Monday, July 31, 2006

Other top stories - July 31, 2006

Oh no he di-n't!

Left: Our politically incorrect governor.

Prominent black Bay Staters are outraged by Gov. Mitt Romney’s use of the words “tar baby” to describe the Big Dig as he stumped for presidential points in Iowa.

“Tar baby is a totally inappropriate phrase in the 21st century. If Calvin Coolidge didn’t use it, why the hell should Mitt Romney?” railed Larry Jones, a black Republican and civil rights activist.

Tar baby can refer to a sticky mess, but it also has been recognized as an epithet to humiliate black people. President Bush’s spokesman Tony Snow learned that in May when his expression, “I don’t want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program,” raised the hackles of political correctness.

What do you think of Romney's use of the term? Leave comments!

Business vancancies low here

In the Route 128 North commercial real estate market, vacancy continues to drop while asking rents rise, albeit slowly. In its mid-year Market Review, CRESA Partners in Boston reports that the 128 North market covering Burlington to Beverly, including Bedford, Danvers, Lynnfield, Peabody, Reading, Salem, Stoneham, Wakefield and Woburn is experiencing a slow-but-steady office recovery.

They also report that Wakefield, Stoneham and Woburn have the lowest vacancy rates along 128 North.
d and Woburn is experiencing a slow-but-steady office recovery.

The Beacon Hill Equivalent of Last-Minute Cramming

It was a busy day on Beacon Hill Monday as state lawmakers plowed through a long list of unfinished business trying to beat a midnight deadline when the formal portion of their two-year legislative session ended.

On the agenda was an overhaul of the state's welfare rules intended to protect some recipients from tougher work requirements while making sure federal funds keep flowing into the state.

The House and Senate also were working on hammering out differences between legislation cracking down on sex offenders and easing the statute of limitations on reporting child sex abuse crimes; changing the rules for teen drivers; and updating child labor laws.

(Sources: Wakefield Daily Item, Boston Globe, Boston Herald)

The grass has grown...

Left: A shopper at the new Wakefield Shaw's.

Today, the Wakefield Observer's top story was...the opening of Shaw's. From their article:

Wakefield’s first large supermarket opened last Friday, to a certain amount of fanfare.

The long-talked about Shaw’s supermarket held its grand opening at 134 Water St., with local officials and customers invited to the 9 a.m. event.

Town Administrator Tom Butler, most of the Board of Selectmen and other town officials were on hand, along with Shaw’s executives for, the grand opening.

Plenty of eager shoppers from Wakefield and surrounding communities checked out the 54,436 square-foot supermarket and did some shopping last weekend.

The question is, why did the Observer wait so long to report on the Shaw's grand opening? So their report would coincide with mine, of course! I like to dream. Sue me.

That Friday morning, I walked to Shaw's. As I passed by the big sign at the car wash, it said it was 6:50, and 70 degrees. There was some rain on my glasses.

I've witnessed firsthand the construction of the building. I remember one time when Chris Morrill was giving me a ride, and we passed by the building. He commented, "Once the grass grows, Shaw's is open."

Friday morning. For the first time, I see grown grass at Shaw's.

A few details show that this is the first day of business. As I walk inside, where people are already shopping, an employee sets up a camera for archiving this event. Others give me pamphlets, upon whose covers are printed the words, "Grand Opening." Employees stand talking in the produce aisle. The fried chicken stand has yet to open. An employee insists that "everything will be up and running in the afternoon."

As I leave the store, I receive a pleasant surprise: a free loaf of bread. So THIS is the free stuff my mom said they give away at grand openings.

I decided to test the Shaw's workers and return that afternoon. The parking lot is full of cars. The fried chicken stand is open, as is the pharmacy. I see many of my classmates at work, confirming what I'd heard during a discussion on jobs for teens: "Everyone applied to Shaw's."

Oddly enough, Thursday's top story was on Bronwyn DellaVolpe's opposition to the store. She and her neighbors are boycotting the store. I remember the anti-Shaw's picket signs that were once displayed around town.

Is Shaw's a blessing or a menace? That's up to you to decide. But like it or not, the grass has finally grown.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Top Stories - July 27, 2006

Not Everyone Likes Shaw's

There are some residents who, having always opposed a supermarket in the neighborhood, still oppose Shaw’s.
Bronwyn DellaVolpe of Cyrus Street said she and some other neighbors are boycotting the store, choosing to go out of their way to shop elsewhere. She said she’s not happy with the new traffic lights she says she gets stuck at, or the nighttime exterior lighting, or the additional traffic and headlights - and she expects traffic to be worse when school is back in session.
"My house still lights up green every time the light turns green," said DellaVolpe, whose house faces the Shaw’s entrance. "I feel it’s made a major, fundamental change in my lifestyle."
I was at Shaw's the morning of its Grand Opening, and I'll post about it soon, so stay tuned.

