Monthly Archives: December 2010

Brown Will Support New START Treaty

Published December 20, 2010

The Globe reports Sen. Scott Brown will support New START:

He will support the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, providing a potentially crucial vote when the measure comes up for a vote as soon as Tuesday.

“I’ve done my due diligence, and I’m going to be … ultimately supporting the START treaty,” Brown told reporters after emerging late this afternoon from a closed-door intelligence briefing for all senators. “I believe it’s something that’s important for our country, and I believe it’s a good move forward to deal with our national security issues.”

This is John Kerry’s baby. Treaties require 2/3 Senate approval for ratification, and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida says there are enough votes.

Brown is the sixth Republican to sign on.

You Can’t Put Pats Under The Tree This Year

Published December 20, 2010

Still looking for a perfect gift for that Pats fan on your list? Unfortunately, you won’t be able to put playoffs tickets under the tree this Christmas.

Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski got wrapped up at a charity event on Sunday. (Courtesy of New England Patriots)

OK, maybe you can put Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski under the tree, but not playoffs tickets. (Courtesy of New England Patriots)

Though the Patriots have clinched a playoff spot, we don’t know where they’ll be playing yet. (Anyone trying to sell you a playoff seat is a huckster worse than the Patriots’ run defense.)

Thanks to a Pittsburgh Steelers loss on Sunday, the Pats still cling to the top spot in the AFC. Sunday’s win over the Green Bay Packers helps the team’s cause, but won’t inspire much faith in the Pats’ quest for the conference’s No. 1 seed.

At 12-2, the Patriots are tied for the league’s best record. With just one win in their final two games, the Pats will lock down the No. 1 seed and be assured of both a first round bye and home-field advantage for each playoff round prior to the Super Bowl (which is played on a neutral site — this year, in Dallas.)

However, should the Pats lose both of their final two games (versus division rivals Buffalo and Miami) they’ll go on the road in a Wild Card playoff game, probably in either Kansas City or Indianapolis.

Now, the Pats dropping their final two games isn’t likely. The Bills are 4-10 and the Pats clobbered Miami 41-14 in October. Truth be told, and jinxes be damned, I think the roads to the Super Bowl go through Foxborough (in the AFC) and Atlanta (in the NFC.)

So, for all of you last-minute shoppers, maybe an airline gift card will do? Just make sure it’s for a carrier that flies to Missouri, Indiana and Texas.

Census Snapshot: A Slowly Growing State

Published December 20, 2010

Massachusetts had 14 congressional districts in 1900. Between 1900 and 1910, the state grew by 20 percent, increasing representation to 16 seats. Since, the delegation has been reduced, and could reach nine seats after the 2010 census is released. (Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center/Boston Public Library)

Tomorrow the Census Bureau releases its decennial tally of the U.S. population. The count plays a vital political role determining representative apportionment — a topic I covered in September, as Massachusetts is expected to lose a congressional seat. But ahead of all the political wrangling and hypothetical scenarios, a simple look at the facts and figures of our state is pretty interesting.

The bureau has an interactive graphic comparing population change, population density and political apportionment over the last 100 years. I’ve embedded it below; if you have any trouble viewing it, find it on the Census website.

Continue reading

Another Nasty ‘B’ Line Delay

Published December 20, 2010

But this one was unusual:

A car traveling west on Commonwealth Avenue, near the BU Bridge, skid on ice and ended up right in front of a Green 'B' Line MBTA train. (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

A car traveling west on Commonwealth Avenue, near the BU Bridge, skid on ice and ended up right in front of a Green 'B' Line MBTA train. (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

A black Lexus traveling west on Commonwealth Avenue, near the BU Bridge, found itself parked right in the path of a Green ‘B’ Line trolley. The passenger told me the driver hit a patch of ice. He steered right; the car veered right. The trolley did not hit the car.

No one was hurt, but many were miffed. Some T passengers chose to disembark and walk. Traffic on both sides of the road stretched as far as the eye could see.

Unlike many Green Line delays, this one cleared up relatively quickly. After two tow truck drivers argued about jurisdiction — city or MBTA property? — the car was removed from the tracks and the trolley toot-tooted away.

Update: Please drive safely. WBUR’s Traffic page has your commute covered.

Update 2: Wicked Local Newton snapped a photo of holiday J-O-Y over the Pike, where traffic is awfully slow-going in this first snowfall of the season.

