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Language “police” try again

STAPHORST – Hoping to spur a change in moral values, a village in the so-called Dutch “Bible belt,” where religious belief runs strong, has approved a ban on swearing, according to Holland’s Expatica magazine.

The proposal passed in Staphorst, population 16,000, states that the ban “can be seen as a signal.” However, a caveat that says swearing isn’t banned when it is an expression of the constitutional freedom of speech could make it difficult to punish offenders.

In 1986, the Dutch High Court declared that stronger swearing bans passed in the region violated the right to free expression. One other town has a similar ban. The new campaign was a joint effort by two Christian parties, both small nationally but influential locally. The Dutch Association Against Swearing runs national billboard campaigns to admonish the bad-mouthed Dutch, noting that the Bible outlaws swearing.

One tour operator says that Staphorst “hasn’t changed in 300 years,” Expatica reported. Another says women there never wear trousers, except metaphorically, and most residents attend church twice on Sundays. Some of the locals even oppose television, blood transfusions and inoculations against dangerous diseases on religious grounds.

New study: Doctor costs not linked to court awards

LEBANON, NH – Huge jury awards and financial settlements for injured patients are not the cause of increases in doctors’ insurance premiums, according to a new Dartmouth College study. A more likely explanation, reports The Boston Globe, is that malpractice insurance companies have raised doctors’ premiums to compensate for falling investment returns.

Dartmouth economists looked at actual payments made to patients between 1991 and 2003, publishing their findings in Health Affairs. Payments grew an average of 4 percent annually, or 52 percent overall since 1991, but only 1.6 percent a year since 2000, they found. The increases are roughly equivalent to the overall rise in health-care costs, said lead author Amitabh Chandra, an assistant professor of economics at the college.

In contrast, malpractice insurance premiums for internists, general surgeons and obstetricians have skyrocketed since 2000, jumping up to 25 percent in 2002 alone. ProMutual Group, which covers about a third of the doctors in Massachusetts, raised rates an average of 11 percent last year, 20 percent in 2003, and 12.5 percent in 2002. Specialists such as obstetricians now pay almost $100,000 annually for their malpractice insurance.

“One of the things we know about medical malpractice payments is that they’re usually made when an injury occurred,” Chandra explained. “The injury has to be treated. And if it’s more and more expensive to treat injuries, then that will be reflected in payments.” best thing

Previous studies have shown that jury awards are often reduced after a trial to reflect doctors’ insurance coverage maximums, or because the plaintiff settles for less money to avoid an appeal.

Secessionists or racists?

Concerns raised over Vermont links to neo-Confederates

Pictured above: Thomas Naylor of Charlotte, a co-founder of the Second Vermont Republic

Editor’s Note: This version has been corrected to clarify that the Free State Movement has not faced charges of racism or xenophobia. An earlier version left an incorrect impression.

If you’ve heard about the idea of Vermont secession then you probably heard it from the Second Vermont Republic (SVR).

The organization is led by a small group of individuals committed to returning Vermont to its original status as an independent republic like it was from 1777 to 1791. In other words, they hope to secede from the United States.


While SVR is by no means a large political movement, it seems to be gaining momentum and garnering publicity. They’ve been spotlighted in the Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Christian Science Monitor, Montreal Gazette, and many others. The Vermont Commons, a sister publication, was a Utne Reader finalist for “Best New Title, 2005.” In 2006, the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont even conducted a poll that found that 8 per cent of all eligible voters in Vermont support the idea of secession.

However, while the idea is gaining mainstream attention, perhaps as a quaint oddity, some Vermonters, led by a group of bloggers, are calling into question the integrity of some members on SVR’s advisory board and their connection to racist groups in the South.

Recently, John Odum of Montpelier, who launched the popular Vermont political blog, Green Mountain Daily, received an e-mail from an anonymous blogger called Thomas Rowley, the name of one of the original Green Mountain Boys who fought for Vermont’s independence. Rowley’s blog,, has been tracking the workings of SVR and according to Odum, the real Rowley has a long history of monitoring hate groups. He/she asked Odum if anyone has ever investigated SVR and Vermont Commons based on what the individual claimed were ties to neo-confederate organizations such as the League of the South (LOS).

Rowley’s probe began after SVR co-chairman Rob Williams of Waitsfield was a guest on Vermont Public Radio’s Switchboard and presented a revisionist account of Pres. Abraham Lincoln.

