Llewellyn King: Electric revolution to upend transportation

An electric-vehicle charging station, powered by solar panels, in Segovia, Spain

An electric-vehicle charging station, powered by solar panels, in Segovia, Spain

Bright boys and girls are flooding into transportation. It is the place of cutting-edge invention: not cell phones, they were so last year; not computers, they were, er, so last century. The smartest students leaving university may well find the adventure of creating in transportation.

A science-led revolution is in the making in transportation. Leading this revolution is the electric car. It is no longer a drawing-board dream. It is here and gaining market share, albeit miniscule at present.

The surge to electric-powered transportation goes beyond the Tesla and Elon Musk — although Musk has been a catalyst. All manufacturers are now making or investigating electric cars. But the electric car is only a beginning: buses, trucks, trains, small boats, ships and even airplanes are in the mix.

China is throwing government and private resources into an electric future. France, Britain and eight other countries have declared that they will ban the internal- combustion engine by mid-century. Volvo has said that it will stop making fossil- fuel-powered cars.

At the extreme end of the electric-car excitement are automated vehicles. These have caught the imagination — and the dollars — of Google and Uber. But Detroit is also is coming to realize that it has to go electric. General Motors has paved its way with the EV1 and the Volt. Others are scrambling.

The political pressure behind the urge to go electric is clean air, reduced noise and, for many countries, the end of a huge oil bill.

One hundred and forty years after Thomas Edison first perfected a light bulb, electricity is once again a major disruptive technology – and not just on the surface of the Earth. Electric aircraft are in design with short-haul, small-load passenger versions flying in Dubai. Mighty Boeing has teamed up with innovative JetBlue to work on an electric-powered aircraft, although these might have to wait for much better electric-storage batteries than now exist.

Naysayers are quick to point up the inadequacy of batteries — lithium ion are the workhorses in this revolution — and the difficulty of charging them.

These arguments point up a fork in the road for electric enthusiasts: Will the future depend on today’s charging technology where a car has to be tethered to the charging apparatus by a wire, or will electromagnetic fields be used in inductive charging, eliminating the wire? This is known as Wireless Power Transfer (WPT).

Enthusiasts see WPT charging in two ways: either a plate set in a driveway or parking lot with the vehicle at rest or a strip in a roadway which can charge vehicles in motion – a grander idea. If the latter is successful, it opens the way to smaller batteries in lighter vehicles, cheaper trucking.

The disruption is going to be very large.

Gas stations would largely disappear or be very few. Automobile technicians might want to look for alternative employment, as will, eventually, many truck drivers.

The search for new batteries is frenetic and international. New, longer-lived batteries will, in large measure, determine the rate of growth in the more advanced electric vehicle applications.

Another big imponderable is who will provide the electricity? There is a general assumption in the electric utilities that they will do this. But will they? The new owners of the charging networks may choose to make their own with wind, solar and small modular nuclear reactors.

What will the role of government be? Local government will have to deal with the road-use issues. But what of the federal government? It has always been involved in transport. As Peter Morici, the economist and columnist, points out, it stimulated the railways with right-of-way grants and the airlines with mail-hauling contracts. Will it find a similarly elegant way to stimulate the flow of electrons into transportation, and a whole new way of getting ourselves and our stuff around? Maybe it will be led by the military: the Navy wants electric ships.

No wonder the best minds out of colleges and universities are getting wanderlust.

On Twitter: @llewellynking2
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS

Don Pesci: Two roads diverge widely in the Nutmeg State

-- Photo by Global Jet The ever-expanding main campus of the University of Connecticut, in Storrs.

-- Photo by Global Jet

The ever-expanding main campus of the University of Connecticut, in Storrs.

“When the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him” -- Napoleon

That the Connecticut compromise budget is predominantly a Democrat production should come as a surprise to no one. Weighing gains and losses in the scales, the left in Connecticut, best represented by House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, a union employee, has prevailed over its opponents.

