New Balance to open 'Factory of the Future' next year in Methuen


From The New England Council (

“New Balance Athletics, Inc, is moving forward with plans to build its sixth factory in New England. This factory will be the company’s first new manufacturing plant in two decades.

“New Balance is set to open what it calls its ‘Factory of the Future’ in Methuen, Mass., in 2020. This project is supported by the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council of Massachusetts, which has just approved $900,000 in state tax credits. The $33 million project will create 60 new jobs in the 80,000-square-foot facility, focusing on testing advanced manufacturing techniques, 3-D printing, and research and development.’’

New approach needed for global fisheries management

— NOAA photo

— NOAA photo

From ecoRI News (
The tiniest plants and creatures in the ocean fuel entire food webs, including the fish that much of the world’s population depends on for food and work.

In a paper recently published in Science Advances, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries researcher Jason Link and colleague Reg Watson from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies suggest that scientists and resource managers need to focus on whole ecosystems rather than solely on individual populations.

Population-by-population fishery management is more common, but a new worldwide approach could help avoid overfishing and the insecurity that it brings to fishing economies, according to the paper.

“In simple terms, to successfully manage fisheries in an ecosystem, the rate of removal for all fishes combined must be equal to or less than the rate of renewal for all those fish,” said Link, the senior scientist for ecosystem management at NOAA Fisheries and a former fisheries scientist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, in Woods Hole, Mass.

The authors suggest using large-scale ecosystem indices as a way to determine when ecosystem overfishing is occurring. They proposed three indices, each based on widely available catch and satellite data, to link fisheries landings to primary production and energy transfer up the marine food chain.

Specific thresholds developed for each index make it possible, they said, to determine if ecosystem overfishing is occurring. By their definition, ecosystem overfishing occurs when the total catch of all fish is declining, the total catch rate or fishing effort required to get that catch is also declining, and the total landings relative to the production in that ecosystem exceed suitable limits.

“Detecting overfishing at an ecosystem level will help to avoid many of the impacts we have seen when managing fished species on a population-by-population basis, and holds promise for detecting major shifts in ecosystem and fisheries productivity much more quickly,” Link said.

In the North Sea, for example, declines in these indices suggested that total declines in fish catch indicative of ecosystem overfishing was occurring about 5-10 years earlier than what was pieced together by looking at sequential collapses in individual populations of cod, herring, and other species. Undue loss of value and shifting the catches in that ecosystem to one dominated by smaller fishes and invertebrates could have been avoided, according to the authors.

The first index used in the study is the total catch in an area, or how much fish a given patch of ocean can produce. The second is the ratio of total catches to total primary productivity, or how much fish can come from the plants at the base of the food web. The third index is the ratio of total catch to chlorophyll, another measure for marine plant life, in an ecosystem.

Proposed thresholds for each index are based on the known limits of the productivity of any given part of the ocean. Using these limits, the authors said local or regional context should be considered when deciding what management actions to take to address ecosystem overfishing. Having international standards would make those decisions much easier and emphasize sustainable fisheries.

“We know that climate change is shifting many fish populations toward the poles, yet the fishing fleets and associated industries are not shifting with them,” Link said. “That already has had serious economic and cultural impacts.”

The authors note that they are able to follow these shifts over time and see how they can exacerbate or even contribute to ecosystem overfishing.

Fisheries are an important part of the global economy. In addition to trade and jobs, fish provide the primary source of protein to more than 35 percent of the world’s population, and 50 percent of the people in the least developed countries, according to the authors. Regions where the greatest amount of ecosystem overfishing occurs are also where impacts can be the greatest.

The researchers looked at 64 large marine ecosystems around the world and found those in the tropics, especially in Southeast Asia, have the highest proportion of ecosystem overfishing. Temperate regions also have a high level of ecosystem overfishing, with limited capability to absorb shifting fishing pressure from the tropics as species move toward the poles.

David Warsh: The young and the restless in presidential politics



It has long seemed to me that the United States began to lose its way in 1992, when Bill Clinton defeated George. H. W. Bush for the presidency. The Berlin Wall had fallen. The Soviet Union had disbanded. The Cold War had ended. Bush was highly popular in the wake of the First Gulf War.

Leading Democrats – such as Gov. Mario Cuomo, Jesse Jackson and Sen. Al Gore — declined to run. (Gore’s son had been gravely injured in an auto accident.) Instead, Gov. Bill Clinton, former Gov. Jerry Brown, Senators Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerrey and Tom Harkin all joined the chase.

Bush reappointed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Fed, but later charged that Greenspan reneged on a promise to ease monetary policy slightly, to compensate for the tax increase that Bush had requested to pay for the war and the mild recession (July 1990-March ’91) that had resulted. The recovery in the year before the election was unusually tepid.

Populist commentator Pat Buchanan ran against Bush from the right in Republican primaries. Though he won no states, he polled more votes than expected, especially in New Hampshire. As Buchanan faded, an emboldened H. Ross Perot entered the campaign as an independent candidate, exited, and re-entered. He won 19 percent of the popular vote in the end but failed to gain a single electoral vote.

Clinton won the election. After 12 years as vice president and president, Bush was all-too-familiar; Clinton was fresh. Bush had been the youngest Navy pilot in World War II. Clinton was a Baby Boomer who skipped Vietnam. Bush lacked energy; Clinton was a dynamo.

America enjoyed a few years of exhilaration in the Nineties: the introduction of the Internet; a mania; and, thanks to eight years of brisk growth, a balanced federal budget, after 20 years of surging deficits,. Looking back, though, Clinton was ill prepared by his years as Arkansas governor to make foreign policy. Two years as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford had made him overconfident as well.

