Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


    0 0

    More than a dozen events make up Cultural Appreciation Day at the Springfield hall of justice.

    SPRINGFIELD - A Cultural Appreciation Day will be held Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hampden County Hall of Justice. 

    The event, which is open to the public, is being held as part of the state Trial Court Probation Service's celebration and appreciation of cultural diversity.

    The opening remarks will be from Chief Probation Officer Lorna Spencer, who is organizing the event locally, and Superior Court Judge Tina S. Page.

    Dance and music selections will follow. Violinist Rachel Jones will perform.

    At 11 a.m. there will be art displays and a presentation from Rebecca Johnson Elementary School fourth and fifth graders.

    ROCA will be set up on the plaza at 11:30 a.m. with hot dogs and hamburgers.

    At noon there will be Spanish/Salsa dance and lessons from Jeremy Gonzalez.

    That will be followed by a sushi table and unity pot luck luncheon at 1 p.m.

    At 1:45 p.m. Denise Jordan will read a proclamation from Mayor Domenic J. Sarno's office and Assistant Clerk Magistrate Cheryl Rivera will bring greetings.

    Next will be a poetry reading, followed by a song in sign language.

    After that, beginning at 2:30 p.m. there will be a presentation on "What's in a name" by Probation Officer Sherquita Thomas, and Indian artifacts display, an Irish Dance Performance and the door prize and closing remarks.


    0 0

    State Police are warning drivers to expect delays on Interstate 495 in Littleton after a tractor trailer rolled over, crashing with a dump truck and car.

    State Police are warning drivers to expect delays on Interstate 495 in Littleton after a tractor trailer rolled over, crashing with a dump truck and car.

    Only one lane is open in the area of the crash, on I-495 South just before Route 2, State Police said.

    The crash caused minor injuries.

    Photos taken by the Littleton Fire Department show the front of a tractor trailer completely smashed and debris all over the highway.

    No further information was immediately available.


    0 0

    The Ludlow Board of Selectmen has approved a motion to request a letter from town counsel spelling out the legal process the municipality must follow to ban the sale or cultivation of recreational marijuana in town.

    LUDLOW -- The Board of Selectmen has approved a motion to request a letter from town counsel spelling out the legal process the municipality must follow to ban the sale or cultivation of recreational marijuana in town.

    Luldow voters have already approved a temporary ban on recreational pot that precludes land or structures from being used for the cultivation or retail sale of marijuana, among other things. But that ban expires on June 30, 2018.

    Now, town officials are considering a permanent ban on retail weed.

    At its Sept. 19 meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 to approve a motion seeking legal guidance to "entertain the ban of recreational marijuana," said William E. Rooney, chairman of the selectmen.

    The motion also expressed support for a letter received from the Ludlow Board of Health that stated that panel's opposition to recreational pot.  

    Ludlow is among a growing number of Massachusetts municipalities seeking to ban the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana outright, despite the commonwealth's legalization of the drug for recreational use and sale last year.

    "I'm very happy to see the letter from the Board of Health," Rooney said. "I applaud them for that."

    However, the town must do its due diligence on the legal front before going forward with an effort to perpetually ban the cultivation or retail sale of pot in town, according to Rooney. "Let's make sure we do it correctly," he said to his fellow selectmen at last week's meeting. 

    Selectman Derek DeBarge agreed with Rooney about the need for legal clarification before proceeding. "What's the harm in finding out what the proper procedure is and just doing it correctly the first time," he said. 

    Over 53 percent of Massachusetts voters approved a ballot initiative in November 2016 that allows adults to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana and grow up to a dozen pot plants at home.

    The law took effect Dec. 15, but state legislators quickly voted to delay full implementation until July 1, 2018, saying they needed more time before the licensing of retail pot facilities.

    In Ludlow, about 52 percent of voters rejected the statewide ballot initiative, while 48 percent voted in favor of legalization. Ludlow is among the 90-plus commonwealth communities that voted no at the ballot level, according to Town Administrator Ellie Villano. 


    0 0

    The amount of violent crime reported in Springfield last year is near a 30-year low.

    SPRINGFIELD -- New figures from the FBI show that while violent crime is increasing nationally, in Springfield it would appear to be near a 30-year low.

    The FBI's Uniform Crime Report, which is compiles data on offenses provided by police departments, shows that between 2015 and 2016 the number of violent crimes reported across the country increased by 4.1 percent. It was the second year in a row the number of violent crimes, such as murder, aggravated assault and rape, ticked upward.