The state’s capital,  Hartford, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, will receive a bailout from state taxpayers, at best a temporary solution to long-brewing, unresolved problems centering on the city’s hegemonic political structure, and a virtual guarantee that the city’s political shakers and movers will be bellying up to the bailout bar again in the not too distant future. University of Connecticut funding, cut in the Republican budget that had passed both Houses of the General Assembly, has been restored. Major changes in employee pensions, a prominent feature in the Republican budget, were dropped – but not, Republicans remind us, as a campaign issue.

Democrats yielded on shifting teacher pension costs to municipalities, a major feature of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s rule by executive order regime. Republicans did succeed in imposing a cap on state spending as well as limits on the bonding of long-term capital projects, though they would be wise to make certain that proper enabling legislation is attached to the measures.  Some months ago,  state Atty. Gen.  George Jepsen advised that the constitutional cap on spending, a feature of the Gov. Lowell Weicker income-tax measure, was unconstitutional because the General Assembly had never supplied definitions necessary to enable the bill.

Taxes, a litmus test issue for Republicans, will be increasing – again. Malloy, the outgoing Democratic governor has now, with the concurrence of the dominant Democratic General Assembly, raised taxes three times. The lame-duck governor is the author and inspiration of the largest and second largest tax increases in state history, one of the reasons his approval rating is in the tank.

In a pot calling the kettle black political strategy, much will be made by Democrats in upcoming campaigns of Republican duplicity on the matter, although it will be obvious to all that Republicans yielded to a superior political force wielded by Democrats. Not sweet reason -- Democrats were never interested in palavering with Republicans on budget matters -- but superior force and numbers wielded by Democrats shaped the final budget product.   

Malloy’s reaction to the compromise budget was, some think, bitter – possibly because he was excluded from deliberations on what many hope may be the final budget product in Connecticut – but perfectly in keeping with his overbearing nature. General Assembly members wanted a budget they could live with; which is to say, they wanted a budget they could campaign on. Malloy, who bade goodbye to future campaigns months ago, need no longer struggle to run on his lamentable record in office. Had he chosen to run again, he doubtless would have sunk the re-election prospects of his fellow Democrats.

The compromise budget – such as it is – should be considered a prelude to the upcoming 2018 elections.

Most savvy Democrats instinctively understand they need to put some distance between non-lame duck Democrat legislators and Malloy, Connecticut’s self-immolating governor. And it is this perception that has made them amenable to compromise, even as it has raised Malloy’s hackles.

If Malloy does veto the compromise budget, “the bad” will be on Democrats. If the budget in its current form is not vetoed or passes as a result of a successful veto override, both Republicans and Democrats will be able to run in the upcoming elections as pragmatic compromisers.

In the seemingly endless prelude to the budget, both parties had staked out positions on the economy and society that are widely divergent, the cause, some commentators have said, of the long budget standoff. With the passage at last of a compromise budget, divergence between both parties will increase rather than diminish – because this divergence is rooted in two competing and opposite visions of government.

Never in Connecticut history has it been more true that the destination of the state will depend on the road taken as determined by upcoming elections, which is simply a way of saying that votes will determine Connecticut’s now precarious future. And this time there will be no retreat from the road that will, in Robert Frost’s formulation, “make all the difference.” 

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based journalist.


An old hill town


"Up at the crest of the heights, the ridge is sometimes simply forest, broken only by a wide field of stacked lumber, high cones of sawdust, and the bustle of trucks hauling in logs to the sawmill. Here only a line of old oaks and a decaying cemetery marks an old hill town.

"If life has not abandoned the hilltops, clear pastures roll down each side, giving panoramas of the valley far below. The old village centers, their white church, signposts, and geometric green (denoting an earlier era of optimistic town planning) occasionally survive....

"Plain, empty, and silent, these remnants of forgotten hope have an astringent beauty found nowhere else in the world.''

-- From the ending of Mountain New England: Life Past and Present, by William F. Robinson.

'All of paradise that we shall know?'

