The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still expanding the list of retailers carrying meat unfit for human consumption to Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and 970 locations in California alone. About 8.7 million pounds were shipped all through 2013 by Rancho Feeding Corp. of Petaluma, Calif.

The recall comes in the wake of USDA's new "inspection" program that allows the meat industry to increase speed of processing lines and replace federal inspectors with plant employees. According to USDA inspector general, this has resulted in partial failure to remove fecal matter, undigested food, and other contaminants that may contain deadly E. coli and listeria bacteria.

Traditionally, USDA has catered more to the interests and profitability of the meat industry than health and safety of American consumers. Consumer interests come into play only when large numbers of us get sick. Having USDA protect consumers is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

The Obama administration should reallocate responsibility for all food safety to the Food and Drug administration. In the meantime, each of us can assume responsibility for our own safety by switching to the rich variety of soy-based meat products offered by our favorite supermarket.

KYLE ROBERTS

Brattleboro

Cast your vote for Michael A.


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Keane

Last Fall during Garlic Fest I was waiting at the entrance table for a friend and missed a step that landed me in a ditch. Other than having grit in my teeth and grass stains on my shirt, I was fine. What was notable was that several people within minutes of the accident hoisted me up (and I am truly grateful), put me back on my feet, and Michael Keane rushed to bring me a chair. Well, you may say, that's what good people do, and you are right. However, how many of us would volunteer to spend four hours standing in the sun collecting tickets at Garlic Fest? Michael Keane did.

Michael says: "Civic involvement is my way of serving the Bennington community and Vermont." Michael is involved in our community in many ways.

He serves on the boards of Second Chance Animal Center, The American Lung Association, and WBTN Radio. He serves as a Lister on Bennington's Board of Listers and is a member of the Vermont Economic Progress Council. He has professional experience in global business and an extensive resume as a management and business consultant, helping organizations to improve their performance. What a great background for a Bennington selectman! Please cast your vote for Michael A. Keane.

JACKIE KELLY

Bennington

Hurd not ready to retire

In response to a comment at the recent candidate forum, and to paraphrase Mark Twain ... Reports of my pending retirement are greatly exaggerated.

STUART HURD

Town Manager

Bennington

An open letter to taxpayers and legislators about abortion

1. Taxpayer funding of abortion is not healthcare

Abortion is not health care; it causes severe, lifelong harm to women. Women deserve better than abortion; they deserve to not be discriminated against because they bear life. A woman should not be forced to "choose" between her baby or her education, her own bodily integrity or her employment prospects.

When I was a college student my university had "married student housing" available to male students and their wives and families (whether or not their wives were university students), but not available to women students who were married to non-university men.

Unmarried mothers-to-be were not allowed to remain in their dormitories, although the fathers-to-be, more often than not the rapists of the women students, (which women were too ashamed to report the rape), could remain in theirs.

Abortion was illegal, but pregnant women students were guided by University "Health Services" to off campus "counselors", who, in turn, would steer them to out of state abortion providers. They were never offered assistance to remain in school while pregnant and after.

We were worth more than that then, and our granddaughters are worth more than that today.

Abortion does not solve women's problems and does not bring about equality.

Abortion exacerbates the problems and "legitimizes" the inequalities we still suffer.

2. Taxpayer funding of abortion is taxpayer protection of sex traffickers who enslave young women and very young girls

Just last week, CBS aired a story about sex trafficking, the kidnapping of young women and girls to become sex slaves, and how, once enslaved, they are kept enslaved and silent by threats to harm their families, including their younger sisters. Interviewed was a now 34- year- old woman who had been kidnapped as a 17- year- old college student and trafficked, kept enslaved for over a year by threats regarding her family, until she finally met up with her mother and escaped.

Just last fall (2013), the Vermont State Police raided a massage parlor in Southwest Vermont where they were able to apprehend sex traffickers.

Just last spring (2013), when Planned Parenthood opened an office in St. Johnsbury, I visited with others to ask just what services are provided to whom. I was told that girls as young as 9 could be referred for an abortion, without parental notification. Girls this young are rape victims! Planned Parenthood is able to profit by protecting child sex predators and sex traffickers at the expense of taxpayers (including the taxpaying parents of kidnapped children).

Please, at the very least, vote to ensure that there is no taxpayer funding for abortion!

CLARA SCHOPPE

St. Johnsbury

Vote for Michael Keane

Cora May and I will be voting for Michael Keane in the upcoming Select Board election on March 4.

