VTrans opens closed portion of Route 14 in East Montpelier

first_imgThe Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) today opened the small stretch of Route 14 in East Montpelier that had been closed since early October. The closure, which ran about a quarter of a mile from Route 14’s intersection with Route 2 to Northstar Fireworks, was initiated on October 6 due to complications stemming from Tropical Storm Irene. VTrans on September 26 first restricted this section of Route 14 to one lane when the roadway began sliding into the Winooski River. Engineers originally believed the road could be repaired while maintaining one lane of traffic, but the undermining accelerated, forcing a total road closure on October 6. Once the road was closed, highway crews stabilized the riverbank and rebuilt the roadway. Paving was conducted earlier today, and the roadway is now opened to two-lanes of traffic. While the road is open to public travel, work is expected to continue in the area for several more days. Motorists should expect occasional delays until work is complete.Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont on August 28, damaging more than 500 miles of state roadway. All but 19 miles have been reopened to public travel. Questions regarding storm-damaged roads and bridges related to Tropical Storm Irene can be answered by calling VTrans’ Irene Storm Center at 1-800-Vermont. People can also visit VTrans’ website at www.aot.state.vt.us(link is external) where they can sign up for travel updates for their mobile phone, and follow the agency’s progress on both Facebook and Twitter. VTrans 11.1.11last_img read more

Is Appalachia the Next Flint?

first_imgIt’s easy to take clean drinking water for granted, but we shouldn’t. Because what happened to the poor souls in Flint, Michigan—the highest-profile example of serious water pollution in recent memory—can easily happen elsewhere. Anywhere, really. And according to Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor whose water quality studies broke open the Flint water crisis, Appalachia’s water woes might actually be worse.Gulp.As everyone knows by now, widespread elevated levels of lead and dangerous Legionella bacteria were found in Flint’s drinking water supply, potentially causing serious long-term health problems for residents, especially children. What many people don’t know is that Edwards and a team of students were the first to discover the issue after conducting a series of water quality tests, partially in response to the complaints of one Flint resident who, along with her children, suffered rashes, hair loss, and other serious health problems.Edwards said various government agencies knew about the problem but sat on their hands. He thus spent $250,000 of his own money on essential steps like additional testing, Freedom of Information Act requests, and efforts to publicize the danger. Along the way, he got plenty of help from Flint citizens, the ACLU Michigan, and others. “We had to do the job that government agencies are paid to do but refused to do,” he said. “In the end, we showed that Flint water wasn’t meeting federal safety standards. This was an environmental crime.”Edwards said his experience working on a similar lead crisis in Washington, D.C. 25 years ago was instructive. “We learned what it takes to expose something like this,” he said. “You have to act immediately and marshal an incredible amount of resources. In Flint, we tried hard to make sure the lessons of D.C. would be learned.”The good news is that exposing and addressing the problem took eight weeks in Flint, compared to about eight years in the nation’s capital. The bad news is that everyone else in the country, notably in Appalachia, still faces a similar threat. While drinking water pollutants differ by region (in Appalachia, high levels of fecal and other forms of bacterial contamination are some of the main culprits), the cause is the same no matter where you tip a glass to your lips: stripped-to-the-bone municipal budgets and lax enforcement.Edwards pointed out that there’s no consensus about what to do with post-industrial cities across the nation that have lost thousands of jobs and many of their residents, causing tax revenues to crater. For example, many Appalachian towns burdened by legacies of pollution and hard-hit by job losses in coal and other industries simply can’t afford to meet federal or state water quality standards. Doing so would require huge financial outlays to replace creaking, decades-old water and sewer infrastructure. Moreover, “people in small towns are hardy folk and not likely to complain, and there often aren’t enough to generate a critical mass and a news scandal,” Edwards said. In that respect, at least, Flint residents were lucky.The upshot is that the EPA doesn’t bother to enforce water regulations that cities can’t comply with anyway. “All across America, one of the biggest untold environmental stories is what will happen to rural towns where agencies look the other way because these towns can’t afford to maintain their vital infrastructure and follow existing law,” Edwards said. That’s arguably worse than having no regulations at all, he added, because “why have a law giving people a false sense of security if you’re not going to follow it?” In that respect, many towns in the U.S. are actually worse off than those in Third World countries, where the residents are at least aware that their water is undrinkable.As with all seemingly intractable problems, lasting solutions will require Herculean efforts and wholesale cultural changes that might not be in the offing. Consider that according to the American Water Works Association, our buried water infrastructure will need more than a trillion dollars’ worth of maintenance over the next 25 years just to keep it in reasonable shape. Where’s that money going to come from, especially for small, post-industrial towns that can barely make ends meet?“As a society, we need to think about how we help places that have been left behind and ask whether water is a right or a privilege,” Edwards said. “We have to decide whether we’re going to follow existing laws and what to do about cities that chronically violate them. Is this the end game, where the regulator tells the city to stop breaking the law and the city keeps on doing it because it couldn’t do anything else? Maybe our solution is to let these towns die, and in the meantime say you live there at your own peril.”last_img read more

