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Saturday, December 31, 2022

'The System' Is Ruining Our Present and Collective Future

We are destroying the natural world that humans depend upon for life itself

PETER MONTAGUE for Common Dreams

EDITOR'S DISCLOSURE: I worked with Peter when we were both in Washington and working on hazardous waste problems. Peter was an inspiration and one of the best thinkers on how to attack environmental problems.  - Will Collette

Now is a time of unprecedented opportunity for progressive change. The reason is simple: "the system" is ruining the future for young people. Any system that threatens the future of its young people cannot retain their support and therefore is ripe for basic change.

Every morning, the daily news provides fresh evidence that "the system" is heading off a cliff—fruitless climate talks; growing nuclear threats; microplastics in food, water, breast milk and newborn babies; oceans damaged by warming, acidification, and dead zones; the military-industrial dragon preparing for war with China; Congress out of touch and deadlocked. 

But there's also good news: every day more young people are waking up to the facts and demanding that the system change.

What do I mean by "the system"? Back in 1996, when he was the editor of Harper's magazine, Lewis Lapham described it as "the permanent government."

Only slightly tongue-in-cheek, Lapham wrote, "The permanent government, a secular oligarchy… comprises the Fortune 500 companies and their attendant lobbyists, the big media and entertainment syndicates, the civil and military services, the larger research universities and law firms. 

"It is this government that hires the country's politicians and sets the terms and conditions under which the country's citizens can exercise their right—God-given but increasingly expensive—to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Obedient to the rule of men, not laws, the permanent government oversees the production of wealth, builds cities, manufactures goods, raises capital, fixes prices, shapes the landscape, and reserves the right to assume debt, poison rivers, cheat the customers, receive the gifts of federal subsidy, and speak to the American people in the language of low motive and base emotion."

Happy New Year, whatever the number is


After a lifetime of public service, may you have a peaceful and happy retirement, Dr. Fauci

Simple, cheap and effective DIY air filters

A type of simple, DIY air filter can be an effective way to filter out indoor air pollutants

By Carl Dimitri, Senior Writer, Brown University School of Public Health

A team of researchers from Brown University's School of Public Health, Brown’s School of Engineering and Silent Spring Institute found that simple air filtration devices called Corsi-Rosenthal boxes are effective at reducing indoor air pollutants.

The study, which analyzed the effectiveness of Corsi-Rosenthal boxes installed at the School of Public Health to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, is the first peer-reviewed study of the efficacy of the boxes on indoor pollutants, according to the authors.

Lowering indoor air concentrations of commonly-found chemicals known to pose a risk to human health is a way to improve occupant health, according to lead author Joseph Braun, an associate professor of epidemiology at Brown.

Study Identifies Supplements That Benefit Cardiovascular Health

Some supplements that really work


Scientists found strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acid, folic acid, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) provided cardiovascular benefits. In addition, Omega-6 fatty acid, L-arginine, L-citrulline, melatonin, magnesium, Vitamin D, zinc, alpha-lipoic acid, catechin, flavanol, curcumin, genistein, and quercetin also showed evidence of reducing cardiovascular risk.

Healthy diets are rich in antioxidants like amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin C, but exactly how beneficial these micronutrients are for cardiovascular health has long been controversial. Now a new meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology provides some clarity.

Researchers systematically reviewed a total of 884 studies available to date on micronutrients taken as dietary supplements and analyzed their data. They identified several micronutrients that do reduce cardiovascular risk—as well as others that offer no benefit or even have a negative effect. More than 883,000 patients were involved in the combined studies.

Study Ties Abortion Restrictions to 'Significant' Jump in Suicide Rates for Young Women


With abortion currently inaccessible in over a quarter of U.S. states, peer-reviewed research published Wednesday highlights the impact of cutting off care, revealing that restricted access is linked to increased suicide risk in young women.

Published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, the analysis of targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws was conducted by four experts at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn).

"Stress is a key contributor to mental health burden and a major driver of increased suicide risk," said study co-author Ran Barzilay, a child-adolescent psychiatrist and neuroscientist at CHOP and Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, in a statement.

"We found that this particular stressor—restriction to abortion—affects women of a specific age in a specific cause of death, which is suicide," added Barzilay. "That's the 10,000-foot view."

Friday, December 30, 2022

An Epidemic of Loneliness and the Dark World of Far-Right Conspiracy Theorists

What I found in the deepest reaches of the Internet and the lost art—and political potency—of true human connection.

