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Monday, November 30, 2020

While COVID-19 surges to record highs, Republicans like Blake Filippi encourage more to get infected

Charlestown’s state representative embraces Trump’s insane pandemic “strategy”

By Will Collette

As the coronavirus pandemic keeps getting worse while we wait for the vaccines to come along to save us, Donald Trump and many Republicans have embraced the concept of “herd immunity” as the best way to go.

“Herd immunity” is a real concept that means a high enough percentage of the population has acquired anti-bodies to block an infectious disease from spreading. How high a percentage? The Mayo Clinic says it depends on the disease. For a very infectious disease like COVID, you need a very high percentage.

We eliminated smallpox and polio through herd immunity achieved through near universal vaccination.

“Herd immunity” doesn’t work very well on COVID without a vaccine because of its severity. The only way to achieve the 70-90% of the population with antibodies that stop the disease is for that many people to catch the disease. Some number of them, perhaps millions, will die in the process or suffer long-term damage.

By Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
But herd immunity is the perfect lazy man’s solution to the coronavirus pandemic because all you do is let it take its toll until the virus runs out of people to infect. Trump embraced this herd immunity last summer when he realized he could not lie or bluster coronavirus away.

He pushed his actual expert advisors – Drs. Fauci, Birx, the CDC, the Surgeon General, the NIH, the FDA et al. – into a soundproof room. Then last August, brought in Dr. Scott Atlas, a rightwing neuroradiologist with no training or practical experience with infectious diseases to be his new chief science guy - at least until today (Monday, Nov. 30) when he resigned.

Atlas has been a firm believer in herd immunity, although he makes an exception for senior citizens, saying that somehow, while everyone else is getting sick, they should be kept safe. Maybe in special camps or turned into Soylent Green. He’s not very clear on what he means.

To promote herd immunity without vaccines is tantamount to mass murder, and that is exactly what has happened. Over a quarter million Americans have died, many after Trump and red states like the Dakotas adopted “herd immunity” as the way to protect “freedom” and the economy rather than save people’s lives.

Photo by Steve Ahlquist, UpriseRI
We’ve got our own herd immunity guy right here. Charlestown is represented by state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi who is also the leader of the Republican Minority caucus. 

I call him “Flip” because of his casual relationship with the truth. He has lied about where he lives. He has changed his position on issues depending on who he is talking to. He has broken promises.

Even his mother Marion Filippi raised doubts about his honesty, stating in a 2016 lawsuit that she had been cheated after being forced into signing documents through “the use of threats, duress and coercion, failure to disclose material information” about family owned property and that her son had filed “amended registration documents falsely claiming that they [Flip and his brother Paul] are the sole managers of the LLCs” that were owned by the whole family. SOURCE: Marion Filippi and Steven Filippi vs. Blake Filippi and Paul Filippi, WC-2016-0627, December 15, 2016, original complaint, Clause 32.

Up until recently, Flip’s primary role in the state’s pandemic efforts has been to complain about procedural issues – especially the lack of in-person General Assembly sessions – and Executive Actions by Governor Gina Raimondo under the state of emergency we have been in for the past several months of pandemic.

Just before Thanksgiving, Flip was interviewed by the odious Sinclair Broadcasting local station, WJAR (Channel 10).

When asked about increased COVID restrictions, Flip said Is the cure to this thing locking us in our homes? There comes a point where the cure is worse than the disease… Maybe the thing to do is massively focus our efforts on our seniors who really are the vulnerable population and allow everyone else to live their lives."

Flip said he was really concerned about the effects of the upcoming “Pause” on restaurants and bars. He should know about that since he is himself a major hotel, restaurant and bar owner on Block Island.

He said: "Many of them have already shut down. The ones that have survived, I have heard from some of them, them don't believe they can take another hit, especially for restaurants December is one of their busiest months.”

So there you have it. Flip has swallowed the Kool-Aid for the “herd immunity” approach, almost mimicking the way Trump COVID guru Scott Atlas describes it. He also puts the interests of businesses like the ones he owns above the public’s health.

