Tag Archives: United States

Why one Vermont town is un-paving roads instead of repairing potholes

With little money to repave aging asphalt, Montpelier embraces the countrified charm of dirt and gravel roads.


Road in Vermont

Not only do paved roads require expensive upkeep, they symbolize speed and the stresses of modern life in a progressive yet slow-paced New England state. (Photo: Doug Kerr/flickr)

Vermont, the New England state that was once an independent country, tends to do things a bit differently. Roadside billboards are verboten (not a bad thing!), the natives revere lake monsters and soft-serve ice cream cones are unheard of — they’re creemees.

Now, in the McDonald’s-free state capital of Montpelier, Vermont’s proud and longstanding tradition of independence and individuality has extended to road infrastructure. You see, the city — a capital city so quaint it makes Pierre, South Dakota, look like a booming metropolis — isn’t fixing its pothole-plagued paved roads. It’s un-paving them altogether with the assistance of road reclaimers, specialized construction vehicles that grind the existing asphalt and smooth out the road’s surface. Next, the resulting dirt and gravel is reinforced with geotextile, a type of durable and permeable fabric used to bolster soil stability, prevent erosion and help with drainage.

Yes, Montpelier is reverting back to dirt roads.

While Wired reports that Montpelier is at the “forefront of a growing trend in public works,” this so-called “strategic retreat” isn’t necessarily born out of Vermont’s tendency to march to the beat of its own drummer (although that has something to do with it).

Simply, un-paving is less expensive than repaving as petroleum-base asphalt isn’t cheap. Faced with dwindling annual road repair budgets, rural towns like Montpelier are finding that regressing saves a significant amount of cash — cash that might be better used for larger and more urgent infrastructure needs. Case in point: by un-paving in lieu of repaving Bliss Road, a notoriously pothole-y lane just outside of town, Montpelier saved $120,000. With a population hovering just above 7,000, the city’s annual road repair budget is a mere $1.3 million.

If Montpelier’s happens to become flush with dedicated funds for road repair projects in the near future, workers can always go back and repave. But who knows — maybe that will never happen given that many Vermonters are actually rather smitten with dirt roads.

“We love our dirt roads, in kind of a weird way. Everyone’s got a mud road story,” Amy Mattinat, owner of the Auto Craftsman car repair shop in Montpelier, tells Wired. She notes that well-maintained (emphasis on well-maintained) dirt and gravel roads are “probably better” for cars than a poorly maintained paved road filled with potholes.

While a neglected country road that’s sans asphalt can certainly wreak havoc on the overall health of a car, unpaved roads that are tended to on a regular basis can indeed be safer. Polluted sediment runoff and dust — and the unsightly, dirt-crusted cars that emerge from dust — are no doubt major issues. But as Wired points out, treating unpaved roads with a dust-taming mixture of calcium chloride, vegetable oils, animal fats and organic petroleum helps significantly.

Given that many, but certainly not all, Vermonters are copacetic with freeing certain roads of their asphalt shackles, it’s also no surprise that they can react strongly when lonely dirt roads are singled out for an upgrade.

Dirt road, VermontGravel and dirt country roads are as quintessentially Vermont as covered bridges and dairy cows. (Photo: Ben Pollard/flickr)

Back in 2008, the New York Times reported that a “citizens’ uprising” was borne in the town of Brookfield, just south of Montpelier, when officials announced plans to pave a half-mile stretch of dirt road. Mortified by the prospect of the road in question being desecrated with asphalt, town residents banded together and fought back. The road was never paved. At the time, Vermont boasted 6,000 miles of paved road — and 8,000 miles of unpaved roads.

So why would the residents of a small Vermont town rally against what many would consider progress? Why wouldn’t they be thrilled that a dusty old gravel and dirt road was being treated to an asphalt makeover?

Turns out, the tendency for asphalt-hate has a lot to do with how Vermonters champion slowness in an increasingly harried world. Plus, there’s something undeniably charming about an unpaved country road. And Vermont has charm in spades.

Writes the Times:

To a lot of Vermonters, an unpaved road is a better road. People go more slowly on a dirt road. In rural Vermont, slower is better.

There is no rush hour on a dirt road. There is not much traffic, period. ‘Paved roads are for cars, not people,’ said Naomi Flanders, a performance artist who lives on a dirt road in Calais, where the residents rallied last year against a suggestion that eight-tenths of County Road be paved. ‘Dirt roads are for people.’

