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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

We need a fair food policy

History Shows U.S. Food System Leaves Behind People of Color

By CAITLIN FAULDS/ecoRI News staff

Access to healthy, local food can be limited for people of color, many of whom live in food deserts. (istock)

Summer Gonsalves knows the ins and outs of the U.S. food system, and she knows exactly who it leaves behind.

In an online workshop hosted by the Providence-based Southside Community Land Trust on Aug. 6, Gonsalves dug into the social and environmental factors that limit food access from seed and soil to the supermarket shelf. The U.S. food system, she said, has purposefully and unfailingly disconnected people of color from nutritious and affordable foods.

“Racism is an underlying factor in the history of agriculture and food access in the United States,” said Gonsalves, a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe and co-leader with the Brown University Superfund Research Program. “It began with the taking of lands from Indigenous people primarily for the creation of farms. It continued with the enslavement of Indigenous and African peoples used as free laborers to work the farms.”

Teaching them a lesson


Have you heard?


Healthy mind, healthy brain

Mindfulness May Provide Small But Significant Benefits to Cognition

By Science News Staff / Source

While mindfulness is typically geared towards improving mental health and wellbeing, it may also provide additional benefits to brain health, according to a new systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Neuropsychology Review. 

“The positive effects of mindfulness-based programs on mental health are already relatively well-established,” said Tim Whitfield, a Ph.D. student in the Division of Psychiatry at University College London.

“Here, our findings suggest that a small benefit is also conferred to cognition, at least among older adults.”

Whitfield and colleagues reviewed previously published studies of mindfulness, and identified 45 studies that fit their criteria, which incorporated a total of 2,238 study participants.

Each study tested the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention delivered by a facilitator in a group setting, over at least four sessions, while excluding mindfulness retreats in order to have a more homogenous set of studies.

The majority of studies involved a certified instructor teaching participants techniques such as sitting meditation, mindful movement and body scan, generally on a weekly basis across six to 12 weeks, while also asking participants to continue the practices in their own time.

The researchers found that overall, mindfulness conferred a small but significant benefit to cognition.

Can isometric resistance training safely reduce high blood pressure?

Squeeze and save your life

University of New South Wales

When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? High blood pressure affects 1.13 billion people around the globe and in 2019, it accounted for 10.8 million deaths. 

Worldwide, it's the leading risk factor for mortality. More than a third of the Australian population over the age of 18 has high blood pressure, yet it's estimated 50 per cent of Australians don't realise they're living with it.

As high blood pressure puts you at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke (cardiovascular disease), it's important to keep track of your blood pressure. People over the age of 18 are advised to have a blood pressure check at least every two years.

Given the impact of this global health challenge, there is a clear need for strategies to reduce the prevalence and severity of high blood pressure, and exercise is one such strategy. 

While aerobic and dynamic resistance exercise appear effective at reducing blood pressure, a new study led by UNSW Medicine & Health researchers has revealed isometric resistance training (IRT) as an emerging mode of exercise demonstrating effectiveness in reducing office blood pressure. Office blood pressure refers to your pressure when taken during a GP visit, for example. It is taken at one time-period, usually when you're sitting down.

Tick bites: Every year is a bad tick year

Ticks. Don't you just hate them?

Jory BrinkerhoffUniversity of Richmond

Black-legged ticks carry Lyme disease, which continues to
spread widely across the United States. CDC/Michael Levin
It’s summer, a time to hike, garden, vacation – and to be on the lookout for ticks.

From Lyme disease to lesser-known illnesses like Heartland virus disease, ehrlichiosis and Colorado tick fever, tick-borne disease cases are increasing rapidly in the United States.

In 2017, 59,349 cases were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an all-time high. 

Yet, this represents just a fraction of infections because those who don’t exhibit symptoms or fail to seek treatment remain uncounted.

A recent report estimated nearly a half-million Lyme disease cases per year in the U.S., with numbers more than doubling from 2004 to 2016.

As a biologist who studies tick-borne disease, I am asked each spring and summer whether it will be a bad year for ticks. The answer: It is never a good year for ticks. There may be relatively few of certain species and many of other types. 

