East Bay reps propose funding plan to kill Sakonnet toll

East Bay legislators today submitted legislation to create a predictable statewide funding source for roads and bridges without a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge, according to a state house news release.

The legislation creates a new Infrastructure Trust Fund using a number of existing revenue streams to create a predictable pool of funding for the maintenance of all state-controlled roads and bridges as well as adding funding to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

“Rhode Island’s transportation infrastructure is the responsibility of all Rhode Islanders. Our transportation infrastructure needs to be a priority of the entire state and needs the entire state’s support. We can do this. We must have the resolve to seize this opportunity and address the challenge once and for all. The time to act is now,” said Senator Lou DiPalma (D-12), the lead sponsor in the Senate.

House sponsor Rep. Jay Edwards (D-70), who represents parts of both Portsmouth and Tiverton, said, “This is a way to consider all the elements of transportation as they relate to one another, rather than piecemeal. Bridges exist throughout the state, not just in the East Bay and all of them need to be maintained safely. Having safe, functional transportation routes all over the state benefits everyone. And how can we make public transportation a viable alternative if we don’t treat it as a genuine part of our transportation infrastructure? Our goal is to bring all parts of our state transportation system together and use our resources wisely to support them all.”

Said Sen. Chris Ottiano (R-11), “This legislation not only deals with the immediate problem of the Sakonnet River Bridge tolls but also, looks 10 years ahead and offers a solution to our infrastructure funding on a statewide basis. Our infrastructure is vital to the entire economy of this state. It is equally vital that it be repaired and maintained. This plan uses mostly existing funding sources without new taxes and only one new fee that will sunset in five years. It is truly a statewide solution.”

The Infrastructure Trust Fund established by the legislation would be funded through several sources. First, the legislation would decrease the total of anticipated state revenue that can be budgeted from 97 to 95.5 percent, and dedicates the difference to the fund. (The rest would continue to go to the state’s rainy day fund or the capital fund, as is the case under current law.) All new funds from the uninsured motorist fund are also to be dedicated to the fund, as is any gas tax revenue that becomes available as the state assumes the Department of Transportation debts.

Beginning in 2020, all gas tax revenue would go directly to the trust fund. Currently the gas tax money has been going to pay off the bonded debt that the state incurred to meet the federal match for transportation projects.

For the first five years of the new funding system the fund will be augmented by a temporary 5-percent surcharge in Division of Motor Vehicle fees. This increase is eliminated in 2020.

The legislation also transfers the Sakonnet River Bridge and the Jamestown-Verrazzano Bridge from the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority back to the state, and establishes a new Rhode Island Bridge Authority as a department within the Department of Transportation, with the ability to toll only the Claiborne Pell Bridge.

The legislation was introduced in the House and the Senate today. Cosponsors in the House include the whole Portsmouth delegation (Rep. Ray Gallison(D-69), Rep. Dennis Canario (D-71), Rep. Linda Finn (D-72)), Rep. Jeremiah O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) and Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren). Cosponsors in the Senate with Sen. Ottiano include Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) and Sen. Daniel Da Ponte (D-Dist. 14, East Providence).

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, Sakonnet River Bridge

Please join in opposing surveillance

Today, harddeadlines joins with sites across the Internet in calling for active opposition to online mass surveillance.

Two years ago, a similar Internet groundswell forced a retreat on SOPA and PIPA censorship, but the chilling effect of mass data collection, hidden back doors, and secret programs continues -- and even with high-profile whistleblowers, we still do know know the full scope.

Hope you'll take a minute to send an e-mail through the link below, or find out more at https://thedaywefightback.org. Thanks!

02871, Localblogging, surveillance

CVS to stop selling tobacco products

cvs_logo.jpgCVS Caremark announced today that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by October 1, 2014, making the Woonsocket-based CVS the first national pharmacy chain to take this step in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers.

"Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Caremark.  "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."

