How To Cut Unemployment — No, Really
Jun19

How To Cut Unemployment — No, Really

Whether you’re a 20-something fresh out of college looking for work or near retirement age and can’t find a job at your skill level, the trials and tribulations of unemployment are very real. It’s an issue that most people face in their adult lives and an age old problem without an easy solutions.Finding a job can be especially challenging if you have a criminal record. In the city of Holyoke, a local advocacy group, Neighbor to...

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Should You Give Money to Panhandlers?
Jun12

Should You Give Money to Panhandlers?

When a Holyoke City Councilor said, at a public meeting, “Don’t feed the animals,” in regard to homeless panhandlers, I figured I had a good idea for a fiery column defending people who beg for a living.It is vile to call any person an “animal” in a dehumanizing way — that’s not up for debate: everyone has worth. But did he have a point, underneath that craven misunderstanding of poverty, about not giving money to people with their...

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Now Fulfilling The Provisions of the Paris Agreement Is Up To Us
Jun02

Now Fulfilling The Provisions of the Paris Agreement Is Up To Us

It probably shouldn’t have been a surprise. Donald Trump ran a campaign based on denying climate science, so his Thursday announcement that he would be pulling out of the international climate agreement represents a promise fulfilled.But the advantage of having a president who was elected by a minority of voters (3 million less than Hillary Clinton) is that the majority of the voting public actually disagrees with the policies Trump...

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Working Against Bad Political Actors Is Not Bias — It’s Journalism
May30

Working Against Bad Political Actors Is Not Bias — It’s Journalism

Well, it has happened again. Another person who appears to be a sociopath caught in an act of hatred has been elevated to a position of power in our government. And this despite what we must call an alleged (though it was caught on tape and corroborated at the scene) attack against a reporter.This election, much like Trump’s election, has brought to mind the role of the journalist. Why do we put ourselves in situations where we could...

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Between The Lines: Trans Allies Needed More Than Ever
May22

Between The Lines: Trans Allies Needed More Than Ever

Last week I interviewed an organizer with the “I’ll Go With You” campaign, which sells buttons trans allies can wear to show they are willing to go into a public restroom with a trans man or woman to help keep them safe.That may seem like an extraordinary step to take, but with violence against trans people higher than ever and on the rise, it is an important role an ally of trans people can play.As a cisgender heterosexual caucasian...

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Addiction Response Milestone: Spike In Local ODs Non-Fatal
May15

Addiction Response Milestone: Spike In Local ODs Non-Fatal

An unprecedented cluster of drug overdoses in Northampton late last month tested the city’s first responders. Their preparation — including training in the use of Narcan — helped prevent any fatalities.As the abuse of prescription and illegal opioids continues to plague the Valley, state and nation, the response has become more sophisticated and effective. That is largely due to emergency networks such as the one established in...

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With Obamacare Under Fire, Massachusetts Must Lead on Health Care — Again
May08

With Obamacare Under Fire, Massachusetts Must Lead on Health Care — Again

The Republicans did it. They cobbled together an Obamacare replacement bill so bad that they got the most conservative members of the House to vote for it — people like Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, who implied the majority of people with pre-existing conditions have them because they don’t “lead good lives,” and like Raul Labrador of Idaho, who recently said that “no one dies because they don’t have health care.”Now we in...

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Between the Lines: What Georgia’s Special Election Results Mean for 2018
Apr19

Between the Lines: What Georgia’s Special Election Results Mean for 2018

Democrat and political newcomer Jon Ossoff failed to capture Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District in the first round. But Tuesday’s special election results may give Democrats across the country hopes of recapturing the House in 2018 and thwarting the second half of Donald Trump’s term as president.Ossoff reached just above 48 percent of the vote; one vote above 50 percent would have earned him a seat right away....

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Between the Lines: Baker gets a ‘C’ in environmental protection
Apr21

Between the Lines: Baker gets a ‘C’ in environmental protection

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has been deemed mediocre – receiving a “C” for the second year in a row for its environmental policies and leadership, according to a report card from seven leading environmental organizations. “Unfortunately, once again we are seeing the Baker Administration fall short. From climate preparedness to toxic landfill emissions, there are serious challenges ahead for our state, and it’s critical...

