The Exchange Extra

Ben Henry for NHPR

The Manchester VA Medical Center is under federal investigation after a report by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team  revealed allegations of seriously substandard care at the facility. Among the conditions described in the report: an operating room infested with flies, veterans with crippling spinal damage that might have been prevented, and obsolete surgical instruments.   

After top officials there were removed, Alfred Montoya was named interim director. Montoya is also director of the White River Junction VA. We talked with him four days after he landed in Manchester and a day after a pipe failure flooded five floors of the hospital. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

On The Exchange, Governor Chris Sununu addressed the uproar over the White House request for voter information and defended his decision not to join an alliance set up by states pledging to uphold the Paris Accord on climate change. He reaffirmed his support for the Northern Pass project and called for a "smart portfolio of renewables," including geothermal.  As for the political dimension of these and other debates,  Sununu had this to say: "I do my best to throw politics out." 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

As N.H. Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan explained on The Exchange, the voter information requested by the Commission on Election Integrity is already publicly available and has been for about ten years -- though there are laws governing who gets access to that voter information, as well as how it is accessed and used.  For election-law attorney Paul Twomey, the Commission's request, in addition to being politically suspect,  does not fall within that legal framework and could lead to major security risks.  

Both Scanlan and N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner have seemed somewhat taken aback by the uproar over the Commission's request. Scanlan places some of the blame on a polarized political climate.  Since our conversation, as NHPR's Casey McDermott reports here, the ACLU has joined with two N.H. lawmakers in suing Gardner over his plans to comply with the Trump Administration's request for voter information.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

N.H. lawmakers Republican Senator Jeb Bradley and Democratic Representative Cindy Rosenwald have worked long and hard, in bipartisan fashion, on health care issues, including Medicaid expansion -- which is why they've been closely watching the national debate surrounding the U.S. Senate's health care bill.

The Humane Society of the United States

Animal cruelty has been in the public eye this year.  About 80 Great Danes were recently rescued at a mansion in Wolfeboro - living in filthy conditions.  Just last week, four horses were taken from a Deering farm, ill and neglected. And in February,  more than 30 Persian cats were found in a Barnstead home, in squalid conditions.  These cases raise questions -- about whether our state laws on breeding and animal cruelty should be tougher, about when neighbors and town officials should step in, and about the psychology of animal hoarding.

Molggl Interactive via Flickr/CC

In the wake of a bear family’s relocation after two cubs entered a Hanover household, New Hampshire communities are reconsidering their responsibilities as environmental stewards and asking the question, “What does it take to live with bears?”

Coast Guard Compass

Decades after President Nixon declared drugs "public enemy number one,"  the criminal justice system is still grappling with the problem.  In recent years, we've seen bipartisan calls for an end to so-called mass incarceration for drug crimes and a shift away from the so-called "war on drugs" toward greater emphasis on treatment for addiction.

As Acting U.S. Attorney John Farley sees it, the phrase "war on drugs" is a bit of a buzz term that oversimplifies a battle now being waged on two fronts.   

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu has called the GOP's American Health Care Act a "huge win" --  for moving the conversation forward on repealing and replacing Obamacare. As for the content of that House bill, Sununu said on The Exchange: "I don't think anything in this bill is a huge win. I have reservations. I wouldn’t have voted for it myself."

Smithsonian Institute Magazine

With North Korea flexing its nuclear muscles and the U.S. calling for an end to the "era of strategic patience,"  it's a good time to re-examine where we are as a world when it comes to nuclear weapons -- and where we've been.  Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says giving one person the power to launch a nuclear strike has long been a dangerous proposition.  She joined The Exchange recently to discuss her ideas for reducing the risk of nuclear conflict.  

Allegra Boverman/NHPR

When news broke that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked last June, NPR correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, who was in Russia at the time, says she told her editors she didn’t think it was a big deal, that she didn't need to file a story. 

“The reason I said that is that it’s not a surprise that Russia would be crawling around inside U.S. political databases and trying to get in there, and that the U.S. would be doing the same," Kelly said.

But that DNC hack would turn out to be no ordinary hacking.  

Wynan Smith via Flickr/CC

The Division of Children, Youth, and Families has been under intense scrutiny in recent years, after two toddlers who had been involved with the agency were killed by their mothers in a span of just ten months.

The fallout has included legal battles, the director's ouster, and an independent investigation that revealed an agency beset by high turnover, an overworked staff, limited funding, and restrictive policies.

N.H. Public Radio

The uproar over Senate Bill 3 shows no signs of abating.

The bill's lead sponsor, Republican state senator Regina Birdsell,  insists it simply ensures that each vote cast in New Hampshire is valid and that voters meet certain requirements. She says she removed elements that were especially objectionable to opponents, including involvement of local police in helping to confirm voters' addresses. 

