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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Who owns the beach?

It depends on state law and tide lines

If you want to stroll the shoreline, know your rights. 
Normanack/FlickrCC BY
As Americans flock to beaches this summer, their toes are sinking into some of the most hotly contested real estate in the United States.

It wasn’t always this way. Through the mid-20th century, when the U.S. population was smaller and the coast was still something of a frontier in many states, laissez-faire and absentee coastal landowners tolerated people crossing their beachfront property. 

Now, however, the coast has filled up. Property owners are much more inclined to seek to exclude an ever-growing population of beachgoers seeking access to less and less beach.

On most U.S. shorelines, the public has a time-honored right to “lateral” access. This means that people can move down the beach along the wet sand between high and low tide – a zone that usually is publicly owned. Waterfront property owners’ control typically stops at the high tide line or, in a very few cases, the low tide line.

But as climate change raises sea levels, property owners are trying to harden their shorelines with sea walls and other types of armoring, squeezing the sandy beach and the public into a shrinking and diminished space.

As director of the Conservation Clinic at the University of Florida College of Law and the Florida Sea Grant Legal Program, and as someone who grew up with sand between my toes, I have studied beach law and policy for most of my career. 

In my view, the collision between rising seas and coastal development – known as “coastal squeeze” – now represents an existential threat to beaches, and to the public’s ability to reach them.



By Pat Bagley

Anti-vaxxer "logic"


The Trumplican plague: two articles

Two articles look at the gap between the vaxxed and the unvaxxed. One looks at demographics, the other uses polling data 

PART ONE: US is split between the vaccinated and unvaccinated – and deaths and hospitalizations reflect this divide

As coronavirus cases surge, unvaccinated people are accounting for nearly
all hospitalizations and deaths. Fat Camera/E+ via Getty Images
In recent weeks, one piece of data has gotten a lot of attention: 99.5% of all the people dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. are unvaccinated.

We are two researchers who work in public health and study immunity, viruses and other microbes. 

Since the start of the pandemic, public health experts have been concerned about what might happen if large sections of the U.S. population, for whatever reason, did not get vaccinated. 

Over the past few weeks, the answer to that question is starting to emerge.

In early July, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned of ‘two Americas’ emerging.

Timing matters for protein intake

Championing chrononutrition with protein, the morning elixir for muscle growth

Waseda University

Proteins constitute an essential dietary component that help in the growth and repair of the body. Composed of long chains of amino acids, proteins promote the growth of skeletal muscles, the group of muscles that help us move. 

Humans have been aware of the benefits of proteins for long. However, recent studies have shown that having the right amount of protein at the right time of the day is essential for proper growth. This is called 'Chrononutrition,' in which when you eat is as important as what and how you eat.

The reason behind this is the body's internal biological clock, called the 'circadian rhythm.' This rhythm is followed by all cells and controls life functions like metabolism and growth. Interestingly, protein digestion and absorption have been found to fluctuate across day and night according to this clock. 

Moreover, earlier studies have reported that intake of protein at breakfast and lunch promotes skeletal muscle growth in adults. However, details on the effect of the time of protein intake on muscle growth and function have remained elusive till date.

Fortunately, researchers from Waseda University, led by Professor Shigenobu Shibata, recently endeavored to understand the effect of the distribution of protein intake through the day on muscles.

‘Scabby the Rat Is a Really Big Cheese’

Biden-appointed NLRB rules can use giant inflatable rate at protests


Here's Scabby on the picket line during the 2013 strike at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, Westerly Hospital's owner at the time. Photo by Will Collette

President Joe Biden can start saying, “I’m the guy who saved Scabby The Rat,” now that the National Labor Relations Board  has shot down right-wing efforts to permanently deflate one of organized labor’s most valuable tools. 

On Wednesday, the NLRB — led by Biden-appointed Lauren McFerran — issued a 3-1 decision upholding the right of unions to deploy the large balloon in ongoing labor disputes.

Biden fired former NLRB head Peter Robb on his first day in office and subsequently replaced him with McFerran. Robb, the infamous union-busting lawyer who helped President Ronald Reagan crush the air traffic controllers’ union in 1981, was a Donald Trump darling who had long harbored a deep-seated hatred toward Scabby The Rat. Robb was itching to eradicate him as soon as possible.

