Earth to the Rescue

Remember the mad cow disease panic? Prions, a misfolded protein that causes nearby proteins to warp out of shape is the agent responsible, and it’s scary. Even boiling heat and high pressure won’t stop prions. Prions punch holes in brains, in people and animals. They seem unstoppable.

But there’s a cool news story about a new approach—

In addition to being perhaps the weirdest infectious agent known to science, the prion is also the most durable. It resists almost every method of destruction from fire and ionizing radiation to chemical disinfectants and autoclaving, which reduce prion infectivity but fail to completely eliminate it.
Now, a team of Wisconsin researchers has found that a common soil mineral—an oxidized from of manganese known as birnessite—can penetrate the prion’s armor and degrade the protein. The finding may yield ways to decontaminate soil and other environments where prions reside.

Read the rest of the story here.

Just a reminder that science is good for something, and the good earth who gave us life can save us if we respect her.

Resolutions to Find Alternative Funding for Cranston Schools

Andrea Iannazzi is sponsoring two new School Committee resolutions (now co-sponsored by School Committee Chair Mike Traficante) to find alternative funding for the EPIC program and middle school sports. She is looking for parent volunteers for the Middle School Sports Committee. If you are interested, please contact Andrea at 935-2411 or at andreaiannazzi@msn.com.

Sponsored by School Committee Member Andrea Iannazzi

WHEREAS the 2009-2010 budget proposed by the Superintendent calls for the elimination of the EPIC program;

WHEREAS the Cranston School Committee strongly supports EPIC and wishes to continue the program;

BE IT RESOLVED that a Subcommittee be formed to investigate alternate funding for the EPIC program;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Subcommittee shall consist of two members of the School Committee and two parent representatives from EPIC appointed by the Chairman of the School Committee, a parent representative from the CEAB appointed by the President of the CEAB, an EPIC instructor appointed by the President of the CTA, and a Central Administrator appointed by the Superintendent.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Subcommittee shall report back to the School Committee at the April work session.

Sponsored by School Committee Member Andrea Iannazzi

WHEREAS the 2009-2010 budget proposed by the Superintendent calls for the elimination of middle school sports;

WHEREAS the Cranston School Committee strongly supports middle school sports and does not wish to eliminate the program;

BE IT RESOLVED that a Subcommittee be formed to investigate alternate funding for middle school sports;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Subcommittee shall consist of two members of the School Committee and two parent representatives appointed by the Chairman of the School Committee, a parent representative from the CEAB appointed by the President of the CEAB, the Athletic Director or his designee, and a Central Administrator appointed by the Superintendent.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Subcommittee shall report back to the School Committee at the April work session.

It’s a Hat Thing– You Wouldn’t Understand

So my husband is at work and everyone is talking about the inauguration. His job is about 50-50, red voter/blue voter, and in spite of our president’s call to unity they have not yet merged together into a purple lovefest. One guy was saying that his relatives in South Africa are thrilled. Another guy just snarked about Aretha Franklin’s hat.

Aretha Franklin — who has rocked her fair share of amazing headgear over the years — wrapped her head in a crystal studded bow. The $179 hat, customized with Swarovski crystals, came from Mr. Song Millinery in Detroit where Luke Song has been making ladies dress hats for 25 years.

There used to be as many milliner’s shops as there are dress shops today. It once was one of the few respectable occupations open to women, making custom-designed hats for ladies. While you don’t see so many formal hats worn in the North, it’s still popular in the South, especially among African-American ladies. My mother in law had several beautiful hats, kept in big round hat boxes, to match her church suits.

Anyway, men are not usually that attentive to fashion, so I suspect that my husband’s co-worker was borrowing some remark he heard on Fox or Drudge. Drudge wears a hat, but Aretha’s is way more cool. And no one can rock the Mall like the Queen of Soul.

Update from Steve Stycos on Schools, Zoning Issues

From School Committee member Steve Stycos:

MEMORIES OF ED DIPRETE

The Pawtuxet River needs your help. Stop & Shop wants to build a store on the Warwick Nurseries property on Warwick Avenue in Cranston and is trying a back door maneuver to avoid zoning laws. The current zoning code would not allow a large grocery store on the site, so Councilman Richard Santamaria (Ward 5) is proposing to change the definition of the zone to help Stop & Shop.

This maneuver avoids a variance hearing that would require notification of neighbors and a careful examination of the construction plan. Friends of the Pawtuxet is opposed to the Stop & Shop proposal because 1) Our experience with Shaw’s is that supermarkets should not be put next to rivers because plastic bags and newspaper flyers blow into the river, 2) We are developing a trail along the river that could be blocked by Stop & Shop, 3) We are concerned about runoff from a big parking lot into the river, 4) Santamaria’s proposal avoids the usual city zoning procedures. No specific plan for the site has been presented. 5) Nothing has been done to address the neighbors concerns.