ANDY KROLL for the TomDispatch

We all do it. Make little snap judgments about everyday strangers as we go about our lives. Without giving it a second’s thought, we sketch minibiographies of the people we pass on the sidewalk, the guy seated across from us on the train, or the woman in line in front of us at the grocery store. 

We wonder: Who are they? Where are they from? How do they make a living? Lately, though, such passing encounters tend to leave me with a sense of suspicion, a wariness tinged with grim curiosity. I think to myself: Is he or she one of them?

By them, I mean one of the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of “people” I encountered during my many forays into the darkest recesses of the Internet. 

Despite the staggering amount of time many of us spend online — more than six-and-a-half hours a day, according to recent research — we tend to haunt the same websites and social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, CNN, Reddit, Google) again and again. 

Not me, though. Over the past five years, I’ve spent more hours than I wish to count exploring the subterranean hideaways and uncensored gathering spaces for some of the most unhinged communities on the Internet.

Oh yes!


Don't listen to the anti-vaxxers. Get your flu shot!


Straightening out the kinks in the supply chain

Maritime chokepoints lead to shortages and higher prices

Duke University

New GIS-enabled analysis by a Duke University researcher maps what the far-reaching impacts to international trade and shipping could be if any of the world's 11 busiest marine chokepoints, or shipping straits, are closed due to politics, piracy, vessel accidents, or other causes. Knowing in advance what to expect will help businesses and governments better navigate unexpected closures and reduce disruptions to international trade and global supply chains.

When the mega container ship Ever Given ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal for six days in 2021, it caused disruptions in international trade for weeks and in global supply chains for months afterward.

The far-reaching impacts drove home how important the Suez Canal and other marine chokepoints, or shipping straits, are to global economic security and how blindsided and ill-prepared for a closure businesses and governments can be.

A new analysis by a Duke University researcher should help.

Rest in Peace, Pele

Global superstar and cultural icon who put passion at the heart of soccer

Held aloft as the embodiment of the beautiful game. Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Pelé, soccer’s first global superstar, has died at the age of 82. To many fans, the Brazilian will be remembered as the best to have ever played the game.

For others it goes further: He was the symbol of soccer played with passion, gusto and a smile. Indeed, he helped to forge an image of the game, which even today lots of people continue to crave.

Pelé wasn’t just a great player and a wonderful ambassador for the world’s favorite game; he was a cultural icon. Indeed, he remains the face of a purity in soccer that existed long before big money and global geopolitics infiltrated the game.

It is testament to his legend that everyone from English 1966 World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton and current French superstar Kylian Mbappé to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – the former and incoming president of Brazil – and former U.S. President Barack Obama have led tributes to him.

Trump’s Brazen Tax Cheating Revealed

Trump Took Tax Losses He Knew Were Fraudulent


Donald Trump knowingly committed dozens of brazen tax frauds during the six years when he ran for office and was President, my analysis of the Congressional report on his tax returns and other documents shows. 

This explains why he fought all the way to the Supreme Court in a failed effort to keep his tax information secret.

One technique he used at least 26 times between 2015 and 2020 was as simple as it was flagrant. Trump filed sole proprietor reports, known as Schedule C, that showed huge business expenses despite having zero revenue. 

That created losses which Trump used to offset his income from work and investments, thus lowering his income taxes. Additional Schedule Cs had expenses exactly equal to revenues while only a few showed profits.

Trump knew this was unlawful because he lost two trials over his 1984 income taxes in which he did the exact same thing, a story I broke in June 2016. Both judges, in scathing opinions, ruled that Trump committed civil tax fraud.

That Trump persisted in using the same fraudulent technique in six years of recent tax returns is powerful evidence of mens rea or criminal intent. This device is not Trump’s most lucrative tax cheating technique, but it is the easiest for jurors to understand should Trump be indicted on tax charges.

The 65 Schedule Cs Trump filed as a candidate and as president helped him convert a federal tax bill that could have been as high as $46 million into a $2.1 million profit from the federal tax system, my analysis of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation staff report shows.

Trump received more than $154.2 million in wages, interest, dividends, capital gains, and pensions over the six years when he ran for president or lived in the White House. Despite this huge revenue stream, Trump reported minus $53.2 million in Adjusted Gross Income, the last number on the front page of your Form 1040 income tax return.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Council President Deb Carney reviews the State of Charlestown

New Council majority on the job

By Deb Carney 

Our new Town Council majority from the Charlestown Residents United slate: (l-r) Deb Carney, Rippy Serra, Grace Klinger and Steve Stokes

Voters have placed their trust in this new Town Council to keep what is good about Charlestown, fix what needs to be fixed, and to plan for the future. 

