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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

End institutional racism in Charlestown

It’s real and it has to go
By Will Collette

Slave population by town – 1755 (Copyright Peter Fay)
We are at one of those moments in history where it is not only appropriate but necessary for us all to do some soul-searching.

Charlestown residents may be thinking that while George Floyd’s killing was horrific and racism is wrong, this is not Charlestown’s problem because we have almost no black people. US Census data show only 0.2% of Charlestown’s population of just under 7,900 are African-American. Charlestown is 94.1% white.

But racism IS Charlestown’s problem, and in a major way. In my opinion, the town of Charlestown is committed to institutional racism in two significant ways.

The first is a determined and deliberate effort by Charlestown’s political leadership to KEEP Charlestown white by keeping non-whites out.

The second is Charlestown’s determination to maintain its centuries old dominion over the Narragansett Indian Tribe at all costs.

Decades of fair housing laws have outlawed overt racial discrimination in housing so Charlestown uses a more subtle approach: Charlestown fights every effort to create more affordable housing to the death.

When Cathy and I moved to Charlestown in 2001, we learned the code words the town uses to prevent “people from Providence” from ruining “Charlestown’s rural character.”

Charlestown opposes affordable housing for families and especially those with school-age children. The town has repeatedly asked the state to exempt Charlestown from the state’s affordable housing laws because we are somehow special.

An even more hardcore form of institutional racism is expressed in town attitudes toward the Narragansett Indian Tribe whose members constitute Charlestown’s largest minority group at 2.3%.

Long-time Charlestown residents have used the same “people from Providence” code when referring to the Narragansetts although sometimes, a disgusting racial epithet is used instead of “people.”

I can’t find a time when Charlestown was NOT in conflict with our Tribal neighbors. 

For example, there’s the fight over whether the Tribe can receive the old Camp Davis land as compensation for native sites destroyed in the Route 95-195 reconstruction project. Charlestown succeeded in getting state DOT to require the Tribe to cede its sovereignty rights over the land, knowing that was a deal breaker. 

At present, there are at least two pending claims of Charlestown Police misconduct filed by members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. The complainants both allege discriminatory treatment by CPD. 

Charlestown files with EFSB to intervene in Burrillville power ...
Narragansett leaders like Randy Noka, shown above, were the first in
Charlestown to stand in opposition to plans to drain Charlestown water
for the now-defeated Invenergy power plant proposal.
Both claims allege Charlestown took sides in an internal Tribal leadership dispute favoring former Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas’s faction.

In the federal civil rights case, Bella Noka charged she was denied police protection when she tried to attend a tribal meeting and was threatened with bodily harm. 

Domingo Monroe, Sr. filed a claim for damages for police brutality, alleging that when he tried to attend a tribal meeting, he was blocked, tasered and arrested by CPD.

Ironically, these two leaders come out of the dissident faction that were vital allies to Charlestown in the successful fight against a deal that would have allowed Invenergy to take water from the aquifer all of us in Charlestown use.

Charlestown’s guiding belief is that it has complete control over the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Charlestown is committed to blocking any action by the Tribe that does not have the Town’s expressed prior approval.

The guy in charge of carrying out that policy is attorney Joe Larisa who is paid a minimum of $24,000 a year as Charlestown’s special counsel for Indian affairs.

Progressive Charlestown: Larisa on the warpath
His sole responsibility is to watch and fight against any activity by the Tribe to exercise its sovereign rights as a federally-recognized Indian nation. Tribal leaders have called him a racist.

Larisa rarely lets any opportunity go by where he can remind the Tribe that their rights were greatly abridged by the 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar US Supreme Court decision.

This decision originated in a Charlestown lawsuit to block the Tribe from putting 31 newly purchased acres in trust with the Interior Department for use as senior citizens affordable housing. The Charlestown plaintiffs were convinced this was a Narragansett trick to build a casino.