Different species of ticks live in different environments. Many factors influence numbers, from dwindling biodiversity and ecological change to the changing climate. But every year, the time to be most vigilant is early spring through late fall.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Pandemic's clearest revelation

Medicare-For-All Will Stop Political Bosses from Playing Games with Deadly Diseases

By Thom Hartmann, Independent Media Institute

It has to be a scurrilous lie.  Seriously: nobody is that evil.

Although it is the sort of thing that we’ve come to expect because our unique-in-the-world, for-profit health insurance system leaves Americans financially vulnerable to sickness but offers huge profits to companies and CEOs in the system.

Some cynical people are suggesting that the reason Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is forcing teachers and children to sit for hours every day in classrooms with unmasked children is because he wants them all to get infected with Covid…to make money for a friend of his.

Seriously.  There’s that theory out there, and it’s almost too evil to believe it could be true. 

That DeSantis is intentionally trying to expose children, families and public-school teachers to a deadly disease simply because it’ll make a few million extra dollars for his largest donor, billionaire Ken Griffin, whose fund is one of the biggest stockholders in the company that makes the only available monoclonal antibody drug approved to treat Covid.

And, of course, it might also take out a few hundred unionized teachers, a bonus in any Republican’s book.

But it can’t be true that DeSantis is spreading disease just to goose healthcare profits, can it?

After all, when the federal government offered to give Florida billions of dollars to expand their Medicaid program to provide free healthcare for the state’s working poor, Governor Rick Scott and later Governor DeSantis said a firm “no.”

Even though all that money coming into the state to pay for healthcare could have goosed up the profits of any number of hospitals and health operations Griffin could invest in, DeSantis still refused to expand Medicaid statewide. (He did eventually sign an expansion of Medicaid for new moms, but it’s a pittance and arguably a shout-out to the forced-birth crowd.)

Far more likely is that DeSantis just wants to win the Republican primary for president in 2024 and thinks having the Trump “base” and Fox “News” on his side will get him there. 

Just say "Neigh"

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.


RIP Ed Asner, actor, activist and trade unionist

Not just a comic actor, Asner narrates this video made for the California teachers' union


Being chased, losing your teeth or falling down?

What science says about recurring dreams

In some cases, recurring dreams that emerge during childhood
can even persist into adulthood. (Shutterstock)
Having the same dream again and again is a well-known phenomenon — nearly two-thirds of the population report having recurring dreams. 

Being chased, finding yourself naked in a public place or in the middle of a natural disaster, losing your teeth or forgetting to go to class for an entire semester are typical recurring scenarios in these dreams.

But where does the phenomenon come from? The science of dreams shows that recurring dreams may reflect unresolved conflicts in the dreamer’s life.

Recurring dreams often occur during times of stress, or over long periods of time, sometimes several years or even a lifetime. Not only do these dreams have the same themes, they can also repeat the same narrative night after night.

Although the exact content of recurring dreams is unique to every individual, there are common themes among individuals and even among cultures and in different periods. For example, being chased, falling, being unprepared for an exam, arriving late or trying to do something repeatedly are among the most prevalent scenarios.

The superiority of squid

Unlike Humans, Cuttlefish Retain Sharp Memory of Specific Events in Old Age


The common cuttlefish is one of the largest and best-known cuttlefish species. Credit: © Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 4.0

Cuttlefish can remember what, where, and when specific events happened – right up to their last few days of life, researchers have found. The results, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, are the first evidence of an animal whose memory of specific events does not deteriorate with age.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, Mass., and the University of Caen, France, conducted memory tests with 24 common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis. Half of them were 10-12 months old – not-quite adult, and the other half were 22-24 months old – equivalent to humans in their 90s.

Making the unvaccinated pay?

Can health insurance companies charge the unvaccinated higher premiums? What about life insurers?

Laws restrict the ways insurers can use vaccination status to affect
coverage or premiums. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
The current COVID-19 wave in the U.S. is mostly affecting unvaccinated Americans, who represent more than 95% of current cases of hospitalization and death.

Given the average cost of a COVID-19 hospitalization in 2020 ran about US$42,200 per patient, will the unvaccinated be asked to bear more of the cost of treatment, in terms of insurance, as well?

