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Friday, March 31, 2023

House Speaker calls for progressive reforms

Speaker Shekarchi Addresses Reproductive Rights and Innovative Housing Solutions

By Steve Ahlquist in Uprise RI

Speaking at the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus meeting on Monday night, Rhode Island Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick) touched on some familiar talking points – highlighting the importance of the yearly budget process, for instance – but also dropped some interesting info on reproductive rights and housing.

On reproductive rights, the Speaker said that he expects a vote “relatively soon… sometime in April, I think” on the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) currently in both chambers and included as an item in the Governor’s budget. This Act would remove the current bans on health coverage for abortions for Medicaid recipients and state workers.

On housing, which the Speaker has prioritized as a major issue with a slate of bills this session to improve and streamline the private sector building of affordable housing, he also highlighted his commitment to a test program on social [or public] housing, with possible statewide expansion to follow, modeled after a successful effort in Montgomery County, Maryland

The idea being pioneered in Montgomery County, and being explored in places across the country, is to fund the creation and maintenance of low income and affordable housing with relatively small amounts of public money – stepping in to build housing – especially when market conditions are not right for private developers. The government stepping in when markets fail is something commonly seen in Europe, but rare in market fundamentalist America.



Pay your fair share


When sex and violence isn't enough

The challenge of keeping an audience engaged: language shapes attention

American Marketing Association

Researchers from University of Pennsylvania, University or Maryland, and Emory University published a new Journal of Marketing article that examines how and why the language used in content engages readers.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled "What Holds Attention? Linguistic Drivers of Engagement" and is authored by Jonah Berger, Wendy W. Moe, and David A. Schweidel.

Everyone wants to hold an audience's attention. Brands want consumers to watch their ads, leaders want employees to read their emails, and teachers want students to listen to their lectures.

Similarly, media companies want readers to consume more content. The reason is simple: The further down a news story readers read, the more advertising revenue that article generates; the longer audiences spend watching videos, the higher the rate brands can command. And the more a piece of content holds attention, the more consumers learn about the product, service, or issue discussed.

Why do some articles captivate readers and encourage them to keep reading, while others make them lose interest after just a few sentences? And how does the content (i.e., the language used) shape whether audiences stay engaged? This study addresses these questions by utilizing natural language processing of over 600,000 reading sessions from 35,000 pieces of content, combined with controlled experiments.

New Rhode Island GOP chair defends Trump hush money and fraud despite indictment

So much for “equal justice under law”

By Joe Powers

Chairman Joe Powers Statement on Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s Indictment

Rhode Island Republican Chairman Joe Powers released the following statement on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment of former President Donald Trump:

“I’m unclear about what the charges are at this point. The indictment has not been released. I would prefer to wait to see what the chargers are. Regardless, I’m sure President Trump will mount a strong legal defense, whatever the charges are

My concern is that instead of cleaning up New York City, DA Bragg is wasting taxpayer dollars to go after a high-profile individual. If the charges prove to be false, I’m sure Rhode Islanders and Americans across the country will see right through the political theatre.”

South Kingstown teamwork pays off for restaurateurs

McEntee, DiMario bill extending outdoor dining signed by the Governor

Dine outdoors at Charlestown's Sly Fox Too,
contender for this year's James Beard Award
The Senate passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Alana DiMario that allows restaurants to continue approved outdoor dining until Feb. 15, 2024. The legislation passed the House on March 16 and was signed by the Governor on March 30.

“The take it outside campaign has proven to be very popular with residents, tourists and business owners alike,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett). 

“With confusing zoning ordinances that vary from town to town, the process of providing outdoor dining can be costly and overly burdensome on small businesses. Passing this bill provides a window of relief while Senator DiMario and I work with all the stakeholders, including the hospitality association, the league of cities and towns, and individual business owners, to find a long-term solution to keep outdoor dining going strong.”

Will a bottle bill reduce trash?

