Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ending the Month ZMapping Ebola in Africa

The beginning of the new month tomorrow will be bringing an exciting yet still familiar format with a new yet still similar style!

"Liberian doctor given experimental Ebola drug dies" Associated Press   August 26, 2014

MONROVIA, Liberia — A Liberian doctor who received one of the last known doses of an experimental Ebola drug has died, officials said Monday, as Canada said it has yet to send out doses of a potential vaccine that the government is donating.

Ebola has killed about 1,400 people across West Africa, underscoring the urgency for developing ways to stop and treat the disease. However, health experts warn these options have not undergone the rigorous testing that usually takes place before drugs and vaccines are approved.

The experimental vaccines are at a Canadian laboratory, said Patrick Gaebel, spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, who declined to speculate how many weeks it could be before those are given to volunteers.

‘‘We are now working with the [World Health Organization] to address complex regulatory, logistical, and ethical issues so that the vaccine can be safely and ethically deployed as rapidly as possible,’’ Gaebel said.

Only six people in the world are known to have received the untested drug known as ZMapp. The small supply is now said to be exhausted and it is expected to be months before more can be produced by its US maker.

Dr. Abraham Borbor, the deputy chief medical doctor at Liberia’s largest hospital, had received ZMapp, after it was given to two Americans. After receiving medical care in the United States, they later survived the virus, which has killed about half of its victims.

A Spanish missionary priest infected with Ebola also received the treatment but died. There was no update given on the two other Liberians who took the last known available doses of ZMapp.


"Ebola has ‘upper hand’ says US health official" by Jonathan Paye-Layleh | Associated Press   August 27, 2014

MONROVIA, Liberia — Ebola still has the ‘‘upper hand’’ in the outbreak that has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa, but experts have the means to stop it, a top American health official said during a visit to the hardest-hit countries.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was in Liberia on Tuesday and later planned to stop in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Nigeria also has cases, but officials there have expressed optimism the virus can be controlled.

‘‘Lots of hard work is happening. Lots of good things are happening,’’ Frieden said at a meeting attended by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia on Monday. ‘‘But the virus still has the upper hand.’’

I'm just not seeing it, sorry.

Even as Liberia has resorted to stringent measures to try to halt Ebola’s spread, frustration mounted over the slow collection of bodies from neighborhoods of Monrovia. A group of residents attached plastic ties to the wrists and ankles of one suspected Ebola victim and dragged his corpse to a busy street.

Authorities have decreed that all the dead must be collected by government health workers and cremated because contact with bodies can transmit the virus.

There is no proven treatment for Ebola, so health workers primarily focus on isolating the sick. But a small number of patients in this outbreak have received an experimental drug called ZMapp. The London hospital treating a British nurse infected in Sierra Leone, William Pooley, said he is receiving the drug.


"US official warns Ebola outbreak will worsen" by Clarence Roy-Macaulay and Jonathan Paye-Layleh | Associated Press   August 28, 2014

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — A third doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday, as a leading US health official warned that the outbreak sweeping West Africa would get worse.

The disease has already killed more than 1,400 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and Doctors Without Borders warned that the influx of patients in Liberia, in particular, is overwhelming their treatment centers there.

‘‘I wish I didn’t have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better,’’ Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said of the outbreak at the end of a visit to Liberia, where he described the situation as dire.

Liberia has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths of any of the four countries. Doctors Without Borders said in a prepared statement that a new 120-bed treatment center in the country’s capital filled up almost immediately.

The growing number of patients means that the medical charity is not able to provide those patients with intravenous treatments, a primary way doctors keep alive people who are losing a great amount of fluid.

The group did not mention Frieden’s visit or recent visits by UN officials, but it said discussions now about international coordination are coming too late and there are countries that could make a dramatic difference if they provided more expertise and resources. It did not name the countries.

‘‘This is not only an Ebola outbreak — it is a humanitarian emergency, and it needs a full-scale humanitarian response,’’ Lindis Hurum, the Doctors Without Borders emergency coordinator in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, said in the statement.

Frieden travels next to Sierra Leone, where the loss of a third senior doctor has raised concerns about the country’s ability to fight the outbreak.

Dr. Sahr Rogers had been working at a hospital in the eastern town of Kenema when he contracted Ebola, Sierra Leonean presidential adviser Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said Wednesday.

Rogers’s death marks yet another setback for Sierra Leone, a country still recovering from years of civil war, where there are only two doctors per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. By comparison, there are 245 doctors per 100,000 people in the United States.

Health workers have been especially vulnerable because of their proximity to patients, who can spread the virus through bodily fluids.

It was also leaked out that it can be transmitted by air, but the propaganda pre$$ quickly squashed that panic.

WHO has said that at least 240 health workers have been infected in this outbreak, more than in any other. One of those is an epidemiologist working with the WHO in Sierra Leone, who has been evacuated for treatment in Germany.

‘‘The international surge of health workers is extremely important and if something happens, if health workers get infected and it scares off other international health workers from coming, we will be in dire straits,’’ said Christy Feig, director of WHO communications.


"Study finds experimental drug shows promise in fighting Ebola" by Andrew Pollack | New York Times   August 30, 2014

A new study provides strong evidence that the experimental drug given to two American aid workers stricken with Ebola in Africa really works and could make a difference in the current outbreak if more of it could be produced.

In the study, all 18 monkeys exposed to a lethal dose of the Ebola virus survived when given the drug, known as ZMapp, even when the treatment was started five days after infection, when the animals were already sick.

Moreover, the monkeys’ symptoms, such as excessive bleeding, rashes, and signs of liver toxicity, eventually disappeared. By contrast, all three monkeys in the control group died.

Experts said these were the best monkey results reported to date for any Ebola drug, raising hopes that the drug will work in people.

“I think it strongly supports that concept,” Dr. Gary P. Kobinger, the senior author of the study, said in a telephone news conference Friday, shortly before the paper was published by the journal Nature. Still, Kobinger, a researcher for the Public Health Agency of Canada, cautioned that effectiveness in monkeys was not “proof” that a drug would work in people.

The problem is that the supply of ZMapp is exhausted, according to Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the nine-person San Diego company that is developing the drug. And it is expected to take months to make more of the drug, which is produced in genetically engineered tobacco plants.

Maybe smoking would help cure you (or vitamin C)?

ZMapp came to the world’s attention early this month when it appeared to help two American aid workers stricken in Liberia and later flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. The workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, recovered and were discharged from the hospital last week.

Doctors say it is impossible to say what role ZMapp played in their recovery. Nonetheless, there has been a clamor for the drug and an ethical debate about who was entitled to the handful of treatment courses available.

This is really having a genocidal EndGame feel to it.

Some other experimental drugs have shown the ability to protect monkeys from Ebola if given shortly after infection, up to about two days. That might make such a drug useful for what is called postexposure prophylaxis.


"Ebola survivor praises new drug

MONROVIA — A Liberian health worker who recovered from Ebola after receiving an experimental drug urged the manufacturer to speed up its production and send it to Africa, and crowds celebrated in the streets after authorities reopened a slum that had been barricaded for a week to try to contain the disease. Physician’s assistant Kyndy Kobbah was expected to be released from a hospital Saturday. It is not clear whether the drug, ZMapp, aided her recovery."

