Tim Faulkner: Big weekend in N.E. for dirty fuel

Renewal-energy use in New England last weekend

Renewal-energy use in New England last weekend

From ecoRI News (ecori.org)

This past weekend was one of the most energy-intensive in New England history, relying on dirty backup power plants that run on oil and coal to keep up with demand.

According to preliminary data from grid operator ISO New England, July 20 and July 21 were the fourth- and fifth-most energy intensive weekend days on record. On Saturday, electricity demand reached 23,852 megawatts. Sunday peaked at 23,786 megawatts. The highest for any day was set Aug. 2, 2006, a Wednesday, when the energy load reached 28,130 megawatts.

“New England's power system was able to withstand the heat and humidity over the course of this weekend's heat wave and operated under normal conditions,” ISO New England spokeswoman Ellen Foley said.

But on both weekend days coal and oil generated as much as 8 percent of the electricity. New England has three coal-fired power plants: the 440-megawatt Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H.; two 47-megawatt generators at the Schiller Station, in Portsmouth, N.H.; and the 384-megawatt Bridgeport Harbor Generating Station, in Bridgeport, Conn.

While renewables held steady at about 5 percent of the energy mix, about 80 percent of that power came from burning high-polluting wood and trash.

High-polluting trash/wood-fired power plants accounted for most of the renewable energy used on July 20. (ISO New England)

Ratepayers have options to reduce the energy load during high-demand days. The Shave the Peak program run by the Green Energy Consumers Alliance uses text alerts and emails to deliver energy-saving actions during the hottest hours each summer. The goal is to limit the need for energy from high-polluting power plants, which sit idle most of the year.

Typically, New England’s remaining oil and coal power plants run for a few hours each during summer heat waves to meet the spike in electricity demand.

Tips include delaying use of large energy-intensive appliances, such as laundry dryers and electric stoves, until cooler times of day, when air conditioners are turned down and electricity demand falls.

Battery-storage incentive

Homeowners interested in adding backup battery power to their solar panels have a few days to take advantage of an incentive from National Grid.

The ConnectedSolutions program reduces the peak energy load by paying the owner of home battery-storage systems for its stored electricity during periods of high energy demand.

In Rhode Island, National Grid will pay $400 per kilowatt “performed” for electricity it draws from home storage systems during summer energy spikes. The Massachusetts program pays $225 per kilowatt performed during summer heat events and $50 per kilowatt in winter. In both states, the five-year contract promises to draw electricity from no more that 75 events annually.

The deadline to submit an application for both Rhode Island and Massachusetts has been extended to Aug. 1. The battery systems can be installed to new or existing home solar arrays.

Although the battery system is connected to the electric grid it can still provide a backup electricity supply to the residence during a power outage.

According to an article in Bloomberg, a customer with a single Tesla Powerwall battery system could earn up to $1,000 annually from the program. Other eligible battery systems are offered by Pika Energy, Sonnen, and Sunrun. These vendors manage each customer’s storage system using information from National Grid. The battery companies also issue payments to the homeowners.

National Grid hopes to sign up 50 customers in Rhode Island and 230 in Massachusetts.

The estimated cost for a new battery system before tax breaks and incentives is about $8,000. The estimated payback period is about five years.

National Grid benefits by having renewable power to draw from while reducing its need to invest in infrastructure to address spikes in electricity use.

“Calling on batteries to discharge during peak times reduces the loads on the grid when it is most important,” said Ted Kresse, spokesman for National Grid. “It also helps to decrease distribution, transmission, and generation costs. In the future, we hope to also use batteries to help support even more growth of renewable and distributed energy generation.”

Battery-storage systems paired with solar arrays are expected to gain popularity as prices for solar equipment and battery prices drop. There is also a 30 percent federal tax credit for the cost of solar and battery systems.

Tim Faulkner is an ecoRI News journalist.

Will they get a cut rate on billboard ads?

Polar_Park_(Worcester)_logo.png

From The New England Council (newenglanddiary.com)

Polar Beverages’ CEO Ralph Crowley Jr. will become part owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox as the team prepares for a 2021 move to Worcester. Polar Beverages has been operating in Worcester since 1882.

The PawSox announced Crowley’s ownership at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the new Polar Park stadium. The ballpark has been designed to seat over 10,000 visitors and is expected to host various year-round events. In addition to minor league baseball games, the City of Worcester plans to take advantage of the new facility for road races, collegiate/high school sporting events, concerts, firework displays, and more. The stadium has become the center of a public-private redevelopment project of Worcester’s Canal District.

Worcester’s City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. saw the groundbreaking of the park to be “a special moment in Worcester’s history — a line of demarcation separating Worcester before Polar Park and Worcester after Polar Park.”


Philip K. Howard: Answers to Washington gridlock are hiding in plain site

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The cornucopia of policy ideas presented by Democratic presidential hopefuls is remarkable mainly in what’s been omitted: the need to overhaul Washington so that it can deliver public services effectively. A huge opportunity awaits any political leader with the nerve to seize it.

A recent survey by political scientist Paul Light found that about 60% of Americans support “very major reform” of Washington. That’s what voters had hoped for when Barack Obama promised “change we can believe in.” When that didn’t work out, 8 million Obama voters turned around and voted for a rich braggadocio who promised to “drain the swamp.”

But Trump’s bluster hasn’t translated into any coherent plan to fix Washington. His executive orders mainly undo Obama’s executive orders, such as removing restrictions on coal-burning power plants. That’s probably not the swamp-draining that most voters hoped for.

Instead of tapping into the broad centrist demand for overhaul, Democrats are rushing to the left. They’re competing with promises of more public freebies (Medicare for all, college debt forgiveness, universal basic income) and with angry sermons about victimization. But voters know that the public fisc is already gushing red ink (the annual deficit is about $10,000 per family), and identity politics is toxic to centrists who believe in self-reliance.

It’s almost as if Trump himself had scripted Democratic positions. He has a feral genius for ridiculing weakness. Trump may not have a vision for dealing with most of America’s challenges, but he likely won’t need one. He knows that Americans hate Washington, and he’s a virtuoso at playing that tune.

Instead of promising the moon, why don’t Democrats promise to clean house? Public opinion is aligned for a historic transformation of Washington. A vision for a simpler, more practical government could appeal not only to centrists but also to Republican voters who know in their hearts that real leadership is impossible without a positive governing vision and moral authority.

Almost any sensible reconfiguration of Washington would dramatically advance the stated goals of both parties:

• Rebooting legacy bureaucracies could marshal the needed resources for climate change and wage stagnation. Runaway bureaucracy is staggeringly expensive. About 30% of the healthcare dollar is spent on administration, or about $1 million per physician. Schools in more than 20 states now have more non-instructional personnel than teachers.

