Mayor Walsh gives 1st Chamber of Commerce address

More than 500 business executives joined Boston Mayor Martin Walsh Tuesday morning as he emphasized his belief in the spirit of Boston’s professionalism and entrepreneurial strength for his first annual Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce address and Government Affairs Forum.

Walsh detailed his vision of a more inclusive, international and innovative city at the America Ballroom of the Westin Copley Place.

“It’s inclusive, seeding the growth in every neighborhood and connecting our young people to career pathways,” he said. “It’s international, embracing newcomers and recruiting businesses from around the world. Our mission is innovative, embracing high-tech life sciences and the creative industries that are on the cutting edge of change.”

While the city is on its way to making this vision a reality, Walsh said there is still much to be done, including the collaboration of businesses, entrepreneurs, venture capital funders and community partners to turn Boston into the “economy of the future.”

Walsh proposed changes be made to Boston’s city policy, infrastructure and culture. One change includes the creation of a Chief Digital Officer, who will remake the city’s website, television station and other digital assets.

“The city itself must be at the forefront of innovation,” he said. “We need startups to succeed, and we need them to stay and grow in Boston. We will put together a team of business development and marketing leaders who will do just that.”

With the idea to strengthen Boston Public Schools, Walsh said the city’s children must be given the attention and preparation needed to give them optimal educational opportunities.

“We must prepare our young people to be the leaders of the next generation,” he said. “We are developing a strategic plan to make the Boston Public Schools the premier digital district in the nation by the year 2020. You are sitting here today because you know how to adapt, change and grow. That’s the resilience we need to preserve and pass on.”

By keeping the spirit of Boston alive, this can and should be done, he said. This spirit was seen during the 2014 Boston Marathon and in the days and weeks prior, and it is made up of determination, ambition, resiliency, unity and teamwork, Walsh said.

“Ultimately, the spirit of Boston is in all of you, who work to make our industries, our communities and our city better every day,” he said. “Boston was built by leaders, like you, who know how to collaborate and how to innovate. It’s what made us the city we are today.”

Several attendees said they were impressed with Walsh’s plans and are excited to see what else he has to offer the city in terms of innovation and growth.

Melanie Jones, 34, of Waltham, is the director of marketing at Hotel and Home Recovery, and said Walsh should focus his attention on housing to improve the economy.

“It’s always important to keep the business here in Boston and have plenty of jobs for folks, but to have that, you need to have housing for them,” she said. “A sense of homeownership and living is a huge part of that, and middle income is something that definitely needs to be looked at in every city, not only Boston.”

Manuel Rivera, 40, of Boston, who was representing a startup company called WaterShots, said he had been hoping Walsh would talk more about green technologies and lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

“I would have liked for him to talk a little bit more about sustainability, green technologies and lowering the green house gasemissions,” he said. “I want to know more about his point of view and his plans for that. He didn’t cover that topic enough, and nobody else really asked any questions about it.”

Susan Elliot, 59, of South Natick, is the executive vice president and chief business officer of Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston and said her business focuses on low-income and affordable housing.

“Many of the questions that I had were answered here today,” she said. “I was impressed. I thought that he covered the gamut, from jobs, affordable housing and public safety. He touched on them all in a very articulate and informed way.”


Workers Memorial Day honors those killed at work

To honor workers who have been injured or killed on the job, over one hundred workers, union, government representatives and residents gathered in front of the Massachusetts State House on Monday.

The memorial event, part of the Workers Memorial Day Commemoration, was organized by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. It honored those who had been killed or injured in the workplace in 2013.

In attendance were representatives of labor unions, such as Building Trades Council and Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative, as well as Massachusetts Sen. Ken Donnelly and other representatives of the state legislature.

“In 2013, we lost almost 50 workers, almost 50 employees of workplace related death, and countless more undocumented cancer and illnesses,” said Steven Tolman, president of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

It is imperative people fight to give Occupational Safety and Health Administration the ability to properly penalize and investigate worker safety violations and workplace conditions, Tolman said, which is something that must be done at the federal level.

