Kenmore Riders Show No Fear

Sep 25, 2008 3:16 PM. All work by , , ,

BOSTON—In the wake of last night’s MBTA public hearing and almost four weeks of community meetings, greenline riders remain uninformed or unconcerned.

At the inbound subway stop from Kenmore Square, Quincy resident Tom Devlin bolted down a flight of steps and across the subway platform only to have the doors to a Government Center train closed on him. Of the four people interviewed at the subway stop, only Devlin was aware of the service plan.

“I don’t have a lot of gripes with the MBTA,” said Devlin.

Devlin takes the green and red lines to get to work at Landmark Center. He said he prefers to take the train rather than drive because the cost of parking in Boston is too expensive. Metered parking near Landmark Center is $1.74 per hour, and garage parking is $15 per day or $25 if there is a Red Sox game.

According to Devlin, that’s a price he’s not willing to pay, even though the subway is a longer commute than driving. Devlin said that his usual red line-orange line trip usually takes him twice the time it takes to drive.

“This is me,” said Devlin as he rushed to get into an approaching train. He returned with a funny smirk on his face less than a minute later, unable to get on the packed train.

“It is what it is,” he said without complaint. Devlin got on the next train, which arrived within a minute of the over-crowded train. Within a span of six minutes, seven more inbound trains passed through Kenmore station, two were so crowded that most customers on the platform were unable to get on, like 41-year-old Jim Luongo, who arrived just before the seventh train left.

Unlike Devlin, Luongo was not aware of this year’s service plan or that it was a biennial process. The Wilmington resident said that the changes would not affect him.

“I’m just trying to get to work on time,” said Luongo, “but [the train] is never there when you need it.”

Luongo, like Devlin, said he did not have any huge disputes with the train and said that his complaint was probably a common one. He too identified high parking costs as the main reason why he does not drive to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where he works. Instead, Luongo relies on the green line and commuter rail and the occasional orange line.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” said Luongo, “as long as you get to work on time.”

The MBTA Service Plan team meets tonight at Northeastern for their series of public workshops. Monday is the last chance for public input, after which the plans will be finalized and handed over to the 175 delegates of the MBTA Advisory Board for approval in the fall.

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Bishop Advocates Illegal Options

Sep 16, 2008 11:06 PM. All work by , , ,

NEWTON—Before an audience of roughly 200, Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini proclaimed that ethics take precedent over human legislation, namely, that illegal immigration is currently the only hope to saving Guatemalan lives.

Ramazzini delivered his speech, in Spanish, to a crowded congregation of Spanish and English speakers at Boston College earlier this evening. Ramazzini's words were translated into English by event coordinator Brinton Lykes of B.C.'s Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

"If a person is in extreme extreme need that could lead to death," said Ramazzini, "that person is allowed to steal."

The Guatemalan bishop prefaced that statement, saying that it is a principle that is approved by other bishops on a national level. He closed the message saying that the fact that Guatemalans are in such a desperate condition is something that should be addressed first.

There were those in the audience who dearly agreed with Ramazzini's principle, like Prof. Lykes.

"Ramazzini is an extraordinary human being, and he did a wonderful presentation," said Lykes who recently returned from Guatemala. She lead a team of researches into Guatemala over the summer for a first hand look at the country's immigration problems.

"We were a little bit surprised by what kind of debt whole families accumulate [crossing the border]," commented Lykes.

According to Lykes, border guides called "coyotes" charge upwards of $7,000 to attempt to illegally pass someone through to the U.S. For those who are found and deported, the failure is a huge financial setback that is hard to recover from, said Lykes.

Monica Valdez, a graduate student who accompanied Lykes on the mission to Guatemala, said that the situation is a "catch 22." In small communities, parents who leave Guatemala to find work and support their families indirectly bring about a broken household. Kids whose mothers and fathers are not around to instill good values do not necessarily turn out better than those whose parents are earning less money, voiced Valdez.

"It was just one of those experiences that really sort of changes your perception," Valdez began, "about what poverty is; what people really go through; what children are feeling."

Senior Annie Matsko, an international studies major at B.C., said that illegal border crossing is the only option some families have, and she intends to help them. Matsko plans to live along the U.S.-Mexican border before going to law school in order to eliminate the "ivory tower" perspective.

"How could you criminalize the person who is simply trying to make a life for themselves? Simply trying to help their families?" asked Matsko.

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Using Grassroots Tactics to Fight a Rare Disease

Sep 14, 2008 10:12 AM. All work by , ,

BOSTON—In March, Webster resident Jennifer Tonelli learned she had a "fifty-fifty" chance of developing Huntington’s disease — a genetic, crippling illness that attacks the brain and nervous system. But instead of waiting in wonder, Tonelli has pooled her resources and raised over $17,000 in the past five months for HD research.

