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Morning Read

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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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Morning Listen: Internal Docs Show Police Misconduct in Rutland

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:35 AM


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Ruh-roh, Rutland.

Despite the down-and-out city's efforts to shed its unfortunate reputation, which we covered in a 2012 cover story, Rutland just got another black eye: According to internal documents, the Rutland City Police Department has been plagued by officer misconduct, a culture of fear, and favoritism.

Chittenden resident and VPR reporter Nina Keck paints a gloomy picture of the department — but it's not the first time the Rutland cops have made headlines. As former Seven Days news editor Andy Bromage reported in 2011, Rutland police Sgt. David Schauwecker was charged in 2010 with removing pornography seized as evidence for his own use, and then lying to investigators to deflect attention. Another patrolman resigned after allegedly using improper force on a man handcuffed in a holding cell.

Apparently, things haven't changed much. Former police officer Chris Kiefer-Cioffi — who spent 27 years in the department — told Keck the "good ol' boy club is running rampant in that department," and alleges supervisors knew about misconduct and, in some cases, participated in it.  

The troubled department has been under the leadership of Chief Jim Baker since January 2012; Baker stepped in following the controversial ousting of a former chief. Keck reports that while Baker was "shocked" by the state of the department when he took over, not everyone thinks the new chief has done enough to right the listing ship. Keck reports:

As Baker works on repairing the department, allegations of favoritism continue.  Top Rutland City police officials, including Baker, were sued earlier this year by former officer Andrew Todd, who alleges he was forced out of his job because of widespread management problems.

Todd left the police to become a state trooper just as Baker arrived in 2012. According to the lawsuit, Todd, who was the only African American on the force, complained several times to supervisors Geno and Tucker about the alleged unethical and racist behavior of two fellow officers.

According to Keck, city officials stand behind Baker and the changes he's making in the department. But as Keck reports, "whether those changes occur fast enough or restore the public trust remains to be seen."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Morning Read: State Pays D.C. Firm for Vermont Media Intel

Posted By on Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 11:07 AM

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Vermont Public Radio's Bob Kinzel is totally a Negative Nancy.

At least, that's the conclusion a Washington, D.C. consulting firm drew in April after the state of Vermont paid the company $18,000 for intel on reporters covering the roll-out of the state's new health care exchange.

The Vermont Press Bureau's Peter Hirschfeld had the details in a shocking Sunday story in the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus outlining the lengths to which Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration has gone to manipulate press coverage of the exchange, called Vermont Health Connect.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Morning Read: VT Health Connect's Bumpy Ride on the Yellow Brick Road

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 11:04 AM

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There's nothing worse than missing a major deadline — and that's doubly true when everyone is watching, especially your political opponents, who are so hoping you blow it.

Vermont Health Connect, the state's health insurance exchange created to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act, is scheduled to launch tomorrow. But officials have already announced that the exchange will not be able to accept payments until Nov. 1. That's because, as VT Digger's Andrew Stein reported on Friday, CGI Systems and Technologies, the vendor hired to build critical components of the state's new health insurance exchange, fell badly behind in getting the job done.

Now it appears the Shumlin administration doubled down on its bet on CGI, signing an amended $84 million contract with the IT company — twice the value of the original contract — despite the fact that the company missed some key deadlines for implementing the new web-based exchange. As Stein writes:

The administration said CGI has failed to meet more than half of Vermont’s 21 performance deadlines, called “critical milestones.” Although the state has the contractual power to penalize CGI for falling behind schedule, it has not exercised this authority.

The state could charge CGI as much as $125,000 a day in penalties, depending on the length of the delay and the importance of the milestone.

Shumlin's critics were quick to jump on the bad news about Obamacare. In a long but cogent Sunday editorial on VT Digger, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock likened the story of Vermont Health Connect to the Wizard of Oz, where, despite the illusion of an all-powerful wizard, there's nothing behind the curtain "but a little old con artist, who has no magical powers at all."

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Morning Read: Rutland Herald Puts Headquarters Up for Sale

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 11:42 AM

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"The Rutland Herald is not for sale," the Rutland Herald's Gordon Dritschilo reported in Wednesday's paper. It's just the damn boss starting rumors again:

Publisher R. John Mitchell said Tuesday he may have inadvertently started rumors to that effect while discussing plans to sell the building. The building is for sale, listed by Coldwell Banker Watson Realty for $995,000. 