    The report also shows the number of non-violent property crimes, including burglary, auto theft, and larceny, fell by 1.3 percent overall. It marked the 14th year in a row that property crimes fell nationally.

    In Springfield, however, both violent crimes and property crimes declined from 2015 to 2016. Violent crimes dropped 4 percent, while property crimes dropped by about 2 percent.

    The total number of violent crimes reported, 1,588, is the second-lowest reported in the last 30 years. Only 2011, when 1,582 violent crimes were reported, had a lower number.

    The violent crime category includes murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

    The total number of property crimes reported, 5,073, also represents a 30-year low. In 2015, there were 5,168 property crimes reported. The category includes burglary, larceny / theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

    In each of the specific crime categories -- both for property and violent crimes, the total number of offenses reported declined, with two exceptions: robberies and burglaries.

    The number of reported robberies in 2016 was 522, an increase of 12 from the year before. This is an increase of 2.4 percent.

    The number of burglaries in 2016 was 1,486 -- an increase of 183 incidents, or 14 percent.

    In Springfield, the number of homicides declined from 18 in 2015 to 12 in 2016. The number of reported homicides has tended to fluctuate from year to year over the last decade. There are 11 so far in 2017, with more than 3 months remaining.

    In other categories, according to the data, the following decreases were found from 2015 to 2016:

    • The number of reported rapes fell by 14, from 95 to 81.
    • The number of reported aggravated assaults fell by 58, from 1,031 to 973.
    • The number of reported larcenies fell by 261, from 3,261 to to 3,000. 
    • The number of reported motor vehicle thefts dropped by 17, from 604 to 587.

    Nationally, the number of murders non-negligent manslaughter increased by 8.6 percent, while aggravated assaults and rapes increased by 5.1 percent and 4.9 percent respectively. Robberies increased by 1.4 percent.

    Also nationally, the number of burglaries declined by 4.6 percent and larcenies by 1.5 percent. Motor-vehicle thefts increased by 1.4 percent.

    FBI uniform crime report springfield.pngGraphic showing the crime rate in Springfield between 1985 and 2016 based on data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report. 


    0 0

    The building houses K-O Food Mart and Meson Restaurant.

     SPRINGFIELD - A fire Monday afternoon in the rear of an Indian Orchard buiilding shared by two businesses caused an estimated $10,000 damage to the building exterior, according to a fire official.

    The fire 1295 Worcester St. was reported at 3:44 p.m. It caused heavy smoke to enter the building, but firefighters were able to keep the fire outside, said Dennis Leger, aide to Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant.

    The building houses K-O Food Mart and Meson Restaurant.

    Leger said the damage to the building was put at around $10,000 but that amount does not include any loss of inventory, supplies or food inside either business.

    The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

     

    0 0

    Holyoke City Councilor Diosdado Lopez has begun a last-minute campaign for mayor in the preliminary election on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 by urging votes to write in his name or attach a sticker with his name to the ballot.

    HOLYOKE -- City Councilor Diosdado Lopez has begun a last-minute campaign for mayor in Tuesday's preliminary election by urging votes to write in his name or attach a sticker with his name to the ballot.

    "It's critical to provide residents of Holyoke multiple choices for mayor. It's legal to mount a sticker campaign. I am doing it to bring back Engine 2 to (Fire Department ) Headquarters, bring control of the public schools back within a reasonable time, not 10 years from now," Lope said Monday in a text message.

    Lopez announced the campaign on Saturday. He has had stickers bearing his name printed that he will distribute to voters to place on the ballot, he said.

    City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee said a person can seek nomination and election without filing nomination papers by conducting a write-in or sticker campaign.  

    A voter does not have to use the actual sticker to have their vote counted for that candidate. The city must count every vote, whenever the intent of the voter can reasonably be determined, even if the voter doesn't include the candidates address or spells the name wrong, she said.

    "Stickers ensure accuracy," Murphy McGee said.

    On the preliminary election ballot, voters will find four candidates for mayor who qualified for the ballot by filing nomination papers bearing signatures of at least 250 registered voters to the registrar of voters by the Aug. 8 deadline.

    The four candidates for mayor, in the order in which their names will appear on the ballot, are:

    • Mayor Alex B. Morse, 28, of 11 Linden St., seeking his fourth term;
    • Paul P. Bowes, 67, of 1244 Northampton St., construction foreman with Kane Brothers Landscaping here;
    • Jason P. "Jay" Ferreira, 34, of 6 Taylor St., the former Ward 4 city councilor and an employment coordinator at Community Enterprises, 287 High St.;
    • Michael Thomas Siciliano, 45, of 283 Linden St., a general and masonry contractor and father of three.

