Police warn of coronavirus-related internet scam

Police are warning the public about coronavirus-related malware that's been infecting people's computers.

According to a press release from the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center, shared by the Andover Police Department on Facebook, there's a malicious website made to look like John Hopkins University's live global map of coronavirus cases.

If the website is visited, it infects computers with malware that steals a variety of sensitive data.

The malware is located at the website, "corona-virus-map.com."

According to the cybersecurity center, the malware is most likely being spread through email attachments, malicious online advertisements and social engineering.

In addition, anyone searching the internet for a coronavirus map may unwittingly find themselves on this page as well.

— Genevieve DiNatale


Hydro power plan faces opposition

A plan to bring Canadian hydro power into Massachusetts to green the power grid faces an uncertain future amid opposition from activists in a neighboring state.

A $950 million project, which is being pursued by Central Maine Power Company, calls for delivering 9.4 million megawatt-hours a year of hydro power to Massachusetts consumers and New England's regional power grid for the next two decades. That's enough to supply roughly 17% of the state's peak electricity demand.

A 2016 law requires utilities to buy clean power to address climate change and diversify the state's energy portfolio. The New England Clean Energy Connect project would import electricity generated by Hydro-Québec's hydroelectric dams along a yet-to-be-built, 145-mile transmission line through western Maine.

But opponents say the project is a bad deal for Maine, as it would carve through scenic swaths of untouched forest and lead to a loss of jobs and recreational tourism.

They've submitted enough signatures to put the project before the state's voters in November, which could end up derailing Massachusetts' clean energy plans.

"This project would basically create an extension cord running from Quebec to Massachusetts, with no benefit to the people of Maine," said Sandra Howard, executive director of Say No to NECEC, a coalition of environmental groups opposed the project.

"It would cause large-scale environmental damage in what is the largest intact forest east of the Mississippi," she said.

Avangrid, parent company of Central Maine Power, argues that the clean energy project is good for Maine and the environment, and it will reduce carbon emissions that scientists say are contributing to a warming planet.

A company spokeswoman said there are questions "regarding the validity of the signatures" submitted to the state by the project's opponents and "whether they were attained legally."

"If this matter does go to referendum, we will make sure that Maine voters have all the facts about the project," the company said in a statement. "We will also consider all other options available to us."

Despite simmering opposition, the project has been slowly but steadily moving through the regulatory process.

In January, Maine's Land Use Planning Commission gave a green light to the project to proceed after determining that it complies with the panel's land use requirements.

The project must also get approval from Maine's Department of Environmental Protection, among other regulatory hurdles. The final plan must be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and get a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy because its transmission line would cross the border into another country.

The New England Clean Energy Connect project is actually Massachusetts' second choice to import hydropower-generated electricity.

The Northern Pass project, a joint venture between Hydro Quebec and Eversource, was the state's first attempt and was expected to convey 1 million megawatt hours per year through a 192-mile transmission line that would have run through New Hampshire. It was rejected by New Hampshire regulators in 2018 amid concerns it would suppress property values and damage the tourism industry.

Environmental groups, which have prodded Massachusetts to move away its reliance on fossil fuels and natural gas, want the state to accelerate a switch to wind, solar and renewable energies.

While some environmentalists support hydropower as an alternative to expanding the use of natural gas to heat homes and keep the lights turned on, they point out that hydro also has downsides. Among those are forests lost to flooding for new dams, the release of carbon dioxide from trees decomposing after floods and lower river levels.

Meanwhile, plans for the country's first utility-scale offshore wind farm remain on hold amid opposition from President Donald Trump, a vocal critic of wind energy who has focused on supporting coal and other fossil fuel industries.

Vineyard Wind, a $2.8 billion, 84-turbine wind farm planned 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard, was delayed in July by federal regulators amid concerns about the impact on commercial fisherman. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said additional review is needed in light of the concerns raised by "stakeholders and cooperating agencies."

In Massachusetts, state leaders are under pressure to meet energy demand and ambitious benchmarks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2018 that Massachusetts isn't following its own law aimed at reducing those emissions. The court required annual limits on greenhouse gas emissions until the state meets goals it set for itself in 2008 under the Global Warming Solutions Act.

— Christian M. Wade


Truck spills fuel near Rocks Village Bridge

A three-axle dump truck spilled diesel fuel near the Rocks Village Bridge just over the Haverhill line into West Newbury recently, according to a statement from the West Newbury Fire Department.

