Tag Archives: Worcester

Police body cams for the Worcester Police Department: Let’s hear about it!

By Edith Morgan

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Edith

We have talked about it, and the City of Worcester has a plan. But, we the people, are still waiting for the Worcester City Council to schedule a public hearing about the program. That should be scheduled in cooperation by the Worcester Human Rights Commission and the Worcester Police Department. WPD Chief Steve Sargent MUST BE PRESENT!

Worcester City Councilor Khrystian King has been pushing to get the hearings under way, as Worcester is the last of
Massachusetts’ major cities to implement the program.

Hearings can be scheduled as soon as the two groups decide, and it has been suggested that there be one such hearing in each district.

Holding these hearings all over the city seems like a good move, as the general public really needs to be heard – and also to have their questions answered in a smaller setting than the media or the Worcester city council meetings.

The Massachusetts State Legislature is working on a set of regulations for the use of this new technology, but there is no reason to hold off hearings while the Legislature finalizes its work.

It would seem the ball is in the court of the WPD police department and th. CITY’S Human Rights Commission. Our city council subcommittee, headed by CC Kate Toomey and our City Manager, Ed Augustus, have done their part, and they are awaiting action by the other parties.

We as interested citizens and residents can get in touch with our district councilors and our legislators and demand we all speed the process!

There are still a great many questions to be answered: this program involves a sizable expenditure for the initial purchase of the equipment, but it also involves continued expenditures for maintenance. The hearings should clear up any question the public has about the efficacy of this program – what is it supposed to help, and what do the statistics from other communities using it show?

There is quite a lot of information on Wikipedia, for those who want to delve more deeply into this area. There are several versions of these body cameras, and there are also cameras that can be mounted on police vehicles. And there is the question of when the filming should start, and what should be recorded. And who will get to review the film and how soon after the event …

The quality of the pictures that aIl have seen thus far has not been great, and the scope is narrow enough so that it is hard to get the whole picture of any event. The reason that the George Floyd murder was so unequivocal and clear is that it was photographed by a very steady hand, for the entire event, and from a sufficient distance so that the entire event, bystanders and all, was included.

It would be ideal if every encounter that involves police violence could be so well documented, but body cams will come nowhere near this. Will the expense of this new technology give us enough good information to meet our objectives? To the Worcester public hearings to find out!

From winning at the races to dog food!

By Kathy Guillermo

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Most race horses are raced down – sold from one owner to the next as they age/pass their peak racing days …they are raced in crumbier and crumbier tracks for less and less $$ as they grow less fast. All used up? Then the horses are sold to Canada, Mexico and overseas for dog food …

Did you watch the Kentucky Derby on TV? Viewers of the world’s most famous televised race heard trainers, owners and jockeys proclaim their love for the horses who might bring them a pot of money and a few days in the spotlight. But in December, PETA revealed that 2006 Kentucky Derby runner Private Vow was slaughtered in 2020 in South Korea for meat for human consumption. Some of his remaining body parts were processed into dog food or oil for cosmetics.

This echoed a scandal that many in horse racing promised would never happen again: the slaughter of 1986 Derby winner Ferdinand in Japan. It’s as true now as it was 35 years ago: Even Kentucky Derby entrants are not spared the fate of the thousands of U.S. horses exported every year to Canada, Mexico and overseas for slaughter. The truth is, horse racing is more “livestock” industry than sport.

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Horses are drugged up to mask their pain – and to allow them to race while their sprained and pulled muscles are not fully healed. Many horses die on the race track while they are over-raced by unscrupulous trainers and owners.

Private Vow’s Kentucky Derby trainer, Steve Asmussen, issued no statement of remorse, and as far as we can tell, neither he nor anyone involved in the horse’s life took action to prevent the slaughter of more Thoroughbreds.

Horse racing is scrambling to shore up an eroding fan base that increasingly views the sport, like bullfighting or the Iditarod, as cruel and anachronistic.

The industry’s marketing schemes to repair the public’s perception are failing because horse racing doesn’t clean up its most serious abuses and prevent suffering. Racing doesn’t just have an image problem — it has a reality problem.

The recent parade of scandalous viral images of a euthanized horse still wearing racing wraps on her legs, lying amid trash in a landfill, and of trainers and jockeys laughing while sitting on dead horses was appalling largely because it exposed a chillingly callous attitude toward the deaths of horses used for racing. It revealed what some insiders truly think of their horses – that they’re disposable – and it is in stark contrast to the disingenuous claims by trainers and owners on national television during every Kentucky Derby broadcast that they love their horses and that the horses are part of their family.

This was also what was most disturbing about PETA’s 2013 undercover investigation into trainer Steve Asmussen’s operation. While industry apologists tried to downplay Asmussen’s top assistant Scott Blasi’s foul language as just dirty words, it was precisely these obscenities that revealed the shocking disregard for horses by so many in racing. When one of his seriously injured horses, Valediction, was purchased after a race by an unsuspecting buyer, Blasi said he was so happy to unload the horse that “[he] could do a f-king cartwheel.” He called the horse a “rat,” adding that “if they ask you how he is, say he’s my favorite horse.”

Soon afterward, PETA rescued Valediction and retired him to a safe and loving home.

