News June 8

Senator Sanders


Credit Cards During an interview Sunday on WCAX, Rep. Peter Welch talked about efforts by Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Senate and Welch in the House to cap credit card interest rates. William Greider in The Nation called a new credit card law with no cap “a fresh example of how the Democratic Party tries to have it both ways--avoiding the tough votes while mollifying the folks.” He noted the vote against a Sanders amendment to put a 15 percent limit on interest rates. Steve Forbes mentioned Sanders’ amendment in a television interview. LINK, LINK and VIDEO


Strolling of the Heifers Sen. Bernard Sanders, who never misses the milking competition and who has never won it either, said the Strolling of the Heifers is indispensable for Vermont. "It's important that we focus on the 200-year-old tradition of agriculture in this state," he told the Brattleboro Reformer. LINK





North Korea Sentences U.S. Journalists North Korea's top court convicted two American journalists and sentenced them to 12 years in a prison Monday, intensifying the reclusive nation's confrontation with the United States. The sentencing came amid soaring tensions fueled by the North's latest nuclear and missile tests, The Associated Press reported. LINK


Canadians Angered Over ‘Buy American’ Rule The Federation of Canadian Municipalities on Saturday endorsed a controversial proposal to support communities that refuse to buy products from countries that put trade restrictions on products and services from Canada, Reuters reported. The measure is a response to a provision in the U.S. economic stimulus package passed by Congress in February that says public works projects should use iron, steel and other goods made in the United States. LINK




Bipartisan Health Bill Possible, Leaders Say Plenty of people here think Senators Max Baucus and Charles E. Grassley are wasting time seeking a bipartisan health care bill to insure every American, but Baucus and Grassley expressed optimism in a joint interview on Thursday with The New York Times that their backstage negotiations would soon clear remaining obstacles. LINK


Ailing Kennedy Key to Health Bill The future shape of the U.S. health-care system could hang on the uncertain health of one very prominent American. Sen. Edward Kennedy, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and a senator for more than 45 years, has championed health-care issues his whole career. At this long-awaited moment, it isn't clear whether Kennedy can be on the scene to direct the effort, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK


Corporate Compensation The Obama administration plans to require banks and corporations that have received two rounds of federal bailouts to submit any major executive pay changes for approval by a new federal official who will monitor compensation, according to two government officials. The proposal is part of a broad set of regulations on executive compensation expected to be announced by the administration as early as this week, The New York Times reported. LINK


U.S. Will Let Some Banks Repay Aid The Obama administration plans to announce as soon as today that some of the nation's largest banks can repay billions in federal aid, but some officials caution that the show of progress is being underwritten by multiple layers of less visible government support, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Weatherization The federal government is spending $5 billion in stimulus money to weatherize homes across the country, almost as much as it has spent on weatherization since the program was created in the 1970s to cut heating bills and conserve oil for low-income people. As a result of a political compromise with Sun Belt lawmakers, the enormous expansion of the weatherization program will invoke a rarely used formula that will devote 31 percent of the money, nearly double the old share of 16 percent, to help states in hot climates save on air-conditioning, The New York Times reported. LINK




Visit Vermont State tourism officials are hoping a lot of last-minute decisions will result in a strong summer. Bruce Hyde, commissioner of the Department of Tourism and Marketing, says he expects the state to do well despite the economy. He told the Rutland Herald that surveys indicate many tourists will be sticking close to home. An economic analysis done for the state in 2007 showed summer visitors spending $539 million in the state, or nearly $100 per person. LINK


Hospital Grades A study compiled by state regulators says Vermont hospitals score above the national average in four broad categories of care. The latest report looks at how hospitals handle heart attacks, heart failure, complications from surgery and pneumonia. The state's largest hospital, Fletcher Allen, scored above the state and national average in all areas except pneumonia care. Nationally, 11 percent of Medicare patients died within 30 days of being hospitalized for pneumonia. At Fletcher Allen, it was 15 percent, according to AP. LINK


Sugar Makers The state of Vermont is opening eight sites on state land to maple sugar making, giving interested syrup makers until July 10 to get their applications in. The sites are in Groton State Forest, in Groton; Elmore State Park, in Elmore; Mt. Mansfield State Forest, in Stowe; Coolidge State Forest, in Plymouth; Okemo State Forest, in Mount Holly; Putnam State Forest, in Grafton; and Queechee State Park, in Hartford, AP reported. LINK


Seventh Generation The new chief executive officer of the environmentally conscious company Seventh Generation says he's looking forward to working in a small operation when he can communicate directly with the staff. Chuck Maniscalco came to the company that makes environmentally conscious products after retiring from PepsiCo, where he ran the Quaker Tropicana Gatorade division. He is succeeding Seventh Generation co-founder Jeffrey Hollender, according to The Burlington Free Press. LINK