While Vermonters may collectively hold dirt and gravel roads in higher esteem than the residents of other states, the birthplace of Ben & Jerry’s and mail-order teddy bears certainly isn’t alone when it comes to remedying pothole-ridden roads by unpaving them. Referencing a recent report published by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), Wired notes that 27 different states have de-paved asphalt roads with much of that activity occurring over the past five years.


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Democrats ‘freaked out’ about polls in meeting with Clinton

Donald Trump Pulls Ahead by 7
Donald Trump has managed to increase his lead over Hillary Clinton to 7 points in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll. Which presidential candidate would you vote for?
• Donald Trump – 44%
• Hillary Clinton – 37%
Against all odds, Trump continues to pull ahead of Clinton in the polls. Why is this happening? No one knows for sure, but it probably has something to do with the decision reached in Clinton’s email scandal and the fact that Bernie Sanders collapsed his campaign and officially endorsed Clinton.

By Alexander Bolton –

Democrats ‘freaked out’ about polls in meeting with Clinton

Nervous Senate Democrats raised concerns with Hillary Clinton during a private meeting in the Capitol Thursday over a recent poll showing Donald Trump leading or tied in several battleground states.

“Some people were freaked out, they were looking down at the polls on RealClearPolitics and asking why it was so close,” said a Democratic senator who attended the meeting, referring to a website lawmakers were checking out on their personal devices.
Clinton’s response?
“She said there are other issues. People are unhappy and they don’t trust institutions,” the senator explained.

A second Democratic source in the meeting confirmed there was “a mention of the Florida poll.”

A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed the presumptive GOP presidential nominee up 42 percent to 39 percent in swing state Florida. Clinton had an 8-point lead in Quinnipiac’s poll of the state last month.

The same survey showed Trump ahead 2 points in Pennsylvania, another big swing state, and tied in Ohio. The three states have been pivotal in the last four presidential elections.

The source emphasized that no one suggested Clinton wasn’t running a strong race or questioned her performance.

Instead, it was an acknowledgement that the presidential race will be very close even though many Washington-based strategists and pundits across the ideological spectrum question Trump’s seriousness as a candidate.

“There was concern raised about the race because we know it’s going to be a close race,” said the source.

A senior Senate Democratic aide, who was not in the meeting, acknowledged that senators have raised concerns about the closeness of the polls at other times.

“We wouldn’t be Democrats if there weren’t a few bed-wetters,” the aide said.

But the aide said Democratic lawmakers have felt reassured that when the margin between Clinton and Trump narrows, it’s because Clinton’s numbers dip, not because Trump’s climb.

Clinton suffered a public relations blow earlier this month when FBI Director James Comey issued a statement criticizing her for being “extremely careless” in handling classified material over a private email server when she was secretary of State.

Senate Democrats are especially vested in the race because they’re resting their hopes of winning back Senate control on Clinton winning in November.

A study published last year by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics showed a high correlation between presidential and Senate results historically. In 2012, the correlation was 0.78; a perfect correlation is 1.

The sense of uneasiness among Senate Democrats is heightened by their observation that Trump has stayed within striking distance in pivotal states despite being vastly outspent.

NBC News reported this week that Clinton’s campaign and allied super-PACs have spent $57 million so far, while Trump’s campaign hasn’t spent anything, and two allied outside groups have spent only $3.6 million.

Team Clinton has outspent Team Trump in nine battleground states by a 40-1 ratio, NBC reported.

Nevertheless, Democratic senators praised the meeting as “good” and “productive.”

“It was very good. People were very excited to have her there,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said “there were questions that pertained to the campaign and strategy and things like that,” but he declined to talk about polling.

He added there’s broad recognition within the caucus that the presidential contest won’t be a cakewalk.

“It wasn’t just a meeting where everyone said ‘everything is fine, don’t worry about it.’ We know this is going to be a tough election. We see it all around us, and we have to be prepared for a close election,” he said.

TAGS:Hillary Clinton, Jeanne Shaheen, Donald Trump, Bob Casey, Senate Democrats


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Drones to unleash vaccine-laced M&Ms over Democratic National Convention to save struggling ferrets

well, it’s actually Montana…

In a plot that would make Willy Wonka proud, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is deploying autonomous flying gumball machines loaded with candy to save one of North America’s rarest mammals.

When trading ships from Asia came to San Francisco to bring goods to the States in the late 1800s, they also brought something else. Rats. And unfortunately, rats with fleas bearing Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for sylvatic plague.

