Tuesday Morning: Grand Jury Targets ‘Whitey'; Mass. Gets Mediocre Health Grades

Published July 19, 2011

A federal grand jury in Boston could be weighing further charges against James “Whitey” Bulger and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig. The Globe reports that the FBI has delivered subpoenas to at least two in California who knew the pair when they were hiding out as “the Gaskos.”

State lawmakers today will discuss a bill that could allow Lottery players to purchase their tickets online. Supporters say the legislation could bring Massachusetts up to $1 billion a year in increased ticket sales. But state Treasurer Steve Grossman, who oversees the Lottery, is opposed, telling the Herald that it could “exacerbate problem gambling.”

There was a big energy ruling over the state line yesterday. A judge in Vermont ruled that the state’s only nuclear plant, Vermont Yankee, shouldn’t be open while a lawsuit determining its future plays out. The state government wants the decades-old Yankee closed, but federal regulators have approved a 20-year license renewal.

No A’s, five B’s, two C’s, four D’s and two F’s. That’s Massachusetts’ health report card, according to a just-released Boston Foundation/NEHI study. The report’s co-author told us that the state’s health “trends are going in the wrong direction.”

In other news:
— Will she or won’t she? The Elizabeth Warren-for-Senate speculation continues.
— Boston has blurry, argued-over neighborhood lines.

Monday Morning: Alcohol Agency Review; Fighting Church Sales

Published July 18, 2011

Treasurer Steve Grossman has announced a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission after a Boston Globe analysis found the agency spent nearly $2 million in the past two years to settle employment lawsuits. In one settlement, the Globe reports, the alcohol commission said it passed over a candidate to give positions to two relatives of lawmakers.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley last week said the Archdiocese of Boston is stripping six local churches of their holy status — effective today — in order to sell the properties. But some parishioners, who have held vigils in the closed churches for years, say they’ll continue to fight the sales.

The Patrick administration is requesting that NStar complete a review of its rates before a planned merger with Connecticut’s Northeast Utilities moves ahead. The administration says it’s looking to protect consumer rates; NStar says the “substantial delay” could jeopardize the massive deal.

With President Obama passing over Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren for the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Warren-for-Senate speculation is heating up. Analysts told the Herald Warren has the appeal and donor access to “seriously challenge” Sen. Scott Brown.

In other news:
— A MGH team is in Haiti after a cholera outbreak there spiked again.
— Over the weekend, an overflowing memorial service remembered Wayland’s Lauren Astley.

Friday Morning: Mullan To Step Down, Churches For Sale

Published July 15, 2011

State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan announced Thursday that he plans to step down by year’s end. Mullan cites personal reasons for the decision, but The Boston Globe reports his decision came after Gov. Deval Patrick rejected his request for a raise. Mullan came under scrutiny earlier this year for not immediately telling the public about a light fixture collapse in the Big Dig tunnel.

Six churches owned by the Boston Archdiocese have been approved for secular use, paving the way for their sales. The decision has been met with protest. Parishoners at five of the churches have staged round-the-clock vigils in an effort to try and keep doors open.

The wing of a Delta jet clipped the tail of another Delta aircraft on the taxiway at Logan Airport Thursday evening. This photo from @TomlinM shows the damage to the tail of the smaller aircraft.

As we reported last week, a statue in honor of Bill Russell will soon sit in Boston’s City Hall Plaza. Only A Game’s Gary Waleik remembers his grandmother instructing him to watch number six because “he’s the best you’ll ever see.” Waleik reflects, “But I’m not sure that four decades ago, my grandmother could have known just how much the word ‘best’ would mean in describing Bill Russell.”

As WBUR’s Delores Handy continues to cover the problem of violence in Boston, she spoke with Judge Leslie Harris, who has been presiding over cases in the city’s juvenile court for almost 17 years. Judge Harris feels there are new challenges arising as youthful offenders from the 1990s start to be released from prison.

Ahead of the launch of the city’s new bike-share program, police will set up at some of the city’s worst intersections and hand out tickets to cyclists for running red lights and to drivers for disobeying rules that create dangerous situations for those who bike. In a column for the Boston Globe, Brian McGrory suggests Mayor Menino just can the bike-share plan and ban all bikes from the city.

Can you imagine a bike-free Boston?

Wednesday Morning: Catherine Greig Returns To Court

Published July 13, 2011

Former reputed crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger’s longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig will be back in court today as her bail hearing continues. Greig, who is charged with harboring a fugitive, is hoping to be released on bail while awaiting trial. Greig may have to face testimony of relatives of victims allegedly killed by Bulger, despite her lawyer’s objection that such crimes were not of Greig’s doing.

Massachusetts top justices are warning that recent budget cuts are forcing them to consolidate a dozen courts across the state, which may result in layoffs and courthouse closures.

