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August 2011

August 21, 2011

Vermont Law School Professor and Middlebury Scholar Arrested at White House Protest

IMG_0598 A Vermont Law School professor and a Middlebury College scholar were arrested in front of the White House on Saturday at the start of the environmental movement's biggest series of civil-disobedience protests in decades.

Some 65 demonstrators were handcuffed and taken away in police vans as they sought to dramatize opposition to a pipeline that would carry huge quantities of oil — and thus climate-changing carbon — from Canadian sands to Texas refineries. The well-dressed lawbreakers had targeted the White House because President Obama has sole power to approve or kill the $7 billion project.

“If Barack Obama mans up and says no to this thing, it will send a surge of electricity through all the people who voted for him three years ago,” Middlebury's Bill McKibben (pictured above) said in an interview prior to his arrest.

With an Obama '08 button pinned to the lapel of his gray suit jacket, McKibben told a crowd in Lafayette Park on Pennsylvania Avenue, “I'm a law-abiding citizen. This isn't something that comes naturally to me.”

Continue reading "Vermont Law School Professor and Middlebury Scholar Arrested at White House Protest" »

Grazing: Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches

Salted It doesn't look like much, but these were the remnants of an ecstatic eating experience (the sweet kind).

I found it impossible to take a decent photo of the salted-caramel ice cream sandwich that had our office buzzing this week. The same fleeting quality that made it so yummy — its sumptuous, salty-sweet insides — puddled into a gooey mess almost from the moment it emerged from the freezer. It is Mirabelles that had the genius to sandwich salted-caramel ice cream between two rich, slightly gooey chocolate crinkle cookies, and it oozes from the sides with every bite.

The dessert's flavor is so crazy making that I twirled and dodged while trying to catch every last bit before it dripped away. I ended up with some leftover cookie and a big pool of melted caramel and cream (see picture) that I dragged my fingers through like a child.

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August 19, 2011

Fletcher Allen Admits "Errors Were Made" in Case of Pedestrian Who Died After Being Released

StamatisFletcher Allen Health Care admitted today that it made "errors in the care" of 20-year-old Zachary Stamatis, the accident victim who died in July after being treated and released from the hospital.

Stamatis (pictured) had been hit by a car while in his wheelchair crossing Pine Street at the intersection of Flynn Avenue — near his home. He was rushed to the hospital that night, treated and released a few hours later.

Stamatis was found dead the following morning by a caregiver. According to an autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner, Stamatis died as a result of a brain injury due to a skull fracture he sustained from the crash.

Immediately following news of Stamatis' death, FAHC officials said they would conduct an internal investigation into Stamatis' care to determine what, if anything, went awry.

Apparently the hospital did make mistakes, but officials aren't saying exactly what went wrong.

Continue reading "Fletcher Allen Admits "Errors Were Made" in Case of Pedestrian Who Died After Being Released" »

Howard Dean: Human Rights Activist or Terrorist Coddler?

220x Former Gov. Howard Dean is under increasing scrutiny for lobbying the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to de-list the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) as a terrorist group.

Howard Dean — a human rights activist? I wonder how Vermont's native people feel about Dean's new focus on human rights, after he and Attorney General Bill Sorrell led the opposition of federal recognition for some of Vermont's Abenaki in the 1990s.

That was then, this is now.

Dean is one of a host of top-tier politicos who have been paid tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to make a case for MEK to the public. The MEK has shelled out millions of dollars to indirectly lobby the Obama administration in an attempt to be taken off the United States' official list of terrorist organizations. The group has already been de-listed by Britain and France.

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department issued its updated terrorist list and the MEK remains on it. However, Secretary of State Clinton is still reviewing the MEK's request to be de-listed and will issue a separate ruling in the coming weeks.

In March, Dean joined a group of politicians, former military leaders and international experts urging the Obama Administration to support the MEK and boost protection of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, home to the 3400 members (including 1000 women) of MEK.

