By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Category: News Page 1 of 13

While we swelter, a look back at the heat wave of April 2002

A hot day on Boston Common. Photo (cc) 2013 via City of Boston archives.

There’s a lot of talk this week to the effect that the heat wave we’re experiencing is unprecedented — or at least unusual — for June. True enough. But I vividly remember a wild stretch of hot weather that hit the Northeast in April 2002. I was in New Jersey and New Haven to interview folks for my first book, “Little People,” and it was over 90 degrees for a day or two that week.

As I was driving through Connecticut, an anchor on NPR said that a new record of more than 90 degrees had been set in Central Park. That night, I met with Anthony Soares, a person with dwarfism who was president of the city council in Hoboken, New Jersey. We sat outside at a restaurant until 11 p.m. in stifling heat and humidity. Here’s how The New York Times put it on April 17, 2002:

After a stubbornly mild winter, a sudden heat wave settled over the New York region yesterday, with the temperature reaching 92 degrees in Central Park at 3:30 p.m. That shattered the previous high for the day of 88, which was reached in 1896.

Elsewhere in the region, records were similarly trounced. In Newark, a high of 90 beat the old record of 82, reached in 1976. And in Bridgeport, it was a full 10 degrees hotter (83 degrees) than on any previous April 16.

In Boston, the temperature on April 17 topped out at 93.2 degrees. Notably, the Boston Marathon had been held just two days earlier, although, fortunately, it didn’t make it out of the 50s that day. And on April 18, it was back in the 50s again.

Climate change is making all of this worse. It was a factor 22 years ago, and it’s even more of one now. I just thought you’d like a reminder that what we’re going through this week is nothing new, and that we’ve had even stranger weather off and on in the past.

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The Huntington News reports on the aftermath of April’s Northeastern encampment

Centennial Common at Northeastern University. Photo (cc) 2008 by Piotrus.

The pro-Palestinian encampment at Northeastern University’s Centennial Common may have been broken up nearly as soon as it appeared, but the events of those 48 hours in late April still reverberate. Now The Huntington News, our outstanding independent student newspaper, has published a massive overview that focuses on the police response.

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The reporting speaks for itself, but I do want to highlight this:

Police ordered all individuals, including press, medics and legal observers, to leave Centennial.

Several Huntington News reporters were told to leave the barricaded area under threat of their “student status.”

Boston police ordered at least five legal observers, who had monitored the encampment since it was established, to move outside of the barricade.

How the press was treated when the encampment was broken up and arrests began on the morning of Saturday, April 27, has been a matter of controversy. Police officers have an obligation to move observers out of the way so that they’re not a hindrance and are not in danger of getting hurt. On the other hand, those observers should not be moved so far from the scene that they don’t have a clear view of how the police are doing their jobs. Journalism’s obligation is to bear witness at such moments.

Urszula Masny-Latos, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild of Massachusetts, told the News that the police moved observers “as far from the scene as possible so [the police] would not be easily visible.” She also said that Boston police overruled campus officers “and forced NLG legal observers off the grounds where the arrests happened.”

The Boston Police Department reportedly did not respond to the News about their actions.

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Antisemitic hate speech at NU appears to have come from a counter-protester

Three media-related follow-ups to this morning’s post on the arrests of pro-Palestinian protesters at Northeastern University.

• As I noted earlier, university spokeswoman Renata Nyul issued a statement in which she cited “virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews’” as a precipitating factor in ordering that the encampment be dismantled and the police be brought in. Now there are reports that “Kill the Jews” might actually have been uttered by a pro-Israel counter-protester.

GBH News reporter Tori Bedford tweeted, “I did hear ‘kill the Jews,’ said by a counter-protester holding an Israeli flag, seemingly as a provocative joke in response to the group’s pro-Palestine chants. Not sure if that’s the specific incident @Northeastern leadership is referring to.” She also shared a video provided to her by Huskies for a Free Palestine.

