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Mass Audubon announces winner of annual photo contest

December 17, 2013 10:00 AM
The following was submitted by Mass Audubon:

 More than 2,000 images poured into Mass Audubon offices in response to its fourth-annual statewide photo contest, Picture This: Your Great Outdoors, guaranteeing that the selection of winners for the 2013 competition would be the toughest yet.
 
But after reviewing each entry submitted by the almost 700 participating photographers, Mass Audubon judges found their Grand Prize Winner: an image of bare-limbed birches against the backdrop of a salt marsh illuminated by a late-afternoon sun.
 
The photograph was taken by Wakefield photographer and longtime Mass Audubon member Paul Mozell at Mass Audubon’s Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Rowley. “That is such a beautiful place,” Mozell said. “I remember scrambling around to find the perfect place to set up my tripod, racing to get some good images before the sun set.”
 
Mozell’s photo was chosen from a selection of 10 winners by photographers competing in “18
and Older” and “Under 18” age levels and across five subject categories: People in Nature, Birds, Other Animals, Plants and Fungi, and Landscapes. Another 11 images earned Honorable
Mention status.
 
Each entrant was allowed to submit up to five photographs, which had to be taken in Massachusetts or at Mass Audubon’s Wildwood Camp, located in Rindge, New Hampshire. The contest, which attracted participants of all abilities, ran from April through September.
 
The photo contest is one more way for the regional environmental leader to help members and the public view nature as key to our collective quality of life, Mass Audubon President Henry Tepper noted. “In only its fourth year, ‘Picture This: Your Great Outdoors’ has already become a popular statewide photo contest, as well as a terrific way for people of all backgrounds to connect with the outdoors, and be inspired by the natural beauty of Massachusetts,” Tepper said.
 
As photographer of the Grand Prize winner, Mozell will be awarded a $250 gift card to be redeemed at a Mass Audubon shop or wildlife sanctuary. Also, his photo will be published in an issue of Connections, Mass Audubon’s member newsletter. The other winners will be awarded $100 Mass Audubon gift cards and Honorable Mention photographers will receive $50 gift cards.
 
To enjoy a photo gallery of the Grand Prize Winner, other winning images, and Honorable Mentions, please visit www.massaudubon.org/picturethis

Foundation for MetroWest awards $228k in grants to various communities

December 16, 2013 02:03 PM

Representatives from the Foundation for MetroWest announced last week that the foundation has awarded $228,000 in grants to organizations in various communities west of Boston.

The announcement was part of an event held last week at The Center for the Arts in Natick.

The 2013 distributions were focused on three key service areas: arts and culture, environment, and family support. This year's grant recipients will use the money to fund a variety of programs along the lines of these themes, including support for families at-risk of becoming homeless; workforce training and job placement programs; improving access to the arts for underserved populations; the removal of invasive species from local watersheds; and resources to the elderly and victims of domestic abuse.

“During this time of unprecedented financial need, Foundation for MetroWest is proud to support organizations throughout the region,” said Judith Salerno, the foundation's executive director. “By distributing these much needed funds, we are doing our part to ensure that the MetroWest region remains vital and strong.”

A complete list of grant recipients in each category is as follows:

Family Support

  • Advocates, Inc., Framingham
  • Bethany Hill School, FraminghamCOMPASS for Kids, Lexington
  • Cooperative Elder Services, Inc. Lexington
  • Employment Options, Inc., Marlborough
  • Framingham Adult ESL, Natick
  • Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts, Acton
  • Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Waltham
  • Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, Framingham
  • LVM Literacy Unlimited, Framingham
  • MetroWest Legal Services, Inc., Framingham
  • MetroWest Mediation Services, Framingham
  • Minuteman Senior Services, Bedford
  • Natick Service Council, Inc., Natick
  • New Hope, Inc., Attleboro
  • Newton Community Service Center, West Newton
  • REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, Waltham
  • SMOC - Voices Against Violence, Framingham
  • Waltham Partnership for Youth, Waltham
  • WATCH, Inc., Waltham


Arts and Culture

  • Assabet Valley Mastersingers, Inc., Northborough
  • The Center for the Arts in Natick (TCAN), Natick
  • Danforth Art, Museum\School, Framingham
  • Framingham History Center, Framingham
  • Gore Place, Waltham
  • Medway Friends of Elders, Medway
  • Music Access Group, Dedham
  • New Repertory Theatre, Watertown
  • North Hill, Needham
  • Plugged In, Needham


Environment

  • Charles River Watershed Association, Weston
  • Lake Cochituate Watershed Council, Inc., Natick
  • Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, Belmont
  • Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln
  • OARS, Concord
  • Waltham Land Trust, Waltham

The foundation has distributed over $8 million in grants to the local community since its inception in 1995.

