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Here comes Irene

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Mother nature is pumping some life into the usually sleepy August news cycle. Earlier this week, an earthquake shook the East Coast and dominated front pages. But there’s nothing like a big hurricane, which provides days of anticipation (and stories) before you find out whether the storm is a disaster or a dud.

Coverage of Irene is running true to form. The Herald calls it beastly and pointed straight at Massachusetts. The AP calls it a “nightmare monster.” Springfield  gets nervous and the Globe calls Irene “the most menacing storm in years.” The Lowell Sun, like many local papers, focused on local preparations. WBUR’s Radio Boston interviewed Don McGough, director of Boston’s Office of Emergency Management, who urged listeners to prepare but not panic. There’s a lot of “what if” scenarios, he said.

But it’s the TV stations that really get into storm coverage. Their weather experts jump into high gear laying out all the possible doomsday scenarios. Expect to see wind-blown reporters as the storm comes ashore. The Herald interviewed all the local forecasters and concluded it’s better to be safe than sorry. “You always have to remember, there’s a range of what can happen,” said chief meteorologist Harvey Leonard of WCVB-TV (Ch. 5). “We’re not God, but we have great tools to work with. We’re trying our best. You prepare for the worst. You hope for the best.”

Some news outlets covered a different side of Irene. Environmentalist Bill McKibben, writing for The Daily Beast, says Irene has a middle name and it’s Global Warming. Talking Points Memo reports House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, which is in the path of the storm, will demand spending cuts to offset any release of federal disaster aid. And the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s wind turbine and others in the region draw interest on the Cape to see how the structures might stand up to hurricane-force winds.

By this morning, Irene had been downgraded from a Category 3 to a Category 2 hurricane. The likely scenario is that once Irene comes ashore in North Carolina it will weaken further. The National Weather Service, in an advisory at 5 a.m. this morning, said Irene should be a Category 2 or 3 hurricane as it hits the Outer Banks and slowly weaken after that. “After moving into New England, Irene should weaken quickly as it undergoes extratropical transition.”

                                                                                                                                                        --BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

State Treasurer Steven Grossman tells the Eagle-Tribune that investigators with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission are going to conduct sweeps through Lawrence bars and clubs “to rein in the wave of lawlessness that’s taking place.”

A debate is sparked between gambling interests and state leaders over a provision in the casino legislation that allows a Native American tribe special access to a state casino license, the Globe reports. CommonWealth wrote about the issue in this week’s Back Story. The Berkshire Eagle argues that the casino deal is more evidence of the business-as-usual mentality on Beacon Hill that cuts out real debate. Slots opponent Kathleen Norbut, on NECN’s Broadside, says she will try to slow down the gambling express train on Beacon Hill.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A city-based environmental group unveiled a redevelopment plan that includes a hotel, condos, a marina and a commuter rail station for the waterfront area in Fall River that had been the planned site of the now-abandoned Hess LNG terminal.

Brian McGrory reports on the residents of the Ritz-Carlton Unit 36C in Boston, a trio of wealthy brothers whose loud partying and poor behavior has drawn thousands of dollars in condo association fines.

COUNTIES

A former judge who left the bench amid misconduct charges and who was hired to monitor medical contracts for the Bristol County Sheriff’s office is now on leave and under investigation for unknown reasons by the sheriff’s office.

CLERGY SEX ABUSE

The Boston Archdiocese released a list of nearly 157 priests and two deacons accused or convicted of child sex abuse, but a Weymouth lawyer who has represented scores of victims and members of the watchdog Bishop Accountability say the list is still incomplete.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A former Clinton administration official argues in The New Republic that President Obama isn’t getting it right on the economy.

Meet the tax break Republicans don’t mind rescinding -- one benefiting millions of workers.

ELECTION 2012

The AFL-CIO is threatening to boycott the 2012 Democratic convention and maybe even sit on the sidelines during the campaign if President Obama’s planned jobs program does little to jumpstart the market. African American officials are also pressuring the president to do more about jobs and housing in black communities, especially if he wants to see black voters at the polls.

The National Review looks at Mitt Romney’s environmental record in Massachusetts and says his pro-global warming actions and statements then may be the reason he is reluctant to talk about his stance now before conservative voters who dismiss human causation. According to the New York Times Romney is still having some trouble acting like a flesh-and-blood human on the campaign trail.

The Weekly Standard has a video from a “town hall” meeting where an angry Romney had a Ronald Reagan “I paid for this microphone” moment.

Jon Huntsman tries to position himself as an adult.

Rick Perry criticizes Massachusetts’ health care law, but reiterates his belief that the states have a right to decide how to deliver health care.

The Globe reports that Boston City Council candidate Michael Flaherty, once seen as a successful fundraiser, has run through much of his campaign war-chest with 11 weeks to go in the campaign.

Makena Cahill deconstructs the CrazyKhazei brouhaha for the Herald. In a statement, one of CrazyKhazei’s high-profile bosses, Sen. Scott Brown, says he wasn’t aware of the Twitter account’s existence. Meanwhile, Blue Mass Group reports the account has been deleted

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Patriot Ledger talked with a half-dozen recent college graduates and found the job market is nonexistent for most of them. All are either working part-time or in low-paying jobs that have nothing to do with their degrees and most are living at home and planning on graduate school to enhance their chances of a career.

Lynn’s Zoning Board of Appeals approves the use of the former school administration building as a home for biotech companies, the Item reports.

Warren Buffett sinks $5 billion into a rescue of Bank of America, and Buffett’s rescues don’t come cheaply.

Bernie Madoff says Wall Street is “so corrupt and stacked against the typical investor.” Bernie Madoff!!!

EDUCATION

Brockton school officials are aiming to crackdown on out-of-district students who come to Brockton schools, many of whom they claim are on the verge of expulsion at their old schools and just bringing their problems to the City of Champions.

The Springfield School Committee wants outgoing School Superintendent Alan Ingram to give back his $30,000 housing bonus.

HEALTH CARE

WBUR’s new medical blog Healthcare Savvy has a very interesting post from a woman who called Mass. General for a price quote for a circumcision for her 14-month-old son and was told $23,000. Some of the commenters include a doctor who tries to beak down the costs but still comes up with his own estimate of $5,000. Adam Gaffin at Universal Hub speculates it includes the tip.

TRANSPORTATION

Federal officials have rejected proposals to mandate seat belts in school buses.

In his column for the Globe, Paul McMorrow argues that federal transportation policy can make or break cities, and warns of the consequences of starving the federal transportation budget.

US Rep. Stephen Lynch raises concerns about Big Dig safety on NECN’s Broadside. Lynch also cheers an independent Federal Highway Administration inquiry into the South Station sinkhole.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

White House protesters draw attention to the American role in the Canadian tar sands project in Alberta.

MEDIA

The rolls of those in the media who watch the media is down by two. The Washington Post-owned website Slate announced the layoff of Jack Shafer and the pioneering Jim Romenesko announced his “semi-retirement” from the Poynter Institute. Via Media Nation.

The Nieman Journalism Lab explains how ProPublica blends news that wins Pulitzers with news that wins followers.

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