Around 1:30 p.m. Saturday of last week, firefighters were called to Church Street. A commercial dump truck had suffered a mechanical failure that resulted in a ruptured saddle fuel tank, according to the statement.

The West Newbury Police Department, West Newbury Public Works, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Massachusetts State Police all responded for support.

A quick-thinking resident used a plastic bin to capture much of the leaking fuel, according to the statement. Fire and police investigators estimate 25 to 30 gallons of fuel spilled in total, but less than half that amount ended up on the ground thanks to the neighbor, according to the Fire Department.

The vehicle was removed from the scene and Fire Department and public works crews were able to contain the spill, according to the statement. It is believed that there was no impact to the nearby Merrimack River, according to the statement.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is coordinating with clean-up crews to clean the area and remove contaminated soil. Also involved are the West Newbury Fire Department and West Newbury Department of Public Works.


Sheriff’s Department suspends visitation at facilities

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department has suspended all public visitation at the Middleton House of Correction, Lawrence Pre-Release Center, and Salisbury Women in Transition facilities effective Saturday of last week, in a continuing effort to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 into its facilities, according to a statement.

The following guidelines will be in effect until March 28, and may be extended as needed, according to statement:

All general public visitation at ECSD facilities are suspended. To offset these restrictions, inmates will be granted additional telephone privileges. In addition, each inmate will be allowed two calls per week, up to 30 minutes each, free of charge during these restrictions.

Commissary deposits can be made by visiting connectednetwork.com and in the lobby of ECSD facilities.

Attorney visits will continue at the Middleton facility, but will be non-contact visits. Attorney visits in Lawrence and Salisbury will be modified to allow safe distance between the parties for medical reasons.

Bail procedures will not be affected and will be conducted in normal fashion.

Community service crews, including highway clean-ups, will be suspended.

Inmates on Work Release will remain in that capacity but will be monitored closely for symptoms of the virus.

Because of the fluid nature of this pandemic, the above matters are subject to change at any time. Information is being shared with the inmate population so that they are aware of current events and changing department operations.

The Essex County Sheriff's Department will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and adjust policies as necessary. For more information and updates, visit EssexSheriffMa.Org.

— Mike LaBella


Scholars scour Essex County for African American history

It’s hard to share history if you don’t have all the facts, or even most of them.

That’s why the National Park Service in Salem, Massachusetts, hired a pair of scholars to catalog every document they could find in local archives relating to African American life in Essex County.

“I think the park service wants to make sure their programming, building exhibits and interpretive programming is more inclusive,” said Kabria Baumgartner, a Newburyport resident who teaches American studies at the University of New Hampshire.

So she and Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello, who lives in Somerville and teaches interdisciplinary studies at Salem State University, have undertaken a two-year search for documents that started last August.

They have divided more than a dozen archives between them, at sites including Andover Historical Center, Cape Ann Museum and Historic Beverly to the Newburyport Public Library, John Greenleaf Whittier Home and Museum in Amesbury, Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., and its Phillips Library in Rowley, and Amesbury Carriage Museum.

“We’re looking mostly in the 19th and 20th century, but we have looked at documents that go back to the 18th century, and then even more current documents,” Baumgartner said. “We’re going to be doing some interviews, too, with some African American residents in Essex County.”

The $100,000 grant for the project is jointly funded by the National Park Service and the Organization of American Historians, and the end product will be a guide that the park service can use to develop their programs, tours and exhibits.

“They can just pick up the guide book and say, this is an anniversary we want to celebrate, what do we have about slavery, what can we say about education?” Baumgartner said. “They can choose their time, and they would have the guide book and can figure out which repository has most of the documents on this one theme.”

Duclos-Orsello said that she has been doing research in these archives for 15 years, but that no one has ever conducted a comprehensive search for the “incredibly rich history of African American lives” in Essex County.

“Some of that history has been written, but much of the material and the textual evidence is either hidden, hard to access, misplaced, has not been tagged in archives, or is just unknown,” Duclos-Orsello said.

Along with cataloging all these materials, the guide that she and Baumgartner are writing will include an overview of how these archives are organized, whether the materials have been used in previous exhibits, and whether there are other collections that should be investigated in the future.

The two scholars also hope their guide will encourage collections to learn about each other, so they can tell stories about African American history that go beyond a single, local anecdote.