First Plan Cluster Plan Rejected

It looks like the town will have to wait a while for a so-called cluster development.
The Planning Board turned down a first-ever proposal for a D-1 Residential Cluster Development during its meeting late last month in a 3-2 vote with one abstention.
A special permit was needed to build on six house lots at the former Dillaway estate at 87-93 Montrose Ave. A typical permit is for four lots or fewer.

Menino Names a New Chief of Public Works and Transportation

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino named a new chief today for Public Works and Transportation, tapping an official from Denver, Colo., for the post.
Dennis Royer, deputy manager for operations of Public Works in Denver, will begin work for the Menino administration Sept. 12 in the newly created cabinet-level position. Royer has more than 25 years experience in public works and transportation management and was chosen from a pool of more than 200 candidates, city officials said.
The mayor said he is counting on Royer to oversee the merger of the Transportation and Public Works departments in Boston and to bring the departments "into the 21st century."

Yet Another Reason to Hate the Big Dig

State Police and city EMS officials today began mapping a plan to move emergency vehicles quickly from East Boston to city hospitals after a former politician from Stoughton died of a heart attack when his ambulance was snared in Big Dig traffic.
The victim, Bruce D. Olsen, 65, was returning from Florida when he collapsed at Terminal A at Logan Airport around 4 p.m. yesterday. He was pronounced dead upon his arrival 50 minutes later at Boston Medical Center, EMS officials said.
Olsen, a former Norfolk County Commissioner from Stoughton, was facing drug charges stemming from an arrest in Key West on July 18 that came after he allegedly tried to purchase $40 worth of marijuana from undercover cops in the resort town.
His death yesterday triggered outrage from Hub residents and prompted Mayor Thomas M. Menino to demand an investigation into the circumstances of the ambulance’s delay.
"It’s very disturbing to me,” Menino said. "We have to look at this incident very closely."

(Sources: Wakefield Observer, Wakefield Daily Item, Boston Globe, Boston Herald)

Wakefield's Spaces

A little while ago, I put together this survey, meant to help me write an article for this blog. I got two replies, only one from my target audience, WHS students. Here's the survey, hopefully there's some students/MySpacers reading this who'll help a brother out. Just answer the questions and leave comments.

Hi. In case you didn't know, I'm Ben Tan. Seeing how popular MySpace is with WHS students, I decided to write an article about the trend for my local news blog, the Wakefield Étudiant ( I also decided to get some help by surveying people. Feel free to send this survey to your friends, just make sure their answers get back to ME. My MySpace is, and my e-mail address is Answers can be as long or as short as you want.

Do you visit MySpace often? If so, how much time do you spend on the site?

Why did you sign up with MySpace?

This question is for MySpace users under 18.
Read these articles.
From the article:
"In September, a 37-year-old man used MySpace to exchange messages with a 16-year-old girl from Port Washington, N.Y., police told Business Week magazine, and sexually assaulted her outside her after-school job. She had listed where she worked on her MySpace profile."
After reading these articles, are you more concerned about your safety on MySpace?

Read this transcript of a recent SNL sketch about MySpace.
Do you feel that this is an accurate, if comical, dramatization of how pedophiles can use MySpace?

What is the URL of your MySpace?

These answers will be used to help me write an article about MySpace for the Wakefield Étudiant ( Do you wish to remain anonymous?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bottom Stories - July 26, 2006

And now, a new recurring feature at the Wakefield Étudiant: Bottom Stories. Just because these events aren't given as much attention as stories about tunnel collapses and women getting stabbed with carrots, doesn't mean we won't recap them here.

The Heat Wave in Cali

Left: Doug Lilly, Salvation Army member, making sure his client hasn't collapsed from heat stroke.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The high-pressure system over California that has brought 100-degree weather to the state wasn’t budging Wednesday, promising an 11th straight day of sweltering heat, the potential of more deaths and another strain on utilities.
The National Weather Service predicted temperatures around the state to fall several degrees, but the misery index would remain high as the mercury hovers well over 100 in many parts. The gradual cooling trend was expected to continue through the week.
Stephanie McCorkle, spokeswoman for the California Independent System Operator, which manages the power grid, said the ISO did not anticipate declaring another power emergency Wednesday.
State and local authorities reported at least 56 possible heat-related deaths since the mercury first spiked upward, most in the smoldering Central Valley and deserts east of Los Angeles.

If I Were a Town Crier, I'd Be Crying, "SPECIAL TOWN MEETING!"

A special Town Meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Galvin Middle School, 525 Main St.
The Board of Selectmen set up the meeting to deal with the future sale of the Montrose School and other town properties. The selectmen will ask voters to consider an amended bylaw for moving former schools into a Municipal Reuse Overlay District, allowing them to be sold for other purposes.

Sean and the Senators (Wouldn't That Be a Great Band Name?)