"I wanted to do something immediately positive to get my mind off the challenges," said Tonelli, who was one of over 100 participants in the three mile Walk-a-Thon for Huntington’s Disease held yesterday morning at the Artesani Park in Brighton.

"[The event] has given me hope that I can do something," said Tonelli, "that I am not completely helpless against this disease."

According to an event volunteer, the 35-year-old Tonelli has blown past other participants with her determination. Tonelli has organized silent auctions, sponsorships and her own Heart for Hope benefit, a wine tasting event held on Thursday evening at the DZian Gallery in Worchester.

Tonelli said that the disease was a "brick wall" that changed her perspective on life. Since then, she has been working fervently with Virginia Goolkaian, the regional manager of the Huntington’s disease Society of America in New England. It was Goolkasian who helped Tonelli get involved in the fight against HD.

Goolkaian has organized fund-raising and outreach events throughout the region in the past few years. From hoop-a-thons to golf tournaments, Goolkasian is reaching out to all her resources to get the word out and bring money in. Although she and one other woman are the only HDSA staff, Goolkasian is backed by a growing army of volunteers. These emissaries of HD bring the message to their friends, workplaces and neighborhoods — spreading the word to heighten awareness and support.
"There's [a supporter] who's married to someone in Pearl Jam," said Goolkasian, proudly, "people go to co-workers, families — people they know."

Just recently, Goolkasian has gained support from documentary filmmaker Ted Bogosian, whose newest movie, titled "50/50", directly addresses the hardships of Huntington’s disease. The project was recently endorsed by Danny DeVito, who Goolkasian says she is "working on" recruiting.

But Goolkasian and Tonelli aren't the only ones bringing in money. Lindsey Tanner, one of the seven walk-a-thon committee volunteers, said she raised roughly $1,100 within the past three months. Tanner said that even her mother-in-law has gotten involved by sparking a partnership with Harley Davidson. It is now rumored that the motorcycle magnate will be present at a fundraiser "in the works" near Worcester.

"It's just by word of mouth," began Tanner, "but I think we're doing really well."

Neurologist and HDSA supporter Dr. Jang-Ho Cha has been teaming up with Goolkasian to get closer to a cure. Cha is a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and specializes in neurological diseases like Huntington’s.

Cha said that he was amazed at how much influence fundraisers like the walk-a-thon have done for HD research. According to Cha, about half of his lab's research budget comes from small-town contributions made by people like Goolkasian, Tonelli and Tanner. Because donation money does not have the same spending restrictions that federal grant money requires, Cha said his lab has the freedom to investigate innovative solutions.

"We wouldn't be able to do [experiments] without this type of money," said Cha, "the same old stuff isn't going to get us there."

But even the money that Goolkasian, Tonelli and Tanner have raised is not enough to cure the disease. Cha emphasized that time, money and awareness about the disease are the real secrets to stopping HD. Although Cha said that a solution may not come in the next several years, he is confident that research is moving in the right direction.

"We're clearly not where we need to be," admitted Cha, "[but] it really is true that there's a lot of progress."

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QUINCY, Mass.—Three MBTA boat commuters fought for tradition at this evening's annual service planning meeting held in City Hall.

The graying male trio said they represented a group of over 30 riders who will be affected by the route changes proposed by the service planning team. Though they came separately, all three attendees attacked the proposed elimination of the 8:30 p.m. boat route from the Hingham Shipyard in Hingham to Rowes Wharf in Boston.

"People who take the boat... do it because it's a way of life," was Charles Hayes' statement to the MBTA. Hayes and party had the undivided attention of the MBTA service planning team. In a room with 40 seats and space for 40 more, the small group were the only attendants who were not affiliated with the MBTA, the media or a government agency.

The new Greenbush commuter rail service to South Station, which opened in October of 2007, absorbed many commuter boat patrons, says Hayes. The claim is reminiscent to that of privately owned bus provider JBL, who argued that ridership significantly fell after Greenbush opened in Weymouth, causing them to discontinue service there.

Service plan manager Melissa Dullea was part of the team that extended commuter rail service into Weymouth.

"Ridership on boats, generally, is lower with Greenbush being open," admitted Dullea. However, Dullea said that the lack of customers was what identified the 8:30 p.m. boat as a "low-hanging fruit" subject to cuts.

According to Dullea, the routes targeted in the service plan are those that have a net cost per passenger that is greater than three times the subsidy for that type of transportation. The 8:30 p.m. commuter boat, for instance, costs the MBTA over $27 per passenger. Though the system-wide subsidy for commuter boats was not mentioned at the meeting, the average was 90 cents in 2004. The Service Plan team have yet to respond to questions regarding the subsidies in place.

Dullea and Hayes may cross paths once more at the September 15 meeting in Weymouth, which Hayes says he will likely attend.