Many secessionists believe Lincoln was not interested in freeing slaves in the South but was bent on imperialist powers.

Rowley told Odum the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — an organization known for tracking hate groups — said this belief of Lincoln is “part and parcel” of the neo-Confederate movement, which the SPLC says “includes a number of organizations that generally share goals such as preserving Confederate monuments, honoring the Confederate battle flag, and/or lauding what is judged to be ‘Southern’ culture,” according to its website.

And, SPLC staff say any connection to the League of the South should raise alarms.

“No matter what the league says, it has been opposed to inter-racial marriage. It’s intellectuals — in official league writings — have defended segregation as a policy to protect the integrity of both black and white people and their leader has called for a hierarchical society in which different classes will have different legal rights. In other words, they are calling for a feudal society modeled very much on a theocracy,” said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “This is a group that has harbored large numbers of racists of all kinds and in our view it’s obviously a white supremacist group.”

SVR co-founder Thomas Naylor of Charlotte claims his organization has no direct link to LOS, and more importantly SVR is in no way racist.

They “charge that because the SVR’s website has a link to the LOS that therefore we must in bed with them, failing to take into consideration that through our sister organization the Middlebury Institute we have links to all 35 of the secessionists groups and we’re in bed with none of them, in particular the LOS. We have no relation with the LOS and all of the secessionist groups ideologically are all over the place,” said Naylor in a recent radio interview with Steve West, on WKVT-AM in Brattleboro.

And, according to a recent statement released by the Middlebury Institute, a think-tank dedicated to the study of secessionism, the League of the South’s directors have renounced its racist past — on June 21, 2005.

“The problem is Abraham Lincoln did such a number on the American people 150 years ago that most Vermonters when they think of secession, they think of slavery and racism and if you’re a Southern secessionist by definition you have to be racist,” said Naylor. “Writing off the LOS because it’s a Southern secessionist group is based on a position of total ignorance. The only common ground between us and the LOS is unconditional antagonism and hostility toward the American empire.” best proxy sites 2018

Facing war crimes charges, Rumsfeld skips security summit

MUNICH — Claiming a prior commitment, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has decided not to attend the Munich Security Conference in February. But the decision may also be due to a war crimes complaint against him in a German court, according to Deutsche Welle.

In December, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed the complaint with the Federal German Prosecutor’s Office, accusing Rumsfeld of war crimes and torture due to his involvement in the war in Iraq.

The defense secretary later sent a message to the German government through the U.S. embassy in Berlin that he wouldn’t attend the Feb. 11-13 meeting if there were a chance a case will be launched against him in Germany. When he informed the German government he would not take part in the conference, however, he didn’t refer to the charges.

Rumsfeld skips security summit

In the Jan. 21 Münchner Abendzeitung newspaper, conference chief Horst Teltschik reported that Rumsfeld will instead send the Pentagon’s number three official, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

Spy branch using “notorious figures”

WASHINGTON — A new U.S. spying agency has been operating secretly in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years. Called the Strategic Support Branch, the unit also has been active in other places, The Washington Post reported on Jan. 23.

The new agents may include “notorious figures” whose association with the United States would be embarrassing if revealed, according to a Pentagon memo. The initiative also encroaches on the traditional territory of the CIA and gives Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld unprecedented authority over foreign spying at a time when Congress is trying to group an array of intelligence agencies under a new national intelligence director.

A planning memo to Rumsfeld from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, said the initiative focuses on emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Georgia.

Posted February 3, 2005

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News | The Spaceman cometh: Bill Lee talks baseball

He’s one of the game’s most colorful personalities; a rare diamond in the rough among the cookie-cutter characters that seem to make up today’s Major League Baseball.

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is a southpaw pitcher drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1968. Known for once pitching in his famous astronaut suit, Lee played nine seasons for the Sox and four with the Montreal Expos. He has a lifetime record 119 wins, 90 loses, a 3.62 earned run average and was a member of the 1973 American League All-Star team. But the one statistic that is “ hardwired in my cerebrum” he said is the 12 times he beat the New York Yankees when pitching for the Sox.

Like most Sox fans, there is no love lost between Lee, the New York Yankees, owner George Steinbrenner, and especially with former Sox manager and Yankees’ third base coach Don Zimmer. Zimmer had no tolerance for Lee’s antics and would often bench him, the most memorable of which was during a critical four-game series in 1978 known as “The Boston Massacre.” The Yankees outslugged the Sox 42-9 in the series.

