Monthly Archives: April 2011

Friday Morning: No Gambling? Poker Rooms Thrive

Published April 29, 2011

For-profit poker rooms are raking in cash across the state, according to the Globe. Though casino gambling is illegal in Massachusetts, the clubs operate openly thanks to a provision that allows charities to hold Vegas Night fundraisers. A portion of the poker rooms’ profits go to the nonprofits that sponsor the event.

The Massachusetts House approved its $30.5 billion budget plan last night, including the controversial provision allowing cities and towns to bypass union approval for changes to municipal health plans. The budget heads to the state Senate and a combined bill must be approved by July 1.

Bullying victims came together to share their stories and assess the state’s year-old anti-bullying law at a State House conference yesterday.

An Air Force pilot from Auburn was killed in Afghanistan Wednesday when an Afghan soldier turned on allied troops. David L. Brodeur, 34, was a standout athlete and student at Auburn High School.

The Patriots drafted Nate Solder, an offensive tackle from Colorado. It’s a safe pick, not a sexy one, as the Herald writes. The team traded the No. 28 pick to the Saints for a second-round selection this year and a first-round selection next year.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on changes at the Haverhill Fire Department, the arrest of 32 individuals on weapons charges in Brockton and a Federal Elections Commission complaint against Mitt Romney. Also, there was a wedding, or something, this morning.

Your Patriots Draft Day Primer

Published April 28, 2011

North Carolina's Robert Quinn (42), left, and Zach Brown (47) sack Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis during a 2009 game. (AP)

North Carolina's Robert Quinn (42), left, and Zach Brown (47) sack Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis during a 2009 game. (AP)

Who will be the next players to join the Patriots after the first round of the NFL draft tonight? Short answer: no one knows. The Pats and their famously tight-lipped coach aren’t giving many clues. Plus, the team and Bill Belichick have been known to trade draft picks in order to get themselves better situated for the future.

We do, however, have ideas on what the Patriots should be looking for and we know who the experts surmise will be donning the blue and silver. The NFL draft stretches over three days. In advance of tonight’s first round, here’s what you need to know:

Patriots’ picks: The Pats have two first-round picks: No. 17, obtained from Oakland in a trade two years ago, and No. 28.

Patriots’ needs: There’s no question that the Patriots will be looking at a defensive end or an outside linebacker who can rush the passer. Both the offensive and defensive line need help, as’s Mike Reiss told Morning Edition today. The Pats could also look to pick up a running back or a cornerback.

Five names to know:

Robert Quinn: DE, North Carolina. At one point Quinn was considered a star prospect before the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2010 season for taking improper benefits. Still, he has the speed and strength the Pats covet.

Muhammad Wilkerson: DE, Temple. Reiss has the Pats taking Wilkerson at No. 17.

Mike Pouncey: G, Florida. The brother of standout rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who plays for the Steelers. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King thinks the Pats will take him at No. 17.

Danny Watkins: G, Baylor. The Canadian-born Watkins is known as a tough, lunch-pail kind of guy, perfect for the Pats. The Herald’s Karen Guregian thinks the Pat’s will take him at No. 28.

Mark Ingram: RB, Alabama. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner would be a bit of a surprise pick by the Pats, who generally don’t give running backs first-round grades. But, he’d fill a need.

Best bet: Look for Belichick to draft a pass-rusher at No. 17 and trade away the 28th pick to a team looking to jump back into the first round to draft a quarterback. But with the Pats, anything could happen.

Thursday Morning: Boston Makes Education Moves

Published April 28, 2011

Hailed by some as a historic education agreement, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino tentatively agreed to a deal with the city’s 14 independent charter schools that could end years of squabbling. Under the compact, charter schools would take more neighborhood students and special needs students. In return, the city may lease empty school buildings to charters.

In other education news, the city’s school committee approved a new contract for Superintendent Carol Johnson, allowing her to stay on until 2015.

The Bruins are in the Eastern Conference semifinals after a crucial overtime win over the archrival Montreal Canadiens. The game-winning shot came at 5:43 of the extra period in Game 7, giving Boston a 4-3 win. The team will open the conference semifinals in Philadelphia on Saturday.

While the NFL and its players battle each other in court over labor issues, at least one player is using the time off productively. New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko is trading his football pads for a pad and paper while interning at a private equity firm in Philadelphia. Mesko — a former business major at the University of Michigan — is working the cubicles and waiting to return to his day job with the NFL.

