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Biden commends NATO strength, pledges more aid for Ukraine against Russia  • Rhode Island Current

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Biden commends NATO strength, pledges more aid for Ukraine against Russia  • Rhode Island Current


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said NATO “is more powerful than ever” in remarks Tuesday to honor the 75th anniversary of the alliance and reaffirm allied support for Ukraine one day after Russian missile strikes on a children’s hospital killed dozens in Kyiv.

Biden spoke at the annual North American Treaty Organization’s summit happening this week in Washington, D.C., where the 12 original member nations signed the Washington Treaty in 1949.

Heads of state fanned out across Washington, visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to meet with U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson Wednesday afternoon. Ukraine is not one of the 32 NATO member nations, but the country is in discussions to join and the alliance has sided with Ukraine in its war with Russia.

“It’s a pleasure to host you all in this milestone year, to look back with pride on all we’ve achieved and look ahead to our shared future with strength and resolve,” Biden said during the opening ceremony.

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Biden’s 15-minute address came after a dozen days of near constant focus on his health and mental acuity after he flubbed his June 27 presidential debate performance against former President Donald Trump, whose criticism of NATO is well documented.

Biden spoke forcefully about the alliance’s history from the stage in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, where world leaders and hundreds of dignitaries from NATO’s 32 member nations gathered, joined by other partner nations.

“Together we rebuilt Europe from the ruins of war, held high the torch of liberty during long decades of the Cold War. When former adversaries became fellow democracies, we welcomed them into the alliance,” Biden said.

“When war broke out in the Balkans, we intervened to restore peace and stop ethnic cleansing. When the United States was attacked on September 11, our NATO allies, all of you, stood with us, invoking Article Five for the first time in NATO history, treating an attack on us as an attack on all of us. A breathtaking display of friendship that the American people will never, ever, ever forget.”

Military aid

Biden used the remarks to announce a joint package of air defense systems for Ukraine in conjunction with Germany, Romania, the Netherlands and Italy. The package is expected to include donations of advanced missile launching systems known as Patriot batteries as well as other equipment, according to a joint statement issued by the White House shortly after Biden’s speech.

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Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin as NATO’s primary antagonist.

He praised the alliance for moving “swiftly” after Putin further invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and said “the war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country.” Putin previously annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by force in 2014.

“Before this war, Putin thought NATO was going to break. Today, NATO is stronger than it’s ever been in its history,” Biden declared.

Biden concluded the ceremony by honoring NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.

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Rhode Island

R.I. constitutional convention ballot question opponents mobilize to convince voters to just say no • Rhode Island Current

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R.I. constitutional convention ballot question opponents mobilize to convince voters to just say no • Rhode Island Current


Hours before a commission started work Wednesday to lay the groundwork for a once-in-a-decade ballot question in November asking voters if Rhode Island should hold a constitutional convention, nearly 40 labor and civil liberties groups launched a preemptive attack to persuade voters to say no.

Members of Rhode Island Citizens for Responsible Government gathered at ​​the Planned Parenthood offices in Providence Wednesday morning to launch the Reject Question 1 campaign. Speakers declared that well-funded special interest groups could use the convention as a means to constitutionally restrict women’s reproductive rights.

“Our state has made incredible progress over the past five years to make abortion care more accessible,” said the coalition’s chairperson, Vimala Phongsavanh, senior external affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “Rhode Islanders cannot go backwards — yet that is what could happen if there is a constitutional convention.”

Rhode Island is one of five states, along with Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa and New Hampshire, where people automatically have the chance to vote to hold a constitutional convention every 10 years. The General Assembly may also propose amendments during any election year.

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Overall, 14 states mandated periodic constitutional convention referenda.

Rhode Island’s convention question typically goes on the ballot in years ending in the number four, but voters rejected ballot questions seeking to convene one in 1994, 2004 and 2014. The most recent convention was held in 1986 — the last such of any state in the nation. The 1986 convention featured an anti-abortion ballot question that voters overwhelmingly rejected.

An article of the Rhode Island Constitution, as framed by constitutional convention delegates in East Greenwich on Nov., 5, 1842, sets a maximum of 72 members of the House of Representatives. Today there are 75. (Rhode Island Digital State Archives)

Few seem to fully comprehend what the constitutional convention questions entails, according to a poll released by the University of New Hampshire Thursday. The survey found 53% of respondents said they had heard nothing about the topic. Only 36% said they understood the topic.

That lack of information is placed squarely on the lackluster job done by past commissions, Rhode Island State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse Editor J.H. Snider said in an email Monday.

The problem, he said, is that past commissions have framed the debate on the potential cost and risks without much discussion on the benefits. Proponents for holding a convention to change Rhode Island’s governing documents say it gives the public a chance to update how the state government operates.

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“Any serious discussion about the upcoming referendum should start with why this provision exists in Rhode Island’s Constitution; that is, what democratic function it was designed to serve,” Snider said.