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Between the Lines: A Packed 4/20 Issue
Apr18

Between the Lines: A Packed 4/20 Issue

Welcome, to this week’s jam-packed Advocate. We’ve got the winners of our annual Best of the Valley Readers’ Poll, 4/20-themed stories in celebration of Massachusetts’ first year of legal recreational weed, more about our new online Friday music concerts, Sessions, and news about what’s going on at the paper.First up: The Best Of the Valley Readers’ Poll is a who’s who and what’s what of all the top people, places, and businesses...

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BTL: How Democrats can get their Supreme Court Revenge
Apr10

BTL: How Democrats can get their Supreme Court Revenge

Thanks to Republican dirty tricks, Trump-nominee Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. But a little-known political maneuver from the 1930s might be the Democrat’s ticket to wresting back Court control.Gorsuch will be seated on the court with 54 “Yea” votes, fewer than any justice except for Clarence Thomas, who got 52. Senate ‘Yes’ votes for Supreme Court nominees since JFK  The vote, which took...

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Between the Lines: Western Mass Needs More Rattlesnakes
Apr03

Between the Lines: Western Mass Needs More Rattlesnakes

No one knows how many timber rattlesnakes there are in Massachusetts — and this is a sticking point for opponents of a plan to boost the endangered species population.Does this species of venomous snakes really need saving? Over the past few years, state scientists and conservationists have been devising plans to increase the what they’re calling an “endangered” timber rattlesnake population by creating a breeding ground for the...

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Between the Lines: Is Boston Super Racist?
Mar27

Between the Lines: Is Boston Super Racist?

Is Boston a racist city?    If you’ve been watching         Saturday Night Live lately, you probably caught “Weekend Update” co-host Michael Che give Boston that dubious title.Prior to the Super Bowl clash between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, Che dropped this line: “I just want to relax, turn my brain off, and watch the blackest city in America beat the most racist city I’ve ever been to.”Che’s comment roiled...

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Between the Lines: No Man is an Island; It Takes a Village to Raise a Hero
Mar20

Between the Lines: No Man is an Island; It Takes a Village to Raise a Hero

Pamela Murphy, an Agawam firefighter, was vacationing on the Cape when she jumped into the water to save a six-year-old boy from being smashed against some rocks by the ocean waves.James Chartier, a former Army staff sergeant, completed a 90-mile walk from Western Mass to Boston to raise awareness for homeless military veterans and those struggling with PTSD. Along the way he wore full military gear, hoisted a backpack, slept in a...

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Between the Lines: Thought We Already Legalized It, What’s the hold up with weed?
Mar06

Between the Lines: Thought We Already Legalized It, What’s the hold up with weed?

This time, when I went to Mary Jane Makes Your Heart Sing last Friday, I didn’t have to wait in a line to get in. I also didn’t get any weed when I left.For nearly two months, Mary Jane Makes Your Heart Sing operated like a weed club. Located in a strip mall on Page Boulevard in Springfield, patrons paid a “cover charge” of $20-$50 and left with either one or three grams of marijuana as a “gift.” I checked the club out last month for...

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Between the Lines: Low-Income Families at Higher Risk for Fire Injury
Feb27

Between the Lines: Low-Income Families at Higher Risk for Fire Injury

Is it an acceptable level of risk for a child to live in an 80-year-old apartment building that hasn’t been renovated in as many years with a heating system from the ’60s, electrical wiring for the ’70s, and battery-powered smoke detectors that have been in place since the ’90s? Would it be an acceptable risk for a child who was born into a middle- or upper-class family?Research in Philadelphia and Detroit found that neighborhoods...

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Between the Lines: Losing Our Rights, So Write
Feb20

Between the Lines: Losing Our Rights, So Write

Online ads for an upcoming Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book The Handmaid’s Tale got me thinking: it’s really about time I read this classic dystopian novel.The story takes place in a near-future New England. A militia of religious conservatives take over the Northeastern states and push outward to claim more of the U.S. for its own. The people living under militia rule are put into strict class and gender roles. The new...

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Between the Lines: Love in the Time of Climate Change
Feb13

Between the Lines: Love in the Time of Climate Change

At the bottom of the stairwell behind my apartment building, a baby stroller sat for weeks. Every time I carried a laundry basket down the back steps, I had an opportunity to read the cardboard sign strapped to the side of the stroller. In rigid capital letters scrawled with Sharpie, it read: “The World Doesn’t Have Four More Years.”The first blizzard since Inauguration Day prompted someone to toss the protest sign and bring that...

