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Governor Quinn Signs Law to Increase Opportunity for Asian-Americans PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nafia Khan   
Friday, 27 July 2012 12:20

New Employment Advisory Council to Promote
More Diversity in State Government

CHICAGO – July 27, 2012. As part of his ongoing efforts to promote diversity in state government, Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law creating the Asian-American Employment Plan Advisory Council. The council will focus on ways to encourage and assist Asian-Americans seeking employment in state government. The governor was joined by numerous legislators, community leaders and representatives from the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community and the Asian American Policy Network.

“Illinois is a place where people of all cultures and backgrounds should feel welcome,” Governor Quinn said. “This new employment council will help ensure that Asian-Americans know about and have access to opportunities.”

House Bill 4510, sponsored by Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) and Sen. Tony Muñoz (D-Chicago), creates the Asian-American Employment Plan Advisory Council, which will study the barriers Asian-Americans who seek state employment face and propose solutions that can foster diversity and opportunity. The unpaid, 11-member council will be appointed by the governor and comprised of experts on employment access and Asian-American issues.

“Illinois is a diverse state and we must make sure our agencies reflect that diversity,” Rep. Acevedo said. “As the Asian-American community continues to grow, it is important that they have the same opportunities and representation in state government that other groups have. I believe this new law will help to ensure that Asian-American constituents in my district and across the state are being properly served.”

“Asian-Americans make up nearly five percent of Illinois’ population, but only about two and a half percent of state employees,” said Senator Muñoz, a member of the Senate Executive Committee.  “This new law will help to encourage more equity in state hiring and help improve services for Illinois’ growing American communities.”

The new law also directs the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to prepare an Asian-American Employment Plan in conjunction with the new council. The report will analyze the percentage of Asian-American employment in all levels of state government and be submitted to the governor and the General Assembly with recommendations for how individual agencies can increase the Asian-American community’s representation in the state workforce. This legislation passed the General Assembly unanimously and is effective immediately.

"I am thrilled to have been a part of the process of getting this legislation passed,” said Theresa Mah, co-founder of the Asian American Policy Network. “The passage of this bill represents an important victory for the Asian-American community in our state and its implementation will make a huge difference in improving equity, accountability and service delivery for all Illinois residents. This legislation could not have been passed without the help of the Asian-American community along with a multiracial coalition of Black and Latino advocates supporting us."

"The signing of this bill is yet another milestone in the Asian-American community's civic engagement efforts leading to full participation and full integration of Asian-Americans into society-at-large,” said CW Chan, Chair of the Coalition for a Better Chinese Community. “The legislative process leading to the passage of the bill also demonstrates an increased understanding and support for our community's needs and experiences, thanks in part to advocacy work by many organizations, particularly during the redistricting process, in which CBCAC was fortunate to have played a significant role.”

Today’s ceremony in Chicago’s Chinatown follows Governor Quinn’s approval of the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011, which protects the voting rights of racial and language minority groups in Illinois. The Act helps prevent a community’s electoral identity from being weakened by being divided into multiple legislative districts.

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Doggy Portraiture Forces Reexamination of Animal Life & Value PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 27 July 2012 12:18
Vet Proposes Law for Pet Compensation

A popular photographer in Taiwan is making waves in the global animal-rights community with his dignified portraits of doomed dogs.

Tou Yun-fei, a two-time winner of his government’s photography award, gave up his job as a well-compensated staffer at a magazine for two years to shoot more than 40,000 human-like images of abandoned canines in Taiwan’s animal shelters – just before they were to be put to death.

“These shots, which took up so much of the photographer’s time, are striking because of the humanity captured in the expression of the dogs,” says Kenneth Newman, a 33-year veterinarian and author of Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge (www.meetmeattherainbowbridge.com). “Efforts like this in the United States are part of the reason we euthanize far fewer animals today than we did 30 or 40 years ago.

“Now, we need work on changing the laws so that the judicial system recognizes the value of a pet as more than a piece of property.”

How effective have U.S. public awareness campaigns regarding pet overpopulation been?

• U.S. dogs are less likely to be euthanized in shelters than in other countries (including Tou’s Taiwan). The Humane Society of the United States reports 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are put down every year. A precise number is not known because there is no central data reporting agency for animal shelters.

• During the 1970s in the United States, an estimated 12 to 20 million cats and dogs were euthanized at shelters. These reduction is credited in large part to public awareness  and spay/neuter campaigns, according to the Humane Society.

• In the 1970s, there were 67 million pets in U.S. homes; today, there 135 million.

Newman says the next logical step in our society is passing a law that requires courts to consider the emotional value of a pet when considering legal compensation to owners whose animals die as a result of someone else’s neglect, malice or mistake.