For more information, visit the foundation's official website.

State Sen. Barrett joins committees on health, adoption, early edication

December 12, 2013 12:40 PM

State Sen. Mike Barrett, a Lexington Democrat who also represents Waltham and other nearby communities, has been named to three committees specializing in health disparities, adoption costs, and early education access, according to a statement from his office.

mbarrettsmallpic.jpg
State Sen. Mike Barrett
He was recently named to the Health Disparities Council, the Early Education and Care Commission, and a newly-created task force on the adoption process in Massachusetts. The Health Disparities Council, created in 2006, looks for solutions to health care inequalities. The council includes hospitals, insurance companies, community health centers, and the Massachusetts Medical Society, among others. Originally charged with examining racial and ethnic disparities, the council included people with disabilities earlier this year after Barrett pushed for it, according to his office. Representatives noted that he also serves as Senate chair on the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. His office, citing the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said that 13 percent of disabled Massachusetts residents report getting to a doctor is prohibitively expensive, compared to 6 percent of people without a disability. That gap is small relative to other states, but Barrett said in his statement that more can be done. When people with disabilities do get to the doctor’s office, Barrett said, they face further challenges: Earlier this year, a survey of more than 250 specialists in major American cities found that fewer than 10 percent of offices had disability-friendly equipment, such as height-adjustable examining tables, and most lacked specially-trained employees, the statement said.

“On the whole, people with disabilities smoke at a higher rate and have higher obesity numbers,” said Barrett, a healthcare IT specialist by profession, in his statement. “When you dig deeper, you’ll see this population also has a harder time seeing doctors due to high costs.”

Barrett has also been appointed to a newly-formed adoption task force which will recommend ways to reduce costs and delays in the adoption process. The task force, led by children and families department commissioner Olga Roche, will consult with chief justices of the probate and family and juvenile courts to come up with solutions.

Adoption expenses consist of home study and legal fees, among other costs, Barrett's office said.

Barrett will also serve on the recently-created Early Education and Care Commission, which will study early education's high costs and care services, and look at ways to expand access.

Citing the nonprofit Early Education for All, Barrett's office said 40 percent of pre-school aged children in Massachusetts are not enrolled in an early education program.

“Sixteen percent of kids who aren’t reading at a proficient level when they finish third grade end up not graduating from high school on time,” Barrett said. “We should be investing in their future from an early age.”

For more information, visit Barrett's legislative page.

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Follow us on Twitter: @yourtownwaltham, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

Lincoln public schools settle discrimination complaint for $315,000

November 22, 2013 01:56 PM


The Lincoln Public School district agreed Thursday to pay $315,000 to settle a discrimination complaint filed by an African-American department head who alleged she was fired for protesting discrepancies between punishments doled out to children of different races.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in July found probable cause that the district and its then-superintendent Michael Brandmeyer may have discriminated against Metco program director Christina Horner when they eliminated her position in 2011. In the settlement, the district denies wrongdoing, and Horner agrees to withdraw and dismiss complaints she filed with MCAD and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“My next steps are simple,” said Horner in an email. “Forgiveness. No further comment on the matter.”

Horner’s attorney Robert Catapano-Friedman said his client was pleased to have the complaint behind her. He declined to comment on the negotiation process.

“I think it was a fair settlement, and that it resolves the matter,” he said. “All parties are happy to move on.”

Lincoln’s current superintendent, Rebecca McFall, did not respond to a request for comment; Brandmeyer could not immediately be reached.

“It was in the best interests of all the parties to move on,” said Peter E. Montgomery, the lawyer representing Brandmeyer and the district. “We went to conciliation in good faith and there’s no admission of liability on the part of any party, but you know, as is often the case, we certainly felt that it was in the best interest of the town to put this matter behind us.”

According to the agreement, $50,000 of the settlement is to cover Horner’s attorney’s fees. The town’s insurer will pay $207,500 of the settlement, and Lincoln will pay the remaining $107,500.