GSEs will be here for years to come

first_imgShow Me The Money!The NCUA chalked up two more settlements in its lawsuits against investment banks involved in the sale and underwriting of the mortgage-backed securities purchased by the failed corporates. NCUA announced that it reached settlements with Barclays Capital ($325 million) and Wachovia ($53 million) to settle claims about their underwriting activity.  NCUA says it has now obtained over $3 billon in settlements.Housing Reform is DeadThe Obama administration virtually assured yesterday that housing reform is going to be the next President’s problem.  For credit unions, this is a good thing, at least in the short to medium term.  It also speaks volumes about just how messed up – dysfunctional is too kind at this point – our political system has become.Since it’s been a while since I talked about housing reform, let me get you up to speed. When Fannie and Freddie were taken over in 2008, causing the first tremor of the mortgage meltdown, they were placed in conservatorship under the supervision of the newly created Federal Housing Finance Administration.  They were nationalized.  The government brought slightly less than 80 percent  of their common shares. continue reading » 2SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

For Visa, MasterCard and merchants, it’s deja vu all over again

first_img continue reading » “It’s deja vu all over again.” – Yogi Berra ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrcenter_img It took me a lot longer than I expected to research today’s blog because when I read the news this morning that Visa and MasterCard had again reached a settlement of their decade old anti-trust legal dispute with the merchants., I had to refresh my aging hard drive of a memory about just how we got here.For example, if you’re like me you remember what a big deal it was when, in 2013, a settlement was reached under which $7.25 billion was to be handed over to the merchants and other financial institutions had to surrender a portion of their credit card fee income to merchants. Remember, this was the price we had to pay for peace in our times. It didn’t last very long.The settlement was stillborn. Some of the largest retailers objected to the deal and eventually the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit agreed (In re Payment Card Interchange Fee & Merch. Disc. Antitrust Litig., 827 F.3d 223, 236 (2d Cir. 2016), concluding that a significant proportion of merchants were either legally or commercially unable to obtain the benefits extensively negotiated on their behalf.last_img read more

Syrian govt ends school early for over 4 million students

first_imgBrevet and baccalaureate examinations — usually taken at the end of secondary school and high school respectively — will still be sat by 557,000 students, according to the education ministry.The government will increase the number of exam centers to ensure “distance” between students, SANA reported. After schools were shuttered, some institutions moved to online teaching, while a specialized education ministry TV channel broadcast Arabic, English, mathematics and science courses. But daily power cuts that can last for hours and capped, costly household internet have posed challenges to distance learning efforts in the country wracked by war since 2011. Universities will remain closed at least through the end of the holy month of Ramadan in late May, according to SANA.Damascus has officially reported 42 cases of COVID-19 and three deaths from the disease in government-controlled territory.  Authorities have adopted a series of measures to stem the spread of the virus, closing shops and restaurants as well as imposing a strict curfew and movement restrictions. More than four million students in Syria confined at home due to the coronavirus will not resume classes this year but will advance to the next grade, the government said Sunday.The decision was taken weeks after schools were closed in mid-March to combat the spread of the virus, leaving many students and teachers to adapt to distance learning.”All primary and secondary school students will move on to the next class,” the government announcement said, according to state news agency SANA.center_img Topics :last_img read more

