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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Off the rails

CCA spokes-troll makes baseless charges

By Frank Glista

This article ran as a Letter to the Editor to the Chariho Times and is re-printed with the permission of the author.

In recent editions of the Westerly Sun and Chariho Times, Michael Chambers wrote his usual hate filled letter against anyone or anything that disagrees with his beloved Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA). 

In his attempt to revise Charlestown’s history, he uses the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) July 2017 list of individuals who responded to the proposed Northeast Corridor RailInvestment.  In his tirade, he states that Charlestown Residents United (CRU) did nothing to stop the rail project.

I can hear him shout from atop the Moraine Preserve (another CCA “pay to play” deal), “CRU did nothing to help stop FRA.” 

Now, here’s where his temper tantrum gets de-railed.......CRU didn’t exist in July of 2017 when the list was published.  They formed on February 27, 2018, approximately 7 months later.  Anyone feeling a little foolish right now?

Sending letters to FRA was not the only way for people to respond.  Many may have called or emailed their state or federal elected officials.   Some may have been donors to a political campaign and used that as leverage to be heard.  But let’s, for a moment, use the list that Chambers is so proud of and see what we can see. 

Hmmm, this is interesting; it appears that some of the CCA candidates running for office didn’t respond to the feedback list...NOT ONE!  CCA Town Council Candidates, Sheila Andrew didn’t respond, Cody Clarkin didn’t respond, Susan Cooper didn’t respond and incumbent David Wilkinson didn’t respond.  CCA Planning Commission Candidate, Walter “Peter” Mahony didn’t respond and Chambers buddy Ronald Areglado, CCA Candidate for Town Moderator, didn’t respond either.

Here’s another little tidbit.  The CCA was aware of the Federal Railroad Administration’s proposal a year before they did anything about it.  On January 10, 2017, former CAA Town Council President Thomas Gentz, admitted that he knew about it back in November 2015.  So if he knew about it, so did the other council members including incumbent candidate Bonnie Van Slyke. Read the Town Council Minutes of 01/10/17 or watch the video (at the 49:30 min. mark) before the CCA has it removed from the public view.

So once again, the lack of transparency from our CCA controlled government speaks volumes about their inability to run our town.  First they didn’t know about it, and then they did.  Not only did they waste over a year of precious time that the citizens of Charlestown could have reacted to the FRA proposal, they had also caused extreme mental and physical stress to our neighbors. 

Remember this when you cast your ballot.

Putin's Polly


VIDEO: "I'm smart"


To watch this video on YouTube:

Studying ancient sea critters

URI student’s horseshoe crab research jumpstarts environmental career

Todd McLeish

Anna Sorgie enrolled at the University of Rhode Island last year because she knew she would have opportunities for hands-on wildlife research inside and outside the classroom. And she hasn’t been disappointed.

“I’m passionate about conserving the environment, and I want to make a positive difference in our world,” said Sorgie, a sophomore who grew up in Tuckahoe, New York, and went to high school in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

 “Wildlife conservation is the path that excites me most. From a young age, my grandfather introduced me to taking care of the environment. He told me that even an anthill is important.”

Horseshoe crabs are, too.

Sorgie spent the last four months immersed in intensive studies of horseshoe crabs, the ancient marine creature closely related to spiders and scorpions. In collaboration with URI graduate student Natalie Ameral, the project aimed to determine whether the various populations of horseshoe crabs in southern New England waters are genetically distinct or whether they interbreed.

How the coronavirus spreads through the air

We're learning a lot more about how COVID spreads through the air

When a person sneezes, tiny droplets, or aerosols,
can linger in the air. Jorg Greuel via Getty Images
Stacy Morford, The Conversation

Scientists have been warning for months that the coronavirus could be spread by aerosols – tiny respiratory droplets that people emit when they talk or sneeze and that can linger in the air.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared to acknowledge that risk on Sept. 18. 

It posted guidance on its website listing aerosols among the ways the virus spreads and saying there was growing evidence the airborne particles can remain suspended and travel beyond 6 feet. 

But three days later, that guidance was gone. A note in its place said a draft had been posted in error and that the CDC was still working on the update.

