News May 29

Senator Sanders

March against Monsanto Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that he remains unbowed in his fight to give states the right to require that manufacturers of GMO foods label their products. “I have not the slightest doubt that the momentum is with us,” Sanders said in an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Jake Tapper a week after the U.S. Senate defeated his proposed amendment to the farm bill on food labels. Two million people in more than 50 countries marched over the weekend to protest Monsanto, the giant $58 billion multinational corporation that produces pesticides and genetically modified seeds designed to resist lethal chemicals, according to CNN. LINK, VIDEO, VIDEO

Food Labels With politicians in New York, Connecticut and Vermont pursuing bills to mandate GMO labeling, Sen. Sanders said it made sense to pass a federal law so that individual states wouldn’t be hit with lawsuits from GMO food giants like Monsanto and DuPont, the New York Daily News reported.  “There are about 27 states in this country that are moving forward on the labeling of GMO food … So all that my legislation said is that if … states want to go forward, Monsanto and these other large corporations cannot sue them,” Sanders said. Around the world, dozens of countries already require labels, Sanders said in a blog posted at Nation of Change. LINK, LINK

Dental Care The Northern Tier Centers for Health will expand its dental services in Swanton, Vt., according to the St. Albans Messenger. The clinic that opened in 2010 treats patients on a sliding fee scale so those without insurance can still find care. “We have a major dental care crisis,” said Sen. Sanders who has proposed legislation to expand access to dental care. “Whenever a clinic pops up… they get booked up pretty quickly.” LINK

Jobs for Veterans Sen. Sanders, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, has introduced a two-part bill to create pilot programs aimed at helping veterans find jobs, Marine Corps Times reported. LINK

USPS Postal Service finances began to sink in 2007 after Congress passed a law that required pre-funding health benefits of future retirees 50 years in advance at a rate of about $5.6 billion a year. Sen. Sanders and Rep. Peter A. DeFazio are sponsoring bills to eliminate the pre-funding requirement, Newsmax and United Press International reported. LINK, LINK

Bankers Dislike Bank Regulations Congress should “call a time-out” before instituting new financial regulations and reforms, according to Greg Wilson, a financial services consultant writing for The American Banker. He said a bill by Sen. Sanders to break up too-big-to-fail” banks could be “detrimental to our economy.” LINK

Denmark Sen. Sanders, America’s only self-proclaimed democratic socialist senator, loves Denmark, according to the Copenhagen newspaper Politiken. LINK.

Lake Champlain Speaking at the waterfront building that bears his name Sen. Patrick Leahy on Tuesday launched an effort to promote more effective strategies for the stewardship of Lake Champlain. Sen. Sanders, whose policies of waterfront preservation as Burlington’s mayor laid the groundwork for ECHO, spoke of a broader, global mandate to address climate change. “We are in a huge struggle, and it’s a struggle we have got to win,” Sanders said, according to the Burlington Free Press. LINK

Gone Fishin’ Sen. Sanders and Gov. Peter Shumlin participated in a fishing derby on Tuesday to raise funds for Lake Champlain, WCAX-TV reported. LINK

Steve Goodkind to Retire Burlington Public Works director Steve Goodkind plans to retire. Seven Days blogged that Goodkind was Mayor Sanders’ first appointee 32 years ago. Retirement will allow Goodkind more time to play banjo and ride his custom motorcycle. LINK


U.S.-China Summit President Obama will meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping next week to discuss the influx of Chinese cyber-attacks on American entities. Recently, Chinese hackers purportedly gained access to US-based advanced weapons systems. The Chinese government denied any involvement in the attacks, according to The Guardian. LINK

Drone Kills Pakistani Taliban A suspected U.S. drone strike Wednesday killed the No. 2 commander of the Pakistani Taliban, although the militant group denied he was killed. CBS News said Waliur Rehman's death has been confirmed and that Rehman appeared to have died in a drone strike that destroyed a house and killed six other people. LINK

Russia and Syria A senior Russian diplomat criticized the European Union for failing to agree on an extension for an arms embargo on Syria, reported The New York Times. “You cannot declare the wish to stop the bloodshed, on one hand, and continue to pump armaments into Syria, on the other hand,” declared Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to journalists. Russia continues to provide weapons to the Syrian government despite pressure from European and American diplomats. LINK