Many horses crossed the finish line at Churchill Downs this past Derby weekend. But there will be no winners. Every Thoroughbred is in danger of meeting Private Vow’s fate. Until the racing industry grapples with that and protects the horses it uses and abuses, it will continue to decline, and all the disingenuous claims of love will not save it.

Wah Wah Sisterhood

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose, April 2021.

So here we all are: Me, Rose, and all those familiar GIRLY feelings – Together! Again! Just like in Burncoat Senior High School! Just the way it felt back then, with my BFF gal pals in Mr. Labelle’s sophomore biology classroom or in homeroom, right before first period. During cafeteria break, too … during gym class, smelling of SECRET deodorant and B.O. Me and my GAL PALS!!! Fun times, sharing secrets, helping each other, caring, laughing, admiring … shoring up each other … being competitive, too. THE AWFUL GIRLY GIRL FIGHTS – THE EMOTIONAL SLUGFESTS. Girls being girls. Only now it is 40 years later. And just as painful.

Things have not really changed in the world of female friendships. I’m not talking about the breezy, easy text-you-when-I-am-free “friendship”s, or the slick Instagram pictures posted more for the world than gal friends. No, I mean real world real female friendships: the I-wanna-know-you, I-am-sorta-fascinated-by you!…see-your-specialness friendships. YOU have a lot to offer friendships. Non-sexual … yet your souls are smitten!

My new friendships with my two new gal pals rushed up to me – embraced me and my troubles. Two 58-year-old Worcester women … all this empathy, so willing to help … a stranger. They were sent to me by God! Guardian angels – one on the Pill! One a power walker who makes her own power smoothies every morning. They came to help me move out of my old apartment and into a new one – AT 59. NOT 29. OR 39. OR EVEN 49 years old. Me. 59 years old. To move as a senior, during a global pandemic, is to look mortality in the saggy face … and wince. My gal pals were sent to me to keep me strong … to pack up my books, sweaters and boots and Dollar Store dinner plates … to smile and kid me with: Rose! You really are a clothes horse! To be at my door, with a bag of pretzels or a pretty new cat carrier from Walmart for Cece – to look serious because they know the seriousness of my situation. To see the strained look on one friend’s slim face, knowing – and loving – that she is feeling my pain, my loss, my harried-ness, too. To see her throw stuff willy nilly, last minute into contractor bags. For me. When she has got two sons and a boyfriend – the good life – waiting for her across town. That’s love. I look at her face. It says: THIS SUCKS. I concur …

And there they are, still, being wonderful. Helping me over and over again. Me. Rose. The writer. The newspaper gal. Poor. Idealistic. So on the lam, again; on the road, again. Nomadic, but too old to be nomadic.

We are all in our late 50s, with decades of life experience behind us. Behind the not so beautiful smiles (wrinkles etched around our lips), we are jaded! I say to one: REMEMBER WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND WE REALLY LOVED A BOY AND WE’D WRITE HIM A POEM? A POEM! I say, dumbstruck.
Our lithe bodies (one on Estrogen Therapy “to keep the juices flowing”) and one chubby (me) getting some sun in the dog park as Jett and Lilac lope over the April grass. Happy.

My gal pals “Gretchen” and “Jen” – two Type As with great jobs/careers … super smart, super cute women who went to college, grad school and still read books. They do not act old the way our mothers did at our age. Nor do they look old like our moms used to look in their 60s, with their tight, curly perms and five and ten dusters. My friends are out before their jobs running the track or they are taking weekend trips to Florida with a sexy boyfriend or they are chasing big dogs that dug up their yards. Bikini-ready moms – and future grandma! Family deaths, husbands long gone … water under the bridge. New marriages, foreclosed homes, eviction notices, dogs loved and lost, boyfriends, too … the backdrops to our friendships. So, no, it’s not the junior prom at Burncoat, the most popular/coolest girl contest, the cute boys and who wins them contest … BUT IT IS! Still! Sometimes! Four decades later!

The fight: The looking-at-a-car-for-me afternoon. THEN IT IS ME SCREAMING TO Jen: Great! That opportunity blown BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE BELLE OF THE BALL!

Jen: I DON’T NEED TO BE THE FU*KING BELLE OF THE BALL, ROSE! I WAS TRYING TO BE FRIENDLY TO MAKE THINGS GO BETTER FOR YOU!

Rose: BULL S*IT! YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE BELLE OF THE BALL!

Jen: YOU’RE NEVER NICE! YOU CAN GET MORE WITH HONEY THAN WITH VINEGAR!

Rose: MY MOTHER USED TO SAY THAT ALL THE TIME AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO HER!

Jen: SHE GAVE UP HER POWER. PEOPLE WALK OVER YOU IF YOU ALLOW THEM TO!

Now I am REALLY screaming at Jen and she is REALLY screaming at me, in her vehicle, zipping down the street, Jett and Lilac still hoping for that drive to the dog park, still wagging their tails and Lilac still trying to lick Jen’s face.

Then, out of nowhere, knowing her daughter died young – either of a drug overdose or suicide – and her husband died of drugs, I say: SOME PEOPLE JUST KILL ALL THE HUMANS AROUND THEM!

Jen: ROSE! ROSE! YOU DO NOT KNOW PEOPLE’S STORIES! IT’S NOT JUST YOU! EVERYBODY HAS THEIR STORY!

