National News: Disasters


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USDA Makes Disaster Resources Available to Rural Development Borrowers

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2017 – The United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development is providing tools and resources to help rural communities recover from the devastation brought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue highlighted today. The emergency procedures will provide additional flexibility for Rural Development borrowers and community partners to help them recover as quickly as possible and ensure they have what they need to rebuild their homes, businesses and communities.

“Our team at Rural Development is devoted to supporting rural communities ravaged by the recent hurricanes,” said Secretary Perdue. “We are committed each day to the recovery effort, collaborating with federal, state and local partners to begin to rebuild.”

USDA Rural Development has provided disaster recovery assistance by coordinating with private partners to restore utilities to rural communities in hurricane-affected regions.

Rural Development is helping businesses and utilities that are current USDA borrowers by considering requests to defer principal and/or interest payments, and to provide additional temporary loans. Current USDA single-family home loan customers may also qualify for assistance. Borrowers can contact their local Rural Development office to obtain information on potential assistance. Additional information may be found at https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/services/rural-development-disaster-assistance.

USDA Rural Development is partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is taking the lead to provide emergency housing for people who need it in these affected areas.

To find the nearest USDA Rural Development office, visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/contact-us.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; homeownership; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Secretary Zinke Names John Tahsuda III the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that he has named John Tahsuda III, a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, as DOI’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs (PDAS). The appointment was effective September 3, 2017. The PDAS serves as the first assistant and principal advisor to the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs in the development and interpretation of policies affecting Indian Affairs bureaus, offices and programs.

“I want to welcome John Tahsuda to my Indian Affairs leadership team,” said Secretary Zinke. “John possesses extensive experience in federal Indian law and tribal government, and deeply understands and respects our government-to-government relationship with tribes. He’ll be a strong leader for the Indian Affairs organization.”

“I appreciate Secretary Zinke for giving me this tremendous opportunity to bring greater prosperity to tribes and their communities,” Tahsuda said. “I’m looking forward to working with tribal leaders on finding ways to make Indian Affairs programs more responsive to their needs.”

Tahsuda joined the Department from Washington, D.C.-based Navigators Global, LLC, where he was a principal. Navigators Global is a company that specializes in and offers a wide range of political services to multiple industry sectors, including financial services, insurance, energy, health care, defense, emergency management, American Indian tribal affairs, and high tech/telecommunications.

He led the company’s tribal affairs practice providing clients with advocacy and counsel services on a range of tribal affairs policy issues at state and federal levels, including gaming, tax incentives, tobacco sales, land-into-trust issues, health care, economic development, energy policy, federal recognition, and self-governance.

Before joining Navigators Global, Tahsuda had served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs since 2002, first as senior counsel and later as staff director, where he directed policy and legislative efforts relating to Indian tribes. He also was directly responsible for federal policy and legislation affecting gaming, federal recognition, self-governance, and Indian health care.

Prior to joining the Committee’s staff, Tahsuda was engaged in private practice providing legal advice and legislative counseling to Indian tribes and tribal organizations. From 1999 to 2001, he served as general counsel and legislative director of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), the Indian gaming industry’s trade association, where he monitored legislation and policy issues affecting the organization’s 180 member tribes and assisted them in their lobbying efforts.

In the years preceding his tenure at NIGA, Tahsuda served the Oneida Indian Nation of New York as acting general counsel with responsibilities that included overseeing its legal needs and business enterprises. From 1997 through 2001, he also served as an adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School where he taught courses on federal Indian law, policy and history.

Tahsuda received a juris doctorate from Cornell Law School in 1993 and a Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma State University in 1990.

NCOA Celebrates 10 Years of Falls Prevention Awareness Day

Millions of older adults educated over decade of collaboration

Arlington, VA (Sept. 12, 2017) – Falls are not a normal part of aging, but they are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Ten years ago, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and a coalition of state and local organizations observed Falls Prevention Awareness Day to encourage people to get educated and act to prevent falls. In the first decade, more than 14 million people have participated in events across the country.

The first official Falls Prevention Awareness Day was observed in 2008, when a group of 11 state Falls Free® Coalition members coordinated events on the first day of fall. This year, a coalition of 48 states and the District of Columbia are hosting Ten Years Standing Together to Prevent Falls 10th anniversary celebrations on September 22.

