News February 18

Senator Sanders

Pipeline Protest Organizers said 35,000 people marched around the White House Sunday in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which environmental groups say would worsen the risks of climate change by encouraging development of Alberta's oil sands. Environmentalists have been encouraged by Obama's pledges to tackle global warming, first in his inaugural address and then again in the State of the Union speech. Last week, Sens. Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders introduced legislation that would tax carbon emissions, Bloomberg reported. LINK

Global Warming Sens. Boxer and Sanders on Thursday rolled out their legislation that would impose carbon emissions fees on producers and importers of coal and petroleum, among other features. Boxer said she wants the bill to come to the floor by summer.  A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it is too soon to talk about specific climate measures, according to The Hill. LINK

Climate Commentary The Sanders-Boxer bill “would represent a major victory for the planet,” Chris Hayes commented Sunday on MSNBC. Sanders “thinks the winds are changing,” Thom Hartmann said on WRRL-AM in New York. Sanders and Boxer “focus us on our moral obligation to leave a country and a planet to our children that is not damaged and polluted,” Richard W. Caperton of the Center for American Progress blogged. “It will need support from the bottom, not just the top,” Princeton Professor and CNN contributor Julian Zelizer wrote. The Boxer-Sanders proposal “is the least economically damaging proposition,” according to Reason magazine online. LINK, LINK, LINK, VIDEO, AUDIO

USPS Sen. Bernard Sanders joined 23 other senators who signed a letter challenging the postmaster general’s authority to stop Saturday mail service without congressional approval. Sanders and Rep. Peter DeFazio last week also introduced legislation that would allow the Postal Service to generate new revenues by providing additional services, the Rutland Herald and Times Argus reported. Their proposal also would eliminate a requirement that the agency prefund retirement health care benefits for its employees 75 years into the future -- a requirement critics say has no precedent in the public or private sector, the St. Petersburg, Fla., Sun-Sentinel reported. LINK

Tax Havens “Wall Street and the largest corporations in the country must begin to pay their fair share of taxes. They must not be able to continue hiding their profits offshore and shipping American jobs overseas to avoid taxes,” Sen. Sanders wrote in a column published by the Burlington Free Press and Brattleboro Reformer. LINK, LINK

‘A Senator to Watch’ “Sanders’ politics meander onto both sides of the aisle. He is fiercely independent, but he’s an independent we need,” Larry Momo wrote in a column for The Washington Times. LINK

World

Syria The United Nations Security Council should refer Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and other abuses committed in nearly two years of conflict, Carla del Ponte, a United Nations human rights investigator, said on Monday, The New York Times reported. LINK

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez returned home to Venezuela early Monday after more than two months of medical treatment in Cuba following cancer surgery, The Associated Press reported. LINK

National

The Good, the Bad and the Ugland Detractors describe the offshore phenomenon as one of the more noxious features of financial globalization … Ugland House, the registered address of more than 18,000 companies, is held up by critics as a symbol of all that is wrong with offshore financial centers, according to a special report in The Economist on “sunny places for shady people.” LINK

A Vermont Haven Corporate self-insurance, so-called captive insurance, was first developed in Bermuda and later spread to the Cayman Islands. The business blossomed offshore rather than onshore because America’s state-by-state regulatory regime could not accommodate it, although a number of states, including Vermont, subsequently rewrote their rules to attract captives, according to The Economist. LINK

Junkets More and more foreign governments are sponsoring excursions for lawmakers and their staffs, though an overhaul of ethics rules adopted by Congress five years ago banned them from going on most other types of free trips. A Washington Post examination of congressional disclosures found that China is by far the biggest sponsor of these trips, but other regions of the world are also well represented. On a trip to Jordan, for instance, congressional staffers stayed at the Four Seasons in Amman, where they received an audience with the king. LINK

Vermont

Wind Power Vermont’s Green Mountain Power wants permission to install equipment that will boost the amount of electricity that its turbines in the Lowell Mountain wind project can put out in the New England grid. The Caledonian-Record reported that Lowell wind operators noticed Tuesday that three of the 21 turbines were not producing electricity. LINK 

Farm, Forest Partnership Groups ranging from the Vermont Farm Bureau to the Vermont Natural Resources Council are pushing for a big boost in state funding for a program launched last year to promote Vermont’s agricultural and forestry sectors. They’re looking for $5 million in state funding for each of the next three years. The budget Gov. Peter Shumlin proposed last month calls for $1.5 million for the Working Lands Enterprise Fund in fiscal 2014, AP reported. LINK