December 29, 2004 – News at a glance

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Interview: New policy for asylum seekers takes effect
Refugee shelters on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border are teeming with refugees trying to beat a deadline that goes into effect on Wednesday. The Safe Third Country Agreement between the U.S. and Canada mandates that refugees seeking asylum do so in whichever country they reach first. Mitch Wertlieb talks with Patrick Giantonio, executive director of Vermont Refugee Assistance, about the implications of the policy. (VPR)

Groundwater mapping behind schedule
Two-thirds of Vermont’s population gets its drinking water from underground sources. Yet a program to map groundwater areas is under-funded and behind schedule. Environmentalists plan to make groundwater protection a top priority for the upcoming Legislature. (VPR)

Student composition explores prejudice
The issue of prejudice has been on the minds of students at Winooski High School. All this fall, they studied the book “Witness,” by Karen Hesse, which explores racism in Vermont in the early 1900s. Their study culminated this month with some special music, composed by the students, based on some themes in the book. (VPR)

Red Cross Asia relief
The Northern Vermont Chapter of the American Red Cross says it’s received many calls from people who want to contribute to the disaster relief effort in Asia. The death toll from flooding caused by an underwater earthquake had climbed to more than 52,000 by Tuesday evening. (VPR)

Teddy Bear orders rise 29 percent
Vermont Teddy Bear Company says holiday orders rose 29 percent from a year ago. Shares of the company also jumped on Tuesday, rising 24 percent, to $5.60 in morning trading on the Nasdaq. (AP)

Power company to sell out
The last family-owned Vermont power company wants to sell out. The Rochester Electric Power Company is seeking state approval to sell its assets to the Vermont Electric Cooperative. If approved, the deal would end a 108-year tradition of the Pierce family providing electricity to their neighbors. (AP)

Adelphia fee increase
Some Adelphia Cable subscribers are receiving higher bills for their cable television service. Adelphia says the extra amount is a fee increase and not a rate increase. The money goes to support public access television. (AP)

Vermont skiing marketed to Europeans
Some Vermont ski resorts are taking advantage of the low value of the dollar. The falling value of the dollar means it’s cheaper for Europeans and Canadians to ski in Vermont. Killington Resort, the largest in the East, has seen a 10 percent to 12 percent rise in reservations. (AP)

Gymnastics center planned for Brattleboro
Brattleboro could be getting a large-scale gymnastics facility. The town has approved preliminary plans for the construction of a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium on Chickering Drive. The facility would be used by gymnastics clubs and cheer leading squads. (AP)

Copy of threatening letter requested
The Times Argus newspaper in Barre is taking legal action to learn the contents of a threatening letter it received Monday. The letter contained a white substance that was later determined to be sodium. The paper is asking police for a copy of the letter under the state’s Access to Public Records Act. (AP)

House fires
Fires have destroyed two homes in Essex and Ferrsisburgh. In Essex, the blaze started in the kitchen shortly after 1 a.m. on Tuesday. About eight hours later, firefighters were called to a fire on Shellhouse Mountain Road in Ferrisburgh. There were no injuries. (AP)

Mystery ashes interred
Police say they may never know who left the cremated remains of a Massachusetts man at the gates of a Brattleboro cemetery this summer, 30 years after the man was apparently buried there. But relatives learned about the missing ashes and held a second internment ceremony at the cemetery. (AP)

Nurse pleads guilty to RX fraud
A former nurse at the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital has pleaded guilty to charges of fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs. Forty-seven-year-old Catherine Beam of Keene, New Hampshire, was charged with seven counts of obtaining the painkiller Oxycontin by deceit. (AP)

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