    Candidates debate issues as Holyoke voters prepare to cut field of 4 to 2

    The top two finishers in the preliminary election will compete on Election Day Nov. 7.

    Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    Lopez is a veteran on the board and currently a councilor at large. He was appointed by the City Council in May 2016 to complete the term of Jennifer E. Chateauneuf, who resigned a month earlier. Lopez was the Ward 2 councilor for 20 years, from 1992 -- when he became the first Latino elected to the board -- to 2012. He didn't run for reelection in 2011 because he said he needed a break. 

    5 takeaways from Holyoke Council selection of Diosdado Lopez for Jennifer Chateauneuf seat

    Lopez said other issues prompting his late bid for mayor are to ensure neighborhood cleanups and upkeep of main entrances to the city and to produce jobs and training for residnets by working with elected state and federal officials.

    Write-in votes add steps to the calculating of totals when the polls close. When voters fill in the write-in bubble on the ballot, the voting machine sends that ballot to a different compartment to be hand counted, Murphy McGee said.

    When voters who are voting for a candidate by writing in the name fail to fill in the proper bubble on the ballot, the machine streams those ballots in with the regular ballots, she said.

    "Poll workers are trained (and will all be reminded tomorrow) that at the end of the night they must go through every single ballot to make sure there is no write-ins that went into the wrong compartment," Murphy McGee said.

    "The poll workers are responsible for tallying-up the votes for their precinct on tally sheets.  The ballots are all locked before they leave the precinct at the end of the night and the tally sheets will be given to my office upon arrival at City Hall. We will get a grand total of votes from the tally sheets here at City Hall tomorrow night," she said.

    The city has 25,636 registered voters. Murphy McGee estimated a turnout for the preliminary election of 24 percent, or 6,153 voters.

    The ballot includes a second race, a three-candidate field  for Ward 3 City Council.


    0 0

    With summer like temperatures, Amherst police continued to contend with loud parties, uncooperative hosts and myriad alcohol issues on the third full weekend of the academic year.

    AMHERST -- With summer like temperatures in the air, town police officers continued to contend with loud parties, uncooperative hosts and myriad alcohol issues on the third full weekend of the academic year.

    Police arrested two on alcohol related charges and nine for nuisance house noise violations.

    They also will summon four to court on nuisance house bylaw violations and seven for alcohol violations.

    All but two are listed as University of Massachusetts students.

    Police also issued 17 liquor violation warnings, six noise complaint warnings and two others were warned for public urination.  

    Here's a look a some of the activity:

    At 1:20 a.m. Saturday, police were called to 221 Northampton Road by a neighbor reporting "violent yelling," who was afraid a fight was about to start.

    When police arrive, they found crowds gathered on both sides of the road. Two tenants were arrested for nuisance and noise bylaw violations and a third was charged with disorderly conduct.

    Minutes later, police were called to 19 S. Whitney Street for a complaint of loud music.

    When police arrived, they heard running through the house but residents would not come to the door. Police saw residents continue to look at them from behind window shades, according to the report.

    Police contacted the landlord the next day to learn the identities of the residents and then returned to talk to them. Police reported they made contact with two who "continued to be difficult and argumentative."

    The four will be issued court summonses for violating the town's unlawful noise bylaw.  

    Just before midnight Saturday police responded to a call about a loud party at 699 Main St. The party had been registered in the Party Smart Registration program at UMass, but when police called to warn the party goers -- as part of the registration program -- a woman answered and said she was in Florida and didn't know where Amherst was.

    With the phone number deemed bogus, police went to the house and found loud music and yelling along with trash, bottles and cans strewn all over the driveway, yard and garage and into the property at Dorsey Memorials at 707 Main St.

    Five were arrested.

    All those arrested were scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown. Those being summoned will appear at court at a future date.

    Police, meanwhile, issued, several liquor law violation warnings in the Hobart Lane area Saturday afternoon.

    One caller reported many people were urinating on the family's property and believed that a "large day drink" was causing multiple problems in the area. Police addressed the issues "as staffing allowed," according to the police log.

    Hobart Lane has been the site of parties over since students returned Labor Day weekend.