If you oppose Santamaria’s move, please call members of the Cranston City Council and attend the Cranston City Council meeting Monday January 26 at 7 PM in Cranston City Hall.

CRANSTON SCHOOL BUDGET CUTS

Cranston School Superintendent Richard Scherza proposed a budget for the next school year, indicating major cuts were required to balance the budget under state law.

Starting July 1, 2009, Scherza’s proposal calls for elimination of the EPIC program, middle school sports, the elementary strings program, Cranston East boys hockey and girls cross country teams, the summer reading program for primary grade students, five technical assistants at the vocational school, an elementary guidance counselor and a social worker.

He also proposes a twenty percent cut in supplies. Major increases are projected for employee step increases and health insurance. Overall, Scherza proposes a budget increase of less than one percent, but because he projects a three percent cut in state aid, a four million increase from the city is required. Mayor Allan Fung, according to School Committee chairman Michael Traficante, has already said he will not be providing $4 million for the schools.

The school committee will now question and amend the budget before it is sent to the mayor and city council. The school committee will hold hearings, with opportunities for public comment, on Wednesday January 28 and Monday February 2 at Western Hills Middle School at 7 PM. We are scheduled to amend and adopt a budget February 9.

Prior the Scherza’s presentation the school committee approved a new custodial contract which calls for an increase in the employee share of health insurance costs from three percent to ten percent immediately, a two year wage freeze with a three percent increase in 2010-11, elimination of health insurance buy back, twelve percent employee share of health insurance costs for new hires starting in 2010-11, recall of laid off custodians and a no-layoff clause.

This contract is a good step forward. The custodians are now paying twice as much for health insurance as teachers (administrators pay 20 percent.). The teachers and other unions have not been willing to agree to similar agreements. Given the sinking economy, the school committee may not be willing to offer similar deals.

SNOW DAYS

Last night I asked the Superintendent Richard Scherza about the cancellation of school last Thursday and Friday. He said the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency strongly advised school departments to cancel school due to expected wind chill. He was particularly concerned about exposure for low income children who often come to school with only a hooded sweatshirt for protection and children who stand out at bus stops. With hindsight, he agrees school should not have been canceled, but when there is a possible harmful situation, he would rather avoid possible harm to a child and extend school one day in June.

I know snow days are extremely disruptive to working parents, but I am not going to second guess him. We have much more serious education issues to tackle.

Tears of Happiness

Lots of that today. After work I got Mr. Green to take me to Cav restaurant, which was graciously hosting a community benefit in the spirit of our new president’s call to public service. And I wanted to attend an awesome party to celebrate the inauguration. I am so proud of our country.

This is a peaceful change of paradigm. Let freedom ring. The people have spoken.

The people are the driving engine of power if we will stay engaged. It is up to us. I do believe that good leadership depends on good, smart, skeptical and principled citizens.

After we left Cav we went to church. First Unitarian. In loving community we celebrated our love of country.

When we got home we saw on TV the Obamas were dancing at the neighborhood ball in DC. I heard my next door neighbor’s dog bark, and thought maybe to invite her over. She came and we shared the festivities.

My sister and friend are stuck in Maryland on a bus back to Providence from the Inauguration. These people I love were a pixel on the satellite photo of the Mall, where the crowd was visible from Earth orbit.

God bless us one and all, for one minute, one hour, one day — let us give in to Hope. Our state seal. Remember Roger Williams — a most impractical man who founded a state based on negotiation, ideals, risk, and success.

And let us celebrate a new President who has overcome prejudice. He has shown that the highest office in our great nation can be won by a person who is unashamedly — smart.

Inauguration

I just got back from the State House, where a couple of hundred citizens assembled for a viewing of the inauguration of President Obama. There were tears, cheers, everyone stood when our new president took the oath of office. Lt. Gov Elizabeth Roberts hosted, and partially fixed a weather related crisis — the bright sun bleached out the video screen.

We saw recorded addresses from Sens. Reed and Whitehouse, and Cong. Langevin. I never expected that the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, would sing, ‘My Country Tis of Thee’.

Back to work now, to take care of all the business I missed this morning. Yes We Can.

This Land Is Your Land

The musical performances of this inauguration are mind-blowing. What fortune for those who are there experiencing all of this live. I just watched Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and a bunch of other great musicians perform a new composition for the inauguration, with sections of “Simple Gifts,” the beautiful Quaker song. I will upload a video of this once it becomes available.