These celebrations empower older adults and those who care for them to be active, independent, and safe in their homes and communities. Coalition partners host classes, seminars, and perform falls risk screenings at fun community events. Highlights of the first decade of celebrations include:

59,000 people screened for falls risk factors

166,000 people participating in evidence-based falls prevention programs

14.6 million people reached through awareness and education campaigns

822,000 influencers and policymakers reached through advocacy efforts

360 million people reached through social and traditional media

10 bipartisan resolutions in the U.S. Senate recognizing Falls Prevention Awareness Day

“Evidence-based falls prevention programs save lives and money in communities nationwide,” said Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of NCOA’s National Falls Prevention Resource Center. “NCOA is proud that Falls Prevention Awareness Day has educated millions of people over the last ten years, and we are committed to continuing our work with our partners to reach the ever-growing older adult population with the critical message of falls prevention.”

To find out more about Falls Prevention Awareness Day and NOCA’s work to prevent falls, go to www.ncoa.org/FallsPrevention.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.

Secretary Perdue Hosts U.S. Senators for 2017 Fire Briefing

(Washington, D.C., September 26, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hosted U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for a 2017 fire briefing to hear about this year’s efforts to contain wildfires out west as well as the way the USFS is funded. Currently, the agency has to borrow money from prevention programs to combat ongoing wildfires. Secretary Perdue believes Congress should treat major fires the same as other disasters and that those fires should be covered by emergency funds so prevention programs are not raided.

“This has been a tremendous fire season,” said Secretary Perdue. “As wildfire costs exceed $2 billion, I appreciate those in Congress who recognize this funding issue and are working to make a permanent fix that allows us to manage our forests preemptively. While we can’t stop these wildfires, we know we can be prepared in a much better way.”

Background:

Recently, wildland fire suppression costs for the fiscal year exceeded $2 billion, making it the most expensive year on record. This summer, wildfires have ravaged states in the west, Pacific Northwest, and Northern Rockies regions of the United States. Currently, the fire suppression portion of the Forest Service budget is funded at a rolling ten-year average of appropriations, while the overall Forest Service budget has remained relatively flat. Because the fire seasons are longer and conditions are worse, the ten-year rolling fire suppression budget average keeps rising, consuming a greater percentage of the total Forest Service budget each year. This increase forces agency to take funds from prevention programs to cover fire suppression costs. Secretary Perdue’s proposal would ensure both fire suppression and prevention efforts receive the proper funding they need. Just last week, Secretary Perdue urged State Foresters to call on Congress to fix this fire funding problem.

Coast Guard to hold press conference releasing El Faro investigation report

WASHINGTON — The Coast Guard will release the S.S. El Faro Marine Board of Investigation report on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.

This report identifies causal factors of the loss of the S.S. El Faro and 33 crew members. The report proposes safety recommendations for future actions to the Commandant of the Coast Guard. The report may be accessed at: https://uscg.mil/foia/foia_library.asp on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Coast Guard standard procedure and 46 USC 63 requires this type of report to be done for all marine casualties under Coast Guard authority.

“The most important thing to remember is that 33 people lost their lives in this tragedy. If adopted, we believe the safety recommendations in our report will improve safety of life at sea” said Capt. Jason Neubauer, chairman, El Faro Marine Board of Investigation, U.S. Coast Guard.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard with the full cooperation of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Condemns Move By Education Department to Undermine Civil Rights Protections

Secretary of Education Weakens Title IX Guidance That Protect Civil Rights of All Students

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law issued the following statements Friday after Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the U.S. Department of Education has rescinded its federal policy guidance regarding a schools’ responsibility to prevent and address sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972:

“Title IX was enacted 45 years ago to guarantee that all students are entitled to a higher education experience in a safe environment free of sex discrimination. With this action today, the Trump administration turns the screw on years of progress to provide safe learning environments and meaningful protections to students who experience sexual assault,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“Current law is very clear that due process protections for both parties in sexual violence cases must be protected. With her decision to pull the guidelines, Secretary DeVos has created a culture of confusion across the country that puts the civil rights of students in jeopardy,” said Brenda Shum, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “If Secretary DeVos genuinely listens to public comments and input, it will further demonstrate the need for rigorous enforcement of the protections against sex discrimination. And if the Department of Education issues regulations inconsistent with Title IX, we are prepared to take legal action to protect those whose civil rights have been violated.”

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.

ICYMI: Trump Administration Driving Forward on Tax Reform

President Trump, Secretary Mnuchin, NEC Director Gary Cohn, and the entire Administration are moving full steam ahead on all fronts when it comes to tax reform. From bipartisan dinners and meetings with members across the political spectrum to a dedicated communications team and a packed upcoming Presidential travel schedule, every corner of the Administration is organized and mobilized for this critical policy push.

