Hail hits Hub

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The view from Pavement Coffeehouse on Gainsborough Street in Boston a little over an hour ago.

Talking politics with Storify

Voters in Boston today are heading to the polls to narrow the field of 12 mayoral candidates to the two who will be facing off against each other this November. My students are learning how to use Storify to aggregate and curate Twitter and other forms of social media. Here is the Storify I put together as a demonstration.

Tom Scholz loses libel case against Boston Herald

Brad Delp

Tom Scholz, founder of the band Boston, lost his libel suit against the Boston Herald on Wednesday. Suffolk Superior Court Judge ­Frances McIntyre ruled that the Herald’s reporting on what drove Scholz’s former bandmate Brad Delp to suicide was a matter of opinion, which is protected speech under the First Amendment. Boston Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.

Delp killed himself in 2007, and the Herald’s “Inside Track” gossip columnists, Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa, subsequently reported that Delp’s ex-wife Micki Delp blamed his death on his falling-out with Scholz. I have not had a chance to read McIntyre’s decision, but according to the news coverage, she ruled that Micki Delp could not prove that she did not make that statement, and that, in any case, what led to Brad Delp’s suicide was a matter of opinion.

Raposa recently left the Herald to pursue other interests.

Scholz is reportedly considering an appeal. I hope he won’t. On the face of it, McIntyre’s decision seems like a sound one. As a public figure, Scholz would have to prove the Herald knew that its report was false, or that it strongly suspected it was false and published it anyway. By citing the opinion privilege, McIntyre removed the dispute beyond the realm of fact and into an area of speech that enjoys full constitutional protection. Enough.

Earlier coverage.

Photo (cc) by Craig Michaud and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

GlobalPost takes stock of “The Great Divide”

Boston-based GlobalPost has gone live with a major new project. “The Great Divide: Exploring Income Inequality” examines the growing gap between rich and poor in the United States and compares it with other countries.

The project contains plenty of data and interactive features to drive home its findings and to make it possible for users to learn about where they live. For instance, I discovered that income distribution in Greater Boston is about the same as it is in Ecuador.

The video above documents life in gritty Bridgeport, Conn., and how it compares with Greenwich, its wealthy counterpart 15 miles southwest on I-95. Those communities, in turn, are used to demonstrate a similar divide between rich and poor neighborhoods in Bangkok.

The project, funded by the Ford Foundation, is the product of six months of work, according to an announcement from Charles Sennott, executive editor and co-founder of GlobalPost. He writes:

Our hope is that by drawing these comparisons, we might hold a mirror up for our audience to see just how wide the gap between poor and rich has become in America. As our reporting teams have discovered, inequality comes at a great social cost and we hope this series will reveal why this issue should matter to us all.

The series is a serious, in-depth examination of one of the most important issues of our time. It also shows how a philanthropic organization like the Ford Foundation can help fund public-interest journalism at a time when for-profit news organizations are struggling.

Cracking down on toxic food

If injecting donuts with an industrial solvent somehow improved their texture, it wouldn’t necessarily follow that adding solvents to donuts should be a matter of individual choice.

There are many reasons to applaud the city of Boston for banning trans fats, and to hope that other regulatory agencies do the same. But what often gets lost in the discussion is that most trans fats are substances unknown to nature.

The proper analogy is not If we let them ban trans fats, the next time they’ll ban cheeseburgers. It’s Why should trans fats be allowed in food when other poisonous industrial substances are not?

Trans fats are created through an industrial process: pumping hydrogen into vegetable oil, a process that produces an artificial fat that doesn’t spoil as quickly as natural fats. Trans fats raise the level of bad cholesterol and lower the good. Scientists say trans fats are more dangerous than any natural fat.

Want more proof? Michael Graham, who traveled to New Hampshire yesterday to deliver tubes of lipstick to Barack Obama, thinks trans fats are just peachy. I rest my case.

Photo (cc) by Duncan Cumming and reproduced here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Explaining Dapper O’Neil

The Phoenix’s Peter Kadzis says farewell to former Boston city councilor Dapper O’Neil, who died earlier today.

Kadzis, who understands Boston’s neighborhood politics as well as anyone, manages the difficult task of explaining Dapper’s unique appeal while refraining from paying him tribute, writing that O’Neil “began his career as a political joke, and he ended it as a municipal embarrassment. But along the way, he won the affections of legions of blue-collar Bostonians by tirelessly defending their interests.”

Unlike, say, the late Jimmy Kelly, O’Neil did not grow in office. His nasty exterior masked a nasty interior. But I’m sure he was loyal to his friends and nice to his neighbors, and they’re entitled to miss him. No doubt Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, who wrote a column about the ailing Tom Finneran today that was hateful even by Carr’s standards, is penning a tribute to the Dap even as we speak.

The two Jimmy Kellys

Jimmy Kelly: Good man, not-so-good public official. An interesting take by Susan Ryan-Vollmar in this week’s Bay Windows.

A new Boston blog

Joe Heisler, the host of BNN‘s local-access cable program “Talk of the Neighborhoods,” has unveiled a blog called — get this — “Talk of the Neighborhoods.”

Heisler’s a former community journalist in Boston, so he knows his way around a keyboard and the city. He’s already put up a sharp post on the race for president of the Boston City Council. But Joe! Put in a few more paragraph breaks, will you?