N.E. Editorial Roundup

By The Associated Press
April 2, 2011

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The Rutland Herald, Apr. 1:

Running out of options

As iodine-131 drifts around the globe from Japan to Vermont, utility officials in Vermont are drifting away from a commitment to Vermont's troubled nuclear reactor, Vermont Yankee.

Vermont health officials monitor radiation in the atmosphere, and in recent days they have detected minute traces of radioactive material from the damaged reactors at Fukushima, Japan. The emissions from Japan pose no health risk, they say: A passenger on a transcontinental flight would receive a dose more than 100 times stronger than that caused by the Japanese emissions.

But the disaster in Japan is on the minds of utility officials. It is one factor that could persuade the board of directors of the Vermont Electric Cooperative to reject a favorable power deal with Entergy Nuclear, the company that owns Vermont Yankee.

Entergy has been trying to negotiate power purchase agreements with Vermont utilities for several years. At the same time, it has been trying to sell Vermont Yankee to another company. All of these arrangements now appear to be falling apart.

Vermont's two largest utilities have announced that they have given up on their efforts to secure a deal to buy power from Vermont Yankee because one of the conditions of a deal was that Entergy find a buyer for the plant. Entergy announced this week that its negotiations with one potential buyer had failed because of political uncertainties about the plant's future.

Vermont Electric Cooperative, a small utility based in Johnson, has reached a deal to buy 10 megawatts of power from Vermont Yankee for 20 years at a price starting at 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour. At present the utility buys 10 megawatts at 7.3 percent.

Despite the favorable rate, David Hallquist, VEC's chief executive, said he did not believe the utility's board would accept the deal with Entergy. He said the board was concerned that Vermont Yankee shares the same design as the stricken plants in Japan. "That is really causing some stress to our board," Hallquist said. He said the board was also concerned about the radioactive waste stored at the plant and did not like the way Entergy had treated the state of Vermont.

Entergy's effort to sell the plant has been thwarted because the Vermont Legislature is all but certain to refuse to extend the plant's license to operate for 20 years beyond 2012. The Senate voted by an overwhelming margin last year to reject a license extension, and there is no reason to believe the Senate or House will reverse course this year or next or that Gov. Peter Shumlin would agree on a license extension.

Vermont utility officials are unconcerned about the future demise of Vermont Yankee. Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power have taken steps to find replacement power next year; they say there is a glut of power on the New England market, particularly power generated by natural gas.

Entergy is running out of options. It can't sell the plant because no one believes the Legislature will allow it to operate. It can't sell power to the state's largest utilities because it can't sell the plant. Even the small utility that has negotiated a favorable deal is unlikely to approve it because of lack of trust, combined with growing concern caused by Japan.

Entergy might decide to mount a legal challenge against the Vermont law giving the Legislature the power to approve or reject a license extension for the plant. Such a challenge would be a desperate measure, in part because Entergy itself agreed to give the Legislature that power. That leaves Entergy with responsibility for decommissioning the plant, beginning next year. It may drag its feet on that job, leaving the plant in place for decades as money for decommissioning slowly accrues. If that happens, the state of Vermont may mount its own legal challenge, forcing the company to clean up its mess on the banks of the Connecticut River.


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The Connecticut Post, Mar. 29:

Change approach on prostitution

News item: Stamford police raided a so-called massage parlor masquerading as a brothel last week.

Big deal, you might say. Happens all the time.

Perhaps. And that's the problem.

Every community around here has or has had one or more of these places lurking just beneath our day-to-day notice. We usually choose to ignore them.

It's odd. You'd think slavery would get more of a rise out of people.

Hyperbole? Not even close.

Every day, all over the nation, including Fairfield County, young women are forced into having sex with strangers for money -- usually under threat to themselves and their families.

Stamford police believe the massage parlor they raided Friday was a front for a place where illegal immigrants possibly worked as sex slaves.

The methodology is roughly the same for all: Recruiters bait impoverished women in their home countries with promises of riches to be had in the United States. They get the women here, provide them with false immigration documents and then inform them that they owe a huge debt for services rendered. You can figure out the rest.

It's fashionable today to call prostitution a victimless crime, one that should be legalized. Try telling that to the women caught in these monstrous operations.

The state legislature must take this problem more seriously, and change how we address it.

The first step actually should be decriminalization -- but only for the prostitutes themselves. Too often, it's the women forced to work in the local brothels who face the harshest legal penalties. They already are living lives of desperation. We should be helping them to escape their circumstances rather than making those circumstances worse with an arrest.

Next: The johns, who create the market for prostitution, often receive lesser charges than the prostitutes. Reverse that equation. Make the penalty for perpetuating the enslavement of others fit the crime.

Perhaps the specter of a few months in prison would reduce the client base. Too harsh? It's a cakewalk compared to the destroyed lives these men are funding with their dollars.

For the people who operate these rings, who force women into these lives, they're straight evil. Throw away the key.

Finally, crack down on landlords. Owners of properties used as brothels have to be pretty dense to not know what's going on there. The law currently holds them accountable, but barely. It's a misdemeanor to know prostitution is occurring on your property and not make a "reasonable effort" to stop it. That means any penalty won't even amount to a month's rent.

The only way to stop it is to force those who are guilty of those behaviors to change them.

To do less is an affront to everything we stand for, as people, as a state, as a nation.


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