Horner, who worked for the district for nine years, alleged that she was targeted for termination after questioning in the fall of 2009 why two African-American boys who pulled down each other’s pants were punished more harshly than a Caucasian girl who did the same thing to a male Metco classmate. The boys were given one-day in-school suspensions, while the girl was given a lunch detention and made to apologize to her class.

The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity program buses city students to suburban districts in an effort to provide them with better educational opportunities, and to create more racially diverse student bodies.

According to MCAD documents filed by Horner, Brandmeyer began talking about eliminating Horner’s position in April 2010. When her contract ran out in 2011, she was let go. During a January 2011 public meeting where minority hiring was discussed, according to Horner’s complaint, Brandmeyer said, “We only hire the best and brightest. Unfortunately the people of color whom we have interviewed have not been the best and brightest.”

The district maintained that Horner’s position was eliminated due to Metco budget cuts and an attendant increase in program costs, according to MCAD documents. The two pantsing incidents were treated differently, according to the district, because the one involving the two African American students was more severe than the one involving the Caucasian girl and the boy who was a Metco student.

Charges in death of Stephen Rakes updated to murder

November 15, 2013 05:16 PM

The following is a press release from the Middlesex District Attorney's Office:


Charges against William Camuti, 69, of Sudbury, have been upgraded to murder for the death of Stephen Rakes, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced today.

A recalled Middlesex Grand Jury indicted Camuti today on a charge of murder. He was previously indicted October 3 on charges of attempted murder, misleading police, and unlawful disposition of human remains.

An arraignment date in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn has not yet been scheduled.

“The defendant lured the victim to a meeting at which they were to discuss a business deal. Instead the defendant used the meeting as an occasion to serve the victim a poisoned iced coffee,” said District Attorney Ryan. “Based upon the ruling of the Medical Examiner we have now charged the defendant with murder. As the case moves forward, we intend to hold the defendant accountable for this premeditated murder.”

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled in October that the cause of Rakes’ death was acute cyanide toxicity and the manner of death was homicide.

The body of Rakes, 59, of Quincy – with no identification, keys or cell phone – was discovered at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17 in a wooded area off Mill Street in Lincoln.

Lincoln Police and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office immediately launched an investigation.

Surveillance video showed Rakes leaving the Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse the afternoon of July 16, where he had been regularly attending the trial of Whitey Bulger. He appeared to be wearing the same clothing when his body was found.

The investigation revealed that Camuti and Rakes had a longstanding business relationship. The defendant is alleged to have owed Rakes a significant amount of money which Rakes was attempting to collect. Based on evidence gathered by investigators, Camuti and Rakes spoke by phone on Tuesday, July 16 and Camuti requested a meeting to discuss a potential investment property in Wilmington.

Camuti allegedly met the victim around 1:45 p.m. at McDonald’s on Main Street in Waltham on July 16. The defendant purchased two iced coffees, one of which he had allegedly mixed with two teaspoons of potassium cyanide. He gave the laced drink to the victim, who drank from it.

It is alleged that the defendant drove around Waltham, Woburn, Burlington and Lincoln for several hours with the victim in the vehicle. It is further alleged the defendant dumped the body of Rakes in the wooded area in Lincoln where it was found the next day.

During the ensuing investigation, Camuti who was the last person known to have seen or spoken to Rakes on July 16 was interviewed by police. It is alleged that on two consecutive days Camuti misled these investigators.

Camuti was arrested August 2 and arraigned in Concord District Court, where he was held without bail following a dangerousness hearing.

These charges are allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The incident remains under investigation by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the Lincoln Police.

The prosecutor assigned to the case is Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch, Chief of Homicide. The Victim Witness Advocate is Kristin D’Agnelli.

House passes military spending bill aimed at protecting Massachusetts bases from closure

November 13, 2013 05:23 PM

The House on Wednesday passed a $177 million military bond bill, which is unique in using state money to fund projects at military installations around the state.

The bill’s supporters see the investments as a potential method of insulating Massachusetts from future base closures.

Rep. Harold Naughton, a Clinton Democrat who is House chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, spoke briefly in favor of the legislation before members voted 148-0 to support the bill, sending it to the Senate.

Gov. Deval Patrick originally filed an eight-section bond bill (H 3334). The bill that passed, which was amended by the House Committee on Ways and Means, included an additional four sections, dictating the appointment of the task force and providing it with the ability to identify initiatives and business partnerships.