Unilateral humanitarian interventions followed in the Balkan civil wars that flared after the Soviet Union collapsed. NATO expansions were undertaken that the Bush administration, expecting a second term, had promised would not occur. Russia protested, but was powerless to prevent any of it. Vladimir Putin replaced Boris Yeltsin and grew increasingly resentful.

Without the discipline imposed by of the Cold War, domestic politics turned rambunctious as well. Clinton empowered his wife to seek to overhaul U.S. health insurance. Congressman Newt Gingrich replied with his “Contract with America,” gained 54 House seats and 9 Senate seats in the 1994 mid-term elections. Republican enmity toward Clinton, which had begun to overspill the bounds of decency soon after the inauguration, reached flood levels with the impeachment and failed conviction proceedings of Clinton’s second term.

The next two presidencies, 16 years, amounted to more of the same. NATO expansion continued, reaching the borders of Russia. Relations with China remained amicable throughout. George W. Bush started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barack Obama pursued regime change in Libya (successfully) and Syria (unsuccessfully). The third presidential go-round, which started out in 2015 as a presumed Bush-Clinton rematch (Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton) is what eventually got us to Trump.

Now Americans may be about to do it again – to prefer youth and personal ambition to consensus. The situation today is a little like 1992 in reverse. An over-abundance of Democratic Party candidates are eager to take on Donald Trump (or, in the event that he prefers not to run, Vice President Mike Pence). California Sen.

Kamala Harris damaged former Vice President Joe Biden in the debate last week. She projected youth and vigor. Biden was cautious; he had to contend with his record over 44 years of swiftly changing national politics. That Harris used the murky issue of federal court-ordered busing to attack Biden struck me as especially low. Nevertheless, Harris emerged as a candidate capable of taking on Trump. Her next challenge will be to finesse the health-care issue that handcuffed her in the debate.

She is also the candidate to watch out for, as Clinton was the candidate to watch out for in 1992. Clinton’s character didn’t come into focus until 1995, when First in His Class, David Maraniss’s brilliant biography, appeared. Harris will presumably receive a series of earlier screenings. Her appeal to her base, women and African Americans, is obvious. It remains to be seen whether she can persuade swing constituencies near the center of American political life,

Leaping far ahead, my guess is that only a better-than-expected showing by Biden or South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the California primary on Super Tuesday, March 3 (if they survive that long), will force Harris to wait. Bill Clinton would have been a much better president if he had first been elected in 1996. Mitt Romney might have defeated Hillary Clinton if he had waited until 2016.

But the young and/or the restless have dominated the top of the food chain for the last 28 years. True, it was John F. Kennedy who first jumped the queue, an element of collective memory that Clinton employed to enhance his license. With the exception of Barack Obama, they haven’t been good for the country.

David Warsh, an economic historian and long-time columnist on business, politics and media, is proprietor of Somerville-based, where this essay first ran.

'Posthumously Blooming'

“Why Art? ‘‘(oil on linen), by Joanne Tarlin, in her show “Posthumously Blooming,’’ at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, July 3-July 28.    The gallery says:    “Joanne Tarlin celebrates her father's life and works in her exhibition "Posthumously Blooming". He was a novelist, among other pursuits, living among poets, painters, musicians and intellectuals; the book was not published and was secreted away until after his death. Entitled The Artist's Life, the book has inspired his daughter's work towards the romantic, moody and atmospheric. Flowers and dissolving text excerpts wind in and out of the surface and reflect the artist's connection with mortalit y.’’

“Why Art? ‘‘(oil on linen), by Joanne Tarlin, in her show “Posthumously Blooming,’’ at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, July 3-July 28.

The gallery says:

“Joanne Tarlin celebrates her father's life and works in her exhibition "Posthumously Blooming". He was a novelist, among other pursuits, living among poets, painters, musicians and intellectuals; the book was not published and was secreted away until after his death. Entitled The Artist's Life, the book has inspired his daughter's work towards the romantic, moody and atmospheric. Flowers and dissolving text excerpts wind in and out of the surface and reflect the artist's connection with mortality.’’

Treeless air

Lafayette Street in    Salem,    Mass., in 1910: an example of the '‘high-tunnelled effects'‘ of American elms over streets and a scene once common in New England — until Dutch elm disease killed most of these lovely plants in the mid-20th Century.

Lafayette Street in Salem, Mass., in 1910: an example of the '‘high-tunnelled effects'‘ of American elms over streets and a scene once common in New England — until Dutch elm disease killed most of these lovely plants in the mid-20th Century.

“Here where the elm trees were

is only empty air.

Where once they stood

How blunt the buildings are!

Where the trees were,
sky itself has fled

far overhead.’’

From “Elegy,’’ by Constance Carrier (1908-1991), a Connecticut poet and teacher

Not harder, smarter

Detail from  “ Labor’’ ,  by   Boston native    Charles Sprague Pearce    (1896)

Detail fromLabor’’, by Boston native Charles Sprague Pearce (1896)

I grew up in New England. I think I was brought up with the Puritan ethic: that if you worked really hard in life, then good would come to you. The harder you work, the luckier you get. I've come to believe that it's the smarter you work, the better.

Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager

Detail fromLabor’’, by Boston native Charles Sprague Pearce (1896)

Phil Galewitz: Will more states push to import Canadian drugs?


