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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Vermont and City of Burlington Sever Ties With Russia

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2022 at 7:21 PM

Hockey players from Burlington sister city Yaroslavl, Russia, in Colchester in 2020 - JAMES BUCK FILE PHOTO
  • James Buck file photo
  • Hockey players from Burlington sister city Yaroslavl, Russia, in Colchester in 2020
Burlington and the State of Vermont both announced steps Thursday to show solidarity with Ukraine by cutting ties to Russia.

Burlington announced it's suspending a sister-city program with Yaroslavl, Russia, which sent a delegation of ice hockey players to compete in the Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Classic just two years ago. The Russians got plenty of attention as they skated on Malletts Bay in Colchester.

Gov. Phil Scott had previously announced on Monday that state liquor stores would no longer sell the few Russian-owned brands they have offered. At his weekly press conference, Scott said he's also asked State Treasurer Beth Pearce to review and liquidate any investments Vermont has in Russia. He has also asked Administration Secretary Kristin Clouser to halt any purchases of Russian goods and terminate contracts with Russian entities.

"We should not support businesses that are funding this horrible war," Scott said, of Russia's invasion of its European neighbor.

Scott has also asked the legislature to appropriate $643,077 — one dollar for every Vermonter — for humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Canadian Visitors Will Be Admitted to the U.S. Starting in November

Posted By on Wed, Oct 13, 2021 at 3:56 PM

Canada border crossing in Norton - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Canada border crossing in Norton
Canadian tourists and shoppers will be able to cross the land border into Vermont in November after a closure of roughly 20 months.

The White House late Tuesday announced that it would ease restrictions on nonessential border crossings from Canada and Mexico. Family visits and tourism ground to a halt after the border closed on March 21, 2020, though people have been able to cross for business purposes. No exact date for the reopening was announced.

The U.S. will require all incoming nonessential travelers to show proof they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Travelers on essential business, such as health care workers, students and truckers, have until January to get vaccinated, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and other northern state governors have been pushing the White House to reopen the border to travelers from Canada, which started admitting U.S. travelers on August 9 — with strict vaccination and testing requirements.

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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Vermont to Welcome 100 Afghan Refugees in Coming Weeks

Posted By on Thu, Sep 16, 2021 at 6:14 PM

A family of Afghan refugees in Turkey last month - THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN VIA AP IMAGES
  • The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images
  • A family of Afghan refugees in Turkey last month
Vermont will become the new home for dozens of displaced Afghans in the coming weeks, Gov. Phil Scott's office announced on Thursday. The U.S. State Department notified state officials this week that the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) has been approved to welcome up to 100 refugees from Afghanistan to the state.

Vermont is one of 46 states that will be destinations for some of the Afghan refugees evacuated as the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan and  the Taliban resurged. New Hampshire and Maine will both welcome 100 Afghans as well, according to the Associated Press. California will take 5,200 people, the most of any state. 

In August, Scott sent a letter to the State Department expressing his desire to resettle Afghans in Vermont. He said in Thursday's release that the U.S. has "a moral obligation to help the people of Afghanistan, who did so much to help us in the war on terror." Welcoming refugees "also strengthens communities, schools, our workforce, culture and economy," Scott wrote.

State refugee office director Tracy Dolan, who assumed that role on August 30  after working as the Vermont Department of Health's  deputy commissioner, said in the release that the approval "is a wonderful opportunity for Vermont’s communities and for our businesses who are very interested in expanding our workforce and filling our job vacancies.”

The Vermont chapter of USCRI, a national nonprofit resettlement agency, will work with the State Refugee Office, part of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, along with schools, employers, landlords, and health and social service programs to welcome the Afghans. Before arriving in Vermont, refugees will receive work authorization and complete medical and security screenings. In recent weeks, USCRI Vermont has put out the call for volunteers on Facebook and has said that "an enormous number of Vermonters" have contacted them asking how they can help Afghan families.

In an interview on Friday, Dolan said refugees will likely begin arriving in Vermont in early October through the Burlington International Airport. The first group will be settled in Chittenden County. Volunteers will temporarily host refugees in their homes until they can secure more permanent housing, Dolan said. USCRI will initially be looking to those who have housed refugees in the past to serve as host families. The state is also working to identify another community — outside of Chittenden County — to settle a second wave of refugees. Dolan said that location is yet to be determined, but it must have housing infrastructure and opportunities for employment and education.

