Monthly Archives: June, 2011

I Know Where You Live

Today the Providence Journal reports a horrific home invasion and rape of a pregnant woman in Central Falls. The victim’s nine year old son witnessed the crime. He is a victim too. Following long-standing editorial policy, the Journal did not disclose the name of the victim. Instead they published her address, along with a helpful link to Google Maps. The attackers are still at large.

Reading between the lines, drugs may have been involved. I don’t care. It sounds like the victim is cooperating and the police have some leads.

Every so often, someone questions the Journal policy of publishing the names and addresses of people who report crimes. I remember when a Journal employee out jogging in Pawtuxet was punched out by some guys he didn’t know. The Journal printed his name, address and place of work.

The Journal defended their policy, saying that naming names deters false reports. For sure, and deters true ones too. A reporter said to me, ‘some of these old ladies leave their windows open.’ Well, the Journal will teach them a lesson, I guess.

Here is another story from today.
I’ve blocked out identifiers…

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — A Pawtucket man was shot in the foot late Monday night, said Major Arthur Martins of the Pawtucket Police Department.

At midnight, the police received a call from Miriam Hospital reporting a man had been admitted with a gun-shot wound to his foot, Martins said.

The man, [name, age, address], said he was shot around 11:30 p.m. in front of a closed convenience store at ——-, Martins said.

“We went to the area he said this occurred and did not find any shell casings or any people who reported hearing shots fired,” Martins said. “We are not saying it didn’t happen there; we just don’t have definitive proof.”

——-told officers he was walking down West Avenue, saw a car drive past him, turn around and approach him, Martins said. —— said he saw the car’s window go down and then heard four shots fired, Martins said.

——— walked to the home of a friend, who drove him to the hospital, Martins said.

“He said he has no enemies and no idea who would shoot him.

If this was a case of mistaken identity, or random malice, the victim is at a disadvantage. He has no idea who shot him, but the shooter can find out where the victim lives, and also that he reported to the police.

A newspaper is not a conduit, like a storm sewer, where news flows to the lowest level. There’s editors and reporters and journalistic standards and discretion what they report and why. Our one major state newspaper stubbornly defends publishing information that could add to the stigma, and danger, suffered by crime victims. A nine year old boy has been outed for witnessing a crime against his mother. What public benefit is there to publishing his address? Is this universal newspaper practice?

We just got home from Louisville, Kentucky. Their major newspaper has a website that
lists every police report for every neighborhood. It’s a great tool for citizens who want to be aware of what’s happening and which kinds of crimes are occurring where. But they don’t list names or addresses. The Louisville Courier-Journal crime reports look like this…

Details about case 80-11-049478

DATE: JUNE 26, 2011
TIME: 4:12 AM

This isn’t complicated. We have a right and a need to know what is happening where. In the case of a major crime like this awful home invasion I want to know which part of Central Falls. But I think of that woman and her little boy and wonder if they have a safe place to live. I think about neighbors and classmates and lost privacy. I think about cars cruising by in the night, about people who get off on crime and people who might want to scare away witnesses. And I wonder why the Journal stubbornly refuses to consider the safety and dignity of crime victims when they make their policies.

UPDATE: I asked in the comments to the story in ProJo online why they printed the address and got a quick response saying it has been removed. Thank you, ProJo.

SUSPECT IN CUSTODY: They have a suspect, the above link has details.

So, When’s the Wedding?

Same-sex lovers in New York won’t be able to weasel out of making a commitment, or at least one excuse is gone.

Congratulations, felicitations and best wishes to all New Yorkers. This is civil rights for some, and likely to be an economic boost for the whole state, especially those in the floral and photo industries.

The window of opportunity for Rhode Island is closing. We’ll look back some day and ask why we passed on a chance to do right and do well at the same time.

Roomba Vacuums Nuclear Waste?

The New York Times has a long but fascinating article today about how the nuclear industry and political allies took control of the public perception of nuclear power in Japan. One strategy was to censor school textbooks of any scientific or historical information that might raise doubts. Another was to hire young women to represent the industry, providing a visual reassurance to women who had a special interest in the health and safety of their children.

It’s often been asked why Japan is sending men into the hot zone, under conditions so dire that older men are volunteering for what many see as a suicide mission. Why is the world leader in robotics sacrificing human beings this way? Yesterday’s robot fail was posted here, and there is, ironically, a local connection to New England…

Japan, after all, is the world’s leader in robotics. It has the world’s largest force of mechanized workers. Its humanoid robots can walk and run on two feet, sing and dance, and even play the violin. But where were the emergency robots at Fukushima?

The answer is that the operators and nuclear regulators, believing that accidents would never occur, steadfastly opposed the introduction of what they regarded as unnecessary technology.

“The plant operators said that robots, which would premise an accident, were not needed,” said Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, 77, an engineer and a former president of the University of Tokyo, Japan’s most prestigious academic institution. “Instead, introducing them would inspire fear, they said. That’s why they said that robots couldn’t be introduced.”