 Taken by fir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late 

Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, 

And the green freedom of a cockatoo 

Upon a rug mingle to dissipate 

The holy hush of ancient sacrifice. 

She dreams a little, and she feels the dark 

Encroachment of that old catastrophe, 

As a calm darkens among water-lights. 

The pungent oranges and bright, green wings 

Seem things in some procession of the dead, 

Winding across wide water, without sound. 

The day is like wide water, without sound, 

Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet 

Over the seas, to silent Palestine, 

Dominion of the blood and sepulchre. 




Why should she give her bounty to the dead? 

What is divinity if it can come 

Only in silent shadows and in dreams? 

Shall she not find in comforts of the sun, 

In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else 

In any balm or beauty of the earth, 

Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven? 

Divinity must live within herself: 

Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; 

Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued 

Elations when the forest blooms; gusty 

Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; 

All pleasures and all pains, remembering 

The bough of summer and the winter branch. 

These are the measures destined for her soul. 




Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth. 

No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave 

Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind. 

He moved among us, as a muttering king, 

Magnificent, would move among his hinds, 

Until our blood, commingling, virginal, 

With heaven, brought such requital to desire 

The very hinds discerned it, in a star. 

Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be 

The blood of paradise? And shall the earth 

Seem all of paradise that we shall know? 

The sky will be much friendlier then than now, 

A part of labor and a part of pain, 

And next in glory to enduring love, 

Not this dividing and indifferent blue. 




She says, “I am content when wakened birds, 

Before they fly, test the reality 

Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings; 

But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields 

Return no more, where, then, is paradise?” 

There is not any haunt of prophecy, 

Nor any old chimera of the grave, 

Neither the golden underground, nor isle 

Melodious, where spirits gat them home, 

Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm 

Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured 

As April’s green endures; or will endure 

Like her remembrance of awakened birds, 

Or her desire for June and evening, tipped 

By the consummation of the swallow’s wings. 




She says, “But in contentment I still feel 

The need of some imperishable bliss.” 

Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, 

Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams 

And our desires. Although she strews the leaves 

Of sure obliteration on our paths, 

The path sick sorrow took, the many paths 

Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love 

Whispered a little out of tenderness, 

She makes the willow shiver in the sun 

For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze 

Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet. 

She causes boys to pile new plums and pears 

On disregarded plate. The maidens taste 

And stray impassioned in the littering leaves. 




Is there no change of death in paradise? 

Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs 

Hang always heavy in that perfect sky, 

Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth, 

With rivers like our own that seek for seas 

They never find, the same receding shores 

That never touch with inarticulate pang? 

Why set the pear upon those river-banks 

Or spice the shores with odors of the plum? 

Alas, that they should wear our colors there, 

The silken weavings of our afternoons, 

And pick the strings of our insipid lutes! 

Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, 

Within whose burning bosom we devise 

Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly. 



Supple and turbulent, a ring of men 

Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn 

Their boisterous devotion to the sun, 

Not as a god, but as a god might be, 

Naked among them, like a savage source. 

Their chant shall be a chant of paradise, 

Out of their blood, returning to the sky; 

And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice, 

The windy lake wherein their lord delights, 

The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills, 

That choir among themselves long afterward. 

They shall know well the heavenly fellowship 

Of men that perish and of summer morn. 

And whence they came and whither they shall go 

The dew upon their feet shall manifest. 




She hears, upon that water without sound, 

A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine 

Is not the porch of spirits lingering. 

It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.” 

We live in an old chaos of the sun, 

Or old dependency of day and night, 

Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, 

Of that wide water, inescapable. 

Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail 

Whistle about us their spontaneous cries; 

Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness; 

And, in the isolation of the sky, 

At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make 

Ambiguous undulations as they sink, 

Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

-  "Sunday Morning,'' by Wallace Stevens, the late great Hartford-based poet -- and insurance executive.


Strong women

"A Weight Bearing Exercise'' (stoneware and steel rod), by Claudia Olds Goldie, in the group show "The Female Form: Go Figure,'' at the Christopher Brodigan Gallery at the Groton School, Groton, Mass., through Nov. 14. The womenshe sculpts aren't beautiful in a traditional sense but do have the beauty of their quiet dignity.