Let’s break down where Flip goes totally wrong.

First, what does it mean to “massively focus our efforts on our seniors?” How do you protect seniors when you let everyone else get sick? Does Flip plan to lock all of us up (I say “us” because I am 71 and definitely a “senior”) under armed guard to keep us separate from the COVID-riddled younger population? Flip, you need to explain this remark.

Second, to just let everyone who is not elderly “live their lives” means even sharper inclines in RI COVID cases and hospitalizations that would completely swamp Rhode Island’s hospital system. Westerly and South County Hospitals are being pressured to the max. Rhode Island’s hospitals are full and the state plans to start treating patients in the two mass field hospitals it set up for this contingency starting this week.

Third, It is not true that COVID is a disease of the elderly. Yes, it is true that most COVID fatalities are elderly (94% in Rhode Island), but the non-elderly get most of the infections (77%). 38% of COVID hospitalizations in Rhode Island are non-elderly.

Statistics are from the RI Health Department’s COVID Response data website.

After nearly a year of this virus worldwide, research now shows COVID attacks the respiratory system, shredding the lungs. It also attacks the heart and brain. Serious medical problems relating to COVID can last indefinitely – especially in younger patients.

COVID kills little kids, teenagers and adults, not just Grandma. It tends to leave lasting effects in many who survive it.

Yeah, Flip, just let people live their lives, but how about living their lives safely?

Right now, the virus is out of control in Rhode Island and serious measures must be taken to get it back under control. We are so close to having good vaccines – why blow it now?

When we get the vaccines, I am hoping we will have an aggressive vaccination effort to achieve real herd immunity like the kind that eliminated smallpox and polio. Everyone should be required to be vaccinated against COVID unless they have a verified medical reason why they can’t.

But oh, lest we forget, you are against vaccination mandates, aren’t you, Flip?

Flip has been getting away with slinging bovine excrement since he burst on the scene in 2014 by beating one of Rhode Island’s best legislators, Donna Walsh. He keeps getting re-elected, usually without opposition despite having virtually no legislative achievements.

Despite numerous public clashes, Filippi was actually a soulmate to dethroned House Speaker Nick Mattiello, so any Democrat who wanted to take on Flip and all his money could not count on Mattiello support.

Now he’s being listed as a likely 2022 candidate for Governor, though so far he has demurred. Maybe he’ll let the idea float to draw more of that media attention he loves. Or maybe he’ll simply flip his position again and go for it.

Whether he can fool a majority of Rhode Islanders as he has fooled his pals in the Charlestown Citizens Alliance with his smarm and money will be one big question to follow in this new election cycle.

No cause for alarm

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.


For sale

By Matt DaviesNewsday


I'm right. You're wrong

Dogmatic people seek less information even when uncertain

University College London

People who are dogmatic about their views seek less information and make less accurate judgments as a result, even on simple matters unrelated to politics, according to a study led by UCL and Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics researchers.

The researchers say their findings, published in PNAS, point to differences in thinking patterns that lead people to hold rigid opinions.

First author Lion Schulz, a PhD candidate at the Max Planck Institute in Germany who began the research while at UCL, said: "Anecdotally, it seems that dogmatic people are less interested in information that might change their mind. However, it was unclear if this is because a specific opinion is of high importance to them or if more fundamental processes are at play that transcend specific opinions."

Dogmatic people are characterised by a belief that their worldview reflects an absolute truth and are often resistant to change their mind, for example when it comes to partisan issues. This tendency can have societal impacts by polarising political, scientific and religious debates. However, the cognitive drivers of dogmatism are still poorly understood.

Don't forget the malt vinegar

Climate & French fries

By Michon Scott

Fries please foodies when they involve garlic, truffles, and parsley.
CC license by Flickr user L.A. Foodie
Established in 1960, The Original Hot Dog Shop served generations of students and locals near the University of Pittsburgh. 

