Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Udall Statement on Overwhelming House Passage of Chemical Safety Reform

U.S. Senator Tom Udall welcomed passage in the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 403-12 of landmark reform of our nation's broken chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). Udall authored the reform bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, with Senator David Vitter (R-La.) to finally enable the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the thousands of chemicals manufactured each year and used in common household items -- including known carcinogens and highly toxic substances, like formaldehyde, asbestos, lead, flame retardants and BPA.

The Senate is expected to vote later this week, and the White House has indicated that the president will sign the bill. Udall issued the following statement:

"TSCA was intended to protect Americans from dangerous chemicals, but it has been broken from the very beginning. We're exposed to hundreds of chemicals in our daily lives in countless ways -- from flame retardants in the dust from your sofas to formaldehyde in non-iron shirts, and from the non-stick coating on your frying pans to volatile organic compounds given off from laser printers. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer or serious health problems, yet there has never been a cop on the beat keeping us safe.

"The House vote today is a major milestone that has taken years of negotiation and collaboration across both parties and both houses of Congress. We aren't done yet -- the Senate still needs to pass this bill. But we are steps away from finally having a working chemical safety law that protects our children and our communities from dangerous chemicals." [press release]

Friday, May 27, 2016

GOP schism only political game afoot in chemical toilet

Every media outlet in South Dakota reads like a bulletin from the South Dakota Republican Party.

Registration trends show that Democrats are signing up as earth haters and GOPers are leaving that party to become unaffiliated with any political organ. Joe Lowe has called South Dakota's current governor incompetent.
During South Dakota’s 2014 legislative session, HCR 1017 — a resolution urging the federal government to reconsider hemp’s status as a controlled substance and recognize its viability in agriculture — was introduced. District 19 Rep. Stace Nelson (R) co-authored the resolution along with primary sponsor Elizabeth May (R-27) and told the Press & Dakotan hemp is deeply rooted in American history. Despite the setback, Nelson said he believes the Farm Bill provision, plus time and increased education on the subject, could make it easier to enact legislation aimed at easing hemp restrictions in the coming years. “Next year, we’ll probably see another bill come forward,” he said. “As people get educated on it and understand more, I see it not being a problem in the future.” [Rob Nielsen, Yankton Press and Dakotan]
Establishment obese Republican Student Association President Caleb Finck has announced a run for the state senate from District 19.
We are witnessing corruption in South Dakota that is akin to Third World country corruption. We had politicians that happily sold out that state of South Dakota to get access to communist Chinese money. Wasted millions of taxpayer dollars to do so. I don't know of anybody in my field (military intelligence) that would think it was wise or prudent for any elected official to marry South Dakota taxpayer dollars with communist Chinese interests. [Rep. Stace Nelson, interview in Rapid City Journal]
As a CASA volunteer former state Representative Stace Nelson picked up the pieces shattered by the Rounds/Daugaard years. This reporter certainly doesn't agree with everything Nelson believes in but he is honest to a fault: a trait sorely lacking in any of the other candidates in South Dakota's Republican Party.

The GOP D19 primary winner will face Democrat Russell Graeff of Scotland.

If only there was a wall of separation between church and state in South Dakota.

It would be interesting to some to know how much South Dakota Right to Life has diverted to the lobbyists who drafted law to end victims’ rights in suing for clergy sex abuse cases.

South Dakota voters have had it with single-party rule in the chemical toilet.

This blog received a completely out of the blue call from a transgendered person in Aberdeen who railed not only against Stace Nelson but against sniveling liberal blogger Cory Heidelberger. Livid at Heidelberger's lack of progressive ideals the caller is preparing to flee the chemical toilet that is South Dakota.

Republican former state senator Stan Adelstein has called out fellow GOPer and nutcase Phil Jensen for dodging the draft during the Vietnam War.

For the record I've called the New Mexico, Montana and South Dakota Democratic presidential primaries for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. If Democrats regain control of the Senate Sanders will become chair of the powerful Budget Committee.

