Posts tagged with "The Boston Globe"

Back to the soil in Boston: An almost-instant vegetable garden for novice growers

May 6, 2020

You won’t need any gardening experience to grow some organic vegetables from home this spring. Boston Victory Gardens has made the enterprise as foolproof as possible with its launch of at-home container gardens.

Founded by landscape designers Ellen Abdow, owner of Perennial Gardens, and Jenn Nawada, owner of Nawada Landscape Design and lead landscaper on PBS’s “This Old House,” Boston Victory Gardens delivers pre-planted, portable vegetable gardens to Greater Boston customers’ doors.

Abdow and Nawada teamed up to create a new business when sheltering-at-home customers showed interest in growing their own produce, The Boston Globe reports. They love gardens, but they don’t have any experience gardening, Abdow said of her clients. “And one thing that we know is being with plants and growing really does help you feel good,” she added.

Each box arrives full of vegetable plants and seeds packed into the soil so that new plants sprout after the first round goes out of season. The company offers a range of themed boxes from Taco Tuesday, containing hot peppers, tomatoes, and other ingredients you’d find in a taco; to Mixologist, comprising herbs handy for cocktails; and the Green Monstah, devoted to classic salad vegetables.

Starting at $225, the boxes aren’t cheap, but they’re designed to be easy to cultivate. Nawada, an expert in soil and plant science, explains that each is filled with engineered soil and is horticulturally failure resistant, meaning even the most inexperienced gardeners can collect the fruits of their labor.

The 3-foot by 1-foot large boxes come with some plants ready to be harvested and are made to last through multiple growing seasons. Smaller sizes also are available, according to the Globe. As long as gardeners water and trim the sprouts, some vegetables like carrots and herbs can last until the winter frost.

he company provides plant care instructions and recipes with each order. “I think this is a great testing zone to start small and then maybe expand next year into another garden,” Nawada said.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Emptier roads, fuller pockets: Auto insurance customers get payback from Allstate, AFI

April 8, 2020

Never before have so many vehicles in the United States been “off-road.” In recognition of customers who are not only self-isolating, but also sheltering their cars in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, auto insurers Allstate and American Family Insurance are returning some money to drivers nationwide, The Boston Globe reports.

On April 6, Allstate announced on its site, “As we all work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, more of us are at home and driving less, which means having fewer accidents. Given this decline in driving, we are announcing the Allstate Shelter-in-Place Payback of more than $600 million in April and May for our auto insurance customers.

Allstate CEO Tom Wilson said in his company’s statement. “This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents.”

American Family Insurance said it plans to return about $200 million to its auto insurance customers through a one-time payment of $50 per covered vehicle, the Globe says.

States across the country have issued stay-at-home mandates to help slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. That’s led to a decline of about 35%t to 50% in driving in most states, Wilson said.

“We started with one week of data and we sat down and said, ‘OK, what do we do about this?’ It’s one week of data. We don’t normally price on one week of data,” Wilson said on a media conference call Monday. “In about a week and half, we pulled this off. There was not one debate in our company about whether we should do this or not.”

Allstate said its first-quarter underwriting income will be cut by about $210 million before taxes because of the payback to holders of 18 million policies, with the remainder of the payback to be recognized in the second quarter. The company is also offering free identity protection for the rest of the year and payment relief for struggling customers, the Globe reported..

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Skiers and suppliers donate goggles to healthcare workers in desperate need of PPE

April 3, 2020

As healthcare professionals continue to face severe supply shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a global pandemic, one of the many makeshift solutions to the problem has been implemented by the winter sports community, The Boston Globe reports.

Skiers and snowboarders, like other sports enthusiasts, had their season cut short by the measures intended to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak. But thanks to a newly created New England-based organization, they can help pitch in to remedy the shortage of protective medical equipment.

Goggles For Docs is helping companies and individuals donate ski and snowboard goggles to hospitals for use as personal protective equipment (PPE). It was started by Jon Schaefer, co-owner and general manager of Catamount and Berkshire East ski areas.

Schaefer, who led the charge to close ski areas due to the threat of the coronavirus, noted that his heightened awareness was because of direct connections with the healthcare world.

“My wife is a physician’s assistant at Berkshire Medical Center, and there was an early outbreak in Pittsfield,” Schaefer said. “I know a lot of the doctors there. I have a friend who intubated patient zero in Vermont, so I guess I had a direct line to the stress.”

But. he said, the inspiration for the donations came on Saturday, March 28: “A friend of a friend, who is a physician in New York emailed me asking for ski goggles for the health care workers there. That email went out to six of us. Within 20 minutes, I was getting that same email forwarded to me from other friends. All I could think of is, jeez, this doctor is going to get 10,000 pairs of Smith goggles sent to his house and that’s not a very efficient use of resources.”