Named for its hot dogs, “The O,” as it was often called, was arguably better known for its fries. Cooked twice in peanut oil (first at low heat to cook the inside, again at high heat to crisp the outside), 

The O’s famous fries—featured in a 1999 PBS documentary—came in portions big enough to satisfy several people, even without hot dogs.

Whether at The O, a chain restaurant, an upscale eatery, or home, we Americans love our fries. According to a recent study cited by the Washington State University Potato Research Lab, the average American consumes 34 pounds of French fries each year.

Fries depend on potatoes, and like all crops, potatoes have a preferred climate. How long will America’s favorite side dish have a safe spot on our menu?

A sensible thing to do but after January 20

U.S. should look at how other high-income countries regulate health care costs, experts urge

Rutgers University

Structuring negotiations between insurers and providers, standardizing fee-for-service payments and negotiating prices can lower the United States' health care spending by slowing the rate at which healthcare prices increase, according to a Rutgers study.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, examined how other high-income countries that use a fee-for-service model regulate health care costs.

Although the United States has the highest health care prices in the world, the specific mechanisms commonly used by other countries to set and update prices are often overlooked. 

In most countries with universal health insurance, physicians are paid on a fee-for-service basis, yet health care prices there are lower than in the U.S. 

To lower health care spending, American policymakers have focused on eliminating fee-for-service reimbursement, which provides an incentive for performing additional services rather than setting up price negotiations to address the main factor that drives health care spending.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Burning down the house

Trump Races to Weaken Environmental and Worker Protections, and Implement Other Last-Minute Policies, Before Jan. 20

He even wants to bring back firing squads

By Isaac Arnsdorf for ProPublica

Six days after President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified food safety groups that it was proposing a regulatory change to speed up chicken factory processing lines, a change that would allow companies to sell more birds. 

An earlier USDA effort had broken down on concerns that it could lead to more worker injuries and make it harder to stop germs like salmonella.

Ordinarily, a change like this would take about two years to go through the cumbersome legal process of making new federal regulations. But the timing has alarmed food and worker safety advocates, who suspect the Trump administration wants to rush through this rule in its waning days.

Trump wants to execute federal prisoners by firing squad.
Seriously. (1980 Pulitzer Prize photo)

Even as Trump and his allies officially refuse to concede the Nov. 3 election, the White House and federal agencies are hurrying to finish dozens of regulatory changes before Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. 

The rules range from long-simmering administration priorities to last-minute scrambles and affect everything from creature comforts like showerheads and clothes washers to life-or-death issues like federal executions and international refugees. 

Some assembly required

By Mike Smith


I pledge allegiance

By Kevin Kal Kallaugher, Kaltoons


Cash help for Rhode Island businesses and families

For more information on how to apply:


Other ways to die besides COVID

Study of non-COVID-19 deaths shows 2020 increase in several demographics


March through May saw a significant increase in deaths over previous years – and not just from COVID-19, says a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

When deaths attributed to COVID-19 were removed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention totals, the death rate in several demographics outpaced the same period in 2019, the study found. The timeframe represents the first three months of response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

Two studies look at ways to stay safe while we wait for the vaccines roll-out

Two reports cover masks, bubbles, rapid tests and other measures that work

Edited by Will Collette

By Matt DaviesNewsday
As the world-wide COVID pandemic goes on, scientists around the world are taking hard, critical looks at measures we can all take NOW that can stem the tide now that we have realistic hope for safe and effective vaccines.

I have put together two research articles because they essentially offer the same thing: practical information on ways to stay safe.

As Dr. Tony Fauci keeps saying, we all need to be patient and follow good public health practices that, with every new study, we know to be science-based and sensible.

Please continue for these two timely reports.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Who should get it first?

