Category Archives: Uncategorized

Shame on Brandeis by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is, indeed, a controversial figure, especially for the vehemence with which she has criticized Islamic fundamentalism. Just read her memoir Infidel, and you’ll understand why. Her childhood was spent in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, where she survived genital mutilation, physical and emotional abuse, parental attempts at forced marriage and all the forms of degradation to which “good little girls” are subjected under rigid interpretation of Sharia law. Ultimately she moved to The Netherlands and was elected to Parliament. Her memoir tells of how she went from dutiful submission to a self-aware political activist fighting for freedom and women’s dignity. Because she speaks out, she lives under constant death threats.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has formed a foundation to fight for women’s rights everywhere, and she certainly is a hero to those who approve of freeing women from oppression imposed on girls and women by extreme religion and cultural intolerance. It is understandable that Brandeis University would invite her to receive an honorary degree at its May commencement. Oh, wait a minute. Not so fast. This week, Brandeis rescinded its invitation based, it said, on extreme language used by Hirsi Ali in talking about Islam, in one way or another, as “a religion of death,” “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”

Nearly a quarter of the faculty lined up with Muslim students and others to protest the University’s decision to honor Hirsi Ali. They decried her as Islamaphobic and attacked her “hateful views.” But maybe they would have shared those views if they had been treated as she was. To me, she is a woman of great courage, standing up for all women against the strictures of a vicious and repressive fundamentalist community.

Brandeis asserts that there is a difference between inviting someone to a dialogue on campus and honoring that person for the body of his or her work. Maybe so. But they should have thought of that in advance. They claim they didn’t know about her anti-Islam language. They live maybe under a rock?

This about-face by Brandeis smacks of craven political correctness. A Washington Post columnist recalls how in 2006 the University honored famous playwright Tony Kushner, whose anti-Zionist attitude had been reflected in his statement that “The biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community.” At the time, Brandeis said it stood by its invitation, explaining that it doesn’t select honorary degree recipients based on their political beliefs. Apparently it does today.

I don’t usually agree with Wall St. Journal editorial positions. Today the paper reasonably asks if Hirsi Ali’s critics by implication support the abuses she has fought her whole life – forced marriage, female genital mutilation, honor killings, all part of Shariah law. And, noting that Brandeis was founded “to defend non-sectarian religious liberty,” the editorial wonders if the University now includes in its core values “intolerance and the illiberal suppression of ideas.” That’s the message underlying the University’s reversal on Hirsi Ali.

Hirsi herself responded by congratulating the Brandeis graduates on their commencement and hoping that they turn out to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater. Amen to that!

I welcome your comments in the section below. p.s. Check out Hirsi’s “Here’s What I would Have Said at Brandeis” in Friday’s WSJ.

Selfie, shmelfie-where will it end by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below i s being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Four months ago, when the Oxford English Dictionary named “selfie” the 2013 word of the year, I had never even heard of it. In the last couple of days, it’s almost all I’ve heard.  Of course, there was the selfie taken by President Obama of himself and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a comely lass, and British Prime Minister David Cameron off to the side.  What healthy male would pass up that opportunity?  Of course, that it was done at Nelson Mandela’s funeral prompted a flurry of criticism for being inappropriate at such a solemn occasion.  But the occasion was also a celebration and at least it appeared spontaneous.  What we’ve had since has been staged and, we have learned, commercial.

There followed the famous selfie taken by Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres. It showed her and a group of her nearest and dearest celeb friends, including Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts and more. It was anything but spontaneous. There’s actually footage of her rehearsing the selfie, in hopes of getting it retweeted a record number of times. Now it turns out that the whole deal was not only staged but sponsored by Samsung. (When not being paid, she uses an iPhone.)

Which brings us to David Ortiz, who, as virtually everyone now knows. took a selfie of himself and President Obama at the White House  yesterday, surrounded by the Red Sox World Champions. And, yes, we now know that “selfie” was also paid for in a last-minute David Ortiz contract with Samsung.  No wonder some Red Sox in the background (Jonny Gomes?) were going cha-ching as the picture was being snapped.  So much for spontaneity and fun-with-photographs. The White House was not pleased to have been suckered into a commercial endorsement.

(My husband told me that because Ortiz had just signed a munificent baseball contract extension, the local icon  was donating all the proceeds from Samsung to Boston charities,  from One Boston to the Jimmy Fund. Then, he chuckled, “April Fool’s.”)