Bottle Bill Debate Returns to Rhode Island

By Mary Lhowe / ecoRI News contributor

Our clocks have sprung forward; the crocuses are popping up; and people are trekking to the Statehouse to argue about roadside litter, plastic pollution, and the most recent bottle bill to appear before the General Assembly. It must be March in Rhode Island.

The House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a long hearing last week that included at least four bills pertaining to litter and how to combat it. Not surprisingly, the longest and most emotional testimony was over a beverage container deposit-and-return bill.

Residents complained heatedly about the carpet of bottles and cans that pave the roadsides and beaches all around the state and argued that a bottle deposit-and-return system — which exists in 10 other states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut — would be the only effective solution.

Owners of liquor stores and food and convenience stores acknowledged the litter problem, but said a deposit-and-return system would unleash a devastating blow on their businesses, mainly because of the cost and trouble of managing the returns and refunds.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Does America Need an Emmett Till Moment to See How Children are Mutilated by AR15s?

Is it time to confront the horrors we allow to occur?

By Thom Hartmann for the Independent Media Institute

Here is surveillance video of the Nashville shooting just before opening fire.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Before we get into Thom's astute commentary, I have excerpted from a Vox interview with 
Dr. Chethan Sathya, a pediatric trauma surgeon and the director of Northwell Health’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention who talks about his experience in treating children for gunshot wounds. His descriptions may be disturbing to some readers. - Will Collette

Read Vox's entire interview HERE.

What’s it like to treat children for gunshot wounds?

I’m part of a trauma team. It’s like 30 people in one room, all waiting and ready for a patient. When it’s a kid coming in with a bullet wound, that room is silent. What’s this kid gonna look like? There’s all this emotion around it. It’s a very tense situation, and it’s way quieter than other trauma bays, because I think everybody is, at some level, scared. You never want to lose a life, but just having a child in front of you that has bullets in them and is bleeding out or could die — that’s a very traumatic thing.

The parents come into the trauma bay with us. So you’re dealing with a child with a bullet injury, and the parents are there. You can only imagine how traumatic a situation that is, and the immense horror on the faces of these parents.

You can’t help but reflect on your own kids. I’m a father myself. You start thinking about the fact that you don’t want to lose this child, and then you do everything you can to treat the injury. It’s a hard thing to grapple with. It doesn’t ever become easier.

What do bullets do to children’s bodies? Are there differences in terms of how they affect kids versus adults?

When it comes to children, people don’t understand: Everything, all their vital organs, the big blood vessels, they’re all that much closer together. And unlike with an adult, there’s no buffering from abdominal fat, or protection from muscles. When you look on the outside, you might just see a bullet hole. But when we, as surgeons, open up that child, we see the devastation on the inside. One bullet can cause catastrophic injury to organs, and in many cases, it’s stuff that we can’t even repair.

Most of us follow stories about community gun violence and school shootings in the news. We see the images of crying children, but we don’t see what you see — and most of us, I think, would rather not think about what guns really do to kids. What’s one thing you really want readers to know?

Sometimes people say it’s about the individual, not the gun, right? But it is about the gun. The amount of destruction that guns cause is devastating. I invite anybody who doesn’t believe that to come in and see firsthand. Think about your own family members. Would you rather have them have a knife injury? Or would you rather them have gun injuries from an assault weapon?

It’s kind of a no-brainer. The fact that that’s even debated is pretty ridiculous. These are weapons that can cause mass destruction and kill many people quickly. From an injury standpoint, the wounds from car injuries, and stab wounds are way less complex to deal with and way less lethal than gunshot injuries.

Can you say more about that?

When we see a patient who comes in with a stab wound, even multiple stab wounds, the chance that the blade actually pierces a vital organ or blood vessel is way less likely than with a bullet, because the bullet, when it enters the body, causes a significant thermal reaction and secondary effects — it creates a huge cavity of destruction. It’s not like a knife that just goes in and causes a cut in the area of concern. Don’t get me wrong: Knives, stab wounds, can be extremely lethal. They cause devastating injuries, too. But they’re definitely not one-for-one.