• Republicans want to cut red tape and get government off our backs. A simpler, goals-oriented regulatory framework would eliminate 1,000-page rulebooks for schools, hospitals and employers. Instead of Big Brother breathing down our necks, Washington would become a distant trustee, protecting against miscreants who cross the line, not micromanaging daily life in America.

The sticking point to overhauling Washington is not American voters, but Washington itself. Washington is organized to preserve the status quo. Political leaders are entrapped by their alliances to interest groups. Gosh, we can’t get rid of 1930s programs such as farm subsidies ($16 billion), or inflated wages on infrastructure (about 20% higher than market), or lower taxes for investment professionals ($14 billion), because those interest groups help Washington pols get reelected.

Fig leaves can’t disguise the self-interest of these legacy programs. When Democrats talk about “due process” for teachers and civil servants, voters know this means zero accountability. When they wave the sword of individual rights, voters start holding on to their wallets. Indeed, much of Trump’s voter appeal is his refusal to kowtow to the politics of victimization and correctness.

Republicans aren’t much better. When they talk about stimulating the economy with lower taxes, they usually mean lining the pockets of their supporters by increasing the deficit, not reducing the public waste they deplore. When Republicans talk about deregulation, they don’t usually mean cutting red tape, but cutting regulatory oversight altogether—usually to benefit an industry, not the public. Their anti-regulatory overreach helps explain why the last four Republican administrations have been so ineffective at reining in big government—and, in fact, presided over bureaucratic growth.

Governing shouldn’t be this hard. It doesn’t take a genius to remove mindless red tape from schools and hospitals. No Ph.D. is required to phase out obsolete subsidies and reset priorities. Nor does it take a mind reader to discern what most voters want. Americans want government to be practical. And they want to be practical in their own lives and communities.

Being practical requires that officials and citizens are free to make choices. Then other people need to be free to hold them accountable. None of these choices are available today, because law has supplanted human responsibility. Practicality is illegal in Washington bureaucracy. That’s why, for example, it takes upwards of a decade to get a permit for vital infrastructure projects.

Nothing can get fixed in Washington until responsible humans can make new choices. That’s why the only path to a functioning democracy is to reboot Washington. Officials and citizens alike must be liberated to take responsibility. Instead of being shackled to 1,000-page rulebooks, we must be free to make choices that we think are sensible.

Rebooting Washington is a simple idea, as obvious to most voters as it is radical to most political insiders. The virtues are not hard to explain: It would both reset priorities and revive human agency as the activating mechanism for public choices. Public debate would focus on success and failure, not abstract theories. Electing new leaders would make a difference.

American voters know the system is broken. But it won’t be fixed by making voters choose between a liberal or conservative fork in the road. What Washington needs most is practicality, not ideology. The leader who articulates a principled vision for practical government could seize the day and lead a historic overhaul to restore common sense and dignity to all levels of public responsibility.

Philip K. Howard, chairman of Common Good, is a New York-based lawyer, civic leader, legal and regulatory reformer, author and photographer. His latest book is Try Common Sense: Replacing the Failed Ideologies of Right and Left. This piece first ran in Forbes magazine. Hit this link. Or this link.

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Student political engagement in New England and beyond


Student demonstration against Tufts University’s fossil-fuel investments

Student demonstration against Tufts University’s fossil-fuel investments

From The New England Journal of Higher Education (NEJHE), a service of The New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org)

Nancy Thomas is director of the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.

In the following Q&A, NEJHE Executive Editor John O. Harney asks Thomas about her insights on higher education, citizen engagement and elections. (A Q&A along the same lines has been conducted with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Watch this space for more on higher education and citizen participation in this critical time for American democracy.)

Harney: What did the 2016 and 2018 elections tell us about the state of youth engagement in American democracy?

Thomas: Only 45% of undergraduate students voted in the 2016 presidential election, compared with about 61% of the general population. People on both sides of the political aisle had strong reactions to the election of Donald Trump as president, making 2016 a wake-up call. That, coupled with some intriguing, diverse candidates and growing issue activism, is a formula for youth engagement. We do not have our numbers for 2018—they will be available in September—but all signs point to a big jump in college student voting. Overall, Americans turned out at record high numbers in 2018.

Harney: How else besides voting do you measure young people’s civic citizenship? Are there other appropriate measures of activism and political involvement?

Thomas: Measuring student civic engagement is tough. In her 2012 review of civic measures in higher education, Ashley Finley at the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) concluded that although students participate in a continuum of civic learning practices, we need more evidence of their impact on student development, learning and success.

One problem is a lack of consensus over what counts as engagement. Knowledge about democracy? Intercultural competencies and other skills? Volunteering? Activism off campus? Following an issue on social media? Joining a group with a civic purpose? To measure engagement, many campuses conduct head counts of how many people took certain courses or volunteered or joined a club engaging in issue activism or attended a forum, etc.

Usually, civic engagement and development are measured by self-reported responses to surveys about behavior and attitudes. The CIRP senior survey asks whether students have worked on political campaigns or local problem-solving efforts. And the National Survey of Student Engagement,also a student survey, asks about voting, contributing to the welfare of the local community, and developing cultural understanding and a personal code of ethics.

Another approach is to administer pre- and post-experience questionnaires or require students to write reflective essays about their experiences. Some institutions survey alumni and correlate alumni engagement with learning experiences, if they have kept that record.

To my knowledge there is no objective, quantitative measure of civic engagement, much less political engagement, other than our voting study.

Harney: What are the key issues for college students?

Thomas: College students care about the same issues that most Americans care about—economic stability and jobs, health and access to healthcare, and education quality and access, particularly student debt and college affordability. They also care deeply about civil rights, discrimination and injustice, encompassing a range of concerns: immigration and the treatment of refugees at the border, DACA and, for those not threatened by the possibility of deportation, the treatment of their DACA peers; mass incarceration; criminal justice reform, racial discrimination and profiling; and hate speech and rise of hate groups and crimes. They also care about climate change and gun violence. I should note that, much like any group in the U.S., college students represent nearly all perspectives you can imagine. Right now, these are the issues that appear to be driving them.

Harney: Do they pay as much attention to local and state policy as to national and global?

Thomas: Some do, but it may be specific to the region or state. Or the institution. Around 50% of college students attend local community colleges, and nearly 85% attend college in-state. Local and state politics directly affect them, their families and communities.

It also depends on who is running for office. In Kansas and Iowa in 2018, for example, students turned out to impact the governor’s races. In the 7th Congressional District of Massachusetts, which is home to several universities, young people turned out to elect Ayanna Pressley.