In 2005, the state approved a $261 military bond bill for missions at Hanscom Air Force Base and Natick Soldier Systems Center, however the military never went forward with the missions, and none of the money was spent. The new bill would remove that bond authorization.

- A. Metzger/SHNS

Sudbury teen asks Apple to change its outdated definition of 'gay'

November 13, 2013 04:48 PM
Massachusetts teen shocked by MacBook’s definition of ‘gay,’ and so is Apple (via Raw Story )

A Massachusetts teenager said she was so shocked to see an offensive and outdated definition for the word “gay” in Apple’s online dictionary that she asked the company to change it. And in another shock, the 15-year-old said a company official…

Onions move to the forefront in Indian politics

October 31, 2013 10:59 AM

India, with its 1.2 billion people, is home to 25% of the world's hungry, according to the United Nations, and a third of its poor, according to the World Bank. And for the majority of the poor other than the staple food of rice or wheat, onions form the important component of regular diet.

A spike in Onion prices in India is bringing on a bit of a stire in India, especially in the days before Diwali, the Festival of Lights. "The price spiral has created a crisis of epic culinary proportions in middle class kitchens as the country goes into its biggest festival season of the year,'' says Forbes.

Onions are an incomparable ingredient in most cuisines and not surprisingly and symbolically often individual personalities are likened to the layers of an onion. As is well known, onions are a major source of polyphenols in general, and also of flavonoids (a very important subdivision of polyphenols). They can also vary greatly in their polyphenol and flavonoid content. In general, red onions are higher in total flavonoids than white onions, (with yellow onions falling somewhere in between).

Within the US, data suggests that onions range in size, color, and taste depending upon their variety. There are generally two types of large, globe-shaped onions, classified as spring/summer or storage onions. The former class includes those that are grown in warm weather climates and have characteristic mild or sweet tastes. Included in this group are the Maui Sweet Onion (in season April through June), Vidalia (in season May through June) and Walla Walla (in season July and August). Storage onions are grown in colder weather climates and, after harvesting, are dried out for a period of several months, which allows them to attain dry, crisp skins. They generally have a more pungent flavor and are usually named by their color: white, yellow or red. Spanish onions fall into this classification. In addition to these large onions, there are also smaller varieties such as the green onion, or scallion, and the pearl onion.

India is one of the largest producers of onions in the world and is usually a net exporter. The price of a kilogram of onions has more than quadrupled from last year to a record 90 rupees-100 rupees ($1.48-$1.65), despite government predictions that prices would drop following good monsoon rains. Inflation data showed that wholesale onion prices shot up 245 per cent in August compared with a year earlier, driving the wholesale price index up 6.1 per cent.

The unrelenting monsoon rains this year have also caused some damage to the crop. A good monsoon leads to bountiful harvest resulting in increased agricultural incomes, boosts rural consumption and drives the economy. A weak monsoon - and droughts, in extreme cases - hurts farm workers, raises food prices, encourages hoarders and generally creates havoc in the economy. India's is very dependent on monsoons to irrigate the farmlands. The country receives 75% of its yearly rainfall between June and September. Some 70% of Indians depend directly or indirectly on farming. Also, agriculture accounts for 14.5% of India's $1.83 trillion GDP, and though its share is declining, agriculture still accounts for 58% of the total employment in the country.

But nothing explains the astronomical price. The Indian farmer certainly isn’t enjoying a windfall. Everyone knows that middlemen are hoarding onions. Even when the produce is plentiful, traders and middlemen hold back stocks to keep prices artificially high. India has a 19 percent share of global onion production, second only to China. Amid protests from angry lawmakers, the national government has been forced to announce steps to curb price rises including measures aimed at limiting exports. And with many states holding provincial elections this month and a national election next year, opposition parties have been quick to get on the offensive.

This year it has imported onions from Egypt and China, and it is looking elsewhere too. And the government is also considering importing onions from neighboring Pakistan -- India's arch-rival. That being said Indians have not experienced onions – raw or cooked in some time. For the economically challenged, food has remained bland without the pungency of the delectable onion and for the affluent have had to do without the browned and crisped up onions in various dishes. As Elizabeth Pennell states, “Banish (the onion) from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and dinner to despair.” And most of all, this crisis of onions is an unsavory economic trend that deprives the poor of access to quality food and source of income.

Rajashree Ghosh is a resident scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University in Waltham.