Everybody has their story.

One big ugly heart-rending girly fight continues, on the road: YOU’RE BOHEMIAN! … YOU HAVE A BIG NOSE! … YOU DON’T PLAN! … YOUR FACE IS ALL WRINKLY! … I get out of my pal’s car feeling pummeled; she is small and wiry and tough. She seems primed for more girly combat. I think: This has to end. Why did she ever want to get tangled up in my life anyways?

I say to her as I get out of her car to put the leads on Jett and Lilac: Well, once I am settled, I’ll make sure to send you a Christmas card! Every Christmas! Code for: We both know we can never recover from this fight.

Later I think: I destroyed a terrific friendship over competition for some old fart guy I don’t even like! TO BE THE BELLE OF THE BALL! I lost the who’s prettiest girly girl battle. Just like in high school. WHO CARES?! We are 60! … Why did Jen want to win so badly? Being so flirty! Hugging him for minutes on end! … Why did I want to win so badly, too?

Welcome to Girlsville.

My BUILD ROSE UP AGAIN gal pals – helping me, sharing with me. Maybe gone. Rose. Disaster City. I’ve always been a bit of a calamity – and always had great female friends who put up with me. For years. For decades! I could never figure out why. But eventually they leave. After 20 years … 30 years of Roseville.

So now my heart is broken. I am crying over the destiny that is MINE ALONE. And eating a big slice of plain cheesecake. I am reading O – Oprah’s magazine: perusing all the self-help articles, skipping over the best-bathing-suit-for-your-body-type stories I typically glom onto, looking for answers from OPRAH: Treat your fears like lions crouched in Africa’s high grass, says one article! Reach out and touch your lion, tame your fear! Write your future – DREAM BIG! WRITE A HAPPY ENDING TO YOUR STORY. Your stress hormones will ebb immediately! Be good to yourself: take a walk, drink calming teas…take a warm bath. Face your angst. All that figuring and self-flagellating. A man would just find a woman to f*ck.

Will I lose my gal pals? The ones bringing me groceries, giving me books written by cool female Polish authors?
The ones complimenting my skin, offering advice, driving me to see apartments, picking up my dogs and me for playtime at the dog park? The long talks in the car – real, open, honest. The sharing of hopes and dreams – and regrets. Bathing in the glow of each other’s cool personalities: Rose, the bohemian writer. Gretchen, the good Catholic girl/jock.

Jen, the Queen.

Joe Biden: A President🇺🇸 for US (U.S.) all!🇺🇸

By Edith Morgan

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President Joe Biden’s address to Congress and America: not everyone was there. The hallowed chamber was mostly empty, as everyone was seated the mandatory six feet from everyone else. But at least all the important parts of our federal government were there, presided over – for the first time in our history! – by two women, one of them a woman of color. Vice-President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood side by side at the dais and watched the others come in. Among the special guests were the spouses of the President and the Vice President. Chief Justice John Roberts represented the Supreme Court, and a sparse number of Senators and Representatives took their places on each side: stony faced Republicans and jovial Democrats and, of course, the indomitable Independent, Bernie Sanders.

The contents of Biden’s speech were no surprise, as copies had been distributed to all before the event – although I suspect that not everyone in that great hall had really read and digested its contents. I got the message throughout that “America is back” and that our allies and friends all over the world have breathed a sigh of relief, tempered by the often unasked question “For how long?” But at least we have mended fences, reached out to friend and foe, and made clear what our values and goals are now, as of January 20.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11827661ae) US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 23 March 2021. Biden Remarks on Boulder Shootings, Washington, USA - 23 Mar 2021
Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 2021.

Biden spoke directly to the American people and offered detailed plans for a near and far future designed to achieve some lofty goals. The polls indicate that the majority of Americans outside Washington D.C. agree with the plans.
Overall, each initiative is designed to get all of us vaccinated (we are rapidly getting there), make sure that we eliminate childhood hunger and poverty, and give every child in America a good start in life by offering free, public pre-school. The plan also calls for community college for all and puts into the hands of parents enough money to enable them to buy food and essentials for their families. The entire package is designed to rebuild the decimated middle class, restore its powers and, in that way, rebuild our economy that has tumbled so badly under the twin weights of the pandemic and the previous administration.

Biden addressed the question sure to be asked: how do we pay for all of this? By closing tax loop holes in the existing tax structure and making the very rich and corporations pay their fair share. Biden explained that the Trump tax cuts to the very rich simply put trillions of dollars into the pockets of those who already had more than enough money and added to the huge deficit.

The cameras panned over the attendees periodically and registered the stone-faced disapproval of Republicans, while the other side often stood and applauded. At one point the camera picked up a very tanned Republican Senator Ted Cruz – dozing off during the speech. There were frequent takes of Mitch McConnell and GOP Chair Kevin McCarthy, both sitting unmoved and unresponsive.

Thus far, President Biden has more than kept his promises to all Americans and has even exceeded his goals in the number of citizens vaccinated. He has proved that he has the momentum and vision to accomplish much of what he promised, and he has found ways of doing so without the reactive participation of the Trump Republican Party. His appointees appear to be cleaning up the Justice Department, and his Cabinet members are turning around or undoing the damage done during the past administration.

