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Monday, August 14, 2017

No, Neo-Nazi Website the Daily Stormer Is Not Based in Burlington

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 9:18 PM

The hate map - SPLC
  • SPLC
  • The hate map
Burlington likely has little in common with cities such as Cullman, Ala., or Mountain View, Calif.

But the three locales share a dark designation: They’re among dozens on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map,” which tracks hate-group activity across the U.S.

Various places on the map are marked with insignias associated with racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic groups. The map drew renewed attention after the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., during a rally of white supremacists.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Judge Rejects Vermont AG's Broad Public Records Exemption Claim

Posted By on Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 3:51 PM

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan
A Vermont Superior Court judge on Thursday dismissed a sweeping claim by the Attorney General's Office that it could invoke attorney-client privilege to prevent the release of public records.

Judge Mary Miles Teachout's ruling is the latest development in a long-running dispute between the industry-funded Energy & Environment Legal Institute and state attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil.

E&E Legal sued the Vermont Attorney General's Office in June 2016 after then-AG Bill Sorrell categorically refused to hand over any documents related to the multistate climate-change investigation. Sorrell's successor, Attorney General T.J. Donovan, inherited the case. In March, his staff argued in court that because the office represents the state, it could invoke attorney-client privilege and only release documents when doing so is in the state's interest.

While such an argument could have broad implications for the state's public records law, Donovan and his deputies later insisted to Seven Days that their office would honor most public records requests.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Leahy, Sanders Condemn Senate Obamacare Repeal Vote

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 6:58 PM

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders
Vermont’s two U.S. senators lambasted the Republican-controlled chamber’s decision Tuesday to begin debating repeal of the Affordable Care Act, calling it “dangerous” and “disastrous.”

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined their 46 Democratic and independent colleagues, along with two Republicans, in opposing the effort, but Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie. That allowed debate to go forward on legislation that could fundamentally alter the country’s health care system.

The vote came as a surprise to many, who assumed President Donald Trump’s effort to do away with Obamacare had failed last week after four key Republican senators announced they wouldn’t support a proposed replacement bill. Tuesday’s vote allows the debate on new health care legislation to proceed, but it’s unclear what version, if any, will actually pass.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Winooski Gay Bar Once Known as Mister Sister Has Closed

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 6:53 PM

An image posted to the Bridge Club website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • An image posted to the Bridge Club website
The Bridge Club, a Winooski gay bar, has officially closed its doors, just about five months after it opened to much fanfare — and controversy — under the name Mister Sister.

Owner Craig McGaughan changed the name in June after coming under pressure from some in Vermont's LGBTQ community, members of which slammed the name Mister Sister as a transphobic slur. Despite the branding shakeup, the place was shuttered earlier this month during a failed GoFundMe campaign to raise capital.

"FAKE SOCIAL JUSTICE TERRORISTS PUT US OUT OF BUSINESS," reads a message on the bar's website. The story on the GoFundMe page — which raised nearly $2,000 of a $100,000 goal — reads, "Unfortunately, we're permanently closed." And the business' Facebook page, where McGaughan frequently got into heated discussions with commenters, appears to have been deleted as well.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Vermont Officials Prepare for Lower Revenues, Budget Cuts

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 5:28 PM

Gov. Phil Scott and legislators who make up the Emergency Board meet Friday in Montpelier to discuss state revenues. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Gov. Phil Scott and legislators who make up the Emergency Board meet Friday in Montpelier to discuss state revenues.
Gov. Phil Scott and Vermont legislative leaders who make up the state’s Emergency Board agreed Friday afternoon to lower expectations for state revenues in the coming year and to plan for $12.5 million in budget cuts.

The action came after economists — one hired by the governor's administration and another hired by the legislature — warned that all is not rosy with the economy, nationally or in Vermont.

The state is expected to see $28.8 million less in general fund revenue this fiscal year, economists Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr said.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

South Burlington School District Fights Suit Over Rebels Petition

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 6:44 PM

Rebels banners at South Burlington High School - FILE: OLIVER PARINI
  • File: Oliver Parini
  • Rebels banners at South Burlington High School
School's out, but the South Burlington Rebels saga is still in session.

The school district on Monday sought the dismissal of a lawsuit brought in June by supporters of the controversial Rebels moniker who want a public vote on the name change. In the filing, school district attorney Pietro Lynn argued that the school board had every right to make its decision, despite a successful petition drive by Rebel Alliance members who demanded the name change be decided by residents.

The "elected school board, not the electorate, has the authority to make operations and budgetary decisions and properly exercised its discretion in declining to put the Rebel name articles before the voters," reads the motion filed in Vermont Superior Court.

The school board voted unanimously to drop the name on February 1 after critics called it divisive and tainted by racist associations with the Confederacy. Supporters saw it as a harmless and unifying tradition.

That group founded an advocacy group — the Rebel Alliance — and launched the petition drive as part of their bid to retain the name.

One petition asked for a vote on the name itself, while a second called for a prohibition on spending public funds to change the name. Students, and later the school board, voted on and approved the new mascot: the Wolves.

The board announced at a May meeting it would not put the questions to a vote, which triggered outrage. Rebel Alliance leaders called the decision cowardly and argued that it violated due process.

Four Rebels supporters filed the June lawsuit: Robert A. Skiff Jr., Benjamin E. Nye, Stacey Savage and Marcy Brigham.