We asked economists Kosali Simon and Sharon Tennyson to explain the rules governing how health and life insurers can discriminate among customers based on vaccination status and other health-related reasons.

1. Can insurers charge the unvaccinated more?

This is a really interesting question and depends on the type of insurance.

Life insurance companies have the freedom to charge different premiums based on risk factors that predict mortality. Purchasing a life insurance policy often entails a health status check or medical exam, and asking for vaccination status is not banned.

Health insurers are a different story. A slew of state and federal regulations in the last three decades have heavily restricted their ability to use health factors in issuing or pricing polices. In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act began prohibiting the use of health status in any group health insurance policy. And the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2014, prevents insurers from pricing plans according to health – with one exception: smoking status.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Rhode Island COVID outlook looks grim

Several hundred more deaths if McKee does nothing

By Will Collette

The most important good news about the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have safe, effective and free vaccines that are remarkably effective at preventing infection, serious illness and, most important of all, death. 

The majority of Rhode Islanders have been vaccinated.

You even get a free card showing you have gotten the shots. 

As Delta variant infections rise, you can use that card to get into venues that require them.

The bad news that there are people who would rather spend up to $1,500 to buy a counterfeit vaccine card, rather than get the shots and the card for free. 

Some are buying out stocks of veterinary drugs like horse de-wormer ivermectin - $80 or more per 20 tablets, if you can get it.

And if you can get yourself some ivermectin, you might also get yourself a trip to the emergency room – already crowded with COVID cases among other unvaccinated fools or an embarrassing moment in Wal-Mart when one of ivermectin’s side effects, uncontrollable diarrhea, kicks in.

Current fad treatment for Trumplicans
Ivermectin joins bleach and hydroxychloroquine as dangerous fake COVID remedies being pushed by Trumplicans, right-wing media and nuts on social media rather than simple, safe and effective vaccines.

What a world! So we are now experiencing another surge rivalling last winter’s horror show. Nearly a thousand people are dying each and every day.

 They do not have to die if we would all just get the shots, wear masks and stop acting like Covidiots.

While much of the madness is concentrated in the Deep South and Midwestern Red states, we have our fair share in Rhode Island. 

Just under 200,000 Rhode Islanders have still not gotten their shots. Our chicken shit Gov. Dan McKee still doesn’t have the guts to order actions to lower our high rate of infection from its current 182.7 per 100,000 back to 12 per 100,000 where it was on the Fourth of July.

Dan McKee looking for a fight
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington projects that by December 1, if nothing changes, Rhode Island’s death toll will rise to 3,135 from its current 2,765. That’s 360 deaths.

If our accidental Governor would use his emergency powers to direct universal masking, the IHME projected death toll would drop to 2,892 or about two-thirds less deaths than simply maintaining the status quo.

It is NOT enough for McKee to belatedly and reluctantly mandate masks in schools and state buildings. It's not acceptable that he resisted, kicking and screaming, demands that he do more.

McKee has finally ordered all health care workers to be fully vaccinated by October 1. But he should have done that months ago. In my opinion, any health care worker who fails to take a life-saving vaccine has forfeited the right to be a health care worker.

McKee could and should mandate that all public employees be vaccinated. It’s good that he’s encouraging private businesses to mandate vaccination (many are doing that on their own), but the state should lead by example.

Let’s talk about rights

The COVID-19 pandemic became a political football almost immediately after it began to spread in the United States. 

Donald Trump led the chorus of those who wanted to blame China, pretend it was no big deal – no worse than the flu, was going to go away quickly and could be defeated by a variety of unproven remedies. Don’t trust scientists, doctors, the CDC, Dr. Fauci, public health experts but do trust Trump and Fox News.

Locally, we have state Reps. Blake “Flip” Filippi and Justin Price as well as Sen. Elaine Morgan variously condemning masks, vaccine mandates, science and common sense. 

Flip and his unmasked Trumplican cohorts
Flip is outraged that McKee continues to renew the pandemic emergency declaration and wants a full debate in the General Assembly so his Trumplican yahoos can showcase their ignorance.

Flip, who fancies himself as a Constitutional scholar, thinks his positions are grounded in well-established legal principles.

