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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Charlestown dreaming

What can we hope for from the new CRU Town Council majority?

By Will Collette

Congratulations to the new Charlestown Residents United Town Council majority, L-R Deb Carney, Rippy Serra, Grace Klinger and Steve Stokes. They are being sworn in on December 5.

For the first time since 2008, we will soon see the first Town Council sworn in that does not have a Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) endorsed majority. The new majority were endorsed by Charlestown Residents United (CRU) and consist of one Democrat and three Republicans. Only incumbent CCA councilor Susan Cooper managed to win a seat.

Like the majority of Charlestown voters, I am hopeful that this new coalition government will not only be able to get along but will also bring about significant changes in Charlestown’s policies and practices, starting with lifting the iron curtain the CCA imposed on citizens’ access to information.

For the past two year in particular, Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz seemed to go out of his way to find loopholes to make it harder to get information under the Access to Public Records act. This was especially true of information on Planning Commissar Ruth Platner’s land deals and town finances. Stankiewicz’s kind of public access meant be charged hundreds of dollars to get pages that were mostly blacked out like this example:

I hope it becomes town policy to make it easier, not harder, to get public information.

And for his gleeful participation in CCA's shady dealings and for covering them up, I think the new Council should look to replace Stankiewicz as soon as possible.

I hope this new majority will see the value in better relations with our neighbors, the Narragansett Indian Tribe. It’s time to cut loose the public face of Charlestown’s jihad against the Tribe, attorney Joe Larisa, whose retainer and expenses amount to $25,000 or more to do nothing but watch the Tribe and thwart any effort the Tribe makes to uplift itself.

The Council fired him once already, but he was rescued by CCA Councilor Susan Cooper, the only CCA controlled member of the current Council.

After Larisa goes, it’s long past time to sit with the Tribe and discuss mutual interests with respect and open-mindedness. I don’t know where such discussions might lead, but at least we must try. Our chances of a productive outcome are greatly increased without the incendiary presence of Joe Larisa.

We should take a good look at our financial management especially after last year’s $3 million “oopsie.” We need an honest, unbiased outside review to make sure we have the right safeguards in place to avoid future “oopsies” and to make sure we have the right management staff and oversight. What we don’t need is another rubber stamp of shoddy financial practices.

I think it would be smart for the new Council to commission a thorough review of Charlestown’s property tax policies. Even though our tax rate is low, our taxes rise every year regardless of the rate due to rising assessments. We also pay out of pocket for services that other municipalities provide as part of the package.

Traditionally, taxes reflect community values. Taxes don’t just fund the basic operations of government, like education and emergency services. Taxes are a way we support who and what we like and what we want to discourage.

In Charlestown, property tax breaks are given to veterans, the blind and disabled, low-income elderly, plus property under the Farm, Forest and Open Space program or with some form of conservation easement. NOTE: if you fit any of these categories, you must apply to get the tax break. You don’t get it automatically. You should contact Tax Assessor Ken Swain before March 1st to see if you qualify.

We also give tax breaks on property owned by our two FAKE Fire Districts and to property owners whose land is improperly zoned. These are well-known problem areas that allow those owners to underpay their property taxes by thousands of dollars. We need to fix the mis-zoning problem and find a way to make the beach clubs/homeowner associations masquerading as fire districts pay up.

The Quonnie Central Beach Fire District's 28-acre rec center, assessed at $98,000. This is the photo the Charlestown Tax Assessor posted in 2014

On the other hand, we can use tax policy encourage practices we believe in. For example, the CCA-controlled Planning Commission regularly passes zoning regulations that micromanage local businesses. I’m not just talking about big changes like the recent upheaval in housing development rules, but the smaller and more nit-picky things like regulating everything from lighting systems to shrubbery, often mandating that businesses spend serious money to meet some CCA members’ styling whims.

If the town is going to dictate such things as the color of outdoor switch plates, businesses should be granted some tax relief to at least partially cover such unfunded mandates.