Progressive Charlestown: Narragansetts receive almost $400K in ...
The Carcieri case started with the Town's fight to prevent this planned
senior housing project from being completed. The town thought the
Tribe planned to build a casino here.
As the case worked through the courts, the state took it over and former Governor Donald Carcieri became the lead plaintiff. 

The issue became a much larger one than the fate of the proposed senior citizens affording housing project and became a broad struggle over tribal rights.

In Carcieri v. Salazar, the Supreme Court majority ruled that Congress didn’t clearly state that all Indian tribes were covered by the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. They ruled the IRA only applied to tribes that were federally recognized in 1934. Forget about the 14th Amendment and the motto “Equal Justice Under Law” carved over the portico of the Court.

Equal Justice Under Law? . . . Well . . . Just How Much Justice ...
This is over the front entrance to the Supreme Court.
As a result, the Narragansetts and 500 other tribes federally recognized AFTER 1934 do not have equal protection under law. 

Each year, Congress considers a “Carcieri Fix” to clarify Congressional intent. According to Joe Larisa’s invoices to the town, he spends most of his time monitoring the “Carcieri Fix.”

Charlestown’s ingrained institutional racism against the Narragansetts goes back to the time right after the founding of the state.

Governor Gina Raimondo recently signed an Executive Order dropping “Providence Plantations” on state documents because the state’s official name (Rhode Island and Providence Plantations) evokes memories of slavery.

She suggests a public vote on a Constitutional amendment to officially change the state’s official name. The RI Senate has already passed a resolution to do just that by unanimous vote.

RI Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello was asked for his views on the issue and said he had no idea that slavery had existed in Rhode Island.

However, Rhode Island was deep into the slave trade, including many of the state’s oldest families (e.g. the Brown family of Brown University fame). 

Indeed, the majority of slave ships in British North America were Rhode Island based, especially in Newport; they trafficked around 100,000 Africans despite a 1652 law that abolished African slavery in the colony, a law rarely enforced.

Beth Comery addressed Speaker Mattiello in an article where she suggests Mattiello walk down Smith Hill from the Capitol to the graveyard next to the Episcopal Cathedral. There he can see the graves of the slaves of the prominent Chace family (see photo, left).

Charlestown was a major part of the “Providence Plantations” though in the 1700's what we now call "South County was then called "Narragansett Country" and stretched from Wickford through Westerly.

Charlestown’s low lands were divided up into large plantations run by Charlestown’s founding families and dependent on slavery of Africans, indentured servants and especially Narragansetts.

By 1755, one out of every three residents of "Narragansett Country" were slaves, again despite the 1652 anti-slavery law.

In 1675, Massachusetts and Connecticut militias slaughtered many members of the tribe in the Great  Swamp Massacre. The site is off Route 2, just across the line from Charlestown. Captured survivors of the Massacre were enslaved on Charlestown’s plantations.

Great Swamp Fight painting.jpg
The Great Swamp Massacre, 1675
Though the Tribe continued to hang on to its identity and a small portion of its lands, the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations declared in 1880 that the Narragansetts no longer existed and “detribalized” them.

Today, the Trump Administration calls that process  “deinstitutionalization” and is attempting to do this to the Mashpee Wampanoags but has been stymied by a federal court challenge.

In 1882-4, “detribalization” led to a land grab by Charlestown’s ruling aristocracy, leaving only two acres remaining to the Narragansetts. Rhode Island courts rejected challenges by the Tribe to these land takings.

In the 1970s, the Narragansetts organized to get their land back. My first experience with the Tribe was as a callow youth in 1974. I was sent by the Office of Community Affairs of the Catholic Diocese of Providence to do on-site training for the Tribe’s community organizer, the late Sis Brown. 

Sis told me then they were going to get that land back and in 1975, the Tribe filed suit to do just that.
This led to the 1978 settlement agreement that formed the Tribe’s 1800-acre core homeland. On April 11, 1983, the federal government officially recognized the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

Many newly recognized tribes decided gambling was the fastest route to prosperity leading to a rush of bingo parlor construction and, of course, lawsuits. Eventually, Congress passed the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to regulate this new industry. Indian gaming generated $100 million a year when that law was passed and has grown to more than $26 billion year now.