Merlo continued, "As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners.  The significant action we're taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace."

Smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States with more than 480,000 deaths annually. While the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased from approximately 42 percent of adults in 1965 to 18 percent today, the rate of reduction in smoking prevalence has stalled in the past decade. More interventions, such as reducing the availability of cigarettes, are needed.

"CVS Caremark is continually looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease," said CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H. "Stopping the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use."

In a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Viewpoint published online this morning, Brennan and co-author Steven A. Schroeder, Director, Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, University of California, San Francisco, wrote, "The paradox of cigarette sales in pharmacies has become even more relevant recently, in large part because of changes in the pharmacy industry…Most pharmacy chains are retooling themselves as an integral part of the health care system. They are offering more counseling by pharmacists, an array of wellness products and outreach to clinicians and health care centers…. Perhaps more important, pharmacies are moving into the treatment arena, with the advent of retail health clinics.  These retail clinics, originally designed to address common acute infections, are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes – all conditions exacerbated by smoking."

CVS Caremark's decision to stop selling tobacco products is consistent with the positions taken by the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Pharmacists Association that have all publicly opposed tobacco sales in retail outlets with pharmacies.
"As a leader of the health care community focused on improving health outcomes, we are pledging to help millions of Americans quit smoking," said Merlo.  "In addition to removing cigarettes and tobacco products for sale, we will undertake a robust national smoking cessation program."

The program, to be launched this spring, is expected to include information and treatment on smoking cessation at CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic along with online resources. The program will be available broadly across all CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations and will offer additional comprehensive programs for CVS Caremark pharmacy benefit management plan members to help them to quit smoking.  Approximately seven in ten smokers say they want to quit and about half attempt to quit each year.

"Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their health care needs," commented Helena B. Foulkes, President, CVS/pharmacy. "Removing tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy."

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, business

Crash at Stringham ties up West Main


Photo by Jack McDaid

If you were stuck in traffic on West Main Road in Portsmouth this morning, the culprit was a two-car accident at the corner of Stringham at about 7:45am that backed traffic up to Kings Grant for about half an hour.

02871, Localblogging, mva

PHS launches "Bring Your Own Device" on Monday

14jan15_wifi.jpgIn an e-mail to parents last night, Portsmouth High School principal Robert Littlefield announced the official start of the school's "Bring Your Own Device" program on Monday, Feb. 3. Here's the e-mail from Littlefield:

We are getting ready to take our bold new step into the future -- the launching of our Bring Your Own Device policy on Monday, February 3rd.

Essentially, we will open our WiFi to anyone with an Internet device on our campus. When used RESPONSIBLY, and for its INTENDED PURPOSE this will amount to an exciting way to enhance student learning.

I have attached a copy of our "Frequently Asked Questions About BYOD" for all students and parents.

Every student at Portsmouth High School now has a PHS email account. We have sent an important message to every student about acceptable use of BYOD. In order to use our WiFi, students must open their email, click on a Google link, and agree to follow proper procedures. They will have until the end of the day on Thursday, January 30th to get this done.

Parents: click on the following link to connect with the BYOD page on our school's website. [link]

If you DO NOT want your child to have access to the Internet on a personal device, please contact the main office by emailing the message to wentzelp@portsmouthschoolsri.org.

I want to be clear about some basic rules regarding BYOD:

  1. All use is to be at the discretion of the teacher.
  2. Access to the Internet must be through our filtered WiFi, no 3G, 4G, or hotspot access
  3. Using the PHS WiFi is a privilege, not a right. It can be taken away for improper use.
  4. No technology support is available for personal devices at this time. Students are responsible for their own devices.

We want our students to have the best learning opportunities possible. Therefore, we need everyone's cooperation if this to work.

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts. Feel free to reply to this email to contact me.

Robert Littlefield

Download the BYOD guide (900K pdf)

Editorial note: Written from a PSD e-mail.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS

Academic performance: Portsmouth writer to sing at ECA Providence

Read and download. Original photo by Stephanie Gibson.