NHPR

For all the discord between Democrats and President Trump, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen sounded a few cautious notes of agreement during an interview on The Exchange.   

On Trump's missile attacks in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons, Shaheen affirmed her support.

Andrew Filer via Flickr/CC

When it comes to Senate Bill 7, which lowers the income threshold for food-stamp  eligibility, among other changes, Democratic state senator Dan Feltes has some choice words:  "One of the worst bills I've ever seen."  And, also, "horrible." 

Feltes joined The Exchange this week, along with Republican state senator Jeb Bradley, co-sponsor of SB7, who  sees things vastly differently.

After more than 1,600 drug-overdose deaths over the last five years, Timothy Rourke, longtime advocate for expanded treatment and recovery services, says the state may be reaching a turning point.  Maybe.

 Below story corrects information in an earlier post found here

Allegra Boverman via Flickr/Creative Commons

During an interview on NHPR's The Exchange Tuesday, Governor Sununu insisted that a GOP-led effort to require voters to provide proof they are connected to the community where they vote is not meant to exclude anyone but simply to ensure the integrity of the state's voting process.

Wikipedia Commons

Although the federal budget is in its very early stages, President's Trump's proposal to severely cut funding for many federal agencies has several N.H. agencies contemplating a range of possibilities -- from best- to worst-case scenarios -- and gearing up to fight possible cuts to programs they deem essential.  

The Southern Illinoisian

Concord Lieutenant John Thomas has no sympathy for certain drug dealers.

“If you are providing the drug that kills that person, it’s just as if you’re sticking a knife in that person or shooting that person. You’re ending a life. You knew what you were doing, going into it,” Thomas said on The Exchange.

New Hampshire Public Radio

Not too long ago, New Hampshire was faulted for casting too wide a net when it came to institutionalizing people with mental illness.  That led to a lawsuit and a $30 million settlement, with the state agreeing to boost community-based care.

Now, though, according to Ken Norton, executive director of the NH chapter of the Alliance on Mental Illness, the state has swung too far in the other direction, with inadequate access to institutionalized care:

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Compared with the University System of New Hampshire, which was flat funded under the budget Republican Governor Chris Sununu presented earlier this month, the community college system did pretty well.

Rick via Flickr/CC

Update: Governor Sununu signed this bill earlier today, Feb. 22,2017. 

 

 

N.H. is heading with seeming inevitability toward joining the states that do not require a special permit to carry a concealed weapon. Governor Sununu is expected to sign SB12, which has passed both the Senate and the House, mostly along party lines.

 

Similar bills have failed in the past. Former Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan twice vetoed similar efforts.  

 

Supporters of repealing the permit requirement say local officials too often deny permits.

Herry Lanford via Flickr/CC

Repeal, Replace, Repair, Retain. Now that they’re in a position to dismantle Obamacare, some in the GOP appear to be urging restraint. Even President Trump, who joined the Repeal and Replace rallying cry during his campaign, has recently sounded more hesitant, suggesting that a new plan may be in place next year.

Republicans in Congress have meanwhile been contemplating their next steps, said Dan Gorenstein, senior reporter for Marketplace's Health Desk, on  The Exchange.

Jonas Bengtsson via Flickr/CC

UPDATE: Reza Jalili was reunited with his brother, after a federal judge halted President Trump's executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran. Read the Union Leader story about their reunion

N.H.'s Moose Population Decimated by Winter Ticks

Jan 23, 2017
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region

 New Hampshire's moose population is down to just over 4,000 animals, facing an unprecedented die off because of winter ticks, according to UNH Wildlife Ecology professor Pete Pekins. 

Speaking on The Exchange, Pekins says winter ticks have taken an especially harsh toll on moose calves each spring for the past three years -- one of several alarming findings in a four-year study of the state's moose population, involving the N.H. Fish and Game department and UNH. 

Yortw via Flickr/CC

Organizers of this weekend's Women's March on Washington have taken pains to avoid calling the event-- and the hundreds of "sister marches" planned across the country -- anti-Trump.  As Terie Norelli, former Democratic Speaker of the N.H. House and a longtime state representative,  said on The Exchange this week:

FLICKR/CC Waltarr

UPDATED & REVISED DECEMBER 16. 

 

On Monday, December 19, barring any extraordinary developments, electors will meet in each state and officially cast their votes for the President and Vice President.  

FLICKR Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Governor-elect Chris Sununu has said tightening voter laws, potentially eliminating same-day registration, is top on his to-do list once he takes office. 

I'm not saying that people are doing things illegally but the system allows for so much grey area in terms of who's a resident, who's not, how long have you been here, same-day voter, what are the checks and balances. It's just about getting that into place....It's  not necessarily about about fraud.  It's about having a system