    0 0

    A Brockton official wrote "dance monkey dance" under a Boston 25 story on more than a dozen New England Patriots players kneeling on Sunday during the national anthem.

    A Massachusetts local official wrote "dance monkey dance" under a Boston 25 story on more than a dozen New England Patriots players kneeling at the Sunday game during the national anthem.

    The Brockton Enterprise reports that Stephen Pina, a member of the Brockton Parks and Recreation Commission, made the comment on Facebook, adding that the players were "turds" for what they did.

    "Turds, your dumbass isn't paid to think about politics... dance monkey dance," he wrote, according to a screenshot posted by the Enterprise.

    Pina told the newspaper, "It was not meant to be a racist comment, and if it was taken as such that's regrettable."

    Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter said he is asking for Pina's resignation.

    Pina is a veteran and a lifelong resident, "however, that's all overridden by today's comments and I don't see how he can continue in that role," Carpenter told reporters.

    Phone messages left with Brockton city officials were not immediately returned. 

    NFL national anthem protests: What New England Patriots players who knelt or stood had to say


    0 0

    A registered nurse who specializes in preventing falls was among Massachusetts state officials who did a "high-level clinical and management quality review" on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, a spokesman said.

    HOLYOKE -- A registered nurse who specializes in preventing falls was among state officials who did a "high-level clinical and management quality review" Monday at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, a spokesman said.

    The team met with staff at the state facility at 110 Cherry St. after The Republican reported on Sept. 10 that three employees and a resident raised concerns about treatment of residents and staff, including increases in incidents of residents falling down inside or outdoors on facility property.

    "The Holyoke Soldiers' Home community was visited  today by experts in the fields of long term care, geriatric medicine and health care quality. The team was there to meet with management, staff and veterans to conduct a high-level clinical and management quality review as part of our continuing efforts to provide our veterans with the best care possible," said Joe Truschelli, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services.

    It was unclear if the state officials' visits and meetings with staff were disciplinary in nature. Employees who have spoken to The Republican have said they fear retaliation from management.

    On that point Truschelli said only, "This was a high level clinical and management quality review as part of our continuing efforts to provide our veterans with the best care possible."

    The Holyoke Soldiers' Home provides residential beds and inpatient care for military veterans, as well as outpatient services. It was founded in 1952. 

    As of early August, the Holyoke Soldiers' Home had 237 military veterans in long-term care and 25 living in dorms, cared for by a staff of over 300, Superintendent Bennett W. Walsh said.

    Among officials who spent time at the Soldiers' Home on Monday were Alice Bonner, state secretary of elder affairs, a registered nurse and a geriatric nurse practitioner specializing in falls prevention; Dr. Randi Berkowitz, a geriatrician; and Eric Sheehan, director of the Department of Public Health's Bureau of Healthcare Quality, Truschelli said.

    The visit was done on behalf of Marylou Sudders, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, he said.

    Employees said incidents involving patient falls have increased because not enough staff are available to walk veterans to the bathroom and other areas of the facility. In July, employees said, staff recorded 70 falls, with two patients suffering fractured hips.

    Concerns raised about Holyoke Soldiers' Home care, staffing

    Other concerns employees raised were that staff on certain shifts were deployed improperly, limiting effectiveness, and that staff sometimes were rushed in distributing at times complicated daily medication dosages to residents, raising the risk of mistakes.

    The employees interviewed by The Republican also said 176 staff members at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home have signed onto an effort called Employees Unite 4 Change. It is described as "a collective staff effort to identify and problem solve a myriad of issues greatly impacting veteran care and the facility as a whole."

    Truschelli told The Republican Sept. 1 that Soldiers' Home policies and procedures require written reports documenting all patient falls, but the state has failed to provide records about the number of reported patient falls per month.

    The Republican on Sept. 15 filed a request with the state for records about incidents of residents falling down inside or outdoors on facility property, documents related to the Soldiers' Home's new daily check in policy for dormitory residents, and complaints and records related to the air ventilation system and its maintenance.

    The records request was filed online Friday with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M. G. L. Chapter 66, Section 10).

    The visit from Bonner and others hasn't been the only unusual presence at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. The Republican reported Aug. 11 that Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump's office is auditing the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. The audit began in fall 2016 and has lasted into this year.

    Walsh, who began as superintendent in May 2016, said in August he was unaware of any major issues that led to the audit or that the audit has yielded.

    "Ours was part of the schedule the auditor's office had previously scheduled," Walsh said.