It is certainly very comforting to hear that our own tax money will come back to us to begin the enormous task of removing the devastating inequities in our economic system, while still going forward and staying competitive with the rest of the industrial world. Maybe the historians who predicted that this would be the century of China will have to take a second look! Biden forcefully reminded China that while we would cooperate where possible, there would be consequences for their violations of human rights and for their disregard for property and patent rights.

While he made no direct allusion to our border problems, he did recognize that there is a need to address the horrendous problems of violence, graft and poverty in the countries to the south of us, from where many of the refugees flee to the relative safety of the U.S.

President Biden’s first 100 days have gone well – millions and millions of us vaccinated against COVID, decorum and respect restored to the White House … We, the People, seem to be watching and approving. Slow and steady, and always with his hand on the pulse of the public, Joe Biden can accomplish much – without bombast and egomania. I, for one, have heaved a huge sigh of relief!

Jim – always in style! 🌻 St. Vincent’s Hospital Nurses Strike Continues

March and rally in support of strike was held April 26 …

By Jim Coughlin

St. Vincent’s Hospital in downtown Worcester was the scene on Wednesday, April 20, of a rally in support of the over 850 registered nurses who have been on strike there since March 8 against the Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare which operates the hospital.

According to David Schildmeier, the press secretary for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, MNA, the union to which the striking nurses belong, the march was billed as a “March to support St. Vincent Hospital nurses.”

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Downtown Worcester: March in support of St. V’s nurses’ strike. Photo submitted.

The rally was preceded by a march that began at City Hall and culminated at the north entrance to the hospital. The event was sponsored and organized by PUMA, The Parents Union of Massachusetts and Jobs with Justice, with participation by the Tenant and Housing Alliance, Latinas United and Rock of Salvation Church.

In a press release from PUMA, Nelly Medina, the group’s organizer, in announcing their support for the nurses, said, “We support the St. Vincent Nurse’s decision to strike because we have a stake in the outcome of this struggle as it will ensure the ultimate safety of our community.”

“Our children are the future and, as we support the Nurses at St. Vincent’s, with this event we model for them how to stand in solidarity with workers against unbridled capitalism and corporate greed,” Medina said.

In a wide-ranging, 40-minute telephone interview with Maria Ritacco, the vice president of the MNA who also serves as a member of the bargaining unit for St. Vincent’s nurses, she said the strike “is over improvements in patient safety.”

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Ritacco has worked at St. Vincent’s for nearly 30 years as a registered nurse, beginning in 1983. “I have worked my entire career at St. Vincent’s Hospital,” she said, that has for generations been known as “St. Vs.” She began working in the surgical unit, then five years in the Intensive Care Unit, (ICU) and currently works in the recovery room.

She said her union would like the ratio of nurses to patients in the various units of the hospital such as Medical Surgery, the Emergency Room, [ER] Intensive Care, [ICU] and In-Patient increased to all be reduced. “The hospital ignored all of our requests to even discuss this staffing issue because they thought that the nurses would not go on strike if they did not improve ratios,” Ritacco said.

She said she thought the strike authorization vote would be enough to get them to discuss staffing improvements. However, she added that “it [the strike vote] just didn’t happen in two months. We were considering a job action before the pandemic. When COVID hit a year ago, we decided to put off the job action until the COVID numbers came down. If there was no progress at the [bargaining] table, we would then consider job action in early February, [this year].

The union leader said Worcester’s two other hospitals: Memorial and UMass Memorial Medical Center have already established the nursing ratios that the union is currently seeking to establish at St. Vincent’s. “It’s not an unusual practice,” she said.

She took St. V’s to task for their unusually high profit margin of 14%, which contrasts with the much lower profit margins of the city’s other hospitals – which is around 3% – and the 3.5% average profit rate for hospitals nationally.

She mentioned the hospital’s actual amount of profit last year was recorded at $414 million. In a press release, the union said on the day of the nurse’s strike authorization vote, the hospital had announced their profit margin.

In the course of my interview with the union leader and member of the bargaining unit, she said the “strike was not about their pay grade” and only
spoke of “patient ratios and patient safety.” However, when asked about an increase in their pay grade, she would only say the union and the hospital “were close to an agreement” [on a salary increase] but declined to get specific.

“The hospital was happy to throw a little bit of money at nurses as opposed to meeting our demands for changes in staffing to improving staffing to enhance patient safety,” Ritacco said. She also said throughout the 45-day strike the hospital has been bringing replacement nurses to staff the hospital in their absence. Ritacco said those nurses are being flown in “from throughout the country” and are being paid double (between $95 and $100 hourly) than what the regular St. V’s nurses were being paid.

She said the hospital “has been spending approximately forty-five million dollars to beat back the demands of the nurses, in addition to paying for the daily Worcester police detail.

In a press release, the union said the police detail “costs more than $30,000 a day.”

Ritacco said her membership “is not going in the building until the staffing problems are resolved.” When asked if she sees an eventual resolution of the strike, she said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the hospital will come back to the bargaining table. … Their goal is to make as much money as possible, and nurses are interfering with that by withholding their labor.”

Meanwhile, the union has established a strike fund which she said nurses have access to “on a weekly basis.” There is also a “Diaper and Baby Formula Bank” which has been set up to aid nurses and their children that was initiated by a nurse at UMass/ Memorial Medical Center.

