Keene: Smoke ’em if you got ’em

Gathering of marijuana smokers, advocates on Central Square is growing

By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published Friday, September 25, 2009
What began earlier this week with two friends smoking marijuana in Keene’s Central Square has become a steadily growing group that drew a crowd of more than 70 people Thursday afternoon.

Some of those gathered called themselves protestors for the legalization of marijuana, others said they just showed up to join in and smoke marijuana. Several said they plan to be back on the square this afternoon — at 4:20 p.m.

The number 420 is used in the drug subculture to represent marijuana smoking.

The crowd Thursday began trickling in shortly after 4 p.m. Several people carried handmade signs in favor of legalizing marijuana with phrases such as “My body my choice: Legalize drugs,” and “Leaf Us Alone.” Continue reading

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Monadnock Profile: Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published Saturday, September 19, 2009
Decades ago, sitting with her mother, father and younger brother in a Jeep surrounded by a vast expanse of African desert, 19-year-old Elizabeth M. Thomas could not have been more out of place.

It was 1950 and Thomas, now 78 years old and a best-selling author who lives in Peterborough, had taken a year off from college to move with her family to the Kalahari Desert.

Thomas’ father, Laurence K. Marshall, founder and president of Raytheon Corp., made the decision to pack up the family and move after his retirement from the company, which manufactures defense systems and formerly was involved in aircraft.

“My dad wanted to go someplace where there was nothing on the map, and there were three places,” Thomas said. “One was Namibia, one was the Antarctic and one was Tasmania, so he chose Namibia.”

Their new home would be a 120,000-square-mile stretch of grasslands and sand dunes that reached into Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Continue reading

Tickled pink at being pickle green

Winchester festival marks 12th year in style

By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published Sunday, September 13, 2009
When Alison A. Jacobs got up Saturday morning she pulled on her neon green tights and pale green T-shirt. She slipped into a handmade suit of green-striped fabric, tied at the top of her head with green ribbon, and stepped into florescent green garden clogs.Photo/Michael Moore

On her hands, she wore sea-green colored gloves and she threw a white sash over her shoulder.

With her super-hero-like costume complete, the pastor of the United Church of Winchester became “Pastor Pickle” — just one of the many pickle-bedecked participants of Saturday’s Pickle Festival in Winchester.

Even the rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of hundreds of people milling between booths at the 12th annual festival, munching on crispy spears and pickles-on-a-stick.

Continue reading

Too sick to work, too broke not to

State ponders whether to require businesses to give paid sick leave

By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published Thursday, September 10, 2009
State lawmakers will soon take up a bill that could require businesses to offer paid sick leave to all employees.

Supporters of the proposal, such as Nikki Murphy, executive director of the N.H. Women’s Lobby and Alliance in Concord, say it will improve public health by keeping sick employees off the job.

But opponents, like David A. Juvet, senior vice president of the Concord-based N.H. Business and Industry Association, say it will place burdensome costs on small- and mid-sized businesses already struggling through the recession.

“Where does this end?” Juvet said. “You could argue that businesses should be required to provide vacation time for mental health or say they have to provide a retirement savings account.

“Many businesses look at those and try to provide those if they can and if it makes good business sense. But there’s a big difference between the business choosing that and the state mandating that.”

The bill, introduced by Rep. Mary Stuart Gile, D-Concord, would require businesses with 10 or more employees to provide up to five days of paid sick time to all part- and full-time employees who have worked there for six months.

The sick time, which can also be used to stay home with sick family members or for preventive care, would be earned at a rate of 1 hour of sick time per 30 hours worked, according to Gile.

As state health officials prepare for a possible H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic, they’re urging workers to stay home if they feel sick to avoid spreading illness to co-workers or other members of the public. Continue reading

Good grades

Officials: mental health court reduces logjam

By Casey Farrar
Sentinel Staff
Published September 9, 2009
In the nearly six years since the mental health court in Keene became the first to open in the state, more than 200 people who otherwise would have ended up in jail instead have entered a program designed to treat their mental illnesses.

Mental health court officials say the program is successfully helping reduce overcrowding in the Cheshire County jail in Westmoreland, saving money and improving the mental health of the people it serves.

G. Gail Coburn, director of adult services for Monadnock Family Services, also credits the court with helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness here.

Monadnock Family Services is a Keene-based mental health agency involved with the court since its inception.

“I think the fact that the community and the court system even support this kind of program speaks well of what I describe as the mental health-I.Q. of the community,” Coburn said. “It is higher than the average community because these programs are put in place and it’s sort of brought to the forefront that there are these mental health issues and, you know, the community can be part of resolving these issues.”

Other local mental health providers say that’s one of the unexpected benefits of the court, which they say has improved community awareness of mental illnesses and increased collaboration between local criminal justice officials and mental health agencies. Continue reading