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Seven Days
Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice, Seven Days
Independent Vermont alt-weekly covering news, politics, food, arts, music and culture.

Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice, Seven Days
  • The Cannabis Catch-Up: O Canada, You Smell Like Weed
    With the flick of a Bic, Canada on Wednesday became the first major world economy with legal recreational cannabis. It’s a profound moment in the cannabis movement when a North American country of 37 million people legalizes the drug. Not to mention, the border is just about an hour north of Burlington. (Just don’t try bringing anything back with you to Vermont). Lines were blocks-long ahead of the stroke of midnight Wednesday, and some shops were facing shortages by later that day. Customers online had some issues, too, the BBC reported. In Nova Scotia, consumers spent about a half million dollars on day one, and an enterprising Girl Scout (they call them “Girl Guides” up der) in Edmonton, Alberta, camped out and sold cookies in front of a weed shop. (Click here for some other sale numbers from the day.) Cops in Winnipeg, meanwhile, ticketed a dude smoking in his car just an hour after legalization took effect. The $672 fine — that's in Canadian dollars — will certainly harsh your mellow. So is this what it’ll look like in Vermont when a taxed-and-regulated system takes effect? Probably not. But if you want some insight into how such a system works, take a drive across the border, eh. Here are some other cannabis stories we followed this week: October 16: While marijuana is legal in both Canada and Vermont now, U.S. customs officials say “marijuana is not going to become a routine screening question for everyone crossing the border.” Those caught with weed could face criminal prosecution and hefty fines. [Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger.org] October 17: Vermont’s first blockchain-based LLC involves an app to enable those interested in the cannabis industry to track product from seed to sale. [Sasha Goldstein, Seven Days] October 18: Vice talked to some Canadian weed dealers to gauge their thoughts on cannabis legalization. [Billy Eff, Vice] October 18: A Jamaican-born musician who lives in Oregon was arrested in Mississippi in March 2017 with three pounds of legally obtained cannabis. On Monday, a judge sentenced the medical marijuana patient, who argued the weed was for personal use, to eight years in prison without the possibility of parole. [Jimmie E. Gates, Mississippi Clarion Ledger] October 19: Two new studies found that the number of car crashes went up in some states that legalized cannabis. [Brett Molina, USA Today] Got a story you want to see in our our…

  • Dining on a Dime: UVMMC Garden Atrium


    A voluntary trip to the hospital is not a bad thing. Such an outing comes with benefits if the destination is the Garden Atrium café at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

    Cost and personal choice are two of the pluses. Local and fresh are two more. With a longstanding commitment to sourcing local ingredients, UVMMC purchases food from more than 70 regional farmers and producers, according to its website.

    But let’s start with cost. Some hospital trips — let’s say for a mammogram or a tetanus shot — include a mystery about the price of the service. Even after the bill arrives.

    At the Garden Atrium, prices are listed on a blackboard. And they’re low. I got three carrot fritters dressed with feta and a tangy cranberry vinaigrette and served with a side of greens for $4.25. My side of roast vegetables was $1.25. The only thing cheaper was the free parking because I was in and out in an hour.

    Let’s move to choice. There was plenty. I was tempted by the soup of the day – mushroom, bacon and kale for $2.95. New England crab cakes ($6.25) came on arugula sautéed with maple-brined bacon, and served with a side of pickled root vegetables and remoulade. Ravioli ($7.25) had everything you’d cook it with at home — roasted red peppers, spinach, garlic, white wine, shallots and more — plus stuff you’d want at home but wouldn’t have (artichokes and mascarpone). I’m stilling thinking about the passed over red pepper and white bean hummus ($3.75) with olive tapenade, dill and toasted naan. The list goes on.

    Options extend to the dining area where seating includes a big chair with attached desk-top that faces raised-bed gardens, spots around the gas fireplace in the center of the room or traditional dining at a table. Wherever you sit, meals are delivered.

    Many trips to the hospital are inconclusive and this one was, too. The lingering question concerns the third vegetable in my side of roasted veggies. The menu listed carrots, cauliflower and asparagus but I’m pretty sure the orange food in my bowl was sweet potatoes. For $1.25 and lots of garlic, who cares?
    Dining on a Dime is a weekly series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or…

  • Zuckerman Sends State Newsletter From Campaign Email Address
    Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman keeps more than 10,000 people updated about state happenings and his work with a monthly email newsletter. The content is innocuous enough but the email address it comes from —news@zuckermanforvt.com — raises questions.

    “Under no circumstances would we ever have advised to use a campaign address for that type of thing,” said John Quinn, the Agency of Digital Services secretary. “You’re blending the line. You’re meshing official business and political business.”