The strategy was revealed by top advisers to about 40 allies during a closed-door meeting last week. It calls for the president to visit states he won where a Democratic senator is up for re-election next year, including Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, said three people who attended. The people asked not to be identified discussing internal strategy.

In some instances, cabinet members will be deployed behind Trump in a “second wave” after the president’s speeches and town hall meetings to amplify his message.

White House officials held the private meeting on Sept. 8 to share details on its political strategy for tax legislation with allies who can deliver the message on cable news and in local media interviews. Separately, they’re prepping economists such as Arthur Laffer, Lawrence Kudlow and Stephen Moore, who served as informal advisers to Trump’s campaign.

Top communications staffers were at the meeting, including White House communications director Hope Hicks, counselor Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Cliff Sims, a messaging strategist.

Trump to meet senators in bipartisan push on taxes

Reuters

September 12, 2017

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-tax/trump-to-meet-senators-in-bipartisan-push-on-taxes-idUSKCN1BN1L6

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to host a bipartisan group of senators for dinner on Tuesday to make a push for tax reform and other top agenda items a week after he made an alliance with Democrats on raising the debt ceiling and funding government.

The White House announced the dinner with the Republican president late on Monday, and a White House aide confirmed the guest list included three Democrats: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

It also included Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania and John Thune of South Dakota, the aide said, confirming a guest list first reported by the Washington Post.

“The president is committed to getting tax relief for middle-class Americans passed and is willing to work with Democrats and Republicans to do it,” the official said.

Mnuchin, Cohn head to Congress Tuesday for tax talks

Politico

Burgess Everett and Ben White

September 11, 2017

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/11/tax-congress-steven-mnuchin-gary-cohn-242558

Senate Republicans and top Trump administration aides will huddle on Tuesday to discuss a key precondition to tax reform: Passing a budget.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and top Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn will meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of the Senate Budget Committee to plot how to pass a budget through committee and the narrowly divided Senate, according to two people familiar with the meeting. The gathering demonstrates how quickly Republicans are hoping to pivot to tax reform following a failed attempt to gut Obamacare and President Donald Trump’s surprising deal with the Democrats on the debt ceiling and spending issues.

Dear Friend of the National Parks,

Clean water should be a universal goal.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The Trump administration is working to roll back protections for drinking water and park waterways by repealing the Clean Water Rule. This rule was developed to end confusion about which of our nation’s streams, wetlands, lakes and rivers — the source of drinking water for 117 million Americans — are protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act. We need you to take action now!

More than half of our 417 national parks have waterways that are considered “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, meaning they do not meet water quality standards. Repealing the Clean Water Rule will only make a bad situation worse, slowing the progress to protect water in our communities and in our parks, and weakening our ability to hold polluters accountable.

We can’t let that happen.

Tell the U.S. EPA that you choose safe, clean water over polluted waterways!

Thank you for taking action to protect our national parks.

In speech, AG Jeff Sessions joins a nonpartisan chorus in support of campus free expression

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2017 — In a speech today at Georgetown University, Attorney General Jeff Sessions focused attention on the state of free speech on America’s college and university campuses. “The right of free speech does not exist only to protect the ideas upon which most of us agree at a given moment in time,” he noted, urging the students in attendance to “make your voices heard, [and] to defend the rights of others to do the same.”

During his remarks, Sessions recognized the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s work tracking restrictive campus speech codes through our Spotlight database and our lawsuit at Pierce College. He also announced that the Department of Justice will now submit statements of interest in support of student lawsuits that seek to vindicate free speech rights on campus.

“The First Amendment is the law of the land on public campuses, but for decades colleges have been treating that fundamental right as though it’s optional,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “By supporting student litigation, the Department of Justice can help us ensure that all students can express themselves freely on campus.”

Sessions’ remarks come amid high-profile campus controversies. While FIRE has seen the number of blatantly unconstitutional written speech codes trend downward in recent years, there has been an uptick in efforts to disinvite controversial speakers of all political persuasions, a rise in the use of bias response teams to monitor unpopular speech, and unprecedented violence aimed at silencing off-campus speakers.

“Liberal democracies can work out their political differences nonviolently because of the debate and dissent that free speech makes possible,” said Shibley. “As campuses struggle with an uptick in violence in response to controversial speech, we are glad to see the Department of Justice bring much-needed attention to this issue.”

Sessions joins a bipartisan chorus of public officials who have expressed support for free speech on campus in recent years. This summer, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Mitch McConnell both condemned efforts to shut down viewpoints on college campuses. And in 2015, then-President Barack Obama twice defended the importance of free speech on campus. “I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view,” he said in a September 2015 town hall.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

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Wire Reports