Israel and Russia Israel issued a strongly worded statement to Russia Tuesday, saying that the country would bomb Russian S-300 missile systems if they were deployed in Syria. Russia’s Sergei Ryabkov said that the systems would be a “stabilizing factor” that could dissuade “some hotheads,” namely the United States and members of the European Union, from entering the conflict. LINK


Home Prices Surge Americans are in a buying mood thanks largely to the housing recovery. The latest sign emerged Tuesday as the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index posted the biggest gains in seven years. Housing prices rose in every one of the 20 cities tracked, continuing a trend that began three months ago, The New York Times reported. The Wall Street Journal cast the news as “the latest sign of a sustained warm-up in an economic recovery that has otherwise been marked by starts and stops.” LINK, LINK

Consumer Confidence at 5-Year High, Markets Up New positive signs that the economy is improving include rising home prices and a jump in consumer confidence from last month’s 69 to 76.2 in May. Americans are more optimistic about the job market and the overall economy. And on Wall Street, the stock market hit another high on Tuesday, NBC News reported. LINK

Obama to Name Furman to Run Economic Council President Barack Obama plans to nominate one of his longtime economic-policy experts, Jason Furman, to serve as the next chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. If confirmed by the Senate, Furman would succeed Alan Krueger, an economist who plans to return to Princeton University for the fall term, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Money Laundering Scheme Exposed Liberty Reserve, an online service for money transfers, was charged Tuesday by federal prosecutors for laundering over $6 billion in recent years to global crime syndicates, reported The New York Times. “This was really PayPal for criminals,” said one law enforcement official. LINK

Food Labels Pressure on food companies to replace genetically modified ingredients in foods seems to be mounting as major suppliers, including Whole Foods, plan to begin labeling modified products, reported The New York Times. Consumers are demanding non-GMO foods, and prices for non-GMO crops are increasing as more seek them out.

VA Backlog As officials at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs look internally for solutions to a claims backlog that is drawing increasing fire from Capitol Hill, they are also reaching for outside help from some of the nation's best-known veterans groups. Under pressure to speed the review of nearly 600,000 long-outstanding claims for veteran benefits, the VA has announced that it is teaming up with the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans to help ensure that new applications are complete and error-free so they can be processed more quickly, The Baltimore Sun reported. LINK 

Bachmann Quitting Rep. Michele Bachmann announced Wednesday that she would not seek a fifth term in Congress. She said her decision was not related to the announcement that a challenger who came close to defeating her last fall would run again. A federal investigation into allegations of financial impropriety in her unsuccessful 2012 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination also was not a factor, she claimed in The Washington Post.   LINK


Border Entry Fee Northern Vermonters remain concerned about a study from the Department of Homeland Security about the possibility of creating a fee for those entering the United States across the Canadian border. One gas station owner estimates that ninety-percent of his customers are Candians looking for a better deal, reported Burlington Free Press. Should the United States impose a border fee, Northern Vermont small business owners are worried about a decrease in Canadian business. LINK

Veterans Home Concern over the fate of the state’s only veterans home, and how it will be run, is growing within the state employees union. The Vermont Veterans Home, beset with financial and regulatory woes, is now being reviewed by a consultant after lawmakers approved a study of its operations in the annual budget adjustment earlier this year. The report will include a look at alternative governance structures for the home, which the union fears could lead to privatization, and perhaps a loss of state jobs. Home Administrator Melissa Jackson said the home has continued normal operations and no changes are planned, the Bennington Banner reported. LINK

Shumlin’s Land Deal “The real estate deal by which Gov. Peter Shumlin purchased a house and 16 acres from a neighbor in East Montpelier is an embarrassment all around. It is likely to inflame Shumlin’s critics and unsettle his friends. According to experts in law and real estate, Shumlin did nothing legally or ethically wrong … [but] it’s clear there was an asymmetry of power between the parties … and that Shumlin benefited. Now it appears he may have to pay to tidy up a deal that has created hard feelings all around,” the Rutland Herald and Times Argus editorialized. LINK