December 17, 2004 – News at a glance

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The Home Front, Part 5: Letters from Iraq
For the families of soldiers serving in Iraq, letters are a link to loved ones overseas. Today in our “Homefront” series, VPR’s Lynne McCrea talks with two mothers who share their sons’ letters, which tell of the profound impact the war is having on their lives. (VPR)

NRC meeting on Vermont Yankee
About 500 people gathered in Brattleboro Thursday night for a meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The agency agreed to report to the public on its recent inspection of the Entergy Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. (VPR)

Interview: St. Albans discusses Wal-Mart proposal
Hundreds of people crowded into the St. Albans Town Educational Center Thursday night to have their say before the development review board about a proposed Wal-Mart store for St. Albans. Mitch Wertlieb talks with Lee Kahrs, a reporter with the St. Albans Messenger, about the results of the meeting. (VPR)

Leahy shows support for United Nations leader
Senator Patrick Leahy is lending his support to the secretary general of the United Nations. Leahy is one of the U.S. delegates to the U.N.’s new session. Secretary General Kofi Annan is facing allegations of mismanagement of the Oil for Food program in Iraq. Leahy says the calls for Annan’s removal from office are premature. (VPR)

New policy released for wind projects on state lands
Vermont environmental officials say state lands should be off-limits to large-scale wind farms. The state Agency of Natural Resources wants to encourage smaller projects where appropriate. But a new policy that was released on Thursday bans commercial wind turbines on state-owned ridgelines. (VPR)

NRC to discuss Vermont Yankee findings
A long-awaited public meeting about the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant gets underway Thursday evening in Brattleboro. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will present its recent engineering inspection, as well as its investigation into missing fuel rods at the Vernon reactor. (VPR)

St. Albans Wal-Mart hearing
A proposed Wal-Mart store in St. Albans town will be the subject of another hearing Thursday night before the local development review board. The retail giant wants to build the store just off Exit 20 of Interstate 89, north of downtown St. Albans. (VPR)

Backstage: The Gift of the Magi
A newly formed theater company in Barre brings a classic O. Henry short story to the stage this weekend. VPR’s Neal Charnoff went “Backstage” with the Picket Fence Theater Company’s production of “The Gift of the Magi.” (VPR)

Vermont Yankee evacuation drill
A mock evacuation of Brattleboro schools was held on Thursday to simulate what would happen in the event of a disaster at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. School officials say the drill did not go very well. They say too few school buses from New Hampshire arrived at Brattleboro schools. (AP)

Unemployment rate
Vermont’s unemployment rate last month was 3.1 percent, which is the same as it was in October. That compares to a national unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, which was down a tenth of a point from October. (AP)

School air quality
The air at Burlington High School is going to be tested for the second time after complaints by the local teachers’ union. Members of the Burlington Education Association say that poor air quality and dusty vents contributed to serious health problems for three teachers. (AP)

Montpelier school consolidation
The Montpelier School Board wants to shut the Main Street Middle School and move middle school-aged students to the high school. But to do that city voters will have to approve a multimillion dollar bond vote to build a new middle school wing at the high school. (AP)

Cross removed
A red white and blue lighted cross is gone from the outside of the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington. Veterans Home trustees decided it was illegal to display a cross at a state-owned facility. (AP)

Traffic fatalities near 100
The number of traffic fatalities in Vermont is approaching 100 this year for the first time in a decade. And with two of what traditionally have been the nation’s deadliest weekends, Christmas and New Year approaching, officials are projecting a highway toll of 104 by the end of the year. (AP)

Hinesburg car crash
A Milton man who crashed a car at high speed and then wandered into a house and kissed a sleeping couple is facing a variety of charges. Twenty-six-year-old Thomas Popke is hospitalized at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. He’s facing charges including unlawful trespass and operating without the owner’s consent. The incident began with a car crash at about 3 a.m. on Thursday when he crashed a car in Hinesburg. Police say Popke banged his head, received a large gash, lost a tooth and cut his hand. Then Popke walked to the home of a sleeping couple. He greeted the couple by kissing them on their cheeks and calling them Mom and Dad. Popke was arrested later in Underhill. (AP)

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