News July 11

Senator Sanders

Student Loans Sen. Bernie Sanders said he's disappointed that a Republican filibuster blocked legislation in the U.S. Senate that was designed to have student loan interest rates revert to what they were before they doubled on July 1 to 6.8 percent. Sanders said he's heard from more than 700 Vermonters and people around the country that borrowing for college costs too much, reported The Associated Press, the Burlington Free Press, WCAX-TV and Politicus USA. “We must continue working to find a short-term solution to keep interest rates down while developing a long-term solution to make college more affordable for working families,” Sanders said on WPTZ-TV. LINK, LINK, LINKVIDEOVIDEO, VIDEO,

College Costs “In a competitive, global economy, what we are saying to families all over this country [is] we do not want your kids to get a college education, we don't want them to become doctors or nurses, businesspeople, scientists, teachers. We don’t want them to expand their intellectual capability and make us a competitive nation,” Sanders said in a Senate floor speech excerpted on WBUR-FM in Boston and other National Public Radio stations. “Now, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” he told radio host Joel Heitkamp.  AUDIO, AUDIO

Student Loans Sen. Sanders called a plan floated by Sen. Joe Manchin to tie student loan rates to 10-year Treasury notes “totally insane.” “The American people would laugh at that. It's not a proposal,” he elaborated. Sanders added that the administration’s push for a market-based student loan rate is also a nonstarter, according to The Hill. “The White House’s proposal is absurd as well.” LINK

Health Care Sen. Sanders had a wide-ranging discussion about health care costs, particularly emergency room costs, with administrators and physicians at Northwestern Medical Center in Franklin County, Vt., the St. Albans Messenger reported. "Clearly, communities need to have strong emergency rooms that are available 24/7," said Sanders. “The issue which concerns me is the degree to which emergency rooms … provide primary care.” If a Medicare patient visits an emergency room, the cost to Medicare is $1,200, while an office visit to a primary care physician is just $125, said Sanders.

Dental Care While visiting Richford, Vt., last week, Sen. Sanders stopped into the Northern Tier Center for Health (NOTCH) clinic to discuss one of his favorite issues – dental care. "We talk about health care, but we have not paid anywhere near enough attention to dental care," Sanders told the St. Albans Messenger.

Immigration Reform All eyes are on the House of Representatives after the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June. The bipartisan vote came after the Senate adopted an amendment to massively bolster border security and added a provision by Sen. Sanders that would create a youth jobs program funded by an additional $10 fee per worker charged to employers that hire foreign workers, Bloomberg BNA reported. LINK

Leslie Holman Burlington immigration lawyer Leslie Holman was named president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The group will play a role in the national immigration reform debate. Holman has earned the respect of the staff of Sen. Sanders for her resourcefulness in dealing with constituent immigration issues, according to Seven DaysLINK

F-35s The Winooski City Council voted 4-0 to oppose plans by the Air Force to base F-35 fighter planes with the Vermont National Guard at Burlington International Airport, which is located off the north end of the airport runway. Earlier this week, the South Burlington City Council voted to reverse its previous opposition to stationing the planes at the airport, AP reported. Vermont's congressional delegation, including Sen. Sanders, supports the basing, the Burlington Free Press reported. LINK

Egyptian Aid Last week's toppling of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt constituted a coup, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch told Seven Days. Asked whether the U.S. should end aid to Egypt, Sanders declined to say. Sen. Patrick Leahy believes current law disallows foreign aid to Egypt. LINK

Op-Ed News Sen. Sanders “is probably the single most popular elected politician in Washington among progressives,” according to Rob Kall of Op-Ed News. Sanders was interviewed about a progressive campaign, domestic surveillance, big banks and other topics.

