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 2013: When will it end?

Sequestration 2013: With Cuts In Place, Obama And GOP Brace For Next Fight.
To all my readers, I find it important for everyone to inform themselves about the actual sequester with an official document sent to Congress  as a direct result of Congress and the President’s inability to reach a decision to avoid the sequester that has now gone into effect on March 1. There is a lot of misinformation going around through various groups so I decided that the actual facts might be nice, then let you the reader decide what is truth. Since both parties the President and Congress refuse to come to a decision on Saturday to avoid sequester, we as a country now face the consequences through automatic spending cuts of $85 billion. Even with last minutes talks and no deal, the sequester which is outline in the official document below has gone into effect with the stroke of Obama’s pen. There are no signs that either group will budge as the Republican refuse any deal with more taxes and Democrats will not do a deal without it. Both parties lay the blame on the other for damages the cuts might inflict which are across the board.  In the words of Obama on his weekly radio and internet address, “None of this is necessary…It’s happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit.” The president also commented that the cuts will cause ripples across the economy the longer they stay in place and could cost more than 750,000 jobs not to mention disrupt the lives of middle class families. The next major battle for both will be to negotiate a plan to fund the government beyond March 27 or possibly face a government shutdown and another debt ceiling clash in May.

OMB REPORT TO THE CONGRESS ON THE JOINT COMMITTEE SEQUESTRATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013

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.”

Greece Unemployment Rate In November Hits Record High, Nearly Third Of Population In Poverty

Greece Unemployment Rate In November Hits Record High, Nearly Third Of Population In Poverty.

As the world goes into an economic tail spin, Greece is a glimpse into the future if things keep going the way they are. Unemployment in Greece rose to 27 percent in November as a result of financial crisis and austerity measures leaving nearly a third of the population in poverty by the end of the year. More than 30,000 people have lost their jobs in November with jobless rates continuing to acceleration according to the Statistics Agency. The worst affected are 15-24 years old without a job at 61.7 percent. Greece is in its sixth year of recession and is relying on international rescue loans to keep afloat. In return, the government imposed major spending cuts and tax hikes that have caused increased poverty and thousands of businesses to close. New tax hikes went into effect this month leading to further pressure on a shrinking workforce with 3.6 million Greeks remain employed, but 3.3 million are registered as inactive and 1.35 million are unemployed, according to the November figures. 3.9 million out of 11 million will be living in poverty by the end of the year as the poverty line in Greece is set at less than $9,700 per year. Several hundred pensioners marched to the Labor Ministry in heavy rain to protest the new tax increases. Dimos Koumbouris, leader of Greece’s main pensioners association, told AP that,”We can’t pay our electricity bills, or the emergency taxes. We haven’t enough for our medicines, and it’s putting our lives in danger.” Unions have called a strike for Feb. 20, protesting new tax hikes and government decision to ax collective wage agreements in the public sector. Another battle soon to erupt is over whether the minimum wage will be reduced from $666 a month to much lower. The government has denied any plans to cut the minimum wage or that this has been demanded by the country’s debt inspectors. According to Huff Post, the EU’s monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, noted that under Greece’s agreement with its bailout lenders, “a review of the minimum wage system is provided for in 2014.” His spokesman stressed “there is no explicit, or even implicit, agreement that there should be further cuts.”

Fed To Keep Rates Near Zero Until Unemployment Drops Below 6.5 Percent

Fed To Keep Rates Near Zero Until Unemployment Drops Below 6.5 Percent.

Some good news in this turbulent economic climate. It is a bit of relief but hopefully they stick to the deal and do what they say they are going to do. For more details on this click the link and tell me what you think.