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Glover Teixeira battles Jan Blachowicz for the UFC light heavyweight championship Oct. 30 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Here are some recent news stories you may have missed from around Connecticut.

Plenty of fight left in him

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At 42, Danbury's Glover Teixeira is the new light heavyweight UFC champion.

Forty-two-year-old Danbury resident Glover Teixeira won his title fight against Jan Blachowicz to be UFC light heavyweight champion on Oct. 30, becoming the oldest first-time champion in UFC history.

Not many in Connecticut, even mixed martial arts fans, are aware that Teixeira is a Danbury resident. He runs a gym in Bethel. 

After his fight, Teixeira was asked what his message would be to the people of Danbury. “Never give up on your dreams,” was his response. “No matter what people say, don’t listen to them. They’re gonna put you down. Don’t listen to those negative people. Believe in yourself. Keep going forward.”

Teixeira is old for an MMA fighter, let alone a champion. His last title bout was seven years earlier. He had won 20 matches in a row when, in 2014, he faced legend Jon Jones and lost.

Before his win in October, Teixeira’s wife, Ingrid, said the difference between that fight and what would be his victory against Blachowicz was training in Connecticut. “He has trained 100 percent here in the area, and he uses people in the area to help him train,” she said. “It has a different feel, this camp seems super focused compared to last time when he was in Florida for a lot of it. This time he is here like he has been for his last five wins — it feels right.”

Teixeira said earlier this month that if he pulled off the victory, he’d be “partying right on Main Street” in Danbury. “I love this city,” Teixeira said. “I enjoy everything about it from the four seasons to the people. I have a lot of friends over here from my hometown in Brazil and I have my wife who was born here with her family. The place is great, the community is beautiful. People are so nice and warm, they received me with open arms from the first day I came over here.”

Seeing through the hoax

“The Vinland Map is a fake,” Raymond Clemens, curator of early books and manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, said in a statement reported in Artnet News in October. “There is no reasonable doubt here. This new analysis should put the matter to rest.”

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Yale University's Vinland Map, thought to be the earliest depiction of North America, is now proven to be a modern fake.

It’s a crazy story, one told in the June 2018 installment of “The Connecticut Files,” involving a Spanish-Italian manuscript thief, Polish missionaries, Norwegian ink and decades of academic research. The Vinland Map was hailed, when it was acquired by Yale University in 1965, as the earliest depiction of North America, and definitive proof that Vikings had been to North America centuries before Columbus. The New York Times put it on the front page. It was supposedly a 1440 copy of a medieval text called The Tartar Relation, drafted by Polish missionaries in 1247. Another copy was found in Lucerne, Switzerland, and the Vinland Map had worm damage that matched that copy.

After first surfacing in Europe in 1957, New Haven antiquarian book dealer Laurence C. Witten II bought the map for $3,500 from Enzo Ferrajoli de Ry, a convicted manuscript thief. Witten first offered to sell it to the British Museum in London, which declined because they thought it might be a forgery. Witten then tried to sell it to Yale for $300,000 and, when Yale declined, Paul Mellon bought the map and then gifted it to the university. 

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Macro X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) revealed the presence of titanium throughout the Vinland Map’s lines and text.

The first real hint that the map might be fake came in 1973, when the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago found evidence of titanium dioxide, first used in inks in the 1920s. Recently, Yale Library’s Center for Preservation and Conservation and the university’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage used modern techniques, specifically X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, to determine — for all time — if the map really was from 1440. The research compared the two copies of The Tartar Relation, and determined that there was a compound that matched ink produced in Norway in 1923. As good as the forger had been, they made a mistake in altering a Latin inscription with modern ink.

But, forgery though it might be, Yale is keeping it. “The map has become a historical object in and of itself,” Clemens said. “It’s a great example of a forgery that had an international impact.” 

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Ciao, formaggio

Since it was founded in 1953 by Joseph Calabro and his father, Salvatore, Calabro Cheese has become one of Connecticut’s best-known food brands. The company is headquartered in East Haven and has a production facility in the city, employing about 75 people. But the cheesemaker will be family-owned no longer, as sold to Italian cheesemaker Granarolo S.p.A. for $25 million.

But Frank Angeloni, Joseph Calabro’s nephew and Calabro CEO, said there will be no layoffs or closures. The cheese will still be made in East Haven. He said Granarolo is “a great and well-reputed Italian company with a long tradition on dairy, with a well-established international presence both in and outside Europe.”