From Kaiser Health News

Seeking a solution to the soaring costs of drugs, Colorado, Florida and Vermont are making plans to import medications from Canada, where prescriptions are cheaper.

President Trump has offered his support, marking the first time drug importation has won a presidential endorsement.

The states’ plans are in their infancy. But they signal how frustration among consumers — especially those shouldering greater portions of their health bills through high-deductible health plans — is putting pressure on federal and state officials.

Because so many details are still being hashed out, it’s not yet clear who would be helped by the states’ efforts or if the plans can ultimately gain federal approval and withstand likely court challenges.

In the early 2000s, attempts by a few states, led by Illinois, to allow drug importation fizzled, and any new plan faces stiff regulatory and legal hurdles. But drug prices are at an all-time high. The increasing popularity of high-deductible plans means a growing number of patients are spending more money on health care. And Trump’s endorsement and current consumer demand for lowering drug prices could yield a different result this time around.

“Everyone is eager to get going into uncharted territory,” said Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan group of state health officials, which has been working with Vermont on its importation plan.

Gabriel Levitt, president of, which verifies online foreign pharmacies for customers, said the high prices for drugs make the efforts worth pursuing.

“It certainly will be helpful to reduce costs for some in the states that go ahead, and that’s a great start,” he said. Plus, he added, Trump’s support “puts the wind at the sails of importation.”

The 2003 Medicare Modernization Act allows states to import cheaper drugs from Canada but only the Health and Human Services secretary verifies their safety. Previous attempts by states to allow importation failed because the secretary opposed them.

Vermont, Florida and Colorado plan to work together to set up a program to buy drugs from Canada, said Riley. That coalition of states — with governors from the center, right and left — shows how powerful the issue of high-priced drugs is with voters.

The same medicines are often cheaper in other countries than the U.S. since most developed countries negotiate with drugmakers to set prices.

State officials said they expect that the effect of their programs would be modest to start, generally first permitting the importation of only certain types of high-priced drugs and for specific populations.

For example, infusion medicines used for cancer or autoimmune diseases that are administered in medical offices would not be available to import from Canada under the programs the states are setting up. Nor would drugs such as insulin, which needs to be refrigerated. Prices for these types of drugs have come under fire in the U.S., with patients calling them unaffordable.

“It’s a few states and a few drugs,” Riley said.

No Tampering With Safety

Vermont, which passed legislation to start planning the program a year ago, is still trying to find a way to ensure the safety of imported drugs and so far has identified only 17 medicines that would save enough money to be worth bringing over the border. Those drugs include treatments for conditions including diabetes, hepatitis C, cancer and HIV/AIDS.

After a review, officials decided it was not worth importing drugs for Medicaid enrollees because the state already receives hefty rebates on those medications from U.S. manufacturers and patients do not have copayments. So Vermont’s program is being designed to help residents who have commercial insurance.

Florida’s legislature authorized a blueprint this spring with a strong endorsement from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The program aims to help bring down drug costs for the Medicaid program, which covers the more than 4 million enrollees in the state, prisoners and patients at free health clinics. The legislature also authorized a separate program that would provide drugs for individual Florida residents.

DeSantis signed the bill June 11 and called on federal officials to “get this done.”

Colorado approved its legislation in May, but state officials said they do not yet have details on what it might cover.

Officials in all three states have high hopes that the programs will succeed in ways not possible the last time around.

Between 2004 and 2009, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Rhode Island and Vermont defied the federal government and allowed residents to import from a Canadian retail pharmacy under a joint program, which flopped. Just 5,000 people participated, far fewer than the millions predicted, partially because the federal government declared the program violated federal law and warned against using the drugs. Also, in 2006, it established a Medicare drug benefit to help those 65 and older, further weakening demand.

Besides, after several years, the Canadian health minister threatened to prohibit pharmacies from participating over concerns that the program might cause shortages, and the main Canadian supplier pulled out due to lack of demand.

In 2014, Maine briefly allowed residents and employers to buy foreign drugs. Under that law, some employers, including the city government of Portland, established a program for workers to use CanaRx, a Canadian company that connects customers with brick-and-mortar pharmacies in Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

After pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacists sued, a federal judge overturned the law in early 2015, citing its conflict with federal law.

Then and now, opponents of importation say sending drugs over the border will increase the chances Americans get counterfeit medications, a claim often boosted by the drug industry. Levitt noted that states now intend to work directly with and inspect Canadian wholesalers, which should make Americans more comfortable about drug safety.

With prices so high, individual Americans are more open to buying drugs from Canada, anyway — some have for decades been driving over the border, using online pharmacies or going into storefronts that connect buyers to pharmacies in Canada and other countries. Although these strategies are technically illegal, the government does not prosecute individual offenders. Nor has it moved to stop the dozens of cities, counties and school districts across the United States who have programs for employees to buy drugs from Canada and other countries.

Canadian health officials are watching the debate and said they are weighing the effect a robust importation program would have on Canadian consumers.

“Collaborative efforts among implicated parties would be important in addressing any potential adverse impacts on the drug supply in Canada that may arise from increased cross-border trade,” said Eric Morrissette, a spokesman for Health Canada, the government agency responsible for public health.

Phil Galewitz is a Kaiser Health News reporter.

Phil Galewitz:, @philgalewitz

Go figure

“Butterfly on a Happy Trail ‘‘ (oil on panel and underwear), by Nicolas Papa, in the group show “Figuring the Body,’’ at Kingston Gallery, Boston, July 3-Aug. 11. The jurors in the show described it as defining the body and body politics in a time of political polarization to “foster important conversations around issues ranging from racism and exploitation, body image, gender identity and gender stereotyping, trauma and memory, and the body as a cellular structure as well as an energetic one.’’

