August 10, 2010 - Volume VII Edition XV
I'm delighted to report that Lori Berenson has been paroled from a Peruivan prison. It's been a long road for her, and I am so glad that her ordeal is over. She had served 15 years of a 20-year sentence; and is now paroled for four years, with one year off for good behavior.
Lori’s parents are constituents living in the 14th district, and sought my help starting in 1995 when she was first arrested, and I have tried to be helpful in the effort to free her. In 1997, I traveled to Peru and met Lori in prison. She was charming, idealistic and warm, but her health was badly affected by the altitude of the prison in which she was living. She has not had an easy time.
She was initially sentenced in a trial that lacked any semblance of due process. She was re-tried, found innocent of terrorism and convicted of something that would not even be a crime under U.S. law. There is good reason to believe that Lori’s harsh sentence stemmed from the fact that she was an American.
I am thrilled for Lori and for her family that she will now be able to begin to live her life in relative freedom. Lori's family hopes that Lori's sentence will be commuted so that she can return home with her son to the United States, and I am supporting that effort.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33 to 12 in favor of my "James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act," legislation that would provide comprehensive health care and compensation for the first responders and survivors who are sick because of the 9/11 attacks.
The Zadroga Act has now cleared its toughest hurdle so far, to the relief of thousands of Americans who lost their health because of 9/11 and desperately need help. The New York-area Congressional delegation put in long hours to make this victory happen, especially my good friends and Energy and Commerce Committee members Eliot Engel, Anthony Weiner, and Frank Pallone. We’ve now had three key Committee votes in the House in favor of the bill, and with each one the Zadroga Act has gathered new momentum. I look forward to bringing this bill to a vote on the House floor in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, if you've been following the news, you know that a revised settlement of thousands of lawsuits filed by workers who participated in rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero was announced last week. I applaud Judge Hellerstein and the attorneys on both sides for going back to the bargaining table to offer more help to those who lost their health because of the attacks on America.
However, the 11,000 plaintiffs in this case are only a fraction of the more than 20,000 Americans who have been identified by the federal government as having serious 9/11-related illnesses and injuries. In addition, we don’t yet know the full extent of the health problems that will emerge as a result of the attacks, and people are still getting sick.
Congress needs to pass the Zadroga Act this year to give all 9/11 responders and survivors of the attacks proper health care and compensation for their economic losses.
I joined with the majority to pass the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the House. It's the result of years of hard work by advocates of reform all over the United States – and in our uniformed forces around the globe.
From the initial introduction of this profoundly misguided policy in 1993, I've never wavered in my belief that our nation’s armed forces should not discriminate against otherwise qualified citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation. Today, at a time when our nation is engaged militarily in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the extent to which the so-called compromise “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has damaged America’s military readiness has become even more apparent than it was seventeen years ago.
Disallowing lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members to serve openly has resulted in depriving our armed forces of the abilities, experience and dedication of thousands of qualified active duty personnel. It has exacted an extraordinary toll on the lives of the more than 13,000 service members who have been discharged because of their sexual orientation since it was implemented, and its tremendous cost to our nation has actually been documented by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which in 2005 estimated the price of discriminating against service members on the basis of their sexual orientation at nearly $200 million over the course of just the previous decade.
It's long past time that the United States joined the ranks of many of our most trusted allies whose armed forces are respected around the world, such as Great Britain, Israel, Australia, and Canada, in welcoming citizens to serve in its armed forces regardless of their disclosure of their sexual orientation. Now, the United States of America once again demonstrated why it is a beacon of liberty, equality and justice for all.
I've introduced a new bill, H.R. 5361, the “Responsible GSE Affordable Housing Investment Act of 2010," which will sharply curtail the ability of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) to invest in transactions that reduce the availability of affordable housing both in New York and nationwide.The bill will curtail the ability of Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to invest in future deals—like the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village sale—that do not result in an increase in, or preservation of, affordable housing.