In addition to Dean, Gen. James Jones, former national security advisor to Pres. Obama; Michael Mukasey, former U.S. attorney general; Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman, joint chiefs of staff; Gov. Tom Ridge, former secretary of homeland security; and, Louis Freeh, former director, federal bureau of investigation were among the speakers.

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Old and New Eateries to Take Over Green Room and Via Loma Spaces

IMG_2572 The rumors are true — less than a week after the Green Room closed, Sue Bette, owner of the Bluebird Tavern has signed a lease to move her gastropub to that building.

"We are trying to be part of the downtown scene," she says. "What we do at the tavern will be a great fit for downtown."

That includes expanded hours and and a focus on a separate bar section, as well as a more expansive raw bar and chef's table dinners. Bette says chef Michael Clauss will also prepare business-style lunches, a dining option she says wasn't viable in the current Riverside Avenue space.

The new location is also closer to the Bluebird Coffee Stop, meaning Clauss will also be able to ramp up the prepared foods served there.

Bette says the current Tavern will stay open until the St. Paul Street restaurant debuts around the holidays. By spring, she hopes to open a new concept on Riverside Avenue. She hasn't settled on a cuisine for the nascent restaurant yet, though barbecue is in the running. She is sure that whatever she chooses, the restaurant will have "a roadhouse, fun style."

Down on Burlington's lower Main Street, where Via Loma closed this spring, Middlebury grads Max Mackinnon and Maji Chien are slated to open Pistou in early December. Chef Mackinnon will prepare baked goods for breakfast, and soup and sandwiches at lunch, then refined dinners (his coconut-lobster soup appears above).

The owners come with big-name backgrounds — both cut their teeth in the New York culinary scene. Mackinnon worked most recently as a prep chef at the Food Network, but before that, helped the 11 Madison Park team prepare for the Bocuse D'Or while working for David Bouley. Chien worked front of house at Bar Boulud and Robert at the Museum of Arts and Design. Before returning to Vermont, she helped open ultra-hot Korean tapas joint Danji.

Looks like the downtown dining scene will soon be more bustling — and delicious — than ever.

August 18, 2011

Migrant Farmworkers to Shumlin: Denounce Immigration Enforcement Program

DSC00150 Two migrant farm workers took a day off Thursday to deliver a petition to Gov. Peter Shumlin asking him to oppose a controversial federal immigration enforcement program. But the governor was tied up in meetings, so Danilo Lopez and Over Lopez (pictured) pleaded their case with the Agency of Agriculture's second-in-command instead.

For the last month, the Lopezes (who are not related) have been organizing migrant workers on Vermont dairy, vegetable and horse farms in opposition to Secure Communities, or S-Comm, an Obama administration program that shares fingerprints collected by local police agencies with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The program's goal is to catch and deport criminal aliens, but it has come under fire for sweeping up large numbers of undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record.

Asked about S-Comm at his weekly press conference, Shumlin said that on a "philosophical level" he believes Vermont should treat migrant workers with "respect and dignity." But he stopped well short of committing to taking a stand against the program.

"I haven't seen exactly what they're asking us to do," the governor said, "so I'm gonna plead the Fifth."

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August 16, 2011

USGS: Fall Foliage Is Major Source of Mercury in New England Environment

Fallfoliagecentral.ashx Last week, the U.S. Geological Survey released the findings of two multiyear studies which concluded that — hang onto your sugaring buckets — fallen autumn leaves release mercury into the environment.

As if Vermont's tourism industry didn't have enough to worry about, what with Vermont Yankee's radioactive incontinence and Green Mountain dairy cows belching and farting out enough greenhouse gases to turn the state's much-heralded winter slopes into Slip 'n' Slides.

"We know that forest canopies scavenge mercury out of the air — because trees breathe every day — and they take in gases that include gaseous mercury," explains Martin Risch, a research hydrologist with the USGS in Indianapolis, Ind., who worked on the studies. Leaves and needles also capture mercury that settles as dry deposits on their surface. But when those leaves and needles fall, they release the environmental contaminant once again.