“Butterfly on a Happy Trail ‘‘ (oil on panel and underwear), by Nicolas Papa, in the group show “Figuring the Body,’’ at Kingston Gallery, Boston, July 3-Aug. 11. The jurors in the show described it as defining the body and body politics in a time of political polarization to “foster important conversations around issues ranging from racism and exploitation, body image, gender identity and gender stereotyping, trauma and memory, and the body as a cellular structure as well as an energetic one.’’


Re: Figuring the Body is a group exhibition showcasing New England artists who are actively defining the body and body politics in a time of political polarization. Kingston Gallery members and exhibition jurors Conny Goelz-SchmittMary LangNat MartinAnn Wessmann and Chantal Zakari selected works by twenty artists that foster important conversations around issues ranging from racism and exploitation, body image, gender identity and gender stereotyping, trauma and memory, and the body as a cellular structure as well as an energetic one. The installation of this curated collection in all three spaces of Kingston Gallery creates an opportunity for pairings and juxtapositions that bring a greater nuance to the discourse. The works are topical, poignant, and sometimes humorous.

'Aching with salt'


Is nothing real but when I was fifteen,

Going on sixteen, like a corny song?

I see myself so clearly then, and painfully—

Knees bleeding through my usher's uniform

Behind the candy counter in the theater

After a morning's surfing; paddling frantically

To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me,

Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor's

Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt.’’

— From “Groundswell,’’ by Mark Jarman

Fidelity's solar farm


From The New England Council (

Fidelity Investments, has begun operation of its first on-campus solar farm. The new 12-acre solar farm, and will supply Fidelity’s Merrimack, N.H., campus with 16-percent of its annual energy needs.

The solar array is composed of 346 ground-mounted solar array racks containing 8,640, 360-watt modules. With 50 percent of Fidelity’s carbon footprint consisting of electricity use within buildings, the company is trying to increase its use of renewable energy. Fidelity has also pursued other sustainability programs, such as including low-emission priority parking, bird boxes, walking trails, and a project to reduce pollutants in a pond on the campus.

Joe Murray, vice president for government relations and public affairs at Fidelity, said, “It has become imperative as a business that we take sustainability seriously, and our customers and our clients demand that of us. . . This is something that is such a home run with our employees.”

Karen Romero: Don't send migrants back to danger

Migrants from Central America looking at maps for routes to the U.S. border

Migrants from Central America looking at maps for routes to the U.S. border


Tijuana, where I live and work, has been thrust into the center of the Trump administration’s attack on migrants.

It’s the first site of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their U.S. claims are processed. Since January, more than 15,000 people have been returned to Mexico after requesting asylum in the U.S. — many to Tijuana. The administration is now extending that policy all along the southern border.

These roadblocks in the asylum process — along with U.S. pressure on Mexico to crack down on Central American migrants — are intentionally designed to deter people from exercising their internationally protected right to seek asylum. The U.S. is turning its back on its legal obligation to protect people fleeing persecution. Instead, it’s sending vulnerable people back to some of the world’s most dangerous cities to wait indefinitely.

I regularly visit the shelters in Tijuana to meet with migrants, offer aid and support, and monitor the human rights situation. There I met Lya, a young trans woman from El Salvador who was frequently detained by the police and discriminated against because of her identity.

She worked at a beauty salon, where she began to receive threats from gangs who demanded she pay them to operate her business. When they threatened to kill her, she decided to flee. When she arrived at the U.S. port of entry bordering Tijuana, she requested asylum — and U.S. authorities sent her back to wait.

She now faces an indefinite wait and doesn’t have a lawyer representing her in the U.S.

The shelters along Mexico’s northern border are already full beyond capacity. Migrants there need housing, food, employment, and often psychological support, none of which the Mexican or U.S. governments have a plan to provide.

The U.S. has offered no information on how long asylum seekers will be forced to stay in Mexico. It could be months, or in some cases years. Over 800,000 cases are currently pending in the backlogged U.S. immigration courts.

Many families have told me they’re afraid to be in Tijuana.

I met a woman named Ruth who left El Salvador with her family last October. When they presented themselves at the port of entry, they were detained for four days. During her interview with the U.S. agents, she was not allowed to present her case, and her needs for refuge and safety were not evaluated. She was then returned to Tijuana to wait for her court date.

Like many others, the family is now considering returning to danger in their home country rather than continuing to wait in Mexico, where migrants have been the victims of robberies, extortions, and arbitrary detentions. In 2018 alone there were 33,341 homicides in Mexico. In December, two teenage boys from Honduras who had arrived with the caravan were murdered in Tijuana while they waited to apply for asylum.

Worse still, legal assistance is extremely limited. Earlier this year, U.S. attorneys who provide legal assistance to migrants in Mexico were detained and blocked from entering the country.

Under the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, asylum has been a fundamental right since 1951. The Remain in Mexico policy is a clear effort by the Trump administration to stop people from exercising that right.

Everyone who cares about human rights must call on the U.S. government to immediately and permanently repeal the Remain in Mexico policy, and let asylum seekers await the outcome of their case here in the United States.n

Never mind the Wall. They’re building warehouses.

Karen Romero is a consultant for American Friends Service Committee in Tijuana. She’s worked on migration issues at the border for almost a decade.


