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Free rides after 8 p.m., extra service on MBTA for New Year's Eve

December 26, 2013 10:48 AM

The MBTA said it will continue its annual tradition of offering free rides after 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, while boosting service on its subway and commuter rail lines to accommodate people traveling to celebrate First Night.

On New Year’s Eve, the T's Green, Red, Orange, and Blue lines will operate on modified weekday schedules with extra trains running at “rush-hour levels of service” from about 3 p.m. until 2 a.m., officials announced.

The T’s commuter rail lines will also run on modified weekday schedules with additional service, including a number of lines that will see extra outbound service and some delayed outbound departures between midnight and 2 a.m., officials said.

To see a detailed list of extra commuter rail service and delayed departure times, click here.

Meanwhile, the T’s Silver Line, buses, trackless trolleys, express bus routes and boats will run on regular weekday schedules on New Year’s Eve, officials said.

The T’s paratransit service, the RIDE, will run on a regular weekday schedule with extended hours until 2:30 a.m.

On New Year’s Day, the four subway lines will run on Sunday schedules as will the Silver Line, the RIDE, the commuter rail and buses, meaning some commuter rail and bus lines will not operate, officials said.

For a detailed list of subway and bus routes that will not run on New Year’s Day, click here.

The T will not run boat service on New Year’s Day.

City officials have encouraged people traveling in and around Boston on New Year's Eve to ride public transit, including the T. A number of streets will be closed to traffic, while parking will be banned on others. For a detailed list, click here.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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Lahey's acquisition of Winchester Hospital, other moves to be reviewed

December 19, 2013 04:39 PM

Nearing the end of its first full-scale review of a proposed hospital merger, the Health Policy Commission on Wednesday approved two more full cost and market impact reviews of proposed hospital acquisitions in Winchester, Melrose and Medford.

The commission on Wednesday approved a preliminary report recommending a referral to Attorney General Martha Coakley and deeming Partners HealthCare System’s planned acquisition of South Shore Hospital and Harbor Medical Associates would increase costs without a substantial increase in health care system benefits and savings.

The commission then turned its attention to the suburbs north of Boston, approving a review of Partners’ proposed acquisition of Hallmark Health System and a review of Lahey Health System’s proposed acquisition of Winchester Hospital.

Hallmark operates Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose. Commission staff noted Partners’ plan calls for “significant restructuring of services at North Shore Medical Center” and said it “raises significant competitive concerns, including the potential of the resulting system to negotiate higher prices through increased bargaining leverage.”

HPC staff said Lahey became “more concentrated” when it merged with Northeast Health System and said an additional acquisition would raise similar “competitive concerns.”

- A. Metzger/SHNS

Steward Hospitals, workers come to agreement on contract

December 17, 2013 05:05 PM

With 96 percent support, close to 5,000 health care workers who work at eight eastern Massachusetts hospitals ratified a new contract with Steward Health Care, the union SEIU 1199 announced Tuesday.

The agreement between workers and hospitals from Methuen to Taunton is the largest union vote since “tens of thousands of homecare workers voted to join SEIU in 2007,” according to the union, which said the 2007 vote was the biggest in the state’s history.

The vote sets in place a three-year contract for workers at Saint Elizabeth’s Medical
Center in Brighton; Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton; Carney Hospital in Dorchester; Quincy Medical Center; Norwood Hospital; Holy Family Hospital in Methuen; Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill; and Morton Hospital in Taunton.

Steward hospital workers at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer; Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River; and New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton have not organized to join a union, the SEIU stated.

“This agreement is a victory for healthcare workers and includes provisions that will continue to improve and reward the remarkable care that 1199SEIU caregivers at Steward hospitals deliver to our communities,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner in a statement.

The three-year agreement covers clerical, service and technical employees; guarantees union members annual 2 percent pay increases; and requires that the “lower-wage hospital workers covered by the pact” receive at least a living wage. The contract was ratified over recent weeks at various locations.

