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December 2011

December 16, 2011

Indefinite Detention? Vermont's Senators Split on Support for Defense Spending Bill

LeahyVermont's U.S. senators parted ways last night over whether to support the $662 billion Pentagon spending bill, a sweeping piece of legislation that includes provisions civil libertarians fear will allow the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism rather than allow them a constitutional right to trial.

Citing concerns with the size of the budget bill, along with the indefinite detention provisions, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against the bill — one of just 13 senators to do so.

After an unsuccessful attempt to strip the bill of the indefinite detention language, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) voted yes, helping to pass the defense bill by a vote of 83-to-13 late Thursday night.

"At a time when we have tripled defense spending since 1997 and spend more today on defense than the rest of the world combined, I get concerned that my deficit-hawk friends say we’ve got to cut Social Security, Medicare, education, health care and other programs that help working families, but when it comes to defense spending the sky is the limit," said Sanders in a statement.

Continue reading "Indefinite Detention? Vermont's Senators Split on Support for Defense Spending Bill" »

December 13, 2011

BCA Announces New Winner of Barbara Smail Award

Gregg_blasdelAnd the winner is ... Gregg Blasdel! The Burlington artist and retired St. Michael's art prof is the recipient of the 10th annual Barbara Smail Award, which is granted to a mid-career artist and named for a beloved Vermont painter who died in 2001. It is supported by her friends and family along with Burlington City Arts.

Like the nine recipients before him — this past year it was sculptor Kat Clear — Blasdel will receive $1000 and the use of BCA's facilities for a year. Those include the print and clay studios and darkroom.

In recent years Blasdel has focused on printmaking, often collaborating with his wife and fellow artist Jennifer Koch. A former sculptor, Blasdel is now "exploring new mediums." He'll have several at his disposal at BCA, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with over this next year.

Blasdel, Koch and fellow artist Sumru Tekin will be coordinating, and working on, the 30/30 Anniversary Print Project, a joint effort of BCA and the Flynn Center on their 30th anniversary year. It will open January 6 at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn.

Blasdel, who has been involved in the Vermont arts scene since the 1970s, will likely have public visiting hours during his BCA residency, as other Smail recipients have before him. It's a good opportunity to see an artist's creativity in progress, and I recommend stopping by.

Photo of Blasdel courtesy of Burlington City Arts.

St. Johnsbury's Elements Food and Spirit To Close After Eight Years

Picture 2St. Johnsbury received sad news this afternoon: Elements Food and Spirit, that oasis of creative local fare in a renovated mill building along the Passumpsic River, will close at the end of the year.

Even though the news may hit hardest in the Northeast Kingdom, Elements' reach was statewide. I used to live 45 minutes south of St. J., and the first time I stumbled into Elements, I felt as if I had discovered hidden treasure. I took a seat at the long zinc bar and partook in a glass of steely Chablis and smoked trout-and-apple cakes that were transportive. I returned many times in the ensuing years to munch on fiddlheads, wild mushrooms or other wildcrafted goodies from chef Ryan O'Malley, Elements' original and longtime chef — or just to hang out and listen to live music.

When the two couples who own Elements — Florence and Keith Chamberlin, and Martin and Kate Bertolini — opened in 2003, they wanted to bring elegant, well-crafted food and wine to this Northeast Kingdom burg. All had other jobs outside of Elements, though, and only intended to run the place for a few years before handing it off to someone else. "While we’ve had serious inquiries from a number of parties, we have not been able to close a deal to date. We need to move on," writes Florence Chamberlin in today's announcement, alluding to "the very real demands of our day jobs."

Continue reading "St. Johnsbury's Elements Food and Spirit To Close After Eight Years" »

Welch Joins Last-Minute Call to Strip Indefinite-Detention Provision from Defense Bill

220208gitmoRep. Peter Welch has joined 36 House members in challenging controversial provisions — namely, those that would allow the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of being terrorists — contained in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The proposed legislation, argue Welch and others, "authorizes indefinite military detention of suspected terrorists without protecting U.S. citizens’ right to trial."

Hey, what's a little indefinite detention between friends?

A letter was recently submitted to the House and Senate conferees (see full text below) in an attempt to turn back some of the bill's most egregious violations of constitutional rights, Welch said.