Frank Carini: Microplastic pollution imperils corals

A recent study found that northern star coral polyps routinely consumed microplastics, shown above in blue, over brine shrimp eggs, shown in yellow.    — Photo by    Rotjan Marine Ecology Lab    at Boston University

A recent study found that northern star coral polyps routinely consumed microplastics, shown above in blue, over brine shrimp eggs, shown in yellow.

— Photo by Rotjan Marine Ecology Lab at Boston University

From ecoRI News

Coral reefs form the most biodiverse habitats in the ocean, and their health is essential to the survival of thousands of other marine species. Unfortunately, these vital underwater ecosystems are beginning to get a taste for plastic.

A Roger Williams University professor, working with a team of researchers, recently published a study that found corals will choose to eat plastic over natural food sources. Unsurprisingly, it’s not good for their health, as it can lead to illness and death from pathogenic microbes attached to microscopic plastics. It also adds to the stress already being applied to coral reefs worldwide, by acidifying and warming oceans, other pollution sources, development, and harmful fishing practices, such as dynamiting and bleaching to capture fish for aquariums.

The project grew from concern about the 6,350 million to 245,000 million metric tons of plastic in the world’s oceans, and the 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons of new plastic that enter annually.

Photographs and news reports have documented dead whales and seabirds found with stomachs full of plastic and of sea turtles suffocating from plastic straws clogging their nostrils. At least two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks are suffering from plastic ingestion, according to estimates, as much of the planet’s plastic pollution eventually makes its way into the ocean.

Roger Williams University associate professor of marine biology Koty Sharp recently told ecoRI News that plastic pollution presents a growing problem for both water- and land-based ecosystems.

“It’s a huge problem,” she said. “There’s really nowhere left on the planet that hasn’t been touched by plastics. We’re finding plastics in every organism we study.”

As much as plastic proliferation is a problem, Sharp is even more concerned about the impacts of a changing climate and how humans are using natural resources. She pointed to the manmade damage being done to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as an example.

“We need to quickly and dramatically decrease our dependency on plastics and fossil fuels,” the microbiologist said. “This isn’t a problem a few people can fix.”

The study that Sharp helped author was published recently in London’s science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. It is the first of its kind to identify that corals inhabiting the East Coast of the United States are “consuming a staggering amount of microplastics,” which alters their feeding behavior and has the potential to deliver fatal pathogenic bacteria.

In their samples of northern star coral, collected off the coast of Jamestown, R.I., each coral polyp — about the size of a pin head — contained more than 100 particles of microplastics, according to the collaborative research team that included Sharp, Randi Rotjan, a research assistant professor of biology at Boston University, and colleagues from UMass Boston, Boston Children’s Hospital Division of Gastroenterology, Harvard Medical School, and the New England Aquarium.

Northern star coral can be found from Buzzards Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Since it can be found along the coast of most East Coast urban areas, Sharp said it is a “powerful tool” in helping to understand microplastic pollution.

Although this study is the first to document microplastics in wild corals, previous research had found that this same coral species consumed plastic in a laboratory setting. A 2018 study found plastic pollution can promote microbial colonization by pathogens implicated in outbreaks of disease in the ocean.

The study co-authored by Rotjan and Sharp produced similar lab results. When the researchers conducted experiments of feeding microbeads to the corals in their labs, Sharp said they found that the coral would more often choose the fossil-fuel derivative when given the choice between plastic and food of similar sizes and shapes, such as brine shrimp eggs.

In fact, every single polyp, or mouth, that was given the choice ate almost twice as many microbeads as brine shrimp eggs. After the polyps had filled their stomachs with plastic junk food with no nutritional value, they stopped eating the shrimp eggs altogether.

The study showed that bacteria can “ride in” on the microbeads. In the case of the bacteria they used in the lab — the intestinal bacterium E. coli — the microplastic-delivered bacteria killed the polyps that ingested them and their neighboring polyps within weeks, even though the polyps spit the microbeads out after about 48 hours. The E. coli bacterium persisted inside their digestive cavity.

“Research has shown that there are virtually no marine habitats that are untouched by plastics,” said Sharp, noting that research abounds demonstrating that nearly all ocean water contains plastic pollution. “Because of that, it’s critical that we understand the impact of plastics pollution. Microplastics pollution is a matter of global health — ecosystem health and human health.”

She noted that the problem of plastic pollution extends far beyond what can be seen. Plastics never fully degrade in seawater, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Invisible to the naked eye, microplastics remain suspended in the water column, and this is what corals and other filter-feeding animals take in to get their food, she said.

The researchers had anticipated they would find microplastics in wild corals, but they were shocked by the volume present in their samples, according to Sharp.

Another invisible factor is the presence of microbes that hitch rides with plastics floating in the ocean, winding up in the stomachs of many creatures. These plastic-riding microbes are growing in number and upending the delicate balance of ecosystems.

Sharp said the problem is being made worse by human-induced climate change, which is helping bacteria to proliferate. She noted that microplastics in the ocean are coated with microbes.

“We know that plastic particles provide an enriching habitat for bacteria that are not usually in very high numbers in seawater,” Sharp said. “The microbial aspect of microplastics pollution is largely underexplored — it’s critical that we learn more about how plastics can affect the dynamics, abundance, and transport of microbes through our ecosystems and food webs. Alteration of microbiomes in our marine ecosystems by human-induced threats like plastics pollution and climate change holds great potential to impact marine environments on a global scale.”

To help mitigate the problem of plastic pollution, Sharp offered some tips:

Minimize single-use plastics. Use reusable bags and mugs. Buy groceries in bulk. Decline a straw if you don’t need one.