What do Al Gore, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry have in common? Most people would say the three currently serve (or have served) as U.S. senators and have established themselves as top leaders of the Democratic party in this country despite unsuccessful runs for the presidency.
Sean Grant, however, has a more personal connection to the threesome - at one point he counted each of the prominent national officials as his boss.
Grant is facing off against State Rep. Mark Falzone, D-Saugus, in this year's Democratic primary, vying to represent the 9th Essex District, which includes Wakefield's precincts 1, 2 and 7. Grant has never held public office, but he has worked behind the scenes for a host of well-known officials at the state and national level.
Although he is only 36 years old, Grant assisted Kennedy's re-election campaign in 1994 and has served as an advance man for both Kerry and Gore.
Politics have always been a big part of Grant's life. As a young boy, he knocked on residents' doors in Medford campaigning for his father Eugene in his bid for city council and the mayor's office, an experience he enjoyed from the start.
After volunteering on some local campaigns, Grant signed on for Kennedy's re-election effort in 1994. He did some light and sound work for the campaign, setting up a roving PA system Kennedy used at press conferences to communicate his message to constituents.

Former Gov. Celluci's Father Dead

HUDSON, Mass. --Charles "Ed" Garnett, prominent Hudson businessman and father-in-law of former Massachusetts governor and U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci, died at Notre Dame Long Term Care Center in Worcester on July 19. He was 87.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Garnett employed many residents at his business, Hudson Combing. Hudson Combing and its Brady, Texas, subsidiary, Brady Combing, both specialized in processing mohair, and once were the leading processors in the country.

(Sources: Wakefield Observer, Boston Herald, Boston Globe, SF Gate)

Top Stories - July 26, 2006

Milena's Husband Seizes Her Assets

The devastated widower of the Jamaica Plain mom killed in this month’s Big Dig tunnel collapse has temporarily seized control of his wife’s assets, as one relative claims the tragedy is pitting family members against one another.
Suffolk Probate and Family Court Judge John Smoot yesterday named Angel Del Valle special administrator of Milena Del Valle’s estate for 90 days, during which time her children in Costa Rica can challenge their mother’s husband, Register of Probate Richard Iannella said.

The Suspect: A Faulty SUV

The fire that threatened a Wakefield home earlier this month may have been caused by a faulty part inside an SUV - one that has been recalled by the Ford Motor Company.
On the evening of July 9, the Bando family of 16 Mansion Road heard a strange popping noise. Moments later, black smoke was everywhere and flames were engulfing the garage that sits on the bottom level of the home. Judith and Charles Bando and their children left the house quickly, and there were no injuries.
Firefighters managed to stop the fire from spreading to the house, but not before smoke and water damage left it uninhabitable.
The garage itself was devastated, and fire officials suspect they know why.
"We do not know what exactly caused the fire because the devastation inside the engine compartment of the vehicle was so bad," said Fire Chief David Parr. "It kind of looks like it could've been related to a bad switch on the cruise control that was a recall."

Valley Street Doesn't Want Any Races

Don’t speed on Valley Street.
That’s the message that most Valley Street residents would like Wakefield drivers to hear. But how town officials will enforce speed limits on this street is what’s got neighbors talking.
Last August, the Department of Public Works installed speed reduction devices called “speed tables” on the street. Speed tables work similar to speed bumps, except they are made of rubber and are approximately 14-feet long, with a three inch rise. The tables are merely temporary and, as DPW Director Rick Stinson explains, they can be a hassle to maintain.

Medicaid Continues Giving Us $385 Million

Governor Mitt Romney is set to announce this afternoon that Massachusetts has reached an agreement with the US government to continue receiving $385 million in annual federal Medicaid money toward its new landmark health care law.
The money, which state officials say is crucial to carrying out the ambitious new health care plan, was considered to possibly be at risk earlier this year because Massachusetts did not finalize the law until April. Medicaid officials had indicated they needed the law in place far earlier, to make sure it satisfied key federal criteria.

(Sources: Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Wakefield Daily Item, Wakefield Observer)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Top Stories - July 24, 2006

Romney vs. the Overseer of the Big Dig

Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman Matt Amorello (photo at left), who oversees the beleaguered Big Dig highway project, filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to prevent the governor from ousting him from his $223,000-a-year post.

In the lawsuit, Amorello asks a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court to block Gov. Mitt Romney from demoting him and to prevent a hearing from taking place where the governor is supposed to act as judge and jury in seeking his removal.

Amorello has been under fire over the past several years as Romney has criticized his management of the Big Dig. In the two weeks since 12 tons of ceiling panels from a Big Dig tunnel collapsed, killing a 39-year-old Boston woman, Romney has renewed his calls for Amorello's ouster -- and said the accident shows that he's incapable of overseeing the $14.6 billion highway project.

Amorello's lawyers contend that the governor does not have the authority to demote him. The governor's move would strictly strip Amorello of his position as chairman and chief executive, but he could remain on the five-member board, a position that pays about $25,000 a year.

"The governor has invented a power he does not have," according to the 12-page lawsuit.

