Relief for the VA, Paul Ryan Rants, Saving Chicago, DC Gun Laws and Fast Food Worker’s Rights

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After six weeks of negotiations, House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a compromise to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays and deaths. Matthew Daly reports, After 6 weeks, finally a deal on VA health care, the chairman of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees will hold a news conference on Monday afternoon to unveil a plan to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care. An agreement Sunday by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House panel, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate veterans panel chair, was reached after many private meetings, no shows and public spats with only days left until Congress goes on a five week recess. A partisan impasse loomed which both sides hoped to avoid what Miller called the “sort of bickering and name-calling for which Washington has become infamous.” Three days later, via telephone from Florida and Vermont, Miller and Sanders were on the same page. The tentative deal requires a vote by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators and a full vote in the House and Senate. The plan announced Monday, according to Miller and Sanders, is intended to “make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.” Luis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, said on Sunday: “There is an emergency need to get veterans off the waiting lists. That’s what this is all about.” Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said: “It’s about time they’re doing their jobs. You don’t get a medal for doing your job.” An updated audit by the VA this month shows 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics still wait 30 days for an appointment with 46,000 veterans waiting at least three months for an initial appointment and an additional 7,00 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade that never got them. The Senate and House are set to adjourn at the end of the week until September and lawmakers from both parties see the VA bill as a top priority. Meanwhile, the Senate is also expected to vote this week to confirm former Procter Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary, replacing Gibson.

While one problem may potentially be resolved this week, on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) condemned the federal government’s approach to poverty reduction claiming the Obama administration is responsible for the system that “perpetuates poverty” in America, according to Ashley Alman’s article Paul Ryan Accuses Obama Administration Of System That ‘Perpetuates Poverty.’ On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Ryan came to discuss his new poverty proposal involving consolidating 11 federal anti-poverty programs including food stamps and housing vouchers into one program coordinated by each state. Host David Gregory commented that Ryan sounded like he had little “sympathy” for impoverished Americans. Ryan responded by saying: “We don’t want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. The federal government’s approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty, in many ways it has disincentivized people from going to work. Able-bodied people should go to work, and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential.” Ryan announced his poverty proposal Thursday saying it is an opportunity for reform that would be “budget neutral.” However, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) disagrees: “The core idea of the Ryan proposal is not a new idea at all: it’s nothing more than a block grant gussied up with some bells and whistles. If you look at the block grant proposal in the context of the Ryan-Republican budget, it would dramatically slash the resources available to help struggling families.”

As families to continue to struggle to keep their heads above water, cities are not only struggling to keep people working, but keep gun violence to a minimum. Glenn Minnis reports, Can Noah’s Arc save streets of Chicago?, Joakim Noah, an NBA All Star Center, on Friday spoke to a room full of teens and adolescents at a Major Adams Community Center room about gun and gang violence culture so out of control it has brought his hometown of Chicago to its knees. Noah spoke of his motivation to start his “Stand up Chicago” campaign: “It’s very important that we understand that this is not just a problem that’s going on on the South Side, the violence is not a problem that’s going on on the West Side. This is a Chicago problem.” Noah also enlisted the help of teammate and Chi-town native Derrick Rose who appeared on a 60 second PSA for his initiative. Join by rapper and Chicago native Common, he states in the PSA: “I stand for my city.” In a statement on his Noah’s Arc Foundation site, Noah and his mom, Cecilia Rodhe, called on all Chicagoans to “take a stand against violence and become ambassadors for peace and positivity.” Over the first seven months of the year, 207 homicides have taken place in Chicago with the most recent incident on July 4 weekend where the L.A. Times reported at least 16 people killed and 82 injured over three and half days. In response, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has added seven more ATF agents to its former roster of 45 in hopes of somehow of corralling all the madness, according to Minnis. Noah summed up the goal of his organization by saying: “As somebody who plays for the Bulls, I feel like I’m somebody who represents the city, and I think that helping our youth is important. The summer months bring a lot of violence, and we felt it was urgent to get a public service announcement out now in order to bring some hope, change and support to the community. We have to find a way together, whether you’re rich, poor, black, white, whatever you are, to come together and solve this together. To me personally, this is just as important as winning a championship.”