What Is the Best Strategy to Deploy a Covid-19 Vaccine? 
It depends on whether we prioritize stopping deaths or stopping spread
By Jill Neimark

If the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics, as Galileo once declared, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought that truth home for the world's mathematicians, who have been galvanized by the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

So far this year, they have been involved in everything from revealing how contagious the novel coronavirus is, how far we should stand from each other, how long an infected person might shed the virus, how a single strain spread from Europe to New York and then burst across America, and how to ‘'flatten the curve’' to save hundreds of thousands of lives. 

Modeling also helped persuade the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the virus can be airborne and transmitted by aerosols that stay aloft for hours.

And at the moment many are grappling with a particularly urgent — and thorny — area of research: modeling the optimal rollout of a vaccine. 

Because vaccine supply will be limited at first, the decisions about who gets those first doses could save tens of thousands of lives. This is critical now that promising early results are coming in about two vaccine candidates — one from Pfizer and BioNTech and one from Moderna — that may be highly effective and for which the companies may apply for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

But figuring out how to allocate vaccines — there are close to 50 in clinical trials on humans — to the right groups at the right time is “a very complex problem,” says Eva Lee, director of the Center for Operations Research in Medicine and Health Care at the Georgia Institute of Technology

Lee has modeled dispensing strategies for vaccines and medical supplies for Zika, Ebola, and influenza, and is now working on Covid-19. The coronavirus is “so infectious and so much more deadly than influenza,” she says. “We have never been challenged like that by a virus.”

Administering the smallpox vaccine 50 years ago
(photo- World Health Organization)

Howard Forman, a public health professor at Yale University, says “the last time we did mass vaccination with completely new vaccines,'' was with smallpox and polio. "We are treading into an area we are not used to.” All the other vaccines of the last decades have either been tested for years or were introduced very slowly, he says.

Because Covid-19 is especially lethal for those over 65 and those with other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, or asthma, and yet is spread rapidly and widely by healthy young adults who are more likely to recover, mathematicians are faced with two conflicting priorities when modeling for vaccines: Should they prevent deaths or slow transmission?

The consensus among most modelers is that if the main goal is to slash mortality rates, officials must prioritize vaccinating those who are older, and if they want to slow transmission, they must target younger adults.

The challenge ahead




URI psychologist offers tips for managing stress during holidays

Exercise, sleep important to keeping stress at bay

Tony LaRoche

The holiday season is upon us and with it comes chronic stress felt by many. This year, those worries are compounded by the record spread of COVID-19 infections and a divisive election that overshadows the season.

So, how do we manage our stress?

As there are public health recommendations for combating the spread of the coronavirus, there are equally helpful steps you can take to reduce your stress, says Mark Robbins, professor and chair of the University of Rhode Island Psychology Department.

Positioning for 2022 state races begins

Treasurer Magaziner Hires Seth Klaiman as Chief of Staff

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner announced that Seth Klaiman will join his office as Chief of Staff, effective December 7th. 

"Seth Klaiman is a talented public servant with many years of experience working in Rhode Island government," said Treasurer Magaziner. "I'm pleased to welcome him aboard as our new Chief of Staff, and have full confidence in his ability to assist me in fulfilling our office's mission to promote economic growth and financial security for all Rhode Islanders." 

Seth Klaiman has led a distinguished career in Rhode Island government and philanthropy over the last two decades.

For the last seven years, Klaiman served as Congressman Jim Langevin's (RI-02) Rhode Island Chief of Staff.

Previously Klaiman worked on the campaigns of Jack Reed for United States Senate, Elizabeth Roberts for Lieutenant Governor, and Bob Weygand for United States Congress, among others. Klaiman has also served as Director of Major Gifts at Providence College and Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital. 

"It's been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for Congressman Jim Langevin over the last seven years, and I will remain forever grateful to him for the opportunity," said Seth Klaiman. "I look forward to continuing to serve Rhode Island families as the new Chief of Staff in Treasurer Magaziner's office. The Rhode Island Treasurer's office plays a key role in our state's economy, and I'm excited for the opportunity to join Treasurer Magaziner in this vital work." 