"A Weight Bearing Exercise'' (stoneware and steel rod), by Claudia Olds Goldie, in the group show "The Female Form: Go Figure,'' at the Christopher Brodigan Gallery at the Groton School, Groton, Mass., through Nov. 14. The womenshe sculpts aren't beautiful in a traditional sense but do have the beauty of their quiet dignity.

Maybe city managers can govern better than mayors


From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com:

Worcester’s bonds are rated Aa3 while Providence’s are a much lower Baa1. Worcester is in most ways a considerably less important city than Providence, and with a smaller economic and institutional base.

So what explains the rating difference? I’d guess Providence’s continuing failure to get its pension and other employee costs under control is the biggest factor.  That’s at least in part because Worcester has a city manager system,  which encourages professional (“technocratic’’) administration with far more insulation from political and special-interest pressures (e.g., municipal unions) than you get in a traditional mayoral system like Providence’s. The lower the bond rating, the higher the interest rate that a city must pay and the higher the taxes to pay the bond interest.

Small-town N.H. place-lovers


"For more than a hundred years, anyone willing to leave this countryside has been rewarded for leaving it by more money, leisure, and creature comforts. A few may have stayed from fecklessness or lack of gumption; more have stayed from family feeling or homesickness; but most stay from love. I live among a population, extraordinary in our culture, that lives where it lives because it loves its place. We are self-selected place-lovers. There's no reason to live here except for love."

From Seasons at Eagle Pond, by Donald Hall, Wilmot, N.H.-based poet and essayist.

Chuck Collins: A guide to the coming tax heist

-- Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-12762 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

-- Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-12762 / CC-BY-SA 3.0


Via OtherWords.org

For 40 years, tax cutters in Congress have told us, “we have a tax cut for you.” And each time, they count on us to suspend all judgment.

In exchange, we’ve gotten staggering inequality, collapsing public infrastructure, a fraying safety net, and exploding deficits. Meanwhile, a small segment of the richest one tenth of 1 percent have become fabulously wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Ready for more?

Now, Trump and congressional Republicans have rolled out a tax plan that the independent Tax Policy Center estimates will give 80 percent of the benefits to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers.

The good news is the majority aren’t falling for it this time around. Recent polls indicatethat over 62 percent of the public oppose additional tax cuts for the wealthy and 65 percent are against additional tax cuts to large corporations.

Here’s the independent thinker’s guide to the tax debate for people who aspire to be guided by facts, not magical thinking. When you hear congressional leaders utter these claims, take a closer look.

“Corporate tax cuts create jobs.”

You’ll hear that the U.S. has the “highest corporate taxes in the world.” While the legal rate is 35 percent, the effective rate — the percentage of income actually paid — is closer to 15 percent, thanks to loopholes and other deductions.

The Wall Street corporations pulling out their big lobbying guns have a lot of experience with lowering their tax bills this way, but they don’t use the extra cash to create jobs.

The evidence, as my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Sarah Anderson found, is that they more often buy back their stock, give their CEOs  massive bonuses, pay their shareholders a bigger dividend, all the while continuing to lay off workers.

“Bringing back offshore profits will create jobs.”

Enormously profitable corporations such as Apple, Pfizer and General Electric have an estimated $2.64 trillion in taxable income stashed offshore. Republicans like to say that if we give them a tax amnesty, they’ll bring this money home and create jobs.

Any parent understands the folly of rewarding bad behavior. Yet that’s what we’re being asked to do.

When Congress passed a “repatriation tax holiday” in 2004, these same companies gave raises to their CEOs, raised dividends, bought back their stock, and — you guessed it — laid off workers. The biggest 15 corporations that got the amnesty brought back $150 billion while cutting their U.S. workforces by 21,000 between 2004 and 2007.