We should come up with a way to encourage more active participation in our volunteer fire companies. Incentives could run the gamut from a recruitment tax credit for joining to increased stipends for responding to call outs. If the Council talks to the fire fighters, I have no doubt they have some ideas as to how to improve recruitment, retention and participation.

Under the CCA, the town has invested heavily in adding more acreage to the stock of open space property to protect it from development. Town maps show 60% of Charlestown land is untaxed and off-limits to development.

But there’s a whole lot more to environmental protection than just acquiring more open space. 

Among Rhode Island towns, Charlestown is one of the most vulnerable to the ill effects of the climate crisis, especially sea level rise and increased severe storm activity. These threaten life and limb but also threaten to wipe out a substantial part of our tax base.

Climate change is a global problem, but we all need to do our share, especially since we have so much to lose, by switching to green energy. The new Town Council can help through regulation change and tax incentives.

Other than one summer’s burst of activity around the Solarize Charlestown project, CCA-controlled Charlestown did virtually nothing to promote green energy. In fact, while bathing in the PR glow of the 2017 Solarize project – actually, a state program – CCA-controlled Councils have made green energy development more difficult. And Solarize Charlestown barely scratched the surface even with town support. Only three dozen households participated. Cathy and I were one of those households.

Charlestown is littered with abandoned quarries and sand pits. The owners are under no obligation to reclaim the land. These sites could be used to site larger solar arrays.

It is in Charlestown’s self-interest to promote as much home and business level green energy as possible and tax credits certainly can play a role. But the new Council should also look at the barriers the CCA has imposed in the past, such as the virtual ban on small, residential or business wind energy.

While the town was pretty united against the proposed giant Whalerock wind turbines that would have towered over Route One, Charlestown’s ordinance on small turbines is a gross over-reaction, especially given advances in technology. For example, variations on vertical axis turbines – not big blades, but more curlicue-shaped – are becoming quite popular for home use.

There are hundreds of different vertical axis designs.
Generally, all are quiet and efficient.
If you want to see these types of turbines in action locally, visit the gardens surrounding Arrowhead Dental. Dr. Bruce Gouin has had a bunch of them placed as art installations. They’re not hooked up to an electrical generator so they don’t violate the anti-wind Charlestown Zoning Ordinance. If they were, though, they would generate a lot of energy.

The Charlestown Liquor Store has installed a geothermal generator that draws power from the earth. A number of homes – including ours – have installed heat pumps that draw heat from the air.

There are lots of other ideas the new Council should explore, many of them issues that have fallen by the wayside over the long reign of the CCA:

A homestead tax exemption. Charlestown is becoming an outlier on granting permanent residents a credit to offset the taxes we pay for year-round infrastructure to serve our summertime population surge. 

In recent years, Narragansett and North Kingstown joined the list with no apparent ill effects on their budgets. Even a dope like GOP Senate candidate Hershel Walker gets a homestead tax credit by claiming permanent residence in Texas even though he’s running to become Senator from Georgia.

In addition to reinstating a Charter Review Advisory Commission, as Deb Carney proposed, Charlestown should review its Code of Ordinances and begin weaning out those that are outdated, unenforced or unenforceable, or just downright silly, such as making it a crime in Charlestown to throw a snowball at a tree.

We need a bad actor ordinance or policy. At minimum, such a policy would protect the town from doing business with criminals. The town can set standards for who can get a contract, permit or purchase order. We can use whatever standards we want so long as they are reasonable and consistent. The usual criteria include corporate crime, environmental offenses, civil rights violations, failure to meet labor standards and, in construction, failure to consistently perform work on time and on budget.

We could have stopped the infamous Copar Quarry from acquiring the Morrone sand pit based on their owner’s serving federal prison time for organized crime. Or the Dollar Store’s violations of wage and hour laws, and discriminatory employment practices IF we had a bad actor policy that contained those criteria.

