The discovery and widespread use of antibiotics in the middle of the last century ranks as one of the greatest achievements of modern science.
Until the 20th century, infections that we now consider straightforward to treat – such as pneumonia and diarrhea – that are caused by bacteria, were the number one cause of human death in the developed world.
However, during World War II, the widespread use of penicillin is credited not only wth saving the lives of thousands of American soldiers, but also with paving the way for the development of many other forms of antibiotics that we take for granted today for the treatment of everything from ear infections in our children to more serious bacterial infections in those with compromised immune systems.
However, as with everything else in life, too much of a good thing can lead to bad consequences. Antibiotics not only are prescribed for illnesses for which they are often not needed in humans, but are in widespread use in the production of livestock. More than half of the antibiotics produced in the United States are used for agricultural purposes. If you are a consumer of beef, pork, chicken, farm-raised fish, and dairy products — which is to say, just about all of us — then you have been ingesting antibiotics with every meal you have eaten for decades.
The result of this mass use of antibiotics has resulted in the evolution of antibiotic-resistant germs. Recent news articles have highlighted the inability of even the top-rated hospitals throughout the world to fight these super-bugs. Individuals who go into the hospital for routine procedures now are subject to contracting a super-bug that modern science is powerless to fight.
Epidemiologists tell us that the greatest health threat world-wide is a super-bug that is resistant to all of the antibiotic weapons currently existing in our treatment arsenal and that the only way to prevent such an occurrence is to stop the overuse of antibiotics.
However, with the drug and agriculture lobbies firmly in control of Congress, it is not likely that anything will be done to change our present practices, thereby placing all of us at risk for becoming the victims of a super-bug that we will be powerless to stop.
One of the most painful activities as a child is accompanying mom, dad or an older sister to the laundromat.
With only soap operas typically on television and little else to do that twiddle the thumbs or browse phone videos, kids quickly get bored at such places.
Now, Chelsea Community Connections (CCC) and Grace Muwina have combined efforts to put small, free children’s libraries at laundromats throughout the city.
So far, they’ve piloted the program at the Stop & Wash Mat on Broadway, next to Fine Mart, and it’s been a raging success.
“It is working really well so far because the first time we came here we filled up all the book shelves and two days later we came and it was empty,” said Cara Cogliano of CCC. “It means the kids are reading and using the books. Part of the idea is having access to books here at the laundromat, but if they can take it home, we want that too. We really just want access to books for kids. It’s a captive audience here, there’s not much to do, and we thought we should meet the kids where they’re at.”
Muwina has spearheaded the effort as part of a project for her class at TND’s Parent Leadership Program.
“I wanted this program to reach the kids where they are all the time, and give them access to books to read,” said Muwina. “It’s also a way to cut down on screen time as well. When kids are in the laundromat, they are constantly looking at videos on the phone. If this can get them off the phone for a half hour and help them to read a book instead, that can make a bid difference over time.”
This past Monday, at the Stop & Wash, little Emelia Nieto was busy reading a flip book as her mom folded clothes. The little girl was delighted when she learned she could take the book home, and that she could choose one as well for her baby sister.
Cogliano said all of the books are donated to CCC, so the effort is really cost-free. The only cost is the time of volunteers to return to the laundromat and fill up the book cases twice a week with new books.
The novel way of promoting reading is something both women hope will catch on at the many other laundromats in Chelsea. So far, Stop & Wash was the first to agree to the program.
Cogliano and Muwina said they hope that other volunteers will pick up the momentum and begin placing other children’s libraries in other laundromats.
“It’s not an original idea, but the ability for other people to pick up the project and do it elsewhere is tremendous,” she said.
Sen. Sal DiDomenico recently testified before the Joint Committee on Education in support of his bill, S.265, An Act ensuring high-quality pre-kindergarten education. This legislation would expand preschool, using grants from the state, beginning with high-needs communities that are ready with a state-approved expansion plan.
“Across Massachusetts, people are ready for more preschool,” said DiDomenico in his testimony before the Committee. “I have heard from countless parents who want this learning opportunity for their children, but often can’t afford it or are on waiting lists. Local communities, led by community-based programs, school districts, and mayors, have solid plans for preschool expansion and are waiting for new public dollars to begin implementation. That is why I filed this legislation, and I am confident this bill is an important next step towards improving and expanding high quality early education for our kids”
Pre-kindergarten education has been proven to have significant short- and long-term impacts on children’s educational, social, and health outcomes. However, about 40 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts do not attend preschool. For those children who are enrolled in pre-K, many attend schools with high student-to-teacher ratios, low family engagement, and inadequate teacher qualifications. These children enter kindergarten at a disadvantage as compared to their peers who receive high-quality pre-kindergarten education. These initial setbacks in intellectual, social, and emotional development affect children throughout their lives, as they regularly underperform in school and afterwards.
