VEDA accepting applications for new agricultural stimulus financing

first_imgFarmers may apply immediately for the new agricultural stimulus financing available through VEDA s farm lending program, the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation (VACC). VACC has up to $6 million in low-interest financing available, made possible by $1 million in federal economic stimulus funds from Vermont s share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.The new loan funding is available to help farmers with this season s operational costs feed, seed, fertilizer or other needs or, to refinance prior years operating costs. The stimulus financing has a variable rate, now at 2%. The term for the financing is generally two years (although terms may be longer under certain circumstances), and the maximum loan amount is $100,000.Detailed information about the program is available on VEDA s website at www.veda.org(link is external). Applications may either be (1) filled out on-line and emailed to VEDA at applications@veda.org(link sends e-mail); or, (2) downloaded from VEDA s website, filled out in print form, and mailed to VACC Farm Operating Loan Program, Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation, 58 East State Street, Montpelier, Vermont 05602.To learn more, Vermont farmers in need of financing are encouraged to speak with one of VACC s experienced farm lenders by calling, toll-free, 1-866-828-FARM (3276).Established in 1999, VACC is a nonprofit corporation that provides credit to farmers and agricultural facilities whose financing needs are not being fully met by conventional agricultural credit sources. VACC offers financing to strengthen or modernize existing farm operations, encourage diversification, support beginning farmers and encourage marketing and processing of Vermont agricultural products.Source: VEDAlast_img read more

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UVM scientists create ‘Hedonometer’ to measure happiness

first_imgIn 1881, the optimistic Irish economist Francis Edgeworth imagined a strange device called a “hedonimeter” that would be capable of “continually registering the height of pleasure experienced by an individual.” In other words, a happiness sensor.His was just a daydream. In practice, for decades, social scientists have had a devilish headache in trying to measure happiness. Surveys have revealed some useful information, but these are plagued by the unpleasant fact that people misreport and misremember their feelings when confronted by the guy with the clipboard. Ditto for studies where volunteers call in their feelings via PDA or cell phone. People get squirrely when they know they re being studied.But what if you had a remote-sensing mechanism that could record how millions of people around the world were feeling on any particular day–without their knowing? Large-Scale HappinessThat’s exactly what Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth, a mathematician and computer scientist working in the Advanced Computing Center at the University of Vermont, have created.Their methods show that Election Day, November 4, 2008, was the happiest day in four years. The day of Michael Jackson’s death, one of the unhappiest.Their results are reported this week in the Journal of Happiness Studies.”The proliferation of personal online writing such as blogs gives us the opportunity to measure emotional levels in real time,” they write in their study, “Measuring the Happiness of Large-Scale Written Expression: Songs, Blogs, and Presidents,” [LINK TO http://www.springerlink.com/content/757723154j4w726k(link is external) ] now available in an early online edition of the journal.Their answer to Edgeworth’s daydream begins with a website, wefeelfine.org [LINK TO http://www.wefeelfine.org(link is external) ] that mines through some 2.3 million blogs, looking for sentences beginning with “I feel” or “I am feeling.””We gathered nearly 10 million sentences from their site,” Dodds says. Then, drawing on a standardized “psychological valence” of words established by the Affective Norms for English Words (ANEW) study, each sentence receives a happiness score. In the ANEW study, a large pool of participants graded their reaction to 1034 words, forming a kind of “happy-unhappy” scale from 1 to 9. For example, “triumphant” averaged 8.87, “paradise” 8.72, “pancakes” 6.08, “vanity” 4.30, “hostage” 2.20, and “suicide” 1.25.The sentence “I feel lazy” would receive a score of 4.38. “Our method is only reasonable for large-scale texts, like what’s available on the web,” Dodds says. “Any one sentence might not show much. There’s too much variability in individual expression.” But that’s the beauty of big data sets and statistics.”It’s like measuring the temperature. You don’t care where the atoms are,” Dodds says. “You want to know the temperature of this room or this town. It’s a coarser scale. We’re interested in the collective story.”The Temperature of the BlogosphereThough blog writers do tend to be somewhat younger and more educated than average, they are broadly representative of the US population, writing from most everywhere with an even split between genders and high racial diversity.Since many blogs are connected to demographic data, Dodd’s and Danforth’s approach can let them measure the rise and fall of happiness of, say, people under 35 in California on Wednesdays, and compare to other places, age groups, and days.”We were able to make observations of people in a fairly natural environment at several orders of magnitude higher than previous happiness studies,” Danforth says. “They think they are communicating with friends,” but, since blogs are public, he says, “we’re just looking over their shoulders.”Though their method which they also apply to song lyrics, presidential speeches, and, recently, to Twitter messages is generally focused on how writings are received rather than what an author may have intended to convey, it does allow them to estimate the emotional state of the blog authors.””We are thus able to present results of what might be considered a very basic remote-sensing hedonometer,” they write (using a slight variant on Edgeworth’s spelling).Election Day 2008 showed a spike in the word “proud.” “That was the biggest deviation in the last four years,” Danforth says. “To have proud’ be the word that moves the needle is remarkable.”In contrast, the day of Michael Jackson’s death and the two following were some of the unhappiest, showing a significant dip in average valence scores. Each year, September 11 gets a dip, as does September 10, “in anticipation of the anniversary, we suppose,” says Dodds.Interestingly, their results run contrary to recent social science data that suggest that people basically feel the same at all ages of life. Instead, Dodds and Danforth’s method shows a more commonsensical result: young teenagers are unhappiest with a disproportionate use of “sick,” “hate,” “stupid,” “sad,” “depressed,” “bored,” “lonely,” “mad,” and, not surprisingly, “fat.” Then people get happier until they are old, when happiness drops off.The Tracings of MindsOf course, there is an ocean of philosophical questions to swim when trying to understand happiness. Though people regularly rank happiness as what they want most in life, what is it, really? Plato argued that achieving happiness was our true goal in life but recent studies suggest many people are bad at doing what makes them happy. Why? And what of the Buddhist perspective that all life is suffering? Is happiness simply a feeling?Though Francis Edgeworth hoped to measure happiness, “exactly according to the verdict of consciousness,” all science has to work with today are the tracings of a mind, not a literal mind-probe. New techniques in neuroscience seem to be moving closer to such a tool, but “we don’t know what is going on in people’s heads, really,” says Dodds.”Our study is a data exploration,” says Danforth. “It’s not about developing a theory.””The big picture for me is this: I have a daughter who is three,” he says, “She is going to grow up and fall in love without as much body language or visual cues. She’s inheriting an electronic world. We want to develop tools to understand that world.”Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth’s study, “Measuring the Happiness of Large-Scale Written Expression: Songs, Blogs, and Presidents,” [LINK TO http://www.springerlink.com/content/757723154j4w726k(link is external) ] will be permanently available in an open-access edition of the Journal of Happiness Studies.A video [LINK TO http://www.uvm.edu/~pdodds/research/video/index.html(link is external) ] of a lecture by Peter Dodds on this research is available on his website.For more information, contact Peter Dodds (peter.dodds@uvm.edu(link sends e-mail)) or Chris Danforth (Christopher.danforth@uvm.edu(link sends e-mail)).Source: UVM 07-23-2009last_img read more