Partners HealthCare has unveiled a new plan that aims to provide better health care at lower costs. WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports that in its first phase of rolling out the new program, Partners estimates all of its patients with diabetes could save $3 million to $10 million a year by moving from expensive brand name pills to generics when effective.

Tonight the Boston Landmarks Orchestra kicks off its 11th season of free, weekly concerts at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. This season is the nonprofit’s first full summer without founding Music Director Charles Ansbacher. Ansbacher died last September at age 67. WBUR’s Andrea Shea reports on his legacy as a beloved “musical ambassador” to the world.

A female dominated jury is ready to begin hearing the evidence on Roger Clemens use of performance enhancing drugs. Prosecutors are arguing that Clemens lied under oath when he said he had not used steroids and human growth hormone during congressional testimony three years ago. Clemens maintains that he did not use drugs during a 24-season career that set several pitching records.

Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett was taken out of the All-Star game Tuesday night after feeling soreness in his left knee while warming up in the bullpen. Beckett was suppose to follow Jered Weaver in the second inning, but was replaced by the Yankees David Robertson.

MBTA Naming Rights For Sale

Published July 12, 2011

MBTA is selling naming rights for all of its T line, just think: "Your name here" (AP)

MBTA is selling naming rights for all of its T line, just think: "Your name here" (AP)

The MBTA needs money, so the transit authority is selling naming rights to lines and stations within its subway, bus and commuter systems. Every station is up for grabs, so if you want to name a T stop, step right up! But make it quick; bids must be in by tomorrow.

MBTA General Manager Richard Davey hopes naming rights will raise about $250,000 for the authority, the Herald reports. The T needs all the dollars it can come by; its budget gap for FY2013 is expected to be $137 million.

The naming-rights sale is just the latest money-making plan by the authority. The MBTA online souvenir store is already up and humming. There you can buy a vintage T sign for upwards of $2,500, or a Rapid Transit Lines tote bag for $14.95, or MBTA greeting cards and shower curtains. The MBTA is also selling advertising space on its website and on the back of Charlie Cards, and is weighing selling audio ads on its buses.

Mind getting off at JP Licks Circle or Mrs. Fields Corner? Check out Universal Hub’s mockup of an imagined “new ‘n’ improved” MBTA map.

Tuesday Morning: Health Inspectors Face Questioning In Fall River Pool Death

Published July 12, 2011

The two city workers who inspected a swimming pool in Fall River where Marie Joseph was found dead will face a disciplinary board today. They are expected to face questions about why they did not shut down the state-run pool that was so murky it obscured Joseph’s body beneath the surface for two days. The pool remains closed while the state finishes its investigation.

Catherine Greig, the longtime companion of captured fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger, will be back in court tomorrow in her continued effort to win release on bail.  At a hearing Monday, Greig faced new evidence discovered by federal prosecutors, which laid out details of their life on the run through false documents and identities found in the couple’s Santa Monica apartment.

The Red Cross needs your help. Officials in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have issued a call for blood donors of all types to help offset a national blood shortage.

A day after a fiery collision left one person dead, Amtrak’s Downeaster train is rolling again between Maine and Boston. On Monday, a Downeaster train hit a tractor trailer truck at a crossing in North Berwick, Maine.

State treasurer Steve Grossman’s office is investigating whether the government-run Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, which educates special needs students, has become a haven for pension abuse. It is suspected of giving people no-show jobs to boost their state pensions.

Monday night, Yankees’ Robinson Cano outslugged Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez 12-11 in the final round of the All-Star Home Run Derby. But Gonzalez made the “biggest splash” at Chase Field, hitting a ball that landed in the swimming pool in right field.  In a beer commercial like scene, Mike Moon, a 26-year-old fan, caught the ball before falling into a pool surrounded by bikini-clad women.

Starting today, the MBTA is asking for your help in deciding on the look of its new trains. On the T’s website you can vote for your favorite design for 20 new commuter rail trains.

Cambridge Artist Wendy Jacob Wins MFA’s 2011 Maud Morgan Prize

Published July 11, 2011

Cambridge-based artist Wendy Jacob won the the Museum of Fine Arts’ 2011 Maud Morgan Prize Monday, the MFA announced.

Jacob organized a conference in 2009 at which participants experienced sound through the floor. (Courtesy MFA)

Jacob organized a conference in 2009 at which participants experienced sound through the floor. (Courtesy MFA)

Jacob will receive $10,000, and her work will be shown in the MFA’s new Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, which is slated to open September 18. The Maud Morgan Prize was created in 1993 to highlight visionary women artists in Massachusetts.