With Robb at the NLRB’s helm, emboldened anti-worker business owners around the country soon stepped up their efforts to keep Scabby the Rat caged and far away from their doorsteps. 

Scabby references the word scab,  a derogatory name for a  strike-breaker.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Amazon's Relentless Surveillance Must Be Stopped

Amazon monopolizes markets, crushes rivals, and extracts as much data as possible from unsuspecting consumers and 3rd-party vendors.


Last week, Bloomberg News reported that Amazon planned to release an Alexa-enabled tracking device for children.

This latest revelation—which isn't Amazon's first attempt at targeting children with tracking-like devices—comes as no surprise from a corporation that has made surveillance a critical part of its business model.

As Amazon continues its relentless crusade to monopolize markets, crush rivals, and extract as much data as possible from unsuspecting consumers and third-party merchants, Congress and federal law enforcers must step up to restructure the corporation and prevent it from using these harmful practices.

new report by the Open Markets Institute (where I am employed) details how.

As of June 2021, Amazon has 6.2 million sellers and 1.6 million active sellers, making it the world's largest e-commerce platform. Amazon also has near-absolute dominance across a range of markets, including almost 50% market share in e-commerce, 90% in e-books, and 32% in cloud computing.

Critically, in these markets, Amazon acts as an intermediary between separate user groups—such as between customer and merchant on its Marketplace e-commerce platform.

By virtue of its market position, Amazon possesses an extraordinary amount of control to structure the relationship between the parties and their relationships with Amazon. The corporation can employ tactics that allow it to radically extend its surveillance infrastructure and fortify its dominance.

Natural selection

By Pat BagleySalt Lake Tribune


Voter polling shows support for Biden jobs and environment plan


Richmond’s Beaver River is now no-kill “catch and release” only

New Freshwater Fishing Regulations Take Effect July 31

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that new Rhode Island Freshwater Fishing Rules and Regulations (Title 250, Chapter 60. Part 10) will take effect statewide on Saturday, July 31. Two changes pertain to the Beaver River, as follows:

• Section 10-6.1-16: The Beaver River in Richmond is now designated as a no kill, "catch-and-release only" area. This includes the portion from the confluence of the Beaver River and the Pawcatuck River, located downstream of Shannock Hill Road, Richmond, upstream to New London Turnpike, Richmond. Fishing is permitted with artificial lures equipped with a single barbless hook or single barbed hook that has been crimped, and all fish caught shall be returned to the water immediately. The possession of any trout, salmon, or charr while fishing in this section of the river shall be primary evidence that said trout, salmon, or charr was taken in violation of these Rules and Regulations.

• Section 10.6.1-17: The Beaver River has been removed from the trout stocking list; it will no longer be stocked with hatchery-raised trout.

The Beaver River is home to a robust population of wild brook trout. Brook trout are listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the 2015 Rhode Island Wildlife Action Plan. 

Continuous work by DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife focuses on documenting the distribution of brook trout across Rhode Island and implementing management actions to improve populations. The Town of Richmond's recent Beaver River Watershed Assessment report identifies the Beaver River as a priority area for habitat conservation for wild brook trout, including altering trout stocking practices.

ISS flyover tonight at 8:39 PM

Space Station fly-over of Charlestown tonight 
By Will Collette

NASA space nasa earth nasagif GIF

For the first time in a while, we are getting a nice six-minute International Space Station flyover and a "mostly clear" sky at the same time. I have not posted notices when the weather forecast was poor even though we have had several 6 and 7 minute maximum length overflights. 

Normally, I make some remark that celestial mechanics that makes overflight times and locations something you can count on. 

However, there was a mishap yesterday when a new Russian module docked with the station and then somehow, its booster rockets ignited, pushing the station out of position. The crew managed to regain control after a hectic one hour of trouble.

The incident is still under investigation and the crew has been looking to see if there was any damage (none reported so far).

NASA has indefinitely postponed the launch of Boeing's new un-crewed Starliner capsule which was supposed to head up to the ISS.