Michael is a member of the board of directors and treasurer of the Shires Media Partnership, (radio station WBTN AM 1370). He is a frequent news reader and co-host on WBTN's noon news. Michael is also a member of the board of Second Chance Animal Center and a member of the Vermont Leadership Board of the American Lung Association.

Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Michael to the Vermont State Economic Progress Council where he now represents our community in statewide decisions that ultimately affect our local economy.

The reason we are voting for Michael is not only because he is a good friend but because we know that he will bring to the Select Board the skills, the experience, and the dedication to help guide Bennington's future. He has already proven himself to be a practical and effective leader/thinker on numerous board memberships and community projects in Bennington over the years.

We think it would be hard to find a better suited candidate for the Bennington Select Board than Michael Keane.

ROBERT AND CORA MAY HOWE

Bennington

Many reasons to love the library

The recent Valentine Annual Fund appeal from the Mark Skinner Library reminded me that I have experienced nearly all "10 Reasons to Love Your Library" in a mere 7-month period since moving full-time to nearby Sunderland. I quickly found that MSL is so much more than a repository of books for reading and research. Yes, it has an extensive collection of fiction, non-fiction, and electronic media; it is also a wonderful community resource with numerous practical as well as intellectual offerings.

I was without technology tools when I arrived and was delighted to find that I could use computers and printers at the Library for personal and professional business at a modest cost with the non-resident fee I gladly pay each year. The staff was warm, welcoming, and helpful. The physical space is bright and inviting, as I am confident the new Manchester Community Library will be. As a retired educator, I was excited by the summer reading and unique basket raffle that was introduced to stimulate young people to read, and the broad range of intellectual opportunities for adults that are sponsored by the Library throughout the year. When I finally purchased a new laptop with Windows 8, I was able to get help from the library tech support person. I also found information at the Library about a tech class at CDC that was another way for me to brush up my skills.

I regularly exchange my magazines with those left by others on the rack near the exit. What a smart way to support recycling. The nearby bulletin boards keep me informed about local resources and events. Manchester is so much more than shopping and skiing, and the Mark Skinner Library helps to keep people enlightened, engaged, and informed. All in all, I am very happy I purchased a non-resident membership to have the benefits provided by the Library and will be sending an additional gift to their Annual Fund. I am hopeful that the residents of Manchester will also support the Mark Skinner Library and its resources for the community by approving funding at the upcoming Town Meeting.

NANCY WOLF

Sunderland

MSL director speaks out on

I would like to add my voice to the discussions surrounding the request for additional municipal support for our town's only public library. Of course, I am biased but I am first a citizen of Manchester and well before taking this wonderful position, my appreciation for the current Mark Skinner Library was a deciding factor in locating my family here in 2001. I enjoyed volunteering on the Library's Advisory Council, and was part of the focus groups in 2006 when community members spoke clearly about desiring a "library of the future," one that would meet the needs of both current and future patrons while serving as a vibrant center for community activity.

This shared vision is being reached through the careful construction of the new Manchester Community Library -- at no cost at all to the taxpayers -- through the generous support of private donations and I am proud to be working along with our staff, trustees, and capital campaign team to bring this once-in-a-lifetime addition to the community I love.

We are asking Manchester taxpayers to help support our operating expenses and I would like to address the tax impact if our request is approved, as this is what some are objecting to the most. I recognize that no one likes to pay higher taxes, but I look at this support as an investment in one integral part of the revitalization of our great town.

The numbers listed here came from the town manager's office so there would be no doubt as to their accuracy. A few real-life examples: For the owner of a median house in Manchester, valued at $314,600, our additional requested amount of $44,800 would add $11.95 more per year to their tax bill. That additional amount is just shy of $1 per month more than their current tax bill.

If a house is valued at the mean amount, or $388,762, it would be an extra $14.77 per year, or $1.23 more per month. If a house is valued at double the median, or $629,200, then the tax bill would increase by $23.91 per year, or less than $2 more a month. I truly believe that what the new library will be providing to our community is well worth pennies a day! What I would like to add is that, in these challenging and rapidly changing times, libraries are needed now more than ever before. Manchester's new public library will be a trusted institution at the center of our community, accessible to all, serving infants to the elderly, toddlers to teens, and everyone in between in ways that could not be imagined a century before, and designed with flexibility to adapt to the future needs of our community in the century to come.

Please attend Town Meeting and vote to fund the full amount the Library is requesting, $198,000, and show us you value all that we bring to our community. Thank you.

BETSY BLEAKIE

Executive Director

Mark Skinner Library

Manchester