I thank the outgoing Town Councilors for their service to the town and look forward to working with returning Councilors, Grace Klinger and Susan Cooper, and new Councilors Rippy Serra and Stephen Stokes. 

Charlestown is a beautiful town with great people, beaches, open spaces, parks, and low taxes. 

We can and will do even better. 

The long-awaited Town-wide survey, completed this year, told us what many residents want and don't want to see happen in Charlestown. 

As we all remember, the idea for a survey came about as the result of a failed budget in 2019. The survey morphed from what to do with the excess surplus into a survey of opinions of quality of life, services, and policies, just to name a few. While people are enjoying a good quality of life, it was clear many were not content with the town's governance. 

Charlestown and our residents can thrive by including all town residents in our planning and growth. We have the resources to succeed. Physical improvements are being addressed and will continue to be addressed. Dredging for improvement of coastal ponds, targeting vacant businesses and property along Route 1 for recovery. We are coming off of two plus years of pandemic heightened awareness. Let's move forward with the determination that we know we are capable of. 

This year, Charlestown received approximately $2,300,000 in funding though the American Rescue Plan Act. The Town Council voted to expend funds to the following groups: Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service, Charlestown Fire District, Wood River Health Services, Maddie Potts Foundation, Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce (Charlestown Small Business Grant Program), Charlestown Police Department, Dunns’ Corners Fire Department, RICAN, and the Cross’ Mills Library. 

Throughout the year, Charlestown’s Emergency Management Agency has continued to stay on top of the latest developments regarding COVID. In addition, they continued to distribute test kits throughout the year. 

The first members of the Charlestown Climate Resiliency Commission were appointed this year and due to their efforts, the town could be eligible for infrastructure grant funding. 

In addition to the positives, Charlestown also faces challenges. 

We have some work to do to improve our financial management.  Earlier in 2022 we learned that our town surplus was $3,000,000 less than previously stated.  This is not a small error and was brushed off by some. That is not how we will manage your money. We will address the budget fully and restore the necessary fiscal controls for the present and the future. 

We will look to several means of effecting change. The change you voted for and entrusted us to accomplish. These include ordinance revisions and updates, Charter revisions, revised Fund Balance Policy, fair tax review, and improved recreational opportunities to name a few. 

We need everyone's help. We have a volunteer fire district and a mostly volunteer ambulance rescue service, both of which are currently in need of people willing to serve. 

During the year, Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service (CARS) continued to provide COVID testing at Town Hall.  They are a non-profit community based public health service that relies heavily on volunteers.  CARS will be hosting an EMT class starting in February.  Anyone interested in volunteering can email Chief Andrew Kettle at 

Charlestown also needs volunteers for our fire districts for several positions including Interior & Exterior Firefighter, Apparatus Operator, and Junior Firefighter.  Training is done in house.  No experience necessary.  Benefits include access to two district fitness centers, gaining knowledge of the fire service with the incentive to further your education and financial incentives based on activity levels.  For more information visit or send an email to   

We need volunteers for both fire and ambulance rescue for obvious reasons.  Please consider volunteering.  

Planning ahead, we need activities to promote tourism. We need ordinance and Charter revisions to provide for the balance between development and conservation. 

Charlestown is very fortunate to have a diverse group of engaged residents that have a lot to offer.  By working together, we can accomplish many things in 2023.

His only charity is himself


Cold weather tips


Time to recycle your christmas tree

Trees for Trout Collection Event

DATE: January 7, 2023 — 10:00am to 2:00pm

LOCATION: Arcadia Check Station located in Arcadia Management Area where Route 165/Ten Rod Road intersects with the Wood River (look for signs)

Tis the season to improve river habitats!

DEM Division of Fish and Wildlife is once again partnering with Trout Unlimited Rhode Island Chapter on a habitat restoration program called “Trees for Trout.”

This project uses recycled Christmas trees to improve habitat for wild trout and other aquatic organisms. Strategic placement of the trees helps restore streams and rivers that have become wide and shallow due to flooding and storms, provide refuge habitat, and stabilize stream banks. 

Known as “conifer revetments,” the trees trap sediment and decompose to gradually become part of the banks themselves. The tree branches along the edges in the water offer protection for small trout and other aquatic animals seeking a place to hide from predators.