Northeastern’s student newspaper, The Huntington News, acknowledged in an update at 12:15 p.m. today that the statement was indeed made by a counter-protester, and The Boston Globe has added this: “The student group behind the protests disputed that claim, saying that no one in the encampment shouted slurs, and that it was a counter-protestor who yelled ‘Kill the Jews.’”

• Earlier this morning, I read in the Globe that reporters had been asked by police to leave the scene. But when I went to write it up, that passage was gone. Sarah Scire of Nieman Lab, though, saved it and posted it on Twitter:

I don’t know why the Globe deleted that section from its story. Maybe a judgment was made that the officer was directing their statements to bystanders in general rather than journalists in particular. It also sounds like advice rather than an order. As for whether the Globe should have acknowledged the edit, I’ll just observe that it’s pretty standard for news outlets to revise and delete in their online running coverage without indicating whether any changes have been made. Good practice? Maybe not. But hardly unusual.

• Student reporters were told to back off from the immediate scene after police officers surrounded the encampment. In an update posted today at 5:30 a.m., the News published this: “Several members of The News’ staff were asked to move outside the barricade.” That does not strike me as inappropriate as long as the reporters were allowed to remain close enough to observe what was going on. Still, it’s worth noting.

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Our Northeastern j-students did great work covering the pro-Palestinian encampment

The pro-Palestinian encampment at Northeastern University has come to an end, as Boston Police arrested about 100 people early this morning. Our student journalists have been doing a great job of covering the protest, not only for The Huntington News (on Twitter/X and on their live blog) but also for The Boston Globe, where several co-op students have been on the scene. Their work has been exceptional, presented fairly and without an agenda.

I was on campus Friday afternoon and walked around the perimeter a few times. I did not attempt to engage with any of the protesters. What struck me was how small the encampment on Centennial Common was, although there were plenty of people packed inside the perimeter. The Huntington News placed the number at about 200.

One development that no doubt hastened the end of the encampment was a turn toward explicit antisemitism on the part of at least some of the protesters. At 6:25 a.m. today, the News quoted a statement from Renata Nyul, the university’s vice president for communications:

Earlier this morning the Northeastern University Police Department (NUPD) — in cooperation with local law enforcement partners — began clearing an unauthorized encampment on the university’s Boston campus. What began as a student demonstration two days ago, was infiltrated by professional organizers with no affiliation to Northeastern. Last night, the use of virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews,’ crossed the line. We cannot tolerate this kind of hate on our campus.

The Globe report included this detail about rising hostilities between the protesters and pro-Israel counter-protesters: “At one point, a person called out, ‘Kill the Jews,’ while others yelled, ‘No right to exist,’ at the two counterprotesters holding the Israeli flag. Campus police later escorted the men away from the encampment.”

[Note: The antisemitic threat appears to have been uttered by a pro-Israel counter-protester. See update.]

At 8:30 a.m. today, the News posted another statement from Nyul:

As part of clearing the site, approximately 100 individuals were detained by police. Students who produced a valid Northeastern ID were released. They will face disciplinary proceedings within the university, not legal action. Those who refused to disclose their affiliation were arrested.

What none of us have any way of knowing is whether this ends the protest or if it will escalate. Northeastern is on a different schedule from most colleges and universities; classes and finals are now over. But commencement season is now upon us, with multiple ceremonies scheduled for the various colleges and two large university-wide celebrations at Fenway Park next Sunday, May 5.

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The Friedman update

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, whose clear-eyed analysis of the widening Middle East war have been so valuable since Oct. 7, sat down with Ezra Klein for an hour-long podcast last week. Highly recommended.

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Friedman’s dark vision

Thomas Friedman has been indispensable in the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and the war that is now under way in Gaza. Here’s a free link to his latest, which is very dark indeed.

He calls Benjamin Netanyahu “the worst leader in its [Israel’s] history — maybe in all of Jewish history,” someone who is incapable or unwilling to make any of the diplomatic concessions needed to bring about even the slightest glimmer of a more hopeful future. Friedman also argues that, unlike in previous conflicts, Israel really does face an existential threat, with Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic militias in Iraq, Houthis in Yemen, Iran and even Vladimir Putin’s Russia “threatening Israel with a 360-degree war all at once.”