    While perhaps inadvisable, it does not appear to be illegal. Staff at the Secretary of State's Office and the Attorney General's Office knew of no state law that prohibits the use of campaign email accounts or other resources for official state business — or vice versa. The personnel policy for state employees prohibits the use of government equipment for political activity, but not the reverse.

    According to Zuckerman’s chief of staff Megan Polyte, there is no intermingling of information between the lieutenant governor's office and his campaign. The email addresses of Vermonters who sign up for the newsletter — either at events the lieutenant governor attends or through his official state website — are kept in the same database used by his campaign. But Polyte said they’re entered into a hidden field that only she and one administrative assistant can access.

    “It’s not paid for by the campaign. It’s not accessible by anyone in the campaign," said Polyte, who also serves as an unpaid advisor to the campaign. "It’s my password, my account.”

    Polyte said she started using the campaign domain name because newsletters sent from state accounts were ending up in recipients' spam folders. She tried several other fixes before deciding to use zuckermanforvt.com.

    The newsletter spotlights recent legislation, highlights upcoming events — such as a veterans' town hall or the lieutenant governor's movie night — and features guest posts from lawmakers, students and others.
    Quinn pointed to the state's electronic communications policy, which stipulates that employees are "expected to use state-provided systems for state business." That requirement ensures public records can be easily accessed, he noted.

    To avoid the entire state email system being deemed spam, official state accounts can only send email to 5,000 recipients. But according to Quinn, the Agency of Digital Services has helped multiple state entities find other ways to send mass emails…

  • Arkansas Man Gets Probation for Scamming Developer Don Sinex
    An Arkansas man received one to two years' probation Friday for his role in a scam that defrauded Don Sinex and the Burlington Town Center of nearly $30,000.

    Michael Marshall, 61, pleaded no contest to possession of stolen property worth more than $900, a felony. Two other charges, identity theft and false impersonation, were dismissed.

    Marshall's attorney, Margaret Jansch, argued that Marshall had unwittingly been swept up in more complicated scam targeting the Burlington developer.

    On December 5, 2016, Jennifer Villamil, vice president of finance for Sinex's firm Devonwood Investors, received an email that appeared to be from Sinex, her boss. It directed her to transfer $29,348 from TD Bank to Marshall's bank account at Bear State Bank in Mena, Ark.

    Jansch described the scam as "a very sophisticated operation." The email came on a day when Sinex was out of the office, she pointed out. It also instructed Villamil to "code [the transfer] as administrative expenses." Villamil had told investigators that the language appeared consistent with Sinex's previous communications and did not make her suspicious.

    Villamil made the transfer to Marshall's account. She realized the request was fraudulent when Sinex asked her about it a month later. The sender's email address was one letter different from Sinex's.

    Marshall, who sported glasses, a plaid shirt and shoulder-length, wispy brown hair, had flown in from Arkansas to appear in court, according to Jansch.

    Jansch said her client did not know the money was stolen and was not capable of such a complicated scam. "He's not himself a sophisticated person," she said.

    She said he had been told to receive the funds from a woman he met on an online dating site. The woman, who police were unable to find, allegedly told Marshall the cash was meant for a family member. Marshall was to receive $2,000 for his effort.

    Court documents indicate that Villamil received another request, sent from the same fraudulent email account, for $10,000 in January. Police at the time were already investigating the case.

    Marshall has no known ties to Vermont, according to court documents. According to deputy Chittenden County state's attorney Susan Hardin, police were unable to track the fraudulent email to Marshall or to anyone else. 

    Marshall will return to Arkansas to serve his probation, with credit for the 81 days…

  • Walters: Vermont Political Rivals' Duet Goes National
    Two candidates for a rural Vermont House seat are hitting the big time: They'll be featured this weekend on CBS News.

    Democrat Lucy Rogers and Republican Zac Mayo, the two under-30 candidates for the seat representing Cambridge, Jeffersonville and Waterville, held a candidates' forum on October 10 at the Varnum Memorial Library in Jeffersonville. They ended the event with a song: "Society" by Eddie Vedder, whose lyrics are a scathing rebuke of materialism and greed.

    On Monday, the candidates got calls from CBS News. Two days later, they found themselves being shadowed for a day by "On the Road" correspondent Steve Hartman and his camera crew. "It all happened lightning-fast," said Mayo.

    "My understanding is that a person who attended the forum got in touch with them," Rogers said. "The CBS producer told me, 'You have to do this story because there's no other story like this anywhere!'"

    Mayo and Rogers met at the Varnum Library for a pre-taping rehearsal, and then performed the song on camera. Both were interviewed by Hartman, who then visited 158 Main, a Jeffersonville restaurant, to speak with forum attendees.

    After that, the crew followed Rogers and Mayo as they made their canvassing rounds. Which, the candidates said, did cramp their style just a little bit.

