Monthly Archives: January 2017

With a week of President Trump under their belt, area readers turning to Orwell’s ‘1984’

Orwell 1984

Photo Illustration/ By: Mark Stockwell The Sun Chronicle Staff

By: Abigail DesVergnes

George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” is flying off the shelves of area libraries and bookstores in the first week of the Trump administration.

And, that’s not all.

With “alternative facts” the latest national catchphrase, “1984” is No. 1 on Amazon.com and the publisher has ordered an additional 75,000 copies.

Originally published in 1949, the perennial high school summer reading assignment is hotter than “Farenheit 451,” another unsettling look at a future society by Ray Bradbury, in which books are banned and it’s the job of “firemen” to burn them.

Signet Classics said this week that sales of “1984” have been “remarkably robust.” The publisher noted that books such as Orwell’s tap into “the fears, anxieties, and even hopes” of readers.

The heightened interest in the classic, in which language itself is held captive, follows assertions this week by President Donald Trump and some White House aides about the size of his inaugural crowd and whether voter fraud led him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton last fall.

Administration adviser Kellyanne Conway has called such assertions “alternative facts.”

Attleboro High School English teacher Kevin Gorman taught the book to his students two years ago, and said he understands why people are clamoring for the the book.

He said Conway’s “alternative facts” is relatable to the novel’s “newspeak,” in which history and facts are turned on their heads again and again.

“Newspeak” is a language where unorthodox political ideas and individual thought is eliminated.

“I think that this book is just starting to become popular because people are realizing the different factors that control the media, like ‘fake news,’ government and varying political biases,” Gorman said.

At the Franklin public library, requests for the book has sky-rocketed in the past week. Of 80 copies, only two were available Thursday afternoon.

Vicky Earls in the library’s reference department said she ordered four more copies because of the high demand.

At An Unlikely Story bookstore in Plainville, sales of “1984” are higher than before.

And at the Attleboro Public Library, two-thirds of its copies of the novel were checked out Thursday.

For a while, “1984” was one of AHS senior Jacob Bibeault’s favorite books.

Bibeault compared the novel’s protagonist, Winston, whose job it is to erase and re-write history, to current events.

“Trump is a big perpetrator of this,” Bibeault said. “He will often mold history and statistics to his advantage, allowing him to garner political support. He’s doing the same thing as Winston.

“The Internet does this just as much. People on social media and news websites make false claims as well, without any evidence, and people believe them.”

“People are taking interest because they want to compare their world to the world of ‘1984,’” Bibeault said. “People are seeing the similarities between the ideas in the novel, and the world we live in today.

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Obama’s Legacy

 

Obama

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ Associated Press

 

 

For better or worse, Friday marks the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, an era that began eight years ago with a beam of hope at America’s first African-American commander in chief.

Arguably, a string of accomplishments followed.

Obama worked to reverse the Great Recession, brought home U.S. troops from Iraq, dispatched 9/11 terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, presided over marriage equality and, through his signature Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, expanded health insurance to millions of Americans.

Along the way, there was applause and jeers.

Now, after a bitter, polarizing election, keys to the White House are changing hands and Republican Donald J. Trump is ascending to the highest office in the land — and that might be the best thing that can be said of the state of the union.

Obama called it “the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next” during his farewell address last week.

Here are the opinions of local citizens, who reflected on the ups and downs of Obama’s presidency.

 


 

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Screenshot/ Photo of Burt Buckley (left) at the old Clam Shack on Pleasant St. in Attleboro

Republican Burt Buckley of Attleboro, a one-time, unsuccessful, candidate for state representative, knows the knocks of politics first-hand.

Three years later, Buckley says he’s focusing on running his family-owned restaurant, The Clam Shack, in Attleboro.

Politics can be a lot like eating out, he said.

“Even if you don’t like the food on the menu, you can at least respect the people that enjoy it,” the 48-year-old said.

Buckley opposes the Affordable Care Act, saying “it’s not something that should go down as a great part of his legacy.”

But, he said he still respects that Obama went forward with what he promised during his first campaign. Nonetheless, as a small business owner under Obama’s watch, Buckley said the increase in taxes has been painful.

“Taxes upon taxes upon taxes does not build a business,” he said.

Though not all of Obama’s policies meshed with what Buckley believes in, he said he respects the president’s legacy.

“I’m not one to say that all was lost,” Buckley said. “I think that this country has grown. I think that under Obama’s presidency we are a lot more politically aware and accepting today than ever before.”

 


 

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Martin Gavin/ The Sun Chronicle Staff: Photo of Jim Hawkins, a retired AHS math teacher.

