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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Morning Read: CNN Interviews Syrian Refugee Family in Rutland

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 8:58 AM

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CNN on Wednesday night aired an interview with one of the two Syrian refugee families that have arrived in Rutland. The segment aired just hours after reports surfaced that President Donald Trump plans to stop refugees from Syria from entering the U.S. via an executive order.

Hazar Mansour, a French teacher, said on the program "Anderson Cooper 360°" that she, her husband and their two small children are happy to be in Vermont. They fled Damascus during a civil war in Syria that, according to the United Nations, has killed more than 400,000 people. They made it to Turkey and then went through two years of background checks before arriving in Rutland two days before Trump's inauguration, Mansour said.

"We were worried about ourselves, worried about our children," Mansour said. "We want to live in peace. It's better than living in the war situation we were in."
"I like Vermont and the people of Vermont," said her husband, Hassam Alhallak, an accountant.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Morning Read: Obama to Star in Minter Radio Ad

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 10:16 AM

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President Barack Obama plans to appear in television and radio advertisements for down-ballot Democrats campaigning across the country, according to a new report from the Washington Post. Among the beneficiaries will be Vermont’s own Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Sue Minter:

On the radio, Obama cut ads for Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. He’s also on the radio for [North Carolina Senate candidate Deborah] Ross and [Pennsylvania Senate candidate Katie] McGinty and Senate candidates Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, and Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire.

Minter campaign spokesman Elliott Bent confirmed the Post's story Friday morning.

“In the ad, the president endorses Sue because she shares his values: economy for the middle class, education, fighting climate change, protecting women’s right to choose,” he said in a brief written statement.

Bent said the campaign itself, not a supportive super PAC, would pay for the Obama ad. He did not reveal when it would go on-air. 

Read the full story here.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Morning Read: Vermont’s Will Allen Honored for GMO Fight

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 11:26 AM

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Will Allen, an organic farmer from Thetford who was a leading force behind passage of Vermont’s 2014 genetically modified food labeling law, is being recognized as one of Politico Magazine’s 50 most influential people.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also made the list, ranking No. 1.

Allen, No. 36 on the list, was granted the honor “for making food transparent.” Politico concluded that Allen “has changed America’s food system.”

Ironically, Allen’s being feted for a fight he didn’t quite win. And Politico paired him with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), someone he decidedly doesn’t see as an ally.

Vermont’s GMO law went into effect July 1 but was quickly preempted by federal legislation Stabenow spearheaded that will require national labeling of genetically modified foods. The federal law, however, gives agencies two years to come up with rules and allows manufacturers to label products with a smartphone-scannable QR code rather than the on-package labeling that Vermont law required.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Morning Read: Allegiant Pilots Raise Safety Concerns

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 10:51 AM

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Pilots who work for Allegiant Air, a low-cost airline that flies out of small cities — including South Burlington — are raising questions about the safety of their employer’s planes.

A New York Times story published Monday reports, “Allegiant pilots said they had identified at least 65 incidents from September to March where flights were forced to divert to another airport, return to the gate, or abort their takeoff because of a mechanical or an engine problem.”

Since February 2014, Allegiant Air has flown twice a week from Burlington International Airport to Orlando, using an MD-80 aircraft that seats 166 passengers. The airline, which has the second-highest profit margin in the industry, keeps costs to a minimum by purchasing older planes and subcontracting maintenance work.

The allegations, the Times notes, come amid growing tension between unionized pilots and the airline’s owner: “It is not unusual for pilots to bring up safety and maintenance issues in the middle of labor talks," the story says. "To the airline, the complaints represent scare tactics by the pilots union, driven by demands over benefits and work rules.” The two sides are embroiled in a labor dispute playing out in federal court.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Morning Read: The Norwich Native Behind Clinton's Campaign

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 at 9:15 AM

Robby Mook - FILE: MARC NADEL
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Robby Mook, Vermont's 35-year-old political wunderkind, has been racking up press clippings as he prepares to manage former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. 

On Sunday, he made A1 of the New York Times. A profile penned by national political reporter Amy Chozick characterizes the Norwich native as a level-headed data geek with a "goofy sense of humor" and a "killer impersonation of [former president Bill] Clinton."

Mook's toughest assignment, Chozick writes, will be to humor the candidate's vast stable of loyalists and advisers — the former president included — while keeping her campaign focused and disciplined:

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Morning Read: Montana Gov Poised to Replace Shumlin at DGA

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 11:59 AM

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Gov. Peter Shumlin's Election Day troubles didn't end at Vermont's borders. In addition to his own-near defeat, Shumlin suffered heavy losses in gubernatorial races throughout the country as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Now, according to Politico, Shumlin is expected to hand over the DGA reins to a new chairman: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

Bullock, a freshman governor whose own reelection bid is slated for 2016, would succeed [Shumlin] in the position, POLITICO has learned. A source familiar with DGA leadership discussions added that Bullock is likely to step down from the post after a year to focus on his reelection.

