People of Boston, public officials mourn the loss of former Mayor Menino

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who was also co-director of Boston University’s Initiative on Cities, left a lasting impact on the city he looked after. He died Thursday morning after a battle with an advanced form of cancer. Those who knew Menino honored him for all that he was: a politician, role model, family man and friend.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh honored Menino at a press conference at City Hall Thursday afternoon.

“Today, the city of Boston mourns together,” Walsh said. “To all that knew him, it’s no surprise that more than half of Boston has met Mayor Menino. I can tell you about the last conversation I had with him. He was laying in the hospital bed and we were talking, and he said, ‘You’re going to be a great mayor as long as you take care of the people of Boston.’ His last concern was of the people of Boston. Tom Menino is a fighter, he went down fighting and we all knew where Boston stood in his heart.”

In his time as mayor, Menino put the city on the world stage, while maintaining his local outreach and service, Walsh said.

“He was a man of the neighborhood,” Walsh said. “He had a deep understanding of the power municipal government had on the lives of the people. Even in the last stages of his illness, he put Boston and its people first. To many people here at City Hall he was a mentor and a father figure.”

As Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Menino garnered the respect of public officials and residents nationwide.

“Bold, big-hearted, and Boston strong, Tom was the embodiment of the city he loved and led for more than two decades,” said U.S. President Barack Obama in a statement Thursday. “As Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Tom helped make his hometown the vibrant, welcoming, world-class place it is today. His legacy lives on in every neighborhood he helped revitalize, every school he helped turn around, and every community he helped make a safer, better place.”

Séan O’Malley, cardinal of the Archdiocese of Boston, said Menino often attended several church services on a given day and maintained close relationships with the “ecumenical and interfaith brethren.”

“Mayor Menino placed family, faith and public service above all else,” O’Malley said in a statement Thursday. “We pray for Mayor Menino as we give thanks for a life so well lived, for his wife Angela, their children and grandchildren, for the people of the city of Boston and all who mourn his passing. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.”

Richard Stutman, president of Boston Teachers Union, spoke on behalf of the union’s 11,000 members in saying Menino’s love for the city was unmatched.

“Mayor Menino felt and shared a bold compassion for Boston and its people,” he said in a statement. “His presence and his imprint were everywhere. His feelings for us were pronounced, and his love for the city was unmatched. He touched warmly hundreds of thousands of our citizens and now they all return the same care and love to Angela and the Menino family. He adopted our schools and proudly promoted them. He stood by us; now we stand by his family. Rest in peace, Mr. Mayor.”

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley chose to suspend their campaigns for two days and one day, respectively, to pay respect to the former mayor.

“Today, Boston has lost the greatest mayor in its history,” Coakley said in a statement. “He was a friend and mentor, and a shining example to me and countless others of what it means to love and serve your community. What made Tom Menino so remarkable was his connection to the people he represented — he understood their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. And he fought for them every day. He never forgot where he came from and stayed true to who he was to the very end.”

Baker said in a statement that Menino, who was dedicated to his work and to the city, deserves a “satisfying retirement,” as he engrossed himself in his job as mayor “with an enthusiasm and intensity that may never be duplicated.”

Boston City Council President Bill Linehan worked closely with Menino during his time in office and praised him as “arguably the most dedicated public servant [he] had ever met.” Menino improved the quality of life for Boston residents, Linehan said in a statement, and provided vital city services.

“Mayor Menino’s greatest legacy lies in his devotion to the people of Boston, and his focus was always on ensuring that every single resident received essential city services,” he said. “This, more than the revitalization of so many parts of this city on his watch, or his leadership during the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy, is what he would want to be remembered for.”

Menino and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns in March 2006 with 13 other mayors. The coalition grew to have more than 900 mayors crusading against illegal gun use.

“Tom Menino was a terrific mayor and a close partner for me,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “I got to know Tom well as we worked together to keep cities safe from gun violence. Whether it was tackling illegal guns or reviving neighborhoods, Tom was never afraid to take on tough issues. He cared deeply about the people of Boston, and he was tireless in making his city a better place to live and work. Tom was at his best when his city needed him most.”

Several residents gathered at City Hall Thursday night to pay homage to the man who brought so much change to the City and made a lasting impact on the Commonwealth as a whole.

Josephine Erewa, 62, of the South End, said she was shocked to turn on her television and see Menino’s picture.

“Mayor Menino did a lot for the city,” she said. “He was a people’s mayor. I hope our current mayor will learn a lot from what the mayor did for the city and condolences to the family. For this city, we all need to be strong. He is a Boston Strong person, so we need to be strong. We need to use some of the work he’s done to continue to stay united and bridge diversity and to continue to move the city of Boston forward.”

