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Thursday, October 31, 2019

The dirty denizens of Trump's Swamp

ProPublica found a “staggering” 281 lobbyists who’ve worked in the Trump administration
By David Mora, Columbia Journalism Investigations for ProPublica

Image result for lobbyists in the trump administration
(Public Citizen)
At the halfway mark of President Donald Trump’s first term, his administration has hired a lobbyist for every 14 political appointments made, welcoming a total of 281 lobbyists on board, a ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis shows.

With a combination of weakened rules and loose enforcement easing the transition to government and back to K Street, Trump’s swamp is anything but drained.

The number of lobbyists who have served in government jobs is four times more than the Obama administration had six years into office. 

And former lobbyists serving Trump are often involved in regulating the industries they worked for.

Even government watchdogs who’ve long monitored the revolving door say that its current scale is a major shift from previous administrations. It’s a “staggering figure,” according to Virginia Canter, ethics chief counsel for the D.C.-based legal nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It suggests that lobbyists see themselves as more effective in furthering their clients’ special interests from inside the government rather than from outside.”

We tracked the lobbyists as part of an update to Trump Town, our database of political appointees. We’ve added the names of 639 new staffers with the administration and the financial disclosures of 351 political appointees who have filled different positions over the past year, and we tracked the careers of 338 who departed government during the same period.

Trick or Treat!

All trick, no treat

Pic of the Moment

H.P. Lovecraft, zombies and the flu

Zombie flu: How the 1919 influenza pandemic fueled the rise of the living dead
Elizabeth Outka, University of Richmond

Did mass graves in the influenza pandemic help give rise to the living dead? Tithi Luadthong/ 

Zombies have lurched to the center of Halloween culture, with costumes proliferating as fast as the monsters themselves. This year, you can dress as a zombie prom queen, a zombie doctor – even a zombie rabbit or banana. The rise of the living dead, though, has a surprising link to another recurring October visitor: the influenza virus.

One hundred years ago, 1919 saw the end of one of the worst plagues in human history: the deadly 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. The pandemic was a true horror show, with 50-100 million people dying and millions more infected. The United States alone lost more people in the pandemic than it lost in all the 20th- and 21st-century wars, combined.

This was no ordinary flu virus: It killed young adults in high numbers, and it came with grisly side effects, like massive bleeding from the nose, mouth and ears. It could damage the nervous and respiratory systems and could cause violent derangement, delirium and – in its aftermath – profound lethargy and suicidal depression.

The pandemic turned communities into haunted landscapes. Coffins ran out as bodies piled up everywhere. Stores, theaters and schools were closed, and wagons were pulled through the streets to collect corpses. Funerals were often impossible to organize, and across the country, mass graves were dug to accommodate the many dead.

Scouts Collect Food Donations This Saturday

Scouts Collect Food Donations
This Saturday

If you received a door hanger notifying that you a scout will be collecting food, Saturday is the day! Scouts will be out early the morning of November 2 picking up food donations for the Food Bank, so be sure to have your food donations placed outside your front door by 8:00 am for the Scouts to collect.
This is the largest food drive of the year for the Food Bank, and we need your support to make it a success!

Volunteer at Food Bank After Hours

Thursday, November 14, 2019 | 5:30 to 8:00 pm
200 Niantic Ave, Providence, RI
Join us for Food Bank After Hours: Where Social Hour Meets Social Responsibility! Volunteer sorting and packing food from 5:00—7:00 pm, and then enjoy refreshments from Eastside Marketplace, Gasbarro’s Wine and Narragansett Beer at a networking hour following the volunteer shift.
There is a $15 registration fee, and participants must be 21 or older.

2019 Food Bank Annual Meeting

At our Annual Meeting last week we presented the Guy Abelson Leadership Award to our community partner, the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute at Brown University, and presented Comprehensive Community Action Program with the Loni McGrath Community Garden Award. We also bid goodbye to six board members and brought on six new ones.

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Copyright © 2019 Rhode Island Community Food Bank, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
Rhode Island Community Food Bank
200 Niantic Ave
Providence, RI 02907-3150

Bar Association says AG Barr is on ethical shaky ground

NYC Bar Association Calls on Trump's AG William Barr to Recuse Himself—or Resign

Image result for disbar barrThe New York City Bar Association on Wednesday publicly called on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to immediately recuse himself from any further Department of Justice processes related to the ongoing investigation into the Trump administration's controversial dealings with Ukraine.

In a statement by the NYCBA, which boasts nearly 25,000 lawyers and law school members in the major metropolis, the association said that by failing to recuse up to this point Barr has "undermined" his "unique role in safeguarding the rule of law" and his sworn duty to the U.S. Constitution.

