Getting to the dark heart of ‘Conspiracy’

first_imgIn 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazi officers and German bureaucrats gathered in a villa in a lakeside suburb of Berlin for a secret meeting to discuss the extermination of every Jew in Europe.In 1997, Emmy Award-winning writer Loring Mandel began to craft a screenplay based on the only known surviving record of the Wannsee Conference, where momentum built behind the Final Solution. His work eventually became the 2001 HBO movie “Conspiracy,” starring Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci.In 2012, Caleb Thompson ’14 traveled to New York for an afternoon meeting with Mandel and his agent at the Museum of Modern Art to talk about bringing a version of Mandel’s theatrical adaptation of the screenplay to Harvard.This weekend, “Conspiracy,” a Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC) production, premieres at the Loeb Mainstage at the American Repertory Theater. Thompson is the play’s director.The story has been brought to the stage only once before, in an amateur production in East Lansing, Mich. The film is theatrical in that it presents the conference in real time. Thompson, whose first encounter with the film, as a teen, coincided with a budding interest in the stage, expanded on this notion. The movie, he said, was “remarkable … with a complete unity of time and place.” Also, “I think it offers a portrait of human evil unanticipated by any other work or moment in history. The Wannsee Conference represents a certain human instinct or view of the universe taken to its absolute extreme. In my hubris, I thought this could make quite a good play.”Lunch in New York led to a series of email exchanges, conversations, script tinkering, and a recent visit to Harvard by Mandel, who sat in on a rehearsal and met with the cast and crew.Mandel, 85, penned the stage version with an eye toward using the play as a teaching tool and conversation-starter in schools, churches, and synagogues. “At our first meeting [Caleb] asked if I was adamant about making no changes,” recalled Mandel. “I told him that I was always interested in improving it, if there is a way to improve it.”Throughout rehearsals, the two worked closely to fine-tune the script. While the changes amounted mostly to slight tweaks and adjustments, Mandel also worked through a substantive revision of the end of one crucial scene.“Loring took the script away, emailed me three or four days later and said ‘How about this?’ ” said Thompson. “It totally solved the problem. It’s fantastic. It’s an indication of his generosity of spirit that he has been happy to rewrite parts of his script.”Beyond being a boon for the cast and crew, Mandel’s engagement has shown how near the project is to his heart, said Thompson.“At Harvard we do get opportunities to work with professionals, but it’s very rare that we get to work with a professional who, I think, is so invested in the project. He is invested in this being a success.”Mandel was introduced to the idea for “Conspiracy” in the 1990s by his friend Frank Pierson, a screenwriter-director whose writing credits included cinema classics “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Cool Hand Luke.” (Pierson died in 2012.)“I had never heard of the Wannsee Conference,” said Mandel. But when Pierson told him it was the first thing he had encountered about the Holocaust that angered him rather than making him want to cry, Mandel grew interested. After researching the conference, he signed on to the project as screenwriter, with Pierson set to direct.Although the pair wanted to make the film as realistic as possible, confining the action to the conference alone, they fretted that 15 men talking at a table might flop in a culture accustomed to “physical action, explosions, and violent confrontations.”They had no need to worry. “Conspiracy” was critically acclaimed and won several awards, including Emmys for best actor (Branagh) and writing (Mandel).Thompson has stayed true to the movie’s sparse model for the stage. The 80-minute play takes place in one room. Though he forbade his cast members from watching the film, he helped them research in detail the inner workings of the Third Reich and the lives of their characters. He also relied on Mandel, who used his visit to offer the actors insight on the motivations and complex relationships of the various characters.Difficult material is nothing new for the young director. He staged his first play — David Mamet’s charged “Glengarry Glen Ross” — in high school. At Harvard, Thompson has directed plays such as the 17th-century Spanish drama “Life is a Dream” by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, which explores themes of free will and fate, and “Talk Radio,” a play by Eric Bogosian about a truculent radio host.But directing “Conspiracy” at Harvard, from which so many of tomorrow’s leaders have and are setting out, had special relevance, he said.While people of his generation tend to associate racial hatred with ignorance, he said, “Conspiracy” makes the point that “the greatest crime in human history was perpetrated by 15 intelligent, educated, enlightened, sophisticated, witty, urbane, idealistic young men.“The guys sitting at that table thought they were the most progressive society in the world. They thought that they were creating a sort of racial utopia … [‘Conspiracy’] is a kind of reminder that we always have to temper of our intellectual advancement with a moral awareness.”As for the actors, connecting to their characters has sometimes proved daunting. Portraying profound evil is no easy task. “It’s extremely challenging. If you are to play a part properly or convincingly, some tiny part of you has to empathize,” said Thompson.Senior Adam Conner, whose roles with HRDC have run from hilarious to heart-rending, said that while he welcomed the challenge of playing Holocaust “architect” Reinhard Heydrich, he also feared his emotions might get in the way.Conner credited Thompson’s deft direction with getting the most from his cast.“The improvement in my performance — solely a result of Caleb’s input and direction — has put me in a place I know I would never have gotten with this character by myself.”“Conspiracy,” supported by Harvard’s Office for the Arts, opens Friday at 8 p.m. at the Loeb Drama Center, with performances to run through Nov. 17 and then Nov. 21 through Nov. 23. This Saturday, Loring Mandel will take part in a discussion following the show.last_img read more

