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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘federal’

Pro-Arab Candidate for Joe Lieberman’s Senate Seat Clashes with Colleagues on Live TV, Behaves Badly

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Democratic candidates vying for Connecticut’s US Senate, which is being vacated by retiring US Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, are not sure their colleague Lee Whitnum should be allowed to participate in future live televised debates, after she called US Rep. Chris Murphy a “whore” for his support of Israel, during a Thursday debate sponsored by NBC Connecticut.

“I’m dealing with a whore here who sells his soul to AIPAC, who will say anything for the job,” she said about Murphy’s strong support for Israel.

She also suggested another candidate, State Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, was “ignorant,” after he voiced his support for Murphy’s point.

Earlier in the debate Whitnum said that if the US stop its support for Israel, this could mean an additional $600 million in federal funds for Connecticut, for fixing its schools and bridges.

In fact, Whitnum said she was suing the federal government to make it do just that – divert funds from foreign aid to Israel to Connecticut.

“The Jewish community has always taken care of its own. There isn’t any reason why Connecticut children and Connecticut people have to pay the price for a country that is not impoverished,” Whitnum said.

When she was not invited to the previous Democratic debate, Whitnum sued to be included, but the court rejected her suit.

With an eye to the Arab vote in Connecticut (between 1.5% and 2% of the state of some 3.5 million are of Arab descent), Whitnum also proposed that the US prosecute American settlers who “go to Israel and maim or kill in the Promised Land.” She said this “would solve anti-American sentiments worldwide. This is the number one reason why people hate this country.”

A visit to Whitnum’s campaign website reveals a staunch anti-Israeli forcus. Her front page declares:

Although I discuss more than 60 issues on this website, these are the most important items on my agenda:

My First Senate Bill: Prosecute American Settler Violence (also known as the anti-Zionism bill).

My Second Senate Bill: Stop the Clear-Cutting of our Oceans.

My Third Senate Bill: Abolish the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

My Fourth Senate Bill: Stop the gas chambers for our pets.

Perhaps the last item was added to show that, although the candidate opposes Israel, she is decidedly against gas chambers…

Congressman Murphy replied that Israel needs support from the United States now more than ever.

“This is in our national security interest, ultimately in the interest of US taxpayers, to have a strong relationship with Israel, and I think it is worth saying on this stage that a lot of her comments have been out of bounds and over the line,” said Murphy, who along with former Secretary of the State of Connecticut Susan Bysiewicz are the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination.

In his final comments, Murphy said that he had “advocated for all the candidates to be a part of these debates,” but now he “might think twice about that, with that kind of awful language being used on the airwaves.”

Bysiewicz, Tong and candidate Matthew Oakes all expressed disgust over Whitnum’s comments.

US Supreme Court Orders State Dept. to List Jerusalem, Israel, in American Passports

Monday, March 26th, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday on the case of Zivotofsky v. Clinton, a suit in which Naomi and Ari Zivotofsky are challenging the way the State Department may list the birthplace of their son, nine-year-old Menachem.

The State Department, based on a long-standing U.S. policy, decided that little Menachem Zivotofsky’s birth certificate, as well as his US passport, will show Jerusalem as his birth place, without a mention of the country in which Jerusalem belongs.

The parents filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. in 2003 objecting to the policy, based on a 2002 US law enacted shortly before Menachem was born. The new law includes a provision allowing Israel to be listed as the place of birth on the passport of any American born in Jerusalem.

A Federal judge, followed by an appeals court, dismissed the suit, saying that judges do not have the authority to order the federal government to change foreign policy, even if current policy is ignoring the will of the legislator.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts were wrong, and that they should merely have decided whether or not Menachem Zivotofsky could have the right “to have Israel recorded on his passport as his place of birth.”

As Chief Justice John Roberts put it in his opinion: “Zivotofsky does not ask the courts to determine whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented.

Washington D.C. attorney Nathan Lewin, who has represented countless high-visibility cases related to US Jews (such as the Lubavitch movement’s famous books trial), was the Zivotofsky family’s attorney before the Supreme Court. He argued Congress indeed had the power to control a passport’s contents.

The ruling could change the status of an estimated 50,000 American citizens who have been born in Jerusalem, and who may now be able to list Israel as their birthplace.

The Rose Nomination

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

It has largely passed under the radar screen, but Stephanie Rose, who was the deputy chief of the criminal division in the U.S. attorney’s office in northern Iowa at the time of the Agriprocessors immigration and Rubashkin prosecutions, has been nominated by President Obama to be a federal judge.

Controversy has surrounded those governmental efforts, with some criticizing them as miscarriages of justice. So it is dismaying that Ms. Rose’s confirmation hearings have been all but ignored by Jewish organizations.