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Between the Lines: Is Science Under Attack?
Feb06

Between the Lines: Is Science Under Attack?

The Trump administration’s order that all presentations and publications by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency be vetted by political appointees before their release to the public sent a shot of pain down my neck.Doug Ericksen, the EPA’s communications director during the transition, explained the policy in a Jan. 24 NPR interview. “We’ll take a look at what’s happening so that the voice coming from the EPA is one that’s going...

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Between the Lines: What Do You Expect From Holyoke?
Jan30

Between the Lines: What Do You Expect From Holyoke?

The first time I watched “Holyoke High Fight! Stop Violence,” I expected to see a video of a couple kids beating on each other or a message from a parent-teacher association pleading for peace.“Couple high school kids from Holyoke,” said an email from a colleague who passed along a YouTube link.The video begins with two students in a Holyoke High School classroom talking about their clothes for an Instagram post. Then the camera...

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Between the Lines: VOTE, Should the Capitol Take Down This Painting of Police as Pigs?
Jan16

Between the Lines: VOTE, Should the Capitol Take Down This Painting of Police as Pigs?

A painting depicting police officers as feral pigs has been ordered removed from the Capitol after months of controversy and a tug of war over whether the art should be on display. What do you think? As I write this on Monday, Donald Trump is yet to be sworn in as president, but already I and others are wondering what will happen to art and freedom of expression under a leader so thin-skinned and churlish he’d rather tarnish the...

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Between the Lines: Our 2017 Wish List
Jan09

Between the Lines: Our 2017 Wish List

Our annual December Halos and Horns issue of the paper, which sums up staffers’ thoughts on who in the Valley (and the world) has been naughty and nice for the past year, only allows us to look backward. But with a new year rolled out before us, Advocate writers decided to look ahead at what we’re hoping for in 2017. Call it our New Years resolutions list — only this one goes beyond the kitchen and gym.  ▩ We’re wishing that...

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Between the Lines: Updates on Some of 2016’s Big Stories – Detox, Pipelines, and Gun Rights
Jan03

Between the Lines: Updates on Some of 2016’s Big Stories – Detox, Pipelines, and Gun Rights

Some topics are too rich to write about just once. For all the people wondering, “What ever happened to …?” this week’s column features updates on issues I’ve written about in this space before. If you’ve got a topic from this column in mind that you’d like to see updated in 2017, let me know at editor@valleyadvocate.com. Tennessee Gas Pipeline While Tennessee Gas Pipeline has withdrawn plans to build a 420-mile Northeast Expansion...

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Between the Lines: A neo-Nazi by any other name … calling the ‘alt-right’ what it really is
Dec19

Between the Lines: A neo-Nazi by any other name … calling the ‘alt-right’ what it really is

The marketing teams of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have been busy. Rather than give up their hateful views — misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism — they’re trying to scrub themselves clean of the stink by adopting another name — the “alt-right.” As the New York Times reported Saturday, some groups are going so far as to change their symbol from the well-known swastika to a lesser known symbol — the othala rune — which was also...

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Between the Lines: Pentagon says it wastes $125 billion, plans to continue
Dec12

Between the Lines: Pentagon says it wastes $125 billion, plans to continue

Good news, everyone! The U.S. just found $125 billion in surplus funds. Can you believe it? This money can help with education, scientific research, health insurance, elder care, space exploration, repairs on the nation’s crumbling bridges, improvements to our electrical and cell communication systems. Maybe we could even afford a tax break for working Americans. It’s time to celebrate! It’s time to get to work! It’s time to put this...

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Between the Lines: How to  Spot Fake News
Dec05

Between the Lines: How to Spot Fake News

There is nothing more cynical than fake news. The entire concept is to play readers for suckers, manipulating the foundation of reality in exchange for cash or furthering of what is likely a heinous agenda.And the people hosting and spreading fake news online — the epicenter of the flood of misinformation — are frustratingly good at what they do. Fake news companies are so good at mimicking the look and sound of trustworthy news...

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BTL: The North Dakota Pipeline Protest Asks What’s More Valuable, Water or Oil?
Nov28

BTL: The North Dakota Pipeline Protest Asks What’s More Valuable, Water or Oil?

