Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 195]: Charlie Baker deals drug peddlers a losing hand

When it comes to the lingering opioid crisis that has devastated families from coast to coast, Massachusetts remains at the vanguard of the battle to bring the scourge to an end.

Much of that fight has come straight from the top, marshaled by Gov. Charlie Baker, who has pushed new state laws, encouraged regional collaboration and been recognized for his efforts most notably by being chosen to serve on President Trump’s federal opioid task force.

Now he’s proposing manslaughter charges for dealers whose sales lead to a user’s death. With a topic like this, Hitch couldn’t “just say no.”

Editorial: Caring community hits back at Hurricane Harvey

It almost seems unreal that the lingering nightmare to our south is as bad as it is, while we have enjoyed calm summer weather since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas nine days ago.

But it is real. And catastrophic, affecting millions in the path of the slow-moving monster. Relentless rain, historic flooding and fierce winds and have caused dozens of deaths, widespread heartbreak and alarm, and billions of dollars worth of damage to Houston along with a swath of cities and towns in East Texas and beyond.

Once a category 4 hurricane, the storm has poured plenty of misery on Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky and northward, and will dump water on us today. On its heels, young Irma seems to be amassing similar power and could impact the United States.

Here in Worcester in a few days, we won’t only be watching all this but doing something about it.

Editorial: Labor Day, education and robots

Monday is the 130th anniversary of Labor Day in Massachusetts.

Labor Day “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Aside from also marking the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day has traditionally signified the start of the educational year, when institutions of elementary, secondary and higher education reconvene.

There’s a certain serendipity to honoring workers at the time when people of all ages continue anew their quest for education. Two recent studies suggest that never in history has the connection between education and employment been more apparent.

In his recent paper “Education and State Economic Strength: A Snapshot of Current Data,” Jeremy Thompson, senior policy analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, writes, “The emergence of a knowledge-based economy over the past several decades has led to a widening gap between workers with bachelor’s degrees and those without.”

Editorial: Bring the ‘A’ game

Mailings have gone out, supplies have been bought, and new principals have been assigned. Crosswalks are being painted, and even murals. Inspirational posters have been stapled to walls, and squeaky new sneakers are set to walk the freshly waxed halls.

Also, at last, the school administration and the Educational Association of Worcester have contract negotiations off their plates for the time being. Union members, however reluctantly, approved a new contract last week after working last year without one.

Next up: the first day of school.

Here, and for the entire school year, is where we really must bring the “A” game.

For Worcester school kids, vacation screeches to a halt tomorrow, assuming Durham School Services and the local bus drivers union come to their senses (and agreement on a new contract) to avoid an ill-advised labor strike. (Kindergarten and pre-K have until Sept. 5, according to the the Worcester Public Schools calendar.)

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 192]: Worcester’s ‘statue of limitations’

Much has been made of the battle over our nation’s many monuments that salute people or ideas whose time has passed, or which many feel should never have been celebrated in the first place.

Advocates for protecting tributes to Confederate leaders fear, ostensibly anyway, that we’re erasing our history. If only inflamed rhetoric was the worst of it.

For his part, Hitch believes it’s high time Worcester dismantles one of its most monumental mistakes.

Editorial: Science deserves healthy support

It’s hard to understand such a severe cut as President Trump proposes for the National Institutes of Health.

Science is one thing in our country that is going right. And though it requires patience and investment, research that could help us crack disease mysteries and develop treatments has powerful quality-of-life potential.

That is the kind of research the NIH undertakes and supports. And yet, the president wants to cut more than $7.7 billion from its budget next year. He also has proposed cutbacks to other science efforts.

We urge Congress, which has thankfully signalled some pushback on the matter, to protect the NIH — and the many labs reliant on it, including some cutting-edge ones here in Worcester — from this wound.

At a roundtable discussion with political leaders Wednesday, University of Massachusetts Chancellor Michael F. Collins offered some excellent reasons to oppose the president’s 22-percent cut in NIH’s budget for 2018: innovation, medical progress, the health and wellbeing of patients, and the local economy.

Editorial: When will we say, ‘Enough!’ ?

Charlottesville showed us an almost unrecognizable country over the weekend.

In that pretty, usually quiet Virginia city, the flaming torches, gun-toting marchers, and ugly, hateful chants — instigated by far-right outsiders and outliers — were “disturbing and sickening,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in Boston on Monday.

We can’t think of two more apt descriptions.

“It’s disturbing and sickening to turn on the news and see that there are people in this country who believe that the color of their skin or their place of birth makes them superior to their neighbors, and we as a commonwealth flatly denounce and reject this intolerance,” the governor said during a press conference about what could be a similar rally planned for Saturday in Boston.

The events in Charlottesville were also unusual. Unlike a surprise attack, such as when Dylann Roof slayed nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church two years ago, a sense of foreboding grew starting Friday night. The frightening clashes that erupted then and the next day sent people across the country into an unmooring sense of helplessness — and then, thankfully, for many, the opposite of helplessness.

Veterans Inc.

Editorial: On Grove Street, an enduring and worthy cause

Many of us welcome any opportunity to thank our military veterans. In Worcester, through Veterans Inc., we also have an opportunity to serve them.

That opportunity will ramp up this fall. The agency expects to begin a capital campaign to renovate its Grove Street headquarters.

This is a worthy endeavor.

Veterans Inc. has proved its mettle for more than 25 years, bringing former servicemen and women back from the brink of homelessness, joblessness, addiction and loneliness.

“This place is magic,” U.S. Navy veteran James Whitley said in a recent video posted on the agency’s website. He is among many thousands of veterans from the Worcester area and throughout New England who have found camaraderie, caring, and life-changing assistance via Veterans Inc.

Editorial: Out with the old, in with the new?

Last Wednesday, the Worcester Planning Board gave its approval to Roseland Residential Trust’s plan to build 84 units of housing on the site of Notre Dame des Canadiens Church. This brings Worcester one step closer to the demolition of the Salem Square landmark.

The previous day, Worcester Magazine reported that Mayor Joseph M. Petty will ask the City Council to “support in principle the relocation of the Red Sox Triple-A baseball team to Worcester including building a stadium to accommodate this team and further, request the City Manager do all that is reasonably in his power to facilitate this move.”

It would certainly be convenient to view these developments independently. In this way, we would not see the similarities and differences that tell a lot about the priorities of the city’s leaders and what they seem to believe residents want.

Editorial: CRISPR and the future

In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists cracked the genetic code — a breakthrough that still inspires awe and wonder for revealing the essential, powerful machinery of life.

Now science has given us something new to think about: How sacrosanct is that code? Is it OK to manipulate the unique DNA each of us carry?

Last week, a paper in Nature showed just how far scientists have opened the doors on DNA over the last decades, edging from appreciative observers to cautious participants. A global research effort lead by a team at Oregon Health & Science University used a fairly recent technology called CRISPR to edit a defective gene inside viable human embryos.