Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekly Address: A Bipartisan Approach to Strengthening the Economy

President Obama discusses the urgency of Democrats and Republicans coming together to take a balanced approach to cutting the deficit to strengthen our economy and secure our future.

In Memoriam: General John M. Shalikashvili

Served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1993 to 1997), Called for Reversal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Statement by the President on the General Shalikashvili's Death

With the passing of General John M. Shalikashvili, the United States has lost a genuine soldier-statesman whose extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it.

From his arrival in the United States as a 16-year old Polish immigrant after the Second World War, to a young man who learned English from John Wayne movies, to his rise to the highest ranks of our military, Shali’s life was an “only in America” story. By any measure, he made our country a safer and better place.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he strengthened our alliances in Europe and in Asia, forged closer defense ties with Russia, and championed the Partnership for Peace with the former Soviet states.

At the same time, he oversaw successful military operations in Bosnia and Haiti, and elsewhere. Most of all, he fought tirelessly to improve the quality of life for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and their families who serve to keep us safe.

Michelle and I extend our heartfelt condolences to General Shalikashvili’s wife Joan and their son Brant.

From The G-Man would like to honor General John M. Shalikashvili, his love of country, and his service with the following video tribute. May he rest in peace.

Video uploaded to YouTube by moderatepopulist

Photo source:
Author: Russell Roederer
Permission: Public Domain

Amy Winehouse, 27, Found Dead

Celebrated Singer Was Plagued by Substance Abuse Problems

Details provided below in an article from the British publication "The Daily Mail".

From The G-Man offers its condolences to the family, friends and fans of Winehouse.

Photo source: Wikipedia
Author: Rama

Two Former News Corp. Execs Say James Murdoch Lied

Colin Myler and Tom Crone, two executives who both lost their jobs because of the scandal, claim James Murdoch lied in testimony to Parliament.

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By Una Lue
Anchor: Ana Compain-Romero

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World News: Somalian Militant Group Rejects Famine Aid

Somalia's militant group Al Shabab is continuing to block aid to famine-stricken parts of the country.

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By Alejandra Quintela
Anchor: Austin Kim

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Friday, July 22, 2011

West Wing Week: 7/21/11 or "Two Minute Warning"

This week, walk side by side with the President as he continues his focus on finding a balanced deal in deficit negotiations, meets with Warren Buffett, calls the international space station, makes an important personnel announcement and hosts an education roundtable discussion with business leaders.

NY Wine Industry Gets Boost from New Legislation

Cuomo Signs New Law Reducing Regulatory Burden on Farm Wineries by the State Liquor Authority

Governor Cuomo today announced that he has signed legislation to significantly reduce the regulatory burdens placed on farm wineries by the State Liquor Authority (SLA). This bill would implement several of the recommendations made by the New York State Wine Grape Task Force in its December 2008 report to the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

"This bill is a huge boost for wineries across the state. Reducing the regulatory burdens on farm wineries will allow them to continue to thrive as a key tourism, agricultural, and economic engine for our state. I want to thank Commissioner Aubertine, Senator Young and Assemblyman Schimminger for their dedication to this bill," Governor Cuomo said.

The Fine Winery Bill includes:

Branch Store Capability: The bill would give farm wineries the ability to operate up to five branch stores. While farm wineries can currently operate up to five "satellite stores," under existing law those stores must obtain separate licenses and are subject to the same off-premise restrictions imposed on package/liquor stores. The new "branch store" system would allow such stores to be considered extensions of the farm winery, not as separate entities, making it much easier for such stores to be opened up around the state.

Custom Crush Capability: The bill clarifies the ability of farm wineries to provide and/or utilize custom crush services for purchasers of New York grapes, thereby encouraging smaller vineyards to enter in the industry, which in turn will foster rural economic growth.

Direct Shipper's Report Efficiencies: New York wineries have been able to ship directly to consumers in other states since 2005, but needed to produce a very costly, time consuming and underutilized report. This legislation now requires them to maintain reports on-site and provide them to SLA only upon request.

License Consolidation: Under this bill, the law no longer requires the State's wineries that manufacture less than 1,500 gallons of wine annually to apply for a separate micro-winery license; rather all farm wineries will have the same license, with micro-winery licenses continuing to cost $50 annually.