For decades now, those big corporations have made middle class taxpayers and small businesses pick up the slack for funding care for veterans, public infrastructure, cyber security, and hurricane mop-ups. Let’s not give them another tax break for their trouble.

“Tax cuts pay for themselves.”

Members of Congress who consider themselves hard-nosed deficit hawks when it comes to helping hurricane victims or increasing college aid for middle class families are quick to suspend basic principles of math when it comes to tax cuts for the rich.

The long discredited theory of “trickledown economics” — the idea that tax cuts for the 1 percent will create sufficient economic growth to pay for themselves — is rising up like zombies at Halloween. As the economist Ha Joon Chang observed, “Once you realize that trickle-down economics does not work, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich as what they are — a simple upward redistribution of income.”

“Abolishing the estate tax will help ordinary people.”

This is the biggest whopper of them all. The estate tax is only paid by families with wealth starting at $11 million and individuals with $5.5 million and up. There is no credible economic argument that this will have any positive impact on the economy, but it would be a huge boon for billionaire families like the Trumps.

This tax cut plan is an unprecedented money grab. Whether the heist happens, is entirely up to the rest of us.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits Inequality.org. 


Showing the fragility

A creation of David Katz in his show "Flextime,'' at the Museum of Art at the University of New Hampshire (in Durham), through Nov. 7. The show is a collaboration between the museum and 3S Artspace, in nearby Portsmouth.  

A creation of David Katz in his show "Flextime,'' at the Museum of Art at the University of New Hampshire (in Durham), through Nov. 7. The show is a collaboration between the museum and 3S Artspace, in nearby Portsmouth.


In his site-specific works, sculptor and ceramicist Katz, in the museum's words,  "exploits the properties of wet clay to create complex web-like installations that push and pull against architectural elements, constructed spaces, and scaffolding. As the clay dries, cracks develop, exposing the fragile nature of the structural systems.''

Chris Powell: Skip school for a few years, but keep pensions

As "Obamacare" long has been on the verge of repeal, financial collapse, or sabotage, people in Connecticut are afraid of losing their medical insurance while others are dealing with big premium increases caused by "Obamacare" itself. 

But why should people complain about medical insurance when they still have the war in Afghanistan, which is entering its 17th pointless year?

Connecticut's nominally liberal congressional delegation doesn't complain about the war, apparently because the federal budget is full of money for military contractors in the state. Complaints about the war might get in the way of those contracts. 

At least the employees of the military contractors have good medical insurance, even if the money spent on the war in one week might provide good insurance for everyone in Connecticut for a year or two.

As Connecticut's state government enters its fourth month without a budget, people here are also afraid that local school systems will be crippled by state government's failure to deliver the usual financial aid, depriving some schools of as much as half their money.

But why should people complain about schools when state employee jobs, salaries, benefits, and pensions have been guaranteed for years to come? What's a little education compared to the security of those who work for the government?

Indeed, since a Superior Court judge and the immediate past executive director of the state school superintendents association have acknowledged that Connecticut's lower education system operates by social promotion rather than academic achievement, and since, according to standardized test results, most of the state's high school seniors never master high school math and English, why not just cancel school for a few years and put the school money into the state employee and teacher pension funds until they are made sound? 

Governor Malloy and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly have signified that state government's pension obligations have priority over every other public purpose, so how much is the mere pretense of education really worth?

SLOSSBERG'S BIG MISTAKE: What a mistake was made the other day by state Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford. 

She accepted an invitation to address the college Democrats at the University of Connecticut to explain her vote for the Republican state budget, which sharply reduces spending on the state university system. Introducing herself, Slossberg said she began her involvement in public life as a member of a parent-teacher association seeking to remove from elementary school libraries books containing derogatory racial terms. She spoke one of them, the "N word."

Whereupon the college Democrats exploded in outrage, as if the word can't be discussed even in the context of its reprehensibility and as if the students did not understand Slossberg to be repudiating it. 

Slossberg immediately apologized for giving offense, but it wasn't enough. The college Democrats distributed a statement about the incident, seeking to embarrass the senator in news reports throughout the state and causing her to issue a written apology as well.