    "Some people didn't want to be on camera," Rogers said. "If they refused, I stayed and talked with them while the CBS crew waited."

    There's a candidate with her priorities in order. She also expressed the hope that district voters would take the time to view the entire forum, which she posted on her Facebook page, and not just the song.

    Hartman's "On the Road" reports air every week on the Friday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and also on "CBS Sunday Morning."

    Both candidates are a little bemused by all the attention — but they understand why their duet has, pardon the pun, struck a chord in a time of deep political divisions.

    "People are desperate to hear these kinds of stories," said Mayo. "I know I am."

    Watch the duet below. The song begins around 45 minutes into the video:

    Video not loading?
    • Watch the full video on Facebook
    • Watch a short version on…

    • 'I Cried as I Read This': An Obit for an Addicted Vermonter Goes Viral
      Kate O'Neill sat at a table at her sister Maura's home in Shelburne last week, wrestling with a task she had hoped never to have to do: writing an obituary for their sister, Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir. The Burlington native struggled for more than a decade with drug addiction before dying on October 7 at age 30.

      In two hours, O'Neill produced a work that read more like a nonfiction call to arms than an obituary. In keeping with her family's long-standing candor about Linsenmeir's struggle, the obit documented with heartbreaking honesty a tale of addiction that began when Linsenmeir first tried OxyContin at 16, and continued after she gave birth to a son who was eventually taken from her.

      "It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction," O'Neill wrote in the obituary, which was published in Seven Days, the Burlington Free Press and on Legacy.com. "To some, Maddie was just a junkie — when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient. She could and would talk to anyone, and when you were in her company you wanted to stay." [content-1] The family hoped their candor would get some attention and help ease the stigma about drug addiction. But they never expected the obituary would rocket across the internet and reach millions of people.

      National journalists tweeted links to the piece. So did Ivanka Trump, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, actress Alyssa Milano and other notables. The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, People magazine, BuzzFeed, and newspapers in England and New Zealand published stories.

      The obit was viewed more than 3.2 million times on sevendaysvt.com, and threatened to crash the site.

      Linsenmeir's family is not the first to candidly discuss drug addiction in an obituary. Seven Days wrote in 2016 about the practice. Other obituaries published in Vermont more recently have made it clear that the deceased had been an addict.

      Yet none have generated the massive attention that Linsenmeir's has. Her family, among others, have pondered why.

      There could be a few explanations. The photograph published with the obituary — and this story — is an irresistible shot of Linsenmeir and her son wearing adorable grins.



    • Committee: Remove 'Bailey' From the UVM Library's Name
      A University of Vermont committee has unanimously recommended that trustees remove former president Guy Bailey's name from the campus library because of his ties to the Vermont Eugenics Survey and its racist theories.

      The Trustee Renaming Advisory Committee found that while Bailey "had numerous positive accomplishments that are part of his extensive legacy," his involvement in the eugenics survey was "fundamentally at odds" with the mission of the university, a report released to Seven Days on Thursday shows.

      UVM's board of trustees will have the final say on the question. Trustees are expected to review the recommendation at an October 27 meeting.

      The question about the name of Bailey/Howe Library surfaced last spring during student protests for racial justice that shut down traffic and disrupted classes. Changing the name was one of their many demands.

      UVM zoology professor Henry Perkins founded the eugenics project, which operated from 1925 to 1936. The professor and his field workers conducted pedigree studies, lobbied for a sterilization law that targeted "defectives" and promoted the idea that Vermont's protestant Yankee heritage was superior to other backgrounds.

      "In Vermont, eugenics research was largely motivated by concerns about the supposed degeneration of native-born Yankee 'stock,'" the renaming committee report states. "Although sterilization records are not available, it appears likely that it was mostly poor women, along with darker-skinned French-Canadian and Native American populations, who were targeted by the Vermont eugenic sterilization program."

      Bailey played a pivotal role in raising funds for the survey, which was the first privately funded study at the university, the report stated. He also served on the Eugenics Survey Advisory Committee, which sought to influence politicians.

      "Perkins and the ESV successfully lobbied for the passage of a voluntary
      sterilization law in Vermont in 1931," the report states. "While there is no direct evidence that Bailey was actively involved in this lobbying effort, he remained a member of the ESV Advisory Committee during this period. In practice, many of the sterilizations subsequently carried out were involuntary."