This legislation filed by Sen. DiDomenico would target underperforming school districts, providing 3- and 4-year-olds in those neighborhoods with pre-K education administered by qualified teachers in programs following federal Preschool Expansion Grant quality standards. Since his election to the Massachusetts Senate in 2010, fighting to provide kids in the Commonwealth with access to high quality early education has been one of Sen. DiDomenico’s highest legislative priorities. This bill has remained a key component of the Senator’s legislative agenda and is one of his top early education policy items this legislative session.
The passing this past week of Genevieve Spinelli, who owned and operated Genevieve’s Dance Studio for 42 years, marks the end of an era for those who lived in this city in the latter part of the last century.
Genevieve taught two generations of children the joys of dance, installing in each child a sense of self-confidence, teamwork, and discipline. Parents admired her both for the individual attention she gave to their children and for the uplifting manner with which she taught each and every cild.
The end-of-the-year recitals were a source of much joy for Genevieve, as she watched her students perform so confidently in front of large audiences for the first time.
Her generosity of spirit, her ability to make each child feel special, and her vibrant personality made each day at the studio a fun and enjoyable after-school activity for all of her dancers.
She was the wife of Ralph Spinelli, with whom she shared 50 years of marriage. Ralph was her most valued supporter and No. 1 fan, knowing his wife was revered by children and parents alike. Ralph himself possesses an incredible ability to tell a story or a joke and bring a smile to those fortunate enough to be in his company, and together Genevieve and he were an inseparable pair who made a difference in the lives of those who were fortunate enough to attend her school.
Those of us who were blessed to know their son, Robert MacDonald, in his youth, remember his early and successful involvement in the performing arts and what a terrific person he is.
In Genevieve Spinelli, Chelsea truly has lost a legendary figure — a link to a glorious period in our history when dancing was an activity for so many of our youngest residents. Genevieve inspired countless young people in this city to develop a lifelong appreciation for dance.
We know we join with all of our fellow residents in expressing our condolences to her family. Genevieve was a wonderful lady and truly will be missed.
“Last year, several people lost fingers and suffered serious burns lighting off illegal fireworks in Massachusetts,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “Thirty-four firefighters were injured when an errant firework ignited a six-family building. Have a fun but safe Fourth of July and leave the fireworks to the professionals,” he added.
Fourth of July No Holiday for Firefighters
Needham Fire Chief Dennis Condon, president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts, said, “The Fourth of July holiday is a busy time for firefighters. We are supervising the professional displays so that they are safe for spectators and licensed operators; we are busy responding to all types of fires and medical emergencies. In fact, the week of July Fourth is one of the busiest times of the year for fires.”
State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said, “This year, set a good example for your children. Just as children know where you keep the matches and lighters, they know where you stash your illegal fireworks.” He added, “Children imitate adults. If you use fireworks, children will copy you, not realizing how very dangerous fireworks are.”
Fireworks Cause Many Dangerous Fires
Last summer, there were many fires, amputations and burn injuries from illegal fireworks in Massachusetts. In the past decade (2009-2018), there have been 800 major fires and explosions involving illegal fireworks in Massachusetts. These incidents resulted in 12 civilian injuries, 39 fire service injuries and an estimated dollar loss of $2.5 million.
· On June 25, 2018, people shooting fireworks in the street started a fire in a six-unit Lynn apartment building. One ricocheted to the second floor porch and ignited several items. The fire spread to the rest of the second floor and to the third. Thirty-four firefighters were injured at this fire.
· On July 2, 2018, the Worcester Fire Department was called to a fire in a three-unit apartment building. The fire was started by fireworks igniting trash in a first floor doorway.
· On July 3, 2018, Dartmouth District #1 responded to a pier fire at Anthony’s Beach. Crews discovered remains of many fireworks on and around the pier after the fire was extinguished.
· On July 4, 2018, the Agawam Fire Department responded to a brush fire started by three juveniles who were using illegal fireworks.