That kind of shifting by the government can be confusing. In the following five articles recently published in The Conversation, we turned to scientists help explain what aerosols are, how airborne particles can transmit the coronavirus and how to protect yourself.

Say one thing, do another

High-Minded Hypocrisy

Philip Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

As they push forward to fill a Supreme Court vacancy shortly before a presidential election, Republicans are putting on a master class in hypocrisy. 

A new report on self-proclaimed socially responsible corporations reminds us that the tendency to say one thing and do another can also be seen in the world of business.

The study, produced by consulting firm KKS Advisors and an initiative called Test of Corporate Purpose (TCP), looks at large corporations that were signatories to a much-ballyhooed statement issued in 2019 under the auspices of the Business Roundtable. 

That statement was meant to give the impression that big business is no longer concerned only with maximizing returns for shareholders and is promoting the well-being of other stakeholders such as employees.

Some of us responded to the Roundtable’s statement with skepticism, but KKS and TCP decided to put the 181 signatories to the test, looking at their behavior in dealing with the pandemic and the problem of inequality. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Trump knew COVID-19 kills. He just doesn’t care

The deaths of 200,000 are on his head

By Mitchell Zimmerman 

“Captain,” said the first mate, “we just crashed into an iceberg — the hull’s been breached!”

“An iceberg. Deadly stuff,” said the captain. “Still, let’s play it down.”

“What are your orders? We must warn the passengers.”

“I’ll make an announcement… Attention all passengers, this is your captain speaking. We’ve encountered some ice, but we have it very well under control. We’re doing a great jobNo need for you to change your routines. Over and out.”

“Should we ready the lifeboats?” asked the mate.

“Nah. Let’s just show confidence. I don’t want to create a panic.”

The deceiving and self-flattering captain of the scenario, leading his passengers into disaster, seems fictitious. But he’s all too real: except for the references to ice, everything the captain says above are things President Trump has actually said about coronavirus.

Inside the Unbelievable Trump's election campaign

Tom Tomorrow for Daily Kos


VIDEO: Robert Reich spells out the 10 things we now know about Trump's finances


Two Species of Exotic Ticks Found on Block Island

SPOILER: they were not on vacation

If they're on Block Island, are they also on the mainland?

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is announcing that two exotic species of Asian and Eurasian ticks have been detected for the first time on Block Island. 

The ticks were discovered by Dr. Danielle M Tufts, then an associate research scientists at Columbia University, as part of a research program conducted by Dr. Maria Diuk-Wasser's research group on Block Island since 2010. 

It was confirmed by DNA and morphological characteristics that they are ticks not previously found in Rhode Island.

Dr. Tufts identified the tick species Haemaphysalis longicornis and Haemaphysalis punctata when studying ticks on Block Island this summer. 

Due to similarities with native ticks, these exotic ticks were initially thought to be native tick species but on further investigation were found to be exotic species. 

Dr. Tufts then looked through archive samples previously collected from Block Island from 2010 to 2020 and determined these species have been present on Block Island for many years. 

H. Longicornis, also called the Asian longhorned tick, was first detected in the United States in 2017 in New Jersey but when archived samples were reviewed in other states, it was determined that these ticks may have been in the country since at least 2010. 

The H. punctata species is native to Europe and has not been previously detected in a natural setting in North America (it has been detected on imported animals and animal products undergoing importation inspections).

How we beat polio

What we can learn from the polio vaccination campaign

Carl KurlanderUniversity of Pittsburgh and Randy P. JuhlUniversity of Pittsburgh

Dr. Jonas Salk, left, developed the first effective polio vaccine. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

In 1955, after a field trial involving 1.8 million Americans, the world’s first successful polio vaccine was declared “safe, effective, and potent.”

It was arguably the most significant biomedical advance of the past century. Despite the polio vaccine’s long-term success, manufacturers, government leaders and the nonprofit that funded the vaccine’s development made several missteps.

Having produced a documentary about the polio vaccine’s field trials, we believe the lessons learned during that chapter in medical history are worth considering as the race to develop COVID-19 vaccines proceeds.

Fast forward to November 4

 The case of Biden versus Trump – or how a judge could decide the presidential election

John E. Finn, Wesleyan University

Imagine the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. Given the unprecedented number of mail-in votes this election, Americans may wake up and still not know who won the presidential contest between Republican President Donald J. Trump and Democratic challenger Joseph Biden.