Our office spent a lot of time on the phone during the 2018 midterms, and that was one trend that stood out to us—there was a great deal of feedback from administrators on campuses that students were engaging in local races more than in the past. We heard stories of local interest that often dovetailed with what was happening at the national level: local judicial elections (in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings), state representative races (amid a number of stories about state legislatures and state power structures), along with students jumping into races themselves, looking to create change.

In 2018, several students ran for local office. A sophomore at Spelman College ran for the local school board and narrowly lost. Rigel Robinson chose to run for local city councilrather than go to grad school right after graduating from UC Berkeley. He won.

That said, students are like all Americans—they care about the presidential election more. In 2014, only 13% of 18- to 24-year-old college and university students voted. That low number reflects national malaise. It also reflects the unique barriers to voting facing first-time voters and student attending institutions away from home. In midterms, students are less motivated to overcome barriers to voting.

Harney: Do they show any particular interest in where candidates stand on “higher education issues” such as academic freedom?

Thomas: They care about student debt and college affordability as significant higher education issues. I don’t think students would frame the issue as being about “academic freedom,” but they do care about speech and expression on campus and efforts by individuals and groups from off campus who come to campus to espouse discriminatory and hateful ideas. Our research on highly politically engaged campuses revealed nuanced attitudes to free expression on campus. Students want it and support it, but not if it crosses a line. The prevailing view is that students want their learning environments to be inclusive and welcoming regardless of race, ethnicity, immigrant status, sex, LGBTQ status and religion. They do not want groups or individuals with hateful ideas to have a platform on campus. Recently, the Knight Foundation published a report that confirmed this but also noted stark differences among different groups. Only four in 10 college women would protect speech over inclusion, compared with seven in 10 men. I have pushed backagainst this zero-sum-game approach of pitting speech against inclusion. The dominant narrative seems to be that speech, even hate speech, is always protected, at least at a public institution. I disagree.

Harney: How do the New England states treat voting rights for the many college students who live out-of-state?

Thomas: For most people, deciding where to vote is easy: They vote in the district in which they live. Students who attend and reside at a college away from home or out of state, however, may also vote near campus. Sounds easy enough, but it isn’t. Some states, for example, require not only evidence of residency but of permanence or intent to remain in the area. But what does that mean? A person has been living in the area for a month? A day? These kinds of standards are difficult to apply to most residents, and as a result, they tend to be applied to college students only.

Going into effect, ironically, right before the Fourth of July 2019, New Hampshire passed a law requiring students to obtain New Hampshire driver’s licenses or register their cars in state in order to register to vote near campus. The law is being challenged by the ACLU, the League of Women Voters and groups of students. Some legislators have also introduced a new bill that would create an exception for students, members of the military, and others living in the state temporarily. I doubt the law will hold up legally, but as of right now, students will need to go to a lot of trouble to vote locally.

The other New England states are not trying to suppress student voting, but there are many laws that could change to make voting easier, such as allowing for same-day voter registration and voting, early voting and longer time periods within which to register.

Harney: Are there any relevant correlations between measures of citizenship and enrollment in specific courses or majors?

Thomas: Yes! Education and library science majors vote at the highest rates; STEM and business majors are among the lowest. Gender might explain these differences to some extent. Women vote at higher rates than men, and fields that are dominated by women are likely to have higher voting rates. But that’s not the entire story. Education students study the historic and essential relationship between education and a strong democracy. The U.S. supports a public education system so that its citizens will be informed and prepared to participate in democracy. Both education and library sciences have a clear public purpose. This doesn’t mean that STEM and business fields do not have a public purpose. They do. But I am not sure the curriculum is designed to teach the public relevance of that field.

Harney: Are college students and faculty as “liberal” as “conservative” commentators make them out to be?

Thomas: Studies of college professors demonstrate that, overall, faculties lean liberal. In some fields like economics, they lean conservative, but overall, the professoriate is progressive. But that does not lead to “liberal indoctrination,” contrary to media reports or unique and inflammatory stories tracked by self-appointed watchdogs. Students do not arrive at college without opinions, nor are they easily manipulated. There is no evidence that students move left politically in college. Indeed, according to a recent study, college exposes students to new viewpoints and teaches them how to think, not what to think.

In our research on highly politically engaged campuses, we found that professors want students to think critically about their own perspectives, not just the perspectives of those with whom they disagree. They assign students projects in which the students must advocate for a position not aligned with their own. They teach using the Socratic method or discussion-based teaching to draw out multiple perspectives on an issue. They get students to work in groups reflecting diverse ideologies and lived experiences. If they do not hear a more conservative perspective expressed, they will introduce it. Do they sometimes take a stand on a political issue, like climate change or civil rights? Yes, but that’s the job. The job is not to be apolitical. Professors can’t cross the line into partisanship by telling students which candidate or party to support. But they can, and should, teach students to think critically about and even take a stand on political problems and solution.

Harney: What are ways to encourage “blue state” students to have an effect on “red-state” politics and vice versa?

Thomas: For better or worse, political polarization is a strong motivator for activism and voting. Young voters believe that they can make a difference and that government can solve public problems. I am confident that energy will continue through 2020.

I worry, however, that other forces like gerrymandering, money in politics, and the way politicians now cater to their “base” rather than all their constituents, will reinforce distrust in our political system. Many Americans believe that their vote doesn’t count or that their elected representatives do not represent them or their views. This leads them to ask, “why bother?”

Unfortunately, they may be right. In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court once again rejected efforts to stop partisan gerrymandering, leaving the drawing of districts to state legislators. Many state legislatures (both red and blue) gerrymander their districts to ensure dominance of their party. It is unlikely that politicians will voluntarily give up that power.

What’s the solution? One way to fix this problem is to get people to force their legislators to appoint nonpartisan redistricting commissions. In most states west of the Mississippi, residents can force a change to laws or state constitutions through ballots or referenda. Massachusetts is the only New England state that allows citizen-initiated statutes and amendments to the state constitutions. In 2018, voters in Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, Utah and Ohio passed initiatives to end partisan gerrymandering.

Young people can do the same on issues such as money in politics and extremism in policymaking. Educators should teach about these issues. Remember the old civics courses that taught “how a bill becomes a law?” Let’s resurrect that in college through experiential learning.

Harney: What role does social media play in shaping engagement and votes?

Thomas: Social media plays a significant role in shaping participation by young people. It’s how they get their news and information, find groups and people who care about their issues, and communicate with their peers. At its best, political engagement is a collective, and even social, act. Social media facilitates that.

The downside to social media, however, is misinformation and fake news. Manipulation through social media is a frightening truth. Colleges and universities should teach all students how to distinguish facts and fiction and to identify reliable news sources.

Harney: What do you think of an idea broached in NEJHE about ranking colleges based on the percentage of their students who vote?

Thomas: Some voter competitions compare basic voting rates; others compare election-to-election improvement. I have mixed feelings about using voting rates to compare one institution to another.

