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Volume 12, Number 29
August 10, 2009

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In This Issue
Iran Initiative
JCPA/UJC Israel Advocacy Initiative
Save Darfur
This Week in Washington

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JCPA speaks to you each week, alerting you to what the community relations field is doing to safeguard the rights of Jews here, in Israel, and around the world and to protect, preserve and promote a just, democratic and pluralistic American society. For three generations, we have brought together diverse voices in the Jewish community to unite a strong Jewish public policy force.

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The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is the united voice of the organized Jewish community.  For over half a century, the JCPA has served as an effective mechanism to identify issues, formulate policy, develop strategies and programs, and has given expression to a strongly united Jewish communal voice. By virtue of the JCPA's unique position and structure, our ability to reach out and motivate Jews and non-Jews alike to action is unparalleled. Through our network of 14 national and 125 local equal and independent partner agencies, the JCPA serves as a catalyst that heightens community awareness, encourages civic and social involvement, and deliberates key issues of importance to the Jewish community.

JCPA was formally established as National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) in 1944 by the Council of Jewish Federations to be the public affairs branch of the organized Jewish community.  The name was changed to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in 1997 to reflect more accurately the mission of the agency..

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Iran Initiative
Iran Admits Election Detainees Tortured. Iran's police chief admitted August 9, 2009 that protesters who were arrested after June's disputed presidential election had been tortured while in custody in a prison in south-west Tehran. But he denied that any of the detainees had died as a result. General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam said the head of the Kahrizak detention centre had been dismissed and jailed. "Three policemen who beat detainees have been jailed as well," the official Islamic Republic News Agency news agency quoted Moghaddam as saying. Human rights groups had previously identified at least three detainees they said had died after torture at Kahrizak, which was closed last month on the orders of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Moghaddam denied that the abuses were responsible for any fatalities there, claiming that an unspecified "viral illness" had caused the deaths. Read the article from the Guardian here.


Clinton: No Illusions about Iranian Talks.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the United States has no illusions that Iran will accept overtures to return to negotiations about its nuclear program and will not wait much longer for Tehran to respond. Both Clinton and national security adviser James Jones said in interviews aired August 9 that Washington has little choice but to deal with the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, regardless of U.S. feelings about charges he was re-elected in a fraudulent election and sympathy for the thousands who have protested the outcome. Many protesters were arrested or killed and those jailed are now standing trial. U.S. officials have called the court proceedings "show trials." Read the article from the AP here.
JCPA/UJC Israel Advocacy Initiative

Israeli Official Recalled. Israel's foreign ministry has recalled one of its senior diplomats after he criticized his government for harming ties with the United States. Nadav Tamir, consul-general in Boston, will travel to Jerusalem next week to give "clarification" to the ministry.  In an internal memo, Mr. Tamir wrote that public clashes with Washington over settlement construction were "causing strategic damage to Israel". The government said he had violated protocol by expressing political views.  The three-page document, entitled "Sad thoughts on Israel-US relations," was leaked to Israel's Channel 10 TV. Read the article from the BBC here.


Has Progress Been Made in Shalit Swap Negotiations? Israel and Hamas recently resumed intensive negotiations on a deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, the Palestinian News Agency reported August 9, saying that the parties were close to an agreement. The Prime Minister's Bureau refused to comment on the Palestinian report. But political sources in Jerusalem denied that the sides are close to an agreement, saying the news agency report was merely "spin" by the Palestinians. The sources also said the report came from Islamic Jihad activists who were seeking to foil any progress toward release of the kidnapped soldier. "There is no dramatic progress in the case of Gilad Shalit," said one. Read the full article from Haaretz here.

Save Darfur
UN Says Violence in Sudan Hampering Humanitarian Efforts.  The United Nations World Food Program has condemned the attack August 2 in Jonglei State in Southern Sudan that killed more than 160 people, mostly women and children. WFP says inter-tribal clashes are affecting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the region. The World Food Program says it is concerned the assaults last Sunday in Jonglei State could cause retaliatory attacks and this could lead to more deaths and to more people fleeing their homes. There is a history of tribal clashes in this region. In March and April, inter-tribal fighting killed more than 700 people and displaced 19,000 in Akobo and Pibor counties.  Click here to read the entire article from Voice of America.