- A. Metzger/SHNS

A new name coming for that place known as Comcast Center

December 11, 2013 09:10 PM

Some of us remember when Mansfield outdoor amphitheater was called Great Woods. Now it’s been newly christened as the Xfinity Center, the fourth name in 27 years.

Now, stay with us here because this gets a bit confusing. Comcast in 2008 bought naming rights for the venue — then called the Tweeter Center after the now-bankrupt electronics chain—and immediately dubbed it the rather obvious Comcast Center. On Wednesday, Comcast and concert promoter Live Nation changed the name again, to the Xfinity Center, a nod to the company’s television and Internet business. Got it?

“We are excited to place the name Xfinity on one of the most-loved entertainment venues in New England,” said Steve Hackley, senior vice president of Comcast’s Greater Boston region. Full story for subscribers.

Survey seeks opinions on Norfolk County judges

October 21, 2013 10:00 AM

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — The state’s highest court is sending questionnaires to attorneys and court employees in Norfolk County, seeking input on 35 judges as part of an ongoing program to evaluate judicial performance.

The Supreme Judicial Court’s survey covers several categories including a judge’s knowledge of the law, fairness and impartiality, temperament on the bench and treatment of litigants, witnesses, jurors and attorneys.

Lawyers who have appeared in court in the county over the last two years will receive questionnaires.

All questionnaires are confidential and do not ask for the names of the respondents. The resulting reports also will be confidential and are given only to the judge being evaluated and to the chief justices of their courts.

Questionnaires will be accepted by the SJC through mid-December.

Massachusetts congressional delegation votes against delay in health care act

September 30, 2013 11:00 AM

All eight current U.S. House members from Massachusetts voted against a temporary budget measure put forward by House GOP leadership over the weekend that would have averted a government shutdown by delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act for one year and repealing the tax on medical devices used to help fund the health care reform law.

The continuing resolution that would have funded the federal government through Dec. 15 cleared the Republican-controlled House on a mostly party-line vote of 231-192, with the Massachusetts delegation voting in a bloc to protect Obamacare despite opposition in the delegation to the medical device tax.

With the Democrat-controlled Senate preparing to reject the budget bill on Monday, time is running out and options appear limited to avert the first government shutdown since late 1995 into early 1996 when Bill Clinton was president. That shutdown lasted 21 days.

Sen. Edward Markey last week warned that a government shutdown could delay processing of new Social Security benefit applications and access to student and small business loans. The House also passed a measure to ensure that military pay continues in the event of a government shutdown if a deal cannot be reached by midnight. Open enrollment for new health plans under the ACA is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

- M. Murphy/SHNS

Snapshot: The cost of safety

September 19, 2013 05:19 AM

Fire Department spending as a percentage of all expenditure spending, fiscal year, 2012.

Click here to see a larger, interactive version of this chart.
Additional town-by-town snapshots.

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch answers questions on Syria at Quincy town meeting

September 13, 2013 11:29 AM

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, who opposes US military intervention in Syria, was in good company at town hall in Quincy Thursday.

The South Boston Democrat spent nearly two hours taking questions from a polite crowd, whose inquiries revealed a deep vein of doubt that military action would achieve positive results for the country and thanks that Lynch held that view.

“I really appreciate your commitment to voting against another war in the Middle East,” said Dorchester resident Jeff Klein, 67, echoing the sentiment of the majority of questioners in the Quincy High School auditorium.

The crowd of about 100 people, which was split between men and woman, skewed older and included a number of military veterans. Many asked questions of fact -- how can we know that the chemical weapons were used by Assad’s regime? -- while others just wanted to have their voice heard in opposition to striking Syria.

Lynch gave detailed, often nuanced, answers to every question he was asked, often peppering his responses with anecdotes from his many visits over the years to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region.

He said that the high volume of constituent calls and emails about the potential intervention in Syria -- more than five to one against -- prompted him to hold the event.

On Aug. 31, President Obama said in an address he believed the US should take military action against Syria after the reported use of chemical weapons by the forces of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. But, he said, he would first ask Congress for its green light.

