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Boston Herald, November 15, 2009
Rape Counseling Threatened
A program credited with putting sex offenders behind bars and helping women cope with the aftermath of rape is facing the budget ax, alarming state health and law enforcement officials.
The program known as SANE - for sexual assault nurse examiners - lost 66 percent of its $2.4 million budget as part of the stateâ€™s latest round of emergency cuts, leaving too little cash for the program to survive, advocates say.
The 15-year-old program, which trains nursing professionals to use â€œrape kitsâ€ on sex-crime victims to document the assault, testify in court about forensic evidence and lend emotional support to the victims, could end by Jan. 1.
â€œSANE has become an integral part of our investigations and prosecutions,â€ said David Deakin, a Suffolk prosecutor and chief of the Family Protection & Sexual Assault Bureau. â€œThe SANE nurses support and empower victims. They have worked with hundreds of survivors and are experts in processing evidence. (Their work) increases likelihood that forensic evidence will be found.â€
The SANE program aided more than 1,500 victims last year, including 660 children, according to its director, Lucia Zuniga. Officials say the program has a 90-plus percent conviction rate for women or families who decide to testify.
Dr. David Lisak, a clinical psychologist at the University of Massachusetts at Boston who studies sex offenders and murderers, says cutting SANE would be tragic. â€œThe impact would be that down the line there are more rapists out there who are not prosecuted,â€ he said. â€œWe know that the majority of rapists are serial rapists, and our infrastructure for prosecuting nonstranger rape cases is already depleted.â€
120 nurses statewide
The 120 SANE nurses in Massachusetts are on call 24 hours a day and paid $13 to $20 an hour when they respond to a case, Zuniga said. The nurses work with victims from the time they reach the emergency room to the time they testify in court.
Zuniga said that before SANE, traumatized victims were shuffled among health-care workers in the emergency room, nurses, residents and physicians, all examining the patient. Frequently, when higher-level trauma cases came into the ER, rape victims were left to wait up to eight hours to be seen. Sometimes the victims left, Zuniga said.
â€œWith a SANE (nurse), you have the same nurse do the whole process, which is about three to four hours, and involves meticulous evidence collection, HIV medication if necessary, STD treatment and emergency contraception.â€
The Emergency Nurse Association has endorsed the SANE program as the best in the nation in treating victims of sexual assault.
This year, SANEâ€™s pediatric program will treat 850 in the Bay State, advocates say. The program is designed to collect evidence on children, many younger than 14 years of age, who have experienced acute sexual abuse. They also provide emotional healing for children, SANE says, while serving as an important liaison between the child and the prosecution of their perpetrator.
Benefit to victims
Dr. Judith Linden, an attending physician at Boston Medical Center and certified sex assault nurse examiner, said the nurses â€œare trained more than the residents. Theyâ€™re thorough. The residents might be responsible for 10 other patientsâ€ at a time.
Linden added that residents are only temporarily employed at a hospital, inhibiting them from courtroom expert testimony for rape and sexual assault cases. Often â€œresidents have moved onâ€ to other hospitals by the time the case is called to court, and prosecutors lack resources to fly them in each time a case goes to trial.
Linden said without the program â€œthe quality of evidence collection and prosecution rate will be affected.â€ SANE advocates also say the program is a cost-saver, helping to catch and quickly prosecute offenders.
April 20, 2010
SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT.
NativeEnergy is the celebrities' choice in offset providers. But the stars might be hard-pressed to say what they are getting.
TheÂ Vermont for-profit carbon offset company lists among its eco-conscious customersÂ Ben and Jerry's, theÂ Dave Matthews Band,Â Jon Bon Jovi, theDemocratic National Committee, and the makers ofÂ Al Gore's movie "AnÂ Inconvenient Truth." The company is a darling of many environmentalists.
But customers usingÂ NativeEnergy's online site to calculate and offset their current carbon footprint at $14 a ton are buying a promise that the environmental benefit will be delivered gradually over the next 20 years. Until then, their climate-changing emissions are not neutralized.
The company's model is unique, and controversial.NativeEnergy mostly sells offsets for projects that have yet to happen or are only in the works. What it calls a "help build" concept is not accepted by the leading independent certification organizations, which typically verify only carbon reduction emissions that actually have occurred.Â NativeEnergy sells its emission reductions upfront â€“ and says they will be verified later, when they occur.
"It's unique because of the future-value question," acknowledgesÂ Bob Sheppard, head of Clean Air Cool Planet, the nonprofit that "retires"NativeEnergy's offsets to ensure they are not reused. Most offset companies sell the carbon reduction from a single year, Mr. Sheppard says. "They buy the life-cycle [of a project], estimating it will run 20 years."
Tom Boucher, a former utility official who helped found NativeEnergy, defends his company's method as an innovative way of building new projects that help the environment.
