Johns Hopkins + Occupy Baltimore = ?

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“Hopkins is a fairly apolitical place,” writes an anonymous student reviewer on StudentsReview.com “Nearly everyone was working too hard to be politically involved.” Such is the popular stereotype of a school where many students seem to be more preoccupied with their biochem test scores than the wider political landscape.

But despite this pervasive reputation, Hopkins students, faculty, and staff are responding to and engaging with the Occupy protests in a variety of ways. And while some are dismissive (In a recent editorial in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, student Nash Jenkins scoffs that he’s “smarter than a Wall Street occupier”), others are engaging at a deeper level.

To find out more about what (if anything) the university and the protests have to do with one another, stop by Occupy and the University:  A Forum on the #Occupy Movement, which will feature grad students and faculty members from the English, Political Science, and Geography & Environmental Engineering departments; it takes place today, November 1, at 5:30 PM in Levering Hall.

St. Ignatius School Finds Room to Grow

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The Jesuit middle school (full name St. Ignatius Loyola Academy) has enjoyed snug quarters on Calvert Street, tucked between Center Stage and the parish church, for the past 18 years. But the cramped classrooms and narrow hallways were becoming a burden, especially as the school plans to increase its enrollment beyond the 70 students it now has. So when a Federal Hill building (occupied for the past 130+ years by a Catholic elementary school) became vacant a couple years ago, the parish snapped to attention.

And as Catholic schools close across the country, St. Ignatius offers a different kind of model — one that’s seemed to succeed so far. It only accepts low-income students and charges no tuition… at least to the students’ families. Instead, the $12,500 annual cost of the 11-month program is shouldered by sponsors. Most students continue on to Catholic or independent high schools, and they have a 98 percent graduation rate.

The move won’t happen until 2013, but the students have a lot to look forward to. The new school will have double the space, and something that St. Ignatius has been lacking until now:  a gym and sports fields.

Mt. Washington Tavern Fire Extinguished, Owners Leave Message of Thanks on Facebook

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The fire that started at the popular bar and restaurant at about 5 a.m. this morning has been put out by the Baltimore City Fire Department. Relieved that no one was hurt and moved by the outpouring of support from the community, the owners posted this message on the tavern’s Facebook page:

To our valued customers, friends, 

What a morning. We may be down but we are certainly not out. The fire has taken the Tavern for now but we look very forward to rebuilding and being better than ever. 

We are so thankful for the outpouring of support already and even more so that our customers and employees were unharmed. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. We will keep you posted as news develops and look forward to celebrating with you at our grand re-opening. 

Rob and Dave and the whole MWT team

Happy Halloween!

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The snow before Halloween gave everyone a sobering reminder of what lies ahead.  Thankfully, the forecast calls for clear skies tonight.

May these photos of Baltimore Jack-o-Lanterns provide inspiration for your creations tonight. 

Photos below by Anne Stuzin.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Free Haunted House Spooky Enough!

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Halloween has inspired generosity and goodwill at one Charles Village address, advertising a “free haunted house” from 4 to 7 p.m.

I was never a big fan of haunted houses growing up. I didn’t actually believe the costumed teen jumping out at me from a dark corner was a malevolent spirit; I just hate to be startled. I knew the “brains” I was plunging my hand into were really just cold spaghetti, but, for me, that’s gross enough.

But there’s something about a do-it-yourself, anonymously advertised, free haunted house in someone’s home that really creeps me out.

Fire at the Mt. Washington Tavern

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Baltimore institution the Mt. Washington Tavern on Newbury Street in North Baltimore suffered a two-alarm fire this morning. Firefighters have put out the blaze at the popular eatery and bar. 

Fox 45 reports that the fire broke out at around 5 a.m. No injuries have been reported and there is no word on what caused the fire.  Firefighters say that the restaurant was engulfed in flames and smoke when they arrived.  The Baltimore City Fire Department tweeted this morning that the structural integrity of the building is most likely compromised.

 
The tavern has been a local meeting place for generations of Baltimoreans, especially in the lacrosse and private school alumni communities.

Mayo Shattuck Discusses Exelon Merger in Earnings Call

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Courtesy Citybizlist – During Constellation Energy’s (NYSE:CEG) earnings call, chairman, president and CEO Mayo Shattuck III discussed the status of the pending merger with Exelon and the impact of hurricane Irene.

Portions of the transcript are below.

On the Merger with Exelon:

The FEC completed its review of the merger proxy which has been mailed to our shareholders in advance of the November 17 shareholder vote. Elsewhere on the regulatory front, we have received merger clearance from the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. We expect to hear from the New York State Public Service Commission this quarter. And in Maryland, the intervenor’s testimonies were filed with the Maryland PSC in mid-September. We carefully reviewed the testimonies and proposals and filed additional testimony in October. Today’s status conference will provide additional insight into the process. We’ve already reached the settlement with the PGM market monitor on market power issues.  