Jim Hawkins of Attleboro retired two years ago from teaching math at Attleboro High School.

Hawkins, 67, is a Democrat, and believes the past eight years have gone “very smoothly” under Obama.

Hawkins describes Obama as an “articulate and excellent speaker,” who always “stays on agenda.”

He added that Obama is “smart, knowledgeable and brilliant,” a man who knew the ins and outs of his morning briefings and was most likely smarter than the guy sitting next to him.

If there is anything Hawkins would change about Obama’s presidency it would have been Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Hawkins disagreed with Duncan’s Common Core standards to evaluate students and teachers.

As the Trump Inauguration nears, Hawkins fears a Trump presidency will reverse much of what Obama — not the least of which is repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s very scary that people may be limited from having the care they need,” he said.

Hawkins said he is most impressed there have been no scandals during the Obama administration.

“Meanwhile,” he said, “I can name 20 questionable conflicts of interest under Trump’s campaign.”


Obama Legacy Ponder, Elizabeth

Photo By: Mark Stockwell/ The Sun Chronicle Staff: Photo of Liz Cohen, a mother and law student at Suffolk University in Boston

Liz Cohen, 34, is a wife, mother of two, and law student at Suffolk University in Boston.

All of that, and she still has time to keep up on politics.

Looking back on Obama’s presidency, she describes his legacy as “a class act.”

“The president, first lady and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, all represented a loving and strong family unit,” Cohen said.

When Obama first ran for office in 2008, Cohen was living in Germany with her husband, who was deployed with the Army at the time.Her first glimpse of Obama was on a worn out TV, a moment she will never forget.

“He was very likable, a fresh new face, driven and ready to compete for the highest power in office,” she said.

Reflecting on the past eight years, Cohen has been most impressed by what she calls the dignity and poise Obama maintained while fighting for his agenda against a hostile Congress.

“No matter what Obama did, he always tried to connect to the lives of the people within this country,” she said. “It was his charisma that I loved and will never forget.”


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Photo By: Jaclyn Kate Photography Photo of Kelsey Gallant, a Biology major at UMASS Amherst and a former grad of AHS

Kelsey Gallant of Attleboro was in eighth grade when Obama was elected president.

And although she doesn’t remember exactly how she felt about Obama at the time, she remembers thinking in class — after studying African-American history — how historical it was that an African American was elected the 44th president of the United States.

“After about 400 years of racial discrimination in America, it’s been pretty incredible to have President Obama represent our country,” she said.

Gallant, 21, applauds Obama for coming into office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression and presiding over the recovery, among other achievements.

But, a biology major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she says she’s particularly impressed with his climate action plan and push for clean energy.


Obama's Legacy Callahan

Photo By: Paul Connors/ The Sun Chronicle Staff Photo of Angela Callahan, a mother of former AHS journalism student Jon Kermah and Human Resourses director at Raytheon.

Attleboro resident Angela Callahan is director of human resources at Waltham-based Raytheon, a major defense contractor.

Callahan, 46, said she’s been an Obama supporter from the beginning, and felt “calmness” and “comfort” when he took office.

His election, she said, was “one of the most significant accomplishment for blacks and other people of color in this country.”

“It means that being black in this country should not be a hindrance to success,” Callahan said. “Others cannot and should not put limitations on any individual, based on the color of their skin.”

“This is one of the most significant outcomes documented in this country of all the hard work — inclusive of death — of so many who fought for equal rights in this country,” she said.

Experts warn of danger when headphones played at top volume

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AHS senior Mia Forrest wearing her Beats/ Photo by: Martiv Gavin The Sun Chronicle Staff

 

On Christmas morning, Attleboro resident Mia Forrest unwrapped Beats by Dr. Dre – one of the most popular name brand headphones of the year.

Beats by Dre was among the many must-haves children, teens and adults received on Christmas, but music headphones can be hazardous to hearing if used improperly.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health set in 1998 the acceptable sound limit at 85 decibels for adults, but turn up the volume all the way on your Beats, and you can reach up to 110 decibels – about as loud as a live rock concert.

Forrest, 18, says that she will never turn her headphones to that level.

“I usually turn the volume up halfway – it would hurt my ears if I went any higher,” she said.

Any higher and Forrest could have some serious damage to her ear drums, causing inner hair-like fibers responsible for activating frequencies of sounds (known as stereocilia) to be damaged. And, that eventually could lead to hearing disorders, such as noise-induced hearing loss, according to audiologist Ann Stockwell of North Attleboro.

Hearing loss is something Kyle Mercier, 21, of Attleboro says he won’t worry about until later in life.

