Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Holiday Note From The ’Bub

Published December 24, 2010

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow... (Don Solo/Flickr)

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow... (Don Solo/Flickr)

Merry Christmas, Hubbub faithful! I’m with my family in Chicago, the only city I know to be colder than Boston.

I’ll be on vacation through the new year, so this blog won’t be as buzzy till then. I still have a few posts up my sleeve, though, and you can count on our 24-hour newsroom staff to cover any and all breaking news in the next week.

Some good Christmas Eve reading and listening, if you missed it:

Be well, be safe, and talk to you soon.

10 Most Popular WBUR Stories Of 2010

Published December 23, 2010

The readers of determined the most viewed WBUR stories of 2010. Here they are.


10: Brown, And His Church, Don’t Wear Religion On Their Sleeve

By Monica Brady-Myerov

The exterior of the New England Chapel in Franklin, Sen. Scott Brown's church, is spare. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)

The exterior of the New England Chapel in Franklin, Sen. Scott Brown's church, is spare. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)

Massachusetts has more Catholics than any other state in the nation, and religion has always played a significant role in politics. But very little is known about Sen. Scott Brown’s religious beliefs. He belongs to the New England Chapel, a member of Christian Reformed Church in North America, which is of a Protestant Christian denomination and follows a conversational version of the Bible called “The Message.”


9: Teen Suicide Sheds Light On New Era Of Bullying

By Deborah Becker

South Hadley High School freshman Phoebe Prince, 15, killed herself after enduring harassment by her classmates at school and online.

South Hadley High School freshman Phoebe Prince, 15, killed herself after enduring harassment by her classmates at school and online.

The January suicide of a 15-year-old girl in South Hadley raised questions throughout Massachusetts about what schools should do about teen bullying. With bullies now more likely to be on the computer than in the school yard, a lot of taunting is happening on the screen. Some parents and teenagers say it’s time to clearly define — and deal with — a new era of bullying.

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For Him, It’s Personal

Published December 22, 2010

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton., an openly gay member of Congress, applauds during a ceremony on Wednesday, where President Obama signed the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal legislation that would allow gay service members to serve openly.  (Evan Vucci/AP)

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton., an openly gay member of Congress, applauds during a ceremony on Wednesday, where President Obama signed the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal legislation that would allow gay service members to serve openly. (Evan Vucci/AP)

When Rep. Barney Frank publicly revealed he was gay in 1987, gay men and women were forbidden from serving in the military. At a signing ceremony Wednesday morning, Frank struggled to compose himself. President Obama was repealing 17 years of keeping gay service members in the closet.

On Tuesday, at a enrollment ceremony for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, Frank declared progress:

“Four years ago, a Republican running for Congress in Indiana said, don’t vote for his Democratic opponent because if he won, Nancy Pelosi would become speaker and she would let me enact the radical homosexual agenda,” he said.

“So, let me own up to that agenda. It’s to be protected against violent crimes driven by bigotry. It’s to be able to get married. It’s to be able to get a job and it’s to be able to fight for our country. Hey,  for those who are worried about the radical homosexual agenda, let me put them on notice — two down, two to go.”

Maybe marriage will be his next big fight. Mr. Obama, in a news conference today, said his feelings about gay marriage are “constantly evolving.”

“I struggle with this,” the president said. “I have friends, I have people who work for me who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people. And this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.”

A Winter Reminder: No Excuses For Icy Sidewalks

Published December 22, 2010

An icy walkway in Providence (Mr. Ducke/Flickr)

No. (Mr. Ducke/Flickr)

The snow might have melted away, but I felt like an amateur tightrope walker on the sidewalks of Cambridge this morning as I tried to avoid the ice.

Property owners must shovel their sidewalks.* As I reported back in July — when no one was thinking about snow — a Supreme Judicial Court ruling eliminates nearly every excuse imaginable.

If you don’t shovel your sidewalk after a snowfall and someone slips and gets hurt, you’re liable. Until today, property owners could argue the white stuff was “natural accumulation,” thanks to an 1883 ruling that made the hair-splitting distinction.

The Supreme Judicial Court on Monday threw out that logic in Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation.

In other words, your sidewalk must be clear even if the accumulation formed after you shoveled. (Even if you don’t live on the property, or it’s the weekend and your business is closed, or you’re on vacation!) It’s the “no excuses” ruling that could lead to a lot of slip-and-fall lawsuits this winter.

*There is no state statute that mandates snow removal. Chapter 85, Section 5, of Mass. general law sidesteps the issue by authorizing cities and towns to regulate:

Cities by ordinance and towns by by-laws may provide for the removal of snow and ice from sidewalks within such portions of the city or town as they consider expedient by the owner or occupant of land abutting upon such sidewalks.

So a Statie couldn’t write you a ticket for failing to shovel. But you could slip, sue and win in court.

In honor of the SJC ruling, I have written an alternative first verse for the Christmas classic “Silver Bells.”

Snowy sidewalks, icy sidewalks
White stuff clumped in a pile
In the air there’s a feeling
Of lawsuits
Children crying, people falling
Meeting lawsuits and trial
And on every street corner you’ll hear…

Shovel, please. (Shovel, please.)
Shovel, please! (Shovel, please!)
Soon it will be Judgment Day.