Read more at citybizlist.

Pinkwashing: How Long Until Awareness Turns Into a Cure?

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As October winds down, pumpkin-infused treats abound, trees in vibrant fall shades stand at every corner, and the pink ribbons in support of cancer research adorn virtually every conceivable product. 

Every October, companies team up with breast cancer charities across the country to raise money for breast cancer research as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. An October 15 article in The New York Times reported the Susan G. Komen foundation, the most prominent name in breast cancer research, boasts 216 corporate partnerships.

The message behind breast cancer awareness? “Early detection [through mammograms and breast self-exams] saves lives.” Unfortunately, few Americans know more about breast cancer beyond the message, and many breast cancer patients and advocates are concerned that Americans have been lulled into complacency, thinking that shopping and wearing pink are the best ways to contribute to the fight against breast cancer.

A September Marie Claire article points out: “In 1991, 119 women in the U.S. died from breast cancer every day. Today, that figure is 110 — a victory no one is bragging about.” With all the money poured into research, thanks to the pink ribbon movement, why has the daily death rate dropped by less than one percent over the past 20 years? It’s time Americans turn awareness into action and ask questions about where all that pink ribbon fundraising is really going.  

The marketing involved in breast cancer is often referred to as “big pink.” “Pinkwashing”, a term associated with big pink, is defined as using a product to promote breast cancer awareness that contains toxins and other harmful additives linked to cancer development. Pinkwashing is also used to describe the generic pinking of products that are breast cancer themed but do not give any money to the cause.

“Think Before You Pink,” a campaign of San Francisco-based nonprofit Breast Cancer Action, recommends asking some important questions such as how much money will the benefiting corporation give to breast cancer research?  Precisely which organization will receive the money? How will the organization use the money to fight breast cancer?

Could the product itself actually increase the risk of cancer?

One of Komen’s corporate partnerships is food-industry giant General Mills, which has promised $2.5 million to the Komen foundation from sales of pink-packaged foods in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. General Mills is the parent company of Pillsbury, whose cake mixes and cookie dough reportedly still contain small amounts of trans fat.

A 2007 French study for the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition found that a higher level of trans fats, “presumably reflecting a high intake of industrially processed foods, is probably one factor contributing to increased risk of invasive breast cancer in women.” The website www.breastcancer.org explains the study here in accessible terms.

Another major charity with several corporate partnerships is the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The foundation’s website says that its mission is to “save lives by increasing awareness of breast cancer through education and by providing mammograms for those in need.”

One of NBCF’s former corporate partners was CKE Restaurants, the parent company of fast food chain Hardee’s and western chain Carl’s Jr. From 2006-2010, Carl’s Jr. sponsored the Pink Star Campaign, a three-week fundraiser in which customers donated $1 to the NBCF and wrote their name on a star that hung in the lobby. They received $10 in food coupons in return for their generosity. What better way to fight cancer than to chow down on chili cheese fries or a steakhouse burger with more than 50 grams of fat, right? Especially at a discount!

While that partnership appears to have dissolved, the foundation is still partnered with Coldstone Creamery and Hungry Howie’s Pizzas, the latter of which promises a “donation” to the NBCF for every pizza purchased during the month of October. As we all know, ice cream and pizza are equally as effective as burgers in the fight against breast cancer, not to mention the obesity epidemic.

Some breast cancer marketing schemes are a bit more obvious. One local Safeway store featured this month an ambiguous display labeled “Pink Stuff” offering customers their choice of shirts, socks and hats adorned with pink. The vague display reads, “A portion of your purchase will benefit breast cancer research and care.” But how much is the portion, and which organization will benefit? Harris Teeter also had a display of breast-cancer-awareness month shirts in shades of pink, black, white and gray. All of the shirts were adorned with pink ribbons and mantras such as “fight for a girl” or “I wear pink” (the latter printed on a white shirt). The display case said nothing about any proceeds from the shirts going toward any organization involved with breast cancer. If you find similar examples of useless pinkwashing, note the company producing the product and call them to task. Research the company online and track down its marketing department and find out if the proceeds are going to anyone outside the company. If they are not, kindly suggest that they align with a proactive breast cancer charity that will receive the proceeds, or that they find another way to make a profit without exploiting such a serious issue.  

Lenore Koors, the operations director for the Komen Foundation in Maryland, says the company has stringent guidelines for anyone planning to do a fundraiser to benefit Komen. “Locally, we have a process where fundraisers must sign a letter of agreement, agreeing that they will disclose the full benefit for Komen to the consumers rather than saying that a portion of the proceeds will benefit Komen.  Clarity and transparency are paramount to our organization’s fundraising,” she says.

