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Friday, June 30, 2023

This July 4th, fight back against attacks on our freedom

Extreme, pro-censorship authoritarians are ringing in July 4 by calling for book bans. 

By Svante Myrick 

In May of 1933 in Berlin, Nazis gathered in the streets, built a gigantic bonfire, and burned thousands of books. 

The books had been seized from the city’sInstitut für Sexualwissenschaft. The nonprofit institute was the first in the world to focus on the science of gender and sexuality. It was supportive of LGBTQ studies and provided gender-affirming health care. 

Before the raid, the organization had a number of transgender employees and hosted an extensive library of materials on LGBTQ health. Tragically, at least one transgender woman is believed to have died in the violent attack that preceded the book burning. 

As Nazi atrocities go, this was an early and foreboding event. 

The attack on scholarship and on a vulnerable community heralded an eventual descent into unimaginable violence. Book burning and banning, while not invented by the Nazis, became closely associated with them — and with authoritarian repression more generally.   

 It’s stunning now, after so many years and lessons learned, to watch the meteoric rise of the right-wing, pro-censorship group Moms for Liberty

The group embraces book-banning as a centerpiece of its activism. Its favored targets are materials relating to Black, brown, and LGBTQ communities. For its national convention the weekend before the Fourth of July, it chose to bring its supporters to Philadelphia, a city with a rich civil rights history and ties to our nation’s independence. 

That sends an unmistakable message about the central role the group sees for itself in American culture and politics. So does the attendance of the half-dozen presidential candidates, including Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. 

This is especially disorienting for a younger generation that grew up with incremental but seemingly irreversible progress toward freedom and inclusivity. 

We saw the rise of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at work and school and the legalization of same-sex marriage. We saw the election of our first Black president. We took it for granted that we would always have the right to reproductive freedom. Until we didn’t.  

 We’re witnessing the wholesale forgetting of the authoritarian forces behind book-banning and censorship. And the worst thing we could do would be to look away.  

 The Southern Poverty Law Center is not looking away — it named Moms for Liberty as an extremist group in its annual Year in Hate and Extremism report. 

Some media outlets have been vigilant about debunking Moms for Liberty’s claims to be a low-budget, grassroots group. Ditto any claims that it is peaceful: there are numerous reports that local Moms for Liberty operatives have turned threatening and aggressive.   

The organization was even forced to apologize after a local chapter approvingly quoted Hitler in its newsletter.

 But this criticism hasn’t really dented Moms for Liberty’s ability to attract money or the attention of presidential candidates. It will take more than that to protect the freedom to learn.  

 We need a multiracial, multigenerational, cross-cultural response that clearly affirms American values. 

We need to assert the right of parents to decide if their kids are mature enough to read a book, but not to make that decision for everybody else’s kids. 

We need to stand up for accurate and honest school curricula in which our nation’s full history is taught and the stories of all Americans are included. That fosters respect, understanding, and empathy — and prepares kids for meaningful civic engagement.      

 The last big right-wing group to promote book-banning and censorship — the Moral Majority — collapsed under the weight of its own financial and sexual scandals, but not before it did serious harm to marginalized communities in this country. We can’t wait around for this movement to burn itself out as well. 

Fighting censorship is as American as you can get, and that’s what this year’s celebration of our country’s birthday should be about.  

Svante Myrick is President of People For the American Way. Previously, his campaigns focused on transforming public safety, racial equity, voting rights, and empowering young elected officials. This op-ed was distributed by



"I got mine"


A look at hand gestures

Book Review: How Our Hands Reveal Our Thoughts

By Dan Falk

It’s no secret that humans use their hands, as well as their voices, to communicate. But while countless volumes have been written about the world’s spoken and written languages, gestures appear to have been given short shrift. And so Susan Goldin-Meadow’s new book, “Thinking with Your Hands: The Surprising Science Behind How Gestures Shape Our Thoughts,” comes as a welcome attempt to close the gap.

For Goldin-Meadow, a psychologist at the University of Chicago who has been studying how we convey information with our hands for 50 years, gestures represent “an undercurrent of conversation” that happens in parallel to speech, even if their significance is “often unacknowledged.”

We gesture — with our bodies but especially with our hands — to communicate to those around us; to focus our thoughts; to remember. And these signals are everywhere. At the start of the book, Goldin-Meadow points to a scene in Season 4 of the TV series “The Crown,” where the young Diana Spencer (soon to be married to then-Prince Charles) is given instruction on what to do, and what not to do, with her hands. 

