Oil Prices Senator Bernie Sanders asked federal regulators to crack down on speculators he blamed for pushing up the price of crude oil to more than $66 a barrel on Friday, an increase of more than 70 percent since mid-January. Sanders said the jump was not justified, given that global oil demand this year is forecast to post the sharpest annual decline since 1981 and petroleum inventories are at their highest level in years, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Burlington Free Press, Rutland Herald and WCAX reported. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK and VIDEO
Town Meetings Senator Bernie Sanders will host a series of town meetings focused on the economy in Richford, Orleans, Hardwick, Stowe and Bradford this Saturday and Sunday. After brief remarks, Sanders will take questions and comments from the audience. All meetings are free and open to the public, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK
Credit Cards A bill by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to take up when Congress returns this week would effectively cap the annual percentage rate on any consumer loan, including fees, at 18.5 percent. Related attempts by the bill's co-sponsors to cap interest rates or alter the bankruptcy code have fallen short. A mortgage bankruptcy measure from Sen. Dick Durbin recently lost on a 51-to-45 vote, and a 15 percent rate-cap amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders also failed, 60 to 33, The American Banker reported.
Market Regulation Market participants are drawing a link between the timing of the U.S. government's announcement on regulating over-the-counter derivatives and a block Senators Bernie Sanders and Maria Cantwell lifted on Gary Gensler's nomination to chair the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The theory, supported by language both senators used when withdrawing their opposition, is they used the block as a negotiating tool for securing certain points in the regulatory proposals, the Wall Street Letter concluded. LINK
Fed Secrecy Congressional auditors may soon examine the Federal Reserve’s role in the U.S. bailout of American International Group Inc. after gaining authority to review Fed documents under a law that took force last week, Acting U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said. The new Fed audit law differs from more intrusive legislation introduced in the House by Ron Paul and in the Senate by Bernie Sanders, according to Bloomberg. LINK
Wall Street Probe Sanders said he hopes a new independent commission will root out the cause of the financial meltdown. “I consider this to be a very important issue,” Sanders told nationally-syndicated radio host Thom Hartmann.. “I hope we see a very strong chairperson and an aggressive investigation.” Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Pelosi will appoint six people to the 10-member panel.
Cheney “I have not been one of Dick Cheney’s great fans,” Sanders told WGMT radio. “I find it interesting that as vice president, Dick Cheney kind of disappeared…[N]o one has ever seen a vice president so out of contact. People didn’t know where he was sometimes.” LINK
Gates Warns North Korea Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned North Korea on Saturday that the United States would not accept it as a nuclear weapons state and would consider any transfer of nuclear material to other countries or terrorist groups a “grave threat” to the United States and its allies, according to The New York Times. LINK
Chávez Tightens Grip on Military Hugo Chávez since February has moved against a wide range of domestic critics, and his efforts in recent weeks to strengthen his grip on the armed forces have led to high-profile arrests and a wave of reassignments. These are seen here as part of a larger effort by Chávez to cement loyalty in the military, where some officers are growing resentful at what they see as his micromanagement and politicizing of a proud and relatively independent institution, The New York Times reported. LINK
GM The United States would recover most of its planned $50 billion investment in General Motors within five years, according to a preliminary Treasury Department estimate that foresees the company, now on the brink of bankruptcy, rebounding over that time to become a strapping global competitor, The Washington Post reported. LINK
Taxpayers Billed for TVs, Cameras, Lexus As British politicians come under widening scorn for spending public money on everything from candy bars to moat-dredging, a Wall Street Journal examination of U.S. lawmakers' expense claims shows “eye-catching purchases.” Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings spent $24,730 in taxpayer money last year to lease a 2008 luxury Lexus hybrid sedan, for example. Ohio Rep. Michael Turner expensed a $1,435 digital camera. Rep. Howard Berman expensed $84,000 worth of personalized calendars for his constituents. LINK
Recession Hits St. J Revenues Officials in St. Johnsbury say the number of property owners who've fallen behind on their taxes has jumped due to the struggling economy.Town Clerk Sandy Grenier says 105 property owners currently owe the town $246,500, compared with 85 owing $115,000 at the same time last year. She says that's much higher than normal, and that it's because of the recession gripping the nation, The Associated Press reported. LINK
Parks Boss Booted Wayne Gross, director of the Burlington Department of Parks and Recreation, will not be reappointed to the position he has held for 15 years, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK
Swine Flu Two more cases of swine flu in Vermont were confirmed Thursday -- both in public schools, Vermont Health Department officials said. The cases involved students at Rutland High School and Missisquoi Valley Union Middle/High School in Swanton. Both students are recovering at home. Altogether, six swine-flu cases in Vermont have been confirmed, The Burlington Free Press reported. LINK