What does the Future Hold for Israeli-Palestinian Relations and for Ukrainian-Russian-U.S. Relations?

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The United Nations and United States announced a 72 hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning Friday morning with no guarantees the lull in violence will bring an end to the 24 day Gaza War according to Secretary of State John Kerry, Ian Deitch and Ibrahim Barzak report, US, UN announce deal on Gaza cease-fire. The announcement happened hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas tunnels with or without a ceasefire and the Palestinian death toll reached 1,400. Kerry said, “This is not a time for congratulations or joy or anything except a serious determination – a focus by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead. This is a respite. It is a moment of opportunity, not an end.” At least four humanitarian ceasefires have been announced during the conflict and all have been broken by renewed fighting. A statement by Kerry and U.N. assures both parties agreed, which Hamas leaders and Israel confirmed, to the unconditional ceasefire and would send delegates to Cairo for negotiations to reach a lasting truce. During the ceasefire Kerry said Israel will continue to destroy Hamas tunnels that are behind its territorial lines and Palestine will receive food, medicine and humanitarian assistance, bury their dead, treat the wounded and travel to their homes. In addition, repairs will be made to water and energy systems. Kerry said, “Israel has to live without terror and tunnels and rockets and sirens going on through the day. Palestinians have to be able to live freely and share in the rest of the world and live a life that is different from the one they have long suffered.” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the ceasefire was a result of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s trip to the region “but also 48 hours of extremely active diplomacy at all levels from the secretary-general to his senior advisers talking to key regional players.”

Unfortunately, the ceasefire did not last long as Israel and Hamas accused each other of violating the truce that resulted in four Palestinians being killed in heavy fire in the southern town of Rafah, Ibrahim Barzak and Daniel Estrin report, 4 Palestinians killed after Gaza truce begins. Two hours after the ceasefire went into effect, Israeli tanks shelled the eastern part of Rafah killing four people and wounding 15, according Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra and Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji. In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office explained, “Once again, Hamas and the terror organizations in Gaza have blatantly broken the cease-fire to which they committed, this time before the American Secretary of State and the U.N. Secretary General.” Reuters reports, Gaza Death Toll Soars As Israel Presses Offensive, Gaza health officials said 19 Palestinians were killed in Israeli assaults on Thursday, while Israeli military said more than 60 rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave into Israel with one person being wounded by the Gaza projectile striking Kiryat Gat, a southern town. Washington has allowed Israel to use local U.S. arms stockpiles in the past few weeks to replenish grenades and mortar rounds, a U.S. defense official said Thursday. On India’s NDTV, Kerry said during an interview: “No country can sit there and live with tunnels being dug under its border, out of which jump people who are carrying handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs in order to kidnap their citizens and hold them for ransom.” Reuters reports: “Gaza officials say at least 1,410 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the battered territory and nearly 7,000 wounded. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza clashes and more than 400 wounded. Three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling in Israel.” On Thursday, the United Nation’s senior human rights official, Navi Pillay, said that Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals, and U.N. premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions. The assault on residential areas by Israel has lead to mass evacuations and more than 200,000 displaced Palestinians in a population of just 1.8 million in Gaza leaving the infrastructure ruined with power and water outages. Diplomacy to end the conflict is complicated due to the fact Israel and the United States shun Hamas as a terrorist groups, while the go betweens of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey disagree on Gaza policy.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, a top U.N. envoy told the United Nationals Security Council that Israel will be required under international law to take responsibility for helping Palestinian civilians if more large scale displacements take place in Gaza, Michelle Nichols reports, UN Envoy: Israel May Be Required To Take Responsibility For Displaced In Gaza. The United Nations struggles to cope with a flood of 220,000 Palestinian civilians into shelters to due to the fighting and have come under fire during the three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Pierre Krähenbühl, the Swiss-born chief of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), via phone told the 15 member Security Council: “Should further large-scale displacement indeed occur, the occupying power, according to international humanitarian law, will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people. With as many as 2,500 displaced people residing in (each U.N.) school and an average of 80 people to a classroom, we have exceeded the tolerable limits we can accommodate.” U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council via video link: “The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe. We have all watched in horror the desperation of children, of civilians as they have come under attack.” After meeting behind closed doors for four hours after the briefing, Nichols reports, the Security Council once again called for an “immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.”

In Ukraine, a team of international investigators reached the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 site Friday to begin combing for evidence in the area now designated a crime scene while fighting continued less than 20 kilometers from the site, the Associated Press reports, Ukrainian troops suffer heavy loss in ambush. Despite both sides in the ongoing conflict in east Ukraine agreeing to a ceasefire around the crash zone, a deadly attack by rebels on government troops Friday morning took place less than 20 kilometers south of the crash site in Shakhtarsk, a rebel stronghold where sustained battles over several days has taken place. The town links Donetsk and Luhansk, two large rebel controlled cities, which Ukrainian forces are focusing on in their strategy to drive a wedge into the area. Mstyslav Chernov reports, Ukraine MH17 Wreckage Site Finally Accessed By Investigators, two investigators from the Netherlands and Australia made an initial survey of the crash area after lunch, while fighting raged on between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels with mortar shells falling in a nearby village. Despite the dangers, the team called the one hour inspection a success. Ukrainian President Petro Proshenko’s office urged rebels to comply with the ceasefire 20 kilometers around the wreckage site in a statement, while the European Union and U.S. formed a united front in accusing Russia of ramping up the unrest in eastern Ukraine by supplying weapons to rebels which Russia denies. In Brussels, the EU formally adopted economic sanctions, which will take effect Friday, designed to pressure Russia to bring a peaceful end to the Ukraine crisis.