With that introduction, here is Thom Hartmann's take on what we need to do to get through to people how we must stop this insanity. - WC

And now we have another mass school shooting, this time in Tennessee with three 9-year-old girls dead as well as 3 adults. Immediately followed by another pathetic Republican congressman claiming that Congress can’t do a thing. 

A community is grieving, schoolkids across America are terrified, and after 130 mass shootings in the first 87 days of this year — 33 of them in schools and colleges — you’d think average Americans would finally understand the horrors of the gun violence Republicans in Congress and on the Supreme Court have inflicted on us. 

This is a phenomenon as systemic and unique to the United States today as Jim Crow was in the 1950s. The gun control movement needs to learn from the Civil Rights movement.

Back in 1955, young Black people like 14-year-old Emmett Till were routinely murdered by white people all over America, usually with no consequence whatsoever.

Emmett Till was kidnapped by two Mississippi white men, brutally tortured, murdered, and his mangled body was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. (And the white men who did it, and the white woman who set it off with a lie, never suffered any consequence.)

His mother, Mamie Bradley, made the extraordinarily brave decision to show her child’s mutilated face with an open-coffin funeral in their hometown of Chicago.

Jet magazine ran a picture you can see here of Emmett, which went viral, invigorating the Civil Rights movement as it horrified the nation. As President Biden said last month, honoring the release of the new movie Till:

“JET magazine, the Chicago Defender and other Black newspapers were unflinching and brave in sharing the story of Emmett Till and searing it into the nation’s consciousness.” 

That picture made real the horrors of white violence against Black people in America for those who were unfamiliar, or just unwilling, to confront it. 

We’ve all heard about Newtown and Stoneman Douglas and Las Vegas, but have you ever seen pictures of the bodies mutilated by the .223 caliber bullets that semi-automatic assault weapons like the AR15 fire?

The odds are pretty close to zero; most Americans have no idea the kind of damage such weapons of war can do to people, particularly children.

But we need to learn.

In the 1980s, egged on by partisans in the Reagan administration, America’s antiabortion movement begin the practice of holding up graphic, bloody pictures of aborted fetuses as part of their demonstrations and vigils.

Their literature and magazines, and even some of their advertisements, often carry or allude to these graphic images. 

Those in the movement will tell you that the decision to use these kinds of pictures was a turning point, when “abortion became real“ for many Americans, and even advocates of a woman’s right to choose an abortion started using phrases like “legal, safe, and rare.“

Similarly, when the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of 9-year-old “Napalm Girl” Phan Thị Kim Phúc running naked down a rural Vietnamese road after napalm caught her clothes on fire was published in 1972, it helped finally turned the tide on the Vietnam War

Showing pictures in American media of the result of a mass shooter’s slaughter would be a controversial challenge.

There are legitimate concerns about sensationalizing violence, about morbid curiosity, about warping young minds and triggering PTSD for survivors of violence.

And yet, pictures convey reality in a way that words cannot. One of these days, the parents of children murdered in a school shooting may make the same decision Mamie Till did in 1955.

America’s era of mass shootings kicked off on August 1, 1966 when Charles Whitman murdered his mother and then climbed to the top of the clock tower at the University of Texas and begin shooting.

The vast majority of our mass killings, however, began during the Reagan/Bush administrations following the 1984 San Ysidro, California McDonald’s massacre, the Edmond, Oklahoma Post Office shooting of 1986, and the Luby’s Cafeteria massacre in Killeen, Texas in 1991. 

We’ve become familiar with the names of the places, and sometimes the dates, but the horror and pain of the torn and exploded bodies has escaped us.

It’s time for America to confront the reality of gun violence. And all my years working in the advertising business tell me that a graphic portrayal of the consequences of their products is the greatest fear of America’s weapons manufacturers and the NRA.