Anyway, for the first time in the 10 years I have been posting notice of Charlestown overflights, I am not 100% sure how precise this NASA e-mail is:

Time: Fri Jul 30 9:03 PM, Visible: 6 min, Max Height: 48°, Appears: 10° above NW, Disappears: 14° above ESE 

COVID breakthrough infections explained

What is a is breakthrough infection? How common? How bad? 

Sanjay MishraVanderbilt University

Vaccines don’t ward off every single infection but they do massively
lower the risk. Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
If you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, maybe you figured you no longer need to worry about contracting the coronavirus. 

But along with the rising number of new COVID-19 cases globally and growing concern about highly transmissible strains like the delta variant come reports of fully vaccinated people testing positive for COVID-19.

Members of the New York Yankees, U.S. Olympic gymnast Kara Eaker and U.K. health secretary Sajid Javid are some of those diagnosed with what is called a “breakthrough infection.”

As scary as the term may sound, the bottom line is that the existing COVID-19 vaccines are still very good at preventing symptomatic infections, and breakthrough infections happen very rarely. But just how common and how dangerous are they? Here’s a guide to what you need to know.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Dan McKee drains the swamp, but not in a good way

McKee's chief of staff gets DEM approval to develop wetlands area, despite town objection

DEM Gives Governor’s Chief of Staff Go-Ahead to Develop Wetlands in Flood-Prone Cumberland Neighborhood

By BRIAN P. D. HANNON/ecoRI News staff 

This piece of property on Canning Street in Cumberland, R.I., contains freshwater wetlands, and the town has objected to its proposed development. (Brian P. D. Hannon/ecoRI News)

State environmental officials have given a green light to a planning proposal by the governor’s chief of staff to develop a small piece of suburban property located on freshwater wetlands.

Tony Silva, McKee's chief of staff (Valley Breeze)
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) approved the development at 45 Canning St. by Tony Silva, chief of staff to Gov. Dan McKee, in a decision issued in early June.

Wedged between two adjacent homes and mowed lawns on the quiet street, the slice of property is overgrown with trees covering the view of the wetland surface beneath.

When Cumberland officials were first made aware that the project was being considered by DEM, the town’s planning director, Jonathan Stevens, wrote in a Nov. 22, 2019 letter to the state agency that the applicant proposes a wetland disturbance of at least 5,196 square feet, or 93 percent of the entire 5,600-square-foot lot.

“The proposed ratio of disturbance to lot size is extremely excessive and unreasonable,” Stevens wrote.

The planning director also noted the chronic flooding problems that plague this section of Canning Street. “Displacing this wetland with additional impervious surfaces stands to adversely affect downstream residential properties,” he wrote.

At the end of his letter, Stevens requested that DEM deny the application, “as granting approval will not be in the best public interest.”

In another letter to DEM five months later, Stevens noted none of the amendments to the revised application justifies the town changing its objection to the project. “The application still proposes to disturb an astonishing 93% of existing wetlands on the lot,” he wrote.

“The proposed drainage swale channel in conjunction with the pipe replacement only benefits the owner of the lot in question, whose water-saturated lot would be drained and made potentially buildable,” Stevens wrote in the April 17 letter

“The additional stormwater conveyance efficiency would have a negligible beneficial effect on the stormwater ponding and potential flooding at this Canning Street location, and an inordinately adverse impact on the adjacent lot receiving the stormwater flows at higher rate.”

It's not too much to ask


If we don't teach it, it never happened


Soft skin patch could provide early warning for strokes, heart attacks

This wearable tech could save your life

University of California - San Diego

Engineers at the University of California San Diego developed a soft and stretchy ultrasound patch that can be worn on the skin to monitor blood flow through major arteries and veins deep inside a person's body.

Knowing how fast and how much blood flows through a patient's blood vessels is important because it can help clinicians diagnose various cardiovascular conditions, including blood clots; heart valve problems; poor circulation in the limbs; or blockages in the arteries that could lead to strokes or heart attacks.

The new ultrasound patch developed at UC San Diego can continuously monitor blood flow -- as well as blood pressure and heart function -- in real time. Wearing such a device could make it easier to identify cardiovascular problems early on.