Heinrich: Halt French Auction of Sacred Native American Artifacts

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is urging the U.S. State Department to take all possible action to help repatriate stolen cultural items to Native American tribes. In the United States, it is illegal to sell ceremonial Native American items. However, in France, where an auction of the items is planned for May 30, 2016, it is not.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Heinrich wrote, "The United States must do everything in its power to ensure that priceless Native American cultural artifacts are returned to the rightful homes instead of being sold off to the highest bidder."

The Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico has identified a shield as cultural patrimony--objects having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself and are illegal to sell--that is set for auction in France.

"The Pueblo has previously been unable to halt foreign auction of their cultural patrimony, which has resulted in profound damage to the Pueblo's control over their own sacred objects. I urge you to work with your French counterparts to halt the auction before more of the Pueblo's cultural history is sold off into private collections," Senator Heinrich wrote. [press release]

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tester Announces $2.3 Million for Crow Tribe’s Head Start Program

Vice-Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Senator Jon Tester announced today that the Crow Tribe will receive more than $2 million for its Head Start Program.

"The immense benefits of early childhood education have been clearly established, time and time again," Tester, a former teacher, said. "This grant will go towards educating the next generation of Crow Tribe leaders, sowing the seeds for a strong and prosperous future."

The $2,328,861 comes from the Administration for Children and Families' American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Grants Program and will support early childhood education, health screenings and referrals, and family support services. Tester has been a strong supporter of Head Start advocating for increased funding for the program earlier this year and voting for an amendment that would have increased Head Start funding last year.

Tester has fought hard to improve Native education throughout the state, sponsoring 21 bills brought before the Indian Affairs Committee since the start of the 114th Congress. Last month, four of his bills were passed through the Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. These bills included the NEST Act, which would create incentives to help recruit and retain quality educators at Native schools; the Tribal Early Childhood Act, which would increase access to early childhood education programs for tribal youth; and the SAFETY Act, which would fund the construction of new classrooms, housing, labs, and other educational facilities at tribal schools.

You can read more about Tester's work improving education in Indian Country HERE. [press release]

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Heinrich Meets With U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland, Urges Republicans to Do Their Job

Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) met with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

"Judge Garland and I had an extensive conversation, which shed light on his distinguished record and thoughtful judicial philosophy. I will continue to thoroughly consider his nomination for our highest court," said Sen. Heinrich. "The political games surrounding the Supreme Court nomination process have been extremely disappointing. There is no reason beyond partisan politics to deprive the American people of a fully-staffed Supreme Court. The Senate Republicans' refusal to hold hearings and a vote on Judge Garland's nomination is irresponsible and contrary to the oaths we all swore. It is long past time for every member of the Senate to do their job."

Senator Heinrich has consistently pressed Senate Republicans to do their job and meet their constitutional duties. [press release]

Friday, May 20, 2016

Franken, Klobuchar, Nolan Announce Final Tariffs to Combat Steel Dumping

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, along with Representative Rick Nolan, announced today final tariffs to combat steel dumping. Klobuchar, Franken, Nolan have repeatedly called on the Administration to take action to curb steel dumping from countries like China. Minnesota's iron ore miners and steelworkers are adversely impacted by these unfair trade practices. The Department of Commerce announced final tariffs this week on imports of cold-rolled steel from China and Japan. The tariffs on Chinese steel are set at 266 percent and 71 percent for Japanese steel.

"Steel dumping has harmed our domestic industry and left many workers on the Iron Range without a job to support their families. To advocate for our workers, I have long called for the Administration to take tougher action to address the dumping of Chinese steel on our shores," said Klobuchar. "These final tariffs will help curb steel dumping and level the playing field for Minnesota's iron ore miners and steelworkers. The next step is for Congress to pass our bills to strengthen America's trade enforcement capabilities and ensure laid-off workers affected by steel dumping receive the support they deserve."