Except he’s wrong.

From Biblical times to the present, society has consistently reserved the right to defend itself from infectious diseases.

Look to numerous references in the Bible to leprosy (called Hansen’s disease today). Society called for lepers to be isolated and kept at a distance, the first recorded instances of mandated social distancing.

The word “quarantine” comes to us from Venice, where the first known legislation was passed in 1377 requiring the isolation of people believed to be infected with bubonic plague (a.k.a. “The Black Death”). The required isolation time eventually became 40 days or, in Italian, “quarantina.”

As we learned more about infectious diseases, the more public health measures took precedence over individual rights.

When we discovered treatments for infectious diseases, such as vaccines and medications, new arguments arose over whether society could mandate such treatments over the objections of individuals. Society’s right to self-preservation won every time.

For example, after effective treatments emerged for tuberculosis, isolation was no longer necessary, provided of course, the TB patient was treated. And of course, like today, some of those patients refused, leading to this approach:

“Some jurisdictions have resolved this tension through compromise: TB patients cannot be forced to undergo treatment, but they may be isolated or detained if they refuse treatment.”

One famous disease carrier, the infamous “Typhoid Mary” Mallon, was the first person in the US identified as an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid. She worked as a cook and infected at least 53 people, three of whom died.

When she refused to stop working as a cook, she was involuntarily quarantined for a total of 30 years, including the last 20 years before she died in 1938.

In 1905, the US Supreme Court ruled in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that there was no Constitutional right to refuse to be vaccinated against smallpox, saying:

"Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own (liberty), whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others."

I'm skipping over the 1918-9 Spanish Flu epidemic because we're already run articles like THIS ONE

In numerous court decisions, judges have ruled that society has the right to prevent individuals from engaging in behavior that endangers others.

One of the clearest statements came from Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson in the 1949 Terminiello v. Chicago decision where he stated:

“The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrine logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

There is a growing chorus of voices who believe that mask and vaccine mandates simply do not go far enough or that, at minimum, such mandates must have teeth.

For example, if nursing home or other health care workers refuse to get vaccinated, they should forfeit their jobs.

Unvaccinated persons should pay higher insurance premiums; insurers can use the well-established practice of setting costs based on whether covered individuals engage in unhealthy behavior such as smoking.

In fact, we can learn a lot from public health measures that are in place to keep smokers away from non-smokers.

Finally, with hospitals in many areas overflowing with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, people who need urgent treatment for other things – accidents, heart attacks, stroke, etc. – often find they can’t get the care they need because of Covidiots.

Hospitals should begin to triage critical care patients to stop penalizing those who need urgent treatment through no fault of their own. Unvaccinated adult COVID patients should be at the bottom of the priority list for hospital beds, especially ICU beds.

They refused or dawdled in getting vaccinated – that’s on them. No one else should pay the price for their bad decisions.

Nothing will


Still want to move to Florida?


Sounds like we need a new “Go Fund Me” campaign

Lonely flies, like many humans, eat more and sleep less

Rockefeller University

Fruit flies are social creatures. But when isolated, they begin to act
differently—not unlike humans in quarantine. Credit: Aabha Vora
COVID-19 lockdowns scrambled sleep schedules and stretched waistlines. One culprit may be social isolation itself. 

Scientists have found that lone fruit flies quarantined in test tubes sleep too little and eat too much after only about one week of social isolation, according to a new study published in Nature

The findings, which describe how chronic separation from the group leads to changes in gene expression, neural activity, and behavior in flies, provide one of the first robust animal models for studying the body's biological reaction to loneliness.

"Flies are wired to have a specific response to social isolation," says Michael W. Young, the Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor and head of the Laboratory of Genetics at Rockefeller. "We found that loneliness has pathological consequences, connected to changes in a small group of neurons, and we've begun to understand what those neurons are doing."

Brief Naps during Day Don’t Relieve Sleep Deprivation

Naps aren't enough

By Science News Staff / Source

Sleeping for a short period (i.e. napping) may help mitigate impairments in cognitive processing caused by sleep deprivation, but there is limited research on effects of brief naps in particular. 