Charlestown's biggest nightmare
In the years following its federal recognition, some Narragansetts expressed an interest in a bingo parlor, to Charlestown’s ever-lasting horror. In 1992, the Tribe even proposed a Foxwoods style casino on its lands but were precluded from that by the 1978 settlement agreement.

So that never happened. The Tribe gave up on the idea of building any gaming facility in Charlestown 30 years ago but did try to win approval for a casino in West Warwick just off I-95. In 2006, voters rejected that proposal by a 2-1 margin.

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) has never stopped using the specter of a casino in Charlestown to stir up fear and anger against the Tribe even though  the Tribe gave up on that idea over a generation ago, not to mention a Charlestown casino makes absolutely no sense.

So why is Charlestown still at war with the Narragansett Indian Tribe? As we learn from the history of town and tribal relationships, the central issue for the town is control over every inch of land. The Tribe’s central issue is sovereignty.

The Carcieri decision gives Charlestown the edge. However, that advantage is as tenuous as that decision. Nearly all of the efforts toward a “Carcieri Fix” have actually been bi-partisan. They failed largely because (a) Congress doesn’t work very well and (b) so far, this issue never made it high enough on either Party’s priority list to warrant a big push. But that could change.

Meanwhile, relations in Charlestown continue to fester.

We don’t need to wait for Congress to begin the process of reconciliation. People of goodwill in Charlestown need to call for an end to the hostilities and demand a serious effort to find common ground.

A good start would be to cancel our retainer agreement with Indian fighter Joe Larisa whose continued presence is an impediment to any hope of reconciliation.

We are not immune to what is happening in the rest of the country. Indeed, we have our own long-overdue responsibility to end our own institutional racism. I doubt it will be easy or neat but I also believe it is our duty to try, no matter how difficult and complicated it may be.

Down with racist relics

For more cartoons by Nick Anderson, CLICK HERE.

Vote by mail fraud?

Image may contain: text that says 'Donald Trump voted by mail in New York in 2018 and in Florida earlier in 2020. Melania and Ivanka voted by mail in New York in 2017 and Melania in Florida earlier in 2020. Jared Kushner registered to vote by mail in New York in 2017. Mike Pence and his wife voted by mail in Indiana in 2020. BUT WHEN WE REGULAR AMERICANS WANT TO VOTE BY MAIL DURING A FREAKING PANDEMIC, TRUMP CALLS US 'CHEATERS'? IS WHAT HYPOCRISY LOOKS LIKE. RIDIN' WITH BIDEN'

Short Takes on South County’s efforts to keep the pandemic at bay

Right-wing nuts make face masks a political issue
By Will Collette

By Matt DaviesNewsday
Increasingly, we are hearing the claim that people have a Constitutional right to NOT wear a face mask. 

The Burrillville Town Council even went so far as to declare Burrillville a “First Amendment Sanctuary” – they were already a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” but are unlikely to become a 14th Amendment Sanctuary – making the stupid and irresponsible act of going maskless a First Amendment issue.

It’s not.

No constitutional right is absolute. That’s why you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded hall, own your own personal nuclear weapons, smoke in public spaces, make ritual human sacrifices, fire off an AR-15 clip in a school and so on.

“Your right to swing your arm stops at the end of my nose,” a quote varyingly attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Abraham Lincoln and John Stuart Mill. So, no, you don’t have a right to spew your germs in my face.

Most Rhode Islanders agree. In some key demographics, they agree by huge margins that the steps taken by Governor Raimondo to contain the coronavirus (and make us one of only two states with declining cases) are being carrying out well.

Even some Republican leaders are starting to break with maskless Trump and calling mask wearing an essential public health need, not a political issue. 

To stem the out of control pandemic in the United States, we need to test, track, isolate the sick and those exposed, wear face covering and practice social distancing. And we need, but don't yet have, a vaccine plus effective, safe treatment.

