Well Done:CHS Track Star Stephanie Simons Makes Good Showing at Nationals

Well Done:CHS Track Star Stephanie Simons Makes Good Showing at Nationals

Chelsea High track star Stephanie Simons became the first female athlete to participate in the National High School championship meet last weekend in North Carolina, doing the city proud as she took 15th in the high jump and 27th

CHS Sophomore track star Stephanie Simon in a promotional photo from the New Balance High School National Championships last weekend at North Carolina A&T University.Simon was the first female athlete in CHS history to go to the nationals, and she competed in two events. She placed 15th out of 54 in the high jump.

in the triple jump.

Simon, only a sophomore, has starred for the track team over the past year, along with her sister, Martine, who is a senior. Stephanie distanced herself from the pack in qualifying earlier this year to compete at the New Balance High School National Championships last weekend at North Carolina A&T University.

In the high jump, the talented sophomore finished 15th out of 54 competitors from all over the United States.

Meanwhile, in the triple jump, she placed 27th out of 44 competitors.

“The sky is the future for this talented student athlete – who is just a sophomore,” said Coach Mark Martineau. “She is already looking forward to next year and even better performances.”

Simon has already set several school records and placed high at the Division 1 State Meet earlier this year.

She is also a very talented hurdler as well.

Read More

Is This Really America?

Is This Really America?

The national disgrace that is occurring at our southern border is something that we never could have imagined happening in the United States of America.

The images of children separated from their parents and locked behind chain link fences evokes the worst horrors of the 20th century —  the concentration camps and gulags to which millions of people were consigned by the very worst dictatorial regimes.

For almost 250 years, America has been not merely a place, but an ideal for the proposition that all men are created equally and that every person has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In less than a few days’ time however, the principles that Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers so eloquently, yet simply, put into words in the Declaration of Independence have been destroyed.

The justification for what, by any standards of decency, amounts to an inhumane policy resembles a classic case of reductio ad absurdum.

The New York Times columnist David Brooks (who is a conservative writer) put it this way in his analysis of the language that is being used when they talk about the situation:

“This is what George Orwell noticed about the authoritarian brutalists: They don’t use words to illuminate the complexity of reality; they use words to eradicate the complexity of reality.”

If we say nothing then basically we are telling these families and their children that they are getting what they deserve. If separating people into metal cages is okay, then what does that say about our society and ourselves.

Read More

May Day Observances

May Day Observances

Chelsea residents held up a sign reading “Chelsea Workers United” as they marched on Broadway for International Workers’ Day on Tuesday, May 1, in the annual May 1st Coalition procession from East Boston to Chelsea and Everett. After the march, a rally was held in Everett with all three communities showing solidarity for numerous causes.

Read More

Art Appreciation:Lane Helps Chelsea Village Seniors Use Art as Therapy

Art Appreciation:Lane Helps Chelsea Village Seniors Use Art as Therapy

Lesley University graduate student Natalie Lane wanted the students in her art therapy group to have their artwork appreciated by others, so she organized a show in the community room at Chelsea Village Elderly on the final day of her internship.

Lesley University graduate student Natalie Lane (right), with the seniors, Elisa Enamorado, Silvia Hernandez, and Irena Lewicki, in her art therapy group at the Chelsea Village Elderly, 5 Admirals Way. The seniors are pictured in front of their artwork at a show inside the Chelsea Village community room.

Residents walked in and admired the artwork of Village residents Irena Lewicki, Elisa Enamaorado, and Silvia Hernandez, who stood proudly in front of their finished pieces and happily answered questions about the entre artistic process.

Lane, 22, has been working with the seniors as an art therapy intern since September. She held one-hour art classes twice a week in addition to a one-hour art therapy studio session.

“My goal was to introduce therapeutic expressive art to the residents,” said Lane, who is originally from Texas.

“I stressed the creative component of healing, along with building relationships and a community. The seniors did such a good job and they deserve to be proud of it and to be appreciated.

It turns out what the seniors themselves appreciated the most was Lane’s teachings and professional manner, complemented by her warmth and vibrant personality that made each student feel special.

“Natalie is the finest person I’ve ever met,” said the 71-year-old Lewicki, who was born in Poland and came to the United States in 1963. “She directs us in such a positive way. I’ve learned so much from her. It’s not easy, but it’s a beautiful thing to be able to express yourself through your art. She’s transformed me in to an artist.”

