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Mass. unemployment climbs to 7.8 percent in February


Mass. unemployment climbs to 7.8 percent in February

The unemployment rate in Massachusetts rose to 7.8 percent in February as an additional 11,300 jobs were lost statewide.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported last Thursday that most of the losses came in the professional, scientific and business services sectors, as well as in trade, transportation and utilities. Government jobs also declined by about 1,100 positions.

The most jobs additions were in the education and health services sectors.

The 7.8 percent unemployment rate is slightly above the 7.4 percent rate reported in January, and well above the 4.6 percent at the same time a year ago.

Still, Massachusetts’ unemployment rate remains below the national rate of 8.1 percent in February, the highest in a quarter-century.

Brown moves ahead with plans for slavery memorial

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Brown University commission has asked the school to create a memorial acknowledging its early ties to the slave trade, one that would inspire reconciliation, not resurrect shame.

The 10-member commission has been studying civil rights and slavery memorials from Alabama to France, and said in a report released last Tuesday that the project should be uplifting.

The commission did not identify a specific location for the memorial, but said the school should consider locating it off-campus.

The idea for a memorial emerged from a major internal report in 2006 that explored the Ivy League school’s early role in slavery.

The report revealed how slave labor was used to construct the oldest building on campus and said many of its early benefactors were slave owners.

In 2003, Brown President Ruth Simmons, the first black president of an Ivy League school and a descendant of slaves herself, appointed a committee of students, faculty and administrators to study the university’s ties to the slave trade and recommend how the college should take responsibility.

That committee recommended a memorial and an academic center on slavery and justice.

The school assembled a new commission — consisting of Brown historians, a rabbi, a judge and others — to study potential memorials.

“The university thought to engage a broader group of civil leaders to ask the question if there’s value in commemorating the history beyond the borders of Brown University,” said Brown spokeswoman Marisa Quinn, an adviser to the panel.

“And this group of civic leaders said, ‘Yes, in fact there is, and we should pursue this,’” she added.

At forum, a plea for driver’s licenses for Mass. immigrants

FITCHBURG, Mass. — Better access to health care, more money for English as a Second Language programs and work permits were repeated themes during a state-sponsored immigration forum last Wednesday.

But the loudest cheer came when Fitchburg Police Chief Robert DeMoura pleaded with a governor’s task force to seek changes to state and federal law to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

“My officers want to know when we stop someone who that person is,” DeMoura told the panel of 15. “Let’s start with the simple things.”

The comments draw a standing ovation from the roughly 180 attendees.

“It was a surprise,” Dolores Thibault-Muñoz said of DeMoura’s comment. “Here was a law enforcement officer getting a standing ovation from a room full of people of color. It was unique.”

Since last year, a panel appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick has traveled around the state to hear about possible immigration reform from immigrants and their advocates. For the most part, said Richard Chacón, executive director of the state Office of Refugees and Immigrants, the panelists heard recurring themes such as better access to health care and education.

But Nicole Tambouret, a project coordinator with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, who helped organize the forums, said obtaining driver’s licenses was a popular subject at the Fitchburg event because the city is so far from Boston.

“It’s not like they are in an area with a lot of public transportation,” said Tambouret. “They need a way to get around.”

Tambouret said about 1,200 people have attended the five forums. Last Wednesday’s meeting was the final one.

Jose Quintana, 55, an immigrant from Uruguay who lives in Fitchburg, asked the panelists to look for ways to help undocumented immigrant students get in-state tuition.

“These are students who lived here for most of these lives and have gone through high school,” Quintana said later. “They want to continue with their education.”

The task force has until July 1 to give recommendations to Patrick, said Chacón.

IRS offers free tax return assistance
Need help filing your taxes?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is offering free assistance during its March 29 “Super Saturday” event at IRS offices and community centers around the country, including 16 locations in Massachusetts.

People who earn $42,000 or less are eligible for free tax return preparation at any of the “Super Saturday” sites. All taxpayers, regardless of income, can receive help with a tax issue or set up a payment plan if they’re unable to come up with all taxes they owe by April 15.

IRS offices in Boston, Springfield and Pittsfield will be open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Community centers offering help are in Boston, Chelsea, Waltham, Lawrence, Lowell and Holyoke. A full list of the sites can be found at

(Associated Press)