Saturday, November 12, 2011

Shots Fired Near White House

D.C. Park Police are investigating reports of shots fired near the White House.

By Blake Hanson
Anchor: Blake Hanson
Link courtesy of

President Praises Arab League's Decision on Syria

Statement by the President

I applaud the important decisions taken by the Arab League today, including the suspension of Syria's membership, consideration of economic sanctions, and downgrading of diplomatic relations. After the Assad regime flagrantly failed to keep its commitments, the Arab League has demonstrated leadership in its effort to end the crisis and hold the Syrian government accountable. These significant steps expose the increasing diplomatic isolation of a regime that has systematically violated human rights and repressed peaceful protests. The United States joins with the Arab League in its support for the Syrian people, who continue to demand their universal rights in the face of the regime’s callous violence. We will continue to work with our friends and allies to pressure the Assad regime and support the Syrian people as they pursue the dignity and transition to democracy that they deserve.

Arab League to Suspend Syria Over Violence

The Arab League voted 18-2 to suspend Syria over its violent crackdown on protesters. Is this a new direction for the League?

By Steven Sparkman
Anchor: Blake Hanson
Link courtesy of

MF Global Fires Entire Workforce

U.S. based brokerage firm MF Global announced it is laying off its entire work force of 1,066 people after going bankrupt.

By Camille Maestracci
Anchor: Blake Hanson
Link courtesy of

The Power of the Pen: Bills Signed into Law

Statement by the Press Secretary

On Saturday, November 12, 2011, the President signed into law:

S. 1487, the “Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2011,” which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to issue Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards to eligible business leaders and U.S. Government officials actively engaged in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation business.

Gingrich Makes Headway in Polls

A recent CBS/New York Times poll places Newt Gingrich tied with Mitt Romney in second place behind Herman Cain.

Sources:Fox NewsC-SPANMSNBCHot Air

Anchor: Erica Coghill
Link courtesy of

Panetta Orders Investigation Into Virginia Landfill Case

For five years, unclaimed cremated remains of fallen U.S. soldiers were allegedly dumped in a Virginia landfill.

By Victoria Craig
Anchor: Victoria Craig
Link courtesy of

Senate Passes Bill to Help Unemployed Veterans

The Senate unanimously passed two measures of Obama's jobs package that could help veterans find jobs when they return home.

By Victoria Craig
Anchor: Victoria Craig
Link courtesy of

Weekly Address: Honoring Our Veterans for Their Service and Sacrifice

President Obama speaks from the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego during Veterans Day, and calls on all Americans to rededicate themselves to serving our brave men and women in uniform as well as they have served us.

President Obama Honors Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery

President Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to mark Veterans Day 2011, and thanks veterans for their service.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Battle Veterans Face After War

Veterans Day Op-Ed by Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden

The Battle Veterans Face After War
By Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden

November 11, 2011

Today is Veterans Day, the day we honor the military service and sacrifice of all the veterans who have served this nation. Because of the incredible courage of the 9/11 generation, the tide of war is receding and America is more secure than a decade ago.

Next month, we will end the war in Iraq, bringing all of our troops home by the end of this calendar year. In Afghanistan, our brave forces are transferring responsibility to the Afghans. They too will be home within two years.

But as our service members return to their families, many are discovering a new battlefield as they leave the military and search for civilian employment opportunities.

After serving two, three, four, and even five tours of duty for their country, these young men and women are forced to fight for jobs when they return. That's not only morally wrong, it’s a terrible waste for our country. We’ve seen the 9/11 generation of American service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have skills across the spectrum.

We have 25 year-old Sergeants leading soldiers into the chaos of battle, responsible for bringing them home alive; we have 24 year-old Lieutenants flying multi-million dollar jets; we have 21 year-old sailors who are entrusted with helping to maneuver nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. There is literally no challenge too great. Nothing they cannot do. Employers everywhere should be competing to hire them.

As a military family, we have come to know many of the families of those who served alongside our son Beau in Iraq. We understand the problems they face.

War is challenging under any circumstances. But at a time of 12.1% unemployment for 9/11 generation veterans, the added stress of earning a decent living makes the transition even harder.

That’s why our Administration has made it a priority to create financial incentives for private-sector companies to hire veterans while at the same time ensuring that every member of the service receives the education, training, and credentials they need to be career-ready.

Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States

That’s why we joined President Obama in asking Congress to act now and pass the key provisions in the American Jobs Act that would benefit veterans and their families. Yesterday, the Senate answered the call, voting in favor of these measures, including incentives like the $5,600 Returning Heroes Tax Credit and the $9,600 Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, which will reward private firms for each veteran they hire.

In addition to the American Jobs Act, the President has challenged the private sector to commit to train or hire 100,000 post-9/11 veterans by the end of 2013. And we are well on our way to reaching that goal. The Joining Forces initiative is working to encourage companies and organizations to hire veterans and military spouses. Last month, our Administration announced that 270 companies have committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013. And just yesterday, the First Lady announced that the International Franchising Association and 1,200 affiliate companies are aiming to hire 80,000 veterans by 2013, including 5,000 wounded warriors.

We’re taking steps to make the job search easier for veterans. This week, the Department of Labor introduced the Veterans Gold Card, a certificate that will provide every post-9/11 veteran with individualized guidance, including a six-month plan of action, career coaching, a skills assessment, and one-on-one case management. Another tool, My Next Move for Veterans, will allow veterans to search for jobs using key words, industry type, or military experience. These new resources are up and running and you can find them at

In response to the President’s call for a career-ready military, the Department of Defense-Veterans Affairs Task Force is sharpening its focus on how to ease the transition from active duty to civilian life. It has broadened the existing Transition Assistance Program (TAP) that provides career readiness counseling, and will oversee the creation of an entirely new program to provide more comprehensive services to every transitioning member of our military.

We’re breaking down walls that prevent veterans from using the skills and training they acquired in their military service as civilians. For example, we’re helping veterans with medical training who are seeking health care jobs to cut though barriers to accreditation. To literally ease the journey to civilian life, the Department of Transportation announced this week over $30 million in grants to assist veterans in need of transportation to education and training centers, work, and medical appointments.

Holly Petraeus is leading an effort at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help prevent abusive practices by financial institutions that target military families. And we’re instituting new protections for veterans who are preyed upon by for-profit education institutions that promise more than they deliver.

We cannot make the point often enough: The government has many obligations, but only one sacred obligation. If we put troops in harm’s way, we have to take care of them when they come home. We are in awe of our 9/11 generation of veterans. Not only because they are the finest military force in the world but because they are extraordinary people and as a nation we owe them something better than 12.1% unemployment. The leadership, talent, and courage these men and women demonstrated on distant battlefields can become a powerful force in restoring our economy here at home. So hire a vet. They’ll get the job done.

Author: Andrew Cutraro, White House photographer
Permission:Public Domain

Author: Ralph Alswang, White House photographer
Permission: Public Domain

Affordable Housing Initiatives for Veterans

Cuomo: "These Programs Will Aid Our Veterans as They Transition Back to Civilian Life"

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced three new initiatives to help veterans obtain affordable housing upon their return to New York State.

Cuomo is committing $25 million to housing assistance for veterans, giving veterans preference in Section 8 housing, and expanding the state's mortgage assistance program to include active duty service members.

"We called upon our young men and women to serve after September 11, and now we must do all that we can to help them as they return home," Governor Cuomo said.

"These programs will aid our veterans as they transition back to civilian life and give them the assistance they need to obtain stable and affordable housing in New York."

Governor Cuomo's affordable housing initiatives for veterans include $25 Million for Veterans Housing Assistance, where New York State Homes & Community Renewal (HCR) will set aside up to $25 million of its housing resources for investment in affordable rented or owned housing for veterans.

The Section 8 Voucher Program Preference for Veterans will allow HCR to administer rental assistance through the federal Section 8 Voucher program. A selection preference will now be established for income-eligible veterans on waiting lists in the local areas served by the program. It is estimated that 600 veterans each year will receive assistance through the application of this preference.

The State of New York Mortgage Agency's (SONYMA) Homes for Veterans Program provides a preferential interest rate that is .375% lower than standard interest rates for loans. SONYMA also provides down payment assistance of $3,000 or 3% of the home purchase price, up to $15,000. SONYMA will now extend this program to cover active duty military residents who are first time homebuyers.

Affordable housing can greatly help veterans resuming civilian life. Veterans are at a greater risk for homelessness due to difficulties transitioning from the military, combat-related health issues, unemployment, and the shortage of safe, affordable housing. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs, approximately 10,900 homeless veterans are in New York State.