The contest could be so close that a result can’t be known until mail-in ballots in several key states, perhaps Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan or Florida, can be fully counted.

It’s conceivable that either candidate will refuse to accept the result, whether before or after the counting of absentee or mail-in ballots. That could lead to several lawsuits to stop the counting, to keep counting or to force a recount.

Amid what will likely be a flood of charges, countercharges and a lot of heated rhetoric from campaigns and supporters, there are prescribed legal processes that will play out in the event of election challenges. Here is how that will likely work.

Where challenges begin – and often end

With only a few exceptions, states run elections. By virtue of Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution, state law governs almost every facet of the electoral process, including most aspects of voter eligibility, the location and hours of polling places, candidate access to the ballot and the members of the state’s Electoral College.

Consequently, electoral challenges must begin – and often will end – in state courts, which will apply that state’s laws.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Charlestown Voters asked to support Council Candidates

Please support these Charlestown Democrats

By Catherine O’Reilly Collette, Chair of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee

On behalf of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee, I am proud to endorse and support the three fine Democrats on the November 3 ballot for Charlestown Town Council: Deb Carney, Jodi Frank and Scott Keeley.

Each of these individuals bring experience and talent that will serve the people of Charlestown well.

I have known Deb Carney for nearly 20 years, watched her chair the Council when we first moved to Charlestown, then admired her outstanding work on the Chariho School Committee. I consider her to be one of the most talented and hard-working public servants I have ever met. She currently serves as Council Vice-President and seeks re-election.

Jodi Frank served the town for six years as a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, putting her Ph.D. in Kinesiology to good use by working on improvements in Ninigret Park and Charlestown’s public lands. She is currently finishing up her B.S. in Nursing and will be an RN early in 2021.  

I met Scott Keeley 15 years ago and have always loved his humor and breadth of knowledge. I admire the way he has taken on the issue of the people’s right to use the beach despite efforts by non-resident beachfront property owners to deny access.

For the past decade, Charlestown has been controlled by a single party: the Charlestown Citizens Alliance that was spawned by the Rhode Island Shoreline Coalition with its focus on the interests of absentee land-owners. They have raised our taxes just about every year since they’ve been in control, engaged in shady land deals, driven out small businesses and purged town commissions of anyone not a CCA loyalist.

Each election year, absentee property owners flood the CCA treasury with cash to try to sell Charlestown voters the same overblown story that we are under threat of unspeakable horrors to our rural way of life and only the CCA can keep us safe. You’ll see that message in the CCA flyers that will be filling your mailboxes.

It’s time to stop being driven by fear. We need to focus on positive ways to move forward: fair taxes, sensible land use, choosing qualified people for town boards and commissions and using town resources to help our community cope with the problems caused by the pandemic and a badly damaged economy.

I know Deb Carney, Jodi Frank and Scott Keeley are the best qualified people on the ballot to get the job done. I urge you to vote for them when you cast your ballot – by mail or in person - in this year’s election.

Money talks, Tovarishch


Solar power on the rise at US schools

Report finds an 81% increase in K-12 schools using solar power over the last 5 years.

Brian Bienkowski for Environmental Health News    

When Mount Desert Island High School in Maine decided to use solar power, they turned to the students.

"We have a [student] club here that helped with the project, helped choose the installer we'd go with," principal Matt Haney told EHN. "They did research on vendors and helped evaluate proposals."

About a year ago the roughly 550-student high school flipped the switch.

"We had no pushback at all on solar panels, especially since this essentially cost us nothing," Haney said. "It was a no brainer."

Mount Desert is not alone: Since 2014, the number of K-12 schools in the U.S. using solar power increased by roughly 81 percent—and now more than 5.3 million kids and teens go to a school using solar energy, according to a new report.

That increased capacity represents a 139 percent surge in the amount of solar installed over the past five years, according to the report released today by the clean energy nonprofits Generation180 and The Solar Foundation, and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

"We know from research, solar is contagious, the best indicator if someone goes solar is if their neighbor has solar," Tish Tablan, a program director at Generation180 and author of the new report, told EHN. "We want to bring solar to the heart of communities—which is schools."