We did it with tobacco and drunk driving back in the day, showing pictures of people missing half their jaw or mangled and bloody car wreckage, and it worked.

And now there’s a student-led movement asking states to put a check-box on driver’s licenses with the line: 

“In the event that I die from gun violence please publicize the photo of my death. #MyLastShot.”

This isn’t, however, something that should just be tossed off, or thrown up on a webpage. 

Leadership from multiple venues in American journalism — print, television, web-based publications — should get together and decide what photos to release, how to release them, and under what circumstances it could be done to provide maximum impact and minimum trauma.

But Americans must understand what’s really going on.

A decade ago, President Obama put then-VP Joe Biden in charge of his gun task force, and Joe Biden saw the pictures from school shootings back then.

Here’s how The New York Times quoted then-Vice President Biden: 

“‘Jill and I are devastated. The feeling — I just can’t imagine how the families are feeling,’ he said, at times struggling to find the right words.”

Obama himself, after seeing the photos, broke into tears on national television.

And we appear to be tiptoeing up to the edge of doing exactly this. Yesterday’s Washington Post featured an article about what happens when people are shot by assault weapons and included this commentary:

“A Texas Ranger speaks of bullets that ‘disintegrated’ a toddler’s skull.

“This explains the lead poisoning that plagues survivors of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Tex.; David Colbath, 61, can scarcely stand or use his hands without pain, and 25-year-old Morgan Workman probably can’t have a baby. It explains the evisceration of small bodies such as that of Noah Pozner, 6, murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, and Peter Wang, 15, killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. The Post examined the way bullets broke inside of them — obliterating Noah’s jaw and Peter’s skull, filling their chests with blood and leaving behind gaping exit wounds.”

But we need to go the next step and show the actual pictures for this truth about the horror of gun violence to become widely known. Doing this will take leadership.

And, of course, there must be a Mamie Bradley: a parent, spouse or other relation willing to allow the photos of their loved one to be used in this way.

In 1996 there was a horrific slaughter in Tasmania, Australia, by a shooter using an AR15-style weapon, culminating a series of mass shootings that had plagued that nation for over a decade. 

While the Australian media generally didn’t publish the photos, they were widely circulated. 

As a result the Australian public was so repulsed that within a year semi-automatic weapons in civilian hands were outlawed altogether, strict gun control measures were put into place, and a gun-buyback program went into effect that voluntarily took over 700,000 weapons out of circulation.

And that was with John Howard as Prime Minister — a conservative who was as hard-right as Ronald Reagan! 

In the first years after the laws took place, firearms-related deaths in Australia fell by well over 40%, with suicides dropping by 77%. There have only been two mass killings in the 27 years since then.

The year 1996 was Australia’s Emmett Till moment. 

America needs ours.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of Neoliberalism and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.comThis article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Trump has been indicted in New York


Yeah, that's about it

By Adam Zyglis


Stop norovirus


Magaziner Leads Effort to Double the Pell Grant

Make Higher Education More Affordable 

Representative Seth Magaziner (RI-02) announced that he is leading 104 of his colleagues in requesting increased funding for the Federal Pell Grant Program and to double the maximum annual Pell Grant to $13,000. 

Magaziner and his colleagues also asked that appropriators secure the long-term affordability impact of the Pell Grant program for future years by indexing the maximum award amount to inflation and ensuring that funding for the program is fully mandatory.


“For nearly 50 years, Pell Grants have provided much needed financial assistance to low-income families, unlocking higher education opportunities for millions of students. However, Pell Grants are simply not keeping up with the rising cost of tuition,” said Rep. Seth Magaziner. 

“Building on the outstanding legacy of Senator Claiborne Pell, we must make sure that all students, no matter their socio-economic status, can access a college education. By investing in Pell Grants, we will reinforce our national commitment to progress, moving our country forward by ensuring that the next generation of leaders has access to the education they deserve.”