When: Saturday, January 7, 2023; between 10am -2pm

Where: Arcadia Check Station located in Arcadia Management Area where Route 165/Ten Rod Road intersects with the Wood River (look for signs)

Please only drop off real trees, not fake ones or trees sprayed with fire-retardant chemicals. All decorations and lights, as well as the stand, must be removed before the tree is dropped off. We can only accept whole conifers, please do not bring tree trimmings.

Thank you to everyone who participated last year. Let’s make this another success!
Can’t make it? For help with disposal, visit: or 
CONTACT: 401-789-0281 or

It's not just philosophers who argue

Men may not 'perceive' domestic tasks as needing doing in the same way as women, philosophers argue

Philosophers seeking to answer questions around inequality in household labour and the invisibility of women's work in the home have proposed a new theory -- that men and women are trained by society to see different possibilities for action in the same domestic environment.

They say a view called "affordance theory" -- that we experience objects and situations as having actions implicitly attached -- underwrites the age-old gender disparity when it comes to the myriad mundane tasks of daily home maintenance.

For example, women may look at a surface and see an implied action -- 'to be wiped' -- whereas men may just observe a crumb-covered countertop.

The philosophers believe these deep-seated gender divides in domestic perception can be altered through societal interventions such as extended paternal leave, which will encourage men to build up mental associations for household tasks.

COVID vax boosters really do help

COVID-19 booster increases durability of antibody response

University of Virginia Health System

New research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine speaks to the benefits of a COVID-19 booster.

The new findings shed light on how mRNA boosters -- both Pfizer and Moderna -- affect the durability of our antibodies to COVID-19. A booster, the researchers report, made for longer-lasting antibodies for all recipients, even those who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Charlestown has very high municipal costs, according to new report

Highest per capita administrative cost in the state

By Will Collette

Our newly sworn-in, non-CCA Town Council majority has made a close review of Charlestown’s finances and fiscal management its top priority.

They may be aided in that effort by a new report released by the conservative RI Public Expenditure Council that compares the cost of municipal government in very sharp detail. While I dislike RIPEC’s right-wing slant and animus toward labor unions, I do trust their ability to collect and present the data.

Their report is loaded with useful charts and graphs that allow you to compare the 39 Rhode Island cities and towns across a wide range of categories.

During the CCA’s long reign over Charlestown, their constant refrain was to talk about how low Charlestown’s tax rate is. It is that, but only because the bloated values of waterfront property owned by non-residents give us a very large tax base. That large tax base has paid for the CCA’s spendthrift habits.

RIPEC data shows Charlestown’s taxpayers pay $1,818 each for non-education municipal services, well above the state per capita cost average of $1,593. The lowest per capita cost is $623 in Exeter, perhaps due to their unwillingness to pay for police or fire departments. The highest per capita is Newport at $2,762. [Figure 4, pg. 13]

RIPEC explains why Charlestown, Newport and other communities have such high costs in a footnote on page 14:

Those municipalities are: New Shoreham, Little Compton, Jamestown, Narragansett, Charlestown, Newport, and Westerly. Several of the state’s municipalities with the greatest property wealth may have greater per capita spending because they attract a number of non-full-time residents and/or visitors who are not counted in the U.S. Census but who nevertheless contribute to demand for local government services. Subsections on police and fire below contain a more detailed discussion of quantifying demand for local services. U.S. Census Bureau, 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations.

This fact has long been evident and was the reasoning behind a 2011 push by Charlestown Democrats for a homestead property tax credit to offset the impact of the cost of services to non-residents. The CCA mobilized what I called the “Riot of the Rich” to attack and destroy the Democrats’ proposal.

But I think it’s time to rethink that decision. Note that Newport will be the latest of our peer communities to institute a tax credit for year-round residents with applications available on January 1. North Kingstown adopted a homestead credit last year and Narragansett a couple of years before that.

Other data in the RIPEC report made me twitch. I can’t explain the reasons why a number of Charlestown cost items are so high, other than to rely on RIPEC’s belief, above, that our high number of summer people cause them.

Take, for example, Charlestown’s cost for town administration. Our administration cost is $566 per resident, compared to the state municipal average of $223 and that of Cumberland, the lowest, at $106 per capita. That makes Charlestown the highest municipal spender per capita among Rhode Island cities and towns.