The report, which is the third edition and uses publicly available data from 2014 to 2019 on school solar use, finds that solar trends at schools mirror those more broadly in the country, and that bolstered solar energy at schools is offering not only clean power but cost savings and educational opportunities.

How and when will we know that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective?

SPOILER ALERT: it won't be by November 3

William PetriUniversity of Virginia

How much longer must society wait for a vaccine? ANDRZEJ WOJCICKI/Getty Images

With COVID-19 vaccines currently in the final phase of study, you’ve probably been wondering how the FDA will decide if a vaccine is safe and effective.

Based on the status of the Phase 3 trials currently underway, it is unlikely that the results of these trials will be available before November. 

But it is likely that not just one but several of the competing COVID-19 vaccines will be shown to be safe and effective by the end of 2020.

I am a scientist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Virginia, where I care for patients with COVID-19 and conduct research on the pandemic. I am also a member of the World Health Organization Expert Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization.

Trump’s Vaccine Czar Refuses to Give Up Stock in Drug Company Involved in His Government Role

Blatant conflict of interest

By Isaac Arnsdorf for ProPublica

The executive, Moncef Slaoui, is the top scientist on Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine in record time. Federal law requires government officials to disclose their personal finances and divest any holdings relating to their work, but Slaoui said he wouldn’t take the job under those conditions

So the administration said it’s treating him as a contractor. Contractors aren’t bound by the same ethics rules but also aren’t supposed to wield as much authority as full employees.

Slaoui agreed to sell stock worth $12 million and resign from the board of Moderna, the developer of a leading potential vaccine. But Slaoui insisted on keeping his roughly $10 million stake in his former company, GlaxoSmithKline, another contender in the Operation Warp Speed vaccine race. 

“I won’t leave those shares because that’s my retirement,” he has said. GlaxoSmithKline, working with Sanofi, has started human trials for a coronavirus vaccine using similar technology to Sanofi’s flu shot. It is supported by up to $2.1 billion from the U.S. government.

As a concession, Slaoui committed to donating any increase in the value of his holdings to the National Institutes of Health.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

VIDEO: How Donald Trump plans to steal the election. Not a joke.

 To watch this video on YouTube:

We have lots of it

 By Bill BramhallNew York Daily News

Don't forget


Great Whites don't really want to kill you

Complicated Relationships Entwined to Produce Shark Attacks

By GRACE KELLY/ecoRI News staff 

In the waning days of July, Julie Dimperio Holowach was swimming off the coast of Harspwell, Maine, with her daughter. What was a fun day in the surf and sun turned tragic when she was bitten by a great white shark and died as a result of her injuries.

The ensuing talk in the press and by New England beachgoers centered upon the rising seal population and its role in attracting sharks to local waters. Culling was discussed, and one headline read, More Seals Means Learning To Live With Sharks In New England, painting a picture that it’s the rotund sea mammal’s fault we’ve entered “Jaws” 2.0.

But the relationship between sharks, seals, and humans is more nuanced and complex.

Of sharks, seals, and humans, a John Steinbeck quote from “Of Mice and Men” seems appropriate: “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

Metformin for type 2 diabetes patients or not?

Researchers now have the answer

Lund University

Metformin is the first-line drug that can lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients. One third of patients do not respond to metformin treatment and 5 per cent experience serious side effects, which is the reason many choose to stop medicating. 

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have now identified biomarkers that can show in advance how the patient will respond to metformin treatment via a simple blood test.

"Our study constitutes an important step towards the goal of personalised care for diabetes patients because it can contribute to ensuring that the right person receives the right care as soon as there is a diagnosis," says Charlotte Ling, professor of epigenetics at Lund University, who led the study.

The troubling launch of Sputnik

Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine Stunt Could Cast a Long Shadow

September 24, 2020 by Olga Dobrovidova

In August, the Russian government unveiled, with pomp and flair, “the world’s first registered vaccine against Covid-19.” 

Although the vaccine — known officially as Gam-COVID-Vac but marketed as Sputnik V for a global audience — has yet to demonstrate its safety and efficacy in a phase III trial, an emergency use authorization was issued to make it available for limited use in the general public. 