Rhode Island’s first case of COVID reaction in children

The new way COVID-19 might be affecting kids | Children's WisconsinOne of the most horrifying aspects of the pandemic was the first Rhode Island case of the weird and fortunately still rare emergence of “Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children.”

The Centers For Disease Control describes MIS-C as "is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal (gut) pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired."

The patient is a school-age girl. The Health Department provided no other details. Health Department director Dr. Alexander-Scott gave a June 29 update: “That patient was discharged from the hospital yesterday in good condition. We’re very grateful for that piece of good news.

Phase 3

Raimondo calls for modified Phase 3 reopening starting today and re-imposes self-quarantine on many out of state visitors

From the Health Department: “If you are entering RI from a state with a C-19 positivity rate of 5%+, you will either have to self-quarantine for 14 days while in RI, or produce proof of a negative test for COVID-19 taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. This is the list we are using:

Problems with unemployment claims

Some people are still have problems collecting unemployment insurance. Many were cut off when the Department of Labor and Training (DLT) thought there might be fraud from an internet scammer or the applicant.

DLT put out this notice of a new and apparently more efficient of straightening out problems. Their message: “If you were notified by the DLT that your unemployment claim was stopped due to suspected fraud, there’s now a quicker and easier way to verify your identity and unfreeze your benefits online.” CLICK HERE.

Do you have expired DMV documents?

The Division of Motor Vehicles just announced a 90-day reprieve on renewing Driver’s licenses, permits, identification cards, vehicle registrations and inspection stickers with expiration dates in July.

They just reopened the Wakefield DMV office – appointment only. AAA members can use the office in the Salt Pond Shopping Center – again, appointment only.

Cathy and I had a recent pleasant experience at that AAA office. Making appointments works a lot better than standing in line.

If you have expired documents from March through June, you still have more time to renew – CLICK here to get the specifics.

To make a DMV appointment, CLICK HERE.

The path to a COVID-19 vaccine

How — and When — Can the Coronavirus Vaccine Become a Reality?
By Caroline Chen for ProPublica

UF Health researchers working to develop COVID-19 vaccine using ...It’s been six months since researchers in China said they had identified a novel coronavirus spreading in the city of Wuhan. 

Hope and desire for a vaccine to end the global devastation is growing with each passing week.

Almost every day, I hear people making plans around the eventual arrival of a coronavirus vaccine — office reopenings, rescheduled weddings, family reunions and international travel. In recent weeks, colleagues and friends have asked me with growing urgency: “When will we have a vaccine? Will it be any good?”

At the same time, other friends have been telling me, “When I hear that this is going to be the fastest vaccine developed ever, that doesn’t make me feel good — it makes me feel nervous that they’re going to cut corners.”

These questions and concerns resonate with me. I, too, want a vaccine, but I want reassurance that it’s truly safe and effective. So I talked to a dozen people in the vaccine world: scientists, pediatricians, pharmaceutical manufacturers, as well as staff at the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

Let me tell you this up front: If you’re imagining there’ll be one golden day when a vaccine is approved and the pandemic will be over — Finally! We can all crowd into one another’s living rooms and resume choir practice again — I’m afraid it won’t be quite like that. But it will be the beginning of the end.

There’s much to be hopeful about, and enormous challenges lie ahead. Let’s dig in.

Vast majority of terror attacks and plots were made by the far-right

The Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Unite the Right rally - WikipediaDownload the complete summary HERE
Download the complete report HERE

On June 3, 2020, federal authorities arrested three individuals allegedly associated with the “boogaloo” movement, a loosely-organized group of extremists preparing for a civil war, for conspiring to cause violence in Las Vegas and possessing an improvised incendiary device.

Less than a week later, law enforcement officials near Richmond, VA, arrested Harry H. Rogers, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, for driving a vehicle into peaceful protesters.

Around the same time, members of a Brooklyn anarchist group urged its supporters to conduct “rebellion” against the government.

Extremists from all sides flooded social media with disinformation, conspiracy theories, and incitements to violence in response to the protests following the death of George Floyd, swamping Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms.

