Monthly Archives: March 2011

Photo Of The Day: Boston Goes To The Dog

Published March 31, 2011

"Boston Terrier" (cmckenna1/Flickr)

"Boston Terrier" (cmckenna1/Flickr)

Wait? We’re supposed to have snow in the area tomorrow? I feel a lot like this Boston Terrier.

Named Jack after Jack Bauer from “24,” he doesn’t look too ferocious. Flickr-user Corey McKenna (cmckenna1) captured this shot and it lives in WBUR’s Flickr group.

From 3rd To 1st, Sox Among Series Favorites

Published March 31, 2011

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia rounds the bases in a spring training game -- a good sign for Sox fans. (AP)

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia rounds the bases in a spring training game -- a good sign for Sox fans. (AP)

When last we heard from them, the Red Sox were limping to a 89-73 record and a third-place finish in the American League East. Now, they’re among World Series favorites. What happened?

The Red Sox’ expected resurgence centers on two things: getting rid of that limp and adding new blood.

Everyone is talking about the additions of all-world players Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and rightfully so. But just as big as Gonzalez’s bat and Crawford’s fleet feet is the expected recovery of the team’s legion of injured players.

Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, half of the Sox’ backbone with Jon Lester and David Ortiz, spent significant time on the DL last year.

Youkilis’ torn thumb kept him out of the lineup for the final two months of the season. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury basically missed the entire 2010 season with broken ribs. Pedroia’s healed broken foot should allow him to fill the significant shoes he left after his 2007 Rookie of the Year and 2009 MVP awards.

Last year, even with the significant injuries, the Sox were only eliminated from playoff contention in the season’s final week. That’s a solid starting block for the 2011 squad.

In October, General Manager Theo Epstein told the Portland Press Herald that he felt good about the team — before the big-time additions of Gonzalez and Crawford.

“We did feel pretty good coming out of spring training,” Epstein said. “We’d like to rewind and start over and do 162 [games] over again, see how it turns out with maybe some different breaks and some different health. We’d feel pretty good about our chances, but that’s not the way you get to do it.”

On Opening Day, every team gets a fresh start. Red Sox fans hope that comes with fresh legs.

Thursday Morning: Insurance Board Members Get Paid

Published March 31, 2011

Apparently, we’re in for some more Winter weather. This is no pre-April Fools joke. I don’t want to talk about it.


Amidst intense scrutiny on non-profit board pay, the state’s second- and third-largest health insurers said yesterday that their board members will continue to pay themselves large salaries. State Attorney General Martha Coakley, who oversees the governance of non-profits, said the companies have failed to adequately explain why they’ll continue the practice.

Boston City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley has long described herself as a survivor of sexual assault. But during a City Council meeting yesterday, she said she survived rape while studying at Boston University. Pressley spoke with WBUR’s Bob Oakes on Morning Edition this morning.

Tired of waiting for casino compromise on Beacon Hill, gamblers are using computer cafes to skirt rules against gambling in the state. Operators call them Internet cafes, but really, the sweepstakes houses are more like computerized casinos and exist in a gray-area between private business and the public Lottery.

Beaches on the Cape are under attack from an estimated 8 million plastic discs accidentally released from a sewage treatment plant on the Merrimack River in Hooksett, N.H. CapeCodToday has some heartbreaking pictures of the discs covering the shoreline.

As Red Sox fans prepare for the teams’ Opening Day tomorrow in Texas (some teams’ seasons begin today and the Sox are in Boston for the first time next Friday), Boston officials are telling the team to scale down its party. The team hopes to expand the sale of alcoholic mixed drinks at Fenway Park, but authorities aren’t so sure that’s a good idea.

For many students in Boston Public Schools, keeping up with their progress toward graduation is difficult or impossible. They say they’re often surprised by their grades and the classes they’re required to pass to graduate — sometimes after it’s too late. Now, however, some school officials are working to give students an easier way to stay on top of their education.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on the changes to the Parole Board and the Probation Department being made on Beacon Hill, the state Democratic lawmakers’ retreat in Western Mass. and state home foreclosure numbers. Radio Boston will speak with the president of the American Federation of Teachers about education reform in unionized schools.

Spring Thaw On Beacon Hill

Published March 30, 2011

The beautiful Beacon Hill dome (JackieASutherland/Flickr)

The beautiful Beacon Hill dome (JackieASutherland/Flickr)

Yesterday the MetroWest Daily News published an editorial criticizing the slow pace of action on Beacon Hill — a phenomenon the paper says is all-too-common.

The Legislature is off to its usual somnambulant start…

… There have been few public hearings and even fewer significant votes…

The editorial argues that months into the session, the Legislature could have achieved tangible progress on the number of pressing issues, like: reforms to the patronage-ridden Probation Department; municipal health care reform; and budget decisions on local aid levels.

