Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Uber and Lyft Drivers Strike in Rhode Island for Better Pay and Working Conditions

Calling a worker an "independent contractor" is a cruel joke

By Steve Ahlquist

On Friday, ride share companies Uber and Lyft were facing a driver shortage and hitting riders with surge pricing – because drivers were on strike, holding signs on the Rhode Island State House Plaza for passing motorists. 

Uber and Lyft are ridesharing services where riders can get a driver to take them where they need to go. Uber and Lyft match a rider with a driver, and the company takes a hefty fee for providing this service. In fact, the companies take most of the fee, leaving the drivers with very little.

Surge pricing occurs when there are not enough drivers to satisfy the demands of riders. The idea is that higher prices will lower demand, and that drivers, seeing the possibility of getting more business, will surge into an area. A ProPublica piece in 2015 calls into question the idea that drivers “surge” into an area when prices rise. In fact, there is some evidence that drivers stay away from surge areas.

Also, as reported in the Washington Post, though Uber and Lyft sometimes charge up to 6x normal rates for their service during a surge, that money does not go to drivers. The company keeps it and gives the driver what amounts to a small bonus, if any.

Similar strikes and protests were happening in major cities across the country on Friday. The majority of the people protesting outside the State House in Rhode Island were not native English speakers, but Uprise RI spoke to one who translated the opinions of many drivers and allowed me to ask questions of them. 

None of the drivers wanted to be identified for this piece, for fear of retribution from the companies they work under. But they were happy to be photographed. 




Fellow Residents of Charlestown,

On Monday night, May 1, starting at 7 pm in the Council Chambers our Town will be holding the annual Budget Hearing. This is the final review, and opportunity for citizens to make their voices heard, before the Financial Referendum on Monday, June 5, 2023. The budget adopted by the Town Council can be viewed here. Please attend to learn more about the budget, ask any questions, and express your opinions. 

And don't miss the Food Trucks in Ninigret Park on Thursday, May 4, from 5 to 8 pm. Our article about it is here. The Facebook Event page is here. 

We hope to see you there!



Tim Quillen, Chair

Charlestown Residents United


Charlestown Residents United

P.O. Box 412

Charlestown, RI 02813


Let's try to keep it from happening again

In wake of Exeter forest fire, Cotter introduces bill seeking study for safer forest management

Exeter Fire Company #1

Saying the recent 700-acre forest fire that raged in Exeter is evidence that Rhode Island needs to make forest stewardship a higher priority, Rep. Megan Cotter today introduced legislation to create a commission that would help the state determine the best action for improving forest management.

“Thanks to the courage and hard work of hundreds of firefighters, the National Guard and other emergency responders, we very fortunate that no one was hurt and that the fire was suppressed before it could reach any homes. 

"But the enormity of this fire should serve as a loud and clear message that our state has some work to do in terms of taking care of our forested land. We need to put in the planning and maintenance work necessary to prevent fires like this from threatening our public safety and our environment,” said Representative Cotter (D-Dist. 39, Exeter, Richmond, Hopkinton).

The resolution introduced by Representative Cotter would create a 12-member special legislation commission to evaluate and provide recommendations on proper forest management for fire prevention in Rhode Island. 

In addition to two members of the House of Representatives, the commission would include representatives from the Department of Environmental Management, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, the Rhode Island Association of Firefighters, the Forest Conservation Commission, the Rhode Island Land Trust Council, the Rhode Island Forest Conservators Organization, the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs, the Association of Conservation Districts, the Nature Conservancy and the state’s former chief of forestry.

The resolution directs the commission to report its finding to the House by Feb. 28, 2024.

“We can expect an increasing threat from wildfires as climate change results in hotter, drier summers. Just last year, as our state experienced months of drought, there were at least 80 reported forest fires, threatening safety, property and life. We need to adapt our strategies and resources to ensure that we are protecting our forests and our citizens as best we can,” said Representative Cotter.