Take a day to count. How many times in one day do you use single-use plastics. What is unnecessary and what can be eliminated or replaced with more sustainable products?

Demand lower-impact packaging and support products with sustainable packaging.

Support and advocate for legislation and lawmakers that promote innovative solutions and alternatives for sustainable packaging.

“Given that plastics pollution is an ongoing threat co-occurring with climate change, it’s critical that we do more research to understand how they impact marine ecosystems together,” Sharp said, “and take immediate actions to minimize human impacts on the world’s oceans.”

Frank Carini is editor of ecoRI News.

PCFR speakers for new season


Here’s the speaker lineup for the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations for its 2019-2020 season. A list of speakers in the just-completed 2018-2019 season is at the bottom.

For information about the organization, including on how to join, please send queries to:

The dinners are held at the Hope Club, in Providence.

The first speaker, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, will be Mackubin Thomas Owens, who will discuss America’s current military and geo-strategic posture in the world. A retired Marine Corps colonel and combat veteran of the Vietnam War, he’s editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, of which he is a senior fellow, and is a former dean of academics for the Institute of World Politics, in Washington.

Dr. Owens is also a former editor-in-chief of the defense journal Strategic Review.

He has served as the associate dean of academics for electives and directed research, and professor of strategy and force planning, at the U.S. Naval War College, as an adjunct professor of international relations at Boston University and as a contributing editor to National Review, among his many other academic and journalistic activities.


The next speaker comes Wednesday, Oct, 2, with Jonathan Gage, who will talk about how coverage of such international economic stories as trade wars has changed over the years, in part because of new technology, and how that coverage itself changes events.

Mr. Gage has had a very distinguished career in publishing and international journalism. He has served as publisher and CEO of Institutional Investor magazine, as publisher of strategy+business magazine, as a director at Booz Allen Hamilton and Booz & Company, as enterprise editor for Bloomberg News and finance editor of the Paris-based International Herald Tribune (of sainted memory) and as a senior writer for the Boston Consulting Group.

He is a trustee, and former vice chairman, of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

He has written or edited for such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and Psychology Today magazine.


On Wednesday, Oct. 23, comes Ambassador Patrick Duddy, who will talk about Venezuelan internal political and economic conditions and relations with the U.S., Cuba, Russia and other nations. Mr. Duddy, currently director of Duke University’s center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, served as American ambassador to Venezuela in 2007-2008, during the George W. Bush administration. The late President Hugo Chavez expelled him but eight months later he returned as ambassador in the Obama administration. He finished that assignment in 2010.

Before his ambassadorships, Mr. Duddy served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (DAS) for the Western Hemisphere, responsible for the Office of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination, which included the hemispheric energy portfolio, as well for the Offices of Brazil/ Southern Cone Affairs and of Caribbean Affairs. During his tenure as DAS, he played a lead role in coordinating U.S. support for the restoration of democracy in Haiti.


On Wednesday, Nov. 6, comes Tweed Roosevelt, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Association and great-grandson of that president. He’ll talk about how TR’s foreign policy, which was developed as the U.S. became truly a world power, affected subsequent presidents’ foreign policies. Mr., Roosevelt is also chairman of Roosevelt China Investments, a Boston firm.

In 1992, Mr. Roosevelt rafted down the 1,000-mile Rio Roosevelt in Brazil—a river previously explored by his great-grandfather in 1914 in the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition and then called the Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt. The former president almost died on that legendary and dangerous trip.


On Thursday, Dec. 5, the PCFR welcomes Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, who directs the Initiative on Religion, Law, and Diplomacy, and is visiting associate professor of conflict resolution, at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She titles her talk "God, Soft Power, and Geopolitics: Religion as a Tool for Conflict Prevention/Generation".

Dr. Prodromou is also a non-resident senior fellow and co-chair of the Working Group on Christians and Religious Pluralism, at the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, and is also non-resident fellow at The Hedayah International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, based in Abu Dhabi.

Dr. Prodromou is former vice chair and commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and was a member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s Religion & Foreign Policy Working Group. Her research focuses on geopolitics and religion, with particular focus on the intersection of religion, democracy, and security in the Middle East and Southeastern Europe. Her current research project focus on Orthodox Christianity and geopolitics, as well as on religion and migration in Greece.


On Wednesday, Jan. 8, comes Michael Fine, M.D., who will talk about his novel Abundance, set in West Africa, and the challenges of providing health care in the Developing World. He will speak on: “Plagues and Pestilence: What we learned (or didn't) from Ebola about Foreign Policy and International Collaboration in the face of epidemics and outbreaks’’


On Wednesday, Feb. 5, comes Cornelia Dean, book author, science writer and former science editor of The New York and internationally known expert on coastal conditions. She’ll talk how rising seas threaten coastal cities around the world and what they can do about it.


On Wednesday, March 18, comes Stephen Wellmeier, managing director of Poseidon Expeditions. He’ll talk about the future of adventure travel and especially about Antarctica, and its strange legal status.


On Wednesday, April 29, comes Trita Parsi, a native of Iran and founder and current president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Treacherous Alliance and A Single Roll of the Dice. He regularly writes articles and appears on TV to comment on foreign policy. He of course has a lot to say about U.S. Iranian relations.


On Wednesday, May 6, comes Serenella Sferza, a political scientist and co-director of the program on Italy at MIT’s Center for International Studies, who will talk about the rise of right-wing populism and other developments in her native land.

