From Other Sources, News for and About Amherst.  This Week: Amherst Area News Roundup and Potpourri from Further Afield

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Here are links to some local stories from last week that we were unable to cover in the Indy, as well as to a few stories from further afield. Among them is a story about ARHS grad Ebon Moss Bachrach who won an Emmy for his work in The Bear and a story by ARHS grad Allison Wade, who explores under-representation of women in collegiate coaching.

Recommended Read of the Week
I found Henry Giroux’s expansive essay this week in Truthout, ”Silence Is Dangerous in the Current Age of Rising Fascism in the US to be bracing, captivating, and sobering. The essay explores the role that language and silence play in fostering the growth of fascist movements in the US.  I found myself, with each paragraph, nodding and musing “yes, that is exactly what is happening” and later in the essay concurring with Giroux’s exhortation to embrace the language of historic social movements that “will allow us to recognize ourselves as agents and not victims.” This is the urgent pep talk that we need with fascism roiling all around us.

We are grateful to the folks at Truthout for granting us permission to repost Giroux’s essay in this week’s edition.

Are Paywalls An Obstacle?

Here at the Indy we support several other publications with our personal subscriptions and we encourage our readers to do the same as they are able.  And for this feature, we try to post articles that are not hiding behind a paywall.  But sometimes an article worth reading is hiding behind a paywall, and subscription to the source is just not feasible.  For such instances there are workarounds. Check out some possibilities here and here and here.  

Share The Good Stuff That You Are Reading
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AMHERST AREA NEWS

PFAS, Slew of Other Agriculture Related Bills, on the Move on Beacon Hill by Scott Merzbach (2/2/24). Prohibiting PFAS forever chemicals from consumer products sold in Massachusetts remains an objective for Northampton state Sen. Jo Comerford, who sees a recently advanced legislative bill to protect soil and farms from such contamination as an important first step to “turning off the tap.” After meeting with numerous farmers and agricultural experts, Comerford and Rep. Paul Schmid, D-Westport, who co-chair the Joint Committee on Agriculture, filed H. 101 and S. 39, “an act protecting our soil and farms from PFAS contamination.” The PFAS bill, Comerford said, would limit the chemicals’ presence in soils and food and provide liability protections for farmers who often have used fertilizer containing treated wastewater, and would encourage them to seek alternatives going forward. “This sets up a framework to do it right and must be part of turning off the tap,” Comerford said, adding that “I believe that the stakes are really high to get it right.” (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Worst Food Anywhere? Amherst Leaders Quick to Crack Back at Dining Diss by Scott Merzbach (1/31/24). Chicken cordon bleu pizza and slices topped with tortellini are among the food offerings J. Mascis, an Amherst native and founder of the rock band Dinosaur Jr., says he can get when dining in town, likely a reference to what is available at Antonio’s Pizza. Though Mascis doesn’t name the restaurant that Amherst Business Improvement District Executive Director Gabrielle Gould refers to as “world renowned” — and where actors Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart dined during a 2018 visit to town — pizza is one of the few positives about the Amherst dining scene mentioned by the musician as part of a recent 53-minute interview on the “How Long Gone” podcast, hosted by Chris Black and Jason Stewart. But when asked if there are any good places to eat, with the hosts quipping that a college town must at least have a Jimmy John’s sub shop, Mascis responded by contending there is not one good restaurant in Amherst, calling them all horrible. Now, with his comments amplified in a Jan. 29 article in the Boston Globe, the Amherst Business Improvement District is taking steps to defend the reputation of Amherst’s eateries, especially those downtown, through the launch of a 10-week campaign, “Take a Dino to Dinner.” Gould was quick to fashion the promotion, which will run through April 15.
(Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Healing by Standing Together. Palestinian and Jewish Israelis Draw 200 to Forum with a Message of a Way Forward by Maddie Fabian (1/31/24). The hearts of Jewish and Palestinian Americans in western Massachusetts are aching. Over the last nearly four months, hundreds of community members have united at protests in the form of rallies, sit-ins, and letter signings for a permanent cease-fire, Palestinian freedom, and justice for families of hostages. But as the death toll in Gaza rises and Hamas continues to hold Israeli hostages, increasingly polarized dialogues often pit one side against the other. Black, red, green and white “Free Palestine” flags wave at one protest, while blue and white Israeli flags fly at another — each focusing on one group’s pain and suffering. Social media is rife with hashtags such as #freePalestine and #standwithIsrael, but those messages are rarely seen in conjunction. In the midst of all the heartache and division, a prominent Israeli grassroots organization called Standing Together is offering a vision of “peace, equality and social justice” by mobilizing Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, and by spreading their message across the globe. They brought that message to western Massachusetts on Sunday, when Standing Together representatives spoke to a group of more than 200 Jewish community members at an online forum. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Amherst Officials Mull Puffers Pond Improvements by Scott Merzbach (1/29/24). Frequent closing of Puffer’s Pond last summer due to high levels of E. coli bacteria, coupled with ongoing concerns that sediment is filling the body of water, is prompting town officials to focus on developing a plan for improvements. At the Conservation Commission last week, Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said a priority is being put on fixing the pond, long a popular site for swimming throughout the warm-weather months, both for residents and area college students. “In the last couple of years we’ve lost so many swimmable days at Puffer’s Pond, it’s really kind of getting to the point where we need to do something there,” Ziomek said. A first step is working with Fuss & O’Neil engineers on a vision and understanding that there are challenges with both the dike and the circa 1895 dam that keep the pond in place. More complicated, Ziomek said, is understanding why the pond is filling in and to decide whether to undertake dredging of the pond for the first time in 38 years, when 100,000 cubic yards of material were removed. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

