Thursday, February 14, 2013

Asteroids and Climate Change

In the eve of DA14 asteroid waiving Earth, Senators Bernard Sanders and Barbara Boxer today  presented a comprehensive proposal to combat climate change, the San Francisco Chronicle, McClatchy, Congressional Quarterly, The Raw Story and Think Progress reported. Key provisions of the bill will include a fee on carbon and methane production, a tariff on oil and gas imports, and an energy rebate for affected families. There is no indication if climate change could facilitate easy impact of an asteroid. There is a sense of perfecting the destruction of Earth rather protecting it. 

Senators Sanders and Boxer joined at a news conference on climate change legislation by two environmentalists arrested on Wednesday outside the White House. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, and environmental activist Bill McKibben were protesting TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, The Canada Press reported.

USPS Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe took his controversial plan for five-day mail delivery before a congressional hearing Wednesday. About the same time Donahoe was asking the committee not to stop him from ending Saturday mail, other members of Congress were introducing legislation to do just that, The Washington Post reported. “Providing fewer services and less quality will cause more customers to seek other options,” said Sen. Sanders, who introduced the bill in the Senate as Rep. Peter A. DeFazio did in the House. Their legislation would keep six-day delivery, The Hill, Times Argus, WPTZ-TV and WNYT-TV in Albany, N.Y. reported.

The Sanders-DeFazio plan, which has already attracted substantial support in the Senate and House, rejects the austerity lie that would make keep making cuts until the Postal Service is so weakened that Americans will give up on it -- and privatization will become inevitable. And it begins in the right place: with immediate action to block the deepest cut of eliminating weekend service, John Nichols blogged for The Nation.

The Navy SEAL who reportedly killed Osama bin Laden met Tuesday with Sen. Sanders, the veterans’ committee chairman. The SEAL's disability claim is reportedly caught up in a backlog with about 900,000 veterans who have to wait, on average, more than nine months for a determination on their claims, the Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Fresno (Calif.) Bee and The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate reported.

Sanders said the VA is “working very aggressively” to institute measures, including a paperless claim system, to help ease the backlog of claims awaiting processing, according to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting. “We have a moral obligation to make sure that all our veterans receive the benefits they deserve,” Sanders told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

A decision by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to scrap an integrated health-records system for veterans is deeply disappointing to Sen. Sanders, the chairman of the Veterans Affairs committee, The Washington Post reported.

A large group of liberal Democrats is pushing back against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s plan to replace the sequester with an even balance of spending cuts and tax revenues. Sen. Sanders and others want the package to raise substantially more through taxes and cut less in spending, The Hill reported.

Silicon Valley Firms Shelter Assets Overseas 
The largest tech companies in the Bay Area have avoided paying federal taxes on more than $225 billion accumulated through foreign subsidiaries, Securities and Exchange Commission documents show. Companies such as Apple, Google, eBay and Hewlett-Packard are able to reduce their annual taxes in some cases by billions of dollars, according to a Center for Investigative Reporting analysis. The report on KNTV-TV in San Jose, Calif. said a bill by Sen. Sanders would eliminate companies’ ability to defer taxes. 

U.S. based multi-nationals are holding $1.7 trillion abroad and away from the American taxation authorities. Such tax-avoidance techniques, while legal, have come under increasing political attack. On Thursday, Sen. Sanders introduced legislation to end deferral and force multinational companies to pay taxes on their foreign-source income, Ireland’s Business World reported. 

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, President Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, faced fierce questioning on Wednesday from the Senate Finance Committee on his tenure at the bailed-out Citigroup and on an investment based in the Cayman Islands. But the even-tempered, bookish Mr. Lew appeared likely to win the committee’s approval and Senate confirmation. Some senators — including Sanders, the left-leaning independent from Vermont — have said they do not support Mr. Lew, but it seemed unlikely that he would face a filibuster that might delay his confirmation or end his candidacy, The New York Times reported. 

“A lot more attention has to be paid to the morality and the damage to our image that the killings of innocent civilians by drones has had,” Sen. Sanders said. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Pete Welch also have reservations, Seven Days reported. 

Sen. Sanders welcomed President Obama’s call for helping the collapsing American middle class and cited new evidence of growing income inequality. “We have 46 million people living in poverty, almost the highest in recent American history,” Sanders said Wednesday on the Ed Schultz Show. “At the same time the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well.”   

Sen. Sanders is looking forward to working with the Obama administration on job creation, improving preschool and combating climate change, Vermont Public Radio and the Brattleboro Reformer reported. Sanders joined the rest of the Vermont congressional delegation in support of the President’s platform. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy proposed legislation that would allow U.S. citizens to sponsor foreign, same-sex partners for green cards. The measure would help Takako Ueda and Frances Herbert, a Dummerston couple whose Vermont marriage is not recognized by the federal government under the Defense of Marriage Act, a law Leahy once supported. After lobbying by Leahy, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last year said  Ueda won’t be deported to Japan, the Brattleboro Reformer reported. 

“There are few public figures in Vermont who enjoy the veneration and clout of Bill McKibben and Sen. Bernie Sanders. McKibben has long been an unparalleled advocate of the environmental movement and Sanders has been a peerless advocate of the people,” according to a Rutland Herald op-ed writer from Craftsbury. She said she has revised her assessment, however, because of their support for wind energy. 

Europe Trade Pact President Obama’s call for a free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union has unleashed a wave of optimism on both sides that a breakthrough can be achieved that would lift trans-Atlantic fortunes, not just economically but politically, according to The New York Times. 

CBS News reported that the Senate Democrats' long-awaited plan to avert the sequester, being announced today by Sen. Patty Murray, would replace the 10-year sequester for the rest of 2013 -- 10 months -- with $120 billion in spending cuts and new tax revenue, split 50-50. Most of the revenue would come from implementing what's known as the Buffett Rule, named after investor Warren Buffett. The rule would cap deductions and loopholes for millionaires so they pay at least 30 percent of their salary in taxes.

House Speaker John Boehner said he is opposed to President Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum hourly wage to $9. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  
More than 40 percent of post-9/11 veterans are not aware of or understand their education benefits, according to the 2010 National Survey of Veterans reported in The New York Times blog, At War. “We never send a new recruit to war without proper training and equipment. We should never send a veteran to college without reasonable guidance for what lies ahead,” wrote Ryan Gallucci, deputy legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars. 

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