In fact, Senate confirmation hearings are a traditional venue for interested parties to raise concerns about a nominee’s past record. Indeed, Ms. Rose has been questioned very closely about the en-masse prosecution of 306 workers and fast track hearings in temporary courtrooms on a cattle fairground, featuring wholesale plea agreements. But it does not appear there was any serious focus on the planning of the rather unusual original immigration raid or her role in it. Further, it does not appear she was even asked about her role in the Rubashkin prosecutions or about the prosecutions themselves.

Curiously, after the events in Postville in 2008, Ms. Rose was nominated for and was confirmed as U.S. attorney in Northern Iowa. That too seemed to have passed without notice.

US Court Rejects Rabbi Milton Balkany’s Appeal from Prison

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Rabbi Milton Balkany’s claim that jurors should have been allowed to consider if he was entrapped, saying “Balkany failed to present any evidence that the government ‘induced’ him to commit the crimes charged,” Bloomberg reports.

The NY Post reports Balkany, 65, is currently serving four years in a federal prison in Miami for trying to shake down billionaire Steve Cohen’s hedge fund with allegations of inside trading, as a means of raising $4 million in donations to the Bais Yaakov girls school.

The ruling says “As the government notes, the evidence with respect to the extortion, wire fraud and blackmail counts established that it was Balkany who made the first unsolicited call to SAC (Capital Advisers), claiming that he had damaging information that Cohen had engaged in insider trading which he urgently wanted to share.”

The ruling continues: “As the government notes, the evidence with respect to the extortion, wire fraud and blackmail counts established that it was Balkany who made the first unsolicited call to SAC (Capital Advisers), claiming that he had damaging information that Cohen had engaged in insider trading which he urgently wanted to share.”

Bloomberg reports that the unsigned decision by Judges Amalya Kearse, John Walker Jr. and Gerard Lynch also shot down Balkany’s argument that he was convicted of making a false statement through a “perjury trap” set by the feds, noting that “Balkany was under no obligation to speak to the federal investigator to whom he lied.”

Lubavitch Going to Federal Court on Connecticut Synagogue Application Denial

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

The Hartford Courant reports that Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County has filed notice in federal court appealing a federal judge’s dismissal in February of its lawsuit. Chabad claimed it was the victim of religious discrimination when the Borough of Litchfield, the Borough’s Historic District Commission and others denied the application to build a synagogue and community center near the green on West Street in Litchfield.

Chabad has been fighting for years to expand on the 140-year old, Victorian brick home it purchased in 2006 at 85 West Street, known as the Deming House, which was rezoned from residential to commercial in 1971.

Chabad wants to remodel and add to the home, to create a synaguge, a beis medrash, a preschool, and libraries, as well as housing for Rabbi Joseph Eisenbach and his family and a guest apartment.

Litchfield and Chabad disagree on the size of the proposed project, as well as whether it would fit with the character of other buildings around the green – and the reader is invited to give his/her own interpretation to the meaning of “fit with the character.”

A Step Backwards: Disturbing Changes to the NY State Medicaid Waiver in the Works

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Fundamental and far-reaching changes are coming that will have a profound effect on every individual in New York State who receives services under the current system for caring for individuals with developmental disabilities. The changes, being touted as “Medicaid Waiver Reform,” are motivated primarily by the drive to cut the growth in the amount of money the state and federal government are spending on this care. Despite official denials, they will inevitably reduce the choice of care, quality of care and recourse to corrective measures available to the individuals receiving the care and their families. The plan is being developed and implemented with federal government approval largely behind closed doors. Its documents use dense language designed to camouflage its ultimate impact upon individuals with special needs.

Under the deceptively named OPWDD 1115 People First Waiver, the Cuomo administration seeks to outsource the state’s responsibility for delivering services to individuals who qualify for Medicaid Waiver to non-governmental superagencies known as DISCOs (Developmental Disabilities Individual Support and Care Coordination Organizations), while capping their dollar cost to the government. The new system will resemble managed care HMO plans in the health care system, whose subscribers are required to receive all of their health care services within the HMOs network of providers. The HMO provides these services for a single fixed premium payment (minus deductibles and co-payments), and assumes the financial responsibility for paying the cost of the services that are actually delivered to plan subscribers as negotiated in its contracts with its providers.

The fear is that under the new 1115 Waiver system, individuals with developmental disabilities will be subject to the kind of substandard care and bureaucratic red tape for which some managed care plans have become notorious. Another fear is that the quality of care provided through the DISCOs will be limited by the same financial incentives that HMOs have to hold down their costs by limiting the amount and quality of care they provide to the minimum they can get away with.

The therapists and community organizations now actually providing the care will come under increased economic pressure either to leave the field or to cut back on the quality of their service in order to reduce their own costs. Over time, many will have no choice but to give up their independence and be merged into larger organizations or the DISCOs seeking economies of scale, much like what is happening in a lot of the US health care industry.

