New England Snapshot

AUGUSTA, Maine - Welfare reform is front and center at the State House this week, as lawmakers consider several proposals that supporters say are designed to help those who can get off welfare reach that goal.

This story is part of our series “Rising Tide” about how – or whether - Rhode Islanders are emerging from the deepest economic recession since the 1930s. The question we’re asking is: does a rising tide really lift all boats, or are some Rhode Islanders still being left behind?

The decision by Gov. Peter Shumlin to abandon a single payer health care system is having an unexpected impact on Vermont's larger businesses. And lawmakers will now have to make decisions that Vermont's health care law never anticipated.

Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts was remembered Monday by the president, vice president, and senators from both parties as a powerful force for liberal causes who could also reach across the aisle. 

Among the senators - past and present - who paid tribute to Ted Kennedy at the dedication of the new institute in his name was Trent Lott.

“Yes, a Republican from Mississippi,” he told the crowd gathered at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

The village of Island Pond, in the Northeast Kingdom, is becoming the maple sugar capital of North America. An out-of-state company called Sweet Tree has bought about 7,000 acres and tapped 100,000 trees this year. But they say they don’t want to make the stuff you put on pancakes.

There’s always that moment, after you walk up the ramp and into Fenway Park, when you first glimpse the brilliant green of the field. And if you’re like me, your heart jumps a little. So it’s a little weird to walk in and not see any grass.

But it’s not the sea of white you might expect after this winter.

A significant hurdle to the resumption of Amtrak rail service through Vermont to Montreal was cleared Monday when the United States and Canada signed an agreement allowing the creation of a U.S. Customs facility in Montreal.  

Plum Island, an 840-acre land mass in Long Island Sound, is becoming a focal point for environmentalists. That's because of government plans to sell the island to fund the construction of a new USDA animal-testing center. 

The state’s first medical marijuana vapor lounge opened this weekend in Providence, but the legality of the lounge remains murky.

Elevated Vapor Lounge, located in downtown Providence opened Saturday.  Rhode Island medical marijuana patients can utilize the space to vaporize their doctor prescribed product.  And since state law bans smoking indoors, vaporizing is only thing allowed.

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2006. Federal law continues to ban its sale.

Some of the state’s largest ski areas owe their success to lease agreements that allow them to use land owned by the state of Vermont. But State Auditor Doug Hoffer says the state ought to be charging higher rates for use of this pristine mountain land.

Gina Raimondo’s long path to the top job in Rhode Island politics culminated when she was sworn in Tuesday as the state’s first female governor. Raimondo has cautioned that making change won’t be easy in a state plagued by persistently high unemployment.

Raimondo’s inaugural on the south portico of the Statehouse was steeped in tradition, from the singing of the National Anthem to the firing of a 19-gun salute.

ANGELA EVANCIE VPR/FILE

Longtime Washington County Sen. Bill Doyle says he'll propose a constitutional amendment to make it less likely that lawmakers will be asked to elect a governor in the future. Doyle says the results of this year's election show why his amendment is needed.  

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage says he wants to promote more nutritious foods for all Mainers, including those who receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. 

Long-serving former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has died. He was 71.

New federal science education standards adopted in Vermont require that students learn about climate change. So teachers are starting to create lesson plans with hands-on activities about weather patterns.

Some are getting that training deep in the woods of the Northeast Kingdom.

From gasoline to heating oil and propane, fuel prices in Vermont are lower than they were a year ago. The decline in prices will likely mean lower heating bills and less expensive fill-ups during the coming winter.

According to Chicago-based GasBuddy.com, a clearinghouse of real time information on gas prices across the country, on Tuesday the price for a gallon of regular unleaded varied in Vermont from a low of $3.18 in Rutland to a high of $3.69 in Derby.

Kevin Burgio remembered the first time he saw monk parakeets. He was out bird watching "and I ran across this puddle that had like five or six monk parakeets drinking from it," he said. "I'm like, what the hell is that? Did someone lose, like, five parrots? I didn't know there were parrots here."

All this week we’re taking a close look at the Narragansett Bay, for a series we call One Square Mile.  Today we look at the heavy industry that relies on the Providence waterfront.  Specifically, where those big piles of coal, scrap metal and salt,  sit along the Providence River.

Tuesday, independent Providence mayoral candidate Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr. details his plan to turn the industrial waterfront to mixed use development, with things like hotels and marinas.   As Rhode Island Public Radio’s John Bender reports, that's been the subject of a decades-long battle.