Charitable Events Filing Efficiencies: New York wineries seeking to participate in charitable events are no longer restricted to five per year. Now, wineries will have to obtain an annual permit and notify SLA of the event, greatly reducing the amount of burden on both wineries and SLA, while ensuring the same oversight.

"Farm wineries are a growing, profitable sector in our state's agricultural industry, and I thank Governor Cuomo for his focus on strengthening our economy. By signing this bill, the Governor is partnering with us to relieve these wineries from cumbersome regulations that have impeded their productivity," said State Senator Catharine Young.

"Not only will this new law permit both New York farm wineries and the State Liquor Authority to operate more efficiently, it also will allow these private businesses and state government to cut costs. This initiative is exactly what our state needs to generate more economic vitality, opportunity and prosperity, and I was proud to sponsor this legislation."

State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger also supports the new legislation.

"This bill delivers on our shared commitment to further promote the successful development of New York's wine and grape industry. By streamlining regulatory requirements on farm wineries in our state, this bill will encourage new businesses and expansion in the agricultural industry," said Schimminger.

"It also achieves efficiency and consolidation in reporting, licensing, and filing with the State Liquor Authority which will help both wineries and state government to function more resourcefully while ensuring an appropriate level of oversight. I thank the Governor for signing this bill. Working together we will continue to prove that New York is open for business."

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine said, "Governor Cuomo recognizes the significant role agriculture plays in the State's economy. With wine being one of the fastest growing sectors of that industry, this legislation offers numerous benefits to farm wineries that will have a ripple effect throughout the countryside. I thank Governor Cuomo, Senator Young and Assemblyman Schimminger for their hard work on this bill."

The New York wine and grape industry has a $3.76 billion economic impact from the production of wine and grapes grown on nearly 1,400 vineyards statewide. Since the passage of the Farm Winery Law in 1976, the number of New York's farm wineries has grown from under twenty to nearly 306 today.

Wine production has increased more than 50 percent in the last 20 years to nearly 200 million bottles annually. New York is now the third largest wine producing state in the country, behind California, and recently Washington. The sale of New York wines account for $420 million a year.

Today, more than 5 million tourists visit New York wineries annually. The five major wine producing regions in the state are the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Lake Erie and the Niagra Escarpment, but there are wineries in 51 of New York's 62 counties.

Image courtesy of

Newsy Now: News Round-Up

Democrats left out of debt talks; Heatwave across U.S.; Ethnic violence in Pakistan; NFL owners pressure players; Apple to buy Hulu?

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By Jim Flink

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Arizona Seeks Donations for Border Fence

Republicans launched a campaign seeking $50 million in Arizona/Mexico border fence donations.

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By Kylie McGivern

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Study: 60 Percent of Texas Students Suspended

A study shows 60 percent of Texas students have been suspended or expelled by the time they graduate high school-- and is sparking concern.

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By Megan Noe

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Beat the Heat!

Cuomo Orders Extended Hours at Swimming Facilities, State Parks During Heat Wave

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he has directed the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to offer extended hours at state swimming facilities and other state parks during the current heat wave as a way to help New Yorkers beat the heat. The extended hours will begin today and continue through Saturday evening.

"One way to stay cool during this severe heat wave is to visit one of our beautiful state beaches, pools and parks. These high temperatures can be dangerous if New Yorkers don't take the proper precautions. Offering these extended hours will help New Yorkers beat the heat," said Cuomo.

"I'm pleased to work with Governor Cuomo to offer more opportunities for New York families to cool off during this heat wave. I cannot think of a better place to be on a hot summer day than one of our great state parks," said Rose Harvey, Commissioner, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

The following State Park swimming facilities will be open for extended hours on Friday and Saturday.