Her teacher says: “Gestures reveal us, whether we are anxious, or agitated, or cross. It’s best not to give that away.” (Though the author doesn’t mention it, fans of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” may recall Captain Picard responding to an annoying character named Q by putting his left hand over his face in what would become a ubiquitous internet meme — the Picard facepalm.)

How evolution impacts the environment

The other side of the story

Kevin Stacey

Researchers at URI shows some of the best evidence yet
for a feedback loop phenomenon in which species
evolution drives ecological change. (Kolbe Labs/URI)
The story of the peppered moths is a textbook evolutionary tale. As coal smoke darkened tree bark near England’s cities during the Industrial Revolution, white-bodied peppered moths became conspicuous targets for predators and their numbers quickly dwindled. Meanwhile, black-bodied moths, which had been rare, thrived and became dominant in their newly darkened environment.

The peppered moths became a classic example of how environmental change drives species evolution. But in recent years, scientists have begun thinking about the inverse process. Might there be a feedback loop in which species evolution drives ecological change? Now, a new study by researchers at the University of Rhode Island shows some of the best evidence yet for that very phenomenon. 

In research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers show that an evolutionary change in the length of lizards’ legs can have a significant impact on vegetation growth and spider populations on small islands in the Bahamas. This is one of the first times, the researchers say, that such dramatic evolution-to-environment effects have been documented in a natural setting.

Surprising win for animal rights - and democracy

"Just shut up and eat your bacon"

By Jim Hightower 

It’s an odd marketing strategy for an industry to assail its own consumers.

Yet, that’s what the monopolistic meatpacking industry — led by such huge conglomerates as Tyson, Smithfield, JBS, and Hormel, which control nearly 70 percent of America’s pork market — is doing.

“Just shut up and eat your bacon,” the industry shrieks.

The target of their corporate tantrum is the growing grassroots movement of consumers, animal rights advocates, farmers, chefs, retailers, and others who are dismayed and disgusted by Big Pork’s profiteering on animal cruelty.

“None of your business!” shout the executives, lobbyists, lawyers, and for-rent politicians who run the tortuous system.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

The real reason to worry about artificial intelligence

AI Creators Want Us to Believe AI Is an Existential Threat. Why?

By Ryan Calo

The warning consisted of a single sentence: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

The pithy statement, published in May by the nonprofit Center for AI Safety, was signed by a number of influential people, including a sitting member of Congress, a former state supreme court justice, and an array of technology industry executives. 

Among the signatories were many of the very individuals who develop and deploy artificial intelligence today; hundreds of cosigners — from academia, industry, and civil society — identified themselves as “AI Scientists.”

Should we be concerned that the people who design and deploy AI are now sounding the alarm of existential risk, like a score of modern-day Oppenheimers? Yes — but not for the reasons the signatories imagine.

As a law professor who specializes in AI, I know and respect many of the people who signed the statement. I consider some to be mentors and friends. I think most of them are genuinely concerned that AI poses a risk of extinction on a level with pandemic and nuclear war. 

But, almost certainly, the warning statement is motivated by more than mere technical concerns — there are deeper social, societal, and (yes) market forces at play. It’s not hard to imagine how a public fixation on the risk of extinction from AI would benefit industry insiders while harming contemporary society.

Will the CCA ever tell the truth?

That's not a rhetorical question

By Frank Glista

End the CCA spin cycle
This article first appeared as a letter to the Westerly Sun. It is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

In his June 22 Letter to the Editor "Let's not politicize drinking water in Charlestown", Mr. Mainelli takes the reader of [the Westerly Sun] newspaper through the typical Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) spin cycle where the truth is nowhere to be found.

He starts out by saying that I was politicizing the water situation in Charlestown (The Real Monkey in the Room in Charlestown) but fails to disclose that he is not only a supporter of the CCA but also its President.

Then he tries to convince you that the CCA worked hard to find water sources in Charlestown (other than my families' property) that was put into the "capable leadership" of former Town Council President, Tom Gentz. 

The Potable Water Working Group, which Mr. Mainelli wrote about, dealt mostly with the Quonochontaug area and provided little relief in solving their water issues.  However, they did put out some nice Aquifer Protection signs.

