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February 2011

February 28, 2011

Another Campus Death Raises Questions About the S-word Taboo

The vague, February 17 email that went out to the entire St. Michael's College community from President John Neuhauser was written in language that's become all too familiar:

"Saint Michael’s College has experienced a terrible tragedy.  A first-year student, Jordan Porco, age 18, of Andover, Connecticut, died unexpectedly in his room in Lyons Hall on the college campus Wednesday evening, February 16."

What followed were the administration's expressions of sympathy, condolences and prayer for the young man's family and friends, as well as the requisite offers to counsel or minister to any students, faculty or staff who may be having difficulty coping with the tragic loss.


And once again, another respected institution of higher learning in Vermont sidestepped an opportunity to speak frankly, publicly and without euphemism about a major public-health crisis plaguing this country: teen suicide.

On November 3, Seven Days ran this story about a similar reluctance on the part of the University of Vermont to label the October deaths of two of its students in as many weeks as suicides.

Like St. Mike's, UVM steeped its campus-wide communique in language it deemed less offensive to the student's next of kin, while offering reassurances that the death of UVM freshman Alexander Chernik was not the result of "bullying, bias or foul play."

The deliberate, self-inflicted death of another UVM student, Frank Christopher Evans, 24, in South Burlington, which occurred two weeks earlier, wasn't announced by the university at all, according to a UVM spokesperson, because Evans wasn't enrolled in school that semester.

But unlike UVM's Vermont Cynic, which merely parroted the administration's linguistic aversion for what was already a fairly well-known fact on campus, the student reporters at SMC's The Defender asked the administration and the Colchester Police hard questions about Porco's cause of death, both in the interest of dispelling campus rumors and to get to truth.

The Defender article (a collaborative effort by its entire staff) also reported that FOX 44 News in Burlington pulled its story on Porco's death because, according to the Defender, "it is company policy [at FOX] not to publish articles about suicide, unless it in regard to a public figure, or a death caused by bullying."

Continue reading "Another Campus Death Raises Questions About the S-word Taboo" »

February 25, 2011

Costco Greens Up Its Fish Coolers

Images Time to up your tilapia game: As of today, bulk-foods giant Costco will stop selling 12 types of theatened fish species, including Atlantic cod (pictured), halibut and orange roughy, according to a press release from Greenpeace.

The announcement was a huge win for the environmental organization, which had been urging the grocer since last summer to remove 21 so-called "red-listed" fish from its coolers. Last June, Greenpeace kicked off its campaign by launching a green blimp over Costco's corporate headquarters in Issaquah, Wash., near Seattle. Its message: “Costco: wholesale ocean destruction.”

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February 24, 2011

An Engaging Evening with 'Collected Stories'

Geri Amori and Amy Burrell-Cormier are drama queens. And I mean that in a good way.

Last night I had the pleasure of taking in a production of the Donald Margulies play Collected Stories at the Off-Center for the Dramatic Arts in Burlington. Those two women are its sole actors, playing the characters of an older and younger woman, respectively, who are linked by their love of writing. As their relationship evolves from that of teacher and student to friends to — well, I'm not going to give away the ending — multiple layers of stories unfold. It's a strong, emotionally genuine play that explores the very essence of life stories, and these two women give the work the impassioned performances it deserves.

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The Doyle Town Meeting Day Survey Ritual Continues

Doyle It's far from scientific, but the annual Doyle Town Meeting Day Survey has, for more than 40 years, provided a snapshot of what Vermonters think on a wide range of topics.

Since 1970, Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington) has sought the opinion of Vermonters on the hot topics of the day.

This year, Doyle is seeking Vermonters' opinions on whether they support a four-year term for governor (an oft-asked question dating back to that first 1970 survey); whether Vermont Yankee should be relicensed beyond 2012 (a repeat from last year); whether the state bottle bill should be expanded and whether Vermonters have confidence in Gov. Peter Shumlin.

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Judge Orders Hearing on Legality of Vermont's Campaign Filing Deadlines

Trudell An independent candidate who last year challenged the constitutionality of Vermont's campaign filing deadlines received some good news Wednesday from Washington Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford.

Crawford ruled there are enough open questions — and little legal precedent on the books to answer them — to necessitate a hearing on whether Vermont's newly-adopted election filing deadlines hamper access to the ballot by independent candidates.

Two days of hearings will be held after mid-May, Crawford stated in his ruling.

Last year independent candidate for U.S. House Jerry Trudell (pictured right) sued the state for denying him access to the general election ballot.

The Secretary of State's office has asked Crawford to dismiss the case, but he refused. Assistant Attorney General Megan Shafritz told Seven Days the state was still reviewing Crawford's ruling and was unsure if it would try to appeal it — or simply press forward and prepare its case.