Even before the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, Mr. Yoshikawa, a robotics expert, and other researchers began building emergency robots capable of responding to a nuclear accident, eventually producing a prototype called Mooty. The robots were resistant to high levels of radiation and capable of surmounting mounds of rubble.

But the robots never made it into production, forcing Japan, in the aftermath of Fukushima, to rely on an emergency shipment of robots from iRobot, a company in Bedford, Mass., more famous for manufacturing the Roomba vacuum. On Friday, Tepco deployed the first Japanese-made robot, which was retrofitted recently to handle nuclear accidents, but workers had to retrieve it after it malfunctioned.

There’s a great deal in this article that will make Americans uneasy if we consider that the marketing and collusion of government and industry happens here as well. I think much of the disparaging of conservation, common sense and investment in safe, renewable energy is orchestrated, and Japan’s recent history illustrates how that can be done.

Read the article in the New York Times here-Safety Myth Left Japan Ripe for Nuclear Crisis

UPDATE: Japan’s nuclear cleanup could take decades. We’re gonna sell a lot of Roombas.

Workplace– From Mother Jones

Mother Jones has a fine article where workers tell their stories of speedups, add-ons and working off the clock.

In my part of the warehouse, we load products like cigarettes, shampoos, or lotions into totes that get sent down the rollers to where the trucks are. We’re given orders by scanning our badges and totes into a computer system, which tells us what to pull and how quickly it has to be done. Back when I started in 1999, the rate wasn’t so bad, but for about a year, they’ve been gradually ratcheting it up. Say the old rate was 100 orders a day. Now they’re up to 160, sometimes even higher.

‘Harrowing, Heartbreaking Tales of Overworked Americans’ first-person stories from the job, whether the job is maid, teacher or doctor, the squeeze is on to do more with less.

Robot and Drone Fail

The Japanese and Americans are world leaders in robotics and remote-controlled weapons, but the latest attempt to use this technology at Fukushima has stalled…

TOKYO (AP) — Two high-tech machines intended to help workers at Japan’s tsunami-hit nuclear plant malfunctioned Friday, including a long-awaited Japanese robot making its first attempt to take important measurements in areas too dangerous for humans.

The other machine that failed was a drone helicopter that made an emergency landing on a reactor roof at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. is trying to cool down three molten reactor cores and stop radiation leaks to end a crisis set off when the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant. The job is expected to take several more months, and is complicated by massive amounts of radioactive water that could soon leak into the sea.

Some industry experts wonder why the general public is not convinced by assurances that the technology is safe. Most of us are not scientist, but you don’t have to be to understand Murpy’s Law.

Trustworthy Source

When government and industry have a vested interest in minimizing a crisis, and partisans have an interest in pumping it up, who do you look to for accurate information?

Crowdsourcing may be one answer…

Since the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, people in Japan have been keeping up on the radiation levels in their area. And, like people all over the world, they look for information on the Internet. Surprisingly, one of the most interesting new websites aggregating and creating Japanese radiation data is coming from a small advertising studio in Portland, OR. If you were to picture the sort of person who might take the lead in gathering radiation data from the Fukushima nuclear accident, Marcelino Alvarez probably wouldn’t come to mind. “My background is actually not in physics or nuclear physics or science or radiation data, it’s actually in advertising,” Alvarez said. “So building websites, and doing product development.” But Alvarez is also a news junkie. During the early days of the Fukushima crisis, he was watching the news nonstop. And he was surprised, in this post-Chernobyl age that even the experts were fumbling around to find up to date information. “So I said, there’s got to be a better way,” Alvarez said.

Citizens post radiation readings from different locations in Japan and Safecast puts them on a map. Click on any balloon and see how many milisieverts per hour were recorded. It’s a crowdsource, amateur and uncredentialed. But when there’s enough raw data the bumps and omissions even out, and this may be a new and powerful information source. Safecast site is here.

Citizen scientists are collecting data on many projects, we recently had Bioblitz here in RI to get stats on which species of plants and animals are increasing or decreasing in our state. Measuring radioactivity has its own particular problems, some scientists discuss the pros and cons here.

Coffee Break

It’s said that Rhode Island is the birthplace of the diner, and the Liberty Elm keeps the tradition alive. I’m between Warwick and Providence today, so I get to stop off on Elmwood Ave.

Today there’s lime and coconut muffins ( for some reason that rings a bell with me) that are really good grilled with butter. It looks like it’s going to pour any minute, but when the sun comes back out the Liberty will have outdoor dining, with a scenic view of the train tracks out back and the RIPTA bus depot across the street.

Support your locals, folks.

Live at the Liberty

Summer Solstice

In the Park

Summer is here with bright, blue days. I went to the Farmer’s Market at Lippit Park, saw our beautiful fountain flowing for the first time in living memory, and I checked out a new business, Farmacy Herbs. They did not have what I wanted at their table. I wanted natural licorice as part of my weight loss scheme #527. Hope springs eternal.

And sometimes is rewarded, because I was able to buy licorice at their store on Cemetery Street, along with some nettle tea and catnip. If this works I’ll write a book and make some money. If not, it was cheap and it’s good to have an herb store in the neighborhood. The staff was pleasant, and the owner really does know where all the bodies are buried. Or at least most of them. She’s taken some walks through the historic North Main Street Cemetery.