The DGA is convening in early December to vote on its new leadership slate. A Bullock aide confirmed that the governor is asking colleagues to back his bid at that meeting.
According to Politico, Bullock may be succeeded in the heavy election year of 2016 by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Morning Read: 49 Percent Approve of Shumlin's Job Performance, According to Poll

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 10:32 AM

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More Vermonters approve of Gov. Peter Shumlin's job performance than disapprove of it, but the gap between those competing assessments has narrowed significantly in the past two years.

That's the main — if not terribly surprising — takeaway from a newly released poll conducted earlier this month by the Castleton Polling Institute on behalf of VTDigger. 

The poll, which queried 682 Vermonters over the course of a week, found that 49 percent approve of "the job Peter Shumlin is doing as governor of Vermont," while 40 percent disapprove. Eleven percent said they weren't sure or didn't have an opinion. The poll's margin of error was +/-4 percent.

So what does it mean?

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Morning Read: Newsweek Skewers Vermont Health Connect (Updated)

Posted By on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 11:06 AM

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Updated below with comment from Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson, who says the Newsweek story is inaccurate and "inflammatory."

How bungled was the rollout of Vermont Health Connect, the state's trouble-plagued health insurance exchange?

In a word, argues veteran reporter and New York Times alum Lynnley Browning, very. But Browning takes a full 3,400 words to make that point in a brutal new story published on Newsweek's website Thursday evening

In it, Browning writes that Vermont state officials "glossed over ominous warning signs and Keystone Cops-like planning" as they worked with contractor CGI Federal to build the federally mandated exchange. 

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Morning Read: Housing Trust to Overhaul Motel for Emergency Housing

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 11:06 AM

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In fiscal year 2012, the 59-room Econo Lodge on Shelburne Road collected $184,732 from state coffers in exchange for housing homeless Vermonters with nowhere else to go. The motel was one of the top recipients of state funds for that service, which officials say is a last resort when shelter beds are full. 

Now the arrangement appears to be permanent. As VT Digger reported yesterday, the Champlain Housing Trust is converting the former Econo Lodge into an emergency housing facility called Harbor Place. Alicia Freese writes that CHT's plan goes well beyond rebranding the roadside motel:

There’s one key difference between Harbor Place and the state-administered program, according to Chris Donnelly, director of community relations for Champlain Housing Trust: “Under the current system, someone who was accessing the motel voucher program would be put into the Econo Lodge and then they’d wake up in the morning and try to get on with the rest of their life,” Donnelly said. “In this program, there will be services to help them right on site.”

The Econo Lodge overhaul comes after months of debate about how best to house Vermont's homeless population, particularly when shelter beds are full. Spending on motel vouchers spiked dramatically in recent years, reaching $4 million in fiscal year 2013, and lawmakers have been sharply critical of that spending. 

"Once we make that one-night investment, that money’s just gone," Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) told Seven Days last December

In response, the Legislature capped model spending at $1.5 million for FY2014, and the Department of Children and Families constructed a point system — which was subsequently amended — to limit those who received free motel rooms. Harbor Place, Freese reports, is designed to partially fill the void created by the downsizing. 

The Econo Lodge overhaul is happening fast. Digger reports that after Monday's $1.85 million sale, CHT plans to reopen Harbor Place within a week. Most of the funding is coming from a Vermont Community Loan Fund loan, and CHT has already signed on at least 10 partners in the effort, including the state and Fletcher Allen Health Care.

It's a deal that state officials can happily endorse. DCF is reserving 30 rooms at the former motel for its voucher program, for which CHT will charge the state just $38 per room a night. DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone estimates the new deal will save the state roughly $250,000 a year. 

And he's pleased about more than just the savings. Yacavone told Freese that Harbor Place has the potential to provide much better service for its residents than a motel ever could. 

“By bringing the [case] manager in, it makes it look entirely different than just putting someone up in a hotel,” he told Digger. “That’s a really exciting opportunity to provide wraparound services to families in a transitional housing unit.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

Morning Read: Playboy Interviews Bernie Sanders

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 9:29 AM

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We apologize in advance for using the words "Bernie Sanders" and "Playboy" in the same sentence, but here goes:

Sanders, Vermont's independent U.S. senator, is the subject of the storied Playboy interview in this month's issue. Not that we subscribe or anything. We just heard about it from a friend.

Interviewing Sanders for the men's mag was writer and activist Jonathan Tasini, who previously interviewed Paul Krugman for Playboy. His history as a gadfly political candidate in New York is reminiscent of Sanders' own early electoral outings. Tasini challenged and lost to then-senator Hillary Clinton in 2006 and scandal-plagued Congressman Charles Rangel in 2010.

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While Tasini doesn't break a lot of new ground in the interview, he does elicit an interesting response when he asks Sanders about a potential 2016 presidential candidacy. Sanders demurs at first, saying that "to run a serious campaign, you need to raise hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars."

Nevertheless, the Vermonter says, Americans "are hungering for a voice out there," and "it would be tempting to try to raise issues and demand discussion on issues that are not being talked about..."

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