"If you are simply paying for something that is already happening, it's far less compelling," he says in an interview inÂ NativeEnergy's office. "The power of our help-build model with our upfront payments is [that] it really becomes part of the financing. If you just look to our shortened terms and conditions, or wherever we make a claim around an amount, we always have a reference to 'it's over time.' "
NativeEnergy described itself in 2007 as "a privately held Native American energy company," and now says it is "significantly owned" by native American tribes.Â Tom Stoddard, a former utility company lawyer and vice president ofÂ NativeEnergy, says native ownership is 16 percent. Mr. Boucher and Mr. Stoddard are not native Americans. They say they help finance projects that benefit indigenous people.
Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, based inÂ Minnesota, argues that carbon offsets do more harm than help for native peoples. He says indigenous people fromÂ Canada toÂ South America are being pushed off land for incoming carbon projects, and often do not share in the economic benefits created by these offset projects.
They are "just another mechanism to relieve society of the fact that we need to make real changes," Mr. Goldtooth says. "It functions to relieve someone of their guilt."
Boucher and Stoddard are adamant that they aid in creating helpful environmental projects that would not exist otherwise â€“ a fundamental requirement of offsets. This "additionality" requirement means offsets cannot be generated by a project that would have been built anyway; the offset must create some new, added, reduction in greenhouse gases to neutralize the emissions of the offset buyer.
NativeEnergy officials cite their part in building windmills inÂ Greensburg,Â Kan., after that town was devastated by a tornado in 2007.Â President Obamatouted the project to Congress as "a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community."
TheÂ US Department of Agriculture gave a $17.4 million loan toÂ John Deere Renewables to finance the Greensburg project;Â NativeEnergy provided some portion of John Deere's remaining costs of $6 million â€“ they and John Deere will not say how much. Stoddard insists the windmills would not have been constructed without NativeEnergy money.Â Steve Hewett, the Greensburg town administrator, says "the project was happening. They just made it quicker, and made the pricing look better."
The question of additionality emerges in many carbon offsets: If a windmill or solar project would have been built anyway, then the money from the offsets was not needed and therefore the offset did not create an additional emissions reduction. It does not create a new counterbalance.Â [Editor's note: It has been called to our attention thatÂ NativeEnergy has obtained certification from First Environment, a qualified carbon offset certification organization, in connection with the Greenburg, Kan. windfarm project.]
Tom Rawls, a vice president and spokesman for NativeEnergy, notes that while their website is aimed at encouraging individuals to calculate their "carbon footprint" and make purchases online, many of the company's offsets are bought by businesses to "green" their operations. Rawls contends the businesses that buy offsets understand the complexity.
"We are not selling offsets to turnips," he says. "These are companies that are either very sophisticated or they are large and they have technical people and they understand what they are getting."
Boston Herald, October 18, 2008
Jon Lester an inspiration for fans fighting cancer
Two thoughts race through 12-year-old Cameron Rileyâ€™s mind when you mentionÂ Red Sox miracle pitching aceÂ Jon Lester.
One is baseball.
The other is cancer.
â€œI figure if Jon Lester can make it back to the major leagues after cancer, I can make it back to the little leagues,â€ said the blue-eyed New Hampshire boy known as â€œCamâ€ whoâ€™s battling lymphoma at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
â€œI love Jon Lester because of his spirit.â€
Cam, who just returned to school after a year fighting the disease, and his dad will witness the star pitcher and his team take on the Rays today at the ALCS Game 3 atÂ Fenway Park [map], courtesy of Sox partner Michael Gordon.
Like many Americans battling cancer, Cameron looks to the Red Sox pitcher as a symbol of what he hopes to become: cancer-free.
Lester, 24, stunned the sports world two years ago in August when the promising young Sox lefty was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma. The Washington native fought back with chemotherapy and was reportedly cancer-free by December. By last summer, he was throwing for the Sox again, and come October played a key role in the Soxâ€™s World Series championship, pitching the clinching game 4 against the Colorado Rockies.
This year, heâ€™s been a strong presence on the mound again, even throwing a no-hitter May 19 against the Kansas City Royals. Today, Red Sox Nation is looking to their hero to lead a rebound against Tampa Bay, who are tied with them in the series, 1-1.
Nineteen-year-old Tori Rando will be watching closely.
â€œThe players can take all the pain away, I donâ€™t think they even understand,â€ said the Wrentham woman, avid Sox fan, high school graduate and cancer survivor.
Rando battled, and then beat, non-Hodgkinâ€™s lymphoma.
â€œLester means a lot to me. I was heartbroken to hear he had cancer, but I felt a comfort,â€ said Rando. â€œHe put a career aside. I only put high school aside. He inspired and helped me.
â€œWe have a bond that nobody else has, and he doesnâ€™t even know me. Weâ€™ve never met.â€
The Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana Farber has a long-standing relationship with the Red Sox - as the teamâ€™s official charity - and there is no shortage of courage, or of Sox devotion, at the clinic.
â€œMeeting the players changes peopleâ€™s lives, they come back different kids,â€ said Lisa Scherber, activities coordinator at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. â€œThe Red Sox add that extra something, the Red Sox are their heroes.â€