News June 24

Senator Sanders

Working Families President Barack Obama on Monday called for paid parental leave and other family-friendly policies during the first White House Summit on Working Families. Three Vermont advocates for fair workplace practices – state Rep. Tom Stevens of Waterbury, Cary Brown of the Vermont Commission on Women and Lindsay DesLauriers of the Main Street Alliance – made up the state’s delegation to the conference. The summit focused on bills addressing workplace issues like ones by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and make employers accommodate pregnant workers, the Rutland Herald and Times Argus reported. LINK

VA Whistleblowers An independent investigator found that the VA ignored problems cited by whistleblowers, including unsanitary medical instruments and psychiatric patients who went for years without evaluations. “Legitimate concerns must not be covered up or papered over by administrators," Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said, according to USA Today and The Associated Press. In The Washington Post, Sanders expressed his hope that a conference committee which meets today will iron out differences in Senate- and the House-passed legislation to “significantly improve the quality and timeliness of care.” LINK, LINK, LINK  

VA Reform A House and Senate conference committee meets today to resolve differences between separate approaches to VA reform legislation. Sen. Sanders said his “goal is to get this legislation onto the president’s desk as soon as we possibly can.” Sanders will co-chair the conference with Rep. Jeff Miller, who launched an aggressive schedule of hearings and investigations into wrongdoings at the VA, according to The Washington PostLINK, LINK

Coats Votes Against Veterans Sen. Dan Coats has long opposed any measure to improve the VA, Philip Reifenrath wrote in a letter to the editor of The (Fort Wayne, Indiana) News-Sentinel. He urged Coats to support a VA reform bill by Sens. Sanders and John McCain. LINK  

State of the Union Essay The Alexander Hamilton Friends Association of Seattle announced that a Mount Anthony Union High School rising senior will be one of the recipients of their award. Alexina Federhen, who won Sen. Bernie Sanders’ State of the Union Essay Contest earlier this year, is one of 36 students across 19 states who will receive a $500 scholarship, the Bennington Banner reported. LINK


Iraq  Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday from Iraq that the Sunni militants seizing territory in Iraq had become such a threat that the United States might not wait for Iraqi politicians to form a new government before taking military action, The New York Times reported. LINK

Syria The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced Monday that the last of Syria’s identified chemical weapons stockpile was handed over to inspectors for removal and destruction, The Washington Post reported. LINK


Global Warming More than a million homes and businesses along the nation’s coasts could flood before ultimately being destroyed. Entire states in the Southeast and the Corn Belt may lose farms as agriculture production shifts northward, according to a report by a bipartisan coalition that includes Republicans George P. Shultz, who served under President Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan and Henry M. Paulson Jr., who served under President George W. Bush. Robert E. Rubin, a Democrat in the Clinton administration, also is part of the group that endorsed putting a price on greenhouse gases, most likely by taxing emissions, The New York Times reported. LINK

VA Deaths Covered Up Records of dead veterans were changed or physically altered, some even in recent weeks, to hide how many people died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital, a whistle-blower told CNN. LINK

Women Exiting Workforce In the years since the last recession began, many women in their late 40s and early 50s, have left the work force just as they were reaching their peak earning years. The demands on middle-aged women to care for their parents, particularly during difficult economic times that force many families to share resources, are not the only reason for the shift. Some economists also attribute the unexpected phenomenon to extensive budget cuts by state and local governments, which employ women in large numbers and were hit harder during this recession than in previous downturns, The New York Times reported. LINK

Ex-Im Bank Kickbacks Probed The U.S. Export-Import Bank has suspended or removed four officials in recent months amid investigations into allegations of gifts and kickbacks, as well as attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Drone Memo Released President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday released a Justice Department memo justifying the drone killing of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki abroad, the Los Angeles Times reported. LINK

National Parks Ban Drones The National Park Service banned the use of drones in all of its parks, The Washington Post reported. LINK

EPA Wins in Court The Supreme Court on Monday mostly validated the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate power plant and factory emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming while imposing some limits on the agency’s reach, The Washington Post reported. The justices said the EPA could not rewrite specific standards written into the law. LINK

FBI Sex-Trafficking Crackdown Nearly 170 victims of child sex trafficking were rescued in the last week as part of an annual nationwide crackdown, the FBI told CBS News on Monday. Enforcement officials also arrested 281 pimps on state and federal charges. LINK

GM to Compensate Victims The victim-compensation expert hired by General Motors, Kenneth Feinberg, is nearing the final stages of an elaborate process to determine who is eligible for payments from General Motors and for how much, The New York Times reported. LINK


IBM The president of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corp. held a news conference on Monday to discuss an "action plan" for the IBM plant in Essex Junction, which may be sold in the coming weeks, the Burlington Free Press reported.  LINK

Net Neutrality Vermonters will have an opportunity to weigh in on the future of net neutrality next month when Sen. Leahy will bring the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee to the University of Vermont for a special field hearing. The Federal Communications Commission is considering a rule that would allow large Internet service providers to charge individuals and businesses for much faster access to the Internet. Leahy is leading the effort in the Senate to oppose the FCC plan, according to Vermont Public Radio. LINK

Clean Energy Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday released the "Vermont Clean Energy Industry Report," the first effort in the state to survey and describe Vermont's clean energy industry, AP reported. "This report confirms what I've believed for a long time - that the clean energy industry in Vermont is vibrant and vital to our economy, and presents a tremendous opportunity for good paying jobs for Vermonters, as we solve our energy challenges to get off of fossil fuels," Shumlin said. LINK

Shumlin Backs Corren Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday endorsed Dean Corren, the Progressive Party candidate for lieutenant governor. He called on state Democrats to do the same. Corren will face incumbent Republican Lt. Governor Phil Scott, WCAX-TV reported. LINK