Meanwhile, gun advocates in Washington, D.C. this weekend celebrate following a federal judge ruling that struck down the city’s ban on handguns in public, the AOL article, D.C.’s gun laws take another hit in handgun carry ruling, explains. District Judge Frederick Scullin reached the conclusion many other district courts reached in similar cases: “The Second Amendment secures an individual right … to carry a common weapon outside the home for self-defense.” The ruling prevents D.C. officials from enforcing public gun bans until licensing regulations are put in place. In 2008 a Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, overturned the city’s total ban on handguns ruling the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own weapons for self-defense, AOL reports. The latest decision comes from an Aug. 2009 lawsuit that, according to SCOTUSblog notes, got tangled up in the D.C. district’s legal red tape for five years frustrating the plaintiffs. “The challengers to the D.C. law tried repeatedly to get a ruling, even asking a federal appeals court to step in to command that the case be decided.” In addition, Congress is challenging gun control in D.C. House Republicans approved an amendment to the district’s funding bill that would prevent D.C. from enforcing their gun laws. However, it will still be illegal to bring to a gun into a federal building. D.C. officials have yet to announce plans to appeal the ruling, but a spokesman told reporters the city is looking into options.

As the gun fight rages on, on Saturday, fast food workers across the nation voted to escalate efforts for $15 an hour pay and union membership using nonviolent civil disobedience. More than 1,300 workers came together at a convention center in Chicago to discuss the future of a campaign to spread to dozens of cities in less than two years, Tammy Webber reports, Fast Food Workers Vow Civil Disobedience. The Service Employee International Union provides financial and organizational support to fast food protests. They began in 2012 in New York City including daylong strikes and peaceful demonstrations outside this year’s McDonald’s Corp. shareholder meeting where 130 protestors were arrested for stepping onto company property. Saturday’s convention in Villa Park, Illinois, included session on civil disobedience and leadership training. Rev.William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, said: “People should not work and be willing to work and then be denied living wages and be denied health care because of greed. This movement is saying that America is less than she promises to be, morally and constitutionally, by denying living wages. If you raise wages for workers, you buoy the whole economy.” The movement comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats try to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wage which stands at $7.25 an hour for federal wages or about $15,000 per year for40 hours a week. Obama and others want to increase it to $10.10. The restaurant industry argues that a $15 hourly wage would lead to business closing and job cuts. According to Webber: “The National Restaurant Association said last week that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership.” Scott DeFife, the association;s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said protesters are “demonizing” an industry that employs all ages, backgrounds and skill levels instead of focusing on policies to increase education and job training. Unfortunately, many workers say that people stay in these jobs for years because they are the only ones available. Barber believes that “this movement is intensifying and it is going to shake the moral consciousness of this country.”

Fifth Third Bank To Help Unemployed Mortgage Customers Find Jobs – Careers Articles

Fifth Third Bank To Help Unemployed Mortgage Customers Find Jobs – Careers Articles.

There are so many things now in the news that bring tears to my eyes, but for once this story makes me feel hopeful for the future and that humanity is not completely gone in today’s empire of greedom. With debates or sequestration and gun control continue to make no progress at all, I am glad to see a bank take some of the major problems facing everyday Americans under their wing. Even with corporation’s own self interests at an all time high and squeezing the American for every last penny, its nice to see a company harken back to the days of the great depression at time not so different from now. At least someone can make a decision and find a way to help others get back on their feet as well as be rewarded for their efforts handsomely. What am I talking about? Let me explain.

Most people see banks as income sucking entities that only care about their bottom lines. However the problem with this analysis is in order to have a good bottom line they have to care about their customers who bring in the money to the bank. Well with any business it is important to care about the customer since its the company’s reputation that will be destroyed in the end. There are a range of mortgage relief options from the well intended to the deceptive and illegal, but one bank is offering a way to transform the lives of the unemployed mortgage customers who can’t make their payments. Fifth Third Bancorp based int he Midwest is offering 16 weeks of job assistance free to its customers who miss two consecutive mortgage payments due to unemployment reports the Chicago Tribune. The job assistance is coming from NextJob a Bend, Oregon based employment firm who provides one on one coaching and job search software. Since the housing market burst in 2008, unemployment has soared causing many jobless homeowners to struggle and lenders to step in to help them. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began offering and extending temporary reprieves from mortgage payments, but for many that these solution are short term and many home counselors say long term solutions are needed. During the program’s trial last year, 11 of the 28 partcipants found work by the end of the six months nearly 40 percent. The Fifth Third group believes it is smart business since the job search only cost $1,500 per person compared to the $40,000 to $60,000 that banks lose when a home is foreclosed on and unemployment is the main problem causing people to default. NextJob has expanded its job finding capabilities beyond just finding help for employees laid off by employers. The company also has two 40 foot buses filled with computer stations that they park in undeserved communities to offer financial help. “Job loss, followed by the loss of one’s home, is severely damaging to individuals and families,” NextJob’s CEO John Courtney said while speaking about his new multiyear contract with Fifth Third Bank. “This program is a simple but big idea and it’s time has come for the banking industry.”