In a new study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Michigan State University tested the effect of brief naps (30- or 60-min) during a period of sleep deprivation.

Slow-wave sleep is the deepest and most restorative stage of sleep.

It is marked by high amplitude, low frequency brain waves and is the sleep stage when our body is most relaxed; muscles are at ease, and heart rate and respiration are at their slowest.

School or ‘Russian Roulette’?

Amid Delta Variant and Lax Mask Rules, Some Parents See No Difference


The child had just started kindergarten. Or, as her mother called it, “Russian roulette.” That’s because her school district in Grand Junction, Colorado, experienced one of the nation’s first delta-variant outbreaks last spring, and now school officials have loosened the rules meant to protect against covid-19.

The mother, Venessa, who asked not to be named in full for fear of repercussions for her family, is part of a group of parents, grandparents, medical professionals and community members who assembled in the past few weeks to push back.

The group calls itself “S.O.S.,” which stands for “Supporters for Open and Safe Schools,” while nodding to the international signal for urgent help. It’s made up of Republicans and Democrats, Christians and atheists, and its main request: Require masks.

Venessa said the concept is not complicated for her 5-year-old. “She just puts it on, like her shoes.”

Saturday, August 28, 2021

We saw this coming

On climate science, a small group of very smart and very selfish people – backed by huge sums of money – have stopped the changes that needed to be made.

Pete Myers for Environmental Health News

Woke up this morning and lay in bed for an hour reading the press on the new IPCC report. As if we didn't know this was coming #*&#%%!!

I quit a tenured academic position in 1987 to join the National Audubon Society as Senior Vice President for Science with the hope of getting them to take on climate change. I even brought one my climate science heroes, George Woodwell, to an Audubon board meeting. 

If HE couldn't do it, no one could. Ironically, I had an easier time convincing New Jersey's Republican governor at the time, Tom Kean, to issue a proclamation warning about global warming. Really.

In 1988 at the Audubon Society's national conference I spoke to grassroots leaders about the basic physics and chemistry of climate change, and what it meant for the future of birds. 

At the beginning of my talk I even held up a bag of disposable diapers and warned that if they truly understood what I was saying, and believed it, they'd need some of these.

No takers. So in 1990 I left and became director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation. Over the next dozen years we distributed millions of dollars in grants to organizations attempting to turn the tide on climate change. I don't think we bent the curve one one-hundredth of a degree.

A unique opinion?

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.


Rhode Island Pension Fund Reaches New All-Time High of $10.34 Billion

Pension Fund earns more than $2 billion over the last year 


The Rhode Island pension fund continued its strong performance, growing modestly during the first month of the new Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2022, with an all-time high of approximately $10.34 billion after gaining more than $2 billion in assets over the last year.  

 “My priority is to support economic opportunity and financial stability in Rhode Island, including strengthening the pension fund,” said Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “Our Back-to-Basics investment strategy has protected the Pension Fund for those families whose livelihoods depend upon it while responsibly growing the fund’s assets to an all-time high.” 

DEM Lifts Advisory on Use of Bird Feeders and Baths

Reports of Songbird Mortality Decrease

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has lifted a precautionary notice asking Rhode Islanders to take down bird feeders and bird baths.

Due to a mysterious illness affecting songbirds throughout the eastern United States, DEM issued an advisory in July asking the public to stop using bird feeders and bird baths as a precaution and to report observations of dead birds to the agency.

Although ornithologists and wildlife biologists across 15 states have not been able to definitively identify the cause of this illness, diseases such as avian influenza, West Nile virus, salmonella, chlamydia, Newcastle disease virus, herpesviruses, poxviruses, and Trichomonas parasites have not been detected.

Also, no human health or domestic animal issues have been detected. As of mid-August, reports of dead birds have decreased in Rhode Island, allowing DEM to lift the recommendation to stop feeding wild birds. As always, the agency reminds the public not to feed birds or any wildlife in areas where bears are active.

Time - on your side or not?

Individual dietary choices can add – or take away – minutes, hours and years of life

Eating more fruits, vegetables and nuts can make a meaningful impact on a person’s health – and the planet’s too. kerdkanno/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Vegetarian and vegan options have become standard fare in the American diet, from upscale restaurants to fast-food chains. And many people know that the food choices they make affect their own health as well as that of the planet.