Over the years the bacteria has spread eastward and proven devastating to prairie dog and black-footed ferret colonies. Sylvatic plague can cause close to 100 percent mortality of prairie dogs and is 100 percent fatal in black-footed ferrets (pictured above).

Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes, “ferrets” from hereon) and prairie dogs have had a hard time of it – the plague has been bad, as well, shooting and habitat loss have taken their toll on population numbers. In 1981, ferrets were thought to be extinct. If it weren’t for the breeding of seven remaining animals in captivity, they would be gone. At present there are only 300 ferrets remaining in the United States, making them one of the rarest animals in the country.

Prairie dogchadh/flickr/CC BY 2.0
With only 300, it’s conceivable to vaccinate them individually against sylvatic plague – but alas, the ferrets are completely dependent on prairie dogs (above) for food and shelter. So the onus is to protect both animals from disease – no easy task as prairie dog colonies are spread over vast areas.

Unless, of course, one deploys candy-spraying drones to unleash a rain of vaccine-covered M&Ms. Which is exactly what the US Fish and Wildlife (FWS) is planning to do.

The specially designed drones will be able to spit out M&Ms in three directions at once and will be aimed at prairie dog population at the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana, reports The Guardian.

“We dropped the vaccine out of a bag while walking around, but that’s very hard to do over thousands of acres,” says Randy Machett, a FWS biologist. “Spraying burrows with insecticide to kill the fleas is also labor intensive and not a long-term solution. So we are working with private contractors to develop equipment to drop the vaccine uniformly across an area, rather than one hog getting to eat a big pile of them.”

The M&Ms are smeared with vaccine-laced peanut butter, which Machett says the prairie dogs find “delicious.” (Prairie dogs aren’t stupid.)

After the trials in Montana, colonies in Arizona and Colorado will also be treated to showers of the laced candy.
“It is the fastest, cheapest way to distribute the vaccine,” Machett says. “We are hopeful this oral vaccine will be used to mitigate plague sites and treat tens of thousands of acres each year. This is what the Endangered Species Act is all about – saving species, particularly those affected by human actions.”

Tags: Animals | Diseases | Montana


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Ralph Nader to Jorge Ramos: Bernie’s endorsement set Hillary up for ‘political betrayal’

While many Democrats breathed an enormous sigh of relief when Bernie Sanders took the stage earlier today to finally endorse Hillary Clinton, his speech left many questioning the authenticity of his support. Was Sanders really finally backing the presumptive nominee? It often sounded like he was touting the success of his own campaign more than he was showing support for Clinton.

In an interview with Jorge Ramos, political activist and author Ralph Nader suggested there was, in fact, a strategy behind Sanders’ endorsement, and called the speech “brilliant.”

Nader said that listing off the many promises Clinton has made on issues like student aid, immigration reform, and minimum wage, Sanders was actually making a self-serving move.

“He set her up for political betrayal, which would allow him to enlarge his civic mobilization movement after the election and after she takes office,” Nader told Ramos. “So I think it’s a very astute endorsement.”

But don’t expect him to vote for Clinton come November 8. He called her a “deeply-rooted corporatist” and “militarist” in terms of her foreign policy.

“She’s never seen a weapons system or a war she didn’t like,” Nader told Ramos.

The five-time presidential candidate (he ran once as a write-in candidate, twice as the Green Party nominee, and twice as an independent) told Ramos there’s practically no chance for a third party run at this stage of the game, and said he will likely vote for the Libertarian or Green party nominee.

“I always believe, Jorge, in voting your conscious,” Nader said. “Not tactical votes, not least-worst votes. If you do tactical, least-worst votes, you lost your bargaining power over the candidates. They never look back when you basically say to them, ‘Well I don’t like either candidate but you’re not as bad as the other one.’”


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8 grandma-approved beauty habits to adopt now

by Melissa Breyer

Behold the spunk, simplicity, and sustainability of granny wisdom..

In the book “Food Rules,” Michael Pollan writes, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” and honestly, it’s advice well suited for any number of our modern habits. Take personal care. The last few generations have seen such a deluge of synthetic ingredients in our beauty products – things that wreak havoc on our health and that of the planet. Not to mention all of the packaging, waste, transportation requirements and other assorted collateral damage that comes along with modern merchandise. So why not wind back the clocks to simpler times and heed the advice of the women who paved the way before us? It’s time to roll up the sleeves and embrace your inner granny.