If Mainelli is doubtful that my family, Mr. Ken Burke (former Manager of the Water Resources Board) and I were attacked, as he stated, he should go back and read some of the Letters to the Editor that his CCA cult members wrote. 

He then suggests that the Town of Charlestown made an effort to buy my families' property but didn't have the funding.  That's an outright lie.  No one from the town ever approached anyone in my family about buying our property.....EVER!!!

He continues by saying that the state paid my family $2.3 million for our Cross Mills property.  They did not. 

This purchase had 3 components to it starting with my family receiving $1,282,500.00 for 7 lots and $555,500.00 for my 3 lots which totals $1,838.000.00.  The balance of $520,000.00 went to the former owner of the Ocean Aire Motel. 

So here again, Mainelli refuses to do simple research but instead, relies on past false statements from the CCA.  He further misrepresents the truth by telling you that the sale was, "...the highest price paid for open space ever in Charlestown." 

Our property had been sub-divided, a road constructed and septic systems designed making its value much greater then open-space.  Hence the Real Estate term, "Highest and Best Value."  Any improvements made on a piece of property, always increases its value.

It may please the reader to know that Mainelli and I had a conversation about the political environment in Charlestown years ago.  He approached me at a Town Council Meeting and asked, "How can we stop the rancor in our town?" 

I told him about how the CCA tried to prevent me from selling my land to the State of Rhode Island.  I asked him how he would feel if someone tried to stop him from selling his home, his response, "I'd be pissed."

Finally, he closes his letter with this statement, "Mr. Glista included in his letter a meaningless line about people drinking sewerage...a line of no useful purpose, since all of Charlestown is on well and septic."  

First, the line "You’re drinking recycled waste water." came from Lorraine Joubert, who at the time represented the Department of Natural Resources at URI.  Second, I thought Quonnie had 2 public water systems and Shady Harbor had another?  Again, he misrepresents the truth.

Google Maps screenshot
Do you really think Mainelli cares about the water you're drinking in Charlestown? Maybe he's more concerned about maintaining the value of his $1,852,000.00 million dollar waterfront estate.  

What do you think would happen to property values in Quonnie or Charlestown in general, if word got out about some of our water issues?

An interesting side note; "Capable leader" Tom Gentz recently sold both of his Quonnie homes ($2,259,500 million) and left Charlestown.....maybe he didn't like the taste of the water.

Is recovery possible


Oh, Canada: extended warning about bad air from Canadian wildfires


Still waiting for the bottom line

3M settlement marks “significant step forward” for PFAS-contaminated communities


In a move that could help alleviate US public drinking water systems contaminated with harmful chemicals, the conglomerate 3M agreed last week to a settlement of at least $10.3 billion. The announcement comes weeks after the companies Dupont, Chemours, and Corteva agreed to pay about $1.2 billion to settle similar claims.

If approved, the settlement, which could total up to $12.5 billion, would be paid to affected communities over 13 years. The money would go towards the costs of testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and removing the toxic chemicals from drinking water.

“This settlement with 3M is a significant step forward in what has been many years of work to make sure that those responsible for the contamination of our nation’s drinking water supply with PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ pay for the damage – not the victims of the contamination,” said Rob Bilott, a lawyer who has spent decades exposing the dangers of PFAS chemicals, in a statement. Bilott serves as the court-appointed advisory counsel to the plaintiffs in this multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Do hummingbirds drink alcohol? More often than you think

Flowers, backyard feeders likely provide hummingbirds with alcohol, thanks to fermenting yeast

University of California - Berkeley

You may not realize it, but that backyard hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water is a natural experiment in fermentation -- yeast settle in and turn some of the sugar into alcohol.

The same is true of nectar-filled flowers, which are an ideal gathering place for yeast -- a type of fungus -- and for bacteria that metabolize sugar and produce ethanol.

To University of California, Berkeley biologist Robert Dudley, this raises a host of questions. How much alcohol do hummingbirds consume in their daily quest for sustenance? Are they attracted to alcohol or repelled by it? Since alcohol is a natural byproduct of the sugary fruit and floral nectar that plants produce, is ethanol an inevitable part of the diet of hummingbirds and many other animals?

"Hummingbirds are eating 80% of their body mass a day in nectar," said Dudley, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. 