A team led by Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, reported the patch in a paper published July 16 in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

The patch can be worn on the neck or chest. What's special about the patch is that it can sense and measure cardiovascular signals as deep as 14 centimeters inside the body in a non-invasive manner. And it can do so with high accuracy.

"This type of wearable device can give you a more comprehensive, more accurate picture of what's going on in deep tissues and critical organs like the heart and the brain, all from the surface of the skin," said Xu.

Rhode Island's COVID rate of transmission shows a big one-day jump

Yesterday, Rhode Island's infection rate per 100,000 was 65.8., earning us a "Substantial Transmission" rating. 

Today, that rate jumped to 76.3 per 100,000. That's a one day increase of 16%. At this rate, by next week, we'll be over 100 per 100,000 and bumped up to the Red Zone of "High Transmission."

We are still testing an a ridiculously low rate compared to earlier in the pandemic, so the actual infections are almost certainly much higher. Despite these alarming developments, our accidental Governor Dan McKee is closing six more COVID test sites, effective Saturday.

While McKee is "urging" people to mask up again, he once again balked at any thought of a return to mandates. He seems more afraid of upsetting his precious small businesses than he is of a resurgence of the pandemic - which will certainly not be a good thing for small business or anyone else.


The science behind the return to mask wearing

Here’s why the CDC recommends wearing masks indoors even if you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Signs like this may become more common as localities consider CDC
guidelines. Mario Tama/Getty Images
Vaccinated people need to mask up again, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On July 27, 2021, the CDC recommended that everyone in areas with high COVID-19 infection rates wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

It’s a reversal from the CDC’s May 2021 advice that the fully vaccinated could leave their masks at home and brought U.S. guidelines more in line with World Health Organization recommendations.

The Conversation asked Peter Chin-Hong, a physician who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, to help put into context the science behind the changing messages.

What science supports masking after vaccination?

Masks help stop the spread of the coronavirus. They’re a literal layer between you and any virus in the air and can help prevent infection.

The reason public health officials are calling for more mask-wearing is that there is clear and mounting evidence that – though rarebreakthrough COVID-19 infections can occur in people who are fully vaccinated. This is particularly true with emerging variants of concern. The good news is that COVID-19 infection, if it does happen, is much less likely to lead to serious illness or death in vaccinated people.

Some conditions make a breakthrough infection more likely in a vaccinated person: more virus circulating in the community, lower vaccination rates and more highly transmissible variants.

If vaccinated people can get infected with the coronavirus, they can also spread it. Hence the CDC recommendation that vaccinated people remain masked in indoor public spaces to help stop viral transmission.

Where will the guidelines apply?

The CDC mask recommendation targets areas in the U.S. with more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents or that had more than 8% of tests come back positive during the previous week. By the CDC’s own definitions “substantial” community transmission is 50 to 99 cases of infection per 100,000 people per week, and “high” is 100 or more.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As of July 289, Rhode Island reached an infection rate of almost 66 75.3 per 100,000 well above the threshold for masking up. Our accidental Governor Dan McKee is still taking a wait-and-see attitude. - Will Collette

COVID financial relief funds worked

One of America’s deepest downturns was also its shortest after bailout-driven bounceback

Jay L. ZagorskyBoston University

The U.S. economy bounced back in record time. 
Ambre Haller/Moment via Getty Images
EDITOR'S NOTE: To see how pandemic relief money directly affected Charlestown, CLICK HERE. - Will Collette

Thanks to a roaring economy, plunging joblessness and a consumer spending spree, it probably won’t come as a surprise that the COVID-19 recession is officially over.

We didn’t know this, formally, however, until July 19, 2021, when a group of America’s top economists determined that the pandemic recession ended two months after it began, making it the shortest downturn on record.

As an economist who has written a macroeconomics textbook, I was eagerly waiting to know the official dates. 

This is in part because I recently asked my Boston University MBA students to make guesses, and we all wanted to know who was closest to the mark. While many of my students ended up nailing it, I was off by a month.