An Inspector Calls’ Barbara Marten on Soggy Costumes, a Collapsing Set & Her Show-Biz Marriage

first_img View Comments Barbara Marten in ‘An Inspector Call'(Photo: Mark Douet) Barbara Marten is a veteran presence on stage and screen with a sizable range of British TV credits that include a series regular on The Bill. The actress has returned to the West End to give a scorching performance as the imperious Sybil Birling in two-time Tony-winner Stephen Daldry’s legendary production of An Inspector Calls, the 1940s J.B. Priestley play that is back for an encore London run, this time at the Playhouse Theatre. Marten spoke one recent afternoon about the enduring appeal of a play set in 1912 that speaks to us now and of acting in the rain and on a set that collapses (on purpose!) eight times a week.Were you surprised to find yourself part of a production that was first seen at the National Theatre in 1992, before transferring to Broadway and, many times over, to the West End?I’d seen the Alastair Sim film [from 1954] and another adaptation for TV several years ago, but I actually hadn’t seen this particular production—even though it’s only been around for 25 years! In a way, that wasn’t a bad thing: I was quite glad to come to [the play] completely fresh.Was it difficult finding your way into so high-concept a production [the production conceives the Birling family home as a sort of doll house on stilts, surrounded by a dank, gritty landscape]?Stephen’s take on the production is all about music, setting and the sheer size of the piece all making a difference across three acts that we perform without an intermission, so it was a question of finding my way into that. What I discovered is that it’s a beautifully simple idea—the way, in our staging, the Birling family are people of privilege and responsibility who quite simply don’t see the lower classes; they regard them as a class apart as if they’re not quite people.How do you interpret the set, given that the house sits at a precarious angle toward the back of the stage before it all comes crashing down?What’s so amazing about the design is the way the Birling family are almost drawn down by the Inspector from their eyrie, if you will, so that he can get at them and drive through his mission—which is to get them all to state their case and defend themselves.Do you ever get vertigo?There is, in fact, a slight feeling of vertigo when you first come out and we have had one cast member bump their head on the set already. The task for my character is all about navigating her extraordinary dress down the spiral staircase. I have to grab hold of it almost as if it’s another character. My first thought was, what am I going to have to do to get through this eight times a week, but I’ve found it quite energetic, really.How do you respond to the onstage rain?I get wet—sometimes very wet. I have two costumes because it does get fairly soggy, and we have had two cast members off with tonsillitis. I tend to be all right because I’m wrapped in a blanket, but I do have drawers full of remedies. What do you respond to in Sybil Birling—the family matriarch—as a part?As it happens I grew up in County Durham and have lived in Yorkshire, where our play is set, for 25 years, so I know the industrial landscape with the cobblestones and terraced houses that our production draws upon. But I wanted not to play Sybil as a Yorkshirewoman but a representative of her class, so that we could be in London just as well as Yorkshire. The arc of the part is interesting in that I have quite a quiet time in the final act, really. It’s the central section of the play that is the most high-powered for Sybil, really. She’s the one the Inspector has to crack who seems to be the least sympathetic and the most defensive—until such time as she is broken. Is it fun playing the power she at least thinks she has?It’s terribly good fun! I will say that it took me a while to adjust to the size with which you’ve got to pay her because she really is quite heightened; you can’t get all naturalistic with it. But the fact is her attitudes are who she is and I like exposing those. It’s intriguing, however briefly, to feel that power. Have you been surprised to see so many young people at the play? I attended a sold-out matinee that consisted largely of schoolchildren.Well, [the play] is a set text on the British curriculum at the moment, so we have had a lot of school parties, but what’s great is how connected they are to the story. They really see Mrs. Birling for what she is, which is that she’s appalling, however, glamorous she may seem.Why do you think young audiences connect so well to the enduring message of the play, about civic responsibility and belonging to society?BR> I just think younger audiences have a very keen sense of justice and that, of course, changes as you get on in life. One becomes more selfish almost by necessity as you get older because one has to find one’s way, but our audiences may not yet be aware of that.Were you worried that it might seem at all message-laden?In fact, as you know, the remarkable thing is that it really isn’t. Priestley obviously has something to say but he’s done it via a dramatic, enthralling detective story where an inspector who seems to come from another realm [the aptly named Inspector Goole] interrogates each member of a particular Yorkshire family quite vigorously. [The play] is highly theatrical and dramatic and also full of unexpected thrills: the story takes you on quite a journey where people really don’t know what is happening next.Does the production have a pertinence to today?When Stephen first did it, the relevance was all to do with what we now see was the end of the Thatcher era and her famous comment that there was “no such thing as society.” Now we have this situation in Europe and across the Middle East where we have this community of the dispossessed and have to ask how much are we really stepping out to help people? In the play, the Birlings don’t really see Eva Smith [the unseen factory worker whose fate drives the plot] as anything beyond factory fodder, just as we don’t see what is going on the third world. What’s it like being in a show-biz marriage? [Marten’s husband is the writer Mike Kenny, whose plays include the long-running London hit The Railway Children].There are always moments where, for instance with The Railway Children, I will hear that Mike has written a great part for me and then I find out that [the play] is going to be on during the summer holidays when our three sons are home. I’m sad that I never got to do that particular play because it’s a lovely piece and is coming off now in January, but there’s been talk about repositioning it in India on the railways there which would be quite something. Did you find recompense of sorts in being in last season’s West End sensation People, Places and Things, for which leading lady Denise Gough [soon to be seen in the National’s Angels in America] won an Olivier? I loved doing that play. In terms of naturalism, that was almost diametrically opposed to Inspector in that it was all about making those characters as real as we could, and that was very much led by Denise’s performance, which was so uncompromisingly true.Was it a challenge to keep pace with her performance?Particularly in the psychiatric scenes [Marten played the Gough character’s mother, doctor and therapist] I found her power quite daunting because the doctor didn’t have anything to say to equal it. But we developed a good onstage relationship that meant I was very much there alongside her. Doing that play with Denise was like watching someone grow up.last_img read more