· On July 5, 2018, the Lynn Fire Department put out a car fire started by fireworks.
In the past decade (2009-2018), 38 people were treated at Massachusetts emergency rooms for severe burn injuries from fireworks (burns covering 5 percent of more of the body) according to the Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System (M-BIRS). Fifty-five percent of the victims were under age 25. Eighteen percent (18 percent) were between the ages of 15 and 24; 8 percent were between the ages of 10 and 14; 18 percent were between five and nine; and 11 percent were children under five. The youngest victim was a six-month old boy. These victims are scarred for life. In the past year:
· A 22-year-old man was seriously injured when roman candles were set off inside an Amherst apartment.
· A 22-year-old was injured in Gloucester playing with sparklers.
· A 10-year-old boy was injured by illegal fireworks at a Marshfield beach on July 3, 2018. He was an innocent by-stander.
· A man lost part of his hand when a firework he was holding exploded. The explosion occurred in a Mansfield MBTA parking lot.
· The Tewksbury Fire Department provided emergency medical care to a man who lost a part of every finger on his right hand when a firework he was holding exploded.
· A 25-year-old Brockton man suffered injuries to his left hand when a “cherry bomb” exploded.
· A 22-year-old Kingston man suffered injuries to his hands, face and stomach from a firework.
All Fireworks Are Illegal in Massachusetts
The possession and use of all fireworks by private citizens is illegal in Massachusetts. This includes Class C fireworks, which are sometimes falsely called “safe and sane” fireworks. Class C fireworks include sparklers, party poppers, snappers, firecrackers, spinners, cherry bombs and more. Sparklers burn at 1,800ºF or higher. It is illegal to transport fireworks into Massachusetts, even if they were purchased legally elsewhere. Illegal fireworks can be confiscated on the spot.
For more information on the dangers of fireworks, go to the Department of Fire Services webpage Leave the Fireworks to the Professionals.
By: Julia Blatt, Executive Director, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance
At long last, a recent weekend presented one of those pristine days that remind us here in Massachusetts why we endure those winters. With warm spring weather finally here, many of us hit the water for the first time this year, visiting local rivers. With more than 10,000 miles of rivers traversing the state, we had many choices. Sail boats blossomed on the Charles. Rowers huffed and puffed on the Mystic. Fishing rods sprouted along the Swift. Bikers and kayakers explored the Sudbury. For many people, the beautiful day meant a chance to spend on, in and around the rivers of Massachusetts.
Fittingly, June is National Rivers Month, a 30-day gala celebrating our waterways. Whether you kayak past important Revolutionary War sites on the Concord River, hike over the Bridge of Flowers on the Deerfield, draw water for local crops from the Connecticut, or depend on drinking water from the Merrimack, National Rivers Month is a time to celebrate the gains we have made in protecting these important public recreational, economic and historic assets.
National Rivers Month, however, is also a time to reflect on what remains to be accomplished. The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, the voice for Massachusetts rivers, is a statewide environmental advocacy non-profit that helps those whose lives are touched by these Massachusetts waterways (and we would argue, that’s all of us). Consider, for example, pending legislation regarding sewage overflows around the state. Very old stormwater and wastewater systems serving municipalities in the state have what are called “combined sewage overflow” (CSO) systems. Through these CSOs, stormwater and wastewater systems are physically interconnected. At times of high precipitation, stormwater run-off goes into the wastewater system and overwhelms the water treatment plants. To prevent these backups, wastewater – the sewage from your homes and businesses – is dumped directly into Massachusetts rivers. Approximately 200 of these CSO connections exist throughout the state. In Massachusetts, an estimated three billion gallons of raw sewage gets dumped into the state’s rivers each year. Swimmers, canoeists, and pets exposed to CSO contaminants are vulnerable to gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, eye or ear infections, skin rashes, hepatitis and other diseases. Children, the elderly, and people with suppressed immune systems are especially vulnerable. Wildlife are also adversely affected by CSO pollutants which lead to higher water temperatures, increased turbidity, toxins and reduced oxygen levels in the water.
Everyone recognizes the problem. But it takes money to fix it, more money than is now available. Over the past two decades, Massachusetts communities have spent more than $1 billion to eliminate CSOs. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, however, that an additional $4.2 billion is needed to finish the job.
