News May 28

Senator Sanders


Bank Rip Offs Banks are extending profitable and controversial credit card practices to checking accounts, making it easier for consumers to spend more than they have in their accounts and charging a steep fee for doing so. Sen. Bernie Sanders says efforts to reform credit card and bank practices don't go far enough. "We need serious and major regulatory reform over these institutions or they will continue to rip off people in every way imaginable, with outrageous fees snuck in every single place," he told USA Today. Sanders, according to CNN Headline News, “is taking the lead here.”  LINK and VIDEO


Solar Heaters Vermont towns will benefit from a $500,000 federal grant to install solar-powered water heaters at affordable housing complexes, The Associated Press and Times Argus reported.  Sen. Bernard Sanders also announced a $500,000 appropriation for solar installations at 10 public schools in the state, AP, WCAX and WPTZ reported.  Earlier this year, the senator helped secure $5 million for a solar project at the Vermont National Guard. LINK, LINK, LINK


Slow Road to High Speed Vermont plans to seek at least $50 million in federal stimulus funds for broadband Internet expansion, but Tom Evslin, the state’s chief recovery officer, said a delay in the release of the funds until December is “very bad news” because "we are going to miss some of the summer construction season and the promised jobs won't be delivered when they're most needed." The state's federal delegation and Gov. James Douglas are asking that the government free up the funds before December, the Brattleboro Reformer reported. LINK


Tobacco Pushers New smokeless products are key to the industry's survival. A Senate panel weighed requiring the FDA to study the health impact of tablets the size of breath mints with up to three times the nicotine in a cigarette. The new mint- and caramel-flavored products come in brightly colored containers that mimic candy packaging. Sen. Sanders lashed out at the marketers. "People…being paid to attract young people into smoking are not much different than someone selling heroin," he said, according to The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian. LINK


Connecticut River It's come a long way from the days when it was known as America's best-landscaped sewer, but conservation of the Connecticut River is still a high priority for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Four New England senators -Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Judd Gregg and Jeanne Shaheen -- co-sponsored the Upper Connecticut River Partnership Act of 2009, asking the Secretary of the Interior to invest $1 million per year in conservation via the efforts of the Connecticut River Joint Commissions, the Eagle Times reported. LINK


Health Care Richard Davis of the Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health wrote in a Brattleboro Reformer op-ed that he is “deeply disappointed” in President Obama’s approach to health care reform. He accused the president of “pandering to the health care special interests while locking single payer proponents out of the discussion.” Sen. Sanders took part in a White House health care summit, he allowed, but complained that Obama “did not invite any representatives of other single payer groups until you were pressured at the last minute.” LINK




Pakistan and India Nukes Sometime next year, Pakistan will start churning out a new stream of plutonium for its nuclear arsenal, which will eventually include warheads for ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. About 1,000 miles to the southwest, engineers in India are designing cruise missiles to carry nuclear warheads, relying partly on Russian missile-design assistance. U.S. and allied officials have grown increasingly worried over the rapid growth of the region's nuclear programs, in part because of the risk that weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Plum Posts The White House on Wednesday announced a slate of top diplomats in capitals from Tokyo to Paris. For the plum London appointment, Obama turned to Louis Susman, a retired vice chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking. The White House also announced it plans to nominate Miguel H. Diaz, an associate professor of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn., for the top job at the Vatican. And Obama nominated former U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana to be his ambassador to New Delhi, according to The Washington Post.  LINK


In China, Pelosi Calls for Cooperation on Climate The House speaker met China’s two top leaders on Wednesday to discuss cooperation on energy and environmental problems, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said Beijing would join Washington to “push for positive results” at the next global warming summit meeting this fall in Copenhagen. Pelosi and five House legislators involved in energy and environmental issues met with Wen and with President Hu Jintao on the third day of an eight-day tour of China, The New York Times reported. LINK




Unemployment The tally of newly laid-off people requesting jobless benefits fell last week, the government said Thursday, a sign that companies are cutting fewer workers, but the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose to 6.78 million — the largest total on records dating back to 1967 and the 17th straight record week, according to The Associated Press. 


Supreme Court Republicans see little chance of blocking Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, a key GOP senator conceded Wednesday, but senators and advocacy groups are still girding for this summer's battle. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he didn't foresee a filibuster, essentially the only way Republicans could try to stop Sotomayor since Democrats control the Senate, AP reported. LINK


U.S. Weighs Single Agency to Regulate Banking Industry Senior administration officials are considering the creation of a single agency to regulate the banking industry, replacing a patchwork of agencies that failed to prevent banks from falling into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, sources told The Washington Post.  The agency would be a key element in the administration's sweeping overhaul of financial regulation, which officials hope to unveil in coming weeks. LINK


Study Says Uninsured Costly for All The average family with health insurance shells out an extra $1,000 a year in premiums to pay for health care for the uninsured, a new report finds. The cost-shifting happens when someone without medical insurance gets care at an emergency room or elsewhere and then doesn't pay. The report was being released Thursday by advocacy group Families USA, which said the findings support its goal of extending coverage to all the 50 million Americans who are now uninsured, AP reported.  LINK




Renewable Energy Unhappy with it but unwilling to veto it, Gov. Jim Douglas is allowing a renewable energy bill to become law. The Republican governor said Wednesday he won't sign the measure, which calls on state utility regulators to set above-market wholesale rates for electric companies to pay to developers of small-scale wind, solar and other renewable energy projects. The bill, which passed the Democrat-controlled Legislature, would allow municipalities to effectively lend money to owners of homes and businesses to install renewable energy projects, AP reported. LINK


Swine Flu The Vermont Health Department says two more cases of swine flu have been confirmed by the state laboratory. One involved a Chittenden County resident; the other was an out-of-state resident visiting Chittenden County. Both people are recovering at home, according to AP. LINK