Practicing Gratitude in Relationships

first_imgFor resilient marriages, thanks is best given year-round, not just at the holidays. That’s according to University of Georgia researchers at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.“We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last,” said study coauthor Ted Futris, a human development and family science professor and UGA Cooperative Extension family life specialist.The 2015 study found that feelings of gratitude boosted marital satisfaction, commitment and stability, especially during difficult times. In the study, couples who had mismatched and counterproductive styles of conflict — the kind where one spouse brings up every harm done, while the other goes quiet and withdraws — could withstand that dysfunction with something called “perceived gratitude.”“As long as they felt appreciated by their spouse, they weren’t thinking about divorce as much,” said lead author Allen Barton, who earned his doctoral degree in human development and family sciences at UGA in 2013 and is now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois. “It goes to show the power of ‘thank you.’”Here’s how implementing gratitude into marriage could work:Figure out what to be grateful forIf you’re thinking more about what you wish your spouse had done rather than appreciating what they actually do, it might be because you’re not seeing what your spouse is putting into — or at least is trying to put into — the relationship. After all, people tend to be more aware of the work they put in than what others are doing.“Start with the recognition that we’re all prone to be a little more self-centered than we might realize,” Barton said. “You have to be aware of it. We’re not as fair and objective as we’d like to think.”So, acknowledge that your spouse might have been making an effort in ways you don’t see.How to start the conversationIf you’re not sure whether your spouse feels appreciated, you could try asking.“Start by telling them the reason,” Barton said. “‘I want you to feel valued in this relationship’ and then simply ask ‘Is there any area in our relationship where you feel unappreciated?’”If so, ask how you can change that.But be careful of when you’re asking the question. It’s best to avoid this conversation when you’re putting your kids to bed or in a period of conflict.Many ways to say thank youWhen it comes to expressing gratitude, you could just say thank you. But there are other options that might be more meaningful to your spouse — gifts, cards, or even just a midday text message.Of course, expressing gratitude is only one component of a healthy marriage. And what is a problem for one marriage may never come up in another. The real measure of resilient marriages, Futris said, is how couples interact day after day.”All couples have disagreements and argue. And, when couples are stressed, they are likely to have more arguments,” he said. “What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don’t is not how often they argue, but how they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.”last_img read more