    · Long Island: The ocean beaches at Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Sunken Meadow and Hither Hills State Parks, and the swimming pool at Jones Beach, will remain open until 8:30 PM.
    · New York City: Pool hours are extended at Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx until 8:00 PM, and sprinklers are provided at Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens and East River State Park in Brooklyn.
    · Niagara Region: Beaver Island, Evangola, Fort Niagara, and Wilson-Tuscarora State Parks will remain open until 8:00 PM.
    · Genesee Region (Rochester area): The swimming beaches at Hamlin Beach and Darien Lakes State Parks, along with the North Pool at Letchworth State Park, are open until 8:00 PM.
    · Central Region (Syracuse/Utica areas): The swimming beaches at Green Lakes, Verona Beach, Delta Lake and Sandy Island Beach State Parks will open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, rather than 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
    · Saratoga-Capital Region: The Victoria Pool in Saratoga Spa State Park, the swimming pool at Minekill State Park, and beaches at Thompson's Lake, Moreau Lake, and Grafton Lakes State Parks will remain open until 8:00 PM.
    · Allegany State Park: Red House and Quaker Area beaches will be open one hour later until 7:00 PM.
    · Taconic Region (Hudson Valley): Swimming beaches at Taconic (Copake Falls and Rudd Pond), Lake Taghkanic and Fahnestock State Parks will remain open until 7:00 PM. The swimming pool at FDR State Park will remain open until 6:30 PM on Friday and 7:30 PM on Saturday.
    · Thousand Islands Region: All beaches in the Thousand Islands region will stay open until 8:00 PM including swimming beaches at Westcott Beach, Southwick Beach, Pt. au Roche, and Robert Moses, and the swimming pool at Keewaydin.
    · Palisades Region: The swimming beaches at Lake Welch, Lake Tiorati, and Sebago Beach in Harriman State Park will remain open until 8:00 PM. The Bear Mountain swimming pool will remain open until 6:30 PM on Friday and 7:30 PM on Saturday. The swimming pool at Rockland Lake will remain open until 8:00 PM, and the pool at High Tor will remain open until 7:30 PM. Swimming at Minnewaska State Park will be extended by one hour.

Check the Parks Department website,, to check availability and obtain information on other parks offering extended hours.

Image courtesy of

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Obama Holds Meeting with National Urban League and NAACP Leaders

Reducing Unemployment in the African-American Community Among Topics Discussed

Earlier today, President Obama met with civil rights leaders Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, and Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, in the Oval Office. During their meeting, the President discussed the continued efforts his administration is making to spur job creation and economic growth, and reiterated the urgency of moving forward on a balanced approach to deficit reduction to avoid defaulting on our obligations.

The President stressed that such an agreement must involve shared sacrifice and reaffirmed that we cannot afford to balance the budget on the back of the most vulnerable Americans including the middle class, low-income families, seniors, and students.

President Obama also reiterated that reducing unemployment, which disproportionately burdens the African-American community at 16.2%, remains a top priority for him and his Administration.

NAACP President, Ben Jealous

The President also spoke with the two civil rights leaders about dramatic efforts his Administration has already made to address urban economic development through initiatives such as Strong Cities, Strong Communities, a program that acts to spur economic growth in urban centers while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently; the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions fund; and the Minority Business Development Agency at the Department of Commerce.

The President has worked tirelessly since entering office to bring economic relief and equal opportunity to all Americans, and he looks forward to a continued partnership with civil rights organizations like the National Urban League and the NAACP. The President also congratulated the leaders on their upcoming conventions.

Marc Morial photo source cropped from photo at website.
Author: Photographer not credited
Permission: Public Doman

Ben Jealous photo source: NAACP_centennial4
Author: Doug Gansle

China, ASEAN Agree on Guidelines for South China Sea

China and ASEAN agreed on guidelines for the South China Sea to meditate the dispute. But deeper discussions continue.

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By Jing Zhao
Anchor: Christina Hartman

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White House Briefs

TSA Eliminates Nude Body Scans With New Software

Private parts will remain private with the TSA's new screening program.

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By Danny Matteson

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Newsy Now: News Round-Up

Atlantis Lands, Ends NASA Program; Texas Inmate Executed; Nazi Deputy's Grave Destroyed; Murdoch in New York Faces More Lawsuits; Tiger Fires Caddie.

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By Erik Shute
Anchor: Christina Hartman

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Politics in Action: H.R. 2584


H.R. 2584 — Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

(Rep. Rogers, R-KY)

The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 2584, making appropriations for the Department of the Interior, environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012.

The Administration strongly opposes a number of provisions in this bill, including ideological and political provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation. If the President is presented with a bill that undermines ongoing conservation, public health, and environmental protection efforts through funding limits or restrictions, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill.

While overall funding limits and subsequent allocations remain unclear pending the outcome of ongoing bipartisan, bicameral discussions between the Administration and congressional leadership on the Nation's long-term fiscal picture, the Administration has concerns regarding the level of resources the bill would provide for a number of programs in a way that undermines core government functions, investments key to economic growth and job creation, as well as protection of public health and the environment and preservation of our Nation's natural resource heritage, including, but not limited to:

Department of the Interior (DOI)

Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Conservation Grants. The level of funding provided to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and State and Tribal Wildlife grants, as well as the termination of Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grants, would threaten the ability of States and private organizations to conserve and provide access to habitat, undermining the conservation of game and non-game species.