Enamorado also said that Lane was an inspiration and gave her a deeper appreciation of art.

“We had an art group that was like a family and it was taught by a wonderful person,” said Enamorado. “What I enjoyed most was working on the group art piece.”

Tammy King, residence services coordinator for Chelsea Village (Peabody Properties), said the art therapy program was a huge success.

“I really appreciate Lesley College’s programming and administrative support and having Natalie here to provide such an outstanding program for our residents,” said King, who attended the art show.

Read More

On May Day, Thousands to March For Worker and Immigrant Rights

On May Day, Thousands to March For Worker and Immigrant Rights

On Tuesday, May 1, International Workers’ Day workers, immigrants and supporters from across the region will join with labor and community organizations, starting at 4:00 p.m. in East Boston, and marching to Chelsea and Everett to participate in an act of unity and defiance against the Trump administration’s attacks against workers and immigrants.

Labor, community and immigrants’ rights organization will make clear that the Trump administration’s systematic attempt to criminalize immigrants not only assaults the civil rights of communities of color, but also opens a dangerous path of intolerance that is already having dramatic consequences in communities across the country as hate crimes against immigrants, and those perceived to be foreign continue to spread.

Organizers and participants will also highlight how unions have been defending their rights’ by collective resistance. Additionally, we will encourage our state legislature to pass safeguards that protect our communities and the rule of law by separating local law enforcement and the federal immigration deportation machinery.

The day will start with a multi-community roundtable at the Chelsea Collaborative, 318 Broadway, at 10 a.m. with Esther Lopez, secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW).

The march will start in East Boston at 4 p.m. in Liberty Plaza, then head to Chelsea City Hall. At 4:30 p.m., the combined group will march from Chelsea to Glendale Park in Everett. There, a rally and cultural program will take place in the park at 5:30 p.m.

The May 1 Coalition of Chelsea, Everett & East Boston includes the Chelsea Collaborative, La Comunidad Inc., City Life/Vida Urbana, International UFCW, UFCW Local 1445, Raise Up, Fight for $15, MIRA, American Friends Service Committee, MassCOSH, SEIU 32BJ, SEIU 509, Jobs With Justice, New England Carpenters Union, Mass. AFL-CIO, Community Labor United, Chinese Progressive Association, Brazilian Women’s Group, UUMassAction, Chelsea Uniting Against the War, IWCC, Projecto Hondureño, Workers World, EBECC, Painters Union, NOAH, Brazilian Workers Center, CAN, Comite de Hondureños Unidos de Massachusetts.

Read More

Six Months Later, Puerto Rico Still Devastated by Hurricane Maria

Six Months Later, Puerto Rico Still Devastated by Hurricane Maria

Six months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, many areas of the country outside the tourist hot spots are still in crumbling disrepair – some without electricity since the first storm, Hurricane Irma – and residents of the island nation that is closely tied to Chelsea continue to suffer.CHEL_20180412_A1

Record photographer Keiko Hiromi traveled to Puerto Rico in late March to survey the damage, having followed the story last fall when Chelsea galvanized to provide thousands of pounds and multiple truckloads of donations to help relieve the situation.

Residents of Chelsea are closely tied to Puerto Rico, with thousands here having been born there or having had relatives emigrate here from the island.

Hiromi reported that upon landing at the airport, things looked normal, but upon leaving the population centers, she discovered homes in much the same shape as the day after the devastation.

“When I landed at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport on March 21, everything looked normal as if nothing had ever happened,” she said. “As I spent five days travelling through Puerto Rico, sometimes away from the functioning tourist areas, I witnessed Puerto Rico in recovery. Many raw scars were still unmended: debris on roads, houses without roofs. Yet, at the same time, I encountered the faces of resilient, strong, patient people, compassionate for each other.”

At the Chelsea Collaborative, Director Gladys Vega and Program Manager Sylvia Ramirez were not surprised at what Hiromi found. Both said they are worried that too many have forgotten about the disaster despite the fact that little has improved for many there.

“I knew that the island was going to be devastated, and at the same time I am shocked how citizens of the United States are so ignored,” she said. “In the next few months, the hurricane season is going to be starting again, and Puerto Rico is nowhere near able to take their normal storm season. One thing I was extremely sad about is we are not getting any help. The news has forgotten about Puerto Rico and moved on to other things. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is still in devastation. People are suffering, they have no housing and they’re hungry.”

