December 18, 2003 – News at a glance

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Mental health advocates warn of financial crisis
Advocates warn that Vermont’s network of community mental health centers faces a worsening financial crisis. The advocates say that while needed attention has focused on conditions at the Vermont State Hospital, the rest of the system is also in trouble. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Medical marijuana legislation
Progressive sponsors of a medical marijuana bill say a new federal court decision could pave the way for passage of their proposal at the Statehouse. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

New rules change party status in Act 250 appeals
The Legislature has approved new rules that govern who can participate in Act 250 cases. The Douglas administration and business lobbyists pushed for the rule changes. But critics argued that the amendments will limit citizen participation and will do little to help developers. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Students vote to keep controversial mascot
Students at Brattleboro Union High School have voted overwhelmingly to keep their controversial mascot. The Brattleboro Colonel – a cartoon figure of a Confederate colonel – has been criticized as a symbol of slavery and racial oppression. (VPR)

Officials break ground on next segment of Circ Highway
The ceremonial groundbreaking for the next leg of the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway was held in Williston on Wednesday. Governor Jim Douglas was joined by Transportation Secretary Patricia MacDonald and a number of government and business leaders. (VPR)

Interview: Red Sox still dealing for A-Rod
Mitch Wertlieb and sportscaster J.J. Chioffi dissect the potential trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers. The two baseball teams are negotiating a multi-mullion contract involving shortstops Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, and outfielder Manny Ramirez. (Listen to the interview online.) (VPR)

Book Interview: The Last Mall Rat
Neal Charnoff talks with Erik Esckilsen about his new novel for young readers, The Last Mall Rat. (Listen to the interview online.) (VPR)

New winter storm
Many Vermonters are looking at another round of fresh snow this morning. The storm that dropped rain and freezing rain throughout the day Wednesday switched to snow in parts of central and northern Vermont last night. Up to eight inches was expected in some areas. (AP)

VELCO transmission line
The Douglas administration says it supports a power line upgrade to bring more electricity to northwestern Vermont. The Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers in utility matters, told the Public Service Board that the project should be approved. (AP)

Dean’s tax stance
Howard Dean is trying to turn the tables on critics who say that he would raise taxes on the middle class by doing away with the federal tax cuts. Speaking on Thursday in New Hampshire, Dean is expected to call for a cut in the “Bush Tax.” Dean says that is the price piled onto taxpayers as a result of President Bush’s tax cuts. (AP)

Smoking in movies
Attorneys general from three states are trying to persuade Hollywood to reduce the amount of smoking in films because they say it encourages young people to smoke. The attorneys general from Vermont, Connecticut and Utah met on Wednesday with the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, and production executives from seven major studios in California. (AP)

Illegal workers
Brattleboro police say they discovered two alleged illegal aliens working on the expansion project at Brattleboro Union High School. The men were arrested after they were involved in a minor traffic crash on Interstate 91 on Wednesday. (AP)

Child killed by school bus
Barre police have identified the five-year-old boy killed after being struck by a school bus Wednesday afternoon. Police say kindergartener Brandon Bernier slipped on ice as he stepped off the bus and slid under it. Driver Walter Brown of Plainfield did not see the boy fall and pulled away. Brandon was still on the ground and he was run over by the bus’ wheels. The boy was declared dead about an hour after the accident at Central Vermont Hospital. (AP)

Underage prostitution
An 18-year-old Shoreham woman is going to jail for ten days on charges of trying to lure classmates to work as prostitutes in New York. Melanie Wells was accused of soliciting five of her Middlebury Union High School classmates – ranging in age from 16 to 18 years old – to stay at her boyfriend’s apartment in New York and work as prostitutes. (AP)

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