UN condemns systemic racism – without naming US

first_imgAn initially strongly-worded text proposed earlier this week had called for a high-level international investigation into police violence against people of African descent in the United States.But it was watered down in recent days, first to remove the call for an international probe, and finally to strip away any mention of the United States.This sparked outrage from rights groups, which accused Washington and its allies of lobbying heavily to revise the text — a charge that the US mission in Geneva declined to respond to. Burkina Faso’s ambassador, who presented the resolution on behalf of African states, acknowledged Friday that “numerous concessions” had been made to “guarantee a consensus” on the text. Read also: At UN forum, Indonesia calls for greater action against racism as issues persist at home’Excessive force’ The approved resolution calls for UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to “prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies”.It adds that the report should especially pay attention to “those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent, to contribute to accountability and redress for victims”.It also calls on Bachelet to examine government responses to “peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists”.The United States, which had complained of being singled out in the initial text, withdrew from the council in 2018 and was not present on Friday.But a number of its allies took the floor to hail the changes made to the text, stressing that racism was a global issue.Australia’s representative, for instance, celebrated the “acknowledgement that this problem does not belong to any one country. It is a problem around the world”.’Turning its back on victims’ Rights groups, however, slammed the revision.”By bullying other countries to water down what would have been an historic resolution and exempting itself from international investigation, the United States is yet again turning its back on victims of police violence, and black people,” said Jamil Dakwar, head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights division.He said it was “absurd” for the text not to mention the US, “where police kill people, particularly black people, at alarmingly higher rates compared to other developed countries.” Salma El Hosseiny of the International Service for Human Rights said many delegations from Europe and Latin America especially had worked to ensure the US mention was removed from the text, charging that they had helped “subvert the debate into an ‘all lives matter’ discussion. Human Rights Watch’s Geneva director John Fisher meanwhile insisted that “the efforts of the US to avoid council attention only highlights why such scrutiny is needed, and how far there is still to go to dismantle the pernicious structures of institutionaliZed racism.”He celebrated meanwhile that the resolution “opens the door to bring increased international attention to violations both by the US and other powerful states in future.”The urgent UN debate began Wednesday with an impassioned speech via video link by Floyd’s brother Philonise, who said his brother had been “tortured to death” as witnesses begged the officer to stop.He urged the council to establish an independent international commission of inquiry — one of the UN’s highest-level probes — as called for in the initial version of the draft resolution.While there will be no international probe into the situation in the United States, Bachelet has been called upon to present her report on “systemic racism” globally in a year’s time.Topics : The UN’s top human rights body on Friday condemned discriminatory police brutality and demanded a report on “systemic racism”, but rights groups accused Washington of wielding pressure to strip out any mention of the United States in the resolution.The UN Human Rights Council’s 47 members approved by consensus a revised resolution, which was presented by African countries for an urgent council debate, called following the death of George Floyd in US police custody.Floyd’s killing on May 25, after a white Minneapolis police officer — since charged with murder — pressed a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, fuelled a national and global uproar over racism and police brutality.last_img read more

Mining giant BHP signals shift away from coal as profits dip

first_imgBHP added that it was “looking at options to exit” two thermal coal projects in Australia and one in Colombia. Coking coal is primarily used to make iron and steel and has not been the primary focus of the effort to reduce the impacts of climate change. BHP’s own operational greenhouse gas emissions again rose.  Rivals Rio Tinto and Anglo-American have announced similar shifts away from thermal coal.Henry, a long-time employee, was tapped to take over the top job from January 1, 2020.A Canadian, he joined the global resources company in 2003 and led its Australia minerals operations since 2016.Topics : Henry also predicted a rocky path ahead. “We expect most major economies will contract heavily in 2020, China being the exception,” he said.The company also confirmed a long-hinted shift away from the coal-for-electricity market. “To further enhance our portfolio for value, risk and returns, we intend to concentrate our coal portfolio on higher quality coking coals,” the company said in a statement. Mining giant BHP said profits fell four percent in the year ending in June, as the Anglo-Australian firm signaled a transition away from the intensely polluting thermal coal market on Tuesday.The company reported annual net profit of just under US$8 billion, versus $8.3 billion in the year before.Recently installed chief executive Mike Henry noted a “year marked by the challenges” linked to civil unrest in Chile – the world’s largest producer of copper – and the coronavirus pandemic.last_img read more