    An audit Bump's office did of the Chelsea Soldiers' Home, the only other soldiers' home in the state, "found human and rodent waste, sewage contamination risks and fire hazards," along with operational issues with equipment and deteriorating buildings. A follow up inspection at the Chelsea facility found the deficiencies had been remedied, though buildings' structural deficiencies remain a problem, Bump's website said.


    0 0

    The Russian campaign -- taking advantage of Facebook's ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics -- also sought to sow discord among religious groups.

    By ADAM ENTOUS, CRAIG TIMBERG and ELIZABETH DWOSKIN

    The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups including Black Lives Matter and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign.

    The Russian campaign -- taking advantage of Facebook's ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics -- also sought to sow discord among religious groups. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.

    These targeted messages, along with others that have surfaced in recent days, highlight the sophistication of an influence campaign slickly crafted to mimic and infiltrate U.S. political discourse while also seeking to heighten tensions between groups already wary of one another.

    The nature and detail of these ads have troubled investigators at Facebook, on Capitol Hill and at the U.S. Justice Department, say people familiar with the advertisements who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share matters still under investigation.

    The House and Senate intelligence committees plan to begin reviewing the Facebook ads in coming weeks as they attempt to untangle the operation and other matters related to Russia's bid to help elect Donald Trump president in 2016.

    "Their aim was to sow chaos," said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "In many cases, it was more about voter suppression rather than increasing turnout."

    The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said he hoped the public would be able to review the ad campaign.

    "I think the American people should see a representative sample of these ads to see how cynical the Russians were using these ads to sow division within our society," he said. He had not yet seen the ads but was briefed on them, he said, including the ones mentioning "things like Black Lives Matter."

    The ads that Facebook found raise troubling questions for a social networking and advertising platform that reaches 2 billion people each month, and they offer a rare window into how Russian operatives carried out their information operations during an especially tumultuous period in U.S. politics.

    Investigators at Facebook discovered the Russian ads in recent weeks, the company has said, after months of trying in vain to trace disinformation efforts back to Russia. The company said it has identified at least $100,000 in ads purchased through 470 phony Facebook pages and accounts. Facebook said this spending represented a tiny fraction of the political advertising on the platform for the 2016 campaign.

    The divisive themes seized on by Russian operatives were similar to those which Trump and his supporters pushed on social media and on right-wing Web sites during the campaign. U.S. investigators are now trying to figure out whether Russian operators and members of Trump's team coordinated in any way. Critics say Trump, as president, has further inflamed racial and religious divisions, citing his controversial statements after violent clashes in Charlottesville and limits imposed on Muslim immigration.

    The previously undisclosed ads suggest that the operatives worked off of evolving lists of racial, religious, political and economic themes. They used these to create pages, write posts and craft ads that would appear in users' news feeds -- with the apparent goal of appealing to one audience and alienating another. In some cases, the pages even advertised events.

    "The idea of using Facebook to incite anti-black hatred and anti-Muslim prejudice and fear while provoking extremism is an old tactic. It's not unique to the United States, and it's a global phenomenon," said Malkia Cyril, a Black Lives Matter activist in Oakland, Calif., and executive director for the Center for Media Justice. Social media companies "have a mandate to stand up and take deep responsibility for how their platforms are being abused."

    Facebook declined to comment on the contents of the ads being turned over to congressional investigators and pointed to a Sept. 6 statement by Alex Stamos, the company's chief security officer, who noted that the vast majority of the ads run by the 470 pages and accounts did not specifically reference the U.S. presidential election, voting or any particular candidate.

    "Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum -- touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights," Stamos said at the time.

    A Cold War tactic

    Moscow's interest in U.S. race relations dates back decades.

    In Soviet times, operatives didn't have the option of using the Internet, so they spread their messages by taking out ads in newspapers, posting fliers and organizing meetings.

    Much like the online ads discovered by Facebook, messages spread by Soviet-era operatives were meant to look as though they were written by bona fide political activists in the United States, thereby disguising the involvement of an adversarial foreign power.

    Russian information operations didn't end with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    After a lull in tensions, Russia's spy agencies became more assertive under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin. In recent years, those services have updated their propaganda protocols to take advantage of new technologies and the proliferation of social media platforms.

    "Is it a goal of the Kremlin to encourage discord in American society? The answer to that is yes," said former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael A. McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. "More generally, Putin has an idea that our society is imperfect, that our democracy is not better than his, so to see us in conflict on big social issues is in the Kremlin's interests."

