Tag Archives: Boston

Judge blocks part of Trump’s order, protests continue

President Donald Trump’s order to restrict people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States sparked outrage and hit a roadblock late on Saturday when a federal judge said stranded travelers could stay in the country.

The emergency court ruling was cheered at Boston’s Logan International Airport, one of several major U.S. airports where protesters angry with Trump’s order gathered.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the temporary stay, said it would help 100 to 200 people with valid visas or refugee status who found themselves detained in transit or at U.S. airports after Trump signed the order late on Friday.

The ACLU, along with several groups, filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqi men who were en route to the United States on immigrant visas when Trump issued the executive order banning many Muslims from entering the country.

One of the men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was traveling on an Iraqi special Immigrant Visa and had worked as an electrical engineer and contractor for the U.S. government from 2003–2010.

Brandon Friedman, a former Obama administration official who commanded a platoon during the invasion of Iraq, said Darweesh had worked for him as an interpreter. He said on Twitter that Mr. Darweesh “spent years keeping U.S. soldiers alive in combat in Iraq.”

The other man, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, had been granted a Follow to Join Visa. His wife and 7-year-old son are lawful permanent residents residing in Houston, Texas, and were eagerly awaiting his arrival. Alshawi’s son has not seen his father for three years.

“President Trump’s war on equality is already taking a terrible human toll. This ban cannot be allowed to continue,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

The judge’s order later on Saturday was a dramatic end to Trump’s first week in office, capped by the Republican president’s four-month ban on refugees entering the United States and a 90-day hold on travelers from Syria and six other countries.

Trump had promised during his campaign what he called “extreme vetting” of immigrants and refugees to try to prevent terror attacks.

He told reporters in the White House’s Oval Office earlier on Jan. 28 that his order was “not a Muslim ban” and said the measures were long overdue.

Senior officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told reporters they had not seen the ruling, but said the government would implement any appropriate orders.

In the ban…

The ban on U.S. travel for passport-holders of seven Middle Eastern states applies to airlines’ flight crew, the International Air Transport Association said in an email to carriers around the world on Saturday.

The email, seen by Reuters, said the executive order from the president caught airlines unprepared.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection briefed IATA in a Saturday afternoon conference call about the new rules, the email said, noting that passport-holders from states such as Iran, including cabin crew, will be barred entry to the United States.

Reaction from Turkey, Britain, Iraq

Trump’s sweeping ban on people seeking refuge in the United States is no solution to problems, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday, adding that Western countries should do more to help ease Turkey’s refugee burden.

When asked by a reporter about Trump’s ban during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Ankara, Yildirim said: “Regional issues cannot be solved by closing the doors on people. We expect the Western world to lighten Turkey’s burden.”

“You can build a wall but it’s not a solution. That wall will come down like the Berlin wall,” he said, adding Turkey has spent some $26 billion on sheltering refugees.

May, who met with Trump in Washington a day earlier, told the news conference that the United States was responsible for its position on refugees. She has previously said a “special relationship” between the United States and Britain meant the two countries could speak frankly to each other when they disagreed on issues.

Iraqi lawmakers have requested that parliament discuss Trump’s action.

Rinas Jano, a member of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said he made the request with several other MPs.

“We want officials from the Iraqi foreign affairs ministry to come to parliament to explain the U.S. decision and discuss the matter,” he told Reuters.

The Iraqi government has so far declined to comment on the executive order signed by Trump.

Yemen is “dismayed” by Trump’s decision, saying that the country was a victim of attacks itself, an official said on Saturday.

“We are dismayed by the decision to unilaterally ban, even for only a month, travel to the United States for people holding Yemeni passports,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Site says New Balance official shoe for white supremacists

A white supremacist website has declared footwear manufacturer New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People.”

The Boston Globe reported the alt-right website The Daily Stormer made the proclamation over the weekend, after New Balance vice president of public affairs Matt LeBretton praised Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

LeBretton told the Wall Street Journal that the election of Trump was a move in the “right direction.”

New Balance, which is based in Boston, later said the comment was referencing Trump’s stance opposing a proposed international trade agreement.

“New Balance has a unique perspective on trade in that we want to make more shoes in the U.S., not less,” it said in a statement last week.

Still, LeBretton’s comment sparked protests.

People who don’t like Trump posted social media videos of themselves throwing their New Balance shoes in the trash or even burning them.

The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin said he believes New Balance’s support of Trump could be a marketing scheme. But he said the website is campaigning to buy the company’s products and is encouraging others to do the same.

LeBretton didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the support from the white supremacist website.