A Super Muffin

Scientists develop a delicious, fluffy, and healthy muffin

The new super muffin offers health benefits due to its
antioxidants, maintains freshness for up to six days
at room temperature, and may contribute to increased
nutritional value in certain food cultures.

Do you love muffins? We’re referring to a delicious, fluffy muffin that is free from artificial additives and packed with nourishing nutrients. 

It may sound too good to be true, but a recent study published in the journal Foods details the creation of this new and improved muffin.

From muffins to functional food

The new super muffin has been named Roselle, because it contains calyx extract from the tropical plant Hibiscus sabdariffa, which is often referred to by the same name.

Researchers tested different formulations of muffins containing a plant extract to see which variety appealed most. Credit: Nutritionally Enriched Muffins from Roselle Calyx Extract Using Response Surface MethodologyFoods. 2022; 11(24):3982.

Learning from the war on COVID

What we did right. What we did wrong.


Since January 2020, the War on COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than a million Americans, exposed serious weaknesses in the country’s health system and showcased amazing strength and cooperation.

“This was a global war against an alien threat, a virus that we did not have any immunity to,” said Dr. Carter Mecher, medical advisor to the Public Health Company and one of 34 experts who make up the Covid Crisis Group. Directed by a UVA professor, it is a nonpartisan group of experts that reviewed the U.S. response to the pandemic.

“When you ask how well we did, just look back at how many lives were lost. We are now at more than 1.1 million deaths,” he said. “Then there’s the estimate of the number of Americans who may have long COVID, which may be 5% to 7%, something in the order of 15 to 20 million. That’s what this pandemic has left in its wake.”

The Covid Crisis Group formed in 2021 to review how the medical industry, federal, state and local agencies and the population, responded to the pandemic. Led by former 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow, UVA’s White Burkett Miller Professor of History, its goal was to find out what happened, why and how the country could do better.

The group planned to hand its research over to an official presidential or congressional commission on the COVID crisis, but pandemic-related political disagreements prevented the convening of any such group. Instead, the Covid Crisis Group decided to independently publish its findings.

The group released its report, “Lessons from the Covid War,” in book form on April 25 through Public Affairs Books, a part of Hachette Book Group. 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Stop the Attack on Our Nation's Public Schools

The "one-two punch" of teaching restrictions and vouchers threatens one of U.S. democracy's greatest assets.

JACOB GOODWIN for The Progressive

Each morning at school, we hear the daily announcements over the intercom, followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s a familiar scene. The routine concludes with the collective and audible, "with liberty and justice for all," a civic promise that we strive to fulfill each day in public schools.

In the wake of the U.S. Capitol Insurrection on January 6, 2021, educators face mounting challenges to maintaining civic space, including a cadre of extremist legislators and, in New Hampshire at least, commissioners of education determined to advance their agendas of cynicism and fear.

As a sixth grade teacher, I know that fear impedes learning and leads students to shut down. That’s why supporting students with care is so important in a classroom that values exploring viewpoints in a respectful manner. In fact, this ethic of care and personal concern is core to civic education. 

It’s in formal lessons, but also embedded within the day-to-day interactions in a public school. Students who feel cared for and respected are more likely to be curious about their peers, and less likely to feel threatened by difference. 

Natural conversations flow from earnest curiosity, and stronger relationships are the result. The United States stands to lose this as funding is drained away from public schools by expanding voucher programs.

In 2021, reactionaries coalesced to ban the teaching of honest history in states like New Hampshire and Oklahoma with legislation that intimidates teachers with the threat of revoking professional credentials. 

They paired restrictions on teaching with an expansive privatization push in the form of vouchers. Both of these acts are currently being challenged in the courts

Yet they formed a powerful one-two punch of restricting intellectual freedoms for public school students while sending money to private and religious schools. This was a hard-hitting blow to the reputation of the historically independent "live free or die" state.

Unimpeded by a sense of pride in our legacy of quality public schools, reckless officeholders abandoned tradition for the new national trend of smashing public schools and neglecting their public responsibility. 