Mercury poses a health risk to humans and other living critters. Notably, methylmercury, the nasty organic variety that shows up in fish and seafood, is harmful to pregnant mothers because it can affect their fetuses' developing cognitive abilities, attention, language, fine motor skills and ... what was that last one? ... oh, yeah, memory. Another good reason to get those silver-amalgam fillings out of your mouth.

Scientists have known for years mercury moves from the atmosphere into the environment through precipitation. However, these new studies reveal that "litterfall"— that is, those beautiful leaves and needles — delivers at least as much mercury to eastern U.S. ecosystems as precipitation. And possibly more.

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Fair Trade Coffee Means Happy Farmers, Right?

IMG_2823Fair Trade isn't always fair. The PC goodness we feel when we shell out more than $10 a pound for Fair Trade coffee beans is challenged in a new film made by none other than... Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Staff there also used to think that fair prices alone went a long way toward keeping farmers and their families fed.

About four years ago, GMCR cosponsored a study that uncovered a startling fact: Two-thirds of coffee farmers, including those who belong to Fair Trade cooperatives, have trouble feeding their families consistently throughout the year. Most live on a dollar or less a day, and some keep their kids home from school because they lack money for uniforms and books.

Rick Peyser had worked at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters for 19 years when the study's results were released, and he was stunned. "It bothered me to the point that I wasn't sure I wanted to stay in the coffee business," says Peyser, now the company's director of social advocacy and coffee community outreach. Over the years, he had taken many trips to coffee-growing regions, on his own and on GMCR-sponsored trips. Even so, he hadn't known the extent of post-harvest need among the families. "I felt really stupid and angry that I had spent so much time in coffee communities and hadn't heard of this," Peyser laments.

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VT Fisherman Caught With Radio-Tracked Atlantic Salmon in Freezer

Atlantic SalmonA Bethel angler was busted for reportedly taking home a 31-inch Atlantic salmon he caught in the White River, and reporting it as a brown trout.

Brown_troutRyan McCullough faces a $1500 fine and loss of his fishing license for three years for not accurately identifying his catch, according to Vermont Fish & Wildlife. A press release states that McCullough was fishing downstream of the federal fish hatchery in Stockbridge on July 25 when he hooked and landed a 9.5-pound, 31.5-inch-long fish that turned out to be an andromous Atlantic Salmon (top). He reportedly "misidentified" it as a brown trout (bottom) and took it home to have it stuffed.

How did McCullough get caught? In a press release, Fish & Wildlife offers this (perhaps) unintentionally hilarious explanation:

"A photo of the fish appeared in the local newspaper. Fisheries biologists who had previously put radio transmitters in Atlantic salmon that had migrated upstream in the Connecticut to spawn noticed the photo. They also discovered one of the two salmon they were monitoring in the White River was now transmitting its signal from dry land in Bethel. ...The missing salmon was located in a freezer in Bethel."

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Alice Eats: Trapp Family Lodge DeliBakery

700 Trapp Hill Road, Stowe, 253-5705

When I first dined at the Trapp Family Lodge a decade ago, there was more than a measure of kitsch. As soon as I got out of the car, I saw a pair of elderly woman spinning around on a hill, arms outstretched, à la Julie Andrews. The hills were alive, and so was the twee Austrian Tea Room.

IMG_2641-1In recent years, however, the resort has had a major makeover. Sought-after artisan beer has replaced tea cozies. In the place of the Austrian Tea Room, there's the bright and modern DeliBakery. When I tried it this weekend, I found that it was the perfect balance of old and new.

You enter the counter area past a bakery case stocked with practically every rich Euro-style dessert imaginable, as well as tea trays stacked with dark, crackly looking croissants. The menu is one page, front and back, but includes plenty of choices. Choose a side salad, order at the counter and sit down. In about 20 minutes lunch will be brought to your table.

I had a bratwurst, which came with a sliced length of house-baked baguette, perfect for assembling a hearty sandwich. Even better: a slick of three-peppercorn Dijon mustard on each side of the bread. Not as spicy as many Germanic mustards, this sauce was creamy and sharp with just a hint of heat.

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