“We need to ensure that our public employees are protected on the job sites and without the resources OSHA needs, we run the risk of losing more workers each year to occupational tragedies,” he said. “We need to change the mindset so that the number one priority of all employees is making sure that all workers are able to get home safely.

Rachel Kaprielian, secretary of Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development, said any workplace death is unacceptable, and we should not fight to for less workplace incidents, but for no workplace incidents.

“It is a solemn day to be here to commemorate 48 workers in Massachusetts who lost their lives on the job,” she said. “As has been said, one death is too many. We know that the majority of workplaces accidents were preventable, caused by preventable hazards. We must recommit ourselves to support, encourage and require that employers institute proven safety measures at the workplace.”

Kaprielian has been working with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to establish Patrick’s Executive Order 511, which established the Massachusetts Employees Safety and Health Advisory Committee to improve worker health and safety.

“On any given day in Massachusetts, over 3 million residents report to a job,” she said. “I will stand with you and fight so that none of our three-and-a-half million workers has to sacrifice their health or safety for their paycheck.”

While several attendees were there to show respect to friends and family who had lost their lives while at work, others were in attendance to show support for the cause.

David Graham, 67, of Natick, was there to mourn the loss of a friend, Michael McDaniel, whom he had known for more than 23 years.

“We worked together at the Town of Natick Water Department,” he said. “He and my friend Scott Sperling were injured in an accident involving a backhoe truck. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s something we are forced to deal with every day.”

Melissa King, 31, of Boston, was there to pay respect to her father, who lost his life while working at Logan International Airport in 2005. She is advocating for the Family Burial Benefit Bill, which will give more money to families of workers who had died on the job in order to be able to provide funeral services.

“This is the ninth year since my father died,” she said. “He was electrocuted while working at Logan Airport. It’s important to try and make a change. Right now, $4,000 is provided to families, but that doesn’t begin to cover the cost of a funeral. More money would make a difference at a time when a family doesn’t want to worry about costs.”

Andrea Sheldon, 22, of Boston, was there to learn more to show support for a cause that she works for every day.

“I do research in construction health and safety,” she said. “Right now we’re focusing on total worker health and safety in order to teach workers how to be as safe and as healthy as possible while on the job. Everyone wants to be able to enjoy their retirement, but at the end of the day, if they’re not healthy, they might not make it there.”

Bill to prevent animal cruelty revised in house

Because April is Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, members of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives gathered to revise a bill to ensure that the welfare and safety of animals remain a priority.

The Protective Animal Welfare and Safety Act, proposed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, will impose fines and penalties, establish an anonymous tip service, create a commission to review the state’s current animal welfare laws and create a statewide registry of individuals convicted of crimes against animals, according to Massachusetts Voters for Animals.

Tarr held a hearing Thursday to draw attention back to the PAWS Act and encourage the body pass the bill by July.

Ami Bowen, director of marketing and communications for the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said the bill would allow the public to take a stand and help in resolving the current issues with animal safety.

“Four out of five cases of animal cruelty remain undiscovered,” she said. “So it’s great when there are laws and control officers who are aware. We need the public’s help to bring concerns to authorities. There are things that can be done to make sure that the animals and the people get help.”

Animal rights activists and employees alike have supported Tarr in his crusade against mistreatment of animals.

“Typically if someone witnesses a case of abuse, they call the police or they call the [Massachusetts Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals],” said Rob Halpin, director of public relations for MSPCA Angell. “If they call us first, we go in with police experts, and if there is enough evidence, we will see it through to a court case. The most common cases are things like abandonment.”

Bowen said people often report suspected incidents of animal abuse anonymously, and there is commonly a connection between cruelty to animals and other forms of violence.

“Sometimes, people just don’t know, so we like to give them the opportunity to make the adjustment,” she said. “Other times, they just can’t handle owning an animal anymore. Often times, the owners also need assistance. There are things that can be done to make sure the animals and the people get help.”