And of course, there’s Charlestown’s desperate need for affordable housing. Kids who grew up in Charlestown can’t afford to stay – a notable example is now ex-Town Council member Cody Clarkin.

The new Council not only faces a growing problem but one where the CCA brutally worked to block any progress for over a decade. The CCA did everything it could to keep affordable housing from being built, including Ruth Platner’s slander that families with children are parasites because they increase our school costs. That has to change.

This new Council has two years to work on the mess left behind by more than a decade of CCA rule. It’s a tough job and those of us who supported the CRU’s successful campaign will need to be patient. At the same time, we should not be bashful about urging them on to do what we elected them to do.



Don't burn down your house for the holidays


Beware of ‘Shark Week’

They're filled with junk science, misinformation and white male ‘experts’ named Mike

David ShiffmanArizona State University

Hammerhead sharks schooling near Costa Rica’s Cocos Island. John Voo/FlickrCC BY

The Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week is the longest-running cable television series in history, filling screens with sharky content every summer since 1988. It causes one of the largest temporary increases in U.S. viewers’ attention to any science or conservation topic.

It’s also the largest stage in marine biology, giving scientists who appear on it access to an audience of millions. Being featured by high-profile media outlets can help researchers attract attention and funding that can help super-charge their careers.

Unfortunately, Shark Week is also a missed opportunity. As scientists and conservationists have long argued, it is a major source of misinformation and nonsense about sharks, the scientists who study them, and how people can help protect endangered species from extinction.

I am a marine biologist who recently worked with five colleagues to scientifically analyze the content of Shark Week episodes. We tracked down copies of 202 episodes, watched them all and coded their content based on more than 15 variables, including locations, which experts were interviewed, which shark species were mentioned, what scientific research tools were used, whether the episodes mentioned shark conservation and how sharks were portrayed.

Even as longtime Shark Week critics, we were staggered by our findings. The episodes that we reviewed were full of incorrect information and provided a wildly misleading picture of the field of shark research. Some episodes glorified wildlife harassment, and many missed countless chances to teach a massive audience about shark conservation.

Healthy body, healthy environment

Healthy plant-based diets better for the environment than less healthy plant-based diets

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Healthier plant-based dietary patterns were associated with better environmental health, while less healthy plant-based dietary patterns, which are higher in foods like refined grains and sugar-sweetened beverages, required more cropland and fertilizer, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital. 

The findings also showed that red and processed meat had the highest environmental impact out of all food groups in participants' diets, producing the greatest share of greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the most irrigation water, cropland, and fertilizer.

Another reason you REALLY don’t want COVID

Significant Post-COVID Brain Abnormalities Revealed by Special MRI


Scientists uncovered brain changes in patients up to six months after they recovered from COVID-19 by using a special type of MRI. This is according to a study that will be presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in five adults will develop long-term effects from COVID-19. 

Difficulty thinking or concentrating, sleep problems, headache, lightheadedness, change in smell or taste, pins-and-needles sensation, and depression or anxiety are all neurological symptoms associated with long COVID. 

However, research studies have found that COVID-19 may be associated with changes to the heart, lungs, or other organs even in asymptomatic patients.

As more people become infected and recover from COVID-19, research has begun to emerge, focusing on the lasting consequences of the disease. These are known as post-COVID conditions, which are also known by a myriad of names including long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC), long-term effects of COVID, and chronic COVID.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Who's the most dangerous person in the world?

Mike Pompeo Just Proved He Is the Stupidest Person in the World 

DIANE RAVITCH in the Diane Ravitch's Blog

Is it one of these guys? Nope, according to Mike Pompeo

Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just proved that he is the stupidest person in the world. He said in an interview that Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, is “the most dangerous person in the world.”

That's her on the right, assuming a very threatening posture
More dangerous than the President of China, Xi Jinping, who is threatening the survival of Taiwan and re-imposing a repressive regime across China.

