Thursday, September 28, 2006

9.28.06 Edition of Spare Change News

The new Spare Change News hit the streets early this week. We sold out of our 9.14 edition on Wednesday and began dropping the hot-off-the-press new issue. It's jam packed with exclusive content that might give you a slight tingly sensation if ingested properly. That is, if you don't throw it in the trash the minute after you buy it..

Allow us to tease you:

Bookselling homeless man beats the odds

Harvard Square bookvendor Kenneth O'Brien has won the right to open his used book store on the streets of Harvard Square. Read about the arrests, the court battles, and the victory over City Hall that eventually led to the advent of a new business in the Square, only at Spare Change News.

An exclusive interview with gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos

Continuing our election coverage through the poverty lens, SCN talks to Christy Mihos about homelessness in Massachusetts, in an exclusive interview.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow: Rethinking Solar Power

Think solar power is an old joke from the 70s? Think again, says Travis Bradford, a former market guru who has turned his focus to renewable energy. He believes that the sun is the future of energy, simply because the market will make it so. And you lucky online readers can read it for free!

With the purchase of SCN, you get all of this plus everything you've come to expect from our modest publication, be it games, arts, and that great butter taste.

Keep the feedback coming – we need to know what you think about the issues we're covering, whether we're doing a good job, whether you hate us or love us, just tell us so we can sleep at night!

Yours always,


Prepare for Solar Domination

"Solar Revolution" Author Travis Bradford and his solar bag

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow: Rethinking Solar Power
By Paul Rice

Al Gore was the talk of early summer but not for any apparent political reasons. A documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” in which he had a starring role, became the third highest grossing documentary in the U.S. to date.

Dealing with climate change (the politically correct term for global warming), the film featured Al Gore giving a PowerPoint presentation on the ways that current energy collection and use are shortening the lifespan of planet Earth.

Released to rave reviews (Roger Ebert told his readers that if they didn’t see the movie, they would be failing their future grandchildren) as well as the expected conservative condemnation, the film reignited environmental issues under a moral banner, urging citizens to take action or suffer the consequences of an overheated and uninhabitable planet.

Author Travis Bradford, like Al Gore, believes we need to take steps to change our global energy usage. However, his approach is miles away from the former vice president’s.

“There’s a massive amount of equity and debt financing looking for the next ‘dot com,’” Bradford says, sitting in his sun struck Harvard Square office. “From an investment standpoint there’s major institutional money that’s looking for these opportunities.”

He’s talking about the profitability of clean energy.

“Venture capitalists are looking for that next generation technology that can take large market share,” he continues.

Large market share? Venture capitalists? Is this guy still talking about the green energy movement? Why isn’t he pointing out the moral consequences of relying on fossil fuels, or harping on the Middle East conflicts? Why doesn’t he examine the ethics of our current energy policies?

“Most of the people who are advocating renewable energies are doing so from an environmental standpoint, and that’s not what motivates people in the capital markets,” Bradford responds.

You quickly realize he’s making an argument for clean, renewable energy, but unlike Mr. Gore’s mass email-inducing ode to his own political relevance, Bradford’s argument is in the language of commerce instead of the language of environmental morality and doomsday theorizing.

“It was a social interest, with a real-world business solution,” Bradford says. “Those two schools of thought historically have not communicated well with each other.”

And which technology does this former market guru see as the most investment-worthy?

No less than much maligned, seemingly forgotten solar power.

Yes, the same solar power that, back in the 1970s, was predicted to power all of our cars, houses and most everything else; at least until the Carter administration fell to the Reaganites in the 80s, who quickly removed the demonstration solar water heater from the roof of the White House. Investors who had plugged extreme amounts of capital into solar research saw their financial commitments abandoned by the government, pushing solar beneath the radar of important science.

But just because it’s been forgotten by the public at large doesn’t mean developments in solar power weren’t growing steadily in the meantime. And according to Bradford, it is fast approaching its zenith and will soon be set to usher in a new era for clean, renewable energy.

“The belief that a renewable-energy economy will not happen without greater government support – as environmentalists too often argue – is wrong,” Bradford writes in his recently published book, “Solar Revolution” (MIT Press, 2006). “The shift will happen in years rather than decades and will occur because of fundamental economics.”

The argument Bradford uses is composed from years of experience working with volatile markets and speaking the language of business.