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Alice Eats: Oscars Casual Dining & Best Picture Bar

IMG_3315190 Boxwood Street, Williston, 878-7082

If two makes a trend, this was the summer of the movie theater restaurant. Club Take 2 opened at the end of May at the Essex Cinemas. Oscars Bistro & Bar opened at the Majestic 10 in Williston just a week later, joining the elder statesman, Big Picture Theater and Café in Waitsfield.

Owner Harold Blank had grand ambitions for Oscars, with regular music and comedy performances and upscale fare such as Misty Knoll Farms chicken with lemon risotto. Unfortunately, folks didn't bite, and Blank closed the restaurant for retooling earlier this fall. It reopened as Oscars Casual Dining & Best Picture Bar over Thanksgiving weekend.

And casual it is. When we arrived for Sunday lunch, we were told to order at the bar, where the young woman working there asked if we'd like "menus, or anything."

IMG_3316In fact, we did like them. Though the more exciting dishes were gone in favor of burgers and fried appetizers, the menus themselves were a fun read. Dishes were named after movies, a potentially cheesy choice, but done right with apropos films selections. Who could resist a kids' hot dog named "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" or a bowl of chili called "Lethal Weapon?"

I'm currently on an animation kick, so we started with the "Chicken Run" salad. As soon as I saw it, I was worried. The chicken breast wasn't fully sliced and looked disturbingly plain. The greens, listed on the menu as "spring lettuce," was clearly iceberg.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Oscars Casual Dining & Best Picture Bar" »

December 12, 2011

Sanders and Sandia Announce New $15 Million Energy Lab at University of Vermont

Sandia presser photoBy the summer of 2013, Vermont will be the first state in the nation to have near-universal electrical smart-grid coverage — and Sandia National Laboratories is setting up shop at the University of Vermont to make it all happen.

That was Sen. Bernie Sanders' announcement at a press conference in his Burlington office this morning. Gov. Peter Shumlin, Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell, UVM President John Bramley and Sandia Vice President Rick Stulen joined Sanders to announce a three-year, $15 million commitment to open the first-ever national laboratory in New England in Burlington. 

The new lab, dubbed the Center for Energy Transformation and Innovation (CETI), will make as the centerpiece of its work the rollout of smart meters throughout the Green Mountain State, enabling all the state's utilities to better manage energy consumption and better integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, into the power grid. The $15 million commitment comes in addition to the $69 million already allocated to Vermont from the federal government to roll out smart meters statewide.

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Burlington Woman Searches For a Painting Missing Since October

Burlington police have apparently recovered music critic Ben Hardy's stolen guitar, a Telecaster signed by the members of Pearl Jam, that once belonged to Hardy's late older brother. Now maybe the cops can find this painting.HelmerVertical

Last October, Sammie Schenker Friedman was helping her mother move from a Burlington condo to an assisted-living facility nearby, when the abstract painting by Robert Helmer (right), which had been in the family for 47 years, disappeared.

"I'm searching for it like a lost puppy," says Friedman, who works at Fletcher Free Library.

An art historian, Friedman worked for years in New York and Los Angeles galleries and once transported a Renoir in her own car. She knows how to handle art in a big move.

"I did a checklist," she says of moving her mother's belongings in October. "I know how to ship a painting, I know how to hang it. I had the approximate space on the wall. It was there, and then it wasn’t."

Friedman prefered not to disclose the name of the assisted-living facility to protect her mother's privacy.

Friedman reported the case to the Burlington Police, but she says they haven't turned up any leads. Now she's working with Burlington's Parallel Justice program.

She just wants her painting back. It's already been through a lot — it even survived Hurricane Katrina.

In August of 2005, Friedman traveled to New Orleans, as she does every year, to visit her parents, who still lived in the house she grew up in. It was her father's 80th birthday.

The night before Katrina touched down, Friedman loaded her parents, a friend, their 80-pound basset hound and a few supplies and valuables into the car. They left everything else behind, including many works of art. "I had nowhere to take them," says Friedman of her parents. "So suddenly, we were in Vermont."

Floodwaters rose to five feet in her parents' neighborhood — three feet in the house. But the artwork made it out unscathed.

Friedman's father, Robert Schenker, was on the faculty of the Tulane School of Architecture with Helmer, the painter whose work went missing last fall. "Over the years, my father both collected his colleague’s works and used them to decorate the houses he built," says Friedman. He acquired the painting in question around 1963.