In addition to the hiring of Klaiman as Chief of Staff, the Treasurer's office has also announced that LeeAnn Byrne has been promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff. Byrne has served as Legislative Director for the Office of the General Treasurer since 2017 and previously was policy director at the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. 

Charon Rose has also been promoted to serve as Deputy Treasurer for Financial Empowerment and Community Outreach. Rose has worked for the Office of the General Treasurer in outreach and constituent affairs roles since 2015, and she previously worked at Women and Infants Hospital where she served as a union delegate and Member Political Organizer for SEIU 1199 NE. She also currently serves on the board of Boys Town New England. 

Langevin Names Mike DeAngelis District Director

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) announced that Mike DeAngelis is joining his staff as District Director. DeAngelis will take on the role held by Seth Klaiman, who is departing to be Chief of Staff for Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. 

“I want to thank Seth for his invaluable work as a member of my team,” said Langevin. “While Seth certainly leaves big shoes to fill, I am confident that Mike will excel in this new role as we continue our diligent work for the Second Congressional District. Mike offers a wealth of knowledge and understanding of Rhode Island and has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to making our state better. I am fortunate to have him at the helm of my district operations.”    

DeAngelis has served as Campaign Manager and Finance Director for the Langevin for Congress campaign since 2013. Prior to that, he worked as Deputy Campaign manager in support of Langevin’s successful reelection efforts. He also served as Finance Director to Pedro Segarra’s successful bid for mayor of Hartford, Connecticut, in 2011, and was Deputy Campaign Manager for Steven Costantino’s Providence mayoral campaign in 2010. 

DeAngelis is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. His first day as District Director will be December 1st.

Measuring the True Cost of Conservation

Higher than expected

BU ExpertsBy Katherine Gianni

Estimated fair market value of all properties in the United States (3D visualization). Photo courtesy of Christoph Nolte, Boston University.

For decades, scientists have been warning about potential future effects of global climate change, including more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought, and sharp increases in the number, duration, and intensity of tropical storms. 

And since the start of 2020, we’ve seen natural disasters in record-breaking numbers, from the wildfires that ravaged California and Colorado, to most consecutive days with temperatures skyrocketing over 100 degrees in places like Arizona. 

Environmental concerns are continually creeping to a broader, national stage: issues of climate change and conservation received more attention during the first presidential debate on September 29, 2020 than in any other presidential debate in history.

But when it comes to the topic of safeguarding the environment, Boston University Earth & Environment Assistant Professor Christoph Nolte is hardly a newcomer. He’s spent the majority of his academic career studying the effectiveness of conservation, asking key questions about where concerted efforts take place, and what difference they make for our world at large. 

To inform future decisions about conservation policy, Assistant Professor Nolte has now created the first high-resolution map of land value in the United states — a tool he says will better estimate environmental conservation costs, inform policy recommendations, and help peer academics conduct their own research on rebuilding and protecting what’s left of our natural resources and the biodiversity within our ecosystems. We sat down with him to learn more.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Just go away

Trump Is Going Overboard In His Final Days

He Should Just Disappear—Go Golfing and Leave Our Government Alone

By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport Opinion Editor

Noxious a thought as it is, I was getting used to the idea that amid rapidly rising COVID-19 cases nationwide, Donald Trump just wanted to spend his last month playing golf and flailing about with unwarranted legal challenges to an election that he cannot overturn.

That he would be doing nothing about the biggest emergency facing the country has been insulting enough. 

It would seem from recent days that Trump’s only overt act was to take credit for private company scientists to be making great progress toward a vaccine against the coronavirus while ignoring 250,000 American deaths.

But come to find out, Trump has found a way to amuse himself with other actions to burnish his record, but that put the country more in peril. At the same time, it would put an incoming Joe Biden further in the hole.

He has been finding ways to stay busy outside of watching TV. Still, it’s anything but good for America.

Topping the list, of course, is refusing to allow any normal transition to proceed. That includes the necessary, non-partisan planning for the distribution of any emergent vaccine and refusing to help get a stimulus package through the lame-duck Congress.