Ramirez said she feels the same way.

After the devastation, she headed up the Collaborative’s efforts to provide aid to those in Puerto Rico, and also to welcome families coming to Chelsea from the island for refuge.

She said much remains the same there, but that story isn’t getting out.

“I think the lack of coverage in the news doesn’t really portray the reality of what’s happening there,” she said. “People go on with their lives and they focus on their kids, they go to work, Christmas came and went. It’s no longer a priority because it’s not in the news. Our plan here in Chelsea is to do another call for action in June or July to bring attention to the situation. The worry for everyone is that nothing is being done to prepare for this year’s hurricane season.

“People go on with their lives, but there are still parts of the island absolutely devastated and nobody is talking about that,” she continued.

That is exactly what Hiromi reported firsthand.

In Toa Baja, just outside of San Juan Hiromi found Miguel Anjel Mericado at his home. His home still had a collapsed roof that had not been fixed and was open to the elements. Beams rested on the floor and electricity was spotty. He collected items that he could find in order to continue the efforts of fixing the home.

Hiromi also visited Yabucoa, where Maria first made landfall.

In Vega Alta, a rural community in the mountains, she visited a family that had no electricity since Hurricane Irma – the first storm to hit Puerto Rico last year even before Hurricane Maria.

Herberto Rivera, a school bus driver there, had been powering the family home with a generator they purchased months ago. They hoped that power would come back to the community before the next hurricane season.

In Chelsea, Ramirez said they are currently working with 55 families who came to the city after the hurricane for refuge, with 18 of them still in FEMA hotels. Statewide, she said, there are nearly 700 families in hotels who arrived after the storm, and 530 are in FEMA hotel rooms. The dire need is that FEMA will stop paying for those rooms on April 20. Already 123 families have used up the FEMA payments and are being paid for by the Red Cross.

She said they are still collecting furniture for those refugees moving into apartments, and they are still trying to secure more stable living conditions.

At the same time, the identical fight continues on the island of Puerto Rico.

“There are still a lot of people without electricity and with blue tarps on their roofs,” said Ramirez. “That’s the reality.”

Read More

MS-13 Leader Sentenced to 19 Years in Prison

MS-13 Leader Sentenced to 19 Years in Prison

A leader of MS-13’s Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha clique was sentenced today in federal court in Boston.

Rafael Leoner Aguirre, a/k/a “Tremendo,” 22, a Salvadoran national, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 19 years in prison and three years of supervised release, which he will begin serving after completion of the state prison sentence for which he is currently incarcerated. Leoner Aguirre will also be subject to deportation upon the completion of his federal sentence. In November 2017, Leoner Aguirre was convicted by a federal jury after a multi-week trial of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.

Leoner Aguirre was the leader of MS-13’s Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha clique. In 2013, Leoner Aguirre entered the United States illegally from El Salvador and initially moved to Michigan. From there, he began recruiting and planning MS-13 activities impacting Massachusetts. Among other things, Leoner Aguirre created recruitment videos for MS-13 and posted them on YouTube. This enabled younger gang members and associates to view these videos, including one witness who testified that he first saw these videos while at a local high school in Massachusetts.

In March 2014, Leoner Aguirre moved to the Chelsea area and immediately began activating, organizing, and supervising the Enfermos clique. As part of that activity, Leoner Aguirre encouraged members of the clique to attack and kill rival gang members, in addition to committing other racketeering acts such as robberies. Leoner Aguirre himself committed a number of racketeering acts, including an attempted murder in Chelsea where Leoner Aguirre struck a victim in the head with a machete.  Leoner Aguirre also committed an attempted murder involving a shooting, which is the incident for which he is currently serving a four-to-five year state prison sentence.  Leoner Aguirre committed both of these attempted murders in daylight on busy public streets in Chelsea.

