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May 2010

May 31, 2010

Smiling Unhappy People from Bhutan

Quality of life and quality of the economy don't necessarily go hand in hand. Lest there be any doubt, keep in mind that the cleanup costs associated with the BP oil spill will actually add to the Gross National Product (GNP) of the United States in 2010. Talk about a flawed system of accounting.

It's one reason why a group of Vermonters is promoting an entirely different indicator for measuring the nation's actual "wealth."  As Andy Bromage reported for Seven Days in April, this week Champlain College is playing host to the first-ever national conference on the "Gross National Happiness Project," which proposes replacing the GNP with Gross National Happiness, or GNH. Based on a model officially adopted by Bhutan in 2008, GNH measures more human-oriented indicators of national wealth, such as the citizens' physical and psychological well-being, their use of time, level of education, quality of life, and so forth.

But this week's conference, which runs from June 1-3, features a keynote speaker who is making a lot of Bhutanese living in the United States, including the 500 or so Nepali refugees from Bhutan currently living in Burlington, very unhappy. Karma Tshiteem is secretary of Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Commission. As an official representative of the Bhutanese government, Tshiteem's presence has been described as a "slap in the face" to refugees who fled Bhutan under the fear of imprisonment, torture and death.

Allies of the local Bhutanese community are planning to protest his presence, starting at 8:15 tomorrow morning.

Continue reading "Smiling Unhappy People from Bhutan" »

Vermont Yankee's Leak of the Week

VY leak Update: The "new" leak was found Friday, but the info released publicly late Saturday night.

After a string of good luck, it seems Entergy Vermont Yankee has landed right back into its old bad habits of introducing Vermonters to a leak of the week.

This past Friday marked two straight weeks in which ENVY released bad news (and radioactive isotopes) to the Vermont media after regular business hours.

Late Friday Saturday, ENVY's top communications director Larry Smith issued a press statement (see below) claiming that a "new leak" had been found Friday at Vermont Yankee. And, as luck would have it, the leak is right near that pesky Advanced Off Gas (AOG)  system that was the subject of a months-long investigation into a massive leak of tritiated water that dumped tritium, cesium and strontium-90 into the nearby soils, groundwater and likely the Connecticut River.

The statement was issued to the media around 9:30 p.m. 

The leak will not affect the plant's return to full power, which was stalled last week when a massive storm wiped out a connection to the main grid, and a substation on site failed. In the meantime, VY will examine how to fix the leak while the plant operates.

Continue reading "Vermont Yankee's Leak of the Week" »

Former Vermont Poet Dan Chiasson in HuffPo

OK, this is really just a "Vermonter makes good outside Vermont" story. But if you've heard of Burlington native Dan Chiasson — now a Wellesley prof, poetry editor of The Paris Review and frequent poetry reviewer in places like the New York Times — Friday's story in the Huffington Post is a great place to check out his work.

For one thing, the story offers Chiasson's short poem "Falls, Bristol, VT" in its entirety. And it's nothing like most nature poetry we read.

Continue reading "Former Vermont Poet Dan Chiasson in HuffPo" »

May 28, 2010

Mark Nash Takes Final Bow at Vermont Stage Company

Mark-nash-color ****UPDATE: Nash contacted 7D to clarify that he will remain on through the 2010-11 performing arts season to ease the transition to his successor.*****

Vermont Stage Company's artistic director Mark Nash has announced that he is leaving his post after 10 years, and that the nonprofit, professional theater group will launch a national search for his replacement.

Nash, 48, did not offer the reason typical of office holders: "I'm leaving to spend more time with my family." But, at least until he dives into his next vocation, he'll no doubt get to do just that, with his wife, the actress and intrepid eco-activist Kathryn Blume. The couple live in Charlotte and have no plans to leave the area.

And what might Nash's next vocation be? "I don't know," he says candidly, "but it's time to try something completely different." He's not just leaving VSC, he notes, but he might be leaving the theater world behind altogether. For a guy who's been an actor and director for a couple of decades, and AD for 10, that's saying a lot.

Continue reading "Mark Nash Takes Final Bow at Vermont Stage Company" »

May 27, 2010

Clark Derbes Strikes Again

Photo "I love this. I walk by this every day, and it makes me smile." So said a man who was, well, walking by the new public art at UVM created by Burlington artist Clark Derbes and a small posse of volunteers. I myself ambled up the hill on a recent hot day to watch the work in progress.

Actually, it was in progress again. Originally painted the previous week, the work was thought to be graffiti by peeps at the UVM physical plant, who dutifully painted over it. Oops.

Derbes (pictured at right) seemed philosophical about the 'reverse graffiti,' though. Actually, he always is pretty damn cheerful. Must be 'cause he's from Louisiana. And the volunteers looked pretty psyched to be filling in the thick black outlines with a host of bright colors instead of actually working. (Speaking of unemployed artists, check out this video of Derbes working with schoolkids in Eva Sollberger's "Stuck in Vermont" in 2007.)

Anyway, the painting, in Derbes' bold, Mondrian-esque style, covers an entire cement-block structure behind the little brick building that houses the entrance to the tunnel under Main Street. Apparently, the bunker hides the electrical controls for the elevator. The painting, which is a definite improvement over bare gray cement, was commissioned by the Davis Center, according to Pat Brown, director of the center and of student life, which sounds like a lot to direct. While wielding a paint roller at the end of an extension pole, Brown told me the idea came about last semester with a mural class, "but we didn't get permission to do it until after the class ended."