Protesters clumped together like Gore-Tex penguins on the North Dakota, bridge.On Nov. 18, hundreds of people congregated at Backwater Bridge, in the path of Dakota Access Pipeline construction, to pray — and if their prayers happened to get in the way of an oil company’s progress, that was merely a winking coincidence. “The camp where we stayed, it’s basically a functioning city,” said Meyer, who left for North Dakota on Nov. 15 and...

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Between the Lines: Make Trump King — Seriously
Nov21

Between the Lines: Make Trump King — Seriously

Every morning at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II’s first order of business is to meet with her hairdresser. She drinks from bone china, eats breakfast served by footmen in tailcoats, wanders the grounds, and reads fan mail. Throughout the day, people bow. People say yes. People scurry, escort, accommodate, flatter. For dinner, the Queen eats lamb, roast beef, mutton, grouse, or salmon, with a Martini to wash it down. By 8:30...

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Between the Lines: One Nation Under Trump?
Nov14

Between the Lines: One Nation Under Trump?

Hillary Clinton voters: It’s time to get on with it. Donald Trump is our next president, whether we like it or not, and the great American experiment in democracy is going to continue.Please, stop protesting the free and fair election of Donald Trump and petitioning electors to vote Clinton. Maybe we’ll reform the electoral college someday, but today is not that day. Stop talking about moving to Canada: You’re just fanning the flames...

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Between the Lines: What Might Have Been
Nov09

Between the Lines: What Might Have Been

Editor’s Note: As an American woman who believes that words matter, I feel like I matter a little less today. Below is the editorial I was planning to run to applaud the first female president of the U.S., Hillary Clinton. It seems poignant to publish it, still. To what might have been … I am proud to have Hillary Clinton as the president of the United States. She’s the first woman to reach the nation’s highest office, but her gender...

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Extra Credit on the Charter School Question: Follow the Money
Oct31

Extra Credit on the Charter School Question: Follow the Money

At some point over the past few weeks, each of the four Nov. 8 state ballot measures stirred up mixed feelings in me (yes, even the weed one). But no issue had me more conflicted than Question 2, which proposes to authorize the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve up to 12 new charter schools per year beginning Jan. 1.I’m voting No, but deciding wasn’t easy. Apparently, I’m not alone. A Suffolk...

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Between the Lines: Are the Elections Rigged?
Oct24

Between the Lines: Are the Elections Rigged?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has spent the last several months asserting that the Nov. 8 election will be rigged against him.He doesn’t have any evidence to support this claim — except for all the polls that say the real estate developer and reality TV star is going to lose the election — but that hasn’t stopped him from tarnishing the foundation of U.S. democracy. He’s gone so far as to refuse to acknowledge whether...

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BTL: Seeing Is Believing, Springfield needs to release police video
Oct17

BTL: Seeing Is Believing, Springfield needs to release police video

Video footage has emerged in court proceedings that defense attorneys say shows Springfield Police Det. Gregg A. Bigda threatening two teenage suspects in an encounter last winter. According to local media reports, the lawyers who obtained the videos said they show Bigda threatening to plant a kilo of cocaine on one of the boys and crush his friend’s skull.Even though the incident happened on Feb. 26, footage of the interrogation,...

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Between the Lines: Valley Series Exposes Poor Treatment of Immigrant Workers
Oct10

Between the Lines: Valley Series Exposes Poor Treatment of Immigrant Workers

The dream of America, for most immigrants, is the dream of a better standard of living, earned through hard work in a country where employment laws apply to all regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation — or immigration status.Equal treatment is a cherished American value. Legal protections must never be allocated on a sliding scale. When that occurs, the dream edges toward nightmare.In the Gazette series “Under the Table,”...

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Between the Lines: E-ZPass and the Impending Robot Takeover
Sep26

Between the Lines: E-ZPass and the Impending Robot Takeover

I’m soon going to have to decide if a pull towards convenience outweighs my fear of a total robot takeover of the world as we know it.I may get an E-ZPass transponder.The decision should be made simpler by the fact that the state of Massachusetts isn’t giving any of us much choice. Anyone who uses the Mass Pike without one will pay close to double what E-ZPass subscribers pay when new toll system goes live in late...

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