Fred Thys/WBUR

  Wesleyan University is asking its residential fraternities not to pledge freshmen and to turn over the rolls of all their members as the school issued an order to end its all-male fraternities and make residential fraternities co-ed.

It’s a decision that has received mixed reaction on campus.

The decision is felt hardest at the three residential fraternities. No one agreed to recorded interviews at any of the fraternities, but men did agree to speak to WBUR on background.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage is defending his support of legislation that could make it easier for private businesses to use eminent domain to seize property for natural gas pipeline expansion. The governor says the legislation is necessary to alleviate what he calls the New England energy crisis. But the governor's two opponents oppose the move.

At issue is federal legislation known as H.R.1900, The Natural Gas Permitting Reform Act, which aims to streamline the permitting process for the development of natural gas pipeline projects.

Over the past five years, law enforcement agencies in Vermont have invested more than $1 million in technology that gathers millions of data points every year about the whereabouts of vehicles across the state.

The Automated Plate Recognition Systems, or ALPRs, use high-speed cameras mounted on police cruisers that take photos of passing cars and relay them to an in-car computer for analysis. The technology keeps track of every license plate the cruiser passes and checks each against a “hot list” of vehicles, all in real time.

Patty Wright, MPBN

It's being billed as the first-ever public-private sponsorship of a race car. Today Gov. Paul LePage announced that the state of Maine will use Fort Kent NASCAR driver Austin Theriault's car as a billboard for the slogan, "Maine is open for business." The sponsorship cost the state $50,000. Some are celebrating the move, while others question whether it will drive business to the state.

J Holt for WNPR

The slow death of the textile industry in the U.S. was underscored last December by the closure of the last operating mill in Connecticut, the historic Warren Mills in Stafford Springs. That same mill is celebrating its re-opening under new owners. 

How does the American Woolen Company expect to buck the trend?

In early 2013, investment banker Jacob Harrison Long bought the American Woolen Company. Once one of the nation’s most recognized textile companies, when Long arrived, it was little more than a trademark.

The Portland Public School Department plans to launch an online program this year. The district is trying to get a slice of the virtual school pie as it faces competition for students — and funding. But some educators remain skeptical of yet another online option. Portland officials say it's an important — and innovative — option for students.

The first day of school is a busy one for Portland Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. He rides his bike to district schools to personally welcome students back.

Angela Evancie for VPR

The Beacon 10 Stirling – black, with a glowing blue light, and about the size of a large chest freezer – emits a constant low hum. And this one, in the basement of the Essex Resort & Spa, converts natural gas into electricity, enough electricity to power an average-sized home.

It’s just one of the technological innovations on offer at NRG Energy, a national company that is about to use Vermont as a testing ground for its products and services.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn-vmO63PhQ&feature=youtu.be

Scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland are trying to better understand how the ecosystem of Casco Bay is changing. This summer, they launched a comprehensive survey of marine life in the bay that will unfold over the next 10 years. MPBN's Jennifer Rooks caught up with some of the researchers.

 

Karen Brown for NEPR

One in 68 children are thought to have autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disorder varies widely in severity, but one common trait is the tendency to get over-stimulated by noise, lights, and other trappings of modern life. A recent effort tried to bring down the sensory stimulation — just in time for back-to-school shopping.

The Holyoke Mall is one of the most obvious places to do back-to-school shopping, but one of the last places you’d take a child who has problems with sensory overload. That describes both of Mary Ellen Demaris’s sons.

For the second time in three years, the Brattleboro Retreat faces a potential loss in federal funding because of a failed inspection. Despite the warnings, the state’s commissioner of mental health says he’s still confident that the retreat can provide quality care.

The federal warning comes after a suicide attempt at the Brattleboro Retreat in June which, after retreat staff notified the state, prompted a site visit of the facility.

Michael Webber via Flickr CC

Supporters of a referendum to ban the use of bait, hounds and traps in Maine's annual bear hunt began canvassing neighborhoods in Portland over the weekend. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting say they don't oppose hunting in general, just the use of what they consider cruel and inhumane practices. They plan to contact tens of thousands of voters across the state over the next few weeks to make their case. Opponents are also gearing up.  And both sides are feeling confident as the election draws closer.

Green Mountain Power broke ground in Rutland Tuesday on a new $10 million solar project that the utility says will not only generate clean energy, but also provide emergency back up power to parts of the city when needed.

Solar arrays are sprouting up all over Rutland County and some of the larger ones have generated a fair amount of controversy and criticism.

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