Code Violations Several properties owned by Richard Bove Sr. and his son, Rick, highlight deficiencies in Burlington's health and safety standards enforcement, according to Seven Days, which noted that Bove Sr. ran for mayor against Sanders in 1981. LINK


Global WarmingThe entire U.S. energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a report from the Department of Energy to be published on Thursday. The blackouts and other energy disruptions of Hurricane Sandy were just a foretaste, the report in The New York Times says. Every corner of the country’s energy infrastructure — oil wells, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants — will be stressed in coming years by more intense storms, rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts. LINK

Syria The Obama administration’s month-old plan to arm opposition fighters in Syria has stalled as a result of congressional disagreements over whether and how to aid the rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad. To the growing frustration of those who won a long and contentious internal administration debate over the issue of supplying arms, members of the Senate and House intelligence committees remain divided on the proposal to send light weapons and ammunition to the rebel forces, The Washington Post reported. LINK


U.S. Spends More on Health Care, Gets Less Life expectancy in the United States is going up, but chronic disabilities, including many caused by bad food choices, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol abuse, account for a larger portion of health issues in the United States than in its economic peers around the world, according to a new study by a global collaboration of scientists. “The United States spends more than the rest of the world on health care and leads the world in the quality and quantity of its health research, but that doesn’t add up to better health outcomes,” Christopher J.L. Murray, one of the study’s lead authors, told The Washington Post. LINK

Obama Administration Misleads on Surveillance Lawmakers tasked with overseeing national security policy say a pattern of misleading testimony by senior Obama administration officials has weakened Congress’s ability to rein in government surveillance. Members of Congress say officials have either denied the existence of a broad program that collects data on millions of Americans or, more commonly, made statements that left some lawmakers with the impression that the government was conducting only narrow, targeted surveillance operations, The Washington Post reported. LINK

NSA Additional classified slides from the National Security Agency show that the government utilizes yet another major surveillance program to capture data passing through consumer-used internet cables, reported The Washington Post. The program, titled Upstream, records information as it flows through fiber-optic internet cables, allowing surveillance professionals to spy on web users. LINK

Tar Sands Pipeline Two weeks after President Obama said he would support the proposed Keystone XL pipeline only if it “does not significantly exacerbate” greenhouse-gas emissions, the political battle over how to define that is still raging. This week, the American Petroleum Institute unveiled a new eight-state ad campaign backing the project, environmental groups renewed conflict of interest charges against a State Department contractor, and Rep. Henry A. Waxman and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse wrote a 20-page letter to the State Department arguing that the pipeline does not meet the president’s climate test, The Washington Post reported. LINK

Republicans in House Resist Overhaul for Immigration Meeting for the first time as a group to hash out their approach to immigration, House Republicans on Wednesday came down overwhelmingly against a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, putting in jeopardy the future of sweeping legislation that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Despite the resistance, Speaker John A. Boehner warned about the steep price of inaction, telling House Republicans that they would be in a weaker political position against a bipartisan Senate coalition and President Obama if they did nothing to answer the immigration measure passed by the Senate, The New York Times reported. LINK

House to Vote on Farm Bill Without Food Stamps The vote was announced shortly before midnight. What level of Democratic support the bill will have is unclear. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer criticized the Republican effort and more than 500 agriculture groups have opposed splitting the food stamp provisions from the bill, The Hill reported. LINK

Herding Cats Divisions among Senate Democrats are complicating the party's way forward on several issues, as liberals increasingly assert themselves. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats failed to pass a plan to reverse an increase in interest rates on certain federally subsidized student loans. The measure was championed by liberals in the Senate and backed by Majority Leader Harry Reid, but it differed from proposals from President Barack Obama and the House. One Senate Democrat and one independent lawmaker who generally votes with the majority party helped block the measure by joining with Republicans, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Tribune Spinoff Tribune Co. announced plans Wednesday to spin off its newspaper unit, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, into a separate company, reported the Los Angeles Times. Company officials want to detach a declining newspaper business from the company's other television and internet properties. LINK

Apple E-Books Conspiracy A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Apple violated antitrust law in a conspiracy with major publishers to raise e-book prices, according to The New York Times. "Without Apple’s orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did in the spring of 2010,” said United States District Court Judge Denise L. Cote. LINK


Vt. Resort: Make Border Crossing Easier A ski resort in northern Vermont joined with other businesses near American international borders to offer to pay the Department of Homeland Security to increase customs staff at border crossings, reported The Associated Press. Bill Stenger, president of Jay Peak ski resort, says he is willing to pay to cut down long wait times for border crossers, citing an economic advantage for his business.LINK

Preschool Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday that a new public-private partnership to enroll all Vermont preschoolers in early-childhood education programs has raised $800,000. The funding is expected to help a dozen communities launch public preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds, according to an AP report. LINK