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The Download: Breaking news—important people consort and talk to each other

Posted in: Current Affairs   Elections   Jobs   Municipal government
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“No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up,” Lily Tomlin famously said.  That’s especially so if your news consumption consists of a steady diet of Boston Herald coverage.  Boston’s tabloid daily can stir outrage and deliver a welcome populist punch with the best of them. But nuance and perspective have never been the strong suit on Wingo Way.

Last week’s eye-roller centered on Blue Cross Blue Shield, which handed more than $8 million to departing CEO Cleve Killingsworth as a reward for a job not particularly well done.  It all had the effect of making the (nonprofit) insurance giant’s claims of concern about soaring health care costs ring a little hollow.  The last straw was word that members of the Blue Cross board of directors -- a who’s who of area business, labor, and university honchos -- are paid $58,000 to $90,000 a year to show up at meetings and sign off on such payouts. Who isn’t somehow in bed with or at least compromised by flirtatious footsie play with Blue Cross?  No one, it seems, including our own governor, who felt he had no business weighing in on what a private health insurance company pays its CEO.  (He apparently felt differently during last year’s campaign, when that insurer was Harvard Pilgrim and the CEO in question was his Republican opponent, but never mind.)  The Herald then came up with the jimmies to sprinkle onto this scandal sundae and complete the story: a Peabody pensioner who received a letter from Blue Cross threatening to cut off his prescription drug coverage because the last payment he made was short – by a thin dime.

It was good stuff, and enough to make any good citizen wretch at the thought of government and business bigwigs getting together and conspiring against us regular folks. Which made taking on the big gubernatorial-led trade mission now underway to Israel and the United Kingdom a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. “Come fly with me!” screams today’s Herald front page. “Critics rip gov’s overseas biz trip: See ‘potential for corruption’ as execs wine, dine Patrick,” reads the story headline inside.

A bevy of business leaders, paying their own way, are on the trip with Gov. Deval Patrick to market Bay State opportunities abroad. It turns out the “critics” the Herald refers to consist of a single Washington, DC, public-interest group representative, who breathlessly tells the paper that on a trip like this “the potential for corruption and undue influence peddling is just phenomenal.”  Though he comes off a bit arrogant, Suffolk Construction’s John Fish tells the Herald, ”With all due respect, I don’t need to go over to Israel to speak to the governor of Massachusetts.” Neither does anyone else on the trip. They all have ready access to the governor, and that’s actually how leaders all get on the same page and get stuff done.

There is plenty of debate about whether such trips yield benefits to the state. But the idea that Patrick would want high-placed leaders of various sectors to be part of an effort to pitch doing business to overseas officials seems more sensible than scandalous. He’s not going to take the guy who runs the corner convenience store or the mechanic who fixes your car.  And it’s really not the same thing as the Blue Cross kissfest, though between the city’s tin-eared leadership, which treated the Blue Cross conflicts as business as usual, and alarmist newspaper headlines, it would be easy to make that mistake.

                                                                                                                                                                                    --MICHAEL JONAS

BEACON HILL

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson grants a pre-incarceration interview to the Boston Herald, and tells the paper she was set up and purposefully targeted by the FBI and the Boston Police

The Herald notes three registered lobbyists made the guest list for Gov. Deval Patrick's trade mission this week.

Scott Van Voorhis wonders whether the Mohegan tribe, which is struggling to service $2 billion in bonds, is out of the Massachusetts casino sweepstakes before it has even begun. 

TRANSPORTATION

MassDOT and the developers of NorthPoint in Cambridge agree on a land swap trading the current site of Lechmere Station for rail rights of way needed to run the Green Line to Somerville

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new state report says Massachusetts has one of the poorest levels of access to supermarkets with fresh foods of any state.

Speaking of supermarkets, this column by Tom Keane in Saturday’s Globe peels back the curtain on much of the meaningless blather surrounding the imminent arrival of Whole Foods in Jamaica Plain – and all huffing and puffing by Mayor Tom Menino about the horrors that a Walmart would bring to Boston’s retail world.

The nation’s biggest craft beer trade group is lobbying Congress to raise the limit from 2 million to 6 million barrels in annual production for the definition of a small brewer to qualify for tax credits, a change which would most benefit the maker of Sam Adams beer.

The job market as well as internship opportunities are drying up for new lawyers. Raleigh News & Observer via the New Bedford Standard Times reports.

COURTS

The Supreme Judicial Court will consider whether new fees being charged to those contesting traffic citations are constitutional, the Globe reports.

MUNICIPAL

Andre Dubus III’s depiction of Haverhill in his memoir Townie is very different from the way Mayor James Fiorentini sees the community, according to a story in the Eagle-Tribune.

Beverly, Wenham, Topsfield, Middleton, Essex, and Amesbury decided to build a regional emergency dispatch center without waiting for other North Shore communities to sign on, the Salem News reports.

Business meets labor in Revere mayoral fight, the Item reports.

Standard & Poor’s reports that Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua may propose borrowing $6 million to cover “additional unbudgeted expenses that have arisen in fiscal 2011.” The Eagle-Tribune has the story.

The Newton Tab Blog asks readers if they are willing to pay higher fees for certain city services and school activities.

EDUCATION

Lawrence school officials say they don’t expect to have to eliminate programs or cut staff to balance the budget for the first year beginning July 1, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The School Committee in Salem is seeking a raise from $2,500 to $6,000 a year, the Salem News reports.

Shrinking budgets are turning back a decades-long push for smaller class sizes. 

PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS

Wisconsin's missing Democratic lawmakers plan to return to Madison soon, betting that Gov. Scott Walker's union crackdown will prove more unpopular than their unplanned two-week vacation to Illinois. Lawmakers on both sides of the fight are being targeted by recall efforts

The Eagle-Tribune says what’s happening in Wisconsin could soon be happening in New Hampshire and even Massachusetts.

MEDIA

The Globe is becoming a feeder system for the mother ship as Michael Paulson, city editor and award-winning religion writer moves from the Metro desk on Morrissey Boulevard to editing at the political desk at the New York Times. Via Media Nation.

The panel on “Beat the Press” talks about finding that balance between praise for last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding Westboro Baptist Church’s right to protest at military funerals and how to cover the fanatical and perverse demonstrations.

BLUE CROSS

AFL-CIO’s Robert Haynes appears on Keller@Large to talk about why he and other Blue Cross Blue Shield board member are paid thousands to sit on the board and what Cleve Killingsworth got the hefty golden parachute.

WASHINGTON

Sen. John Kerry defends prison treatment of Bradley Manning, who is accused of giving classified documents to the WikiLeaks website. Manning’s attorney says his client is being humiliated, NECN reports.

New York profiles US Rep. Peter King, a powerful man who is terrified of American Muslims. 

Ben Bernanke isn't bullish on the economy yet, so he's going to keep on pumping billions of dollars into it. 

ELECTION 2012

The Washington Post goes after Mitt Romney, Massachusetts, and the higher cost of health care in the state since "MassCare" was enacted. Meanwhile, the Cape Cod Times praises Gov. Deval Patrick's new proposals to cut costs, which, if successful could be a national model for reform.

The presidential image makeover squad takes on Mitt Romney.

Wisconsin independents aren't happy with Gov. Scott Walker which mirrors the bigger problem for the GOP with independents nationwide.

The Atlantic publishes a crib sheet of awful things that have come out of the mouth of presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.

Mitt Romney previews his campaign messaging. Can his persistence, money and hair conquer all

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The decision by House Republican leaders to re-stock the House cafeteria with environmentally unfriendly styrofoam containers comes draws brickbats.

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