In the subsequent days, public opinion and the opinion of many members of Congress, both Democratic and Republican, appeared to be strongly opposed to authorizing Obama to strike Syria. Many in the all-Democratic Massachusetts congressional delegation, Lynch among them, expressed deep skepticism about military action in the civil war-torn Middle Eastern country.

But after a potential diplomatic settlement in which Syria would give up its chemical weapons began to gain traction, Obama announced Tuesday he had asked Congress postpone a vote on the authorization of force.

Before Lynch took questions Thursday evening, he spoke about what informed his opposition to authorizing the use of force and was repeatedly interrupted by applause from the audience.

He said there were two main reasons he was currently against intervention.

The first, he said, is that there is a “fundamental flaw in the foreign policy of the United States to unilaterally attack Syria without meaningful international support.”

The second was that “the course of military action that has been chosen, as described Secretary [of State John F.] Kerry has I think a pretty unlikely probability of success in terms achieving what we would hope for in Syria.”

Lynch’s position puts him at odds with Obama, an issue he addressed early in the forum.

“I love my President, but, based on my own reading of this -- and this is where democracy with a small d comes into play -- I think that’s the wrong the decision,” Lynch said.

Lynch staffers provided copies of the authorization resolution, which many in the audience flipped through over the course of the event.

Heba Eid, 28, was one of the only questioners who expressed support of US military action in Syria.

“I don’t think Bashar al-Assad is going to agree to any kind of diplomacy unless there is military pressure on him,” Eid said. “I think that the House should vote for military action.” She said that doing nothing in the face of the alleged chemical weapons use would send the wrong message to Assad.

Lynch, engaged in a lengthy but respectful back and forth with her, replied that “There are a lot of options between bombing and doing nothing.”

In the televised primetime address on Tuesday, Obama also said that taking action in Syria did not mean the US would get involved in every humanitarian crisis across the world.

“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death...I believe we should act,” the President said.

But that message had not resonated among the people in the auditorium Thursday night.

Quincy resident Russell Erikson, 91, served as a pilot in World War II and was the first member of the public to arrive at the town hall. He said he was opposed to a military intervention in Syria, not wanting to see any young American men or women die in that conflict.

“We can’t police the whole world,” he said.

Joshua Miller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos. A version of this post appeared on the Political Intelligence blog.

Dunkin Donuts in Canton to host Alzheimer's event

September 10, 2013 09:34 AM

In recognition of September being World Alzheimer’s Month, Canton-based Dunkin' Donuts will help raise awareness through purple sprinkles.

During the week of Sept. 15 to 21, customers can buy the “Purple with a Purpose” Donut, a vanilla-frosted yeast donut topped with purple sprinkles throughout eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

From each sale, 33 cents will be donated to The Dunkin’ Donuts & Baskin-Robbins Community Foundation to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter.

Since 2009, eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire Dunkin’ Donuts have raised more than $70,000 for the campaign.

Brochures providing information about the disease will also be available during the entire month of September.

Customers are also invited to attend the “Purple with a Purpose” community awareness event on Thursday, Sept. 12, from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant at 360 Turnpike St. in Canton.

The event will feature donuts, coffee, giveaways, music, and the opportunity to sign up for 11 upcoming Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s events in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Canton police and Dunkin Donuts increase reward for robber's capture

September 9, 2013 09:36 AM

Canton police along with Dunkin' Brands based in Canton have increased a reward for information leading to the capture of a serial Dunkin' Donuts thief to $10,000.

The suspect, described as a white, Hispanic male, often wears a hooded sweatshirt, a black mask and carries a black handgun.

Last month, Dunkin Donuts and Canton police offered $2,500 as a reward, but the robber remains at large.

“Our hope is that someone with information will come forward before another shop is robbed or someone gets hurt,” said Canton police chief Kenneth Berkowitz.

Robberies have taken place in Canton, Dedham, Easton, Newton, North Attleborough, Norton, Norwood, Plainville, Raynham, Walpole, West Roxbury, and Westwood.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Canton Police Department’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations at 781-828-1214, extension 300 or 303.

Information may also be left at the Canton Police Department’s website at under the contact information tab.

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