Barricaded means quarantined.

"Liberian Ebola survivor praises new drug" by Jonathan Paye-Layleh | Associated Press   August 31, 2014

MONROVIA, Liberia — Meanwhile, tensions diminished Saturday in the West Point neighborhood of Liberia’s capital after authorities lifted a blockade that had sparked unrest. Residents living in the area had feared running out of food and safe water on the peninsula.

Liberia’s president had ordered the barricade on Aug. 19 after West Point residents stormed an Ebola health center several days earlier. Residents said they did not want sick people being brought into the community, although those staying at the center were only under observation during a 21-day incubation period. Amid the melee, some protesters made off with blood-stained mattresses and other materials that could spread the Ebola virus.

I can't blame them for that, but why would they take infected material? To destroy it?

Lifting the quarantine Saturday morning does not mean there is no Ebola in the West Point slum, said Information Minister Lewis Brown. Authorities, though, are more confident now that they can work with residents to screen for the sick, he said.

‘‘They’re comfortable with the way the leadership and the community are working with the health team to make sure that the community remains safe,’’ he said.

Then the crisis is abating?

Liberia has been the hardest hit of the five countries with Ebola cases in West Africa, reporting at least 694 deaths among 1,378 cases. More than 3,000 cases have been reported across Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, and on Friday Senegal announced its first case.

A student from Guinea who had been missing showed up at a hospital in Dakar on Tuesday, seeking treatment but concealing that he had been in contact with other Ebola victims, Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck confirmed.

The student was tracked down in the Dakar hospital where he was confirmed with Ebola and immediately put into isolation, where he is reported to be in satisfactory condition.


The point of it all is ‘‘they need to make more ZMapp.’’

"The WHO presented a road map for affected countries and the international community that included strategies designed to deal with more than 20,000 cases. The plans are likely to cost nearly half a billion dollars over six months. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned the epidemic could get worse. He called for quicker international cooperation."

It is still picking up $peed and spreading:

"Amid poverty, US surgeons saving lives in Uganda" by Rodney Muhumuza | Associated Press   August 27, 2014

KAMPALA, Uganda — The American neurosurgeon leaned in to take a selfie with his patient, chuckling with excitement when she raised her hands. That was a good sign the day after Michael Haglund and his Duke University team opened the patient’s skull to remove a tumor.

The operation was one of many complex, life-saving surgeries the team performed for a week on Ugandan patients who otherwise had little hope of survival.

The operations, which would cost up to $20,000 here, are free while a group of American doctors take part in a ‘‘surgery camp’’ during which they also train local doctors. Scores of hopeful patients crowded the hallways of Mulago Hospital in the Ugandan capital of Kampala last week, forcing Haglund to perform triage in what he called doing ‘‘death rounds.’’

Although many were turned away, at least 22 people were operated on, including some who ‘‘were probably going to die,’’ Haglund said.

Public health services in Uganda have long been poor because of limited government funding, and many qualified but poorly paid health workers have sought opportunities in Europe and the United States. Although private hospitals are springing up, most people cannot afford their services in a country where many live on less than $1 a day.

The highly specialized field of neurosurgery is one of the hardest hit, with only six qualified neurosurgeons working across this East African country of 36 million.

Uganda’s main referral hospital, Mulago, presents a picture of decay and neglect. Just outside the operating theaters the floors are smeared with dried blood and the paint is peeling off the walls. The elevators fail at times, stranding nurses moving patients from operating rooms to the intensive care unit.

Vil Kengoma, the 21-year-old university student with whom Haglund took a photo, had a likely fatal brain tumor that left her in severe pain and paralyzed in her right hand. In the crowded ward where she rested after surgery to remove the tumor, she looked dazed but smiled at Haglund as he asked her to raise her hands.

‘‘She had been admitted for three weeks and she went straight from the intensive care unit to the surgery room,’’ said her sister Janet Karungi. ‘‘We are so grateful.’’

Haglund, a professor of surgery and of neurobiology at Duke, said he was shocked by what he saw when he first visited Mulago in 2007. There were 1,500 beds but just one ventilator for the operating theaters, he said.

‘‘The patients who were having brain surgery, they were getting into their brains with something like a hand drill,’’ he said. ‘‘Very crude . . . like 1930s US style.’’

Haglund said he decided to improve Mulago’s neurosurgery capacity, which has required fund-raising and spending his own money. His plan was to bring a surgical team of 20 to 40 people, including biomed engineers and anesthetists, who would join local surgeons to operate on dozens of patients each year.

Haglund’s team has come to Mulago nine times since then, bringing 45 tons of donated or used equipment worth $6.5 million. The machines have transformed what used to be a tea room inside Mulago’s main operating theater into a modern operating room — used primarily for neurosurgery — that is now named for Haglund.

Juliet Nalwanga, a Ugandan physician who is one of four doctors being trained in neurosurgery under Haglund’s mentorship, said the Duke team was doing an ‘‘amazing’’ job to improve local competence in neurosurgery while helping poor patients who would need up to $20,000 to get life-saving care.


"Boko Haram claims it is Islamic caliphate" Associated Press   August 26, 2014

We already got one.

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Boko Haram, Nigeria’s Islamic extremist rebel group, said it controls the northeastern city of Gwoza and has added it to an Islamic state that it claims it has established in Nigeria.

Gwoza, in Borno state, is now part of its ‘‘Islamic caliphate’,’ asserted Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, in a video seen on Sunday.

‘‘We are grateful to God for the big victory he granted our members in Gwoza and made the town part of our Islamic caliphate,’’ Shekau said in the video.

But Nigeria’s army said on Twitter: ‘‘That claim is empty . . . the Nigerian state is still intact.’’

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states in May last year, saying the militants had taken over parts of Borno state, Boko Haram’s birthplace.

After the emergency was imposed, the military seemed to be gaining control of parts of the northeast.


Nothing about the missing girls, huh? 

That's confirmation it was all a propaganda hoax.

"South Sudan rebels reject power sharing as UN crash probe begins" by William Davison | Bloomberg News   August 28, 2014

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — South Sudan’s rebels have rejected a power-sharing deal proposed by East African leaders to end an eight-month conflict that has killed thousands of people in the world’s newest nation.

Last I knew they were starving. Then Ebola took over.

The proposal by the seven-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development calls for President Salva Kiir to remain in office at least until elections, which should be held 60 days before the end of a 2½-year transitional period. Rebels led by former vice president Riek Machar would nominate a prime minister that Kiir would have to approve, according to the draft agreement.

‘‘It’s not the way to get peace in the country,’’ chief rebel negotiator Taban Deng Gai said Wednesday in a phone interview from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where talks have been held. ‘‘We believe they’ve imposed Salva to be president for life. We’re not going to sign it.’’

Fighting erupted in South Sudan in December when Kiir accused Machar and other senior government officials of plotting a coup, a charge they deny. The conflict in the oil-producing nation has forced at least 1.5 million to flee their homes and left the country on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations. About 102,000 displaced people are sheltering at 10 UN bases, the world body said.

Conflict and oil seem to go hand in hand.

The UN is investigating the crash of one of its helicopters, which killed three Russians Tuesday. The rebels have denied government accusations that they shot it down.

It's Ukraine in reverse!

