Songs in the key of healing: Worcester Center for Expressive Therapies offers hope

Older patients who had suffered a stroke had lost the ability to speak, but would still be able to sing. Patients who have been unable to walk have found their stride with the assistance of the center’s music therapy. These stories aren’t as improbable as they seem. “Music activates both sides of the brain,” said Kayla Daly, owner/director. “Music can re-create new neural connections in the brain.”

On Beacon Hill: Mr. Baker goes to Washington

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

BOSTON — With his purple tie knotted tightly, Gov. Charlie Baker flew to Washington, D.C., last week hoping to bring his brand of bipartisanship to the polarized capital. Few might have predicted, however, that the colors in Washington were already starting to bleed.

Ostensibly, the state Legislature and Congress both returned to work from a summer recess, but it was the gridlocked Congress — with an assist from President Donald Trump — that would make the breakthrough.

As state legislators eased into their post-Labor Day schedule (and that’s being generous), Trump struck a debt-ceiling deal with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to fund the government for three months and deliver billions in relief funding for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Trump’s shunning of Republican Congressional leaders to make a deal with the Democrats rattled Washington and seemed to put wind in the sails of the White House as it prepared to deal with Irma, another catastrophic hurricane poised to strike South Florida on Sunday.

The debt ceiling deal also distracted, if only for a fleeting moment, from the storm the president stirred up with his decision to phase out the immigration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The program, created by former President Barack Obama through executive order, allowed the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally by their parents when they were minors, to apply for protected status that would allow them to go to school and work without fear of deportation.

Trump, through his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, challenged Congress over the next six months to enshrine DACA into law if its members want it preserved, while Democrats and many Republicans, including Gov. Baker, derided the move as a cold-hearted play for the conservative base that would send immigrants in the United States, through no fault of their own, back into hiding.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined yet another multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration to block the decision to end DACA, while advocacy groups rallied at the State House and around Boston seeking leadership from the state to protect the futures of the Dreamers.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Gov. Charlie Baker

It was in this atmosphere that Baker joined his fellow governors from Tennessee, Montana, Colorado and Utah in testifying before the Senate Health Committee [see video below] on steps Congress could take to stabilize Obamacare health insurance markets in the wake of failed efforts to repeal the law.

Baker and the bipartisan cohort of governors told the Senate panel, headed by Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, that the single biggest thing they could do would be to ensure at least two years of funding for cost-sharing-reduction payments.

The CSR payments, used to keep patients’ out-of-pocket expenses down, were a part of the Affordable Care Act, but have been challenged in court by Republicans and dangled by Trump as a lever he could pull to force the collapse of Obamacare.

“I think it would be a bad idea,” Baker told U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren about Trump’s threat, responding to a softball lobbed across the plate by Massachusetts’ senior senator in what sounded like a coordinated back-and-forth designed to bloody the president.

Baker sat in the middle of the five governors as the de facto leader of the pack. He was given ample time to wonk out on healthcare policy, and just enough time to score some political points back home.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Hoffman, pot czar, on July 2018 deadline
  • McGovern and Chandler on DACA, Markey on North Korea
  • Worcester’s Grabauskas returns to MBTA
  • Watch: Baker a key part of healthcare reform testimony
  • Still-lagging tax revenues leave budget veto overrides in limbo

Worcester Weekly: Holy Cross football, preliminary election + more, Sept. 10-16

The most fun you’ll have with a calendar of events all week. And you just might learn something, too.

Monday, Sept. 11 — Lecture: Government’s Role in Segregation, 4:30 p.m., Rehm Library, Smith Hall, College of the Holy Cross, 1 College St.  “Racial segregation characterizes every metropolitan area in the [United States] and bears responsibility for our most serious social and economic problems.” This is the crux of the argument author Richard Rothstein will discuss, based on his 2017 book “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.”

A fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who has written a number of books on race, education and social equality, Rothstein said segregation — more specifically, how it happened — is no mystery; it was forged from the policies (“racially explicit and unconstitutional”) and politics of the mid-20th century. And it will linger until we learn from this history. Free and open to the public.

Doherty’s Tajon Vassar a fast-rising star for the Highlanders

In many ways, Tajon Vassar is a microcosm of the entire Doherty football team.

An overlooked kid who puts in the work, plays both sides of the ball, and is trying to live up to the accomplishments of his older brother, Vassar embodies the traits of many on this year’s hopeful Highlanders.

Now a junior, Vassar still has some things to prove, but after a breakout sophomore campaign much will be expected of the electric running back and defensive back.