Safety Inspection Fees. The bill does not include user fees to cover inspections of oil and gas production facilities offshore and onshore. Without these fees, taxpayers, rather than industry, would have to shoulder the cost of these operations, which are critical to ensuring safe and responsible energy development.

FWS Operations. The funding provided for operations would seriously degrade the ability of FWS to maintain the network of National Wildlife Refuges and fulfill other statutory responsibilities. This would result in delays in environmental compliance reviews, which could impede major infrastructure projects, including road construction, water delivery, and other federally funded projects that directly benefit State and local governments.

Landsat. The bill does not provide funding to begin the acquisition of the next Landsat satellite, ending a 40-year stream of data that is used by Federal, State, local and Tribal governments and the private sector to make informed land and resource management decisions and to assess the impacts of those decisions over time.

DOI and Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The funding in the bill for LWCF programs would deny willing sellers the opportunity to sell land holdings, and severely impair the ability of Federal, State, and local officials, as well as private landowners, to preserve and manage areas important to wildlife, recreationalists, and sportsmen and women.

Wildland Fire Suppression. The bill's funding for suppression is substantially below the 10-year average, which is the accepted method for calculating suppression requirements. While the bill directs DOI and the Forest Service to use emergency fire suppression balances to make up the shortfall, this strategy carries high risk given the high fire activity to date and the cancellation of balances in FY 2011 appropriations.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA Operating Budget. At the funding level provided, EPA will be unable to implement its core mission of protecting human health and the environment. Research necessary to support this mission will be curtailed, and restoration of key ecosystems such as the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay will be delayed.

State Revolving Funds (SRFs). The level of funding provided in the bill would result in approximately 400 fewer wastewater and drinking water projects, and impede EPA's ability to reach the long-term goal of providing approximately 5 percent of total water infrastructure funding annually.

State Categorical Grants. The funding provided in the bill for grants to States would impede States' ability to carry out critical public health and environmental activities such as air quality monitoring and water quality permitting. This would greatly reduce core high-priority State environmental programs at a time of declining State budgets.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Programs. The reductions in funding for GHG programs and regulations severely limit actions the Administration could take under current law to permit, control, and monitor greenhouse gases and would block EPA's efforts to reduce GHG emissions from vehicles and large stationary sources.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The level of resources for the GLRI would reduce the ability of Federal agencies and their partners to clean up contaminated sediments, fight invasive species, restore habitat, and improve water quality in this critical ecosystem.

High Priority Ecosystems Funding. The level of funding provided for the Chesapeake Bay would jeopardize the successful clean-up of the Nation's largest estuary.

Responsible Energy Development and Oil Spill Response. The level of resources in the bill would eliminate efforts to increase the frequency of environmental compliance inspections at oil facilities. In addition, the bill does not include emergency transfer authority necessary to improve the Government's ability to prevent and respond to oil spills.

Smart Growth. The bill terminates funding for EPA's Smart Growth program, which contributes to efforts to assist communities in coordinating infrastructure investments and minimizing environmental impact of development.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

The funding in the bill for the NEA, which is the largest national funder of the arts in the United States, would cut support for arts organizations across the country during a time when private and State arts funding is also highly constrained.

Council on Environmental Quality

The Administration's ability to guide the Executive Branch's environmental policies and programs will be substantially reduced at the funding level in the bill.

The Administration strongly opposes problematic policy and language issues that are beyond the scope of funding legislation, including, but not limited to, the following provisions in this bill:

Restrictions on Implementing the Endangered Species Act. Preventing FWS from implementing key provisions of the Endangered Species Act will only result in increased costs and delays in the future.

Mountain Top Mining Reform. Preventing the Office of Surface Mining from developing or implementing the stream buffer zone rule could increase the risk of litigation and potentially delay sustainable coal mining.

Mineral Withdrawal Prohibition. Prohibiting DOI from restricting new mining claims on approximately 1 million acres of Federal lands near the Grand Canyon will reverse a temporary moratorium on new uranium and other mining claims. The Secretary of the Interior is currently assessing the impact to water quality in Grand Canyon National Park to ensure that any future uranium or other mining activity in the area does not lead to the human health and environmental impacts seen from previous mining-caused contamination of ground water and drinking water supplies.

