News July 30

Senator Sanders

Obama ‘Not a Fighter’ In a series of speeches on the economy, President Barack Obama so far has not laid out fresh plans, The Associated Press reported. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Obama needed to, but did not, outline bold new legislation to create jobs through a major program to fix highways, shore up bridges, overhaul airports and seaports and rebuild railways. Sanders said the president should have gotten tough and told Republicans that “if they are not prepared to go forward they are going to pay a political price” but “he's not a fighter and the Republicans have gotten that clue.”

Obama ‘Not a Fighter’ Obama's program for boosting the middle class, which he is laying out in a series of speeches, faces long odds in a Congress that showed little interest when he proposed similar ideas earlier this year. Some Democrats are looking for Obama to become more assertive. “If you're asking me if I am optimistic that he's going to come down here and fight and give the Republicans an offer they can't refuse—no. The president is not a fighter,” Sen. Sanders, an independent who generally votes with the Democratic majority, told The Wall Street Journal. LINK

The Fed Sen. Sanders urged the president to nominate a new Fed chairman who would be an advocate for the middle class, AP reported. Sanders suggested Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz or former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Sanders said the Fed needs to address unemployment with the same urgency it showed after the financial crisis in 2008, WCAX-TV reported. “Among the many reasons the country would be better off if Bernie Sanders was president is that the man just refuses to deal in silliness. He wants the country to have a serious debate” about the Federal Reserve mandate to promote full employment, Jonathan Tasini blogged. LINKLINKLINK, VIDEO, LINK, LINK

Veterans' Home Gov. Peter Shumlin asked the state Legislature for $2 million to cover Vermont Veterans Home deficits. Deeper federal cuts would make the problem worse. David Weinstein, a Sanders aide, told the Bennington Banner that the home remains under scrutiny by the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, which last year threatened to withdraw federal funding which accounts for most of the home's $21 million budget. Weinstein said Sanders last week asked CMS for time "to right the ship." Sanders, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, also is working to help the facility care for patients from nearby Massachusetts, according to the Banner, Vt. Digger and the Valley News.  LINK, LINK

Nuclear Waste The Senate energy committee will hold a hearing on legislation to establish interim waste storage sites for high-level nuclear waste and a new oversight agency to manage the process. “This hearing is an opportunity for Sen. Sanders to call for … transferring spent fuel …” from pools that pose “a greater risk to the surrounding community in the event of an accident that releases radioactivity,” Christian O’Rourke of the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in letter to the editor of the Brattleboro Reformer. LINK

Nader on Progressives Ralph Nader told MSNBC's Chuck Todd on Monday that progressives should challenge a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy from the left in 2016, according to The Huffington Post. Nader said progressives such as Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and Sanders are “fairly marginalized. They’re not in the center because they don’t threaten to break. The right wing does threaten to break sometimes,” Nader said. VIDEOLINKLINK

Senate Trivia James Buckley of New York was the most recent senator elected without running as a Democrat, Republican or independent, according to an MSNBC trivia question. "The Daily Rundown" host Chuck Todd reminded viewers that Sen. Sanders was elected as an independent not espousing any party. VIDEO

World

Mideast Peace Talks Israel and Palestine agreed to substantive peace talks in Washington this week after Israeli leaders agreed to a prisoner release The Washington Post reported. LINK

Worker Abuse China Labor Watch on Monday accused hardware manufacturing company Pegatron of widespread worker abuses including safety violations, excessive work hours, and poor living conditions, according to The Wall Street Journal. Pegatron is a major Apple Inc. supplier with about 70,000 employees in China. The findings are the latest in a string of labor exploitation accusations from overseas manufacturers connected to American corporations. LINK

Electric Cars BMW unveiled Monday its first mass-production electric car, The Wall Street Journal reported. Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer said the company will boost sales of plug-in and battery electric vehicles dramatically by 2025 to meet regulatory requirements for lower emissions. LINK

‘Who am I to Judge’ Gay Priests? Pope Asks In a monumental shift from his papal predecessor, Pope Francis on Monday said he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis said, according to The New York TimesLINK

