Happening Today

Gants at UMass Law commencement

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants offers the keynote address at UMass Law’s commencement ceremony, Main Auditorium, UMass Dartmouth, 10 a.m.

Performing arts festival

Mayor Marty Walsh joins others to announce details of ‘Outside The Box,’ a performing arts festival coming to Boston in July, corner of Charles Street and Beacon Street, Beacon Hill, 11 a.m.

Housing production and preservation

Gov. Charlie Baker announces housing production and preservation capital budget investments at the Housing Opportunity 2016 Conference hosted by the Urban Land Institute, Boston Marriott Copley Place, 110 Huntington Avenue, Boston, 11:45 a.m.

‘Medicine That Matters’ gala

Boston Health Care for the Homeless hosts its annual Medicine that Matters Gala, with honorary co-chairs Sen. Edward Markey and Mayor Martin Walsh; Gov. Charlie Baker will receive the Dr. Jim O’Connell Award and Liberty Mutual Insurance will be honored with the Tim Russert Award, Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, 606 Congress St., 5 p.m.

Today’s Stories

Debate heats up over graduated income tax

Even though Massachusetts voters over the years have repeatedly rejected imposing a graduated income tax on residents, advocates of the current “millionaire tax” are more optimistic than ever that they can finally get their long-sought tax policy passed. They’re right to be upbeat: An overwhelming majority of respondents in a recent poll said they’d back a constitutional amendment to allow a graduated income tax.

So that explains why opponents are suddenly gearing up for a fight this week over the planned joint constitutional convention on Beacon Hill to authorize a statewide vote later this decade to amend the state constitution, which now authorizes only a flat income tax. The Herald’s Jack Encarnacao reports on how opponents believe that a graduated income tax will harm businesses and simply lead to increased state spending. Meanwhile, the Globe’s Joshua Miller has a piece on how opponents are struggling hard to find a counter-message to the “millionaire tax” proposal.

Teachers union pledges $9.2 million to fight charter question

The Massachusetts Teachers Association voted at its annual meeting Saturday to re-elect “fiery” president Barbara Madeloni to a second two-year term and then authorized the spending of up to $9.2 million to defeat a November ballot question seeking to lift the state’s cap on charter schools, Michael Jonas of CommonWealth Magazine reports. Combined with $2.4 million pledged by the American Federation of Teachers, the move means nearly $12 million will be available to the campaign against the ballot initiative. That’s a lot of dough – and charter proponents are also planning to spend an eye-popping amount on the ballot question.


Gee, what could possibly have caused a spike in power-plant carbon emissions?

New England power plants emitted 5 percent more carbon pollutants in 2015, the first such emissions increase in five years, raising concerns about whether the state can hit its mandated greenhouse gas reductions, the Globe’s David Abel reports. What caused the increase? Well, it sure was cold in 2015, encouraging people to whip out their electric heaters. But no one really believes that’s the main cause. The likely culprit: The 2014 closing of the non-carbon-emitting Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, resulting in a 13 percent increase in the use of natural gas-generated electricity in the region, industry specialists tell the Globe.

Next up: Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s planned closure in 2019 – when carbon emissions will likely spike once again. Bottom line: For the time being, nuclear power plays a gigantic role in reducing the region’s need for fossil fuels. A lot of people have a very hard time admitting that.

Boston Globe

Fallout seen from environmental budget cuts

On another environmental front: A decade and a half of budget cuts and shifting priorities has weakened environmental protections and testing statewide, according to a story by Beth Daley and Caitlin Bawn of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting carried by WGBH and numerous other media outlets. State-funded bacterial testing of lakes and rivers has been slashed by two-thirds over the last 10 years, while the number of inspections conducted at sites known to be contaminated is down 24 percent since 2001.


Memos to Liz and Donald on Twitter war: Shut up

The Herald has dueling columns today on the tiresome Liz Warren and Donald Trump Twitter wars. From Republican Holly Robichaud: “Memo to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Shut down your Twitter account, Liz. You need to remember that you were elected to the U.S. Senate, not as chairwoman of the Democrat National Committee.” From political reporter/columnist Hillary Chabot: “Memo to Donald Trump: Please don’t feed the Twitter trolls. Specifically, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.”

But the two pols probably can’t help themselves. Indeed, the Twitter wars may be helping Warren in various corners of the political world, as the Herald’s Kimberly Atkins reports. The Globe’s Adrian Walker is tired of the Twitter wars, as are many others (including most certainly us), and he’d like to see a little more from Warren than just sharp-edged Tweets.

How Jeff Bezos turned around the Washington Post

In a piece headlined ‘Journalism is slow to grasp new technology,’ Zuri Berry interviews Andy Boyle, a web developer at NBC-owned BreakingNews.com, about how struggling media outlets can improve their digital products.

But they should also pay closer attention to what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is doing at the Washington Post, which has undergone a sort of journalistic renaissance since Bezos recently bought the paper, reports Business Insider. Here are some of the things that jumped out at us from the BI post:

— “Bezos isn’t involved in setting The Post’s editorial direction at all. But he’s taken a more hands-on approach on the business and technology sides to reinvent the paper as a ‘media and technology company.’” I.e., he’s not treating it as if the content is the problem, although the Post has indeed wisely beefed up its political and national coverage since Bezos took over.