Gray Wolves. The Endangered Species Act expressly gives the public the right to challenge listing decisions. Restricting judicial review of any published final rule to delist gray wolves in Wyoming or the Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species Act would deny the public an opportunity to make sure that a future listing decision on gray wolves is based on science.

Protecting Wilderness Characteristics Secretarial Order. Prohibiting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from implementing Secretarial Order 3310, which directs BLM to use the public resource management planning process to designate certain lands with wilderness characteristics as "Wild Lands" is unnecessary given the Department's policy that includes collaboration with stakeholders to identify public lands that may be appropriate candidates for congressional designation under the Wilderness Act.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Stationary Sources. Preventing EPA from regulating GHG emissions from stationary sources would prevent the Agency from proposing or finalizing new regulations to control GHG emissions from power plants and petroleum refineries, increasing the risk of long-term environmental consequences from GHG emissions. EPA is under two settlement agreements to complete these rules in 2012.

Clean Air Act Permitting. Section 431(a)(2-4) of the bill effectively overrides Federal and State-issued permits for emissions from industrial facilities that are very large emitters of greenhouse gases by stating that the Clean Air Act's requirement to obtain a permit has no legal effect and that no lawsuits may be brought against a facility due to uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions.

Light-Duty Greenhouse Gas Standards. Section 453 of the bill undermines Executive Branch efforts to set standards that will save consumers money at the pump and reduce GHG emissions through increased vehicle fuel efficiency on Model Year 2017-2025 Light-Duty Vehicles.

Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT)/Transport Rule. Section 462 of the bill blocks EPA from implementing its utility MACT rule to control air toxics emissions, as well as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule controlling interstate transport of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions from power plants. This provision interferes with the long-delayed implementation of major air pollution rules covering pollution from power plants.

Mountaintop Mining Coordination and Guidance. Section 433 of the bill prohibits implementing or enforcing an EPA/Army Corps of Engineers (Corps)/Office of Surface Mining coordination Memorandum of Understanding and EPA guidance on the Clean Water Act/National Environmental Policy Act and mountaintop mining. This issue is currently undergoing judicial review and should be allowed to conclude without congressional intervention.

Clean Water Act. Section 435 of the bill would stop an important Administration effort to provide clarity around which water bodies are covered by the Clean Water Act. The Administration's work in this area will help to protect the public health and economic benefits provided to the American public by clean water, while also bringing greater certainty to business planning and investment and reducing an ongoing loss of wetlands and other sensitive aquatic resources. The existing regulations were the subject of two recent Supreme Court cases, in which the Court itself indicated the need for greater regulatory clarity regarding the appropriate scope of the Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

Outer Continental Shelf Drilling. Section 443 of the bill limits EPA's Clean Air Act permitting authority for Outer Continental Shelf drilling and would eliminate the Agency's discretion in considering human health and environmental protections when issuing these permits.

Integrated Risk Information System. Section 444 of the bill withholds funding for EPA to take administrative action following its assessment of risk for certain chemicals. This provision would delay scientific assessment of environmental contaminants and could delay regulatory or other Agency actions designed to protect public health.

Limiting Compliance of the Endangered Species Act. Section 447 of the bill would prevent EPA from implementing a biological opinion related to pesticides if the opinion identifies modifying, canceling, or suspending registration of a pesticide registered under FIFRA. This could undermine efforts to protect species from being put into jeopardy from a Federal project and could stop development and delay issuance of permits.

Lead Renovation and Repair Rule. Section 450 of the bill prohibits funding for EPA to implement the 2008 Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule, as amended, until after industry develops and EPA approves different lead paint test kits. This would undermine efforts to protect sensitive populations from exposure to lead, a known toxin to children and developing fetuses, during home renovation projects. The currently available test kits allow renovators to comply with the 2008 rule.

Reducing Emissions from Cement Facilities. The language would prevent common sense deployment of technology that has been around for decades that will improve public health by reducing emissions of pollutants, including known carcinogens such as dioxin, from cement facilities.

Fighting Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. Sections 449 and 451 of the bill fall short of their intended purposes of protecting the interest of the Nation's taxpayers. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to achieve the common goal of fighting fraud, waste, and abuse in Federal contracts, grants, and other Federal assistance.

The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress as the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process moves forward to ensure the Administration can support enactment of the legislation.