Annie Russell

Deputy News Director

Annie Russell is VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.

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A Vermont lawyer for a man charged with killing a prep school teacher says his client won't testify against his wife at her upcoming trial. Recently President Obama vowed to step up efforts to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A Vermont attorney is working to get a trial for a man who has been held there since 2002. More than 200 volunteers are going to be monitoring Lake Champlain this summer for signs of blue-green algae blooms.

FEMA officials will be in Vermont this week to assess damage from recent flooding across the state. The military prison at Guantanamo Bay has been making fresh headlines lately.  ) A second New Hampshire man has been convicted for his role in shooting out insulators on a high-voltage power line in the Concord, VT.

A small town drew national and even international attention last week when 19 firefighters known as “Hot Shots” died while trying to keep a raging wildfire from destroying lives and homes in Arizona. The men were killed when the winds shifted nearly 180 degrees and cut off their access to the safety zone, a large ranch property.

The elite team from Prescott was known to virtually everyone in that town, and to a Vermont firefighter who served as a Hot Shot for 14 years.

The flash flooding and heavy rains from yesterday are prompting cautions from emergency officials. Agriculture officials say the rain has been a problem for Vermont farmers, but it’s difficult to generalize about its affect. Governor Peter Shumlin has appointed a former aide to the Vermont Commission on Women.

Sarah Priestap- Valley News

There has been ongoing concern about a chemical that was used in the Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire.

The chemical, Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a solvent that had been used at CRREL for nearly three decades until 1987, when it was labeled a carcinogen.

About 20 people have been moved to safety following flash flooding that washed out and damaged roads in Lebanon, N.H. Vermont’s vast forests are an important economic and recreational resource. But the region’s woodlands are also home to a high concentration of breeding songbirds.

The head of the Vermont National Guard says furloughs for about 500 full-time Guard members will begin next week. The Public Service Board is faced with conflicting studies on the greenhouse gas impacts of a proposed Addison County natural gas pipeline. Senator Bernie Sanders says he'll continue working to reverse a doubling of student loan rates under the Stafford student loan program.

A gas company looking to build a pipeline through Vermont's Addison County is debating with the environmental group Conservation Law Foundation over the greenhouse gas impact of the project. A year after a Thetford man died from a state police stun gun, advocates renewed their call for more law enforcement oversight and training in the use of the weapons. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture is urging farmers and pet owners to take precautions as heavy rains fall that could bring flooding to parts of the state.

Harris County Public Library / Flickr

For this week’s Regional Report, we turn to Washington County in New York where the sequestration budget cuts impacted a Head Start program.

The education program suffered a 5.2 percent budget cut this April. Those effects are being felt now, with one center just over the Vermont border in Cambridge, New York closing its doors. Head Start also eliminated a six-week summer program.

Some 75 Vermont businesses hit by natural disasters in 2011 will be eligible for 5 million dollars in unemployment insurance relief under a new state law. State utility regulators heard conflicting evidence this week about Vermont Yankee’s impact on the Connecticut River. Critics of the use of stun guns by police in Vermont are planning to gather at the Statehouse to highlight what they say is a lack of progress on the issue since a Thetford man died after being hit by a state police taser a year ago.

Senator Bernie Sanders is standing alone with his "no" vote against billionaire business executive Penny Pritzker's confirmation by the Senate to become secretary of the Commerce Department. When George and Linda Thomson lost their home to Tropical Storm Irene they didn’t want to leave the picturesque spot on Lake Pauline in Ludlow, where they’d lived for 22 years. Traffic is back to normal along Interstate 89 in Winooski, Vt., a day after a multi-vehicle crash.

On July 1, interest rates on some federal student loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

It’s the same hike that was set to take effect last summer, but Congress passed a bill to keep rates from rising. That law is set to expire next week, and Washington still has not reached an agreement.

Congressman Peter Welch said Vermont will be especially affected, with the seventh greatest student loan debt in the country.

“I’m supporting legislation in the house that would maintain the 3.4 percent rate for two years, ” he said.

Widespread federal budget cuts as a result of the sequester are starting to show impacts on a variety programs and services around the country. That includes Section 8, a lifeline for between 6,500 and  7,000 low-income Vermonters.

The Section 8 “vouchers” act as a method to close the gap in housing prices, allowing recipients to pay approximately 30% of their monthly income on housing.

State officials say the future of Vermont’s dairy industry will be very uncertain if Congress fails to pass a Farm Bill this year. The Vermont State Police Marine Division and two other law enforcement agencies are going to crack down on intoxicated boating this weekend.

State officials involved in setting up the Vermont Health Connect health insurance exchange hold another in a series of meetings open to the public this week in Waitsfield. Long term Irene recovery projects are still underway across the state. Vermont’s largest power company and four colleges have signed an agreement to collaborate on energy innovation projects.

The Vermont Department of Labor is holding another session this weekend to help laid-off IBM employees. Governor Peter Shumlin has asked for a detailed federal environmental review if a Northeast Kingdom oil pipeline is reversed to carry tar sands crude. Vermont State Police are urging people in the Wells area to report suspicious activity after a burglar alarm scared off an intruder. A 9-year-old Vermont boy is headed to D-C next month to be recognized at the White House for his healthy recipe for turkey burgers.

Vermonters will get a chance to weigh in on proposed rates for consumers under the new health insurance exchange. State agencies are investigating whether pesticides sprayed for mosquito control caused a fish kill in an Addison County lake earlier this month. In New Hampshire, House and Senate lawmakers have moved toward agreement on a scaled-back version of a bill intended to align New Hampshire insurance rules with President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.

Vermonter and investigative journalist Michael Hastings has died in a car accident in Los Angeles. When Vermont’s health care Exchange opens for business later this year, it’s likely that there will be only two insurance companies offering products. Senator Bernie Sanders says a new report shows that the average student loan debt for college students in Vermont is higher than the amount for students in other states.

Governor Peter Shumlin has signed three bills that promote energy efficiency and clean energy. Critics of a proposed Addison County natural gas pipeline say the developer has exaggerated the project’s environmental and economic benefits. A Vermont man who says he fired some shots to stop a man from cutting his neighbor's trees has been accused of reckless endangerment.

A Burlington-based nonprofit called the Vermont Fair Foods Campaign released a report Thursday on working conditions in the state’s food industry. The group based the report on a survey of 168 food service workers across the state.

Workers cited low wages, no paid sick leave and unaffordable health care among their biggest concerns. Twenty-five percent of the workers surveyed said they either lost wages or had to work while sick.

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