"Clearly, [Hayes] knew what was going on," said Dullea, following the meeting.

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Groceries Draw B.U. Women

6:04 PM. All work by , ,

BOSTON—Local produce got "picked up" and taken home by campus women for a second week in a row at today's B.U. Farmer's Market. The event, hosted by B.U. Dining Services, takes place in front of the GSU every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until mid-October.

Although the setup is more like a roadside stand and less like the bustling bazaar of Government Center, the little shop does a good job representing a handful of local farms from Maine to New Jersey. The casual yet classy white tents and covered tables were an attractive detour for customers, like Rebecca Shanker (SAR '09), who curiously wandered in.

"I'm not a big organic person," said Shanker, "but I always like locally grown food." The cheerful senior was on her way to a PDP class and simply stopped by to investigate. She was in and out in roughly 10-15 minutes and walked off with some tomatoes, green beans and an eggplant big enough to prop a fire door.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this, but we'll see!" added Shanker as she boldly approached the register, eggplant in hand.

Strangely, eggplant is one of the more popular items B.U. is selling. Other shopper favorites include ears of corn from Rehobeth, MA ($0.50 ea.), bundled green beans from Hope, RI ($1.50 ea.) and an assortment of peaches, nectarines and apples from South Dartmouth, MA ($0.50 ea.). And perhaps for the fun of contradiction, the "farmer's market" even sells a variety of breads, cookies, cakes and honey to top it off with.

The entire event is something that CAS senior Colleen Ryan sees as a resource for students that B.U. has failed to publicize.

"I don't know if B.U. advertised before," said Ryan, "because this is just something I randomly saw."

For off-campus residents like Ryan, buying groceries is a routine task. And with a college student's budget, buying freshly grown produce from small farms can be an expensive but necessary habit, at least for this Pennslyvannia native.

"It's not a question of if I would want to pay more, because I certainly would if it meant supporting a local cause," explained Ryan.

Despite the poor media attention, the little produce stand is attracting a lot of attention. The little shop, the size of a Warren corner-double, had 9-12 people lined up for the register and enough browsing around to qualify for a housing violation.

And while passerbys were hounded near the area: "free stuff [from SAO] without selling your soul!" a promotion for yo-yos and popsicles; two girls shouting "Wanna get a job supporting Obama?" and then the usual pitch from Bank of America and Citizen's Bank closer to the GSU; right in the crossfire was the B.U. Farmer's Market -- passively offering no shouting; no commitment; no yo-yos.

Unfortunately, B.U. Dining Services has yet to respond to questions regarding the event. Even event coordinator Amy Goodrich, outside in her pink sun-dress and winning grin, could not be swayed to comment on the unanimous success of the grass roots farmer's market.

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O'Reilly Debates Kerry for Senator

Sep 5, 2008 5:59 PM. All work by , , ,

BOSTON—John Kerry faced his first Democratic challenger for state senator this morning in a closed debate at WBZ headquarters.

Kerry's opposition is first-time candidate Edward O'Reilly, a defense attorney who joined the race to combat Kerry's position on the Iraq war. O'Reilly became Kerry's first in-house opponent in his 24 years as a Massachusetts senator — a challenge that, according to O'Reilly, Kerry has yet to take seriously.

"Democracy is not a spectator sport, it's a participatory sport... John Kerry is avoiding that," said O'Reilly after the debate. "[Kerry] would not have any debates... I sent two letters to him and he wouldn't respond to them — not at all."

That statement was refuted by Kerry's campaign manager, Roger Lau, who organized a roadside rally outside of the WBZ headquarters that morning. "We're debating today," responded Lau, "and it's only because we reached out to them, and we called and called and called, and we got it together." Lau said that the Kerry campaign was not avoiding O'Reilly and added that rumors of Kerry refusing to hold a primary debate were untrue.
In contrast to Lau's claims, some of Kerry's supporters outside the WBZ headquarters did not view O'Reilly as a legitimate threat to Kerry's reelection.

"Ed O'Reilly is a fucking joke," said Rhick Bose, a Boston College student and intern with the Kerry campaign. "He has like, 15 percent, 17 percent [of the vote]," continued Bose, "he's not a viable candidate."

Bose and two of his B.C. colleagues were among the estimated 165 people who showed up to support Kerry, some of whom skipped work or class to attend the event. Grossly outnumbered were O'Reilly's six supporters who showed up despite O'Reilly's requests otherwise. The 30 minute debate was closed to all members of the public, and only available live to reporters on closed circuit television. The debate will be broadcast at 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning on WBZ-TV.

"My supporters are working; it's a weekday," remarked O'Reilly. "It's basically a photo opportunity for Senator Kerry... and maybe to feed his ego, I'm not sure."

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