This month, the horse finally caught up with the cart, as the vaccine developers published, in The Lancet, the results of phase I and phase II trials gauging the vaccine’s safety and its ability to provoke an immune response.

I have to confess that, as a science journalist-turned-science communicator, I am eerily attracted to the Sputnik V vaccine. Its rollout has been so significant, layered, and in-your-face that I, like countless other commentators, simply can’t look away — even though we know that making us look is what this game is about.

I am not at all in a position to comment on the validity of research results presented in the Lancet paper, or on the recent criticism the paper received, not yet from the pages of a journal but in an open letter from more than three dozen scientists. 

However, since even the authors of the study acknowledge that “further investigation is needed of the effectiveness of this vaccine for prevention of Covid-19,” it is perhaps more fitting for now to discuss the Russian vaccine case for what it already is: a public relations exercise. By that measure, I think there are a few takeaways that are especially relevant for science journalism and science communication.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Trump's appeals to white anxiety are not 'dog whistles' – they're racism

Let's take a hard look at Trump's language

Bethany AlbertsonUniversity of Texas at Austin

President Donald Trump’s rhetoric is often referred to as “dog whistle politics.”

In politician speak, a dog whistle is language that conveys a particular meaning to a group of potential supporters. The targeted group hears the “whistle” because of its shared cultural reference, but others cannot.

In 2018, The Washington Post wrote that “perhaps no one has sent more dog whistles than President Trump.”

When Trump this year planned a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma – the site of one of the worst acts of racial terror in U.S. history – on the Black holiday of Juneteenth, the media called the rally a “racist dog whistle.” 

That suggests that white nationalists would view the timing as an overture, while others would miss the date’s racism. Journalists have also referred to Trump calling COVID-19 “the China virus” as a dog whistle.

Be safe, not sorry


VIDEO: The Choice

 To watch this video on YouTube:

Kill germs without killing yourself

Disinfection dangers: How to avoid viruses without exposing yourself to toxics

Aly Cohen and  Frederick vom Saal for the Environmental Health News

The coronavirus has changed just about every routine in our lives, cleaning and disinfecting now among them.

The rational fear of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) spread has led to an enormous growth in the creation and use of a multitude of products that we use to wipe, spray, and fog, particularly where we eat, sleep, commute, shop and study.

But in the U.S., the history of the use of toxic chemicals has often been followed years later with public health agencies realizing that potential adverse effects on health were downplayed as everyone focused on supposed benefits. 

This approach has often led to massive overuse of different classes of chemicals, which is the case now with cleaning and disinfecting chemicals. 

We are faced with a pandemic that is causing unprecedented, exponential use of cleaning and disinfection products, and we already are finding evidence this is leading to downstream health issues in humans and wildlife.

From oven cleaners, air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergent and softeners, to chemical wipes and mildew sprays, the drive to make your home, office buildings, schools and shopping areas sparkling clean and eliminate germs has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Cleaning products and disinfectants are among the most toxic products sold today.

COVID-19 study links strict social distancing to much lower chance of infection

Researchers say similar studies could predict local trends in infectious outbreaks

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Social Distancing GIF by GIPHY News

Using public transportation, visiting a place of worship, or otherwise traveling from the home is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of testing positive with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, while practicing strict social distancing is associated with a markedly lower likelihood, suggests a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For their analysis, the researchers surveyed a random sample of more than 1,000 people in the state of Maryland in late June, asking about their social distancing practices, use of public transportation, 

SARS-CoV-2 infection history, and other COVID-19-relevant behaviors. They found, for example, that those reporting frequent public transport use were more than four times as likely to report a history of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, while those who reported practicing strict outdoor social distancing were just a tenth as likely to report ever being SARS-CoV-2 positive.

The study is believed to be among the first large-scale evaluations of COVID-19-relevant behaviors that is based on individual-level survey data, as opposed to aggregated data from sources such as cellphone apps.

Covid Contracts and the Fraudsters

Knowing they are crooks, but giving them taxpayer money anyway

By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Diges

If you needed a plumber or a caterer, you would avoid a service provider who had in the past tried to bill you for work not performed or grossly overcharged for what was completed. 