Meanwhile, Russia is dealing with another old but familiar problem of what to do with former NSA contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden who received temporary asylum a year ago, which expired Thursday, following disclosure of classified NSA documents, according to an AOL report, As asylum expires, Snowden’s expulsion from Russia unlikely. Snowden has submitted his request for an extension of his asylum. While he waits, Snowden has a job and is learning Russian which are two requirements for an extension to be granted, Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian lawyer, explained. Another member of his legal team has this to say on Australian radio (From ABC Australia): “PM with Mark Colvin”: “For now he is in the safest place that he can be, and Russia has indicated that it intends to plan on having him, allowing him to continue to stay.” This was said in response to the German justice minister’s suggestion to turn him over to the U.S. to face prosecution. Journalist Glenn Greenwald explained to MSNBC why Russia took Snowden in and why they did not turn him over this past year: “There’s no legal basis to turn him over to the U.S. because the U.S. and the Russians don’t have an extradition treaty. … And secondly, that he faces persecution.” Euronews points out Snowden has asked for amnesty from prosecution if he ends up stateside and told Brian Williams in an Exclusive NBC interview that he would like to go home. Right now though, Snowden faces espionage charges in the U.S. that could lead to prison time. Snowden’s Russian attorney said the decision on his asylum could be made this week.

Investigators Finally Reach MH17 site, Israel Continues its Assault and the Ebola Virus Causes More Evacuations

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For almost two weeks now, the remains of some of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 passengers are feared rotting in the 90 degree midsummer heat causing concern for frustrated relatives who want the bodies of their loved ones, the Associate Press reported, Clashes prevent experts from reaching bodies. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels have prevented international police from securing the area and forensic experts from collecting any remaining bodies or collect debris for analysis. Even rebels who initially oversaw the collection of 200 bodies out of 298 have abandoned the sight saying attacks from Ukrainian military forced them to defend themselves. Prime Minster Mark Rutte said bringing back the remaining bodies is his government’s top priority, but Dutch officials on Wednesday were skeptical about the prospect of reaching the site soon. After investigators failed to reach the site Wednesday, the United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric called on both sides to cease hostilities in the area: “The families of the victims of this horrific tragedy deserve closure and the world demands answers. International teams must be allowed to conduct their work.” In a statement, the Dutch said the observers talked to rebels and turned back after being “warned of gunfire on the route and in the surrounding areas.” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev in New York said that Ukrainian forces are try to “liberate the villages and the cities around this site and to give the possibility to international experts to come in.” Fortunately, on Thursday, an international team of investigators reached the crash site of the Malaysia Arline Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine for the first time, Mstyslav Chernov reports, Investigators reach Ukraine crash site. An Associated Press journalist at the scene Thursday said the site appeared to be controlled by separatist rebel fighters. Police and forensic experts from the Netherlands and Australia will focus initially on recovering the remaining bodies still on the site and collect victims’ belongings. Sergei Izvolsky, a Russian state aviation agency spokesman, told AP that a delegation of Russian specialist from Rosaviatsiya were due in Kiev Thursday to participate in the investigation. Ukrainian parliament, meanwhile, voted not to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who resigned last week after two parties left the coalition supporting him and rejected passing laws to fund the country’s war against pro-Russian separatists.

While the investigation begins for Flight 17, Vladimir Putin continues to receive criticism from western leaders and from the rebels he’s accused of arming. Aleksander Vasovic reports, Some Rebels In Ukraine Vent Frustration With Putin. The European Union and the United States have imposed new sanctions on Russia due to the fact Putin has not persuaded the pro-Russian separatist to stop fight and for supplying them with weapons. In addition, rebels have become increasingly frustrated with the Russian president as the Ukrainian army squeezes the rebel’s last two stronghold in Donetsk and Luhansk leaving the rebels outnumbered and outgunned. A fighter named Pavel outside the rebel headquarters in Donetsk said, “Oh, how we would like to see the Russian army here. If they were here, the Ukrainian border would be 300 km away to the west and south. But they’re not coming. But that’s only a fraction of what we need. We need people, experienced people. But Putin is afraid of spending Russian funds and his oligarchs’ funds.” Another rebel fighter, who declined to give his name, voiced his frustrations with Moscow: “Russia must enter Novorossiya [means New Russia used to describe Eastern Ukraine by Putin]. This is Russian soil, and every day they waste waiting (to send in arms and personnel) means more deaths. We feel somewhat as if we are Russia’s cannon fodder.” The leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic including some Russians dismiss the rumors of divisions in the rank and Russia’s role in the crisis. One top rebel official, Vladimir Antyufeyev, told a news conference: “We are receiving constant political and humanitarian support from Russia … Political support is the most important one. We would want to see that kind of (military) aid from Russia, but there will be none.” A senior U.S. official under conditions of anonymity said, “There are indications that some groups feel betrayed by Moscow not doing enough. I do think it’s fair to say that there are divisions in those ranks.”

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Meanwhile, on Wednesday, according to Gaza health officials, an Israeli airstrike hit a crowed Gaza shopping area killing 16 and wounding 150 hours after Israeli tank shells slammed into a U.N. school for displaced Palestinian that killed 15 people, Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, Strike on crowded Gaza area kills 16, wounds 150. The attacks comes after both Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers vowed to step up attacks after three weeks of fighting killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and more than 50 Israelis. The Israeli military had no comment on the shopping area attack and said it was investigating reports. Salim Qadoum who witness the strike in the shopping area said, “People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed in the area, the market, in the Turkman area, and next to the gas station. The area now is like a blood bath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre. I vomited when I saw what happened.” Total killed was more than 108 Palestinians on Wednesday due to Israeli airstrikes and shelling. The military declared a four hour humanitarian ceasefire in parts of Gaza at 3pm, however Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it lacked value due to the fact it excluded border areas from where Hamas needed to evacuate the wounded. The military said Gaza militants fired 84 rockets at Israel include 26 during the ceasefire, while Gaza health official, Al-Kidra, said seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes in that same period. As Peter Enav and Ibrahim Barzak report, Israel vows to destroy Hamas tunnels, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military will dismantle the Hamas tunnel network in Gaza “with or without a ceasefire.” On Thursday, Netanyahu said he will not accept a truce if Israel cannot complete its mission to destroy the tunnel network allowing militants to carryout deadly attacks inside Israel. In addition, Israel has called up 16,000 reservists allowing it to expand its Gaza offensive against Hamas rule. An Israeli defense official, under conditions of anonymity, said the purpose of the call up was to provide relief for troops on the Gaza firing line adding to the already 86,000 reserves called up during the Gaza conflict. Secretary General Ban KI-Moon called the deadly school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable” demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council, said, “We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in U.N. designated shelters in Gaza.”