Shumlin focuses on rebuilding Vermont while reshuffling agencies in budget address

first_imgVermont Governor Peter Shumlin presented his FY 2013 budget to the Legislature today that he says will bridge a $51 million budget gap without the use of broad based taxes. State government managed to do the same last year with a much greater budget deficit looming. Some of the shortfall will be made up by consolidating state offices, thus making them more efficient. Commerce, Transportation and Natural Resources into the National Life building in Montpelier; moving Education into a single facility in Barre and consolidating Human Services into a new or significantly refurbished building in Waterbury.Shumlin is also proposing that the Education Fund be increased $6 million to $282 million, as well as $8 million more for the University of Vermont and the State College system as part of his focus on the importance of education to the economy. To this end he proposes making the commissioner of education a secretary.The $5.1 billion budget directs $18 million to Irene recovery needs and $45 million more in Transportation funding to ensure that road and bridge infrastructure is better prepared for severe weather.Fiscal Year 2013 Budget AddressGovernor Peter ShumlinJanuary 12, 2012 Members of the General Assembly, distinguished guests, fellow Vermonters: Thank you for getting to work so quickly. This is the earliest budget address in a decade, enabling us to accomplish the important work Vermonters sent us to do and adjourn in a timely fashion. Since my budget is being presented before the official revenue forecast is updated, refinements may be required if projections change significantly. Today, I present a budget that makes the necessary choices to match our spending with Vermonters’ ability to pay. This is a balanced budget that protects our most vulnerable, strategically invests new dollars in making Vermont the education state, and builds on our strong jobs future. Last year, we made tough choices to close a $176 million gap. Today, I present a budget that closes a $51 million shortfall without raising broad-based taxes on hardworking Vermonters who continue to struggle to make ends meet.  This budget also preserves programs for Vermont’s most vulnerable: our seniors, Vermonters with disabilities, our children, and those who live in poverty.    *** We face two challenges this year: to rebuild this state better than Irene found us, and to continue to build our bright jobs future. To those who say we can’t do both at the same time, I say: we must. We start by getting credit to entrepreneurs when they need it most. In partnership with Treasurer Beth Pearce, we are asking the legislature to increase the state’s moral obligation support for VEDA by up to $30 million. Next, with over 600 historic buildings in our downtowns flooded by Irene, many Vermonters who were put out of work are counting on us. I am proposing an additional $500,000 in downtown tax credits. Each dollar leverages 16 additional dollars in job creation, and every million dollars creates 110 new jobs. For the municipalities hit by Irene, I recommend we provide assistance in two ways: first, my budget increases the state match for town highways on the federal aid system. Second, for those towns whose storm damage completely overwhelms their ability to pay, the state will pay your entire share of the FEMA match. My message to towns is clear: we stand with you all the way as we rebuild together. Many individuals and communities are facing tough decisions about whether to rebuild in flood plains.  The FEMA buyout program only covers 75 percent of the pre-disaster property value. The goal is for the state to cover the remaining 25 percent where needed. Through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board we will provide a minimum of $2 million in matching funds for Vermonters who seek buyouts for destroyed homes and towns who seek flood mitigation. Vermont’s transportation infrastructure pre-Irene was crumbling before our eyes. We will take the lessons from Irene to rebuild our roads, bridges, and rail stronger, faster, and more affordably. My budget proposes the largest transportation program in Vermont history by adding $45 million to desperately needed paving and bridge projects. It also increases town highway aid by $1.5 million, the first such increase in six years. We must turn the devastating flooding at our state office complex into opportunity by building efficient, effective, green state workspace for the future. The following principles must inform our decisions as we consider how to rebuild: One, when making capital investments of taxpayer dollars of this magnitude in real estate, facts really matter: weighing the cost of each of our options is critical. Two, with more intense storms looming large in our climate change future, our investments must be protected from getting washed away by future storms. Three, we will use this opportunity to co-locate and integrate state agencies that share a common mission. I recommend the following actions: First, it should be clear from the effective collaboration of the past four months that the Agencies of Transportation, Natural Resources, and Commerce be co-located and integrated on a permanent basis. It makes sense to consolidate them in space that we are currently leasing at National Life in Montpelier.Second, the Department of Education is currently functioning in two different locations in central Vermont, inhibiting efficiency and collaboration. I recommend relocating the Department of Education to the office building being proposed in the heart of Barre by Mayor Lauzon, Representative Poirier and others. This action will help revitalize Barre’s downtown and return it to a vibrant center for commerce and job creation. Third, the Agency of Human Services is scattered between Washington and Chittenden Counties. This inhibits our ability to provide seamless and integrated service to the people who need state government most. I ask you to support me in reuniting AHS into one location in central Vermont. My first choice is to unite them in Waterbury. Before we make that decision, we must first ensure that we can keep it dry and modernize the workspace affordably. Rebuilding in Waterbury would be ideal. My administration, working with the legislature, will move as quickly as we possibly can, as our architects and engineers develop the multiple scenarios under consideration. Whatever the outcome, it is unlikely that the significant costs incurred will be entirely covered by FEMA or insurance. That’s why I am requesting that the House and Senate Institutions Committees redirect $18 million of previously approved projects to help cover the investments that lie ahead. *** Irene has also delivered an opportunity to create an outstanding mental health system for Vermont.  