Harvard Seeks ‘Full And Formal Recognition Of ROTC’

Published December 20, 2010

Army Gen. David Petraeus advocated for bringing ROTC back to Harvard in a talk on campus in 2009. (AP)

Army Gen. David Petraeus advocated for bringing ROTC back to Harvard in a talk on campus in 2009. (AP)

Calling the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy a “historic step,” Harvard University President Drew Faust said she will move toward allowing ROTC on campus.

Faust released this statement, written Saturday:

The repeal of DADT is a historic step. It affirms American ideals of equal opportunity and underscores the importance of the right to military service as a fundamental dimension of citizenship. It was no accident that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation not only guaranteed freedom to Black Americans but at the same time opened the Union Army to their participation. Because of today’s action by the Senate, gay and lesbian Americans will now also have the right to pursue this honorable calling, and we as a nation will have the benefit of their service.

I look forward to pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of ROTC. I am very pleased that more students will now have the opportunity to serve their country. I am grateful to the Massachusetts delegation for their unified support for repeal.

Harvard has banned the ROTC from its campus since the Vietnam War as a protest against what the university calls anti-gay discrimination.

Faust said last month she would bring back ROTC if Congress repealed DADT.

Update: In an earlier version of this post, I used the term “military recruiters” interchangeably with ROTC. The ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) is a significant recruiting organization, of course, but it’s much more than that. In fact, a university spokesman clarified that military recruiters already have full access to Harvard students.

This story should not be confused with the 25-year ban on recruiters at Harvard Law, which ended in 2002 under pressure from the Bush administration. (That story led to high-profile coverage of Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, who is now a U.S. Supreme Court justice.)

Our Lives Are Like C-Span; Our Brains Want YouTube

Published December 20, 2010

Our brains are not evolving nearly as fast as computers. (Emilio Garcia)

Our brains are not evolving nearly as fast as computers. (Emilio Garcia)

In computing, Moore’s Law states the number of transistors on a microchip will double every two years. It has held true ever since Intel cofounder Gordon Moore came up with the idea 45 years ago.

While processing speed grows exponentially, so does information. We are able to measure and record nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

And yet, by and large, the human brain’s capacity is not growing. Is that a bad thing?

The New York Times reports on IBM’s Center for Social Software in Cambridge, which studies “the modern-day challenges of collaborating across distributed, global enterprises.”

The lab tries to use increasingly sophisticated computers to act as information advisers.

“I do think of computers as augmenting people, not replacing them,” said Irene Greif, the director of the research center. “We need help with the limits of the brain, but there are some things that our brains can do that computers can’t do.”

The researchers essentially create programs that find patterns (and outliers) in the “fire hose” of information. Once patterns are revealed, it becomes easier to decide who or what is worth our undivided attention.

In other words, the human brain wants information to be YouTube-sized. “For better or worse, we are watching a C-Span version of our lives trying to fast-forward to the good parts,” the Times article notes.

We don’t remember every detail of every day of our lives — we don’t want to — we remember the births, deaths, celebrations and accidents, the important parts.

That is, most of us. Did you see Sunday night’s “60 Minutes” story on super-memorizers? It’s a fascinating account of five people known to have “superior autobiographical memory,” including, weirdly, Marilu Henner, the star of “Taxi.”

These people can remember every single day of their lives. And they can tell you the day and date of any event that occurred in their lifetimes, instantly. (In most cases, they can also tell you what they had for lunch that day.) One subject is apparently able to remember every Pittsburgh Steelers game ever played during his adult life.

Scientists will study their “endless memories” as we march on through the Information Age. In the story, Lesley Stahl poses a question: Would you want that kind of brain?

Well, would you?

Monday Morning: Ireland Is Sworn In As SJC Chief

Published December 20, 2010

Not a lot of news on this cloudy Monday morning in Boston, save for 313-pound lineman Dan Connolly’s 71-yard rush at Foxboro last night.