Of course the age at which people should be prepared to discuss derogatory racial and ethnic terms is arguable, but at some point everyone should come across the "N word" in what may be the most profound and moving passage in American literature -- in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, when the title character reflects on whether he should betray his friend, a runaway slave.

Slossberg's mistake wasn't to use the "N word" with those college Democrats. It was to assume they were adults.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


'She is tired'


"Beauty has a tarnished dress, 
And a patchwork cloak of cloth
Dipped deep in mournfulness, 
Striped like a moth.

Wet grass where it trails
Dyes it green along the hem; 
She has seven silver veils
With cracked bells on them.

She is tired of all these-- 
Grey gauze, translucent lawn; 
The broad cloak of Herakles. 
Is tangled flame and fawn.

Water and light are wearing thin: 
She has drawn above her head
The warm enormous lion skin
Rough red and gold.''

-- "October,'' by Elinor Wylie


Always a surplus of brutality

"Landing of Columbus '' (12 October 1492), by John Vanderlyn.

"Landing of Columbus '' (12 October 1492), by John Vanderlyn.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com:

Columbus Day this year predictably included denunciations of the explorer and the colonialists who accompanied and followed him. Columbus, et al., were presented as world-historically brutal and are blamed for presiding over a huge genocide. This aroused a lot of backlash in southern New England, with its many proudItalian-Americans. (But I have always wondered why someone would be proud, or ashamed, of what a distant ancestor did.)

But members of Native American tribes were just as brutal to members of other tribes and to European usurpers. They just didn’t have the equipment (particularly guns) to defeat the far more technologically advanced Europeans, and, of course, their numbers rapidly declined after the European arrival because they didn't have immunity from the diseases brought over from Europe.

As for the African slaves brought over to the Americas by Europeans, we ought to remember that it was African chiefs who captured these poor souls and sold them to the Europeans. For that matter, slavery still exists in Africa.

People of all shades and nationalities are brutal. 




'The prospect repays the ascent'

"View of the Connecticut River Oxbow from Mount Holyoke summit,'' painted by Thomas Cole in 1836.

"View of the Connecticut River Oxbow from Mount Holyoke summit,'' painted by Thomas Cole in 1836.

"How high the hill might be. I l know not; for, different accounts make it 8, 12 & 16 hundred feet from the {Connecticut} river. The prospect repays the ascent and although the day was hot and hazy so as to preclude a distant prospect, yet all the broad meadows in the immediate vicinity of the mountain through which the Connecticut winds, make a beautiful picture seldom rivaled.''

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson on Mount Holyoke, in western Massachusetts, in 1823. Editor's note: The summit of the hill (or mountain) is 935 feet above sea level.

The current Mount Holyoke Summit House.

The current Mount Holyoke Summit House.

BU gets record $115 million gift

Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering (CILSE) at BU.

Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering (CILSE) at BU.

This is from The New England Council (newenglandcouncil.com):

 "Boston University (BU) has received a $115 million donation from alumnus Rajen Kilachand to further life science and engineering research. It's the biggest gift in the university's history so far.

"Kilachand is a member of BU’s Board of Trustees and graduated from the university in 1974 with a master’s degree from itsbusiness school. He has a history of gifts to the university and with his most recent gift came the recent opening of the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering. The center fosters collaboration between disciplines and highlights research on issues such as climate change, Parkinson’s disease, and increasing the effectiveness of cancer treatments.  At the building’s opening, BU announced the creation of a $100 million endowment made possible by Kilachand’s gift that will be available to students and faculty who wish to begin research in the life sciences or engineering. Access to the endowment’s funds will give BU an advantage in securing highly competitive federal research grants.

“The reputation of a great research university comes from the output of our faculty and students in research and scholarship,” says BU President Robert A. Brown. “Great universities are about the people, and the people are about the infrastructure you can supply and the environment you can give them to succeed. The Kilachand Center, in this area of life sciences and engineering, gives us the resources to attract those people and give them the resources to make an impact on the world.”