    Clinton Watts, part of a research team that was among the first to warn publicly of the Russian propaganda campaign during the 2016 election, said that identifying and exploiting existing social and cultural divisions are common Russian disinformation tactics dating back to the Cold War.

    "We have seen them operating on both sides," said Watts, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former FBI agent.

    Targeting a zip code in Michigan

     

    When Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his college dorm room in 2004, no one could have anticipated that the company would become an advertising juggernaut worth almost half a trillion dollars -- the largest online advertising company in the world after Google. Roughly a third of the world's population now log in monthly.

    As Facebook's user base rapidly expanded, it wrote the playbook for digital targeting in the smartphone era -- and for the type of micro-targeting that has become critical to modern political campaigns.

    The social network invested heavily in building highly sophisticated automated advertising tools that could target specific groups of people who had expressed their preferences and interests on Facebook, from newlyweds who studied at Dartmouth College to hockey enthusiasts living in a particular zip code in Michigan.

    The migration from traditional personal computers to smartphones and tablets also helped Facebook gain a major edge: The company pioneered techniques to help advertisers reach the same user on their desktop and mobile devices, helping Facebook grow sevenfold in value since it went public in 2012. Today, advertisers who want to target Facebook users by demographics or interests have tens of thousands of categories to choose from, and they are able to flood users with ads wherever they go on the Internet.

    Ads on Facebook have directly appeared in people's news feeds since 2012. If a user "likes" a page, administrators of that page can pay for ads and post content that will then appear in that person's news feed.

    Since the 2012 presidential election, Facebook has become an essential tool for political campaigns that wish to target potential voters. During the height of election season, political campaigns are among the largest advertisers on Facebook. Facebook has built a large sales staff of account executives, some of whom have backgrounds in politics, who are especially trained to assist campaigns in spreading their messages, increasing engagement and getting immediate feedback on how they are performing.

    The Trump campaign used these tools to great effect, while Clinton's campaign preferred to rely on its own social media experts, according to people familiar with the campaigns.

    Aiming at swing voters

    Since taking office, Putin has on occasion sought to spotlight racial tensions in the United States as a means of shaping perceptions of American society.

    Putin injected himself in 2014 into the race debate after protests broke out in Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an African American, by a white police officer.

    "Do you believe that everything is perfect now from the point of view of democracy in the United States?" Putin told CBS's "60 Minutes" program. "If everything was perfect, there wouldn't be the problem of Ferguson. There would be no abuse by the police. But our task is to see all these problems and respond properly."

    In addition to the ads described to The Post, Russian operatives used Facebook to promote anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim messages. Facebook has said that one-quarter of the ads bought by the Russian operatives identified so far targeted a particular geographic area.

    While Facebook has downplayed the impact of the Russian ads on the election, Dennis Yu, chief technology officer for BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company that focuses on Facebook ads, said that $100,000 worth of Facebook ads could have been viewed hundreds of millions of times.

    According to Yu, "$100,000 worth of very concentrated posts is very, very powerful. When you have a really hot post, you often get this viral multiplier. So when you buy this one ad impression, you can get an extra 20- to 40-times multiplier because those people comment and share it."

    Meanwhile, momentum is building in Congress and elsewhere in the federal government for a law requiring Facebook and other Web companies to reveal publicly who bought political ads and the amount that was spent on their platforms. Newspapers, television stations, and other traditional carriers of campaign messages already disclose such information.

    Watts, the Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow, said he has not seen the Facebook ads promised to Congress, but he and his team saw similar tactics playing out on Twitter and other platforms during the campaign.

    Watts said such efforts were most likely to have been effective in Midwestern swing states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, where Democratic primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders had beaten Clinton. Watts said the disinformation pushed by the Russians included messages designed to reinforce the idea that Sanders had been mistreated by the Democratic Party and that his supporters shouldn't bother to vote during the general election in November.

    "They were designed around hitting these fracture points, so they could see how they resonate and assess their effectiveness," Watts said. "I call it reconnaissance by social media.


    0 0

    Moderate Maine Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement that the legislation would make "devastating" cuts in the Medicaid program for poor and disabled people, drive up premiums for millions and weaken protections Obama's law gives people with pre-existing medical conditions.

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The last-gasp Republican drive to tear down President Barack Obama's health care law essentially died Monday as Maine Sen. Susan Collins joined a small but decisive cluster of GOP senators in opposing the push.