Schaefer started a Google sheet and a contact list. Pretty soon, the list of hospitals signing up went from one to six.  On Sunday morning, he woke up to what seemed like 500 emails.

One of the messages that came to Schaefer, who is, himself, a former Middlebury College Division 1 ski racer, contained a message from Trevor Crist, the CEO of Inntopia — a Stowe-based ski resort software company, offering whatever help was needed in getting things more organized.

“I knew the company, but had never spoken [to] or heard from these guys before,” says Schaefer.  “On a return trip from a local grocery, I started fleshing out a website on a phone call with them.” The Goggles for Docs site went online at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“ All the while the word was spreading at the hospital level. “Even as we were on the phone building this, three more hospitals signed up,” Schaefer said.

As of Monday evening, March 30, nearly 2,000 used and new goggles were being sent to hospitals in seven states—and requests to organize have come in from hospitals as far away as New Zealand and Spain. On Monday night, ten more hospitals signed up, with a stated need of nearly 1,000 more goggles.

“I’m not sure how it works on their end, but doctors have told me two things: First, that they need goggles as COVID-19 can be transmitted with, say a direct cough to the eyeball, and second, that they can take care of disinfecting and distributing them,” Schaefer said.

While Schaefer’s wife is not currently wearing goggles as her hospital has adequate supplies of eyewear, Schaefer says that Berkshire Medical Center has put in an order for 300 and their need was met by the public with a large contribution, 217, coming from Uvex.

He told The Boston Globe, “What’s crazy about this whole thing is one day we’re all going to meet,” Schaefer said of the hundreds of volunteers. “There’s this whole team that’s developed, and only a handful of us that know each other face to face.

“Everybody wants to help. The one thing I think we did was connect people with a lot of passion to help and a motivated ski community with people that are really asking for help. If anything, maybe in that there’s just a little bit of hope. People are fired up.”

“I didn’t wake up this week thinking I was going to be the COVID Goggle Guy — we have a lot to take care of at our businesses now too,” says Schaefer. “It was just one thing that we as a ski industry could do to help.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Walmart to check worker temps, and provide masks and gloves

April 2, 2020

Walmart has some new “people greeters”—but they are for employees, not customers. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant will begin checking workers’ temperatures this month, and providing them with gloves and masks—stepping up its safety protocols as it hires roughly 5,000 employees a day to meet heightened demand during the coronavirus crisis, The Boston Globe reports.

The company is shipping infrared thermometers to all its stores so that employees can have their temperatures checked when they report for work, the company announced in a blog post. The thermometers should arrive in three weeks.

The masks will arrive within two weeks. Walmart notes, “They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators—which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers.

“We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them,” the retailer says, “while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them.”

“Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary,” the blog post said, adding, “The associate will not be able to return to work until they are fever-free for at least three days.”

Walmart said its employees are eligible for as much as two weeks paid leave, if they are required to quarantine; and that absences would not be held against them.

Most retailers have been pummeled by the coronavirus shutdown. Indeed, the United States had a record 3.3 million jobless claims last week—but not Walmart. The nation’s largest private employer has ramped up hiring and is on track to have 150,000 jobs filled by the end of May, executives announced in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

The company has shortened its hiring process from an average of two weeks to “as little as 24 hours,” HR Dive reported.

The company promises, as it continues to build up its workforce, “We will continue to consult with health officials and experts inside and outside Walmart as this situation evolves. We greatly appreciate the work our associates are doing for customers, members, and their communities, and we will continue to prioritize their health and well-being.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Boston Globe does an about-face to endorse Elizabeth Warren

February 27, 2020

After labeling Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren as the wrong candidate for 2020 in a scornful editorial in December 2018, The Boston Globe has executed a complete flip-flop.

“… One candidate stands out as a leader with the qualifications, the track record, and the tenacity to defend the principles of democracy, bring fairness to an economy that is excluding too many Americans, and advance a progressive agenda,” The Globe said on February 26 in an endorsement of Warren, adding, “She would fight the corruption and corporate influence that distort our politics, lift up working families, and combat gun violence and climate change.”

The newspaper’s editorial board said the 70-year-old politician and former academic, who has served the state as senator since 2013, “has proved us wrong and has shaped the course of the race for the better. The electorate, at least in recent polls and in the early states, is signaling its preference for the profound change that underpins Warren’s agenda.”