We rank first in two of the largest categories within administration: compensation at $202 per capita and operations at $255 per capita. Overall, there’s a big spread between Charlestown’s administrative costs and all other cities and towns that exposes issues that should be rigorously reviewed. [Figure 21, pg. 35, below]

Maybe the higher cost is due to the amount of staff time devoted to blacking out records requested by citizens under the state’s Access to Public Records Act.

Charlestown's administrative costs are at the bottom of the chart meaning the highest in the state

Charlestown is ranked in second place for the highest per capita spending on parks, recreation, and natural resources at $115 per capita, edged out by Jamestown's $122. The state’s municipal average is $47. The stingiest is Richmond at only $2 per capita. [Figure 28, pg. 45]

Obviously, the CCA’s frenzied purchases of vacant land for open space accounts for our high relative cost. And that’s without factoring in how each purchase subtracts the property tax the former owners were paying.

Our per capita spending on public works is fifth highest in the state at $366. Our neighbor South Kingstown is the lowest in the state at $90 per capita. The state average is $193.

This seems to be another cost item greatly affected by our summer people. The infrastructure that serves them during the summer must be maintained year-round. However, that doesn’t explain the extreme disparity between our costs and South Kingstown’s since they also have lots of summer people.

Charlestown’s public works budget doesn’t include water, sewers and in many cases, road maintenance within many subdivisions where homeowner associations are responsible for those costs. By contrast, South Kingstown does provide these services but at a much lower per capita cost burden.

Police protection costs Charlestown $429 per capita, the 7th highest in the state. We also pay the 4th highest police salaries in the state. Including benefits, the Charlestown police per capita average is $89,945. Westerly and Newport pay slightly more. The lowest in the state is Foster at $61,587. Block Island pays the highest at $132,933.

For calls for service handled by each officer, Charlestown ranks 4th at 811.7 per officer. Newport is the highest at 1,129.7 per officer. [Figure 11, pg. 23]

We don’t figure into RIPEC’s analysis of fire-fighting costs since we don’t have a professional fire department. That’s a major factor in our CCA-heralded low tax rate.

I have no issues with the town’s rank-and-file staff nor with their unions. I’m OK with our high police costs since RIPEC’s data also shows they work hard for their money.

I do believe RIPEC’s data flags some issues that deserve the new Council majority’s attention to ensure we are getting value for our tax dollars. Our high costs for administration, public works, plus our spending spree to buy more open space deserve close attention.

While I appreciate our low tax rate, it seems obvious from the RIPEC data that this rate could and probably should be a lot lower. We’ve raised this issue before in articles on the CCA’s $3 million “oopsie” and the town’s failure to use the correct number of work days per year to calculate the town’s payroll.

Finally, I believe RIPEC has unintentionally strengthened the case for Charlestown to enact a Homestead property tax credit given the disproportionate impact of absentee property owners on municipal costs. As the new Council reviews the issue of fair taxation, a Charlestown Homestead credit should be on the table.

Top stories of 2022


Guns are now the #1 cause of death for children


Chatbots don't help

Cheerful chatbots don't necessarily improve customer service

Georgia Institute of Technology

Imagine messaging an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot about a missing package and getting the response that it would be "delighted" to help. Once the bot creates the new order, they say they are "happy" to resolve the issue. After, you receive a survey about your interaction, but would you be likely to rate it as positive or negative?

This scenario isn't that far from reality, as AI chatbots are already taking over online commerce. By 2025, 95% of companies will have an AI chatbot, according to Finance Digest. AI might not be sentient yet, but it can be programmed to express emotions.

Humans displaying positive emotions in customer service interactions have long been known to improve customer experience, but researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology's Scheller College of Business wanted to see if this also applied to AI. 

They conducted experimental studies to determine if positive emotional displays improved customer service and found that emotive AI is only appreciated if the customer expects it, and it may not be the best avenue for companies to invest in.

8 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health

Fiber, pickles, rest, exercise and more...


Gut health is an essential aspect of overall wellness. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of microbes that play a major role in our overall health. These microbes are known as gut microbiota or “gut flora,” and they help digest food, synthesize vitamins and even regulate metabolism and immunity. But what does good gut health look like? And how can you improve your gut health?

