Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Top IRS official refuses to testify at hearing, invokes 5th ...[Hide Story...]ABC NewsTop IRS official refuses to testify at hearing, invokes 5th AmendmentFox NewsLois Lerner, the director of the IRS division that singled out conservative groups, invoked the Fifth Amendment Wednesday as she refused to testify at the start of a House oversight hearing on her agency's controversial program. Lerner, before invoking that ...IRS official expected to take the 5th at congressional hearingCNN InternationalTreasury's Wolin to Say He Told IRS Inspector to 'Follow Facts'Wall Street JournalIssa Says IRS Inspector General Failed to Inform CongressBloombergPolitico -Washington Times -Businessweekall 453 news articles »
Fed Stimulus Still Needed to Help Recovery, Bernanke Says - ...[Hide Story...]AFPFed Stimulus Still Needed to Help Recovery, Bernanke SaysNew York TimesWASHINGTON — Despite recent improvement in the job market, the Federal Reserve needs to continue its stimulus efforts to avoid endangering the recovery, the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, planned to tell Congress on Wednesday.Bernanke, Defending 'Easy Money,' Warns of Fiscal-Policy DragWall Street JournalBernanke Says Premature Tightening Would Endanger RecoveryBusinessweekStocks up as Bernanke says too soon to tightenUSA TODAYReuters -Chicago Tribune -AFPall 469 news articles »
Man Being Queried on Tsarnaev Ties Is Killed by Officer - Ne...[Hide Story...]CBC.caMan Being Queried on Tsarnaev Ties Is Killed by OfficerNew York TimesBOSTON — A man in Orlando, Fla., who was being interviewed early Wednesday morning by an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement personnel about his ties to the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was fatally shot ...Associate of Boston Bombing Suspects Is KilledWall Street Journal'Violent confrontation' prompts FBI agent to shoot Florida man during Boston ...Fox NewsFBI says man shot dead while being questioned about Boston bombingsReutersOrlando Sentinel -NBCNews.com -Boston.comall 193 news articles »
Anthony Weiner in NY mayor race 2 years after 'sexting' scan...[Hide Story...]AFPAnthony Weiner in NY mayor race 2 years after 'sexting' scandalLos Angeles TimesNEW YORK — Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose once-shining political career collapsed after lewd online relationships with women forced him to resign from Congress two years ago, entered New York's mayoral race Wednesday with promises to ...'I hope I get a second chance': Anthony Weiner launches bid to become NYC ...NBCNews.com (blog)Anthony Weiner comeback try begins: He's running for NYC mayorCBS NewsDisgraced Weiner announces NYC mayor bidAFPVanity Fair -USA TODAY -Politicoall 135 news articles »
LA mayor's race: It's Eric Garcetti by wide margin - Los Ang...[Hide Story...]NPRLA mayor's race: It's Eric Garcetti by wide marginLos Angeles TimesThree-term City Councilman Eric Garcetti's relentless campaigning paid off early Wednesday as he decisively won a hard-fought race to become Los Angeles' next mayor, scoring well with voters across the sprawling city and even challenging rival Wendy ...Garcetti Wins Los Angeles Mayor's RaceVoice of AmericaEric Garcetti Wins Race For LA MayorFox News LatinoGarcetti elected Los Angeles mayor over GreuelKSROWashington Post -The Atlantic Wire -Neon Tommyall 271 news articles »
No more bodies or survivors likely in the rubble, Oklahoma o...[Hide Story...]CBS NewsNo more bodies or survivors likely in the rubble, Oklahoma official saysCBS NewsUpdated 9:09 a.m. ET. MOORE, Okla. With her son holding her elbow, Colleen Arvin walked up her driveway to what was left of her house of 40 years. Play Video. Inside Moore, Oklahoma devastation · 53 Photos. Massive tornado hits Oklahoma · Play Video ...Looters arrested in tornado-devastated Oklahoma neighborhoodNew York Daily NewsOklahoma tornado: Latest developmentsCNN InternationalPHOTOS: Oklahoma Tornado 2013 – Aerial ImagesThe Star-Ledger - NJ.comToday.com -Forbes -Chicago Tribuneall 4,224 news articles »
FEMA Chief: Feds won't go 'when the cameras leave' - Milton ...[Hide Story...]MiamiHerald.comFEMA Chief: Feds won't go 'when the cameras leave'Milton Daily StandardThe head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says U.S. officials are "going neighborhood to neighborhood" to make sure Oklahoma gets the help it needs. FEMA's Craig Fugate promises in an interview that officials won't desert Oklahoma, saying ...Moore officials: Federal grants to help build 'safe rooms' delayed by red tapeNBCNews.comHomeland Secretary Janet Napolitano To Visit MooreNews On 6Napolitano to survey tornado response efforts WednesdayWashington TimesSan Jose Mercury Newsall 68 news articles »
CRUISIN' CELEBRITY NEWS
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Jennifer Aniston Sounds Off on Possible Friends Reunion: "We...[Hide Story...]