She has taught at several U.S. and European universities, and published numerous articles on European politics. Serenella's an affiliate at the Harvard De Gunzburg Center for European Studies and holds the title of Cavaliere of the Ordine della Stella d'Italia conferred by decree of the President of the Republic for the preservation and promotion of national prestige abroad.

June: Keeping open for now but perhaps about China.

Speakers in the 2018-2019 season of the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations included:

Miguel Head, who spent the past decade as a senior adviser to the British Royal Family, on what it was like.

James Nealon, the former U.S. ambassador to Honduras and former assistant secretary of state, on the migrant crisis.

Walter A. Berbrick, founding director of the Arctic Studies Group at the U.S. Naval War College, on “An Arctic Policy for the Ages: Strengthening American Interests at Home and Abroad’’.

Phillip Martin, senior investigative reporter for WGBH News and a contributing reporter to Public Radio International’s The World, a co-production of WGBH, the BBC and PRI -- a program that he helped develop as a senior producer in 1995 on the Indian caste system, there & here.

Paulo Sotero, the director of the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute on the outlook for that nation.

Historian Fred Zilian on the “Real Thucydides Trap,”—an alternate to Graham Allison’s—which threatens America’s leadership of the free world.

Dr. Teresa Chahine on international social entrepreneurship.

London-based Journalist and broadcaster Michael Goldfarb on Brexit.

Sarah C.M. Paine of the U.S. Naval War College on the "Geopolitics underlying U.S. foreign policy''.

Douglas Hsu, senior Taiwan diplomat, on tensions with Mainland and ties with the U.S.

Prof. James Green, former president of the Brazilian Studies Association, on Brazil's new right-wing populist president.

Chris Powell: Yet again, a much-delayed and unprovable assertion that Trump sexually assaulted a woman

E. Jean Carroll, the latest Trump accuser, in a 2006 photo

E. Jean Carroll, the latest Trump accuser, in a 2006 photo

Connecticut's worsening backwardness under the political correctness that dominates the General Assembly was demonstrated the other week when another woman accused President Trump of sexually assaulting her many years ago.

The woman, Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll says the assault took place in the fall of 1995 or spring of 1996 in a Bergdorf Goodman store dressing room in New York City. The president denies it, as he has denied the similar accusations of more than 15 other women, none of whom complained contemporaneously to the police. That has made the accusations impossible to prove, though of course they are easy to believe in light of Trump's infamous boast, recorded in 2005 and publicized during his campaign in 2016, that as a celebrity he could get away with assaulting women.

If some of those women had complained contemporaneously to the police and a conviction had resulted, the country might have been spared a lot of trouble.

But the General Assembly has just legitimized the nearly indefinite withholding of sexual-assault complaints, approving a bill to extend Connecticut's statute of limitations from five years to 20 years for charges of sexual assault against adults and eliminating the statute of limitations for charges of sexual assault against minors.

The rationale for the legislation is that complaining about sexual assault is hard, so people need time. But time destroys evidence and impairs justice, which is the rationale for statutes of limitations. Only prompt complaints can stop a predator before he victimizes more people and advances to a position of authority.

This political correctness does sexual assault victims no favors. Justice requires timely complaints. Governor Lamont should veto the bill and urge the General Assembly to uphold due process of law.


Other politically correct nonsense in Connecticut is being challenged by a complaint to the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights. The complaint targets the state law allowing males to compete as females in school athletic events.

The law maintains that there is no biological gender anymore, only "gender identity." As a result two high school boys who want to be girls are winning many girls track meets -- precisely because biological gender is real, with males having physical advantages.

The nonsense of Connecticut's law evokes the analogy used by Lincoln to chide people who for political reasons dearly wanted to believe the impossible. If you call a tail a leg, Lincoln asked, how many legs does a calf have? Still only four, Lincoln explained, because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one.

The U.S. Education Department should tell Connecticut that calling a boy a girl doesn't make him one. It just doubles the boy's athletic chances by cheating girls out of theirs. Nor is a boy a girl because many people, as in "The Emperor's New Clothes," are too intimidated by political correctness to acknowledge the obvious.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Rejecting art as propaganda

“Going Home (Suzhou) (oil on canvas), by Chen Yifei, in the show  “ Art Purposes: Object Lessons for the Liberal Arts,’’ at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, through Nov. 10.

“Going Home (Suzhou) (oil on canvas), by Chen Yifei, in the showArt Purposes: Object Lessons for the Liberal Arts,’’ at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, through Nov. 10.

The exhibition marks the 125th anniversary of the opening of the museum's Walker Art Building by showcasing the museum's most exceptional contemporary works. Many of the 150 featured objects are being exhibited for the first time, including Chen Yifei's work above. The museum says he painted “Going Home’’ after China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution as a reaction to his country's use of art as propaganda during that time. “The piece not only represents his rejection of art as propaganda but his hope that the end of the revolution could open up new possibilities for art. The rest of the works in ‘Art Purposes’ are similarly challenging and provocative, offering viewers new insights and perspectives. ‘‘

A 'restorative ocean farmer'

Oyster culture in    Riec-sur-Belon   ,    France     — Peter Gugerell

Oyster culture in Riec-sur-Belon, France

— Peter Gugerell

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

Bren Smith is an “ocean farmer’’ at the Thimble Islands, along the coast of Branford, Conn. He grows kelp, mussels, oysters and clams, in a model example of highly sustainable aquaculture. His new book is Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer. There are some good ideas there for aquaculturalists around New England. For more information, please hit these links:

John O. Harney: Atlantis in New England and other topics

Athanasius Kircher   's map of Atlantis, placing it in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, from  Mundus Subterraneus  (1669), published in Amsterdam. The map is oriented with    south at the top   .