"Minnesota's Iron Rangers know they can compete with anybody in the world on a level-playing field," said Franken. "But when countries like China manipulate their currency and dump subsidized steel into our markets, they steal jobs in Minnesota and across the country and threaten our businesses, families, and entire communities. These tariffs on subsidized and mispriced Chinese steel are something I've fought to make happen for a long time now, because the Northland can't afford to lose more jobs. I'm going to continue pushing to better enforce our trade laws and help support our iron ore miners and steelworkers."

"Mining and steel production are what we do here on the Iron Range - it's our way of life," Nolan said. "Trade cheater nations dumping low-grade, sub-par steel into our market has threatened that way of life and caused job losses across our region. I'm pleased to see the Administration heeding our call to take stronger action against steel dumping. After all, America's iron ore mining and steel industries are the foundation of our economic security and our national security. It is imperative that we ensure the strength these industries and support the hardworking men and women who work in these industries."

In February, after efforts from Klobuchar, Franken, and Nolan the Administration announced new actions to combat steel dumping. The executive actions from the White House added Customs and Border Patrol personnel to enforce our trade laws, stepped up inspections of steel imports at our ports of entry, and increased personnel at the Commerce Department to help ensure tariffs are enforced against those who dump steel in the U.S. The President also signed legislation (HR 644) that provides additional tools to more aggressively enforce anti-dumping provisions under existing federal law.

Klobuchar is a leader in efforts to fight foreign steel dumping and provide support for our U.S. steelworkers and miners affected by recent layoffs. Klobuchar and Franken have introduced legislation to crack down on illegal steel dumping by strengthening trade enforcement. Following consistent pressure from Klobuchar last year, the International Trade Commission voted to impose penalties on Mexican, Turkish, and Korean companies dumping steel in the U.S. She also led a letter with Franken and Nolan to successfully urge the U.S. Department of Labor to expedite approval of TAA petitions submitted by workers from the affected mining operations.

Franken has been working hard to crack down on illegal trade practices by foreign countries that hurt Minnesota's workers and businesses. He has also been fighting to ensure that workers get the job training and education support they need when they've been laid off. In December, he stressed the urgency of the jobs crisis in the Northland directly to President Obama's Chief of Staff at an Iron Range meeting he helped arrange with mining companies, affected steelworkers, and local officials. And then, at this year's State of the Union Address, he again spoke directly with the White House Chief of Staff about the issue. Franken has also pressed key trade agencies to act to limit the damage being done by unfairly priced foreign steel and has introduced legislation with Klobuchar that would bolster trade enforcement laws. Last week, Franken led the introduction of the China Market Economy Status Congressional Review Act, which would help keep unfair Chinese trade practices in check and protect Iron Range workers.

Nolan has been leading the charge against illegal steel dumping and other unfair trade practices since returning to Congress in 2013 after spending 32 years away from Washington working in the private sector. He has testified in-person several times before the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the Department of Commerce to demand stronger action against foreign steel dumping. Nolan has also led several bipartisan letters calling attention to steel dumping and pressing for immediate action to solve the crisis. [press release]


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Polis Joins in Introducing Legislation to Keep Congress in Session Until Senate Considers Merrick Garland Nomination

Representative Jared Polis (CO-02) joined Representatives Elizabeth Esty (CT-5), Chris Van Hollen (MD-8), Tammy Duckworth (IL-8), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), and Patrick Murphy (FL-18) in introducing legislation to prohibit Congress from adjourning this summer without holding a public hearing or a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the United States Supreme Court.

In the history of the United States, every Supreme Court nominee who has not withdrawn from consideration has received a vote within 125 days of their nomination. The Senate’s Court Obligations Trump Unconstitutional Stalling (SCOTUS) Resolution holds Congress accountable for meeting that (still very generous) timeline.

If the Senate has not held hearings on Judge Garland’s nomination by July 19, the SCOTUS Resolution will require Congress to remain in session through the summer, during the July party conventions, and through the rest of the year until Congress fulfills its Constitutional duty to act.