E! OnlineJennifer Aniston Sounds Off on Possible Friends Reunion: "We Miss Each Other"
Could a return to Central Perk be brewing? Fans have long been hankering for a Friends reunion, and in Wednesday's episode of Ellen, guest cohost Jennifer Aniston sorta-kinda gave die-hards a delicious taste of that when she filmed a riotous sketch with ...
Jennifer Aniston, 'Friends' reunite for 'Ellen'
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry Have Hilarious Friends ...
Ellen Reunites With Some Friends! Watch Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox ...
PerezHilton.com Entertainment Tonight News- Kidderminster Shuttle- Crushable all 25 news articles »
'The World's End' trailer: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost face the apocal...[Hide Story...]
Cinema Blend'The World's End' trailer: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost face the apocalypse
Los Angeles Times
Nick Frost as Andy, Eddie Marsan as Peter, Simon Pegg as Gary, Paddy Considine as Steven and Martin Freeman as Oliver in Edgar Wright's movie “The World's End.” (Laurie Sparham / Focus Features). The apocalypse has never seemed so funny. The new ...
Edgar Wright Introduces The Full Theatrical Trailer For THE WORLD'S END
Comic Book Movie
Watch: Drink Up For A New Trailer For Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg's 'The ...
Indie Wire (blog)
New Trailer For Edgar Wright's 'The World's End' – Starring Simon Pegg, Nick ...
Flicks and bits ComingSoon.net- Empire Online- Cinema Blend all 35 news articles »
Kellie Pickler Wins Dancing With the Stars: My Husband Cried! - U...[Hide Story...]
Us MagazineKellie Pickler Wins Dancing With the Stars: My Husband Cried!
Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough were crowned Season 16 "Dancing with the Stars" champions on May 21. Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC. Kellie Pickler may not have won American Idol, but she crushed the competition on Dancing With the Stars!
'Dancing with the Stars' crowns Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough sixteenth ...
Reality TV World
The Morning Roundup: Kellie Pickler Wins 'Dancing With The Stars,' Jennifer ...
Dancing With The Stars: Kellie Pickler Talks Emotional Win
Access Hollywood TIME- PARADE- ABC News (blog) all 439 news articles »
New 'Man of Steel' Trailer: Watch Now! - MTV.com[Hide Story...]
Seattle Post IntelligencerNew 'Man of Steel' Trailer: Watch Now!
The newest trailer for Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, "Man of Steel," which just premiered online, leaves behind the austere and hopeful mood of the previous previews and focuses on the incredibly high stakes of the superhero adventure. A good portion of ...
'Man of Steel' Trailer: General Zod Warns Earthlings to Surrender Superman
'Man of Steel' Aims to Make Superman Relevant Again
New York Times
Final 'Man Of Steel' Trailer Centers On The Fate Of The Planet
Science Fiction Film School Rejects- Examiner.com- Hollywood.com all 127 news articles »
Cannes: Ryan Gosling Only Has 17 Lines in the Bloody 'Only God Fo...[Hide Story...]
Hollywood.comCannes: Ryan Gosling Only Has 17 Lines in the Bloody 'Only God Forgives'
Philosophical pondering: if your movie stars Ryan Gosling, can it also be considered an art film? Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) makes a compelling case for "hell yes" in his latest Only God Forgives, a slow-burning exploitation film that sends Gosling to ...
Cannes 2013: Bloody, Nasty Revenge in Refn's 'Only God Forgives'
Cannes 2013: Ryan Gosling a no-show, booed at festival for debut of Only God ...