The Trump Administration takes a different approach. In selecting contractors to provide the goods and services the federal government needs to deal with the pandemic, it has turned to dozens of corporations with a history of cheating Uncle Sam.

This finding emerges from a comparison of the recipients of coronavirus-related contracts to the data in Violation Tracker. The analysis focuses on a list of about 175 larger corporations and non-profits that account for nearly half of the roughly $12 billion in contracts awarded so far for laboratory services, medical equipment and much more.

Among this group, 69 contractors, or more than one-third of the total, have paid fines and settlements during the past decade for healthcare fraud and other violations relating to the federal False Claims Act or related laws. They have been involved in 189 individual cases with total penalty payments of $4.7 billion.

These are not trivial matters. Twelve of the contractors paid total penalties of more than $100 million and the average per parent company was $27 million.

The company with the largest penalty total is pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which received a $13 million contract from the Department of Health and Human Services and whose separate covid-19 vaccine effort is being touted by the Trump Administration. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Trump’s stealth attack on the environment

 Pandemic Spawns Dangerous Relaxation of Environmental Regulations

By Joel A. Mintz and Victor B. Flatt

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of worrisome and needless regulatory relaxations that have increased pollution across the United States. Recent reporting by the Associated Press and other outlets has documented more than 3,000 pandemic-based requests from polluters to state agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for waivers of environmental requirements. 

Numerous state governments, with the tacit encouragement of the EPA, went along with many of those requests. All too often, those waivers — requested, ostensibly, to protect American workers from exposure to the coronavirus — were granted with little or no review, notwithstanding the risks the resulting emissions posed to public health and the environment.

Beware of corporate lies on the pandemic

 Spotting corporate hypocrisy and fake solidarity

By Jim Hightower 

COVID-19 has been a doubly-deadly disaster for millions of Americans, destroying both life and livelihoods. But one of the most heartening responses to the crisis has come from the least-expected place: corporate executive suites.

This spring, numerous CEOs made headlines by showing some class solidarity. If we’re having to wallop our workers because of a pandemic, these bosses told media interviewers, the least we can do is cut our own salaries.

Yes — all in this together! Only… not really.

An analytical firm looked at the books of nearly all major U.S. corporations, finding that a mere fraction had made any cuts to senior executive pay. The few that did only made little nicks in the boss’s take-home, rather than real cuts.

The trick is that the “sacrifices” only applied to official salaries. They are the tiniest part of a chief executive’s compensation, which mostly is made up of bonuses, stock options, etc.

Yuge endorsement


VIDEO: Goodness

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UPDATED: Serious fire risk in Charlestown and southern New England

Don’t toss lit cigarettes out your car windows, no open burning

By Will Collette

CFD fighting the fire on Pasquiset Trail
UPDATE: since I published this article earlier this week, DEM and state officials have upgraded the threat of wild fire to extreme due to our worsening drought.

This is from DEM's statement today:

DEM is warning Rhode Islanders of extreme fire danger as the drought that has gripped the state, and now the New England region, continues following months of below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures.

With nine fewer inches of rain this year than last causing extremely dry conditions, DEM is urging residents to take precautions when using charcoal grills and matches while outdoors, disposing of cigarettes, cutting the grass with gasoline-powered mowers, and doing many other things we often take for granted.

The National Weather Service has issued an alert warning most of Southern New England to be careful while we face weather conditions that have elevated our fire risk.

We haven’t had rain in many days, long enough for Gov. Gina Raimondo to declare a drought advisory on September 17.  

Lack of rain, dry brush and plant growth, breezy weather and low humidity literally raise red flag concerns for fire fighters and first responders.

On September 20, Charlestown-Richmond Fire, aided by Cross’ Mills and Carolina-Richmond Fire Districts and DEM contained a fire to an acre of brush on Pasquiset Trail. There were no injuries or damage to buildings.

An apple a day?

Good nutrition can contribute to keeping COVID-19 and other diseases away

Grayson JaggersUniversity of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system. Stevens Fremont via Getty Images

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. 

But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Hear the word “nutrition,” and often what comes to mind are fad diets, juice “cleanses” and supplements. Americans certainly seem concerned with their weight; 45 million of us spend US$33 billion annually on weight loss products. But one in five Americans consumes nearly no vegetables – less than one serving per day.