"Most of it is water and the remainder sugar. But even if there are very low concentrations of ethanol, that volumetric consumption would yield a high dosage of ethanol, if it were out there. Maybe, with feeders, we're not only farming hummingbirds, we're providing a seat at the bar every time they come in."

Heists Worth Billions

The art and craft of the con

David MaimonGeorgia State University and Kurt EichenwaldThe Conversation

In January 2020, Debi Gamber studied a computer screen filled with information on scores of check deposits. As a manager for eight years at a TD Bank branch in the Baltimore suburb of Essex, she had reviewed a flurry of account activity as a security measure. These transactions, though, from the ATM of a tiny TD location nestled in a nearby mall, struck her as suspicious.

Time and again, Gamber saw that these checks were payable to churches – many states away from the Silver Spring shopping center branch – yet had been deposited into personal accounts, a potential sign of theft.

Digging deeper, she determined that the same customer service representative, Diape Seck, had opened at least seven of the accounts, which had received more than 200 church check deposits. 

Even fishier, the purported account holders had used Romanian passports and driver’s licenses to prove their identities. Commercial bankers rarely see those forms of ID. So why were all these Romanians streaming into a small branch located above a Marshall’s clothing store?

Suspecting crimes, Gamber submitted an electronic fraud intake form, then contacted TD’s security department to inform them directly of what she had unearthed. Soon, the bank discovered that Seck had relied on Romanian documents for not just seven accounts but for 412 of them. The bank phoned local police and federal law enforcement to report that an insider appeared to be helping criminals cheat churches and TD.

Nine months after TD’s tip, agents started rounding up conspirators, eventually arresting nine of them for crimes that netted more than US$1.7 million in stolen checks. They all pleaded guilty to financial crimes except for Seck, who was convicted in February 2023 for bank fraud, accepting a bribe and other crimes. He was sentenced in June 2023 to three years in prison.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Once again, a Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) supporter is spreading misinformation.

The Facts Speak for Themselves.

Deborah Carney, Charlestown Town Council President

This article originally appeared as a letter to the editor of the Westerly Sun and reprinted here with permission of the author.

When you have the truth on your side, the facts speak for themselves.

The author of the recent letter, “Charlestown council limits public participation,” (6/25/23) made several false statements.

Fact: The current Council did not initiate a “new” policy, nor did this Council announce a “new” policy.  Contrary to what the letter writer claimed, the public comment policy has been in effect for more than 20 years.

Fact: Town Council Rule 6 provides that individuals be given the opportunity to speak at Council meetings for a two-minute duration during the “Public Comment” item on the agenda for items not on the agenda. The policy further states that “the President may permit comment from the floor at an appropriate time of not more than one comment per speaker for a two (2) minute duration if such comment is relative to a specific agenda matter.”

Fact: Rules that have been in existence for 20 years are not new. (The Town Council rules and procedures were adopted on December 13, 2004).

If anyone is interested in watching years of past meetings, it is obvious that I am very liberal with encouraging public comment.

Fact: The Council president did not, “announce the policy one day later at the Charter Revision Advisory Committee meeting where no public comment is allowed at all.”

Fact: The Charlestown Charter, C-165 states, “All regularly scheduled public meetings held by the Town Council, and all Boards and Commissions will require an agenda item for public comment.” During the last Charter Revision Advisory Committee meeting, I noted that the current Charter does not include “committees” in the list of public bodies that require “public comment.” I did not state a “new policy”; I read from the Charter.

I will note that just because “committee” is not included in that list, that does not prevent a committee from permitting public comment. In fact, the letter writer spoke multiple times during the one Charter Revision Advisory Committee meeting she attended.

Fact: Over the past few years, certain CCA supporters have repeatedly spread misinformation.  These individuals do not care about the facts or presenting the truth. Enough already.

Like my fellow Councilor, Stephen Stokes, I also urge you to watch the Council videos on the town’s website,, and hear the discussion for yourself. If anyone would like to contact me, my email address is

EDITOR’S END NOTE: The opening to Deb’s rebuttal letter to former CCA town councilor Bonnita Van Slyke, resembles a great quote attributed to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes:

“If you’re weak on the facts and strong on the law, pound the law. If you’re weak on the law and strong on the facts, pound the facts. If you’re weak on both, pound the table.”