Most of all, Lee loves the game and considers himself a baseball purist. He despises the designated hitter rule, games played on artificial turf, and polyester uniforms, and started a company that sells wooden baseball bats made from yellow birch.

He is the author of three best-selling books — The Wrong Stuff with Richard Lally, The Little Red (Sox) Book with Jim Prime, and Have Glove Will Travel, also with Lally.

Lee lives in Craftsbury and has called Vermont home for 25 years. Today, he still plays baseball in tournaments around the country, including the Vermont Men’s Senior League, and teaches an annual class at Middlebury College about the Negro Baseball League.
With the 2007 baseball season underway, the Vermont Guardian caught up with Spaceman to talk about the Red Sox, their new pitcher Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka, rising baseball ticket prices, and much more.

Bill Lee talks baseball

VG: So the Red Sox home opener is April 10 against the Seattle Mariners. How do they compare with the 2004 Red Sox that won the coveted World Series? And, do you also think “Dice-K” is the real deal?
Lee: Oh, he’s the real deal from what I’ve seen so far. I mean I’ve only seen him throw three games, but all three of them have been gems. He’s got good command and it forces Curt Schilling to be a better pitcher than he was the other night and if Josh Beckett can stay away from the home run ball and get his act together, you’ve got three great starters right there and if you get Jon Lester back, strong and healthy, that’s four, and then you can throw Tim Wakefield in who can throw a lot of innings, and save your bullpen. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t have a great year.

VG: And how do the rest of the players stack up?
Lee: Well, [the other pitchers] Julian Tavarez is starting right now and he threw well at the end of last season and Joel Pinero I thought threw well. His arm looks healthy and gosh darn with the closer they’ve got [in Jonathan Papelbon], he’s unbelievable. So, I’m pretty impressed. I just think they’re going to need one more hitter in that line-up somewhere. I don’t know about shortstop Julio Lugo or their lead-off guy Coco Crisp. Third baseman Mike Lowell should come on and have a pretty good season near the end, but catcher Jason Varitek is your big question mark. I worry about him. He just doesn’t seem to have any bullets in his gun when he’s at the plate.

VG: You’re a baseball purist. A concern is that with ticket prices going up will the average Vermonter be able to attend Major League Baseball games? Can anything be done?
Lee: Well, the New York and Boston common man can’t go to the ballpark anymore either. It’s a day of the past I think. It costs way too much money and it’s supply and demand and a very elitist thing. I mean [look at the opening series with the Texas Rangers]. There were more Red Sox fans then there were Rangers fans. If you go to spring training games, it’s more Red Sox fans selling out all these games. Something about landing the Mayflower on the east coast, everybody seems to have a claim to New England and thereby a lot of Red Sox fans. I think we’re even blowing out New York fans now for some reason.

VG: Do you think Steinbrenner shelling out cash for all these big name ballplayers has anything to do with driving ticket prices up?
Lee: Oh, for sure. You buy your own TV network and now you’re a conglomerate; you own everything and it’s just tough. You can’t get to the games. If people are waiting in line for season’s tickets for people to die, it’s almost like the [Green Bay] Packers. These two teams seem to be that way forever.

VG: I know you live in the Northeast Kingdom but what brought you there and what made you want to stay?
Lee: Oh, I came down from Montreal. I didn’t come up. Most people think you come up to the Northeast Kingdom. I came down into the United States because of the Red Sox fantasy camp. John and Stuart Savage ran it and they were from Vermont, that’s what brought me to Vermont the first time and one of the fantasy campers owned a farm up there and his barn collapsed and forced him to sell part of his property and I bought the 14 acres on top of the ridge and built a house up there and it’s been there ever since. It’s just the neatest little community in the world, Craftsbury.

VG: Now I understand every year Middlebury College invites you to co-teach a class about the Negro Leagues. Do you still do it?
Lee: Yep, still do. It’s Karl Lindholm’s. He brings me in and teaches a course on old-time baseball, the economics of baseball, and the race relations of baseball. I was the player rep and John Milner [of the Mets] said I was only white guy allowed on the back of the bus, so it’s kind of very apropos and he’ll bring me in on May 10 on the final day of class, have a little seminar and discuss the relationship of the past, present, and future of the game. It’s just kind of a little perk for the students. That’s why I think Middlebury is the greatest school on the face of the Earth.