We will not return to the State Hospital, whose decrepit condition did not dignify our most vulnerable Vermonters or high quality of care provided by our state employees. Since that fateful August day when we evacuated the hospital, we have worked tirelessly with our mental health community ‘ state employees, community providers, hospitals and designated agencies, to put in place a plan to address our short-term crisis and design a long-term solution. Guided by the simple principle that quality care for the patient is our top priority, we will expand community services, increase peer services, enhance hospital care regionally, and build a new state of the art facility.In our effort to achieve mental health parity, it is inexcusable that we require patients seeking acute care for mental illness to travel far from home to receive it. Our plan allows for acute care and community-based care in multiple locations throughout Vermont to keep patients close to home. While we should be proud of our collective response since our hospital was flooded, let us not forget that we remain in a crisis situation. While we have been fortunate to avert disaster or loss of life thus far, that could change at any moment. I appreciate your commitment to address this emergency in an expedited fashion. Your authorization of the acute care beds at the Brattleboro Retreat, Rutland Regional, and in Windsor County cannot happen soon enough. Vermont’s taxpayers will be relieved to learn that most of these costs will likely be paid for by FEMA. We must also break ground on our new state 16-bed state operated facility in central Vermont this summer. I am counting on you to put a bill on my desk by February 17 that implements this plan and moves us from crisis management to quality care. *** Some critics have argued that this session we must limit any discretionary spending to only Irene-incurred expenses. I say: we must not pit Vermonters against Vermonters. We must not say to our low-income seniors in Springfield that we can’t provide heating assistance to keep them warm this winter because Irene did not impact them directly. We must not tell small businesses in the Northeast Kingdom that they don’t deserve support or a struggling dairy farmer in Swanton that we can’t help them stay in farming because they were not impacted by Irene. Pitting Vermonter against Vermonter is not the Vermont way, it’s not Vermont Strong, and we must not do it.   *** Building the best education system in the country will create jobs. My budget proposal includes a $282 million appropriation to the Education Fund. For the second year in a row, we are increasing Education Fund dollars, this year by $6 million, in our effort to hold the line on property taxes. Recognizing that in recent years, Vermonters gathering at town meeting have chosen to spend more per pupil than almost any other state in America, I commend our local school boards for holding the line on new spending over the past two years and urge them to do it again. Rising property taxes continue to be a tremendous burden for Vermonters struggling in this recovery, and a failure by local boards to hold the line again will result in unacceptable property tax increases. As student enrollment continues to decline, we are finally seeing a downward trend in the number of teachers and staff, which should make level funding our school budgets even more achievable. I am a strong supporter of local control. I firmly believe that we in Montpelier should never live under the illusion that we should decide which schools stay open and which schools consolidate. However, we can save money and retain local control by cutting administrative costs and consolidating supervisory unions.  Senator Kevin Mullin has proposed consolidating our 60 supervisory unions, reducing bureaucracy and saving taxpayers roughly $9 million each year.  This bold proposal deserves your consideration. Your recently released school funding study demonstrates that, through Act 68, Vermont has found more success than any other state in converting the regressive property tax into fair education funding. Now is our time to move on from the old battles about whether our financing system works. The opportunity now is to partner with our locally controlled education community to do the more important and difficult job of enhancing creativity and quality for every student. Our challenge is two-fold. First, despite our progress in achieving equity, educational achievement continues to stubbornly track family income. Second, our delivery system leans too heavily on the rigid model that time spent together in class with blackboard and pencil will collectively result in acquisition of skills for our diversity of learners. From early education to higher education and technical school, we have among the most innovative offerings in the country. By creating a seamless system that allows each student to take advantage of these offerings, we will achieve excellence. However, we have to have the courage to do some things differently. We must start by elevating the Commissioner of Education to the Secretary of Education, appointed by the governor. We must also continue to partner with our local communities to expand access to pre-K education. Last year, we lifted the cap that gives every community equal access to quality pre-K education. Continuing to build universal pre-K in Vermont will assure a strong start for every student. Flexibility is critical for all students, and I strongly believe that expanding our limited school choice to all of our public high schools in Vermont will enhance innovation. Additionally, allowing high school juniors and seniors to take college courses for college credit wherever they choose will make higher education more affordable for low- and middle-income, first-generation students. This flexibility, with the money following the student, should be available to all high school juniors and seniors in Vermont. In my travels to businesses across the state, I hear consistently a similar story: businesses are hiring, but they can’t find enough Vermonters with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. To address this growing problem, I propose an $8 million innovation investment in the University of Vermont and the Vermont State Colleges. This one-time investment from the Higher Education Trust Fund will still leave the fund ten percent higher than last year. Under my proposal, the University of Vermont will use its one-time investment of $4 million to undertake the following: 1.     