News June 5

Senator Sanders


Health Care President Barack Obama's hopes for a bipartisan health deal seemed in jeopardy Thursday as GOP senators protested his renewed support for a new public health insurance plan. “The American people have got to weigh in on this debate -- get involved in this struggle -- to say at the very least we want a strong public plan option. We can [also] make good progress on primary healthcare, expanding community health centers, training more health care professionals and implementing stronger quality control,” Sanders told The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel. LINK


Farm Workers Two Florida farms have decided to participate in a deal to increase the wages of the state's tomato pickers in an agreement with a farm worker advocacy group and upscale Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain announced Thursday. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Whole Foods said the farms will pay pickers 1 cent more per pound of tomatoes. U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, both of whom have long supported the coalition's efforts, lauded Thursday's deal, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Guantánamo President Obama isn't finding any takers in the U.S. to house the terrorism detainees now being held at the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In Thursday's speech in Cairo on U.S. relations with Muslims, Obama repeated his pledge to close the facility. Local officials are balking. "The answer to that is no," said Vermont Corrections Department Commissioner Andrew Pallito. Both Sens. Patrick J. Leahy and Sanders support the idea of shipping some of the suspected terrorists to maximum-security prisons in the United States, according to The Washington Times. LINK




Obama Pushes Mideast Peace Prodding the international community, President Barack Obama called Friday "for all of us to redouble our efforts" toward separate Israeli and Palestinian states. "The moment is now for us to act," he declared. Alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel one day after his trip to the Middle East, Obama said the United States has "at least created the space, the atmosphere, in which talks can restart," The Associated Press reported. LINK




9.4 Percent Unemployment The unemployment rate jumped to 9.4 percent in May, the highest in more than 25 years. But the furious pace of layoffs eased, with employers cutting 345,000 jobs, the fewest since September. If laid off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have settled for part time work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 16.4 percent, the highest on records dating to 1994. The Labor Department also says a total of 14.5 million people were unemployed in May, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Countrywide’s Former Chief Accused of Fraud Angelo R. Mozilo, the self-made man from the Bronx who built Countrywide Financial into the nation’s largest mortgage lender before the credit squeeze hit, has been charged with securities fraud and insider trading in a civil suit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, The New York Times reported. LINK


Republicans Complain About Plan for Health Insurance Republican frustration with Democratic plans to remake the health care system boiled over Thursday, as Republicans complained about the size, shape and cost of the emerging proposal. Despite the concerns, the chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus, and its senior Republican, Senator Charles E. Grassley, expressed confidence that they could come together on a bill producing near-universal coverage, The New York Times reported. LINK

Single Payer A mostly-Democratic crowd that Seattle police estimated at 2,500 shouted down Sen. Patty Murray's remarks at a health care rally last weekend. "I am heading back to Washington," Murray started, and was drowned out by chants of "Single payer, single payer!" Protesters said they were disappointed that Murray hasn't said anything in support of the single-payer option, according to The Seattle Times. LINK




Union Sues to Stop Layoffs The Vermont State Employees Association filed a lawsuit Thursday asking a court to block the layoff of 120 state workers before the layoffs take effect today. A hearing on the union’s request for an emergency restraining order was scheduled for this morning in Chittenden County Superior Court. At issue is whether the administration of Gov. Jim Douglas needs the Legislature’s permission to proceed with the layoffs, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Tobacco Funds Restored Vermont lawmakers have partially reinstated funding for the state's tobacco control efforts, which had been scheduled for a $1.9 million hit in the new state budget. Before adjourning Wednesday, the Legislature voted to restore all but $400,000 of the money, using a $1.5 million transfer from the state's tobacco trust fund, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Stowe Stiffed on Stimulus Stowe isn’t getting any of the nearly $190 million allotted to Vermont for transportation, sewer and water improvements in the stimulus bill, according to the Stowe Reporter. LINK


Swine Flu The Vermont Department of Health has confirmed six new cases of the swine flu bringing the total number of people infected in the state to 14, AP reported. LINK