The other members and associates of the Enfermos clique were Hector Ramires, a/k/a “Cuervo;” Bryan Galicia Barillas, a/k/a “Chucky;” David Lopez, a/k/a “Cilindro,” a/k/a “Villano;” Daniel Menjivar, a/k/a “Roca,” a/k/a “Sitiko;” Angel Pineda, a/k/a “Bravo;” and Kevin Ayala, a/k/a “Gallito.” Each of these defendants has pleaded guilty and will be subject to deportation upon the completion of their sentences.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Commissioner Thomas Turco of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections; Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger; Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Thompkins; Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley; Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan; Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett; Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; Chelsea Police Chief Brian A. Kyes; Everett Police Chief Steven A. Mazzie; Lynn Police Chief Michael Mageary; Revere Police Chief James Guido; and Somerville Police Chief David Fallon made the announcement.

Read More

RMV Announces New Requirements: Lawful Presence and REAL ID

RMV Announces New Requirements: Lawful Presence and REAL ID

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is reminding the public that on March 26, to get or renew any driver’s license, ID card, or learner’s permit, customers will need documentation showing United States citizenship or lawful presence as required by federal and state law.

Lawful presence means that a person is legally living in the United States according to federal immigration laws. All United States citizens and lawfully permanent residents have permanent lawful presence in the U.S. Non-U.S. individuals who are studying, working, or living temporarily in the U.S. may have temporary lawful presence that may vary in length.

On March 26, customers will have the choice between a REAL ID Driver’s License or ID Card or a Standard Massachusetts Driver’s License or ID Card. REAL ID is a Federal Security Standard for IDs that was created in 2005 as a result of increased federal security measures after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

REAL ID will be available on March 26; however, people will not need a REAL ID until October 2020. And if they have an active passport and don’t mind carrying it, they will never need a REAL ID. After October 2020, citizens will need either a passport or REAL ID Massachusetts Driver’s License to fly in the United States, or to enter restricted areas of federal buildings. The Standard Massachusetts License or ID card will not be valid as a federal ID after October 2020.

“We encourage the public to review information on our website at  HYPERLINK “http://www.mass.gov/id” t “_blank” mass.gov/id to learn what documents they must provide for the credential they seek,” said Registrar Erin Deveney. “In most cases, people will have the required documents on hand as these documents are regularly requested when a child starts school, when someone travels outside the country, or in order to get married.”

On March 26, individuals applying for Registry credentials are encouraged to start their applications online at  HYPERLINK “http://www.mass.gov/rmv” t “_blank” mass.gov/rmvand answer a few questions to determine if they should choose a REAL ID driver’s license or ID or a Standard Driver’s license or ID, and exactly what identification documents are necessary for each. Customers who visit the RMV’s website will be able to print online applications or have an application that can be displayed on a mobile phone. The website tells customers exactly what to bring to complete the transaction and also directs AAA members to the closest AAA offices for renewals. The online application includes a bar code that will be scanned to retrieve the customer’s information in the system to save time in line. Renewal customers requesting a standard card may be able to perform their renewal successfully online, without coming in for the transaction in person.

Before March 26, 2018: Customers can process renewals as usual – online or in person at a RMV Service Center or AAA location, (if they are a member of AAA).  The Registry encourages the public to renew early.

  • Lawful Presence Documentation

For U.S. citizens, a valid, unexpired U.S. passport is sufficient proof of lawful presence. U.S. citizens may also provide a certified copy of their U.S. birth certificate.

For permanent residents, a valid permanent resident card (green card) is sufficient proof of lawful presence.

For customers who are not U.S. citizens, valid, verifiable immigration documents as well as proof that they have been granted a legal stay in the U.S. for at least 12 months is required. Their license or ID will expire when their legal stay is over.

Read More

MS-13 Member Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for Chelsea Murder

MS-13 Member Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for Chelsea Murder

An MS-13 member was sentenced on March 22 in federal court in Boston to racketeering conspiracy involving murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.

Bryan Galicia Barillas, a/k/a “Chucky,” 21, a Guatemalan national who resided in Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 22 years in prison and five years of supervised release. Galicia Barillas will be subject to deportation upon completion of this sentence.  In October 2017, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.

The racketeering activity by Galicia Barillas, a member of MS-13’s Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha (ECS) clique, included his involvement in the death of an innocent bystander in Chelsea. On Oct. 18, 2014, Galicia Barillas and Hector Ramires, a/k/a “Cuervo,” another member of the ECS clique, encountered a group of individuals in Chelsea suspected of belonging to a rival gang.  Ramires, who was armed with a weapon that Galicia Barillas had provided on an earlier occasion, shot at one of the suspected gang rivals and missed, killing an innocent bystander who was looking out a nearby window of a room she shared with her three children. Galicia Barillas was a juvenile at the time of the murder.