New Balance, which also sells fitness apparel, said in a tweet during the burning-shoes protest that it believes in community, humanity and “acting with the utmost integrity” and that it welcomes “all walks of life.”


Boston, long a BYOB holdout, says ‘cheers’ to the concept

For years, diners in many major U.S. cities have brought their own bottles of beer or wine to restaurants lacking liquor licenses. But not in Boston, long a BYOB buzzkill.

By year’s end, all that will change, now that a decades-old prohibition of the “bring your own booze” concept has been lifted.

The city known for its tight controls on alcohol — happy hour drink discounts are against the law, and liquor stores can’t operate on Memorial Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas — is easing up. Last week, the Boston Licensing Board overturned a ban on the popular trend, which started in the 1920s as a way for restaurants to sidestep Prohibition-era laws. The trend again surged in 2008 in the U.S. when the economy crashed and people looked for cheaper ways to enjoy themselves.

Michelle Wu, president of the Boston City Council and a former restaurant owner, led the move to overturn the BYOB ban so small restaurants could proliferate.

“We’re a very old city and we have many regulations, permits and licenses that have been added over time,” Wu said. “While it’s really important to protect health and safety, it’s also really important to recognize the vitality that small businesses bring to Boston.”

Boston joins the likes of Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago, all of which have thriving BYOB cultures despite the corkage fees some restaurants impose for the privilege of walking in with a bottle.

The BYOB phenomenon has flourished most in the East, where liquor licenses are expensive and the number of permits issued is capped by local governments, said David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurants Consultants, a Denver-based advising business.

In Boston, a full liquor license can cost a restaurateur about $450,000 — a price that’s out of the reach of most of the smaller establishments Wu wants to help. By comparison, liquor licenses in Denver average around $3,300, Kincheloe said.

Regardless of cost, Kincheloe tells his clients: “If you’re going to be a serious restaurateur and want to make money, get the license.”

Wine and beer outlets stand to profit from the advent of BYOB in Boston, since even a cheap bottle can cost 80 percent more on a restaurant menu.

“BYOB is going to be great for us for sales,” said Juan Boria, manager of The Wine Emporium in Boston, which carries an expansive selection of wines and microbrews.

For oenophiles and beer enthusiasts, BYOB will open up more options.

“It’s a good option when you don’t have a lot of money but want to enjoy a night out,” said Kyle Wilson, a 38-year-old accountant and BYOB enthusiast who lives in Boston. “It offers more flexibility as to where you can go.”

But others say they’re perfectly content to leave their bottles at home and entrust their drinking experience to a waiter or sommelier.

“Part of the fun of dining out is trying new drinks that I may not already know about,” said Krista Nygaard, 37, a Boston software developer.

“The only time I could imagine myself taking advantage of this law was if I was celebrating something and had been saving up a great bottle of wine for the occasion,” she said.

Farm in a box: Shipping containers reused for fresh produce

Shipping containers have been turned into housing, art, even playgrounds. Now, a Boston company is recycling them into high-tech mobile farms as part of a new wave of companies hoping to bring more innovation to agriculture.

Freight Farms and other indoor agriculture companies are looking to meet the growing demand for high-quality, locally grown and sustainable produce by farming fruits and vegetables in non-traditional spaces such as warehouses, industrial buildings and containers.

They’re using hydroponics and other longstanding methods to grow plants without soil and incorporating technology that automates much of the work and reduces waste.

“The food system needs to be designed around technology and equipment that’s available today,” says Brad McNamara, Freight Farms’ CEO and co-founder. “It was designed 100 years ago without the right technology to reach the level that it needs to. The whole system needs to be modernized.”

The company says its Leafy Green Machine helps farmers produce a consistently bountiful crop — roughly the typical yield of an acre of farmland — while using 90 percent less water, no pesticides, and just 320 square feet of space.

Climate controls, automated lighting and irrigation systems, and mobile apps for monitoring and maintaining crops remotely also allow farmers to grow year-round with minimal oversight.

“Starting a farm is a lot to ask of one person,” says company president and co-founder Jon Friedman. “So we’ve put together a system that gives even a novice the tools to produce thousands of plants and get them to market.”

So far, Freight Farms customers say the benefits outweigh the costs, which include the $82,000 base price for the 2016 model, as well as an estimated $8,000 to $16,500 a year in electricity, water and growing supply costs.

“The beauty of the Freight Farm is in its ease of use and its mobility,” says Thomas LaGrasso III, chief operating officer at LaGrasso Bros., a Detroit produce wholesaler that’s been growing lettuce in its unit since September. “We harvest to meet our customers’ daily needs. You cannot have it any fresher.”