He added: “We are convinced that working together we can increase the business in the United States by counting on a wide portfolio of high quality ... products produced in Italy that could be added to the successful fresh dairy products produced in the U.S.”

A glowing grandma

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Ms Connecticut Senior America Debra Eccles with her grandson, Stephen.

If you spot Debra Eccles out in public these days, she might be wearing a crown and sash. That’s because, at age 70, the Shelton resident was recently named “Ms. Connecticut Senior America 2021.” 

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Debra Eccles in her Ms. Connecticut Senior America 2021 sash.

But Eccles would be the first to tell you her life has been anything but glamorous. The pageant winner became a “mom” at 62 — to her grandson, Stephen, now 8, when he was just two weeks old, due to family issues. “He’s taught me more about love, patience, kindness. He’s inspired me,” Eccles said of Stephen. “Every day I pray to God I’ll stay healthy enough to see him grow up.”

It’s not Eccles’ first pageant win. Originally from Jamestown, New York, Eccles competed in the Miss Jamestown America pageant at age 20, winning first runner-up. Then, in 1989, when her husband was still alive, Eccles won the title “Mrs. Connecticut USA.” She was widowed four years later with two sons, then ages 11 and 13, to raise. One son has fought addiction most of his adult life.

Eccles has also battled health issues. A breast cancer survivor, she also has a connective tissue disease, among other ailments. “I’m 70 years old, so how beautiful can you remain? They call this the age of elegance,” she said.

And while she admits that, “Yes, looks matter,” when it comes to winning pageants, there are more important things, both in life and on the pageant stage. “What really matters is your inner beauty and that you’re of service to others,” she said.

Another Hallmark moment

Last month we introduced you to Julie Sherman Wolfe, a Hallmark Channel screenwriter based in Avon who penned the first film in the channel’s annual “Countdown to Christmas” movie lineup, You, Me and the Christmas Trees, debuting in late October. While we knew the film was set on an Avon tree farm, we didn’t know that the writer consulted a University of Connecticut tree expert and even based a character on him.

The movie stars Danica McKellar as Olivia and Benjamin Ayres as Jack as they work together to solve a mystery illness causing the Christmas trees on Jack’s farm to die out.

According to UConn Today, the screenwriter contacted UConn professor of horticulture and plant breeding Mark Brand, who works with Christmas tree farmers in Connecticut as part of the College of Agriculture’s extension program, which connects the public with the college’s research and resources. Sherman Wolfe drew on her talk with Brand to write McKellar’s character as a UConn Extension director, complete with Huskies apparel and a faux UConn diploma in her office. 

For Brand, the experience wasn’t all that different than what he normally does. “I have never advised on a movie production before, but it was really pretty simple for me,” he told Hearst Connecticut. 

‘Magic’ mushrooms coming?

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There is currently a national movement, including in Connecticut, to legalize the use of psilocybin-laden mushrooms for use in psychiatric treatment.

Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists New Approach PAC has been paying local lobbying firm Grossman Solutions $7,000 a month for the purposes of “drug policy reform,” according to state filings. New Approach is funded in part by soap company Dr. Bronner’s. The soapmaker’s CEO, David Bronner, grandson of company founder Emil Bronner, said his goal is to “liberate” psychedelics, specifically legalization of psilocybin for the purposes of therapy and ceremony. “The passion of my grandfather was to unite spaceship earth,” he said. “We honor that legacy in different ways,” among them “integration of psychedelic healing in medicine and therapy.”

Earlier this year, with little fanfare and less media attention, a state task force was created to study psilocybin. The 19-member task force — which includes several state legislators, academic researchers and clinicians from Yale, the University of Connecticut and Midstate Medical Center, and representatives from several state agencies — is due to release its findings and recommendations in January.

Former state representative Jesse MacLachlan is a member of the task force. “What we’re seeing, and what early signs are showing, is that psychedelic therapy isn’t just a breakthrough, it’s potentially the future of psychiatry and a great leap forward,” MacLachlan said.

Kristin Waters, a pharmacist and professor at UConn, said studies have shown it to be at least as effective as Lexapro, a drug commonly prescribed for depression. “They basically found no statistical difference between the two,” she said. “So it’s not saying, ‘Oh, psilocybin is this amazing thing,’ but if it’s as good as the best thing we have, then I feel like that is definitely meaningful.”

This article appears in the December 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.