    The Maine moderate said in a statement that the legislation would make "devastating" cuts in the Medicaid program for poor and disabled people, drive up premiums for millions and weaken protections Obama's law gives people with pre-existing medical conditions.

    Collins told reporters that she made her decision despite receiving a phone call from President Donald Trump, who's been futilely trying to press unhappy GOP senators to back the measure.


    She said the legislation is "deeply flawed," despite several changes its sponsors have made in an effort to round up support.

    The collapse of the legislation marks a replay of the embarrassing loss Trump and party leaders suffered in July, when the Senate rejected three attempts to pass legislation erasing the 2010 statute. The GOP has made promises to scrap the law a high-profile campaign vow for years.

    With their narrow 52-48 majority and solid Democratic opposition, three GOP "no" votes would doom the bill. GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas' Ted Cruz have said they oppose the measure, though Cruz aides said he was seeking changes that would let him vote yes.

    The only way Republicans could revive the bill would be to change opposing senators' minds, something they've been trying unsuccessfully to do for months.

    The Senate must vote this week for Republicans to have any chance of prevailing with their narrow margin. Next Sunday, protections expire against a Democratic filibuster, bill-killing delays that Republicans lack the votes to overcome.

    It was unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would have a roll call if he knew it would lose.

    Collins announced her decision shortly after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said "millions" of Americans would lose coverage under the bill and projected it would impose $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts through 2026.

    No. 3 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota conceded that the measure's prospects were "bleak."

    By Alan Fram, Associated Press


    0 0

    Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz kicked off his campaign for re-election Monday. Watch video

    NORTHAMPTON - Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz launched his campaign for re-election Monday at the World War II Club on Conz Street. 

    Narkewicz, who has served in the city's chief executive spot since 2011, said he's optimistic about the opportunities for the city's development in a third term.  

    Narkewicz first entered office six years ago when he defeated former council president Michael Bardsley to replace longtime mayor Mary Clare Higgins. 

    During this race, Narkewicz faces a challenger: Florence resident and local business owner John Riley, who has said that he wants to bring more economic development and vitality to the city's downtown area.  

    Speaking before a large crowd which included an array of the city's public officials, the Mayor called it an "honor" and a "privilege" to have served the last two mayoral terms in Northampton. 

    In touting the accomplishments of those years, Narkewicz stressed that he had brought not only economic stability but development to the community. 

    Narkewicz said that when he took office in 2011 the city faced what he called a "serious budget crisis," involving a $1.7 million deficit that "was going to require deep cuts to city and school budgets, including the layoff of teachers, police and other city staff." 

    Having put together a multi-year fiscal stability plan, he and his team had managed to "build stability" into the city's budget, he said. That stability had allowed officials to continue to invest in education, public safety, public works, senior and veteran services and other necessary investments, he continued.  

    "We worked hard, we stuck to our plan and for the last four years we have had that fiscal stability," Narkewicz said. 

    He also touted the fact that the city had recently had its bond rating upgraded to AAA+, the highest bond rating a city can have. 

    Looking towards the future, Narkewicz stressed that he wanted to continue to invest in the city's key areas--including education, business and entrepreneurialism, city services and what he called the city's "cultural economy," or the vibrant local arts and entertainment that the community is known for. 

    "One of the keys to our budgetary success has been our strong local economy, with significant new business and housing development that has expanded our tax base," he said.  

    Narkewicz closed his comments by saying the thing he was "proudest" of was the fact that he had committed himself to keeping Northampton a "diverse and welcoming community." 

    "I've been proud to stand up for this community and stand up with this community for the values that we believe in," he said. 

    Narkewicz said that he wanted to continue to protect the rights of everyone in the Northampton including women, minorities, immigrants and members of the LGTB community. 


    0 0

    The Massachusetts State Police announced it will set up a sobriety checkpoint somewhere in Franklin County the weekend of September 30 to October 1.

     

    FRAMINGHAM - The Massachusetts State Police announced it will set up a "sobriety checkpoint" somewhere in Franklin County during the weekend of September 30 to October 1.

    According to a release from the State Police headquarters in Framingham, the Superintendent of the State Police, Colonel Richard D. McKeon said the checkpoints serve to educate drivers and to reinforce the public's awareness of the need to detect and remove motorists who are operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs from the state's roadways. 

    The checkpoints operated by the state police are set up on various roadways at varying times.  All vehicles that approach the checkpoints will be stopped and checked to eliminate the possibility of arbitrary enforcement. McKeon said the prior announcement of the checkpoints is designed to minimize fear and anxiety for the general public. 