Other members of the Senate and House of Representatives have accompanied Tarr in his efforts. The issue became more prominent after the August 2013 case of “Puppy Doe,” in which a dog was euthanized after being found brutally beaten in Quincy Park. The injuries included a stab wound to her eye, the splitting of her tongue to look like a serpent, as well as being burned and starved.

“Our laws are woefully outdated regarding the subject of punishing those who abuse animals,” Tarr said in the release. “As a society, we need to stand up against those who would inflict pain so ruthlessly and coldheartedly, and tell them these actions cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Several residents said animal abuse should not be accepted or tolerated, although people may not be aware of the prominence of the issue.

“I don’t know much about animal cruelty, but that’s an issue in itself. It’s something that people need to be educated on,” said Alexis Extract, 30, of Brighton. “When these issues are made public, people begin to understand how bad the issue is. If it was in the news more, people would have more opinions about it, because I don’t think anyone would be okay with it.”

Tom McLoughlin, 54, of Back Bay, said abuse should not be tolerated, both in the city of Boston and in the state as a whole.

“Abuse comes in all forms, whether it be a farmer who cannot afford to take care of his animals properly, someone who hoards animals or those who participate in cockfighting and dogfighting,” he said. “[But] there shouldn’t be abuse at all.”

Heather Nickle, 36, of Back Bay, said the PAWS act is a proactive approach to solving a problem in the community before it happens.

“Animal cruelty is the worst because there creatures are helpless and they just want love,” she said. “I’m glad that it’s on the minds of [officials] because it’s our job to protect them. I hope eventually we can stop the abuse before it even happens, instead of just helping the animals afterward.”

University-wide mass remembers deceased freshman

At a memorial mass held at Marsh Chapel Saturday afternoon to honor the life of Diego Fernandez Montes, a Boston University freshman killed during a robbery in Mexico City, members of the BU community reflected on Fernandez’s exceptional character and involvement at the university.

The life of the first-year economics major was commemorated through a small reception, followed by a university-wide mass led by Father David Barnes. About 75 people, including students, the Fernandez family, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore and Dean of Marsh Chapel Rev. Robert Hill attended the ceremony.

“Even though time has passed, I know we all feel Diego’s death as still very near to us,” Barnes said in his homily. “In the Christian life, the candle represents Christ’s light of the world, but it doesn’t immediate expel all darkness. Today, we all feel the darkness, the weight of sorrow, the weight of pain, as we remember Diego’s life.”

Barnes spent most of his homily discussing the significance of the light that emanates from the ceremonial candle in the front of the Church. The candle, a symbol of the omnipresence of the light of the Lord, begins to expel the darkness and the sadness surrounding the loss of life, Barnes said.

“Death seems so final. It seems impossible to believe there is anything beyond that, but that light will shine through,” he said. “As Christians, we believe death is not the last word in Diego’s life. In his soul, that little light will begin to flicker, and there is great power in that light.”

Barnes chose not to speak about the sadness of Fernandez’s tragic death and instead said while Fernandez may not be with us now, his loved ones will be with him again in due time.

“Today I would not attempt to say anything to try to expel the darkness, the sadness and the pain. That’s not the way God works,” he said. “In our mourning, in these days, weeks, months and years, little-by-little the light of the Lord will console us and help us know that we will see Diego again.

Not only was Fernandez active in the BU community, but also in the lives of his friends and family, several students said.

“I knew Diego through the Mexican Students Association. He was the treasurer,” said College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Lorraine Ziegler, who attended the mass. “He was extremely involved. He knew so many people, even as a freshman. He impacted so many people.”

Fernandez was the type of person who people remembered and talked about. He cared for his friends and family, was always there for them and wished for the best for all of them, Ziegler said.

“He always talked about life, the meaning of life and what it meant for us,” she said. “He was truly special. It was wonderful that the parents came. At the reception we were able to show them pictures that Diego had taken, which they had not been able to see at the photo gallery earlier this month.”

Fred Schmidt, a School of Management sophomore who read scripture during the mass, had served on the executive board of BU’s Residence Hall Association with Fernandez.