Sen. John Kerry is taking a less critical approach toward Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Kerry hasn’t called for al-Assad’s resignation, like he did with Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on the proposed education agreement, the House budget and a drop in Massachusetts home sales.

Harvard Fellow Is New Leader Of Tibetans-In-Exile

Published April 27, 2011

Longtime Harvard Law research fellow and Medford resident Lobsang Sangay has been elected leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Lobsang Sangay, here in front of the Tibetan flag, is the new prime minister of the country's government-in-exile. (AP)

Lobsang Sangay, here in front of the Tibetan flag, is the new prime minister of the country's government-in-exile. (AP)

Sangay, who was the frontrunner for Kalon Tripa, or prime minister, won with 55 percent of the vote, besting two other final candidates.

WBUR’s Bob Oakes and Lisa Tobin spoke with the 43-year-old recently. Tibet is under China’s control, and, as prime minister, Sangay stressed he’d seek to “reach out to the Chinese government, to have a dialogue, to resolve the issue peacefully and non-violently.”

The position, based in Dharamsala, India, does not come with the usual trappings of high government office. The current prime minister is a monk and the job pays $400 a month. Sangay, though, is undaunted.

“I’m willing and happy to give up the comfort and privileges of the People’s Republic of Cambridge and go to India and serve my people,” he said.

WBUR tried to reach Sangay earlier today. His cellphone voicemail, unsurprisingly, was full.

Mass. Man Goes To Beach, Returns With Brother

Published April 27, 2011

Lots of beach-goers this summer will scour the sand for pretty shells, sand dollars, loose change. Few, you’d think, would ever find their own brother.

But that’s what happened to two Massachusetts brothers on a Waikiki, Hawaii, beach earlier this month, according to the AP.

A hotel employee, Joe Parker, offered to snap a picture of Rick Hill’s family. They got to talking about their shared Boston accent and played the Name Game to see if they knew similar people. Turns out, they both knew Dickie Halligan because Halligan was both of their fathers. The AP writes:

Hill says he felt chills. Halligan was his father. Parker said Halligan was his father too. The men were half-brothers.

Parker called the encounter “mind blowing.”

Both men knew they had a brother, but never expected to meet.

Last time I went to the beach all I came back with was a sunburn.

Wednesday Morning: House Votes Against Unions

Published April 27, 2011

House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a measure giving cities and towns more control over employee health insurance last night. Union leaders say the proposal takes away their collective bargaining rights.

The mayor of Lawrence is under fire and opponents are calling for him to resign. The Globe claims Mayor William Lantigua is the focus of a corruption investigation by the FBI and some Lawrence residents are mounting a campaign to remove him from office.

Once a reliable rubber stamp for the governor, the Governor’s Council has grown increasingly fractured and contentious. Barbara Lenk, the latest Supreme Judicial Court nominee by Gov. Deval Patrick, comes before the council today.

Students called for local colleges to improve their handling of sexual assaults at a rally yesterday outside Boston City Hall. Some students and advocates charge that many universities take too long to investigate incidents and fail to promote an environment that’s safe for all.

If you live in Medford, you might know the man taking over part of the Dalai Lama’s job. Lobsang Sangay, the Harvard University acadmeic, was elected prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile yesterday.

The Bruins are headed back to Boston, forced to play for the series in a decisive Game 7 against Montreal tomorrow tonight after a 2-1 loss in Montreal last night. Penalties killed the Bruins — the Habs capitalized twice in 5-on-3 action.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on a new method of evaluating teachers in Massachusetts, rising gas prices and Lenk’s Governor’s Council hearing.

Democratic U.S. Senate Race Kicks Into Gear

Published April 26, 2011

Alan Khazei will again be a Democratic senatorial hopeful. Here, Khazei talks with the media after voting in the primary he lost in 2009. (AP)

Alan Khazei will again be a Democratic senatorial hopeful. Here, Khazei talks with the media after voting in the primary he lost in 2009. (AP)

Today we saw two big developments in the U.S. Senate race. Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year, formally announced he would run for the Democratic nomination and Joe Trippi announced he is joining Bob Massie’s campaign.

WBUR’s Alyson Whitman caught up with Khazei and found out more about why he wanted the chance to run against Scott Brown, who is, according to a recent Suffolk University poll, the most popular politician in Massachusetts.