There are several ways to improve your gut health:

A present, tucked inside the Omnibus Spending Bill

Congress passes legislation that will close off presidential election mischief and help avoid another Jan. 6

Derek T. MullerUniversity of Iowa

Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., center, and Veronica Escobar,
D-Texas, right, take cover as protesters disrupt the joint
session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote
on Jan. 6, 2021. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Presidential elections are complicated. But in a move aimed at warding off future crises like the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Senate and House have passed legislation to clarify ambiguous and trouble-prone aspects of the process.

Currently, all 50 states and the District of Columbia hold simultaneous elections in November. The states and the district certify those results.

But that’s not the end of it.

When people cast votes, they’re actually voting for a group of people called “electors.” Groups of these presidential electors meet in December. They send their votes along to Congress, which counts them in January. The presidential candidate who gets the majority of electoral votes is, finally, declared the winner.

There are known weaknesses in these rules for how we administer presidential elections and tabulate results in Congress. Ambiguities in existing law have been exploited to try to make something go wrong. Legal theories were floated by allies of President Donald Trump after the 2020 election that suggested ways to undermine the results of the election, culminating in a failed insurrection at the Capitol.

That’s why a bipartisan group of congressional leaders aimed to pass reforms to the 1887 law governing this process, the Electoral Count Act, before the end of 2022.

As an election law scholar, I have suggested that Congress focus its reforms on a few crucial areas that could have wide bipartisan support. Now, it has done just that, and the omnibus government funding legislation that includes the Electoral Count Act reform passed the House on Dec. 23 and heads to the White House for President Joe Biden’s expected signature.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Should the public see photos from mass shootings?

Mass Shootings Reopen the Debate Over Whether Crime Scene Photos Prompt Change or Trauma


John Lites was one of the first police officers to respond to a 911 call from Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015, when a white gunman murdered nine Black people attending a Bible study.

Lites arrived at the scene only minutes after the first emergency call was placed. He held one of the victim’s hands as the man died. 

Lites then stood guard inside the fellowship hall all night — remaining even through a bomb threat — to prevent people who didn’t need to be there from entering the room.

“I didn’t want anyone else to see it,” Lites said. “I was totally traumatized.”

Crime scenes are inherently disturbing. A few weeks after the mass shooting in Charleston, Lites found himself in the clutches of post-traumatic stress and unable to sleep. The scene inside the church was imprinted on his memory.

“The worst thing you can possibly think of — it’s worse than that,” said Lites, who retired from the police force in 2018. “No one else needs to see that.”

A question that continues to be debated publicly — and is raised in the wake of each new mass shooting — is whether the publication of violent images, including those depicting gunshot wounds or police brutality, might be effective in preventing future carnage.

Advocates for publishing the images argue that if the public were forced to reckon with the gruesomeness of the deaths, people would respond by demanding that lawmakers enact meaningful reform. The advocates cite historical examples of photos that moved people to action or prompted changes in law or public opinion.

Another Trump NFT card has been released


It's still here. Deal with it!


Bonfire on Saturday


Should robots pay taxes?

Study suggests a robot levy -- but only a modest one -- could help combat the effects of automation on income inequality in the U.S.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Screenshot: Quartz via YouTube
What if the U.S. placed a tax on robots? The concept has been publicly discussed by policy analysts, scholars, and Bill Gates (who favors the notion). Because robots can replace jobs, the idea goes, a stiff tax on them would give firms incentive to help retain workers, while also compensating for a dropoff in payroll taxes when robots are used. Thus far, South Korea has reduced incentives for firms to deploy robots; European Union policymakers, on the other hand, considered a robot tax but did not enact it.

Now a study by MIT economists scrutinizes the existing evidence and suggests the optimal policy in this situation would indeed include a tax on robots, but only a modest one. The same applies to taxes on foreign trade that would also reduce U.S. jobs, the research finds.

Scientists find key reason why loss of smell occurs in long COVID-19

The inflammatory mechanism could also help explain other long COVID-19 symptoms

Duke University Medical Center

The reason some people fail to recover their sense of smell after COVID-19 is linked to an ongoing immune assault on olfactory nerve cells and an associated decline in the number of those cells, a team of scientists led by Duke Health report.

The finding, publishing online Dec. 21 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, provides an important insight into a vexing problem that has plagued millions who have not fully recovered their sense of smell after COVID-19.

While focusing on the loss smell, the finding also sheds light on the possible underlying causes of other long COVID-19 symptoms -- including generalized fatigue, shortness of breath, and brain fog -- that might be triggered by similar biological mechanisms.

"One of the first symptoms that has typically been associated with COVID-19 infection is loss of smell," said senior author Bradley Goldstein, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Duke's Department of Head and Neck Surgery and Communication Sciences and the Department of Neurobiology.