“It was nice to have everyone together,” Schmidt said. “It was a powerful, emotional experience. Diego was really fun, yet so disciplined at the same time. He knew how to have fun, but he also knew how to be a community organizer and a leader in the community.”

Amanda Oliva, a College of General Studies freshman who attended the mass, met Fernandez through her friends in the Latin community at BU.

“It is still so hard to speak about it, I cared about Diego so much,” she said. “I am here to remember Diego in all of his greatness. Diego was a very special person. He always cared about other people, so it’s only right to show that we cared about him just as much.”

Patrick establishes restrictions on Zohydro

In order to prevent people from abusing prescription painkiller Zohydro ER, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced Tuesday new restrictions would be placed on the monitoring and availability of the drug.

The immediate restrictions imposed on the painkiller will establish a Prescription Monitoring Program and will require doctors to complete risk assessments and pain management treatment agreements on patients prior to prescribing the drug, the Tuesday press release stated. Drug screening, safe storage and disposal and pill counts are among the issues addressed by the agreement.

A federal judge overturned Patrick’s emergency ban on the painkiller on April 15, but Patrick stood firm in wanting to prevent any harmful uses of the drug.

“We are in the midst of a public health emergency around opioid abuse and we need to do everything in our power to prevent it from getting worse,” Patrick said in the Tuesday release. “The broad actions we are taking to address the opioid epidemic will help save lives and give families struggling with addiction new hope.”

Patrick was not alone in his crusade against the painkiller, said Alec Loftus, communications director to Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services. The FDA approved the drug over the objection of its own advisory council, which voted against it 11-2, and a majority of all states, over 30 attorney generals have requested review of approval.

“Late March, Governor Patrick announced a comprehensive plan, declared a public health emergency and banned the drug, Zohydro,” Loftus said. “He put $20 million toward treatment and recovery services and made available Narcan, a nasal spray that helps to reverse the effects of overdoses.”

When a federal judge overturned the March rulings, Patrick established a new set of limitations on the use and distribution of the drug.

In response to Patrick’s actions against the drug, Zogenix, the pharmaceutical company that markets Zohydro ER, stated in a Wednesday press release the two parties should work together to promote safe drug-use and combat drug abuse and addiction.

“The active ingredient in Zohydro ER, hydrocodone bitartrate, is no more potent than most other opioids,” the press release stated. “The amount of drug in each Zohydro ER capsule is consistent with, and on a relative basis, lower than that of comparable extended-release opioid products. In fact, there are more than 30 extended-release opioids on the market and only one has an FDA-approved label indicating it has abuse deterrent properties.”

The release also stated how no product currently on the market addresses the issue of people taking an unsafe number of pills, which is the most prevalent form of abuse, even when it is approved by the FDA.

“It is important to remember that Zohydro ER was approved by the FDA after an exhaustive 18-month review of the clinical data,” the release stated. “This rigorous FDA review process serves the nation’s public health needs, the medical community and those in severe chronic pain.

A Zohydro spokesperson was unable to comment due to the ongoing nature of the situation.

Several residents said people should always exercise caution when it comes to prescription drug use, but some said this may not be Patrick’s place.

Helene Powers, 32, of Fenway, said she trusts the FDA’s opinion more than she trusts the governor’s.

 “It’s the FDA’s job to govern drug safety,” she said. ”The governor is a politician, not a doctor or a pharmacist or a researcher. People can become addicted to anything, any type of narcotic, but I think it also depends on the person. Either way, I don’t think the governor should get involved in this.”

Hanna Mogul-Adlin, 23, of Roslindale, said she hates the criminalization of drug use and how it can be viewed so negatively.

“In general, I’m pretty pro-drug legalization because I don’t think it makes sense to criminalize drugs,” she said. “This drug provides a treatment option to people who most likely will need one. Doctors should be allowed to administer drugs to those who need it, it would be unfair to restrict someone from having his or her pain alleviated.”

Dennis Palucki, 34, of Charlestown, said people who need the drugs should not be penalized for using them.

