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According to Chinese legend, in 278 B.C, the poet Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River to protest government corruption. His mourners paddled out on to the river, the story goes, to scare away evil water spirits (or, according to a slightly grimmer version, to scare away fish from eating his body).

From that sad tale sprang the custom of dragon boat races, in which 20 rowers, paddling to the beat of a drum, race in long wooden boats decorated with dragon heads and tails at the bow and stern. While the most famous race takes place at China’s Duanwu Festival, dragon boat racing has spread around the world—and this weekend, for the first time, it comes to the Valley.

The Springfield Dragon Boat Race will be held on Saturday, July 20, at Springfield’s Riverfront Park. The races, which will feature local teams, begin at 10 a.m. Bring your lawn chairs and picnic blankets to watch from the banks of the Connecticut River; food vendors will be on hand. For more information, go to http://www.springfielddragonboat.com.


Pistol-Packing Passengers

85: Percentage of guns seized at airports in the U.S. last year that were loaded. While most of us were making sure we didn’t have more than three ounces of shampoo in our hand luggage, others were carrying weapons ready to fire.

Last year, airport screeners working for the Transportation Security Administration found a total of 1,549 guns on passengers making their way through the security lines. That was 17 percent more than in 2011. And by the end of June this year, screeners had found 894 guns, 30 percent more than they ferreted out during the same six months in 2013. In March, one passenger turned up at Bradley Airport with a .38 loaded with eight rounds strapped to his left leg.

So what happens to the weapons? In states with relaxed gun laws, “TSA screeners will frequently hand the gun back to the passenger and recommend locking it in a car.


Budget Tales

Fletcher, who lives in Shelburne Falls, helped pay for college with two federal Pell Grants. “They were extremely important to me,” he says.

Ann, from Chicopee, speaks proudly of paying her taxes: “I’m one of those people who believe that taxes are like dues that you pay to belong to a great club—in this case a great country.”

You might not spend a lot of time thinking about the federal budget. But it certainly affects your life—and the Northampton-based National Priorities Project wants to know how, through its “Faces of the Budget” project.

“We’re illustrating all the ways the federal budget touches peoples’ lives—and what they think about budget decisions being made in Washington, D.C.,” NPP says.

The responses collected so far run from the commonplace (“My kids go to public schools. We visit public libraries.”) to the more dramatic (“I am a liver transplant survivor because of Medicare.”) And they’re not all positive; one respondent, a home-health nurse from California, writes of the decreasing quality of services available to her patients thanks to changes in public assistance programs.

Tell your story at http://www.nationalpriorities.org/stories.


Petersham Rallies to Reopen Store

In many small towns in New England, the general store is the unofficial town hall. So it was with the Petersham Country Store, started up in 1840 but shut down in 2012. The closing left a black hole in the life of the town.

But, like a fledgling Broadway musical, the store attracted angels; a group of local people who don’t want to be named put up $320,000 to buy it and turn it over to the East Quabbin Land Trust. The Trust has arranged for the store to be reopened and leased to new operators, Ari and Jeaneanne Puglisese, who run Picasso Restaurant in Barre. When the store reopens as a market and cafe, its emphasis will be on selling locally grown food.

An estimated $75,000 is still needed to get the store ready for its new role, and a benefit to help garner the funds is scheduled for July 27 at 4 p.m. on the Petersham common (check http://www.eqlt.org). On the program are a potluck supper, live music, silent and live auctions and “family activities.” Attendance is free but a $5 donation would be welcome. Please bring a covered dish if possible, and your own silverware.


Roundup-Ready Dinners

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has raised the permissible levels of the herbicide glyphosate in many food crops. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the Monsanto herbicide Roundup, the most widely used weed killer in America.

The new rule will raise the allowable glyphosate level in sweet potatoes and carrots from 0.2 parts per million to 3.0 ppm for sweet potatoes and 5.0 ppm—25 times as high as the previous permissible level—for carrots. In soybeans, sesame and other oilseed crops, permissible levels will rise from 20 ppm to 40 ppm.

The EPA’s own factsheet on glyphosate says kidney damage and reproductive anomalies can result from long-term exposure to the substance. An MIT study published this year says glyphosate can impair the body’s ability to detoxify itself, leading to the spread of inflammation and increasing the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.


Author: Advocate staff

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