Galicia Barillas also accepted responsibility for his role in a Sept. 8, 2014, stabbing and attempted murder of an individual in Chelsea, which Galicia Barillas also committed when he was a juvenile.  Shortly after he turned 18, Galicia Barillas was involved in an April 2015 conspiracy to kill an MS-13 member that the gang believed was cooperating with law enforcement, and a May 26, 2015 stabbing and attempted murder of a suspected rival gang member in Chelsea.

Ramires pleaded guilty in October 2017 to RICO conspiracy involving murder and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11, 2018.

After a three-year investigation, Galicia Barillas and Ramires were two of 61 persons named in a fifth superseding indictment targeting the criminal activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in Massachusetts. MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States with thousands of members across the country, including a sizeable presence in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, including murder, against suspected gang rivals and those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. The fifth superseding indictment alleges that, from approximately 2014 to 2016, MS-13 cliques in Massachusetts were responsible for, among other things, six murders and approximately 20 attempted murders, as well as robberies and drug trafficking.

Read More

To Cut Drug Prices, Start with the Facts

To Cut Drug Prices, Start with the Facts

Americans are paying too much for prescription medicines. State lawmakers are fed up with Washington’s apathy towards high pharmacy bills. So they’re taking matters into their own hands and pushing forward with several bills

Their proposals are well-intentioned — but they’re doomed to backfire and hurt patients. Why? The bills are based on false assumptions.

Many lawmakers believe that prescription drug prices are skyrocketing. They’re not. In fact, after accounting for all the rebates and discounts manufacturers offer, drug prices have barely budged in recent years. Drug spending grew just 1.3 percent in 2016, according to the latest federal data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Overall health spending increased by 4.3 percent.

In other words, drug spending is growing slower than hospital and nursing home expenditures. In fact, it’s growing even slower than the general inflation rate, which has averaged just under 2 percent.

Legislators also blame drug prices for rising costs in Medicaid, the entitlement program for low-income Americans that is managed and partly funded by the states. Once again, they’re mistaken.

Drug companies provide generous discounts and rebates back to Medicaid to curb its overall prescription drug spending. Medicaid’s statistics rarely reflect these discounts. In 2014, the program reported that its gross spending on drugs reached $21 billion. But after factoring in discounts, the program actually spent only $8 billion on medicines.

Federal law guarantees Medicaid the lowest drug prices on the market.

Nevertheless, state lawmakers insist that drug companies are charging too much. So they’re calling for a variety of price controls.

One measure floated in Utah would allow patients to import medicines from Canada. That’s a bad idea.

The policy wouldn’t lower healthcare costs. Ninety percent of all drugs sold in the United States are generic, and generics generally cost less in the United States than in Canada. a patient’s co-pay — what he actually pays at the pharmacy — is often lower than the price paid at a Canadian pharmacy, even if the list price of the medicine is higher in the United States.

Another proposal in Louisiana, would allow the state to infringe on manufacturers’ patents. State legislators want to give generic drug companies the right to make cheap knockoff copies of hepatitis C medicines, which are heavily utilized by the state’s Medicaid and prison populations.

This move simply isn’t necessary. In 2017, Medicaid spending on hepatitis C drugs fell by 28 percent — the biggest drop for any class of medicines.

If states start weakening patent protections, it will have a chilling effect on scientific research. Drug companies won’t plow billions in to developing new medicines if the government can break their patents on a whim. Patients would miss out on future treatments and cures as a result of this drop in research.

This isn’t to say that patients aren’t paying high prices for drugs. They are. But drug makers aren’t at fault.

Middlemen, like pharmacy benefit managers and insurers, are the ones raising prices on consumers.

PBMs negotiate drug prices on behalf of health plans. They secure big discounts and rebates from manufacturers. But PBMs and insurers routinely fail to pass these savings along to consumers. Instead, they hike consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses by forcing them to pay ever-higher co-pays and co-insurance.

If lawmakers want to reduce peoples’ pharmacy bills, they should demand more transparency from insurers and PBMs.

Peter J. Pitts, a former FDA Associate Commissioner, is President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

Read More