Kiir and East African leaders set a 45-day deadline for the formation of the transitional coalition government after a meeting on Monday. A previous deadline expired Aug. 10.

Several rounds of talks in have not curbed the violence, and without punishments for earlier failings, the new deal may fail to make a breakthrough, Solomon Dersso, an analyst at the Institute for Security Studies, said.

‘‘It’s not clear if that’s going to move anything forward at this stage,’’ he said.

Yes it is; it has been rejected.

The UN mission in South Sudan said its MI-8 helicopter crashed 6 miles south of Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, which has been wracked by fighting. The crash occurred three days after rebels detained six truce monitors.

Not getting as much press as the ISIS captives, are they?


"South African court orders release of tapes" Associated Press   August 29, 2014

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered the release of taped phone conversations about corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma, a move that could resurrect a case that has dogged the leader since before he took office.

Zuma had applied to prevent the tapes from being released while the opposition Democratic Alliance party sought access to them.

Zuma South Africa's Nixon?

Conversations on the recordings were cited as a reason to drop fraud and corruption charges against Zuma before he became president in 2009. The prosecuting authority at that time said the conversations showed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma, but the actual recordings were never made public.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille applauded the decision by the court on Thursday, and said her party will analyze the tapes and determine if there were legal reasons to withdraw the charges against Zuma.

‘‘We are all equal before the law,’’ she said in court. ‘‘None of us is above the law. The court systems are being hijacked by politicians like Zuma and his network. . . . If anybody is suspected of a crime and if there is a case to be made, that person must have his day in court.”

The National Prosecuting Authority has five days to release the recordings and internal notes on discussions about why the charges were dropped. Zuma, who at the time was deputy president, was accused of accepting bribes to thwart an investigation into wrongdoing by a French arms company involved in a massive weapons deal in the late 1990s.

The National Prosecuting Authority’s acting director Mokotedi Mpshe in 2009 said he dropped fraud and corruption charges against Zuma because of prosecutorial misconduct. That decision came after Zuma’s legal team brought him taped phone conversations allegedly between prosecutors and a head of a now disbanded crime-fighting unit called the Scorpions about the charges and their timing.


Time to get back into the lab:

"Harvard lab delves into Ebola outbreak" by Carolyn Y. Johnson | Globe Staff   August 28, 2014

Early this summer, tubes of inactivated Ebola virus from Sierra Leone began arriving at Harvard University.



On Thursday in the journal Science, the team of scientists — including five African colleagues who died from Ebola before the research could appear — published the richest and most detailed portrait yet of the virus that is ravaging West Africa.

Those dead scientists sure have the "conspiratorial" websites ablaze.

The researchers’ analysis of Ebola samples taken from 78 patients in Sierra Leone reveals myriad small ways the pathogen has changed, accumulating 341 mutations that set it apart from past outbreaks.

Making me suspect creation in a defense weapons research lab.

The study also tracks how the virus spread into Sierra Leone in late May, when 14 women attended the funeral of a healer who had been working in Guinea. Researchers analyzed samples taken from a dozen of those women and found they carried back from the funeral two slightly different strains of the virus, the researchers concluded.

As the scientists made their discoveries, those findings were made available nearly in real time. Ebola samples would arrive in Cambridge, and within two weeks highly specialized equipment at the Broad Institute would generate genomic blueprints — a remarkable timeline, outside researchers said.

How interesting that Ebola came along when Broad was being closed for lack of funding!

A decade ago, “if we had outbreaks, whatever the outbreak was — dengue or chikungunya — two years after the epidemic you would say scientists working for the past two years have now shown this original strain originated in Indonesia.

“Whereas now, in real time, as the epidemic is going on, we’re able to do that pinpointing in the most elegant, specific, and sensitive manner,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “From a scientific standpoint, that is phenomenal.”

Because the findings are being generated and made public at such lightning speed, scientists have had little time to draw many conclusions. Keeping the genomes private so that Pardis Sabeti, a computational biologist at Harvard who supervised the work, and her lab could be the first to examine them fully — as is traditionally done in science — wasn’t an option. They began posting the genome sequences of the virus online in late June, hoping that crowd-sourcing the problems to laboratories around the world could more rapidly yield insights to help halt the spread of the outbreak, believed to be responsible for more than 1,500 deaths.

“There are two sides of it,” said Sabeti, who led the research with a scientist from Tulane University, Robert Garry, and the late Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan of Sierra Leone, a specialist in treating viral hemorrhagic fevers who was infected with the virus and died in July. “My lab has never been this sad and never been this motivated since I started it.”

Outside scientists said the genomes will provide clues that could help check whether tests used to detect the disease are keeping up with the mutating virus and allow scientists to trace the lineage of the virus, which they believe diverged from a Middle African strain of Ebola in 2004.

The data also show how rapidly the virus is mutating. Past outbreaks have burned out quickly and, therefore, have not given the virus as much of an opportunity to change in ways that make it more of a public health threat.

The durability of the ongoing outbreak means it is vital to keep an eye on how it is changing, Fauci said. So far, researchers have not seen evidence that the mutations are making the virus more dangerous.

But the researchers have already discovered that five standard tests used to diagnose Ebola in blood samples are not a perfect match for this strain. Now, they are testing whether those differences would have an effect on the test being able to certify someone has the virus.


Thomas Geisbert, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said he didn’t immediately see any mutations that would affect the ability of ZMapp, an experimental therapy that has been used in several patients, to work.

The collaboration was made possible by relationships that developed for entirely different reasons....


I guess the EMS workers will be earning those raises. 

So where did it come from again?

"Study dates origin of tuberculosis" by Carl Zimmer | New York Times   August 21, 2014

After a remarkable analysis of bacterial DNA from 1,000-year-old mummies, scientists have proposed a new hypothesis for how tuberculosis arose and spread around the world.

The disease originated less than 6,000 years ago in Africa, they say, and took a surprising route to reach the New World: It was carried across the Atlantic by seals.

The new study, published in the journal Nature, has already provoked strong reactions from other scientists.

“This is a landmark paper that challenges our previous ideas about the origins of tuberculosis,” said Terry Brown, a professor of biomolecular archeology at the University of Manchester.

But Helen Donoghue, an expert on ancient DNA at the University College London, rejected the idea that TB could have emerged so recently. “It just cannot be right,” she said.

Tuberculosis has long been one of the deadliest diseases. In 2012, 8.6 million people became ill with the infection, and it caused 1.3 million deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The invading bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, attacks the lungs, where it causes widespread scarring.

I read that and began thinking how all these crisis health threats pale in comparison to regular flu, cancers, and the rest. 

I'm not saying Ebola or these other things (West Nile, EEE) are not important, but the amount of attention and pre$$ seems out of whack when far greater dangers and killers are lurking.

To better understand the disease, a number of scientists have worked for decades to reconstruct its history.

In some people who get tuberculosis, the bacteria attack the skeleton, and archeologists have found signs of tuberculosis damage in bones dating back centuries.

But archaeological studies and genetic research have often reached different conclusions about the disease’s origins.

Some scientists have argued that tuberculosis spread from cows to humans when the animals were domesticated 10,000 years ago. Others have argued the disease is far older, having evolved about 70,000 years ago.

More when pigs fly stuff.

