New England

Backers of a renewable energy bill making its way through the Vermont Legislature say a draft ruling from regulators in Connecticut effectively endorses the Vermont legislation.

Around Christmastime, Vermont resident Erin Wagg had a problem. Her family had received a card from a friend in Italy — someone from an old exchange program — and it was written in Italian. "I don't read Italian at all," says Wagg. So she posted about it on a network called the Front Porch Forum, asking if anyone could read and translate the card for her. From her town of Richmond, Vt. (population 4,000), she received more than 20 offers of help.

One way to test your mettle in winter is to take one of those quick penguin plunges in icy water. But some stoic swimmers actually carve pools out of frozen lakes and race each other.

The sport of winter swimming is popular abroad, especially in Russia, Scandinavia and China. But last weekend, a newly formed organization to promote winter swimming in the United States held its first national competition on the Vermont-Quebec border.

A Bennington, Vermont manufacturing plant is closing, putting 62 people out of work.

New England Public Radio/Naomi Volain

A Springfield public school teacher is among ten finalists for a lucrative international award often called the Nobel Prize for teachers.

Naomi Volain has taught environmental science at Central High School for 17 years; she said she uses hands-on teaching methods, and often holds classes outside.

The Vermont Health Department says for the first time it has found the radioactive isotope Strontium-90 in ground water at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon.

Update at 8:13 p.m. ET. Lots Of Snow:

As it continues to move up the Northeast Coast, a potent snowstorm is already a record breaker. Take these two highlights, for example:

-- NBC Chicago reports that Feb. 1, 2015, is now the snowiest first day of February in history. And with 19.3 inches of snow recorded, this is the fifth-largest snow event in city history.

A day after a monstrous winter storm spun its way across the Northeast, life is slowly getting back to normal.

Some residents of Massachusetts are digging out of almost 3 feet of snow. The AP reports that a travel ban has been lifted and Boston's highways are filling up with traffic.

Still, the AP adds:

Kate Ter Haar / Creative Commons

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night? Not exactly. The U.S. Postal Service said it won't be delivering mail to a large swath of the northeast. 

First the good news: Forecasts of a historic winter storm for the country's most populous city have failed to materialize.

Forecasters had called for up to 30 inches of snow in New York City, but as a new day dawned, meteorologists had downgraded the system to a winter storm from a blizzard and tempered their forecasts, saying when it was all done, the city would have about 12 inches of snow on the ground.

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for southern Connecticut beginning midday Monday, and blizzard watches remain in effect for eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island ahead of a storm with heavy snow and high winds.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for northwestern Massachusetts, where winds will be lower.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said Sunday it is preparing for a "potentially historic and destructive winter storm."

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

Parts of the U.S. northeast are bracing for as much as 2 feet of snow as a blizzard-like system bears down on the region.

The strong system could leave significant snowfall on the ground from Philadelphia to Maine beginning late tonight and continuing through Tuesday.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents of the city to expect unusually icy conditions and to "look out for your fellow New Yorkers ... check on them." Long Island could get 24 inches of snow, forecasters said.

Fat Bikes: The Winter Sport Of The Future?

Jan 24, 2015

On a snowy December afternoon, I dropped by the Onion River Sports shop in Montpelier, the capital of Vermont. Kip Roberts, who  manages the store, said that two years ago, fat bikes went from an oddity to a hot item.

“It exploded, and we couldn’t get our hands on them quick enough,” Roberts said. “And that growth happened all across the country. Almost everyone that’s a major bicycle company has a fat bike now. And some of them have multiple models.”

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says he had "no knowledge" about the controversy surrounding his team and deflated footballs.

"In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player or staff member about football air pressure," he said in an opening statement at a news conference today.

Belichick added that he had "no knowledge of this situation until Monday morning."

ISO-New England

New England's electricity grid operator said natural gas pipeline bottlenecks and retirement of aging power plants could put pressure on the price of energy.

As a cold rain poured down, the New England Patriots crushed the Super Bowl dreams of the Indianapolis Colts with a 45-7 victory.

The Patriots established their lead early, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. The Colts scored one touchdown in the second quarter, but after a Patriots field goal, New England still entered halftime 10 points in the lead.

