Friday, October 30, 2009

Struever Bros. drop ALCO

Matthew Kazas

The $230 million American Locomotive Works project (ALCO) was headed by Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse until this Tuesday when William C. Struever, the president and chief executive officer of Struever Bros., announced that the company will no longer be involved in the rehabilitation.

Struever was quoted as saying: “Like many other real estate development and construction companies, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse is working through the complex challenges of these trying economic times. While Struever Bros. will have no continued ownership in the future phases of ALCO, McCormack Baron and Olneyville Housing are committed to the revitalization of one of the most important projects in all of Providence.”

The ALCO project has had its hardships; when it was originally proposed in 2005 it was supposed to be a $333-million development with 650 residences, 450,000 square feet of commercial space and a 180-room hotel. But last year the proposal only called for $230-million and 378 residences; 15,676 square feet of the original plan were lost, with 404,044 of the remaining area being office space and the other 30,280 designated retail space. The hotel was also taken out of the proposal.

Now that McCormack Baron Salazar, a St. Louis-based housing developer, and Olneyville Housing Corporation have taken over the rehabilitation of ALCO, Karl Schlachter, the company’s senior vice president, says that they will continue to build the 85 units of low- to moderate-income housing and 25 units of work force housing required in the tax agreements for phases two and three, but that they will lower the amount of market-rate housing.

In order to receive the appropriate financing the city will have to agree to this, and they must also gain approval for low income housing tax credits from Rhode Island Housing. If all goes as planned, this project should provide nearly 2,000 construction jobs and $167 million of investment into the city of Providence over the next three years.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good news for Afghanistan?

While on CBS news program Meet the Press last Sunday, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) suggested that the president may very well be open to adding more troops to the Afghanistan conflict, giving hope to supporters of the war who had been pessimistic about Obama’s apparent indecisiveness concerning Afghanistan. “It very well may be that additional troops are ordered,” said Reed, whose views are widely thought to reflect those of the White House. “Certainly there’s a building consensus about additional trainers for the Afghan security forces. We have to also, I think, build up our counterinsurgency forces and build up the enablers, the intelligence groups.”

The words and phrases Reed uses somewhat gave him away. “Counterinsurgency” is the term of choice for the strategy that the president’s new military commander for Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, would like to use. According to military and foreign affairs author and columnist David Ignatius, who also appeared on the show, Reed’s statements were “a very clear statement of where the president and his inner group are.”

McCrystal’s strategy, commonly known as the “surge”, would reportedly need another 40,000 troops, on top of the 21,000 that Mr. Obama has already allotted him. This strategy is closely associated with Gen. David Petraeus, who used it successfully to tamp down insurgent violence in Iraq, under President George W. Bush.

The United States already has around 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, including the recent reinforcements that Obama has sent. Almost 900 of those soldiers are from Rhode Island. They are part of a force of more than 100,000 NATO troops.

While Reed declined to answer whether or not he supports the addition of 40,000 troops, other leading Democrats, such as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), have spoken out against the deployment of more troops, while pushing for more efforts to expand and train the Afghan security forces and army. “It would be a mistake,” said Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) on ABC’s This Week. “Stabilizing Afghanistan should not mean, and does not mean, a larger footprint.”

Reed’s appearance comes on the heels of the news that the Taliban brazenly assaulted the Pakistani capital of Rawalpindi last Saturday, leading to a 22-hour gunfight at Pakistan’s “Pentagon”. This served to accent the point of those who support the “surge”, such as Senator John McCain (R-AZ). “I think the great danger now is not an American pullout,” said McCain, while appearing on CNN Sunday. “I think the great danger now is a half-measure… trying to please all ends of the political spectrum.”

Appearing opposite Reed was Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who, when asked whether or not he would support the deployment of 40,000 more troops, replied “If that is the recommendation of General Petraeus and General McChrystal, who got it right in Iraq, I think Republicans almost overwhelmingly will support the president if that is his request.”