In the new paper, the team proposes that humans acquired tuberculosis in Africa around 5,000 years ago. The disease spread to people across the Old World along trade routes. Meanwhile, Africans also spread the disease to animals such as cows and goats.

Seals that hauled out onto African beaches to raise their pups became infected. The bacteria then spread through seals until it reached South America. Ancient hunters there became infected when they handled contaminated meat.

Until further research is done, Brown said he would keep an open mind.

“But I’d really like them to be correct,” he said, “because it is going to be fun rearranging all the deck chairs in my brain to accommodate this new idea.”

Yeah, that's a lot of fun while the damn ship is sinking.


Maybe TB came here this way:

US fighting spread of giant snails

What do you mean ""

"The giant African snail damages buildings, destroys crops and can cause meningitis in humans. But some people still want to collect – and even eat – the slimy invaders.

The Agriculture Department is trying to stop them and since June has seized more than 1,200 live specimens of the large snails, also known as giant African land snails. All were traced back to one person in Georgia, who was selling them illegally.

The USDA discovered the snails through a tip from social media at the end of June. It seized more than 200 snails in Long Island, New York, from a person who identified the seller in Georgia.

The department interviewed the trader and seized almost 1,000 more snails, plus one each in Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York. The snails multiply quickly, producing 1,200 or more offspring a year, and they have no natural predators in the US.


That reminds me, I've got to pick up the pace of posts next month.

Blue Butte

"Bud ad plan falls flat for some" The Denver Post   August 27, 2014

DENVER — Some people in normally laid back Crested Butte, Colo., are not up for ‘‘Whatever’’ — a secretive Bud Light plan to paint their mountain town blue and turn it into a fantasy town for an ad campaign.

The Denver Post reports the company has agreed to pay the town $250,000 to fence off its main street and bring in more than 1,000 revelers for the Sept. 5-7 event.

Secrecy has been part of the ‘‘Are you up for Whatever?’’ campaign from its beginning at last year’s Super Bowl when Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared in a spot playing table tennis with Don Cheadle.

Supporters and opponents packed a town meeting Monday night. They included a man dressed in Mickey Mouse ears who said he objected to the town being turned into Disneyland.


Sunday Globe Special: Market Basket Mythology

In honor of a Labor Day praising the dignity of work and blessing a broom, mop, and bucket —  an economic system that places money at its center.

That's why they are being laid off despite the rise in ridership and the fare hikes.

"A way of life prevails in Market Basket saga" by Kevin Cullen | Globe Columnist   August 31, 2014

The Market Basket saga, coming to a life-affirming conclusion on the cusp of Labor Day weekend, had a Hollywood feel to it. You know that somewhere in Southern California, more than one screenwriter is putting together a treatment that will make the rounds in the coming weeks. Too bad Frank Capra’s dead. He would have loved the script.

No doubt, there’s a playwright at work somewhere, too.

He could be wrong.

The Market Basket story is a drama, an allegory, morality play, and fairy tale, all rolled into one. Dysfunctional millionaire families, idealistic everymen, a happy ending....

Beyond the inevitable feel-good film, and whatever else is produced to immortalize this amazing saga, the Market Basket story is about to become a case study at any number of business schools.


But what exactly will be the take on all this, from popular culture to academia?

In the movie, the workers will be portrayed as ordinary, principled people who actually believe in what they do and why they do it, people who were willing to put their financial well-being on the line to stick up for themselves and a benevolent boss, a boss who, unlike them, was going to be rich no matter how this ended.

In the business schools, prospective MBAs will be taught that the Market Basket board, and the people they brought in to replace Arthur T. Demoulas, did just about everything wrong. But, when faced with rebellious employees, wouldn’t most corporations do almost exactly what the Market Basket board did?

The bigger question is: Was this some kind of turning point in the wider culture or an anomaly? I would love to think it’s the former but I’m not so sure.

Corporations exist to make a profit. Stockholders are considered far more important than workers. Corporate leaders have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for shareholders, not maximize the contentment of workers. The Supreme Court famously decided that corporations are people, but judicial ruling can’t give them souls. Corporate leaders are supposed to do that. One legacy of the Market Basket standoff may be to underscore just how vital that executive mandate is.

Artie T. Demoulas is a modern-day Fezziwig, the big-hearted warehouse owner in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” Fezziwig was a capitalist, but he prided himself on not maximizing profits at the expense of his employees, or his own soul. When the man who eventually buys him out makes a bid, suggesting he’ll never get a better offer, Fezziwig’s response could be lifted right out of the Market Basket story: “It’s not just for money alone that one spends a lifetime building up a business,” Fezziwig says. “It’s to preserve a way of life that one knew and loved.”


Five years ago, the people who run some Hyatt hotels in and around Boston brought in a bunch of ladies to clean rooms for a lot less than the living wage they were paying their regular housekeeping staff. They shamelessly let the women they were pushing out the door train their replacements. It was like having a condemned man provide the bullets for his own firing squad.

I vowed, quietly, to myself, to never to stay at a Hyatt again. A couple of months ago, without thinking, I stayed at a Hyatt in New York. I remembered my vow at checkout. 

Sorry I forgot to find the links.

Standing on principle takes more than principle. It takes memory.

On Friday, at the Market Basket in Warner, N.H., both the promise and peril of their new world order was on display....

At least you know where we are all heading. 


Related: Market Basket Shopping List

"Obama returning to state hit by strife

MADISON — The last time President Obama celebrated workers’ rights at a Wisconsin Labor Day event, there was barely a hint of the turmoil to come when public employees staged massive protests in an unsuccessful bid to keep collective bargaining rights. Four years later, Obama returns Monday just as Republican Governor Scott Walker is locked in a tight reelection campaign with the vote two months away. Walker is the architect of the law limiting bargaining rights."

I'm tired of the $hit-political fooleys, sorry.

Also see:

Market Basket’s lesson for unions
Surviving the gig economy

What did you learn?

Careers hinge on a dubious personality test
Two-tiered labor market raises complex new issues
Jobless men are the thorniest social issue in the US
Work-life does not imply age, gender, or parenthood

I'm so glad we have corporate liberalism in the form of the Globe to look after labor.

Help wanted: Robots only, please
100 new jobs for 100 years
Embracing the three-day workweek

I'm thinking about it.

The dream is dead.

NEXT DAY UPDATE: A Market Basket store, returning to life

Sunday Globe Special: Ferguson Flaring Up Again

And it's all about race:

"Ferguson rally marks fatal shooting of Michael Brown" Associated Press   August 31, 2014

FERGUSON, Mo. — Hundreds converged on Ferguson on Saturday to march for Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer three weeks ago to the day.

The teenager’s death stoked national discourse about police tactics and race, a conversation which the rally’s organizers pledged to continue.

Led by Brown’s parents and other relatives, Saturday’s throng peacefully marched down Canfield Drive in the St. Louis suburb to a makeshift memorial that marked the spot where the teenager was shot Aug. 9 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.


Hours later, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the suburban police department and fire station, blocking the road.

Fiery speeches delivered by way of speakers mounted on a car gave way to another march, with chants of ‘‘If we can’t have it, we’re shutting it down.’’

Some lobbed angry insults at a line of Ferguson officers and State Highway Patrol troopers who stood guard at a taped-off section of the city parking lot, but the numbers of protesters dwindled to double digits by late afternoon.

