Youth violence takes an uglier turn

As Boston tries to figure out what went wrong at the recent Urban Music Festival at City Hall Plaza, major cities are facing fresh upsurges in another type of youth violence: “flash robs.”

Sometimes mischaracterized as “flash mobs” (large, nonviolent public gatherings organized via social media to dance, protest, or throw snow balls) flash robs, as the name implies, are more sinister: techno-wilding, if you will. Groups of teens have targeted stores on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district, planning online, storming in, grabbing merchandise, and dashing for the exits. In Washington, young people pillaged a Victoria’s Secret in much the same way.

Then there is just plain old mob violence. Though the London riots were sparked by a police shooting of a young black man, The Boston Globe notes that rioters in other city neighborhoods and elsewhere in the UK used Facebook to coordinate their attacks.

Several people were injured in a recent spate of random attacks on pedestrians in downtown Philadelphia, prompting a sermon, literally, from Mayor Michael Nutter. Most of the perpetrators have been young African-American men and Nutter, paging Bill Cosby, came down hard on them and their parents in his remarks at a local Baptist church.

Rhetorical flourishes aside, the Philadelphia mayor also threw in new curfews for anyone under 18 downtown and around the University of Pennsylvania; stepped up police patrols in both areas; extended weekend hours at the city’s largest recreation centers; and imposed hefty fines on offenders and their parents. Philadelphia and Chicago are also comparing notes on the latest outbreaks of violence.  (It’s interesting to note that while minority neighborhoods are still plagued with deadly shootings, all it takes is a rash of attacks in the downtown core (read: tourist $$$) to rouse city officials to bring down the full force of the law.)

The chaos on City Hall Plaza and afterwards on the MBTA wasn’t organized online, and most of the kids were white. (Some blog posters have speculated that this fact may have played a role in the underwhelming police presence and response.)

Boston has been largely immune to the rob/mob epidemic (although that may be changing, if this Universal Hub post is any indication), Downtown Crossing and other areas like Carson Beach have had problems with crowds of teens looking for trouble. However, the powers-that-be in the Hub have yet to take to speechifying or fining parents for the actions of their out-of-control offspring. So far, Mayor Thomas Menino has said only that he plans to reassess the music festival.

                                                                                                                                                                            –GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Attorney General Martha Coakley reaches a settlement with a mortgage lender requiring the company to pay a $9.8 million fine and modify loans to provide $115 million in mortgage relief, the Lowell Sun reports.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump wants a receiver appointed to take over control of a Merrimack Valley special needs agency that is the subject of a wide-ranging corruption probe.

Former South Boston state Rep. Brian Wallace and his one-time campaign treasurer pleaded not guilty yesterday to campaign finance law violation charges.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua vows to challenge every signature on the recall petition seeking his ouster, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A laid-off production manager files signatures to challenge Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk, the Gloucester Times reports.

Westport police have declined to take action on the state Inspector General’s report that alleges the town’s highway surveyor gave away equipment, materials, and contracts to friends. The Bristol District Attorney had referred the case to police after determining it was a local matter.

Hingham’s town administrator says the community’s bond rating was revised, which could impact a planned bond offering for construction of a new middle school, because many residents work in areas that may be affected by federal funding cuts.

Mohegan Sun hosts a barbecue in Palmer to talk casinos with residents

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Wisconsin Democrats pick up two seats in the recall fight, but not enough to take control of the state Senate, Time reports. The Weekly Standard says Republicans shouldn’t let their guard down because a potential recall of Gov. Scott Walker is in the offing with liberal firebrand Russ Feingold, defeated in his Senate reelection last year, waiting in the wings.

US Sen. John Kerry has been tapped to serve on the 12-member congressional committee that is supposed to figure out how to cut the deficit.

US Rep. Barney Frank tells NECN the defense budget needs to be cut. “We can’t be the sugar daddy for the whole world,” he says.

If politics were baseball, Scott Brown would be a small-ball kind of guy.

The National Review says the credit downgrade is President Obama’s “Bay of Pigs moment” but unlike JFK, Obama failed to take responsibility and turn it into a learning moment.

ELECTION 2012

Time analyzes Michele Bachmann’s reading list. Terry Gross, on Fresh Air, interviews New Yorker Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza on the ideas and books that Bachmann says have been major influences in her life. In Iowa, the current owner of America’s most famous set of eyes stands behind her vote against raising the debt ceiling.

Eleanor Clift, writing in The Daily Beast, says President Obama’s toughest challenger right now is the Obama of 2008 who promised “change you can believe in.”

Tim Pawlenty ties his flagging presidential campaign to religious supporters. Which means he is now obligated to stage photo-ops next to all manner of right-wing props – like, for instance, this giant blue “Values Bus.”

Barack Obama, our “gutless, quivering wimp” of a president, tries toughening his liberal credentials.

The MetroWest Daily News explores the ballot questions hat voters may have to weigh in on next year.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The stock market roller coaster continues.

Striking Verizon workers talk about their decision to walk off the job during a period of great economic uncertainty — and high unemployment.

Dozens of temporary workers testified of exploitation at a hearing in New Bedford yesterday in favor of a bill to regulate employment agencies to be more accountable and transparent in payment, overtime and work assignments.

The US Army releases a cologne called Patton, named after the famous World War II general George S. Patton. Patton’s daughter-in-law, who lives in Hamilton, says she was surprised it doesn’t smell like diesel fuel, the Salem News reports.

Sears is staging a fake headquarters search in a likely attempt to extract tax concessions from its current home town in Illinois, and Boston is in the running!

EDUCATION

Members of a task force hoping to open the state’s fourth recovery high school for young addicts in Brockton say the $375,000 needed for start-up costs from the state is not there but they plan to submit their proposal this week anyway.

HEALTH CARE

CommonWealth offers a link to a new study that finds Massachusetts and Vermont lead the nation in the cost of individual health insurance premiums.

Members of the state nurses’ union walked out of a public hearing yesterday on the proposed sale of Quincy Medical Center after the lawyer for the buyer, Steward Health Care, accused the nurses of distorting the facts over a pension dispute at Steward’s Caritas system.

TRANSPORTATION

The incoming and outgoing state transportation secretary — sort of the yin and yang of commuting — join Emily Rooney on Greater Boston to discuss the problems and vision of running the beast of an agency.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Hundreds of residents signed a petition protesting the planned removal of a crumbling dam the state deemed hazardous on the Sippican River in Rochester because the removal would have a negative impact on a nearby cranberry bog and affect herring migration.

The Cape Cod Times says more towns should look into applying for “Green Communities” grants. The state program gives money to cities and towns that move to save energy in their municipal buildings and vehicles.

Zebra mussels invade the Housatonic River.

Chatham officials are warning beachgoers about sharks.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Author Peter Manso tells Radio Boston there’s “reasonable doubt” in the Crista Worthington case.

Police in Peabody recover 22 stolen Dumpsters. Yes, Dumpsters, the Salem News reports.

MEDIA

CommonWealth offers a guide to the state’s Public Records Law as part of its Full Disclosure project.

The Associated Press creates a special stylebook for the upcoming Sept. 11 anniversary, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.