(Sources Associated Press, Providence Journal, New York Times, U.S. Government)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate; That is the Question.

As it stands, you've probably already either heard of, or had, the H1N1 virus. A startling 99% of all subtyped influenza A viruses being reported to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses. H1N1, or Swine Flu, is a mixture of swine, bird and human viruses. There is a vaccine in the works, to be released sometime this month.

It will be distributed in the form of a nasal spray first. The nasal spray, which contains a weak version of the live virus, can't used in people at high risk of illness, including women who are pregnant and those with underlying medical conditions.

Twenty-five states and large cities in the U.S. have already placed orders for the vaccine, with the first 600,000 doses of the drug expected to arrive shortly. Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia will be among the first places where the vaccine is available. The spray is recommended for other people between the ages of 2 and 49 in the CDC’s priority groups. This includes health-care workers, who are being urged to receive the vaccinations early for the protection of patients and to sustain the health system.

However, nearly two-thirds of U.S. parents say they will hold off having their children vaccinated against H1N1 or will not get them immunized at all, according to a survey released in September.

A magazine published by the nonprofit advocacy group Consumers Union took a phone survey of 1,502 adults from September 2-7. Its results show that 50 percent of parents are delaying the decision on vaccination, mainly because they were concerned about whether or not the new vaccine has been tested sufficiently.

14 percent of surveyed parents have ruled out having their children vaccinated altogether. About 35 percent of adults surveyed said they would definitely have their children vaccinated, a significantly higher number than the 22 percent of 5- to 18-year-olds who are immunized in a typical year, according to federal statistics. It was also found that 43 percent of parents weren’t too concerned about their children contracting H1N1 at all.

The poll, which has a 3-percentage point margin of error, was taken before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine.

While state agencies are working to get the word out to hospitals and businesses about the vaccine, some parents say they don’t feel like they know enough to make an informed decision for their children. The situation is making a lot of parents uneasy.

But for some, vaccination may be very important.

Asthma and diabetes can be quite dangerously aggravated by H1N1, according to director of the Infectious Disease Clinic at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, Massachusetts. While it does not make asthmatics more likely to catch swine flu, it may compound their breathing problems. Diabetics, likewise, are not any more at risk of contraction, but once infected, their blood glucose levels can rise, and cause complications with their regular treatments.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? Well, there are so many factors, situations, and opinions that there can be no one-size-fits-all answer. It may be a personal decision, between you and your doctor; you may feel that you have no other choice; or perhaps you feel safe without it. It all depends on your interpretation of the facts.

Sources:,, and the Milford Daily News.

An Investment In Knowledge Pays The Best Interest

When was the first time you read the United States Constitution? When was the last time you read it?

A small group of teenage and young adult activists have been asking these questions to the people around them, and the number of people who have answered "highschool" to the first and second questions is high. They are determined to do something about this.

The aptly named Pocket Constitution Project is well underway. Participants in the project have been meeting every week to gather and exchange information and ideas about the best ways to communicate to people the importance of the U.S. Constitution and its appropriate place in our society as a living, breathing document.

They are studying the document itself, as well as the origins, the history, the changes it has undergone and investigating where it is and is not being upheld today.

The group will be handing out pocket constitutions in high-traffic public areas, such as parks and bus stations. They will be dressed in period costume, answering questions and holding signs with poignant quotes from around the time of the American Revolution that are still very relevant today.

"The idea is to get people interested." said a spokesperson from the group. "It's no longer the law to teach the United States Constitution in Rhode Island schools. Americans in general are knowing less and less about their government, and the negative change it's promoting is blatant. We hope to educate people, encouraging them to take more responsibility as citizens. "

The group anticipates hitting the streets in the early Spring. In the meantime, they are also in pre-production of a documentary series about the Bill of Rights. They are in the research and development stage as of right now, looking to translate the information accessibly. They are hoping to air this series on Public Access television, and are looking for other venues as well.

For more information on the group, keep checking back for updates here.