"We just got the opinion in this morning and we're still digesting it and have to review it with the Secretary of State's office before we decide our next steps," said Shafritz. "The court did appear to indicate that the factual record needs to be filled out a bit more before it could prepare for a decision."

Continue reading "Judge Orders Hearing on Legality of Vermont's Campaign Filing Deadlines" »

February 22, 2011

Vermont Labor Leaders and Allies Rally in Support of Wisconsin Workers

Rallyphoto Nearly 250 people braved bitter temperatures Tuesday to stand in solidarity with thousands of unionized workers in Wisconsin, who are fighting to keep their rights to collectively bargain.

People held signs that read "Unite to Fight for the Right to Bargain" and "Unions: Kickin' Ass for the Working Class," among others.

Given that the rally was held on the Statehouse steps, a parade of politicians gave short statements to the chilled participants who stood on the snow-covered steps.

Gov. Peter Shumlin briefly addressed the crowd, as did House Majority Leader Lucy Leriche (D-Hardwick), Sen. Anthony Pollina (D/P-Washington), Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), Rep. Susan Hatch Davis (P-Washington) and Rep. Paul Poirier (I-Barre).

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Video: Winter Championship BBQ

The Belted Cow Bistro in Essex doesn't stop serving Tuesday-night barbecue specials in the winter. Chef-owner John Delpha also continues to practice for competition. (His team, I Que, is currently the top-rated squad in both the New York and New England circuits.) Last week, videographer Elizabeth Rossano and I joined Delpha at his Essex home to help make his magnificent ribs. Don't watch this one hungry.

Alice Eats: Yama Restaurant

96 Main Street, West Lebanon, N.H., 603-298-5477

IMG_2007 I will travel for the sole purpose of eating Korean food. When I just happened to find myself in West Lebanon, a few minutes from White River Junction, last weekend, obviously I had to try Yama Restaurant.

The spot bills itself as Korean and Japanese, double the pleasure. And it looks like many locals did. In the time I was there, diners streamed in and out for quick lunches and takeout. Many drew pictures on their paper placemats, and the walls were decorated with their handiwork, along with photos of happy customers of all ages.

Immediately after we ordered a mix of dishes from the dinner menu and the special lunch offerings, half a dozen panchan (above right) arrived at our table.

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February 21, 2011

UVM Forum Asks: Vermont Yankee, Yea or Nay?

\F-2dudes-arnie HCS+November+2006In roughly one year, the operating license of Vermont's lone nuclear power plant — Vermont Yankee — expires.

Despite a continued push by Entergy, the plant's owners, along with a vocal group of businesses and citizens, there appears to be little evidence that lawmakers, or the governor, will reverse last year's legislative vote and pave the way for the plant to have its relicensing case heard before the state Public Service Board.

Since last year there have been three, possibly four, leaks that have spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of water laced with tritium into the groundwater and Connecticut River. Last week, a high-pressure steam leak forced the evacuation of the reactor building.

On Thursday, two experts on nuclear energy will debate Vermont Yankee's continued operation in the next installment of the University of Vermont's Janus Forum: "Vermont Yankee: Shut It Down or Keep It Running?" The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 4 p.m. in the Davis Center's Silver Maple Ballroom.

Speaking in support of Vermont Yankee is Howard Shaffer, who has been a member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) for 34 years, and is nuclear engineer.

Speaking in favor of shutting down VY is Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer of Fairewinds Associates, and a former nuclear industry executive and licensed reactor operator.

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February 18, 2011

Tom Salmon Won't Seek Reelection, Mulls Future

Local-salmon State Auditor Tom Salmon announced to his 3539 friends on Facebook last night that he won't seek reelection in 2012 — less than two months after he was sworn into a third term.

"I have enjoyed my service to the state but will not seek re-election as state auditor," Salmon wrote around 9 p.m. "It has been an honor to serve with such a talented team at the SAO (State Auditor's Office). Thank you all."

What's next for Salmon? He's not sure: Possibly a run for U.S. Senate, or dropping out of politics entirely and seeking a degree in mediation and conflict resolution.

"I will work where I can make a difference. We have transformed the auditors office and I am very proud of the staff and the work .  Politics may not be the future," wrote Salmon in an email to Seven Days.

In response to his Facebook post, several of his supporters are urging him to run for governor in 2012 against Democrat Peter Shumlin. His father, Thomas Salmon, was elected governor as a Democrat in 1972.

Salmon, first elected as a Democrat in 2006, switched parties in 2009 and became a Republican. He won reelection last fall against Doug Hoffer, a Democrat/Progressive.

For almost a year Salmon has mulled a run against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT. Earlier this year he said he would announce his decision to run against Sanders by March 5.

Salmon told Seven Days via email the move is, "definately a  step for transparency." He said while the move help align him politically to run against Sanders, it could also end up being a "step out" not a step up.

Continue reading "Tom Salmon Won't Seek Reelection, Mulls Future" »

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