Cannes 2013: Only God Forgives – first look review
The Guardian Guardian Express- Entertainmentwise- NewNowNext all 37 news articles »
'The Voice' Judge Blake Shelton Planning All-Star Oklahoma Tornad...[Hide Story...]
MTV.com'The Voice' Judge Blake Shelton Planning All-Star Oklahoma Tornado Benefit
Oklahoma native country star hints he might tap 'Voice' co-stars like Usher for prime time fundraiser. By Gil Kaufman. Oklahoma native Blake Shelton is doing everything he can to help out his home state in the wake of the devastating tornado that decimated ...
Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert Honor Oklahoma Disaster Victims on The Voice
'The Voice': Blake Shelton And Miranda Lambert Sing Tribute To Oklahoma ...
Idolator: All About The Music
Blake Shelton and NBC planning benefit concert for Oklahoma tornado victims
Entertainment Weekly (blog) Digital Spy- Billboard- Zimbio all 87 news articles »
Brad Pitt: I was on drugs during marriage to Jennifer Aniston - F...[Hide Story...]
Us MagazineBrad Pitt: I was on drugs during marriage to Jennifer Aniston
Brad Pitt wants you to know: That time he was married to Jennifer Aniston was definitely not great. The 49-year-old, A-list actor has cast his seven-year marriage to the former “Friends” star, whom he divorced in 2005, in a negative light – telling Esquire ...
How Brad Helped Angelina Heal
Brad Pitt admits to overdoing drugs and being a "drifter" before he met Angelina
Brad Pitt on life with Angelina Jolie and their six children: 'I haven't known life to ...
New York Daily News Vibe- Esquire- Los Angeles Times all 211 news articles »
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Vermont's F-35 Foes Have Found a Sympathetic Poster Child in &quo...[Hide Story...]
Activists opposed to basing F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport have found a potentially effective spokesperson for their cause. She’s Carmine Sargent, a 69-year-old grandmother who has been living within earshot of the airport since 1972.
Sargent — or “Gramma,” as she’s billed by the F-35’s adversaries — made her debut at a press conference and protest staged last month in front of Sen. Patrick Leahy’s Main Street office in Burlington. After speaking at the event, Sargent hand-delivered a box of fudge to Leahy’s fourth-floor suite. She told staffers the gift symbolized the “fudged” process, as a recent Boston Globe article described it, that led the Air Force to pick BTV as one of two preferred basing sites for up to two dozen F-35s. The Globe alleged the Air Force chose Burlington to please Leahy, one of the Senate’s most powerful members.
Sargent was recruited to the anti-F-35 movement because PR-savvy organizers decided it needed “a personal component,” says Chris Hurd, a leader of the opposition. He says Sargent has the reassuring, sympathetic qualities that can broaden resistance to the plane’s bed-down at BTV. The T-shirt Hurd wore at the Leahypalooza event is more direct: “Don’t Let ‘Em Screw with Gramma,” it warns.
“We wanted, ideally, a lifelong Vermonter, someone who has lived near the airport a long time and who’s a mother or grandmother,” explains Hurd, a local realtor who bears a striking resemblance to former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. “We wanted to take the case against the plane down from 30,000 feet and give it a human face.”
Sargent, a literacy teacher at the Vermont Adult Learning center in Colchester, comes across as well-spoken and warmhearted yet salty and pugnacious.
Hurd’s group found its spokeswoman through a 2012 Seven Days “Stuck in Vermont” video that covered the federally funded demolition of homes inside a high-noise zone bordering the airport. Sargent was a source in the story. In it, she says in regard to the airport’s overseers, “They don’t give a shit what happens to the rest of us.”
But Sargent had never been in any public protest against the F-35. “I could see the first time I spoke with Carmine that she was afraid to get involved,” Hurd recalls.
Afraid of what? Perhaps fearful to take on the united front of political leaders and business interests who favor bringing the fighter planes to Vermont, Hurd replies. Like other airport neighbors worried about the impact of the F-35, Sargent also feared “being demonized as anti-military and anti-development,” Hurd adds.
During a recent interview on the backyard patio of her Elizabeth Street home, Sargent says she was indeed reluctant. But she adds that Hurd, who “could sell anyone anything,” cajoled her into signing up.
“I felt like I was being an observer of my own life,” she muses. “I was complaining about [the F-35], but I wasn’t doing anything about it.”