GSEs such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are mandated by the federal government to help increase affordable housing. However, both Fannie and Freddie provided crucial liquidity for the purchase of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village--by providing $3 billion in funding-- even though it was apparent the buyers’ business plan relied heavily on the use of aggressive tactics to convert rent-regulated apartments to market rate housing.
What’s more, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earned "affordable housing goals credits" by investing in the Stuyvesant Town deal – despite the fact that the transaction did the opposite of creating or preserving affordable housing!
My bill would require the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to deny affordable housing goals credits when a project's debt is disproportionate to its income – as was the case in the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village sale. The bill will also require the GSEs to use the same standards for assessing their investments in the secondary securities market as they would for direct investments for the purposes of affordable housing goals credits, thus ALIGNING the standards for securities investments with those of direct investments.
It’s wrong that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aided and abetted efforts to slash New York’s stock of affordable housing. In the Stuy Town deal, Fannie and Freddie got affordable housing goals credit where no such credit was due – and for the good of our communities, that’s got to stop. My bill has been cosponsored by New York Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Gregory Meeks, and Yvette Clarke.
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I'm pleased to report that the MTA has responded to my efforts-- and those of virtually every other East Side official-- and added a "Select Bus Service" (SBS) stop in Turtle Bay-- after first proposing NO stops between 42nd and 57th Streets on the new SBS routes going downtown on Second Avenue and uptown on First Avenue.
The new stops, on 49th and 50th Streets, will give much-needed rapid bus service to the increasingly under-served Turtle Bay neighborhood. The MTA has reiterated that it will also be cutting crosstown service to the neighborhood as a result of overall service cuts-- something which I will continue to fight.
I'm deeply concerned that the agreement reached among Iran, Turkey, and Brazil, calling for 1,200 kg of Iran's low-enriched uranium-- which still leaves Iran with enough enriched uranium to make a bomb-- to be exported to Turkey for further enrichment is simply window-dressing to allow Iran to evade sanctions.
That's why I'm pleased that the United Nations Security Council-- led by the U.S.-- has passed new sanctions this week in response to the deal with Brazil and Turkey, a direct violation of previous resolutions and a clear sign that Iran intends to continue to enhance its nuclear capabilities.
This week's passage of resolution 1929 increases the cost to Iran's leadership of their continued defiance of the international community, and aims to persuade Iran that it is in its own interest to peacefully resolve concerns about its nuclear program. It's a clear and strong response to Iran's refusal to address international concerns over its nuclear program.
Iran has a consistent record of reneging on similar international commitments, and it appears to be determined to acquire nuclear weapons, regardless of international condemnation and pressure. Nuclear weapons would enhance Iran’s power in the Middle East and would set off a scramble among other nations seeking to restore the balance by acquiring similar capabilities.
I applaud the Obama Administration for its escalation of efforts to unite the international community in support of sanctions, and I'm pleased that China and Russia supported these new sanctions.
I've re-introduced my "Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act" to protect a woman’s fundamental right of access to legal contraception. The bill would stop pharmacies from denying the sale of contraceptives because of a pharmacy employee’s religious beliefs.
In recent years, women in at least 24 states across the country have reported incidents where they have been denied access to birth control and emergency contraception. 98 percent of American women use birth control at some point in their lives. This bill ensures that any woman who wants birth control and has a legal prescription or is seeking over-the-counter emergency contraception will be able to get it.
The Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act would protect the right of individual pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription, but would also ensure that pharmacies will fill all prescriptions, even if a different pharmacist has to do it. By placing the burden on the pharmacy, the ABC Act strikes a balance between the rights of individual pharmacists who might have personal objections to contraception and the rights of women to receive their medication. In addition, if the requested product is not in stock, but the pharmacy stocks other forms of contraception, the bill mandates that the pharmacy help the woman obtain the medication without delay by the method of her preference: order, referral, or a transferred prescription.
Please feel free to share this email with anyone who may be interested in these issues. As always, I appreciate your comments and invite you to write to me through my website
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress
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