Thomas O’Connor, 57, of Middleton, said Menino was an active part of the City, and was always there to help the people of Boston.

“I have to say that over his tenure, I always knew him to be hands on,” he said. “He was always here whether it was sunny or stormy he was always there to serve everybody. He did a fantastic job on housing in the city; made homes for a lot of people that wouldn’t have them otherwise.”

John Irvin, 28, of Wakefield, said Menino “brought the city to life,” and made Boston a more desirable place to visit

“He was mayor for a good portion of my life,” he said. “Growing up in the city, I’ve seen all of the positive things happen. Boston has really become a world-class city and a lot of that is his doing. Boston has sometimes had such a jaded past and now he brought us to looking positively to the future. He was one of us. And we’ll miss him, and you’ll rarely see the likes of that in politics.”

Monika Nayak contributed to the reporting of this article.

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press.


PETA sues Massachusetts for withholding public information

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., more commonly known as PETA, filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources for withholding information regarding the transport of various species of monkeys in 2013.

The lawsuit, filed on Oct. 14 against the MDAR and its commissioner, Gregory Watson, was a result of MDAR’s failure to provide requested public information about companies and universities that have imported monkeys into the Commonwealth, and its redaction of certain information that had been previously provided, according to the complaint.

“DAR provided some documents related to the importation of 141 monkeys in 2013, but the materials were redacted to remove the names of parties involved,” said Justin Goodman, director of PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department, in an email. “DAR claimed that releasing this information would present a public safety risk, but when we requested that they provide a sufficient basis for that claim — as is required by law — they failed to produce a relevant reason.”

PETA first requested these public records on Feb. 21, to which MDAR responded on April 23, according to the complaint. Certain information provided, such as information about the sellers and recipients of the primates, was later withheld by MDAR, which claimed certain disclosure could put the animals’ public safety at risk.

Massachusetts is a major center for experimentation on monkeys in the United States, Goodman said. Because one of PETA’s major campaigns is working to end the importation of monkeys for experimental purposes, the organization had been seeking information about who is transporting these monkeys and what they are being used for, Goodman said.

“Access to these documents may help ascertain whether the shipments have complied with government, corporate and university policies and also allow us to open dialogue with the parties involved,” he said. “Companies and universities often also have policies against purchasing animals from companies that violate animal welfare laws, and without information on the suppliers and transporters, we can not determine whether such policies are being adhered to.”

Monkeys and other non-human primates are used, depending on the species, to research Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), DRUG ABUSE and vaccine and other drug testing, according to research conducted by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, an organization dedicated to replacing the use of animals in research and experimentation.

These findings are similar to PETA’s research, which cites 10 organizations and universities, including Boston University, which collectively used more than 8,000 non-human primates in their research in 2011 alone.

“There are thousands of monkeys and other primates currently confined in laboratories at Boston University, Charles River Laboratories, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University…and other laboratories,” Goodman said. “For such a small state, Massachusetts houses a large number of animal laboratories due to its concentration of universities, pharmaceutical and biotech firms.”

Theodora Capaldo, president and executive director of NEAVS, said transparency around this funding could potentially cause an increase of public opposition due to the fact that there is not substantial proof that monkeys have the same genetic makeup of humans.

“Monkeys have been used historically for just about every area of research from trying to create disease models, develop vaccines [and] explore neurological brain functions,” she said. “There is pretty much not any area of research that monkeys haven’t by someone somewhere been the chosen model, despite whether or not that model has true applicability to predict what would happen in the human being.”

Several residents said they support PETA’s lawsuit and oppose the mistreatment of animals for experimental purposes.

Madison Sico, 22, of Boston, said she finds the fact that the MDAR withheld information suspicious.

“It’s awful that there is even experimentation in Massachusetts to begin with, and the fact that they’re hiding something probably means they’re doing something wrong,” she said. “PETA is right in requesting this information, because obviously Massachusetts is doing something wrong.”

Barry Mahoney, 46, of Dorchester, said while PETA may often take extreme measures, the organization has good intentions and exists for a reason.

“PETA is incredibly radical, but I don’t think they’re wrong,” he said. “They do things that I might not agree with, but I definitely think they exist for a reason. If they’re [the Commonwealth] going to experiment on animals, they must be completely transparent.”

La Keisha Marie, 32, of Roxbury, said she is outraged to hear that experimentation on animals is so common in Massachusetts.