Expand successful university-industry partnerships, giving seniors the opportunity to get hands-on job experience with businesses and nonprofits.2.     Create an international center of excellence in complex systems at UVM that will enhance economic growth. The new multi-million dollar Sandia National Laboratory is just one example of the kind of innovation this investment will stimulate. 3.     Develop a program that facilitates the re-entry of critically needed science and engineering professionals back into our workforce. By targeting women who have temporarily left their fields, often to raise families, we can help retain already skilled workers. The Vermont State Colleges will use its $4 million to: 1.     Allow more high school students to enroll full-time in college during their senior year, saving their families money and getting a head start on finishing a college degree.2.     Create an applied educational institute supporting the renaissance in the agricultural and food production sectors.3.     Improve access to CCV and VTC in southern Vermont by supporting a consolidated academic center in downtown Brattleboro.  Both CCV and VTC School of Nursing now operate in antiquated leased space; this investment will be an economic shot in the arm for downtown Brattleboro, which has been hit hard by fires and floods. We hear a lot about the need to invest in innovation and the future workforce; this is an opportunity to back our words with action, and I urge you to support these initiatives. ***To build jobs, we know that strong, coordinated marketing of the Green Mountain State led by the Department of Tourism and Marketing, works.  Leaf peepers poured into Vermont despite Irene. To keep our tourism industry vibrant, my budget fully funds our marketing efforts. Manufacturing in Vermont is showing signs of life. I have asked Secretary Lawrence Miller to lead an Advanced Manufacturing Initiative that will bring together education, industry, labor, and government to make recommendations about how to advance the manufacturing gains we are making.  One way to grow jobs is to make sure our permit process is predictable, transparent and timely.   Secretary Markowitz and Natural Resources Board Chair Shems have been holding public meetings around the state, hearing from hundreds of Vermonters about what works and what should be improved in our permit process. The message is clear: we need more efficiency and transparency. Under Act 250, when an applicant or neighborhood group makes their case before the local environmental commission, that should count for something.  I ask the legislature to require the environmental court to use the commission’s record of the hearing to settle an appeal, avoiding the costly and inefficient process of starting all over again. *** Stewardship of our natural resources requires us to manage our wildlife and habitat by promoting hunting and fishing. Hunters and anglers have been the backbone of Vermont’s fish and wildlife conservation efforts for many years.   Unfortunately, over the last seven years, General Fund dollars appropriated to the department have plummeted by almost 60 percent. As a lifelong hunter, I know firsthand how important hunting and fishing is to Vermont’s quality of life and economic success. It is clear to me that we can no longer rely solely on revenue from hunting and fishing licenses to adequately support our fish and wildlife resources. That is why my budget includes a 150 percent increase to $2.4 million to Fish and Wildlife, an investment that leverages nearly $8 million in federal dollars to ensure a bright future for Vermont’s sportsmen and women. *** One year into our war on recidivism, we are seeing progress. Despite corrections spending doubling in the past decade, at an average cost of $48,000 per year per inmate, our incarcerated population is finally declining and is now at the same level as eight years ago. Our progress represents a $2.5 million savings since last year. I propose reinvesting half of these savings to deliver on our promise of providing housing, counseling, job training, drug and alcohol prevention and treatment to non-violent offenders who have completed their sentences. This will add 93 community based treatment beds to help us win the war. Our fight against prescription opiate addiction is directly related to our war on recidivism. There are three components to addressing this growing epidemic. The first, as I outlined last week, is giving law enforcement access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring System. Second, our Department of Health is creating a cutting edge system that will increase substance abuse treatment for the many Vermonters who desperately need it. Third, we will work with prescribers to help them implement best practices to responsibly dispense addictive opiates. *** A final word about my budget proposal: last year at this podium, I called on the legislature to raise our reserves to eight percent as soon as we return to better times. As the first step toward that goal, I am recommending a down payment of $3.1 million to the stabilization fund. Should revenues exceed our forecasts in future years, I will insist that we go the rest of the way to fulfill this commitment. *** I know I have outlined an ambitious agenda to rebuild our state while we create a better economic future for all Vermonters. While I believe strongly in the principles and proposals I have outlined today, I also welcome your suggestions for improvement. This year, as last, we will work together in a bipartisan spirit to do our best for the state we love. Thank you, let’s get to work.last_img read more

