News March 25

Senator Sanders

Republicans Want Harsher Food Stamp Cuts Republicans plan to unveil a new budget plan with even deeper cuts to programs which help provide food mostly for children, the elderly and disabled persons. Sen. Bernie Sanders told MSNBC on Monday the proposal marked a “very ugly moment” in America. “What kind of nation are we when we give tax breaks to millionaires but we can’t take care of the elderly and the children?” Sanders asked. VIDEO

Income Inequality Sen. Sanders will host town meetings this Sunday to show Robert Reich’s documentary film “Inequality for All,” which examines the widening income gap in the United States. Simultaneous events will be held in Bennington, Brattleboro, Middlebury and St. Johnsbury, the Bennington Banner reported. LINK

Global Warming A bill by Sens. Sanders and Barbara Boxer would establish a price on carbon. Energy from fossil fuels that cause global warming would be more expensive, but 60 percent the revenue raised would be refunded to families to help offset the higher prices. The remaining revenue could be invested in sustainable and renewable energy like solar power and for making buildings more energy efficient. “The only way we can address climate change and get off of oil is to give families access to alternatives. We cannot produce our way to lower prices,” Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum told the Qatar-bankrolled Al Jazeera America. VIDEO

Carbon Tax The United States needs a carbon tax to curb climate change, Daniel Blaustein-Rejto wrote in a column for the Corvallis (Ore.) Gazette Times. He cited the bill by Sens. Sanders and Boxer and said their approach has been endorsed by conservatives like Mitt Romney’s economic advisor. LINK  

Iran Sanctions Twenty-three senators including Sen. Sanders sent President Obama a letter Saturday indicating their support for his negotiations with Iran and raising concerns that Iran will use prolonged negotiations as a tool to secure an economic lifeline while it continues to make progress towards a nuclear weapon, the conservative commentary website PJ Media reported. LINK  

Reviving Cities Transforming cities “takes more than strong mayors and business-oriented partnerships, it takes organizing on the part of community residents who are usually left on the sidelines of economic development,’ Rick Cohen wrote for Nonprofit Quarterly in a blog that cited Sen. Sanders’ role as mayor in the turnaround of Burlington, Vt., in the 1980s.  LINK

Education About 40 percent of Vermont public schools have adopted a program of positive reinforcement for proper conduct to help difficult and sometimes dangerous pupils. Bethel Elementary School in Bethel, Vt., recently was recognized by Sen. Sanders, the Valley News reported. LINK

World

Aid Package for Ukraine Advances in the Senate The Senate voted on Monday to formally take up legislation to aid Ukraine and sanction Russia, beginning what promises to be a heated weeklong debate in Congress over the role the International Monetary Fund should play in the Crimean crisis. While the 78-17 vote showed considerable bipartisan support for the measure, conservatives remain opposed to an overhaul of the monetary fund’s governance structure, which would expand Ukraine’s borrowing limit at the fund but, many Republicans say, would also diminish the United States’s authority and even increase Russia’s, according to The New York Times. LINK

G-7 Excludes Putin President Barack Obama and the leaders of the biggest Western economies agreed on Monday to exclude Russian President Vladimir V. Putin from the Group of 8, suspending his government’s 15-year participation in the diplomatic forum and further isolating his country, The New York Times reported. LINK

UN: 2013 Extreme Events Due to Warming The head of the United Nations weather agency said Monday that recent extreme weather patterns are “consistent” with human induced climate change, The Associated Press reported. The U.N. agency called 2013 the sixth-warmest year on record. Thirteen of the 14 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. LINK

US to Dispose of Japanese Nuclear Stockpile Japan will turn over hundreds of kilograms of sensitive nuclear material of potential use in bombs to the United States to be downgraded and disposed of, Reuters reported. LINK

Malaysian PM: Flight ‘Ended’ in Ocean Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean, effectively dashing hopes that the plane might have survived a still unexplained diversion from its flight path more than two weeks ago, The Washington Post reported. LINK

