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A cause to go Gaga over

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Anyone who’s ever been the target of bullying or taunting back in the day and later achieves some measure of success relishes that opportunity to go to the high school reunion to throw an unspoken “Ha!” – or, in some cases, a loud spoken “HA!” – back in the faces of the perpetrators and spectators.

But for 25-year-old Stefani Germanotta, who was at Harvard University yesterday to unveil her Born This Way Foundation, it’s about using her experiences as a teen to help other teens and tweens accept who they and others are and, in turn, foster a conducive atmosphere for kids to be able to get the education they need without distraction.

Germanotta has risen above her background to become one of the most celebrated pop artists in the world, now known as Lady Gaga. And that celebrity helped her garner the aid of Harvard’s esteemed Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the presence of Oprah Winfrey, philosopher Deepak Chopra, and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, and partner with the renowned MacArthur Foundation as well as command the spotlight of local and national media. Top researchers from companies such as Microsoft will lend their expertise to the effort.

Harvard law professor John Palfrey, who is codirector of the Berkman Center, called the chance to shape the foundation’s message “a researcher’s dream.”

Nicolas D. Kristof of the New York Times attended the event yesterday and had a very revealing interview with the New York City native and what she brings to her and her foundation’s role in helping kids with their self-esteem and reducing bullying.

“I was called really horrible, profane names very loudly in front of huge crowds of people, and my schoolwork suffered at one point,” she told Kristof. “I didn’t want to go to class. And I was a straight-A student, so there was a certain point in my high school years where I just couldn’t even focus on class because I was so embarrassed all the time. I was so ashamed of who I was.”

That is the point of the foundation, whose codirector will be Lady Gaga’s mother, Cynthia Germanotta. While many focus on teen suicide as a result of bullying, especially around here with the notoriety of the Phoebe Prince case, studies show that bullying and taunting can affect education, especially for someone like Lady Gaga who was a high-performing student. A study by the University of Virginia last year found that when an atmosphere of bullying exists in a school, the entire school suffers academically.

Bullying is generally thought of as physical intimidation, but reports and studies show the Internet is a significant source of bullying. That’s an area where Lady Gaga’s presence could have a huge impact: She has 20 million Twitter followers and 48 million fans on Facebook, the most by far on both platforms of anyone in the world.

For the singer, who has campaigned against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, this foundation is just another example of where she can use her influence as well as her experience. And it clearly was validation of what she overcame to achieve her success.

“This might be one of the best days of my life,” she told the audience at Sanders Theater.
 
                                                                                                                                        --JACK SULLIVAN



BEACON HILL

The state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission suspends the licenses of two bars in Lawrence as part of an effort to help the short-manned police department, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Soil remediation efforts on land in Freetown are raising eyebrows among residents because of its proximity to the abandoned Meditech site and the Wampanoag burial ground that triggered the controversy.

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini lowers the number of firefighters per shift from 19 to 17 to cover a projected shortfall in the department of $200,000, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Gloucester residents will face a 23 percent hike in water rates to cover the cost of repair projects, the Gloucester Times reports.

The Patrick administration has pledged $35 million toward the construction of a marine commerce terminal in New Bedford and indicated more funds could become available.

A longtime towing company in Quincy may lose its license because of a city ordinance that forbids towing operations as a standalone business.

The Globe gets back in on the sport of teeing up Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, this time with a front-page story on how he vowed to make his own pock-marked street one of those the city will schedule for repaving. By the end of the story it was unclear whether readers were supposed to be outraged at his vow to target his own street or incensed that he hadn’t fixed it last year.

Oh hey! Cambridge finally picks its ceremonial mayor.

CASINOS

Taunton residents seem ready to welcome a casino with open arms. The Cape Cod Times report is here.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The Wall Street Journal looks at what the paper calls a crossroads moment for Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

ELECTION 2012

Mitt Romney gets confused about the Blunt bill on conscientious exceptions for contraceptive coverage. “I’m not for the bill,” Romney told the Ohio News Network. “The idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.” But campaign aides later said Romney supports the amendment, which is cosponsored by US Sen. Scott Brown. Meanwhile the MetroWest Daily News says the amendment should be a nonstarter.

Republican US Sen. Olympia Snowe’s decision not to seek reelection has set off a wild scramble among Maine Democrats that could lead to several open US House seats.

Romney’s refusal to start a fire on his head may be the best thing he has going for him,” says Keller@Large. In a Boston Herald op-ed, Romney calls for an “old-fashioned tax revolt.” The New York Times editorial page swipes at the former Bay State governor, saying the middle class loses every time Romney wins. Karl Rove writes that if Rick Santorum can’t win Ohio, the race is over.

Rick Santorum has a problem with the ladies, says U.S. News & World Report, but he may not be able to do enough to win them over. Meanwhile, The Republican opines on how JFK handled questions about his Catholicism and concludes that Santorum is no JFK.

Here’s the White House’s reelection argument, in charts.

The Atlantic asks, is Ron Paul a sellout?

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A 35-story hotel near Copley Square in Boston is on the drawing board, the Globe reports.

WBUR’s On Point asks: Will innovation save us?

Attorney General Martha Coakley freezes the assets of a heating oil dealer that didn’t deliver pre-purchased oil to customers, the Worcester Telegram reports.

A study looking at the cost of living and average income of those over 65 finds that Massachusetts seniors have it harder than those in any other state.

Foreclosures in Massachusetts spike.

HEALTH CARE

Fallout continues from news of the death of a cotton-top tamarin monkey due to neglect at a Harvard-run primate research center.

TRANSPORTATION

Massport officials will have a conference call with FAA officials today to discuss the state authority’s possible takeover of ferry service from the MBTA.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Cape Cod Times recommends that the state get all the data in before moving to ban commercial fishing for striped bass.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Things have gone from bad to worse for former gubernatorial candidate and convenience store magnate Christy Mihos, if that’s even possible. Channel 4’s I-Team has a report that says Andrea Mihos told police her husband is addicted to sex with prostitutes and porn stars.

A State Police investigation has cleared a Boston police officer of the fatal shooting of a suspect last September in Rockland after an 18-mile chase.

Ben LaGuer loses his ninth bid at a new trial.

MEDIA

CommonWealth is urged not to use the name of a psychologist who became sexually involved with her psychoanalyst as part of her own training to become a psychoanalyst.

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