, somewhat improved version this Monday, July 29.

All voting for all districts will take place at Town Hall from 8 AM to 8 PM.

The CCA and its arch-rivals, Charlestown Citizens United (CRU), are both urging a “Yes” vote.  

CRU’s full statement is reprinted below the fold.

I am not convinced this new budget warrants your support. 

I am still troubled by the $3.1 million “surplus” the CCA claimed it had and sought to squirrel away in a bogus “community center” slush fund. 

Somehow, between June 3 and the production of the new, “improved” budget, the $3.1 million surplus became something else.

The new budget only proposes giving taxpayers $1 million of the aforementioned $3.1 million, with $1,250,000 going into a general surplus line item and the remaining $845,000 into a General Fund Budgeted Surplus line item.

The CCA-controlled Town Council proposes to spend $74,552 on a survey to ask “residents” (not voters necessarily) how they want the $2.1 million they withheld to be used.

I thought the VOTERS made that pretty clear on June 3.

If the CCA (and CRU) really want to put that survey cash to good use, they should use it to study the many facets of tax inequity in Charlestown that reduce the tax base by millions of dollars and cost honest taxpayers lots of money.

These include the property tax breaks for properties in Quonnie and Shady Harbor sheltered by two fake “fire districts” that have NO fire-fighting capacity, or rampant mis-zoning that gives favored tax treatment to many friends and supporters of the CCA.

I still bothers me the CCA tried to get away with taking the entire $3.1 million surplus and squirrel it away for a project that was probably not going to be built but would constrain summer entertainment in Ninigret Park. This, not coincidentally, was exactly what the CCA supporters in Arnolda wanted.

But consideration for such tax policies as a Homestead Credit for people who make Charlestown their home and small signs of gratitude such as creating a tax credit for the town’s volunteer First Responders isn’t even on the table.

So as for Monday’s vote, sure go ahead and approve it - or not. But understand that the CCA will almost certainly come up with other ways to divert the money toward their own clique.

Here is the CRU’s statement on the budget.