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House Sends Andrew Connolly Veterans' Housing Act to President's Desk PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Amanda Bowman   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 08:47

Braley-authored bill extends & expands disabled vets housing program for 10 years

 

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) announced that the Andrew Connolly Veterans’ Housing Act was passed overwhelmingly by the US House today.  The legislation, authored by Braley last year, will extend for ten years a Veterans’ Administration adaptive housing grant program that helps injured and disabled veterans retrofit their homes to make them more disability-accessible.

 

Without this legislation, included as part of the Honoring American Veterans Act of 2011, the adaptive housing project would have expired at the end of 2012.

 

“Meeting Andrew, Jenny and Brody Connolly will always be one of the highlights of my life,” Braley said.  “They inspired me, the people of Dubuque and members of both parties in Congress to do more to help one another.  Andrew would have turned 29 this week and I can think of no more fitting tribute to his memory than this bill being signed into law.”

 

The Andrew Connolly Veterans’ Housing Act is named after the late Andrew Connolly of Dubuque – an Iowa Army National Guardsman who returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with a tumor in his spine. With Braley’s help, Connolly was able to get a grant that allowed him to move into a wheelchair-accessible home until his untimely death in August 2011.  Connolly became an advocate for expanding the program, despite his failing health.

 

The bill will extend the adaptive housing grant program for disabled veterans for ten years, through Dec. 31st, 2022.  The legislation also increases the adaptive housing grant limit for temporary housing to $28,000, and increases the total adaptive housing grant limit from $63,780 to $91,780, revising current law to exclude the temporary residence adaptation grant from counting towards the total grant amount.

 

VA Veterans Adaptive Housing Grant Limits

 

Current Law

Andrew Connolly Act (Passed Today)

Expiration Date

December 31, 2012

December 31st, 2022

Temporary Housing Grant Limit

$14,000

$28,000

Permanent Housing Grant Limit

$63,780

$63,780

TOTAL Housing Grant Limit

$63,780

$91,780

 

# # #

 
CHRISTIAN CARE RECEIVES GRANT Genesis Health System Supports Domestic Violence Shelter PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Ring   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 08:36
July 31, 2012 – Christian Care, a Rock Island non-profit organization committed to
ending homelessness and violence, has been awarded a $1,500 grant from Genesis
Health System. Funds are designated for Christian Care’s Women’s Empowerment
Program.

“Christian Care is grateful to Genesis Health System for its support of our services
for women,” said Dr. Elaine Winter, Executive Director. “Most women who have
experienced domestic violence and abuse were subjected to such ordeals early in life.
This grant will go toward helping women to successfully and permanently transform
their lives. We would be unable to provide the services needed to begin the healing
process without the faithful support of donors like Genesis Health System.”

Christian Care is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization operating two facilities—a domestic
violence shelter for women and children and a rescue mission for homeless men. It
serves homeless individuals, victims of domestic violence, veterans, men and women
coming out of prison, and those with mental illnesses.

For all those who need a meal, Christian Care's Community Meal Site is located at its
Rescue Mission, 2209 3rd Avenue, Rock Island. It is open for breakfast, lunch and
dinner on weekdays Monday through Friday, and for breakfast and dinner on Saturday
and Sunday. Breakfast is served at 6:30 a.m., lunch at 12:15 p.m., and dinner at 6:30
p.m. If you know of someone in need, call the Christian Care Crisis Hotline any hour of
the day at (309) 788-2273 or visit us online at christiancareqc.org.

 
Loebsack: Snow, Rain or Heat Can’t Stop the Postal Service, Don’t Let Congress PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 08:27

Calls on Speaker Boehner to Address Postal Issues Before Looming Default

 

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack today urged Speaker of the House John Boehner to address issues facing the United States Postal Service before it defaults on a payment to its Retiree Health Benefit Fund.   In a letter to the Speaker, Loebsack pointed out that the USPS will default on its retiree health care fund obligation this Wednesday, August 1.  The Senate has already acted on legislation to address this, as well as other short- and long-term needs of the Postal Service.  The House has failed to bring the bipartisan, Senate-passed measure to the floor for consideration.

“Congress has been warned for months that the Postal Service would be forced to default on this payment,” wrote Loebsack. “I am committed to working nonstop morning, noon, and night in order to prevent the USPS from defaulting on its payments and address the financial stability of the agency and the services it provides.