According to an acceptance e-mail received this morning from the Eastern Communication Association, this author will be performing live on a panel at the annual conference, to be held in April in Providence.

The panel, one of those featured in the Interpretation and Performance Studies Interest Group (IPSIG) track, will explore the ideas of Marshall McLuhan through words, music and images, in the tradition of his groundbreaking "I don't prove, I probe" approach. The lineup for the panel, as announced by the ECA:

DEW Lines, Loans, and Lineages: Poetry and Poetics After Marshall McLuhan

Sponsors: Interpretation and Performance Studies and Media Ecology

Chair: Carole Bennett, Oakland Community College-Orchard Ridge Campus

“McLuhan Kaleidoscope”
Mary Ann Allison, Hofstra University

Lance Strate, Fordham University

“Messy Necessity”
Adeena Karasick, Fordham University

“Flash in the Pan”
John McDaid, HardDeadlines.com

This panel features readings and performances from the poetry and creative writing anthology DEW Lines, Loans, and Lineages: Poetry and Poetics After Marshall McLuhan. Inspired by McLuhan's media ecology approach, literary criticism, and poetic style, the participants probe and play with and off of McLuhan's ideas and insights with words, music, and images.

"Flash in the Pan" is a track from "Media Ecology Unplugged," a collection of McLuhan-flavored tunes recorded with fellow hypertext author Bill Bly. It will be included in the forthcoming book DEW Lines Loans, and Lineages from NeoPoesis Press, edited by Lance Strate and Adeena Karasick.

Big thanks to Lance, Adeena, my fellow panelists, the team at NeoPoesis, and the program committee at ECA. Looking forward to April (and building up my finger calluses again — it's been years since I played out.)

Localblogging, 02871, media ecology

Smarties doc hopes maggot threat will "dissuade children from snorting" [update]

After breaking the story of the Portsmouth school district "Smartie snorting" memo, harddeadlines reached out to the doctor who was quoted, Dr. Oren Friedman, Associate Professor, Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania. We asked if he had specifically studied Smartie snorting and if he could comment on the incidence and prevalence of Smarties-related maggot infestation. Here's his unedited reply.

We did not do a study on this in particular....however...we often see patients with foreign materials in their noses which can cause a variety of problems -- even years after the insult occurs. I recently removed an oyster shell from a 27 year old woman who had no idea it had been there. when I showed her what was in her nose, she said "I'm going to kill them" -- she remembered that when she was 5 or 6 years old, her older brothers were playing with these shells when they were at the beach, and she believed they inserted it into her nose when she was asleep. Just a funny anecdote that relates to the fact that things placed in the nose can remain there for years and cause problems over the long term.

The sugar in smarties can irritate the nose acutely and over the long term. In addition to the local irritation from the foreign material and powder, over time, the smarties can lead to various overgrowth of bugs including viruses/fungi/bacteria. The quote regarding the maggots relates to the fact that when a foreign material, and especially a food, resides in the nose for a long period of time, infections may occur, worms may reside in the nose, even maggots may flourish in this environment -- and we have encountered such a problem in the past. Hopefully the thought of possible maggots in the nose will help dissuade children from snorting the smarties.

When asked in a followup if he had actually ever seen Smarties cause maggots, he replied, "just a possibility. i have seen maggots in the nose from other food products in general."

So, the one actual quoted source in the memo sent to parents describes the threat as only a "possibility." There's no way to verify the claims about respiratory arrest, laryngospasm, or leading to drugs.

I’m not questioning that this may be something that kids have tried — one source told me kids had been seen doing it on Tuesday. But I’m shocked at the sloppy, loopy, cut-and-paste content of the message that PMS sent home. Parents deserve better communication from those responsible for their children.