According to a report posted on USCRI's website this month, many of the Afghans evacuated from Kabul will enter the U.S. under "humanitarian parole," which is granted  when there are "urgent humanitarian reasons." Between 1975 and 1979, the U.S. accepted around 170,000 Vietnamese refugees as humanitarian parolees. Afghans will be eligible for that status for two years, which will allow them to work in the U.S., but does not qualify them for federal benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Dolan said that the parolee status also gives refugees a small one-time cash payment of $1,225 and temporary medical coverage for health screenings. But the White House has also asked Congress to pass a short-term continuing resolution by October 1 allocating $6.4 billion to the processing and resettlement of Afghan refugees. The state is hopeful that the federal support will come through, Dolan said, but Vermont is also looking to see if any additional money is available through Federal Emergency Management Agency  or the American Rescue Plan to support resettlement.

The State Department this week also gave the green light to a new refugee resettlement office in Brattleboro, to be run by the Ethiopian Community Development Council, an agency that works with refugees around the world. ECDC will submit its own proposal to the State Department and hopes to welcome an additional 25 Afghans to Brattleboro in the coming months.

Updated 8/17/2021 with information from Tracy Dolan.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

U.S. Won't Open Border to Canadians Until at Least August 21

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 6:17 PM

Jackson's Lodge in Canaan - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Jackson's Lodge in Canaan
The United States won't open its border to visitors from Canada until August 21, the White House announced on Wednesday — dealing a blow to hospitality and other businesses that have long relied on tourists from Canada.

“I’m sure the congressional delegations and governors of every border state to the north are probably furious right now, and rightly so,” said Jeff Lawson, who is vice president of tourism and marketing at Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I’m pretty upset about it.”

Northern state governors and members of Congress have been pushing the White House for weeks to open the border. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has shown impatience with the White House, especially after the Canadian government this week announced that travelers would be able to enter Canada from the United States on August 9 without quarantining in a hotel “provided the COVID situation is under control.” Scott said he has asked the White House to reciprocate, saying it is now safe to do so.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Vermont Closes In on Vaccination Goal — and Considers Sending Shots to Canada

Posted By on Tue, Jun 1, 2021 at 3:52 PM

Gốc Văn Trần gets vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Winooski Armory - FILE: LY TRẦN
  • File: Ly Trần
  • Gốc Văn Trần gets vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Winooski Armory
Vermonters are closing in on the state’s goal of an 80 percent vaccination rate, raising expectations that Gov. Phil Scott will lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions this month.

The state is still gathering vaccination data from Sunday and Monday, but as of Tuesday morning, an estimated 78 percent of eligible Vermonters had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Another 11,346 people need to get vaccinated in order to reach that 80 percent. If 1,000 a day were vaccinated, the state would fully reopen June 11, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said during the governor’s regular COVID-19 news briefing Tuesday.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Welch Questions Trump's Rationale for Suleimani Strike, Seeks Hearings

Posted By on Tue, Jan 7, 2020 at 4:40 PM

Rep. Peter Welch on Tuesday - DEREK BROUWER
  • Derek Brouwer
  • Rep. Peter Welch on Tuesday
Vermont’s sole member of the U.S. House said he doesn’t buy President Donald Trump’s rationale for killing Iran’s top general last week and called for a congressional probe into the decision that has roiled the Middle East and thrust the United States into direct confrontation with Iran.

“Let me be frank: I don’t believe what the president has said about the plan,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said at a press conference Tuesday before boarding a plane to Washington, D.C., where Congress reconvenes this week. “I want to have public hearings to get to the bottom of this.”

Welch, a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, echoed statements by its chair, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who on Monday cast doubt on the unspecified intelligence cited by the Trump administration that Qassim Suleimani, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, was plotting “imminent” attacks against the U.S.

Unlike Schiff, Welch has yet to review any intelligence used to justify the drone strike that killed Suleimani and six others at Baghdad International Airport on January 2. He said he plans to review the classified material this week.
Welch nonetheless characterized the strike as reckless and impulsive and said it has already led to insecurity abroad. Repeating a recent Schiff quote in the Washington Post almost verbatim, Welch said Trump “was table-hopping down in Mar-a-Lago when he made this decision.”

“Amateur hour is in charge at the White House,” he said.

In casting doubt Tuesday on the administration's assertion that Suleimani was planning an imminent attack, Welch referred to Iraqi and Iranian officials’ recent statements that Suleimani had traveled to Baghdad for diplomatic discussions.

Earlier Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ridiculed that notion, rhetorically asking reporters in Washington if there was “any history that would indicate it was remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order, Qassim Suleimani, had traveled to Baghdad for the idea of conducting a peace mission?" CNN reported.

Welch called Pompeo’s assertion that the strike made Americans safer “absurd.”

