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No bend in raging Rivers

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Gene Rivers has always been the skunk at the garden party, the guy who interrupts the echo chamber of chatter among the politically correct to offer an impolitic pronouncement that is often so jarring because it carries an uncomfortable truth.

So it was that the Dorchester minister and reliable provocateur took to the op-ed pages of the Globe over the weekend to offer an alternative view on the controversy and attention being paid to the tragic shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin at the hands of neighborhood-watch vigilante George Zimmerman. While acknowledging the horror of Martin’s killing -- and all the troubling questions it raises about “vigilante justice, racism, ‘stand your ground’ legislation, and the role of the NRA-financed gun lobbies” -- Rivers said he’s equally troubled by the pathetic state of black leadership in the country that the Martin killing has exposed.  

We’d be hearing nothing about the case from black leaders had the shooter been black, he writes, a situation that is the case in 93 percent of all homicides involving black victims. “What if this incident had been just another ‘routine’ Denzel-smoked-Rahim black-on-black homicide? How might black leadership’s response have been different?” he asks, before going on to answer his own question. “The black religious, political, and intellectual leadership, from whom the larger public takes direction on such matters, exhibits no serious commitment to engaging the problem of violence among our young people, even where genuine solutions are available.”

Just recently, the shooting death of a Boston University graduate student on an Allston street inspired more than few comments in the twitterverse about how several shooting deaths in previous days in predominantly minority Boston neighborhoods had drawn little more than the usual perfunctory news briefs. The media -- and leadership in the black community as well as the broader political class -- often seem to give such violence a collective shrug because, quite frankly, it is just not that uncommon. But when something so destructive to individual lives and whole communities becomes that normalized, shouldn’t that be the very grounds for sounding an all-out alarm?

“If there is a lesson to be learned,” writes Rivers, “it is that the black community and our leadership must pour as much rage, energy, and wisdom into addressing the overwhelming nihilism that black-on-black violence represents as we did in the Martin case.”

                                                                                                                                    --MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Families of inmates who paid a $5 a day fee to the Bristol County jail that was ruled illegal by the Supreme Judicial Court still have not been given the money back even though the state comptroller got a check last August from the sheriff’s department.

Haverhill receives $2.4 million from the state budget to deal with annual debt on the former Hale Hospital, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Rep. Brian Dempsey, who represents Haverhill, is the chairman of the House budget committee.

The Lowell Sun, in an editorial, charges that Gov. Deval Patrick is putting Amazon ahead of the little retail guy by not requiring the online giant to collect state sales tax.

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, writing in the Lowell Sun, trumpets the state’s investments in Gateway Cities.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell wants to continue the ShotSpotter program -- the electronic system that immediately pinpoints where gunshots are fired -- even when the nearly $1 million federal grant to pay for it expires June 30.

Kingston voters approved a Proposition 2½ override to save arts, computer science, and physical education programs in the schools.

Lynn tackles illegal dumping with cameras and fines that run as high as $10,000, the Lynn Item reports.

Salem receives a $25,000 federal grant for public art, the Salem News reports.

The Cambridge city council hears a zoning change request at the stalled NorthPoint development.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Sen. John Kerry has weighed in with federal officials on behalf of a married gay couple from Beverly. One of the women is facing deportation to Pakistan, the Salem News reports.

New Jersey joins a list of states considering privatizing their lotteries, Philly.com reports.

The New York Times and New York magazine both offer up profiles of GOP budget leader Rep. Paul Ryan.

ELECTION 2012

An evaluation of President Obama’s plan to reduce the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons is nearing completion, but the issue may get put on hold because of fears of introducing it during the campaign.

Job losses in the public sector at the state and local levels may hurt the economic recovery.

A directory of law school professors -- which was based on self-reported information -- had Elizabeth Warren listed as a Native American for nine years prior to her arrival at Harvard Law School in the 1990s, the Globe reports. Meanwhile, Warren and US Sen. Scott Brown have found ways to attack each other despite a public pledge not to run attack ads by others -- email.

Barbara Anderson, a columnist for the Eagle-Tribune, details the origins of the line on state tax forms that commit the taxpayer to voluntarily make higher income tax payments. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has been called a hypocrite for not volunteering to pay more.Tax returns indicate the US Senate race is a battle of 1 percenters, reports CommonWealth.

There was not a lot of love in the air for Mitt Romney at weekend caucuses of Massachusetts Republicans, the Globe reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The New York Times submits a lengthy examination of Apple’s low, low tax rate, and the various tax shelters the company exploits to keep things that way.

Paul Krugman takes on youth un- and under-employment.

EDUCATION

A new study of Massachusetts schools commissioned by the state education departments says a dynamic principal is key to turning around failing schools and that there is no firm evidence that mass dismissal of teachers at low-performing schools is making a difference.  

HEALTH CARE

As part of a special report, the Globe reported on Sunday that many nursing homes inappropriately prescribe antipsychotic medication to control the behavior of residents with dementia. Today, the paper reports on nursing homes that are finding ways to deal with the behavioral challenges of dementia patients without the use of such drugs.

Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital, which led the state with a Caesarean section rate of 45 percent two years ago, is working to reduce the number because of costs and safety.

Defensive medicine and malpractice costs are not such a big driver of health care costs, says a panel at a Cambridge conference that discussed the issue.

TRANSPORTATION

Southeastern Massachusetts officials and residents are wondering why commuter rail service has been extended in Rhode Island while the South Coast rail project continues to wallow and might be in jeopardy with MBTA cutbacks.

MEDIA

A woman who identified herself and spoke about being raped to a public rally of about 200 people said the Bridgewater State University student newspaper crossed the line in publishing her name. Dan Kennedy weighs in on the debate as well.

The Berkshire Eagle weighs in on the racist hockey tweets debacle. Stories on Boston-area hockey haters deliver a cheap shot to the city itself, where race relations have improved, writes Michael Jonas in CommonWealth.

Author Stephen King warns that income inequality must be addressed in his own unique fashion – in the Daily Beast.
 
The Nieman Journalism Lab reports on another lab, the New York Times R&D Lab.

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