With Trump having skipped five months’ worth of COVID-19 task force meetings, we should not be surprised now that public contagion hitting all the states is insufficient to hold his attention.

Merry F******* Christmas


Even the Christmas trees are stressed

Drought Stresses Christmas Trees and Those Who Grow Them

By GRACE KELLY/ecoRI News staff

During pagan winter celebrations and rituals, evergreen boughs were used to symbolize life and fertility even in the darkest times.

But this year, the evergreen firs we bring into our homes for our winter celebrations might not be as vibrant.

This summer’s drought — which still has much of Rhode Island classified as experiencing moderate to severe drought — has brought many a local conifer to its knees, either killing young trees outright or causing trauma to older trees that resulted in extensive needle loss.

With saplings hit particularly hard, this season has been rough for some of the smaller local Christmas tree farmers, many of whom were already struggling.

Some 24.5 million live Christmas trees were bought nationwide in 2012, which was down from 30.8 million live trees sold in 2011. Last year an American Christmas Tree Association survey found that 82 percent of Christmas trees on display are artificial, with many consumers starting to choose trees that you can simply unbox and plug in.

In Rhode Island alone, the number of members of the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association have dwindled over the years.

An apple a day (at least)

Flavanol-Rich Diet Could Help Lower Blood Pressure

By Sci-News Staff / Source

Consuming a high-flavanol diet was associated with a significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and was inversely associated with blood lipids in a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

 “Previous studies of large populations have always relied on self-reported data to draw conclusions, but this is the first epidemiological study of this scale to objectively investigate the association between a specific bioactive compound and health,” said Professor Gunter Kuhnle, a nutritionist in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading.

“We are delighted to see that in our study, there was also a meaningful and significant association between flavanol consumption and lower blood pressure.”

“What this study gives us is an objective finding about the association between flavanols — found in tea and some fruits — and blood pressure.”

Major Lasting Effects on Health, Work and More

Life After COVID-19 Hospitalization

Kara Gavin

Surviving a case of COVID-19 that’s bad enough to land you in the hospital is hard enough. But life after the hospital stay – and especially after an intensive care stay – is no bed of roses, either, according to a new study.

Within two months of leaving the hospital, nearly 7% of the patients had died, including more than 10% of the patients treated in an intensive care unit. 

Fifteen percent had ended up back in the hospital. The data come from more than 1,250 patients treated in 38 hospitals across Michigan this spring and summer, when the state was one of the earliest to experience a peak in cases.

When researchers interviewed 488 of the surviving patients by phone, around 60 days after their hospitalization, they heard a litany of health and life woes. They’ve published their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ghost of Trump’s Dad again dumps mashed potatoes on his head

The Petty Revenge of a Soon-to-Be-Ex-President

By Michael Winship for Common Dreams

In Mary L. Trump’s book about her family, Too Much and Never Enough, there’s a moment referred to in the index as the “mashed potatoes incident.”

Apparently, young Donald was a major pill almost from birth, undisciplined, rude and nasty to his siblings and his mother. One night at dinner, he was, as usual, picking on his younger brother Robert. He had the boy in tears. Older brother Fred, Jr., then 14, intervened.

“Robert’s crying and Donald’s needling became too much,” Mary Trump writes, “and in a moment of improvised expedience that would become family legend, Freddy picked up the first thing at hand that wouldn’t cause any real damage: the bowl of mashed potatoes.

Everybody laughed and they couldn’t stop laughing. And they were laughing at Donald. It was the first time Donald had been humiliated by someone he even then believed to be beneath him… From then on, he would wield the weapon, never be at the sharp end of it.

On November 3, a majority of voters dumped mashed potatoes on Donald Trump’s head and he’s still screaming from the injustice of it all. Despite overwhelming evidence that he lost the election, he continues to falsely bellow “Fraud!” via his Twitter feed and pursues one frivolous lawsuit after another to challenge the result, all to no avail. So far. (As of this writing, he and the Republican Party were 0-33.)