As Boston.com writer Eric Wilbur opined, the sooner the word “selfie” goes away, the better.  Just another crass promotional deal, or, as Boston Magazine put it,  we have transitioned from “amusing photo format to celebrity monetization opportunity.” Oh, well, what else should we expect?

And why should we spend another minute of print or air time on a day when Boston’s brave firefighters are being remembered and we’re learning of yet another fatal shooting at Fort Hood in Texas? Or is Samsung sponsoring “selfies” there too?

I welcome your comments in the section below.

Lowell National Park Supt Celeste Bernardo on Peter Aucella

This past Thursday evening Lowell National Historic Park Deputy Superintendent Peter J. Aucella received the Thomas G. Kelakos Community Spirit Award from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lowell at Lenzi’s Mill House. While our earlier post concentrated on Peter’s remarks in accepting the award, Lowell National Park Superintendent Celeste Bernardo who introduced Aucella that evening graciously agreed to share her remarks from that evening which we post below:

Peter J. Aucella

I am here tonight to introduce our guest of honor: Peter Aucella. I have the priviledge of working with Peter at Lowell National Historical Park, where I’ve been the Superintendent for 1 year and 9 months. Now I share this with you so that you understand why I was rather surprised last week, when Peter asked me to introduce him. I mean, why would he ask me when he’s worked in Lowell for nearly 30 years this June. Surely there are multiple people in this room who have known him for that long. Surely there are people who know everything about him. And then it occurred me, why he was asking ME to introduce him!! But, I’ve done my homework and even a little research, so you’re not getting off that easy Peter…

I decided to contact some of those people who’ve known Peter through the years – Steve Joncas, Jim Cook, Paul Marion, Fred Faust, Sue Andrews etc. I asked each of them to spontaneously tell me 3 words they would use to describe Peter. And those “words” form the basis for my introduction:

“HARDWORKING”
Now some of you may not this, but Peter was not actually born in Lowell. I know, hard to imagine the city of Lowell without Peter Aucella, but there was a time! Before Peter came to Lowell, he had already held positions at :
• US Department of Housing and Urban Development
• The Massachusetts Bureau of Transportation, Planning and Development
• MA State Senate Committee on Labor
• As the Community Development Coordinator for two mayors of the City of Malden
• As the Director of Economic Development on the staff of former United States Senator Paul Tsongas and later the Manager of the Senator’s Massachusetts Office.

Peter had accomplished all of this before the age of 32 (did I mention he also had a Bachelors Degree in Political Science, a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Northeastern University and was completing a Law Degree from Suffolk?)

It’s no wonder that in 1984, the City of Lowell hired Peter as the Director of the Division of Planning and Development at a time when the Hilton Hotel and Wang Training Center were under construction and the City was building the Lower Locks and Ayotte Parking Garages.

“EFFECTIVE LEADER”
In 1986, Peter became the Executive Director of the federal agency known as the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission. For the next 9 years, under his leadership, the Commission:
• Developed canal walkways
• The trolley system
• Cultural programs
• Public art
• supported historic building preservation through grants and loans
• and rehabilitated the Mogan Cultural Center and the Lowell Telecommunications Studios at the Market Mills.

Peter took the lead on securing $33 million in (shhhhh) Congressional earmarks for Lowell’s National Park and Commission during his tenure.

“PERSERVERENT / TALENTED”
16 billboards littering the city? Peter led a 9 year campaign to have them all removed!

Need a big party to celebrate Lowell’s traditional arts and culture? – Peter was a founding organizer of the Lowell Folk Festival

A parking lot in front of the Boott Cotton Mills Museum?
Peter oversaw its transformation into Boardinghouse Park. And as if that wasn’t enough – he founded the Lowell Summer Music Series, supervising all aspects and this summer – the series celebrates its 25th anniversary!! In December, the National Park Service honored Peter with a Department of Interior Superior Service Award for his work on Boarding House Park and the Summer Music Series.