But why did it take over a year to learn the recession ended?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

CDC urges ALL to wear masks indoors

Rising infection rates and dominance of Delta variant prompt CDC change

JULIA CONLEY for Common Dreams

RI Health Department COVID Data Tracker
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rhode Island's numbers are pretty awful. See the data to the left. We have now gone up to the "SUBSTANTIAL" transmission level, one level below the highest. 

 in parts of the country with low vaccination rates and growing concerns over the highly transmissible Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday announced new guidance saying people in the U.S. who are fully vaccinated should wear face masks in indoor public places in certain parts of the country and that indoor masks will be recommended in school settings in the fall.

The CDC cited emerging information about the Delta variant's ability to spread among vaccinated people, with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky saying that unlike earlier variants of the virus, a vaccinated person infected with the Delta variant has levels of the virus that are "indistinguishable" from those in unvaccinated people who are infected.

“This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendation," Walensky said of the new, unpublished data, which the CDC gathered in recent days from 100 samples. "It is concerning enough that we feel like we have to act."

In addition to advising teachers, school staff, students, and visitors to schools to wear masks inside regardless of vaccination status, the CDC recommended that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public spaces if they have young children who can't be vaccinated or household members who are immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable.

The new guidelines come two months after the CDC said that vaccinated people could go without masks in both indoor and outdoor settings, launching an effort by the Biden administration to incentivize vaccinations by suggesting they were the key to "getting everything back to normal."

"The rule is very simple: Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. It’s vax’ed or masked," President Joe Biden said in May during a celebratory event at the White House, the tone and message of which drew alarm from some public health experts.

National Nurses United—the country's largest nurses union—was among those that denounced the CDC's claim that vaccinated people could safely go unmasked in all public places, saying the pandemic was "far from over" and noting that the same week the earlier guidance was released, the CDC had reported a 16% increase in daily new cases over the previous week.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that confirmed coronavirus infections have quadrupled nationwide since the beginning of July. Officials recorded about 13,000 cases per day at the start of the month and are now recording about 54,000 per day. Less than half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated.

The CDC's new guidance came a day after officials in New York City and California announced that public employees will be required to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing; California's mandate applies to public- and private-sector healthcare workers as well.

The White House also said Monday that it will continue restricting the entry of travelers from Europe, while the CDC urged Americans to avoid traveling to Spain and Portugal, which have seen Covid-19 cases rise by 74% and 18%, respectively, in the last two weeks.

The CDC's new guidance was applauded Tuesday by public health experts, some of whom had expressed concern about the loosening of guidelines in May.

"About damn time," Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist at the Federation of American Scientists, tweeted, adding: "Glad [the CDC] reversed course. But I worry it might be harder for compliance now than if we kept masks in place in May."

Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician in Boston, rejected some news outlets' reporting that the CDC had "backtracked" on its earlier guidance, in which unvaccinated people were advised to continue masking in public settings.


 The call for people to continue masking regardless of vaccination status "is key," said CNN medical analyst Leana Wen, "as [the] honor system does not work."

Luis Schang, a virologist at Cornell University, emphasized that despite the new data about the Delta variant's viral load, vaccines are still shown to be effective at preventing the worst outcomes of the disease and that vaccination rates are rising. 

"It's not a permanent thing. That's an important thing to highlight," Schang told the Post. "This is not something we have to do for years. This is weeks, perhaps a couple of months."

Walensky also said the mask guidance is meant to be a "temporary measure."

"What we really need to do to drive down these transmissions in the areas of high transmission is to get more and more people vaccinated and in the meantime, to use masks," the CDC director said.

What does Trump and the Confederacy have in common?


The Idiot's Guide To The Jan. 6 Insurrection


Unhealthy haze from western wildfires may continue for a while

Wildfire Smoke in New England Is “Pretty Severe from Public Health Perspective”

KAT J. MCALPINE in Boston University's The Brink

Credit: Emily ChafWayland Student Press
On Monday, the air quality in Boston and the greater New England area was so bad that it was only rivaled by the areas in Northern California and Oregon currently on fire. 

An interactive map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed how smoke from the wildfires out west were being carried across the continental US by winds and the jet stream. 

In response to the blanket of smoke engulfing the commonwealth’s skies, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued an air quality alert.

Around Boston, people reported not only seeing a film of smoke in the skies, but also smelling the scent of wood burning. Firefighters across the state fielded calls from concerned residents who worried that a fire was burning nearby. This is the second time in the last two weeks that smoke from the western forest fires has been carried to New England—but the smoke was markedly thicker and more pungent this time around. 