“This is a precedent we don’t want to set for Presidents,” Polis said. “Congress should not adjourn or go home until they have fulfilled their constitutional duty and have held hearings on a Supreme Court nomination. It’s irresponsible to play politics with the Supreme Court and refuse to even hold a hearing. This resolution will hold the Senate accountable until they have upheld their sworn constitutional obligation to the people they serve.”

“The American people expect Congress to do its job even when there is an election coming up,” Esty said. “Senator McConnell, Senator Grassley, and their colleagues are acting as though they have a choice whether to do their jobs or play political games. We should pass the SCOTUS Resolution and make clear that they have no such choice: Congress can either carry out its Constitutional responsibility or members will lose the privilege of time off to campaign for their seats.”

“Waiting nearly a year to begin the process of replacing a Supreme Court justice is a total abdication of the Senate's constitutional responsibilities,” Van Hollen said. “Denying a President’s nominee fair consideration is an unacceptable and dangerous political game. Americans deserve a Senate that does its job – and a fully-seated bench on the Supreme Court to weigh in on the pressing issues facing our nation.”

“A fully-functioning Supreme Court isn’t just nice to have; it’s crucial to our democracy and should be above petty partisan politics,” Duckworth said. “The American people don’t deserve—and can’t afford—a deadlocked court unable to rule on the most important legal questions of our time. But, as this week’s non-decision on contraceptive access proves, that’s exactly what this unprecedented obstruction has allowed. The Senate needs to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities, do its job and hold hearings and a vote on Judge Garland’s nomination. We shouldn’t let them go home until they do.”

“Let’s just say it straight: Senators who refuse to fill the Supreme Court vacancy are refusing to do their jobs,” Kirkpatrick said. “Voters deserve representation and expect results, and that includes during election years. Politicians can spin it any way they want, but the American people see right through it – they know this blockade in the Senate is a partisan ploy. Let’s pass the SCOTUS Resolution and send a strong message that elected leaders don’t just get to skip town for a prolonged recess – they must carry out their constitutional duties.”

"President Obama carried out his constitutional duty in nominating Merrick Garland and now it is time for Congress to do its job. Judge Garland, with his distinguished legal career and long history of service to our nation, deserves a fair hearing. To block consideration is an abdication of the Senate's constitutional duties, and the American people deserve better,” Murphy said. “I stand with my colleagues in calling for Congress to remain in session until the Senate does what is right and treats this nomination with the seriousness it deserves."

Without a ninth Supreme Court justice, several important cases before the Court this year are at risk of deadlocked decisions. When deadlocks occur, the law reverts to the decisions of the lower Circuit Courts – which are very often in conflict with one another, creating different legal standards in different parts of the country. On March 22, the Supreme Court handed down its first deadlocked decision since Justice Scalia’s death in Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore.

The longest it’s ever taken for the Senate to consider a Supreme Court nominee was the 1916 nomination of Louis Brandeis, who was confirmed after 125 days. If the Senate does not consider Judge Garland by July 19, 2016, it will break that century-old record. When President Obama nominated Judge Garland on March 16, 2016, there were 309 days left in his presidential term.

Senators obstructing Judge Garland’s nomination have made no secret of the fact that their motivations are political. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) recently told reporters that despite what he described as Judge Garland’s “keen intellect” and record “of accomplishment,” he believes the Senate should only consider his nomination if it appears likely that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump will lose in November’s general election.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bennet Applauds Additional EPA Funds for Gold King Mine Spill

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement regarding the announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing an additional $63,406 to assist La Plata County in its cleanup efforts related to the Gold King Mine spill.

"This is a step in the right direction for the local governments who were affected by the spill," Bennet said. "However, the EPA still has work to do to make La Plata County whole. We will continue to fight for full reimbursement from the agency."

