…And the World:
Greece continues to weigh heavily over the European Union as leaders of the continent again meet to discuss the continuing crisis. Even as the Greek government seems prepared to engage in more reforms, the Euro leaders meeting in Brussels face a general strike and the reality of shrinking economies. As British Prime Minister David Cameron has begun to insist, after getting hammered by Labour in last week’s Prime Minister’s questions, growth has to be central to freeing Europe from the jaws of collapse. European leaders seem prepared to accept that reality as they meet in the Belgian capital. What to do about it is another matter.
Democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi informally began her campaign for special election to the Burmese Parliament with a swing through the rural parts of the country. Suu Kyi and her party the National League for Democracy are contesting election after significant reforms were made by the military backed, but civilian leadership of Burman, also known as Myanmar. In that visit to Dawei, she said that considerable reforms would need to be made to the constitution, however, she made the caveat that this would only occur once democracy has fully taken root in the country.
Mitt Romney appears poised to scoop up Florida after Newt Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina and subsequent substandard debate performances. Mindful of his campaigns at times virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric, Romney has tried to soften his stance on immigration to appeal to Hispanic voters. However, that message is different in Florida than it is in most states as Cubans, who largely vote Republican, make up a huge part of the Hispanic electorate. Consequently, that community’s position on immigration is not the same. Still, Romney’s is reaching out to Hispanics. He cannot afford to take any chances at letting Gingrich have an ounce of space as the former House speaker has made immigration comments that seem more humane than Romney’s.
New Occupy protests in Oakland erupted over the weekend after protesters attempted to turn an abandoned convention center into a new home, further inflaming an already problematic situation in the Bay Area city. Oakland was the site of numerous and violent conflicts with police including one that critically injured a veteran, however, that city’s protests have also been unfairly held up as example of the national movement. Oakland suffers from longstanding distrust and division between citizens and officials in addition to crime and poverty. Finger pointing has already begun. The irony may be that even as Occupy provided a perfect outlet for the tension building in that city (coupled with trademark Bay Area radicalism), it had the effect of overshadowing these problems that scream out for attention in a way that they simply do not in other cities. To make matters worse, there is a definite growing moral ambiguity of the situation whether it is needless vandalism by protesters or flagrant disregard for the freedom of the press by the police, among other complaints.
The State of Things:
Technically a national story, but the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act is due for a vote today in the Senate. The bill was introduced originally in the House by two Democrats, but following a 60 Minutes report on Congressional Insider Trading, Senator Scott Brown introduced a senate version. However, his bill was largely ignored after Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York introduced a stronger bill. However, Brown is still calling it his bill, with little or no reference to Gillibrand. For a nice refresher on this subject, and why we feel this way on the subject, consider our past report.
After years of delays and reports, Massachusetts may finally see the first mass transit extension in years begin construction this year. The Green Line of Boston, probably known best in this region by area Red Sox fans visiting the city, is poised to be extended beyond its current terminus at Lechmere in Cambridge into Somerville and Medford. Currently only Commuter rail is an option for travelers. The link is expected to greatly relieve pressure on roads and encourage smart growth in the region. Still its opening is not expected for up to eight years and comes as the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority faces another difficult year as its debt payments and costs wreak havoc on fares and service.
Also in Boston, the city bids farewell to Kevin White, the city’s mayor from 1968 to 1984. He was 82. White served through the turbulent years of the busing riots, but is also credited with modernizing Boston and pulling it out of the old world. Corruption scandals launched by then-US Attorney William Weld and the building of a neighborhood-based machine (which current Mayor Tom Menino uses to this day) dim his legacy, but his tenure is on balance seems like one to be proud of. He was even briefly considered as George McGovern’s running mate in 1972 before Tom Eagleton was selected, a decision the one-time Democratic nominee for president probably wished he had made differently. When he retired, White taught at Boston University until diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about ten years ago. Photos of White here on Boston.com.
The controversy over the grant funding for AWAKE is not over, but is slated to move on for now. The local outreach group, Alive with Awareness Knowledge and Empowerment, was passed over by the city for a state grant intended for outreach to at-risk youth. The city claims they never provided proof of their work, while AWAKE claims that they did. An effort by the council to slow the process down was undermined as the state undersecretary administering the grant reversed herself and urged speedy approval of the grant, which the council is expected to do today. Some claim the reversal by HHS Undersecretary Marilyn Chase happened to avoid bringing the state executive branch into local political disputes. AWAKE has claimed they were snubbed because they supported Jose Tosado over Domenic Sarno in last year’s election.
Eastman Chemical has purchased Solutia in a sale that has some worried about the fate of the Indian Orchard plant. While employment at the facility has fallen in recent years, the plant does provide hundreds of jobs in the area and its closure could be catastrophic to the city. It may prompt a new TIF from the city as well to head off the plant closure.
In another Brown item, this one very local, the office of Senator Scott Brown has confirmed that the senator will meet with local NAACP head the Rev. Talbert Swan. Brown has earlier declined meeting with Swan, leading Swan to respond with disappointment in a letter released to the media. The Valley Advocate’s On Springfield blog noted a pattern of Brown ducking meaningful Western Mass meetings. While Brown certainly has his supporters out here, the 413 is largely seen as Elizabeth Warren territory for Brown. The Republican’s Rob Rizzuto plans to be in on the Brown-Swan meeting slated for March.
If you’re wondering why there are so many Scott Brown items in today’s markup, while aside from it being news, we have not published an “Our 100th” recently and felt it was overdue. We may have a fuller report on the senate race or on one of the candidates’ activities soon, but for now, with so much local news we have had to leave it to the big boys (and girls) in journalism. That said, we award this week’s tweet prize to Rick Klein, the Washington Editor of ABC World News tonight. Scott Brown has released a new radio ad praising the patriots ahead of this Sunday’s Super Bowl. With a whiff of snark and sarcasm, Klein notes Brown’s “bold” move to praise the Pats. This ad, however sincere it probably is (unless Brown is a secret Giants fan), fits very nicely into Brown’s attempts to emphasize his everymanhood. “He likes the Patriots just like me!” Unlike his opponent, Elizabeth Warren, who…wait, no. She’s pretty darn Pro-Pats, too. It also comes as Brown has engaged in a sudden short-term surge of “independence” that materialized almost immediately after Warren entered teh race. Click the link in the text to see the Brown ad on Twitter.