Seriously, just shovel your sidewalk.

Weds. Morning: Musical Chairs For Lawmakers

Published December 22, 2010

What’s news on a warm-ish Wednesday in Boston:

After losing a House seat, someone must go. The state Legislature will have to decide which of Massachusetts’ 10 Congressional districts must disappear. And that will force the retirement of a congressman or a fight in 2012. (WBUR)

The Herald calls it “Survivor: Massachusetts.” There is all kinds of speculation, if you’re into that. (Herald)

The governor appointed Nan Duffly for SJC associate justice. She would fill the seat left vacant by Roderick Ireland, who ascended to chief justice. Duffly is an appeals court judge. If confirmed, she would become the state’s first Asian-American justice. (WBUR)

BPS chief Carol Johnson wants to use test scores to gauge teacher performance. Educators throughout Mass. are judged by MCAS scores, but the Boston Teachers union is against the idea. (Globe)

An ex-manager for Upper Crust is suing the pizza chain in federal court. Patrick Joyce says “he quit in disgust over the way owner Jordan Tobins was treating his illegal-alien workers only to have Tobins dock his final pay and threaten him.” The alleged abuse of workers was first reported in a Globe expose. (Universal Hub)

Just in: The FAA says a man in Spencer died in a plane crash. (AP)

Boston Is Dumb And Dangerous And Grinchy

Published December 21, 2010

The Grinch wears a Celtics hat.Oh, look, another Daily Beast list. What’s that, you say, Boston ranks really bad again?

Now the Daily Beast has gone and declared Boston the grinchiest city in America. Why? How?

To find America’s grinchiest cities, we took a broad look at how people choose to spend their money and time. To measure the gift-giving of each resident, we took into account retail spending data from, a database of spending data culled from government and private sources, and divided by each city’s annual wage (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), to see how many dollars were spent at retail stores during November and December 2009 per dollar earned last year.

Bostonians spend 1.2 percent of annual income during the holidays, according to the findings. Just a quarter of us volunteer our time, and less then three percent of us donate to charity.

In 2009, the Beast declared Emerson College the most dangerous in America. In 2010, it was Tufts. (Both universities loudly disputed the findings.)

Earlier this month, the University of New Hampshire was named “druggiest college” (what does that mean?) with Northeastern coming in at No. 2.

And when the Beast ranked the “smartest” cities in America, Boston didn’t even come in at No. 1. (It was Raleigh-Durham. I thought Boston was the smart capital of the universe.)

I don’t think Boston is grinchy. Do you think Boston is grinchy?

Video: Lady Lamb The Beekeeper On ‘Radio Boston’

Published December 21, 2010

Music fans: Singer-songwriter Aly Spaltro, known as Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, will appear on Radio Boston this hour. She sits down with WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer and performs a song.

The 21-year-old Mainer just moved to Boston this month, and she’s generating a lot of, well, buzz. The Boston Globe calls her music “pensive and playful.” The Herald says she’s an instant local favorite. She reminds me Joanna Newsom or Tristan Prettyman.

Spaltro performed two tracks for us in WBUR’s Studio 3, and we put together this video. It’s definitely best enjoyed with headphones.

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Mass. Loses 1 Congressional Seat

Published December 21, 2010

Massachusetts will lose a congressional seat, trimming the state’s U.S. House delegation from 10 to nine, according to new U.S. Census figures released today.

Redistricting has a colorful history here. After Gov. Elbridge Gerry's redistricting attempts, Elkanah Tisdale published this cartoon in 1812, which created the term "gerrymander." (Wikimedia)

The Massachusetts population grew from 2000 to 2010 (by about 3 percent), but not as much as many other states. That follows decades of population patterns. State population figures dictate how the nation allocates all 435 House districts to the states.

In 2000, the state barely held on to its 10th congressional seat. Most observers predicted we would lose a seat this time around.

The new census numbers hamper a well-tenured and powerful delegation in Congress and raise unique political questions ahead of 2012. “Losing a seat means losing political clout,” said the New England Council’s Jim Brett on Morning Edition today. “That’s not good news for Massachusetts.”

The Legislature is now tasked with redistricting — or redrawing the state map with nine districts — setting up new electoral questions and match-ups in 2012 as two incumbents are forced into the same district.

Reps. John Olver, of the 1st District, and Richie Neal, of the 2nd, have already announced their 2012 re-election bids, possibly to avoid getting forced out of the delegation. Others, including Reps. Mike Capuano, of the 8th, and Stephen Lynch, of the 9th, have been mentioned as possible challengers to Sen. Scott Brown in 2012.

Over the past 100 years, Massachusetts has consistently lost seats — moving down from a high of 16 seats last held in 1920. All other New England states will have no changes to their seat counts.

The population count also determines state share of billions of dollars in annual federal funding.

More coverage:

Earlier Mass. coverage:

Only In Boston: Shaq Conducts The Pops

Published December 21, 2010

Big Maestro, little baton:

[youtube url=”PoyiR3ob7yk”]

Boston Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal made his conducting debut Monday night, leading the Boston Pops Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus in “Sleigh Ride,” “Can You Feel It,” and “We Are the Champions.”