“We’re lucky with Tajon, because he’s one of our best players, if not our best player, and he’s also the hardest worker,” Doherty coach Sean Mulcahy said. “You don’t always have that. He works hard, and he’s gotten physically bigger and stronger this offseason, which will obviously help.”

Worcester-area football stars to watch on Saturdays and Sundays

Central Massachusetts may not be one of the nation’s biggest football factories, but the region does produce its fair share of talent every year.

This season, Worcester County had five players in NFL training camps, including the only player from the commonwealth selected in the 2017 NFL Draft (Grafton High School alum Obi Melifonwu was taken by the Oakland Raiders in the 2nd round, 56th overall).

On top of that, CMass natives litter rosters of Division I collegiate football programs across the country — including eight set to suit up for UMass-Amherst — and it isn’t far-fetched to believe that some of them could gain national notoriety this season.

So, if you want to keep track of the Worcester County boys now playing at football’s highest levels, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a handy alphabetical list of, and outlook for, every CMass native playing in the NFL and the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.

On Beacon Hill: Out of the shadow

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

BOSTON — When the stars align, sometimes the unexpected can happen.

The summer continued to serve up surprises as the sun went into hiding, a new multi-millionaire was made and career doors for past and present figures of the Massachusetts political-scape continued to open and close.

Former Mass. Lottery director and Mitt Romney aide Beth Lindstrom got last week started as she officially entered the U.S. Senate field as one of four Republicans now angling for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, while state Rep. Susannah Whipps threw everyone a curveball Tuesday when she announced the Republican Party was no longer for her.

Whipps, in something Beacon Hill has not seen in a long time, posted a statement on her website detailing reasons the Athol resident’s decision to unenroll from the GOP, including the overwhelmingly independent makeup of the electorate in her Western Massachusetts district.

What truly motivated Whipps to leave the party remains somewhat of a mystery, as she declined comment beyond her written statement. And despite voting against the small Republican bloc in the House this session on several key issues, she didn’t pick a fight on her way out as she said she hopes to work closely with both parties in the future.

Whipps might well be the first unenrolled elected official in the Legislature since Lawrence’s Willy Lantigua (before he became a Democrat), and now party leaders will have to figure out where she fits into a party-dictated committee and leadership structure.

But the afterglow of the eclipse and curiosity of Whipps’ decision quickly gave way to Powerball fever and the realization that one Bay Stater had beaten the 1-in-292,201,338 odds.

Mavis Wanczyk, the 53-year-old holder of the $758.7 million winning Powerball ticket did what every hopeful lottery player says they’ll do should they strike it rich — quit their job. Immediately.

Wanczyk worked her last graveyard shift at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield on Tuesday night, telling her bosses the next day not to expect her back after she became the largest lottery winner in Massachusetts history.

The Chicopee resident wasted little time coming forward to collect her prize, hoping to turn the spotlight off as soon as possible so, as she put it, she could go home and “hide in bed” while she figures out what to do with her overnight wealth.

Wanczyk wasn’t the only big winner from the Powerball jackpot.

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and others pointed out that the state will do pretty nicely as well, taking home $25 million in income taxes that could have gone to another state had the winning ticket not have been printed here.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Marijuana and health care among immediate priorities
  • McGovern on Trump and Afghanistan, Warren on big banks
  • Eldridge says he’ll pass on Tsongas Capitol Hill seat
  • Watch: DeLeo on what’s next for Legislature
  • Baker taps Leominster senator for state pot panel

Worcester Weekly: WPI football, POW! WOW! + more, Aug. 27-Sept. 2

The most fun you’ll have with a calendar of events all week. And you just might learn something, too.

Sunday, Aug. 27 — 5th annual Worcester Caribbean American Carnival, noon-7 p.m., Institute Park, Salisbury Street and Park Avenue  So, hurricane season is upon us — as the folks in Corpus Christi and coastal Texas are painfully aware — which means a late-summer getaway to the Caribbean is not exactly for the faint of heart. How lucky, then, are Worcester peeps to have a bit of the Caribbean blow into their backyard?

Courtesy worcestercarib.com

The Worcester Caribbean American Carnival — and parade! — returns for its fifth year Sunday, Aug. 37, at Institute Park.

Worcester’s Yiadom primed for big senior season for Boston College football

From the moment he stepped foot on Boston College‘s campus, Isaac Yiadom has done his part for the Eagles.

That part may get significantly larger this season, however, as the former Doherty Memorial star has been getting talked up by national media, and perhaps more importantly, by fifth-year BC head coach Steve Addazio.

Ever since Addazio mentioned that Yiadom had the potential to be an all-conference player in an interview with ESPN, Yiadom’s name has come up a lot more in talks about the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference, and college football in general.

But to the Worcester native, that’s all just noise.

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.