VG: Now in terms of your baseball trips to Cuba, what are some of your favorite memories?
Lee: You could be driving the bus down and park it on the side of the road and have a pick-up game with the locals anytime after four o’clock. Everybody gets out of work and they go out and go out and play baseball on any little field. You can get a game anywhere in Cuba just by stopping the bus and that’s something you can’t do in the United States.

VG: You’ve written three books on baseball so far. Any more on the way?
Lee: Yeah, I have a new one coming out this month called Baseball Eccentrics: The Most Entertaining, Outrageous, and Unforgettable Characters in the Game that’s being published by Triumph Books and should be out any day now and they’re going have me tour it around.

Bill Lee-isms

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is remembered for his often funny and irreverent quotes. Here are some of his classics:

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The Earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.”

“I would change policy, bring back natural grass and nickel beer. Baseball is the belly button of our society. Straighten out baseball, and you straighten out the rest of the world.”

“There’s nothing in the world like the fatalism of the Red Sox fans, which has been bred into them for generations by that little green ballpark, and the wall, and by a team that keeps trying to win by hitting everything out of sight and just out-bombarding everyone else in the league. All this makes Boston fans a little crazy and I’m sorry for them.”

“You take a team with twenty-five assholes and I’ll show you a pennant. I’ll show you the New York Yankees.”

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Just like magic Cartoon

The Center for Cartoon Studies publishes its first graphic novel: Houdini the Handcuff King

Since its inception in the fall of 2005, The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) in White River Junction, a two-year cartooning school and studio concentrating on the creating and marketing of comics and graphic novels, has grown by leaps and bounds under the direction of co-founders James Sturm and Michelle Ollie.

In a short period of time, CCS has cultivated an impressive advisory board that is a relative “who’s who” of cartoonists and publishers: Steve Bissette, co-creator of Saga of the Swamp Thing; Denis Kitchen, president, Kitchen Sink Press; Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics; and industry giants William Horberg of Wonderland Films, Diana Schutz of Dark Horse Comics, and Will Eisner, the creator of sequential art.

Earlier this month, CCS introduced its first book in a series of graphic novels for young readers, titled Houdini the Handcuff King.

Created by cartoonists Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi (from Seattle and New York respectively), the premise of the book is to present a snapshot moment in the life of Harry Houdini and focus on only one specific incident in an effort to enhance the intrigue that surrounded the talents and accomplishments of a man who, at his peak, was arguably the most famous person in the world.

“I was paid to learn at the knee of one of my favorite cartoonists,” Bertozzi said. “In fact, I show his thumbnails to my students as the Gold Standard for clear cartooning. Working with him was a little intimidating at first.”

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In traditional graphic-novel style, the large panels and bold illustrations reveal Houdini as he prepares and then executes one of his most famous stunts, a death-defying leap off Boston’s Harvard Bridge while handcuffed.

The bold artwork effectively transcends the various emotions; a nervous excitement from the gathering crowd, detailed facial expressions, suspenseful anticipation, and even a hint of anti-Semitism, when it is revealed through the comments of a policeman that Houdini was of Jewish decent.

An introduction into the life of Houdini as well as a collection of panel discussions are also included in this 96-page, hardbound edition, giving the reader a clearer picture of the magician’s personal life including his wife Bess and right-hand man Beatty, and the frenzy surrounding the crowds and newspaper reporters who followed him.

CCS also recently announced a creative partnership with Sunrise Greeting Cards, which will showcase the work of several CCS cartoonists beginning in 2008.

“It is great to be able to give our students the opportunity to earn income while at the same time being introduced to an industry that can help support them while they continue to work on their comics and graphic novel projects,” Ollie said.

The school will host its first commencement ceremony on May 19, with an estimated 20 students participating.

The institution’s first commencement speaker will be cartoonist-icon Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the daily comic strip Mutts. McDowell’s comic strip appears in some 700 newspapers around the world. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz once declared Mutts one of the greatest comic strips all time.

In an increasingly visual and graphic U.S. culture, the art of cartooning and the age of graphic novels is seeing a resurgence through the explosion of imported comics and a global fascination with cartoon animation.

As the only college-level training program of its kind in the United States, CCS hopes to ride the cusp of this ever-growing animation wave of success.  click here to login for more information