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.

Dark tourism: Why tourists go to sites associated with death and suffering

“I am an educator of the Holocaust, and my travel course takes students through Central Europe to a number of Holocaust sites. The aim is to provide students with a hands-on learning experience. However, some could well argue that this course is just another form of ‘dark tourism’ – an interest in locations that are associated with human suffering and death. What is so problematic about dark tourism? And are there redeeming features that make it worthwhile?” Daniel B. Bitran is a Professor of Psychology at the College of the Holy Cross. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Charlie Baker

On Beacon Hill: Free, but not welcome, speech

Baker selfie

State House News Service/Sam Doran

Gov. Charlie Baker takes a selfie with Pete Frates after signing the “Ice Bucket Challenge Week” law.

 


Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

It would be virtually impossible to so quickly forget the racial violence that erupted in Charlottesville last weekend, but political leaders at all levels of government this week were preoccupied with making sure they would not be condemned to a repeat of it.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, in particular, were joined at the hip for much of the week as they united in press conferences, op/eds and safety meetings to condemn white nationalists and neo-Nazis and make it clear how they felt about a “Free Speech” rally planned for yesterday by conservative groups for Boston Common.

Baker and the Legislature also partnered Thursday to pass a resolution and sign a  proclamation denouncing white supremacy that they planned to send to the White House, the Virginia governor and the mayor of Charlottesville.

Coming on the heels of the Charlottesville protests, organizers of the Boston rally said they don’t support white nationalism, but a controversial list of speakers and the potential to draw unsavory elements had police and public officials on edge heading into yesterday.

The fears were not realized as counter-protestors vastly outnumbered those attending the rally. Boston Police reported 33 arrests, according to reports.

“99.9 percent of the people here were here for the right reason, and that is to fight bigotry and hate,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said.

The First Amendment being what it is, the city issued a permit for the event that drew thousands of counter-protesters. Officials hoped for the best while planning for the worst.

Charlie Baker

State House News Service/Sam Doran

Gov. Charlie Baker said that “there is no place here for that type of hatred — period — that we saw in Virginia.”

“As governor of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, I want to be clear that there is no place here for that type of hatred — period — that we saw in Virginia,” Baker said in one of several statements he made over the course of the week.

The governor’s rhetoric seemed to escalate in intensity as the days wore on and a furor grew over President Trump’s response to the violence. Eyes in Massachusetts turned to him for moral leadership, or at least an indication of where he fell on the spectrum.

Trump, of course, condemned the violence, but with great emphasis took the position that “both sides” were to blame for the confrontation that led to the death of Heather Heyer in Virginia.

In comments made during a combative press conference criticized for giving comfort to racism, Trump chose to also blame the “alt-left” that showed up to protest the gathering of white supremacists who marched, ostensibly, in protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Baker’s condemnation of Trump’s response went from deep disappointment to something more, and earned him a shout out from the head of the Democratic Governor’s Association — Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy — who challenged the GOP in his own state to follow Baker’s lead.

“His offensive rhetoric and failure to condemn white supremacy in Charlottesville highlights a failure of the Trump administration to properly address issues that matter to people of color and promote unity and tolerance across our nation,” Baker would say.

The challenge of confronting this country’s racial history is not relegated to places like Charlottesville or communities in the South, either.

While grounds of public parks like those at the State House may be dotted with statues of J.F.K. and Horace Mann instead of General Lee, the city of Boston has its own ugly history of racism to contend with and that also came to the fore this week.

Red Sox owner John Henry said the team was ready to make a push to rename Yawkey Way, and House Majority Whip Byron Rushing has filed legislation to take the Yawkey name off the commuter rail station in the Fens.

Tom Yawkey, of course, was the longtime owner of the Boston Red Sox. He was a philanthropist and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also, according to many reports, racist toward black ballplayers and a major reason why the hometown nine were the last team in Major League League Baseball to integrate in 1959.

Walsh made some vaguely supportive comments of Henry’s call for renaming the street that runs alongside Fenway Park, but on Friday he brushed aside questions on the topic suggesting it should be left for another day to discuss.

–Matt Murphy

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  • Video: Bipartisan support for denouncing white nationalists
  • Deadline looms for low license plate lottery
  • Plainridge has huge month
  • State touts new crime-fighting, homeland security division
  • New MBTA head hired
  • Moving ahead on student assessments despite funding shortfall
Solar farm

Inbox [Aug. 20-26] News and notes from Assumption, city of Worcester, Greater Worcester Our Revolution, Quinsigamond CC, and You Inc.