Since stepping down from the Town Council, Van Slyke has become de facto CCA Propaganda Minister, peppering the Westerly Sun with nonsense letters full of misstatements, misinterpretations and, dare I say it, outright lies.

I suspect that much of Van Slyke’s material comes from her mistress Ruth Platner, the CCA’s actual leader and also Charlestown Planning Commissar.

I wish the Sun would do some fact-checking before letting its pages be used for the CCA’s fake news.   – Will Collette

Guide to classified stolen documents


Sorry Sally


Even Lawyers Prefer Plain English

Legalese Fatigue


It’s no secret that legal documents are notoriously difficult to understand, causing headaches for anyone who has had to apply for a mortgage or review any other kind of contract. A new MIT study reveals that the lawyers who produce these documents don’t like them very much either.

The researchers found that while lawyers can interpret and recall information from legal documents better than nonlawyers, it’s still easier for them to understand the same documents when translated into “plain English.” Lawyers also rated plain English contracts as higher-quality overall, more likely to be signed by a client, and equally enforceable as those written in “legalese.”

The findings suggest that while impenetrable styles of legal writing are well-entrenched, lawyers may be amenable to changing the way such documents are written.

Life or death

Drugmakers Are Abandoning Cheap Generics, and Now US Cancer Patients Can’t Get Meds


On Nov. 22, three FDA inspectors arrived at the sprawling Intas Pharmaceuticals plant south of Ahmedabad, India, and found hundreds of trash bags full of shredded documents tossed into a garbage truck. 

Over the next 10 days, the inspectors assessed what looked like a systematic effort to conceal quality problems at the plant, which provided more than half of the U.S. supply of generic cisplatin and carboplatin, two cheap drugs used to treat as many as 500,000 new cancer cases every year.

Seven months later, doctors and their patients are facing the unimaginable: In California, Virginia, and everywhere in between, they are being forced into grim contemplation of untested rationing plans for breast, cervical, bladder, ovarian, lung, testicular, and other cancers. Their decisions are likely to result in preventable deaths.

Cisplatin and carboplatin are among scores of drugs in shortage, including 12 other cancer drugs, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder pills, blood thinners, and antibiotics. Covid-hangover supply chain issues and limited FDA oversight are part of the problem, but the main cause, experts agree, is the underlying weakness of the generic drug industry. 

Made mostly overseas, these old but crucial drugs are often sold at a loss or for little profit. Domestic manufacturers have little interest in making them, setting their sights instead on high-priced drugs with plump profit margins.

URI ocean engineering professor appears in French television documentary on tsunami threat to French Riviera

Stephan Grilli continues years of work with European scientists

By Dave Lavallee 

DISCUSSING THE SCIENCE OF TSUANMIS: Stephan Grilli being interviewed in his lab for a French TV documentary. URI photos by Nora Lewis

University of Rhode Island Professor of Ocean Engineering Stephan Grilli has had a keen interest in the French Riviera for the past 25 years. But his visits have not been about taking in the yachting scene, the beaches, golf courses or even the Cannes Film Festival.

Instead, he has spent time in France since 1996 on four separate sabbaticals collaborating with French, Italian, United Kingdom and other European scientists to further his research on the threat of tsunamis to the French Riviera and preventing the loss of life and property. In fact, his last research trip to the area, from January to July 2022 led to the URI scientist being interviewed remotely by French journalist Marine Chassang for CAPATV, France’s largest producer of television news reports and documentaries.

A TSUNAMI SIMULATION: University of Rhode Island Professor of Ocean Engineering Stephan Grilli simulates the effects of a tsunami in his laboratory for Photographer Edward Bally.

In February, a cameraman recorded the interview live and captured video of Grilli demonstrating the effects of tsunamis using the wave tank in his laboratory at URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus.

The documentary ran June 21 on the French RMC television channel.

Grilli’s seven-month sabbatical last year, one of four awarded to him since the mid-1990s to conduct research in the area, was funded through the Fulbright Distinguished Tocqueville Chair Award, the most prestigious appointment in the Fulbright Scholar Program. Scholars are expected to work with host institutions in a spirit that promotes understanding and the sharing of research findings. His two main partners during this period were researchers at the University of Toulon and the University of Nice.

DESTRUCTIVE WAVE: A “tsunami” is about to destroy a small “village” in Professor Stephan Grilli’s wave tank.