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As both the war in Ukraine and Gaza continue to worsen, a viral war rages in Western Africa that has many concerned about the potential pandemic spread of one of the world’s deadliest viruses, Ebola. Liberia announced it will close schools and quarantine communities in order to halt the worst Ebola outbreak on record. According to David Lewis and Emma Farge, Liberia shuts schools, considers quarantine to curb Ebola, security forces in Liberia were orders to enforce the steps as part of an action plan to place all non-essential government workers on 30 day compulsory leave. The World Health Organization figures reports that Ebola has killed 672 in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone as underfunded systems struggle to deal with the epidemic with one fifth of those deaths occurring in Liberia. Lewis Brown, Liberia’s information minister, told Reuters: “This is a major public health emergency. It’s fierce, deadly and many of our countrymen are dying and we need to act to stop the spread. We need the support of the international community now more than ever. We desperately need all the help we can get.” Due to international concerns, the U.S. Peace Corps said it was withdrawing 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. According to the presidency’s website, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the government was considering quarantining several communities on the recommendation of the health ministry. An earlier draft, Reuters reports, specified communities to be quarantined with Sirleaf outlining protocol: “When these measures are instituted, only health care workers will be permitted to move in and out of those areas. Food and other medical support will be provided to those communities and affected individuals.” Mike Noyes, head of humanitarian response at Action Aid UK, said people need to be treated with compassion rather than criminalized adding: “Enforced isolation of a whole community is a medieval approach to controlling the spread of disease.” Britain as well as the United States are monitoring the situation. An assistant minister of health, Tolbert Nyenswah, told Reuters via phone: “The staff here are overwhelmed. This is a humanitarian crisis in Liberia. On Wednesday, Samaritan’s Purse, a U.S. charity operating in Liberia, said that Kent Brantly, a doctor working for the charity, and Nancy Writebol, a colleague who volunteers in Liberia, had shown some improvement in their condition but was still serious after being infected this past week. In addition, dozens of local health workers and two top Ebola doctors from Sierra Leone and Liberia have died while treating patients. However, the organization will stop running case management centers in Liberia, as Lewis and Farge report, after an attack on employees over the weekend and local resistance to expansion of their unit in Monrovia. Additionally, they are withdrawing non-essential staff from the country.

Republicans Suing Obama and Visa Versa, Democrats Fight Republican Border Bill and the U.S. Government Hinders the Economy

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A divided House voted Wednesday 225 to 201 to approved a Republican plan to launch a campaign season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding his limit to constitutional authority, with only one day left before lawmakers go on their five week summer recess, according to the Associated Press, Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead. Five conservative republicans voted with Democrats in opposing the lawsuit: Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Steve Stockman of Texas. No Democrats voted for it. Obama and other Democrats see the effort as a political stunt to appease conservative voters. The Republican legal action will focus on Obama’s implementation of his health care overhaul and prevent a further presidential power grab and how to enforce laws. John Boehner, R-Ohio, declared, “No member needs to be reminded about the bonds of trust that have been frayed or the damage that’s already been done to our economy and to our people. Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., address the Democrats claims that the lawsuit is frivolous: “What price do you place on the continuation of our system of checks and balances? What price do you put on the Constitution of the United States? My answer to each is ‘priceless.'” Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and other Democrats said the lawsuit was designed to encourage conservatives to votes in this November’s congressional elections and will go nowhere: “The lawsuit is a drumbeat pushing members of the Republican Party to impeachment.” In fact, the Democrats have already used that argument to garner campaign contributions with House Democrats emailing one fundraiser solicitation as debate was underway and another after the vote writing: “The GOP is chomping at the bit to impeach the president. We’ve got to get the president’s back.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “Impeachment is off the table. Why hasn’t the speaker said that.” On the road in Kansas City, Missouri, Obama called the lawsuit a distraction from public priorities saying, “Every vote they’re taking like that means a vote they’re not taking to actually help you.” He urged Republicans to “stop just hating all the time.” The Associated Press reports that Republicans accuse Obama of exceeding his power in a range of areas including “not notifying Congress before releasing five Taliban members from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for captive Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, blocking the deportation of some children who are in the U.S. illegally and waiving some provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law.” Democrats say Obama has acted legally and used his authorities given to him as chief executive, while the timetable to file the suit has not been laid out by Republicans even though Obama leaves office in January of 2017. Meanwhile, Obama addressed supporters in Kansas City regarding the vote: “I know they’re not that happy that I’m president. I’ve only got a couple of years left. Come on, let’s get some work done. Then you can be mad at the next president.”

