Loves Children

Forty-four year old Livia Ionce of Canada, originally from Romania, gave birth to her 18th child last week. Mrs. Ionce is not quoted in the AP article, but this is what her husband had to say…

“We never planned how many children to have. We just let God guide our lives, you know, because we strongly believe life comes from God and that’s the reason we did not stop the life,” said Alexandru Ionce.

Just once I want to hear from the wife. I want her to say that she adores being pregnant, loves children, and can’t get enough. I want her to say that she has plenty of time for each one and is doing exactly what she wants.

While it’s true that we are overpopulated, it’s a big world and I’d be the last one to tell a couple how many children they should have. It’s a very personal decision and I’m not offering to babysit, so what’s it to me?

But every time someone makes news by having a huge family they say that God made them do it. Don’t they want the kids for themselves? It’s not some kind of penance, is it? Or some kind of witness to an unbelieving world?

Like I said, it’s their business, but I hope they take the kids out for ice cream once in a while after church.

Projo Interviews Mayoral Candidates on Cranston Finances

When taking on the role of campaign coordinator for Cindy Fogarty, she and I discussed how to handle my role on this blog. Cindy was concerned that I maintain my credibility on the blog, and suggested the best way to do this would be to avoid commenting on this blog about political issues in Cranston for the next 14 weeks. This restriction seems to me like a good plan — an appropriate way to separate my opinions from the political issues that our mayoral candidates need to address.

However, to continue fostering community discussion (because we know the community discussions here on Kmareka can be helpful at times), I will still post links to news stories that are about important issues in Cranston. One such article was published today in the Projo and is entitled “Neither Cranston Mayoral Hopeful Rules Out Tax Increase.” I invite readers to share their thoughts and concerns as they relate to the issues described in the article.

Rhode Island’s Nuclear Fatality Part III An Acceptable Level

Nuclear contamination is a particularly nasty problem. Undetectable except with instruments, low-level nuclear emissions can raise the risk of cancer and birth defects. When United Nuclear closed for lack of profits in 1980, leaks of radioactive water into the soil and groundwater had polluted the site of the plant. This put the site under the authority of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The potential danger of nuclear waste depends on the elements present. Some decay and lose their radioactivity very fast. Others remain poisonous for thousands of years. The Providence Journal reported that it was fourteen years from the time the plant closed until the NRC was ready to release the land from Federal jurisdiction…

United Nuclear moves closer to sale of land
Hill, John. Providence Journal. Providence, R.I.:Dec 5, 1994. p. 1

…NRC staff say the site is within safe limits for radioactivity, but there is still an underground swath of non-radioactive nitrates polluting ground water beyond the state’s safe-drinking limit.

The nitrates stretch out in a narrow plume about 1,500 feet to the northwest, toward the Pawcatuck River. It is that plume, and the question of who will monitor it, that has concerned state and federal environmental regulators. The NRC and the company argue that because the plant is within safe limits for radio activity, the NRC has no business overseeing it.

… in the late 1970s, the state Department of Environmental Management detected radioactive materials and the nitrate plume, which had leaked from trenches outside the plant.

“Radiologically it’s finished,” said John Austin, the NRC’s chief of low-level waste and decontamination projects. “The outstanding issue now is nitrates in the ground water, and the NRC does not have jurisdiction over nitrates.”

DEM and the company reached a testing agreement last month that calls for the company to pay for monitoring wells that will track the nitrate pollution.

I wonder what it took to get United Nuclear to agree.

The Providence Journal article Chain Reaction, 3/11/90, the main source for this series, has a photo of the groundbreaking ceremony for the opening of United Nuclear in 1963. Gov. John H. Chafee, Sen. Claiborne Pell and Sen. John O. Pastore are holding shovels. They had great hopes for what the plant would do, create 1000 good jobs for Rhode Islanders in an exciting and growing industry.

The plant never hired more than 80 workers and left a nightmarish cleanup problem…

For two years the UNC Disposal Site [Oak Ridge, Tennessee] accepted and disposed of waste from the decommissioning of a UNC uranium recovery facility in Wood River Junction, Rhode Island. Between June 1982 and November 1984, the UNC Disposal Site received 11,000 55-gal drums of sludge fixed in cement, 18,000 drums of contaminated soil, and 288 wooden boxes of contaminated building and process demolition materials. (link)

A massive and expensive effort. Two years of trucks carrying nuclear waste across the country. Who paid? The NRC is a Federal agency. One thing is clear — making Rhode Island a depot for spent nuclear waste did nothing good for our economy and left one of the most pristine and beautiful areas in the state contaminated for years after the closing of United Nuclear.

Public risk, private profit. Taxpayers stuck with the bill–Part IV.

Rhode Island’s Nuclear Fatality — Part II Collateral Damage

On July 24, 1964 an ambulance carrying a gravely injured man pulled up to Westerly Hospital only to be turned away in the parking lot by two doctors and a policeman. The driver, John Shibilio, set off on a desperate high-speed race across the state, bypassing South County and Kent County Hospitals to arrive at Rhode Island Hospital about thirty minutes later. There Robert Peabody was treated for radiation poisoning.