On August 5, 2015 the Gold King Mine spill emptied three million gallons of contaminated wastewater into the Animas River turning it bright orange and damaging communities downstream. Since the spill, Bennet has worked to ensure that the EPA addresses all of the local communities' concerns and prioritizes funding for cleanup of the spill. Two weeks ago, Senator Bennet met with elected officials from La Plata County, San Juan County, Durango, and Silverton regarding the spill, reimbursements, and long-term monitoring. After those meetings, he called EPA Administrator McCarthy to urge her to fully reimburse all of the affected counties, cities, and tribes.

Senator Bennet also recently joined Senator Cory Gardner, Congressman Scott Tipton, and Governor John Hickenlooper in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on the EPA to implement the Superfund designation in a way that works for the region and move the claims and reimbursement process forward quickly. In Congress, he has introduced The Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act to ensure the EPA compensates all communities and tribes affected by the spill and the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 to update our mining laws and provide funding for cleaning up abandoned mine sites. He is also working with Senator Cory Gardner and Representative Scott Tipton on Good Samaritan legislation that would allow local groups to help clean up the hundreds of abandoned mine sites across the state. [press release]

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Polis commends Department of Education guidelines directing schools to provide equitable access to bathrooms

Today, the Department of Education and Department of Justice sent guidance to schools across the country directing them to provide transgender students access to bathroom facilities that align with their gender identity. The letter makes it clear that public schools and postsecondary institutions that receive federal funds should comply with the guidance, and that incompliance would be a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. The Administration’s action comes shortly after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against North Carolina over the state’s HB2 - a law requiring individuals to use bathrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate.

“The Obama Administration’s letter is an important step towards protecting every student’s basic civil rights, regardless of their gender identity,” Polis said. “Especially in a learning environment, students shouldn’t have to worry about being banned from using the appropriate bathroom because of how they identify. I commend the Administration’s actions in establishing these safeguards and making it known for schools across the nation that discrimination will not be tolerated.”

Since 2010 Polis has introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) - aimed at preventing discrimination against LGBT students in public schools – every session. He’s also an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other existing laws to prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in the areas of employment, education, credit, housing, federal funding, jury service, and public accommodations.

Polis is the senior most co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and the first openly gay parent to serve in Congress. [press release]

Monday, May 16, 2016

After Pressure from Sens. Franken and Baldwin, Depts. of Education and Justice Release Guidelines to Protect Transgender Students

Today, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) applauded the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice for releasing comprehensive guidelines that will help protect transgender students. These new guidelines instruct schools how to protect transgender students from discrimination, and also direct public schools to permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

Sens. Franken and Baldwin have been leaders in advocating for LGBT students and recently led a broad coalition of 40 Senators in pressing the Department of Education to release comprehensive guidance on the protections afforded to transgender and gender non-conforming students in education. The Senators also praised the Departments for issuing model policies to ensure that transgender students enjoy a supportive school environment free from discrimination and harassment—a significant step forward that the coalition of Senators called for in their letter.

"LGBT students-like any other students-should never feel like they don't belong," said Sen. Franken. "Unfortunately, we've seen far too many attempts to marginalize and discriminate against our LGBT students, neighbors, and family members. I am very pleased that the Obama Administration took real action to ensure that we are providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students. This is a big win."

"Every student deserves the freedom and opportunity to dream the same dreams, get a great education, and have the same shot at success. Today's guidance will help schools provide a supportive environment for students free of discrimination." said Senator Baldwin. "Every student deserves to be treated fairly and this marks an important and historic step forward for our country as we work to create an America that is more equal, not less."

Transgender and gender non-conforming students continue to face a disproportionate amount of discrimination compared to their peers. And so, amid attempts by legislatures in states like North Carolina to limit the rights of LGBT people and transgender students, the Senators have been fighting to ensure our LGBT students are protected from discrimination and harassment.