This CSIS brief examines the state of terrorism in the United States.

It asks two sets of questions. First, what are the most significant types of terrorism in the United States, and how has the terrorism threat in the U.S. homeland evolved over time?

Second, what are the implications for terrorism over the next year? To answer these questions, this analysis compiles and analyzes an original data set of 893 terrorist plots and attacks in the United States between January 1994 and May 2020.

This analysis makes several arguments. First, far-right terrorism has significantly outpaced terrorism from other types of perpetrators, including from far-left networks and individuals inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Right-wing attacks and plots account for the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994, and the total number of right-wing attacks and plots has grown significantly during the past six years.

Right-wing extremists perpetrated two thirds of the attacks and plots in the United States in 2019 and over 90 percent between January 1 and May 8, 2020.

Monday, June 29, 2020

It CAN happen here because it HAS happened here

Rhode Island’s Dark History

On June 21st, 1924, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Foster, Rhode Island. 

Thousands of people attended from across New England, some traveling in caravans of cars from Newport and New Haven. 

The day featured speakers from Pennsylvania and Connecticut and female lecturers who specifically addressed the women in attendance. 

An account published by the Rhode Island Historical Society notes that “at the conclusion of the field day and clam chowder dinner, several hundred [attendees] were initiated under a blazing cross.”

Longtime Rhode Islanders, including myself, like to talk about the ways Rhode Island feels separate from the rest of the United States. We’re a tiny place in an enormous country. (Statistically, our land mass is 0.03 percent of the entire nation, which basically rounds down to zero.) 

We have a proud legacy of homegrown weirdos, outlaws, artists, and free-thinkers, starting with our iconoclastic state founder, Roger Williams. And we have our own distinct rituals (WaterFire) and cuisine (Del’s lemonade, New York System wieners, coffee milk). Rhode Island is delightfully different, and we love it for that reason.

But, in some of the most important ways, Rhode Island is a deeply American place — which is to say, a place haunted by hatred, oppression, and racial injustice. And as protests sweep across the nation following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and countless other racially-motivated injustices, it’s important to remember our less flattering history. 

If you’re an Ocean State resident feeling powerless and disturbed by recent events, here is at least one tangible thing you can do: educate yourself about the nightmares that took place in our backyard.

Rhode Island, like the rest of the United States, was brutally racist from its origins. In the 18th century, the state emerged as a hub for the slave trade, launching hundreds of voyages that, by some estimates, carried as many as 100,000 Africans in bondage back across the Atlantic. 


Frederick Friedrich Trump 2.jpgTrump's grandfather Friedrich Trump was among the first to die of the "Spanish" Flu on May 30, 1918.

The photo to the left was taken the year of his death.

He was thrown out of Bavaria for draft-dodging (a family tradition) and moved to Seattle where he began the Trump fortune by running a restaurant and whorehouse (true story). He later expanded his holdings with more hotels, restaurants and whorehouses in Canada to serve the needs of prospectors during the Yukon Gold Rush.

In March, our very stable Dear Leader pondered the historic death toll caused by the flu and had these words to say:
"When I was hearing the amount of people that died with the flu, I was shocked to hear it. Over the last, long period of time when people have the flu, you have an average of 36,000 people dying. I've never heard those numbers, I would've been shocked. I would have said, 'Does anybody die of the flu?' I didn't know people died from the flu."

Trump says we beat COVID-19 - let's look at the numbers

Pic of the Moment

What's up with scup?

By GRACE KELLY/ecoRI News staff

Commercial fishermen and chefs are working on a plan to make scup, a small fish found in abundant numbers in local waters, more desirable to consumers. (Eating with the Ecosystem)
Commercial fishermen and chefs are working on a plan to make scup, a small fish found in abundant numbers in local waters, more desirable to consumers. (Eating with the Ecosystem)

The story of scup in Rhode Island — the underutilized little fish that has seen a growing push from the eat-local food movement — is hardly news. 

