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The Download: It's all about perspective

Posted in: Current Affairs   Education   Health care   Sports
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Libya, budget stalemates, government shutdowns. Earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns. Fleeing jobs, local aid cuts, spiraling health care. And yet another snow storm is expected to hit the region tonight and tomorrow, with snow removal budgets long depleted.

There is no dearth of issues that command our attention and demand solution, so it’s probably little wonder why today’s Opening Day in baseball is on front pages everywhere and occupying space in some of the more sober and ideologically diverse media outlets locally and nationally. We need a break.

The Red Sox, who open their season tomorrow in Texas, are hoping to be able to move the celebratory spirit along a little more when they play their first game in Fenway Park next Friday. The team is seeking permission from the Boston Licensing Board to serve mixed drinks at various locations around the park to the over-21 hoi polloi, rather than limiting the imbibing to the patrons in the luxury suites. Mayor Thomas Menino, as well as police and neighborhood officials, has expressed some concern, given the park’s history of problems with drunken fans.

Drinking at Fenway has always made news, most recently last summer when CommonWealth reported the team was ordered to end its open bar offer with some ticket packages because it violated state law.

Opening Day is also a time to put America’s Pastime in context with our social and cultural mores. Former major league player and manager Bobby Valentine, writing in the New York Times, says baseball officials should ban chewing tobacco for the health of their players and because younger fans emulate their heroes’ dangerous habit.

At Slate, Sox official and sabermetrics guru Bill James says we’re phenomenal at producing athletes but when it comes to talent such as writers, not so much. James says a city such as Topeka, Kansas, roughly the size of London in the time of Shakespeare, produces a major league ballplayer every 10 to 15 years but nary a bard – or Marlowe or Bacon or Jonson – in that same period. He argues if the same focus, attention and celebration for success were given to fostering literary giants today, we could pump them out with the same regularity. It’s an interesting view in light of MCAS exams this week coinciding with Opening Day.

But the key to the focus on baseball is, in fact, baseball. Here at Download Central, we are jockeying for prime seating at the window overlooking the parade route down Tremont Street to Government Center in anticipation of the Red Sox capturing their third World Series in eight years. What else can you conclude when Vegas has the Sox as 9-2 favorites to win it all; 43 of ESPN’s 46 experts pick them as the American League champion and 34 say they’ll be the last team standing; and nearly all baseball prognosticators say the team’s offseason makes the upcoming postseason a slam dunk, to use another sport metaphor? Of course, there are a few outliers, such as Forbes magazine’s Kurt Badenhausen picking the Atlanta Braves to top the Sox in the Series in his annual baseball business predictions.

And then there’s Aaron Goldstein at the American Spectator, who’s lost all perspective by choosing the Chicago Cubs to go all the way.

As legendary diamond diehard George Will noted in his baseball quiz column in the Washington Post today, “Finish last in your league and they call you Idiot. Finish last in medical school and they call you Doctor.”

                                                                                                                                                                                    --JACK SULLIVAN

TRANSPORTATION

The Globe provides all the graphic details on why Red Line commutes yesterday morning were disrupted, and why an electrician working overnight at the Charles/MGH station is in a lot of pain but recovering. The MBTA's general manager wants to know why wooden planks were covering the 35-foot shaft a worker fell down yesterday morning. Jim Braude is kind of thinking the same thing.

CRIME

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who graduated form Boston University, says she was a rape victim while in college. Her announcement came as she and fellow councilor Felix Arroyo announced a hearing in April to examine local colleges and universities policies regarding dealing with and reporting sexual assault on their campuses.

HEALTH CARE

Attorney General Martha Coakley rapped Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan, after the two insurers decided to continue paying board members. Here’s the Globe’s take.

Congressional House Republicans plan to grill AARP officials for their support for the Obama administration's health care reforms.

Building contractors on the Cape complain about the confusion over new federal lead paint regulations.

Public health officials must walk a fine line between providing relevant information and avoiding scare tactics in their pronouncements about radiation found in rainwater.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Trying to spur waterfront development, Fall River’s first-term mayor, Will Flanagan, has introduced a measure to cut the bureaucratic red tape and give developers “zoning as a right” rather than navigating a sea of hearings and applications.

The Berkshire Eagle argues that Pittsfield should hire collection agencies if the city ever hopes to collect back real estate taxes.

Peabody School Superintendent C. Milton Burnett wants $64 million for next year’s school budget, an increase of 3.3 percent, the Salem News reports.

The MetroWest Daily News offers up its endorsements in the upcoming Framingham town election.

A long-simmering feud over where to site a new high school track in Quincy is heading to court with opponents of Mayor Thomas Koch, including three members of the School Committee, trying to stop a plan they say would put the track in an area prone to flooding.

ECONOMY AND BUSINESS

Treasurer Steve Grossman promotes the state's new small business loan program to bank officials in western Massachusetts.

The state's Job Creation Commission hears that significant numbers of new jobs won't be coming to the state unless the cost of housing decreases and the quality of public schools increases.

EDUCATION

Radio Boston explores the call for four years of math in high school.

Students are slated to begin returning to the Guilmette School in Lawrence, which was closed six months ago due to a mold infestation. Repairmen are rushing to fix 34 shattered and cracked windows damaged by vandals, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Parents in Newton protest proposed cuts to Latin courses in the city's middle schools. A Newton Tab editorial criticizes these and other school cuts, but sees few other options in light of current budget woes.

Dennis and Yarmouth tussle over the future of their combined school district. Dennis plans to remove its elementary and middle schools from the district.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

All four of Gov. Deval Patrick's nominees to the state Parole Board were confirmed yesterday by the Governor's Council, but two of them needed Lt. Gov. Tim Murray to cast a tie-breaking vote to make it.

INTERNET

John Kerry and John McCain are working out details of legislation to ensure greater privacy for consumers in online searching and use of and social media sites, the Globe reports

WASHINGTON

Democrats and Republicans will try to avoid a government shutdown by splitting their differences on deficit reduction. 

FISHING

Federal officials are launching a study at six Northeast fishing ports to assess the economic challenges facing the industry in the region.

POLITICS

Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama's job creation strategy in this USA Today opinion column.

"As strong as garlic." US Sen. Scott Brown still looks tough to beat in 2012. Which could be why Democrats are having a hard time finding a challenger, the Lowell Sun reports.

Newt Gingrich, at Salem State University, says there’s a good possibility President Obama will serve just one term, the Salem News reports.

National political commentators are decidedly unimpressed with the "vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers" who make up the current field of Republican presidential contenders.

In the National Review, Michael Barone says the Tea Party and its supporters have lost their momentum and argues the change in attitude is more a result of ill-informed and easily spun voters than the movement as a flash-in-the-pan ideology.

Tim Pawlenty will headline a Tea Party tax day rally in Boston.

So what's with Donald Trump's sudden infatuation with birthers?

CIVIL RIGHTS

The "new" NAACP strives to recruit more gays, immigrants, and young people.

THE GOVERNATOR?

Stay tuned for Arnold Schwarzenegger's next incarnation: comic book superhero.

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