Global coal-fired generating capacity declined for first time in first half of 2020

first_imgGlobal coal-fired generating capacity declined for first time in first half of 2020 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Global coal-fired power capacity edged down for the first time on record in the first half of 2020 as retirements accelerated and the coronavirus saw new projects put on hold.The closing of plants, especially in Europe and the U.S., outpaced the start of new units, more than 60% of which were in China, according to a report by Global Energy Monitor. The net decline of 2.9 gigawatts may be small, at just over 0.1% of the world’s coal generation capacity, but marks a turning point in the burning of the dirtiest fossil fuel to produce electricity.“The Covid pandemic has paused coal plant development around the world and offers a unique opportunity for countries to reassess their future energy plans and choose the cost-optimal path, which is to replace coal power with clean energy,” said Christine Shearer, program director for coal at Global Energy Monitor.As developed economies in Europe and North America increasingly shift toward cleaner energy sources, mining companies are looking to fast-growing Asian countries to shore up demand for the heavy polluting fossil fuel. Still, world coal demand is set for its biggest annual drop since World War II as economic activity plunges due to coronavirus lockdowns, the International Energy Agency said in April.The pace of new construction in Asia is slowing, with countries including Bangladesh and Vietnam considering restricting or deferring new coal plants, according to Global Energy Monitor, which gathers information from public sources, such as media articles, and non-government agencies.China’s coal power expansion would exacerbate overcapacity, according to the report, which cited a study from the University of Maryland that projected the average utilization rate for the country’s coal plants could drop to 45% by 2025.[James Thornhill]More: Global coal power falls for first time even as China builds morelast_img read more

Argentina Renews Nuclear Focus

first_img Argentina EMBALSE, operating since 1984, will undergo renovations to extend its working life by about 30 years. Reactor for production and experimentation Nuclear power station Uranium enrichment Uranium mine Heavy water plant Rosario University Reactor RA-4 Cordoba University Reactor RA-0 Embalse (648 MW) San Rafael Utility Complex 120 tons per year of concentrated uranium ENSI Plant of Arroyito Bariloche Atomic Center Pilcaniyeu Reactor RA-8 Atucha I (357 MW) Atucha II (745 MW) Atucha III Construction planned Constituyentes Atomic Center Particle accelerator Reactor RA-1 Ezeiza Atomic Center Radioisotopes Reactor RA-3 By Dialogo October 01, 2010 ATUCHA III and a fifth plant are expected to be completed by 2025. Atucha III will be built on the same site as Atucha I and Atucha II. The location of the fifth plant has not been decided. ARGENTINA’S NUCLEAR PLANS The main developments in the country’s nuclear energy program are: ATUCHA I started operating in 1974 as the first nuclear power plant in Latin America. A new direction in Argentina’s nuclear energy program will eventually lead to a total of five nuclear plants in the uraniumrich country. To reduce its use of natural gas and crude oil, Argentina plans to increase its nuclear power supply from the current 6 percent to 15 percent by 2025. Despite a long hiatus since the first plant was built in 1974, Argentina is forging ahead to finalize the construction of the country’s third nuclear plant. Plans for the fourth and fifth nuclear plants by 2025 are in development. ABOUT THE PLANTS ATUCHA II will become operational in September 2011. Initial construction on the plant began in 1982. last_img read more