Cuellar – No new contract offer yet

first_img Cuellar, signed from Rangers for £8 million, is prepared to give Villa every opportunity to re-sign him. He said: “Because I’m in my last year, from January I could speak to other teams, even sign if I wanted. “But always I give the first opportunity to Villa. There is interest from other clubs but I say ‘no’ at this stage. If I’m not in the manager’s plans, I will start to talk.” Press Association Aston Villa defender Carlos Cuellar says he has still not received a new contract offer from the midlands club.center_img Cuellar, whose current deal expires this summer, has been holding talks with Villa over his future. But the Spaniard, in impressive form in recent weeks, confirmed no concrete proposal has so far been put forward by Villa. He said: “Has there been an offer? No, there has been no offer yet. I am relaxed about it, I am fine. If they want me to stay here, it will be easy. I am happy here at Villa, I would like to stay. If not, if my contract is finished I will have to say ‘thank you, goodbye, it was a pleasure to be here, and I am grateful for the last four years.'” last_img read more

Eaves remains proud of Badgers’ resiliency

first_imgJustin Schultz (right) fights for the puck against a Denver defender in mid-February. A candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, Schultz had a goal and an assist in game two of that series.[/media-credit]With its last regular season games coming up this weekend on the road at rival Minnesota, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team is working to keep its momentum and head into the playoffs on a high note.Head coach Mike Eaves is confident in his team’s chances if players remain consistent.“We’ve got to keep banging the drum here and play the way that we are playing, so that we can, in fact, continue to play,” Eaves said at his Monday press conference.Coming off their first road sweep at Bemidji State, the Badgers are riding their second-longest winning streak of the year at three games. Eaves expressed his excitement coming off his team’s twin 4-2 wins.“One thing that was talked about after Saturday was our fourth line’s performance, with that being a contributing factor to our win,” Eaves said. “It was nice to see that line jump in there and make a difference.”Throughout the season, Eaves has remained mindful of his team’s youth and lack of experience. The Badgers’ record of 15-15-2 reflects their dedication to continuing to improve in practice and the growth of Eaves’ young team.Reflecting back on his team’s tumultuous season, Eaves referenced the team’s North Dakota losses late last month and the 5-2 win against Denver Feb. 18 and voiced his pride in his squad’s resiliency.“It started around North Dakota, not finding a way to get over that hump, … then figuring out how to get over the hump [at Denver],” Eaves said. “It was a terrific feeling in the building, and the guys intrinsically knew what it felt like, how we had to play from now on.”The spark from that win fueled the team through its victories last weekend and has permeated into the players’ mindsets.“There is a sense in the locker room, from the inside out, an intrinsic sense of how we need to play,” Eaves said.Facing the Gophers this weekend in Minneapolis, the Badgers hope to continue their winning streak and by doing so prevent the Gophers from seizing the MacNaughton Cup. Minnesota sits atop the WCHA standings with a 23-11-1 conference record, while the Badgers sit at No. 9 in the conference.While this increases the stakes for Minnesota in this game, Eaves says the team is not focused on what the Gophers are playing for.“Quite honestly, I’ve never been a coach that is going to throw that up in the player’s face as motivation,” Eaves said. “For us, that’s a side effect of if we play well. For us, the big picture is continuing to play well. ”Minnesota will also be coming off a four-game winning streak, having swept Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha the past two weekends. The Badgers are training hard as they prepare to face a motivated and highly disciplined team.When it comes to side-benefits of performing well, Eaves is confident in his Hobey Baker Award nominee, junior defenseman Justin Schultz. Schultz is the league’s top scoring defenseman, with 15 goals and 42 points, and a strong contender to bring the award back to Madison.Teammate Mark Zengerle, a sophomore forward with 44 points this season, joins Schultz of Hobey Baker Award contenders.If either Schultz of Zengerle were to win the award, they would be the second Badger to have that honor following Blake Geoffrion, who won the award in 2010 after finishing as the nation’s second leading scorer and the nation’s top power play goal scorer.Eaves weighed in on Schultz’s chances and compared the experience to what he went through with Geoffrion.“Because of how far we went then, it allowed Blake to play in that plane, and he played at a high level. Playing well on a team in the finals was a huge factor in his winning,” Eaves said. “For Justin to bring it back around, Justin’s ability to have a chance to win and be successful will be dependent on how far we go here. And if we do well, he is going to be leading the charge.”The Badgers are facing their final test before the playoffs this weekend, and Eaves and the rest of his coaching staff are confident they’re ready for the fourth-ranked Gophers. “We made noise this past weekend, and we need to continue to make noise as we go along,” Eaves said.last_img read more