On one hand, voter competitions generate enthusiasm. They can be fun, and our research suggests that activities around elections should be spirited and celebratory. Again, engagement, including voting, is a social act. Students vote if their friends vote. Competitions can draw diverse groups to an activity, not unlike sporting events.

On the other hand, voting rates need to be critically examined. We know who the more likely voters are and what predicts voting: gender (women vote at higher rates), age (older people vote at higher rates), race (white, and some years, black Americans vote at higher rates), and affluence (wealthy people vote at higher rates). External factors also affect voting: Is it a battleground state or is student voting suppressed? Competitions will be won by institutions that admit older, affluent white women in states with same-day registration and voting.

The better approach is to calculate expected voting rates for a campus and then compare their actual with the expected, and then recognize campuses that overperform. We’re working on that, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Student populations and voting conditions change every election. We’ll keep watching this.

We published a set of recommendations for colleges and universities interested in fostering student learning for and participation in democracy, actions that we believe will positively impact voting rates. I’d prefer to see a system that recognizes colleges and universities for how well they educate students about their responsibilities in a participatory democracy. Voting would be a factor, but it would not be the only factor.

Harney: How will New England’s increased political representation of women and people of color affect real policy?

Underrepresentation has been a serious problem in this country for a long time. According to the Reflective Democracy Campaign, white men make up 30% of the U.S. population and 62% of elected officials, while women of color make up 20% of the population and only 4% of elected officials. Practices like gerrymandering, special-interest money, how campaigns get funded, the power of incumbents and so forth allow leaders of political parties to serve as gatekeepers to perpetuate underrepresentation. While we saw historic shifts in 2018, we have a long way to go.

We have a partisan divide in this country that cannot be ignored. Fully 71% of Republican elected officials are white men, compared with 44% of Democrats. Only 3% of Republican leaders are people of color, compared with 28% of Democratic leaders. The historic shifts in 2018 reflect shifts in the Democratic party, not the Republican party.

Today, many politicians do not even pretend to represent people other than “their base” of die-hard supporters. They do not need to. The party in power sets their positions on issues and remains unmoved because they face no consequences for ignoring dissenters or opinion polls. It’s a maddening situation.

So, in answer to your question, increased political representation of women and people of color should affect policy, but the systems need to change to ensure that will happen.

Harney: How can colleges and universities work together to bolster democracy?

We need an industry-wide effort to increase education for the democracy we want, not the one we have. Regardless of their discipline, students need to learn the basics of our Constitutional democracy—how the government is structured, how elections work, how decisions are made and separation of power, and not just rights but responsibilities of people who a fortunate enough to live in a democracy.

I am deeply concerned by a 2019 publication by the Baker Center at Georgetown University that reports that nearly one-third of young Americans feel that living under non-democratic forms of government (e.g., military state or autocratic regime) would be equally acceptable to living in a democracy. That suggests to me a need for an educational response at the K-12 and higher education level.

But it also points to the need for systemic reform. Colleges and universities not only need to teach what a strong democracy looks like and why students have a responsibility to work for democracy’s health and future, but also need to enable student activism on electoral reform. They need to teach students how to run for office or how to effectuate policy change through laws and ballot initiatives. Students need to get involved in changing systems that underrepresent and disempower most groups of Americans. As I mentioned earlier, young people care deeply about equal opportunity and equity, along with other issue advocacy. The academy’s opportunity is now. It’s time to seize it.


Reds and Greys

From B. Lynch’s mixed-media show “The Way of the World,’’ through Aug. 2 at the Lamont Gallery, at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, N.H.    The gallery says:     “   Way of the World ’’  is an “exhibition of an imaginary time-bending universe echoing our own society, reflecting choices of wealth, power and work.’’    “B. Lynch’s world is miniaturized, viewers will be delighted with the doll-house feel, yet it isn’t cozy. The dioramas, prints, paintings and figurines capture the essence of our polarized society. The project theatrically posits two factions of human existence. Her work raises questions and with the help of visitor participation may even start to provide some useful ideas about how we organize our desire for wealth and our need for dignity in purposeful doing.    “The  ‘ Reds ,’  placed in the stylish 18th Century, have all the money, the best stuff and seemingly steer events. The larger  ‘ Greys’’ faction, living in a dystopian setting are the doers, they have work but little else. So, who’s on top? Revolutions echo down the years, philosophers extol the dignity of work, everybody wants riches and leisure. How do we cope?’’

From B. Lynch’s mixed-media show “The Way of the World,’’ through Aug. 2 at the Lamont Gallery, at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, N.H.

The gallery says:

Way of the World’’ is an “exhibition of an imaginary time-bending universe echoing our own society, reflecting choices of wealth, power and work.’’

“B. Lynch’s world is miniaturized, viewers will be delighted with the doll-house feel, yet it isn’t cozy. The dioramas, prints, paintings and figurines capture the essence of our polarized society. The project theatrically posits two factions of human existence. Her work raises questions and with the help of visitor participation may even start to provide some useful ideas about how we organize our desire for wealth and our need for dignity in purposeful doing.

“The Reds,’ placed in the stylish 18th Century, have all the money, the best stuff and seemingly steer events. The largerGreys’’ faction, living in a dystopian setting are the doers, they have work but little else. So, who’s on top? Revolutions echo down the years, philosophers extol the dignity of work, everybody wants riches and leisure. How do we cope?’’

Lethally late in Providence

The DePasquale Fountain in the heart of Federal Hill

The DePasquale Fountain in the heart of Federal Hill

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

All too often we read about Providence nightclubs drawing criminals, including psychopaths, from around the region. Thus it was with two crooks with a history of violence, Jaquontee Reels, 24, and his brother Sequoya Reels, 27, are charged with the fatal stabbing and beating, following a verbal exchange, of Stephen Cabral, 28, after Mr. Cabral left Club Seven, on Federal Hill, at around 2 a.m. on June 30. The brothers are from Ledyard, Conn.


What would help block such violence, besides a more visible police presence? Move back bar and nightclub closing times to 1 a.m., or even 12:30, from 2 a.m. Yes, it will hurt the finances of some establishments, but not as much as Providence worsening its reputation (however fair when compared to other cities) as a dangerous place at night The later the closing time of places with liquor licenses, the more likelihood of violent crime in and around them.

Mass. petition signers ask for curb on use of bee-killing pesticides

— ecoRI News photo

— ecoRI News photo

From ecoRI News (ecori.org)

Environment Massachusetts recently delivered a petition signed by 20,000 residents asking state officials to restrict the use of bee-killing pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

“A world without bees would mean a world without many of our favorite summer foods,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “People are speaking out to save our pollinators.”