ARHS Grad Ebon Moss Bachrach Wins Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for “The Bear” by Scott Merzbach (1/25/24).   A 1995 Amherst Regional High School graduate’s work on the first season of the FX/Hulu television series “The Bear” has earned him a Primetime Emmy Award. Ebon Moss-Bachrach took home the best supporting actor in a comedy series award at the television industry’s ceremony, held Monday at the  Peacock Theater in Los Angeles to recognize shows that aired between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023. The plot of “The Bear,” which is about to begin filming its third season, centers on fine dining chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, played by Jeremy Allen White, taking over a rundown restaurant in Chicago left to him by his late brother, and his efforts to turn the place into a next-level dining spot. Moss-Bachrach plays Berzatto’s family friend and shop manager, Richie Jerimovich. When he graduated from high school, Moss-Bachrach listed several of his activities in a Gazette supplement printed at the time, including the ARHS Theatre Co. and ARHS Chorale, the Third Mile Jazz Quintet, Ultimate and Chai BBYO. (Amherst Bulletin)

BEYOND AMHERST
Newton Teachers Strike Ends, Returning Students To School on Monday by Mandy McLaren, Christopher Huffaker and Deanna Pan (2/2/24). Following 11 days of shuttered schools and a bitter public feud, Newton’s School Committee and the Newton Teachers Association reached a tentative contract agreement Friday night, ending the state’s longest teacher strike in decades and returning nearly 12,000 students to class Monday. The agreement, which will cost the district $53 million more than the current contract, includes a 12.6 percent cost of living increase over four years for teachers, a larger increase for classroom aides, and a dramatic expansion of paid parental leave. The announcement brings to a close a two-week-long illegal strike that pit neighbor against neighbor in the tony suburb, forced parents to scramble for childcare, left special education students without needed therapies, and saw 2,000 educators huddle on picket lines in the bitter cold. (Boston Globe)


US City Councils Increasingly Call for Israel-Gaza Cease Fire by Aurora Ellis (2/2/24).  Some 70 U.S. cities, including Chicago and Seattle, have passed resolutions on the Israel-Gaza war with most calling for a ceasefire, a Reuters analysis of city data shows, placing more pressure on President Joe Biden ahead of a November general election to help end the fighting. At least 48 cities have passed symbolic resolutions calling for a halt to Israel’s Gaza bombardment, with six others passing resolutions advocating more broadly for peace. At least 20 have passed resolutions condemning Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which sparked the current bloodshed, the data shows. Most of the ceasefire resolutions have passed in Democratic states like California, though at least 14 have passed in swing states like Michigan that could be decisive in Biden’s re-election bid against Republican former President Donald Trump. Biden’s administration has rebuffed calls for a ceasefire, something supported by a majority of Americans, arguing that an Israeli halt would embolden Hamas. Critics of the city resolutions say they have no tangible effect on national policy and distract from domestic issues. (Reuters)

Co-Teaching a Class on Israel and Palestine by Bernard Avishai (2/2/24). For the past two years, at Dartmouth College, I have been co-teaching a course called The Politics of Israel and Palestine with Ezzedine Fishere, a former Egyptian diplomat who served under the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Our work in the class—a civil, exploratory dialogue sustained over eighteen sessions—anchored a series of public forums at the college in the aftermath of the horrors of October 7th. These drew several hundred students and faculty into the college halls, and were watched by two thousand more online; they proved sufficiently helpful in preëmpting the polarization that has afflicted other Ivy League campuses to gain the attention of various national media. I spend half the year in Israel, and have since returned to a country at war. I’ve been thinking more about our miniature peace process, about how a university might organize for difficult subjects—and about what, after all, universities are. (The New Yorker)

Non-police Crisis Response Programs Have Been Working. Here’s How  by  Meg O’Connor (1/24/24).  Over the past three years, tens of thousands of people in crisis have been met with behavioral health specialists and social workers instead of police officers. Interactions like these are taking place across the country more often today compared to previous years. While unarmed crisis responders have existed for decades, public outrage over the 2020 police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, and many others prompted cities to create new ways to respond to people in crisis. Police are often called to respond to situations involving people experiencing mental health crises—with disastrous results. According to The Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings, at least 1 in 5 people fatally shot by police since 2015 were experiencing a mental health crisis at the time. More than 40 percent of the people incarcerated in state prisons nationwide had a history of mental health problems, according to data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. In the absence of better healthcare, municipalities often turn to police and jails to house and “care” for people in crisis—big-city jails like New York’s Rikers Island and Los Angeles County’s Twin Towers Correctional Facility are often referred to as some of the largest mental health institutions in the country, for example. Experts say criminalizing people for their health problems only makes things worse. To break that cycle, dozens of cities nationwide have launched alternative crisis response programs. While these programs can take many different forms—and typically work best when they are tailored to the needs of the local community—they generally involve sending mental or behavioral health professionals to respond to certain kinds of emergency calls, such as welfare checks or calls involving suicidal ideation. (The Appeal)

Long Hours, Poor Pay, Discrimination. Why the Numbers of Women in Collegiate Coaching Remains Low. by ARHS alum Allison Wade (1/21/24). Working for $14,000 a year or less. Getting stuck in entry-level jobs. Breastfeeding in porta potties. Working for head coaches who behave unprofessionally or unethically. And dealing with athletic directors who are skeptical that women can successfully coach male athletes. These are just some of the reasons why so few women hold collegiate cross country and track & field coaching jobs. Across all NCAA women’s sports, the number of female head coaches is increasing, but slowly. During the 2022–23 academic year, only 41 percent of women’s teams and 6 percent of men’s teams across all NCAA divisions had a female head coach, up from 39.8 percent and 3.9 percent in 2013. (Fast Women Substack)

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