“DIPLOMATIC / THOROUGH”
In 1995, the City Manager approached the National Park Service requesting Peter’s assistance in the construction of the Lowell Arena. But we weren’t giving him up that easily. Instead, the Park Service agreed to “loan” Peter to the City where he served as the Executive Director of the City’s Arena and Civic Stadium Commission. Here, Peter supervised over $75 million in design and construction projects including the
• Tsongas arena
• Lelacheur Park Baseball Stadium
• And the Merrimack Riverwalk

“INDUSTRIOUS / THOUGHTFUL”
Upon returning to the Park Service (thank goodness for us) Peter has served as Director of Development, working with the City of Lowell and private developers on:
• $50 million worth of development canal walkways
• the expansion of the trolley system
• City master planning efforts in the Acre, JAM area, Downtown and the Hamilton Canal District
Peter implemented $2 million in improvements to save the historic Boston & Maine Railroad Depot (also known as Rialto building) Middlesex CC.

Peter is known as an advocate for preservation of the 5.2 million square feet of mills located within the National Park and Preservation District. 91% of the mills have been rehabilitated to date and that total will reach 94% with currently funded projects now underway.

Most recently, Peter has been a lead advocate for protection of the historic Pawtucket Dam.

“COMMITTED”
Peter has continuously served on the Lowell Historic Board and the Lowell Development and Financial Corporation. He has also served on the Lowell Heritage Partnership, the Lowell Plan, the Center City Committee, the Lowell Childrens Museum and the Salvation Army Advisory Board.

“LOYAL”
A term you can use to describe Peter’s work with the National Park Service, the City of Lowell, the park’s many partners – and of course, his role as a
Family Man – for his wife Rosemary and daughter Adrianna, whom he is so devoted to, and of whom he speaks so lovingly …

“HARDWORKING / EFFECTIVE LEADER / PERSERVERENT / TALENTED / DIPLOMATIC / THOROUGH / INDUSTRIOUS / THOUGHTFUL / COMMITTED / LOYAL”

Peter Aucella embodies the spirit of who we all want and need working tirelessly within our city…someone who cares deeply about the power of place, the vitality of culture, the spirit of collaboration. He is, as Paul Marion wrote, “the master mechanic of Lowell’s transformation”, working quietly behind the scenes…and we are all lucky to have him.

Florida escape clears the cobwebs and crabbiness by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

palm-tree

South Beach is lovely this time of year, especially in that special residential anti-glitz, non-tourist world South of Fifth. Thank goodness for the generosity of friends. Cloudless blue skies, sunny days in the low 80s with low humidity, toes in the sand, dips in the ocean and laps in a pool really are restorative. Just being able to walk outside without shivering is an emotional high.

My snow bunny days are long gone if, indeed, they ever existed. Winter lost its novelty for me long before December 21 and hasn’t improved since. I feel for Danae in the comic strip Non-sequitur  who laments : This is March, and March is spring, and spring means no more snow, right?”  Yeh, right.

But live in Florida full-time? That’s a different story. Democrat Alex Sink’s losing the “bellwether” special congressional election in Tampa is already old news, but a disappointment in anticipation of next fall’s mid-term election. How about those Sunshine State legislators who gave us the stand-your-ground law? Now they want to allow teachers to have concealed weapons.  Better not use your cell phone in class; your teacher may be packing.  A gun, it seems, is the answer to everything.

They are dredging Biscayne Bay  to attract even larger cruise ships. And developers and marine interests are trying to loosen regulations that protect manatees, an endangered animal described as a “gentle sea cow” to which I can relate after a week of eating out at restaurants.

Seeing newspaper headlines last week, I wondered if we shared child welfare problems, a system that in Florida “has led to hundreds of child deaths under the state’s watch.” According to the Miami Herald,  477 children died in state care over the last six years.   There are now several bills to address  the matter, and even Gov. Rick Scott has proposed tens of millions of dollars to remedy the horrific situation. But the outcome is uncertain. [Scott is the Republican health corporation executive who spent $70 million of his own money in 2010 to run for governor and has been a staunch opponent to his state's participation in the Affordable Care Act .]

As flawed as the Massachusetts child protection system is, we’d all be horrified at any comparison with Florida’s. And the list goes on.

Still, that weather is tantalizing, at least before summer’s humidity and hurricane season kick in. The worst day last week received a morning news  alert that it was ”sweater weather.”  It was “chilly” at 69 degrees, but only until 10 AM.

I welcome your comments.

