Category Archives: InCity Voices

Obesity: a problem for Worcester’s kids – and the entire nation

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member

Schools must work on having a balance between wellness and academics as we address the needs of our children. With so much emphasis on MCAS scores, wellness has taken a back seat to achievement. The question is: why can’t we do both – academics and wellness? “If our children aren’t healthy, their learning suffers, and research shows that children who eat high sugar, high fat meals may have poorer cognitive skills, higher anxiety levels, and problems with hyperactivity,” stated Jerry Newberry in an article in the NEA magazine.

Let’s look at a health issue that is affecting our children – obesity. For more than four decades, obesity rates in the United States have more than quadrupled among children ages 6 to 11 years, more than tripled among adolescents ages 12 to 19 years and more than doubled among children ages 2 to 5 years, according to the Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth. Today, almost one third of the children in this country are either overweight or obese. The percentage of young people who are overweight has tripled over the last 25 years. Preventing obesity during childhood is critical because habits formed during childhood and adolescence frequently persist into adulthood.

Are you concerned yet? Continue reading Obesity: a problem for Worcester’s kids – and the entire nation

Why would starving monkeys want to live longer?

By Alka Chandna, Ph.D.

Imagine the horror of eating, sleeping, relieving yourself and sitting with nothing to do in the same tiny room for decades. You can never go outside and feel the sun on your skin or smell the fragrance of blooming flowers. Your days are drained of color, scent and almost every other form of sensory stimulation. Imagine, too, that you are never fed quite enough and feel constant hunger pangs. Worse, you are deprived of the one thing that might bring you some small comfort—the companionship of another living being. Continue reading Why would starving monkeys want to live longer?

Exotic “pets”: suffering for sale

By Jennifer O’Connor

A toddler is strangled to death by her family’s pet python. A woman lies in a coma, her face and hands ripped off, after being attacked by her friend’s pet chimpanzee. A 9-year-old girl is dead after an attack by her stepfather’s pet tiger. Thousands of people all over the country—most recently in Florida, where the horrific python attack took place—have been bitten, mauled and killed by exotic pets. How have we reached the point where lions and tigers live in basements, monkeys are diapered and alligators are walked on leashes?

Every year, countless people succumb to the temptation to purchase “exotic” animals such as monkeys, macaws, lizards—even tigers, lions and bears—to keep as “pets.” Unbelievably, there is no federal law prohibiting the private ownership of wild or dangerous animals. But captivity is often a death sentence for exotics and, in too many cases, for the people who “had” to have them. Continue reading Exotic “pets”: suffering for sale

T & G’s Dianne Williamson: public relations flak/hack for candidate Joe O’Brien

By “Cheese Wiz”

I was furious when I read the piece about Joe O’Brien in the Telegram and Gazette by Dianne Williamson. But what made me even angrier was the lame system that the telegram has for “Comments.” Thankfully, I was able to recover my text below on two pieces I wrote about the apparent “coronation” of [mayoral candidate] Joe O’Brien by both Dianne Williamson and, later that afternoon, by Jordan Levy on his radio show. Is that how the system works?

1. Dianne and Jordan Levy supporting one candidate on the same day. Instant coronation, right?

Not so fast, Worcesterites! Let’s take a closer look at your shoo in and the stinky stuff underneath. Eww.

Dianne shows all the depth of Fox News covering Sarah Palin. And Levy, well, I was just grateful he had another topic this week besides Rushford’s obvious profiteering.

So, was that a real Dianne piece or was it a tryout for a P.R. job if the Telegram thing forces her into retirement? Continue reading T & G’s Dianne Williamson: public relations flak/hack for candidate Joe O’Brien

Fair housing and domestic violence

By Sarah Loy

Domestic violence affects people of all social and economic levels and includes physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse by a spouse or other intimate partner. Victims of domestic violence are most often women and children. Domestic violence can affect performance at work and at school and can disrupt a family’s home life, not only through the abuse experienced at home, but also by causing difficulty in the family’s ability to find or keep affordable housing. According to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness in the United States (Lost Housing, Lost Safety: Survivors of Domestic Violence Experience Housing Denials and Evictions Across the Country (NLCHP, 2007).