Damn bureaucracy.

Continue reading "Clark Derbes Strikes Again" »

May 26, 2010

Mr. Rainville Goes to Washington (VIDEO)

During a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting today on Capitol Hill, committee chair Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) called for Department of Homeland Security to halt plans to expand the border crossing at Morses Line in Franklin County.

Oberstar's decision was swayed largely by the impassioned testimony of Brian Rainville, whose family owns a small dairy farm along the border. The DHS wants to buy 2.2 acres of the Rainville's land in order to build a new port. But the Rainvilles, claiming a potential loss of livelihood and questioning the need for the expansion, aren't selling.

Continue reading "Mr. Rainville Goes to Washington (VIDEO)" »

May 25, 2010

Bribe a Foreign Official? No Federal Contracts for You!

187px-Xe-Logo.svg Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced legislation this week to ban individuals and companies convicted of bribing foreign officials from contracting with the federal government.

Welch crafted the legislation in response to an ongoing investigation into whether Xe Services — formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide — bribed Iraqi officials following a 2007 Baghdad shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead.

Remember the Iraq War?

According to a report in the New York Times, Blackwater allegedly authorized $1 million in secret payments to Iraqi officials after the company came under scrutiny for the Nisour Square shooting. The Justice Department has been investigating the case since late last year.

"What Blackwater did was shocking and outrageous," Welch told Seven Days. "They were involved in killing 17 people in Baghdad and tried to buy their way out of it. They don't live by any code of conduct like our soldiers do, and they end up putting our soldier at risk."

The Overseas Contractor Reform Act (H.R. 5366) would automatically debar federal contractors convicted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits U.S. companies and individuals from unlawfully influencing foreign officials, according to Welch's office.

"Blackwater is about making money, pure and simple — not representing American interests," said Welch.

Continue reading "Bribe a Foreign Official? No Federal Contracts for You!" »

Turning Junk Into Jobs

DSC05895 My colleague Lauren Ober just posted a photo montage of the heaps of crap Vermont college kids leave on the greenbelts of Burlington's "college ghetto" every spring before they flee town.

Most of that junk will probably end up in the landfill. Lots of recent college grads, meanwhile, will soon join the ranks of the unemployed, as our sucky "jobless recovery" stumbles along.

It doesn't have to be this way. If only the old couches, lamps and coffee tables littering Burlington's Old North End found their way to recycling centers like ReStore on Pine Street, there's be less crap clogging our landfills and more college grads with gainful employment.

So says a new report released today by Toxics Action Center. "Putting Waste to Work: Jobs in Vermont's Resources Recovery Sectors" concludes that more waste kept out of landfills means more jobs created in the reuse and reprocessing sectors.

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Junk City BTV: The Exodus Chronicles

IMG_4845 UPDATE #1: A word from Code Enforcement about college student move out here.

UPDATE #2: A word from Chittenden Solid Waste District about college student move out  here.

It's that time of year again, kids. The time when the college students move out of their college ghetto. It's a joyous time for me, really. Their exodus means that I can feel free to walk my dog on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning without the fear of stepping in a pond-sized puddle of barf courtesy of the binging revelers that most college students seem to become on the weekend.

(I can't believe someone's giving that beauty of a couch away.)

But their speedy exit (many have already loaded up their Range Rovers and headed to their parents' beach house) also means that the city's greenbelts are loaded with shit. Not the kind that comes from bums, though on occasion I have seen human poo on the college ghetto sidewalk. No, I mean the kind of shit that people don't want anymore — busted floor lamps, rickety papasan chairs, futon mattresses with all manner of stains on them.

I'm not sure about you, but I hate this. That's probably because I'm an old person and hate the reverie and freewheelingness that comes with having no responsibilities.

  5-24-10 024
Photo of recliner stuck in tree courtesy of Bill Ward, Director of Code Enforcement. 

Continue reading "Junk City BTV: The Exodus Chronicles" »

Alice Eats: Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar

555 Shelburne Road, Burlington 489-5083

003 I am more than a little obsessed with the business of chain food. Nannerpuss and Uncle O' Grimacey are practically my religious patriarchs. If I weren't a food writer, I would want to work in Research and Development at Friendly's. I'm not kidding. Whenever a fast food joint debuts a new product, I'm the first one in line. How could I not pay the same respect at the grand opening of Vermont's first Buffalo Wild Wings?

Just an hour and a half after opening its doors, the place was packed. I scored a two-top right by the bar, with a view of multiple TVs, showing news and sports. There were also several video games peppered throughout the room, and a digital jukebox. No question, the sports memorabilia-bedecked eatery is a grown-up playground.

To keep with the theme, I ordered a basket of mini corn dogs. The "maximum taste" promised by the menu was delivered in spades. The sweet, texturally complex batter wrapped around juicy little dogs. Honey mustard sauce on the side was creamy, and not so saccharine as to overwhelm the kid-like delight of the dish.

For optimal variety in one entrée, I went with the ribs and boneless wings meal (pictured).

There is a reason the restaurant is not called "Buffalo Wild Ribs." The baby-sized bones held swaths of shrivelled, overcooked meat. Bummer. Next time, I'll stick with the wings.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar" »

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