The Willowbrook Horrors

The concerns of the special needs community in New York State are driven by fears that these changes could undue much of the progress that has been made since the revelation of the deplorable conditions at the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island in the 1960′s and early 1970′s. Among social workers, Willowbrook was known as a warehouse for New York City’s mentally disabled children whom had been abandoned there by their families as well as the foster care agencies assigned to care for them.

In the early 1960′s, Willowbrook was the site of a notorious medical experiment, in which healthy children living there were deliberately infected with the Hepatitis A virus so that members of the medical staff could monitor the effectiveness of treating the disease with gamma globulin (blood plasma proteins, including certain antibodies).

When US Senator Robert Kennedy visited Willowbrook in 1965, he called it a “snakepit,” whose residents were “living in filth and dirt, their clothing in rags, in rooms less comfortable and cheerful than the cages in which we put animals in a zoo.” Seven years later, a TV expose by reporter Geraldo Rivera graphically revealed the severely overcrowded conditions there, and that the residents were suffering physical abuse by members of the school’s staff.

The public uproar that followed forced NY State to embark on a program of de-institutionalization. It gradually phased out large state-run facilities like Willowbrook and transferred their populations to small, community-based institutions and programs. This led to the current system for New York’s MRDD (mentally retarded and developmentally delayed) population. A class-action suit filed against NY State in federal court was settled with a 1987 agreement by the state to meet special guidelines for the community placement and lifetime care of the surviving members of the “Willowbrook class.”

A Turning Point for the Treatment of Developmental Disabilities

The Willowbrook scandal marked a historic turning point in this nation’s treatment of the developmentally disabled. It mobilized Special Needs advocates to demand more effective and humane care in a community setting close to their homes and families.

This led to the passage of a series of federal laws. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibited discrimination on the basis of disabilities. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 was renamed and expanded in 1990 and is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It requires the state to provide children who have a broad range of disabilities with a “Free and Appropriate Education” (FAPE) in accordance with their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). These laws are the basis for the government-funded service system in place today involving the participation of 750 different community-based organizations in New York alone, working under state and federal government supervision.

The Obama Birth Control Imbroglio

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

In many respects President Obama’s imposition of a federal mandate calling for free contraception and certain abortion procedures on demand – and the uproar it has caused – is emblematic of the problems inherent in the way he sees his role. It will be recalled that his election campaign was built around a mantra of change. Indeed, as soon as he entered office he sought to change the way the U.S. had conducted its foreign policy around the world for more than a century. He said that much of the discord in the world was a function of American arrogance and greed, and declared his intention to reach out to those nations that supposedly had received short shrift from America in an effort to bring them into the U.S. orbit. And of course he set out to redefine U.S.-Israel relations with a view toward improving America’s relations with the Muslim world.

Predictably, he fell flat on his face. Entrenched and thoroughly corrupt Third World leaders were amused by this newly elected Boy Scout confessing his country’s errors though they certainly were not interested in making nice to him just because he asked. If anything, they viewed his efforts as naïve and as signaling an opportunity to take advantage of a vulnerable, self-conscious American administration.

The point of it all was  Mr. Obama’s profound  belief in his vision and the efficacy of his ability to bring it about despite all the years of experience and tradition preceding  his arrival on the national scene that suggested otherwise. Significantly, it was not too long ago in this country that abortion was illegal and contraception frowned upon. Yet Mr. Obama plunged headlong into those issues seeking to establish the availability of birth control as a matter of right – and free of charge to boot.

That his efforts in this regard ran against religious institutions opposing abortion and contraception as a matter of religious doctrine protected by the First Amendment only served to highlight the real issue.

Typically, President Obama was overtaken with his vision largely to the exclusion of religious rights. This is of a piece with his reshaping the American health care system, of which contraception and abortion issues are only a part. He has arrogated to the federal government the right to decide whether or not Americans will have health insurance coverage as well as the nature of that coverage. The notion that the competitive market would no longer inform products offered by insurance carriers represented a profound change in American domestic affairs and a breathtaking power grab by the federal government.

As we enter the presidential election season, some issues of concern readily present themselves. It seems clear that President Obama backtracked on the  inclusion of religious institutions only because of the furious reaction from the Catholic Church. His  first inclination was to ride roughshod over the rights the church enjoyed under the First Amendment. Indeed, he showed similar single-mindedness on the overall issue of health care reform when he was not concerned about an imminent reelection campaign.

In a similar vein, with a view toward securing a breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians that had eluded his predecessors, Mr. Obama came down disproportionately heavy on Israel regarding the settlements issue and the 1967 lines serving as the framework for negotiations – until key members of his own party revolted and expressed their fears for the 2010 midterm congressional elections.

Barack Obama seems to be someone with a revisionist vision for a broad array of public issues he is determined to pursue unless and until it turns out he cannot. One wonders what he has in store for the nation after November should he win reelection – a possibility that grows more likely by the day as the remaining Republican presidential candidates continue to underwhelm.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/the-obama-birth-control-imbroglio/2012/02/15/

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