LIRR Adds 13 Trains for Christmas Eve

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Thirteen extra eastbound Long Island Rail Road trains will leave from Penn Station on Wednesday afternoon to accommodate riders leaving work early to celebrate Christmas Eve.The added trains include six on the Babylon Branch, four of the Port Jefferson Branch, two on the Ronkonkoma Branch and one on the Far Rockaway Branch, all of which run between 12:46 p.m. and 3:48 p.m.As a result, the 5:59 p.m. from Penn Station to Babylon will be canceled and combined with the 6:05 p.m. express to Merrick, which then makes local stops to Babylon.The LIRR will operate on a holiday schedule on Christmas day.For additional information, visit LIRR’s website or call the LIRR’s Customer Service Center by calling 511.last_img read more

What is the Defense Credit Union Council?

first_imgMaybe you’ve heard or read a little about the Defense Credit Union Council (DCUC), but what do they really do? I recently spoke with Anthony Hernandez, President/CEO of DCUC, to find out more about this interesting organization. I’m a veteran and credit union geek, so I was more than happy to talk with Tony!First and foremost, DCUC is a specialized membership association that represents all credit unions on military installations around the world.Why have a special association?DCUC has a close working relationship with the Department of Defense to ensure members of the United States Armed Forces and their families are provided financial services in the finest traditions of the credit union philosophy.For example, DCUC helps credit unions abide by the special operating agreement to be on the military base, which is more complicated than typical operating agreements. Similarly, the association helps credit unions understand and comply with the Military Lending Act or advocate for changes on their behalf. continue reading » 6SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Open border crossings between the Republic of Croatia and Slovenia

first_imgAs of June 15, based on the agreement between the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Slovenia, border crossings for border traffic have been reopened.   LuciaSlumLindenPresident IIZamostBlaževciPrilišćeRightVivodinaChestNovo Selo ŽumberačkoKraj DonjiGornji ČemehovecDrashePlavicLuka PoljanskeMali TaborUpper FruitIntersectionSaint Martin on the MuraTubCvetlinZlogonjeBanfi List of open border crossings between the Republic of Croatia and Slovenia:last_img

Norwegian oil fund calls for companies to focus on energy efficiency

first_imgNorway’s sovereign wealth fund has called for a greater focus on energy efficiency, arguing that companies should disclose their renewable energy consumption targets and report on use of low-carbon products.Responding to changes proposed by CDP – formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project – to its climate change questionnaire, which gathers comparative data on the water, energy and carbon footprint of around 5,000 companies, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) said it welcomed the move to improve data quality.NBIM cited the importance of usable data, as it would allow the NOK7.1trn (€776n) Government Pension Fund Global’s manager to understand the financial risks associated with climate change.In a joint letter by Petter Johnsen, equities CIO, and William Abrose, the fund’s global head of ownership strategies, the manager said: “We support the development and disclosure of consistent and objective data on current and potential future greenhouse gas emissions, reported according to well-defined and transparent methodologies.” Johnsen and Ambrose said any estimates of carbon disclosures should enjoy the confidence of investors to allow them to influence investment decisions.“NBIM believes that introducing measurement and reporting of sector-specific climate-change challenges will facilitate a deeper and richer understanding of the operational challenges and risks for groups of companies,” the letter added. “The addition of sectoral questionnaires will help cater for sector specificities.”It also stressed that it would be important to include energy-transition initiatives – such as low-carbon products and self-imposed targets for renewable energy consumption – to further help investors.The letter concluded: “In this context, we want to stress the importance of energy efficiency in the transition to a lower-carbon economy and would recommend adding metrics to give companies the ability to report on energy-efficiency achievements.The California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s director of global governance Anne Simpson recently highlighted the importance of energy-efficiency targets in limiting the global temperature increase to 2° C, a target seen as the best chance of averting catastrophic climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.last_img read more