Wednesday, June 4, 2014

#HEADLINES: Bernie Sanders Takes Lead on VA Controversy, Senate Hearings on Campaign Cash, Seattle OKs $15 Min Wage, U.S. to Aid Child Migrants, Florida Gerrymandering Case with Implications for 2014 Mid-Terms, Israel Condemns US for Backing Palestinian Unity Gov't, China May Limit Carbon Emissions for First Time

AP Photo
VA moves Bernie Sanders from stage left to center stage -- Politico
"With Eric Shinseki out at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the focus now shifts to Capitol Hill, placing the two-term Vermont independent and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman at the center of the growing VA health care controversy. Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, is assembling a legislative package to help address the issue in the hopes that he can consolidate support within the veterans community and assuage concerns of vulnerable Democrats.

"In the process, he’ll have to win over enough Republicans to push the bill through the narrowly divided Senate — or maneuver deftly so it appears that Democrats aren’t blamed for its failure.

"It’s a tall task for anyone in a gridlocked Congress — let alone a fiery partisan in the middle of an intense election year. And he’s already engaged in a fierce back-and-forth with Republicans on the issue, after the GOP rejected his $21 billion vets bill earlier this year and he blocked a House plan aimed at holding senior VA officials more accountable."


Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Photo
Senate panel to hold hearing on campaign cash -- Associated Press
"The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday began a long-shot bid at pushing a constitutional amendment that would limit deep-pocketed political campaign donors' influence.

"With plenty of politics but very limited prospects of actually changing the Constitution, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the free flow of 'shady money' into politics the biggest threat to democracy he's seen. His Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called efforts to limit campaign spending a tactic to rile up Democrats this election year.

"Changing the Constitution is an intentionally difficult process, and leaders from both parties acknowledge that the Democrats' efforts to prohibit super PACs are likely to result in little more than election-year posturing. But Democrats plan to push forward to force Republicans to cast votes on this topic before November's elections."


AP Photo
Seattle OKs $15 minimum wage - Politico
"The Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday that gradually increases the minimum wage in the city to $15, which would make it the highest in the nation.

"The issue has dominated politics in the liberal municipality for months, and a boisterous crowd of mostly labor activists packed the Council chambers for the vote. Mayor Ed Murray, who was elected last year, had promised in his campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A newly-elected socialist City Council member had pushed the idea as well."




Todd Heisler / New York Times
New U.S. Effort to Aid Unaccompanied Child Migrants -- New York Times
"Administration officials said 47,017 children traveling without parents had been caught crossing the southwest border since Oct. 1, a 92 percent increase over the same period in 2013. Most are coming from three Central American countries: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. More than 33,000 minors were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

"The emergency effort, the officials said, would focus on providing the youths with adequate housing, food, medical care and some education while they were in federal custody."


Phil Coale / AP Photo
Florida may be forced to redraw political districts before midterms -- Washington Post
"A redistricting battle that has gripped Florida for more than a year could force Republican leaders to redraw the state’s political boundaries just months ahead of the midterm elections.

"Several of the state’s Republican-drawn congressional districts – which one political scientist described as the most skewed he has ever studied – have come under attack by voting rights groups that allege the maps unfairly favor GOP candidates.

"That coalition, led by the League of Women’s Voters, has argued that Republican legislators and staffers collaborated with political consultants to create the maps, which were approved by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011.

"The case is being heard now in Leon County Circuit Court after the League filed a lawsuit alleging that the districts violate Florida’s “Fair Districts” law, which was approved by more than 60 percent of voters in 2010. If the lawsuit succeeds, the borders will have to be redrawn before the midterm elections this fall."


Reuters
Israel condemns US for backing Palestinian unity government -- The Guardian
"Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had asked Washington not to rush into recognising the technocratic government, which is backed by two key Palestinian factions, Fatah and the Islamist group Hamas. He said on Tuesday he was 'deeply troubled' by the decision.
...
"A futher blow to Israeli appeals came on Tuesday, when the European Union also announced it would continue working with the new Palestinian unity government, on condition it sticks to the principle of peace with Israel based on a two-state solution.

"Other countries that voiced backing for the new unity government include China, Turkey and India."


John Woo / Reuters
China to limit carbon emissions for first time, climate adviser claims -- The Guardian
"He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday that an absolute cap on carbon emissions will be introduced.

"'The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap,' Reuters reported He as saying. Though not a government official, He is a high level advisor.

"However, Jiankun later in the day appear to row back on the comments. 'What I said today was my personal view. The opinions expressed at the workshop were only meant for academic studies. What I said does not represent the Chinese government or any organisation,' he told Reuters.

"While environmentalists broadly welcomed his initial remarks, they cautioned that it was far from clear at what level the cap would be set and said it needed to be enforceable."

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