In addition to supporting efforts to increase state and federal funding to eliminate CSOs, Mass Rivers is championing a simple sewage notification bill now pending before the Massachusetts legislature. Disturbingly, there is currently no state requirement to notify the public about the presence of sewage in the water when these discharges occur.
The legislation supported by Mass Rivers would require the operator of a CSO to notify local boards of health, in addition to the state Department of Public Health, within two hours after a sewage spill begins. In addition, the public could sign up to receive these notifications, by text, e-mail, phone call or tweet. The state Department of Environmental Protection would be required to centralize all sewage spill data and make it available on the internet. Signage would be required at all public access points (for boating, fishing, beaches) near CSO outfalls as well.
National Rivers Month is a time to shake off those indoor blues and enjoy Massachusetts’
bounty of rivers. Whether you go to look for great blue herons, to fish for trout, to take your family and the dog on an afternoon paddling adventure, or simply to seek calm and quiet, our state’s rivers are there for you. To preserve these friends, and to ensure the safety of those who use our rivers, National Rivers Month should also be a time for towns and cities to insist that our legislators enact a requirement that when the waters are despoiled with sewage spills, we know about it.
Julia Blatt is Executive Director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, the voice of Massachusetts rivers. The Alliance is a statewide organization of 77 environmental organizations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
An exhibit by the Chelsea Hunger Network is now installed at Gallery 456 and will remain until the day of its community fundraising event on April 18, the 8th Annual Chelsea Empty Bowls.
Since September of 2018, 19 groups have convened over 300 “community artists” in Chelsea to paint a variety of ceramic bowls and mugs. A selection of these colorful pieces of practical art, all fired in the kilns of Salem State’s Art + Design department, are now on display in the gallery. Next to the exhibit of the decorated ceramics, a collage depicts various artists showing off their work as well as groups and individuals at work. Many photographed are widely recognized community figures including Chelsea’s City Manager, Tom Ambrosino.
Another section of the gallery displays large color posters revealing the identity of the 19 participating groups and gives additional background on the Chelsea Hunger Network. An infographic outlines the contributing factors leading to an increase in food insecurity and hunger in our community.
The 8th Annual Chelsea Empty Bowls event will take place on April 18, from 5-7 p.m. at the Williams School at 180 Walnut St. Choose one of the hundreds of bowls and mugs and serve yourself from an all-you-can-eat menu of delicious clam chowder, chili, soups, and Toscanini’s ice cream. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and can be purchased online at www.eventbrite.com under “Chelsea Empty Bowls”. Children under 8 years old are free.
State Rep. Dan Ryan said this week he is pleased in what is considered a step up in becoming the vice chair of the Post Audit Oversight Committee – a powerful committee that runs investigations of government operations and actually has subpoena powers.
“I want to thank Speaker DeLeo for this appointment, and my House colleagues for voting to affirm his trust in me,” said Ryan. “I look forward to working with Chairman Linsky and other committee members in continuing to bring solid, cost-effective government programs to the electorate.”
Ryan said Post-Audit Oversight certainly
isn’t a household name for most people in the Town, but said it has a unique
mission and is a sought-after committee on Beacon Hill.
“The Post-Audit Oversight Committee is a select House committee that has a unique mission,” he said. “Members of the committee are tasked with ensuring that State agencies are abiding by legislative intent and the program initiatives put forth, by the legislature, through the budget process. When necessary, the committee will work with administrative agencies to propose corrective actions to best serve citizens of the Commonwealth.”
One of the most visible investigations conducted by the Committee came several years ago in the previous administration when the Department of Children and Families (DCF) came under fire for its handling and management of numerous cases involving children.
Ryan has also been assigned as a member of the Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery Committee, and as a member of the Transportation Committee.
•Just across the North Washington Street Bridge, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz came away with one of the biggest scores for the Boston delegation in getting assigned as chair of the powerful Ways & Means Committee.
Rep. Ryan said that having such an important chair nearby will be very good for Charlestown as well as the North End. That will particularly be apparent with projects like the North Washington Street Bridge, which affects the North End as much as Charlestown.
Michlewitz told the Patriot-Bridge that he is humbled by the appointment, and that while he has to build consensus across the state, he will keep his district and Boston in the forefront.
“I am honored that Speaker DeLeo believes I can do the job,” he said. “The first order of business is creating and debating a $42.7 billion budget. A lot of work has been done in committee, but we have a short timeframe to get a lot done. The thing I was to stress is my district is my number one priority.”