Sen. Franken has long pressed to protect the rights of our LGBT students. Earlier this year, reports revealed that some private colleges and universities sought waivers from federal civil rights laws, which would allow certain institutions to claim exemptions from complying with LGBT non-discrimination protections on religious grounds. In response, Sen. Franken joined several of his colleagues in successfully pressing the Department of Education to help students and families make more informed decisions during the college search process by posting online what schools applied for the waivers. Sen. Franken is also the chief author of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which would establish explicit federal protections against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and would also forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassment. [press release]


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Polis Releases Statement Regarding EPA Rule

Representative Jared Polis (D-Colo.) released the following statement today after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a finalized rule to limit methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas facilities. Modeled after recent action in Colorado, the rule will avoid the equivalent of 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2025, and creates climate benefits of over $170 million. This is an important, cost-effective way to protect our health and communities, combat climate change and reduce wasted natural gas.

“Methane emissions have a negative and devastating impact on our climate, and we must act now to reduce methane gas emissions,” Polis said. “While I am disappointed the EPA rule only targets new and modified sources, the EPA not only has the right to act and require a reduction of methane emissions, but the responsibility.” [press release]

Friday, May 13, 2016

Senate Approves Funding for Tribal Loan Program Championed by Sen. Franken

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said that—for the first time ever—the Senate has approved funding that he has long championed for a key tribal loan program. The funds, $9 million for 2017, would help create jobs, ensure access to reliable energy on tribal lands, and enable new energy infrastructure investments.

The funds, which now await consideration in the House of Representatives, are expected to leverage about $50 to $85 million for energy projects in Indian Country and were passed as part of the Senate's annual appropriations bill to fund the nation's energy and water development.

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program will help bring power to regions of Indian Country that need it most by providing loans and loan guarantees to tribes and tribal organizations to support electricity generation projects. The program—which was created more than a decade ago but has never received funding—would not only help generate reliable and resilient energy, but also support high-quality, good-paying jobs and promote economic growth in Indian Country.

"This is a big win for Indian Country," said Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Energy and Indian Affairs Committees. "Developing tribal energy resources will help bring power to the most remote parts of tribal lands by improving access to reliable energy and it will provide much needed jobs. This measure will give a real boost to tribal economies and encourage smart investments in critical energy infrastructure. I am pleased that this important program passed the Senate, and I will continue working hard to see that it passes the House and is signed into law."

Sen. Franken has long been a strong supporter of energy investments in Indian Country and recently went to the Senate floor to highlight the importance of the program. By encouraging borrowers to cooperate with private entities—such as utility companies—the program will leverage private investment to meet local needs. DOE expects strong interest in the program from American Indian tribes. The DOE currently provides tribes with technical assistance for energy projects, but does not have any way to help tribes access much needed financing.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tester Takes Another Step to Revitalize and Expand Native American Languages

Senator Jon Tester today took another step forward to revitalize and expand Native American languages after his Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act was unanimously passed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Tester's bill reauthorizes the Native American Language Program through 2020. The initiative funds Native language classes and restoration initiatives throughout Indian Country.

"Promoting Native languages strengthens students' cultural identity and ensures the preservation of rich historical languages," said Tester, Vice Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Students who take Native language courses do better in school and are more connected to their community. It is critical to Indian Country that this legislation and other Native language bills move forward on the Senate floor."

The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act will also expand the Native American Language Program's eligibility to include smaller class sizes, and lengthens the time before an organization has to reapply for the grant.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, applications for grants through the program almost doubled from 2013 to 2014, highlighting the urgent need and demand to revitalize Native American languages.

In October, Tester's Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act passed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. This bill, which creates a new grant opportunity for tribes to establish or expand Native language immersion programs across Indian Country, was incorporated into and enacted as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Schools serving Native students will be able to apply for the first round of grants under this program starting in 2017.

All of the approximately 148 Native languages that are still spoken in the United States are at risk of extinction within the next 50 to 100 years, unless drastic measures are taken. Eighty-three percent of these languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers each.

The Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act is named for the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo linguist and storyteller Esther Martinez and is cosponsored by Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii.). [press release]

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Heinrich: National Bison Legacy Act Signed Into Law

U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) today announced that the president has signed into law legislation they introduced designating the bison as the U.S. national mammal. The bipartisan bill, the National Bison Legacy Act, also recognizes the historical, economic, and cultural significance of the bison, as well as its importance to many Native American tribes as a sacred and spiritual symbol of their heritage.

"Recognition of our new national mammal will bring a new source of pride for Americans-just like the bald eagle-and also bring greater attention to ongoing species recovery efforts," said Sen. Heinrich. "Bison are a uniquely American animal and are the embodiment of American strength and resilience. The bison has been an important part of our culture for many generations, especially in New Mexico, across the West, and in Indian Country. I hope that in my lifetime, thanks to a broad coalition of ranchers, wildlife advocates, and tribal nations, we will see bison return to the prominent place they once occupied in our nation's shortgrass prairies."

"The bison is now officially the U.S. National Mammal and rightfully so," said Sen. Hoeven. ‘Bison are strong, proud and free, and a truly American icon with an incredible story. These noble creatures were brought back from the brink of extinction in our nation's first great conservation effort. They are also an important spiritual symbol for many Native Americans. So, for all Americans, the bison is the right choice to be our national mammal. We look forward to honoring our new national mammal - hopefully with a live bison - at an induction ceremony in our nation's capital."

Senators Heinrich and Hoeven introduced the Senate bill and it was unanimously approved by the Senate last December. The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in late April, and the Senate concurred with the House bill, then sent it to the president for signature. The senators thanked the Vote Bison Coalition, which is led by the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association, and Wildlife Conservation Society, for supporting the legislation. The coalition counts more than 50 businesses, tribal groups, and organizations who have banded together to support efforts to celebrate bison.

More than 40 million bison once roamed across most of North America. But by the late 1800s, fewer than one thousand bison remained. The species is acknowledged as the first American conservation success story, having been brought back from the brink of extinction by a concerted effort of ranchers, conservationists, and politicians to save the species in the early 20th century.

In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt and the American Bison Society led an effort to save the bison from extinction by establishing a captive breeding program at the Bronx Zoo. Within a few years, the program and others like it, were successfully establishing bison back into their native habitat. Bison now live in all 50 states in public and private herds, providing recreation opportunities for wildlife viewers in zoos, refuges, and parks, and sustaining the multimillion dollar bison ranching and production business. [press release]

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Klobuchar holding US military responsible for burn pits

As the US Air Force prepares to practice-bomb parts of North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming Democrats are moving to protect American citizens in harm's way.

Like Al Franken, Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Minn) has been mentioned as the running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Klobuchar is holding the glutted US military accountable for injuries to service personnel.

Klobuchar and this blog follow each other on Twitter.
A prosthetic leg. A scarred face. A burned hand. When we think of the wounds our soldiers endure, we think of injuries we can see. But sometimes these wounds go unseen and, too often uncared for.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. sprayed 80 million liters of Agent Orange, contaminating water and exposing more than two million members of the military.

After being exposed to this toxin, Vietnam vets came home with nerve, skin, digestive and respiratory disorders. By the thousands, veterans turned to hospitals for help. But it took the government years to recognize that there was a link between Agent Orange and the devastating health effects on our soldiers. So, veterans had to wait to get the care they desperately needed and clearly earned.

Today we have a new Agent Orange: Burn pits.

At military sites across Iraq and Afghanistan, burn pits are used for waste disposal. Old batteries, aerosol cans, tires, dead animals, and even human waste are tossed into the pit and set ablaze, sometimes aided by serious fire accelerants like jet fuel. Burn pits represent a shortcut to waste disposal in the Middle East, where lacking infrastructure means there are few alternatives for trash disposal.

The volumes and types of materials vary by site, but the Department of Defense has estimated that between 65,000 and 85,000 pounds of solid waste are burned each day at large bases. One Joint Base burned up to 147 tons of waste per day as recently as the summer of 2008. The open-air pits would frequently burn 24 hours a day. Soldiers are, and have been, been exposed to them in a big way. And while they are now being replaced with incinerators and landfills, that exposure has begun raising serious health concerns.