Pell Grants are a cornerstone of our nation’s student financial aid system, but today they cover less than one-third of the average cost of attendance at a public four-year university, the lowest share of tuition in the program’s history. 

Increased tuition costs, as well expenses like textbooks, housing, food, and transportation, have drastically diminished Pell Grant’s purchasing power, placing greater strain on the students and families that the program was designed to help.


Congress increased the maximum annual Pell Grant to $7,395 for the 2023-2024 award year, reflecting an increase of $500 and the largest increase in 10 years. However, this still falls short of what is needed to make college affordable to the lowest-income students. 

Congress must increase the annual Pell Grant to $13,000, which on average would cut student debt at least in half for eligible recipients, helping an estimated 25.2 million students per year. 

Read full text of letter here: 

Attending live sport improves wellbeing

Unless you catch COVID

Anglia Ruskin University

New scientific research has found that attending live sporting events improves levels of wellbeing and reduces feelings of loneliness.

Published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, the research is the first large-scale study to examine the benefits of attending any type of live sporting event.

The study, carried out by academics from Anglia Ruskin University's School of Psychology and Sport Science, used data from 7,209 adults, aged 16-85, living in England who participated in the Taking Part Survey, which was commissioned by the British Government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

It found that attending live sporting events results in higher scores of two major measurements of subjective wellbeing -- life satisfaction and a sense of "life being worthwhile" -- as well as lower levels of loneliness.

These results are significant as previous studies have shown that higher life satisfaction scores are associated with fewer life-limiting conditions and better physical health, successful ageing, and lower mortality rates.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Looming Medicaid Tsunami

Overburdened Rhode Island DHS Faces Renewal Crisis

By Steve Ahlquist For UpRiseRI

With the end of the COVID emergency all states, including Rhode Island, must begin the process of annually renewing those who receive Medicaid benefits starting in April. 

Unfortunately, under the administrations of former Governor Gina Raimondo and present Governor Daniel McKee, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has experienced a dramatic shortage of workers, which may cause the 300,000+ people in need of Medicaid renewal long wait times, unnecessary stress, and possible gaps in medical coverage. 

An already overburdened DHS will be seeing an increase of 15,000 renewal applications per month, rising to 25,000 later in the year. With roughly half the renewals being passive, that is relatively automatic, it still leaves DHS with 7,000-12,500 renewals per month, on top of the regular work they already do.

On March 8, Stacy Smith told the Rhode Island House Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee that DHS is unprepared for the “tsunami” of Medicaid renewals that will be starting in April. 

Smith is the President of Council 94 AFSCME/AFL-CIO Local 2882, representing 280 workers who make eligibility determinations for programs such as Medicaid, SNAP benefits [formerly food stamps], cash assistance, and child care.

“While things have improved slightly under the McKee administration, Director Brito’s leadership, and the General Assembly’s required reports on hiring, we are still desperately short staffed,” said Smith.

Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick) held a Medicaid Renewal Information session for House members and reporters. Uprise RI asked Director Merolla-Brito about the 120 unfilled positions at DHS. 

Director Merolla-Britto countered that the most recent numbers she had indicated that there are 117 open positions throughout the entirety of DHS, and 75 open positions that affect field operations, including eligibility technicians.

Tik Tok

By Mike Luckovich


I'd like to think they all live in Florida (and Texas), but sadly that's not true


Lobby For Gun Sanity — Tuesday, April 4 at the State House

Enough is enough!

By Beth Comery for the Providence Daily Dose

This is the xmas card photo used by US Rep. Andy Ogles
(R-TN) whose district includes the Nashville school where
three 9 year olds and 3 teachers were murdered with AR-15s. 
Tell the nine-year-old child in your life, I am doing something! The RI Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) will be hosting a Lobby Day next Tuesday, April 4th, at the State House. All are welcome. 

