December 19, 2003 – News at a glance

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Teacher diversity program
The Douglas administration is throwing its financial support behind a program that encourages people from ethnic minorities to become teachers in Vermont. The program is having some financial difficulties and Governor Jim Douglas has agreed to include $100,000 in next year’s budget for the organization. (VPR)

Upper Valley Christmas Revels
When it comes to holiday traditions, the Christmas Revels is fairly new. Celebrating the holiday and the Winter Solstice, Revels started in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1970s and quickly spread to cities around the country. Revels North of Hanover is one of the longest running Revels in the country. Each year well over a hundred Upper Valley residents come together to make it happen. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Vermont State Hospital
Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll oppose any effort by the Legislature to close down the State Hospital in Waterbury. Douglas says the state needs such a facility and his administration is taking steps to regain federal certification for the hospital. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

GE seeds study
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group has released a study that it says reinforces the case for a moratorium on the use of genetically engineered seeds in Vermont. An official with the biotechnology industry says the study and VPIRG’s conclusions are flawed. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Utilities still repairing storm damage
Power crews are still cleaning up today from a storm that dumped rain, freezing rain and snow on Vermont Wednesday and yesterday. Thousands of people lost their electricity because of fallen power lines. A spokeswoman for Green Mountain Power says most of them should have their electricity back by this morning — but some customers will have to wait until later. (AP)

Permit reform
Vermont Governor Jim Douglas says he might step up his public campaign for permit reform. Douglas won a victory this week when a legislative committee approved Environmental Board rules that are designed to speed up the permit process. But at this weekly news conference on Thursday, Douglas said he wants to promote a Senate plan for negotiating changes in the process. (AP)

Dean on U.S. safety
Howard Dean says the “capture of one bad man” doesn’t allow President Bush or Democrats to declare victory in the war on terrorism. In New Hampshire on Thursday, the Democratic presidential candidate defended his earlier claim that the United States is no safer with Saddam Hussein in custody. (AP)

Wolf lawsuit
The National Wildlife Federation and four other environmental groups filed suit on Thursday against the federal government over the status of wolves in the Northeast. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Burlington, charges that the Interior Department violated the Endangered Species Act last spring when it changed the classification of wolves in the continental United States from endangered to threatened. (AP)

DWI rate declines
Vermont’s drunken driving rate dropped by 50 percent between 1998 and 2002. The National Center for Statistics and Analysis released a report on Thursday on drunken driving in all states. Vermont came out on top for a decline in alcohol-related fatalities. Indiana and Oregon were also in the top three. (AP)

GMP labor contract
A new contract has been ratified between Vermont’s second largest electric utility and a union representing its workers. Green Mountain Power and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300 announced the four year-contract with the company’s 104 union employees. (AP)

Rutland subsidized housing
Senior and disabled clients of the Rutland Housing Authority are expected to get better mental health services. That’s thanks to a $100,000 grant the agency has received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The authority provides subsidized housing for seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families and individuals. (AP)

Homeless prevention plan
Burlington officials say they have a goal of ending homelessness in ten years. They say they’ve drawn up a plan for accomplishing that. A draft of it, released on Thursday, urges building more affordable housing, adopting a “livable wage,” creating a housing “safety net” for those unable to work and providing social help for people with substance abuse or mental health problems. (AP)

Sampson sentencing phase
Prosecutors in a Boston murder trial are asking a federal jury to sentence admitted killer Gary Sampson to death. Sampson is a Massachusetts native who confessed to killing two men during a weeklong crime spree two years ago in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. He said both men picked him up hitchhiking. (AP)

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