"To help remedy that failure," reads the statement, "the New York City Bar Association urges that Mr. Barr recuse himself from any ongoing or future review by DOJ of Ukraine-related issues in which Mr. Barr is allegedly involved. If he fails to do so, he should resign or, failing that, be subject to sanctions, including possible removal, by Congress."

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Bug out

When Residents Say ‘No’ to Aerial Mosquito Spraying
By Michael Schulson

Image result for mosquito sprayingOn a Friday afternoon in late September, Kalamazoo County Health Officer Jim Rutherford announced that aircraft would mist much of the county with an insecticidal spray. 

Intended to kill mosquitoes, the emergency plan quickly turned into a public relations battle. Hundreds of calls and emails — and even some threats — streamed into Rutherford’s office in southwest Michigan, many expressing concern about the spray.

In the United States, an average of seven human cases of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) are reported annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

But 2019 has been an especially bad year for the mosquito-borne virus, with at least 35 cases and 13 deaths reported nationwide

In Kalamazoo County, when Rutherford made his decision, EEE had killed a 64-year-old man and sent a 14-year-old girl into intensive care. Faced with the prospect of several more weeks of mosquito-friendly weather, Michigan state officials had offered 15 counties the option of spraying. 

All of them accepted.

“This technology is fully recognized as a public health intervention for mosquito-borne diseases,” Rutherford said, citing information from the Environmental Protection Agency and the CDC. 

But that didn’t stop thousands of residents from flooding the state’s pesticide opt-out system, requesting that their properties be exempted from spraying. 

Rutherford said he repeatedly heard things like “the government told me Roundup was safe forever, the government told soldiers that Agent Orange was safe forever” — only to later be informed of previously unforeseen risks.

Three days after the initial announcement, Kalamazoo County called off the spray. More than 1,400 residents had exercised their right to opt out, creating a patchwork of no-go zones that simply made aerial spraying unworkable. 

Spraying did occur in the other 14 counties, skirting the property of around 1,600 additional opt-outs, and over the vigorous objections of many residents.

A hard frost will soon kill this year’s remaining adult mosquitoes in Michigan, Massachusetts, Indiana, and other affected states. 

But as a warming climate promises to increase mosquito-borne disease outbreaks across the northern United States, including EEE, the controversy raises questions that may resonate for years to come. 

When should elected or appointed officials compel people to accept public health interventions? When should people have the chance to opt-out? And, in the face of new public health threats, how can communities have constructive, inclusive conversations about risk?

Get over it


Of course they will

Image may contain: dog and text

Werewolves and vampires explained

Rabies' horrifying symptoms inspired folktales of humans turned into werewolves, vampires and other monsters
Jessica Wang, University of British Columbia

A rabid dog’s bite can make a person seem to have animal characteristics.
Taras Verkhovynets/ 
In 1855, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the gruesome murder of a bride by her new husband.

The story came from the French countryside, where the woman’s parents had initially prevented the couple’s engagement “on account of the strangeness of conduct sometimes observed in the young man,” although he “otherwise was a most eli[g]ible match.”

The parents eventually consented, and the marriage took place. Shortly after the newlyweds withdrew to consummate their bond, “fearful shrieks” came from their quarters.

People quickly arrived to find “the poor girl… in the agonies of death — her bosom torn open and lacerated in a most horrible manner, and the wretched husband in a fit of raving madness and covered with blood, having actually devoured a portion of the unfortunate girl’s breast.”

The bride died a short time later. Her husband, after “a most violent resistance,” also expired.

What could have caused this horrifying incident? “It was then recollected, in answer to searching questions by a physician,” that the groom had previously “been bitten by a strange dog.” The passage of madness from dog to human seemed like the only possible reason for the grisly turn of events.

The Eagle described the episode matter-of-factly as “a sad and distressing case of hydrophobia,” or, in today’s parlance, rabies.

But the account read like a Gothic horror story. It was essentially a werewolf narrative: The mad dog’s bite caused a hideous metamorphosis, which transformed its human victim into a nefarious monster whose vicious sexual impulses led to obscene and loathsome violence.

Society is rejecting facts

What can be done about that?
Florida Atlantic University

Image result for phony scienceOne study says coffee is good for you, while another study says that it's not. They're both right, within context. 

This dichotomy together with an environment of distrust spurred by anecdotes, fake news, and to a large extent, social media, has created a skeptical and misinformed public. 

As a result, researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine and collaborators say society is rejecting the facts. 
Now more than ever, medical researchers must help the public understand the rigorous process of science, which has been around for thousands of years. 

In return, the public has to pay attention, realize that one size doesn't fit all, and understand that the answers are not just black or white. Lives are depending on it.

More Than 200 Women Say Trump Molested Them

New Book On Trump, Creepy Guy with No Finesse, Quotes Women He Grabbed and Poked
By Danelle Morton

donald trump GIFMost women know what it’s like to be approached by a guy like Donald Trump. He’s that guy you spot coming at you from across the party with hands extended and eyes emblazoned by a voracious glare. 