They have also garnered the political support of Massachusetts’s two United States Senators: Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, along with Worcester’s Congressman Jim McGovern and the entire Worcester City Council and Mayor Joseph Petty.

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On April 26, it was announced that the two sides in the dispute had returned to negotiations but, after briefly meeting with hospital representatives, the union issued a statement calling the hospital’s offer “insulting.”

🌸🌸Curb climate change and prevent global pandemics – EAT LESS MEAT!

By Heather Moore

We can help combat climate change — and prevent future pandemics — just by eating vegan foods. Some experts, including medical historian Dr. David Morens — who works at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with Dr. Anthony Fauci — believe that climate change can accelerate and exacerbate pandemics.

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Factory farming – a bane to our air

Nearly a third of the emerging infectious diseases over the past 10 years followed a certain path, and the changing climate contributed to their rise. The climate may not have played a direct role in the coronavirus outbreak — which many scientists believe originated in a wet market that sold fish, poultry and exotic animals for human consumption — but our insistence on eating animal-based foods is contributing to climate change and intensifying the spread of animal-borne diseases.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, the director of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health C-CHANGE program, has said that in order to reduce our risk of infectious diseases, “we should do all we can to vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.”

But, are we doing all we can?

Far from it.

Many people still eat meat, cheese and other animal-based foods, which are a leading contributor to climate change. According to The New York Times, the U.S. is one of the world’s top greenhouse-gas emitters, with each person producing more than 15 tons of carbon dioxide, on average. That’s about three times as much as the British average and eight times as much as in India — two countries that have become increasingly vegan-friendly.

America needs to do better. The lead researcher on a University of Oxford study showing that the meat and dairy industries use 83% of farmland and generate 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse-gas emissions, has said that going vegan is “the single biggest way” to lower our impact on the Earth, much more so than flying less or driving an electric car.

So, let’s all give it a try.

A study by Uswitch, a comparison service in the U.K., shows that meat-eaters contribute nearly twice as much to climate change as vegans do, and a paper in Nature Sustainability indicates that shifting from animal-derived foods to plant foods could remove more than a decade of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

A shift from animal-based to vegan foods has other benefits, too: Helen Harwatt, a fellow at Harvard Law School, believes that if we stop raising animals for food, we’ll not only restore native ecosystems and help halt climate change, we’ll also reduce the spread of diseases from wildlife to pigs, chickens, cows and other farmed animals and, ultimately, to humans.

So, if we want a livable climate, ecosystems that benefit both humans and animals, and fewer animal-borne diseases, we should all choose vegan. Doing so not only will help protect the environment and prevent more animal-borne diseases, it will also help stop animal suffering, as every vegan spares nearly 200 animals per year. Who’s with me?
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ANIMALS SUFFER ON FACTORY FARMS – THEY ARE CRATED IN TINY SPACES WHERE THEY CANNOT TURN AROUND OR WALK FREELY. THEY ARE ABUSED THEIR ENTIRE ALL-TOO-BRIEF LIVES.

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Remember: have compassion! Go vegetarian!

The electric DOG DAY AFTERNOON!

By Rosalie Tirella

The Late Movie show on Channel 56, Boston. Introduced by the pleasant guy with glasses. That’s how we used to see all the great iconic American films back in the 1970s. No TCM or AMC for $. Or paying to see the revival at Showcase Cinemas in downtown Worcester. Just the original – sometimes cut for decency – on the late late show, “screening” on our grainy black and white TV set with its crooked rabbit ears strategically twisted for better “reception” in our Lafayette Street living room – beaming the art.

I was 13 years old. My mom and kid sisters were fast asleep in their beds, so I could be the night hawk and watch MASH, LAST TANGO IN PARIS, CITIZEN KANE. With the lights out and my imagination on. Me. Alone, a kid watching DOG DAY AFTERNOON on our vinyl, hand-me-down red sofa whose cushions were held together with gray duct tape at the corners … me, not understanding the film, but mesmerized nonetheless. The semi-nudity, the politics, the long-haired men, the violence … the movies of the 1970s reflected it all. They spoke to the times. Still do!

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As a kid I am watching Al Pacino, not knowing the stuff adults know, but the film’s STILL GETTING THROUGH TO ME. There’s a “permeability” to kids – you don’t feel it quite the same way as a grown up. Too many wheels turning in your head, your adult baggage nagging at you every step of the way. Yes, you’re caught up in the movie, but you’re being carried away as a 60 year old, not as a hormone-fueled adolescent whose mind is a canvas. Innocence lost. As a kid: feeling Pacino, Brando, Voight and Hoffman’s intensity, their intensity flowing into yours!

Today, DOG DAY AFTERNOON is still pretty fine. I’m watching the film tonight – a young, gorgeous, intense Al Pacino stars. …
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… Desperado Pacino as Sonny the bank robber; he’s chewing up the scenery. But that’s Sonny: showman extraordinaire. I love all the great actors in this film – especially John Cazale as Sal. And director Sydney Lumet captures the vibe of a big, complex city with all its crowds and outcasts that stand out in the crowds. But it’s the film’s SCRIPT that draws me in. The writing is FREAKIN’ TERRIFIC! Love all the dialog: YOU LOOK ALL SQUEEZED OUT the cop says to Sonny. … I’M SQUEEZED OUT, Sonny says. The real life-sounding conversations between bank teller and bank robber, teller and teller, pizza delivery man and robber … tumultuous, wild, funny. “You didn’t plan!” says the feisty head teller to Sonny. He looks at her – and knows she’s right. The un-gentrified Brooklyn is blue collar, racially diverse, down to earth – and filled with good people.