Poisoned Lottery Winner’s Widow Should Get Most Of His $2 Million Estate, Lawyer Says

Poisoned Lottery Winner’s Widow Should Get Most Of His $2 Million Estate, Lawyer Says.

What some people will do for money these days. According to the Chicago Sun Times, another twist in the mystery of the poisoned lottery winner, a lawyer representing the widow has produced documents that show two thirds of the deceased North side businessman’s $2 million estate goes to the widow. Attorney Al-Haroon Husain found an agreement that the deceased signed before death stipulating his wife in the even of his death would get his interest in the dry cleaning operation. The agreement was signed on May 2 said Husain who is representing the wife in a pending court case to divvy up the assets and winning lottery ticket of her deceased husband. Money always complicates things, doesn’t it? The brother of the deceased doesn’t believe the documents authenticity and find it highly suspicious that the document appears now. Her husband, Urooj Khan the man in question, hit the jackpot weeks after signing the agreement and was found dead July 20 of cyanide poisoning. The homicide has caused family tension and made international headlines after his body was exhumed to determine how the cyanide got in his system. His brother, Imtiaz Khan, claims that the only child of the deceased is being excluded from any inheritance according to court papers. The matter is further complicated because there is no will. While the estate is valued at $2 million, Husain argues that the business and real estate combined at $1.32 million can no longer be included since they belong to the wife, Ansari. That means the estate is only worth $680,000 which includes the lottery win, so without a will state law dictates that the two survivors, wife and daughter, must split the estate. When told Khan’s brother brushed off the validity of the agreement, Husain, said that it’s legal and he wrote it himself. However, Husain questions why the deceased decided to ink the agreement and list heirs which is typically done in a will. The medical examiner initially ruled his death natural with hardening of the arteries, but on the urging of a relative to re-examine the body, the medical examiner changed it to a homicide in November when he determined from a toxicology report that it was cyanide poisoning. As to how the cyanide got into his system, perhaps by inhaling or eating something tainted with the poison. Test results are expected next week. No arrest have been made and no suspects have been identified. Ansari denies any involvement in her husband’s death. She has said that the night before he died, she made him dinner, he went to bed, and fell sick in the night then was pronounced dead early the next morning at Evanston hospital. Who to believe? This sounds like something out of a lifetime movie.

U.S. Gun Deaths Since Sandy Hook Top 1,280

U.S. Gun Deaths Since Sandy Hook Top 1,280.

Sad that this has happened since such a tragic event but I believe a lot of factors are playing into this whether accidental or intentional. Sincere Smith age two found his father’s gun on the living room table in Conway, S.C. It only took him a second to perish when he pulled the trigger putting a single bullet through his chest and out his back. The father had turned away to call Sincere’s mother who was visiting a friend. The father scooped him up and rushed him to the hospital, but it was too late. Now all they have is memories from that Christmas morning to remember the happy boy by. Two weeks earlier, the father had bought the .38 caliber handgun to protect his family from another potential break in. He has no answer for the national gun debate, but he wants that  second back. The father Rondell Smith has had deep regret since the incident and has considered taking his own life. The saddest part of the story is the little boy died alone as police interrogated the father eventually charging him with involuntary manslaughter which his court date is set for Feb. 8. There were 28 other shootings across the U.S. on Christmas including a soldier shot in his barracks in Alaska, a man murdered in a parking lot of a bar in Orrville, Alaska, a 23 year old shot at a party in Phoenix, a L.A. County Sheriff’s employee was killed in a drive by and a 2o year old man in Louisville, Kentucky was shot after walking his sister home. The last one had posted a message on his Facebook for all his friends and former classmates that had been gunned down that day. A 10 year old in Memphis, Tennessee was fatally wounded when his brother’s gun fell off the bed the boy was jumping on and discharged when the 12 year old brother picked it up. The older brother has purchased the gun after being bullied at school. There were 41 homicides or accidental gun deaths on New Year’s Eve and 54 people died of bullet wounds on New Year’s Day. The Huffington Post traced homicides and accidents through the US since the Sandy Hook Massacre on Dec. 14. There were 100 deaths the first week after the shooting and seven weeks after there were 1,280 gunshot homicides and accidental deaths. Including police involved shootings, the total gun violence tally adds up to 1,475 shooting incidents according to Slate. The list of death, destruction and heart break for family, friends and a nation continues. When will it stop? We as a nation have the power to stop such violence from continuing but when will we unite as one voice to stop this. It is our choice not the governments or special interest…IT IS OUR VOICE THAT WILL BE HEARD. Please read the whole article to find out about the many others that have perished due to the inaction by our government and raise your voice and speak for those who have been silenced by the violence whether accidental or intentional. We all have children, grandmothers, friends, aunts, uncles, etc. Now is the time for action not for silence.