Across the country, millions of bees are dying and bee colonies are in distress because of a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, according to Hellerstein. While many factors are implicated in colony collapse disorder, one cause is the increased use of neonicotinoid insecticides, also known as neonics.

The petition asked state officials to restrict the use of neonics. Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, have filed bills (H.763 and S.463) to reduce the use of these pesticides.

“Virtually every one of my colleagues in the Legislature has heard from residents who understand the gravity and urgency of the threats to pollinator health,” Dykema said. “This is thanks to grassroots advocacy from students, beekeepers, scientists, farmers, and thousands of concerned citizens across Massachusetts who care about our environment, our food supply, and our bees.”

"Having fewer bees to pollinate our crops will have a catastrophic impact on our food supply and damage local economies,” Eldridge said.

Bees pollinate 71 of the 100 most common food crops in the world, including apples, pumpkins, cranberries and blueberries. Officials in Maryland, Connecticut, and Vermont have passed laws to reduce neonicotinoid use.

“Every few weeks we see another peer-reviewed study supporting restrictions on neonics,” said Marty Dagoberto, policy director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Massachusetts chapter. ““There’s no justification to keep these toxic chemicals on store shelves for untrained consumers. It’s time for the legislature to restrict use to licensed and trained pesticide applicators.”

Llewellyn King: Federal agency's bias against nuclear-power deals abroad hurts U.S.

A small nuclear reactor of the general type cited below

A small nuclear reactor of the general type cited below

They are bureaucracy’s equivalent of ghosts: old policies, fiats and ideas that have lost their relevance — if they ever had any — and are without a constituency, but they live on.

Take the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a little-known, self-sustaining agency of the government, which was set up in 1971 to help American businesses invest in emerging markets. It helps with risks that are outside the purview of the Export Import Bank and facilitates the attraction of private capital to do the heavy lifting. It is considered a success and an important tool in foreign policy, so much so that in October, it will be subsumed into a new agency, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, to work in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

OIPC’s Web site says clearly that it helps U.S. manufacturers gain a foothold in new markets. It does not list exclusions from its consideration.

But it has priorities and blind spots, often inherited from the attitudes of a previous administration. A case in point is that it will not lend to help countries buy nuclear power or nuclear power equipment.

The nuclear industry, which is exercised about this impediment to sales in new markets, believes that the agency’s policies of opposing such assistance lie in ambivalence toward nuclear in parts of the Obama administration.

Normally, this would be of little consequence because OPIC cannot afford to finance a whole new nuclear power plant of the traditional type, running to billions of dollars. Its lending limits are in the hundreds of millions, but it does provide risk mitigation that enables other financing to proceed.

This is especially important because the nuclear-power industry is in the throes of reinvention: Small modular reactors are the new reality. These have many designs and varied support, including the traveling wave reactor from TerraPower, a Bill Gates-funded company, and the first of these new small reactors, the NuScale, is soon to be deployed at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. It will sell power to a consortium of local public utilities.

The stakes are not small. Fifty companies are working on new nuclear designs, most of them small modular reactors that can be built in a factory and shipped to their deployment sites for assembly. All of them will feature designs that obviate the possibility of catastrophic accidents and will seek to minimize nuclear waste.

In short, the new reactors are aimed at the very markets that OPIC is interested in. Its mission, especially when it morphs into U.S. International Development Finance Corporation this fall, will be to counter aggressive Chinese marketing under its ubiquitous Belt and Road initiative, which seeks to vacuum up markets in Asia and Europe.

David Blee, the dynamic president of the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council, has met with OPIC officials. Blee, along with nuclear industry executives, has also had a meeting with President Trump, where the issue was raised. Trump turned to his top economic adviser Larry Kudlow and asked him to investigate. So far, OPIC has not softened its anti-nuclear stance.

Lawyers who deal in international nuclear trade tell me the damage from OPIC’s ban on taking on nuclear projects is twofold: First, specific projects are likely to go to foreign competition, and second is the fact that a major U.S. agency will not even entertain assisting in financing such projects suggests a lack of confidence in American nuclear products by the government itself.

Defense contractors have always found it is impossible to sell defense hardware abroad if that same equipment is not deployed by the Pentagon. The buyer psychology is not hard to fathom: If it is not good enough for the United States, we do not want to know about it.

Critics of the agency cannot say that it is wholly out of touch with today’s reality: It is helping to finance Ivanka Trump’s projects for women around the world. Maybe America’s nuclear entrepreneurs should look to pitching their magical new machines to the first daughter. After all, the nuclear industry is employing more and more women.

On Twitter: @llewellynking2
Llewellyn King, based in Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., is executive producer and host of
White House Chronicle, on PBS.







David Warsh: Of Eisenhower and Buttigieg

Peter Paul Buttigieg

Peter Paul Buttigieg

SOMERVILLE, Mass.

Economist Paul Samuelson used to say, that if you’re going to forecast, forecast often. As a columnist, I think I’ve failed to pick the winner only once since 1980 – in 2016. I’ve touted a couple of non-starters, too (Colin Powell, Robert Gates).

Two years ago, I compared the Trump family saga to the famous old Beverly Hillbillies television series, in reverse, and ventured that the dark sitcom was more likely to run its full four years than to be ended abruptly by Congress.

Last July, in I wondered if Trump might not run again. What would be the fun for him in that? “It is always possible that Trump will run the table and, like Clinton, Bush, and Obama, settle into a second term more comfortable than the one before. I put the chances at one in three.”

Now Trump is indeed running again. He has involved the United States in bitter economic wars with China, Iran and Mexico, and has exacerbated the already strained relations with Russia he had hoped to ease. Meanwhile, he is staging re-enactments of his 2016 campaign, rallies reminiscent of his days in reality TV. Maybe he’s thinking of the banking matters that Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

In my circle, the conventional wisdom has become that Trump will win. Fear has grown that the various large constituencies of the Democratic Party will tear the party apart: progressives, moderates, women, African-Americans, immigrants. Trump’s taunting will make only make it worse.

So here goes: The nation may be one good speech and 16 months of cautious campaigning away from peace. At this point, it is no more than a hunch. The candidate most likely to give it is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Of the five leading candidates in The New York Times weekly survey, two are already beginning to fade: Bernie Sanders because he earlier tried and failed, Elizabeth Warren because she set her eyes on the job only late in her career, and so veered too far left. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Peter Buttigieg all have disadvantages, but all three are electable, given a successful primary campaign. (See the Harris profile in The New Yorker, an appraisal of Buttigieg in the New York Times Magazine.).