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Sonny and the feisty head teller

You root for Sonny and sad-eyed partner Sal …
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John Cazale as Sal.

– the FBI and cops are the bad guys in the film. They are part of the system squelching the free spirits. But the free spirits are toting rifles. Is that freedom? As is today, about 10 social problems fester and come to a head through a crime. Cops, like our public school teachers, are called in to clean up society’s mess. Deal with the end result of poverty, despair, mental strife – and in the movie, a gay man in love with another guy “trapped in a man’s body.” No one used the word “transgender” back then. But that’s the reason why Sonny is robbing the bank – to get the thousands of dollars needed to pay for his boyfriend Leon’s “sex change operation.”

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“Attica! Attica!”

Watching the film, you also get to see how far America’s come re: gay rights. In the film, Sonny is first adored by the crowd amassed by the bank – he’s their hero. But then he’s reviled, his fans turn against him, boo at him – people throw rocks at his getaway bus – after they learn he’s gay.

When the film begins, you sense the shaky ground on which our protagonists stand: they ride up in a clunker, their getaway guy has second thoughts and bolts outa the bank – with their getaway car! The bank vault holds only $1,100. Still, Sonny, wild-eyed but smart, has the head teller take him to all the teller drawers for more cash. Their trash bag is filled with loot. Sal, wielding his machine gun and exuding deep deep despair, and partner in crime, Sonny, can make a quick exit. But just as they’re about to head out the door, one of the tellers has to pee. Sonny, a humane human throughout the film, asks: Anyone else need to go? And just like in kindergarten class, all hands fly up, and the guys accommodate them.

As Sonny and Sal coordinate the big bathroom break, the NYC cops, FBI, snipers in helicopters, reporters and TV cameras converge. It’s too late. Sonny gets a phone call from cop Charles Durning … and the circus begins. Unhinged, growing more desperate by the hour, Sonny comes up with the mad idea of demanding a plane to fly to safety. He wants to go to … Algeria. Out of the country. Sal wants to leave America, too – he wants to go to Wyoming. Sal is a lost soul, clinging to Sonny for purpose and safety. … The guys, by now, have bonded with their hostages – one teller refuses to be handed over to a cop, another does a military drill with Sonny’s rifle – after Sonny, an army vet, shows her how! Sonny revels in their 15 minutes of fame. He loves the crowd – and the crowd loves him back.

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They chant: SONNY! SONNY! SONNY! whenever he walks out of the bank and gives his swear-laced little sermons on the hot pavement. The head teller pumps her fist and shouts to her fellow bank tellers: I was interviewed! I’m on TV! … The TV news cameras are riveted on the riveting Sonny who tells the lead FBI agent: I’d hate to think you’d kill me out of duty – I’d want you to kill me because you hate me. … Like I said, inspired dialog.

Before his dim-witted wife Angie is put through to him on the phone by the cops, Sonny says: They can put any one on. The Pope. The richest of the rich, the wisest of the wise. Who do I get? … But when Angie calls herself fat, Sonny says: You’re not fat. Don’t ever call yourself that. He’s a great father to their two children.

You see the connections, the relationships – all of them loving – Sonny has with people, even his hostages! Most have entrusted their lives to him …they are on his side. As she gets off the bus at the airport, one hostage smiles, tears in her eyes and gives Sal her rosary so he won’t be afraid of flying – he’s never been on a plane. When Sonny first points his rifle at a teller, he looks scared and says: “I’m a Catholic. I don’t want to kill anybody.”

Amen.

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Based on a true story …

🌺A Bunny’s Story🌺

By Franny McKeever

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This past month’s CECELIA cover story!

In honor of bunnies, commonly exploited at Easter/Spring time, let me tell you about our bunny Stella. Stella is our “foster failure” bunny. We took her in temporarily, from our local animal shelter. The shelter is a tiny room filled with cats. A bunny was not a priority, which sums up the plight of rabbits in general.

Stella had been recently surrendered after peeing on her adoptive family’s living room couch. This is not uncommon for a three-month-old bunny, marking her
territory, wherever she happens to be.

As it came closer to the day of her spay, a necessary procedure for bunnies, we thought, how difficult could an adorable tiny fuzzball with helicopter ears be to bond with our pair of bonded bunnies, Greta and Linus, already living with us?

Impossibly so, turned out to be the answer. We learned quickly that Greta was downright angry at the new bunny Stella situation! Greta made it clear that no other bunny was meant to befriend Linus. She barely liked me, my husband and our children trying to pat her pal, Linus. This should have been a sign that tipped us off early on, but we continued to insert our human needs on their bunny feelings. We arranged carefully planned field trips to a small penned in area in the front hall of our house. I was the mediator. There were periods of hope and possibility, but it became clear we were at a standstill. We gave up and planned on housing Stella in our kitchen.