1. Eat yourself beautiful

This is one of those things that sound too good to be true … but most skincare experts seem to agree with the grandmotherly directive to eat for beauty: what you eat is crucial when it comes to the look of your skin. “I tell my patients that what they put in their mouths is as important as the products they apply on their skin,” Dr. Jessica Wu, dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face tells Forbes. “Foods get digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals and amino acids that your body can use to build healthy skin. If you crash diet or eat highly processed foods, your skin won’t be as strong and supple as it could be. For example, if you don’t eat enough protein, you are depriving your skin of the amino acids that go into making collagen (which makes your skin strong) and elastic tissue (which makes it supple).”Those on the “eat for your skin” bandwagon suggest eating fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids (sardines, chia seeds, flaxseed, walnuts), vitamin C (bell peppers, strawberries, citrus fruits, kale and broccoli) and vitamins A and E (almond butter, swiss chard, wheat germ, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots and cantaloupe). Plus these: 5 foods that will make your skin beautiful

2. Put a hat on it

How simple is this? Wear a hat. Protect your hair and face from sun and wind without having to slather on a lot of extra sunscreen (although you should always use sunscreen, too, says grandma).

3. Give your hands a hand

The 20th century saw a lot of women wearing gloves – from the ubiquitous dish gloves donned by decades of housewives to gloves for gardening and glamour gloves. And what a boon to hands that was; our hands are tools and sometimes it’s easy to neglect them, but putting some effort into protecting them will pay off when it comes to their more youthful appearance as you age. So, embrace gloves. Another smart tip when it comes to hands is one my grandmother taught me: Treat your hands like your face. When applying facial moisturizer, get your hands too – same goes with sunscreen.

4. Treat your face with food

Legend has it that Cleopatra owed at least some of her beauty to bathing in milk and honey. And while the practice would seem scandalously wasteful now, the idea of using small dabs of foodstuffs for cleansing and treatment is not a bad idea. While some may bemoan the idea of using food in any other way than feeding people who are hungry, the benefits of avoiding the deleterious effects of modern products can work to balance things out in the big picture. So: Oatmeal mask? Yogurt facial? Almond and brown sugar exfoliant? Yum. Also: 3 superfood smoothies to treat your skin.

5. Curl your hair with rags

In a world of blow-outs and perms and all kinds of gadgets to manipulate our hair, it’s hard to imagine what generations of women did before electronic appliances to style their locks into submission. Well, welcome to the world of rag curls. This nifty method of creating long ringlet-y curls requires no heat and the curls have enduring oomph. Watch the tutorial below.

6. Soothe your eyes with things from the kitchen

Your grandmother did not spend $100 on a small vial of miracle potion to relieve her eyes of dark circles and puffiness. Rather, she likely went to the kitchen and tried one of the old-school folk remedies that women have been using for ages. Try shredding raw potato and using it, squeezed out and chilled, as a poultice under your eyes. Also try slices of cold cucumber or chilled dampened tea bags, aloe vera and even cold spoons – no food – can work.

7. Don’t beat your brows

Many a grandma recommends a light touch when it comes to thinning the brows, and with good reason. With enough plucking or waxing, your brows may stop growing because of damage to the follicles. While this may not seem like the end of the world in your youth, eyebrows naturally thin as you age and it may be prudent to hold on to what you’ve got while you can.

8. Practice power flower

People have been employing flowers in beauty formulas for thousands of years, and while not every grandmother has necessarily foraged in her garden for petal remedies, it nonetheless feels like a solid granny habit to embrace. There is something undeniably lovely about plucking posies from the outdoors and creating concoctions that rely on the properties of flowers rather than a mix of chemicals stirred up in a lab.Good places to start? DIY Rose and chamomile face scrub and lavender deodorant. So very granny!

And the bonuses, because no good grandma advice would be complete without a few extra nuggets: Drink plenty of water, get plenty of fresh air, take a walk, and don’t forget to smile.

Tags: Beauty Treatments | Natural Remedies


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Why do dogs like to ride in cars?

It may be the wind in their hair or they could feel like they’re hunting.

dog looking out car window in a parade

Imagine the sights and the smells! (Photo: Daniel Ramirez/flickr)

The jangle of car keys or the mere sound of the word “ride” can send some dogs into paroxysms of happiness. There’s frantic dancing and joyful bouncing until the car door opens, then an ecstatic leap inside for a ride of what must seem like pure euphoria.