She also came to understand that protesting the plane wasn’t about being “anti-military or anti-development, but pro-community.”
It was the Federal Aviation Administration’s house demolition program that helped tip her into activism, Sargent relates. The feds have purchased and destroyed more than 50 homes in the high-noise zone over the past few years and another 150 moderately priced homes are eligible for the buyout and teardown.
“We would all of a sudden see a house being razed, and nobody would talk to us about what was happening,” Sargent recalls. She coined the term “Little Detroit” for South Burlington’s dead zone of bulldozed and vacated homes.
Sargent’s own ranch house lies just outside the high-noise zone’s borders. But if the F-35 does bed down about a quarter of a mile away, her home — and those of most of her ...
Burlington's New North End Looks a Lot Different Than It Did 50 Y...[Hide Story...]
Burlington’s New North End used to be reliably conservative. For a time, residents of Wards 4 and 7 elected four Republicans to represent them on the Burlington City Council. They never met a school budget they liked.
That’s changing. First came Dave Hartnett. He ran unopposed — as a Democrat — when Republican Kurt Wright stepped down from the city council in 2011. Then Hartnett organized Wright’s campaign for mayor, suggesting he may be more R than D.
But the following March, Bryan Aubin, a real Dem, beat Republican Ellie Briggs Kenworthy, 1095 to 974, in Ward 4. Three months ago, Democrat Tom Ayres made a second bid for a Ward 7 seat that had long been held by a Republican — and won. That leaves only one Republican — Paul Decelles — representing a region historically so unlike the rest of Burlington it’s often referred to as “South Colchester.”
As in Colchester, voters in both wards of Burlington’s New North End rejected the school budget in March, while the rest of the city approved it overwhelmingly. But they disapproved by much smaller margins than in the past.
What accounts for the New North End’s leftward drift? Many attribute it to a seismic demographic shift: young, progressive, school-friendly families moving into an area originally settled by people who are now aging out of their homes.
When Carmen George moved to the New North End in 2000, many of her neighbors were like Rose and Ivan Pels — elderly couples whose children had grown up and moved out. The U.S. Census that year found the New North End had the highest median age of any area in the city; the majority of the population there was 40-plus.
“I’ve seen an 80 percent change in my neighborhood where people have either died or gone into assisted living,” says George, who served as a Democrat on the city council from 2004 to 2006. “It’s huge.” Case in point: George and her family inherited the home when her husband’s father died.
Coincidentally, the Pels moved to the New North End — 56 years ago — for many of the same reasons the Georges did. They were a young family looking for an affordable, safe place to have and raise children. Their home on Marshall Street was brand new when they bought it in 1958, and though Ivan died last March, Rose says she has no plans to move out.
Crime in the New North End remains low, and residents seem to share the view that it’s a very safe place, despite last week’s arrest of a young couple allegedly cooking meth in a house on Sandra Circle.
Just 20 years before the Pels bought their home, the northern tip section of Burlington — starting at Burlington High School — had been an expanse of fields, speckled with a few rural homes, on a promontory above the Intervale on one side and Lake Champlain on the other. Post-war demand for housing led to development along North Avenue and the suburban-style streets that radiate east and west, seemingly for miles, as the land narrows into the Winooski River delta.
The area developed in spurts. Some of the properties have been there since the 1800s — one, on Apple Tree Point, dates to 1820 — but the vast majority of the New North End’s homes were built after 1950. The Ethan Allen Shopping Center went up in 1954, according to David Hauke, whose family is responsible for much of the area’s commercial and residential build-out. The “cheap seats” movie theater and dollar store are gone from the vintage complex, but the Hannaford, Ace Hardware, post office and two dry cleaners still appear to have plenty of customers. The Bagel Café and Deli is a popular community gathering spot.
Today’s New North End is eclectic. The trailer park across from the shopping center is a short drive from the multimillion-dollar homes of Strathmore at Appletree Point. A dirt path leads from the Hannaford parking lot through a stand of tall white pines into Leddy Park. Next to the supermarket, construction is under way on a mixed-income housing development that will include 69 senior housing units. The New North End’s two nursing homes— Birchwood Terrace and Starr Farm — are nearby and within minutes of each other.
But even as the New North End’s remaining gre...
Back to the Drawing Board: Why Burlington's Redistricting Process...[Hide Story...]