He pledged to “be a voice for deescalation” in Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to introduce a resolution under the War Powers Act this week to curtail the president’s military actions against Iran. Welch said he will support it, as well as related legislation introduced in both chambers last Friday by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would bar the use of funds for military force against Iran without congressional authorization. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has signed on to the Senate legislation.

“After authorizing a disastrous, $738 billion military budget that placed no restrictions on this president from starting an unauthorized war with Iran, Congress now has an opportunity to change course,” Sanders and Khanna said in a joint statement.

“We must invest in the needs of the American people, not spend trillions more on endless wars,” they said.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Bernie Sanders
Senate Backs Sanders-Sponsored Resolution to End Military Aid to Saudi Arabia

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 5:21 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: ERIC TADSEN
  • File: Eric Tadsen
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that calls for the end of all U.S. military involvement in Saudi Arabia's ongoing war in Yemen.

The 56-41 vote on Thursday afternoon was a rebuke of Saudi Arabia over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated inside the country's embassy in Turkey. Because the U.S. House has blocked debate of the resolution, the Senate vote was largely symbolic.

President Donald Trump has refused to condemn the killing, which the Central Intelligence Agency determined was likely ordered by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Bernie Sanders
Vermont Delegation: Congress Must Approve Strikes on Syria

Posted By on Sat, Apr 14, 2018 at 10:44 PM

Congressman Peter Welch and Sen. Bernie Sanders at a press conference in January 2018 at Burlington International Airport - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Congressman Peter Welch and Sen. Bernie Sanders at a press conference in January 2018 at Burlington International Airport
Vermont's three-member congressional delegation faulted President Donald Trump on Saturday for launching air strikes against Syria without congressional approval or a clear strategy.

The United States, France and Britain fired more than 100 missiles at Syrian chemical weapons facilities late Friday, a week after forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad allegedly used such weapons against his own people.

In written statements issued following Friday's air strikes, Vermont's congressional delegates said that Assad's use of chemical weapons merited a response from the international community.

"But it is Congress' responsibility to declare war," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said. "Threatening the use of military force by tweet, and firing off missiles without a coherent policy or clear legal authority, raises obvious dangers and constitutional concerns and risks drawing us into a wider war."

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bernie Sanders
On a Big Stage, Sanders Counters Trump on Foreign Policy

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 3:03 PM

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers his foreign policy speech at Westminster College Thursday. - YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT
  • Youtube screenshot
  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers his foreign policy speech at Westminster College Thursday.
Two days after President Donald Trump promoted an every-country-for-itself approach in a speech at the United Nations, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for international collaboration.

Sanders, who studiously avoided discussing foreign policy during his presidential campaign, chose a high profile and historically significant venue to address the topic Thursday. He made his remarks during same event at which Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech — at the John Findley Green Foundation lecture at Westminster College in Missouri.

Widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2020, Sanders has cemented his role as a foil to Trump; last week, he grabbed headlines after unveiling his Medicare-for-all health care proposal.

“The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of ‘America first,’” Sanders told an audience of students and faculty. “Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance.”

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Bernie Sanders
Vermont Delegation Says Trump Must Seek Approval for Future Syrian Strikes

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 12:47 PM

Congressman Peter Welch during a 2013 trip to the Middle East and East Asia that brought him to the Turkish-Syrian border. - FILE
  • File
  • Congressman Peter Welch during a 2013 trip to the Middle East and East Asia that brought him to the Turkish-Syrian border.
Vermont’s congressional delegation expressed adamancy Friday that President Donald Trump seek approval from Congress to intervene further in Syria. The delegation’s three members appeared less certain of how they would vote if Trump did, in fact, come to them with such a request.

Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian air base late Thursday in retaliation for the government’s alleged chemical weapons attack, which killed at least 80 civilians earlier this week. Some members of the U.S. Congress have commended Trump while others have condemned his unilateral decision.

“Only Congress has the power to make war,” U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said in an interview Friday morning. “From my perspective, both the president and the Congress are failing to meet their constitutional obligation to get an authorization from Congress before they use military force.”

Neither Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) nor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) immediately responded to requests for interviews. But in a written statement issued Friday morning, Sanders said, “As the Constitution requires, the president must come to Congress to authorize any further use of force against the Assad regime.” In his own statement, Leahy said, “The president is now required to give Congress notification under the War Powers Act.”

Both senators stopped short of criticizing Trump for authorizing air strikes Thursday.

Vermont’s delegation expressed greater ambivalence about how Congress should respond to a potential request for authorization from the president.

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