It seems not only the Republicans have a beef to settle since the Obama administration decided Wednesday to join two ongoing suits against voting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, according to the AOL article, Obama Administration Joins Suits Against GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions In Wisconsin, Ohio. In the filings, the Justice Department argues that a federal judge was right to strike down Wisconsin’s voter ID law and Ohio is incorrectly interpreting its duties under the Voting Rights Act provision. Attorney General Eric Holder explained the filings in an interview with ABC earlier in the month saying in a statement Wednesday that they “are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy. These two states’ voting laws represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken. These restrictive state laws threaten access to the ballot box. The Justice Department will never shrink from our responsibility to protect the voting rights of every eligible American. And we will keep using every available tool at our disposal to guard against all forms of discrimination, to prevent voter disenfranchisement, and to secure the rights of every citizen.” The Justice Department in an amicus brief filed in the 7th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals argues a federal judge correctly decided that Wisconsin’s voter ID law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act due to its discriminatory impact on black and Hispanic voters and violates the 14th amendment by placing unjustified burden on a large group of voters. In addition, DOJ lawyers argue that Ohio is mistaken about its duties under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In the year since the Supreme Court killed a key provision of the Voting Rights Act preventing certain states from changing their voting practices without clearance from the DOJ or federal court, the Department of Justice has used another portion of the act to oppose voting laws in North Carolina and Texas which are ongoing cases. In Wisconsin, the state is appealing a federal judge’s decision to strike down a GOP backed law imposing ID requirements on voters in the state, while the DOJ’s filing encourages the appeals court to look at the “totality of circumstances,” including examining whether “social, political, and historical conditions in Wisconsin hinder minorities’ political participation.” In Ohio, civil rights groups are challenging a law passed by the Republican led legislature earlier this year to eliminate a six day period for voters to register and cast an early ballot at the same time. Connected with a suit filed b the Obama campaign leading up to the 2012 elections, a federal judge ordered Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to restore early voting o the final three days ahead of the elections. However, the lawsuit DOJ got involved in Wednesday revolves around cuts made earlier this year which brought the total number of early voting days to 29 from 35.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are urging members to oppose a GOP authored bill to address the border crisis with Republican senators voicing their own opposition to the House bill and Senate Democratic alternative, Elise Foley and Sam Stein report, House Democrats Fighting Hard Against Republicans’ Border Bill. The Senate voted and passed, 63 to 33, a bill Wednesday to provide $2.7 billion to deal with the crisis of 57,500 unaccompanied minors who crossed the border illegally since October, while the House plans to vote Thursday on a package to provide $659 million in funding with a number of provision that most Democrats oppose. One Democratic leadership aide said, “We’re still in the process of talking to members, but it won’t be many [who vote for the bill].” On Tuesday in a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., explained the opposition to the House plan: “We must have a heart, and look into our souls to guide us in our treatment of these desperate children. While we are reminded of the critical importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, we must do so much more than the Republicans’ unjust and inhumane proposal.” The same day, Senate Republican Ted Cruz of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama criticized the House bill saying, “That the House leaders’ border package includes no language on executive actions is surrender to a lawless president. And it is a submission to the subordination of congressional power.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested Tuesday that comprehensive immigration reform attached to the bill could scare many Republicans who are already wary of voting in favor, however, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants to pass a bill before the August recess but remains uncertain. While the House struggles to get support for their bill, the Senate’s bill passed on Wednesday morning and now up for debate on legislation faces a huge hurdle among Democrats. The bill must get 60 votes to end the debate and amendment process, unfortunately, as of Wednesday morning, a Senate leadership aid said that do not expect to reach that goal. If nothing passes before the August recess, it would represent the political futility taking place in Congress and both sides would be open to political attacks. According to Foley and Stein, as of 3:40 p.m., the White House issued a formal veto threat Wednesday afternoon on the House Republicans’ funding bill for the border crisis:
“Republicans have had more than a year to comprehensively fix the Nation’s broken immigration system, but instead of working toward a real, lasting solution, Republicans released patchwork legislation that will only put more arbitrary and unrealistic demands on an already broken system. H.R. 5230 could make the situation worse, not better. By setting arbitrary timelines for the processing of cases, this bill could create backlogs that could ultimately shift resources away from priority public safety goals, like deporting known criminals. This bill will undercut due process for vulnerable children which could result in their removal to life threatening situations in foreign countries. In addition, the limited resources provided in H.R. 5230 are not designated as emergency, but rather come at the expense of other Government functions.”

As the bickering seems to be at an all time high in Washington, the U.S. economy certainly reflects the lack of action and inappropriate spending done by government. While the U.S. economy has changed for the good and appears to be on an upswing, federal government spending seems to alway be the giant turd in the economy’s punch bowl, Mark Gongloff reports, The U.S. Government Has Hurt The Economy In 11 Of The Past 12 Quarters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported on Wednesday that the U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 4 percent annualized rate in the second quarter which has drastically increased from a 2.1 percent GDP collapse in the first quarter. Everything was up in the quarter including consumer spending, business spending, housing, imports and exports, but federal government spending fell for the 7th quarter in a row. In fact, federal spending has cut into the GDP 11 out of the past 12 quarters meaning the U.S. government has dragged the economy for the past three years coinciding with congressional Republicans holding the government hostage in exchange for austerity measure. The big spending drags, according to Gongloff, began hitting the economy in the fourth quarter of 2010 when Republicans won control of the House of Representative which set the stage for the budget fights to come. However, all of this could change a month from now, but one thing remains constant which is the drag of weak federal spending.

The Immigration Issue, Americans Drowning in Debt and the McDonald’s Ruling

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While the immigration battle rages on between Congress and the White House, most Americans believe the wave of children crossing the border into the United States from Central America are refugees escaping the dangers at home and the United States should support those children while reviewing their cases and not deport them immediate, according to Cathy Lynn Grossmann, Most Americans Think U.S. Should Shelter Child Migrants Not Deport Them, Survey Says. A new survey released on Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute surveyed people from all points of view along the political and religious spectrum. The survey found that Democrats (80 percent), Independents (69 percent) and Republicans (57 percent) favor offering support to unaccompanied children while a process to review their cases gets underway, while most major religious groups say the same, including white evangelical Protestants (56 percent), white mainline Protestants (67 percent), minority Protestants (74 percent), Catholics (75 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (75 percent). The survey sample, according to Grossmann, of 1,026 adults was not large enough to capture the views of smaller groups such as Jews, Muslims or Mormons. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, said: “It makes a difference that we are talking about children facing violence and harm. The value of keeping families together cuts across all party lines.” As a result, most Americans can make a “pretty clear distinction between the problem of the children arriving from Central America and the problem of illegal immigration in general.” While one in four Americans (27 percent) want the children to be deports due to illegal immigrant status, 69 percent feel they should be treated as refugees and along to remain in the United Stats if authorities determine it is not safe to return them to their homes. In addition, Grossmann reports, in the survey “the children are seen as fleeing violence and serious threats to their safety at home (45 percent), seeking better education and economic opportunities (34 percent) or both (14 percent).” Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) believe the children should be given shelter and support while there’s “a process to determine whether they should be deported or allowed to stay.” Again while most (56 percent) say the families are “doing what they can to keep their children safe in very difficult circumstances,” 38 percent say those families are “taking advantage of American good will and are really seeking a back door to immigrate to our country” and 26 percent or one in four want the children to be deported now. The situation in general is viewed as a crisis by 36 percent and 43 percent call it “a serious problem but not a crisis.”