The payment was originally due in 2011, but was delayed by Congress to August 1, 2012.  The USPS is also expected to be unable to make the next $5.6 billion payment due in September.  Loebsack pushed the Speaker to work on this and other critical issues facing Iowans and our country rather than recessing for August vacation.  A copy of the letter Loebsack sent is available here.

 

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Report on Operation Fast and Furious PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 08:11

Congressional Investigators Release First Part of Final Joint Report on Operation Fast and Furious

Report Focuses on Role of ATF and Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office

WASHINGTON, DC –House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Senator Chuck Grassley today released the first part of the final report on the joint congressional investigation of conduct in Operation Fast and Furious.  The report presents evidence detailing numerous errors and decisions by ATF officials and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office that led to serious problems – including inter-agency communication failures between ATF, DEA, and FBI.  The failed operation might have contributed to the deaths of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and an unknown number of Mexican citizens.  It also created an ongoing public safety hazard on both sides of the border.  The failures happened because of conscious decisions not to interdict weapons and not to stop suspects in the hope that they would lead to cartel connections and a larger case.

“ATF and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office failed to consider and protect the safety of Americans, Mexicans, and fellow law enforcement personnel throughout Operation Fast and Furious,” said Chairman Issa.  “Testimony and a persistent reluctance to fully cooperate make clear that many officials at ATF and the Department of Justice would have preferred to quietly sweep this matter under the rug.  Though they are among the most vocal objectors to oversight by Congress, this investigation has also shown that both agencies are among those most in need of additional scrutiny and attention from Congress.”

“The ATF wasted time, money and resources on wiretaps and put agents in harm’s way trying to learn about the links that other agencies had already made,” Grassley said.  “It’s a classic case of government agencies’ failure to connect the dots.  The ATF leadership claims it didn’t get the full picture from the FBI until after the case was over.  We know the DEA was actively giving information to the ATF, but the ATF dropped the ball.  Whistleblowers put the spotlight on Operation Fast and Furious.  The ATF clearly needs to clean up its act, and the Department of Justice needs to make certain this kind of program is never allowed to happen again.  This report provides a road map of what went wrong.”

This new report, Fast and Furious: The Anatomy of a Failed Operation, Part I of III,” is based on transcribed interviews with 24 individuals, some covering multiple days; informal interviews with more than 50 individuals; and the review of more than 10,000 pages of documents.  While the Justice Department has withheld tens of thousands of pages of documents and denied access to numerous witnesses, the investigation did find sufficient evidence to draw conclusions concerning the origins of Operation Fast and Furious, the detrimental effect of inter-agency miscommunications and turf issues, flawed strategies, delays, and an overall failure to effectively supervise subordinate offices.

The complete report consists of 2,359 pages, including 211 pages of text with 692 footnotes, 266 exhibits, and three appendices.

Below are excerpts from the report’s conclusion (starting on p. 210):

“From the outset, the case was marred by missteps, poor judgments, and an inherently reckless strategy. In the summer of 2009, the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. promulgated a ‘Strategy for Combating the Mexican Cartels.’ The new aim was to zero in on the firearms trafficking networks. Agents were advised that ‘merely seizing firearms’ purchased illegally by straw buyers should take a back seat to gathering information in hopes of dismantling entire firearms trafficking networks. To effectuate the new plan, ATF agents in Phoenix convinced local gun dealers to cooperate by supplying ATF with real-time information on the straw purchases, even though ATF knew the buyers were illegally obtaining firearms destined for the Mexican drug cartels. The gun dealers were reassured that ATF was closely monitoring the transactions, and interdicting the weapons. That was false.”

***

“Shortly after the case began, in December 2009, DEA supplied ATF with extensive information on what would become ATF’s prime target. At that point, ATF should have shut Fast and Furious down, but it failed to recognize the significance of the information the DEA had shared. Instead, ATF continued with its plan to identify all the players in the trafficking network rather than disrupt or deter them through confrontation and arrest. So, hundreds of guns flowed to criminals while two of the trafficking network’s customers, who were its connection to the Mexican drug cartels, were already known to U.S. law enforcement. Both the FBI and DEA had key information on the network’s connection drug cartels in Mexico by the time ATF’s wiretaps were approved.”