Burlington’s first attempt to redraw its electoral map failed last year when a politically gridlocked city council punted the job of redistricting to a panel of mostly neighborhood volunteers. That group, which is more than six weeks into the job, doesn’t appear to be doing much better.
The Burlington Redistricting Committee doesn’t have a chairperson; members can’t even agree on whether there should be a chair. It has no governing rules, so it’s unclear whether a simple majority could approve an updated map of the city’s voting wards. The committee is being alternately described as “floundering” and “dysfunctional” — by its own members.
Frustrations over the panel’s dawdling pace became apparent at its most recent meeting on May 14 — and monopolized the first half of the two-hour session.
“We clearly need a bus driver,” declared Jim Holway, a committee member from Ward 4.
Like other cities, Burlington is mandated to redraw its ward boundaries every 10 years to reflect population changes and comply with the principal of “one person, one vote.” The legislature redrew House and Senate districts last year.
But Burlington hasn’t gotten the job done — and the reason might have more to do with politics than math or mapmaking. The New North End, the most conservative part of the city, grew at a slower pace than the rest of Burlington between 2000 and 2010 and could lose a city council seat as a result of redistricting.
Based on 2010 census figures, residents of the two New North End wards — 4 and 7 — are over-represented on the council. Residents of Ward 1, meanwhile, are under-represented, largely because of more on-campus housing for University of Vermont undergraduates. Yes, they count.
Based on Burlington’s population, each of the current 14 city councilors should represent 3030 residents. In reality, such exact ratios are impossible to achieve.
The redistricting committee is thus seeking to redraw Burlington’s political map so that no ward’s makeup deviates more than 10 percent from that ideal norm. Assistant City Attorney Gene Bergman has warned the committee that federal courts have struck down redistricting plans that deviate by more than 10 percent.
At present, Ward 4’s ratio of councilors-to-residents deviates 16 percent from the ideal, while Ward 7 has a deviation of 11 percent, meaning both are over-represented on the council. Ward 1, meanwhile, is grossly under-represented, with its two councilors representing nearly 3800 residents each — a 25 percent departure from the ideal.
That leaves the city vulnerable to a lawsuit. In theory, any voter could sue the city, claiming its current ward configuration doesn’t adhere to the U.S. Constitution’s “equal protection” guarantee.
But rather than addressing these discrepancies squarely and expeditiously, the redistricting committee has been consumed by discussions of its composition and decision-making procedures. A few members are also openly critical of Cindy Cook, a professional mediator from Adamant who was hired to assist the committee.
Rachel Siegel, a Progressive who represents Ward 3 on both the city council and the redistricting committee, told Cook at the last meeting, “It’s not clear what your role is.”
Lluvia Mulvaney-Stanak, a Ward 2 committee member, went further, saying in an interview that Cook has provided “no leadership and no accountability.” The city isn’t getting value for the $14,000 Cook is being paid to facilitate five committee meetings, Mulvaney-Stanak charges.
Cook defended her performance. Noting her 22 years’ experience, Cook said she is doing what her contract stipulates — and then some. She also confessed to feeling frustration of her own, saying that she typically spends eight hours preparing for a two-hour meeting, “but in this case, the amount of time I’ve spent is far beyond that.”
“I didn’t realize the lack of a chair was going to be such a dramatic issue,” Cook said at the May 14 meeting.
Committee member Elisa Nelson, from Ward 5...
The Scoreboard: Winners and Losers of the 2013 Legislative Sessio...[Hide Story...]
Politics ain’t no game, but it comes with its fair share of winners and losers. Each Friday on Seven Days’ news and politics blog, Off Message, we try our darnedest to figure out which one’s which. We call it The Scoreboard.
It’s hardly a scientific process, but our goal each week is to provide a handy cheat sheet for those who don’t spend the day monitoring #vtpoli on Twitter or hitting the “refresh” button on our homepage.
Since this year’s legislative session is wrapping up as Seven Days goes to press, we thought it would be a good time to rate the past four months of Statehouse action.
So here you have it: the summary Scoreboard for the 2013 legislative session.
Corporate lobbyists — Some of the things legislators considered taxing this session? Meals, clothing, soda, bottled water, candy, cigarettes, vending machines, cloud-based software, satellite television and more. For each of these, a nervous lobbyist — or five — could be seen pacing the Statehouse halls, trying to keep his or her clients out of the crosshairs of the legislature’s tax-writing committees. In the end, nearly all were spared — thanks, in part, to the loyal assistance of Gov. Peter Shumlin, who went to bat for businesses big and small.
Liberal social issues — In yet another tight budget year, liberals’ greatest victories came from legislation that didn’t cost a dime. Namely, three contentious social and legal issues that have been debated in the Statehouse for years: decriminalizing marijuana, granting driver’s licenses to noncitizens and letting terminally ill Vermonters end their own lives.
Peter Shumlin — Two weeks ago, the gov wasn’t on our winner’s list. Early in the session, the legislature rebuffed his top legislative priority — a request for $17 million in new childcare subsidies — because lawmakers disagreed with his plan to pay for it by cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit. But Shummy’s a strong closer. He cut a session-ending deal with legislative leaders to avoid new general fund taxes and held off a last-minute effort to make the tax code more progressive. Which he apparently opposes.
Big Wind — Opponents of ridgeline wind got off to a promising start this year when the Senate seemed ready to enact a three-year moratorium on industrial wind power projects. But a strong and successful lobbying effort by a coalition of business and environmental groups took the wind out of their sails, whittling the moratorium down to a nearly unrecognizable study.
John Campbell — He’s still no LBJ, but Vermont’s Senate president pro tem earned an A for effort this year for (mostly) keeping his unruly chamber on time and in good working order. That’s a big change from last session, when the Windsor County senator nearly lost his job over complaints that he was disorganized and ineffectual. What changed? New committee chairs, a new majority leader (Chittenden County Sen. Phil Baruth) and, perhaps most importantly, newly hired chief of staff Rebecca Ramos, who earned accolades for keeping the boss in line and mostly on-message.
VTDigger.org — This was the session Vermont’s three-and-a-half-year-old online news outlet came into its own. With four full-time reporters — plus a semiretired columnist — stalking Statehouse committee rooms, little happened under the dome that didn’t receive exhaustive coverage by the nonprofit news org. While its jargon-laced copy remains a little too dense for the general reader, Digger is ably making up for dwindling print media coverage of the Statehouse.
Labor — Vermont’s labor movement failed to unionize childcare workers and deputy state’s attorneys this session, but it won two huge fights: Nonunion state workers and teachers will have to contribute to the cost of collective bargaining, and home health care workers now have the right to unionize, potentially creating the state’s largest collective bargaining unit.
Shap Smith — The House Speaker from Morrisville retained his iro...
What the Frack? Middlebury College at Odds Over Addison County Pi...[Hide Story...]
Middlebury College is viewed as one of the greenest academic institutions in the country, but its support for a proposed natural-gas pipeline in Addison County is putting that reputation to the test. Last week a group of students and faculty presented college officials with a petition demanding the school adopt a neutral position on the Vermont Gas Systems project. Adding to the awkwardness: Among the 1400 signers is the college’s “distinguished scholar” and celebrated climate-change activist Bill McKibben.
In response to the petition, Middlebury President Ron Liebowitz reaffirmed the college’s pro-pipeline position. In a prepared statement, he said access to natural gas would offer Addison County residents and employers “a less expensive and cleaner-burning alternative to high-carbon fuel oil” while noting a “lack of sufficient alternative sources of comparable energy.”
“While we continue to listen to, and understand, the arguments against the pipeline, we believe that they do not fully take into account the economic needs of the communities around us,” Liebowitz said. “Ultimately, we believe the pipeline will contribute to the economic welfare of the region and that it would be unacceptable for us to stand in the way of real and measurable progress toward goals broadly shared in our community.”
“Perfectly sensible” is how McKibben describes Liebowitz’s assessment of natural gas as a cleaner, cheaper alternative to oil. But the Ripton resident adds that its relatively lower CO2 output is “outweighed by the fact that we don’t want to lock in fossil-fuel infrastructure at this point.” McKibben, who has gotten arrested for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar-sands oil from Canada to Texas, uses the same logic to argue against one carrying natural gas from Colchester to Middlebury.
McKibben is founder of the climate-activism group 350.org, the name of which refers to the goal of reducing atmospheric CO2 to below 350 parts per million. In the same week Middlebury was debating pipeline pros and cons, the daily level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in the history of scientific data collection. On 350.org’s website, McKibben wrote in response:
“We’re in new territory for human beings — it’s been millions of years since there’s been this much carbon in the atmosphere. The only question now is whether the relentless rise in carbon can be matched by a relentless rise in the activism necessary to stop it.”
Middlebury sophomore Anna Shireman-Grabowski helped gather signatures on the petition against the pipeline. The sociology major argues that substantial energy savings could be achieved by spending $92 million — the projected price tag of the Addison County pipeline — on weatherization initiatives instead. She notes that the company already prides itself on saving customers money through its existing weatherization programs.
Carbon-neutral alternatives to natural gas are closer to reality than pipeline supporters claim, adds Middlebury senior Cailey Cron. “There’s a lot of potential in bio-methane,” Cron says, pointing to the college’s own plan to reduce its fuel-oil consumption by building a bio-methane plant. Generating natural gas using manure from nearby dairy farms and food waste from local businesses could save Middlebury 640,000 gallons a year, according to college estimates.
The student activists also note that much of the gas to be pumped through the proposed pipe will be extracted through an environmentally harmful process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In addition to potentially contaminating local water supplies, fracking releases methane, which, Shireman-Grabowski points out, is “about 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2.”
Liebowitz, Addison County business leaders and reps from Vermont Gas Systems all acknowledge the fracking concern. But they say natural gas is still preferable to fuel oil. “I absolutely appreciate the environmental issues,” says Robin Scheu, director of the Addison County Economic...
Powder Trail: Tracing Vermont's Heroin Epidemic to Its Sources[Hide Story...]
Vermont police report that a staggering amount of heroin is flowing into the state right now. But where are the drugs coming from?
The cops say they’re from urban areas such as New York, Philadelphia, Lowell and Holyoke, Mass., Albany, and even Chicago and Detroit. Rutland Police Chief James Baker says a bag of heroin that sells for $5 in a big city can fetch as much as $30 on the streets of his city.
On the evening of December 8, 2012, one suspected dealer allegedly led authorities right to his source. Using a warrant, Burlington police and federal drug enforcement agents traced the movements of Videsh Raghoonanan by tracking his cellphone in real time. For six hours, they watched the signal travel from Burlington down interstates 89, 91 and 95 to New York City.
The signal stopped at 1 a.m. near Ozone Park, Queens, a middle-class neighborhood best known for its horseracing track. Sixteen hours later, the cellphone started moving north again — tracing the same route back — until it arrived in Burlington shortly before midnight.
When Raghoonanan exited the highway onto Shelburne Road, police were waiting in a surveillance car. He drove to an apartment on South Union Street, where authorities say the dealer had set up shop. As they got out of the vehicle, Raghoonanan and a companion were taken into custody and searched.
According to court records, the cops found a 30-gram bag of cocaine concealed in Raghoonanan’s buttocks and 90 bags of heroin in the pants pocket of his cohort.
Raghoonanan was apparently identified by a customer who cooperated with federal authorities in the hope of reducing his own sentence on drug charges. And Raghoonanan, in turn, allegedly identified his supplier as a New York City man known as “Black.”
“You can’t just keep arresting people coming in as runners. That won’t stop the problem,” says State Police Lt. Matthew Birmingham, commander of the Vermont Drug Task Force. “You have to dismantle the organization.”
U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin has prosecuted dozens of individuals for heroin trafficking in the past 18 months, mostly using secretive grand jury proceedings. His office is building complex cases — many of which rely on confidential informants with ties to suspected drug suppliers.
Brooklyn has emerged as an epicenter of Vermont-bound heroin, and one neighborhood in particular appears to be a source point. In February, federal prosecutors in New York unsealed an indictment charging six defendants in a drug ring from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn with trafficking narcotics. One of them was arrested in Vermont. Court records accused the suspects of making daily runs with large quantities of narcotics to upstate New York and Vermont.
In March, state police stopped a Cadillac on I-89 in Williamstown that was allegedly returning from Brooklyn with 2600 bags of heroin in the trunk. Authorities have also seized large quantities of heroin in recent months from out-of-state passengers traveling on the Megabus and in taxicabs.
“There are supply networks familiar with Vermont down there,” Coffin acknowledges. But heroin is arriving from Chicago, Boston and other big cities, too.
In fact, some of the most potent — and deadly — heroin in Vermont appears to have originated in the Windy City. Beginning in the fall of 2011, the Burlington police narcotics unit began investigating a group of individuals from Chicago allegedly trafficking heroin in Chittenden County. The heroin — known as “Chi town” or “Chi town dope” — was blamed for several overdoses, including at least one that resulted in death.
Turns out, Chi town dope also had ties to drug suppliers in Lowell, Mass. On April 10, law enforcement officers in Lowell staked out the home of a person suspected of trafficking the potent heroin to Vermont. Police allegedly watched Chandara “Po” Sam leave his apartment and drive away in a gray Honda, and then trailed him to the Vermont border, where Vermont police took over the surveillance.
According to police, investigators followed Sam to a McDonald’s in White River Junction, where they had prearranged a controlled buy with an undercover informant who allegedly gave Sam $5000 for a large package of heroin. Police arrested ...
Burlington Ignored Its Livable-Wage Ordinance for 12 Years — No...[Hide Story...]
The city of Burlington has won all kinds of accolades — from best sunsets to sexual health — but a report last month revealed Vermont’s biggest burg has failed to enforce its celebrated livable wage ordinance for the past 12 years. On that score, it’s not alone: Only a handful of the 123 municipalities around the country with such wage standards have bothered to monitor compliance, according to a national expert on livable-wage initiatives.
“It’s a common phenomenon that these ordinances get passed and then get ignored,” observes Stephanie Luce, a labor studies professor at the City University of New York who tracks livable-wage-related issues. “Cities typically don’t assign staff to monitor them.” As a result, Luce adds, most of these ordinances are “mainly symbolic” and not enforced.
Exceptions can be found in a few big cities — San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston, to name three — where labor unions are involved in community oversight bodies that ensure mandated wages are being paid. Some of these monitoring groups are authorized to inspect the payroll records of city-hired contractors, Luce says. In Los Angeles, they send representatives into businesses to inform employees of their livable-wage rights.
Luce says Burlington deserves credit for applying the livable-wage standard to its 600 full-time city employees, noting that some cities impose minimum-pay requirements on contractors but not on themselves. The current ordinance applies to city contractors receiving more than $15,000 in taxpayer funds.
Burlington gets additional props from the prof for at least reviewing its record of enforcing its ordinance, which mandates hourly wages of $13.94 for employees with health insurance and $17.71 for those without.
City Attorney Eileen Blackwood recently issued a critical assessment of the 12-year-old ordinance, which found that only 23 of 160 contractors signed a sworn statement to pay workers a livable wage. Almost every city department had failed to press contractors to obey the directive, and there wasn’t a single case in which the city penalized a contractor for noncompliance, Blackwood’s review indicated.
The report also pointed to the ordinance’s seemingly illogical provision that businesses leasing space at the city-owned airport are subject to livable-wage requirements, while businesses leasing other city-owned spaces, such as the Community Boathouse, aren’t held to the same standard. City Councilor Sharon Bushor (I-Ward 1), who helped write the ordinance in 2001, says she doesn’t know why the livable-wage rule only extends to airport renters.
That provision also appears inherently unenforceable, observes Councilor Chip Mason (D-Ward 5), a lawyer and the current chair of the ordinance committee. The four commercial carriers operating at Burlington International Airport — Delta, JetBlue, United and US Airways — pay some of their workers less than the city’s livable wage, according to airport interim director Gene Richards. And Burlington, which is struggling to attract new airlines, is unlikely to initiate any action that might upset the current carriers.
One Flight Up, the airport’s main restaurant, also failed to meet the livable-wage requirement and never sought a waiver to exempt its workers — unlike Skinny Pancake, which did get an exemption for the three eateries it recently opened at BTV. But One Flight Up’s noncompliance is a moot point now. It went out of business two weeks ago — a victim, says Richards, of competition from the Skinny Pancake. It’s unlikely the airport will find a new restaurant to occupy the defunct one’s space, Richards says, citing the livable-wage requirement as a potentially insurmountable obstacle.
The city council recently directed Mason’s committee to review, and possibly amend, the livable-wage ordinance. And the chairman suggests that changes may well be necessary, at least in regard to the airport provisions.
The administration of Mayor Miro Weinberger must also address the question of enforcement. The city may have to hire someone to monitor compliance or task a current city employee wi...