More dangerous than President Kim, the dictator of North Korea, who is threatening South Korea and the rest of the world, with his intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

More dangerous than Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who is trying to destroy the people of Ukraine by destroying their access to heat, light, and water as winter begins, in addition to raining deadly missiles on them.

No, Pompeo says, Randi is “the most dangerous person in the world.”

Why? Because she leads a teachers’ unions, and unions are evil.

Teachers too are evil, Pompeo believes, because the children of America can’t read, write, or do math.

Spying is a dangerous job

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE


Dinner with friends


Poinsettia Sale Benefits URI Master Gardeners

If you like poinsettias, here's a great opportunity

URI Master Gardener Program volunteers have been lovingly caring for more than 1,500 poinsettias and collecting data on their growth habits as part of the North American Poinsettia Trials. 

The plants are almost ready for sale, and we'd like to extend a special invitation to you to purchase them for your holiday displays!

Friday, Dec. 2, 12–1 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 3, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

URI East Farm

East Farm Road, off Kingstown Road (Route 108), Kingston

Cash and credit cards accepted.

All proceeds from the sale make it possible for the URI Master Gardener Program to educate Rhode Island residents in environmentally friendly gardening practices. Thank you in advance for supporting our work!

Food justice activist Leah Penniman to speak on racism and sovereignty in the food system at URI Dec. 6

Part of University’s fall Honors Colloquium

Kristen Curry

Food justice activist Leah Penniman

Leah Penniman, a Black Kreyol farmer, author and food justice activist, will present virtually at the 2022 University of Rhode Island Honors ColloquiumTuesday, Dec. 6, on “Uprooting Racism and Seeding Sovereignty in the Food System.”

Penniman is co-director and farm manager of Soul Fire Farm in New York. A self-described soil nerd, Penniman co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2010 with the mission to “end racism in the food system and reclaim our ancestral connection to the land.” 

As Soul Fire Farm’s co-executive director and farm director, she leads a team that facilitates food sovereignty programs including farmer training for Black and Brown people, domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system, and a subsidized farm food distribution program for communities living under food apartheid (lack of food access in communities).

Penniman’s talk will be delivered virtually (only) as part of the fall Honors Colloquium, “Just Good Food,” which will be streamed live (video links are available the day of each event at the link above).

A farmer since 1996, she trained domestically at Many Hands Organic Farm and Farm School (Barre, Massachusetts) and abroad with farmers in Ghana, Haiti and Mexico. She holds a master’s in science education and a B.A. in environmental science and international development from Clark University and taught high school biology and environmental science for 17 years. 

Her work and that of Soul Fire Farm has been recognized by the Fulbright Program and with a Soros Racial Justice Fellowship and James Beard Leadership Award, among others. Penniman has also authored Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land and the upcoming Black Earth Wisdom: Soulful Conversations with Black Environmentalists, which she describes as “love songs for the land and her people.”

Follow Penniman’s work at @soulfirefarm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Read this before you buy an over-the-counter hearing aid

Wireless earphones as inexpensive hearing aids

Cell Press

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News
Some commercial earbuds can perform as well as hearing aids. The result, presented November 15 in the journal iScience, could help a large proportion of people with hearing loss access more affordable sound amplification devices.

Hearing loss has broad health impacts, but professional hearing aids are expensive and require multiple visits to otolaryngologists and audiologists for tuning. These factors lead to major barriers for many to access professional hearing aids. One estimate suggests nearly 75% of people with hearing loss in the United States do not use hearing aids.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Trump is already getting foreign governments to sponsor his 2024 bid

Just days after announcing another run, Trump signs $4 billion real estate deal with Saudis and Oman

Rebekah Sager, Daily Kos Staff

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Donald Trump take part in a
traditional sword dance, Riyadh, May 2017.
Photograph: Bandar Al-Jaloud/AFP/Getty Images
The word hubris comes from Ancient Greece, meaning “exaggerated pride or self-confidence.” And no word seems more fitting to describe former guy Donald Trump walking into Trump Tower in New York City with his son Eric Trump last week to sign a reported $4 billion deal with a Saudi Arabian real estate company to build a mammoth project in Oman.