Stella has her own interesting personality. She was not happy about sharing HER space with my husband! Though she would sit with me and lick my fingers and enjoy the attention of our four kids, she would grunt at my husband. The thing is Stella is a pretty feisty rabbit and though not really skittish in a shy way, she flips out pretty easily. I believe she thinks the broom is alive! She chases the broom whenever we sweep up – tries to attack it. It’s downright cute – and a little weird. Sometimes we forget and start to sweep and seemingly out of nowhere our gray bunny will fly across the room and grunt at the evil broom.

So Stella has her own quirky personality that the average person would not
associate with a rabbit. In fact, all rabbits have distinct personalities, and anyone adopting a bunny needs to understand this and potentially meet the rabbit before introducing a bunny into their family.

It is also really important to teach children about the fact that a bunny is a prey animal, and we are all potential predators in their eyes. Rabbits want the safety of feet on the ground and usually don’t want to be picked up. I do pick up Stella on occasion to make sure that I can handle her in case I need to. I hold her feet firmly, and she seems to forget that she is off the ground until something startles her. One ear goes up and I see her thinking: “Hey! Wait a minute!” and she tries to jump down. I lower her down safely with conviction and support her so she won’t fall. Since bunnies have fragile bones, children need to socialize on the ground and never do the picking up. My children have grown up, also well educated about feeding a bunny, as rabbits are especially sensitive to the food they eat. Some rabbits are more affected than others.

We learned this with our first rabbit Greta: rabbits can have an intestinal shut down and stop eating, a state called GI Stasis. It can happen for a variety of reasons – sometimes related to their diet. This is essential information for anyone feeding a rabbit. We know that Stella is less sensitive, and we will allow her to meet us at the refrigerator for some lettuce or kale. Only certain leafy green vegetables are encouraged and that is only if you know your bunny is ok with them.

The most important part of the bunny diet is Hay. We use Orchard Grass Hay due to Timothy Hay allergies in our home. Hay helps their teeth from growing and provides the right amount of fiber.

As all animals depend on us to make decisions for them, bunnies can become a real issue at Easter time. On behalf of Stella and our past bunnies Greta and Linus and all the unwanted bunnies in small cages in animal shelters, I say: DO YOUR HOMEWORK ABOUT BUNNY ADOPTION AND CARE. Please think things through before committing to the 10-year lifetime of a pet rabbit. They are not meant for hutches in backyards – spay/neuter them, litter box train them – and they become part of your family, like a cat or dog would.

Bunnies are intelligent, fun and quite well worth your time and effort as pets. They are, however, animals and deserve our respect. They may be widespreadly used to abandonment and neglect and sometimes worse, but we can turn things around! We can learn to love them for who they are and make sure we understand their needs. We can teach our children to value rabbits as all animals should be valued and never treat them as an Easter holiday decorations … Rabbits are always going to look adorable but, as Stella has taught me and my family, there is more to these beautiful furry creatures than meets the eye!

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Rabbit Facts:

1. Rabbits need to live indoors

2. Rabbits are not a cheap low maintenance pet

3. Rabbits may make a better adult pet

4. Rabbits can live an average of 10 years

5. Rabbits need to be spayed and neutered

6. Rabbits need a careful diet of mostly hay

7. Rabbits need an exotic vet

8. Rabbits not properly bonded may fight and hurt each other

9. Rabbits are social animals

10. Small rabbits do not need less space

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The House Rabbit Network is an organization formed with two primary purposes: To rescue homeless rabbits
and find them good indoor homes and also to educate the public about rabbits and their care.

These activities may include: providing foster care for discarded domestic rabbits and arranging for adoption
to permanent indoor homes; assisting humane societies and shelters with rabbits; providing spay/neuter
surgery and veterinary care through arrangements with area practitioners; rehabilitating and socializing mis-
treated or neglected animals;permanently caring for animals who cannot be placed in adoptive homes due to serious health or behavioral problems; and educating the public on responsible pet ownership and humane practices.

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🌺🌺🌺For information about pet rabbits, volunteering or donating to The House Rabbit Network go to:

https://www.rabbitnetwork.org/ or call our hotline at 781-431-1211

We are happy to answer any questions.

We are always looking for volunteers and foster homes. We also accept donations …
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🌻🌼On proposed Worcester School Committee District Representation: It’s About Time!🇺🇸🇺🇸

By Edith Morgan

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Edith served on the Worcester School Committee, was a reading teacher for many years in the Town of Shrewsbury, and was a foster mom to many children for years …

We can do it now.We can do it easily and we can do it quickly. I am referring to the proposed change to the composition of the Worcester School Committee, changing it from a six-members Committee, which for very long has been composed primarily of white Worcester West siders – and opening opportunities for other sides of our city to be represented.

Over the years, the population of Worcester has become more ethnically diverse, but that change has not been reflected in our civic power structures. But now, with so many other changes taking place in the city, in America, the time has come to bring our school committee composition into line with the present population.

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The Worcester Public Schools system IS A MAJORITY-MINORITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. Yet its teaching staff is predominantly white, as is the Worcester School Committee.

Many years ago we realized that whole sections/neighborhoods of Worcester were not represented on the decision-making bodies of the City. So the City Charter was changed and we added District counselors to the At-Large group. I really do not know why, at that time, we did not also change the Worcester School Committee composition.