Feel free to bring like-minded friends and family, members of your organization, and anyone who wants to show their support of gun violence prevention. This event had been scheduled before Nashville.

You will receive a brief training about how to lobby legislators and will be partnered with others who have done this before. It’s a great way to have your voice heard. Wear orange: organizers will have orange RICAGV tee-shirts available.

The legislative goals this session:

Regulating Assault Weapons: House bill sponsored by Representative Jason Knight/ Senate bill sponsored by Senator Josh Miller.

This act would ban the possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons. Possession of assault weapons owned on the effective date of this act would be “grandfathered” subject to certain registration provisions.

Safe Firearm Storage: House bill sponsored by Representative Justine Caldwell/ Senate bill sponsored by Senator Pamela Lauria.

Rhode Island has already enacted sensible gun regulation. In 2022 we passed legislation limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds, prohibiting loaded long guns in public, and raising the age to buy long guns and ammo from 18 to 21. These are very persuasive advocates.

RICAGV is the organizer of this campaign. They have many local and national partners, including: Moms Demand Action, The Nonviolence Institute, RICADV, United Way of RI, The Womxn Project, AFL-CIO, RI Black Business Association, RI Kids Count, and more.

Go here to sign up for Lobby Day.

Can’t make it? Go to their 401Gives page and help fund the efforts. Find your legislators here.

Learn more at the Washington Post: The Blast Effect: This is how bullets from an AR-15 blow the body apart. This includes 3D animations.

Lobby Day, 3pm to 4:30pm, Tuesday, April 4, State House, 82 Smith Street, (directions)

They all want to kill us

Warmer climate may drive fungi to be more dangerous to our health

Duke University

The world is filled with tiny creatures that find us delicious. Bacteria and viruses are the obvious bad guys, drivers of deadly global pandemics and annoying infections. But the pathogens we haven't had to reckon with as much -- yet -- are the fungi.

Pathogenic fungi (Candida, Aspergillus, Cryptococcus and others) are notorious killers of immune-compromised people. But for the most part, healthy people have not had to worry about them, and the vast majority of the planet's potentially pathogenic fungi don't do well in the heat of our bodies.

But all that may be about to change.

A new study out of Duke University School of Medicine finds that raised temperatures cause a pathogenic fungus known as Cryptococcus deneoformans to turn its adaptative responses into overdrive. This increases its number of genetic changes, some of which might presumably lead to higher heat resistance, and others perhaps toward greater disease-causing potential.

Specifically, higher heat makes more of the fungus' transposable elements, or jumping genes, get up and move around within the fungal DNA, leading to changes in the way its genes are used and regulated. The findings appeared Jan. 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Public radio can help solve the local news crisis

Needs more funding to expand staff and coverage

Can public radio fill the hole left by the decline of local
news outlets? Talaj/iStock / Getty Images Plus
Since 2005, more than 2,500 local newspapers, most of them weeklies, have closed, with more closures on the way.

Responses to the decline have ranged from luring billionaires to buy local dailies to encouraging digital startups

But the number of interested billionaires is limited, and many digital startups have struggled to generate the revenue and audience needed to survive.

The local news crisis is more than a problem of shuttered newsrooms and laid-off journalists. It’s also a democracy crisis. Communities that have lost their newspaper have seen a decline in voting rates, the sense of solidarity among community members, awareness of local affairs and government responsiveness.

Largely overlooked in the effort to save local news are the nation’s local public radio stations.

Among the reasons for that oversight is that radio operates in a crowded space. Unlike a local daily newspaper, which largely has the print market to itself, local public radio stations face competition from other stations. The widely held perception that public radio caters to the interests of people with higher income and education may also have kept it largely out of the conversation.