All the following quotes are from the article, Chain Reaction by Christopher Rowland, Providence Journal 3/11/90 —

Dr. Joseph Karas first heard about the accident from the emergency-ward nurse.

“There’s been a radiation explosion or something down around Westerly and they’re bringing someone in,” she told him. The ambulance arrived less than 10 minutes later.

Karas had never heard of the United Nuclear uranium processing plant, had no idea there was a radiation danger in Charlestown, and had no experience in treating radiation sickness. He just happened to be in charge of the Rhode Island Hospital emergency ward that Friday night. Except for one brief trip home, he would spend the weekend there.

…Karas cleared the emergency room halls. He also called Dr.Thomas Forsythe, the hospital’s radiologist, to distribute radiation-dose gauges for nurses and doctors. Staff members wore the lead aprons usually used by x-ray technicians, and they wrapped their feet in paper grocery sacks.

Realizing that Peabody’s skin was prickly with radiation, Karas worked fast to run water over his body. He had orderlies place Peabody on top of some plastic sheets and use a hose to wash him off. The radioactive water running off the plastic sheets was captured with towels, which were tossed into disposable bags.

The towels, blankets, sheets, pillows, clothing, gloves, masks, needles, syringes, utensils, drinking glasses, magazines, hair, body wastes — everything that came out of Peabody’s room during his last hours was placed in an unused x-ray room that was lined with lead. After the radiation levels subsided, the waste was burned.

Measurements taken when he was admitted to the hospital showed that he was emitting 40 millirems of radiation two feet above his head and upper chest, 18 millirems above his stomach, and 10 millirems above his feet.

The article goes on to describe the suffering and indignity Robert Peabody endured in the 49 hours from the accident till his death. His doctor and nurses did what they could to keep him comfortable with morphine. They allowed his wife into his room for a few minutes to hold his hand.

There is no reason for a corporation, a hospital or law enforcement to open doors when no one wants to know what is on the other side. Rhode Island Hospital — doctors, nurses, orderlies, support staff, all did an amazing job of responding to an emergency they were given no warning or preparation for. Just as in the Station Fire in 2003, the staff of RIH was there.

But this emergency was different. The hospital staff, despite radiation badges and improvised protective gear, were inevitably exposed to some level of radiation. Anyone who was near United Nuclear or Robert Peabody that night was exposed.

[Ambulance driver, John] Shibilio was checked with a Geiger counter after driving Peabody to Rhode Island Hospital, and he says the counter’s needle went to the top of the meter.

“I had never had a Geiger counter on me before,” says Shibilio. “I saw the situation with Mr. Peabody; the Geiger counter went up when it was near him. The Geiger counter went up when it was near me. I put two and two together and I felt fear.”

Doctors took his shirt and gave him a hospital smock to wear. Later that night, he was ordered to return to the United Nuclear plant, where he was swarmed by reporters battling “like a pack of ants” for information about the accident. He was then taken to University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus, where the school runs a small reactor for research purposes. Technicians there gave him a cold shower and a thorough examination, telling him that he would be fine.

While he was there, the ambulance had been scrubbed out by United Nuclear employees, but Shibilio scrubbed it out on his own again anyway.

Shibilio never found out how much radiation he received. He adds that he is not blaming United Nuclear for his physical problems. “I’m just asking the question,” he says.

A manager of the United Nuclear plant contacted by the Providence Journal in 1990 had this to say–

“This was a very unfortunate accident and it’s really a shame. But industrial accidents do happen,” Gregg says. The incident does not deserve special attention “simply because it’s got the word ‘nuclear’ attached to it.”

But there is a special hazard in radioactive poisoning. Radioactivity disrupts cells and damages DNA, raising the risk of cancer and birth defects. Exposure is cumulative, each exposure adds to the damage. That’s why your x-ray technician wears a lead apron and jumps behind a barrier as you lay under the x-ray. That’s why they ask you if you might be pregnant. A diagnostic x-ray is reasonable for a patient, but letting the technician be exposed to x-rays all day would be reckless and negligent.

A number of the people mentioned in the Journal article as being near the accident have developed cancer or other serious health problems as of 1990–

John Shibilio, the ambulance driver — low white blood cell count, child with birth defects who died shortly after birth

Clifford Smith, the shift supervisor on duty the night of the accident –died of prostate cancer

Robert Mastriani, plant worker present at accident — surviving lymph gland cancer

Anna Peabody, Robert Peabody’s wife — surviving throat cancer.

Unlike another environmental hazard, lead poisoning, radiation damage cannot be measured with a blood test. The causes of cancer are many, both hereditary and environmental, and it’s seldom possible to link one person’s cancer to one specific insult.