The word hypocrite also comes from the Ancient Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor,” another word most fitting to describe the Republican Party, which, after winning the House by a razor-thin margin, is promising to spend every minute of its time impeaching President Joe Biden and investigating his son, Hunter Biden, amid unabashedly bogus allegations of conflict of interest.

Trump is no stranger to selling his brand, but the Saudi deal is a bold move considering that he’s just thrown his name in the hat for a third run at the presidency.

This particular deal puts him directly into murky waters. According to The New York Times, the project isn’t just some random real estate deal—it’s a deal with the government of Oman itself. Conflict of interest much?



The REAL meaning of the 2nd Amendment


Turtle rustling in Rhode Island

Turtle Poaching: Global Criminal Enterprise with Local Ties

By Frank Carini / ecoRI News staff

Eastern box turtles are a popular species in the illegal
world of wildlife poaching. (New England Aquarium)
Rhode Island’s reptiles and amphibians face pressure from numerous threats, and for many species, removal of even a single adult from the wild can lead to local extinction, according to the state’s herpetologist.

Since the local and/or regional future for many of these species — eastern spadefoot toad, northern leopard frog, northern diamondback terrapin, to name just a few — is in doubt, removing them from nature to keep as a pet or to sell is against the law. 

It’s illegal to sell, purchase, or own/possess native species in any context, even if acquired through a pet store or online, according to Rhode Island law.

Turtles are especially vulnerable, according to Scott Buchanan, who became the state’s first full-time herpetologist in 2018, because some species must reproduce for their entire lives to ensure just one hatchling survives to adulthood. 

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) staffer said it takes years, sometimes a decade or more, for turtles to reach reproductive age, if they make it at all.

Buchanan recently told ecoRI News that “broadly, across taxa” the illegal taking, or poaching, of wildlife is a “huge issue.”

Why tomatoes are good for you

Tracing tomatoes' health benefits to gut microbes

Ohio State University

Two weeks of eating a diet heavy in tomatoes increased the diversity of gut microbes and altered gut bacteria toward a more favorable profile in young pigs, researchers found.

After observing these results with a short-term intervention, the research team plans to progress to similar studies in people, looking for health-related links between tomatoes in the diet and changes to the human gut microbiome -- the community of microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract.

Seems like every carpetbagger gets a tax break denied to Charlestown residents

'Carpetbagger' Charges Fly as Georgia GOP Senate Candidate Walker's Texas Tax Break Exposed

BRETT WILKINS For Common Dreams

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker is the beneficiary of a tax break meant for permanent Texas residents—a possible violation of both Texas law and residency rules for voting and political candidacy in Georgia, CNN reported Wednesday.

Records reviewed by the network show Walker benefited from Texas' homestead tax exemption, shaving approximately $1,200 off his 2021 tax bill on his $3 million home in the Dallas-Ft. Worth suburb of Westlake. The Texas Tribune reports the former NFL star is expected to apply for the discount again this year, and would likely save about $1,500.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Walker is not the only politician getting a homestead tax break. Failed Republican candidate for RI Governor Ashley Kalus does. So did Democrat Sarah Morgenthau who lost the primary for Congressional District 2. When Charlestown Democrats proposed a $1000 Homestead Tax Credit for Charlestown's permanent residents, the CCA and its non-resident backers nearly rioted at Town Hall. Maybe the new Town Council - no longer controlled by the CCA - will finally give Charlestown taxpayers what lots of other RI towns (e.g. Narragansett, North Kingstown et al.) have. Read more about the idea HERE. - Will Collette

Sunday, November 27, 2022

For the eighth time, Morgan has been officially named to right-wing nut list

Elaine Morgan named to Fanatical Republican Extremist of the Day

republicinsanity in The Daily Koss 

Rhode Island State Senator Elaine Morgan, who has stated her desire to have all American Muslims placed into internment camps, and claims "leftists" actually attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021.