What will it take to fix ACA? by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

stethoscopeWhen President Obama back in 2010 said of the flawed Affordable Care Act, pass it now, fix it later, perhaps he never dreamed of the extent to which politics would have paralyzed the U.S. Congress.  In the past, with major laws like Medicare and Social Security, legislators took an engineering model approach. Pass it. Test it. Learn from real world experience. Tinker and readjust it to make it work better. Bipartisan majorities, acting in good faith,  came together  to move the process forward.

Sadly, in the current toxic partisan environment, making any fix will be difficult if not impossible. Too many want to repeal ACA rather than repair it.

The enrollment website, which had a disastrous roll-out at both the federal and state level, will be fixed.  Don’t laugh. That’s the easy part. There are other things that need attention, but won’t be improved as easily.  Congressman Steve Lynch spelled out a few of those today in this morning’s meeting with The New England Council.

I asked Lynch if he were empowered to make things happen, what would he do?  The sole Democrat to vote against the final version of the Affordable Care Act, Lynch would change three things. First, he’d alter  the strategy of what he calls “taxing our way” to an affordable health care system.  In 2018, American business will take a big hit, when a 40 percent tax is imposed on so-called Cadillac plans, those that exceed a government cap on premium cost.  This, he warned, will “drive up costs of doing business in the United States dramatically,” making us less competitive, and by then, he observed , “the current administration will be gone.”  “I sort of think that’s how they scheduled it,” he smiled.  (A mild version of the House of Cards playbook or more kick-the-can down the road business as usual?)

Lynch also would change the “cartel status” given to insurance companies by exempting them (as had happened years ago with Major League Baseball) from anti-trust regulations. At least one health insurer in the room sat stony-faced as Lynch explained that existing incentives in the health care law not to act in restraint of trade simply don’t work.

Lynch would also introduce competition by including a public option at the state or regional level.  If, for example, Massachusetts and Connecticut unified their systems to offer a public alternative, they’d be able to negotiate from a position of strength with providers, insurers and suppliers, which could actually lower cost.  Long-term, all the New England states could work collaboratively for bargaining power to lower costs. He’s not being a dog in the manger. He had supported an earlier House version of ACA that included a public option.

Lynch has always been a voice of moderation in the Massachusetts delegation, refusing to march in lock-step with members if he disagreed on a particular issue.  It has often earned him criticism from those to the left of center. Don’t ever look for the Boston Globe to endorse him.  In fact, in endorsing Cong. Ed Markey in last year’s special U.S. Senate race, the paper specifically cited Lynch’s vote against ACA in weighing its decision. But I’ve always found him thoughtful, with a great deal to add to public debate. We’ll definitely be talking about the issues he raised today in coming months and years. We shouldn’t be afraid to consider Lynch’s perspectives in weighing where we should go from here.

I welcome your thoughts in the comment section below.

Boston Olympics? costly diversion by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

olympic-rings-2The initial images of the Sochi winter Olympics – tap water the color of urine, treacherous unfinished sidewalks, bathroom doors that wouldn’t open, failed opening night electronic display – have given way to images of skiers doing death-defying summersaults off the chutes, elegant ice skating, breathtaking bobsled runs, the excitement of the T. J. Oshie goal and heartwarming human interest stories.  In the midst of all this, there was a hearing in Boston about whether we should bid for the 2024 summer games. A year ago, I explained why it was a silly diversion. I haven’t heard anything to make me change my mind.

Mitt Romney, one of the committee of poobahs examining the feasibility of Boston’s mounting a bid, said on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday morning that it would be great fun, a celebration of the spirit, a tribute to grit and determination and the embodiment of the highest forms of athleticism.  Even if that’s all true, so what?  Shockingly, the Boston 2024 Organizing Committee isn’t even doing a cost-benefit analysis, according to John Fish,  another committee member whose company, Suffolk Construction, would naturally be a player in a host city game.

But why would they not?  Whether the dollars are public or private, the potential costs are staggering. Even Romney, in an article last week in USA Today, decried the excess of recent games.  He says the Sochi games (called by Globe writer Shira Springer “Putin’s ultimate vanity project) should have been done for $3 billion, rather than the $50 billion they cost.

It’s the taxpayers who regularly get left holding the bag. So after the games, there aren’t funds for critical unmet needs.  Even if a city does manage to get housing, sports venues or mass transit out of hosting the games, it usually loses money – and lots of it.  It took Montreal three decades to finish paying off its debt from the 1976 games.  Sydney games stuck taxpayers for $2 billion; in London, it was $15 billion, 400% more than originally planned.  Cost overruns are widely held to have contributed to Greece’s economic collapse.

