Between the Lines: ‘At Least He Let Me Go’ A woman’s life on the streets
Aug01

Between the Lines: ‘At Least He Let Me Go’ A woman’s life on the streets

Julia is standing at one of the I-91 intersections in Holyoke after hitchhiking down from Vermont. On the back of her cardboard sign is a small, hand-written phone number.Some guy in a truck gave it to her, she says. He says he has a moving company and to give him a call if she needs work. It’s an 860 number. We call it, but it goes straight to a man’s voicemail, and we search for the number online to see if it’s tied to a moving...

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Between the Lines: With Guns, Feelings of Safety Trump Actual Safety
Jul25

Between the Lines: With Guns, Feelings of Safety Trump Actual Safety

At 1 p.m. on a weekday in Chicopee earlier this month, a 15-year-old boy accompanied by two friends was allegedly banging so hard on the triple pane window of a stranger’s door that it broke the first of three layers of glass. The youth never made it through the door, which was locked. The homeowner, who was inside, fired a gun through the door, hitting the teen in the abdomen. The teenager, Dylan Francisco, is dead. The man who shot...

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Between the Lines: A Rebar River Runs Through It
Jul19

Between the Lines: A Rebar River Runs Through It

More than 100 yards of industrial concrete waste along the Connecticut River along Route 47 in Hadley is going to be removed, thanks to an anonymous phone call.Earlier this month, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an enforcement order against general contractor Christopher J. Baj, of Hadley Concrete Service, alleging violations of the state’s solid waste, wetlands and waterways laws when debris — 2,860 cubic feet...

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Between the Lines: Catching Up With Old Beefs, Part II
Jul11

Between the Lines: Catching Up With Old Beefs, Part II

Some topics are too rich to write about just once — and this column seeks to tackle a lot of them. For all the people wondering, “What ever happened to …?” this week’s column — part two in a two-part series — is full of 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, let me know at editor@valleyadvocate.com. The Counted, Too In the wake of the...

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Between the Lines: Catching Up With Old Beefs, gun control, Gerena, and higher-ed grifters
Jul05

Between the Lines: Catching Up With Old Beefs, gun control, Gerena, and higher-ed grifters

News writers are constantly looking for new topics, fresh angles, scoops, and shenanigans to expose — and once we’ve done that work, it’s on to the next new thing. Because there is always a new issue, catastrophe, trend, or serious question to analyze, journalists and public interest will often move on from a storyline before it reaches a conclusion. Many of us are left wondering, “What ever happened to …” This week’s column is full...

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Between the Lines: The GOP Problem, Mass Cash and Massacres
Jun27

Between the Lines: The GOP Problem, Mass Cash and Massacres

People say you can’t put a price on life, but Republicans certainly have. Ted Cruz (R-TX) thinks 100 human lives are worth about $159,800.Marco Rubio (R) doesn’t put as high a value on people, selling out the public for just $44,480. But at least he’s holding out for more than Mike Crapo (R-ID) whose vote can be bought for the bargain price of $5,300!In June, when Republican senators voted down Democrat-drafted...

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Between the Lines: New Beginnings
Jun20

Between the Lines: New Beginnings

When we set out to reinvigorate the Valley Advocate a little more than a year ago, we had some goals in mind. We wanted to bring our venerable newspaper back to its roots: alternative stories, for alternative people — and some mainstream folks who are still cool. We decided that we should strive to give voice to the voiceless and tackle topics other news agencies have missed. But we also wanted to remain strong allies of the local...

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Between the Lines: Nothing to See Here? Pharmaceutical prices skyrocket
Jun14

Between the Lines: Nothing to See Here? Pharmaceutical prices skyrocket

Usually, when you buy something, you know the price before you step up to the register. Most of us have a pretty good bead on how much a gallon of milk is and who has the best prices on gas, but when it comes to pharmaceutical drugs, everyone’s standing before the register hoping there’s enough coin in their pockets to buy the necessary life-sustaining medicine. Unlike most developed nations around the world, the United States does...

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Between the Lines: Report a Crime, Risk Deportation
Jun06

Between the Lines: Report a Crime, Risk Deportation

Massachusetts State Troopers can now detain for 48 hours people suspected of being in the country illegally — allowing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enough time to show up, arrest the person on federal charges, and begin deportation proceedings.Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker ordered state police to temporarily detain arrested individuals suspected of being in the country illegally in cases where the immigrant poses...