— “(The Post has) created software called ‘Arc,’ which gives better analytics and marketing features for the publication. … That’s helped it take a more data-driven approach. It now employs common web strategies like ‘A/B testing’ to track how different headlines and story framings affect readership for each story. It also created a program that takes articles from other publications and asks readers which ones they’d rather read.”

— “The Post now has a growing team of 700 staff members, including an engineering team that nearly tripled over the past two years. Bezos says The Post’s engineering team rivals ‘any team in Silicon Valley.’”

Granted, not every paper can have a multibillionaire owner like Bezos who can sink gobs of money into various experiments and who knows how to digitally market and distribute products. But Bezos is nevertheless acting as a sort of one-man R&D funding center for the entire industry in general.

Business Insider

Heavy emergency room use by homeless strains system

A small number of repeat patients at area emergency rooms are responsible for nearly half of the annual Medicaid spending by the city of Boston, prompting area hospitals to form special teams to address the issue, Lindsay Kalter of the Herald reports. So-called “super-utilizers” of emergency care are often homeless and many suffer from mental health or addiction issues.

Boston Herald

Brockton schools acknowledge campaign spending

The city of Brockton says its school department has spent $25,000 worth of public funds to support the Brockton Kids County campaign aimed at lobbying the state for additional educational funding, Marc Larocque of the Enterprise reports. The city says the money came from a budget line item for parental engagement and was used along with private donations to print lawn signs and other promotional materials.

The Enterprise

Probation chief pension payments back in play

Former Probation Department Commissioner John J. O’Brien may be able to keep some $55,000 worth of pension payments he has already received after the state retirement board voted to reverse its earlier decision requiring O’Brien and a lieutenant to return the payments, Matt Stout of the Herald reports. The case will now be reconsidered by hearings officer before the board votes again on how to proceed. Basically, the board is reacting to recent court rulings dealing with those convicted of crimes and how much of (and when) their pension payments can actually be stripped away.

Boston Herald

Groceries for guns in Brockton

The city of Brockton will hold its first gun buyback program in more than 20 years next weekend, exchanging $200 grocery store gift cards for each weapon turned in, Benjamin Paulin of the Enterprise reports. The program is being paid for with funds generated through police forfeiture actions.

The Enterprise

Monday’s MASSterList Review of Book Reviews

Last week, MASSterList pointed out a somewhat favorable Globe review of local author Nathanial Philbrick’s new book ‘Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution.’ In yesterday’s NYT, a review of Philbrick’s book was anything but favorable. Here goes:

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, by Nathanial Philbrick, reviewed by Janet Maslin in the Times. Maslin gets off to a brutal start: “The title of Nathaniel Philbrick’s ‘Valiant Ambition’ says everything about it, because it says nothing.” And it’s all down hill from there, as Maslin rips into the book’s lack of focus and relevant new materials. “From the book’s outset, it’s clear that Mr. Philbrick did not approach this project with a clear thesis. He approached it with a mandate, a methodology, a book contract and a couple of big names to connect. At least that’s how ‘Valiant Ambition’ reads.”

Joe Gould’s Teeth, by Jill Lepore, reviewed by Joseph P. Kahn in the Boston Globe. Kahn doesn’t make clear if he really liked the book or not, but he said Lepore, who teaches history at Harvard and has written a number of well regarded books, is “well-suited” to tackle the complicated, mysterious and sad tale of one Joseph Ferdinand Gould, a strange man made “quasi-famous” by profiles of him in the 1940s and 1960s by New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell. One of Gould’s claims to fame is that he boasted he had toiled for decades on ‘The Oral History of Our Time,’ an unpublished manuscript that was reportedly millions of words long. But did such a manuscript ever really exist? “If aspects of the mystery remain unsolved, Lepore weaves them into a haunting portrait of Gould, a ‘toothless madman’ who believed he was his generation’s preeminent historian — and who in fact helped inspire the modern oral history movement,” writes Kahn.

Today’s Headlines


Verizon dangles Fios carrot over Boston neighborhoods – WGBH

Mayor Marty Walsh and Councilor Tito Jackson spar on school walkout – Boston Herald

The MBTA has fixed a big rider pet peeve – Boston.com


Gloucester Biotechnology Academy opens – Gloucester Times

Proposed Beverly rehab facility using ‘loophole’ – Salem News

New Police chief in Southbridge: Treat, rather than arrest, drug addicts – Telegram & Gazette

Homeless ER visits put ‘strain on the system’ – Boston Herald

Where would revenue from a millionaire tax go? – Boston Globe

Mass drivers getting more tickets for texting while driving – Boston Globe

Methuen steps up school residency enforcement – Eagle Tribune

Vendor and job fair for Taunton casino draws large crowd – Taunton Gazette

Brockton to swap groceries for guns – Brockton Enterprise

Budget cuts hinder environmental protection efforts in Mass. – Brockton Enterprise

State and towns looking at tapping into hydropower – Boston Globe


How Nixon targeted the Trump electorate – Boston Globe

Are Clinton voters low on enthusiasm – Boston Globe

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