    0 0

    State Sen. Eric Lesser held a wide-ranging discussion with constituents at the Greenleaf Community Center in Springfield Monday evening.

    State Sen. Eric Lesser held a wide-ranging discussion with constituents at the Greenleaf Community Center in Springfield Monday evening, fielding questions on topics ranging from health care to the Equifax data scandal during an hour-and-a-half long town hall.

    Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat whose district also includes Ludlow, Belchertown, Granby, Hampden, Wilbraham, East Longmeadow, and parts of Springfield and Chicopee. first faced a series of questions about the state's public education system.

    Several teachers and advocates, including former Springfield teachers' union head Timothy Collins, said the state was not fully funding its school systems and questioned the use of standardized testing to evaluate schools.

    "We've gone way over the limit in putting the value on these tests and not putting the value on the growth of these kids," said Collins, citing a legislative study that found the state's funding formula underestimates the cost of education by over $1 billion per year.

    Lesser, a supporter of the empowerment zone model that has overhauled management in struggling middle schools in Springfield, said he agreed that the state overemphasizes testing.

    "It's gone way overboard," he said. "When you have kindergarten kids having panic attacks because of standardized testing regimes, it's a problem."

    Another questioner asked Lesser if he would support legislation to fund student loan forgiveness by taxing the endowments of private colleges. Lesser is a supporter of legislation to tax endowments over $1 billion, but said that funding would be used to support community colleges -- not buy out student debt.

    Rather, Lesser emphasized his proposal for a student borrowers' "bill of rights" that would crack down on tactics used by loan servicers like Navient, which was sued by the federal government in January for allegedly cheating borrowers out of their repayment rights.

    Currently, the Department of Education outsources the processing and collection of student loans to private companies which lack oversight, Lesser said. 

    "Quite frankly used car salesmen in Massachusetts have stricter regulations in Massachusetts than student loan servicers," Lesser said. "It's kind of crazy."

    Lesser's bill would require that student loan servicers -- the companies which handle billing and collections for lenders -- be licensed by the state. Servicers based in Massachusetts would only be allowed to operate after paying a $1,000 license fee and having their business record evaluated by regulators.

    The proposal would also create an ombudsman to help guide borrowers through the repayment process and advise them of their rights.

    Lesser also received a question about the future of his proposal for higher speed rail between Springfield and Boston -- a signature issue for the senator which has faced repeated setbacks on Beacon Hill.

    A measure to study the feasibility of a rail expansion has passed the Senate during each of Lesser's terms in office but has been failed to become law. Last year Gov. Charlie Baker's vetoed the measure and suggested a more general study in its place, but the state House of Representatives did not override the veto or implement Baker's plan.

    And this year, the study again passed the Senate but was written out of the budget during the secretive conference committee process, in which House and Senate negotiators craft a final budget package.

    Lesser said he believes Springfield to Boston rail is essential to Western Massachusetts' economic development, saying the region has not shared in the growth that has benefitted Boston and Eastern Mass. Western Mass. tax dollars paid for the Big Dig and continue to pay for the MBTA, Lesser said, arguing that the state should be willing to invest in infrastructure west of I-495 as well.

    "We frankly have fallen very far behind other parts of our Commonwealth," Lesser said. "Unless we create growth and local opportunity here in Western Mass, we will not get the opiate crisis under control and we will not get the issues plaguing our schools under control and we will not solve health care."


    0 0

    Simsbury officials confirmed that Deputy Fire Chief Michael Jepeal was killed Sunday in a one-car crash in Bloomfield. Jepeal was a 40-plus year veteran on the volunteer force and served as Deputy Chief for 12 years.

     

    SIMSBURY, Connecticut - Simsbury officials confirmed that one of the town's deputy fire chiefs was killed in a one-car crash in Bloomfield Sunday, the Hartford Courant reported. 

    Bloomfield police said Michael Jepeal was killed at about 5 a.m. Sunday when the car he was driving ran off the road at a point where routes 187 and 189 split.  The car crashed a large rock formation in the median. Jepeal was pronounced dead at the scene. 

    Jepeal was a 40-year veteran of the volunteer fire departments in the Simsbury area.  He started with the Tariffville Volunteer Fire Department until that department merged in the early 1980's he continued with the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Department. He worked his way up the promotional ladder to become Deputy Fire Chief 12 years ago.

    Bloomfield police continued to investigate the cause of the crash.