“It is crystal clear to me, Friedman writes, “that Israel is in real danger — more danger than at any other time since its War of Independence in 1948.”

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A smart though dispiriting conversation on how Israel should deal with Hamas

Ezra Klein’s New York Times podcast is always worth listening to, and now he’s back at the mic following a break so that he could finish a book project. I recommend this conversation with Zack Beauchamp of Vox, who recently wrote a deeply reported article headlined “What Israel should do now.” I should go back and read it, though I doubt I’m going to learn anything I didn’t already learn from the wide-ranging, hour-long podcast.

I couldn’t possibly summarize everything that Beauchamp and Klein have to say, but the top-line takeaway is that Israel should stop its all-out war in Gaza and instead switch to a counterterrorism campaign aimed at rooting out the Hamas leadership — and that should include targeted assassinations. The reason (other than basic decency), Beauchamp explains, is that Hamas wants as many Palestinian civilians to die as possible in order to advance its propaganda efforts.

Even if Israel is successful at ending the terrorist threat, it’s not at all clear what should happen next. It’s a horrible dilemma with no good solutions.

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It’s all been said before

This brief commentary by Stephen King (free link) about the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, says everything that needs to be said. I wish it were otherwise.

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The latest Green Line Extension problems are an outrage

Green Line trolley at the new Tufts/Medford station. Photo (cc) 2022 by Dan Kennedy.

It’s hard to describe how outrageous it is that the brand-new, $2.3 billion Green Line Extension was built with miles of tracks that are too close together. Bruce Mohl writes at CommonWealth:

At a confusing press conference on Thursday that raised almost as many questions as answers, MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng said it appears the prefabricated plated rail ties for the Green Line extension were made to incorrect specifications and then installed. A plated rail tie consists of a wooden tie with steel plates on either end for holding the rail in place.

Gov. Maura Healey blamed her predecessor, Charlie Baker, which is a pretty safe call — the GLX was built on his watch, so surely someone in his administration was responsible. The Boston Globe reports that Eng also said his underlings didn’t inform him of the problem in a timely manner. Let the firings begin.

One thought that occurs to me is that Baker canceled a more expensive version of the GLX approved by his predecessor, Deval Patrick. It would not surprise me if Baker let an unqualified contractor sweet-talk his administration into doing the job on the cheap.

I don’t usually take the GLX because the Medford/Tufts terminus is too far from my house and is s-l-o-w. Instead, I generally take the commuter rail to North Station and then the Orange Line. But the GLX can be valuable as a backup, and of course a lot of people depend on it. This is literally unbelievable, except that it’s the MBTA.

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Northeastern students evacuated while hundreds rally in solidarity with Israel

I don’t intend to overwhelm you with news from Northeastern, but it seems appropriate in the days following Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel. Besides, all news is local.

The first story, from our in-house operation, Northeastern Global News, is about the evacuation of three students who were working in Israel on co-op jobs. Cesareo Contreras writes:

All three Northeastern students who were in Israel during Hamas’ surprise attack have been safely evacuated from the country with the help of the university’s global security team.

Two of the students, Jesse Ruigomez and Keren Doherty, were completing co-ops in Tel Aviv. The third student, Joshua Einhorn, is an student studying in Greece. He was in Jerusalem visiting family and friends for the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah.

The second story was published by The Huntington News, our independent student newspaper. Zoe MacDiarmid reported on a vigil that drew hundreds to the Cabot Quad Tuesday night. The account begins:

Hundreds of Northeastern community members gathered Tuesday night on Cabot Quad in solidarity with Israel. Since Hamas’ Saturday assault on Israel, over 1,200 people in Israel and 900 people in Gaza have been killed, with thousands more injured.

The Quad was saturated with the blue-and-white colors of the Israeli flag as students, faculty and other community members gathered to show support for the country. Many wore the flag like a cloak. Most men wore kippot. As Jewish student organization leaders and rabbis spoke, the crowd cheered, embraced one another and cried.

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