Indeed, the Globe believes, Warren would be the best rival for President Donald Trump on the debate stage. Fearless and brilliant on her feet, Warren has the greatest potential among the candidates to lay bare Trump’s weaknesses on a debate stage.”

The complete text of the endorsement is available here.

By contrast,  in December 2018, the Globe’s editorial board poured scorn on a potential bid by its home state senator, saying:  “Warren missed her moment in 2016, and there’s reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020.”

The paper went on at that time to characterize Warren as “a divisive figure” and not the “unifying voice” it said the country needed following “the polarizing politics of Donald Trump.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Founder of JetBlue is set to launch Breeze Airways in 2020

February 17, 2020

Twenty years have just flown by since David Neeleman founded Jet Blue; and now he has another air carrier—this one targeted at customers of midsize, underserved airports—ready to take off, The Boston Globe reports.

Called Breeze Airways, the carrier will begin operations at the end of 2020, flying to airports in the eastern United States; with plans to go national, and then international.

Breeze Airways is the fifth airline start-up for David Neeleman—with Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue Airways, and Azul Brazilian Airlines already in his portfolio—and last week, after more than a year of anticipation, he finally made it official.

“Breeze will fly nonstop service between places currently without meaningful or affordable service,” he said in a release. “Twenty years ago, we brought humanity back to the airline industry with JetBlue. Today, we’re excited to introduce plans for ‘the World’s Nicest Airline.’”

Neeleman didn’t offer specifics of how Breeze will be the world’s nicest airline (fingers crossed it will live up to the slogan), nor did he announce airports that would be served, the Globe said.

The airline will be headquartered in Salt Lake City, but in its application for an air carrier’s certificate, the company told U.S. regulators that destinations will be “secondary leisure markets” that are affordable to budget travelers. The application also said that Breeze will begin with routes east of the Mississippi, “primarily north-south.”

“Over the last decade, the major US airlines have consolidated and concentrated their efforts at fortress hubs,” the announcement for Breeze reads. “Resulting in diminished air travel options for entire segments of the country, with many routes now only served by connecting flights.”

Breeze has ordered 60 brand-new Airbus A220-300 aircraft, with deliveries beginning in April 2021, and has leased 30 Embraer 195 aircraft from Azul, which will deliver starting May 2020. The A220 will be used for nonstop flights between midsize markets; while the E195s, which are plentiful and inexpensive, can connect smaller markets.

Research contact: @FlyBreezeAir

Staples reinvented: Office supplies, a podcasting studio, co-working space, and career coaching

February 3, 2020

The floor-to-ceiling aisles of Post-it Notes, pushpins, pencils, and printer paper? History. The endless rows of three-ring binders and back-to-school bargains? Gone.

Instead, there are light-filled co-working spaces with snack-stocked kitchens, digitally tricked-out meeting rooms, and podcasting studios, reports The Boston Globe of the new concept for the 30-year-old retain chain—now being tested in Massachusetts.

Meet the new Staples: It’s not just an office supply superstore anymore, it is, the company puts it, a “destination dedicated to continued curiosity, growth, and development.”

Staples built a leading national brand as the traditional stationery store on steroids when it first started out in 1986, the Globe says. But since then, the workplace—and how we shop for i —have undergone transformational changes. Cloud-based computing, telecommuting, and the ease of one-click ordering have diminished demand for big-box stores stocked with reams of paper, the new outlet notes.

 Now, in a dramatic effort to stay relevant, Staples is recasting itself as a place where you can co-work, record a podcast, stock up for your next Uber shift—or even get fingerprinted for a job.

“It’s not about product anymore. That’s something you can buy anywhere online,” Michael Motz, chief executive of the Staples U.S. Retail group told the Globe as he loped across one of the newly renovated Staples Connect stores in Needham, Massachusetts. “It’s about, how can we provide solutions for you? It’s the connection to your everyday life.”

But whether the full-scale makeover will be enough to steer the company into better financial health remains to be seen.

“It’s about us being more relevant and part of the community,” Motz said.

Staples used to devote just 10% of each store’s footprint to offering services like printing and shipping, said Brian Coupland, the company’s VP of Retail Merchandising. About half of the redesigned Needham store’s layout is dedicated to services now—with desks renting for $299 a month, and private offices for $599 a month (in downtown Boston co-working desks rent for $499 a month and offices go for $999 monthly).

Members and store customers can get free access to fancy AV-enabled meeting rooms that will also host seminars and workshops. And members can use podcast studios gratis (available to nonmembers for $60 an hour). Concierge services like legal, funding, or HR advice are available for small-business customers. And anyone can apply for a TSA PreCheck, a special state license, or a background check.