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Smart About Solar’ series announced for March

first_imgWILLISTON, Vermont . . . February 24, 2011 . . . AllEarth Renewables, Inc.,With energy prices on the rise, Vermont Yankee’s license expiring in 2012, and recent instability in the Middle East, Williston-based AllEarth Renewables is hosting an energy series in five local communities this March.The ‘Smart About Solar’ series, which will focus how Vermonters can protect themselves against the rising cost of energy, will be held in Chittenden County and northern Addison County communities throughout the month of March.The events begin at 7 pm and will be held in Charlotte, Shelburne, Hinesburg, Vergennes and Starksboro.  They are free, open to the public, and include refreshments.The solar series events are:Charlotte: Wednesday, March 2nd at 7:00 p.m. – Charlotte Central School Library, 408 Hinesburg Road, Charlotte with presenter David Blittersdorf, president/CEO of AllEarth RenewablesShelburne: Tuesday, March 15th at 7:00 p.m. – Shelburne Town Offices, 5420 Shelburne Road, ShelburneHinesburg: Tuesday, March 22nd at 7:00 p.m. – Hinesburg Town Offices, 10632 VT Route 116, HinesburgVergennes: Monday, March 28th at 7:00 p.m. – Bixby Library, 258 Main Street, VergennesStarksboro: Wednesday, March 30th at 7:00 p.m. – Robinson Elementary School, 41 Parsonage Road Starksborolast_img read more