“When I talk to [the business world] I talk in a language they understand,” Bradford says. “I say, ‘Over the next twenty or thirty years, this is one of the biggest opportunities that the world will enjoy.’ And when they hear the word opportunities they think returns, which is right.”

Throughout the book Bradford predicts a future of solar millionaires and billionaires, a world where the former redheaded stepchild of clean energy steps forward to become the piano prodigy.

Bradford details the current energy climate and the negative effects it has on the planet, effects that will cause energy markets to cease being as profitable as they once were. Although he debunks the myth that we will someday run out of fossil fuel, he does bring attention to the possibility of waning reserves. He also points out the polluting effects from more than a century’s worth of coal burning. But for the most part, he avoids playing up the predicted energy crises.

“It’s one of those things I like to talk about but have to be careful around when I’m pitching the business economic inevitability [of solar energy], because it gets into some fuzzier issues that capital markets don’t usually like to think about,” he tells me.

The “economic inevitability” of solar power is where Bradford spends most of his time in the book. Simply stated, he believes that energy prices will continue to rise to a point where it is more cost-effective for both businesses and homeowners to spend an extra amount of money on sun gathering equipment and enjoy cheaper energy from an astronomical resource that is not scheduled to burn out for another five billion years.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, if solar panels covered nine percent of Nevada, they would be capable of generating enough electricity to power the entire country, for a year.

The question that usually surfaces when faced with this information is one that always makes Bradford chuckle.

“My girlfriend is from Finland, and she’s always asking me, ‘What about the paper mills in Finland?’”

Finland, like many other countries in the upper northern hemisphere, experiences a phenomenon known as polar night, meaning the sun doesn’t come up during certain seasons, often for periods lasting longer than 24 hours.

Not all locations would be prime for solar energy gathering, but that’s no burr in the solar saddle, according to Bradford. He sees the sunnier portions of the globe, such as the Sahara desert, as solutions to the dilemma of solar availability.

The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) has developed a plan to place large solar collectors in the Sahara, and then funnel enormous amounts of energy across the Mediterranean Sea. This will create the potential to power nearly the entire European Union, plus the Middle East and parts of North Africa. The amount of desert space required? Less than 0.3 percent, according to TREC.

“It was Buckminster Fuller who said ‘Tie all the grids together,’” remembers Bradford. This connectivity is a major banking point for him in arguing the economical goodness of solar.

The book is very freshly out, and the energy community has yet to really take note of his theories. Currently, promoting his book and the “inevitability” of solar energy is a full-time job for Bradford.

“We’re certainly finding a tremendous of support and appreciation but we haven’t yet translated that into cash,” he says with a grin.

Randall Ellis, professor of economics at Boston University, was unfamiliar with Bradford’s book, but has his doubts about the future prevalence of solar power.

“Whether it will be a dominant force in the future of energy remains to be seen,” Ellis says. “Nuclear power is still a contender,” he adds.

Gary Schmitz, spokesperson for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), had similar apprehension.

“I don’t think anybody [at NREL] is predicting it’s going to be the cheapest form of energy,” Schmitz says. “However, we do believe it will be cost competitive.”

It remains to be seen whether or not the energy community at large will embrace Bradford’s predictions.

“You may buy the thesis or you may not but if you get involved and you’re right, the opportunities are vast. If you don’t believe it and you’re wrong, you will have missed the opportunity of a generation.”

Confident words from Bradford, a former market player, now fully invested in renewable energy. And as he shows me his solar bag, capable of charging his phone and laptop, it is impossible not to imagine a future where a majority of our energy is derived from the oldest fire in our star system.

Friday, September 22, 2006

400 Billionaires and manufactured hope

According to Forbes Magazine, the rich, in fact, are only getting richer. The preeminent business rag's annual listing of the 400 richest Americans, for the first time in its history, is a billionaires-only club.

This shouldn't come as too surprising, given the rising income gap in this country.

In the top ten is, of course, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft's mean machines, the perennial Warren Buffett, plus the man who makes most of the machines for Microsoft's wares, Michael Dell, and rounded out by no less than four members of the Wal(Mart)ton family.

What is most interesting to note is the gentleman in third place, named Sheldon Adelson:

He's a gambling czar, headquarted in Nevada, who's net worth is approximately $20.5 billion. Adelson grew up poor in Dorchester, the son of a cab driver. He went to City College in NYC but dropped out. Now he owns one of the most prominent casinos in Las Vegas (the Venetian) and is renowned for being the 14th richest man in the world.