Obama coming to Weston tonight to raise cash and enjoy Red Sox cookies

October 30, 2013 10:53 AM

President Obama is expected tonight to raise money at a reception and dinner in Weston, with about 60 high-powered, moneyed attendees planning to fill Democratic coffers.

The event is being hosted by longtime Democratic fundraiser Alan D. Solomont and his wife, Susan. Guests will be served Spanish-influenced fare in honor of Solomont’s post as US ambassador to Spain, which he completed in August. For dessert? Red Sox cookies.

Among those expected to attend are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Governor Deval Patrick; Ken Burns, the director of acclaimed documentaries; Representative Steve Israel, who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Swanee Hunt, former US ambassador to Austria; and retired US Navy admiral James Stavridis.

Also expected are several members of Congress, including John Tierney, of Salem; Niki Tsongas, of Lowell; and David Cicilline, of Rhode Island. Former congressman Barney Frank is also planning to attend, according to a DCCC aide.

It’s the fifth fundraiser that Obama has held in the 2014 cycle for the DCCC. Ticket prices ranged from $16,200 per person to $64,800 per couple. The DCCC would not say how much Obama expected to raise in total.

Solomont is the former US ambassador to Spain, serving from January 2010 until August 2013. He will start in January as the dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts.

Solomont has for decades been a prominent Democratic fundraiser and his home has hosted the party’s luminaries. Bill and Hillary Clinton have partied at their home, as did Senator Edward M. Kennedy, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, and Tom Daschle.

When Obama walks into his house, he will be able to view a mixture of paintings and Grateful Dead memorabilia. He could also peruse Solomont’s collection of autographs, which includes a 1794 document signed by Samuel Adams, letters from Eleanor Roosevelt, a letter signed by President Harry Truman, and an autograph and photo of Jack Kerouac.

Or, if he’s so inclined, Solomont could also show the president the House Judiciary committee’s roll-call vote on President Nixon’s impeachment.

Obama will attend the fundraiser after he delivers a health care speech at historic Faneuil Hall. He is scheduled to head to the airport after the fundraiser, leaving about an hour before the first pitch is thrown at Fenway to start Game 6 of the World Series.

Asked at the end of a White House briefing on Tuesday whether Obama would be staying in Boston for the game, press secretary (and die-hard Red Sox fan) Jay Carney said, “No, ma’am.”

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com. This post first appeared on the Political Intelligence blog.

Regional and vocational technical schools would get more money under bill

October 24, 2013 04:39 PM

Regional and vocational technical high schools would be eligible for additional state funding for capital projects, under legislation filed by Sen. Kenneth Donnelly, an Arlington Democrat.

Advocates for the bill (S 228) told lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Education Thursday that regional and vocational technical high schools desperately need the state’s help to fund renovation and improvement projects because it is nearly impossible to get several different towns all to agree to take on the debt.

James Laverty, superintendent at Franklin County Technical School, said his school has done as many renovations as they can over the years without asking the towns for money.

“We will have to go to 19 towns at town meeting with our hat in our hands,” he said.

The odds are stacked against them to get all the towns to approve a large renovation project, Laverty said.

The town of Heath, in Franklin County, has only two students who attend the school out of 500 students. If 70 people in Heath show up at town meeting, and 36 vote no, “the whole project is dead in the water,” Laverty said.

Under the legislation, regional and vocational technical high schools would be eligible for additional reimbursement, which is calculated by the Massachusetts School Building Authority based on a four-part formula. A school district can receive up to 80 percent of the cost of a capital improvement project, and must pay for any remaining share of the cost.

The formula awards percentage points of reimbursement in three mandatory income-based metrics. Regional school districts often have unequal shares for each city or town when improvement costs are allocated, according to Donnelly’s office. The legislation would increase the percentage points awarded in the grant process for regional schools by 10 points, and vocational schools would receive 20 additional points. The goal is lower the costs for cities and towns, according to Donnelly’s office.

If the Legislature offers a “little more” and regional school capital projects can get closer to 80 percent reimbursement from the MSBA, “it would make it a little easier,” Laverty said.

Alice DeLuca, the Stow representative to the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Lexington, said vocational and technical high school students are at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts at traditional high schools because their schools cannot renovate and bring in the latest technologies.

State lawmakers need to back up with money the support they voice for vocational and technical schools, she said.

“These schools provide the middle skills that everybody says they want,” DeLuca said.

“The kids who go to vocational schools do not have a nice, new renovated building and they are never going to unless something is done,” she added.

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