What do the Komen and the NBCF do with the money they receive? The Komen’s 2010 audit reports that $140 million dollars, a little more than one third of the foundation’s $389 million dollars in assets, went to public education programs (approximately $42 million of which went to “marketing and communications” for education). A little more than $75 million, approximately half of what was allotted to education, went to research. Nearly $66 million, approximately 16 percent of the total assets, went to treatment and patient services.  

The 2010 financial statement for the NBCF lists the organization’s assets for the year at $6.5 million. Nearly $3 million, almost half the total assets, went to breast cancer “awareness” programs, while $1.5 million went to detection programs. A little more than half a million dollars went to research, but the total salary payments totaled up to over $900,000, nearly twice the research allotment.

It’s difficult and impractical to try to eliminate all items remotely linked to cancer. But when two of the primary organizations responsible for shaping the national dialogue about breast cancer receive money from corporations that create foods that could contribute to a rise in breast cancer, it’s time to replace the mantra of hope with a mantra of transparency.

One of the major organizations working to overhaul the national breast cancer dialogue is the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Its campaign “Breast Cancer Deadline 2020,” aims to eradicate breast cancer by 2020.  The “Think Before You Pink” campaign has drawn attention to several corporate pinkwashing schemes over the past decade. 

On a local level, the Baltimore-based Red Devils help breast cancer patients meet their daily needs outside of treatment. This includes housekeeping, meal preparation, transport to and from appointments, help with prescription co-pays, and most importantly, fun. While the Red Devils are not outspoken critics of pinkwashing, their devotion to the present day needs of patients and the realities of breast cancer sets them apart.

Read about these organizations and what they stand for. If what they say makes sense to you, share the news with the women you love to get the new dialogue about breast cancer rolling. Hopefully, 20 years from now we can talk about how Americans joined informed forces to reduce the impediments to true breast cancer awareness and research progress on their way to defeating the disease.

 

Sarah Smith is a local freelance writer who lives in Columbia.

Filming at Cafe Hon Starts this Week for TV’s Hell’s Kitchen

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The Baltimore Sun reported last week that filming of the Fox show Hell’s Kitchen begins this week at Cafe Hon whose owner Denise Whiting was reviled earlier this year for her “ownership” of the term “Hon.” 

It’s a risky move for the Hampden eatery given that the show’s objective is to show the dysfunction of a restaurant and in one week try to bring the place back to life. Good luck with that.

On the show the volatile, expletive-happy star Gordon Ramsay not only changes the restaurant’s menu, he also changes its theme and presentation. So if he doesn’t like all that “Hon” stuff (or is swayed not to like it to by the guests) he could very well get rid of it for good.  Frankly, haven’t we all had enough of the “Hon” thing?  Maybe Ramsay will do Whiting, and Baltimore, a favor and ditch the tired mascot.

But if you want to be on TV, head to Cafe Hon this week.

SoWeBo

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Between 2001 and 2005, I lived on East Preston Street, between Charles and St. Paul, and every so often I’d hear the clop-clop-clop of horses’ hooves outside my third floor window. Looking out, I’d see an Arabber selling fresh fruit and vegetables from his cart at the corner of Charles and East Preston, right opposite where Starbucks is now. I never see Arabbers anymore in Mount Vernon or even along Mount Royal, where I’d sometimes see a cart on the corner of Dolphin Street. But the Arabbers are still around, as I discovered this summer when a friend and I were taken on a walking tour of Southwest Baltimore courtesy of Martha Cooper, a photographer who commutes between New York City and her house in SoWeBo.

We started out journey at Hollins Market, and as we rounded the corner from Carrollton Avenue to Carlton Street, I got a whiff of country smells — straw and horse manure. Right there, tucked between Carlton and Lemmon streets, in a little crossroads of alleys, we came across a stable full of beautiful horses, a couple of ponies, some roosters, and two large coops of homing pigeons. Stablehand Terry Partlow introduced us to his horses Buck and Diamond, and showed us the horse-drawn cart and rig he uses to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables. The Carlton Street Stables look small from the outside, but are actually quite commodious, and–with the exception of one dirty pony that was tied up outside, waiting for a bath–the horses all appeared clean and well-kept. It was strange to find this little farm right in the heart of urban Baltimore — strange but wonderful, as there’s nothing better than the fresh scent of the stables. And although the Arabbers themselves may no longer be as common as they once were, it’s good to see their horses are cared for and going strong.

To learn more, check out the engaging documentary We Are Arabbers, completed by Scott Kecken and Joy Lusco Kecken in 2004. See the trailer video on our homepage.