Is Donald Trump’s tax avoidance ethical or honorable?

Is trying to pay zero taxes ok? 

Bryan Keogh, The Conversation

The tax records of Donald Trump, details of which were released on Dec. 21, 2022, show the former president used the same aggressive measures to avoid paying high taxes while in office as he did during his business career. Indeed, he paid zero tax in 2020 – the last full year of his presidency – according to figures released by the House Ways and Means Committee in one of its last moves under Democratic control. The panel plans to release redacted versions of six years’ worth of tax returns soon.

The Conversation has been covering Trump’s taxes since he began his run for the presidency in 2015. These articles from our archive, all published in the run-up to the 2020 election, explore tax-paying ethics, problems with the U.S. tax code and why the working poor are audited almost as much as the rich.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Charlestown Chunks #14

Short news items for Progressive Charlestown readers

By Will Collette 

Gavle Goat not burning but the Charlestown bonfire will 

As of this writing, the famed Gavle Goat of Sweden, an enormous 43 feet tall straw goat, has made it to Christmas without being torched by vandals for sport as often is. The town of Gavle changed its location this year and photos seem to show it surrounded by poisoned-tipped steel poles (I’m kidding about the poison). 

Gavle Goat 2022. Note the spikes
By contrast, the giant sculpture made of wooden pallets in Ninigret Park by renowned local fire artist Frank Glista is ready to be torched at sundown on December 31st

The New Year’s Eve bonfire is always great fun. 

The Plague 

What’s not fun are the rising number of COVID, flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases in Rhode Island. We no longer get daily numbers from the state, and those numbers don’t include the majority of cases that are picked up by home test kits.  

Our official community infection rate is back up to 168 per 100,000 but is probably a lot larger. Eight people died – probably unnecessarily – from COVID last week. Why did they die unnecessarily? First, masking is now rare but worse, our vaccination rate for the newest bi-valent booster is a miserable 22.7%. 

22.7%? WTF?

For most people who have been vaccinated earlier, your immunity has been steadily wearing off, plus COVID has spawned new, more aggressive variants. It’s a national problem: most Americans simply don’t have peak COVID protection anymore. Masking and making sure you have the latest shots are the ways to protect your life and your family. 

The Biden Administration is once again offering free at-home COVID test kits. I ordered them and they arrived within days. Order them at or call 1-800-232-0233.

Flu cases for 2022-3 are far higher and much earlier than the past three years. All in all, a very unhealthy environment for the old, the immune-compromised and children. Please mask up and get your shots. 

Charlestown needs more EMTs and firefighters

These are the brave men and women who protect us all, but there aren’t enough of them. So step up if you can. 

But DO NOT follow the example of Charlestown’s Ryan Manning. He was being discharged from South County Hospital but apparently didn’t have a way to get home. First, he tried to steal (“allegedly”) a security guard’s phone. Then, “allegedly,” he tried to steal a car from the hospital parking lot.  

When neither of those “alleged” efforts worked, Manning “allegedly” spotted an unattended, unlocked, engine-running rescue ambulance and took off in the direction of Providence. He was eventually busted when he was caught on foot near I-95 and Route 10 where he abandoned the ambulance. 

He was charged this week with driving without consent of the owner or lessee, possession of a stolen vehicle, tampering with a vehicle, and larceny.

Bill Seymour’s great article on Manning’s big adventure appears in the Independent.  

Funding for Charlestown?

There is a $16 million pot of money that Charlestown may be able to tap under the Municipal Resilience Program, administered by RI Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) to help local communities restore and improve resiliency of vulnerable coastal habitats, river and stream floodplains, and infrastructure. 

Charlestown would have to compete with other municipalities for funding for “shovel-ready infrastructure projects. One of Charlestown’s lead project ideas is doing some work on Charlestown Beach Road. The town’s Climate Resilience Commission has been tasked with coming up with a cost-benefit analysis and options for action. 

Nuclear waste 25 miles down the road

This graphic shows the radiation plume if New London/Groton
got nuked. A major disaster at Millstone would generate
a radioactive cloud that would follow the same track
I have been neglecting coverage of the Millstone Nuclear Power plant, just 25 miles upwind from Charlestown on the other side of New London in Waterford, CT.  

This troubled plant, run by Virginia-based Dominion Power, is one of the last operating nuclear plants in New England. 