But evidence from Hiroshima through decades of accidents and mis-handling of radioactive materials shows that a population exposed to radiation will suffer an increase in cancer. That is why a nuclear accident does deserve “special attention.”

For the nightmarish cleanup, see Part III.

UPDATE: Dr. Joseph Karas wrote about the case in the N.E. Journal of Medicine, (Karas JS, Stanbury JB. Fatal radiation syndrome from an accidental nuclear excursion. N Engl J Med 1965;272:755–61)but the article is not available for free online. A link to an article that cites Dr. Karas is here, If you scroll down a few paragraphs you will find quotes from Dr.Karas’ article and some photos of Robert Peabody in the ER at Rhode Island Hospital. May his family find consolation and justice.

Newport Review Summer 2008 Issue Now Online

The Newport Review (of which I am a board member and editor) now has its new issue online and it’s a sight to see. The photography alone is worth the trip. We also have some great flash fiction from Bob Thurber, our 2008 Flash Fiction First Prize winner, and a stunning new piece of memoir from Mary Callahan, who was first published on Kmareka in 2002.

Congratulations to Kathryn who has been doing the work of creating the new issue in her spare time (lol) — between two librarian jobs and two teaching gigs. She is a wonder woman of her very own kind. Many thanks to all of the editors, webmasters, interns, and, of course, writers who contributed to this issue.

Please make a donation to The Newport Review, to help keep one of our state’s beautiful creative outlets alive.

Don’t Make Decisions on a Tired Brain

(cross-posted from my private practice site.)

This article from Scientific American describes new research that suggests that if you wear your brain out with executive function activities, you might not want to make any big decisions right away. Even using your executive function for mundane self-control such as avoiding eating foods that are not good for you or following directions that tell you to ignore something that is mildly interesting, may have the effect of making you more susceptible to errors in judgment in subsequent decision-making.

This is news, but it also contains a message as old as human consciousness itself: when you are tired, rest. Forcing yourself to stay awake and perform tasks is a good way to end up making serious mistakes. Of course, taking a rest is often easier said than done. But bear in mind the option of putting off decision-making or major confrontations or attempts to solve seemingly-entrenched problems until you can come at them with a brain fully loaded with fresh executive function capability.

There’s also a wise old message for parents hidden in this research: put your children to bed. Help them settle down when they are tired. Do not try to discipline them or force them to use their executive function skills if it is the end of the day and they are unraveling. Better to let them get a good night’s sleep and start something challenging the next day, even if it means getting up earlier in the morning to make sure something is done for school.

Summer Happenings from Steve Stycos

School Committee member Steve Stycos shares the following on locally-grown food and ways to reduce carbon emissions:


The Pawtuxet Village Farmers Market will have plenty of sweet corn this week. Last week, we sold 30 dozen ears from Confreda Farms by 10:30 AM. This week both Moosup River Farm and Barden Orchards will have sweet corn, in addition to some from Confreda. The Bardens, who will join us for the first time this season, will also have summer squash, eggplant, cucumbers and perhaps raspberries and peaches.

The Xiongs will not be at the market Saturday as Kanseese Xiong (the older of the sisters at the stand) is getting married, followed by a honeymoon. Nim chow fans should not worry, however. Michelle from Zephyr Farm will sell the Xiong’s Asian vegetable rolls on Saturday, in addition to her tomatoes, onions, lettuce, swiss chard, free range eggs and “Besto Pesto.� The Xiongs will be back next week.


Rocky Point Blueberry Farm in Warwick is open for picking every day from 8 AM to 1 PM and Thursday nights from 4 PM to dark. The farm is kid friendly and some bushes are actually in the shade. Blueberry farmers Mark and Betty Garrison also attend our market every October with their paw paws. They expect to have blueberry picking for at least another three weeks.

To get the farm, take Warwick Avenue south, past Bishop Hendricken High School, to the end. Then turn left and a quick right onto Warwick Neck Avenue. Go one mile and then turn left onto Rocky Point Avenue. The farm is immediately on the right. It also can be reached by taking the Number 3 RIPTA bus (make sure it says Warwick Neck) to the end of the line and walking half a mile.

More information available at

Pippin Orchards in western Cranston also has pick your own blueberries.


Running a push lawn mover for an hour emits as much pollution as driving an average car for 11 hours, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Small two cycle engines on garden tools are less efficient than automobile engines and have no pollution controls.

With air quality poor in the last few weeks, we urge market customers to consider the environmental damage done by lawn care. Thanks to a grant from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund and support from Friends of the Pawtuxet, we produced a “Green Lawn Care� brochure this winter. It offers tips to make your lawn greener and sources for further information. Free copies are available at the berry box recycling table. You may also receive a copy by sending a self addressed stamped envelope to Steve Stycos at 37 Ferncrest Avenue, Cranston, 02905.


Elizabeth Coombs will run a free indoor composting workshop at the market this Saturday at 10 AM. No advance registration is necessary. Just come and learn a few pointers.

See you Saturday at the market from 9 AM to 12 PM.