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Between the Lines: Allies, Give Money, Support  — and Silence
May31

Between the Lines: Allies, Give Money, Support  — and Silence

There are a lot of allies living in the Pioneer Valley — we’re a woke bunch.The Valley is home to many people who are allies of the LGBTQ community, Black Lives Matter, feminists, workers’ rights and social justice causes, people with disabilities or mental illness, and the homeless — there’s even an ally group for feral cats.People’s concern for the well-being of their neighbors is one of the sweetest aspects of living in the Pioneer...

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Between the Lines: If You’re Defending Columbus, You’re Not Paying Attention
May23

Between the Lines: If You’re Defending Columbus, You’re Not Paying Attention

Here are some things that, if you do them, should disqualify you from ever having a national holiday in your honor:Driving civilizations that once consisted of millions of people to near-extinction through starvation and murder;Enslaving people to force them to work themselves to death mining for gold;Saying things like this: the Native peoples of the Caribbean “would make fine servants … With 50 men we could subjugate them all and...

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Between the Lines: Art Should Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable
May16

Between the Lines: Art Should Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable

Last October, I sat among hundreds of Springfield public students in the dark of the downtown venue CityStage. We had gathered for a touring performance, created by Double Edge Theatre of Ashfield, called The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century). It was a delightfully strange show, full of acrobatics, clowning, colorful costumes, and surreal depictions of life around the world in recent decades.At first, such rich pageantry struck many...

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Between the Lines: Are Students in Springfield Risking Their Health for an Education?
May09

Between the Lines: Are Students in Springfield Risking Their Health for an Education?

Hundreds of Springfield children spend seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months out of the year at German Gerena Community School, which may or may not have a severe mold problem, depending on who you ask.According to parents and community leaders, including Ward One City Councilor Adam Gomez, there is black mold in the Gerena School that needs to be removed.Following tests conducted in 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection...

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Between the Lines: Can Longmeadow Ban ‘Assault Weapons?’
May04

Between the Lines: Can Longmeadow Ban ‘Assault Weapons?’

Longmeadow residents have the opportunity this week to ban all assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines from their town. Residents at Town Meeting will vote on 31 articles Tuesday, May 10, including three that deal with gun ownership. The proposed measures haven’t created too much debate in town, says Alex Grant, the selectman who put the articles on the meeting warrant via a citizen’s petition. But they’ve caught the...

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Between the Lines: Is For-Profit Higher Ed Rigged?
Apr25

Between the Lines: Is For-Profit Higher Ed Rigged?

One of the benefits of living in Massachusetts is enjoying a swell of liberal pride when one of our politicians takes a stand for the people. It’s why we elected Liz Warren and Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank and Silvio O. Conte (yes, he was a Republican, but with a soft spot for the environment the size of the Silvio O. Conte Fish and Wildlife Refuge). Add to that list Attorney General Maura Healey and her efforts to crack down on...

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Best of the Valley: The Intangibles
Apr18

Best of the Valley: The Intangibles

In this week’s Advocate, you’ll find the winners of our annual Best Of the Valley Readers’ Poll, a who’s who and what’s what of the top people, places, and businesses Western Mass and Southern Vermont have to offer. Thank you to everyone who voted. We can’t produce this handy guide without you!While there are more than 170 Best Of categories, the awards don’t cover everything. For example, we don’t rank the je ne sais quoi. Best Of...

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The Panama Papers or How to Hide Millions
Apr12

The Panama Papers or How to Hide Millions

Have you heard about the Panama Papers? The largest leak to the media ever … that is getting little attention in the media.This is surprising because so far the Panama Papers have revealed a blueprint of how the wealthy and elite hide their money from taxation — and thus the rightful owners of that money; the 99 percent — via offshore businesses.Perhaps the story is just too depressing? The saddest thing to come out of the...

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Between the Lines: Load Time – Push Play on Hilltown Broadband
Apr05

Between the Lines: Load Time – Push Play on Hilltown Broadband

If you think of Internet speed as a flying mode of transportation, most of us are on a rocket with broadband while many people living in the Hilltowns are stuck riding a roofless biplane, aka DSL.If you’ve never heard of DSL, or the shrieking grating noise a computer makes when it tries to connect to the Web via dial-up, it’s because the connection mode was widely abandoned in the early 2000s for high-speed Internet. High-speed is...