These destructive politicians see the great potential of our public schools—the last best hope of an inclusive multiracial, multiethnic democracy—and have made a calculated decision to create chaos, promote vouchers for the rich, and destabilize communities.

In the most recent legislative session, New Hampshire’s House Committee on Education continued their ruinous path toward the fringe. One bill proposed granting the commissioner of education the ability to subpoena teachers

This would place an unprecedented amount of power in the hands of a single appointee bent on dismantling public education. The commissioner has also sought to ban books by subverting established institutional guidelines and replacing them with a shell game designed to tie local officials in knots and take books off shelves.

New Hampshire joins a growing list of states that are limiting school and classroom libraries, like Florida and Texas. These book bans target children’s literature featuring Black and LGBTQ+ characters and narratives. 

For a time, districts in Florida even removed picture books about hall of fame baseball players Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron to comply with new laws. The state went further by threatening to punish educators who violate book bans with felony charges and jail time, a measure that some lawmakers in my own state appear to endorse with their own censorious bill. 

The suggested penalty in New Hampshire for violating proposed book bans is up to seven years in prison.

Sad but true


Shocking things progressives believe


Not only are PFAS toxic — they’re bad at their job when applied to furniture

Why use them if they don't really work?

Tatum McConnell for the Environmental Health News

The group of chemicals referred to as PFAS are known for their ability to repel water and stains from fabric, but a new study found that treatments containing PFAS had a low impact on protecting furniture fabrics and that the fabric type did more to prevent stains.

PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals," are a family of chemicals added to fabrics, non-stick cookware, food packaging and other consumer goods for their purported ability to repel water and oil. They contain a strong chemical bond that makes them difficult to break down. 

This persistence has made PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a widespread environmental pollutant found in drinking water, the blood of about 97% of Americans and even wild polar bears

PFAS are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, meaning they can impact the body’s hormones, and elevated levels of some PFAS have been linked to health concerns including kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol levels, low birth weights and decreased vaccine effectiveness in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Warning labels on restaurant menus reduced likelihood consumers would order high-sugar foods

But labels should be designed for higher visibility, researchers suggest

University of California - Davis

Example of a simulated label used in the study.

Added-sugar warning labels reduced the likelihood that consumers would order items containing high amounts of added sugar in an online experiment led by University of California, Davis, researchers. 

Menu labels can help inform consumers about the surprisingly high amount of added sugar in even the smallest sizes of soda or in unexpected items like salad dressings and sauces.

In a randomized controlled trial, researchers found that warning labels reduced the probability of ordering a high-added-sugar item by 2.2%. 

However, only 21% of the consumers exposed to the added-sugar warning labels noticed them. Among those who noticed the labels, there was a reduction of 4.9 grams of added sugar ordered, compared to the control group.

Will Thomas revelations deal another blow to Supreme Court’s legitimacy?

Responsibility is on justices to act in a way that increases public trust says URI professor

A recent investigative report by the nonprofit media outlet ProPublica revealing that for more than two decades U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted gifts in the form of lavish trips from conservative Dallas businessman Harlan Crow has renewed concern over potential conflicts of interest and ethical lapses on the nation’s highest court.

The controversy has raised multiple calls for investigation, the introduction of new ethics legislation that would govern the court and even the specter of impeachment during a time in which the court is seeing record low approval numbers. A Gallup poll released in September found that only 47 percent of Americans stated they had “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the judicial branch of the federal government that is headed by the Supreme Court – a drop of 20-percentage-points from 2020.

URI Professor of Political Science Christopher Parker notes that while Thomas is not the first justice to accept such gifts, the latest revelations – on the heels of last year’s leaked Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade and Senate Republicans playing hardball over judicial appointments in recent years – are likely to deal yet another blow to the high court’s legitimacy. His research involves analyzing the role of the law, politics, and ideology on the decision-making of the U.S. Supreme Court and the American court system. 