Veteran legislators excuse these months of apparent inaction by saying there are seasons in every legislative session. This is the time when legislation is germinating, in the dark, below the surface.

It’s true that many State House leaders have outlined their positions and preferences on a number of issues (which branch should oversee that Probation Department, for one). But the Daily News — like so many political watchers — is impatient at the pace of actual legislative sausage-making.

It seems, though, that a relative thaw is underway:

  • Yesterday, two legislators filed a bill to replace the state’s existing Children in Need of Services system.
  • Today the Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the various bills revamping Probation.
  • Also today the House takes up a $325 million supplemental spending plan. (Update: It passed).
  • And somewhat related, elsewhere in the building the Governor’s Council today confirmed four nominees to the Parole Board, replacing those who resigned amid controversy in January.

Ironically, $50 million of the supplemental spending plan covers snow removal after this brutal winter. I think the Daily News would argue that Beacon Hill is just now digging itself out.

(Of course, we may see more snow Friday.)

Wednesday Morning: Nuclear Regulators Keep Faith

Published March 30, 2011

Firefighters have rescued a veteran MBTA worker after he fell down a 30-foot shaft at the Charles/MGH Red Line T stop this morning. Expect delays on the line, as the T is busing commuters from Kendall Square to Broadway.


Federal nuclear regulators will visit the State House today in an effort to reassure Gov. Deval Patrick and other legislators that the region’s nuclear power plants are safe. Just yesterday, Mass. Rep. Ed Markey filed legislation in Washington proposing a moratorium on all new nuclear reactor licenses and license extensions.

New rankings say that Nantucket County is the healthiest of the state’s 14 counties. Not surpisingly, Hampden County is the state’s least healthy, according to the study. As WBUR’s Carey Goldberg writes, “what’s most fascinating about these new stats is the ever-growing awareness that non-health factors — income, education — are striking determinants of our health.”

For-profit health care is expanding in Massachusetts, as community hospitals in Taunton and Lowell expect to join the Steward Health Care System soon.

Many college students make sure to include all of the important food groups in their diet: pizza, Chinese, ice cream and tons of cereal. Of course, that’s not the healthiest way to live. One group of Tufts students found that shopping and eating together allowed them to be healthier and happier.

From Massachusetts to Oregon to Texas, states are searching for ways to cut costs and balance the books. The soaring costs of prisons have prompted prison reforms in many other states and Massachusetts may be watching them as an example.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on the shakeup at the state Probation Department, the health of the state and the workings of the Governor’s Council. Radio Boston will look at the state’s plan to increase high school Math education.

Cape Vista

Published March 29, 2011

Cape Cod and the Islands, as captured by the International Space Station Expedition 26 (Via Douglas Wheelock/NASA)

Cape Cod and the Islands, captured by International Space Station Expedition 26 (Via Douglas Wheelock/NASA)

Look at that wonderfully hooked tentacle of the Outer Cape.

On Twitter, astronaut Douglas Wheelock often passes along stunning images of our world below.

Last week, he passed along this shot of Cape Cod and the Islands from his recently returned NASA colleagues on International Space Station Expedition 26.

Wheelock served as commander of Expedition 25, which landed last fall. Expedition 26, commanded by Scott Kelly, the brother-in-law of Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, landed March 16.

Tuesday Morning: Jobs Leaving, Executives Staying

Published March 29, 2011

Fidelity and Evergreen Solar may have moved jobs out of state, but that hasn’t spared the companies’ executives from a grilling at the State House.

Lawmakers incensed by the outflow of jobs despite tax breaks and other benefits have scheduled a hearing today and asked top executives to appear. Evergreen Solar announced in January that it was closing its Devens plant and laying off 800 workers. Fidelity plans to move over 1,000 workers — most of them out of state — when it closes its plant in Marlborough.

Huge loopholes in the fund that covers health care for poor, uninsured Massachusetts residents have led to millions of dollars in care for out-of-staters, according to the Herald. The overcharging includes payment to addresses out of state and even out of the country, and over $17 million for more than 60,000 “medically unlikely” or “medically unnecessary” claims, with Mass. taxpayers footing the bill.

A group of retired lay employees of the Archdiocese of Boston said the church is pressuring them to take a lower retirement payment than the one they’re owed. The church defended itself and maintains changes must be made in order to pay its retirement obligations.

If you’re still sending letters, you know how interminable the wait for delivery feels in this day of email and instant messaging. A letter sent from Hyde Park, N.Y., in 1945 finally arrived in Gloucester last week. Calling it “Snail Mail” would be an insult to escargot. As the Globe said, “A common garden snail could have made the 173-mile journey in 6 1/2 years. Instead it took 66.”