For pickup in other media, see Portsmouth Patch, EastBayRI, The Newport Buzz, TurnTo10.com, ABC6.com

Update: And...BoingBoing

Updates, 1/21 More pickup: BoingBoing again, Gawker, Washington Post, Daily Mail (UK), HuffPo (UK), CBS News

02871, Localblogging, Schools, snorting smarties

Arisia this weekend (and my schedule)

arisia2014.pngThis weekend, Boston hosts Arisia 2014, the region's "largest and most diverse science fiction and fantasy convention." If you've ever been to Arisia, you know what an awesome, something-for-everyone con they run. If not, and you're looking for something fun this weekend, hey, check it out.

If you're there, please drop by the panels I'm on and say hi.

What Does 'Games Are Literature' Mean?
Saturday, 1pm Alcott (3W)
Alan Wexelblat (moderator), James Meickle, John McDaid, Mark "Justin du Coeur" Waks, Emily Lewis
Gamers have spent years defending their genre as a "legitimate" form of "literature" without having a clear sense of what that means, or more than one or two examples. This panel will explore literature in a medium where one or more live people co-create a story - action, characters, challenges, plots, resolutions, adventures - with a game's authoring team. We will focus on titles that go beyond Joseph Campbell's monomythic "hero's journey" by offering more than one person's saga.

Wearable Electronics: Beyond Google Glass
Sunday, 4pm Alcott (3W)
John McDaid (moderator), Percival, David Larochelle, Andrew Van Zandt
Google Glass has premiered with mixed results. What other sorts of wearable computing will be seen in the next few years, and what are some potential ramifications of this technology? Forbes asks the question: what happens when FitBits are implantable? Where is the line between wearable tech and cybernetics?

Looking Forward to Last Thursday
Monday, 10am Faneuil (3W)
John Chu (moderator), Ellen Larson, John McDaid, Justine Graykin, Heather Albano
There have been myriad methods of portraying the time travel story. What specific challenges arise for the writer in portraying conflict and character development in chronologically displaced setting? Are some methods of time travel methods easier to portray and keep consistent than others? What of non-linear story narratives? Is the ending the best place to start? Can a time traveler be anything but an unreliable narrator?

Gonna be a fun time — hope to see ya there!

02871, Localblogging, sf

Portsmouth Middle school "Smarties snorting" scare [update]

In an e-mail sent to Portsmouth Middle School parents this afternoon, someone in the administration sent a rather hysterical warning about the dangers of snorting Smarties, a story which has been popping up on the Net since at least 2009, when the Wall Street Journal decided to cover this horrifying epidemic.

[Subject] Important Health Advisory


Important Health Advisory for Parents Regarding the Candy, Smarties

We have recently become aware of an unsafe, new trend among some of our middle school students - smoking or snorting the candy, Smarties. Our research has taught us this is a widespread phenomenon and is the subject of many You-Tube videos. To smoke Smarties, students crush the candies into a fine powder while it is still in its wrapper, tear off an end, pour the powder into their mouths and blow out the smoke. Some are able to put the powder into their mouths and blow it out their noses. Thus, they imitate a smoker’s exhale. To snort Smarties, students use a straw or a rolled up piece of paper to snort the fine, crushed candy powder up into their nasal cavities. .

The “benefit” for students engaging in this practice is unknown. However, the risks, associated with inhaling Smarties smoke or snorting Smarties, are many and include:

  • Cuts- if the Smarties have not been finely crushed, pieces may act like razor blades cutting the tissue with which they come in contact.
  • Infection – sugar residue may remain in the nasal cavity, sinuses and/or lungs. This residue may lead to infections, cough, wheezing, and possible respiratory arrest.
  • Scarring of the nasal cavity – anything snorted can lead to scarring of the nasal passages. Also if a piece of the Smartie becomes lodged in the nasal cavity it may need to be removed by a specialist.
  • Irritation of the lungs – smoking or snorting Smarties can lead to a smoker’s cough which can cause laryngospasms causing the voice box to spasm or close.
  • Allergic reaction – if the child is allergic to sugar, snorting or smoking Smarties can lead to an immediate allergic reaction.
  • Possible Maggots – Dr. Oren Friedman, a Mayo Clinic nose specialist, has cautioned that frequent snorting could even rarely lead to maggots feeding on the sugary dust wedged inside the nose.
  • Precursor to future cigarette smoking and drug use – although there is no addictive piece to Smarties, the concern is this behavior may lead to cigarette smoking or snorting of drugs.