Roderick Ireland takes charge of the state’s high court today. He is to be sworn in as the first black chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, but: “I’ll be the chief justice for everyone, not just for black citizens.” (WBUR)

Thieves in Burlington stole 1,500 toys meant for needy children. “Despicable.” (Globe)

A Boston man is charged with manslaughter, after the beating death of a man in the South End in August. (BPD News)

The Patriots won a hard-fought victory against Green Bay, 31-27. “Showing the shiftiness of a receiver and the power of an offensive lineman — which he is — Connolly rumbled 71 yards for what is believed to be the longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman in NFL history.” (AP)

UConn women’s basketball tied the all-time consecutive win record. With 88 wins, the Huskies tie UCLA’s 1971-74 men’s team. (AP)

The MFA returned a stolen art work to a tiny Italian museum, seven decades later. “That 620-year-old piece, ‘The Entombment of Saint Vigilius,’will get a hero’s homecoming in a museum in Trent.” (Globe)

Keep dreamin’ of a White Christmas… Prospects for snow on Dec. 25 are “slim but not out of the question.” (Globe)

David Harris asks: Will Harvard welcome back ROTC, once ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is repealed? (Wicked Local Cambridge)

Sunday Could Be Another Snow Globe Gillette

Published December 17, 2010

Patriots QB Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in Gillette Stadium on Oct. 18, 2009. The Pats won, 59-0. (AP)

Early weather reports have New England getting light snow flurries late Sunday — just in time for the Patriots’ home game against Green Bay.

The Patriots, and Tom Brady’s offense, seem to heat up in the cold, cold weather. To wit: New England drubbing the Bears in brutal Chicago conditions last weekend. In fact, the Pats are undefeated in 10 snow games under coach Bill Belichick.

They may have already clinched a playoff spot, but who would turn down another white weather victory in Gillette? Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Hubbub host Andrew Phelps was a late scratch today due to illness.

Cigarette Maker Found Liable For $81M More

Published December 16, 2010

Marie Evans, 10, in 1958

Marie Evans, 10, in 1958

Two days after a Boston jury found a cigarette maker liable for $71 million in a suit alleging the company targeted black children in Roxbury decades ago, the jury today tacked on $81 million more in punitive damages to a deceased woman’s estate.

In the suit, Marie Evans — who died in 2002 of lung cancer — said Lorillard, Inc., which makes Newport cigarettes, got her and other children in the neighborhood addicted in the 1950s and ’60s by handing out free cigarette samples.

Tuesday’s ruling doled out the compensatory award to Evans and her son, Will Evans. Today’s award goes to Marie Evans’ estate.

“I think what was different in this case is that Lorillard tobacco company set out to get children addicted, and that’s what it did, and that’s what cost Marie Evans her life,” said Michael Weisman, the lead attorney for the plaintiff, to WBUR.

The Globe reports:

It is believed to be the largest award for compensatory damages in a wrongful death suit against a tobacco company in the country.

The case could have implications in Washington, D.C., where federal officials are considering a ban on menthol cigarettes.

Lorillard has said it plans to appeal the verdict.


Micky Ward, The ‘Fighter,’ Donates His Well-Boxed Brain

Published December 16, 2010

BU Today reports Micky Ward — the former pugilist from Lowell depicted in “The Fighter” biopic — has pledged his brain and spinal column after death to a university center that studies long-term brain trauma among athletes.

Ward makes the donation to BU’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The boxer is also participating in a long-term study while alive.

According to the center’s website, CTE is a degenerative brain disease found in people — mostly athletes, and most often, boxers — who’ve suffered multiple concussions. Some refer to CTE as dementia pugilistica, or “punch drunk syndrome.”

“They say that when you get dazed, that’s a minor concussion,” Ward told BU Today. “I used to get those all the time.”

If you watched Ward fight, it’s not surprising. Here’s how SI’s Franz Lidz opened his piece on the 2003 final match of the fan favorite — and famously brutal — Ward-Arturo Gatti trilogy:

Like some relic from the era of bare-knuckle brawling, the bout between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward last Saturday night in Atlantic City was breathtaking in its brutality: two iron-faced pugs with iron wills, trying to beat each other’s brains out.

With Ward joining hundreds of other former athletes in pledging to donate, the BU center says it can “determine specific risk factors for CTE and potentially develop effective treatments.”

It’s not Ward’s first foray into the cause. In April, he appeared at the State House to push for a bill to raise awareness of head injuries to young athletes. And while it’s hard to imagine Ward fighting differently, he told BU that knowing what he knows now, “he would not have allowed as much head contact when he sparred” and encourages fighters to be more assertive in seeking medical attention.

Earlier CSTE Coverage: