Sunday, May 19, 2013
Tornadoes spotted in Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa as storms pou...[Hide Story...]ABC NewsTornadoes spotted in Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa as storms pound MidwestFox NewsA severe storm system that is sweeping through the Midwest has generated tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa and has left at least one person dead in Shawnee, Okla. Dozen of counties in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Wisconsin, ...Powerful thunderstorms rumble through hard-hit MidwestCBS NewsTornadoes from huge Midwest storm system level homes in Oklahoma, cut ...Washington PostTornadoes tear through Kansas, Oklahoma and IowaCNNUSA TODAY -Reuters -Chicago Daily Heraldall 243 news articles »
Officials warn of commuter chaos from Connecticut derailment...[Hide Story...]CBS NewsOfficials warn of commuter chaos from Connecticut derailmentReutersBy Richard Weizel. BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut | Sun May 19, 2013 10:08pm EDT. BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut (Reuters) - Thousands of Connecticut commuters should brace for travel chaos on Monday as Metro-North workers repair damage on the United ...NTSB: Trains were moving 70 mph before Connecticut collisionLos Angeles TimesInvestigation into Friday's train collision continues in Conn. - NECN.comNECNFairfield prepares for a commute without trainsFairfield SunNBCNews.com -CNN -USA TODAYall 438 news articles »
WILLIAMS: A week of scandals proves the incompetence of libe...[Hide Story...]Philly.comWILLIAMS: A week of scandals proves the incompetence of liberalismWashington TimesScandals are nothing new in Washington. Just about every president has faced an accusation of misconduct, whether moral or criminal. It should be no surprise that the Obama administration finds itself in the midst of one (well actually three).Obama's Counsel Told of IRS Audit Findings Weeks AgoWall Street JournalWhy IRS investigation is already Obama's Watergate – and Benghazi, too (+video)Christian Science MonitorTop adviser defends White House in IRS scandal - USA TodayUSA TODAYFox News -CBS News -Gallup.comall 342 news articles »
Two elite FBI agents killed in Virginia training accident - ...[Hide Story...]New York Daily NewsTwo elite FBI agents killed in Virginia training accidentNew York Daily NewsTwo elite FBI agents were killed Friday during a training exercise off the coast of Virginia Beach. Veteran Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw were killed during an exercise that involved a helicopter. The accident happened aboard a Navy ...Two FBI agents killed in training accident - USA TodayUSA TODAY2 FBI agents killed in training accidentGlobalPost2 FBI agents die in hostage rescue training exerciseCNN InternationalWJLA -Washington Post -The Virginian-Pilotall 39 news articles »
Head of The AP Criticizes Seizure of Phone Records - New Yor...[Hide Story...]Columbia Daily HeraldHead of The AP Criticizes Seizure of Phone RecordsNew York TimesThe head of The Associated Press said on Sunday that the Obama administration's secret seizure of two months of its phone records, revealed this month, was “unconstitutional,” and had already diminished journalists' capacity to report on the government.AP CEO calls phone records seizure unconstitutionalLong Beach Press-TelegramAP boss condemns US government for 'unconstitutional' phone seizuresThe GuardianPhone records seizure unconstitutional: APNEWS.com.auGlobalPost -Politico (blog) -Slate Magazine (blog)all 22 news articles »
Tumblr: Yahoo's reported $1B bid to be cool - San Francisco ...[Hide Story...]NPRTumblr: Yahoo's reported $1B bid to be coolSan Francisco Chronicle(05-19) 18:23 PDT -- Yahoo has agreed to buy popular social blogging service Tumblr for $1.1 billion in a high-stakes move to regain the company's relevancy in an Internet environment now dominated by Google, Facebook and Twitter. Yahoo's board of ...Yahoo Deal Shows Power ShiftWall Street JournalYahoo Is Planning to Buy Tumblr for $1.1 BillionNew York TimesWhat Is Tumblr?TIMEForbes -New York Daily News -New York Magazineall 411 news articles »
Powerball winner faces a radically changed life, analyst say...[Hide Story...]New York Daily NewsPowerball winner faces a radically changed life, analyst saysPalm Beach PostA woman prepares to choose her numbers on a lottery ticket Saturday, May 18, 2013, in the Chinatown district in Oakland, Calif. A record Powerball jackpot has climbed to $600 million, and lottery officials speculated the jackpot would continue to soar in the ...Small Florida town buzzing over news of local winnerNBCNews.com (blog)Small Fla. town wonders who the Powerball winner isCBS NewsLone Winner Hits Powerball JackpotWall Street JournalWTSP 10 News -Tampabay.com (blog) -ABC Newsall 1,073 news articles »
CRUISIN' CELEBRITY NEWS
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Taylor Swift Wears "Haters Gonna Hate" Unicorn Tee in B...[Hide Story...]
MTV.comTaylor Swift Wears "Haters Gonna Hate" Unicorn Tee in Billboard Music Awards ...
Taylor Swift may not actually be 22 anymore, but she's become the official ambassador of that oh-so-very fun and confusing early 20's age with her song of the same name. Tay performed "22" at the 2013 Billboard Awards tonight, and while we thought at first ...
Billboard Music Awards performances rock Las Vegas - USA Today
Taylor Swift shines at Billboard Music Awards
Madonna - Billboard Music Awards 2013
Just Jared Us Magazine- New York Daily News- Houston Chronicle all 424 news articles »
Christina Aguilera Shows Off Slim Figure at Billboard Awards - Pe...[Hide Story...]
Rap-Up.comChristina Aguilera Shows Off Slim Figure at Billboard Awards
The Voice coach showed off a slender figure while performing at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday. Wearing a short black skirt and black top, the singer joined Pitbull for their song "Feel This Moment." Just last week, Aguilera, 32, gave fans ...
Christina Aguilera & Pitbull - Billboard Music Awards 2013 Performance (Video)
Video: Pitbull And Christina Aguilera Perform “Feel This Moment” At 2013 ...
2013 Billboard Music Awards: Christina Aguilera Shows Off Sexy Slim Body
Cambio Rap-Up.com- Enstarz- TheDrop.fm all 7 news articles »
'Star Trek Into Darkness' Overthrows 'Iron Man 3' From Box Office...[Hide Story...]
AceShowbiz'Star Trek Into Darkness' Overthrows 'Iron Man 3' From Box Office Throne
The Chris Pine-starring film debuts atop the box office, forcing Robert Downey Jr.'s flick to be in the second place. Tweet. 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Overthrows 'Iron Man 3' From Box Office Throne. See larger image. After two consecutive weeks, "Iron Man 3" ...
'Star Trek' does $70.6M on opening weekend, but falls short of studio's ...
Abrams boldly goes 'Into Darkness' with a warp-speed sequel
The Michigan Daily
'Star Trek Into Darkness' Beams Up to First Place at the Box Office
Hollywood.com Reuters- Patch.com- Hollywood Reporter all 208 news articles »
Kelly Rowland And Paulina Rubio Reportedly Joining The X Factor's...[Hide Story...]
Cinema BlendKelly Rowland And Paulina Rubio Reportedly Joining The X Factor's Season 3
While Demi Lovato and Simon Cowell will be returning to judge Fox's other singing competition series, The X Factor, during Season 3, mum has been the word on which other celebrity personalities would be filling the remaining two judging slots. On Sunday ...
Kelly Rowland & Paulina Rubio Signing on for 'The X Factor'
Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio in talks to replace Britney Spears and L.A. ...
'X Factor': Kelly Rowland, Paulina Rubio Nearing Deals to Join as Judges
Hollywood Reporter Broadway World- MTV.com- TVNZ all 46 news articles »
Bianco: Sci-fi, comedy color the fall TV season - USA Today - USA...[Hide Story...]
Artesia Daily PressBianco: Sci-fi, comedy color the fall TV season - USA Today
USA TODAY's Robert Bianco handicaps the fall season based on brief looks at the new series on broadcast TV. Shield. ABC and Marvel's 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,' starring Clark Gregg, left, emerges as the most buzzworthy drama of the new season. (Photo: ...
'Agents of SHIELD,' 'Blacklist' Dominate Social Media Conversation
Network offerings for fall have the ring of the familiar - Philly.com
Networks' orders blur line between broadcast, cable
Atlanta Journal Constitution GlobalPost- Entertainment Weekly (blog)- Ames Tribune all 12 news articles »
Jennifer Lawrence Wows in White During Catching Fire Party Before...[Hide Story...]
E! OnlineJennifer Lawrence Wows in White During Catching Fire Party Before Almost ...
Jennifer Lawrence rocked the red black carpet. The actress stunned last night at The Hunger Games: Catching Fire party during the Cannes Film Festival, when she slipped into this gorgeous, white strapless Christian Dior dress with a printed detail on the ...
Cannes: Market, Nightlife Bustles Despite Torrential Rains (Column)
Celeb Pix: 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' cast hits red carpet for first time
San Jose Mercury News
New Hunger Games 2,Catching Fire Movie Poster Revealed With Katniss Bow ...
Hollywood Hills all 69 news articles »
Cannes 2013: The musical side of the Coens' 'Inside Llewyn Davis'...[Hide Story...]Cannes 2013: The musical side of the Coens' 'Inside Llewyn Davis'
Los Angeles Times
CANNES, France -- In close to three decades of filmmaking, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have shared a lot of looks. But with "Inside Llewyn Davis," which had its premiere in Festival de Cannes competition Sunday, one particular glance said it all.
Oscar Isaac grabs Cannes spotlight with 'Llewyn Davis' - USA Today
Down-on-luck singer steals show in Coen brothers Cannes film
Cannes 2013: Debut directors hope to strike gold
BBC News San Jose Mercury News- TIME- Telegraph.co.uk all 161 news articles »
Sunday, May 19, 2013
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...
The Vermont Syrup Rush Is On, but Is Big Maple a Boon or a Bubble...[Hide Story...]
When Eric and Laura Sorkin got into the maple sugaring business five years ago, they went big. The couple invested $1.4 million in a vacuum pump, reverse-osmosis machine and other equipment and tapped sugar maples across 1000 acres they own in Cambridge and Underhill.
At the time, maple syrup prices were at a record high of around $4 a pound — double where they were a year prior — with a gallon fetching up to $70. The timing seemed perfect.
“The rest of the economic world was just tumbling,” Sorkin recalls. “Maple was making money, and nothing else was.”
Prices have softened a little since then, but Vermont today is experiencing a liquid gold rush nonetheless. Maple producers have tapped new technologies — such as those used by the Sorkins — that allow them to collect more sap and cut down on the energy-intensive boiling process that turns it into syrup. As a result, entrepreneurs of all stripes are getting into the biz.
This spring, sugar makers across the “maple belt” — 17 states and Canadian provinces where maple products are produced — harvested what could turn out to be the largest crop of maple syrup in modern history. Vermont’s official haul won’t be known until June, but sugar makers estimate 2013 production will be triple what it was a decade ago. Vermont had 1.5 million taps in 2003; today it’s up to 3.5 million.
U.S. Congressman Peter Welch thinks Vermont can go even bigger: He’s proposed making $100 million in federal funds available for maple research and marketing; to open state lands for tapping; and to incentivize landowners to lease their woods for maple production. Welch also drafted a bill — much of which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has since adopted — that would streamline grants for sugar makers investing in more energy-efficient technology.
David Marvin says it’s great to see more Vermonters making a living from a tradition once regarded as a labor-intensive backyard hobby.
“I’ve spent my whole life in this business, and in the early days, people knew it was foolish … to try to make a living sugaring,” says Marvin, who owns Butternut Mountain Farm in Johnson, a major buyer, packer and distributor of syrup. “Now there are dozens doing that.”
But foresters and smaller maple producers warn about growing too large, too fast. Where some see a boon to Vermont’s agricultural economy, others spy a bubble waiting to burst.
“It’s kind of scary around here,” says Ed Brannagan, who operates a small sugarhouse in Fletcher, in the heart of maple-rich Franklin County. “We’re not making hundreds anymore; there’s people making millions,” he says. “And as soon as someone starts making a million dollars, the game is changed.”
Gone are the metal sap buckets of yore. Bigger producers have switched to more industrial setups. Vacuum pumps suck sap through plastic tubes crisscrossing the woods — a process that can increase sap yield by 50 to 200 percent.
Once sap is back at the sugarhouse, reverse-osmosis, or RO, machines can remove up to 85 percent of the water from the sap, cutting down significantly on boiling time. It doesn’t come cheap — the newest touch-screen RO machines can run as high as $120,000 to $150,000 — but ultimately makes sugaring more profitable and efficient on a large scale.
Marvin of Butternut Mountain Farm wonders aloud if demand can keep up with the flood of new maple hitting the market; if it doesn’t, a price drop would hurt his company and the more than 300 sugarhouses in Vermont, Maine, New York and Québec whose syrup Marvin buys and packages. But he and his counterparts have reason to be optimistic. After a poor season in 2012, syrup packers were desperate to get their hands on this year’s crop. And they’re paying around $2.75 a pound for it — on par with lower-producing years, in which syrup makers benefit from supply-and-demand economics to get top dollar for their product.
Maple boosters are confident they can grow the market for syrup, enticing international customers with what Marvin calls one of the “very few ethnic American foods.” Perhaps more encouraging is the domestic market potential. Only 6 percent ...
Many "Prohibited Persons" Still Have Guns Because Cops ...[Hide Story...]
Keith Flynn had only been Orleans County state’s attorney a few weeks when he got a phone call from the Newport police on the morning of February 12, 1999. Shots had been fired in the downtown Home Health Building. Flynn rushed over, and not just because it was his job to do so: His wife was working there at the time.
The shooting didn’t happen there, as it turned out. At 8:20 a.m., 34-year-old Abdallah Moez Chibani walked into the office building next door and demanded to see his estranged wife, Carole. Because her coworkers knew Carole had a permanent restraining order against her husband, they immediately called 911.
Chibani slammed the door, pulled a gun from his jacket, found his wife and put two bullets in her head. When a responding police officer came around the corner, he spotted the gun, then ducked for cover. A third shot rang out. Chibani had taken his own life.
Flynn knew both the victim and her assassin. The newly elected state’s attorney was due in court that very morning for Chibani’s sentencing; he had violated his probation on two prior domestic-abuse convictions. Under federal law, those convictions, as well as the restraining order, made him a “prohibited person,” ineligible to possess a gun.
But federal agencies often lack the resources to enforce low-level gun offenses, and no Vermont law prohibits convicted felons from possessing firearms. Today, 14 years after Carole Chibani’s murder, Vermont has few safeguards in place to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous domestic abusers.
“I’m not the only prosecutor who could tell you stories like that,” says Flynn, now Vermont’s commissioner of public safety. “This is at the heart of protecting our victims of domestic violence. I think it’s an area where we can do better.”
Flynn’s introduction to his job as a prosecutor was chilling but apt. Of the 18 homicides that occurred statewide that year, 10 were related to domestic violence, a ratio typical for any given year. In fact, of Vermont’s 225 adult homicides between 1994 and 2012, 112 of them — or half — were domestic-violence-related. More often than not, the murder weapon was a gun.
Sweeping federal legislation enacted by Congress in 1994 banned assault weapons nationwide, but it also requires anyone convicted of domestic abuse or subject to a restraining order involving a domestic partner to surrender his or her firearms. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and some other states have systems in place for ensuring that such weapons get confiscated and stored properly. But in Vermont, many of those guns remain in the hands of prohibited persons, or merely get handed over to friends or relatives.
Why? In part because most police departments in Vermont have nowhere to store them.
Washington County Sheriff Sam Hill presides over a small police department typical of many throughout the state. His Montpelier office is a converted home that was once the private residence of the county sheriff. The “evidence room” is a locked closet with a gun rack in it.
“I’ve got room for maybe 10 or 15 firearms,” Hill says. “So if the first guy has 15 firearms, I don’t have room for anyone else’s.” How many prohibited weapons are out there in Vermont that could potentially be confiscated?
“Hundreds, maybe thousands,” the sheriff estimates.
Hill understands the urgency of getting firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. He serves on Vermont’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission, a panel created in 2002 by then-governor Howard Dean to review every homicide involving a domestic partner “with the goal of making policy recommendations to prevent future tragedies.”
Every year since 2009, the commission has recommended that the legislature set up a system to get guns out of the wrong hands — weapons that would be relinquished, stored, inventoried and eventually returned, sold or destroyed. The commission has also advised that family members and friends not be allowed to take custody of those we...
Burlington Asked for Ideas to Improve the Waterfront; It Got Gond...[Hide Story...]
High-Line inspired walkway from Battery to Waterfront parks
Burlington city official Nate Wildfire was worried on the morning of April 5. It was deadline day for submitting waterfront development concepts to the city as part of a public solicitation, but only a couple of entries had come in.
By day’s end, however, a torrent of PDFs had cascaded into Wildfire’s inbox in Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office, where he works as assistant director of economic development. A total of 50 proposals — some visionary, others pragmatic — were submitted at the 11th hour.
Burlington’s creative energies had kicked in, just as CEDO had expected — or hoped — they would. Those waterfront visions will be on display for public viewing and comment on May 7 and 8 at the Fletcher Free Library.
Mayor Miro Weinberger’s administration solicited the waterfront proposals, in part to revive interest in redeveloping the Moran Plant, the former lakeside power station that has become a symbol of the Queen City’s development dysfunction. Pending voter approval, a winnowed set of proposals for waterfront projects, which may include a plan for Moran, could receive a total of $5 million in tax-increment financing. Most of the concepts make reference to additional sources of funding, as well.
A few of the proposals to be displayed in the library stand out for their boldness. Burlington architect Frank Guillot wants to build a new Burlington High School and parking lot — accessible by a new road from North Avenue — on the 40-acre Urban Reserve north of the Moran Plant. The $40 million project, which lists BHS principal Amy Mellencamp and a few other local notables as collaborators, would be financed by private development of 1000 residential units on the high school’s current site.
Sound like a stretch? Guillot notes in his concept synopsis that the 50-year-old school needs renovations to the tune of $15 million. And even if all that work were done, BHS would still be an antiquated facility. Guillot imagines a waterfront BHS as a modern, “energy-neutral” educational institution that would be “a source of inspiration.”
No less ambitious is Duncan Adamson’s idea of constructing an urban gondola linking the waterfront to the Church Street Marketplace. Adamson, a vice president of the South Burlington measurement-equipment firm Instrumart, envisions delighted tourists and proud locals making a scenic airborne journey above Main, College or Pearl streets. For now, the gondola is no more than a rough sketch awaiting engineering studies that, Adamson says, should specify costs more precisely than the $5 million to $20 million figure offered in his outline.
In a similar vein, two city officials — one at public works, the other at parks and recreation — have proposed building a cable car in addition to a curving stairway to give Old North Enders easier access to the waterfront. At the top of Depot Street, an arch would be constructed to designate the neighborhood as a gateway to Lake Champlain.
Kyle Clark, an engineer with South Burlington-based Dynapower, has a different idea for the steep slope between Battery and Lake streets, one sure to intrigue Burlingto...