From rotaries to roundabouts

Entering rotary in Lowell, Mass.

Entering rotary in Lowell, Mass.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' on GoLocal24.com:

New Englanders are familiar with “rotaries,’’ those confusing traffic circles infamous for creating confusion and accidents, albeit most of them minor. But now Massachusetts, which has more than 100 rotaries,  is replacing them with “roundabouts” (a very English-sounding name).

As The Boston Globe reported: “The lack of organization on a rotary was both its beauty – cars could move quickly through them if the traffic was light, barely touching the brakes – and its chief problem, especially as traffic volumes swelled over the decades.’’ To read The Globe’s story, please hit this link:


So what’s the difference between a rotary and a roundabout? Here’s at least a partial explanation from City of Brooklyn Center:

“No lane changes occur within a roundabout. Except for vehicles that are turning right, entering a roundabout is a ‘crossing’ movement. A rotary is typically large, with entry speeds of 40 mph or higher. A roundabout is generally small; speeds are rarely more than 25 mph.’’

And from Northeastern University:

“Rotaries are typically a hundred to a few hundred feet across. Because the circle is so large, traffic moves very quickly. An important aspect is the tangential entries and exits. Speeds are 30-40 mph or higher because vehicles can drive straight onto the rotary with little or no deflection. The tangential entries also make it confusing for drivers.’’

“A modern day roundabout is very different from a rotary…. In a roundabout, the entering traffic approaches at a smaller angle than that of a rotary. Vehicles enter at an angle closer to 90 degrees. Drivers know they must yield before entering the roundabout. Because the diameter is smaller, and all cars must yield, the speed of traveling vehicles is approximately 25 mph or less.’’

“Another reason vehicles travel at slower speeds {in a roundabout} is that they are deflected. No vehicle can travel straight through the roundabout. All traffic is deflected around the center island and forced to only make right turns. This is much safer for vehicles as well as pedestrians and cyclists trying to cross.’’

Rotaries are traffic free-for-alls; roundabouts are a major organizational and safety improvement. The rotary is a bit of New England quaintness we can do without. Visitors to New England from elsewhere have often complained about rotaries, of which New England has the greatest density in America. Because it’s basically the oldest part of the country?

Martha Burk: Employees have 'religious' freedom, too

Via OtherWords.org

When Obamacare — aka, the Affordable Care Act — became law in 2010, it mandated coverage of birth control without co-payments.

Some employers didn’t like the rule, and Hobby Lobby hated it so much that the company filed a lawsuit to stop it. Company owners said they didn’t believe in contraception and claimed that covering it for female employees violated their religious freedom.

Understand, the Obama administration went to great lengths to exempt churches and church-related institutions from the rule, while still guaranteeing their female employees the right to birth control if they wanted it.

Then the Supreme Court stepped in, siding with Hobby Lobby and ruling that “closely held” corporations with religious objections could join religious employers in excluding birth control from their insurance plans.

Now the Trump administration has gone a giant step further. They’re now allowing any and all businesses, including publicly traded ones, to also cite “religious or moral objections” in denying their employees contraception coverage.

Wait a minute.

Corporations not only have religious freedom but now moral principles, too? I didn’t even know they went to church, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one get down on its knees and pray.

On the other hand, I know women — who are actual people — have religious freedom under the Constitution, too. What about their right not to be forced to bow to their employers’ religious beliefs or highly suspect “moral” principles?

Massachusetts, California, and the ACLU have filed lawsuits to stop the rollback. Good luck. Besides Hobby Lobby, the conservative majority in the Supreme Court ruled years ago in the Citizens United case that corporations have constitutional rights, and they’ve consistently ruled in favor of their corporate buddies over women in employment discrimination cases.

On top of that, six of the nine justices are male, and most of them of rather conservative religious persuasions. The odds look to be stacked against women.

Expanding so-called corporate citizen rights deeper into health care could ultimately affect everybody, not just women.