Below, he discusses Supreme Court ethics, rules around disclosure, how the recent revelations are likely to impact the court, and what, if anything, is likely to change.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Judges are not doctors

Anti-mifepristone court decisions rely on medical misinformation about abortion and questionable legal reasoning

A goal of the Texas plaintiffs was to stop the practice of
sending abortion medication by mail.
 Andrii Zorii/iStock via Getty Images Plus
An early April 2023 decision by a U.S. district judge in Texas to reverse 23 years of approval of the abortion pill mifepristone has sparked explosive debate.

Mifepristone is a medicine that blocks the receptors for the hormone progesterone, which is needed for fetal development. 

It is part of a two-step medication abortion regimen along with misoprostol, a drug used to prevent stomach ulcers that also causes uterine contractions. Medication abortion with this two-step approach or a slightly less effective misoprostol-only regimen is now used in more than half of all abortions in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in the year 2000 for use in medication abortion up to seven weeks. Along with the approval, the FDA also required an in-person visit as an additional safety measure. In 2016 the FDA expanded its approval of mifepristone use for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.

In January 2023, the FDA further modified its rules in light of many studies that show mifepristone is a very safe medication. It decided to not enforce the requirement for an in-person visit, allowing the drug to be offered by certified pharmacies with a prescription.

The Texas judgment by U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk overturning the FDA’s approval would have taken this medication off the market altogether in the United States. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals quickly responded, saying on April 12, 2023, that the plaintiffs could not challenge the original FDA approval of mifepristone because it is too late.

However, the 5th Circuit agreed with the plaintiffs that the FDA’s 2016 approval of mifepristone up to 10 weeks after pregnancy was invalid. In addition, drawing on an 1873 law, the Comstock Act, both the Texas district court and the appeals court said that mifepristone can no longer be sent through the mail.

In order to render these decisions, the Texas judge and the appellate court had to first determine that the groups that brought the case were harmed by the FDA’s original approval and thus had what is called, in legal terms, “standing” to be allowed to sue. 

The plaintiffs include a coalition of anti-abortion doctors’ associations that brought the lawsuit in Texas so that it would be assigned to this judge, who was an anti-abortion advocate before his judicial appointment.

This case, and another in which a federal judge from Washington made a different decision about mifepristone, are now headed to the Supreme Court. But regardless of how that court rules, we – a legal scholar and an academic obstetrician/gynecologist and complex family planning specialist – see multiple assertions about mifepristone in the decisions with potential ripple effects on reproductive health care and law.

Yeah, in the name of freedom




How you make decisions

Where does your brain want to have lunch?

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

New research published by investigators at Cedars-Sinai advances scientific understanding of how the brain weighs decisions involving what people like or value, such as choosing which book to read, which restaurant to pick for lunch -- or even, which slot machine to play in a casino. 

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Human Behaviour, this study involved recording the activity of individual human neurons.

The study examined decisions called value-based choices, where there is not necessarily a right or wrong option, according to Ueli Rutishauser, PhD, senior author of the study, director of the Center for Neural Science and Medicine, and professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai.

URI researcher contributes to study confirming link between PFAS – ‘forever chemicals’ — in drinking water and weight gain

Study results published in prestigious journal Obesity

Dave Lavallee

PFAS can enter groundwater and food sources which leads to human exposure through drinking contaminated tap water or eating contaminated fish. Graphic courtesy URI STEEP Superfund Research Program.

A University of Rhode Island researcher leads a study that confirms a direct link between certain chemicals in drinking water and human obesity – specifically that increased PFAS content in blood promotes weight gain and makes it harder to keep a lower body weight after weight loss. 

Philippe Grandjean, M.D., PhD., is physician who holds a research professor appointment within the URI College of Pharmacy and serves on STEEP, a special URI-led science effort helping the public grapple with manmade PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) pollution, including its presence in drinking water resources.