U.S. and Bolivia A U.S. congressional delegation’s visit to Bolivia last week could ease the two nations’ strained relationship. “It is by no means easy, but with the good will expressed by both sides, it could be less complicated than was previously believed,” according to an editorial in Cochabamba, Bolivia's Opinión newspaper. LINK

National

Obama to Call for End to NSA’s Bulk Data Collection The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to The New York Times. The N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies and the NSA could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge. LINK

Environment Groups Push Back Against Kochs A coalition of environmental groups is launching a $5 million push to help Senate allies fight back against attacks from billionaire oil industry titans Charles and David Koch, The Hill reported. The coalition, which includes the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and the American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund, is airing ads touting the work Sen. Kay Hagan and Reps. Bruce Braley and Gary Peters have done to protect the environment. LINK

Contraception Ruling Could Have Far Reach The Supreme Court on Tuesday hears arguments in a case that pits religious liberty against women’s rights and includes potential consequences which could frustrate the enforcement of laws addressing health, safety and civil rights, The New York Times reported. LINK

Reid: Senate Must Work Harder Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday the Senate might have to work over the weekend or shorten an upcoming April recess if it doesn't complete more work soon, The Hill reported. Over the next two weeks, Reid says he wants the Senate to consider a Ukraine aid package; an extension of federal unemployment benefits; legislation to hike the minimum wage; and a bill that would prevent a scheduled cut to physicians for Medicare. LINK

Vermont

Leahy Recommends Vt. Supreme Court Justice for Federal Appointment Sen. Patrick Leahy announced on the Senate floor that he is recommending Justice Geoffrey Crawford of the Vermont Supreme Court to serve as a judge in the U.S. District Court of Vermont, Vermont Public Radio reported. Crawford, if confirmed, will replace Judge William Sessions, who announced in January that he is taking “senior status” from the federal court. LINK

Disagreement Keeps Bus Drivers on Strike As the Chittenden County bus strike enters its second week, drivers and management at the Transportation Authority remain divided on how and when on-bus video recordings may be reviewed, the Burlington Free Press reported. The non-negotiable demand, forwarded by Teamsters Local 597, the drivers’ union, is that anonymous complaints against drivers must not trigger disciplinary reviews that rely on video footage. LINK

Survey: Vermonters Back Raising Minimum Wage The results of state Sen. Bill Doyle’s annual and unscientific Town Meeting Day survey, a 45-year-tradition filled out by some 10,000 people, show strong support for banning drivers from using cell phones, raising the minimum wage, requiring labeling of genetically modified foods, and reducing prison population through alternatives for non-violent offenders, the Burlington Free Press reported. Vermonters were more divided on whether Vermont’s moving in the right direction on health care, whether wind turbines should be atop the state’s mountains and whether marijuana should be legal. LINK

Psych Facility gets Federal Approval The Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center in Morrisville has become the first such state facility in Vermont to win federal certification for the first time since 2003. That means the eight-bed facility will be eligible for federal Medicaid payments, AP reported. LINK

New Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Gov. Peter Shumlin's top legislative, Louis Porter, will succeed Patrick Berry in May as commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Berry is leaving the department to become vice president for philanthropy at the Vermont Community Foundation, according to Seven Days. LINK

Democrat Bauer Announces Challenge for Lt. Gov. John Bauer, a Democrat from Jeffersonville, intends to challenge Republican incumbent Lt. Gov. Phil Scott in next fall’s election, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

Burlington Seeks More Taxes from Online Hotel Deals Burlington is making an effort to collect more tax revenue from the online reservations of hotel and motel rooms in the city, The Associated Press reported. Since online travel companies pay hotel occupancy taxes only on the wholesale rate rather than what customers pay, the city wants customers to be taxed on the price paid for the hotel room, the same way hotels are taxed directly. LINK