Letters: Donkey Basketball, Persian New Year, More

Listeners wrote in to Weekend Edition Sunday about donkey basketball, the Persian New Year and reverse mortgage abuses. Liane Hansen reads from some of these letters.

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Time now for your letters, and we received several about our recent investigation into abuses in the reverse mortgage industry. Patrick Lilly(ph) of Cheyenne, Colorado, wrote, I hope the warning implicit in your story about reverse mortgages hits home with many people. Before my mother died, she flirted with the idea of taking one out. In the end, it was just inertia that prevented her from doing so, not the many importunings of myself and my brother trying to show her that this was just a slick way of depriving her of ownership of her home.

A story we broadcast last week about schools using live donkeys in basketball games to raise money prompted lots of angry letters. Jane Frost of Richmond, Maine, wrote that her local high school outlawed donkey basketball as a fundraiser. Riders at the games are usually adults, and many weigh more than 200 pounds. Would anyone tie up a horse, a much larger animal, and throw 200-pound sacks onto its back for a couple of hours of amusement?

And Juanita Boutin(ph) of Oxford, Mississippi, says that hearing that story made her furious.

M: Have you guys slipped your moorings? What could've possessed you to air the story about donkey basketball as a charming vignette of rural America? Animals made to run precariously on basketball courts, hooves racked to prevent scarring of the floor, people yelling and screaming around them, and children mishandling their reins, which are connected to the animal's mouths and heads. Shame on you for presenting this as something cute. I'm surprised at your editors. Bad enough it exists, never mind NPR profiling it for a chuckle.

HANSEN: Rebecca Webb(ph) of Rochester, New York, loved our segment about the tasty food served during Nowruz, an ancient celebration to mark the beginning of spring.

Thank you for the delightful story, she wrote, at this time when so many Americans are suspicious of Iranians and Muslims. What a wonderful portrayal of the beauty of the Persian New Year celebration.

And contrary to the opinion of puzzle master Will Shortz, there will always be an England, at least in the United States. Will said there wasn't a city named England in the U.S., but Janet Faulk(ph) wrote about how she discovered just such a place several years ago. Residents of Arkansas were undoubtedly surprised to hear there is no city in the U.S. named England.

When I was in Little Rock in 1995, I drove to nearby England. Upon entering the town, there was a large sign proclaiming, Welcome to England. I have the photo to prove it. I recommend a visit to the Plantation Agricultural Museum down the road in Scott. It is dedicated to the history of cotton cultivation in Arkansas.

You can write to us about what you've discovered or what you've heard on our program. Just go to our Web site, npr.org, and click on the Contact Us link.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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