In 201520162017201820192020, and 2021, “Fanatical Republican Extremist of the Day” posted profiles of Elaine Morgan, a Rhode Island State Senator and dry cleaner who only seemed like as kooky as the average conservative at first when she voted against the state of Rhode Island’s attempt to raise the minimum wage, in the midst of its worst period of income inequality in the United States in almost a century, despite in her own words that she thinks the people know “MONEY WORKS BEST IN OUR POCKETS”. 

But what really got our attention was Morgan’s response to a letter from a constituent who was angry about the idea that the United States would potentially allow Syrian refugees to seek refuge and potentially emigrate to the United States, sending them a horribly Islamophobic response while accidentally CC’ing EVERY MEMBER OF THE STATE LEGISLATURE. 

Her inflammatory and disgusting take read:

”I do not want our governor bringing in any Syrian refugees. I think our country is under attack. I think this is a major plan by these countries to spread out their people to attack all non-Muslim persons. The Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non-Muslim. If we need to take these people in we should set up a refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous. I think the protection of our US citizens and the United States of America should be the most important issue here.” When asked about her e-mail the next day, she didn’t apologize, and continued to suggest internment camps as an option, saying, “We have veterans in the streets starving, alcoholics, drug addicts. I can see taking Syrian refugees in, but keeping them all centralized – it sounds a little barbaric, but we need to centralize them and keep them in one central area.”
In 2017, Elaine Morgan co-sponsored an unsuccessful attempt to pass a law to drug test welfare recipients

You know, one of those kinds that lose a state a ton of money on the cost of drug testing, that then find that almost statistically no one if on drugs so no savings are found in booting people off of government assistance, and the law really only exists to shame poor people for asking for help in the first place. 

At least, that’s the initial money lost. States then get the opportunity to lose millions of dollars in lawsuits where the laws, if passed, get overturned as violations of the 4th Amendment that protects citizens from illegal search and seizures without cause. 

Point being, Morgan’s an idiot for even suggesting such a thing, and thankfully the Democratic majority voted down her attempt.

Even after her disgusting remarks, Morgan has been able to hang around the Rhode Island legislature where she has begun pretending parliamentary rules are being violated when she can’t get her way and kill legislation that she doesn’t like, such as pro-choice bills. 

So Morgan was back for another term where she can impotently vote against bills as obviously necessary as a minimum wage increase, or against a ban the manufacture of untraceable “ghost guns” in Rhode Island.  

After the Capitol Attack, Elaine Morgan posted conspiracy theories that the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, was a “staged riot” that was carried out by “leftists”, showing she’s… pretty reality-challenged. 

The second reason being, she’s going to have to reconcile the fact that while she’s been busy impotently being a regressive in her state legislature, she perhaps should have been keeping an eye on her son, who in March 2021 was charged with the sexual assault of a 14 year old girl.

While thing should end the career of most politicians, Morgan won re-election the past two terms after the Rhode Island GOP did not find anyone to challenge her for her seat on the Rhode Island State Senate in 2020 or 2022, thus she again got her party’s nomination unopposed, before going on to barely survive defeat Democrat Jennifer Douglas with 55% of the vote.

We have no words to explain how these people keep getting re-elected.      