Image courtesy of

Cuomo: 'Today We Honor the Sacrifice and Service of Our Nation's Veterans'

Statement by Governor Andrew Cuomo

"Today we honor the sacrifice and service of our nation's veterans who have defended our country and fought for the values and freedom we enjoy today. Over the last ten years since the September 11th attacks devastated our state and nation, a new generation of Americans has answered the call of duty, and on this Veterans Day we reaffirm our commitment to give our veterans and their families the support they need as soldiers return from the battlefield. New York State is home to more than 900,000 veterans and on behalf of all New Yorkers, I thank each of them for their courage and sacrifice. As we gather this Veterans Day weekend, let us continue to keep our service members, their families, and those who have lost loved ones in our thoughts and prayers, and remember the extraordinary service they have given to New York and America."

Veterans Day Message....from "The G-Man"

To the Veterans of America:
Thank You for Your Sacrifices and Service to the Country.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Open for Questions: White House Fellows

White House Fellows Program Director Cindy Moelis and former White House Fellows Dr. Anish Mahajan and Erica Jeffries answer questions about the White House Fellow application process and the Fellowship experience.

White House Briefs

President Obama Speaks at the National Women's Law Center Annual Awards Dinner

This year's dinner celebrates the 50th anniversary of the women freedom riders.

AL County Goes Bankrupt

Jefferson County, the Alabama municipality that includes Birmingham, filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

By Samantha Sunne
Anchor: Ana Compain-Romero
Link courtesy of

Papademos Interim PM of Greece

Greeks indicate mixed feelings toward new Interim Premier Lucas Papademos.

By Blake Hanson
Anchor: Blake Hanson
Link courtesy of

FEMA Taking Emergency Alert System Online

FEMA is developing a system to supplement emergency notifications on the Internet, cell phones and other mobile devices.

By Evan Thomas
Anchor: Lauren Gores
Link courtesy of

Wal-Mart Denies Expansion into Healthcare Offerings

Wal-Mart is reported to seek dominance in the nation's healthcare area but the retailer denies the plan to build major healthcare platform.

By Iris Zhang
Anchor: Christina Hartman
Link courtesy of

Rogue Afghan Soldier Shoots Australian Diggers

An Afghan National Army soldier is on the run after he allegedly opened fire on Australian troops at a remote base in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province.

By Jessica Goodwin
Anchor: Christina Hartman
Link courtesy of

White House Responds to South Sudan Bombings

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

Statement by the Press Secretary

The United States strongly condemns the aerial bombardment by the Sudan Armed Forces of the town of Yida in South Sudan. Yida is located inside South Sudan and hosts more than 20,000 refugees who have fled the ongoing conflict in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan. International humanitarian workers and United Nations staff have been working to provide food and shelter for these refugees.

This bombing of civilians and humanitarian workers is an outrageous act, and those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.

This abhorrent attack follows other aerial bombardments undertaken by the Sudan Armed Forces on November 8 near the international border. These provocative aerial bombardments greatly increase the potential for direct confrontation between Sudan and South Sudan.

The United States demands the Government of Sudan halt aerial bombardments immediately. We urge the Government of South Sudan to exercise restraint in responding to this provocation to prevent further escalation of hostilities.

The United States calls on the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North to immediately resume negotiations on a cessation of hostilities and resume political talks toward political and security arrangements for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Photo source: Flickr
Author: Pete Souza
Permission: Public Domain

Obama: 'We Should Take the Time to Ensure That All Questions are Properly Addressed'

Statement by the President on the State Department's Keystone XL Pipeline Announcement

I support the State Department's announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.

The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people. At the same time, my administration will build on the unprecedented progress we’ve made towards strengthening our nation’s energy security, from responsibly expanding domestic oil and gas production to nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, to continued progress in the development of a clean energy economy.

Statement by the President on the Senate Vote in Favor of Tax Credits to Help Get Veterans Back to Work

Today, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate did the right thing and passed tax credits that will encourage businesses to hire America’s veterans. Tomorrow, our nation will commemorate Veterans Day and honor the service and the sacrifice of all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America.

No veteran who fought for our nation should have to fight for a job when they come home, and I urge the House to pass these tax credits as well so I can sign them into law. I also urge Congress to pass additional jobs proposals in the weeks ahead to help the millions of other Americans who are still looking for work.

Politics in Action: H.R. 674


H.R. 674 –Three Percent Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act

(Rep. Herger, R-CA, and 269 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly supports passage of H.R. 674 and an amendment offered by Senator Tester that together will reduce unemployment and ensure that our veterans leave the military with the tools they need to succeed in the civilian workforce.

