News June 8

Senator Sanders

Obama Defends Surveillance President Barack Obama publicly acknowledged the government's electronic sleuthing on its citizens that he justified as a way to protect Americans from terrorism. His comments on Friday came in response to media reports that detailed the government's secret mass collection of phone and Internet communications. “I don’t accept the excuses from the administration,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a radio interview Friday on The Thom Hartmann Program. “We expected better from the Obama people.”

Sanders is ‘Deeply Disappointed’ When Congress renewed the Patriot Act in 2011, Sen. Sanders opposed the measure because he felt the law gave the federal government too much authority to monitor private phone records. Sanders told Vermont Public Radio that he is dismayed that President Obama expanded the surveillance program started by former President George W. Bush. “Am I deeply disappointed that Barack Obama, who among other things taught and studied Constitutional law, believes he has the authority or that it makes good public policy to do this? Am I disappointed? Absolutely.” LINK

NSA Fallout Sen. Sanders voiced concern that the government has overstepped its bounds by tracking phone records and electronic communications for hundreds of millions of people, ABC News reported online. Sanders called for reviewing a controversial section of the Patriot Act, according to The Hill, and said his prior warnings about the Patriot Act “turned out exactly to be true,” according to CNN, The Week and U.S. News and World Report. While the nation must guard against terrorists, Sanders said “we don't have to do it in a way that allows the government to accumulate information on literally tens of millions of innocent Americans,” reported MSNBC, USA Today and Congressional Quarterly. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK

NSA Fallout Overseas In Syria and other conflict zones on Friday, activists and militants with diverse politics expressed collective outrage over American data mining. Taliban fighters and Qaeda operatives found themselves on the same side of a debate as human rights activists, privacy advocates and conservative civil libertarians, according to The New York Times. It said Iran's semiofficial Mehr News Agency quoted Sen. Sanders saying, ''The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans.” LINK

Left and Right Political forces from all over the spectrum are uniting in opposition to newly revealed government surveillance programs, reported The Hill. Opposition to these so-called “Big Brother” programs is coming from Sen. Sanders on the left and Rep. Ron Paul on the right. An editorial in the Ventura County (Calif.) Star said “The only real resistance is from two senators who are … ideological oppositesl.” LINK, LINK

George W. Obama During an interview with Sen. Sanders, CNN’s Piers Morgan said Obama’s record on civil liberties may be “worse” than President George W. Bush’s, according to Real Clear Politics and Mediaite. Sanders noted that Bush started the domestic surveillance program. LINK

Cow Parade The Vermont town of Brattleboro is gearing up for its annual Strolling of the Heifers parade at 10 a.m. today. The event draws tens of thousands of people to downtown Brattleboro for the parade of heifer calves to celebrate family farmers and local food. Sen. Sanders will be walking in the parade, according to the Brattleboro Reformer and a page-one item in the Burlington Free Press. LINK


EU: Right to Peaceful Protest European Union officials criticized crackdowns on peaceful protesters in Turkey Friday after another tumultuous week led to three deaths and thousands of injuries, reported The Guardian. LINK

Syria The United Nations warned on Friday that half of all Syrians would need humanitarian aid by the end of the year. A civil war which led to thousands of deaths and millions of refugee displacements is expected to cost more than $5 billion in humanitarian aid, reported CNN International. LINK 

Koreas to Speak After months of hostility, North and South Korea will reconnect communications lines to diplomatic talks, reported The Washington Post. Nuclear threats previously led officials to sever cross-border ties earlier this year. LINK


US Officials Long Denied Massive Data Trawling For years, top officials of the Bush and Obama administrations dismissed fears about secret government data-mining by reassuring Congress that there were no secret nets trawling for Americans' phone and Internet records, The Associated Press reported. LINK

Leak Hunt In the wake of a pair of eye-opening reports on the government's domestic phone and internet monitoring programs, officials are turning their attention to who the source of the leaks was and how top secret information from one of America's most shadowy government agencies slipped into the open, ABC News reported. LINK 

What Jobs Crisis? Congress has already passed 13 laws this year, but none of them are aimed at curbing the country’s unemployment problem, reported National Journal. Another modest jobs report Friday indicated that the country was still on an exceedingly slow path to recovery. LINK

CBO Lowers Deficit Projection The Congressional Budget Office released a report Friday that estimated the federal budget defict through May was $627 billion. The total deficit for the 2013 fiscal year is expected to come in at $642 billion when major mortgage lenders pay back billions to the Treasury later this year, reported The Hill. LINK

Prosecutors Seek Prison for Jacksons Prosecutors Friday recommended four years in prison for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., following his guilty plea this year on criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. The government suggested an 18-month sentence for Jackson's wife, Sandra, who pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that understated the couple's income, AP reported. LINK

Ricin Arrest A woman accused of sending ricin-laced envelopes to President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was arrested Friday according to an NBC News report. LINK


Vermont Yankee The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant on Friday won the state approval it was seeking for a new emergency diesel generator at the plant, and said it was dropping a lawsuit in which it accused state regulators of foot-dragging on the issue. The state Public Service Board on Friday approved the new 3,000-kilowatt generator for the Vernon reactor, AP reported. LINK

Restaurants Grow Local More restaurants are growing their own vegetables in Vermont, reported the Burlington Free Press. Several restaurants have joined the Vermont Fresh Network, a conglomerate of local eateries that utilizes locally grown ingredients. The movement aims to spur local economic growth while providing nutritious food to customers. LINK