The Wife of Celts Owner Joins the Pike Board

Today Gov. Mitt Romney appointed Judy M. Pagliuca, a financial manager with a mechanical engineering degree, to the board of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
She replaces his original pick, Beth Lindstrom, who stepped down today because the board was packed with more Republicans than state law allows. State rules prohibit more than three members of any one political party on the board.
The Eerie Death of a Young Woman
A young mother died early yesterday after she was gunned down while kneeling to light a candle in her slain brother’s memory, her life’s blood spilling on the very spot where her beloved brother was killed exactly four years ago - almost to the hour.
Analicia “Anna” Perry, 20, the mother of 4-year-old Nyarie Bacchus, was shot in the face at 11:26 p.m. Saturday when she arrived to tend to a makeshift shrine for her brother, Robert Perry. The bullet traveled into her brain, and she died three hours later at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Police still don’t know who shot her or why.
“It’s crazy,” said a distraught and devastated Chyneatha Perry, 26, now forced to bury a second sibling. “It’s like a dream. Everyone thinks it’s a dream that we’re going to wake up from. How does this happen? The same day. The same place. Four years ago.”

Patrick Meets with Potential Running Mates

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick plans to hold discussions with all three of his party's lieutenant governor candidates on Tuesday, but an aide denied he was seeking a running mate.

The conversations, to be held by telephone with Worcester Mayor Timothy Murray, Cape Cod businesswoman Andrea Silbert and former Brookline selectwoman Deb Goldberg, came after one of the three requested to talk with Patrick, according to Patrick spokesman Richard Chacon. He would not reveal who approached Patrick.

In fairness, Patrick decided to speak with all three, Chacon said.

Coming soon: My day at the Shaw's grand opening!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Top Stories - July 21, 2006

Do Bostonians Screw Up Every Time They Build Something?

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority has settled its lawsuit against three of the project's architects and design firms for $24 million.

The deal, approved by the authority's board of directors today, will cover repairs to the building, primarily its roof drainage system, mechanical air handling units, and roadway expansion joints and drains.

In its suit against Rafael Vinoly Architects, R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, Shen Milsom & Wilke, and HNTB Corp., the authority blamed them for design errors, which the agency said increased the cost of the project. Shen Milsom is not named in the settlement agreement. The building opened in June 2004.

Also today, the Ted Williams tunnel eastbound, shut down yesterday by Mitt Romney, reopened to buses this morning.

Minimum Wage News

BOSTON --Gov. Mitt Romney sent back to lawmakers Friday a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage to $8 per hour, the third highest in the nation, and instead recommended an increase to $7 per hour.

Romney's proposed 25 cents per hour raise would take effect in January. Romney's proposal would also require the state to study a new minimum wage every two years.

Lawmakers haven't raised the state's minimum wage for seven years.

Under the bill approved by lawmakers, the minimum wage in Massachusetts would increase from $6.75 per hour to $7.50 per hour as of Jan. 1, 2007. A year later, it would increase by another 50 cents, to $8 per hour.

Somebody Doesn't Like Taxes

STAMFORD, Conn. --Robert Brinkman made millions of dollars as a money manager, but the Connecticut man was determined not to pay taxes.

Last year, the 42-year-old Easton resident filed a tax return in which he reported income of $5,090 for 2003 when he actually earned $2.7 million, authorities say. Brinkman also sought tax refunds of more than $600,000 dating back to 1997.

"At the time he had a belief that the income tax laws did not authorize the federal government to tax earned income from wages," his attorney, Elliot Warren, said Thursday.

But federal authorities disagreed.

Brinkman pleaded guilty this week to filing false tax returns and a stolen property charge. The total tax loss to the Internal Revenue Service associated with Brinkman's false filings is about $1.5 million, authorities say.

Alleged Hate Criminals Arrested

POLAND, Maine --Two juveniles were arrested Friday and face a string of charges in connection with the break-in and vandalism of a mobile home shared by two lesbian women, police said. The June incident prompted an anti-hate rally Saturday in Portland.

The juveniles, ages 14 and 12, were each charged with burglary, theft, aggravated criminal mischief and two counts of burglary of a motor vehicle, said Capt. Raymond Lafrance of the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Department. Their names were not released because of their ages.

A report on the incident is to be turned over to the state attorney general's office.

Also today, Julie and Hilary Goodridge, lead plaintiffs in Massachusetts's gay marriage case, have announced their split. A spokeswoman for the couple says they are focusing on doing what is best for their 10-year-old daughter.

(Most of this article shamelessly copied from

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Top Stories - July 20, 2006

Saying Goodbye to Milena Del Valle

VASQUEZ DE CORONADO, Costa Rica -- The little boy covered his ears to block out the sounds, but the wails only grew louder.

Milena Del Valle's body had finally arrived from Boston and lay in a white coffin at St. Jorge funeral home. Morticians stood nearby, waiting to take it to a church. But first, Del Valle's three children wanted to see her. They looked inside the coffin and began to scream.

