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NEWS ALERT FROM SEN. BERNIE SANDERS

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice approved Comcast's bid to take control of NBC Universal from General Electric:

"The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice okayed the merger of Comcast, the nation's largest distributor of video services, and NBC Universal, Inc., one of the nation's largest producers of video content. In approving this merger, these agencies ignored their mandates to protect the public interest and preserve competition and, instead, caved to an all-out lobbying campaign by Comcast and its political allies. Commissioner Michael Copps, who has long warned against the dangers of media consolidation, was the lone dissenting voice at the FCC.

"Needless to say, I am deeply disappointed in this decision.  At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we do not need another conglomerate with more control over the production and distribution of news and other programming.  The mega-merger of Comcast and NBC Universal will lead to less local news coverage, fewer points of view, and reduced competition for viewers and advertising, not just in Comcast's network but throughout the country.

"The merger will also make it harder for consumers to afford cable programming.  According to the FCC's former chief economist, consumers will pay $2.4 billion more in cable bills as a result of the merger. As the country struggles to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I find it unconscionable that millions of consumers will spend more for less, paying higher rates while receiving virtually no tangible benefits."

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The following is a news release from FreePress.net, which has led the fight for net neutrality, only to see the concept sold down the river by the Obama-appointed chairman of the FCC in a vote on December 21.

Free Press: FCC Net Neutrality Order a 'Squandered Opportunity'

WASHINGTON -- By a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules intended to prevent Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from acting as gatekeepers on the Web. The rules, however, heavily favor the industry they are intended to regulate, and leave consumers with minimal protections. Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael Copps voted with Chairman Julius Genachowski, while Republican Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker voted against.

Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron made the following statement:

"We are deeply disappointed that the chairman chose to ignore the overwhelming public support for real Net Neutrality, instead moving forward with industry-written rules that will for the first time in Internet history allow discrimination online. This proceeding was a squandered opportunity to enact clear, meaningful rules to safeguard the Internet's level playing field and protect consumers.

"The new rules are riddled with loopholes, evidence that the chairman sought approval from AT&T instead of listening to the millions of Americans who asked for real Net Neutrality. These rules don't do enough to stop the phone and cable companies from dividing the Internet into fast and slow

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The following is a December 14th news release from the office of Senator Bernie Sanders:

Warning that a huge media monopoly would drive up cable television prices and stifle the free flow of information, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today urged the Department of Justice to block Comcast's planned takeover of NBC Universal.  

The senator's concerns about the Comcast-NBC deal were detailed in a letter that he sent to Christine Varney, the assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division at the Department of Justice. "Especially in an age of entrenched corporate power," Sanders wrote, "it is easier to stop monopolistic forces before they start."

Sanders earlier this year asked the Federal Communications Commission to stop the deal on grounds that transferring NBC's broadcast license to the cable operator would not be

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God bless Bernie Sanders! Once again, the man who might lead a filibuster against the White House-GOP tax package, issued a news release of outrage over the GOP refusal to assist Social Security recipients and injured veterans in need.

The Senate today voted 53 to 45 for a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to provide $250 payments to some 58 million Social Security recipients and disabled veterans, but the vote fell seven short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster and advance the bill.

"I am very disappointed that we were unable to get the votes needed to stop a Republican filibuster," Sanders said. "It's hard for me to understand how my Republican colleagues can fight for a million-dollar-a-year tax breaks for billionaires but deny a $250 check for seniors and disabled veterans, especially at a time

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On December 4th, the Senate Republicans again prevented the extension of tax cuts for all Americans in order to increase additional tax cuts for just 2% of the population. BuzzFlash regularly receives news releases from Harry Reid's office, and this week they actually started to make some sense and show some backbone.

Here is the press statement from Reid's office in response to the GOP preventing tax cuts for all Americans:

Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement today after Republicans blocked tax cuts for the middle class:

“It is the height of irresponsibility that in a time of economic hardship Republicans would block tax cuts for middle class families and small businesses in Nevada and across the country.  Even worse is that they would do so in order to secure huge tax breaks for millionaires and CEOs who ship American jobs overseas.

“Those giveaways would not only add $700 billion to our deficit, but we’ve also seen that they do not create jobs. We simply cannot afford that when our economy is struggling and so many Nevadans and Americans are looking for work.

“Democrats are fighting to protect middle-class families every way we can. But Republicans cannot stop protecting the people who got us into this mess long enough to do a common-sense thing like cut taxes for the middle class.”

BuzzFlash Note: We again remind BuzzFlash readers that the millionaires and billionaires also received generous tax breaks under the bill the Republicans voted down -- the same tax breaks all Americans would have received and then some. (See the BuzzFlash commentary on this.)

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Sounding an alarm over the concentration of media ownership in the United States, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today asked the Federal Communications Commission to disapprove the merger of NBC Universal and Comcast.

"At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we do not need another conglomerate with control over the production and distribution of sports, news, and entertainment," Sanders said. "In my view, we need more media diversity, more local control, more points of view - not more media concentration.

Decreased diversity and increased cable rates also are among the likely consequences of the deal, Sanders said in a letter to the FCC opposing the combination of media conglomerates.

The proposed merger would fold NBC Universal, the General Electric subsidiary, into Comcast, the largest cable television provider in America. If the FCC okays the deal, Sanders said the result would be "less local news, less diverse points of view and less competition for viewers and advertising."