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CVPS honored for storm response

first_imgThe Edison Electric Institute today honored Central Vermont Public Service with the association’s “Emergency Recovery Award” for outstanding power restoration efforts in the wake of a massive two-part weather event in February 2010. This is the third time CVPS has earned this honor.The award is presented annually to U.S. and foreign companies that face untoward circumstances caused by extraordinary events and put forth outstanding efforts to restore service to the public. Winners were chosen by a panel of judges following an international nomination process, and the awards were presented during EEI’s Spring CEO meetings.The “1-2 Punch Storm,” as it became known, was an unprecedented two-part snow and wind storm that knocked out service to hundreds of thousands of customers in the Northeast. Beginning on Feb. 23, 2010, the four-day weather event produced up to 4 feet of snow and winds approaching hurricane strength. CVPS, with a total of 159,000 customers, faced a record 104,872 outages over the course of the extended-duration event and mounted an extraordinary response. Nearly 67,000 individual customers were affected, some of whom lost service more than once.Either part of the storm event, in itself, would have ranked as one of the company’s 10 worst storms in history. Together, they affected 42 percent of CVPS customers, with as many as 27,000 customers without power at any one time. The duration of the weather event meant that even as crews worked to restore service in some areas, new outages occurred in others.”In many ways, the storm was a worst-case scenario envisioned in our storm preparedness training, yet we returned service quickly and safely,” said Joe Kraus, senior vice president for customer service, engineering and operations. “While we and our customers would love a break from the major storms that have repeatedly hammered our service territory in recent years, the award is testament to the commitment and hard work of our employees. They are among the industry’s elite.””When a storm hits, CVPS’s employees are second to none,” said Jeffrey Wimette, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300. “CVPS, its employees and the union share a deep concern for customers and have developed a true partnership on their behalf.”CVPS relied on private advance weather forecasts to alert the public to the pending storms and to strategically stage recovery crews, with assistance from utilities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and Ontario, Canada. All told, more than 600 tree cutters, line workers, schedulers and support staff were organized to repair the damage, logging 45,000 man-hours on the job.In addition, the company worked closely with news media to inform customers of its progress, repair estimates and safety issues. While there were no significant injuries, the storm provided a critical reminder of the importance of customer safety. CVPS created a new statewide advertising campaign following the event to ensure that clear, easy-to-understand safety information is available to all Vermonters.”Handling one storm well would have been a major feat – managing both safely and efficiently marks one of the greatest achievements in the company’s 81-year history and reflects the highest possible standard of customer service,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said. “It is a true pleasure to honor Central Vermont with this award.”CVPS also won the award following the 2007 “Nor’icane” that devastated Rutland County, and a second time after the 2008 ice storm that leveled much of the electric system in southern Vermont and elsewhere in New England.”These storms present us with incredible logistical challenges, but our employees have made huge sacrifices to overcome them,” CVPS Executive Chairman Bob Young said. “After 24 years at CVPS, I have never been more proud of our employees. It’s impossible to understand the depth of their commitment without spending time with them on the job, but it is nearly immeasurable.”Larry Reilly, who began work as CVPS’s ninth president on Tuesday, said the company’s reputation for service quality, customer care and reliability was one of the factors that drew him to the job. “Despite a very rural, rugged service territory, CVPS employees have a hard-earned reputation for excellence within the industry,” Reilly said. “That reputation is disproportionate to our relatively small size, and is a tribute to our 517 employees.” CVPS 3.2.2011last_img read more

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Mace completes financing with Cleveland group

first_imgMace Security International, known primarily for its pepper spray and other personal defense products, has announced that it has completed a multimillion dollar financing led by The Ancora Group in Cleveland, Ohio.  After the financing, Ancora and its investment partnership, Merlin Partners LLC will have achieved an approximate 35 percent ownership in Mace. Mace Personal Defense Products division is based in Bennington, Vermont. At the same time Cleveland businessman, Richard Barone, Chairman of The Ancora Group, has been elected Chairman of Mace. Other Clevelanders elected to the board include Denis Amato, Chief Investment Officer at Ancora and Larry Pollock, Managing Partner of Lucky Star Partners and former President of Cole National.In 2009, Barone was elected to the Mace board to help resolve a variety of problems that the company was facing. Mace’s problems arose when it leveraged its balance sheet through the purchase of unrelated businesses such as car washes and an internet marketing company. At the same time, Mace became embroiled in an EPA matter at its pepper spray division in Vermont. The company was also accused of employing illegal aliens at its car washes.  In addition, Mace lost a substantial sum in a Ponzi scheme inFlorida.According to Barone, “During the past two years we have resolved all of these issues. We are no longer in the car wash or internet business. We have settled all matters which could affect our balance sheet.  Our two remaining divisions, wholesale remote monitoring of homes and warehouses and pepper spray security products, are doing well.  The recently completed financing provides Mace with the financial strength to grow its personal defense product lines.”Mace intends to build its reputation and brand as a personal security company with the introduction of new products and services. The recent bear attack on a group of teens in Alaska might have been averted if the victims had been able to use Mace bear spray at the time of the attack. After the attack, the injured waited nine hours for help to arrive.  Mace is also expecting to introduce a GPS product which, when activated, will send a signal to its monitoring division in Anaheim, California. Local authorities would then be immediately notified of a victim’s location.Mace is publicly traded under the symbol MACE.For more information about The Ancora Group, visit www.ancora.net(link is external).  For more information about Mace, visit www.mace.com(link is external).SOURCE Mace CLEVELAND, Aug. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ —last_img read more