But as a scholar who studies media, I believe that local public radio should be part of the conversation about saving local news.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I agree. You won't find more in-depth coverage of South County news than the coverage of Alex Nunes, South County Bureau Chief for the Public's Radio. - Will Collette

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Deadly Results of Economic Inequality

It hits real people in terrible and tangible ways

EMILY MCCLOSKEY for Patriotic Millionaires Blog

If you grew up in America, then you almost definitely have heard some variation of the refrain: “America is the greatest country in the world.”

It’s an idea that’s so commonplace that it’s more or less taken for granted. We boast of inventions like the airplane, the light bulb, the internet, and even the humble chocolate chip cookie. We are home to some of the best universities in the world and most of the largest corporations.

But when we look more closely at other metrics, America’s position as the top country in the world is called into question. There are many such metrics, but perhaps none more important than life expectancy.

According to a report released last year by the National Center for Health Statistics, the average American can now expect to live 76.4 years. Life expectancy in the US has dropped off in recent years; as life expectancy in other wealthy countries rebounded after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it continued to decline in the US. 

All in all, the US now ranks 53rd among 200 countries in life expectancy. Citizens of all developed countries suffer from things like heart disease, cancer, and liver disease, but Americans suffer more and, as a result, live shorter lives.

Countries where life expectancy is the highest ( > 82 years) include places like Japan, Australia, Switzerland, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, and Canada. What are these countries doing differently than the US, you may ask? Why are their citizens living longer?

It all comes down to one word: inequality. The US is not poorer than any of these countries – year after year, we have the highest GDP in the world. And on a per-capita basis, we’re consistently in the top 10, far from 53rd in the world. But the difference between the US and other developed countries is that we do a much poorer job sharing wealth (and all the benefits that come with it) among our citizens. 

Among developed countries, the US has one of the highest rates of inequality, both in terms of wealth and income – and we can, unfortunately, see that disparity in health and life expectancy as well.

Just because the average American life expectancy is 76.4 years doesn’t mean that all Americans can expect to live that long. It’s sad, but in America how long you live has a lot to do with how much money you have. 

People with high incomes can live 10 to 20 years longer than people with low incomes, even if they live just miles apart in the same metro area. For example, rich residents in Columbus, Ohio can expect to live close to 85 years while poor residents in the very same city typically live just 60 years.

Woke nonsense

By Nick Anderson




As long as it isn't Barry Manilow

Turn up your favorite song to improve medication efficacy

Michigan State University

While listening to a favorite song is a known mood booster, researchers at Michigan State University have discovered that music-listening interventions also can make medicines more effective.

"Music-listening interventions are like over-the-counter medications," said Jason Kiernan, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing. "You don't need a doctor to prescribe them."

While previous research studies have used music-listening interventions as a tool to treat pain and anxiety, Kiernan took a novel approach by studying the effects of music-listening interventions on chemotherapy-induced nausea.

"Pain and anxiety are both neurological phenomena and are interpreted in the brain as a state," Kiernan said. "Chemotherapy-induced nausea is not a stomach condition; it is a neurological one."

Ancient Plant Family, New Medicine

Tasty and good for you


The mint family, also known as Lamiaceae, is a diverse group of herbs that are widely used for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes. The family is comprised of over 7,000 species, including popular herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, mint, and sage.

The mint family of herbs, encompassing sage, rosemary, basil, and even woody plants like teak, provides a stimulating burst to our sense of smell and taste. Researchers at Michigan State University have discovered that the evolution of these plants have diversified their specialized natural characteristics through the evolution of their chemistry, opening up the possibility of future uses in fields such as medicine and pesticide production.

What did we learn from COVID?

Pandemic Center analyzes the lessons of COVID-19

Brown University

In March 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 virus took the nation by storm. The COVID-19 pandemic blindsided leaders and forced hasty decisions that came with long-term repercussions for the health and well-being of Americans, and local, national and global economies.

In 2022, the Brown University School of Public Health launched its Pandemic Center with the goal of reducing the chance for repeat mistakes. There’s no doubt that future public health emergencies will arise, said founding director Jennifer Nuzzo, and the country urgently needs to be better prepared.