Certainly, his mouth is open a bit, and there’s a drop of predator drool at one edge. To him, you are not a woman, but an assemblage of body parts—mouth, ass, breasts.

At the moment of his approach, he thinks he’s cute. He thinks he’s charming, and that his hands are above average size.  

You’re just another thing he wants to get his little mitts around on his way to his Nobel Peace Prize.

The relentlessness and predictability of Donald Trump’s assaults on women is the focus of All The President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, published by Hachette

The book is an exhaustive—and often exhausting—compendium of the hundreds of women authors Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy interviewed who claim they were assaulted by the commander-in-chief.  Some of the stories, like Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, are well known. 

Intrepid reporters Levine and El-Faizy have unearthed 43 more women willing to go on the record, adding to the two dozen who have already described Trump’s alleged attacks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sanctuaries protecting gun rights and fetuses challenge the legitimacy and role of federal law

Not even Rhode Island is immune
John E. Finn, Wesleyan University

Image result for Rhode Island 2nd Amendment sanctuaries
Crowd dominated by gun nuts as Foster RI declares itself a "sanctuary
city" for gun rights. Burrillville, Hopinton and Richmond also voted to
declare themselves 2nd Amendment "sanctuaries."
(photo by Steve Ahlquist) 
In June 2019, the small Texas town of Waskom declared itself a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn.”

Waskom’s city council passed an ordinance that labels groups – like Planned Parenthood, NARAL and others – that perform abortions or assist women in obtaining them “criminal organizations.”

The ordinance borrows from a similar resolution passed in March by Roswell, New Mexico.

Unlike the merely rhetorical Roswell resolution, however, the Texas law bans most abortions within city limits. There are no abortion providers in the town, so it is not clear how the town would enforce the ordinance. It might, perhaps, deter an organization from opening a clinic.

These “sanctuaries for life” join other sanctuaries popping up across the country that challenge federal law and how we understand its power and role in the states and the lives of Americans.

Gun owners’ rights

idiot GIFThe rapid rise of anti-abortion sanctuaries has a precedent in the growth of so-called Second Amendment sanctuaries.

Second Amendment sanctuaries are partly a response to proposed “red flag” laws. Such laws authorize state courts to issue emergency protection orders, which allow police to temporarily confiscate firearms from a person who presents a danger to others or themselves.

Second Amendment sanctuaries are a booming business. Five states and at least 75 cities and counties have designated themselves as Second Amendment sanctuaries.

They refuse to enforce background checks and to comply with emergency protection orders.

So unfair

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

Pocket puppets

Pic of the Moment

VIDEO: "It's a small world after all"

Our world is getting smaller
Kristina Lerman, University of Southern California

Many of us are connected some way, somehow.
Has this happened to you? You strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, only to discover that you share surprising connections.

My own brush with this phenomenon took place recently at a conference in Canada.

I was sharing a table with two strangers – one from Israel, the other from Baltimore, Maryland – when the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” came up in conversation.

As it happened, the science adviser for the show is a good friend, and I never miss an opportunity to mention this. To my surprise, I was not the only one connected to the show.

The Israeli researcher was related to one of the main actors, while the Baltimore researcher worked with my friend’s graduate school roommate. What a small world, our group agreed when we learned of these connections. We should not have been surprised.

As network scientists who study complex systems composed of many interconnected parts, we know that social networks connecting us through kinship and friendship are often small, in the sense that any two people within the network are connected by unexpectedly short chains made up of social links.

It's not all bad

People are increasingly interrupted at work 
Elana Feldman, University of Massachusetts Lowell

 Between email, Slack and social media, you may need three
devices to handle all the interruptions. Artie Medvedev/
An email pops up on your screen. It’s a client sharing a project update. A Slack message appears. It’s your boss asking a question. 

A text alert beeps. A colleague wants to know if you will be attending a meeting.

Sound familiar? People are increasingly besieged at work by interruptions through email, messaging apps, social media and in-person encounters.

Interruptions can impair performance in a number of ways, causing lower productivity, more errors and poorer work quality.

Interruptions also often spark negative emotions like annoyance and anxiety. Frequent interruptions may, over time, lead to stressful feelings of overload, irritation and a sense of “time famine” – having too much to do and not enough time.

Yet interruptions are a necessary part of work life, since communication needs are often unpredictable and time-sensitive. And responding to interruptions, whatever channel they come through, has become a core responsibility for most jobs.

As an expert on interpersonal interactions and time use in organizations, I wanted to understand why interruptions are often so stressful. Working with one of my doctoral students, I designed a study that focused on people’s experiences of being interrupted.

Our study, which is currently under review, found that interruptions can actually spark positive rather than negative emotions – given the right circumstances.

Will the pill-pushers learn without having to pay the price for the suffering they caused?