With scientists predicting that our climate will continue to get hotter and drier, exacerbating normal patterns of forest fires, The Brink reached out to Boston University environmental earth scientist Mark Friedl for help understanding what these changes mean for our planet and for human health. 

Friedl, an expert in using NASA satellite imaging to interpret large-scale environmental trends, recently published new research findings indicating that forest fires in Earth’s northernmost forests could accelerate climate change—potentially locking the planet in a feedback loop where drier climate causes more fires and those fires, in turn, speed up global warming. 

“Fires are intensifying, and when forests burn, carbon is released into the atmosphere,” Friedl says about those findings.

For some craft beer drinkers, less can mean more

A cold beer (or whatever) on a hot day

Colleen C. MylesTexas State University

For years, the market was inundated with heavy IPAs. Now drinkers
are starting to push back. Bruce Milton Miller/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
My prepandemic summers were always packed with travel – trips to Europe for work and play, and, most recently, a road trip across the American West. 

At the end of a sweltering day of activities, I’d routinely wind down with some social drinking.

In recent years, though, I started to notice a shift. Beer lists had grown to include more and more low-alcohol options.

Whether I was in Braunschweig, Germany, a suburb of Salt Lake City, or at home in Central Texas, I found myself no longer forced to choose between the likes of Stella Artois or Miller Lite if I wanted something that wouldn’t put me under the table. 

Now I could expect to find a bevy of local or national options with an alcohol by volume, or ABV, in the 4% to 5% range – below the 5.9% average of a craft beer and well below the 7% India pale ales that had been flooding the market.

I even started seeing more nonalcoholic beers like Heineken 0.0, which was first released in Europe in 2017 and then in the U.S. in 2019.

It seemed to me that low- and no-alcohol beers were becoming much more popular, but I wasn’t sure. So like a good scholar, I decided to look to the data to find an answer.

In a recent study I conducted with my colleagues at Texas State University, we looked at industry literature and social media mentions, popular media articles and changes to alcohol regulations. We found that there is, in fact, a growing interest in consuming – and improved technology for producing – beer with less alcohol.


COVID-19 could cause male infertility and sexual dysfunction – but vaccines do not

Ranjith RamasamyUniversity of Miami

New research has found that some men who have had COVID-19
might experience unwanted sexual side effects. 
tuaindeed/iStock via Getty Images
Contrary to myths circulating on social media, COVID-19 vaccines do not cause erectile dysfunction and male infertility.

What is true: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, poses a risk for both disorders.

Until now, little research has been done on how the virus or the vaccines affect the male reproductive system. 

But recent investigations by physicians and researchers here at the University of Miami have shed new light on these questions.

The team, which includes me, has discovered potentially far-reaching implications for men of all ages – including younger and middle-aged men who want to have children.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Ruth Platner goes off the rails

Tries to stir outrage over imaginary threat

By Will Collette

In 2016-17, just about everyone in Charlestown (including me) opposed a proposal by AMTRAK to build a new rail bed between Old Saybrook, CT and Kenyon for high-speed trains across the top of Charlestown. The new route would have wreaked havoc on farms, historic and tribal sites, nature preserves and homes.

Resistance actually started in Connecticut. Charlestown joined in late because the ruling Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) ignored prior notices – as then Council President Tom Gentz put it “Who has time to wade through that?”

However much we hated that plan, from the start, it had almost zero chance of actually being carried out since (a) Donald Trump had not approved it and (b) was unlikely to support any project that helped northeastern Blue states that voted against him in 2016, plus (c) the Republican-controlled Congress didn’t fund the plan.

AMTRAK beat a retreat claiming they needed to re-think the project and the so-called “Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass,” the one that would have run through us, was taken off the table in a BINDING Record of Decision.

But now it’s 2021. Trump is gone. Democrats control the Congress. President Joe Biden LOVES trains and a major infrastructure project like upgrading rail service along the Northeast Corridor makes more sense than ever for jobs and for its very positive carbon footprint.