By Matt DaviesNewsday


With Starkist?

From Fake Science, the favorite information source for loser Donald Trump


Sleep more, live longer

Healthy sleep habits help lower risk of heart failure

Circulation Journal Report

Adults with the healthiest sleep patterns had a 42% lower risk of heart failure regardless of other risk factors compared to adults with unhealthy sleep patterns, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation

Healthy sleep patterns are rising in the morning, sleeping 7-8 hours a day and having no frequent insomnia, snoring or excessive daytime sleepiness.

Heart failure affects more than 26 million people, and emerging evidence indicates sleep problems may play a role in the development of heart failure.

This observational study examined the relationship between healthy sleep patterns and heart failure and included data on 408,802 UK Biobank participants, ages 37 to 73 at the time of recruitment (2006-2010). Incidence of heart failure was collected until April 1, 2019. Researchers recorded 5,221 cases of heart failure during a median follow-up of 10 years.

Americans don't eat enough fish

Despite the cost, don't miss out on robust health benefits 

Sardines are rich in oils and protein. 
Photo by Ahmed Nadar for UnsplashCC BY-ND 

Eating fish can provide powerful advantages for the heart and brain, yet Americans eat less than half of the 26 pounds per year that experts recommend. By contrast, Americans buy seven times more chicken and beef annually than fish.

Why Americans don’t eat more fish has been pondered for a long time by health experts, fish farmers and fishermen themselves. One way to consider this question is production. 

Consumers can buy a product only if it’s available. The more they buy, theoretically, the more that item will be produced. In this case, a greater demand for fish would be stimulated if more fish were offered for sale.

More seafood could be made available for American consumers from global ocean sources given that at least 60% of seafood in the U.S. is imported. 

U.S. aquaculture has the capacity to significantly increase. Research conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries also indicates slightly more domestic wild-caught fish can be harvested.

How YOU can become a super-spreader

UCF Researchers Identify Features That Could Make Someone a Virus Super-Spreader


Add caption
Sneeze velocity for four different nose and mouth types is shown. A is open nasal passage with teeth, B is open nasal passage without teeth, C is blocked nasal passage without teeth, and D is blocked nasal passage with teeth.

New research from the University of Central Florida has identified physiological features that could make people super-spreaders of viruses such as COVID-19.

In a study appearing this month in the journal Physics of Fluids, researchers in UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering used computer-generated models to numerically simulate sneezes in different types of people and determine associations between people’s physiological features and how far their sneeze droplets travel and linger in the air.

They found that people’s features, like a stopped-up nose or a full set of teeth, could increase their potential to spread viruses by affecting how far droplets travel when they sneeze.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the main way people are infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 is through exposure to respiratory droplets, such as from sneezes and coughs that are carrying infectious virus.

Knowing more about factors affecting how far these droplets travel can inform efforts to control their spread, says Michael Kinzel, an assistant professor with UCF’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and study co-author.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

With Pfizer’s history of deception, can we trust its vaccine claims?

In Pfizer We Trust?

By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

The world is in love with Pfizer and Moderna. The two pharmaceutical companies have each announced amazing results in their separate efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine. 

Pfizer first announced that its product appeared to be 90 percent effective, only to be upstaged days later by Moderna and its claim of 94.5 percent. Pfizer then revised its efficacy rate to 95 percent.

Like everyone else, I am eager to see progress made in the fight against covid, but there is a part of me that wonders whether these announcements, coming in record-breaking time, are a bit too good to be true. 

Don’t get me wrong—I am not a vaccine skeptic. I recently got my flu shot and previously was inoculated against shingles and pneumonia.

Yet I am a wary when it comes to grand pronouncements by large corporations about advances that will generate vast amounts of profit. This is particularly the case with large drug companies, which have a long history of deception and malfeasance.

Pfizer is a prime example. Its track record is filled with cases in which it was accused of misleading regulators and the public about the safety of its products.