Have news you or your group would like to share? Let us know by emailing it to info@worcester.ma. Be sure to include a link to the full release on your site or Facebook page so we can include it and send Sun members your way.

Worcester’s economy grows in 2nd quarter

Following a slow start to the year, the Worcester Economic Index, a quarterly economic analysis compiled by Assumption College Professor of Economics Thomas White, Ph.D., has shown that the greater Worcester economy grew at a modest clip during the second quarter of 2017. Since March, the WEI is up 1.1 percent on an annualized basis.

The WEI is estimated using Bureau of Labor Statistics data on employment and unemployment in the Worcester metropolitan area. The unemployment rate slightly increased to 4.6 percent in June while household employment has gone up by 6,400. The BLS payroll survey also showed an increase of 4,200 jobs since June 2016.

“The data shows a labor market that is steady but without much growth, which is the reason the WEI grew at a modest 1.1 percent rate during the second quarter,” White said.

Worcester Weekly: Solar eclipse, Holy Cross soccer + more, Aug. 20-26

Monday, Aug. 21 — Solar Eclipse on the Common, 1:30-3 p.m., Worcester Common Oval, behind City Hall, 455 Main St.  First of all the “path of totality” sounds like something out of a Superman comic story arc. (It would also make another strong entry in the omnipresent “great name for a band” debate.) Alas, it merely describes the course of a rare, awe-inspiring event, sponsored by Mother Nature.

Wikimedia Commons/Tomruen

Watch an uncommon event on the Common as people will gather behind City Hall to watch tomorrow’s solar eclipse.

While Worcester-area viewers won’t get a clean glimpse of the first total solar eclipse to dawn over America since 1979 (and the first to span the contiguous United States since 1918), there’s still reason to party. So head downtown, meet up with your favorite lawyer, social worker or purveyor of gentrification, and add a dollop of community atop your scientific fascination.

For more information

Wednesday, Aug. 23 — Canal District Music Series with Toni Lynn Washington, 6-8:30 p.m., behind Crompton Collective, 138 Green St.  It would be completely understandable for anyone to have at least a nagging case of the blues lately. Summer vacation has been usurped by back-to-school sales. Nobody has eclipse glasses in stock. Then there’s Trump v. Sanity in the High Court of Public Opinion.

Joe's Albums

Worcester Sun, Aug. 20: Mariano on Trump, Joe’s Albums, Little Free Libraries, dark tourism + more

Sun columnist

Mariano: We have no choice: Trump must go! | “Donald Trump has lost the moral authority to lead our nation. His words and actions have weakened our country, given safe haven to hate and bigotry and diminished our nation in the eyes of the world.”

More Ray on Trump:

Donald Trump is breaking my heart — the five stages of Trump
What happens if Trump gets impeached
Rating Trump’s staff and cabinet selections

Local Business Spotlight

Joe’s Albums helps lead resurgence of vinyl & retail on Main Street | “Between size and proximity, I wanted to get more ‘central’ and larger. I had looked in the Canal District … then looked down here and saw all of the development going on and thought that was very intriguing. … I think Worcester is truly coming back this time.” Art Simas reports on the place where vinyl records and retail are making a comeback.

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 188]: Beetles, barely — and other rare Worcester species

News came earlier this month that the once pervasive Asian longhorned beetle has all but disappeared from the Burncoat-area neighborhoods they once ravaged.

Some 35,000 trees in North Worcester, Boylston and West Boylston fell victim before years of vigilance quelled the scourge. That persistence is certainly missing in other corners of the city.

For Hitch, there is, indeed, a certain political animal that could use a wake-up call.

Teaching art: An artist’s ritual

“Collage Variations,” an ArtsWorcester exhibit currently on display at the Hadley features the work of artist and art educator Lizzie Fortin, who spoke with us about her exhibit and overall artistic practice.

Lizzie Fortin’s dynamic and bold 8-by-8-inch mixed-media collages are all unique and eye-catching. A variety of bold shades, textures and images play against carefully selected and layered text that may come from various ephemera glued to the surface.

Her pieces evoke an intense sense of curiosity, with the desire to keep investigating closer to see if one can draw conclusions from the energetic and fractured contexts.

Fortin’s artwork is featured in the three-person exhibit “Collage Variations.” Ten of her incredible mixed-media collages are on display in the Hadley Building at 657 Main St., in a show with two other artists, Susan Black and Leonard Gerwick, exhibited by ArtsWorcester.