Click Here for Full FRED Archive

One Year Ago, November 24th, 2021: Elaine Morgan (RI)… 2021 Update
Two Years Ago, November 24th, 2020: Elaine Morgan (RI)… 2020 Update
Three Years Ago, November 24th, 2019: Elaine Morgan (RI)… 2019 Update
Four Years Ago, November 24th, 2018: Elaine Morgan (RI)… 2018 Update
Five Years Ago, November 24th, 2017: Elaine Morgan (RI)… 2017 Update
Six Years Ago, November 24th, 2016: Elaine Morgan (RI)… 2016 Update
Seven Years Ago, November 24th, 2015: Elaine Morgan (RI)

Yeah, go with what you know




Existing tech could discover Alzheimer's early

URI neuroscientist receives $10.3 million grant for research on retinal scanning to detect early-stage Alzheimer’s

Tony LaRoche

Jessica Alber, standing, (URI photo by Michael Salerno)
Jessica Alber, assistant professor of biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences at the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rhode Island, is looking to change the way doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, a change that could raise new possibilities for treatment.

Alber has received a five-year, $10.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support her work using retinal imaging to screen for early changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. 

The project, “Longitudinal validation of retinal biomarkers against cerebral imaging in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease,” could help provide a low-cost, minimally invasive screening technique to detect Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear.

While there are no current treatments that can slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, new developments in drug and lifestyle therapies indicate the potential for success with earlier intervention. 

Yet one of the primary challenges in treating the disease has been that it is difficult to diagnose. 

While clinicians can use positron emission tomography scanning or lumbar puncture to detect the build-up of amyloid and tau proteins, or “plaques and tangles,” that are hallmarks of the disease, the procedures are both invasive and expensive. 

Using retinal imaging as a “window to the brain,” Alber and collaborators seek to develop a more affordable and accessible screening tool that could potentially be part of a routine eye exam.

Good thing there’s edibles

Smoking Marijuana May Be Worse for Lungs Than Smoking Cigarettes

Radiological Society of North America

Airway inflammation and emphysema are more common
in marijuana smokers than cigarette smokers,
according to new research.

According to new research, airway inflammation and emphysema are more common in marijuana smokers than cigarette smokers. Investigators said the difference may be due to the way that marijuana is smoked and the fact that marijuana smoke enters the lungs unfiltered. The research study was published on November 15 in Radiology, a journal of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Marijuana is the most-commonly smoked substance after tobacco and one of the most widely used psychoactive substances in the world. Amid the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada and many states in the U.S., its use has increased substantially in recent years. With the growing use, there is an urgent need for information on marijuana’s effects on the lungs, something that is currently lacking.

As STDs Proliferate, Companies Rush to Market At-Home Test Kits.

But Are They Reliable?

CVS’ at-home tests that screen for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections can be bought in stores and online. The kit is priced at $99.99. (ERIC HARKLEROAD / KHN)

Among the more remarkable legacies of the covid-19 pandemic is how quickly federal regulators, the health care industry, and consumers moved to make at-home testing a reliable tool for managing a public health crisis.

But that fast-track focus is missing from another, less publicized epidemic: an explosion in sexually transmitted diseases that can cause chronic pain and infertility among infected adults and disable or kill infected newborns. The disparity has amplified calls from researchers, public health advocates, and health care companies urging the federal government to greenlight at-home testing kits that could vastly multiply the number of Americans testing for STDs.

Online shoppers can already choose from more than a dozen self-testing kits, typically ranging in price from $69 to $500, depending on the brand and the variety of infections they can detect.

But, except for HIV tests, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved STD test kits for use outside a medical setting. That leaves consumers unsure about their reliability even as at-home use grows dramatically.

The STD epidemic is “out of control,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. “We know we are missing diagnoses. We know that contact tracing is happening late or not at all. If we’re really serious about tackling the STD crisis, we have to get more people diagnosed.”

Preliminary data for 2021 showed nearly 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reported cases of syphilis and gonorrhea have been climbing for about a decade. In its most recent prevalence estimate, the agency said that on any given day, 1 in 5 Americans are infected with any of eight common STDs.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Now Comes the Hard Part for Progress

What the Midterm Election Taught Us


The winds blowing in Washington and many communities post-election just might be a sigh of relief. The red wave, or red tsunami as Ted Cruz boasted, evaporated. "There wasn't even a red splash," as New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie put it.