Grossmann reports that the PRRI, in addition, asked what should be done about the situation, the breakdown is as follows:
* Most surveyed (71 percent) said the U.S. should offer “refuge and protection” for those who come to the U.S. “when they are facing serious danger in their home country.”
* 71 percent also mostly agree that these Central American children waiting for their cases to be heard “should be released to the care of relatives, host families or churches rather than be detained by immigration authorities.” (Twenty-eight percent disagree.)
* However, only 39 percent would allow these children to stay for good while 59 percent don’t want them here long-term because it “will encourage others to ignore our laws and increase illegal immigration.”
In short, according to Grossmann, attitudes are becoming more polarized between those who see immigrants as an asset and those who see them as a burden. However, views on citizenship or permanent legal residency stay pretty much the same with 58 percent saying they would allow a path to citizenship, 17 percent would allow residency and 22 percent say “identify and deport them.” The overall survey happened via phone interviews with 1,026 adults, conducted in English and Spanish between July 23 and July 27. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Another study release on Tuesday by the Urban Institute found that more than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reports to collection agencies, Josh Boak reports Study: 35 percent in US facing debt collectors. Senior fellow at the Washington think tank, Caroline Ratcliffe said that consumers to fall behind on credit cards, hospital bills, mortgages, auto loans, student debt, past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency and potentially hurt credit scores and job prospects. Laying it all out, Ratcliffe explains: “Roughly, every third person you pass on the street is going to have debt in collections. It can tip employers’ hiring decisions, or whether or not you get that apartment.” The study found 35.1 percent of people with credit records have been reported to collections for an average debt of $5,178 based on September 2013 records. Boak comments that even while the country has reduced the size of its credit card debt, the share of Americans in collections has remained constant since the official end of the Great Recession in mid-2009. According to the American Bankers Association, credit card debt is at its lowest level in more than a decade as people increasingly pay off balances each month, while 2.44 percent of accounts are overdue 30 days or more versus the 15 year average of 3.82 percent. However the same percentage is still being reported for unpaid bills as reported by the Urban Institute study performed in conjunction with researchers from the Consumer Credit Research Institute. In all, this has reshaped the economy as the collections industry employs 140,000 workers who recover $50 billion each year as reported in a study published this year by the Federal Reserve’s Philadelphia bank branch. Boak notes the delinquent debt seems to be concentrated in Southern and Western states with Texas cities having a large share of their populations being reported to collections agencies: Dallas (44.3 percent); El Paso (44.4 percent), Houston (43.7 percent), McAllen (51.7 percent) and San Antonio (44.5 percent). In addition, the study says, “Almost half of Las Vegas residents- many of whom bore the brunt of the housing bust that sparked the recession- have debt in collections. Other Southern cities have a disproportionate number of their people facing debt collectors, including Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.” Only about 20 percent of Americans with credit records have debt at all, but high debt levels aren’t always delinquent with the large portion of the debt coming from mortgages. Unfortunately, stagnate incomes has led to why some parts of the country struggle with repaying debt, according to the Urban Institute’s Ratcliffe. Labor Department figures show that wages have barely kept up with inflation during the five year recovery and Wells Fargo figures show that after tax income fell for the bottom 20 percent of earners during the same period.

While the American continue to struggle to make ends meet, Carol Kopp reports, McDonald’s In The Frying Pan, the ruling by the New York regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could change the lives of million of low wage Americans and open the way for complaints blaming McDonald’s for low pay and poor working conditions in its restaurants. The ruling says the McDonald’s hamburger chain shares responsibility for workers’ wages and working conditions with the operators of its franchise restaurants allowing for 113 unfair labor practices complaints filed by franchise workers across the nation to include the chain, according to Micah Wissinger, an attorney for Levy Ratner which is the law firm representing New York City fast food workers. The “joint employer” designation could give future legal actions taken by workers more clout when seeking higher wages, better working conditions or protesting firing decisions. Mark Barenberg, a law professor at Columbia Law School says, “The determination from the NLRB’s General Counsel has the potential to upend the fast-food industry’s decades-long strategy of ‘out-sourcing’ legal responsibility to franchisees when it comes to securing workers’ rights. Companies like McDonald’s insert an intermediary between themselves and workers, even though they’re manifestly in control of the franchisees’ employment decisions.” In addition, other hamburger chains like Burger King and other fast food brands like KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut can also be affected by this decision since all of these chains are owned by Yum! brand but operated by franchises. Richard Eiker has worked for McDonald’s in Kansas City for 30 years and says the company constantly monitors its franchises by tracking software, on-site inspections and visits from secret shoppers to monitor the operations. A spokeswoman for McDonald’s USA told the Associated Press the company will appeal the decision. David French, senior vice president with the National Retail Federation, told the New York Times the decision is “outrageous” saying, “It is just further evidence that the N.L.R.B. has lost all credibility as a government agency established to protect workers and is now just a government agency that serves as an adjunct for organized labor, which has fought for this decision for a number of years as a means to more easily unionize entire companies and industries.” The issue came to the forefront by labor organizers backed by the United Service Employees International Union, which has staged nationwide protests in favor of higher wages and more stable work hours for fast-food employees, Kopp explains.

Israel Hits Gaza Harder, While Iran’s Supreme Leader Calls on All Muslims to Arm Hamas Against Israel

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On Wednesday, a crowded U.N. school sheltering displaced Gazans due to fighting was hit with Israeli Tank shells killing 15 and wounding 90 after tearing through the walls of two classrooms, a U.N. aid agency spokesman and a health official said, according to the Associated Press article Shelling of UN school kills 15 as Gaza war rages. In addition, 27 Palestinians were killed elsewhere in the territory Wednesday as hope for a ceasefire dims. The strike happened as Israel conducted its heaviest air and artillery assault in the more than three week long war with Hamas. In Jebaliya, the shells hit the U.N. school before dawn according to Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The agency is sheltering more than 200,00 people displaced by fighting at dozens of these schools across the strip. He said: “We were scared to death. After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school. One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside.” Four of the dead were killed outside the school compound, two in their home and two in the street after pre-dawn praters, their relatives said. Abu Hasna said the international community must step in: “It’s the responsibility of the world to tell us what we shall do with more than 200,000 people who are inside our schools, thinking that the U.N. flag will protect them. This incident today proves that no place is safe in Gaza.” Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health official, said in all 42 Palestinians were killed by airstrikes and tank shelling in different areas of Gaza Wednesday. The total now stands at 1,269 Palestinians killed since July 8 and 7,100 Palestinians wounded, al-Kidra reports, while Israel has lost 53 soldier and three civilians. Gaza militants have fired 2,600 rockets toward Israel the past three weeks and the Israeli military has hit targets linked to militants, about 4,100 targets in Gaza over 23 days, according to the Israeli military. On Wednesday, aircraft dropped leaflets with contact phone number and email over Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood warning resident to stay away from Hamas militants and report possible rocket launches. The leaflets said: “The Israeli Defense Forces are going into a new phase in the coming operation and does not want to harm civilians. The army is warning residents in the areas where the operation will take place that for your safety, you have to keep away from terrorists and the locations from which they operate.” Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, 15 killed at Gaza UN school; Israel holds fire, the mortar shells fired at the school by the soldiers was in response to mortar shells fired near the school according to the Israeli military. Later Wednesday, the Israeli military declared a four hour humanitarian ceasefire in parts of Gaza beginning at 3pm Hams had no immediate comment. In a statement, the military said: “In response, soldiers fired toward the origins of fire. And we’re still reviewing the incident.”