“The Mediterranean area is one of the most seismically active in the world,” Grilli said, while referencing the Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey, the largest in that country since 1939. “They have earthquakes in that region–Turkey, Greece, and southern Italy–all the time. When those earthquakes occur on and below the seafloor, they may cause tsunamis. The Mediterranean has had many damaging tsunamis, the most damaging of which, the largest catastrophe in modern history, was in the Mesina straits in 1908. We’ve published extensively on that. It killed 80,000 people.

“The tsunami was produced by a very small earthquake, a 7.2 magnitude,” Grilli said. “We created models that showed it should have created a tsunami of about 6 or 7 feet, about 2 meters, but 12 meters were measured on the shore, and so that’s about 40 feet. That’s been a little bit forgotten.”

Work conducted by his research group and a doctoral student, Lauren Schambach, showed that there was an underwater landslide triggered by the earthquake in 1908 on the seafloor of Sicily from the slope of Mount Etna.

That is why he has been conducting extensive research in the area of the French Riviera. He doesn’t want people in that region, where about 2 million people live and which attracts more than 10 million tourists each year, to forget about the threat.

“My latest research was built around tsunami detection in the Mediterranean by radar. In fact, I was actually working in France in 2013-14 during a sabbatical supported by the French that focused on the use of ocean radar for tsunami detection.”

The documentary focuses on the coastal area from Genoa, Italy, to Marseille, France, much of which is along the French Riviera. Grilli said the Ligurian faults are located on the seafloor about 20 miles offshore.

“Those faults have been the sites of several earthquakes, the largest one in 1887,” Grilli said. “It caused a tsunami in the fishing villages that are now the big cities of Nice and Cannes, which could have reached 2 to 3 meters in some locations. We have the data. Only about half of the fault was affected. But now the big question is when is the next portion going to cause an earthquake and subsequent tsunami?”

Even the expansion of the airport in Nice, which involved adding tons of sediment to extend a runway into the ocean, caused a tsunami in 1979. The sediment collapsed into the ocean, causing a tsunami that killed two people. Grilli said.

He and his colleagues have completed models of two scenarios about what could happen if the Ligurian faults become active again. They also researched what would happen if a major earthquake occurred on the coast of Algeria.

“If an earthquake occurred and caused a tsunami, all of France’s south coast would be affected,” Grilli said.

“It’s a question of preparing,” Grilli said, adding that the U.S. is a bit more prepared.

Grilli serves on the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, which is part of National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service.

NOAA provides funding to regional agencies facing the potential of tsunamis such as the Northeast Emergency Consortium, which supports Grilli and a colleague at the University of Delaware. The team conducts research covering the 14 East Coast states from Florida to Maine.

“We have maps that emergency managers can look at to prepare for tsunamis,” Grilli said. “In France, they are starting to do it. France, Greece, Italy and Spain created the European Center for Tsunami Forecasting, which is creating tsunami scenarios and simulations.”

Grilli talked about what it means to him as a researcher to see governments taking action.

“That’s what you wish for, that what you do is useful to society, especially something like this that can help save lives. You want to save lives by informing people. When the 2004 tsunami occurred in Indonesia, the local people knew about the dangers of a tsunami. And they were aware of what could happen. But many people were killed because those living in the resorts were curious, when the water began receding from the coast, they went looking. A little English girl, who had watched a documentary in school about tsunamis, ran up and down the beach with her dad telling the people about the tsunami, and she saved hundreds of people. That English girl’s actions show that basic knowledge can save lives.”

Grilli said he and his colleagues are doing similar things on a much larger scale.

“Look at Narragansett (Town) Beach during the summer, there are 5,000 people there. If you had a bad tsunami off the (continental) shelf somewhere, the stakes are much higher,” Grilli said.

“In France where the faults are close to the coast, it might take only 10 to 15 minutes for a tsunami to reach the Riviera, a region that also has very crowded beaches from May to October. You might feel some vibrations from an earthquake, then you get on with enjoying your day, and then you have a major catastrophe.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Grilli was my nephew Chris O'Reilly's teacher and mentor from Chris's undergrad days through the completion of his Ph.D. in ocean engineering. Our whole family owes Dr. Grilli a lifelong debt of gratitude.   - Will Collette

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Being "woke" is a traditional American value

Shame on those political elites demanding we abandon even striving for a fair country.

By Jim Hightower 

As Scottish literary giant Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry.”