“We’ve previously shown that children with increased PFAS concentrations tend to gain weight and develop higher levels of cholesterol in the blood,” said Grandjean, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark, who has researched the human health impacts of PFAS in multiple countries and populations, including children, for decades. 

“We now focused on adults who participated in an experimental study of five different diets in regard to weight gain. Our results add to the concern that environmental pollution may be affecting our metabolism, so that we tend to gain weight.”

How you end up paying more for everything from pork to phones

Illegal Corporate Price-Fixing Conspiracies are Widespread in U.S. Economy

By Phil Marrera

Large companies operating in the United States have, since the beginning of 2000, paid $96 billion in fines and settlements to resolve allegations of covert price-fixing and related anti-competitive practices in violation of antitrust laws. 

Illegal pricing conspiracies have occurred in a wide range of industries, affecting the cost of products ranging from everyday grocery items and auto parts to life-saving medications and electronic components. 

In industries such as financial services and pharmaceuticals, just about every major corporation (or a subsidiary) has been a defendant, often more than once. Banks, credit card companies and investment firms dominate the top tier, accounting for nine of the 10 most penalized corporations by total dollars. 

These are the key findings of Conspiring Against Competition, a report published today by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center focused on corporate accountability. The report, available at, draws on data collected from government agency announcements and court records for inclusion in the Violation Tracker database. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

For an example, there's the Richmond Town Council


When you ask a stupid question

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

Problem solved


AI-generated spam may soon be flooding your inbox

It will be personalized to be especially persuasive

AI may make spam more pervasive than ever.
 AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
Each day, messages from Nigerian princes, peddlers of wonder drugs and promoters of can’t-miss investments choke email inboxes. Improvements to spam filters only seem to inspire new techniques to break through the protections.

Now, the arms race between spam blockers and spam senders is about to escalate with the emergence of a new weapon: generative artificial intelligence. With recent advances in AI made famous by ChatGPT, spammers could have new tools to evade filters, grab people’s attention and convince them to click, buy or give up personal information.

As director of the Advancing Human and Machine Reasoning lab at the University of South Florida, I research the intersection of artificial intelligence, natural language processing and human reasoning. I have studied how AI can learn the individual preferences, beliefs and personality quirks of people.

This can be used to better understand how to interact with people, help them learn or provide them with helpful suggestions. But this also means you should brace for smarter spam that knows your weak spots – and can use them against you.

Allergy season is getting more intense with climate change

We’re creating better pollen forecasts to help

Allergy season is here. Imgorthand/E+ via Getty Images
If you’re feeling the misery of allergy season in your sinuses and throat, you’re probably wondering what nature has in store for you this time – and in the future.

Pollen allergies affect over 30% of the global population, making them a significant public health and economic issue as people feel ill and miss work. Our research shows that, as greenhouse gases warm the planet, their effects are driving longer and more intense pollen seasons.

To help allergy sufferers manage their symptoms in our changing climate, we’re building better pollen forecasts for the future.

As atmospheric scientists, we study how the atmosphere and climate affect trees and plants. In a 2022 study, we found that the U.S. will face up to a 200% increase in total pollen this century if the world continues producing carbon dioxide emissions at a high rate. Pollen season in general will start up to 40 days earlier in the spring and last up to 19 days longer than today under that scenario.

6 maps showing differences in how types of plant pollen seasons will change. _Ambrosia_, better known as ragweed, has the greatest increase.
The maps on the left show the recent average pollen season length in days for three types of plants: Platanus, or plane trees, such as sycamores; Betula, or birch; and Ambrosia, or ragweed. The maps on the right show the expected changes in total days by the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue at a high rate. Zhang and Steiner, 2022


URI business professor, colleagues look at mortality and leadership succession in family business

By Tony LaRoche 

By 2030, more than 30% of family businesses in the U.S. will lose their aging leaders to retirement, or death. 

Many of those leaders don’t have a strategy for letting go of their business, turning it over to a successor, or selling it. While it is rare for an incumbent leader to die while in office, it is difficult for them to face their mortality. 