      Eugenics wasn't Bailey's only blemish. He served as president from 1920 until his death in 1940, after which he was found to have misappropriated university financial resources, "leaving the university in a dire fiscal condition," the report states. It cited the financial mistakes as another example of Bailey's legacy being "at odds" with the…

    • Stuck in Vermont: Painting Fall Foliage With Landscape Artist Eric Tobin
      Episode 551 We spent a warm fall afternoon with landscape painter, Eric Tobin, on a colorful backroad in Johnson where he was capturing a classic country scene on canvas. A lifelong lover of art, Eric has been painting full-time for the past 18 years. He has shown at galleries around New England and he is passionate about capturing the old barns and rural countryside of his native state. Eva first met Eric last winter when a large group of landscape painters converged in Jeffersonville. The area has attracted outdoor painters for more than a century and their work is often displayed in local galleries. On this visit, we also explored Eric's studio at his home in Johnson and did some leaf peeping on dirt roads. You can see Eric's work on display at the Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery in Stowe and at Visions Of Vermont Gallery and the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville. And you can follow Eric on instagram @tobinart2. Shooting date: 10/9/18 Music: Geographer, "Bright Idea" & "Gentle Breeze" This episode of Stuck in Vermont was made possible byNew England Federal Credit Union…

    • Parkland Students to Bring 'Glimmer of Hope' to Burlington
      Alex Wind prefers not to discuss the details of the shooting that killed 17 people at his high school in Parkland, Fla., in February.

      The 17-year-old senior survived the horrific day. On Friday, he will appear with two fellow students in Burlington to promote their book, "Glimmer of Hope," and the March for Our Lives campaign to stop gun violence.

      "This is something that is going to be plaguing us our entire lives," Wind said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "But it comes to a point where we have to say, what’s now is now, and we need to be focused on that.”

      Last winter, a young gunman sprayed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with bullets. Former student Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of murder.

      The 6 p.m. stop on the Glimmer of Hope tour will take place at the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Burlington. Tickets sold out Sunday. Phoenix Books is sponsoring the event.

      Wind will appear with two other students from the school: David Hogg and Emma González. They will participate in a moderated question-and-answer session and will sign books.

      Some of the student activists have left the school to tour the country and advocate for gun safety measures. They are urging young people to register to vote and use the democratic process for change.

      Friday's appearance will be Wind's first on the Glimmer tour. He still attends the school. "It's completely changed the entire atmosphere, the entire landscape," Wind said. "There's not a specific thing to point out. It's just the looming feeling."

      Wind did not know Cruz, and didn't want to speculate on his motive — or even think about him. "No one is focused on him," Wind said. "We don’t want to be concerned about him and his face, because he is someone that caused harm and we don’t like to talk about him."

      The campaign's goals include voter registration, a federal universal background check for gun purchases, a ban on semiautomatic assault rifles, and more funding to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

      It's not a partisan effort, Wind said. "We can all come together and agree on one thing — that this country needs change."

      The book's title is not an accident, he added. "The glimmer of hope…

    • Stowe's Varises Builds a 'Flight Simulator' for Surgeons
      I'm a lousy surgeon. For starters, I accidentally shaved a few extra millimeters off Sue Gerry's femur during a recent distal femoral resection. That's a small step in a larger knee-replacement procedure and a relatively basic step at that — at least when sawbones other than myself are performing it. Also, I dropped some rather important, and sterile, knee hardware on the floor of the operating room, like, three times. Whoops. Fortunately for Gerry and her troublesome right knee, my recent foray into orthopedic surgery was a facsimile. Specifically, I was training in the virtual reality surgery simulator being developed by the new Vermont startup Varises. Conceived by world-renowned surgeon Dr. Bryan Huber and accelerated into production by entrepreneur Steven Berlin, both of Stowe, the program is billed as a "flight simulator for surgeons." They made an exception for me. To borrow one of Berlin's favorite Varises-related jokes: I'm not a doctor, but I've played one on TV. If Huber and Berlin have their way, real surgeons, as well as those in training, will soon be playing doctor on TV, too — or perhaps more accurately, given the VR program's immersive quality, playing doctor in TV. When Varises unveils its simulator at a Las Vegas trade show in December, it could revolutionize the way doctors are trained. "We've been teaching surgery the same way practically since the dawn of modern surgery," says Huber, 53. "We think it's well past time to change that." Since the late 1800s, surgeons have learned their trade by practicing on cadavers and observing and assisting in operations. It's a painstaking process that Huber believes is increasingly out of step with the modern medical world. He's not alone. "If you think a couple of decades out from now, hospitals in their current form aren't going to exist in the same manner," says Kip Steele, an IT program manager for the University of Vermont Health Network. "Think about how long patients used to have to stay in the hospital and now how quickly we can turn them around ... Things are going to get even faster." What hasn't changed, he says, is how long it takes to complete formal medical training within a surgical specialty. "That has to do with time and availability," Steele explains. "There just isn't enough time in the day, or there aren't enough cadavers or laboratory access. Varises is a force…

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