Inflicting Financial Pain on the Pain Pill Pushers
By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

Pills GIF by Abbey LossingThe proceedings in a Cleveland courtroom are addressing issues about the fundamental nature of a major American industry. 

The case consolidates more than 2,000 lawsuits brought mainly by state and local governments against all the major parties responsible for the opioid crisis: the drug manufacturers, the drug distributors, the pharmacy benefit managers, the large drugstore chains and major supermarket chains whose stores contain pharmacies.

What is known as Multidistrict Litigation 2804 is scheduled to begin trial proceedings on October 21 in a partial action involving two Ohio counties and a handful of the corporate defendants — unless Judge Aaron Polster succeeds in his effort to get the parties to reach a settlement.

Reports on potential deals have been emerging at frequent intervals. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

How Trump decided Ukraine was our enemy, not our ally

Mark Sumner, Daily Kos Staff

Image result for putin and trump
Putin gives Trump one of his balls back; holds the other one just in case
Donald Trump knows all the best people. You can tell because 80% of his top advisers and an astounding 146 White House officials have either resigned or been fired. That includes every one of “his generals” that Trump proudly announced in 2017. 

With nine out of 10 top positions at Homeland Security sitting empty, and 245 executive positions without even a nominee … maybe it’s not surprising that Trump leans on a few trusted advisers to determine his foreign policy. People he can really trust. People like Vladimir Putin.

As The Washington Post reports, it was in conversations with Putin and Hungarian hard-right leader Viktor Orban that Trump was convinced to take a “hostile view” of Ukraine. 

Putin, the head of what is undoubtedly the world’s largest criminal syndicate, and Orban, an autocratic white nationalist whose 13 years in power have come with increasing assaults on democracy (and a strong dose of anti-Semitism), convinced Trump that Ukraine was so corrupt that it could not be trusted.

Their perceptions of Ukraine reinforced information Trump was getting spoon-fed through Rudy Giuliani, which in turn was coming to Giuliani through associates of convicted oligarch Dmytro Firtash


For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.

"Lock him up!"

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

Newly discovered virus infects bald eagles across America

And Trump wants to withdraw federal protection for them
University of Wisconsin-Madison

trump donald GIF
In August, the Trump Administration issued new rules
that gut the Endangered Species Act
- the one that
protects Bald Eagles. This close encounter Trump had
with a bald eagle may have prompted Trump to consider
pay-back. After all, Trump lives for revenge.
Researchers have discovered a previously unknown virus infecting nearly a third of America's bald eagle population.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources found the virus while searching for the cause of Wisconsin River Eagle Syndrome, an enigmatic disease endemic to bald eagles near the Lower Wisconsin River. 

The newly identified bald eagle hepacivirus, or BeHV, may contribute to the fatal disease, which causes eagles to stumble and have seizures.

But BeHV was also found in eagles without symptoms of the syndrome, making a direct link between virus and disease difficult to confirm. 

The virus is related to human hepatitis C virus, which causes liver damage in people, and some birds with BeHV show similar effects. BeHV infects eagles from Washington to Florida but is most common in Wisconsin's eagles.

Doggy of the Week

Meet Hank.
Animal Rescue RI

Hank is a smart and handsome lab who has lived in a home before.

He is house-trained, knows many commands and is good with kids and other dogs.

He is an active guy and will need a home that can exercise him. 

Giving veterans the Marvel treatment

How Donald Trump turned to a comics titan to shape the VA
By Isaac Arnsdorf for ProPublica

Image result for captain america and veteransPresident Donald Trump personally directed administration officials to report to one of his largest donors, Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, according to a new book by former Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.

Starting with Shulkin’s interview for the cabinet post, Trump routinely dialed Perlmutter into meetings and asked if the secretary was keeping Perlmutter informed and happy, Shulkin wrote. 

Perlmutter would call Shulkin as often as multiple times a day, and White House officials such as Stephen Miller would scold Shulkin for not being in close enough contact with Perlmutter and two of his associates at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida.

“I didn't reach out to these guys — these guys had a prior relationship with the president and were advising him,” Shulkin, who was fired by tweet in March 2018, said in an interview. “There probably wasn’t too many times I met with the president when he didn’t say, ‘What’s happening with Ike?’”

The unusual influence over the VA wielded by Perlmutter, along with doctor Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman, was first revealed by a ProPublica investigation in August 2018, prompting ongoing investigations by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Government Accountability Office. But Shulkin’s book provides new details on Trump’s direct role in initiating and encouraging the arrangement.

“There was a ‘second track’ of VA decision-making led by the president’s alternative advisers that didn’t include me,” Shulkin wrote in the book, the first inside account by a former member of Trump’s cabinet. “Ike, Bruce and Marc had the president’s ear in ways that I did not, even as his cabinet secretary.”