You can visit the website for Farmacy Herbs here.

The Farmer’s Market is now open two days a week– Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons 3:30-6:30.

Farmacy Herbs

Tough Week for Women

Good thing my gyn gave me a reminder call for my yearly tuneup. I’d have hated to miss that, it takes months to reschedule and the doctor is very busy. I told her I was tired all the time, and she gave me a slip for some blood tests. Gyn is a form of primary care, for some women the only primary care they get.

This made me more sensitive to the situation of women in Indiana, who depend on Planned Parenthood for their health care. Planned Parenthood will no longer be reimbursed for Medicaid patients…

Medicaid patients are now paying for their own health services at Indiana’s Planned Parenthood clinics or looking for alternatives after the group ran out of private donations that had been paying those patients’ bills.

A state law that took effect in May denied Planned Parenthood Medicaid funds for general health services it provides to low-income women, including breast exams, birth control and Pap smears.

Over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s services are primary, preventive and educative.

Like all the young women I knew, I went there when I needed a prescription for birth control. I also got blood pressure checks, health advice and pap smears. I never got better care from private doctors than I got at Planned Parenthood.

I asked the secretary at my gyn whether they accept Medicaid patients. She looked at me sympathetically, and said that if I switched to Medicaid they could probably still see me. I said I was looking for gynecologists who accept Medicaid and she said they don’t take that insurance for new patients. She mentioned the Women’s Cancer Screening Program as a resource.

I used to refer women to them, and they do the best they can with a number of different providers. They save lives, they could do much more with more resources. Still, it’s not like having a clinic you can go to when you need a doctor.

Gyn, like dental, is one of those essential services that gets cut and cut again. I think about women in Indiana who will wait longer to see a doctor for cancer screening, for primary care, for birth control. They will search for a private doctor who accepts Medicaid, and maybe not find one.

This is not a good time for women who don’t have money or influence. Shutting down clinics is good politics, a few anonymous women giving up on cancer screening because no doctor will accept their insurance won’t get much attention because, frankly, we’re used to it.

The Federal Government has appealed
, the judge will decide on July 1. This action by the Feds is an example of why it matters who we elect as president and why the two parties are not the same.

WOMEN’S CANCER SCREENING- Several years ago I referred a woman to the Women’s Cancer Screening Program. She was uninsured and had never been able to get follow-up care for an ominous lump she had discovered in her breast. She did get help through the program, though it took a while. She had her breast removed on Valentines Day, that always seems especially sad to me. I ran into her a couple of years later, she was well, happy to be alive. She was working in a low-wage job caring for the elderly. It’s not uncommon for those who give care to be uninsured. The Women’s Cancer Screening Program doesn’t have a central location where women can walk in for care, but has a list of providers who will give free care to qualified women. It’s a tough process, and the heart of the program are the dedicated outreach workers who go where the need is and talk to women one-on-one.

A Modest Proposal for Wal-Mart

I wrote a post last year called Savers v. Wal-Mart. Since the ‘pre-worn’ look seems to be here to stay, you can get it at a fraction of the price at Sal’s or Savers. And it’s authentic worker’s garb.

Being an authentic worker is getting harder. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision makes it easier for large corporations to nickle and dime their workers without accountability.

From today’s New York Times…

Wal-Mart Stores asked the Supreme Court to make a million or more of the company’s current and former female employees fend for themselves in individual lawsuits instead of seeking billions of dollars for discrimination in a class-action lawsuit. Wal-Mart got what it wanted from the court — unanimous dismissal of the suit as the plaintiffs presented it — and more from the five conservative justices, who went further in restricting class actions in general.

When you are working, everything is an equation of time vs money. All the big department stores have abandoned downtown Providence, except for the PPMall. The nearest convenient place is Wal-Mart. Time, gas, parking, overhead all figure in.

Buying small and local sometimes seems like too much work after a day of work, but there are ways to resist the Borg.

Shop mindfully. All stores strive to hustle you into buying more than you planned. Cutting one impulse purchase from your trip is only a fleabite, but a thousand fleas are no joke. What will happen if we keep our nickles and dimes in our pockets?

Via Politics Plus, we haven’t heard the last of the discrimination suit…

The women who sought to sue Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) for gender bias on behalf of 1.5 million co-workers said they will press their fight against the nation’s largest private employer in smaller lawsuits in lower courts and claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Weak government and strong corporations has been the trend for decades, confirmed by the Supremes this week. If you would rather be a citizen than a consumer or a human resource, this is a time to turn it around.

UPDATE: Wal-Mart stock is up following the Supreme Court ruling. A good day for corporations.

Hillbilly Report explains a court ruling that may ease some of the obstacles to workers wanting to form a union. Individuals are at a big disadvantage vs a multinational corporation, collective bargaining helps workers have a fair chance.

SHOP RHODE ISLAND: Here’s a link to Mi Vida Local with some unique, local small businesses that have what you need without the big box.


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