“There have been a few instances where plaintiffs made a case for compensation beyond the animal’s market value, because of their bond with the pet, and some judges have agreed,” Newman says. “But it shouldn’t be left to chance. Our laws should accurately reflect the value of our pets for the average American,” he says. “Ninety percent of pet owners consider their animals to be part of the family.”

Newman experienced a real-life tragedy in 2008, when a careless driver backed up 25 yards without looking, striking Newman and his beloved Labrador, Gracie, and pinning them between the veterinarian’s station wagon and the driver's bumper. This inspired him to propose Gracie’s Law (available for reading or sharing on his website), which would entitle the owner of a pet killed through an act of malice or negligence to $25,000 in damages.

Gracie’s Law would not supersede current laws, he says, which entitle owners to the property value of their pet. And it would not replace criminal prosecution for acts of malice. And owners who decline a recommended veterinarian procedure to save a pet would not be held accountable under the law, he says.

“When you consider the fact that a majority of pet-owning Americans would prefer to be stranded on a desert island with their pet rather than any other human being,’’ he says, “that’s when you know animals should be legally valued above inanimate objects.”

About Kenneth Newman, DVM

Kenneth Newman graduated from Purdue University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1979, and has been a veterinarian for 33 years. After experiencing a badly broken leg and the death of his Labrador retriever in 2008, he drafted and began advocating for Gracie’s Law. Newman lives with his wife and their son, as well as several pets.

 
USDA Challenges Employees to Donate 1.8 Million Pounds of Food for Feds Feed Families Food Drive PDF Print E-mail
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Written by USDA Communications   
Friday, 27 July 2012 12:17
Food drive helps fill food bank shelves during tough economic times

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2012 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Chief Human Capital Officers, and other federal agencies in the 4th annual Feds Feed Families Food Drive. Feds Feed Families is a voluntary effort undertaken by Federal employees around the country to collect and donate perishable and non-perishable goods to food pantries and banks in their communities.

The challenge, which began in early June, encourages USDA employees to "beat our best" and donate more than 1.8 million pounds of food, topping last summer's donation by USDA of 1.79 million pounds of perishable and non-perishable food. Donations include fresh, healthy produce grown in People's Gardens across the country and collected from partnering with farmers and neighbors in local gleaning efforts.

"Across America - from our rural communities to our largest cities - we know there are families who are working hard but still need some help putting food on their plate," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The Feds Feed Families food drive leverages the spirit of service that's shared by every Federal employee to help our food banks deliver assistance."

In Washington, DC, the Capital Area Food Bank receives collections and distributes them through their network of over 700 partner agencies. Outside of the Washington area, agencies are encouraged to support local providers in their community. USDA field offices have already registered over 1400 food drives nationwide.

The food drive started in June 2009 to help fill food bank shelves during tough economic times. USDA estimates show that nearly 50 million Americans - including 16 million children - struggle to put food on the table at some point during the year. While USDA nutrition assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and school feeding programs touch the lives of one in four Americans, food banks, pantries, community centers, and houses of worship provide extra help. Many of these organizations report an increase in demand during the summer, when schools are out and children are at home with families. In addition, summer traditionally brings a decrease in donations. USDA employees are helping to fill this gap through the Feds Feed Families Food Drive. Learn more at www.fedsfeedfamilies.gov.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).


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U.S. Slow to Repatriate Abducted Children Among Hague Treaty Nations PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 27 July 2012 12:04
By: Steve Fenton

After my then-6-year-old son was abducted and taken to Mexico in December 1992, I traveled to Mexico City to plead for his return via the Hague Convention Treaty. The response from the Central Authority director surprised me.

“The U.S. has a very poor record of returning children to Mexico as well,” he said with a cold,   almost personal glare. I never forgot that.

Eventually, I realized the treaty would be of no help to me and I went on to privately recover my son in April 1993. It was a surreal rescue drama undertaken with the help of a specialized team, disguises, decoy car switches and a stealth flight in a small plane. My young son and I escaped under the noses of the Mexican military, flying 450 miles to Brownsville, Texas, through Mexican airspace.

In Brownsville, the FBI immediately detained and interrogated me, acting on frivolous allegations from Mexico City. Stunned, I was told that the U.S. agents intended to send my son back to Mexico with a Mexican consulate official.

I recount the whole nightmarish experience in Broken Treaty: The True Story of a Father’s Covert Recovery of his Missing Son from Mexico (www.brokentreaty.info).

My son is now an adult and I am still contacted for advice by left-behind parents; not only those of children taken to Mexico, but from parents who “hit a wall” trying to recover their children from the overwhelming complexities of the U.S. judicial system.