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Two Vermont newspapers initiate online payment system

first_imgMassachusetts  Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/(link is external) North Adams Transcript http://www.thetranscript.com/(link is external) MediaNews Group, Inc, based in Denver, has launched a digital subscription model for 23 of its affiliate newspapers in California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The Vermont papers are the Brattleboro Reformer and the Bennington Banner. This digital paywall allows free access to a limited amount of content on a monthly basis and then readers will be asked to subscribe to have full access to their local news site. This digital subscription began August 15. ‘MediaNews Group’s print and digital properties are the trusted and definitive source of local, up-to-date news and information in their communities’, said Dean Singleton, CEO and Chairman.  ‘The decision to begin charging for our online content introduces a new era for our organization that is reflective of the high value we place on journalistic excellence and serving the community.  Implementation of online subscriptions will allow us to continue to support the quality writing and reporting that our readers expect from us.’ Digital Subscription Details: All readers of the subscription sites listed below will have free access to the home page, classifieds, obituaries and announcements section at all times. In addition, readers will have five free pages of editorial content per month available before being asked to subscribe. Current print subscribers may extend their subscription to include full digital access for an additional $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. Digital-only subscriptions will be available to those who are not currently print subscribers for $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year.The following newspapers are launching subscription models for their Web sites are on August 15, 2011: California          The Ukiah Daily Journal http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/(link is external) Woodland Daily Democrathttp://www.dailydemocrat.com/(link is external) Red Bluff Daily News http://www.redbluffdailynews.com/(link is external) Lake County Record-Beehttp://www.record-bee.com/(link is external) Chico Enterprise-Recordhttp://www.chicoer.com/(link is external)Eureka Times-Standard http://www.times-standard.com/(link is external) Vallejo Times-Heraldhttp://www.timesheraldonline.com/(link is external) The Reporter, Vacavillehttp://www.thereporter.com/(link is external)Whittier Daily Newshttp://www.whittierdailynews.com/(link is external) Redlands Daily Factshttp://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com/(link is external) New Mexico       Las Cruces Sun-News http://www.lcsun-news.com/(link is external)Deming Headlighthttp://www.demingheadlight.com/(link is external)Silver City Sun Newshttp://www.scsun-news.com/(link is external)Farmington Daily Times http://www.daily-times.com/(link is external)Carlsbad Current-Argus http://www.currentargus.com/(link is external)Alamogordo Daily Newshttp://www.alamogordonews.com/(link is external) Pennsylvania    Lebanon Daily News http://www.ldnews.com/(link is external)GameTimePa.com http://www.gametimepa.com/(link is external)FlipsidePA.com http://www.flipsidepa.com/(link is external)In York http://www.inyork.com/(link is external)Chambersburg Public Opinionhttp://www.publicopiniononline.com/(link is external) Hanover Evening Sunhttp://www.eveningsun.com/(link is external) York Daily Recordhttp://www.ydr.com/(link is external)York Dispatch http://www.yorkdispatch.com/(link is external) Vermont            Bennington Banner http://www.benningtonbanner.com/(link is external)Brattleboro Reformerhttp://www.reformer.com/(link is external) MediaNews Group, Inc. (www.medianewsgroup.com(link is external)) is the nation’s second largest newspaper company as measured by circulation, with headquarters in Denver, Colorado. MediaNews Group and its affiliated companies publish 57 daily newspapers and approximately 100 non-daily publications in 11 states. In addition, MediaNews Group provides programming and operational services for a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska and four radio stations in Texas licensed to Affiliated Media, Inc. FCC Trust. MediaNews Group Interactive, MediaNews Group’s new media division maintains more than 75 Web sites for its daily newspapers.last_img read more

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