``Mami, Mami," yelled Jeremy Ibarra Mora, 17, Del Valle's youngest son, as his sister, Raquel, 23, and brother, Kaleb, 19, held him. The scene overwhelmed Del Valle's 4-year-old grandson, who cupped his ears as a family friend carried him away.

Del Valle, 38, was crushed to death more than a week ago when ceiling panels in the Interstate 90 tunnel connector fell on the Buick sedan in which she was riding. Yesterday, her children, who had last seen her in May, followed her coffin to a sprawling evangelical church north of San Jose, the capital city.

``God will help us figure out a way to move forward," her daughter, Raquel Ibarra Mora , said to those gathered at her mother's funeral. ``Pray you don't have to go through something like this."

Romney Closes Eastbound Ted Williams Tunnel

Governor Mitt Romney this afternoon ordered an immediate shutdown of the eastbound section of the Ted Williams Tunnel after state engineers re-inspected the concrete ceiling tiles and found two bolts that had loosed on the same panel.

Holding up photographs of the problem at an afternoon press conference, Romney pointed to a bolt that he said had slipped ½ an inch. The closure overruled an earlier inspection by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority that had found 25 problems area in the tunnel but determined that none of the faulty connections threatened to give way.

"It is perhaps an overreaction, but we want to err on the side of public safety,'' Romney said of his decision to close the tunnel today at noon.

Infinite Reasons to Hate the Traffic

Boston was hit with a confluence of traffic problems yesterday, paralyzing parts of the city for hours and further aggravating motorists already plagued with a rash of commuter problems.

Even as drivers coped with tie-ups and detours caused by the closing of Big Dig tunnels, a dump truck hauling sand rolled over on the Massachusetts Turnpike, spilling sand and diesel fuel on the roadway and closing westbound lanes for nearly two hours about midday. Work crews trying to repair a gaping hole caused by a ruptured water main diverted traffic from a portion of Massachusetts Avenue, forcing detours onto choked side streets and backing up cars all the way to Interstate 93.

With little public notice, city officials also changed one of the airport detours yesterday. Anticipating that thousands would clog streets as they headed to an afternoon game at Fenway or to concerts on City Hall Plaza and the Esplanade, officials directed airport-bound traffic away from the Government Center and Storrow Drive exits, where those events would bring extra traffic, to Exit 27 across the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.

While some escaped problems and sailed smoothly to and from the city yesterday, many were caught in jams that even seasoned Boston drivers described as hellish.

``It's just a nightmare," said Peter Greulich, a 55-year-old land surveyor who commutes downtown from Wakefield. ``It's bad enough that they have a bad design flaw. But then that they can't even manage the traffic properly, it's just a little ridiculous."

Tropical Storm Beryl Weakens

Tropical Storm Beryl gradually weakened as it steamed up the East Coast this afternoon, churning north at 14 miles-per-hour while Nantucket and outer Cape Cod prepared for 50 mile-per-hour winds and up to 1½ inches of rain.

(Most of this article shamelessly copied from

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Top Stories - July 18, 2006

The Traffic Wasn't So Bad Today

The morning drive was not bad as traffic watchers had feared today, with most roads flowing at 8:45 a.m. as commuters avoid the closures from the partial collapse of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel last week that killed a Jamaica Plain woman.

Interstate 93 southbound was once again the exception, with cars backed up from Exit 24 through the Tip O’Neill Tunnel as motorist try to access the Logan International Airport through the Callahan Tunnel.

The Lynch Debate
New Hampshire's Executive Council is not of one mind when it comes to Gov. John Lynch's nominee for the top job at the state's environmental agency.

The five-member Council votes on state contracts and nominees. So far two say they support Commissioner Michael Nolin, whose term has expired. Two say they support Thomas Burack, the Hopkinton lawyer Lynch wants to replace him with, and one says he's undecided.

Circus Coach Accused of Molestation

A coach at a circus school in the Burlington area has denied charges that he sexually assaulted a 7-year-old girl.

Vladimir Avgoustov, 55, was being held for lack of $50,000 bail. A bail hearing review is scheduled for Monday.

The incident allegedly took place at the Vermont School of Circus Arts, which Avgoustov runs with his wife at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction.

One Reason to Hate Carrots

-A 46-year-old man is accused of assaulting his wife with a carrot, causing her to lose sight in one eye.

Roderick Vecsey is charged with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

Pamela Vecsey, 46, underwent six outs of surgery after being hit in the left eye with the vegetable Saturday night, but doctors were not able to restore her vision, prosecutor Stephanie Damiani said.

The couple was arguing when Roderick Vecsey tossed the carrot, Damiani said.

Roderick Vecsey told Judge Patrick Carroll that it was a terrible accident, and was advised to remain silent.

The judge set a hearing for Thursday. Vecsey is currently free after posting $500 bond.

(Most of this post was shamelessly copied from

Monday, July 17, 2006

Top Stories - July 17, 2006

And now, a new (hopefully) daily feature at the Wakefield Étudiant: a round-up of local headlines that we call...Top Stories.