What should take weeks turns into months and in some cases years as parents in other countries attempt to retrieve children abducted to the United States. Petitions drag through delays and appeals. The State Department’s own statistics demonstrate what should be serious concerns if the United States wants to lead by example.

A 2010 Compliance Report drafted by the State Department shows that parents filed 324 Hague Convention Treaty applications involving 454 children abducted to the United States from other treaty partner countries. The United States accounts for a staggering 23 percent of all incoming and outgoing caseload petitions. The report showed that we have the poorest record in terms of treaty-specified case resolutions for applications under the accord. We also have the highest ratio of pending cases awaiting resolution.

Hague Treaty guidelines call for expeditious proceedings within six weeks of the date of commencement, but the United States has no clear domestic policy guidelines to even determine if the cases should be heard by federal, state or local courts. Between federal and local venues, there are potentially 31,500 judges who could hear a Hague case. The sobering reality is that most judges are not educated about the treaty. Many who do hear these cases deny the petition because they fear that returning the child will automatically result in custody being awarded to the left-behind parent.

They don’t realize that the treaty specifies children be returned to the state of “habitual residence,” where the proper forum by the requesting court country’s jurisdiction will make any final custody determination.

Several nations have taken steps to streamline the Hague petition quagmire by appointing specifically trained courts and judges within a limited number of courts. The United Kingdom, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden are on the cutting edge of amending their procedures to limited jurisdiction and have greatly reduced the delays in restitution of abducted children.

I hope to see the United States consolidate Hague cases to appointed courts with treaty-educated judges, so we can rightfully enjoy reciprocity by the world community on the return of wrongfully detained children abroad. I know only too well the anguish of the left-behind parent who sees the Hague Treaty as the only hope to recover a child.

About The Author: Steve Fenton is a specialty building contractor. After his estranged wife spirited their son, an American, away to Xalapa, Mexico, the father decided he had to take action. With little to no help from the U.S. and Mexican governments after a year and a half, the determined father went on a clandestine recovery mission across the border. What ensued were life-changing events that have defined the lives of father and son.  His book was written with some technical assistance from Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who would later become a national hero after safely landing U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.

 
Harkin Report Details Impact of Sequestration on Health, Education, and Labor Funding PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Friday, 27 July 2012 12:03
July 26, 2012

Yesterday, Senator Harkin, as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies, released the first comprehensive report on the potential impact of sequestration on dozens of education, health and labor programs under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  The report provides national and state-by-state estimates of the number of jobs that could be lost and the number of individuals who could be affected by cuts in services if sequestration went into effect on Jan. 2, 2013.

Harkin’s report, “Under Threat: Sequestration’s Impact on Nondefense Jobs and Services,” can be found here.

“Some members of Congress warn that defense contracting firms will lay off employees if sequestration goes into effect.  They say nothing of the tens of thousands of teachers, police officers and other public servants in communities all across America who would also lose their jobs.  A laid-off teacher is just as unemployed as a laid-off defense contractor,” said Harkin. “This report proves why we need a balanced approach to deficit reduction that not only prevents sequestration, but protects America’s families.”

Among the highlights of the report:

·         States and local communities would lose $2.7 billion in federal funding for just three critical education programs alone – Title I, special education State grants, and Head Start – that serve a combined 30.7 million children.  Nationwide, these cuts would force roughly 46,000 employees to either lose their jobs or rely on cash-strapped states and localities to pick up their salaries instead.

Ø  In Iowa: 156 Head Start jobs would be lost and 747 fewer children served.

Ø  In Iowa: cuts to Title I Grants to local educational agencies would mean 105 education jobs lost, 8,991 fewer students served, and 58 fewer schools receiving grants.

Ø  In Iowa: cuts to Improving Teacher Quality State Grants would mean 1,470 fewer teachers receiving professional development.

·         In health, approximately 660,000 fewer people would be tested for HIV, 49,000 fewer women would be screened for cancer, and 212,000 fewer children would be vaccinated.

Ø  In Iowa: cuts to HIV Prevention and Testing would mean 2,386 fewer people tested for HIV.

Ø  In Iowa: 619 fewer women screened for cancer.

Ø  In Iowa: 2,055 fewer children would receive MMR, Tdap, flu and Hepatitis B vaccinations.

 

·         At a time when the unemployment rate is still above 8 percent, 1.6 million fewer adults, dislocated workers and at-risk youth would receive job training, education and employment services; and the families of 80,000 fewer children would receive child care subsidies, making it harder for parents to find work.

 

Ø  In Iowa: 11,257 fewer jobseekers receiving employment services.

Ø  In Iowa: 496 fewer veterans receiving job assistance.

For more information, please call Kate Frischmann in Senator Harkin’s press office at (202) 224-3254.

 
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