I see the agent provocateurs are still in town.


RelatedThey heard the call of freedom, a summons that still haunts; They were idealists taking on the nation’s shame, students who stood with brave, black Mississippians denied a most basic civil right: the vote.

Time to head over to Louisiana.

Related: Dawnn Jaffier’s life of service recalled by mourners

I'm done slumming around Boston, sorry.

3-year-old Brockton child mourned

The accident marked the second in two weeks involving the death of a child. On a street just 2 miles away, a 12-year-old was struck by a car and killed Aug. 14 while celebrating his birthday on new roller skates.

Brockton Roller Blade Accident

That's a Tufts way to learn to stay out of the street.

Sunday Globe Special: Bagging Up California

Paper or plastic?

"Calif. Senate passes first state ban on plastic bags" Associated Press   August 31, 2014

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers have approved a measure that would make the state the first to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.

The measure cleared the Senate on a 22-to-15 vote Friday and was sent to Governor Jerry Brown. It was approved by the Assembly a day earlier.

Senators who had previously opposed the bill, including incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, this time supported the measure after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.

This bag has a hole in it!

The bill includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.

The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.

For years, a statewide plastic bag ban has been an elusive goal for lawmakers trying to reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that costs millions of dollars to clean up. 

Should be an easy thing to patch up.

About 100 local jurisdictions in California have adopted similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

I burn all mine.

In another environmental matter, the California Legislature on Friday cleared a package of bills that would overhaul the state’s longstanding “pump-as-you-please” groundwater policy.

The bills, also sent to the governor for his signature, were prompted by the worst drought in a generation in California.

It's the neglect of infrastructure that is doing it, and all the important people are being watered.

The state would begin regulating its groundwater supply for the first time under the legislative package. It would require some local governments to develop groundwater-management plans and allows the state to intervene if necessary.

The issue is critical as the state deals with its third year of drought, which has forced farmers to let fields go fallow and led to widespread unemployment in the Central Valley.... 

Which will contribute the food shortage, etc.


Related: Santa Cruz Cash Grab

Sunday Globe Special: Brief Dip in Lancaster

"Girl, 3, drowns in pool; boy critical

LANCASTER — A 3-year-old girl drowned in a backyard swimming pool in Lancaster, and her 4-year-old brother is hospitalized in critical condition, officials said. The children were unresponsive when they were pulled from the above-ground pool Friday."

Sunday Globe Special: Flicker From North Carolina

"Fire kills six people in North Carolina mobile home

GARLAND — Six people were killed Saturday in a house fire in Garland in eastern North Carolina. Sampson County deputies said the fire was reported about 1 a.m. Firefighters found five bodies in the rubble of the mobile home immediately, and a sixth victim was found a few hours later. The cause has not been determined, and the names of the victims were not immediately released. Garland is 75 miles south of Raleigh."

Sunday Globe Special: Iranian Invasion

"Iran president calls US sanctions an ‘invasion’

TEHRAN — President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday called new US sanctions an invasion of the Iranian nation. “We should resist the invasion and put the invaders in their place,’’ he said on state TV. On Friday the United States imposed existing sanctions on more than 25 businesses, banks, and individuals suspected of working to expand Iran’s nuclear program, support terrorism, and help Iran evade sanctions."

Related: All Quiet on the Iranian Front 

Then the U.S. went and made some more noi$e. 

How can anyone view them as a good faith partner in negotiations? 

Who would ever take a piece of US crap sitting across from the table seriously?

Sunday Globe Special: Coup in Lesotho

"Military seizes 2 police stations

MASERU — Lesotho’s military seized two police stations Saturday as gunfire rang out in the capital of the mountainous kingdom. The prime minister said the actions amounted to a coup, though an army spokesman said the soldiers were only securing the country. Political tensions have been high in the kingdom since June, when there was a power struggle after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended Parliament to dodge a no-confidence vote."

Sunday Globe Special: Shaheen Feels Secure

"Scott Brown gains ground on Jeanne Shaheen in N.H." by Jim O’Sullivan | Globe Staff   August 31, 2014

STRATHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire, accustomed to its quadrennial turn in the national political eye, looked earlier this year like it might be in for a sleepy fall.

That’s no longer true.

The buzz about the New Hampshire Senate race intensified last week when a WMUR poll, which earlier this month showed Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen up 12 over her most prominent Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Republican senator Scott Brown, pegged the race as a statistical dead heat. Shaheen led by two points, 46 percent to 44 percent, within the margin of error.

That survey injected new energy into Brown’s campaign, which national Republican strategists have eyed warily, cognizant that the state has voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections.

“There’s momentum,” Brown told a reporter on Tuesday. “You know it, I know it.”

They are calling it the Obama drag.

That poll is an outlier in the race so far, but state and national political strategists from both parties have long said they expected the race to tighten. That is, in part, because of the vicissitudes of the political calendar and, in part, to New Hampshire’s proudly won reputation as a state beholden to neither political party.

And as national party strategists take notice, New Hampshire voters are being pummeled with political advertising in the race.


Meanwhile, on the ground in New Hampshire, Brown has hammered Shaheen on her refusal to hold town halls, a time-honored Granite State political tradition. And he has, since entering the campaign, been working hard to tie her to Obama’s unpopular foreign policy decisions, first in the face of Russia’s expansionist maneuvers and now with the militant group the Islamic State (also known as ISIL).


Shaheen aides say that, while the senator has not held town halls that meet the Brown campaign’s definition, she has consistently been sitting down with voters in open settings. Shaheen’s political brand in the state — she is a former governor, and her family has long been a political powerhouse there — is sturdy and has proved durable to political attacks, they insist.

Democratic strategists familiar with recent private polling say those surveys continue to give Shaheen a lead of up to seven percentage points.

On Thursday, hours before Obama addressed the issue from the White House press briefing room, Shaheen released a measured letter putting a small amount of distance between herself and the administration, urging Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whose 2004 presidential campaign she chaired, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to “do more to disrupt ISIL’s recruitment operations.”

But Shaheen repeatedly refused to say last week whether she would welcome Obama to New Hampshire to campaign for her.

By contrast, during a speech to the Rotary Club of Concord, Shaheen frequently mentioned the name of her fellow New Hampshire senator, Republican Kelly Ayotte.

And she cautiously navigated her response to a question about the federal health care law. Of patients forced to change doctors, she said, “That has not been a good aspect of the law.” But she declined to back the GOP effort to do away with the law.

“I don’t think repealing it is the answer,” Shaheen said.

Brown, too, faces challenges in how closely voters identify him with his own national party. The New Hampshire strain of Republicanism is starkly more centrist than the policies embraced by many of the GOP’s most visible figures across the country.

In that way, much of Brown and Shaheen’s fortunes in the final two months will depend on forces beyond their control. Strategists in both parties say their ability to move poll numbers could largely hinge on prevailing voter trends nationally. The issues of immigration and the Middle East, in particular, have the potential to drastically alter the race.

Obama is reportedly considering sweeping executive action on immigration policy. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on Thursday told reporters that a bold step on immigration could serve as a motivating factor for the party’s liberal base in this fall’s midterm elections.

Not going to happen for the obvious reasons.