The bat disease known as white-nose syndrome has been spreading fast, killing millions of animals. But for the first time, scientists are seeing hopeful signs that some bat colonies are recovering and new breakthroughs could help researchers develop better strategies for helping bats survive.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has selected Boston as its official bid city for the 2024 Olympics. Good for Boston, I say, and the rest of New England.

A simple summary of the mood swings for Patriots fans on Saturday would be high–low–high–low–high.

It wasn’t easy, but the New England Patriots earned a spot in the AFC Championship Game with a wild 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

This was the fourth playoff meeting between the Patriots and Ravens at Gillette Stadium since January 2010. In the parking lot before the game, Patriots fan and South Boston resident Stefan Laurides said the fact that Baltimore won two of the first three didn’t make him nervous.

Boston won a tight contest to become the next American city to bid for hosting an Olympics, beating out Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for the right to vie for the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"This selection is in recognition of our city's talent, diversity and global leadership," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said. "Our goal is to host Olympic and Paralympic Games that are innovative, walkable and hospitable to all. Boston hopes to welcome the world's greatest athletes to one of the world's great cities."

Northeast Utilities

Northeast Utilities is adopting a new name as part of a rebranding effort. 

Falling oil prices are perhaps nowhere more welcome than in northern New England, where most homes burn heating oil in their furnaces. But cheaper heating oil is refilling consumers' pockets just as high electric prices are emptying them out.

For example, a heating oil truck delivers 600 gallons of heating oil every two weeks to an old, four-story brick building in Concord, N.H. At last year's oil prices, each refill would have cost around $2,200. Right now, it's more than $300 cheaper.

Ryan von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Researchers in New York and Vermont are still scrambling to understand the disease known as white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungus that has killed millions of bats since it was first identified near Albany, New York in 2006.

Caves in the Adirondacks, the Black River Valley, the Champlain Valley, and Vermont have been especially hard-hit.

When Don Sage of Concord, N.H., learned his electric bill could rise by as much as $40 a month he got flustered. He and his wife make do on a bit less than $30,000 a year in Social Security payments, and they pay close attention to their electric bills.

"When the invoice comes in the mail to get paid, I have a target amount that we can fluctuate up or down, based on our fixed budget," Sage says. "They don't need my permission to hike up their rates, but the fact is we're the ones that are paying these increases."

Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET

A judge in Maine has turned down a request by state officials seeking authority to compel nurse Kaci Hickox to remain in her home for the duration of a 21-day incubation for Ebola. Since returning from West Africa, where she treated Ebola patients, Hickox has refused to accept a voluntary quarantine.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

Hours after Kaci Hickox defiantly breached a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola by going on a bike ride, Gov. Paul LePage threatened to use "the full extent" of his authority to compel the nurse to remain in isolation.

"I was ready and willing — and remain ready and willing — to reasonably address the needs of healthcare workers meeting guidelines to assure the public health is protected," LePage said in a statement.

Toronto Public Library

We’re just over a week away from the November 4 elections, and, so far, we’ve spent a lot of time talking politics here in our state. But what about our neighbors to the north, east, and west? 

Police turned out in riot gear to try to quell the violence that erupted in the neighborhoods surrounding the Pumpkin Festival in Keene Saturday.

Initial police and fire reports indicate that police and EMTs had to dodge bottles and other debris from the hostile crowd as they tried to tend to the injured.

Stephanie Konopka of Swanzey was visiting the festival with her 12-year-old daughter Saturday afternoon, and said her car was surrounded by a mob of hundreds of college age students while driving down Winchester Street at about 2 p.m.

Army veteran Randy Michaud had to make a 200-mile trip to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Aroostook County, Maine, near the Canadian border, every time he had a medical appointment.

Michaud, who was medically retired after a jeep accident in Germany 25 years ago, moved home to Maine in 1991. He was eligible for VA medical care, but the long drive was a problem.

He's one of millions of veterans living in rural America who must travel hundreds of miles round-trip for care.

Toronto Public Library

Our beloved New England is filled with scenic coastlines, lobster pots and clam shacks, Green Mountains, White Mountains, and a long river valley filled with Yankees who take their long winters as a point of pride. We have history and culture all right here.