A Heat Wave in Boston (and the Rest of the Nation)!

Temperatures in the 90s and beyond gripped a large swath of the country Monday, sending people scrambling for shade and swimming pools and leading to calls for energy conservation.

On the streets of New York, a spot in the shade competed with a parking space as a valuable commodity. Men and women made their way under narrow awnings, lounged under trees and took breaks beneath the large umbrellas of hot dog stands.

"It feels oppressive and sticky," said Laura Shaffer, a 30-year-old New Yorker, sipping a soda on her way to work.

In Cleveland, 22 outdoor pools that are normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays were being opened. Temperatures throughout Ohio were expected around 90 for the rest of the week.

1,454 Reasons to Hate the Tunnel

Governor Mitt Romney this afternoon said that inspectors have found 1,454 problem bolt hangers in the concrete ceiling of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel that partially collapsed last week and killed a woman -- four times higher than the 362 officials found on Friday.

Romney, who assumed oversight of safety inspections with emergency legislation last week, used a marker to draw several diagrams of the ceiling system at an afternoon press conference as he explained the issues that plague bolts held in place with epoxy.

“We can’t count on them,” said Romney. “Any place there is an epoxy ceiling system in the I-90 connector tunnel, we are going to put in a redundant system.”

In related news...

40 Reasons to Hate Another Tunnel

Yet another crucial link between Interstates 90 and 93 in the heart of Boston has been closed after inspectors found about 40 potentially dangerous bolt fixtures similar to the ones suspected in last week's fatal tunnel ceiling collapse, said state officials.

Needed repairs and safety checks to the entire Big Dig project could take two months or more, Governor Mitt Romney said, adding that the bolt-and-epoxy ceiling fasteners throughout the tunnel system represent a ``systemic failure, not an anomaly or a fluke."

``We're not worried about an imminent collapse in this system," he said. ``But instead we recognize there is a risk associated with it, and we are not willing to risk people's lives for convenience."

The latest closing, expected to last for at least two weeks, shuts down the westbound I-90/Ted Williams ramp to I-93 in South Boston at Exit 24 and will affect motorists headed westbound from Logan International Airport, East Boston, and Route 1A. The ramp was open until late Saturday, but was ordered closed yesterday after inspectors discovered the suspect bolts.

Motorists will be forced to take Exit 25 and use surface streets. While additional Boston and State Police officers will be directing the traffic detoured onto local roads -- an estimated 3,000 vehicles an hour during peak periods -- the congestion will spill over into many parts of Boston.

``This is going to have a huge impact," said Mariellen Burns, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which runs the Big Dig. ``We're asking for the motoring public's patience. Obviously, safety is the first priority here."

Officials are urging commuters to take public transportation, alternate routes, or seek staggered work hours.

Number of Burglaries Down! Hallelujah! (Number of Homicides and Shootings: Not So Good)

Burglary is the only major crime that has gone down in all areas of the city this year, according to the latest statistics from Boston police. From Jan. 1 through July 9, there have been 699 fewer burglaries than in the same period in 2005. The total of 1,876 is the lowest number of burglaries in that period since 1999, according to the statistics.

Police say that giving residents tips on how to protect themselves and deploying plainclothes officers have helped drive down the number of burglaries dramatically, even while homicides and shootings continue to plague the city.

Residents have responded to the initiative, keeping an eye out for suspicious activity and buying burglar alarms and other high-tech monitoring equipment.

(Most of this article was shamelessly copied from

Discovery heads home after 13-day mission

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer 2 minutes ago

Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of six streaked toward Earth on Monday, wrapping up a successful mission that put NASA back in the space station construction business.

All that remained for NASA to declare total victory, for the first time since before the 2003 Columbia disaster, was a safe landing. Discovery was due to touch down on the Kennedy Space Center runway at 9:14 a.m.

Mission Control waited until almost the last minute before notifying the astronauts that the weather was good enough to come home.

A last-minute buildup of clouds shortly afterward prompted NASA to switch the shuttle's landing direction. Officials at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in eastern North Carolina also said they had been alerted for emergency landing duty as a precaution.

The shuttle, with commander Steven Lindsey and co-pilot Mark Kelly at the controls, plunged out of orbit an hour before touchdown with the firing of the braking rockets, and began the hourlong descent. The flight path had the spacecraft coming in from the south, swooping over the Pacific, Yucatan Peninsula, Gulf of Mexico and across Florida to cap a 5.3 million-mile journey that began on the Fourth of July.

NASA was certain that Discovery's heat shield was intact and capable of protecting the spaceship during the fiery re-entry.

Repeated inspections of the ship's thermal skin in orbit had given NASA confidence. Unlike on Discovery's flight a year ago, the external fuel tank shed little foam during liftoff. That flight was the shuttle's first after the Columbia disaster, when a chunk of falling hard foam doomed the shuttle in 2003.