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Between the Lines: Suicide’s Shameful Stigma
Mar29

Between the Lines: Suicide’s Shameful Stigma

Suicide is the epitome of hopelessness. It’s a last resort for people who believe that there is no chance of life improving. Options for help can seem unavailable or unfathomable.If there is an antidote for suicide, we have yet to find it. But we can be fairly certain that sneers of “get over it” are as helpful as shouting at a drowning person to swim.An antidote is exactly what the U.S. needs, as the suicide rate in this nation is on...

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Indignant in Short: Bathroom Bill, East Longmeadow, and Snakes
Mar22

Indignant in Short: Bathroom Bill, East Longmeadow, and Snakes

There was a lot in the news this past week that made my blood boil and eyes bulge. While driving in my car, yelling back at NPR’s coverage of the latest violent flare up at a Trump rally incited by the old circus barker, I realized there might not be enough room in this column for me to work out my frustration. For a columnist, this realization is a sign to ignore the instinct to indulge your voice — and bore your audience — and...

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Between the Lines: No Room for Biomass in Clean Energy Future
Mar14

Between the Lines: No Room for Biomass in Clean Energy Future

Back in the early 2000s, most people thought biomass power plants seemed like an excellent renewable resource, but now we know better. Burning excess construction materials and/or wood scraps and pellets — the typical “mass” in biomass — releases an unhealthy level of fine particles, aka permiculate, into the air. It produces 150 percent more carbon dioxide than coal plants, according to the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and...

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Between the Lines: Get Community into the Springfield Community Police Review Board
Mar08

Between the Lines: Get Community into the Springfield Community Police Review Board

With public pressure and frustration mounting, last week Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he would take steps to improve communication between residents and the city’s Community Police Hearing Board. The board provides a crucial forum in which people from the community are supposed to hear complaints about police officers, take stock of the available evidence and make recommendations to the police commissioner. First up, kudos to...

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BTL: What People Are Saying About the Advocate
Feb29

BTL: What People Are Saying About the Advocate

The Valley Advocate recently conducted a reader poll and the results are in. Thank you to the hundreds of readers who took the time to fill out or mail in feedback about the paper’s past, present, and future. We also learned a bit more about who Advocate readers are and what you all want from this local alt-weekly. There were some striking findings in the results. For example, our theater column, Stagestruck, has a strong and...

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Between the Lines: An Unpalatable Plan to Starve the Poor
Feb24

Between the Lines: An Unpalatable Plan to Starve the Poor

D rug testing people before providing them with food assistance has nothing to do with saving states money and everything to do with humiliating illegal substance users. Massachusetts is not among the seven or so states that require some or all low-income residents to pee in a cup before they are provided with food, but there’s a Congressman who wants to make it easier for all states to kick people when they’re down and hungry. In...

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Between the Lines: Congress Keeps Killing Conversation on Race in America
Feb16

Between the Lines: Congress Keeps Killing Conversation on Race in America

Every congressional session U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) files H.R. 40, a bill to study the impact of slavery on the nation. And every congressional session it dies in committee. That’s where the tenth submission of this bill, filed in January of last year, is rotting now. The U.S. has been in dire need of a serious conversation about race and how it is interpreted today. H.R. 40 provides this opportunity on a national scale...

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Between the Lines: Objectively, Albano Is a Bad Choice for Sheriff
Feb08

Between the Lines: Objectively, Albano Is a Bad Choice for Sheriff

Mike Albano is Western Mass’ perennial candidate. A member of the Governor’s Council — but more famously the mayor of Springfield, from 1995 to 2004 — Albano has amassed a following and developed a political acumen that has kept him on the short list most years for a potential run for public office. After serving several low-key years on the Governor’s Council, Albano is ready to throw his hat in the ring for the Hampden County...