“Some people need those painkillers in order to feel better,” he said. “I’m a patient at the veteran’s hospital and they give out painkillers a lot, but because those people need them. They’re in pain. At the same time, it doesn’t seem like the governor should have the authority to get involved. He definitely shouldn’t have control over things like that.”

BU alumna uses photography to help heal after bombings

The 2013 Boston Marathon began as a day for celebration and accomplishment but is remembered in the eyes of many as a day of shock, grief and sadness. One year later, Ryan McMahon said the Boston Marathon bombings served as the catalyst that led her to rethink the course of her life.

A Longmeadow native who graduated from the Arts Administration program at Boston University’s Metropolitan College in 2011, 34-year-old McMahon had been sitting on the bleachers with two friends when she witnessed the first explosion. While trying to get down from the bleachers and leave the area, the second explosion went off, throwing her friends and her to the ground.

“We knew something was wrong, and we had to get out of there,” she said. “Once I figured out I could get up, and all my friends were up, we started running up Exeter Street. I knew at that point I had broken my arms. My back hurt, but I was hoping there wasn’t an issue.”

McMahon had been attending the Boston Marathon for years with friends and family, often by Temple Street and Heartbreak Hill. When she worked as an official staff photographer for the mayor’s office from August 2005 to July 2009, she shot photographs from the finish line of the marathon. Last year, McMahon had the day off from work and decided to attend the marathon with a few friends.

McMahon was one of the first victims to arrive at Boston Medical Center, where she stayed until her release almost a week later. She said the time she spent in the hospital opened her eyes to the extent of the day’s damage.

“[At first], we were trying to take cover somewhere,” she said. “I got ahold of my mom and she told us we needed to go to the hospital. It seemed like we got there before the others. They put me in the emergency room, and then people started coming in, and I realized how bad it was. At the scene we saw smoke, but we hadn’t seen all the people who had been injured.”

Told by doctors that her recovery would take six to 12 months, McMahon moved in with her grandmother to begin the process of recovery. During that time, she focused her attention on documenting her healing through video diaries.

“With a back brace and two broken wrists, it was hard to do most things on my own,” she said. “The support was really amazing, and that’s why I started documenting things using my tripod, my camera and my computer in my room to do video diary entries. I wanted to capture my grandma taking care of me and observe the healing process of my body to help me deal with the physical and emotional trauma.”

Three months after the marathon, McMahon was capable of living on her own again. Now, more than a year since the tragic event, McMahon is almost completely physically recovered, excluding physical therapy for her right wrist after complications.

“I left my grandmother’s around July and moved back to my apartment,” she said. “I’m still doing physical therapy for my right wrist, but physical therapy for my back ended around December. I’ve been doing pilates and trying to strengthen my core.”

McMahon said the recovery process gave her time to think about her life and consider her next steps. Ultimately, she decided to go back to school to further her photography education at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she is a student now.

At a Friday art show called AWESOMEBLAHJ at the Piano Craft Guild, McMahon displayed several of her photos, a project completed through the School of the MFA.

Robin Melendez, 34, of Natick, said she is a friend of McMahon’s who helped her recover and she was touched by the chance to experience her friend’s recovery through her artwork.

“I was in her life when she was injured,” she said. “I was concerned for her safety and visited her in the hospital. She has a good perspective on recovering and the healing process and has shown resilience. It’s a good documentation of the ability to cope with such a traumatic event. It did help her greatly and will help her continue with her art.

Michelle Casale, 24, of Malden, attended the gallery and said McMahon’s artwork is a projection of her experiences at the marathon and her recovery process in the months since that day.

“Her art is personal and intense,” she said. “It’s a bit confrontational because it’s so personal. You get a view of how she’s moving on. We [still] have to give her some time and space to think about what happened to her. It’s something that she has to deal with for the rest of her life.”

McMahon said photography has played a key role in her emotional healing, and she is lucky to have had the support of family and friends through the process.

“It’s been mostly art-making at the moment and, of course, spending time with family [that has gotten me through],” she said. “Shooting calms me down. I’ve been shooting about what recovery means.”