H.R. 674 would repeal a three percent withholding on certain payments made to private contractors by Federal, State, and local government entities. The repeal of the withholding requirement in H.R. 674 would reduce a burden on government contractors who otherwise comply with their tax obligations, particularly small businesses.

As evidenced in the President's proposed American Jobs Act, released September 12, 2011, the Administration has supported alleviating this burden, which was originally enacted into law on May 17, 2006.

The Administration also believes it is important to ensure that Federal contractors are compliant with tax laws and supports more targeted efforts that prevent persons with outstanding tax debts from receiving Federal contracts.

The effect of the repeal of the withholding requirement would be to avoid a decrease in cash flow to these contractors, which would allow them to retain these funds and use them to create jobs and pay suppliers.

This would complement the Administration's other efforts to help small businesses. Repeal of the withholding requirement would also reduce implementation costs borne by Federal and other governmental agencies.

H.R. 674, as amended by Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, contains the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits for firms that hire unemployed veterans that the President proposed to the Congress as part of the American Jobs Act, as well as other reforms to ensure that the men and women who serve are able to navigate this labor market upon exiting the military.

Having served and defended the Nation, our veterans are well-trained, highly skilled and will add value to any company. But today's veterans face unique challenges. As of last month, over 850,000 veterans were unemployed, and the jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans was 12.1 percent.

As we end the war in Iraq and wind down the war in Afghanistan, over one million servicemembers are projected to leave the military between 2011 and 2016. We have an obligation to ensure that these men and women who have risked their lives to fight for our country do not have to fight for jobs when they return home.

The Vow to Hire Heroes Act provides a new Returning Heroes Tax Credit for firms that hire unemployed veterans. Firms that hire those veterans who have been unemployed at least 4 weeks will be eligible for a tax credit up to $2,400 per employee, while firms that hire veterans who are long-term unemployed (looking for work for over 6 months) will be eligible for a tax credit up to $5,600.

H.R. 674, as amended, also provides a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit of up to $9,600 that doubles the existing tax credit for firms that hire long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities. Together, these tax credits will create a powerful incentive for firms to hire veterans and will help lower the veteran unemployment rate.

As amended by the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, H.R. 674 further provides a number of additional tools to help veterans successfully transition to the civilian workforce. The Administration has been strongly supportive of improving the Transition Assistance Program. The amended H.R. 674 builds on these steps and would make TAP mandatory for most service members transitioning to civilian status.

H.R. 674, as amended, also expands career counseling, educational, and training options for unemployed servicemembers, facilitates federal hiring of veterans, and tasks the Department of Labor to develop new tools to help translate military experience to the civilian sector.

All of these reforms are consistent with the Presiden's direction on August 5, 2011, to the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense to lead an interagency Task Force to ensure that every member of the service receives the training, education, and credentials they need to transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education.

The Administration already made substantial progress on these proposals. The amended H.R. 674 will aid the Task Force's work and ensure that our veterans have the support they need to transition to civilian life.

Finally, H.R 674 as amended changes the calculation of modified adjusted gross income, as defined in section 1401 of the Affordable Care Act, to include both taxable and non-taxable Social Security benefits.

Beginning in 2014, this income definition will be used to determine financial eligibility for Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and for premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available through Affordable Insurance Exchanges.

Image courtesy of

'Experience Counts' Aims to Help Returning Vets Qualify for Jobs

Reforms Will Ensure Veterans' Military Training is Rightfully Recognized

A new initiative has been launched that will help ensure that veterans' valuable and specialized military experience is recognized when they transition to the civilian workforce. Governor Andrew Cuomo's "Experience Counts" campaign will facilitate the transfer of military skills to the public and private sectors.

Cuomo also announced the expansion of the state's Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families and tasked the Council with finding more ways to properly credit military experience in the civilian workforce.

Military veterans are highly trained, often in specialized skills that are in great demand in the public and private sectors. However, veterans' training is often unacknowledged when they pursue licenses, degrees, and certifications in the civilian workforce.

Through the "Experience Counts" campaign, state agencies will now identify ways that New York can better recognize the skills and training that veterans possess.

"As our veterans return home to New York, we must do everything within our power to ease their transition back into civilian life," Governor Cuomo said.

"That is precisely what the 'Experience Counts' campaign and the newly revitalized Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families have been set up to accomplish. With this campaign, we can give veterans the credit they deserve for their military training and ensure that the state government works efficiently and effectively on their behalf."