Christian Scientists are opposed to all kinds of medical treatment, including for diabetes, cancer, and meningitis. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in blood transfusions. There are undoubtedly other religious taboos on medical procedures.

Enterprising businesses that want to save money could cite “religious freedom” to exclude virtually any medical treatment from their insurance plans. Surgery, antibiotics, immunizations — you name it.

Where will it end? We don’t know. Even if the lawsuits are ultimately successful, a decision could take years.

All I know is that I don’t want my neighborhood corporate citizen making my health care decisions.

Martha Burk is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote. 


Tim Faulkner: Kill your lawn and go native to help the environment

-- Photo by T.S. Eriksson

-- Photo by T.S. Eriksson

Via ecoRI News (ecori.org)

Fast fact: New England uses about 30 percent of its potable water on lawn care.

You probably know by now that the typical U.S. lawn with thick, green grass and manicured hedges is horrible for the environment.

In addition to pollution from mowers, trimmers and leaf blowers, chemically treated lawns wipe out all vegetation, worms, and insects, to grow a single species of grass. Those fertilizers derived from fossil fuels create toxic runoff, and contribute to a range of environmental and health problems such as asthma and cancer in humans and pets.

“Unfortunately, it’s a pretty disastrous landscape,” said horticulturist Mark Richardson, director of the botanic garden at the New England Wild Flower Society, based in Framingham, Mass.

Richardson describes the constant “mow-and-blow” maintenance required to maintain a traditional lawn as “soul-sucking.”

“I really feel our lawns and gardens should contribute to our society, and the best way to do that is to kill you lawn,” he said.

There are ways to replace the modern lawn. The University of Rhode Island-trained turf and wildflower expert suggests transitioning from the golf course-inspired carpet to a unique landscape, one with a rich ecosystem of natural grasses, wildflowers and shrubs. It doesn’t hurt that these living landscapes are also great for storing carbon and a haven for beneficial insects and pollinators.

Each process requires some upfront labor, but once done there is considerably less maintenance and watering for a habitat accustomed to temperamental New England weather.

Experiment. The simplest approach is to stop mowing and see what grows. “Sometimes a meadow shows up,” Richardson said.

He recommends dispersing seed packets of native wildflowers and grasses and planting a few perennial shrubs. Spot-treatment with pesticides may be necessary.

Solarization. The most effective approach to a natural landscape is to start with a blank slate. Removing or destroying the current lawn, invasive weeds and other undesirable vegetation is key. Thick, clear plastic sheeting left for six weeks creates sufficient heat to kill plants but not the beneficial microbes. Landscape fabric or cardboard covered with leaf litter or mulch can achieve similar results.

Mechanical. Lawns can also be removed with a sod cutter, which can be rented from an equipment supplier or hardware store. Smaller areas of turf can be removed with a pitchfork and shovel. The work can be done in one day, but there is a risk of losing soil while leaving behind weed remnants that may regrow.

Chemical. Chemicals can be the fastest method to kill grass. Some are safer than others. And organic isn't always safer than inorganic. Acetic acid, an organic pesticide that is a popular alternative to synthetic pesticides, is similar to a concentrated vinegar but also has health risks.

Start small. There's no need to covert an entire lawn at once. Start with a section and experiment with these different techniques and plantings. Converting a small area still saves water, time and money on lawn care.

What to plant. There’s plenty to chose from, and much of it depends on how the space will be used. There are grasses, such as Pennsylvania sedge, and fruit, such as wild strawberries, that are durable and can planted in walkable areas.

Purple lovegrass tolerates salt and drought, and offers vivid color.

Others plants are suitable for a mix of shade and sun, as well as a tolerance for drought. Some can be grown between stones and bricks in a walking path, or durable enough for a parking area, such as little bluestem.

For native plantings and where to buy them search the URI Native Plant Guide.

Search here for a list of landscape professionals in your area who can assist with the conversion process.

Tim Faulkner is on the staff of ecoRI News.