His 1785 poem, titled “To A Mouse,” could be directed today at the right-wing sloganeers who’ve been scheming so furiously to turn their hokey “woke” snobbery into a winning political stratagem.

“Your local librarian is woke!” they screech. “So is Disney, Inc.! Some of your churches, too, plus all Democrats, and — OMG — even Bud Light!” Wokeism is the Red Scare, Welfare Queen, and Willy Horton rolled into one, forming the main “issue” of Republicans now running for president, Congress, and dogcatcher.

But rather than getting defensive, insisting you are not woke, consider firing back by saying, “Of course I’m woke!”

Why Trump wants the documents back

A cartoon by Jeff Danziger


Skeets suck: how to stop them


US Honeybees Just Suffered Second Deadliest Year on Record

Beekeepers lost 48.2% of their managed hives to threats including the varroa mite and adverse weather.

OLIVIA ROSANE for Common Dreams

The year that spanned April 1, 2022 to April 1, 2023 was the second deadliest on record for U.S. honeybees.

Beekeepers lost 48.2% of their managed hives, according to the initial results of the Bee Informed Partnership's annual Colony Loss and Management Survey, released Thursday.

"This is a very troubling loss number when we barely manage sufficient colonies to meet pollination demands in the U.S.," Jeff Pettis, a former government bee scientist and current president of the global beekeeper association Apimondia who was not involved in the study, told The Associated Press. "It also highlights the hard work that beekeepers must do to rebuild their colony numbers each year."

Honeybees—and pollinators in general—are essential to biodiversity and agriculture, helping around three-quarters of the world's flowering plants and around 35% of its crops to reproduce. Honeybees alone pollinate more than 100 crops including nuts, vegetables, berries, citrus, and melons, according to the AP.

BMI alone will no longer be treated as the go-to measure for weight management

Obesity doc explains the seismic shift taking place

Scott HaganUniversity of Washington

Body mass index has been the standard measure to classify
obesity and overweight for decades.
 kaipong/iStock via Getty Images
Amid the buzz around weight loss drugs and rising rates of obesity worldwide, many health care professionals are questioning one of the key measures that has long been used to define obesity.

On June 14, 2023, the American Medical Association adopted a new policy, calling on doctors to deemphasize the role of body mass index, or BMI, in clinical practice.

The statement by the AMA, the nation’s largest association representing physicians, signals a significant shift in how clinicians regard BMI as a measure of general health. With over 40% of Americans having obesity as defined by BMI, a movement away from BMI could have broad implications for patient care.

As a board-certified obesity medicine physician with a research interest in patient-centered obesity care, I have written before about my concerns over use of BMI as a measure of health. The AMA’s policy statement creates an important opportunity to review the current use of BMI in health care settings and to consider what the future holds for the assessment of the health risks of elevated body weight.

BMI basics

Body mass index is a measurement taken by dividing body weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. The metric was developed to estimate a normal body weight depending on an individual’s height, given that taller people tend to weigh more.

It rose to prominence for clinicians in the 1990s following the World Health Organization’s adoption of the metric as the official screening index for obesity.

Research has consistently shown that BMI at a population level correlates strongly with body fat percentage and risk for serious health conditions. The index is easy to measure and inexpensive to calculate, allowing its wide implementation in health care settings.

Losers from the 2023 legislative session

Some important issues were passed over: AR-15 ban, police reform, and more

By Christopher Shea, Rhode Island Current

Even $14 billion can’t buy happiness for everyone. 

The state’s fiscal 2024 spending plan and flurry of end-of-session legislation still left policymakers and reformers hanging on high-profile topics ranging from police reform and gun safety to the controversy-ridden Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. 

Here are the biggest losers from the 2023 session. (There were some winners too).

LEOBOR reform

The latest proposal to reform the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) passed the Rhode Island Senate on the final day of the session, but never made it to the House.

The legislation, sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, would have expanded hearing panels to five members. Panels currently consist of three people — one chosen by an accused officer, one chosen by the chief of police, and a third chosen by both or a presiding Rhode Island Superior Court judge. 

Under Ruggerio’s bill, members included three randomly selected officers, a representative from the Nonviolence Institute and a retired judge appointed by the chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. 

The bill also would have allowed police chiefs to release video evidence and make public comments concerning the accused officer.