“The music I listen to is loud enough to cause damage, but I’ll worry about that when I’m 60,” he said. “No matter what time of the day it is, I’m listening to my music loudly because when doing so, you really get the full effect of each song.”

It’s that “concert-goer” attitude that can lead to hearing loss down the road, according to Stockwell who works at an ear, nose and throat specialist’s office in Chestnut Hill in Boston.

Many of the patients she sees at the office are musicians – such as Berklee College of Music students in Boston – dealing with the first signs of hearing loss after listening to high intensity music for long hours, day in and day out.

Over the past year, she said, there’s been a 5 percent increase in students coming in to have their hearing checked.

“Loud music evokes something in us – it’s very enjoyable, and that’s why it’s so dangerous,” Stockwell said. “People wouldn’t listen to a jack hammer for hours on end, but they will listen to music for hours on end.”

And now with music apps like Spotify Premium and Apple Music listeners can stream any genre of music imaginable.

Attleboro High School senior James Scott says many students stream music on their portable devices and headphones throughout the school day – something he says is both distracting, but can be helpful.

“Listening to a certain class or genre of music can either make or break your concentration in school,” he said. “Listening to music with lyrics can make it very difficult when trying to read or write, while listening to purely instrumental music can be extremely helpful.”

But AHS English teacher Adeline Bee said that headphones and ear buds can be distracting in the classroom when students can’t always hear and concentrate on what the teacher is saying.

And with about one in five U.S. teens already displaying some sort of hearing loss, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, following conversations or discussions is even more difficult.

So, ear doctors are urging their patients – especially the youths- to take precautions.

Here is a list of suggestions from Stockwell about ways to prevent hearing loss while listening to music.

Don’t assume the headphones or ear buds you’re wearing are safe.  Manufacturers aren’t required to regulate a safe decibel level, and after overuse a high-intensity level can cause damage.       

Turn it down.Although loud music feels and sounds good, it’s not good for you.

Purchase the proper headphones.

Noise-cancelling headphones will eliminate background noise, so listeners don’t need to turn up the volume. Another option is to see an audiologist for a set of custom-fitted ear buds. The music will sound clearer at lower volume.

Follow the one-half to three-quarter rule.

Set the volume at 50 percent to 75 percent of maximum. Any louder, and you’re in the danger zone.

Warn a friend

If you can hear someone’s music playing a foot away from you, their headphones are turned up too loud.

Have regular ear check-ups.

Getting your ears checked on a regular basis can identify initial signs of hearing loss and help prevent further damage.

True Santa

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Nancy Lamothe volunteering at the AHS school store Photo by: Tom Maguire

By: Abigail DesVergnes

Nancy Lamothe has spent the past 13 years volunteering for Attleboro schools.

She is former president of the Blue Pride Ambassadors club at Attleboro High School and former treasurer for the PTO at Brennan Middle School.

Lamothe, 44, does everything and anything she can for the schools — from volunteering at the school store, working concession stands and running Teacher Appreciation Week.

Lamothe believes there’s a big responsibility when it comes to developing students into successful adults — the reason she volunteers year after year.

One of her biggest accomplishments was helping create the Blue Pride Palooza dinner in November, which raised more than $50,000 for Attleboro High School’s technology fund.

“The schools need all the support they can get. And if I, or anyone else has the ability to help out, it makes our school community a better place,” she said. “It’s truly amazing how rewarding it feels to give back to something that gives so much to our children.”

Lamothe is the wife of Marc Lamothe, 45, and the mother of four children, Hannah, 18; Emma, 16; Noah, 15; and Jack, 13.

True Santa

Mills, Kiara True Santa

AHS Senior, Kiara Mills is making cancer care packages for patients for Answer for Cancer   Photo by: Mark Stockwell/The Sun Chronicle

By: Abigail DesVergnes

Kiara Mills is an Attleboro High School senior trying to find an Answer for Cancer, and during the holiday season she helps make care packages for cancer patients at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro.

When Mills was younger, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Fortunately, her mother survived, but the experience really took a toll on the Mills family.

Once Mills entered into her freshman year of high school, she was introduced to the Answer for Cancer club and immediately decided to join.

“The most rewarding part about Answer for Cancer is being able to make someone who is struggling and in pain have a little happiness in their day — even if it is just for a little while,” she said.

This year, Mills raised enough money to create 105 care packages, and that isn’t including the rest of the club.

In the packages she will include chapstick, lotion, fuzzy socks, gloves, hats, pencils and crossword puzzles.

“To me, Christmas is all about love, and I hope that these care packages can help make a patient’s treatment a little easier,” she said.