The president is also under pressure to authorize airstrikes against ISIS, even as the nation has signaled its weariness after more than a decade of war. Congressional debate about that policy question could come in September, with Senate majority leader Harry Reid indicating that he hopes to bring a defense authorization bill to the floor next month.

Those issues could change the contours of the race. And the recent poll showed that the campaign could veer in either direction.


For Republicans, the prospect of a second Senate seat in New Hampshire is an almost too-good-to-be-true prize, and could help them amass the six seat flips they need this November to take back the Senate.

“This could be a seat that Republicans weren’t expecting to get, but could add to the overall math of taking the Senate,” said Wayne Lesperance, a political science professor at New England College.

Brown so far appears to have dealt effectively with his challengers in the Sept. 9 Republican primary, instead preferring to look ahead to November and engage Shaheen. Two of Brown’s fellow Republican candidates trail Shaheen by a significantly larger margin, according to the poll. Both former US senator Bob Smith and former state senator Jim Rubens lag Shaheen by 14 points. Shaheen is unopposed in her primary.

Globe already declared him the winner, so why bother with a primary?


Sunday Globe Special: Globe Endorses Grossman

What a surprise.

Related: Mass. Governor's Race is Gross, Man!

"Steve Grossman for governor |    August 31, 2014

 The next Massachusetts governor will make choices that will define the state’s economic destiny. Greater Boston may seem relatively secure in the good graces of the knowledge economy, but the next governor must have policies on taxes, transportation, energy, health care, and housing that provide incentives to convince promising startups to stay here and expand. Outside the Boston area, the choices only get harder. Can the state’s gateway cities rebuild their crumbling downtowns and faltering school systems to attract the manufacturers who are starting to bring jobs back from overseas? What happens when manufacturers’ demand for cheaper electricity collides with the need to develop renewable energy?

Governor Patrick, in both 2006 and 2010, spoke eloquently of the human cost of complacency regarding the status quo, and he adjusted his policies with a few overarching goals in mind. While development of life sciences, advancement of offshore wind and solar energy, aggressive state intervention to turn around faltering schools, and expansion of public transportation may seem like obvious priorities, Patrick’s clarity of purpose gave his administration the impetus to push through an agenda that wasn’t just fixing problems — he was preparing the state to capitalize on future opportunities.

When Democrats go to the polls for next week’s primary election, they will face a choice among three candidates who are all impressive in their own ways but may lack Patrick’s galvanizing presence. They must be judged on their ability to see and tackle the state’s big-picture challenges, using political skills necessary to meet them.

State Treasurer Steve Grossman stands out on those terms. Now 68, Grossman has been in the background of Massachusetts politics for decades. He was such a successful fund-raiser for the state and national Democratic Party that he was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1997. After a brief run for governor in 2002 ended in his withdrawal from the race, he was elected treasurer in 2010. On the campaign trail, he still carries a little of the aura of a political operator and the sense that he’s a happy warrior for the Democratic establishment. But that image obscures some unique credentials: He’s transformed his own family business from a paper-envelope manufacturer into an online marketing firm, making the shrewd investments that many companies in similarly constricting industries failed to make. He’s also been the finest state treasurer in living memory, handling the state’s finances with an unusual degree of competence while promoting local banks, urban redevelopment, and financial literacy.

Like his Democratic rivals, Grossman is a forceful advocate for abortion rights, access to contraception, and marriage equality. But more than either of his rivals, he puts competitiveness and economic growth at the top of his agenda, and backs them up with a CEO’s eye for seizing opportunities. He would be an effective advocate for the state, explaining its interests and assets to the nation and world. Some of his priorities, such as expansion of offshore wind and life sciences, align closely with Patrick’s. But he adds some significant new wrinkles: a deeper plan to speed up the siting and permitting of manufacturing facilities in order to compete with North Carolina and other states for biotech plants, and a more expansive sense of how the arts and historic restoration can transform older cities.

    Grossman puts competitiveness and economic growth at the top of his agenda, and backs them up with a CEO’s eye for seizing opportunities.

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Some of these plans will require more government spending, and Grossman hasn’t ruled out new taxes. He promises a fresh initiative to reduce health care costs, which, in one form or another, are eating up almost half the state budget, but otherwise he has not committed to a specific list of reforms. If he were to win the nomination and take on Republican front-runner Charlie Baker, Grossman would have to put more ideas on the table. And Grossman says he welcomes the chance to go toe to toe with Baker. But in the Democratic race, he stands out largely for articulating clear goals and then offering workable policies to achieve them.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, the front-runner in the polls, is campaigning on her solid record over eight years as Massachusetts’ top lawyer, including her forceful defense of the state’s buffer zone for protests outside abortion clinics. There is much to tout in her advocacy for homeowners against predatory lending, and her production of illuminating research into wasteful health care spending. And she made the AG’s office a national leader in advocacy for gay marriage. But overseeing even a large legal team isn’t necessarily a credential for political leadership, and she hasn’t fully explained why she wants to be governor or sketched out her policy priorities in sufficient detail.

After three decades spent mainly in legal practice, she approaches political challenges with the thoughtful, even-handed diligence of an arbitrator or a judge. This parsing of issues can be a sign of wisdom. But her lack of boldness is unusual for a candidate for governor; she seems inclined to wait for problems to come to her, after which she promises nothing but to give them a careful review.

This is not a flaw that can be fixed with a more aggressive stump speech or ad campaign, for it’s a deeply ingrained part of her professional persona. It made her effective as Middlesex County district attorney and state AG, but also disappointing as the Democratic US Senate nominee in 2010. If she were to become governor, there is no doubt that the state would benefit from her solid judgment. But a governor’s race is an occasion to seek and receive a mandate for a specific agenda, and Coakley has not put forward enough of such an agenda.

President Obama’s former Medicare chief Don Berwick is, in some ways, Coakley’s opposite — a visionary and idealist who decries the practical compromises of many elected officials. On poverty issues, in particular, he conveys the spirit of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which he admired as a young man. He promises to make progress on homelessness, hunger, and reducing youth violence his moral guideposts.

A medical professor and pediatrician by trade, Berwick has spent most of an illustrious career advising governments on the delivery of health care. And he’s offered up the boldest and most intriguing policy proposal in this year’s political races: a conversion to a single-payer health system. Such a move would put a government-established panel of professionals in charge of developing health insurance products and establishing reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals. It would essentially put the state’s insurers out of business, while dramatically reducing the market power of providers. He rightly describes it as “Medicare for all.”

Coming from an analyst as knowledgeable as Berwick, the proposal can’t be easily dismissed. But it’s reasonable to wonder how a candidate as politically inexperienced as Berwick would handle the immense task of laying the groundwork for such a change. And it’s too early to put a plan on the table and promise to deliver it. Berwick criticizes Grossman for calling for “a conversation” about single-payer health — what’s that going to deliver? — but a conversation about such a sweeping change is precisely what’s in order.

Nonetheless, Berwick deserves great credit for providing a principled contrast to politics as usual — a charge on which Coakley and Grossman are vulnerable. But experience counts, and newcomers to elective office rightly face skepticism about whether they can deliver change, not just talk about it. Some, like the Patrick of eight years ago, show themselves to have enough natural political talent to overcome a lack of electoral credentials.