Launched in 2010, Freight Farms is considered a pioneer of container farms. About a half-dozen other companies in the U.S. offer them, including CropBox in Clinton, North Carolina; Growtainers in Dallas; and PodPonics in Atlanta.

Freight Farms has sold 54 Leafy Green Machines, with ones already in operation on Google’s campus in Mountain View, California; Stony Brook University on Long Island; and Four Burgers, a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Most Freight Farm customers are growing high turnover, compact crops the company recommends _ lettuce; hearty greens like kale, cabbage and Swiss chard; and herbs like mint, basil and oregano — and selling them to local restaurants and groceries and at community markets, according to McNamara and Friedman.

Jon Niedzielski, who heads the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in Massachusetts, says his office has already approved a handful of loans to farmers using Freight Farms’ containers.

“Efficient, hydroponic systems that need little open space can make a lot of sense, particularly in urban areas with lots of potential consumers willing to pay top dollar, year-round, for lettuce and herbs,” he says.

Industry experts caution that upfront costs and annual operational expenses like electricity for lighting systems that often run 18 hours a day can mean slim profit margins for would-be farmers.

But they also suggest technological advances are helping make indoor growing more feasible.

“I think it will take some development to make these systems truly sustainable,” says Andrew Carter, an urban agriculture consultant in New York and North American region manager for the Germany-based Association for Vertical Farming. “But I’m a firm believer in indoor agriculture and small-scale growing and think it will supply healthy, sustainable, and local food.”

LA Film Critics: ‘Spotlight’ is best film

The high-octane “Mad Max: Fury Road” might have driven off with the most awards, but the Los Angeles Film Critics Association had another in mind for its top film of the year: “Spotlight,” the comparatively subdued drama about the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into sex abuses in the Catholic Church.

LAFCA is one of the highest-profile regional critics groups, but often strays from the mainstream in its annual awards choices. Only once in the past 20 years has the LAFCA Best Film winner gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

There was no clear favorite this year, and LAFCA honored a vast variety of some of the year’s best films further reinforcing the narrative that the Oscar race is still fairly undefined.

“Mad Max: Fury Road,” picked up three honors — the most for any film — including best director for George Miller, best cinematography, and best production design. But the dystopian rager, which the National Board of Review chose as their best film earlier this week, got second place to Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” which also won for its screenplay.

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s dark animated film “Anomalisa” also got multiple awards, including best animated film and best music/score for composer Carter Burwell, who was also recognized for “Carol.”

Acting awards were given similarly out of the box choices. Michael Fassbender won best actor for portraying the tech titan in “Steve Jobs,” while Charlotte Rampling picked up the award for best actress for her role in the marital drama “45 Years.”

Michael Shannon won best supporting actor for playing the predatory real estate broker in the housing bubble film “99 Homes,” and Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for her performance as the beguiling Artificial Intelligence creation in “Ex Machina.”

“Amy,” about the life of late pop star Amy Winehouse, won best documentary, and “Son of Saul” picked up best foreign film.

Director Ryan Coogler also won the LAFCA new generation award for “Creed,” a continuation of the Rocky Balboa saga.

“Carol,” Todd Haynes’ 1950s-set romance, which dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards this past week was practically shut out, aside from Burwell’s co-win for score and a host of runner-up awards, including director and production design.

The awards-friendly “Joy,” “The Revenant,” “The Danish Girl” and “Room” were nowhere to be found in LAFCA’s choices. Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” was recognized only for Ennio Morricone’s score as the runner-up to Burwell’s compositions.

Ultimately, the awards race continues to be wide open in nearly every category. The competition will heat up this week though, when nominees are announced for both the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes.

On the Web…


Protesters prompt cancelation of ‘Kimono Wednesdays’

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is cancelling “Kimono Wednesdays” after protesters decried the event as racist.

In a statement issued this week, the museum apologized for offending some visitors with the event, where museum goers were encouraged to don the traditional Japanese garments and pose in front of Claude Monet’s “La Japonaise.”

The museum said it had hoped to create an “interactive experience,” helping museum goers appreciate the rich details, embroidery and fine materials of the garments. It said similar events took place when the painting, depicting a woman in a kimono, travelled throughout Japan for an exhibition.

But protesters have held signs at the Boston museum’s events, calling them “racist” and “imperialist.”

The museum says kimonos will now be on display for visitors to touch, not try on.