While she did not attend the marathon this year, McMahon said hopes to attend the Boston Marathon again in future years, and she hopes to run it eventually.

“I’ve been going back and forth about it, but I decided not to go,” she said. “Now I just want to be with my family. I think we’re going to go to the beach. I’ve done a lot this week participating, and I feel like I might need private time to be with my family and reflect on everything that’s happened this year.”

Mina Corpuz contributed to the reporting of this article.

Report suggests cannabis use can harm brain

Recreational cannabis use can have damaging effects for young adults, according to a “Journal of Neuroscience” report released Wednesday by researchers from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Northwestern University.

The study’s nine researchers, Dr. Jodi Gilman, Dr. John Kuster, Dr. Sang Lee, Myung Joo Lee, Byoung Woo Kim, Dr. Nikos Makris, Dr. Andre van der Kouwe, Dr. Anne Blood and Dr. Hans Breiter conducted tests on animals and adults between the ages of 18 and 25, including several Boston University students. They found cannabis use can cause damage to the brain and impair cognitive ability, according to the report.

“It is … the most widely used illicit drug on college campuses,” the report stated. “Moreover, its use is increasing among adolescents and young adults, partially due to society’s changing beliefs about cannabis use and its legal status.”

Researchers tested recreational users, those who smoke cannabis as little as once a week, for over two years, and compared their MRI scans to those of non-users. A number of users did not report negative effects from using cannabis, but the researchers said there were differences found in brain activity, Blood said.

“These brain structures showed abnormalities in the structural measures or differences between people who used marijuana and those who did not,” she said. “Work is needed to understand the implications of that, but these regions affect motivation and being able to determine what is rewarding.”

The experiment’s results were concerning, Blood said, due to the false perceptions held by people, especially young adults, about the illicit drug.

“What is worrisome is that people are using marijuana without knowing a lot about what it might be doing to their brains,” she said. “We want to raise the issue that the conclusion that marijuana is safe is not based on any medical research. It is just general perception.”

Paul Armentano, deputy director of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said studies conducted have shown that cannabis use has nominal long-term or adverse effects on cognitive thinking, but he said their organization supports the legalization of cannabis.

“Those of us who advocate for a change in cannabis laws do not argue that the use of cannabis is not without potential risks,” he said. “However, it is apparent that these associated potential risks are not so great as to warrant the continued arrest of some 700,000 Americans annually … nor do they justify its present status as a schedule I controlled substance – a classification that equates the purported dangers of pot to be equal to those of heroin.”

Use of cannabis at a young age can stunt developmental growth and cause mental disorders because the drug is “a big dose of potent chemicals,” said Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“This study showed that kids who use marijuana particularly during adolescence have disorders such as schizophrenia, mood disorders and bipolar disorders,” she said. “As a clinician and a behavioral health researcher, and based on my reading of the literature, I am concerned that marijuana may have a damaging impact on the brain because the chemicals are outcompeting the body’s own chemical-messaging systems.”

Several residents said they are not concerned about whether or not adults are smoking cannabis, but do not condone use of the illicit drug by adolescents.

Madeleine Brown, 19, of Back Bay, said she understands why the drug is harmful to the brain, but expects most people to be surprised at the extent of the report’s results.

“Most people say that it’s harmless, and I believe them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is actually harmful,” she said. “At the same time, most people would be shocked if they found out it was harmful because doctors prescribe it to sick patients in order to help them get better and feel better.”

Sean Temple, 25, of Brighton, said he was not surprised by the report’s findings.

“When you put some kind of outside chemical into your body, it usually has or can have some sort of effect on you,” he said. “If people are going to try it [marijuana], I don’t really know what you would do to stop them. It’s kind of like how people smoke cigarettes and know they can cause them harm.”

Christine McEvoy, 26, of Dorchester, said she does not support cannabis use and would not condone use of the drug even if recreational use was legal.

“I don’t see any benefits to it,” she said. “This [study] shows that we should be active in making sure young students aren’t using it. I don’t see it being positive for people. I don’t see it adding anything to a person’s life.”