Officials acknowledged re-entry was, along with the launch, the most dangerous phase of the mission and nothing could be taken for granted until Discovery was safely back home following its trip to the international space station. Toward that end, Discovery's astronauts and flight controllers kept close watch on a slightly leaking power unit that tested out fine a day earlier in orbit.

NASA did not know whether harmless nitrogen gas or flammable hydrazine was dripping from the auxiliary power unit, one of three needed to drive the hydraulic landing systems. The leak was small, managers said. If it worsened during re-entry — considered unlikely — the unit would shut down automatically and Discovery would become the first shuttle to land with only two functioning auxiliary power units.

Discovery sported a new, tougher type of landing gear tire for improving safety. In another shuttle first, a GPS receiver was on board to help guide Discovery down to the 3-mile-long landing strip.

It would be the first shuttle landing at Kennedy in nearly four years. Columbia never made it back in February 2003 — it shattered over Texas — and Discovery had to take a weather detour to California last summer.

Some at NASA, including the chief engineer and NASA's top safety officer, wanted to put off the latest mission until further repairs could be made to a particularly vulnerable area of the fuel tank. But NASA Administrator Michael Griffin opted to press ahead with what turned out to be the space agency's first Independence Day launch.

The shuttle carried up seven astronauts, but departed the space station on Saturday with six — Lindsey, Kelly, Michael Fossum, Piers Sellers, Lisa Nowak and Stephanie Wilson. German astronaut Thomas Reiter was left behind for a half-year stay, joining two other men there and boosting the station's crew size to three.

The Discovery crew conducted three spacewalks, one of them to test shuttle patching techniques, and used a 100-foot inspection crane to check the shuttle's entire thermal armor for any damage from launch or orbital debris. The rocketship turned out to be the cleanest seen in orbit from a thermal perspective, officials said.

The astronauts also demonstrated that the boom could function as a work platform for spacewalkers and delivered several thousand pounds of supplies to the space station, still in need of restocking because of the 2 1/2-year grounding of the shuttle fleet after Columbia's demise.

By fixing a broken rail car on the outside of the space station, the astronauts paved the way for space station construction to resume in earnest with the next shuttle flight.

Atlantis is scheduled to blast off as early as Aug. 27. Unlike Discovery's missions, which focused primarily on the flight test aspects, the Atlantis crew will haul up a major space station piece — a building-block beam — and attach it to the orbiting outpost.

The station is just half finished, eight years after the first piece went up. NASA wants it completed by the time the three remaining shuttles are retired in 2010, as per President Bush's mandate, to make way for a new spaceship capable of carrying astronauts to the moon.


On the Net:


Israel briefly sends troops into Lebanon

By MATT MOORE, Associated Press Writer 6 minutes ago

Israeli ground troops entered southern Lebanon to attack Hezbollah bases on the border, but they rapidly returned to Israel after conducting their military operations, officials said Monday.

Israel's six-day-old offensive against Hezbollah following the capture of two Israeli soldiers has been primarily an aerial campaign, but government spokesman, Asaf Shariv, said the Israeli army chief of staff confirmed that ground troops had gone into Lebanon, if only briefly.

A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said that a small group of Israeli troops had crossed into Lebanon overnight to attack a Hezbollah position, but then returned to Israel.

"There was a small operation in a very limited area overnight," the official said. "That is over."

Israel has been reluctant to send ground troops into southern Lebanon, an area that officials say has been heavily mined by Hezbollah and could lead to many Israeli casualties.

Israel would also want to quickly withdraw from the area, rather than get involved in a prolonged conflict like its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in May 2000. The bloody nature of the fighting at the that time and the high number of casualties finally forced the government to cave into public pressure to withdraw from southern Lebanon and end the contentious occupation.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hezbollah drone batters Israeli warship

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 13 minutes ago

Hezbollah rammed an Israeli warship with an unmanned aircraft rigged with explosives Friday, setting it ablaze after Israeli warplanes smashed Lebanon's links to the world one by one and destroyed the headquarters of the Islamic guerrilla group's leader.

The attack on the warship off Beirut's Mediterranean coast was the most dramatic incident on a violent day in the conflict that erupted suddenly Wednesday and appeared to be careening out of control despite pleas from world leaders for restraint on both sides.

"You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war," Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a taped statement. He vowed to strike even deeper into Israel with rockets.

Israel again bombarded Lebanon's airport and main roads in the most intensive offensive against the country in 24 years. For the first time it struck the crowded Shiite neighborhood of south Beirut around Hezbollah's headquarters, toppling overpasses and sheering facades off apartment buildings. Concrete from balconies smashed into parked cars, and car alarms set off by the blasts blared for hours.

The toll in three days of clashes rose to 73 killed in Lebanon and at least 12 Israelis, as international alarm grew over the fighting and oil prices rose to above $78 a barrel. The U.N. Security Council held an emergency session on the violence, and Lebanon accused Israel of launching "a widespread barbaric aggression."