Buttigieg could continue to soar. At 37, he has far less baggage than the others, and that which he possesses – his difficulties with South Bend’s legacy-dominated police department, his years as a closeted gay man in college and after – he has handled well so far. Wall Street likes him, not necessarily a plus in today’s Democratic Party, though the money pours in. (It was Darryl Zanuck who declared of film producer Robert Evans, under criticism as a youthful actor, “The kid stays in the picture.” In Buttigieg’s case, it seems to have been the same kind of small donor success that lifted Barack Obama above Hillary Clinton. Yearning for a fresh-face centrist is apparent even at the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal.

The precedent for the 2020 election may be the 1952 presidential campaign. Unwilling to re-nominate Thomas Dewey, who had narrowly lost to Harry Truman in 1948, and convinced that Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, an isolationist and New Deal foe, would lose to the eventual Democratic Party nominee, Adlai Stevenson, governor of Illinois, the establishment Republican Party put itself in receivership. Five-star Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was a thoroughly proven leader, a moderate, with no previous party affiliation. Afghanistan veteran Ensign Pete Buttigieg (USNR-Ret.) is an identifiable Democrat with little more than a record of caution and ambition.

The speech I have in mind – the first of a series of speeches, naturally – has to communicate both imperturbability and a compelling vision of the task at hand. For exemplary compassion and compression, see Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a very high standard, to be sure. For a glimpse of Buttigieg’s 21st Century style, see his 11-minute appearance with Bill Maher

The Democratic debate skirmishes end on July 30-31. August is time out. The campaign proper starts on Labor Day. At that point we will be fourteen months and one good election outcome from the beginning of what might turn out to be be a fresh start.

David Warsh, an economic historian and veteran columnist, is proprietor of Somerville-based economicprincipals.com, where this essay first ran.


Don Pesci: On tolls, Lamont is spinning like a top

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Clever frogs know how to take a step back so that they might advance two steps forward.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont met recently with the governors of two contiguous states, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, to palaver about infrastructure maintenance. A fierce middle class taxpayer opposition to tolling in Connecticut has given the governor and the two Democrat gate-keepers in the General Assembly, Senate President Martin Looney and Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, political hiccups.

Lamont began pushing for tolls during his election campaign for governor. In that campaign, Republican nominee for governor Bob Stefanowski was widely derided by Democrats and critics in the state’s media for centering his campaign on a pledge to do away with Connecticut’s income tax over a ten year period.

Pressing on, Stefanowski said his pledge was aspirational and, once accomplished, would reset Connecticut in New England’s crown as a haven from excessive taxation. In addition, it would force politicians in the state to confront the ongoing problem of excessive spending.

Couldn’t be done, everyone said; after all, the state was looking down the barrel of a biennial deficit approaching $4 billion. If politics is the art of the possible, the Democrats’ effort to impose upon Connecticut’s already tax overburdened voters a new revenue source has been, to put it kindly, unartful.
Russell Long of Louisiana might have enjoyed the first toll proposal Lamont unfurled in his gubernatorial campaign. “Most people,” said Long, “have the same philosophy about taxes.” And he poeticized the philosophy:

Don’t tax you,

Don’t tax me,

Tax that fellow behind the tree.


Get someone other than voters, in other words, to pay for your expenditure. For campaigner Lamont, the “fellow behind the tree” was large trucks steaming through Connecticut – a truck tax. Once elected, Lamont realized that truck tolling alone would not provide Connecticut with the revenue it would need for necessary infrastructure repairs. And then too, there was that pesky multi-billion deficit poking its nose over the horizon.

Lamont suggested a massive number of toll gantries, later reduced to 50, a plan that very likely ran into difficulties with federal overseers who would allow toll gantries only to reduce congestion. Connecticut may be congested with taxes, but cars? Not so much.


Along came No Tolls CT, which struck a responsive chord in the hearts of voters already overburdened by a kleptocracy that had been raiding the transportation fund since 2001.


Gatekeeper magicians Looney and Aresimowicz were unable, they said, to round up the yes votes in the General Assembly, even though Democrats enjoy huge margins in both chambers following the most recent elections in which President Donald Trump, not yet impeached, was made to play the role in the Democrat campaign script of Beelzebub, sulfur pouring out of his nostrils. The propaganda – Trump did not appear on the ballot – worked, some political commentators believe, to swell Democrat numbers in the General Assembly. Half of the Democrat caucus is composed of progressives, sulfur pouring out of their nostrils.
Lamont, as it turns out, was far more successful than Stefanowski in fooling some of the people some of the time, but his recent toll proposal has strained the credulity even of his well-wishers in Connecticut’s media.
Lamont has now reverted to his initial campaign toll proposal. Maybe tolling only trucks and tolls on bridges was not such a bad idea.

Emilie Munson of CTMirror puts it this way:

“Either proposal involving tolls or bridges would represent a significant retreat from Lamont’s proposal for numerous gantries on interstates 95, 91, 84 and the Merritt Parkway.
“And neither idea is a clear winner: both concepts face some reservations from the governor’s office and within the Democratic caucus, as well as full-throated opposition from Republican leaders.
“The resurfacing of the trucks-only concept, which he [Lamont] championed on the campaign trail and then retreated from early in office, may bring fresh accusations of political flip-flopping — even if the new suggestions are slightly different from last year’s.”

It’s not just a flip-flop, which may sometimes be written off to unforeseen exigencies. What we have here is a flip-flop of a flip-flop. Stefanowski, to his credit, neither flipped nor flopped.
Stefanowski has not entirely retreated from the political stage, nor has David Stemerman, who finished third in the Republican Gubernatorial primary.

Stemerman’s tweets are not as flashy as Trump’s lightning bolts, but they get the job done: “CT should be thriving, but a toxic combination of high cost of doing business, unfunded pension liabilities and poor infrastructure, driven by bad policies from Hartford, are hurting our state as @CNBC’s annual ranking of states for business confirms today.”

One cannot help but wonder whether the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts might agree with that assessment. When Lamont stops spinning like a top, it might do him well to address himself seriously to the toxic combination referenced by Stemerman – and others.

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


Readers reside on the obituary page

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Via Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

The publicity around the death of former Providence TV investigative reporter Jim Taricani (with whom I had a few pleasant encounters over the years when I was an editor at The Providence Journal) was to some extent nostalgia for when many network-affiliated local TV stations had substantial staffs. Heck, I can remember when some of the major market (e.g., Boston and New York) stations even had the equivalent of editorial-page editors carefully intoning usually bland opinions on assorted public-policy issues.

There’s also an increasing dependence on nostalgia to sell newspapers. Old photos especially. And increasingly, their columnists review events that occurred before the memory of a large part of the population. Newspaper readers tend old. The late Jim Wyman, The Providence Journal’s executive editor for a few years, used to lament that the people on the obituary page were “our readers.’’ And that was 30 years ago, at the dawn of the World Wide Web and well before social media.

Martha Bebinger: Have you asked your doctor about global warming?