“If they’re all telling one story, there’s a danger in the single story, in that it allows people to think they know what the experience of African Americans was like because they know one thing,” Duclos-Orsello said. “I feel, from a social justice perspective, if we can get to a point where we can develop out some themes and threads that would allow the different sites to tell stories as part of a bigger story, then we’re doing a good job of placing the experiences of African Americans, we’re doing some good work in recentering those stories in the history of Essex County, because they’ve always been part of the story of Essex County.”

Baumgartner applies this inclusive approach to explaining history in her new book, “In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum America,” which was published in December.

The book introduces the reader to individual women of color who had to fight for access to an education that their white peers could take for granted, but also shows how their personal stories are tied to historical trends.

“I argue for a framework that puts African American girls and women at the center by viewing their actions collectively, not just individually, and by analyzing their ideas, words, and experiences as the valuable historical records they are,” Baumgartner writes in the introduction.

Her book discusses documents from the Phillips Library, among many other sites, and returning to that archive for the parks service project has enhanced her appreciation of African American history in Essex County.

“As somebody who’s a resident of Newburyport, I did not know the extent of black history in this county, and I was actually kind of surprised to see how robust that community was,” she said.

One document in particular, a petition that African American citizens gave to Salem’s school committee in 1844, was believed to have disappeared, until librarians helped her find it.

“(People) knew it had been presented, but the text of it — that, no one had talked about,” Baumgartner said. “No one had written about it.”

These citizens asked to have the schools desegregated, after a petition from white citizens in 1835 had succeeded in forcing African American students out of public schools.

Baumgartner discusses those white citizens in her book and traces their motivation to possible resentment over the fact that an African American girl, Sarah Parker Remond, was at the head of her high school class.

But one of the things that Baumgartner finds exciting about the African Americans’ petition is that, more than 100 years before the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools, these citizens were asserting their rights in terms that appealed to classic American ideals and anticipated arguments in later court cases.

“They say, ‘The present exclusion of our children from the best schools, from competition, from learning with white children, is felt as a slight upon us, and is calculated to repress,’” Baumgartner said.

While their petition asks for a level playing field, it also reveals that these citizens were asking for the restoration of rights that they had previously enjoyed.

“They’re making a historical point,” Baumgartner said. “It used to be better, and it used to be desegregated. They say they want to go back to the way it was.”

That in turn reveals the complexity of African American experience, because it demonstrates that desegregation was actually achieved through “fits and starts” over a long period of time, Baumgartner said.

Duclos-Orsello’s work on behalf of the guide project has included spending time at Marblehead Museum, where she said there are important items that no one has ever gone through.

These include two volumes of ledgers, kept by a man named Nathan Bowen, which “refer in passing to all sorts of things” that deserve to be explored, Duclos-Orsello said.

They also have vital records, which record births, baptisms, marriages and deaths and lists African Americans in separate sections.

“If you can start tracking the names of people born in the Negro section, you can figure out marriages or baptisms, and start to get a sense of the everyday lives of people of color,” Duclos-Orsello said. “That is painstaking work, but there are items in those documents that are fascinating to me.”

One of these, from 1730, concerns a woman named Katherine, who is identified as mestizo — which indicates mixed race — and is described as belonging to William Fairfax.

That same year, there is a reference in the records to the baptism of a “Negro child of William Fairfax,” while other records show that Fairfax had more than one wife and also lived in the Bahamas and Virginia, Duclos-Orsello said.

“Diving into some of these types of references and cross-references, what begins to emerge are more complicated stories that could be fleshed out,” she said.

While going from archive to archive in search of documents, Duclos-Orsello and Baumgartner have discovered that staff members at repositories are interested in their project and are eager to participate.

“But frankly, what I have discovered is, there are a couple places that have done some important work to try to tell these stories in a public way,” Duclos-Orsello said. “Historic Beverly is one of them.”

She pointed out that the organization recently launched a website that tells African American history in Beverly by focusing on people who were fighting for their freedom.

“There are some amazing stories in Beverly, particularly about Juno Larcom, who belonged to the Larcom family,” Duclos-Orsello said. “The arc of her story includes her suing for her own freedom and for some of her children. They have done enough digging around in their collections to tell her story.”

Digging is required because most collections do not include the family Bibles or letters of people who were marginalized, because no one asked for them in the past, Duclos-Orsello said.

Instead, their profiles must be reconstructed from obscure sources, such as bills of sale, which Historic Beverly has in great quantities, along with a number of ships’ logs.

“If they have records that tell these stories, it’s in glancing blows,” Duclos-Orsello said.

— Will Broaddus


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