There doesn’t appear to be a lot of research about why so many dogs enjoy car rides, but many dog owners have witnessed the glee firsthand. Experts surmise it may have to do with things like the smorgasbord of smells or simply who’s in the car with them.

Stanley Coren, dog behaviorist and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, points out that dogs have 225 million olfactory receptacles in their noses, compared with the mere 50 million we have.

“If you crack the window,” Coren tells the Globe and Mail, “a dog gets a kaleidoscopic view of the world through his nose, as the scents are changing all the time. We [humans] are visual animals … A dog lives through his nose.”

Imagine the smells he’s picking up as you zip out of your neighborhood, past parks and restaurants, schools and businesses, and places where lots and lots of other dogs have been.

“I’m not sure they’re getting a high, per se,” Dr. Melissa Bain, a veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, tells Car and Driver. “But they are getting a lot of input at higher speed.”

Plus, it may just feel good.

dog sticking head out the truck windowSome dogs may just like the wind in their hair. (Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/flickr)

But it may not be just the smells that dogs like when they’re in the car.

Vermont dog trainer Kevin Behan believes dogs like being in the car because it stirs up feelings of being on the hunt.

When your dog is in the car with his “pack” — the people he’s bonded with — and you’re all swaying and moving together and facing the same direction, this synchronized motion can give your dog the feeling that he’s part of a group that’s on the hunt, Behan says.

Behan explains that some dogs are so overtaken by this urge that they think the animals and objects they see outside the window are prey. Once they get out of the car, they need to get rid of all that energy:

“For some dogs the feeling can grow so strong that when their emotional or carrying capacity is exceeded, they strike at things going past. This is when the prey instinct, an automatic, hardwired reflex, takes over in order to make the kill. (We need to remember that it’s only in our mind that a dog on a sidewalk is motionless relative to the dog in the moving car. For the dog in the car, the dog on the sidewalk is moving 30, 40 or 50 mph and that’s a pretty fast prey animal.) Some dogs have a higher carrying capacity and can retain a feeling of arousal for the potential moment in the future when they will be let out of the car so as to express the internalized energy in a concrete way, such as running around, rolling on the ground, playing Frisbee or going for a hike with their owner.”

Although there could be serious hereditary instincts kicking in when your pup vaults into the backseat, the explanation might be simpler, says Dr. Brian Hare, Duke University associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center. Your pup likely has figured out that a car ride usually means you’ll end up somewhere interesting.

At the very least, he tells Car and Driver, “dogs associate the car with a good outcome: ‘When I get in this thing, good things happen.’ At the most they understand that they’re going somewhere.”

But the other good part? They’re just happy to be going somewhere with you, Hare says.

“If you give dogs a choice between being with a person or with other dogs, dogs prefer to be with ­people.”


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‘Welcome to Jupiter!’ NASA’s Juno space probe arrives at giant planet

By Amanda Barnett, –


NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally reaches Jupiter 01:31

Story highlights

  • Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter
  • It was launched five years ago to study the planet’s composition
  • Juno is a spinning, robotic probe as wide as a basketball court

Jet Propulsion Lab, California (CNN)NASA says it has received a signal from 540 million miles across the solar system, confirming its Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

Welcome to Jupiter!” flashed on screens at mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.
The Juno team cheered and hugged.
“This is phenomenal,” said Geoff Yoder, acting administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The probe had to conduct a tricky maneuver to slow down enough to allow it to be pulled into orbit: It fired its main engine for 35 minutes, effectively hitting the brakes to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second).
“NASA did it again,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator.
“We’re there, we’re in orbit. We conquered Jupiter.”
“Through tones Juno sang to us and it was a song of perfection,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno Project Manager, referring to the audio signal the probe sent to indicate it was in orbit.
The Juno team celebrates at Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter’s composition andevolution. It’s the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo. Galileo was deliberately crashed into Jupiter on September 21, 2003, to protect one of its discoveries — a possible ocean beneath Jupiter’s moon Europa.
“Preliminary looks are that the spacecraft is performing well ,” said Guy Beutelschies, Director of Interplanetary Missions at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the company that built the spacecraft.
Steve Levin, Juno Project Scientist, looked ahead to turning on the probe’s instruments again, after they were turned off in preparation for the tricky orbit maneuver.
“What I’m really looking forward to is getting up close and personal with Jupiter,” he said.

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