Other bills seeking to reform or abolish LEOBOR were held in committee.

Gun safety advocates

Despite support from the state’s executive branch and a visit from a high-profile activist, the Rhode Island General Assembly failed to act on two bills seeking to tighten Rhode Island’s gun laws.

One bill would have banned the possession, sale, and transfer of semi-automatic firearms with certain features including detachable magazines or a folding stock. The other piece of legislation required that firearms be safely stored to prevent access by persons prohibited by law from possessing a firearm.

Both bills were held in committee for further study.

RIPTA (mostly)

The state’s $14 billion spending package does not include designated funding for the financially endangered Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), despite projections that the agency is headed toward a fiscal cliff.

RIPTA is projecting a $40 million budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year, which the agency projects could lead to 400 layoffs and drastic cuts to service.

It’s not all bad for RIPTA, as the agency will get $750,000 to continue its free fare bus route service along the “R-Line” — which travels from Pawtucket to Providence. 

The fare program began last September and will end at the end of August. RIPTA will track ridership data and submit a report to the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Governor no later than March 1, 2024.

Retired state employees

The ghost of past pension reforms returned to haunt the State House this session, with retired state workers and public school teachers calling on lawmakers to resurrect the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) that were suspended more than a decade ago. While the fiscal 2024 budget offers some improvement – a much-reduced annual COLA rather than a lump, quadrennial sum and plans for a comprehensive study of the pension reform –  it was hardly the revival that retirees wanted. 

One potential outlier: working firefighters who suffer heart attacks on the job, who could now qualify for disability pensions under legislation passed in the final throes of the session. Assuming, that is, that Gov. Dan McKee does not veto the bill as the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns has called on him to do, citing the cost to taxpayers.


The embattled Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council was the target of a flurry of bills this session that would have reformed, or even gotten rid of, the politically appointed council at the source of most of the controversy. Yet nearly all these pieces of legislation never made it out of committee in their respective chambers, minus one, successful bill that turns the executive director job into a governor-appointed role. 

Another small, but significant win for coastal reform advocates: the 11th-hour confirmation of a full-time hearing officer, filling a position that has sat empty (despite being funded) for more than a year. 


The push to address solitary confinement in Rhode Island will also have to wait for a future session. The legislation, sponsored in the Senate by Central Falls Democrat Jonathan Acosta with a House companion bill by Rep. Leonela Felix, a Pawtucket Democrat, would have limited the maximum length of time a person can spend in solitary confinement. 

Both bills were held in committee for further study.

Legislators and activists sought to cap an inmate’s stay in restrictive housing at 15 days, which the United Nations says is the maximum amount of time someone can spend in solitary confinement before it counts as torture.

Many activists say the conditions inmates face in isolation have led them to die by suicide.

The legislation was opposed by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (DOC), with Acting DOC Director Wayne Salisbury testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March that the bill was too broad to be applied to Rhode Island and could lead to “disastrous results.” The department also disputed the use of the term “solitary confinement” by advocates.

DUI legislation

Also stalled in committee was a package of bills that would crack down on impaired and reckless driving. One bill, sponsored by Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, a Coventry Democrat, sought to extend the limit on prior offenses that police take into consideration when charging an impaired driver with a more serious repeat offense from five to 10 years.

Another bill, also sponsored in the Senate by Raptakis, would have made the maximum prison term for killing someone due to impaired driving 30 years — double the state’s current penalty. 

Payday lending reform

Efforts to rid Rhode Island of predatory payday lending practices stopped short of passage, though the proposal still advanced further than ever before with overwhelming support by the Rhode Island House (it never got out of committee on the Senate side). While the triple-digit, small-dollar loans are still available in the Ocean State for now, reformers will no doubt use the momentum from this session to try and ban deferred deposit providers once and for all next year.

Heirs of estates above $1.7M

Though Massachusetts lawmakers appear poised to ease estate taxes, attempts to offer the same relief to Rhode Island heirs and beneficiaries proved unsuccessful. Various proposals to increase Rhode Island’s estate tax exemption over the current $1.73 million threshold  – or get rid of it entirely – proved unsuccessful despite warnings from lawmakers about losing wealthy residents, and their tax dollars, to states with better death tax policies. 

Meanwhile, Massachusetts lawmakers are still considering doubling their exemption to $2 million, which would leave Rhode Island as one of two states with a less competitive policy.



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