"South Burlington Rebels were taught to fight for what they believed was right and to never give up, and we are continuing that proud tradition," Savage, who serves as the Rebel Alliance spokeswoman, wrote in a press release shortly after filing the suit.

Savage on Monday did not immediately return a request for comment.

The district's motion argued that the lawsuit asks the school district to hold a vote about a symbol that "many consider racist." To retain such a symbol could alienate students and families, and put the district in violation of state and federal laws designed to prevent racism, the motion said.

On Monday, South Burlington High School principal Patrick Burke unveiled images of new sports jerseys, bearing the Wolves name, on Twitter.

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Top Vermont Dems Praise Scott’s Opposition to Obamacare Repeal

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 6:44 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Gov. Phil Scott and Congressman Peter Welch at a press conference Monday at the Statehouse - STEFAN HARD
  • Stefan Hard
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, Gov. Phil Scott and Congressman Peter Welch at a press conference Monday at the Statehouse
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) campaigned across the state last fall against Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott. But at a press conference Monday morning at the Vermont Statehouse, the trio tripped over one another in praise of the first-term governor.

What changed? Scott has become one of a handful of Republican governors to oppose congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“You’re not getting compliments from all your colleagues for doing this,” Welch told Scott, who flashed a sheepish grin. “But you’re getting a lot of compliments from the Vermonters you represent.”

Added Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero), whose budget Scott vetoed last month, “I want to thank the governor, as well, for speaking up, because it’s not an easy thing to speak up and go against the prevailing will of your party.”

Scott did, indeed, voice forceful opposition to repeal legislation U.S. Senate Republicans hope to bring to a vote in the coming weeks, arguing that it would “leave our state with a budget deficit we could not absorb” without cutting services or raising taxes.

“The consequences for Vermonters would be severe,” the governor said of the bill.

Scott called it “imperative” that Republicans and Democrats work together to improve the ACA, but he was hazy on the details of what he sought. Asked whether there was an approach that might satisfy him and Vermont’s left-leaning congressional delegation, the governor retreated to his talking points.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Vermont Delegation Reacts Cautiously to Trump Jr. Meeting

Posted By on Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 8:29 PM

Vermont's congressional delegation and their spouses. - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Vermont's congressional delegation and their spouses.
A cascade of revelations about a meeting between President Donald Trump's son and a Kremlin-connected lawyer has drawn the attention of Vermont's congressional delegation. But despite the rush of new developments, the delegation's three members appear to be reacting cautiously.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) both called for further investigation Tuesday. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has refused Seven Days' interview requests for more than 26 months, did not respond to a request for comment.

The New York Times has reported in recent days that the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., and other top advisers met with a Russian attorney in June 2016 to discuss information that could damage Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, the Times published emails suggesting that Trump Jr. knew the information came from Russian officials and was comfortable with that.

Leahy spokesperson David Carle said Vermont's senior senator "believes that Donald Jr.'s meeting raises exceedingly serious and troubling issues." He did not go as far as Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Clinton's 2016 running mate, who called Trump Jr.'s actions "beyond obstruction of justice" and "potentially treason."

"[Leahy] continues to believe that it's crucially important to gather all the facts … so determinations can be made about whether and what crimes were committed," Carle said.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

State Official Refutes Report That Feds Sought Grand Jury Testimony in Sanders Investigation

Posted By on Mon, Jul 10, 2017 at 9:15 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Jane O'Meara Sanders - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders and Jane O'Meara Sanders
Updated at 9:48 p.m.

The Washington Post reported Monday that a federal investigation involving Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, "has accelerated in recent months" and is "gathering steam." In what appeared to be a previously unreported development, the Post wrote that prosecutors had subpoenaed a Vermont state official "to testify before a grand jury" about the matter in April.

"That is the first public confirmation that prosecutors have sought to present evidence to a grand jury," investigative reporters Shawn Boburg and Jack Gillum wrote.

But according to the state official in question, Vermont Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency executive director Robert Giroux, and VEHBFA general counsel James Foley, prosecutors never asked Giroux to testify before a grand jury. And the subpoena itself, which Foley provided to Seven Days, makes clear that federal officials were seeking documents from the state agency — not testimony.

"A personal appearance is not required and the subpoena may be complied with a CD/DVD or Documents by certified mail," Acting U.S. Attorney Eugenia Cowles wrote in an April 17 cover letter accompanying the subpoena. The federal request makes no reference to Giroux or any other state official.

The distinction is important because federal prosecutors often use grand jury subpoenas to obtain documents at an earlier stage of an investigation. They typically do not call witnesses before a grand jury until they are seeking an indictment.

After Seven Days questioned Boburg and Gillum about their reporting late Monday, the Post corrected its story and retracted the claim.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Child in DCF Care Dies in Apparent East Montpelier Drowning

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 2:56 PM

UVM Medical Center - COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT MEDICAL CENTER
  • Courtesy of University of Vermont Medical Center
  • UVM Medical Center
A 2-year-old boy in the custody of the Department for Children and Families died after he was found unresponsive in an East Montpelier swimming pool, Vermont State Police said Thursday.

Alexander James Lowell-Henry died late Wednesday as he was receiving medical care at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, state police said.

The toddler was in the care of a foster family at the time of his apparent drowning, state police said.

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