As a first step in the "Experience Counts" campaign, the Cuomo announced a series of reforms to state licensing and higher education that will ensure military experience is appropriately credited when servicemembers return to civilian life.

The State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) will each launch "Experience Counts" programs to improve their processes for awarding credit for military training.

Both campuses will implement new systems to flag applications by veterans and active duty military and will provide centralized guidance to increase the likelihood of awarding veterans college credit for previous military training and coursework.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will make it easier and less costly for military members who have gained experience driving trucks and heavy equipment during their military service to obtain a New York commercial driver's license by waiving the road test.

The Department of Health will allow military training and experience as a medic to count toward certification for home health aides and nursing home aides, as it already does for certification as a paramedic.

The Governor also announced the expansion of the state's Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families, a group of state agencies and civilians that advises the Governor on issues that affect New York servicemembers and assists with the efficient coordination of state services for veterans.

Current membership of the Council consists of the Director of the Division of Veterans' Affairs, the Adjutant General of the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, the Commissioner of the Department of Labor, the Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health, and the Commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, or their designees. The Council also includes two additional members appointed by the Governor.

Governor Cuomo is expanding the Council to add other state agencies that provide services to veterans and additional civilians who have expertise in issues that affect veterans. The additions include: Commissioner of Homes and Community Renewal, to assist with housing needs and difficulties experienced by returning veterans; Commissioner of State Education Department, to assist with credentialing of military specialties into civilian occupations; President of Higher Education Services Corporation, to assist with scholarship and other higher education needs; Commissioner of Department of Economic Development; Director of Office for the Aging; arepresentative of an organization that provides behavioral health services to veterans; a representative of an organization that provides substance abuse services to veterans; and an academic who specializes in Veterans Affairs.

The Governor has tasked the Council to work across state agencies to determine how the state can further recognize and credit military training and experience, especially in licensure and educational credit programs.

Major General Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York, stated "Governor Cuomo's 'Experience Counts' campaign is an excellent way to get our veterans the rightful credit for their specialized training and unique skill sets.

Additionally, the Governor's actions to revitalize and expand the Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families are a further testament to his dedication to our service members."

"I applaud Governor Cuomo for this common sense approach to getting these brave men and women the acknowledgement and certifications they have earned. With this new campaign, our service members will be better equipped to find good paying jobs and return to civilian life," said Acting Director of the Division of Veterans' Affairs Bill Kraus.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher noted, "It is only fitting that our returning veterans receive the recognition they earned during their service to our country, and we applaud the Governor for his 'Experience Counts' campaign. It is critically important that veterans are given ample opportunity to return to the state workforce as they transition back into civilian life. SUNY is proud to partner with Governor Cuomo as we seek to provide all veterans with access to higher education and employment."

"CUNY is very pleased to join Governor Cuomo's 'Experience Counts' campaign to provide New York's veterans with the credit they have earned through their military training. This timely initiative will go a long way toward helping veterans and their families and CUNY is proud to be a part of it," concluded CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.

Death and Dishonor

An M16-A2 service rifle, a pair of boots and a helmet stand in tribute to a fallen Marine Corps sergeant.

Remains of Fallen Soldiers Were Dumped in Virginia Landfill

According to a November 9 article published in the Washington Post, "The Dover Air Force Base mortuary for years disposed of portions of troops’ remains by cremating them and dumping the ashes in a Virginia landfill, a practice that officials have since abandoned in favor of burial at sea.

The mortuary in Delaware, the main point of entry for the nation’s war dead and the target of federal investigations of alleged mishandling of remains, engaged in the practice from 2003 to 2008, according to Air Force officials. The manner of disposal was not disclosed to relatives of fallen service members."

The full story, which was written by Craig Whitock and Greg Jaffe, can be read via the following link:

Photo source: United States Marine Corp, I.D. 030427-M-4066S-013
Author: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan P. Sotelo.
Permission: Public Domain

Russia Opposes Sanctions on Iran over Nuclear Program

Russia does not support further sanctioning of Iran over claims in IAEA report that the regime inches closer to developing nuclear capability.

By Mikkel Noel Lanzky
Anchor: Christina Hartman
Link courtesy of

London Police Authorize Plastic Bullets

Scotland Yard gave permission to arm police officers with plastic bullets for a mass student protest over tuition fees.

By Allex Conley
Anchor: Allex Conley
Link courtesy of