New federal drug test procedure irks MBTA workers
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) workers are protesting a new federal regulation requiring they have company when giving urine samples for drug tests.
The Department of Transportation guidelines take effect in November and mandate the “directly observed collection” of urine from employees who have previously tested positive.
The rule also applies to employees who have submitted past samples that appeared to have been tampered with. Observers are required to be the same gender as the employee.
Transportation officials say they need the rule to combat what they call a flourishing industry set up to help people beat the tests.
But Terrence Ward, who heads the MBTA’s Concerned Minority Employees Group, told the Boston Globe that the procedures violate workers’ privacy.
Mass. agency may return to issuing student loans
The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) is trying to get back into the student loan business.
The agency that has provided loans to about 40,000 families in Massachusetts each year is gauging market interest in a $400 million bond sale. If there are takers, MEFA says it would be able to offer fixed-rate loans to college students.
MEFA announced last month that it could not finance private student loans because the auction-rate bond market had collapsed. In April, the authority said it could not support federal Stafford Loans.
Both sets of loans have typically been cheaper than those offered by commercial banks.
A spokeswoman for MEFA said last Friday she could not estimate the demand for the bonds, now that many families have made alternate financing plans.
Feds give Mass. fifth health insurance waiver
The federal government has granted Massachusetts a fifth extension in negotiations aimed at continuing the state’s new universal health care law.
The Patrick administration announced last Friday that the extension will retain a critical waiver from Medicaid rules until Sept. 8.
The state needs the $385 million annual waiver to continue using federal money as it shifts coverage from free emergency room care for the uninsured to a mix of private and government-sponsored insurance for all workers.
The extension covers Labor Day and the period when top officials will be attending the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
Earlier this week, the state announced 439,000 people have gained health insurance since the law took effect in June 2006. The number of uninsured had previously been pegged at up to 650,000.
Hub cops arrest 56 in pre-Carnival sweep
Boston police arrested dozens of suspected gang members and criminals in a pre-emptive strike against violence at the city’s annual Caribbean Festival.
The sweep last Friday by police gang and fugitive units picked up 56 people wanted on outstanding warrants, ranging from shoplifting to rape of a child.
Police said the suspects included those they thought might use the festival last Saturday to find rivals and settle old scores.
They said the sweep was prompted by lessons from past festivals, which have been marred by shootings and stabbings.
Police said most attendees just wanted to enjoy themselves at the 35-year-old festival, known for its colorful parade. They said they were targeting the minority who might have caused problems.
Festival organizers supported the sweep, saying they didn’t want the festival to be ruined by a few criminals.
Firm completes ‘stem-to-stern’ review of Big Dig
The “stem-to-stern” safety review of the Big Dig ordered after a fatal tunnel ceiling collapse is now complete.
Illinois-based Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates has delivered 24 volumes to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the state Executive Office of Transportation. The documents catalog its review of 16 miles of tunnels, 11 miles of highway and 7,500 structural components.
Most of the details have already been released in two earlier reports. The first found the system fundamentally safe, but in need of some immediate repairs. The second found that some additional ceiling bolt repairs were needed.
Then-Gov. Mitt Romney ordered the review in Aug. 2006, a month after Milena Del Valle of Boston was crushed to death by a falling ceiling panel in a tunnel connecting the Turnpike to Logan Airport.
The final report in the $4.5 million review was delivered last Thursday.
PORTLAND, Maine — The Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine has acquired an ink-splotched registry that offers a unique glimpse into the social lives of blacks in Maine and the United States during the last century.
The ledger’s pages contain more than 3,000 signatures of black Americans who came from across the United States to stay at Rose Cummings’ guesthouse in Old Orchard Beach between 1923 and 1993.
Prominent names include bandleader Duke Ellington and Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen.
The ledger was acquired to be part of the African American Collection at the Glickman Family Library at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.