Democracy, as President Biden emphasized, was on the ballot, and a clear majority of voters had no truck for those most aligned with a lurch toward authoritarian rule. Despite the dreams of the far right, and predictions of many pundits and pollsters that voters would overlook the insurrection and election conspiracy theories because of inflation, the results largely told a different story.

Election denier Republicans, those most likely to overturn future elections, lost critical Governor and Secretary of State races, often by large margins, especially in swing states Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Nevada. (Despite their high profile defeats, as the Washington Post noted, at least 150 election deniers were winning in House races as of November 12.)

Retaining Democratic Party control of the Senate alone is a major triumph in blunting a Mitch McConnell-led Senate that would likely forward major assaults on social insurance programs and block the critical appointment of federal judges need to provide balance to a court system corrupted by Trump and McConnell the past four years.

Democrats also flipped several state legislatures, notably both Michigan's House and State Senate, as well as Pennsylvania's House, and Minnesota's State Senate, all major efforts to defend democracy in that state and block punishing attacks on working people and families as seen so often, especially in Michigan the past decade.

The Big Lie




URI Pharmacy study seeks to identify new toxins in algal blooms

How toxic is green slime?

By Patrick Luce

URI Pharmacy Professor Matt Bertin and his research
team collect algae from blooms in bodies of water at
Roger Williams Park, including Cunliff Lake
and Pleasure Lake. The team is searching
for potentially harmful toxins in the blooms.

Bacterial algal blooms and the toxins they produce are a persistent problem in freshwater lakes and rivers and have affected local populations by contaminating drinking water and placing a significant burden on local economies due to diminished recreational activity. The toxins can sicken pets and livestock that drink directly from the waterways, and potentially pose a significant danger to people’s health.

University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy Professor Matthew Bertin is trying to mitigate the problem, discovering new toxins in local waterways and working to develop a detection and monitoring system to protect the public, thanks to a $400,000 research grant from the National Institute of Environment Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Bertin and his team of three pharmacy graduate students are scouring three lakes in Roger Williams Park in Providence — Pleasure Lake, Polo Lake and Cunliff Lake — harvesting algae when it blooms on the surface and testing it for toxins. 

Processed foods key to rising obesity

'Protein hunger' drives overeating, large-scale population study shows

University of Sydney

A year-long study of the dietary habits of 9,341 Australians has backed growing evidence that highly processed and refined foods are the leading contributor of rising obesity rates in the Western world.

The new study, in the latest issue of the journal Obesity conducted by the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre (CPC), was based on a national nutrition and physical activity survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and further backs the 'Protein Leverage Hypothesis'.

First put forward in 2005 by professors Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson, the Protein Leverage Hypothesis argues that people overeat fats and carbohydrates because of the body's strong appetite for protein, which the body actively favours over everything else. Because so much of modern diets consist of highly processed and refined foods -- which are low in protein -- people are driven to consume more energy-dense foods until they satisfy their protein demand.

Future Sea-Level Rise May Be Much Higher Than Thought

Ice Loss in Greenland “Vastly Underestimated”


Ice is continuously streaming off Greenland’s melting glaciers at an accelerating rate, dramatically increasing global sea levels. New results published in the journal Nature on November 9 indicate that existing models have underestimated how much ice will be lost during the 21st century. Hence, its contribution to sea-level rise will be significantly higher.

By 2100, the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream will contribute six times as much to the rising sea level as previous models suggested, adding between 13,5 to 15,5 mm (0.53 to 0.61 inches), according to the new study. This is equivalent to the entire Greenland ice sheet’s contribution in the past 50 years. Scientists from Denmark, the United States, France, and Germany carried out the research.

“Our previous projections of ice loss in Greenland until 2100 are vastly underestimated,” said first author Shfaqat Abbas Khan, Professor at the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Space).

“Models are mainly tuned to observations at the front of the ice sheet, which is easily accessible, and where, visibly, a lot is happening.”