“It makes me raise an eyebrow when someone doesn’t want to cooperate to make Massachusetts a better place,” she said. “I want to be proud of where I live, and I want to promote where I’m from.”

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press.

Patrick speaks at press conference in wake of Ebola outbreak

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick hosted a press conference at Logan International Airport Tuesday to address the recent Ebola threats in Massachusetts and nationwide.

“We’re doing everything we can,” Patrick said. “According to the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention], we still remain at low risk of Ebola, but we’re remaining vigilant.”

The address follows the treatment of a patient at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Sunday who was transferred from Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Braintree after showing Ebola-like symptoms. The medical center later released a statement that the patient, who had recently traveled to Liberia, did not “meet the CDC criteria to be considered someone at high risk for Ebola.”

“All precautions continue to be taken to ensure the safety of our patients, their families and our staff,” the statement said.

The City of Boston is taking every public health concern seriously, and precautions are being taken, said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh in a Sunday press release.

“The City and our partners at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health were in constant contact today as news of an Ebola scare began to break,” he said. “Our emergency preparedness plans are recognized as national models, and I have full confidence in our departments and healthcare organizations that we can keep Bostonians safe and healthy.”

The Ebola virus was first recognized in the United States in 1989, when it breeched quarantine facilities in Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to a timeline of the virus on the CDC’s website. On July 27 in Monrovia, Liberia, Samaritan’s Purse missionary doctor Kent Brantly and Serving in Mission worker Nancy Writebol became the first Americans to contract the disease in the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

The threat of Ebola raised public health concerns nationwide in late September after Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man visiting family in Dallas, became the first patient diagnosed with the virus while in the United States. Duncan died on Oct. 8, 10 days after his diagnosis. Officials are now monitoring 76 hospital employees who could have been exposed to the virus while treating Duncan.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the federal CDC, said at a Tuesday press conference that the CDC was ready to send “infection-control experts” to any hospital treating Ebola patients.

“We will put a team on the ground within hours, with some of the world’s leading experts,” he said. “I’ve thought often about it. I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed. That might have prevented this infection.”

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press.

CFA dean releases statement after Hong Kong project offends students-

Benjamin Juarez, dean of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, released a statement Wednesday in response to the backlash resulting from graphic design Professor Yael Ort-Dinoor’s “public awareness project.”

The assignment, administered Oct. 1 to Ort-Dinoor’s AR 225 Sophomore Graphic Design Studio class, asked students to create a design inspired by their own stance on a global awareness issue, for which many chose the current democracy protests in Hong Kong. The project has been assigned for years to encourage social awareness, Juarez said in a statement published on CFA’s Facebook page.

“The project, which Professor Yael Ort-Dinoor has assigned for years, asks students to take a current issue and create a visual response to it,” he said. “The assignment is not meant to offend, but rather to create a design challenge. The subsequent discussion illuminates a few key points about art’s role in society and its place in a University.”

Juarez explained that while the artwork does not reflect the opinion of CFA or BU, it “is an expression of these young artists.”

“Art is neither created nor experienced in isolation,” he said. “Art is informed by the world we are living in. It can be a powerful catalyst in political, cultural and social discourse. To support these young artists, we must continue to foster a safe environment in which students can participate in academic exercises that stretch their abilities.”

Many in Hong Kong are protesting after the government revoked its previous promise of the region’s first free election for Chief Executive since gaining independence from Britain in 1997. The position will instead be filled through a Beijing-based committee. The massive demonstrations following the announcement have made global headlines.

The graphics were spread on Chinese social media by a BU student, prompting Juarez’s response.

Zichun Zhou, a sophomore in CFA in ARR 225, lives only 20 minutes from Hong Kong in Shenzhen, and said three of her friends in the class are also from China.

“We are used to doing posters for fundraising events or fun events. We have never done posters responding to political events, especially when she [Ort-Dinoor] said we needed to make an opinion,” she said. “I don’t support this type of thing [the protests] because it’s causing a lot of social problems in Hong Kong right now. I am not against this protest for democracy, for a promise that China’s government didn’t keep.”

However, Zhou supports Ort-Dinoor’s assignment, she said, because it emphasized that students should speak up about their opinions and convey visually what they might not feel comfortable saying out loud.

“She explained that she wanted us to visually respond to what happened around us. She said this was not to offend anyone, and she never meant to raise an argument between Chinese students or students from Hong Kong or anywhere else,” she said. “I think all of us are on the same page. We understand why she assigned this project. When you see something, you say something. You don’t have to be quiet.”

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press.