‘Good People’? More like ‘Great People’

There’s a funny contrast at the heart of Good People. Its heroine is Margie, a South Boston mother working paycheck to paycheck who runs out of paychecks. She earns our sympathy almost immediately, with a can-do spirit and relentless drive. But most of us in the audience aren’t Margies. 

At best, we resemble Mike, her former love interest who made it out of Southie, who Margie guilts into inviting her to a party of his wealthy friends. Maybe our bank accounts aren’t as large, or we didn’t originate from the same level of poverty, but it’s safe to say very few, if any, opening night attendees at the Milwaukee Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse are in as precarious a financial position as Margie. So when that night turns sour, as all the signs and scenes leading up to it suggest it will, it feels like she’s turned on us, the good people who offered her the kindness of our interest for a single evening — despite the fact that we know, deep down, she’s firmly, firmly in the right.

It’s an unsettling masterstroke, but not the first nor the last. David Lindsay-Abaire’s script is full of class, race and culture clashes, and the Rep’s cast, led by Laura Gordon as Margie, has absolutely no trouble mining them for comedy and pathos alike.

The Rep’s been promoting the show as a star vehicle for Gordon, and it’s well-deserved. They can’t claim credit for having picked her for the role first — she first stepped into Margie’s shoes at Madison’s Forward Theater in 2013 — but giving her a second shot at the character under the direction of Kate Buckley is worth applause in itself.

Margie’s not a woman in a position to make a lot of decisions. Things just happen to her: Guardians for her mentally disabled daughter run late; bosses begrudgingly fire her; landlords threaten to put her on the street. Gordon’s Margie hasn’t stopped believing she can change that, though. She carries herself with the weight of every chain reaction that’s brought her to the present moment, and throws herself at every chance that comes her way, including pursuing Mike (Michael Elich) when she discovers he’s returned to Boston.

What keeps Gordon’s Margie heroic instead of desperate is she’s so damn likable. She lets her old boss sit next to her at bingo; firing her wasn’t his call. She cuts the landlord slack for trying to push her out; her son’s having trouble paying his rent too. She even tries to stick to her script with Mike — “I just need a job” — instead of pulling out her trump card: Her daughter might be his.

Likely to be underrated are Gordon’s co-actors. None of them rises to challenge Margie’s position as the central character (Mike seems written to vie with her, but Elich and Buckley have wisely made him more a foil than a rival viewpoint), and the production is the better for it. Margie’s best friend Jean (Tami Workentin), landlord Dottie (Laura T. Fisher) and ex-boss Stevie (Bernard Balbot) flesh out the world Margie lives in, with local legends told over and over and names of longtime Southies repeated like talismans or warnings. Mike and his wife Kate (Jennifer Latimore) get to paint in a more familiar picture of wealth, easily translatable from Boston to Milwaukee, but they too give it their own particular shadings.

Margie alone with Stevie or Mike is captivating, or expositionally necessary, but the play lights up with three or more players. Workentin gets the best laugh lines, delivered wearing coordinated leopard-print shirts and leg warmers that are a few laughs in and of themselves (many thanks to costume designer Rachel Healy). And when Margie, Mike and Kate are together, Latimore threatens to steal the show, an admirable achievement for the Rep Intern Company actor. She’s alternately a sympathetic ally for Margie scandalized by her husband or an unexpected adversary adamant that her husband’s despicable Southie ex leave their home immediately — but maintains a fierce, calculated demeanor no matter who she’s chastising.

As critical to Good People’s success as any piece of dialogue or scathing glance is Kevin Depinet’s set, one of the best I’ve ever seen at the Powerhouse. Modular and automated, the set is built around a tall pillar with a doorway, which spins to coordinate with sliding-in walls — a kitchen counter here, a long bookshelf there, a bingo hall that drops from the ceiling. In its slick transitions, from grimy bingo hall to opulent homestead and back, it’s a visual reminder of how little choice Margie — or Mike — has had in what scenes their lives are set.


The Milwaukee Rep’s production of Good People runs through Feb. 15 at the Quadracci Powerhouse, 108 E. Wells St. Tickets start at $20 and can be ordered at 414-224-9490 or milwaukeerep.com. 

Margie (Laura Gordon, right) visits ex-boyfriend Mike and his wife Kate (Michael Elich and Jennifer Latimore) in the hopes of securing a job.

Boston schools join Meatless Mondays campaign

Students at Boston Public Schools are finding more prominent placement of meat-free dishes in their cafeterias on Mondays and are filling their trays with black bean burrito bowls, garden fresh salads topped with chickpeas, protein-packed chili and more.

The school district joined th Meatless Monday movement after working with The Humane Society of the United States and hearing from more than a thousand students, parents, teachers and Boston members of nonprofit encouraging the district to take part.