Athanasius Kircher's map of Atlantis, placing it in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, from Mundus Subterraneus (1669), published in Amsterdam. The map is oriented with south at the top.

Ruminations from John O. Harney, executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education, a service of The New England Board of Higher Education (

Unvites. I recently enjoyed a fascinating panel discussion on Protesting the Podium: Campus Disinvitations sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The panelists were former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, Harvard professor Harvey C. Mansfield, Middlebury College professor Matthew J. Dickinson and Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth. They all had some kind of run-in with once-again radioactive speech issues on campus … and they were all smart as whips. Dickinson said he prefaces his classes now by telling students they are not in a “safe space,” but rather in a place where issues will be discussed using intellectual debate and that all students must be heard, especially marginalized students. Kerrey, also former president of the New School, worried that amidst the clamor of so much social media, people have to resort to insult to be heard. Roth, who acknowledges a certain “affirmative action” for conservative ideas, noted that students are suspicious of free speech to advance certain agendas, particularly when it is “weaponized” by money and technology.

Diversifying study-abroad. Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) enroll over 25% of all U.S. college students, but accounted for just 11% of all U.S. study-abroad students in the 2016-17 academic year, according to a report by the Center for Minority Serving Institutions and the Council on International Educational Exchange. The report focuses on the obstacles that discourage students from studying abroad, including barriers of cost, culture and curriculum, which may be worse at MSIs. A small step forward: The report highlights the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship created by the two organizations to cover costs for 10 outstanding MSI students to participate in a four-week study-abroad program focused on intercultural communication and leadership.

Batten down the hatches. The U.S faces more than $400 billion in costs over the next 20 years to defend coastal communities from inevitable sea-level rise, according to a study done by the Center for Climate Integrity in partnership with the engineering firm, Resilient Analytics. The study looked at thousands of miles of coastline to determine areas that are at risk of being at least 15% underwater by 2040 due to rising seas and land-based ice melts. In New England, the study forecast that seawalls needed by 2040 would cost about $19 billion for Massachusetts, $11 billion for Maine, $5 billion for Connecticut, $3 billion for Rhode Island and $1 billion for New Hampshire. What does this have to do with higher ed? Of course, climate change has to do with everything. But more specifically, see NEJHE’s A Modest Proposal to Save the Planet.

Watched pot. Clark University in Worcester, Mass., this fall will launch America’s first Certificate in Regulatory Affairs for Cannabis Control, a three-course online graduate certificate program designed to help professionals, ranging from police to pot vendors, to understand the complications, opportunities and risks associated with the industry. Worcester will also be the future headquarters of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission—and incidentally, the new home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Exhibit A (along with GE) in the building case of New England’s not-quite team spirit in site planning.

Benefits. A MAVY poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs asked “young adult job seekers” to name the employees benefits that would most help them achieve their financial goals. The top choices were: 1) health insurance, 2) paid time off, 3) student loan forgiveness and 4) working remotely. The CPA group played up the high ranking of student loan debt, and indeed, 2020 presidential candidates are energized by the issue. MAVY polls are developed by the University of Florida and partners and focused on millennials. This one defined “young adult job seekers” as millennials who graduated from college in the past 24 months or will graduate in the next 12 months and are currently looking for employment.

John O. Harney is executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education.

Owner of bar that inspired 'Cheers' celebrates 50th anniversary of buying the building


From The New England Council (

Tom Kershaw, owner of the Hampshire House, at 84 Beacon St., Boston recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of purchasing the restaurant and event venue. Tom was honored by friends, tourism leaders and elected officials for his major role in driving tourism in Boston.

Mr. Kershaw purchased the Hampshire House in 1969, and he and his partner put a pub in the basement called Bull & Finch. In 1981, this bar served as the inspiration for the TV show Cheers, and has attracted tourists ever since. Among the attendees to celebrate with Mr. Kershaw were Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Massachusetts Lt. Gov Karyn Polito, and New England Council President and CEO Jim Brett.

Lieutenant Governor Polito said, “People around the world still come here. They’re lined up here today to see that special place. It took risk, it took creativity, and it took an individual who knew what he wanted to do to be happy and found the passion to do it. I think that’s a lesson for all of us.”

'Harmonious puzzle pieces'

VOLUME 16 (floor Installation, pages from an encyclopedia), and   'Stop!'‘ (mixed media assemblage), by Mary Hurwitz, in the group show "Fact is Fiction’s Inspiration,’’ at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, July 3-28.     The gallery says:    Fact and fiction are harmonious puzzle pieces; a restless combination, where 'fact' is behaving in mundane reality, e.g. eating, drinking, surviving, while fiction is fact's inspiration: a dream, a craze to probe deep truths. These 2-D and 3-D works complement each other in an endless and closed cycle, just as water freezes, turns to liquid, and then to vapor, in a perpetual continuum.’’

VOLUME 16 (floor Installation, pages from an encyclopedia), and 'Stop!'‘ (mixed media assemblage), by Mary Hurwitz, in the group show "Fact is Fiction’s Inspiration,’’ at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, July 3-28.

The gallery says:

Fact and fiction are harmonious puzzle pieces; a restless combination, where 'fact' is behaving in mundane reality, e.g. eating, drinking, surviving, while fiction is fact's inspiration: a dream, a craze to probe deep truths. These 2-D and 3-D works complement each other in an endless and closed cycle, just as water freezes, turns to liquid, and then to vapor, in a perpetual continuum.’’