According to the Globe, even the store aisles “feel less cluttered and more playful than they once did; in the pen section, doodle pads invite customers to try a drawing challenge and a crafting section includes displays of paper cut into floral designs.”

 Coupland said outside consultants helped them to upend their traditional approach to office supplies, resulting in products like its new patented “squircle” highlighter markers (they have square edges so they won’t roll off desks). And kiosks offer gig-economy accoutrements: An Uber station offers charging cords, candies, and bottle water; Airbnb hosts can find Nest thermometers, smart locks, and Wifi hubs.

The store said it has more than 400 members across its various locations, but when a reporter toured the newly-designed downtown space earlier this week, the co-working site was empty.

However, Charles Smith—who has been co-working at the Staples’ Brighton location since 2016—told the Globe that he now rents a dedicated office in the space. The cannabis consultant also regularly works at the Needham store, and says he loves its flexibility: He can get downtown easily for meetings, parking is free, and he can get home to his three kids in Wellesley in minutes.

“Having a commute that’s half of what the average person commutes is a big advantage,” he said. He’s said he’s found mentors on site, and he regularly uses his discounts for printing and marketing tools, so he’s excited the company is expanding its offerings.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

IRobot to expand from Roomba vacuums and lawnmowers to household helpers with arms

January 13, 2020

Need a little more help around the house? Bedford, Massachusetts-based IRobot, maker of the disc-shaped Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, hopes to have a product on the market within five years that will have arms to load dishes, pick up clothes, or bring food from kitchen to table, The Boston Globe reports.

Indeed, prototypes of the arms have been produced in the told the Globe in an interview on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. IRobot’s main new hardware launch for 2020 will be its Terra lawnmower.

The company, which has been in business for 20 years, previously developed robotic-arm technology for its military business unit. The company sold that business in 2016 but kept the arm assets.

At the time, the company didn’t know how to adapt the technology for mainstream use, Angle said, but new advancements in computer vision and the ability for robots to map out a person’s home make such devices possible.

Other technology companies also are working on home robots, including Amazon and Samsung Electronics, according to the Globe—but so far they are focusing on devices with video conferencing and voice assistants, rather than the ability to actually perform physical tasks.

The trade war between the U.S. and China could put a damper on iRobot’s ambitions in the near term. Angle said it’s had a “negative impact” on business. “We are having to scale back R&D and profitability” targets, he said. The company started shipping its lower-cost Roomba vacuum cleaner robots out of Malaysia, instead of China, in November, he said.

Research contact: @iRobot

Pressley stuns political establishment with victory in Boston’s 7th District

September 6, 2018

On September 4, Ayanna Pressley joined the cadre of progressive Democratic women who are winning over voters nationwide. The first African-American woman elected to the Boston City Council in 2009, Pressley now has made history again—defeating Representative Michael Capuano (D-7th District), a ten-term incumbent heavily backed by the political establishment.

According to a September 4 report by Michael Levenson of The Boston Globe,with no Republican in the race, Pressley, 44, is poised to become the first woman of color from Massachusetts to serve in the U.S. House, in a storied district that, although reconfigured, was once represented by John F. Kennedy and the legendary Speaker of the House Thomas   P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr.

Pressley’s victory over Capuano, a 66-year-old down-the-line liberal first elected to Congress in 1998, “represents a generational, gender, and racial shift in Boston politics, and an upending of the wait-your-turn ethos that has pervaded the Democratic Party locally and statewide,” Levenson said.

Pressley won with an unofficial 63.8% of the votes. However, Capuano saw the loss coming—and reportedly capitulated with barely 13% of the votes counted. In conceding the election, the long-time politician said, ““I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but this is life, and this is OK. America is going to be OK. Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congresswoman and Massachusetts will be well-served.”

A now-viral video captured Pressley’s emotional reaction to the news that she had won.

 “It’s a new day,” Alfreda Harris, a veteran African-American activist and former Boston School Committee member from Roxbury, told the Globe. “Younger people are getting involved in politics, and, particularly, black women. It’s good for the country and it’s good for the state of Massachusetts.”

While Pressley and Capuano had agreed on most issues, she argued that it was “not a profile in courage” to have a progressive record in a deep-blue district. She vowed to bring “activist leadership” that reflected the take-it-to-the-streets mood of voters who are marching for gun control, immigrant rights, and women’s rights in the Trump era.

With her refrain, “The people closest to the pain should be closest to the power,” she evoked the #MeToo movement and cemented her case with the voters.

Despite broad support from major political figures, Capuano was unable to secure endorsements from the state’s two US senators, Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, who remained publicly neutral. Attorney General Maura T. Healey backed Pressley.

Research contactmichael.levenson@globe.com