Boston Public Schools is participating by offering additional meat-free options and by educating students about the health benefits of eating more plant-based foods. 

More than 57,000 students are enrolled at Boston Public Schools, which comprises 128 schools.

Deborah Ventricelli, the deputy director of the Boston Public Schools Department of Food and Nutrition Services said, “Offering students nutritious meals as part of the Meatless Monday programs allows us to meet the diverse needs of the families in our district while getting the week off to a healthy start. Now, every Monday, our students know they can look forward to a high-quality meatless option in addition to the choices they already have.”

The HSUS advocates compassionate eating — or the three Rs of “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards.

On the Web…


Pizza tours offer a slice of culture in Milwaukee, Chicago, Boston, NYC

In a city famous for its deep-dish pizza tourists wouldn’t know that the locals more often eat a thinner-crust, tavern-style pie topped with homemade Italian sausage and cut into squares, not slices — unless they went on a pizza tour.

Chicago is one of a handful of cities across the country, like Milwaukee, Boston and New York, with companies that offer tours of the local pizza scene.

Chicago Pizza Tours owner Jonathan Porter takes his customers on a bus ride around the city that includes four stops over 3 1/2 hours to sample deep-dish, the tavern-style popular in Chicago neighborhoods and other eclectic pizza variations.

“It’s just a different way to see the city,” Porter said. “Eat your way through the city. It was always designed to get people off the beaten path.”

Bonnie Burchett, 64, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was on a recent weekend vacation to Chicago with her husband when they took the pizza tour.

“I like that sausage,” she said after taking a bite at Pizano’s, a downtown pizzeria with a buttery crusted deep-dish pizza and tavern-style that was the first stop on the tour.

Elizabeth Goodwin, 33, of Columbus, Ohio, was on a weekend trip with her husband too. They were able to try Pizano’s, thin crust at Coalfire west of downtown, tavern-style with sauerkraut at Flo and Santos on the city’s South Side, and Pequod’s deep-dish on the North Side.

“I’ve always wanted to try Chicago deep-dish pizza, it’s famous,” Goodwin said. The couple took the tour, she said, because “otherwise we wouldn’t know where to go.”

The tour guide offers fun statistics as the bus travels from pizzeria to pizzeria. There are 2,200 pizza restaurants in Chicago. Thin crust outsells deep-dish in Chicago even though deep-dish was invented in Chicago in the 1940s.

Miriam Weiskind, a tour guide with Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York, happened to be on the recent Chicago tour, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a slice of pizza. She said she tries to focus on a particular pizza’s ingredients and explain to people on her tours “what goes into it so at the end they understand why they like it.”

If you go…

• Chicago Pizza Tours offers bus tours most days at 11 a.m. for $60. Check availability at http://www.chicagopizzatours.com

• Slice of Chicago Pizza Tours offers tours Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for $45. Check availability at http://www.sliceofchicagopizzatours.com


• Milwaukee Food Tours offers a three-hour pizza bus tour on select Fridays and Saturdays at 6 p.m. for $55. Check availability at http://www.milwaukeefoodtours.com/pizza-tour.php


• Boston Pizza Tours offers two-hour guided walking tours of pizzerias in historic neighborhoods. There’s a Pizza and Little Italy Tour and a Pizza and Historic Tavern Tour. Both are $39. Check availability at http://www.bostonpizzatours.com


•  Scott’s Pizza Tours offers bus tours for $60 and walking tours in Little Italy, Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side for $38. Check availability at http://www.scottspizzatours.com

• A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour offers a four and a-half hour tour for $80. Check availability at http://www.asliceofbrooklyn.com/pizza.html 

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Cheers for Heineken, Guinness, Sam Adams; beer-makers won’t toast gay bans

The nation’s largest civil rights group is hailing decisions by major brewers — Guinness, Heineken and Sam Adams — to drop sponsorships of St. Patrick’s Day parades that discriminate by excluding openly LGBT participants.

“As corporate America continues to lead the charge for LGBT equality, today three of America’s top brewers are helping us say no to anti-LGBT discrimination,” said Deena Fidas, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Workplace Equality Program. “This year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will be served up with a pint of fairness.”

Yesterday, Guinness released a corporate statement, saying: “Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all.  We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade.  As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.  We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy.”

Earlier, Sam Adams announced that it wouldn’t sponsor Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

And Heineken also has taken a stand against the discrimination by the parade organziers.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh both declined to march in their cities respective St. Patrick’s Day parades, citing discrimination against LGBT people.