Maintaining housing stability while you are experiencing domestic violence or even after you leave a violent relationship can be difficult. It can be made more difficult if you are evicted from the apartment you live in or are prevented from renting a new apartment because of past incidents of domestic violence where, for example, neighbors have complained about police calls, or the abuser has damaged the apartment. Continue reading Fair housing and domestic violence

The movies that made me what I am today

By Steve Sandberg

I run Cinema 320 at Clark University. This job sort of makes me one of the cultural gatekeepers of Worcester. And I guard my gate very scrupulously. Over the last 27 years, Cinema 320 has brought a galaxy of award-winning films to the city. We’ve presented a pageant of great statements on the human condition – the life work of cinematic giants like Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa. It’s been quite a record. From it, you might naturally assume that when yet another night at Cinema 320 is done, I go home and unwind with some other work of immortal cinematic art. Well, not necessarily. Actually, I like to sleep with a 50-foot woman.

But I’m not particular. If she’s got another date, I’ll make do with an amazing colossal man. Just how colossal is he? Don’t ask.

I swing all sorts of ways. You might even find me decadently commingling with many species decidedly more exotic than the human… giant tarantulas, ants the size of fire engines, killer shrews, flying brains, even a Thing or a Beast or an It! or two. These are the monster movies of my adolescence, the vivid horrors that kept me awake as a kid, shivering with delicious unease, deep into the darkness of the hottest Friday and Saturday summer nights; and now, in my middle age, they’re the old friends that lead me off into a peaceful sleep.

The irony is that Cinema 320’s clock was set ticking decades ago not by the high culture of the Cannes Film Festival, but the lowbrow junk of Fantasmic Features and Chiller Theatre; and none of the great movies the theater has brought to Worcester would have appeared here without their influence. It was while playing around in this trash heap as a boy that I decided movies were where I wanted to live. Continue reading The movies that made me what I am today

The PIP shelter and what it means to Worcester

By District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller

The story of the PIP Shelter is long and complex. While there have been many individuals who will testify to its success as a safety net of last resort, there are many more who will testify to its internal chaos, especially before SMOC took over control in 2005. Founded over thirty years ago to provide protection to public inebriates after the decriminalization of public drunkenness, there are few who would deny that the PIP has grown to be an enabler and magnet for anti-social behavior.

Over the past twenty years my position on the PIP moved from a call for better management, to supporting an effort to relocate it to an industrial area, to a cry for closing it. I came to realize that a 150 person warehouse for individuals experiencing homelessness for a wide variety of reasons couldn’t be fixed – regardless of who ran it or where it was located. Over time the city council, the city administration, and the community have come to join in common voice to close this shelter at 701 Main Street.

During those years of pushing for the shuttering of the PIP, the question of “where will ‘they’ go?” was part of every discussion. My answer to that question was always to explain that it is not the responsibility of the struggling neighborhood around 701 to bring solution to homelessness, but rather it is the responsibility of the whole community. I served on every task force as we searched for the best answers. All of these efforts failed to close the PIP but they each served to get us closer by educating more people to the complexity of the challenge and increasing the resolve to do better. Continue reading The PIP shelter and what it means to Worcester

A tale of two PIP shelters

By William T. Breault

The former Public Inebriate Program, now the People in Peril Shelter, is the only “wet” walk-in shelter in the region for homeless individuals. People walk in, or are dropped off, or released from incarceration and given a place to stay. We now are working hard as a region to close this shelter. I have been working to do exactly this for decades. This article explains why.

There have always been two PIP Shelters at 701 Main Street.

The first PIP Shelter is the one that most people know. It is the safety net shelter for people with no options. This PIP offers people a refuge from the street, a place to sleep and get a meal, a place to see a doctor and connect with social services. This is the humane PIP – the PIP that recognizes that we are all legitimate, that we are all worthy of hope, and that we all deserve a place that will “catch you, time after time.” This is the PIP that helps us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, a PIP that gives us a place to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to forgive the sinner.

The other PIP is the shelter that the neighborhood and social service providers for the homeless know. This is the PIP that enables self-destructive behavior on many levels, the place to go if you want to buy or sell drugs to feed addictions, to buy or sell bodies for sex, to fence stolen goods. Continue reading A tale of two PIP shelters