The news comes a month after the Mitchell family sold the Barre headquarters of its other paper, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, and moved its operations to a new downtown rental. The Gannett-owned Burlington Free Press has also put most of its College Street facility up for sale; that property is listed as "under agreement" on the Freeps' broker's website.

The Herald has called the building home since the mid-1930s. Mitchell tells Dritschilo the paper will remain in downtown Rutland.

Read the full Herald story about the Herald here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Morning Read: Protesters Rip Up 9/11 Memorial Flags at Middlebury College

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM

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Middlebury College students marked the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks yesterday with a display of 2,977 miniature American flags in front of Mead Chapel. The memorial, organized by the school's College Republicans and College Democrats groups, has happened every 9/11 for nearly 10 years, according to the Middlebury Campus.

This year, though, things went awry.

The Campus reported that five people ripped the flags out of the ground and tossed them into trash bags because they were planted on sacred Abenaki ground.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Morning Read: In Iowa, Howard Dean Says He's... Backing Hillary

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 10:12 AM

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As we noted last week (quoting the great Chris Cillizza), "No politician goes to Iowa by accident." The same generally holds true for New Hampshire — unless you're already in Vermont and you really, really need to get to Boston.

So former governor Howard Dean's trip to Iowa Wednesday and his plans to visit New Hampshire next month have gotten bored, horse-race-loving political types (I admit it! I'm one of them!) into a tizzy.

Of course, the less-often-stated corollary to the Cillizza maxim is this: "Most politicians who go to Iowa just want people to think they'll run for president." In our view, Dean falls squarely in that camp. Dude's looking for some press coverage — and he knows that's the way to get it (see: this blog post). 

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Morning Read: Times Profiles the Lynn Sisters, Vermont's Next-Gen Newspaper Publishers

Posted By on Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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It ain't all bad news in the world of newspapers, writes New York Times media reporter Christine Haughney.

Up in Vermont, three twentysomething sisters are making a go at extending their family's publishing reign to a fifth generation. And the papers they run, Haughney writes in a B1 story in Friday's Times, "have been surprisingly profitable."

That's right. She's talking about the one and only Lynn family, whose small empire of Vermont newspapers includes the Addison County IndependentSt. Albans Messenger, Milton Independent, Colchester Sun, Essex Reporter, Brandon Reporter and Mountain Times

As Seven Days' Shay Totten did back in January 2011, Haughney focuses mostly on Addy Indy publisher Angelo Lynn's three daughters: Polly, Elsie and Christy:

[I]nstead of fleeing the newspaper business, the Lynn sisters have embraced it, and not just because it is part of their heritage.

“I’ve grown up in the papers,” said Elsie Lynn. “But I don’t think that’s the reason I’m in it. The future is exciting for me. We have this chance and this opportunity to be pioneers and change our career and change this industry.”

You can read Haughney's story here. And while you're at it, check out Seven Days' Ken Picard's January 2010 profile of the fourth-generation Lynns, Angelo and Emerson. (Haughney, btw, must really dig the Vermont newspaper industry. Last September, she wrote about recent changes at the Burlington Free Press.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Morning Read: BuzzFeed Calls Welch "Republicans' Favorite House Liberal"

Posted By on Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 8:27 AM

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Which member of Vermont's congressional delegation travels to the Middle East with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor? Hikes in the Grand Canyon with Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)? Steals popcorn from the Republican cloakroom?

Here's a hint: It sure ain't Bernie Sanders.

Splashed across BuzzFeed's homepage this morning — right above a pair of stories titled "15 Experiences EVERYONE Should Have In College" and "11 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew About Dogs" — is an improbable homage to the apparent bipartisan street cred of Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

"Meet Republicans' Favorite House Liberal," the story is called. 

Not the most compelling link bait we've seen, but hey!

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Morning Read: Leahy Questions Spy Chiefs on Surveillance Programs

Posted By on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 9:35 AM

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Sen. Patrick Leahy got all up in the National Security Agency's grill Wednesday, questioning whether its controversial collection of domestic phone data directly led to the apprehension of terrorists.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing he called to discuss surveillance programs disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Leahy "accused Obama administration officials of overstating the success" of the phone data program, according to the New York Times.

Times reporters Charlie Savage and David Sanger write :

[Leahy] said he had been shown a classified list of “terrorist events” detected through surveillance, and it did not show that “dozens or even several terrorist plots” had been thwarted by the domestic program.

“If this program is not effective it has to end. So far, I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen,” Mr. Leahy said, citing the “massive privacy implications” of keeping records of every American’s domestic calls.

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