The latest commission, made up of eight legislators and four members of the public, is tasked with holding public hearings to learn about potential issues that might be addressed if voters support holding a convention for inclusion in the voter handbook mailed to all registered voters before the Nov. 5 election.  

The commission must complete a report by Sept. 1.

With this tight deadline, the commission used its first meeting Wednesday at the State House to establish its purpose and elected its two co-chairs: Rep. Robert Craven, a North Kingstown Democrat, and Sen. Dawn Euer, a Newport Democrat.

Democratic Reps. Robert Craven Sr. of North Kingstown and Dawn Euer of Newport serve as co-chairs of the 12-member commission preparing a voter informational plan for the ballot question asking voters if Rhode Island should hold a constitutional convention. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

“Rhode Island’s Constitution is a living and breathing document that charts the course of our daily lives,” Craven said. “We are fortunate that it requires public input every 10 years because that is what true democracy looks like.”

Craven said  the panel’s work will include reviewing the work by prior commissions, “but we will also not be bound by what has come before us.”

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“Times change and so do the issues the public deeply cares about,” he said.

The commission’s next meeting, tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 30 at the State House,will mostly consist of figuring out the logistics for the next five weeks — along with the potential for public comment on the convention question.

“We’re not trying to answer the question as to whether or not people want a constitutional question,” Euer said in an interview after the commission’s first meeting. “We’re trying to create a framework of understanding of what issues are on peoples’ minds.”

The 12-member commission preparing for the possibility of a constitutional convention held its first of six likely meetings at the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday, July 24, 2024. Senate Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Democrat, was not present for the meeting. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

Coalition calls for convention rejection

At the 1986 convention, delegates approved a Paramount Right to Life Amendment declaring that life begins at conception. It was defeated by 66% of voters in the November election that year.

“There’s absolutely no reason to believe the constitutional convention in 2026 would be any more sympathetic to civil rights and civil liberties than the one in 1986,” ACLU of Rhode Island Executive Director Steven Brown said at Wednesday’s press conference.

But Snider said the defeat of the 1986 right to life amendment, along with other recent rejections of anti-abortion referenda in heavily red states, suggest the measure would fail if it were to come up again.

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“So what Steve Brown and the others who have been promoting his well-publicized arguments have been essentially saying is that Rhode Islanders will vote against their own interests on one of the most high salience issues in American politics if a convention (or legislature or citizen petition) puts this issue on the ballot,” Snider wrote in his email. 

“That, in my opinion, amounts to a direct attack on constitutional democracy, which is the foundation of our system of democracy.”

Brown acknowledged at least one positive change came out of the 1986 convention: the creation of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.

“But again, it was the General Assembly, not the convention, that voters approved a constitutional amendment making sure that the legislators themselves were subject to the Ethics Commission,” he said.

Should a majority of Rhode Islanders want to move ahead with a convention, the state would have to set up a special election to select 75 convention delegates to represent each district in the House of Representatives. AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Patrick Crowley said the AFL-CIO is prepared to run a union-backed convention delegate in each district if that is the case.

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“We are preparing for the bad news,” he told reporters. “We are not going to let the corporate powers take away our rights.”

Crowley said his organization has already contributed $5,000 toward the campaign to oppose the convention question.

“But make no mistake, we are going to be outspent if corporate money is allowed to pour into Rhode Island,” Crowley told reporters. “There’s just no way that $10 contributions from working people or $20 contributions and low-dollar contributions from Planned Parenthood or the Latino Policy Institute is ever going to compete against someone like the Koch brothers.”

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2024 Olympics: From basketball to sailing and everything in between here’s how RI is contributing

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2024 Olympics: From basketball to sailing and everything in between here’s how RI is contributing


There is a certain feeling that comes with having a local connection to Team USA. 

The Olympics have the ability to awaken something visceral inside us. It’s our nation against the rest on a grand stage, and our fellow citizens have provided us with more than a few recent memorable moments. 

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Elizabeth Beisel is perhaps the best example of this. Her three trips to the summer games in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro brought two medals back to her North Kingstown home. 

This comes back to the surface now with the Summer Games in Paris. Here are the folks the Ocean State has put on the world stage to represent Team USA.

  • Tammi Reiss, assistant coach, 3×3 basketball
  • Stu McNay, sailing
  • Emily Sisson, distance running
  • Emily Kallfelz, rowing 
  • Jovana Nogic, basketball

Be sure to follow along at Providencejournal.com for all the news about RI’s Olympic athletes.

Here’s what we know so far: Who are the Summer Olympians with RI connections?

In detail: Now that Rhode Island women’s basketball coach has reached the Olympics, she has one more goal

When RI’s acclaimed woman’s basketball coach, Tammi Reiss was growing up there was no WNBA there was only the Olympics and she’s had her sights set on that podium since elementary school.

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Reiss was a star at Virginia — that’s one dream down. The next will come true later this month when the University of Rhode Island women’s coach travels to Paris as a member of the Team USA 3×3 women’s basketball staff. 

She’s chancing a gold medal on the sport’s biggest stage.