But on a daily basis, it’s hard to know how much individual choices, such as buying mixed greens at the grocery store or ordering chicken wings at a sports bar, might translate to overall personal and environmental health. That’s the gap we hope to fill with our research.

We are part of a team of researchers with expertise in food sustainability and environmental life cycle assessment, epidemiology and environmental health and nutrition. We are working to gain a deeper understanding beyond the often overly simplistic animal-versus-plant diet debate and to identify environmentally sustainable foods that also promote human health.

Building on this multi-disciplinary expertise, we combined 15 nutritional health-based dietary risk factors with 18 environmental indicators to evaluate, classify and prioritize more than 5,800 individual foods.

Ultimately, we wanted to know: Are drastic dietary changes required to improve our individual health and reduce environmental impacts? And does the entire population need to become vegan to make a meaningful difference for human health and that of the planet?

If you want to go back to work, do the right thing

If the Unvaccinated Want to Work, They Face a Series of Hurdles


With the delta variant surging, a growing number of employers are tiring of merely cajoling workers to get vaccinated against covid-19 and are following President Joe Biden’s protocol for federal workers: Either show proof of vaccination, or mask up and get regular testing if you want to work on-site.

The federal government — the nation’s largest employer — will require unvaccinated employees to wear masks while working, get regular testing and take other precautions, like maintaining physical distance from co-workers and restricting work travel. Several states, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, also say unvaccinated state workers must get regular tests.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom broadly extended such a mandate to teachers and all school employees, the first state to do so.

Those programs, with their testing alternative, differ from outright mandates to get vaccinated, as some health care organizations — including the health care workforce of the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals and the U.S. military — are requiring.

Employers, fearing a backlash, frame the policy as a choice, with both sides of the equation seen as effective in reducing the spread of covid. Do public health experts think this approach will help?

All agreed the best solution is universal vaccination. Short of that, many said, the moves by employers will add a layer of protection — although how much remains to be seen.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Vaccine refusal is a moral defect

Why refusing the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t just immoral – it’s ‘un-American

Christopher BeemPenn State

Many individuals are rejecting the COVID-19 vaccines for personal reasons. 
Mark Felix / AFP via Getty Images
Decades ago I helped organize a conference that brought together vaccine skeptics and public health officials. 

The debate centered on what governments can and cannot demand from citizens, and what behaviors one can rightly expect from others.

It took place many years before the current coronavirus pandemic, but many things that happened at that conference remind me of our circumstances today. 

Not least, as a political theorist who also studies social ethics, it reminds me that arguments grounded in self-interest can often be correct – but still deeply inadequate.

The rationality of vaccine skepticism

I recall one participant summarizing her objection to vaccines in the following way: She said that the government demanded that she allow a live biological agent to be injected into her child’s body even though it could not guarantee her child’s safety. For these reasons, she claimed, she had every right to decide that her child would not receive the vaccine.

This woman’s objection was driven by her suspicion that the MMR vaccine, for measles, mumps and rubella, caused autism. This claim has been shown, repeatedly and conclusively, to be without merit. Still, she was not entirely wrong. 

Many vaccines do contain live agents, though they are in a weakened or attenuated state. And while adverse and even serious reactions have been known to occur, such a risk is infinitesimally small. Indeed, the preponderance of evidence shows that the risk of harm or death to the unvaccinated child from infections such as MMR is far greater than any associated with receiving the vaccine.

But more importantly, this parent’s decision to reject the vaccine affected more than just her child. Because so many parents refuse vaccination for their children, outbreaks of measles have taken place throughout the U.S. In fact, in 2019 the United States reported its highest number of cases of measles in 25 years.

Catch 72

For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE.


Let's talk about rights


House Commission on shoreline access holds first meeting

Shoreline access pits wealthy beachfront landowners against beach-goers and people who fish or gather seaweed

By Steve Ahlquist in UpRiseRI

The Special Legislative Commission to Study and Provide Recommendations on the Issues Relating to Lateral Access Along the Rhode Island Shoreline (Shoreline Access Commission) held an organizational meeting at the Rhode Island State House on Thursday. 