When the emphasis is on weight loss products, and not healthy day-to-day eating, the essential role that nutrition plays in keeping us well never gets communicated. Among the many things I teach students in my nutritional biochemistry course is the clear relationship between a balanced diet and a strong, well-regulated immune system.

Along with social distancing measures and effective vaccines, a healthy immune system is our best defense against coronavirus infection. 

To keep it that way, proper nutrition is an absolute must. Although not a replacement for medicine, good nutrition can work synergistically with medicine to improve vaccine effectiveness, reduce the prevalence of chronic disease and lower the burden on the health care system.

Video: Who should get a COVID-19 vaccine first?

A life or death choice

Nicole HassounBinghamton University, State University of New York

Production limits mean that not everyone can get access to a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s developed.. GIPhotoStock via Getty Images

A committee of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is readying a report with recommendations for equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. In this Q&A, bioethicist Dr. Nicole Hassoun of Binghamton University breaks down the elements in the recently published draft report from the committee and explains the key questions around vaccine distribution.

Thursday, September 24, 2020



By Pat BagleySalt Lake Tribune


 Image may contain: text that says 'If you hired a guy to MAKE YOUR HOUSE GREAT AGAIN, and he hired his incompetent children, stole your money, gave it away to your richest neighbors, let everyone get sick, killed your grandma, backed over your mailbox, burned down your house and blamed it on your black friends next door... ...would you hire him again?'

FDA Approves First Drug to Be Used as Tool for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s

Butler Hospital picked as study site for new drug

Memory and Aging Program News

Tau PET Detects AD Dementia. AD patients (left) accumulate tau tangles throughout the brain. [Courtesy of Ossenkoppele et al., ©2018, American Medical Association. All rights reserved.]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Tauvid (flortaucipir F18) for intravenous injection as the first drug used to help image a distinctive characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain called tau pathology. 

The approval comes one month after publication of the results of the national A16 study, which showed that Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging used in combination with flortaucipir tracer was successful in confirming the presence of tau protein in the brain, helping to establish an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in patients suspected of having the disease. 

Butler Hospital was one of 27 study sites across the U.S. to participate in the study, through a partnership between its Memory and Aging Program, which facilitated the study and Rhode Island Hospital, which conducted the imaging.

Epidemics and pandemics can worsen xenophobia, bigotry

Trump and his "kung-flu" and "China virus" ethnic slurs

University of Pittsburgh

When viruses, parasites and other pathogens spread, humans and other animals tend to hunker down with immediate family and peer groups to avoid outsiders as much as possible.

But could these instincts, developed to protect us from illnesses, generalize into avoidance of healthy individuals who simply look, speak or live differently?

Jessica Stephenson, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, coauthored a paper exploring the answer, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B.

One example noted in the study showed that black garden ants exposed to a fungus clustered together in groups much smaller than researchers could predict by chance, which effectively limited the spread of disease. Similar behaviors seen among 19 non-human primate species were also credited for lowering direct spread of parasites.

Human beings share these same biological impulses to separate into modular social groups. However, when pathogens are spreading, humans tend to also adopt a set of behaviors that are "hypervigilant and particularly error prone," the researchers wrote.

Fight seizure of the Supreme Court by any means necessary

Stop Trump from stealing another Supreme Court seat

By Aaron Regunberg

By Ed Hall
We are not saying an all-out procedural fight guarantees success. But when our fundamental rights are on the line for a generation, our elected leaders have a responsibility to exhaust every option before conceding defeat.

This week, after mourning the loss of pathbreaking icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hundreds of Rhode Islanders rallied at the offices of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse with an urgent call: to fight the confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court pick by any means necessary.

Our most fundamental rights to bodily autonomy, to free and fair elections, to accessible healthcare, and to a livable planet are on the line. And while Democrats do not have a majority in the U.S. Senate, they can still fight Republican’s seizure of our courts — if they are willing to use the procedural tools at their disposal.

The Senate runs on the unanimous consent system. That means that Senate Democrats have the power to grind the chamber to a halt by systematically denying unanimous consent agreements on every motion Mitch McConnell wants to make.