For years, educators at Johnson & Wales University have hosted scup dinners, organizations like Eating with the Ecosystem have promoted the porgy, local chefs have highlighted it on menus, and immigrants from West Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia have hauled coolers to Point Judith to buy the fish straight off the docks.

But as awareness for this little fish has grown, the truth is, preparing a whole fish is still intimidating to most home cooks. In a consumer society where convenience is key, for better or for worse, most of the country likes its fish in neat fillets.

“What was a big challenge I think for the species was you have to buy it whole,” Johnson & Wales associate instructor and assistant dean Thomas J. Delle Donne said. 

“And buying fish whole becomes problematic unless your culture and your cuisine is used to cooking whole fish, which a lot of cultures are, but there are also a lot of households that looks for fish at Dave’s or Whole Foods or Stop & Shop that is cleaned and filleted.”

To bring scup to the masses — and, in the process, create demand for fishermen to catch the abundant fish — the Kingston-based Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation (CFRF) has partnered with Delle Donne and other chefs at Johnson & Wales and the Pier Fish Co. in New Bedford, Mass., among other organizations, to try to create a marketable scup fillet.

“It kind of started with scup as an underutilized species,” said Michael Long, a research biologist at CFRF who heads the scup project. “They’re currently sold primarily as fresh whole fish, so there’s not really any processing going on, there is some small-scale hand-filleting going on, but there’s not large mechanized filleting process.”

While many consumers may think that fish arrives at the supermarket whole, many fish are actually processed in large-scale facilities with machines specifically designed to scale, clean, and fillet all kinds of seafood products. 

Wall Street Journal reports Chinese Spies Penetrated The Trump White House

Bombshell investigation reveals spying in top Republican circles and naive US responses 
By David Cay Johnston, DCReport Editor-in-Chief

Communist Chinese government operatives got into the Trump White House and also sat at a confidential Republican election strategy meeting, Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reports.

Some of the conduct the Journal described could form the basis for federal felony indictments.

Fronts for the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party donated at least $450,000 to Trump’s 2017 inaugural and his campaign, money the newspaper said was crucial to obtaining direct access to Trump and GOP strategy meetings. A furtive organization was created in California to boost Trump’s chances of getting a second term.

The Journal focused on four men, three of whom operate through fronts for the Chinese military or the Communist Party. One of the three, Tang Ben, is a naturalized American citizen. He and his wife gave $300,000 to Trump Victory, among the largest donations made to that organization. 

After assuming office, Trump and wife Melania posed for photos with Tang. PHOTO ABOVE.

Trump and his staff of unqualified family and equally unqualified sycophants are naïve and gullible, their rank incompetence unwittingly putting our national security in jeopardy.

The fourth man, a Chinese national whose green card allows him to work here, created Chinese Americans for Trump. The group boosted Trump’s political fortunes and ignored his many racist anti-Asian comments, which have continued to this week.

The Journal said David Tian Wang acted at the behest of the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles in creating the group. This  appears to be an example of astroturfing, the practice of masking the identities of sponsors to make them seem to be grassroots participants and to hide financial connections.

Wang gave $150,000 to the group, which passed the money on to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Russia Pays a Bounty For Dead U.S. Soldiers

Trump does less than nothing, denying he was told even though he is “Commander-In-Chief”
By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport Opinion Editor

And Donald Trump has known about this intelligence since the beginning of March and has done nothing about it.

Actually, the more you roll this disclosure over in your mind, the worse it gets.

Protecting U.S. troops is Job One for any president, but particularly this one who insists on its primacy. And he isn’t doing his job to protect our sons and daughters in the field.

U.S. troops were attacked and we did nothing about it.

This alone should be an impeachable offense.

It's up to you now

For more cartoons by Keith Knight, CLICK HERE.

VIDEO: Never follow an empty wagon

To watch this video on YouTube:

Tick surveillance and control lagging in US

"Show us your ticks!"
Entomological Society of America

TickEncounter Resource Center > Current Tick ActivityWhile the prevalence of Lyme disease and other illnesses spread by ticks has steadily increased in the United States over the past 20 years, a new study of the state of American tick surveillance and control reveals an inconsistent and often under-supported patchwork of programs across the country.