What's interesting about this? Well, here at Spare Change, nearly everyone plays the lottery. Gambling on that (practically non-existent) chance to make a billion like the folks on this list. People here and all over the country plug their money into slots, exchange crisp bills for plastic chips, rub their nails raw on scratch tickets, all banking on that well-advertised glimmer of hope. It makes sense then that a gambling man would be up there with Bill and Warren. We're p(r)aying the hope gods to free us from fiscal hell, in the quickest and easiest way possible, and people like Adelson get fat on our dreams.

There's nothing wrong with that. He worked his way from $200 into #3 on the Forbes 400. His is an overwhelming success story, but yet a story built on shattered hopes and dreams. The world is funny that way, no?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Spare Change Changing!

Wednesday, September 20

New board president, editor, assistant director and ad sales representative
aim to transition SCN to a weekly publication

CAMBRIDGE – The Homeless Empowerment Project has named a new board president
and editor of Spare Change News, along with a new assistant director and
advertising sales representative. HEP is aiming to expand its operations and
become Boston’s newest alt-weekly newspaper.

HEP board member and SCN columnist James Shearer, a formerly homeless man
who was one of the publication’s original co-founders in 1992, was elected
president of HEP’s board of trustees at its meeting yesterday. He had
returned to HEP in 2004.

"I'm excited about our future," said Shearer, 46, a resident of Cambridge.
"Spare Change News is now moving in a positive direction that will
eventually see us become a weekly, alternative newspaper, as well as a more
active and fundamental institution in the community at large."

SCN managing editor Paul Rice will become editor on October 20. He will
oversee the day-to-day operation and production of the newspaper. Sam Scott,
currently SCN editor and HEP executive director, will remain as executive
director and publisher of SCN.

"Spare Change News is an ever-growing journalistic institution, and I hope
to bring an intelligent vibrancy to that growth with a continued focus on
stories that often fly under the radars of traditional news outlets," said
Rice, 23, a resident of Allston.

Rice, a 2005 graduate of Emerson College, joined SCN as an intern that year
and was later named managing editor following his aggressive and exclusive
reporting on local alternative news.

One story disproved murder allegations that were insinuated against a
homeless man by the Boston Herald, while another exposed a tragic transfer
of housing resources for homeless people in Massachusetts to evacuated
Hurricane Katrina survivors. More recently, Rice has covered subjects
ranging from welfare reform to professional wrestling.

Scott joined SCN as editor in 2004, and he also became HEP executive
director in 2005. He is a 2002 graduate of the Boston University, where he
majored in journalism. Scott is currently enrolled in the Executive MBA
program at Suffolk University. Prior to joining SCN, he worked as a staff
reporter for The Boston Courant, as well as an editorial assistant and
freelancer for newspapers including The Boston Globe, The Patriot Ledger and
TNT magazine in London.

Over his two years as editor, Scott revamped SCN’s editorial content and
operations into that of a professional, alternative newspaper. He will now
focus on fundraising, management and marketing as executive director.

"Thanks to the hard work of our staff, volunteers and vendors, SCN has
become Boston's premiere alternative newspaper with a conscience," said
Scott, 25, a resident of Brookline. "Paul will continue to move this
newspaper forward while we on the business side focus on becoming a
self-sufficient non-profit organization that will continue to expand."

Emily Johnson, a 2005 graduate of Boston University’s College of
Communication, became HEP assistant director on September 11. She will
direct SCN's circulation and distribution, as well as assist Scott with
HEP's daily administration.

"I'm excited to work with so many different people for this cause and to
help our vendors," said Johnson, 23, a resident of Cambridge.

Samuel Weems, who formerly worked for HEP as assistant to the director and
distribution assistant, became SCN’s advertising sales representative on
September 11.

"Advertising in SCN is a way for local businesses to increase their sales
and associate their products with a good cause," said Weems, a resident of
Arlington. "Our readers are affluent, educated people who care about helping
others in need."

SCN, founded in 1992, is Boston's alternative newspaper with a conscience.
The publication's vendors, who are homeless, unemployed or have low-incomes,
purchase copies of SCN for 25 cents each and then sell them on the street
for $1. SCN is published by the Homeless Empowerment Project, a Cambridge
non-profit organization.


James Shearer
617-497-1595 x16

Paul Rice
617-497-1595 x16

Sam Scott
617-497-1595 x10


Samuel Weems
617-497-1595 x14

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Spare Change is News.