The main  reactor, Unit 2, has been on-line for nearly 50 years, and in the course of time, has accumulated approximately 4 million pounds of high-level radioactive waste with no place to put it except right on site. 

On December 20, Assistant Energy Secretary and head of the Office of Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff visited Waterford to talk with local officials. The Biden Administration supports the continued operation of nuclear facilities for the carbon-free energy it produces, despite the massive unresolved problem of radioactive waste.

The New London Day noted: 

Earlier this year, the Southeastern Connecticut Governments sent a letter to the Department of Energy in support of “a consent-based siting process to establish interim storage sites, and hopefully an eventual final disposal site,” to allow “the relocation of spent nuclear fuel from reactor sites,” such as Millstone.

All previous federal efforts to create a national repository for nuclear waste have failed. The one operating trial site, called WIPP, had to serious safety problems including fires and major leaks. The new federal approach is to bribe communities to accept a “consent-based siting process” that, given our history with hazardous waste, will mean radioactive waste sites will go into poor communities comprised mostly of people of color.  

The Day described this new approach: 

The Department of Energy announced in September a $16 million funding opportunity “to provide resources to communities interested in learning more about consent-based siting, management of spent nuclear fuel, and interim storage facility siting consideration,” according to a news release from the Department of Energy. 

While most people think of nuclear disasters in terms of the 1986 Chernobyl reactor meltdown, the other extreme hazard is an accident in the piles of on-site nuclear waste. 

This is what happened in Japan at the Fukushima nuclear plant when an earthquake in 2011 generated a tsunami that breached the containment ponds on site.  

Radiation at both Chernobyl and Fukushima spread over great distances. We are only 25 miles and downwind from Millstone. 

Fire in the radioactive waste at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan

Charlestown’s civic engagement

Crunching the voter turn-out numbers for the November 8 general election showed Charlestown voter turn-out at 58%, the highest in the state. The lowest turnout was in Central Falls with only 18%. 

Charlestown voters had a lot of reasons to turn-out with a red-hot Congressional District 2 contest where Seth Magaziner went on to beat Allan Fung. Charlestown favored Seth by 5.4%. 

All the state general offices were contested and ended up being swept by Democrats. Charlestown voted for the winning Democrats in all offices except General Treasurer where the town voters favored Republican James Lathrop over former Central Falls mayor James Diossa by 2.5%. 

Turn-out translated into big wins for Tina and Victoria who flipped a House and Senate seat from Republican to Democratic

Charlestown voted for our new state Representative Tina Spears and state Senator Victoria Gu by wide margins (16.3% for Tina and 17.8% for Victoria from Charlestown voters). Charlestown once again supported three-time challenger, Charlestown’s Jennifer Douglas, by 0.8% over right-wing nut state Senator Elaine Morgan. Unfortunately, Morgan's vote margins in the other towns in the district led to Jennifer's third defeat.

Also boosting turn-out was the contested Town Council race that pitted long-time Charlestown bosses, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) against the insurgent bi-partisan Charlestown Residents United (CRU). The CRU team trounced the CCA ticket ending the CCA’s control over the Town Council that started in 2008.

Our new Town Council majority from the Charlestown Residents United slate: (l-r) Deb Carney, Rippy Serra, Grace Klinger and Steve Stokes

Voter statistics for the 2022 election can be found HERE. 

Choo-choo confusion

As most Charlestown residents who have been following the on-going Amtrak controversy know, the Federal Rail Administration is committed to doing a traffic analysis with an eye toward improving service. The much-reviled Old Saybrook-Kenyon Bypass is NOT on the table. 

Similarly, Connecticut DOT is also doing a feasibility study and is considering adding Westerly as the end of the line for its expansion of Shore Line East.  That offers an additional option for local travel to New York City. However, it has stirred up fears and confusion that CTDOT might build a new train station in chic Stonington Borough. 

But apparently, that’s not going to happen, at least not in the Borough, though the much larger town of Stonington is definitely a possible site.  

Borough Warden Jeff Callahan told the New London Day “This is a matter of some confusion,” adding 

“There’s no place in the borough that you could fit a train station. The people who are involved in the study acknowledge that. Apparently, the problem is that whoever wrote the legislation that funded the study for the state, for some reason said the Borough of Stonington not Stonington, so they have to keep saying the Borough of Stonington, even though it’s pretty obvious it’s not a possibility.”

So, Charlestown isn’t the only place nervous about choo-choos.