While the battle ground continues to run with the blood of many innocent people caught in the crossfire, the tide of public opinion may be turning against Israel around the world with Iran calling for Muslims to take up arms and fight Israel. In its fourth week now, the current Israeli operation in Gaza will not end anytime soon as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not leave until the tunnels between Israel and Gaza are destroyed to prevent Hamas fighters from attacking Israeli civilians. As the Associated Press asks in their article, Are images from Gaza turning public opinion against Israel? : “But can the Israeli government stand a long conflict, or, as many pundits question, is the country in danger of losing a battle for public opinion on the world stage?” Several outlets already have claimed that the Palestinian death toll and rapid spread of images and victims’ stories from Gaza are turning the tide against Israel e.g. PR week, Haaretz and Mashable. According to Israel’s progressive paper Haaretz, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told a conference call of American Jewish leaders, “Israel is being routinely portrayed in both conventional and social media as an angry, well-armed giant leaving many innocent victims in its wake.” The difference this time is that there are more Western journalists in Gaza than previous operations giving media coverage to the other side of the conflict than Western audiences are use to seeing. The response to this coverage has been a steady stream of protests around the world against Israel’s operations. A Pew poll this week said among Americans, twice as many blame Hamas in the latest conflict than Israel and half think Israel’s military operation is an appropriate response. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of unfavorable views toward Israel happen in Germany, France, China and all Arab and Muslim countries. Part of this, the Associated Press reports, many do with the overwhelming unpopularity of Israel’s total blockade of Gaza and strict control of the West Bank that former President Jimmy Carter calls an apartheid state and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry fears it will become if it isn’t already. In Israel where support was once 90 percent in the last two wars in Gaza, a 2010 poll found a quarter of Israelis felt the blockade did more harm than good. However, on Sunday, the Israeli prime minister said that Israel will not cede national security for the sake of public relations. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on Muslims to help arm Gaza Palestinians in their fight against Israel during the ongoing ware between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel, the Associated Press article, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Calls For Arming Gaza To Fight Israel, reports. Khamenei claims that while Israel and America want to disarm Hamas, Iran says “the opposite … the Muslim World has a duty to arm the Palestinian nation by all means.” Iran does not recognize Israel and as an ally to Hamas supports militants anti-Israeli groups such as Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group. Iran considers the Jewish state its archenemy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western back monarchy and brought clerics to power.

The Death Tolls Rise in Israel, Eastern Ukraine and Syria, While the West Levies Heavier Sanctions on Russia

On Tuesday, Israel unleashed its heaviest attack against Hamas in the three week war striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the only power plant, according to Palestinian officials. Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed, the station’s shutdown disrupted power and water to 1.7 million people in the narrow Palestinian coastal territory. On Tuesday evening, Palestinian health officials reported that 10 members of an extended family were killed and 50 others wounded in Jebaliya refugee camp in norther Gaza due to intense tank shelling. Mousa al-Mabhouh, a volunteer for Gaza’s Civil Defense, described the shelling: “It was like an earthquake. Roofs collapsed, walls cracked and wounded people everywhere.” The strikes came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned of a prolonged campaign against Hamas dealing a significant blow to plans of a sustainable truce in fighting. Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 1,175 Palestinians have been killed since July 8 including 100 on Tuesday, while Israel reports 53 soldiers and three civilians killed. Fathi Sheik Khalil of the Gaza Energy Authority said: “We need at least one year to repair the power plant, the turbines, the fuel tanks and the control room. Everything was burned.” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, did not comment on the plant explosion, but told the Associate Press that Israel’s latest strikes signal “a gradual increase in the pressure” on Hamas, while Israel is “determined to strike this organization and relieve us of this threat.” International calls for a ceasefire have increased in recent days as the extent of the destruction in Gaza becomes apparent with tens of thousands of Gazans have been displaced by fighting in the border areas. Despite appeals, both sides are holding out for bigger gains, The military said Palestinian militants fired at least 64 rockets Tuesday at Israeli cities. Since the the war began, the U.N. has found weapons hidden it its schools. Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said: “We condemn the group or groups who endangered civilians by placing these munitions in our school. This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises.”

While Israel continues unabated in its efforts to crumble Hamas, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu continues to criticize the U.S. specifically Secretary of State John Kerry on the handling of a ceasefire deal. On Monday, Netanyahu defended the Gaza air and ground offensive in a televised speech saying, “there is no war more just than this.” Karin Laub and Tia Goldenberg report, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu warns of prolonged campaign in Gaza war, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry keep pressuring Israel to accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire amid a torrent of criticism from Israel over Kerry’s latest bid to secure a ceasefire with Hamas. The Obama administration pushed back Monday accusing Israel of launching a misinformation campaign against Kerry. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other.” The White House agreed by saying it was disappointed by Israeli reports that cast Kerry’s efforts to negotiate a cease fire more favorable to Hamas. Kerry’s response, according to Matthew Lee’s article Kerry shrugs off Israeli criticism, “I have taken hits before in politics, I am not worried about it. This is not about me. I am not going to worry about personal attacks,” adding that he and President Barack Obama are convinced “it is more appropriate to try to resolve the underlying issues at a negotiating table than to continue a tit-for-tat of violence that will invite more violence and perhaps a greater downward spiral which would be much more difficult to recover from.” In regards to Netanyahu and the push for a ceasefire: “Prime Minister Netanyahu himself said to me, ‘Can you try to get a humanitarian cease-fire for this period of time?’ And if it weren’t for his commitment to it, obviously the president of the United States and I would not be trying to make this effort. Now either I take his commitment at face value or someone is playing a different game here, and I hope that’s not the fact.” At the National Pres Club, House Speaker John Boehner on Monday remarked as Donna Cassata reports, Boehner urges US solidarity with Israel: “At times like this, people try to isolate Israel – but we are here to stand with Israel. Not just as a broker or observer – but as a strong partner and a trusted ally. Well, it doesn’t mean issuing vague, on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand statements. No, it means backing up our words, and showing solidarity with our friend. We will not equate professional militaries with terrorist organizations that use human shields and seek to maximize civilian casualties. And we insist that the demilitarization of Gaza be not just a House goal but a shared, uncompromising U.S. and international objective.”