More: Now that Rhode Island women’s basketball coach has reached the Olympics, she has one more goal

In detail: Former Providence basketball star Jovana Nogic eager to play for native Serbia in Olympics

Jovana Nogic’s time on the Providence College’s women’s basketball team reminded her of the “American Dream” she saw in movies and television shows as a youngster in Portugal. But competing in the Olympics for Team Serbia is a whole different type of dream come true.

“It’s something that I’ve worked toward for my entire life and something that I had set up as a goal since I was a little girl,” Nogic said. “It’s a fulfillment of a dream.”

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Born in Serbia, Nogic didn’t live there for long as her parents left when she was 2 years old.

Now she’s representing them on the big stage.

More: Former Providence basketball star Jovana Nogic eager to play for native Serbia in Olympics

In detail: Jamestown’s Emily Kallfelz lands on U.S. Olympic rowing team for 2024 Summer Games

Emily Kallfelz’s rowing career began levels above water.

Her training started in the attic of her family’s Jamestown home. There, Kallfelz learned the grueling sport on the family’s rowing machine during sessions every morning with her father in their home. It eventually produced  Rhode Island’s newest Olympian
.

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The 27-year-old qualified for her first Olympics and will compete at the Paris Games in the Women’s Four.

“It’s not necessarily like being anxious or nervous, but I’m definitely feeling like this is kind of the culmination of what we all have been working toward for so long,” Kallfelz said of the Olympics.

More: Jamestown’s Emily Kallfelz lands on U.S. Olympic rowing team for 2024 Summer Games

In detail: NBC broadcaster on Providence’s Stu McNay’s chances at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris

The world-class sailor from Providence will compete in his fifth Olympic Games this summer, this time in the mixed-470 class alongside Lara Dallman-Weiss. This is the first time the 470 will be a mixed class at the Olympics and McNay attempts to improve on his ninth-place finish at Tokyo in 2020 and fourth-place spot at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The 42-year-old also scored 14th and 13th finishes at London (2012) and Beijing (2008). McNay was a two-time All-American at Yale and is a three-time national champion.

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More: Gary Jobson on Providence’s Stu McNay’s chances at the 2024 Summer Olympic in Paris

What about the 2022 Olympics? 8 people with ties to Rhode Island who will be at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

While there are several other states without native athletes competing in the Olympics, a closer look finds that there are multiple connections to the Ocean State in these Games, which are to open officially on Friday.

Here are the Rhode Island connections to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games:

More: 8 people with ties to Rhode Island who will be at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

It’s filled in now, but in its prime Rocky Point pool hosted Olympians. Here’s the story.

At Rocky Point State Park, vestiges of an old saltwater pool remain along the right side of the road that used to be the main entrance to the amusement park.  

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These days, it’s full of grass, outlined by the cement perimeter from which kids used to jump in on a hot summer day. It’s marked by a sign explaining what used to be there — how it was 12 feet deep in the center and had three diving boards and two slides.

A note on the bottom of the sign reads, “Fun Fact: The 1936 U.S. Olympic Men’s swimming trials were held at this pool.”

Here’s the story: It’s filled in now, but in its prime Rocky Point pool hosted Olympians.

Did you know RI Olympic medalists get a special license plate? Here’s who has one.

In Rhode Island, scoring a coveted single-digit license plate is almost like winning the Olympics.

And winning an Olympic medal entitles you to a low-number plate.

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Since 2016, the Division of Motor Vehicles has honored local Olympians with a special series of plates featuring bronze, silver and gold medals and the interlocking Olympic rings. Text printed at the bottom identifies the driver as an Olympic medal winner.

Currently, the plates are only registered to five vehicles, according to DMV spokesman Paul Grimaldi.



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Rhode Island home prices hit a median sale price of nearly $500k – The Boston Globe

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Rhode Island home prices hit a median sale price of nearly 0k – The Boston Globe


PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s housing market tightened last month, with sales decreasing by more than 19 percent, and prices hitting yet another new high.

The median sales price for a single-family home in the state reached $494,000 in June, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors reported this weekend, a record for any month.

The nearly 12 percent increase over June 2023 is another indicator that Rhode Island’s housing crisis is at a tipping point, and pushing homeownership out of reach for many buyers.

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Just 675 single-family homes sold in June, which is the lowest number of sales on record for the end of the spring selling season since the Association began record-keeping in 1998.

Despite the state’s low sale numbers, the market is seeing an increase in listings, said Sally Hersey, the Association’s president. The housing supply is measured in terms of the number of months it would take for all listed properties to sell if no additional listings came on the market. According to the latest data, the supply of homes in Rhode Island has increased to 2.2 months — the first time since October 2020 that it would take more than 2 months for all homes listed to sell. A 5- to 6-month supply represents a balanced market, said Hersey.

“We still have a long way to go to correct our housing crisis but the good news is, over the last few months we have started to see a shift toward a more balanced market,” said Hersey. “We’re hopeful that we will continue to see a slow but steady path to getting there.”

On average, single-family homes for sale went under contract in just 23 days in June.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.





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