At that time, the Worcester School Committee had much more power than it now has – the main one being fiscal independence, which allowed our city’s public schools to originate their own budgets – and the Worcester City Council could not reduce those proposals.

Now school expenditures are approved by the City Council, in competition with other City departments. Other areas in teaching/our schools also have been taken over, such as the incessant and ubiquitous testing and the many strings attached to the State and Federal funding on which we so heavily depend.

Expanding the Worcester School Committee the easy way has already been committed to by the City Council, as a result of the lawsuit brought by a group of organizations which includes Worcester Interfaith and the NAACP, as well as other interested individuals.

The Home Rule Petition way avoids the need for the very cumbersome and time-consuming process of having to change our City Charter.

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WPS STUDENTS NEED TO HAVE MINORITY TEACHERS AT THE HEAD OF THEIR CLASSROOMS. THE CITY OF WORCESTER NEEDS TO HIRE MORE BLACK AND BROWN TEACHERS – PROVIDE ROLE MODELS to our kids – and not give out the plum jobs to relatives, wives and pals of the WSC and City Council/city govt.

Thus far the upcoming WSC race has not generated a large number of school committee candidates (nine papers with signatures in) … But people have until May 15th to pass in their papers. We will see at least two new faces on the committee: member John Monfredo has said he is not ruing again and, more recently, member Jack Foley also has indicated he will not seek another term.

But for me, these things pale into near insignificance beside the herculean task facing our nation’s schools. We are still one of the few, maybe the only one, without a curriculum that focuses on the great need of this nation’s youth to be able to think critically, analyze data intelligently, have a thorough understanding of the power structures that make up our nation, and teach kids an unbiased and thorough knowledge of our history with all its glories, as well as all its warts.

We should never lose sight of the primary job of public education today: to produce, after 12 years, a full-fledged American citizen. A person ready to function as a citizen in a democracy.
Judging from the daily news, we are a long way from that goal. And time is running out on us.

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Go, WPS students!

🐈Stop the spring “kitten curve” upswing: Please spay/neuter your cat!

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Brace yourself — there’s another surge coming. But this one isn’t COVID-19. It’s kittens.

Tiny felines are undoubtedly more appealing than a spike protein-wielding virus, but the fallout from the annual surge of kitten births, known as “kitten season,” is devastating. And, just as with the coronavirus, there is no cure — only prevention. That’s why it’s vital for all of us to have our feline family members spayed or neutered now and to help everyone we know do the same.

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Rose’s Cece with pals in Rose’s old digs (owned by Chef Joey’s late dad). Cece was spayed three years ago, when she was pretty young. That is OK, say all veterinarians.

It’s not unusual for some shelters to take in hundreds of kittens a month during kitten season, which starts in early spring and lasts through the fall. With most shelters already at full capacity year-round, many are forced to make heart-wrenching decisions in order to accommodate the influx of kittens. Often this means that older cats who’ve been waiting for a while with no adoption prospects must be euthanized.

Other facilities dodge this responsibility by turning away animals when they run out of room. When shelters refuse to shelter animals in need, it leaves vulnerable kittens, cats and other animals in the hands of people who can’t or won’t take care of them or it leaves them on the streets — where they can starve, get hit by a car, succumb to extreme weather or face some other cruel fate.

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One victory – let’s promise to SPAY/NEUTER CATS to create another. … AND … ADOPT CATS AND KITTENS FROM YOUR LOCAL ANIMAL SHELTER!

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 75% of free-roaming kittens observed disappeared or died before they were 6 months old. Trauma was the most common cause of death.

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Feral cats and kittens lead horrific lives outdoors – often dying so young! Cars kill them, people hurt them … THEY CANNOT FEND FOR THEMSELVES, as some people mistakenly believe!

Imagine these scenarios playing out in thousands of communities across the country, and the scope of the emergency becomes alarmingly clear. But the good news is that we have the power to end the “twindemics” of animal overpopulation and homelessness — and all the suffering they cause. Spaying just one female cat can prevent the potential births of 370,000 kittens over the course of seven years; neutering one male cat can prevent him from fathering untold numbers of litters.

If you’re one of the many people who’ve added a cat to your family during the pandemic, you might be surprised to learn that your new companion can become a mother while she is still a kitten herself — as young as 4 months of age. Cats are nearly as efficient at reproducing as the novel coronavirus is at spreading: They can go into heat every two to three weeks and can even become pregnant again while they’re still nursing — enabling one cat to give birth to multiple litters during kitten season.

Just keeping cats indoors — while vital to protecting them from the many dangers that cats face if allowed to roam — isn’t actually an effective means of birth control. Raging hormones can turn an otherwise docile kitty into an escape artist who bolts out the door in search of a mate at the first opportunity. If you haven’t gotten around to making a spay/neuter appointment yet, please don’t delay any longer.

It’s up to us to stop this catastrophe. If your own feline family member is already “fixed,” pat yourself on the back — and then offer a helping hand to a neighbor or friend who needs to have a cat sterilized. Many communities have low-cost spay/neuter clinics or offer vouchers for free or reduced-cost sterilizations at veterinary clinics, which make it easy and affordable for everyone to do the right thing.

Together, we can stop the spread of animal homelessness and save lives, by flattening the “kitten curve.”

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Cece was a rescue! Please rescue or adopt!