Examining the U.S. Israeli relationship deeper, Stephen M. Walt, professor of International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, believes that Israel’s power over the U.S. comes in the forms of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee which holds major political clout along with other hardline elements of the Israel lobby. In his article, AIPAC Is the Only Explanation for America’s Morally Bankrupt Israel Policy, Walt explains that in every occasion where the death toll exceeds 500, Israel has used weapons provided by U.S. taxpayers to attack the captive and impoverished Palestinians in Gaza. As usual, according to Walt, the U.S. government is siding with Israel, even though most American leaders know Israel instigated the latest round of violence, is not acting with restrain, and makes Washington look callous and hypocritical in the eyes of the world. Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis groups points out that the latest round of fighting is neither vengeance for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli hikers in the West Bank nor to protect Israel from Hamas’ rockets, Netanyahu’s real purpose is to undermine the power share agreement between Hamas and Fatah that could lead to a unified Palestinian leadership and result in a two state solution. Therefore, he want to isolate and damage Hamas and drive a wedge between the two factions. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu confirmed that he is dead set against a two state solution and will never allow it while in office. According to Walt: “Worst of all, the deaths of hundreds more Palestinians and a small number of Israelis will change almost nothing. Hamas is not going to disband. When this latest round of fighting ends, the 4.4 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza will still be Israel’s de facto prisoners and still be denied basic human rights. But they are not going to leave, mainly because Palestine is their homeland, but also because they have nowhere to go, especially given the turmoil in other parts of the Middle East. Eventually another ceasefire will be negotiated. The dead will be buried, the wounded will recover, the tunnels now being destroyed will be rebuilt, and Hamas will replenish its stockpile of missiles and rockets. The stage will then be set for another round of fighting, and Israel will have moved further down the road to becoming a full-fledged apartheid state.” Walt points out that as soon as fighting starts and even if Israel instigates it, AIPAC will demands that Washington stands with Tel Aviv and Congress will pass a resolution endorsing Israel. Even if the lobby cannot get everything it wants when it wants it, the lobby is still able to keep $3 billion in U.S. aid to Israel flowing each year, prevent U.S. presidents from pressuring Israel and can get U.S. to wield its veto power when a resolution criticizing Israel’s actions is floated in the U.N. Security Council, according to Walt. This situation has allowed Israel to ignore requests from Washington for “two states for two peoples” since Israel gets generous support no matter what it does. Walt sums up the situation best: “Historians will one day look back and ask how U.S. Middle East policy could be so ineffectual and so at odds with its professed values — not to mention its strategic interests. The answer lies in the basic nature of the American political system, which permits well-organized and well-funded special interest groups to wield significant power on Capitol Hill and in the White House. In this case, the result is a policy that is bad for all concerned: for the Palestinians most of all, but also for the U.S. and Israel as well. Until the lobby’s clout is weakened or politicians grow stiffer spines, Americans looking for better outcomes in the Middle East had better get used to disappointment and prepared for more trouble.”

While Israel contends with the world and criticizes its closest allies, fighting continues uncontrolled in Eastern Ukraine as the West agrees to wider sanctions on Russia and the U.S. accuses Russia of treaty violations. Mstyslav Chernov reports, 22 Civilian Deaths Reported After One Day Of Shelling In East Ukraine, at least one person killed after three shells hit an apartment block in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine and around 50 people took refuge in an underground car park amid the smell of household gas. Rebels accuse the government of using heavy artillery against residential neighborhoods, while Ukraine’s government accuses separatist of targeting civilians to discredit the army. On Monday U.S. and European leaders agreed to impose wider sanctions on Russia’s financial, defense and energy sectors as Ukraine said its forced move toward the crash site of Malaysian flight 17, Gabriela Baczynska and Aleksandar Vasovic report, The West Agrees To Wider Sanctions On Russia Over The Crisis In Ukraine. The new sanctions, discussed via phone with U.S. President Barack Obama, Germany, Britain, France and Italy, aim at increasing the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after Malaysian airliner was shot down over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine. Tony Blinken, a national security advisor to Obama, said: “It’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures and that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week.” In Brussels, EU sources said diplomats reached a preliminary agreement on a new list of companies and people, including Putin associates, to be targeted by asset freezes. EU member states are expected to reach a final deal on Tuesday on measures including closing the bloc’s capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo on future arms sales and restrictions on energy technology and technology that could be used for defense. After the leaders’ call, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The latest information from the region suggests that even since MH17 was shot down, Russia continues to transfer weapons across the border and to provide practical support to the separatists. Leaders agreed that the international community should therefore impose further costs on Russia and specifically that ambassadors from across the EU should agree a strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.” Earlier in thr day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters at a news conference: “We will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength.” One pro-government militia said 23 of its men has been killed in fighting in 24 hours, while a rebel commander said 30 of his soldiers had been killed. The United Nations in their report said 1,100 people have died in the three months of fighting between government forces and separatist rebels who have set up a pro-Russian republic in the east.

While Gaza continues to incur heavy fighting during a major Muslim holiday, Syrian President Bashar Assad prayed at a Damascus mosque on Monday as his own country battles Islamic extremists and reports unprecedented high death tolls. Zeina Karam reports, Syria Suffers Record Death Toll, the military causalities come as fighting intensified in the past two weeks with al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State group trying to eliminate all opponents and the government as well as the rebels deal with a series of setbacks. The Britain based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 1,240 soldiers and other Assad loyalists have died in the past 10 days in northern Syria. The director, Rami Abdurrahman, said they are among 1,800 deaths in the same period which is a record number since the uprising against Assad in March 2011. According to activists, Syria’s three year civil war has already killed more than 170,000 people. Despite the raging civil war, Assad was re-elected last month in a vote confined to government controlled areas which his oppositions and Western allies dismiss as a sham. He was sworn in a third term and confidently declared victory, in his inauguration speech, and praised his supporters for “defeating the dirty war” against Syria. Shortly after his speech, government losses began due to the Islamic state group fighter launching attacks against army positions in northern and central Syria. Beyond Syria, the Islamic State fighters have taken large expanses of land in northern and western Iraq in a blitz offensive beginning last month and declared a self-styled caliphate across their territory on the Iraq-Syria border.