An interview with SCN's own Paul Rice will aired on Beat the Press this Friday, WGBH Channel 2. In it, Paul will discuss the editorial from the August 31st edition of the paper.

Tune in to channel 2 at 7:00pm EST, and then drop us a line to tell us what you thought.

9.14.06 Edition of Spare Change News

Spare Change has been big in the news lately! After our coverage in the Boston Herald's Inside Track (wherein the Track Gals were much kinder to us than we would've imagined), SCN managing editor Paul Rice found his way on to WRKO's John DePetro show, where he spent a good two hours listening to DePetro argue his theories about homelessness. If you missed it, you'll have to wait for the audio file to get an aural glimpse of said theories, as SCN does not wish to repeat them here. Further media coverage is pending (and may involve your boob tube and a certain local channel with national renown) and will be linked to on this blog as it is made available.

What does all this mean for you, our noble reader? It means now is the best time to tell all your friends about the waves Spare Change News is making and continue to seek out your favorite vendors to purchase your favorite local rag, so you can tell the world you were there when this newspaper of humble origins turned into the next great street paper behemoth!

Ok, we're getting ahead of ourselves. We are humble enough to know that attention comes and goes, that the fickle attitudes of local media are just that. But we're content to have at least 15 hours of minimal fame, if it helps our vendors sell more papers. You can help them on that front as well. Go now and buy. Buy, buy more! And thank you being loyal supporters and for paying attention.

Here's a taste of the new issue:

Reuters comes to Spare Change News

Starting with this issue, Spare Change News is publishing exclusive content from Reuters, thanks to the work of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP). New Orleans is the topic of discussion this week, as reporter Peter Henderson finds the city twisted into two opposite faces, one of hope, the other of despair.

An exclusive interview with gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross

SCN begins its four-part election series, sitting down with Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross and talking about homelessness, housing and the widening income gap in Massachusetts.

Qualifying the Needy: Looking Back at 10 Years of Welfare Reform

Welfare reform as a popular issue for politicians is all but gone but did it really have the effects it's been lauded for? SCN investigates ten years of the new "welfare to work" program, and finds that all may not be as golden as it seems.

All this plus Kate Ledogar playing skeeball with creepy dolls, James Shearer putting the boots to Survivor's new race-themed programming, "Twenty-Seven Rules to Sustain Life and Thrive on This Planet," poetry, SU DOKU, crosswords, love, tetherball and whatever else you happen to desire! And it only costs a dollar!

Stay tuned for our September 28th issue, containing an interview with candidate Christy Mihos, a look at the "inevitable" arrival of solar power, and the story of a homeless man who fought a city and won.

Yours always and forever,


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Spare some class, Fox 25!

This editorial ran in the August 31st edition of Spare Change News. It has since garnered various media attention, which will be detailed in a forthcoming post.


John, the "Spare Change Guy" on Fox 25 Morning News

Thanks to our favorite media column, the Weekly Dig’s Media Farm, we found out about a local homeless man who gained a degree of stardom a few weeks ago on Fox 25 News. (We’re sorry that we missed it, but no one who wants to learn anything, after all, watches news on any channel owned by Rupert Murdoch.)

The man in question is famous for shouting “Spare Change!” in a raspy voice at passersby as he sits or stands in a number of locations throughout Boston. Apparently, Fox 25’s morning news show thought it would be great to use him for some color commentary on staying cool in the summer heat (his advice, according to the Dig, included smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee).

We’d like to congratulate Fox 25 on bringing perspectives from homeless people into its morning newscast, and we encourage the station to continue championing the unique insight people like “Spare Change Guy” can provide to the commuting public. Certainly there is no better comedic relief than a man with severe mental health issues, no roof over his head and no family to claim him, and thus it is excellent news acumen to have “Spare Change Guy” offering his much-needed commentaries to the local viewing public.

In the future, if Fox 25’s morning show is looking for other characters to fill its remaining superficial air time, we have a couple of suggestions. The woman who stands by the Harvard Book Store with an oxygen tank asking for money to help her seven children (but sometimes five) who are all homeless would probably make for some good color. Or how about Allston’s own Kung Fu Man, who does karate chops and gives out sips of vodka in exchange for cigarettes and money?

Just give us a call, Fox. We’re here to serve. After all, there are plenty of downtrodden people here who can help your callous producers give your viewers hours of entertainment masquerading as news.