'Modern Warfare 3' Video Game Hits The Shelves

By Jared Bowen   |   Wednesday, November 9, 2011
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Nov. 10, 2011

Watch the segment that aired on Nov. 8 on WGBH's Greater Boston.

BOSTON — They came, they bought and now they're off to save the world — after school that is.

"I have class until three, when I get back I'll finish my work and then probably play it all night," said student Mike Donahoe.

"Modern Warfare 3," the third video game in the wildly popular "Call of Duty" series, went on sale at midnight Monday night – but sales are already expected to top last year's video game installment, "Black Ops," which made over $650 million dollars in sales in its first week. "Modern Warfare" producer Mark Rubin said the success of these games comes from listening to customers.

"What we've done with 'Modern Warfare 3' is come into our own and understand our audience and find out what they want to get out of 'Call of Duty.'" Rubin said.

The new game has players act as "Special Operation" forces, defending U.S. and European targets against a Russian invasion. The series, known for its extreme violence and realism, even includes a controversial scene where a girl is killed in a truck bombing. Rubin says it's about being as realistic as possible.

"We're trying to tell a story that shows the impact of war and the impact it has on civilians and non-combatants. Our games show that it's challenging for the soldiers but also for everyone else in the world."

"I had this on reserve two months ago, in the summer for my son. I called him in Israel, he ordered it in Israel and then he came here," video gamer Nir Plag said.

Student Robert Mast also just bought "Modern Warfare 3." "I'm going to be playing this all day. I have an English essay, but I'll probably just do that later. I just can't wait," Mast said.

According to Activism, the games' publisher, six million people play the game every day making it one of the world's best selling game series, as customers like Nir Plag and Robert Mast can attest.

It's Just A Test

Wednesday, November 9, 2011
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On Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 2p.m. EST, WGBH will be participating in a test of the Emergency Alert System conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

The test will last for approximately 30 seconds and involve all TV and radio stations in the United States. Regular programming will resume upon its conclusion. Remember: it is only a test. Get more information about the EAS test here.

President Obama Pledges Debt Relief For College Students

By Jaclyn Cashman   |   Thursday, October 27, 2011
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Oct. 27, 2011

Watch the segment that aired on Oct. 26 on WGBH's Greater Boston.

BOSTON — Cash strapped college graduates might have some extra money in the bank thanks to an announcement made by President Obama this week.

President Obama held a student loan relief event in Colorado on Wednesday highlighting two measures to help college graduates manage student loan debt.

President Obama said, "And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards student loans instead of being spent on other things, that's not just tough for middle-class families, it's painful for the economy."

For starters the President will accelerate a plan to cap student loan payments at 10 percent of their income starting next year, two years ahead of schedule.

"We are going to put them into effect not in two years, but next year because our economy needs it right now," President Obama said.

The second initiative is designed to encourage graduates with two or more kinds of federal loans to consolidate them.

"We are going to make it easier with one interest rate a month, with a better interest rate," Obama said.

American Student Assistance is a nonprofit organization that guides students through the murky waters of college debt. Mike Ryan of ASA says this is not an overhaul of student loans, but a tweak to the system.

"It is a modification to the current program, but we see this is as good because it gives us a chance to let people know about it. The program has been available for quite some time but borrowers are not aware of that," Ryan said.

The plan will help some 1.6 million college students to lower their monthly payments by a few hundred dollars.

Milan Goswami, a Boston University student said, "I will have money in my pocket and can get an apartment and make my life after graduation a little easier for me."

Other college students prefer to focus on the course load and not what the post-graduate balance sheet will look like.

Courtney Carroll, another BU student said, "I am sure I will be worried about it, but I am not dying of fright about it."

Student loan debt has been a major protest platform in the Occupy Wall Street movement. However, most of the college graduates demonstrating won't benefit from Obama's plan, because it only helps borrowers taking out loans next year.

Waiting For Troy Davis

By Phillip Martin   |   Wednesday, September 28, 2011
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Sept. 28, 2011

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The news that Troy Anthony Davis was executed in Georgia was met with silence and teary-eyed dismay in Harvard Square late Wednesday night.

All night, a small, racially diverse group of candle-carrying protestors waited for news from the US Supreme Court. Would Troy Davis receive a stay of execution? Amnesty International¹s Northeast Director Josh Rubenstein organized the vigil. At 8:04pm he was hopeful.

"So now we're hearing that there is a reprieve. It could last for a very short time. He could be executed tonight or they could ask for more time, and we'll see," Rubenstein said.

All eyes and thumbs in the crowd then turned to their iPhones and blackberries and scrolled for news from the High Court. A man passing by at 8:26 p.m. gave the crowd a disapproving finger.

At 8:45 p.m., one vigil participant named Verne Noma said, "I just think this is a barbaric practice in general, but specifically in this case it just seems that there are just too many questions and I don't agree with it."

The Supreme Court announcement that many believed would come at 9pm did not. And the 40 individuals that were brought together via Twitter and Facebook continued their vigil.

At 9:23 p.m., some candles that had blown out as the wind picked up were relighted.

Some of the anti-death penalty protestors seemed hopeful that mitigating circumstances — including seven out of 10 witnesses recanting testimony against Troy Davis —would convince the High Court to stay the execution.