In addition to the fighting in Lebanon, Israel pressed ahead with its offensive in the Gaza Strip against Hamas, striking the Palestinian economy ministry offices early Saturday.

The ramming of the Israeli missile warship indicated Hezbollah has added a new weapon to the arsenal of rockets and mortars it has used against Israel. The Israeli army said the ship carrying several dozen sailors suffered severe damage and was set on fire. Several hours after the attack, the fire was put out and the ship was being towed back to Israel. Al-Jazeera TV said the Israeli military was searching for four missing sailors.

Despite fears the assault could bring down the Western-backed, anti-Syrian government of Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed the campaign would continue until Hezbollah guerrillas, who are backed by Syria and Iran, lose their near-control of southern Lebanon bordering Israel.

Olmert agreed in a phone call with U.N. chief Kofi Annan to allow U.N. mediation for a cease-fire — but only if the terms include the disarming of Hezbollah and the return of two Israeli soldiers whose capture by the Muslim guerrillas Wednesday triggered the fighting.

Hezbollah rained dozens of rockets on towns in northern Israel. One rocket hit a home in Meron, killing a woman and her grandson. Some 220,000 people in northern towns hunkered down in bomb shelters.

Nasrallah was not hurt after the Israeli missiles demolished his headquarters among two buildings in Beirut's southern neighborhoods, the militant group said. Three people died in the airstrikes.

The attack on the warship was apparently timed to coincide with Nasrallah's message on the militant group's television station. "The surprises that I have promised you will start now. Now in the middle of the sea, facing Beirut, the Israeli warship ... look at it burning," Nasrallah boasted.

Israeli military officials said the drone apparently was developed by Hezbollah. The Lebanese guerrilla group has managed to fly unmanned spy drones over northern Israel at least twice in recent years.

"If they kill us all, we will still not give them back the prisoners," said one resident, Nasser Ali Nasser, as palls of smoke rose from fuel depots hit farther south. "We have nothing left to lose except our dignity. We sacrifice ourselves for Sheik Nasrallah," he said.

President Bush, who has backed Israel's right to defend itself, spoke by phone with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora from a G-8 summit in Russia and "reiterated his position" that the Israeli attacks should limit any impact on civilians, White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

But the promise fell short of the Lebanese leader's request for pressure for a cease-fire.

Israel's campaign appeared to have a two-pronged goal. One was to batter Hezbollah and end its near control of the south on Israel's borders.

"We know it's going to be a long and continuous campaign and operation, but it's very clear. We need to put Hezbollah out of business," Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan told The Associated Press.

Israel's army chief, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said Hezbollah has rockets that can reach as far as 43.5 miles or more, which would bring more Israeli cities, such as Hadera, within range.

The other goal was to seal off Lebanon by repeatedly striking its airport and main roads — including the coastal highway from north to south and the Beirut-Damascus highway, Lebanon's main land link to the outside world. At the same time, Israel was gradually escalating the damage to the country's infrastructure, painstakingly rebuilt since the civil war ended in 1990.

Israel holds Lebanon responsible for the capture of its two soldiers in a surprise Hezbollah raid; the Lebanese government insists it had nothing to do with the attack. However, Israel wants it to rein in the guerrillas, a move Lebanon has long resisted.

The level of damage inflicted by Israel appeared finely calibrated. For example, a missile punched a hole in a major suspension bridge on the Beirut-Damascus road but did not destroy it, unlike less expensive bridges on the road that were brought down. An Israeli strike hit fuel depots at one of Beirut's two power stations — sending massive fireballs and smoke into the sky — but avoided the station itself.

Throughout the morning, Israeli fighter-bombers pounded runways at Beirut's airport for a second day, apparently trying to ensure its closure after the Lebanese national carrier, Middle East Airlines, managed to evacuate its last five planes to Jordan. One bomb hit close to the terminal building.

Civilian casualties were mounting faster than during Israel's last major offensive in Lebanon, in 1996, an assault also sparked by Hezbollah attacks. In that campaign, 165 people were killed over 17 days, including 100 in the shelling of a U.N. base.

"We are on the right and we shall avenge every attack we endure," said Fadi Haidar, an American-Lebanese who swept up the shattered glass outside his store in south Beirut. "I have huge debts and now my store is damaged. ... But as time goes by, they will all realize that Sayyed Nasrallah is right and is working in the interest of Muslims."

There was some resentment that Hezbollah had dragged the Lebanese into another bloody fight with Israel. "As long as Hezbollah has its weapons and acts according to its leader's whims, there is pretext for Israel to keep on destroying Lebanon," said Ibrahim al-Hajj, a Christian shop owner in the southern village of Qleia.


AP correspondents Karin Laub and Josef Federman in Jerusalem, and Sam F. Ghattas and Zeina Karam in Beirut, contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

How was your fourth?

I won't copy and paste it, but the Item ran an article about the parade, with only a mention of the fireworks that I could hear all the way from SECOND STREET!