I have an e-mail in to the principal and school committee chair David Croston to find out the source of this information. It uses phrases like "our research," and makes an assertion about Smarties leading to snorting drugs which I think deserve some footnoting.

Coming up next: the danger of dihydrogen monoxide. It's a major component of acid rain, and it's in our children's drinking fountains at school!

Update: 7:11pm Portsmouth School Committee chair Dave Croston responds.

I can not address the PMS email or it's source. I became aware of this issue earlier today. I can say only that this behavior raises troubling issue of modeling. It would be fair to say snorting Smarties would not be normal behavior. I support the Middle School informing its parents first hand. I leave it to parents to have discussions with their own middle schoolers, as I have had with my sixth grade daughter. I fully support the open and rapid dissemination of this information to parents.

Update 2 Read my interview with the former Mayo Clinic doc on Smarties nose maggots. (Hint: Never actually saw them in a patient.)

Editorial note: WTF?

02871, Localblogging, Schools, snorting smarties

"Broadway" benefit returns to PHS

Click to embiggen.

"Broadway From Then 'til Now" returns for a fourth encore at Portsmouth High School on Sunday, Feb. 1, bringing the magic of musical theatre to the PHS stage in a benefit performance for the Portsmouth Schools, Looking Upwards, and other local causes. Sponsored by the Robert A. Davidson Charitable Fund, this always-fun evening will be packed with talent.

The concert is organized by professional actor/musicians Laurie Davidson Spaner, daughter of Dr. Davidson, and her husband Craig Spaner of Portsmouth who have many years of experience performing in the Boston area as well as RI, NY, and CT. Joining the Spaners in the group of 16 singers, 3 dancers, and 8 band members will be Alexis Alvanas, Brittany Croston, Sara Moore, Abby Moore, Jenna Roderiques, Andreas Evangelatos, Katie Spaner, & Kim Kekligian Stamoulis of Portsmouth, Lily Ferreira and John Thomas Cunha of Middletown, Leslie Zeile of Newport, Bristol native Adam Cavalieri, & several Boston area professionals. Special Guest Mr. Richard Price, Portsmouth Middle School Band Director. Choreography by Leslie Zeile & Katie Ross.

The Dr. Robert A. Davidson Charitable Fund was formed in memory of Dr. Robert A. Davidson, known to most as Bob or Dr. D., who was a Portsmouth resident who practiced dentistry in Tiverton for 37 years. The fund is dedicated to raising money for local community causes. Bob was dedicated to his family and his community, especially children, so the organizations chosen seemed a perfect fit. Also, eight of Dr. Davidson’s grandchildren attend Portsmouth Schools, with one more to go.

Looking Upwards, Inc. helps adults with developmental disabilities and families of children with special healthcare needs as well as being a resource for school departments and a variety of professionals. They provide individualized services based upon each person’s needs through direct support workers, nurses, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists,
behavioral consultants, family and individual therapists, service coordinators and support staff. More info at lookingupwards.org

Ticket info:
Broadway From Then 'til Now 4
A Concert of Broadway Showtunes, Old & New
To Benefit Portsmouth Schools & Looking Upwards, & other local causes

Portsmouth High School
Saturday, February 1, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM (EST)
$20 Adults, $10 Children Under 10
Buy advance tickets on BroadwayPortsmouth.eventbrite.com or call 401-683-2824.

Editorial note: Written from a release.

Localblogging, 02871, Theater reviews, Schools