Projected change in annual mean surface air temperature from the late 20th century to the middle 21st century, based on a medium    emissions scenario   . This scenario assumes that no future policies are adopted to limit greenhouse gas emissions.    — Image credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Projected change in annual mean surface air temperature from the late 20th century to the middle 21st century, based on a medium emissions scenario. This scenario assumes that no future policies are adopted to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

— Image credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

From Kaiser Health News

BOSTON

When Michael Howard arrived for a checkup with his lung specialist, he was worried about how his body would cope with the heat and humidity of a Boston summer.

“I lived in Florida for 14 years, and I moved back because the humidity was just too much,” Howard told pulmonologist Dr. Mary Rice as he settled into an exam room chair at a Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare clinic.

Howard, 57, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease that can be exacerbated by heat and humidity. Even inside a comfortable, climate-controlled room, his oxygen levels worried Rice.

Howard reluctantly agreed to try using portable oxygen, resigned to wearing the clear plastic tubes looped over his ears and inserted into his nostrils. He assured Rice he has an air conditioner and will stay inside on extremely hot days. The doctor and patient agreed that Howard should take his walks in the evenings to be sure he gets enough exercise without overheating.

Then Howard turned to Rice with a question she didn’t encounter in medical school: “Can I ask you: Last summer, why was it so hot?”

Rice, who studies air pollution, was ready.

“The overall trend of the hotter summers that we’re seeing [is] due to climate change,” Rice said.

For Rice, connecting climate-change consequences — heat waves, more pollen, longer allergy seasons — to her patients’ health is becoming routine. She is among a small but growing number of doctors and nurses who discuss those connections with patients.

In June, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association were among a long list of medical and public health groups that issued a call to action asking the U.S. government, business and leaders to recognize climate change as a health emergency.

The World Health Organization calls climate change “the greatest health challenge of the 21st century,” and a dozen U.S. medical societies urge action to limit global warming.

Some medical societies provide patients with information that explains the related health risks. But none have guidelines on how providers should talk to patients about climate change.

There is no concrete list of “do’s” — as in wear a seat belt, use sunscreen and get exercise — or “don’ts” — as in don’t smoke, don’t drink too much and don’t text while driving ― that doctors can talk about with patients.

Climate change is different, said Rice, because an individual patient can’t prevent it. So Rice focuses on steps her patients can take to cope with the consequences of heat waves, such as more potent pollen and a longer allergy season.

That was Mary Heafy’s main complaint. The 64-year-old has asthma that is worse during the allergy season. During her appointment with Rice, Heafy wanted to know why her eyes and nose were running and her chest feels tight for longer periods every year.

“It feels like once [the allergy season] starts in the springtime, it doesn’t end until there’s a killing frost,” Heafy told Rice.

“Yes,” Rice nodded, “because of global warming, the plants are flowering earlier in the spring. After hot summers, the trees are releasing more pollen the following season.”

Rice checks Mary Heafy's breathing during a checkup for her asthma at the Beth Israel Deaconess clinic. Climate change does seem to be extending the Boston region's ragweed season, Rice tells Heafy.

Rice, who studies the health effects of air pollution, talks with Howard about his increased breathing problems and their possible link to the heat waves, increased pollen and longer allergy seasons associated with climate change.

So Heafy may need stronger medicines and more air filters, her doctor said, and may spend more days wearing a mask — although the effort of breathing through a mask is hard on her lungs as well.

As she and the doctor finalized a prescription plan, Heafy observed that “physicians talk about things like smoking, but I don’t know that every physician talks about the environmental impact.”

Why do so few doctors talk about the impact of the environment on health? Besides a lack of guidelines, doctors say, they don’t have time during a 15- to 20-minute visit to broach something as complicated as climate change.

And the topic can be controversial: While a recent Pew Research Center poll found that 59% of Americans think climate change affects their local community “a great deal or some,” only 31% say it affects them personally, and views vary widely by political party.

We contacted energy-industry trade groups to ask what role — if any — medical providers should have in the climate change conversation, but neither the American Petroleum Institute nor the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers returned calls or email requests for comment.

Some doctors say they worry about challenging a patient’s beliefs on the sometimes fraught topic, according to Dr. Nitin Damle, a past president of the American College of Physicians.

“It’s a difficult conversation to have,” said Damle, who practices internal medicine in Wakefield, R.I.

Damle said he “takes the temperature” of patients, with some general questions about the environment or the weather, before deciding if he’ll suggest that climate change is affecting their health.

Dr. Gaurab Basu, a primary-care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, said he’s ready if patients want to talk about climate change, but he doesn’t bring it up. He first must make sure patients feel safe in the exam room, he said, and raising a controversial political issue might erode that feeling.

“I have to be honest about the science and the threat that is there, and it is quite alarming,” Basu said.

So alarming, Basu said, that he often refers patients to counseling. Psychiatrists concerned about the effects of climate change on mental healthsay there are no standards of care in their profession yet, but some common responses are emerging.

One environmental group isn’t waiting for doctors and nurses to figure out how to talk to patients about climate change.

Molly Rauch, the public health policy director with Moms Clean Air Force, a project of the Environmental Defense Fund, urges the group’s more than 1 million members to ask doctors and nurses for guidance. For example: When should parents keep children indoors because the outdoor air is too dirty?

“This isn’t too scary for us to hear about,” Rauch said. “We are hungry for information about this. We want to know.”

This story is part of a partnership that includes WBUR, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Martha Bebinger, WBUR: marthab@wbur.org, @mbebinger


New help for visually impaired at Manchester airport


In departures section of the terminal at Manchester Boston Regional Airport

In departures section of the terminal at Manchester Boston Regional Airport

From The New England Council

Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT) recently unveiled a new technology to aid visually impaired travelers throughout their terminal. Manchester-Boston Regional is the largest airport in the state of New Hampshire.

Manchester Airport partnered with technology company Aira to implement these changes. Aira’s mission is to provide instant support and information to blind and low-vision persons by connecting them to a remotely-located agent through their App. Such “visual interpreters” aim to enhance the airport experience for passengers, providing them with the resources to navigate through the gates, interact with airline or airport staff, and to help organize their ground transportation. Passengers can download the app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play Store.

Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Director Ted Kitchens adds, “We continually look to evaluate and enhance the customer experience at MHT.”

Cecily Myart-Cruz: Stop McDonald's exploitation of public schools

Perverter of underfunded education

Perverter of underfunded education

Via OtherWords.org

Corporate America is looming larger and larger in U.S. public schools. That’s not a good thing for educators, students, or workers.

Nowhere could this be more clear than the case of McDonald’s, whose founder once scouted locations for new stores by flying over communities and looking for schools. The fast food giant pioneered methods of attracting school children to its stores — from Happy Meals to marketing schemes like McTeacher’s Nights.