The arrangement also would put other content providers at a competitive disadvantage to NBC in reaching Comcast cable customers, the senator said. Comcast would be in a position to charge independent producers higher fees and to offer them less desirable placements on cable channel lineups.

Sanders cited a study by former FCC chief economist William Rogerson, who calculated that consumers would pay $2.4 billion in added rates if the merger is completed. "I would think it an obvious conclusion that 'public interest, convenience, and necessity' would not be served by a regressive wealth transfer of $2.4 billion from ordinary citizens to what would be one of the largest corporate entities in the United States," Sanders wrote.

By statute, the commission should not approve a transfer of station license "except upon . . . finding . . . that the public interest, convenience, and necessity will be served thereby."  The proposed merger, Sanders said, clearly does not meet that standard.

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The following is a news release from Senator Bernie Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced that he will work with members of Congress, labor unions, seniors' organizations and others to develop progressive alternatives to proposals circulated by leaders of a White House deficit commission.

At a hastily-called press conference on Wednesday, the commission co-chairmen - former Sen. Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff - laid out their proposals that included major cuts for seniors, college students, working families and vulnerable Americans.

"It is no surprise that these two favor draconian cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the needs of our veterans, and education while proposing tax reductions for the wealthy and large profitable corporations," Sanders said. Simpson is a darling of the Republican right wing and Bowles is a former investment banker who made a fortune on Wall Street. Their plan was floated amid reports that the two were struggling to cobble together enough support on their own commission to go forward by a Dec. 1 deadline.

Sanders also raised concerns that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility employed staffers paid by outside interest groups, including the right-wing Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Peterson-funded Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Peterson is a billionaire who is bankrolling a major effort to undermine Social Security.

"Everyone agrees that over the long-term we have got to reduce the record-breaking $13.7 trillion national debt and unsustainable federal deficit," Sanders said, but he stressed that deficits mushroomed in recent years because of two unpaid wars, tax breaks for the wealthy, a Medicare prescription drug bill written by the pharmaceutical industry, and the Wall Street bailout. "The national debt is a very serious issue and we've got to tackle it, but we can do it without balancing the budget on the backs of middle-class families."

Sanders, in a letter, invited progressive activists and economists to meet next week to develop a progressive plan to reduce the deficit. "We all know that there are a number of fair ways to reduce deficits without harming the middle class and those who have already lost their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college.  The time has come to put these proposals into a package so that a fair and progressive deficit reduction plan will become part of the national discussion," he said.

Sanders' own deficit reduction proposals include ending Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. He also favors ending expensive and outdated Cold War-era Pentagon programs and has proposed elimination of tax credits for big oil companies that have amassed the fattest profits in history.

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The following is a statement from Senator Bernie Sanders:

"The Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan is extremely disappointing and something that should be vigorously opposed by the American people.  The huge increase in the national debt in recent years was caused by two unpaid wars, tax breaks for the wealthy, a Medicare prescription drug bill written by the pharmaceutical industry, and the Wall Street bailout.  Unlike Social Security, none of these proposals were paid for. Not only has Social Security not contributed a dime to the deficit, it has a $2.6 trillion surplus.

"It is reprehensible to ask working people, including many who do physically-demanding labor, to work until they are 69 years of age. It also is totally impractical. As they compete for jobs with 25-year-olds, many older workers will go unemployed and have virtually no income. Frankly, there will not be too much demand within the construction industry for 69-year-old bricklayers.

"Despite all of the right-wing rhetoric, Social Security is not going bankrupt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security can pay every nickel owed to every eligible American for the next 29 years and after that about 80 percent of benefits.

"If we are serious about making Social Security strong and solvent for the next 75 years, President Obama has the right solution.  On October 14, 2010, he restated a long-held position that the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes, now at $106,800, should be raised.  As the president has long stated, it is absurd that billionaires pay the same amount into the system as someone who earns $106,800.

"With the richest people in this country getting richer and the middle class in decline, it is absurd that billionaires pay the same amount into the Social Security system as someone who earns $106,800."

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Released on November 8 by Keith Olbermann to Viewers of Countdown:

I want to sincerely thank you for the honor of your extraordinary and ground-rattling support.

Your efforts have been integral to the remedying of these recent events, and the results should remind us of the power of individuals spontaneously acting together to correct injustices great or small.

I would also like to acknowledge with respect the many commentators and reporters, including those with whom my politics do not overlap, for their support.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on MSNBC suspending Keith Olbermann for exercising his First Amendment rights.

"It is outrageous that General Electric/MSNBC would suspend Keith Olbermann for exercising his constitutional rights to contribute to a candidate of his choice. This is a real threat to political discourse in America and will have a chilling impact on every commentator for MSNBC.

"We live in a time when 90 percent of talk radio is dominated by right-wing extremists, when the Republican Party has its own cable network (Fox) and when progressive voices are few and far between.

"At a time when the ownership of Fox news contributed millions of dollars to the Republican Party, when a number of Fox commentators are using the network as a launching pad for their presidential campaigns and are raising money right off the air, it is absolutely unacceptable that MSNBC suspended one of the most popular progressive commentators in the country.

"Is Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz next? Is this simply a 'personality conflict' within MSNBC or is one of America's major corporations cracking down on a viewpoint they may not like? Whatever the answer may be, Keith Olbermann should be reinstated immediately and allowed to present his point of view."

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