This Week in Washington
This Week in Washington.  This week, Healthcare Reform tops the Congressional agenda.  President Obama is in Washington this week and will open bilateral discussions with Chinese officials.  The Supreme Court had adjourned for summer and will return to session in October.  

Healthcare Timeline. Last week, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Senate would not meet President Obama's requested timeline of passing healthcare reform before the August recess. Although the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has passed its "Affordable Health Choices Act," the Senate Finance Committee has yet to release its draft of healthcare reform legislation. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus continues negotiating with the Republicans on his committee in hopes of reaching a bipartisan deal, and has indicated that he expects that a mark-up can be held before the month-long recess beginning August 7th. Once the Finance Committee finishes its draft, their proposal must be combined with the Senate HELP draft, after which the negotiated version will be sent to the full Senate.

In the House, two of the three committees of jurisdiction (Education & Labor and Ways & Means) passed their legislation out of committee on July 17th. However, the House Energy & Commerce Committee halted its mark-up last week in the face of cost-related concerns of a group of Blue Dog Democrats, altering the timetable for House passage of health care reform legislation.

Defense Authorization.  Last week, the Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 by a vote of 87-7. This legislation includes several important provisions such as the Leahy-Collins-Kennedy-Snowe Hate Crimes Amendment.  This legislation also revives and revises the Military Commissions Act of 2006.  New procedural safeguards would be added to the Military Commissions system to protect the rights of the defendants.  Additionally, the Senate approved an amendment by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator John McCain, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee respectively, to reauthorize the F-22 fighter jet program.  President Bush, President Obama and Secretary Gates all opposed the continued production and purchase of F-22s.  However, many Representatives and Senators feared that halting F-22 production would shutter factories in their states and districts.  

Minimum Wage Increase. On Friday, July 24th, the federal minimum wage rose from $6.55/hour to $7.25/hour as the third and final installment of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. This boost will raise wages for an estimated 4.5 million workers in 31 states, providing an additional $1.6 billion annually in increased wages. As consumer spending has fallen in the face of rising unemployment and economic uncertainty, the minimum wage boost is expected to generate $5.5 billion in increased consumer spending over the next year due to a multiplier effect (Economic Policy Institute).

Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations. On Friday, July 24th, the House passed the FY2010 appropriations bill that will fund programs and policies from the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. The bill provides a total of $163.4 billion for these programs, $11 billion more than the FY2009 level, with the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) getting a significant boost. The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to begin marking up its version of the Labor/HHS/Education bill on Tuesday, July 28th.

Adult Education and Workforce Training. On Thursday, July 16th, Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced the "Adult Education and Economic Growth (AEEG) Act of 2009" (S. 1468 and H.R. 3238).  According to the National Commission on Adult Literacy, approximately half of the adult workforce (80 to 90 million people), do not have the basic education and skills necessary to obtain decent-wage jobs that can support a family. In response, this bill would make investments in education and training to help prepare adults to participate in the workforce. Provisions include: providing employers with a tax-credit designed to encourage investments in lower-skilled workers; increasing access to adult literacy, education and workforce skills programs; and ensuring that federal funding formulas are sensitive to the adult education and workforce needs of states.

Section Eight Voucher Reform Act of 2009 (SEVRA).  On Thursday, July 23rd, the House Financial Services Committee passed SEVRA (HR 3045), moving forward a bill that would both improve the existing Section 8 program, as well as authorize 150,000 new vouchers. Section 8 is a program that offers rental assistance to approximately two million low-income families.
Contribute to JCPA

JCPA speaks to you each week, alerting you to what the community relations field is doing to safeguard the rights of Jews here, in Israel, and around the world and to protect, preserve and promote a just, democratic and pluralistic American society. For three generations, we have brought together diverse voices in the Jewish community to unite a strong Jewish public policy force.

We hope you will continue to enjoy our three weekly emails.

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