McTeacher’s Nights have become almost commonplace in many parts of the country. Here’s how they work.

Teachers and other public school employees prompt students and parents to eat at their local McDonald’s on an otherwise slow night. Then teachers volunteer their time behind the cash register, serving students and their families junk food, while McDonald’s workers are often told not to go in that night for their shift.

A small amount of the proceeds — $1 to $2 per student — then goes back to the school.

Many students have grown up with these seemingly innocuous fundraisers. Hundreds, if not thousands, happen across the U.S. each year, according to Corporate Accountability and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Meanwhile, thanks to gross underfunding of public schools, such fundraisers get less scrutiny than they should. Beyond the obvious problem of enlisting teachers — the people children trust most, next to their parents — to serve young people junk food, there’s also the issue of labor rights.

Teachers are already woefully underpaid for the service they provide our communities. McTeacher’s Nights engage these teachers to volunteer additional hours, often displacing low-income McDonald’s workers in the process.

What results is what one former McDonald’s CEO described as philanthropy that’s “99 percent commercial” in nature. What do we call it? Exploitation.

Teachers need to be standing in solidarity with McDonald’s employees, not at cross-purposes. They are our students, family members, and our neighbors. For their long hours working on their feet, they are often paid poverty wages.

And as a recent report from the National Employment Law Project finds, the corporation is failing in its legal duty to provide employees a safe work environment. Dozens of women from California to Florida have filed complaints alleging sexual harassment by supervisors and co-workers in McDonald’s stores and franchises. And thousands of workers in 10 cities walked off the job to protest these abuses.

In the education field, we know the importance of a strong union to prevent abuses like these. Yet McDonald’s has been accused of union-busting, and even firing employees for attending Fight for $15 rallies to raise the minimum wage.

That’s why more than 50 state and local teachers unions have signed an open letter challenging McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook to end McTeacher’s Nights. And this year, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), representing 1.7 million members and 3,000 local affiliates, adopted a resolution rejecting all corporate-sponsored fundraisers for schools.

It’s time for McDonald’s and other corporations to stop exploiting our schools, children, and their own workforce. Until they do, we will continue to stand with McDonald’s workers in their fight for a living wage and a safe workplace — and for teachers fighting for the funding their local schools need.

We encourage others to stand with us.

Cecily Myart-Cruz is a veteran teacher, activist, and the vice president of the United Teachers Los Angeles/National Education Association.

James T. Brett: New England needs approval of new NAFTA

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BOSTON

While the U.S. economy continues to show steady signs of growth, there is considerable concern in the business community about current U.S. trade policies and their potential to stunt that growth. And rightly so – with 95% of the world’s consumers located outside of the U.S., it is critical that we have policies in place to promote international trade and expand access to foreign markets for American businesses.

Fortunately, our leaders in Congress have the opportunity to take an important step to bolster U.S. exports and drive continued economic growth by approving the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was signed earlier this year. Approval of this agreement is of particular consequence here in New England, where two of our region’s top trade partners are our neighbors to the north and south.

The USMCA makes critical updates to modernize the previous trade pact between our three nations – the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

NAFTA, which was approved and has been in place since 1994, was written before many of the digital technologies that drive our 21st century global economy, such as cloud computing and online commerce, even existed. The USMCA includes important provisions to address such topics as cross-border data flow and data localization, and takes key steps to protect U.S. intellectual property.

The importance of trade with Canada and Mexico to the New England economy cannot be overstated. Canada is a top-three trade partner for all six New England states, and Mexico is in the top 10 for five of the six states in the region.

Exports from the six New England states to Canada and Mexico totaled nearly $13 billion in 2018 alone. That includes $420 million in exports from New Hampshire alone. Some of the top exports from the Granite State include computer and electronic products, machinery and transportation equipment.

At the same time, trade with our North American neighbors supported over 600,000 jobs in New England in 2017, including nearly 55,000 jobs in New Hampshire.

Some members of Congress have expressed reservations about the USMCA, particularly on such issues as labor and environmental protections, patent exclusivity for certain medicines and enforcement mechanisms.

While the business community appreciates these concerns, walking away from the USMCA because of them would be, simply put, disastrous.

Fortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken the initiative to establish a working group to negotiate with Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, to address these concerns. Several New Englanders – House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts as well as Connecticut Representatives Rosa DeLauro and John Larson – have been named to this nine-member group, so our region’s interests are certainly well-represented, and we are confident that the working group will reach a satisfactory resolution.

In our 21st Century global economy, access to foreign markets is vital to the success of American businesses. It is imperative, therefore, that the U.S. continue to maintain and expand trade relationship with key partners around the globe, and in particular, with our immediate neighbors here in North America. The New England Council is hopeful that Congress will consider the impact trade with Canada and Mexico on our nation’s economic well-being, and will take swift action to approve this important trade deal.

James T. Brett is the president and CEO of The New England Council, a non-partisan alliance of businesses and organizations.

Tales of old gardens

Entrance to the Aldrich Garden in Strawberry Banke, a historical neighborhood and museum in Portsmouth, N.H. ,featuring 37 restored buildings erected between the 17th and early 19th centuries.    — Photo by Sseacord

Entrance to the Aldrich Garden in Strawberry Banke, a historical neighborhood and museum in Portsmouth, N.H. ,featuring 37 restored buildings erected between the 17th and early 19th centuries.

— Photo by Sseacord

“We should have scant notion of the gardens of these New England colonists in the seventeenth century were it not for a cheerful traveler named John Josselyn, a man of everyday tastes and much inquisitiveness, and the pleasing literary style which comes from directness, and an absence of self-consciousness.’’

— Alice Morse Earle (1851-1911), historian and author

Counselor boot camp

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From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

At rather the last minute, when a promised summer job before my freshman year of college fell through, I took a job as a counselor in the summer of 1966 at a Boys and Girls Club camp in Plymouth, Mass., serving underprivileged kids. It was in a piney and swampy area best suited for cranberry cultivation, with mosquitos that seemed in my dreams bigger than helicopters. There were two counselors in each hot and musty cabin to oversee 12 kids bunking there. There were of course ceaseless rounds of activities, with the aim of limiting the mayhem by the campers, most of whom, I recall, came from Boston’s inner city.

The kids were mostly young adolescents, and more than a few were bigger than me and well acquainted with violence. So I faced a challenge keeping them in line, as I would later as, briefly, a young high-school schoolteacher in a class of 30 kids. I found that the trick was to deepen and make louder my voice, and imply to troublemakers that we’d have them shipped back pronto to the mean streets if they didn’t curb their behavior. I learned a valuable lesson in the importance of presentation (however weak my actual confidence in that situation). Sort of a variant of the old line that “if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.’’