National

Senate Backs FBI Chief The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed James B. Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday. The Senate also was expected this week to approve Samantha Power as ambassador to the United Nations and the nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, The New York Times reported. LINK

Obama Economic Proposals Face Long Odds President Obama's program for boosting the middle class, which he is laying out in a series of speeches through September, faces long odds in a Congress that showed little interest when he proposed similar ideas earlier this year. In addresses that continue Tuesday with an appearance in Tennessee, Obama says he will put forward new ideas on boosting the economy, but he is also returning to proposals he first advanced in his State of the Union address in February, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

Obama at Amazon President Obama will travel Tuesday to an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. to give his latest address on the economy. Tuesday’s speech will focus on manufacturing and high wage jobs.  The web giant announced plans Monday to hire an additional 5,000 employees in its 17 U.S. distribution warehouses, The Hill reported. LINK

Obama on Capitol Hill President Obama will meet with Democrats on Capitol Hill Wednesday to discuss his new series of economic speeches, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and a push for immigration reform, according to PoliticoLINK

Health Care Benefits in Jeopardy for Congress, Staff As President Obama promotes his health care law, one audience very close to home is growing increasingly anxious about the financial implications of the new coverage: members of Congress and their personal staffs, The New York Times reported. Under a wrinkle that dates back to enactment of the law, members of Congress and thousands of their aides are required to get their coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges. The law does not provide any obvious way for the federal government to continue paying its share of the premiums for the comprehensive coverage. LINK

Market Manipulation JPMorgan Chase became the latest bank to be accused of market manipulation after federal regulators charged the firm with illegal practices in electricity markets, Reuters reported. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reportedly in settlement talks with JPMorgan over the alleged manipulation that took place in 2010 and 2011 when traders supposedly booked overpayments for electric power. LINK

FBI Sex-Trafficking Sweep The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Monday that a massive nationwide sweep targeting child sex-trafficking rings resulted in the saving of 105 exploited children and the arrest of over 150 suspects, CBS News reported. LINK

Fast Food Strike Fast food workers in seven cities are on strike for higher wages, The Nation reported. Organizing group Fast Food Forward says the average annual salary for a fast food employee is $11,000, compared to a $25,000 daily salary for fast food chief executives. LINK

Dead Farmers The Government Accountability Office said Monday that $22 million in farm subsidies may have been provided to 3,434 policyholders two or more years after their deaths, reported The Hill. The revelations come as Congress is struggling to pass a trillion-dollar farm bill to reauthorize farm subsidies, crop insurance and food stamps. LINK

Vermont

Shumlin Faults Power Grid Manager Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday he’s disappointed that the operator of the region’s electric grid decided to scale back renewable energy production during peak energy demand caused by the recent heat wave. In a letter to the president and CEO of ISO New England, Shumlin criticized the grid operator’s decision to increase output from coal and oil power plants while scaling back renewable energy production. He said the decision ran counter to state policies aimed at increasing production of clean, local, renewable energy, such as wind power, AP reported.

Voter Registration Vermont will become the third state to offer voter registration through its health insurance marketplace later this year, AP reported. Secretary of State Jim Condos wants the move to increase eligible voter participation. "Voting is a fundamental right, and as the chief elections officer in the state of Vermont, one of my top priorities is to promote the registration of all eligible voters," he said. LINK

Lake Champlain Basin About $14 million is required to upgrade floodplain planning and forecasting in the Lake Champlain basin, according to a new study cited by the Burlington Free PressLINK

War Crimes Suspect Remains Jailed A Bosnian war-crimes suspect living in Burlington will be jailed pending trial, a federal judge has ruled, cit­ing strong evidence against him and a high risk the man might flee. Edin Sakoc, 54, of Riverside Avenue is charged with lying to immigration authorities by denying involvement in war crimes during the conflict in Bosnia two decades ago. “He poses a substantial risk of flight,” Judge William K. Sessions III said during a detention hear­ing Monday in U.S. District Court, the Burlington Free Press reported.