***

“Though Attorney General Holder testified that the case was ‘fundamentally flawed’ and President Obama has stated that mistakes may have been made, all responsible ATF officials still work either at the ATF or within the Department of Justice. The two men most closely identified with the failed strategy of the case and who bear the brunt of responsibility for supervising the operation on a day-to-day basis, William Newell and David Voth, have both kept their jobs at ATF.”

***

“This report is not intended to imply in any way that the mistakes and responsibility for Operation Fast and Furious are limited to ATF and other federal officials who were based in Arizona. While mistakes by figures in Arizona were immense, the joint Congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious will issue a second report detailing the mistakes and culpability of Department of Justice officials based in Washington, D.C.”

***

“Operation Fast and Furious was the largest firearms trafficking case involving the U.S.-Mexico border in the history of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The case began in the fall of 2009 in ATF’s Phoenix Field Division under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge William Newell, an agent with a history of sanctioning the dangerous investigative technique known as gunwalking. Newell had been reprimanded before by ATF management for pushing the envelope with discredited tactics. But Newell had an audacious goal. He intended to dismantle the U.S.-based gun trafficking network that supplied the formidable Mexican Sinaloa Cartel. When the Obama administration resurrected an earlier case in which his division used reckless gunwalking tactics, Newell saw his opportunity.”

***

Click here for a copy of the report, Fast and Furious: The Anatomy of a Failed Operation, Part I of III” and the 2,148 page appendices.

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America’s Young ‘Globals’ See U.S. Role Differently, Author Says PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 12:14
He Notes Benefits of Millennials’ Itch to Travel, Work Abroad

Just a couple decades ago, only the young adult children of the very rich, the very religious or the very adventurous ventured abroad to live and work in other cultures.

“It was a life-changing experience for those of us fortunate enough to be offered it,” says Ross Palfreyman a lawyer who recounts his two years as a young missionary during the 1970s in Two Years in God’s Mormon Army (www.mormonarmy.net).

“If you had wealthy parents, joined the Peace Corps or belonged to a faith with a belief in mission work, you were able to develop empathy and a broader world view at a younger age,” he says.

“In my church, young men typically go abroad for their mission trip at 19 years old and stay for two years. For Baptists, it may be a group of high school students spending their spring break building a church in Haiti. Whatever the reason, the lessons learned were the same: Less ethnocentricity, the gratification that comes from service to your fellow man, self-discipline, self-sacrifice.”

Travel abroad for work and study is no longer the experience of a select few and that has helped shape America’s young adults for the better, Palfreyman says. Surveys show they have a global world view fostered by the internet and social networks that cross boundaries.

Having online “friends” in other countries and being immediately connected to events in faraway lands through social networks such as Twitter makes them curious about and respectful of other cultures, he says.

“America’s young adults are the ‘First Globals,’ a term coined by the pollster John Zogby,” Palfreyman says. “The group of people born from 1979 to 1990 travel; they embrace and feel connected to other cultures; they want to make a difference.”

That’s exactly what his two years as a missionary did for him, Palfreyman says.

He notes these characteristics of 22- to 33-year-olds:

• Two-thirds have passports. By comparison, according to officials from the U.S. Travel Association, less than one-third of all Americans – 30 percent – have passports. Two of five Globals say they expect to live and work in a foreign capital at some time in their lives.

• 270,000 young people studied abroad in 2009-10. In 1989-90, only about 30,000 did so, according to the International Institute of Education. While Western European countries are still their top destinations, students are increasingly choosing more far-flung locales, especially China and other Asian nations.

• They want to “make the world a better place to live." A study of 10,000 adults by Campbell & Co. fundraising consultants found this group is more likely than any other generation to cite world improvement as the key reason for their philanthropy. (They also give just as much as other generations.)

• They want to make a global impact. The Campbell study found they are most likely of all age groups to respond positively to messages that focus on the global impact of an organization's work.

The problems we face today, such as global warming and regional conflicts, will require nations and cultures to work together toward solutions, Palfreyman says.

“This generation just might be able to achieve that.”

About Ross H. Palfreyman

Ross H. Palfreyman is a Laguna Beach, Calif., lawyer who began his mission work in 1973 in Thailand, during the Vietnam War and the Thai Revolution of ’73. Two years of trying to convince devout Buddhists that they’d be better off as Mormons was trying enough, he also was threatened at gunpoint and fended off parasites and rabid dogs during his “indentured servitude.” He initially wrote about his experiences for his six children. Palfreyman’s youngest son returns from his mission in Mexico in August.

 
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