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Between the Lines: Don’t Screw the Pooch
Feb03

Between the Lines: Don’t Screw the Pooch

I have a confession to make, people — I own a pit bull. Phew! I’ve been hemming and hawing over whether or not to outright say that for weeks. Because the consequences are indeed scary. As a disclaimer: if anyone tries to take my dog-son away we’ll go on the run together. I hesitate to tell you this because my dog — my wrinkly-faced baby who lets my nieces and nephews take toys out of his mouth no-problem and looks sadly on as my cat...

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Between the Lines: Burning Over Bernie & Hillary
Jan25

Between the Lines: Burning Over Bernie & Hillary

Last week, I wrote a column, “Hillary Clinton is the Real Revolution” about why I will cast my vote for Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the March primary. An immensely qualified candidate, Clinton also has the advantage of being a woman, which allows her to bring a unique perspective to U.S. politics — a perspective that is desperately needed. Because of these attributes, Clinton is my candidate. Reaction to the article was strong....

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Between the Lines: Hillary Clinton is the Real Revolution
Jan18

Between the Lines: Hillary Clinton is the Real Revolution

With many people in the U.S. prepared to bomb the fictional land of Agrabah, plus a full-on conservative war against women, the Affordable Care Act under siege and a fragile economy, America needs Hillary Clinton to be the next president. The former senator and secretary of state has her priorities straight. During Sunday night’s debate, she said that her first 100 days in office would be dedicated to promoting equal pay for women and...

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Between the Lines: If This Is Reform, You Can Keep It
Jan11

Between the Lines: If This Is Reform, You Can Keep It

Massachusetts has some of the most ineffective and restrictive public information laws in the country. Data that is published online in most U.S. states is difficult to access in Massachusetts. For example, Massachusetts is one of a handful of states in the nation that excludes legislators and the governor from most public information requests. And unlike most states, Massachusetts doesn’t pay a successful plaintiff’s legal fees when...

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Between the Lines: Bruised Students, What is going on at the Peck School in Holyoke?
Jan04

Between the Lines: Bruised Students, What is going on at the Peck School in Holyoke?

In December the Boston-based Disability Law Center rocked the Valley with a report about alleged physical and psychological abuse suffered by students at the Peck School in Holyoke. In the report, the protection and advocacy agency details a number of disturbing situations between staff and students. For refusing to move, a disabled child was reportedly thrown to the floor and slapped by a staff member. For resisting being put in...

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Between the Lines: The Advocate’s Wish List for 2016
Dec21

Between the Lines: The Advocate’s Wish List for 2016

We wish for: -Donald Trump to go the hell away before he ruins our country. -an additional bridge between Northampton and Hadley. Coolidge just can’t take it anymore. -a use for pennies. (New rule: if you can’t use it to pay a parking meter, get rid of it.) -more parking meters like they have in Amherst. Use a card? Pay via phone? Yes, please. -an end to daylight savings. Does it serve any purpose other than to disturb our cycles?...

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Between the Lines: The Advocate, Love us or hate us, Just let me know
Dec14

Between the Lines: The Advocate, Love us or hate us, Just let me know

Every week brings a delightful struggle: deciding which stories will be featured in the Advocate. With only a handful of chances each month to grab readers’ interest, we strive to choose stories that explore long-standing issues and policies in the community. We try to hit on three themes in each issue: News, arts, and “hell yeah.” In news we like to write about social justice, the business of arts and culture, politics, and police...

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Puerto Rico isn’t GoodFellas
Dec07

Puerto Rico isn’t GoodFellas

Puerto Rico is $72 billion in the hole and struggling to pay loans leaders took out to keep their nation afloat. Meanwhile, hedge funds and bond firms are throwing their hands up in the air and filing lawsuits against the island nation. As if this were not foreseen by investors when they cut high-interest checks to Puerto Rico. As if there were no other way to recoup the loans. I’m calling out OppenheimerFunds, a unit of...

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Between the Lines: Help the Economy, Get Cool Stuff: Shop Local
Nov30

Between the Lines: Help the Economy, Get Cool Stuff: Shop Local

The “Be a Local Hero” or “Shero” slogan is a too hyperbolic for me, but below the schmaltz there’s some truth to it. The small action of buying local goods and services strengthens hometowns in ways that big box stores and corporate businesses can’t: more local jobs and charity and, in general, cooler stuff. Helping to sustain a regional economy is one of those everyday noble acts we do to keep society going, like voting, hand washing...

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