Renee Loth, writing for WBUR, notes that the economics work better in developing economies than in mature economies like Boston’s.  Plus, she reminds us of the negative impact on local businesses as usual patrons not attending the Olympics stay away in droves.

Romney says that public sector inefficiency and corruption help to explain why costs explode out of control.  But on Meet the Press, he added that it’s the egos of government officials that stoke the problem.  He should also have added the egos of big corporate types.  If Romney, Bob Kraft and Steve Pagliucca, etc. want to pay for the Boston Olympics out of their own deep pockets, fine. But don’t ask us to divert funds from education, child protective services,  street violence, health care, and other priorities.

Romney says that the International Olympic Committee should award the games only to countries that will live within an IOC-set expense cap. Oh, really?  That seems even more difficult than an international body controlling doping in the Tour de France.

From London to Beijing to the next summer games in Rio, hundreds of thousands of poor people have been displaced as host cities clear the way for new Olympic venues.  But that doesn’t have to happen going forward. Last October’s edition of Atlantic Cities advanced the idea of a permanent site for the summer games, possibly on an island off the coast of Greece.  That’s how they did it for 800 years in Olympia, and maybe the current approach should be reconsidered.  (You could also have a separate site for the winter Olympics, someplace the temperature could stay cold enough for winter sports.)

Yes, maybe hosting the Olympics could force the upgrading of the MBTA. It worked in other winning cities at the risk of near bankruptcy. And, yes, Boston’s diversity could be celebrated and marketed, in contrast to the racial intolerance for which we became known in the 1970′s and beyond.

We succeeded at the Big Dig, the Marathon, the 2004 Democratic National Convention and more.  And that’s fine. Just knowing we could seriously compete for the Olympics should be enough.  We don’t need to go for the fool’s gold to prove ourselves. We don’t want to win a white elephant.We are a world class city, and we’re too smart to get suckered into an Olympic bid just to stoke our egos.

Regardless of what the Boston Organizing Committee report recommends, Mayor Marty Walsh should distance himself from any bid preparation.  He and the city have too many important things on the plate to waste any of their time on this.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

Real life after the good ship Lollipop by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Shirley Temple was three years old back in the 1930′s when she started her performance shirley templecareer. She achieved major league stardom between the ripe old ages of six and 11.  With her curly hair and twinkly eyes, she sang and danced and achieved the moniker of America’s Sweetheart well before the days of American Idol. She retired from films when she was just 22 but went on to serve her country in decidedly different ways. But when she died yesterday at the age of 85, it was her iconic rendition of The Good Ship Lollipop that flooded the airwaves.

photo: Wikipedia

photo: Wikipedia

I met her in 1990 when, as Shirley Temple Black, she was serving as U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.  These were momentous times in the eastern bloc nations.  The Berlin Wall had come down; the Iron Curtain was crumbling; the Soviet Union was being dismantled.  My husband and I were with a group of other editorial writers from the National Conference of Editorial Writers, now the Association of Opinion Journalists.

We entered the palatial American embassy and were led into a salon overlooking formal gardens.  A chain-smoking Shirley Temple Black, followed by an affable but gassy boxer dog, welcomed us. She spoke knowledgably about a range of policy matters. A conservative Republican Vietnam hawk who had lost a California congressional race to liberal Republican Pete McCloskey years before, Black had been a heavy-hitting fundraiser for Richard Nixon in 1972 but was decidedly not a knee-jerk ideologue. Instead of instinctively embracing the take-no-prisoners freeboot capitalist views of Czech finance minister Vaclav Klaus, she was sensitive to the Third Way values and policies of Vaclav Havel and his allies. She was a smooth diplomat in a posting that would have taxed a career foreign service officer.

More than the policy discussions, I remember her explaining to us that the cost of heating the mansion was so high that she and her husband lived upstairs in a small apartment with a kitchenette and opened up the grand spaces on the first floor only when absolutely required by state department protocol. So much for the lavish life of an ambassador! She was remarkably unpretentious.