A giant 200-year-old elm tree is coming down tomorrow. Today is the last full day for admirers to bid the beloved Olmsted Elm, beside the historic home of urban designer Frederick Law Olmsted, adieu.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on the abuse of the state’s free health care system, layoffs at UMass Medical School and the Fidelity-Evergreen Solar hearing. Radio Boston will discuss teen texting and its sometimes disastrous consequences.

All The News That’s Fit To … Pay For?

Published March 28, 2011

While it might not be the invention of the printing press, today is a seminal day for journalism. The New York Times unveils a metered online paywall this afternoon.

The proliferation of Internet news and its effect on traditional news outlets is a well-told story: The Web has shifted readers but hasn’t replaced revenue, creating a crisis for the industry.

Stop the presses, the Times' paywall is going into effect. (Blue Mountains Library - Local Studies/Flickr)

Stop the presses, the Times' paywall is going into effect. (Blue Mountains Library - Local Studies/Flickr)

Many local newspapers have already erected paywalls. For instance, for this morning’s Hubbub roundup I wanted to link to a Cape Cod Times article on the refuse from a New Hampshire sewage treatment plant washing up on Cape beaches and an article from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette on a local kid making the Kansas City Royals. Both articles are behind metered paywalls and I thought the paywall might aggravate Hubbub readers, so I left them out. Should I have included them? It’s a wholly new journalism question. Readers around the region will continue to ask similar pay-for-news questions when the Globe changes its online structure this fall.

Of course, there’s some irony here: WBUR is fundraising this week in order to pay for the journalism we produce here — both on the radio and online. Many people already feel compelled to pay for public media. Many people pay to subscribe to the Times’ print edition. Is there a pay-for-news line for you?

Will you pay for news that was once free? Will you pay for content from arguably the world’s most important paper, but not from anywhere else? Will you pay for the Do you pay for or


Monday Morning: Love That Dirty Water

Published March 28, 2011

State public health officials say that they’ve found a very low concentration of radioactive iodine in a sample of rainwater collected in Boston last week. The contamination is apparently linked to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

To be clear, officials say they’re not worried about the reading and that tests of the Quabbin reservoir, which supplies water to much of Greater Boston, came back negative.

Almost a town unto itself, Harvard University is grappling with the same problem cities and towns across the country are facing: retiree benefits. Harvard stands to be on the hook for almost $1 billion in medical coverage next year, comparable to the obligations of a mid-size city, according to the Globe.

The state Transportation department is pushing ahead with plans to build a commuter rail station near Blue Hill Ave. in Dorchester, despite opposition from some local residents.

I hope you’re enjoying the wonderful, free online content you’re reading right now; the New York Times’ paywall goes into effect today. The newspaper will allow online users to read 20 articles a month at no charge. For $15, users can have unlimited access to the Times’ online content — “about what you pay for a cocktail in Manhattan,” as WBUR’s Curt Nickisch said. On Point will dive into the paywall debate at 10 a.m.

With the Boston teams knocked out early, or not even invited to dance in the first place, UConn is left to carry New England’s March Madness banner. The men’s team continued an improbable run to the Final Four after surviving a tight one against Arizona Saturday. The women’s team continued its awesome, yet expected, march in the women’s bracket. They punched a ticket to the Elite Eight after a surprisingly close win over Georgetown Sunday.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on the radiation readings found in Boston as well as the health care crisis facing both the Boston Catholic Archdiocese and local colleges.

Big Ol’ Olmsted Elm Coming Down

Published March 25, 2011

The Olmsted Elm, at the Frederick Law Olmsted Historic Site, is set to be cut down. (Lisa Tobin/WBUR)

The Olmsted Elm, at the Frederick Law Olmsted Historic Site, is set to be cut down. (Lisa Tobin/WBUR)

You’ve only got a few more days to bid the famed Olmsted Elm in Brookline goodbye. Years of decay and disease have made the tree, located at the historical home of Boston designer Frederick Law Olmsted, a hazard, according to authorities.

The tree may be 200 years old and its fans are taking its impending loss hard.

WBUR’s Bob Oakes asked Gerry Wright, a local naturalist and sometimes-Olmsted impersonator, what the tree meant to him.

“It’s almost beyond words, because for myself, it’s a spiritual presence that we stand in when we stand within Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscapes,” Wright said.

Olmsted designed Boston’s Emerald Necklace network of parks and, of course, New York’s Central Park. Elms often figured prominently in his designs, so the loss of the one at his family homestead seems to mark the end of an era.

The tree will be cut down next week, the National Park Service said, and mourners have through Wednesday to pay their respects. If you can’t make your way to Brookline, the tree has a Facebook page.