Voters will be choosing both an agenda and a governor who can deliver it. Dr. Don Berwick and Attorney General Martha Coakley offer the Commonwealth a great deal, as outlined above. Only Treasurer Steve Grossman offers both a solid agenda and the skills to guide his policies through the political labyrinth.


Also seeUnenrolled, conservative, and trying to decide which Democrat to vote for

Sunday Globe Special: Maine Caught in a Bear Trap

Maine puts bear baiting on the Nov. ballot

I didn't take it. Sorry.

I can try and reimburse you for the trashing; however, don't expect me to take you higher anymore. Maybe that makes you mad, but if so keep it to yourself, 'kay? I'm sick of this shit, sorry.

Sunday Globe Special: No Heart For Novartis

Novartis drug shows promise on heart failure

Sorry I've failed you, readers, for my heart is no longer in this.

Sunday Globe Special: Never You Mine Nicaragua

"Workers rescue 20 gold miners

BONANZA — Rescue workers and trapped miners frantically dug away at opposite sides of rock and mud that blocked a gold mine, finally succeeding in freeing at least 20 men. Efforts to reach five miners still missing continued Saturday."

"Rescuers locate 20 of 24 trapped in Nicaragua mine" Associated Press   August 30, 2014

BONANZA, Nicaragua — Rescuers located 20 of at least 24 freelance gold miners trapped underground by a landslide in northern Nicaragua, but were not immediately able to bring them to safety on Friday.

Dogs helped locate the 20 miners, and rescue workers were laboring to get them out, said Milagros Solorzano of the ruling Sandinista Party in the community of Bonanza.

Soloranzo told local Channel 8 that the 20 miners were in a kind of cave inside the mine and have been able to communicate with rescuers. They said they didn’t know the whereabouts of the other four.

Relatives of the trapped miners gathered Friday on the margins of the rescue operation.

The slide occurred Thursday at the El Comal gold and silver mine operated by Hemco in the town of Bonanza, about 260 miles northeast of Managua.

The trapped miners are freelancers allowed to work in Hemco’s concession if they sell any gold they find to the firm, mining company spokesman Gregorio Downs said.

Downs said the company had warned miners about the danger of working in the El Comal area, especially after two miners died in a landslide there last month.

A government website reported that one of the 26 miners originally trapped had escaped Thursday and another was rescued Friday morning.


Slow Saturday Special: Miss Myanmar

She won't be winning Miss Universe:

"Ex-Myanmar beauty queen accused of stealing crown" Associated Press   August 30, 2014

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s first international beauty queen has absconded with her $100,000 crown after being stripped of her title for being rude and dishonest, organizers said Friday.

May Myat Noe’s photograph was blacked out on the Miss Asia Pacific World website, the word ‘‘dethroned’’ stamped alongside her name.

Another coup!

‘‘She thinks as long as she keeps this crown she’s the winner,’’ said David Kim, director of media for the South Korea-based pageant. ‘‘She’s not.’’

Organizers said Noe had ‘‘lied’’ and proved to be untrustworthy, but provided few details.

Hey, we let them lead countries and write newspapers.

Noe was not immediately available for comment. She planned to hold a news conference at a later time, according to a Myanmar newspaper.

Hla Nu Tun, who initially acted as her unofficial manager, said Noe and the organizers disagreed over who should oversee her career. Noe’s mother wanted control but so did the organizers, she said.

Following her victory, the organizers said they would arrange singing and video deals for her. But they also wanted to change the 5-foot 7-inch teen’s looks, Kim said.

It was decided that Noe’s breasts were too small, and she accepted an offer of enhancements, he said.

I hadn't noticed.

Kim said that troubles started from there, with the beauty queen bringing her mother to Seoul for what was supposed to be a 10-day visit but stretched into three months.


I'll tell you one thing: Burma (as it used to be called) sure lays the agenda bare.

Slow Saturday Special: No Freehdom in Vermont

It's bed-ridden:

"Former FBI director grateful for care after crash" Associated Press   August 30, 2014

MONTPELIER — Former FBI director Louis Freeh said Friday he was grateful for the care and support he has received since he was injured this week in a Vermont car crash.

Freeh issued a statement through the office of US Senator Patrick Leahy after the Vermont senator visited Freeh in the hospital. The two have been friends for years.

In the statement, Freeh thanked a number of officials including Vice President Joe Biden and FBI Director James Comey. He also thanked FBI agents and employees.

‘‘From the very first moments of the accident to the present, their devotion, vigilance and prayers have sustained me and my family,’’ said the 64-year-old Freeh. ‘‘I have the greatest respect and affection for them and their families.’’


Also see:

"FBI ex-director Freeh injured in car crash

Former FBI director Louis Freeh, 64, was seriously injured in a single-car crash in Vermont on Monday, authorities said. State Police said Freeh was taken by helicopter to a New Hampshire hospital with serious injuries following the crash in Barnard, a town about 90 miles northwest of Boston. Freeh apparently drove his SUV off the road shortly after midday and struck a mailbox and a row of shrubs before coming to a stop at a tree, State Police said. He was wearing his seat belt. The cause of the crash was under investigation, police said. No one else was hurt." 

Is it karma or something more conspiratorial? The man must know a lot of secrets. 

Or was he just texting at the wheel?

Slow Saturday Special: Bump Bruised

"State auditor says employee was fired for at-work behavior" by Andy Metzger | State House News Service   August 30, 2014

While acknowledging the truth of some aspects of a lawsuit brought by a former top aide, Auditor Suzanne Bump denied in a Friday court filing that she conducted electioneering out of her office and pushed out Laura Marlin because she was a whistle-blower.

SeeFormer aide suing state Auditor Suzanne Bump

“Defendants justly ended Ms. Marlin’s employment with the Office because her ongoing rude, disrespectful, and confrontational behavior towards her colleagues, including toward Auditor Bump, were an impediment to the smooth and efficient functioning of the Office and it became apparent that, despite coaching and counseling to which Auditor Bump had referred her, she was unable or unwilling to correct her unacceptable behaviors and negative management style,” Bump’s attorneys wrote in response to Marlin’s Aug. 6 lawsuit.

Marlin claims she was forced to resign after raising concerns about political interference with auditing processes and campaign activities occurring in Bump’s State House office. Beyond a statement that denied the claims, Bump and her office have declined to comment.

Marlin had claimed Bump wanted to hold a political meeting to seek the endorsement of a labor group representing social workers in her State House office in May and only moved it after she raised objections.

In her suit, Marlin claimed the day after the meeting, Bump told Marlin that the group’s political director should have been contacted in the course of a recent audit.

In her response, Bump said Marlin wrongly objected to holding a “legal and proper meeting” with leaders of SEIU Local 509 about concerns with the process of an audit that was released about seven weeks earlier.

Bump said she moved the meeting to avoid a “further debate” with Marlin and later talked to Marlin about her “unprofessional behavior” and advised her that union officials should have been contacted to identify members who “could provide information relative to the state objectives of the audit.”

Bump also acknowledged that on one occasion an unidentified state representative whom she had asked to help her collect nomination signatures had picked up a packet of papers from her office.

Bump also said she had been unaware that a Bump campaign staffer had dropped off campaign paperwork for Marlin, and said the office’s general counsel told the staffer he should “never again bring campaign material to the Office.”

Marlin’s lawsuit has created political hay for Bump’s Republican opponent Patricia Saint Aubin, who said in a statement that if the allegations are true they are “unethical and potentially criminal.”

The attorney general’s office previously said Bump would be represented by outside counsel. The attorneys listed on the response are John Graff and Tobias Crawford, of the firm Hirsch Roberts Weinstein. The judge assigned the case is Leo Sorokin. Crawford clerked for Sorokin when he was judge magistrate, according to his biography on the law firm’s website.

Bump conceded that in Marlin’s most recent two “formal” performance evaluations she praised Marlin’s performance and gave her merit-based pay raises — which was one of the claims in Marlin’s suit.

That's all perfunctory and expected.

The response contends “outside the formal review process, Auditor Bump provided Ms. Marlin with a memorandum discussing and listing some of her unacceptable interactions with co-workers and colleagues, which they also discussed on numerous occasions, and referred Ms. Marlin to professional counseling and coaching to remedy her negative behaviors.”

Marlin had stated that after she raised objections to Bump’s directive that the union’s political director should have been included in the audit process, Bump “became extremely angry and combative in response to Ms. Marlin’s statements and memorandum. She hurled invectives at Ms. Marlin, at times raising her voice and using foul language.”

Hey, that's my turf!


I didn't vote for her, I voted for the Republican and will again. I could never understand electing a Democrat to that office in this one-party state. Of all the offices in the state, wouldn't you want that one under the control of the "opposition" such as it is?


"State Auditor Suzanne Bump has settled a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by a former top aide who alleged that the Democrat fired her after she voiced concern over Bump’s conducting campaign activities out of her office and improperly mingling politics with office business. Bump confirmed to the News Service on Tuesday that she had settled the suit with her former first deputy auditor, Laura Marlin, for $115,000. Marlin stands to receive $77,000, while the remaining $38,000 will go toward attorney fees. Marlin filed the lawsuit in August after she was fired for what Bump would later describe in court filings as Marlin’s “ongoing rude, disrespectful, and confrontational behavior towards her colleagues.” (State House News Service)

Oh, that's not too bad, i$ it?

Slow Saturday Special: Ainsworth's Aim Was Off

I hope the executioner's is dead-on:

"Father, daughter allegedly killed by driver high on heroin" by Kiera Blessing | Globe Correspondent   August 29, 2014

Heroin use appears to have been the primary cause of a two-vehicle crash in Easthampton Thursday that killed a father and daughter who were riding on a motorcycle, officials said.

James Walter Ainsworth, 45, of Springfield, is facing two charges of vehicular homicide, negligent and impaired by drugs, after he allegedly drove his car while high on heroin and veered into the wrong lane on Route 5, colliding head-on with a motorcycle carrying the father and daughter at about 3:10 p.m., said Easthampton police Captain Robert Alberti.

Edward McGrath, 62, of Holyoke, and his 29-year-old daughter, Brittney McGrath, of Long Island, N.Y., were pronounced dead at the scene near the Holyoke town line, officials said.

“He basically wasn’t even swerving, witnesses said they saw him [Ainsworth] asleep at the wheel,” Alberti said.

Ainsworth and his passenger, Christina R. Dunlap, 27, of Greenfield, were taken to Baystate Medical Center with minor injuries. Both were charged with possession of heroin, and Ainsworth also faces a charge of operating under the influence of drugs and an array of motor vehicle charges in addition to two counts of vehicular homicide impaired by drugs, Alberti said.

I don't like the age difference and shudder at the implications of the relationship, if one.

In addition, police discovered that Dunlap was wanted for arrest in Florida, so she was also charged as a fugitive from justice.

Nice hometown girl.

Ainsworth and Dunlap were arraigned Friday in Northampton District Court where they pleaded not guilty to all charges. Ainsworth was held on $100,000 cash bail; Dunlap was held on $2,500.

Both are scheduled to return to court Sept. 29 for a pretrial hearing.

We will see if the Globe does.


I'm abstaining from the drugs, folks, but I'm astonished at the tone surrounding the different substances. State is making it harder than hell to get a MEDICAL marijuana clinic up and running, yet it's all compassion and concern for the poor heroin addicts who need our help and compassion as well as increased treatment facilities. I suppose the heroin, meth, and cocaine trade being sources of big profits for money-laundering banks and double-dealing government intelligence agencies has nothing to with it.

Slow Saturday Special: Malloy Fires Away at Foley

"Conn. governor slams challenger on gun law" by Susan Haigh | Associated Press   August 30, 2014

HARTFORD — Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s endorsement Friday from a 15,000-member gun rights organization renewed accusations from Democratic Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign that Foley would support repealing the gun control law passed after the mass school shooting in Newtown. 

Related: “Unraveling Sandy Hook” 

Kind of blows you away, huh? 

It's Foley, it's the Marathon, it's 9/11, it's the 4th of July fireworks, nothing you see on that damn box is real!

Shortly after the Connecticut Citizens Defense League posted its bipartisan list of candidate endorsements on the group’s website, Malloy’s campaign called the league an ‘‘extreme right-wing gun advocacy group.’’

‘‘It’s clear that Tom Foley and the CCDL would stand together to take us backward on our smart gun law,’’ said Mark Bergman, Malloy’s campaign spokesman.

He was referring to comments Foley made during a debate earlier this week.

‘‘If the Legislature handed me a repeal provision of that bill, I would sign it,’’ Foley said Wednesday night. ‘‘That’s not saying I would seek repeal of the bill.’’


Slow Saturday Special: Chance Meetinghouse

"Dorchester bank president chases down, fights robber" by Trisha Thadani | Globe Correspondent   August 28, 2014

When the Meetinghouse Bank was robbed in Dorchester early Thursday afternoon, its president said he chased the robber down the street and tangled with him before he lost sight of the suspect.

At that point, Anthony Paciulli decided to leave the rest up to the police.

Boston police took over, tracking down and arresting David Lydon, 28, of Chelsea, after he allegedly robbed the bank on Dorchester Avenue near Richmond Street, said Boston police Officer Rachel McGuire. Police received a call reporting the robbery, around 2:22 p.m., according to the Boston police website.

Paciulli, 65, said he began the chase as soon as he heard a teller yell that the bank had just been robbed. He was able to catch up with the suspect and they exchanged a few punches, but the man was ultimately too big for Paciulli to subdue.

“It was quite the scene,” Paciulli said. “I caught up to him and he hit me a few times, and then I hit him once, and we were just going round and round.”

Paciulli said the man then reached in his pocket and pulled out a stack of $1 bills. He threw the bills at him and then casually walked down Richmond Street. Paciulli said he followed the man as he turned onto Swan Court, a dead-end side street.

“I could see that he was going to try and jump the fence [at the end of Swan Court], but he was too big to get over it,” Paciulli said. “Then I lost sight of him.”

After officers arrived on the scene, they found Lydon inside a nearby residence with the help of a K-9 unit, McGuire said. Officers were able to recover the stolen money after Lydon’s arrest, she said.

Lydon was charged with unarmed robbery of a bank, breaking and entering during the daytime, assault and battery on an elderly citizen, and for an active outstanding warrant.

He was scheduled be arraigned in Dorchester Municipal Court Friday.