News June 21

Senator Sanders


Honoring a Hero About 450 people, including fire and police departments from around Vermont, said goodbye Saturday to paramedic supervisor Dale R. Long, who was transporting a patient when the ambulance he was driving hit a tree. Long's death prompted statements from Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders, each of whom met with Long in Washington, D.C., in May after he received the Star of Life award. The statements were read by Bennington Rescue Squad executive director William Hathaway, the Rutland Herald reported. LINK


Oil Prices Sen. Bernie Sanders sees the recent run-up as evidence of speculators trying to turn a quick profit. Oil markets “have been manipulated by speculators,” agreed business consultant Jack McMullen. Middlebury College economist David Colander told The Burlington Free Press he saw “micro regulation” as “political gamesmanship.” To financial consultant Karen Paul, “The closest thing to Vegas on Wall Street is the commodities market...I am not opposed to… making sure we do what we can to make sure consumers are not caught in the crossfire of the oil pits.” LINK


Fuel Prices Homeowners may be skittish about signing on to a pre-buy program for home heating fuel after getting burned last winter when prices dropped, but more often than not home heating oil prices increase as winter approaches. "The futures market has prices going up," said Matt Cota, executive director of the 150-member Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, which backs legislation sponsored by Sen. Sanders that would direct the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to regulate energy speculators, the Rutland Herald reported. LINK


Student Loans “Democrats in Congress may feel compelled to move in lockstep to pass Obama's [student loan] program, but [the Vermont Student Assistance Corp.] is hoping Sen. Sanders…can work to modify the program so that VSAC and similar agencies around the nation can continue their work. It would be a worthwhile cause for Sanders to take up,” in the opinion of the Times Argus and Rutland Herald. LINK and LINK


The Grouchy Economist The evidence of trade found by a college archeology team in Cambridge dating back as far as 7,000 years shows commerce has been enriching the lives of people long before the existence of national borders. Art Woolf said those native Americans “understood the benefits of trade better than our representatives in Washington -- he names Sen. Sanders in particular,” The Burlington Free Press said in an editorial. LINK




Tension in Tehran Iranian state television reported that 13 people were killed in clashes Saturday when police and militia forces used guns, truncheons, tear gas and water cannons to beat back thousands of demonstrators. State television also reported that the government had arrested five members of the family of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who heads two influential councils in Iran, a move that escalates the government’s crackdown against the reform movement, The New York Times reported. LINK


Exiting Iraq A suicide truck bomb killed at least 70 people Saturday and wounded 182 in a primarily Turkmen town in northern Iraq, less than two weeks before the scheduled withdrawal of most U.S. forces from the cities.  The bombing, which could exacerbate ethnic tensions in the volatile Kirkuk region, came as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki warned that more attacks were expected as U.S. soldiers exit urban centers, according to the Los Angeles Times. LINK




Americans for Government Run Health Care Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The national telephone survey found that 72 percent supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers. LINK


Medicare Prescription Drugs The pharmaceutical industry agreed Saturday to spend $80 billion over the next decade improving drug benefits for seniors on Medicare and defraying the cost of President Obama's health care legislation. "This new coverage means affordable prices on prescription drugs when Medicare benefits don't cover the cost of prescriptions," Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement announcing the accord, AP reported. LINK


Firefighter Layoffs Thousands of firefighters across the country face possible layoffs this year, prompting concern that deep local government budget cuts will delay emergency response times. Since late last year, cities have been forced to shutter local fire stations, reduce services at others and cut the number of firefighters dispatched on emergency calls, USA Today reported. LINK


Air Force Solar Project Grounded The installation commander at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada is urging the government to turn down a plan by a Los Angeles firm called SolarReserve to build a $700 million solar thermal power plant at the desert base near Las Vegas, The Washington Post reported. LINK




Global Warming The fourth quarterly auction of carbon allowances raised more than $104 million for 10 Northeastern states to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Officials announced Friday that all 30.8 million allowances offered on June 17 were sold for $3.23 each -- 8 percent less than the March price of $3.51. Each allowance represents a ton of carbon that electric plants can release, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Food Bank More than 2,300 pounds of dairy products were donated last weekend in the first drive, and subsequent ones are scheduled for July 11 in Burlington, Williston and Colchester and Aug. 8. in Brattleboro. The effort, a collaboration of the Vermont Grocers Association, the Vermont Foodbank, the state Agency of Agriculture, Cabot Creamery and Ben & Jerry's, will distribute donated goods to 66,000 Vermonters in need of food assistance through the food bank, AP reported. LINK


Buses The city of Burlington is getting new transit buses, thanks to the federal stimulus law. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says $1.8 million will go to the Chittenden County Transportation Authority to buy five 30-foot buses that will replace older buses, AP reported. LINK