It’s hard to believe, given “On the Good Ship Lollipop”- focused coverage of her death, that she spent more years in public service than in Hollywood. She was so much more than a child actor. Nixon named her a delegate to the UN General Assembly in the late ’60′s, an appropriately no-heavy-lifting payoff for big political donors. But Shirley Temple Black came for the long haul and did heavy lifting.  She went to Ghana in 1974, when the country wasn’t a poster child for the New Africa, but a country battered by strikes and social unrest, rife with corruption, close to economic collapse, with a strongman dictator jailing his critics without trials. She walked the streets in African prints, learned local dialects, and danced with stall-keepers in the markets.

She was perhaps partly steeled for the Ghana job by her earlier work building the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies. She had been  in Prague on August 21, 1968, scheduled to meet with Prague Spring reform hero Alexander Dubcek,  when the Russian tanks rolled in, forcing her to flee. That night, from her hotel lobby, she watched a middle-aged Czech woman shake her fist at soldiers, get shot in the stomach and crumble to the ground.

That memory, she recalled, was clearly in her mind when, in 1989, she presented her credentials to Gustav Husak, the man who reversed the Dubcek reforms and purged the reformers. She said sweetly, but pointedly, that she had been in Prague in 1968. But the real sweetness came in the Velvet Revolution that followed.

President Ford had called her back from Ghana in 1976 to be the first female Chief of Protocol. It was a short-lived posting in which she soon prepared for Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. She offered to stay, but knew the rules of the game. Playing against her Hollywood image, she then spent more than a decade quietly training State Department employees.

Shirley Temple Black used her stardom well and never fell into the traps that so many former child actors have dug for themselves over the years. And when she had breast cancer, she used it as a national teachable moment, one of the first public figures to do so. Classy lady.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

Slaps and Claps by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Claps for the Boston Sunday Globe’s photojournalism spread by Mary Beth Meehan showing the pattern of violence in New Bedford against Mayan Guatemalans.  They fled the war in Guatamela and came here for peace and opportunity, but they’re being beaten and robbed by African-Americans and Puerto Ricans. They live in constant fear.  Seems there’s no end of viciousness that can be launched against whoever our new immigrant groups are.  As for the New Bedford police chief, he says “it’s a very delicate balance and a difficult call” to say these are hate crimes. Claps also for Globe editor Brian McGrory for giving the space for this and other long-form pieces.

Big slap: to state government’s incapacity to deliver services to the most vulnerable. Our troubles go even beyond DCF: we are in meltdown.  The Boston Herald broke the story that the Mattapan mother of the 14-year-old who shot (accidentally) and killed his 9-year-old brother had gotten help from DCF.  But when DCF sought custody of the troubled, violent older brother to protect himself and others, they were never granted full custody by the Court.  The Boston Globe story the same day revealed that our state, which is first in education, first in innovation, first in health access, is at or near the bottom in child protective services.

Claps: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh names former opponent John Barros to  lead economic development in the new administration.  It’s a huge job; overseeing the BRA is just part of it, along with the Boston Employment Commission, consumer affairs, tourism and more.  The appointment puts a bright, experienced, charismatic leader in a pivotal position to link economic and real estate development to job creation and the improvement of opportunity for minorities and others.

Slap: Israeli economy minister Naftali Bennett attacks John Kerry for being a megaphone for anti-Semitism because of the administration’s pressure on Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate seriously a next step toward a peace agreement.  This slam of Kerry came despite his decades of support for Israel and philo-Semitic issues, the fact that his brother is Jewish, the fact that there are Jewish branches in his family tree.    The New York Times deserves a slap for limiting its characterization of Bennett’s criticism as  ”borderline outrageous,” but there’s nothing borderline about it.

Slap at Copenhagen zookeepers: when they shot two-year-old Marius, a healthy male giraffe, to cull the collection and prevent inbreeding.  This, despite the fact that other zoos, including one in the U.K., were willing to offer him a home.  The zoo performed the killing in front of a crowd, many of whom also watched while Marius was dismembered and parts were fed to resident lions.   Marius was shot rather than given a lethal injection so that the remains could be fed safely to the big cats.

The zoo-kills-giraffe story prompts outrage, but closer to home we should be no less concerned  about the  number of Massachusetts children who go to bed hungry at night.  Clap for  the excellent reporting on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney and what the Hyde Park   “Y” is doing to help.   A clap to her for her focus on hunger.

I welcome your comments in the section below.