“We have to provide jobs for people. We have to restore the American dream. We have to make sure we’re ensuring opportunity for all of our children through a strong education system,” Khazei said. “We got to deal with energy. Gas prices are at $4 a gallon. We have to get off of Mideast fossil fuels and embrace clean and renewable alternatives.”

Khazei came in behind Rep. Michael Capuano and Attorney General Martha Coakley when he ran for the same nomination in the 2009 special election.

Trippi, who joined the Massie campaign, helped turn Howard Dean into an unlikely front-runner for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. That was until Dean lost the Iowa caucus and went down in a blaze during a concession speech in which he let out that now-famous primal screen.

Tuesday Morning: DiMasi Heads To Trial

Published April 26, 2011

Jury selection in the corruption trial of former House Speaker Sal DiMasi and two other co-defendants begins today. In the DiMasi trial — the third-consecutive corruption probe of a Massachusetts House Speaker — analysts are bracing for an explosive look into the inside workings of influence peddling on Beacon Hill.

Logan Airport isn’t immune to the recent turmoil of the aviation industry — headlines like sleeping air traffic controllers and minor runway crashes have splashed across front pages — according to the Metro.

Attorney General Martha Coakley subpoenaed records from the state Lottery Commission and the treasurer’s office as part of an investigation of former treasurer Tim Cahill’s lottery ad campaign that ran during his gubernatorial bid.

City Year co-founder Alan Khazei announced yesterday that he’s running to unseat Sen. Scott Brown in a 2012 senate bid. Khazei also ran for the seat in the January 2009 special election.

Surgeons at Brigham and Women’s performed the nation’s second full-face transplant yesterday. Doctors at the hospital performed the first full-face transplant last month.

In Boston, we remember former Sox slugger Manny Ramirez as a bit of a knucklehead, if a supremely-skilled knucklehead. A former New York Times reporter who followed Manny through his high school career in the Bronx says he’s always been that way.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on the budget debate on Beacon Hill and environmental authorities battling the Asian longhorn beetle.

Composer Peter Lieberson Dies At 64

Published April 25, 2011

Peter Lieberson, a passionate, expressive composer who created many original works for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, died Saturday at the age of 64. He was in Tel Aviv receiving treatment for lymphoma. He’d been battling the disease for years.

Lieberson photographed by his wife Rinchen Lhamo last year.

Lieberson photographed by his wife Rinchen Lhamo last year.

I spoke with Lieberson in 2010 for a story about what would be his final BSO commission, “Songs of Love and Sorrow.” The work’s world premiere performance took place at Symphony Hall in March of last year.

Lieberson dedicated “Songs of Love and Sorrow” to his second wife, mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. She died of breast cancer in 2008. It’s a companion piece to “Neruda Songs,” (2005) another work inspired by the composer’s deep feelings for his partner, as well as the couple’s profound appreciation of love sonnets by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

While reporting the story I got a glimpse into Lieberson’s relationship with his wife, with heartbreak and with death.

Lieberson is survived by three children from his first marriage, as well as his third wife, writer and former Buddhist nun Rinchen Lhamo. Lieberson was a life-long student of Buddhism. He served as director for the international meditation program known as Shambala Training.

In speaking with Lieberson for even a brief stretch of time it was abundantly clear that his heart was open and searching and filled with compassion and light. May his gentle spirit rest in peace.


Monday Morning: State Budget Takes The Spotlight

Published April 25, 2011

The state budget takes center stage this week as lawmakers negotiate changes to the $30.5 billion spending plan in full debate on the state House floor. The biggest point of contention in the budget is House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s controversial plan that gives municipalities the ability to change employee health care without union approval.

The state failed to inspect three-quarters of escalators in Massachusetts malls over the past three years, according to the Globe. A four-year-old boy died after falling from a mall escalator last month in Auburn, spurring the probe.

The Boston sports fan in your life should be walking with an extra spring in his/her step this morning after a banner weekend for the city’s teams. The Celtics yesterday finished off a sweep of the Knicks and won their first round playoff series, behind a solid day from Kevin Garnett. The Bruins beat the Canadiens in double overtime Saturday — they lead their series 3-2. And the Sox, 2-10 to start the season, are almost back to .500 after a torrid 8-1 run.

What we’re following: We’ll continue to report on a conference at the Berklee College of Music set to examine the future of the music industry, the debate on improving the Marshfield seawall and Boston’s effort to get many tax-exempt businesses to pay taxes.