Annually reported cases of tickborne disease more than doubled between 2004 and 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while seven new tickborne germs were discovered in that same timeframe. But a clear gap exists in our public health infrastructure, say researchers who have conducted the first-ever survey of the nation's tick management programs.

The survey showed that less than half of public health and vector-control agencies engage in active tick surveillance, and only 12 percent directly conduct or otherwise support tick-control efforts. 

These and other findings from the survey, conducted by university researchers at the CDC's five Vector-Borne Disease Regional Centers of Excellence, are published today in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

"Ticks are responsible for the majority of our vector-borne illnesses in the U.S., and our programming does not adequately meet the need in its current form, for both surveillance and control," says Emily M. Mader, MPH MPP, lead author on the study and program manager at the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases, housed at Cornell University.

Mader and colleagues surveyed 140 vector-borne disease professionals working at state, county, and local agencies in the fall of 2018 to learn about their program objectives and capabilities for tick surveillance and control, testing ticks for disease-causing germs, and barriers to success. 

Reaching even that many respondents proved challenging, as no central database of tick-management programs or contacts was available.

Highlights from the survey of tick-management programs include:

COVID-19: Tradeoffs between economics and public health

MIT scientists look at risk and reward for opening certain types of businesses during the pandemic
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

jason dancing GIFBanks and bookstores. Gyms and juice bars. Dental offices and department stores. The Covid-19 crisis has shuttered some kinds of businesses, while others have stayed open. 

But which places represent the best and worst tradeoffs, in terms of the economic benefits and health risks?

A new study by MIT researchers uses a variety of data on consumer and business activity to tackle that question, measuring 26 types of businesses by both their usefulness and risk. 

Vital forms of commerce that are relatively uncrowded fare the best in the study; less significant types of businesses that generate crowds perform worse. The results can help inform the policy decisions of government officials during the ongoing pandemic.

As it happens, banks perform the best in the study, being economically significant and relatively uncrowded.

Image"Banks have an outsize economic impact and tend to be bigger spaces that people visit only once in a while," says Seth G. Benzell, a postdoc at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) and co-author of a paper published Wednesday that outlines the study. Indeed, in the study, banks rank first in economic importance, out of the 26 business types, but just 14th in risk.

By contrast, other business types create much more crowding while having far less economic importance. These include liquor and tobacco stores; sporting goods stores; cafes, juice bars, and dessert parlors; and gyms. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The rabbit hole of COVID-19 conspiracy theories

Medical School Taught Me How to Talk to Conspiracy Theorists
By Yoo Jung Kim

How 5G's Rapid Growth Sparked a Conspiracy Theory – Adweek
A few weeks ago, I took an uncomfortable trip down the rabbit hole of Covid-19 conspiracy theory videos. As a newly minted M.D. who will soon be taking care of patients at a safety-net hospital on the frontlines of an ongoing pandemic, I was especially pained by what I saw.

There was the infamous “Plandemic” video, which asserts that a cabal of elite individuals and organizations is using Covid-19 to cement power. There were also false claims that the new coronavirus was created with the backing of Bill Gates, for the purposes of diminishing our freedoms.

Watching the videos pushed me to think about why so many viewers gravitate toward them — and how best to counter their misinformation. On both of those fronts, my experiences working with patients have taught me valuable lessons.

I’ve learned that conspiracy theorists are often neither malevolent nor unintelligent. Rather, many are afraid of their own powerlessness, and these theories offer them a semblance of control.

It's beautiful! Perfect! Best ever!

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says 'WHITE HOUSE UNVEILS TRUMP'S OFFICIAL PORTRAIT'

VIDEO: Cosmic Reef

To watch this video on YouTube: 

COVID-19 is laying waste to many US recycling programs

We hope this isn't the "new normal"
Brian J. Love, University of Michigan and Julie Rieland, University of Michigan

A discarded medical glove in Jersey City, N.J., April 27, 2020.
Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. 

Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Many items designated as reusable, communal or secondhand have been temporarily barred to minimize person-to-person exposure. This is producing higher volumes of waste.

Grocers, whether by state decree or on their own, have brought back single-use plastic bags. 

Even IKEA has suspended use of its signature yellow reusable in-store bags. Plastic industry lobbyists have also pushed to eliminate plastic bag bans altogether, claiming that reusable bags pose a public health risk.

As researchers interested in industrial ecology and new schemes for polymer recycling, we are concerned about challenges facing the recycling sector and growing distrust of communal and secondhand goods. 

The trends we see in the making and consuming of single-use goods, particularly plastic, could have lasting negative effects on the circular economy.

Antioxidant-rich diet reduces stress response during bird migration

Birds love berries
Wild Berries – Portuguese Food
A research team led by a University of Rhode Island ornithologist had birds fly in a wind tunnel to simulate migration and found that birds that consume dietary antioxidants before and during fall migration can reduce the endocrine stress response triggered by long-duration flights.

The results, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, emphasize the importance of protecting habitat with an abundance of available berries containing antioxidants at migratory stopover sites.

“This reduction in the endocrine stress response may be a major benefit birds gain in fall by eating fruits at stopover sites during migration,” said Scott McWilliams, URI professor of natural resources science, noting that many species of birds select berries containing anthocyanins, a type of dietary antioxidant present in purple-colored berries. “We know birds prefer certain berries that have lots of antioxidants.”

During long-distance flights that push birds to their physiological limits, levels of metabolic hormones called glucocorticoids become elevated to provide ready-to-use fuel to satisfy high energy demands, according to McWilliams. 

But prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids is detrimental and can lead to chronic stress response. The research concluded that the consumption of anthocyanin-rich food attenuates the potential stress triggered by the secretion of high levels of glucocorticoids.

VIDEO: Brown scholar explores rising tide of anger over economic inequality

Authoritarian leaders can exploit this anger and make matters worse
Brown University

The economist John Maynard Keynes once said, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” 

Brown University Professor of International Economics Mark Blyth agrees — and his new book, “Angrynomics,” details the outrage citizens feel when old, irrelevant economic ideas endure to the detriment of most of society.

Angrynomics,” co-authored by Blyth and macro-hedge fund manager and economist Eric Lonergan, explores why measures of stress and anxiety are on the rise even as the vast majority of people are wealthier than ever. The authors propose radical new solutions for an increasingly polarized and confusing world. 

Blyth, who serves as director of the Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance within Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, discussed the book in a Thursday, June 18, virtual talk with Ed Steinfeld, director of the Watson Institute.

“The world keeps getting richer and richer,” Blyth said. “Yet we see Americans getting more and more angry.”

Friday, June 26, 2020

Good news!

By Bill BramhallNew York Daily News

VIDEO: Truth

 To watch this video on YouTube:


Clinging jellyfish found in nearby waters
RI Dept. of Environmental Management

Image may contain: plant and drinkPlease be advised — clinging jellyfish, a species that can have a powerful sting for those who are sensitive to it — have been found in Point Judith Pond, Potter Pond, and Narrow River this month.

These are the same waterbodies and approximately the same time we began seeing their presence last summer.

Adult clinging jellyfish are about the size of a dime and marked with an orange-brown cross on their transparent bodies. 

Their sting can be extremely painful and can result in hospitalization in some individuals.

DEM encourages the public to use common sense and caution.

Waders, quahoggers, and others using shallow, protected waterbodies, especially near aquatic vegetation like eelgrass, should take precautions against stings by wearing boots, waders, or wetsuits to protect themselves, or stick to sandy or surfy areas away from vegetation.

Some research has shown that the jellies will die off if the water gets too warm (~82F), but in many areas in RI the water will not typically reach this temperature.

Therefore, the jellies will likely be present until they live out their life cycle or are consumed by other predators.

Last year, Division of Marine Fisheries biologists observed the highest abundances in July, while numbers began to decrease in August and their presence was gone by early fall.