Ground Zero Workers Get Cancer, Soldier’s Home Demolished, VA Health Care Deal Reached and Democrats Cashing in on Impeachment

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Even though the events of 9/11 happened over a decade ago, the scars still remain for the families who lost loves ones and continues to threaten the lives of those who risked theirs to save others. An AOL article reports, Scary statistic about Ground Zero workers, more than 2,500 rescuers and responders have been diagnosed with cancer which is a significant increase from last year’s 1,140 cases, according to Mount Sinai Hospital’s World Trade Center Heath Program. In addition, scientist say workers also have increased rates of post traumatic stress disorder, asthma and other respiratory diseases compared to the rest of the population. The cancer is believed to be the result of exposure to toxic debris from the collapse of the Twin Towers that sent a smoke plume into the air causing air pollution experts to say the dust that floated around for months after the attack was toxic and carried more than 2,500 contaminants. The Victim Compensation Fund expects to receive more claims by the Oct. 14 deadline, meanwhile as of June 30, 1,150 are on the list and 800 eligible for compensation.

In Florida, the Miami-Dade county’s decision to demolish an active duty soldier’s home while he was training for deployment did not sit well with the district judge, AOL reports, Judge blasts Fla. county for demolishing soldier’s home. According to Fox News, “Jesus Jimenez was warned about code violations including exposed wires and a broken roof … he requested an extension to get those things fixed … the city claimed that active duty was not an excuse.” The Daily Mail reported that in 2011 the city knocked down Jimenez’s home where he, his five month pregnant wife, diabetic daughter, hearing-impaired brother and mother-in-law all lived leaving them homeless. Military.com explains that Jimenez requested a stay to postpone the demolition four years earlier citing the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a federal law “intended to postpone or suspend certain civil obligations to enable service members to devote full attention to duty and relieve stress on the family members.” However, Miami-Dade county said the act did not apply to him because he was a reservist at the time of the request and the original request was for 90 days only. During the four years, he was training, deployed or sometimes home. Unfortunately, now that the case has reached U.S. District Judge Robert N, Scola Jr., the county’s excuse for the demolition doesn’t fly, the Ledger reports. The Miami Herald reports that in Scola’s order he wrote the county had missed the point saying: “Plaintiffs’ behavior was by no means perfect … but by enforcing the [Servicemembers Act], this Court has vindicated a national policy of high priority.” If a settlement is not reached, a trial is set for September to decide what Miami-Dade country owes Jimenez.

While this injustice is being corrected, in Washington D.C., Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and House Veterans Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference Monday to outline their agreement on a compromise plan to fix the veteran health care system. According to Matthew Daly, House-Senate negotiators approve $17B VA bill, a bipartisan deal to improve the broken veterans’ health system would authorize $17 billion to fix the scandalized health program. The House and Senate negotiators approved the bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs and reform the program scandalized by long waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays. The 28 member conference committee vote on late Monday sends the bill for a full House and Senate vote where approval is expected later this week. The bill is suppose to help veterans avoid long wait times, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them and make it easier to fire executives at the VA. The funding includes $10 billion in emergency spending to help veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain care outside, $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medial staff and $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country. The Senate, meanwhile, is et to vote Tuesday to confirm Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary replacing Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson. Lawmakers hope to send the VA reform bill to the prsident later this week. Miller and Sanders say the bill will require $12 billion in new spending after accounting for $5 billion in unspecified cuts from the VA’s budget. On Monday, Miller said: “Taking care of our veterans is not an inexpensive proposition, and our members understand that. The VA has caused this problem and one of the ways that we can help solve it is to give veterans a choice, a choice to stay in the system or a choice to go out of the system” to get government-paid health care from a private doctor. Before a House vote later this week, Miller said: “Obviously some of our members will need a little more educating than others.” Sanders added: “Planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war. So is taking care of the men and women who fight our battles.” Miller and Sanders expect the bill to pass at the end of the week before Congress leaves for a five week recess. If passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, the veterans’ bill would be one of the few significant bills signed into law this year, Daly reports. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama welcomes the bipartisan deal as “much-needed reforms that need to be implemented.” According to Daly: “The compromise measure would require the VA to pay private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get prompt appointments at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics, or those who live at least 40 miles from one of them. Only veterans who are enrolled in VA care as of Aug. 1 or live at least 40 miles away would be eligible to get outside care.”

While Congress’ bipartisan spirit for now seems to be alive and well, House Democrats are profiting in a big way due to House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement of a lawsuit. According to their campaign chief on Tuesday, House Democrats have raised $1 million on Monday alone due to the chatter about impeaching President Barack Obama and the announcement of a lawsuit against Obama that opened the door to the fundraising drive, Philip Elliott reports, Democrats have million-dollar day on impeachment. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel told reports that ,since Boehner announced in June his plan to sue the president, Democrats’ House campaign arm raised $7.6 million. At a breakfast organized by Christian Science Monitor, Israel said: “I understand the strategy is intended to gin up its base. Every time they talk about suing the president, that just ignites our base.” However, Boehner called the talk a “scam” and his party has “no plans” to open impeachment proceedings concluding that Democrats are the ones fueling the talk. Since January 2013, House Democrats have raised almost $125 million this election cycle. The average donation, according to Israel, was just $19. On Sunday, Democrats in an email solicitation said: “The fate of Obama’s presidency is at stake.” On the other hand, Boehner says: “This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they’re trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s elections. It’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.” Republicans will likely keep their House majority after November’s elections due to redrawn congressional district that favor the GOP and the fact both parties are contesting only a few seats. Even so, the parties’ House campaign committees have already raised $226 million as of July 1. Republicans hold 234 seats in the House and Democrats have 199 seats with two vacancies available.