06 26 2016
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  • ST. LOUIS (AP) — A draft of the Democratic Party's policy positions reflects the influence of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign: endorsing steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocating a $15 hourly wage, urging an end to the death penalty. Hillary Clinton's supporters turned back efforts by Sanders' allies to promote a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system and a carbon tax to address climate change, and freeze hydraulic fracking. While the platform does not bind the Democratic nominee to the stated positions, it serves as a guidepost for the party moving forward. Party officials approved the draft early Saturday. The Democratic National Convention's full Platform Committee will discuss the draft at a meeting next month in Orlando, Florida, with a vote at the convention in Philadelphia in late July. Sanders said Friday he would vote for Clinton, the presumptive nominee, in the fall election, but so far has stopped short of fully endorsing the former secretary of state or encouraging his millions of voters to back her candidacy. The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform to reflect his goals — and those representing him at a St. Louis hotel said they had made progress. "We lost some but we won some," said James Zogby, a Sanders supporter on the committee. "We got some great stuff in the platform that has never been in there before." Added Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders ally: "We've made some substantial moves forward." Deliberating late into Friday, the group considered language on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an issue that has divided Democrats. The committee defeated an amendment led by Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with "an end to occupation and illegal settlements" and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza. The draft reflects Clinton's views and advocates working toward a "two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict" that guarantees Israel's security with recognized borders "and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity." In many cases, Clinton's side gave ground to Sanders. The document calls for the expansion of Social Security and says Americans should earn at least $15 an hour, referring to the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a "starvation wage," a term often used by Sanders. Sanders has pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Clinton has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to that level but has said states and cities should raise the bar as high as possible. Sanders' allies wanted the draft to specify calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage indexed with inflation. Clinton's side struck down a direct link, noting the document elsewhere included a call to "raise and index the minimum wage." The committee also adopted language that said it supports ways to prevent banks from gambling with taxpayers' bank deposits, "including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall." Sanders wants to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities. Clinton does not, but says her proposed financial changes would cast a wider net by regulating the banking system. Also in the draft is a call for the abolition of the death penalty. Clinton said during a debate this year that capital punishment should only be used in limited cases involving "heinous crimes." Sanders said the government should not use it. Sanders, a vociferous opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was unable to get language into the document opposing the trade deal. As a result, the party avoided an awkward scenario that would have put the platform at odds with President Barack Obama. Clinton and Sanders have opposed the deal. Committee members backed a measure that said "there are a diversity of views in the party" on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal "must protect workers and the environment." In a setback for Sanders, the panel narrowly rejected amendments that would have imposed a tax on carbon and imposed a national freeze on fracking. The panel deliberated for about nine hours following several late nights and long hours of policy exchanges between the two campaigns and the Democratic National Committee. Sanders, in a statement, said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that the group voted down the measure opposing the TPP. But he was pleased with the proposals on Glass-Steagall and the death penalty — and vowed to fight on. "Our job is to pass the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," he said.
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(CNN) -- Confidence -- on the court and off it, Venus Williams is finding her mojo again.

A year ago the tennis star was diagnosed with a debilitating auto-immune disease during the U.S. Open, but next week she will step back on the courts of her home grand slam tournament boosted by her recent results and the relaunch of her fashion label.

Williams defended her women's doubles gold medal at the recent Olympic Games alongside younger sister Serena, who has roared back from her own health problems to win both the Wimbledon and London 2012 singles titles.

"The Olympics really built my confidence," the 32-year-old Venus told CNN. "I wasn't able to play a lot of matches beforehand -- just three matches in about two months, which is not a lot.

"So going to the Olympics I didn't have a lot of matches, but I made the best of it and I played I think some of my best tennis of the year."

The former world No. 1's passion, fashion, is also on the upswing following the recent relaunch of her label EleVen at an event in New York -- which also hosts the U.S. Open.

"EleVen is about being better than a 10," said the current world No. 47. "So it's about being a personal best, it's about not accepting any limits, that anyone puts on you or that you can even put on yourself, because sometimes we do.

"It's about expressing yourself for who you are. So EleVen means a lot of things but it just means bringing out the best in you.

"I feel that when I wear EleVen, I feel my best. So I want people to feel their best when they wear EleVen, confident and good about themselves."

Throughout her career, the seven-time grand slam champion has been as well known for her striking outfits as she has her powerful tennis strokes.

Some of them pushed the boundaries of sporting design, and Williams said she is reining in her more experimental urges.

"Some of my favorite things were the goddess dress that I wore at Wimbledon, I think it was 2007," she said. "And one of the craziest ones was the can-can dress.

"That was my idea of having lace on skin. For me it was fun, and it was experimental because at that time it was just me wearing it. But at that time I was like, 'What can I do that can be worn on the court? Can you wear lace? Yes. Can you wear fringe?'

"Because I did this fun dress after Tina Turner, and it was so fun, but at this point the experiments are over and it's about bringing classic designs."

Williams' obsession with design is such that she took time away from playing tennis to gain a fashion degree.

"To get my degree was important to me, mostly because of how I grew up -- my parents always chose education -- so for me it felt like an achievement to be able to do that," she said.

"But also I love fashion, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do, and I wanted to bring credibility to it, and I have to say the education helps a ton, so it's served me very well."

Williams said she is excited about all the elements of her life coming together again.

"I'm very excited about my game, I'm excited about tennis, I'm excited about wearing all the new EleVen clothes," she said.

"There are so many wonderful things coming up so I think between great tennis and great fashions on the court, it's going to be an amazing U.S. Open for me."

Williams is, however, still coming to terms with her battle against Sjogren's Syndrome -- which can cause extreme fatigue among its symptoms.

"I've come a long way, and I've gone through a lot of ups and downs for sure," she said.

"When you have an auto-immune disease, you can't expect everything to be the way it was before. You have to take the set of circumstances you have, and work with those.

"I'm working on it every day, but I know that I can live this dream and I think it gives a lot of other people hope, because it's not easy, but you know I'm working on it."

The story of the Williams sisters' rise to prominence, their dominance of the women's game and the struggles they have both experienced in recent years -- with Serena surviving potentially life-threatening blood clots -- has captivated tennis fans.

They have won a combined total of 33 singles and doubles grand slam titles, so what lies ahead as they approach the twilight of their tennis careers?

"There's a lot more clothes to design," Venus said. "Serena and I both want to play the Rio 2016 Olympics, we think that'd be a great place to shine for us and for the U.S. and everything.

"So we're not done yet, we still have great tennis in us, and it's amazing to do this every day."

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