Jacob is a Brookline native and spent a fair bit of time taking art classes at the MFA as a child. She studied at Williams College and the school of the Art Institute in Chicago. Currently Jacob is working at MIT’s architecture school in the Art, Culture and Technology program.

Through her work Jacob explores deeply human responses to the world around us. She has created “interactions” between people and inanimate objects, like architectural structures and furniture. Also nature and sound.

Jacob’s installations have involved deaf students at Gallaudet and she’s extremely involved with the autistic community. Her efforts to engage diverse populations in unusual ways is fascinating.

To learn more visit her website.

Bill Russell Statue To Sit In City Hall Plaza

Published July 11, 2011

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca and Bill Russell announce the plan to build a Russell statue in May 2011. (AP)

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca and Bill Russell announce the plan to build a Russell statue in May 2011. (AP)

With his jersey in the Garden rafters and his bust in Springfield’s Basketball Hall of Fame, all that’s missing from Bill Russell’s resume is a statue. Now, Russell can check that off, too.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced this morning that a statue paying tribute to the legendary Celtics center will sit in City Hall Plaza and is set to be unveiled in the spring of 2012.

Memorializing the legendary Bostonian — perhaps the best of all-time Celtics player and NBA center — is long overdue.

After reviewing submissions, the Bill Russell Legacy Committee and the Boston Art Commission chose three artists to compete for the right to design the city’s tribute to Russell.

Fern Cunningham, who created the monument to Harriet Tubman in Boston’s South End, is one of the three finalists. Antonio Mendez with Oudens Ello Architects, who created the Players Statue at Fenway Park, and local artist Ann Hirsch are the other two.

The only question left is whether the artists will take a little license and give Russell’s statue 11 fingers — the only way to fit every championship ring he owns.

Friday Morning: Medicare Cuts Could Pummel Mass. Hospitals

Published July 8, 2011

Massachusetts teaching hospitals could lose about two-thirds of the federal money they receive for training residents if a proposal to reduce the rising costs of Medicare is part of a budget-cutting deal signed by President Obama. Industry analysts tell the Globe the proposal would be a one-time $322 million reduction in Medicare reimbursements and that it could destroy medical training programs.

I love walking along the Charles River, stopping at all of my favorite Boston haunts: Fenway Park, the State House and Quincy Market. If you watched the CBS broadcast of Boston’s Fourth of July celebration Monday night, you saw digitally-altered pictures of fireworks exploding behind many Boston landmarks. Of course, the landmarks are nowhere near the fireworks, in reality.

The FBI said that the tip that brought down James “Whitey” Bulger came from Iceland, but the Herald says that the people of Iceland aren’t buying it.

Catherine Grieg has had enough of life away from home, especially when her vacation spot went from a Santa Monica, Calif., condo to a federal penitentiary. Grieg, the Herald reports, will seek bail from a judge today.

Mobsters, sharks and bears, oh my! Massachusetts has become a dangerous place recently, with great white shark and black bear sightings in the area.

Hall of fame manager Dick Williams, partially responsible for the re-birth of the Red Sox, died yesterday. He drove ’67’s “Impossible Dream” team.

Watch out for pithy 140-character innovations, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone joined a Boston venture capital fund as a strategic advisor.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on a lawsuit filed against a Gloucester charter school, a Boston cop who has been charged with using excessive force and the Greig bail hearing.

A Halfway Look At The Much-Hyped Sox

Published July 7, 2011

Adrian Gonzalez has had an MVP-caliber first half of the season for the Red Sox. (AP)

Adrian Gonzalez has had an MVP-caliber first half of the season for the Red Sox. (AP)

If I had told you in March that the Sox would be half a game behind the Yankees just before the All-Star break, you probably would’ve been disappointed.

In April, if I’d said the same thing, you’d have been elated.

Point is, no one ever knows what to expect. So, 86 games into the 162-game season, just how are the Red Sox doing? Because manager Terry Franconca never seems to settle on a lineup, here’s a snapshot of the Sox’ season, in no particular order:

– Adrian Gonzalez is really good. If anyone not made out of solid gold is worth $154
million, it’s the hard-hitting first baseman. He turns major league pitchers into batting practice fodder. Just look at these stats.

– The jury is still out on Carl Crawford. The Sox’ other big time offseason acquisition, Crawford hasn’t quite won fans like Gonzalez. A slow start to the season made him look uncomfortable in Boston, and a recent injury has cooled off his rebound.

– The young are old and the old are young. Pups Clay Buccholz and Jed Lowrie have struggled with injuries that have derailed their seasons. Meanwhile, 31-year-old Josh Beckett and the ancient 44-year-old Tim Wakefield have made 30 look like the new 20.

– Big-money men John Lackey and J.D. Drew have been dreadful. With the amount of boos targeted at them, Lackey and Drew must feel as if they play every home game in New York.

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