Thanksgiving 2020 in Rhode Island

Despite terrible year, reasons to be thankful

By Will Collette

1909 Thanksgiving greeting card, NY Public Library on-line archive

Even without the traditional Thanksgiving family gathering, I think there are many reasons to be thankful this year.

Despite a terrible pandemic that is again raging out of control, just consider where we would be without the dedicated work of so many. I am thankful for the millions of first responders, health care workers and essential workers in the supply chain. They put their lives at risk to help the rest of us.

Thank you to the many scientists and researchers around the world who have labored to find effective treatments to make COVID-19 less lethal than it was in the first few months. Despite our record-setting new case numbers, the death rate has dropped, largely due to what we have learned about treating this disease.

Here in Rhode Island, the vast majority have adhered to the guidelines, worn masks and maintained social distancing. I am thankful that during these past nine months, I’ve only encountered one intransigent mask-hole.

We have to stop slipping into super-spreading behavior with the big parties and weddings and stay steady as we all look forward to the new vaccines coming on-line.

Of course, we owe tremendous thanks to the research teams who have produced the new vaccines that are going to be coming on-line soon. They did this work in record time. It is truly amazing that, at this writing, we have THREE likely safe and effective vaccines just about ready to go.

I am thankful that over 80 million Americans voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, more than 6 million more than voted for Dear Leader. I hope we can go into 2021 without further civic decay.

I am thankful for Rudy Giuliani and his crack legal team for their crazy incompetence. 

Imagine if Trump’s efforts to overthrow the vote was led by someone with a less fevered mind who was capable of spinning a case based on no evidence into a plausible challenge? I thank Rudy for helping to heal the country – unintentionally, of course – by being such a clown.

I thank Charlestown voters for finally cracking through the hegemony of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) and their 10 year stranglehold on town government. Though technically three of the five Town Council members are still CCA Party endorsed, there’s only one die-hard CCA Party zealot on the Council leaving the door open for some reasoned debate and much needed change.

From our small town to our great nation and then the world at large, we still face serious challenges. The global coronavirus pandemic. A badly damaged, fragile economy. Systemic racism and the rise of right-wing fascism. The climate crisis that is wreaking havoc coast to coast.

And we’re not even free of 2020 yet - until January 20, still have a malignant narcissist in charge.

But the election results and the new vaccines have lifted my spirits as I hope they have lifted yours. We still have two important Senate races in Georgia and so much work still to do.

But be thankful because, sisters and brothers, it could be ever so much worse.



Do the right thing


Singing a New Song

Researchers Uncover Evidence Birds Listen to Birdsong Much Differently Than We Do

By Maryland Today Staff  

How exactly do birds “talk” to one another? And how can birdsong research help us understand communication in humans, too?

In a sequence of publications, psychology Professor Emeritus Robert Dooling and his team have demonstrated that for zebra finches, the subtle—and to human ears, inaudible—nuances in sound texture or timbre far outweigh the sequence of repeated sounds, which is deeply embedded in human communication. 

While the quality and tone of birdsong play key roles in communication for other avian species as well, the team’s research over several years suggests new avenues of investigation in using zebra finches in particular as animal models for the processing of sounds and sequences. 

We're all tired

What you can do about "information exhaustion"
Mark Satta, Wayne State University

A woman views a manipulated video that changes what is said by  
Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama. 
ROB LEVER/AFP via Getty Images 
An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus. It could even be a call from a relative wanting to talk about a political issue.

All this information may leave many of us feeling as though we have no energy to engage.

As a philosopher who studies knowledge-sharing practices, I call this experience “epistemic exhaustion.” The term “epistemic” comes from the Greek word episteme, often translated as “knowledge.” So epistemic exhaustion is more of a knowledge-related exhaustion.

It is not knowledge itself that tires out many of us. Rather, it is the process of trying to gain or share knowledge under challenging circumstances.

Currently, there are at least three common sources that, from my perspective, are leading to such exhaustion. But there are also ways to deal with them.