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.”

Sequestration Nation: What March 1 Really Means for the Economy – DailyFinance

Sequestration Nation: What March 1 Really Means for the Economy – DailyFinance.

With many of the world’s nations falling into economic disrepair and fighting to stay afloat, the United States may come to the same fate come March 1. President Obama and congressional Republicans have no progress to head off the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that go into effect on Mar 1. Lacking a bipartisan deal to avoid catastrophe and hoping to put pressure on the GOP lawmakers, the administration revealed details about the cuts’ consequences including less secure U.S. embassies, trimmed defense contracts, and furloughed air traffic controllers. When a budget fight between President Clinton and congressional Republicans led to two government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, some threats came true and others did not only because private groups stepping in and contractors working for IOUs. The budget impasse eventually ended before serious damage happened.

This time no government shutdown will occur but automatic cuts between March 1 and September 30 will occur which means a reduction of 13 percent for defense and 9 percent for other programs according to the budget office. These cut and $1 trillion over the next decade were put into place two years ago when the administration and Congressional bargainers made them so harsh that everyone would be forced to compromise. This has not happened. According to the administration letters and testimony to Congress social security, Medicaid, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits are exempted. The cuts will be made over a seven month period and do not all take effect March 1. If a deal is reached anytime during this period the money could be restore either some or all. However left in effect the impact is not clear yet for each program. The law limits administration’s flexibility to protect initiatives, but the White House told agencies to avoid cutting those that present risk to life, safety or health and minimize harm to crucial services. Every agency will experience some effects from these budget cuts if they go into effect.

According to AOL Daily Finance these are the tentative cuts according to the administration letters and testimony to Congress:

-Defense: Troops at war would be protected, but there’d be fewer Air Force flying hours, less training for some Army units and cuts in naval forces. A $3 billion cut in the military’s Tricare health care system could diminish elective care for military families and retirees. And, in a warning to the private defense industry, the Pentagon said it would be “restructuring contracts to reduce their scope and cost.”

-Health: The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.6 billion, trimming cancer research and drying up funds for hundreds of other research projects. Health departments would give 424,000 fewer tests for the AIDS virus. More than 373,000 people may not receive mental health services.

-Food and agriculture: About 600,000 low-income pregnant women and new mothers would lose food aid and nutrition education. Meat inspectors could be furloughed up to 15 days, shutting meatpacking plants intermittently and costing up to $10 billion in production losses.

-Homeland Security: Fewer border agents and facilities for detained illegal immigrants. Reduced Coast Guard air and sea operations, furloughed Secret Service agents and weakened efforts against cyberthreats to computer networks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund would lose more than $1 billion.

-Education: Seventy thousand Head Start pupils would be removed from the prekindergarten program. Layoffs of 10,000 teachers and thousands of other staffers because of cuts in federal dollars that state and local governments use for schools. Cuts for programs for disabled and other special-needs students.

-Transportation: Most of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 47,000 employees would face furloughs, including air traffic controllers, for an average of 11 days.

-Environment: Diminished Environmental Protection Agency monitoring of oil spills, air pollution and hazardous waste. The color-coded air quality forecasting system that keeps schoolchildren and others inside on bad-air days would be curtailed or eliminated. New models of cars and trucks could take longer to reach consumers because the EPA couldn’t quickly validate that they meet emissions standards.

-State Department: Slow security improvements at overseas facilities, cuts in economic aid in Afghanistan and malaria control in Africa.

-Internal Revenue Service: Furloughed workers would reduce the IRS’ ability to review returns, detect fraud and answer taxpayers’ questions. It offered no specifics.

-FBI: Furloughs and a hiring freeze would have the equivalent impact of cutting 2,285 employees, including 775 agents. Every FBI employee would be furloughed 14 workdays.

-Interior Department: Hours and service would be trimmed at all 398 national parks, and up to 128 wildlife refuges could be shuttered. Oil, gas and coal development on public lands and offshore waters would be diminished because the agency would be less able to issue permits, conduct environmental reviews and inspect facilities.

-Labor: More than 3.8 million people jobless for six months or longer could see their unemployment benefits reduced by as much as 9.4 percent. Thousands of veterans would lose job counseling. Fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors could mean 1,200 fewer visits to work sites. One million fewer people would get help finding or preparing for new jobs.

-NASA: Nearly $900 million in cuts, including funds to help private companies build capsules to send astronauts to the International Space Station.

-Housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development said about 125,000 poor households could lose benefits from the agency’s Housing Choice Voucher program and risk becoming homeless.

Ari Fleischer Says He’ll Give Less To Charity Because Of New Limits On Tax Breaks

Ari Fleischer Charity Tax Break

And we thought we avoided the fiscal cliff. Well we avoided the major cliff but now we have some mini cliffs to deal with one to address is charitable donations. Legislation passed by the Senate late Tuesday night will limit the amount wealthy people can claim for charitable deductions on their taxes. While some say donors shouldn’t be motivated by the amount of money they can write off, others –- including some nervous nonprofits –- argue that tax breaks for charitable giving should have been left untouched in the deal.

This is ridiculous since if you want to help help without exceptions like a higher tax write off. Is this guy going to feel the crunch if he can’t deduct as much? It appears not just our government is selfish but other special interest like non-profits and the wealthy are trying to get in on the act. These people again need to realize that the people who are going to get hurt in this scenario are those people who need the help and let’s be frank the people these kind of people make money off of everyday.

Harry Reid: John Boehner ‘Dictatorship’ Is Letting Time Run Out To Avert ‘Fiscal Cliff’

Harry Reid: John Boehner ‘Dictatorship’ Is Letting Time Run Out To Avert ‘Fiscal Cliff’.

My new favorite guy in this debate. I agree with this guy because the fiscal cliff affects 98% of the population of the US. The tax hikes will effect us all if they do not agree to keep the Bush tax cuts for incomes under $250,000. The saddest part because a few selfish people mainly Boehner the house speaker who refuses to work with the senate. This is why it is important America to be informed because we vote these people into office. The selfishness needs to end because their bloody feuds are now affecting all of us.

White House Dragging Feet On Car Tech Known For Saving Kids

White House Dragging Feet On Car Tech Known For Saving Kids.

I feel for this woman who ran over her 9 year old daughter with her SUV when backing out the driveway. She couldn’t see behind her in her very large car and proceeded to rush her daughter to the emergency room. After surviving 4 open heart surgeries she passed away on the operating table. The mother blames herself for the accident and has been pushing for better safety measures from the white house to make it a requirement that visibility be better where visibility isn’t clear. I for one hope that the government takes it seriously. These type of things should not happen and my heart goes out to this mom.