So naturally, Charlestown’s Planning Commissar Ruth Platner is sounding the alarm: “THEY’RE BACK?” as she put it as if AMTRAK bulldozers were about to break ground for the decisively defeated Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass. You can read her rants HERE and HERE.

However, there is NO EVIDENCE that AMTRAK plans to resurrect the Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass. According to Ruth’s only source, the on-line Connecticut Examiner, AMTRAK wants to connect Providence to Hartford with high-speed rail.

That's true, but not the way Ruth thinks it is. In fact, AMTRAK already has a route to make the high-speed rail connection between Hartford and Providence that doesn’t come anywhere near Charlestown, called North Atlantic Rail. Here’s the map:

Read more about this plan in EcoRI’s February 5, 2021 article HERE noting explicitly that this plan doesn't come anywhere close to Charlestown.

But Ruth is shook up over another map (BELOW) that ran with the Connecticut Examiner article. That map shows the general location of the gap between New Haven and Providence but DOES NOT indicate any threat to Charlestown.

I read that same article even before Ruth started ranting about it and had entirely different takeaways.

CT Examiner graphic

For example, the article accurately notes that AMTRAK eventually dropped the Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass, and the widening of the rail corridor near Guilford from a binding record of decision released on July 12, 2017.” Note the term binding.

Nothing in the article says or implies that AMTRAK intends to set aside that BINDING decision, but that’s not what Ruth Platner would have you believe.

In fact, the article largely focuses on AMTRAK’s announced plans to upgrade the other sections of the Northeast Corridor especially in Hartford.  

The article quotes a 2017 Connecticut Mirror article that said:

“At the time, Rebecca Reyes-Alicia, who managed the federal project for FRA, told Ana Radelat, a reporter for CT Mirror, “there was no consensus” for the proposed bypass through southeastern Connecticut. Reyes-Alicea said there would be instead a later “healthy” process for finalizing a route between New Haven and Providence. That process would still require any solution to meet the overall goals for service and time savings between Providence and New Haven and would consider on-corridor and off-corridor solutions.”

But apparently Ruth missed the date of the article and thought this was AMTRAK’s current plan so she sounded the alarm thinking there is an imminent threat – which there is not.

The article only mentions one new action that may have some bearing on us and that’s “two studies: a ‘New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study,’ and a ‘New Haven to New Rochelle NEC Capacity and Trip Time Planning Study’ at some unspecified time. A "capacity planning study" does not mean we need to grab the pitchforks and picket signs.

Note that the North Atlantic Rail plan (map above) covers high-speed rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Providence coming nowhere near us.

Why is Ruth trying to start a panic?

One theory is that Ruth is using the CCA Party’s tried-and-true technique of creating boogeymen to scare Charlestown voters into believing that only the CCA can save Charlestown from Armageddon.

Or perhaps she’s trying to skew people’s answers to the survey currently in the hands of every Charlestown household. For the most part, that survey tests how much residents approve of the status quo and how much they hate a long, long list of threats. REMINDER: please fill your survey and send it in.

Whether Ruth is playing the long con or just going for a cheap thrill, it does seem like we will be hearing a lot more about some of threats the CCA wants us all to fear.

For example, the CCA is currently featuring a talk on the 1973 attempt to turn the decommissioned Ninigret Naval air field into a nuclear power plant at the Quonnie Grange.

That battle was before my 2002 arrival as a Charlestown resident, but I’ve talked to veterans of that fight who still remember the town’s unity of purpose. Instead of a power plant, the Navy base became Ninigret Park and the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.

It's always something
It’s good to remember history – this 50 year old campaign was one for the ages. The CCA concedes that Nuclear power seems highly unlikely to be proposed again for coastal Charlestown” but History is more likely to be repeated if it is allowed to be forgotten.”

Next up, I expect Ruth to resurrect the mythic threat of a Narraganset tribal casino in Charlestown now that the US Department of Interior is run by Deb Haaland, a Native American of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.

For more than a decade, Charlestown politics have been fueled by fear and bullshit. If it’s not a stampeding herd of developers, it’s AMTRAK. If not AMTRAK, it’s nukes or the Indians or chain stores or wind turbines or shiny lights or improperly trimmed shrubbery.

Or it’s getting dates wrong and mistaking 2017 for 2021.