A woman in the crowd spoke. "My name is Theresa McGowan, someone got through to the Supreme Court and they left a message. The Supreme Court said there hasn't been a verdict yet. And I hope something positive comes out tonight."

At 10:49 p.m., when I returned to Harvard Square the small crowd had become even smaller and most of the candles had blown out.

At 11:08 p.m., Troy Anthony Davis was put to death in Jackson, Georgia, and the group in Harvard Square slowly dispersed, despondent and deeply disturbed.

Warren Takes Steps Toward Possible Senate Bid

By The Associated Press   |   Thursday, August 11, 2011
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Aug. 11, 2011

Elizabeth Warren testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 16, 2011 before a House subcommittee on Financial Services. (AP)

WASHINGTON — Consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren is taking the first steps toward launching a possible challenge against Republican Scott Brown, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts and a top Democratic target in 2012.

The 62-year-old Harvard law professor began contacting top Massachusetts Democrats on Thursday, including party Chairman John Walsh, about a potential candidacy.

Warren plans to make a decision after Labor Day and will spend the next few weeks talking with voters and party activists, a Democrat close to the national leadership told The Associated Press. The person was not authorized to speak publicly, and requested anonymity.

"I left Washington, but I don't plan to stop fighting for middle class families," Warren wrote in a posting Thursday on Blue Mass Group, a popular blog among Massachusetts Democrats. "I spent years working against special interests and have the battle scars to show it — and I have no intention of stopping now."

A favorite of consumer groups and liberals, Warren was tapped by President Barack Obama last year to set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Congressional Republicans opposed her becoming the bureau's director, and Obama in July decided not to pick her to head the new agency, sparking speculation that she might challenge Brown.

Top national Democrats desperate to find a strong challenger to take back the Massachusetts seat long held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy have been urging Warren to run for months. A poll in March showed Brown as the most popular politician in the state.

Warren, who lives in Cambridge, has never held elective office. She left the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this summer, and recently returned from a vacation with her family to consider running.

Warren did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

In a move that appeared to underscore her seriousness about the race, two prominent Massachusetts political strategists - Doug Rubin and Kyle Sullivan — are assisting her as she decides. Rubin is the former top political strategist for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Democrats say her image as a crusader on behalf of consumers against well-heeled Wall Street and corporate interests would be a boon to her candidacy. Party leaders also believe her national profile would help her raise the money needed to topple Brown, who has more than $10 million in his campaign account.

Faced with a crowded field, Democrats worry that a long, costly and divisive primary could dash their hopes of reclaiming the seat after their embarrassing loss to Brown in 2010.

There are several Democrats already running, including Setti Warren, the first-term mayor of the affluent Boston suburb of Newton and the state's first popularly elected black mayor; City Year youth program co-founder Alan Khazei; and Robert Massie, a former lieutenant governor candidate.

Sen. Brown, Rep. Tierney Chastise Federal Fishing Authority

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Tuesday, June 21, 2011
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June 21, 2011

BOSTON — A group of Massachusetts’ lawmakers is coming down hard on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency at the center of a contentious debate over regional fishing rights and the subject of a damning Commerce Department investigation last year.
During a Congressional hearing on the agency held in Boston on Tuesday, Rep. John Tierney called for the resignation of NOAA’s chief, Jane Lubchenco. He said the agency failed to respond adequately to reports of abuses by its staff.
"I don’t see the empathy that ought to be there, I don’t see the understanding. And the real commitment to make sure that their positions are understood and factored into any decisions that are made," Tierney said. 
Tierney joins a growing chorus of lawmakers, including Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who say that Lubchenco failed to respond to reports of abuses at NOAA quickly enough.   
The investigation, by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Inspector General, found NOAA was charging fishermen outlandish fines for small offenses. The money then went into a NOAA fund with no oversight. It was used by regulators to pay for fishing conferences in exotic locations such as Australia, Malaysia and Norway. It also purchased a $300,000 fishing boat used by government employees for fishing trips.  
The Inspector General also found the agency’s Law Enforcement Director, Dale Jones, shredded garbage bags full of documents in the middle of the investigation.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown asked NOAA’s assistant fisheries director, Eric Schwaab, about Jones’ current whereabouts, but Schwaab refused to comment. He has said Jones was removed from his job, but according to CBS news, Schwaab remains an analyst still making a six-figure salary.
Schwaab also says the agency is addressing past abuses by making a number of financial reforms. Sen. Brown applauded these actions, but many fishermen say they ring hollow when the perpetrators remain unpunished.
Brown said the problem at NOAA goes deeper than what was uncovered in that investigation alone.
"NOAA's history of overzealous enforcement in the New England Fishery has come at the cost of the fishermen’s' trust and their livelihood. And many of them tell me that the folks in Washington regard them as criminals instead of a legitimate and valued regulated industry," Brown said.
In May, the Commerce Secretary ordered the agency to return tens of thousands of dollars in fines to fishermen. The government is still investigating if funds collected through fines are being used properly.

About the Authors
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 
Phillip Martin Phillip Martin
Phillip W. D. Martin is the senior investigative reporter for WGBH Radio News and executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions. In the past, he was a supervising senior editor for NPR, an NPR race relations correspondent and one of the senior producers responsible for creating The World radio program in 1995. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1998. Learn more at liftedveils.org.
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.


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