Yet letting go and the outsized effect of facing one’s mortality have not been examined closely since early writings in family business. 

Nancy Forster-Holt, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in the University of Rhode Island College of Business, has seen that up close. About 20 years ago, she and her husband bought a marine products company from an aging owner, “Paul,” who hadn’t planned for his eventual retirement.  

“Very few business owners have an exit plan. When we bought our business, the owner told us, ‘I didn’t have an exit plan; I had a heart attack.’ That was so profound to me. That’s what led to my Ph.D. topic on the retirement of business owners.” 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

What Do Pornography, Ginni Thomas, & Thomas Jefferson Have In Common?

Judges and Authoritarianism 

By Thom Hartmann for the Independent Media Institute 

What do pornography, Ginni Thomas, and Thomas Jefferson have in common? The answer may be a clue to what Democrats and the Biden administration could do about Clarence Thomas.

First, the backstories, one from 1803 and the other from 1968. 

There’s always been an authoritarian streak in American politics: with studies showing about 20 percent of the population are “authoritarian followers,” it shouldn’t be a surprise that authoritarians would rise to political power and could even take over an entire political party through the force of will and wealth. 

That’s the story of authoritarian followers Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, who openly supported not just Trump’s authoritarianism but also his attempt to overthrow the government of the United States. Thomas was the lone vote on the Supreme Court in favor of Trump being able to conceal records from the January 6th Committee. 

Thomas committed that flagrant violation of judicial ethics and unwillingness to recuse himself even after his wife, Ginni, actively worked to overturn the election, even going so far as to reach out to legislators in Arizona and Wisconsin (the ones we know about) encouraging them to ignore their states’ voters and award the Electoral College vote to Donald Trump. 

But Thomas’ authoritarian streak isn’t limited to sucking up to Donald Trump. For decades he’s been taking tens of millions of dollars’ worth of gifts from a Texas billionaire who’s a major funder of Republican politicians and Nazi memorabilia collector, gave Ginni Thomas’ organization a half-million dollars to start her own rightwing advocacy group, and has supported sleazy organizations trying to pack the federal judiciary. 

The last time an authoritarian toady on the Supreme Court was held to account was in 1803, and the analogies to today are startling. 

Those were the days

For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.


Talk with Tina on Saturday



Fellow Residents of Charlestown, 

This is a quick note to inform you that State Representative Tina Spears will be holding another Town Hall public meeting at the Cross Mills Public Library on Saturday, April 29, starting at 10:30 am. 

She will be discussing what is happening in the legislature and bills she is working on. She looks forward to group and individual discussion with her constituents. 

Her past meeting at the library in February was well attended and very informative. And there were cookies! Please plan to attend. 

We hope to see you there!



Tim Quillen, Chair

Charlestown Residents United


Charlestown Residents United

P.O. Box 412

Charlestown, RI 02813


DEM Announces Bonuses of up to $1,000 for Lifeguards this Summer

Revs Up Recruitment for Key Seasonal Workforce to Staff State Beaches and Parks

DEM photo

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced today that it is offering one-time sign-on and retention bonuses of $500 each and hourly pay increases of between 10% and almost 15% to lifeguards this summer. 

The agency views the incentives as critical to recruiting more lifeguards to staff state beaches and parks, which attract nearly 10 million visitors and add an estimated $300 million annually to the state economy, according to a URI study

The historically tight national labor market, which continues to include a low labor force participation rate among teenagers 16 to 19, has affected practically every employer in the country, whether public or private sector.

Full-time lifeguard positions are available at all state swimming areas, including surf beaches such as Roger Wheeler and Misquamicut, non-surf beaches such as Goddard Memorial State Park, and freshwater beaches such as Burlingame Campground and Lincoln Woods State Park. 

Optimally, DEM would hire a workforce of around 150 lifeguards; the agency had about 85 in place for most of the 2022 summer. Despite this, DEM only had to restrict swimming areas at a few beaches a handful of times last year.