“The reality is that we have seen over time an increasing number of new infectious disease threats,” said Nuzzo, an epidemiologist who focuses on global health security, public health preparedness and response, and health systems resilience. 

“That has to do with several factors, including how we've changed our relationship with the environment and how we, as humans, have changed behaviorally. In the future, we could see events that have an even greater potential to negatively impact society than COVID-19.”

At the outset of the pandemic, she said, the nation launched into crisis mode, and leaders made decisions quickly with the best information they had at the time. But the next emergency should come as less of a surprise: “Three years later, we should absolutely be asking what worked and what didn’t, so that next time we can do better.”

Monday, March 27, 2023

Don't Look Now, But the Far Right May Be Trying to Steal the Future

Bold political thievery gets you only so far

STEVEN DAY for Common Dreams

By Ed Hall
If you're a well-informed Republican leader, you know you have a problem. The extreme right-wing, which is really the only right-wing that exists these days, is losing the future. 

Baby boomers may still love them, but millennials and Generation Zers largely reject their agenda. Year by year, as more boomers disappear, Gen Zers, the age group Republicans do by far the worst with, are not only coming of age, but also voting in greater numbers than many expected. 

Meanwhile, while the data is somewhat mixed, recent evidence suggests millennials may actually be growing even less conservative as they age.

So, what's a political party facing this reality supposed to do? They could try making themselves more attractive to young voters. But for that to be successful they would have to be willing to alter their positions on the social and cultural issues that have made them a pariah to the young. And that is something their base, voters they can't afford to lose, will never allow.

Talk of a more moderate GOP is a pipe dream. The hate-based politics the party embraced in supporting Donald Trump (and embraced well before that in their racist southern strategy) has become a trap. The GOP is now inexorably affixed to a policy agenda that is anathema to young voters.

But before we are foolhardy enough to count the GOP out, we need to remember the secret sauce that fuels its successes—the money: billions of dollars tossed their way, spare change from America's increasingly wealthy plutocratic class.

By far the most important thing this lucre has provided right-wing politics is a series of decades-long crusades designed to fundamentally change the nation's courts and educational system, destroy unions, end, or drastically curtail, government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and drastically reduce the share of the tax burden assessed to the wealthy. Taken together, these interlocking crusades have already changed America in profound and troubling ways.

All of these projects share one important characteristic—a commitment to playing the long game. This isn't about winning one election, though there is money enough to fight those battles as well. No, this is nothing less than a decades-long effort by American plutocrats to change this nation in fundamental ways.

Probably the best known of these long-term-conservative projects has been the effort to remake the nation's judiciary, spearheaded by The Federalist Society. The extent of the far-right's victory in this decades-old project was demonstrated, in devastating fashion, when the Court announced the Dobbs decision, overruling Roe v. Wade.

We are discussing here, however, a different crusade—but one with the potential to be every bit as impactful.

As we have seen, the right is losing the future politically. They are also extremely unlikely to modify their positions enough to win over young voters. They are not, however, without remedy. They may not be able to win the future, but that doesn't mean they won't try to steal it. 

Audacious political thievery is, after all, one of the GOP's modern-calling cards. Year after year, they've been stealing elections through vote suppression and extreme gerrymandering.

In 2020, they came within a whisker of successfully stealing the presidency through a multi-headed conspiracy of fake electors, efforts to suppress the vote count, false accusations of election fraud, a violent insurrection and, most remarkably, through the act of 147 Republican members of Congress in voting to overturn the will of the American people in a presidential election.

But how do you steal the future? If you're playing the long game, and you don't like the voters the future is likely to produce, you can try growing different ones. What follows includes speculation. But it's informed speculation that makes sense based upon established fact. 

Think about how you would proceed if you had almost limitless resources and wanted to change the political vision of future voters. You would want to gain control of the institutions that will influence their worldview. And if we set aside parents and friends, the biggest such influence is their schools.