Continue reading " Burlington Woman Searches For a Painting Missing Since October" »

Miro Weinberger Wins Dem Nomination; Kurt Wright Wins GOP Nod; Progs Delay Decision

DSC01033The Burlington Progressive Party's last best hope to keep control of City Hall went up in ashes Sunday night. In a runoff election at Memorial Auditorium, Miro Weinberger easily beat state Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) to win the Democratic nomination for mayor.

Weinberger (pictured) and Ashe tied 540-540 after three rounds of voting at the Democratic caucus in November. That kicked off a one-month mini campaign before yesterday's final round.

When votes were tallied Sunday, Weinberger came out with 655 votes to Ashe's 530. Out of the 1331 eligible voters, 1188 cast ballots.

Sunday was a caucuspalooza in Burlington. Earlier in the day, Queen City Republicans caucused in the New North End to nominate the man Weinberger will face in March: two-time mayoral candidate Kurt Wright. Later that evening, after Weinberger's nomination, Burlington Progressives assembled in the Old North End and debated whether to endorse Weinberger, run their own candidate or sit this election out.

Continue reading "Miro Weinberger Wins Dem Nomination; Kurt Wright Wins GOP Nod; Progs Delay Decision" »

December 11, 2011

Live Coverage: Burlington Mayoral Caucuses (UPDATE: Weinberger and Wright Nominated; Progs Postpone Caucus)

UPDATE 3, 7:38 P.M.: And now it's the Progressives' turn to enter a state of limbo. After an hour of speeches, Prog voters elected to postpone making a decision on a candidate until January. A full recap of all of today's caucus news is coming up soon.

UPDATE 2, 5:05 P.M.: Miro Weinberger has won the Democratic nomination. Vote totals: Weinberger 655, Ashe 533.

UPDATE 1, 2:19 P.M.: The GOP caucus has already started and ended. Burlington Republicans made their endorsement of Kurt Wright official. One caucus down, two to go.

It's a Caucuspalooza! Burlington Democrats, Republicans and Progressives are ALL holding their respective mayoral caucuses today — or, in the case of the Democrats, continuing their caucus. Seven Days' Andy Bromage, Shay Totten and Tyler Machado will be contributing reports from all three caucuses. Check out our Twitter feed below, and watch live coverage from Channel 17 over to the right beginning at 3:30 p.m. Add your own thoughts in the Facebook box at the bottom of the page, or on Twitter using hashtag #BTVmayor. We'll also update this blog post with the important details.

If you're bored and need to pass the time at a caucus today, fill out our mayoral Mad Lib. Click here to print it in PDF form, or find it on page 12 of this week's Seven Days print issue.

1 p.m.: Voting for the Democratic caucus begins at Memorial Auditorium.
2 p.m.: The Republican caucus begins at the Miller Center.
3:30 p.m.: Channel 17 begins live coverage from Memorial Auditorium.
4 p.m.: Voting at the Democratic caucus closes. The announcement of the winner is expected before 5:00 p.m.
6 p.m.: The Progressive caucus begins at the H.O. Wheeler School.

After the jump, chime in in the Facebook chat box or on Twitter using hashtag #BTVmayor.

Continue reading "Live Coverage: Burlington Mayoral Caucuses (UPDATE: Weinberger and Wright Nominated; Progs Postpone Caucus)" »

December 09, 2011

Grazing: Eat More Kale Chips

Kale_1Though 'Kalegate' may have grown quiet for the moment, soon hundreds — if not thousands — of people will be wandering around in brand-new Eat More Kale (and Team Kale) T-shirts made by Bo Muller-Moore, whose orders have exploded during his well-publicized ordeal with Chick-fil-A. 

In solidarity with Muller-Moore, or even just to live up to the slogan across their chests, some Vermonters might be trying to, well, eat more kale. But despite its wholesome image and wealth of vitamins and phytonutrients, the leafy cabbage also suffers from the stigma of tasting bitter. 

Fortunately, there's more than one way to cook a head of kale and capture its intensity while lessening its unsavory qualities. Gov. Peter Shumlin likes to cut kale's bitterness by sautéeing it in chicken broth, olive oil and garlic.

An even easier way is to bake its leaves into crispy, waferlike chips that are so addictive, you'll be tempted to eat most of them straight from the pan. Baking the leaves with olive oil and salt performs an alchemical act, transforming them into crunchy treats with an earthy, smoky flavor. Beats potato chips any day. I like to season baked kale the same way I do popcorn: with sea salt, garlic powder and cumin, or even a grating of fresh Parmesan cheese.

Continue reading "Grazing: Eat More Kale Chips" »

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