During the meeting Representative Terri Cortvriend (Democrat, District 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), who sponsored the legislation (H5469A) to create the Commission, was elected chair, and House Minority Leader Blake Filippi (Republican, District 36, New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) was elected vice-chair.

There were a few people attending the hearing, including shoreline rights activist Scott Keeley, who was arrested by the South Kingstown Police in 2019 for collecting seaweed on a so-called private beach. Those charges were later dismissed. [See: Protesters fight for our constitutional right to access ‘privileges of the shore’]

Though the intent of the commission is to study and provide recommendations “on the issues relating to lateral access along the Rhode Island shoreline” Chair Cortvriend noted that as a natural part of the discussion “rights of way” that is, paths to access beaches, will also be discussed. 

This is a hotly contested issue in many communities, where beachfront landowners post deceiving signs restricting access or erect barriers to rights of way in an attempt to maintain private access to beaches.

Supreme Court overturned Biden's freeze on evictions - need help?


Research Shows Extensive Damage Caused by Common Teeth-Whitening Products

Don't overdo the whitening


A study led by researchers at the University of Toronto highlights the extensive damage that can be caused by common teeth-whitening agents.

Published recently in Nature Scientific Reports, the study assessed the dental cell damage caused by the use of carbamide peroxide teeth-whitening treatments.

It found that a recommended application of just 10 percent carbamide peroxide gel on teeth (35 percent carbamide peroxide gel can be purchased online) reduces the enamel protein content by up to 50 percent.

“We have always been interested in the effect of peroxide-based tooth whitening on the tooth structure and its link to sensitivity,” says Laurent Bozec, an associate professor in U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry who led the study. “Here, we wanted to further understand the impact on the enamel itself and deep inside the pulp.”

Bozec had been looking at the effect of using hydrogen peroxide in root canal treatment prior to this study and found that it was causing damage to collagen locally. This led him to investigate how peroxide penetrates through the enamel and dentine before reaching the dental pulp – and checking what damage it may cause along the way.

The study found that the loss of enamel protein content resulted in a greater penetration of the whitening agent inside the tooth, and can lead to an increase in dental pulp cell mortality. The team used an in-house dentine perfusion chamber to make their measurements. At carbamide peroxide concentrations around 35 percent, the researchers found that dental pulp cells did not survive the exposure.

Opioid lawsuit payout plans overlook a vital need

We need better pain management care and research focused on smarter use of addictive drugs

ah_designs/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The opioid crisis has resulted in more than 500,000 overdose deaths over the past two decades. The federal government, states and other entities have filed litigation against drug manufacturers, suppliers and pharmacies as one approach to address the harm and suffering caused by inappropriate opioid prescribing practices. 

Billions of dollars of funds have since been awarded, and more is likely to come.

To ensure these funds are used in areas relevant to opioids, policy and public health groups led by experts at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University and other organizations have proposed frameworks detailing priorities on what to do with the money. But none of them address the needs of one critical group: patients who suffer from acute and chronic pain.

Gaps in pain care and treatment, one of the key factors that enabled inappropriate opioid prescribing in the first place, persist. I am a physician scientist specializing in pain medicine. My colleagues, law professor Barbara McQuade and anesthesiologist Chad Brummett, and I believe there are three key ways these funds could be used to improve pain treatment and address resource gaps for patients with acute and chronic pain.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Big Bezos is watching

 A company that handles Amazon customer service calls wants cameras in employees’ homes — even on their kids.

By Jim Hightower 

If you’re a corporate employee, you know that something unpleasant is afoot when top executives are suddenly issuing statements about how committed they are to their employees, making sure that all of them are treated with dignity and respect.

For example, the PR chief of a global outfit named Teleperformance, one of the world’s largest call centers, was recently going on and on about how “We value our people and their well-being, safety, and happiness.”

Why did the corporation feel such a desperate need to proclaim its virtue? Because it’s been caught in a nasty scheme to spy on its own workers.

Teleperformance — a $6.7 billion global behemoth that handles customer service calls for companies like Amazon, Apple, and Uber — saves money on overhead by making most of its 380,000 employees around the world work from their own homes.