Melissa Gillett was a member of the 148th Fighter Wing based in Duluth, Minnesota. Melissa got into the National Guard with the intention on staying in for 20 years. That changed after her deployment to Afghanistan and exposure to burn pits. Melissa has experienced a host of negative health effects like sinus and respiratory issues. She has been diagnosed with asthma and sinusitis. Because of her breathing issues, Melissa was unable to pass her fitness test and can no longer serves in the National Guard.

Stories like Melissa’s are all too common. During sustained operations overseas, many North Carolina-based service members were directly exposed to burn pits for extended periods of time. Especially in the early stages of engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, forward operating bases relied heavily on burn pits, inundating Marines from Camp Lejeune and soldiers from Fort Bragg with smoke, debris, and lingering particle dust that carried along a toxic mix from the burn pits.

When a veteran’s wounds aren’t visible, providing the proof necessary for a claim with the VA can be burdensome. But it shouldn’t be – we’ve learned that much from experience.

Cancer, reproductive effects, cardiovascular toxicity, insomnia, and respiratory diseases are just some of the health problems being named by the nearly 65,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have begun the process of filing reports with the VA’s voluntary registry. Of veterans who completed the questionnaire in its entirety, 30 percent stated that they have been diagnosed with respiratory diseases.

Our bipartisan bill, the Help Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, would create a center of excellence at the VA to better understand and begin to address the health needs of veterans who have fallen ill after exposure to burn pits. The bill has broad support from health care organizations and nonprofits serving veterans, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the American Lung Association. This critical legislation will move us in the right direction by dedicating staff and resources to exploring prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions stemming from exposure to burn pits.

There was no waiting line for our men and women in uniform when they raised their right hands and volunteered to serve. There shouldn’t be a waiting line when they return home and need our help getting the care they’ve earned. We must do right by our veterans. We can’t let burn pits become this generation’s Agent Orange. [press release]

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sen. Franken: Treasury Department Decision to Reject Steep Pension Cuts is Important News for Retirees in Minnesota, Across Country

A ticket with Hillary Clinton and Minnesota's Al Franken as her veep pick would be formidable against whichever clowns the GOP earth haters nominate.

Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) released the following statement after the Department of Treasury rejected a plan that would have drastically cut the hard-earned pensions of nearly 15,000 retirees in Minnesota and across the country.

The announcement, which you can read about by clicking here, means that retired workers who paid into the Central States Pension Fund will not be forced to face pension cuts of up to 50 percent.

"I believe Minnesotans who work hard and are promised financial security ought to be able to retire with dignity," said Sen. Franken. "Teamster retirees worked for decades and paid in to the Central States Pension Fund under the promise that when they retired their pensions would be there to support them and their loved ones. That's why I'm glad the Department of Treasury recognized something I've been saying for a long time now: these proposed cuts were ill-conceived and unfair to the men and women who earned their pensions. This is the right decision for Minnesota retirees, and now, Congress needs to have an open and honest debate on the long-term solvency of our multi-employer pension system—because we must uphold the promises made to all workers."

In 2014, the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act—a law that Sen. Franken voted against—removed pension protections that had been in place for 40 years and allowed pension plans to apply for permission to cut retiree benefits. As a member of the Senate Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Franken heard from many Minnesotans who feared that pensions cuts won't just severely affect their quality of retirement, but may also force them out of their homes.

Sen. Franken is a cosponsor of the Keep Our Pension Promises Act, which would restore pension protections for retirees, and last month, he led a broad coalition of Senators in warning the Treasury Department that approving the cuts would be devastating to hundreds of thousands of Americans and raising significant concerns with the Central States application.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Daugaard's hypocrisy knows no bounds

A Feeding America survey shows 105,880 people in South Dakota are food insecure. Homelessness in the state is rampant; drunk driving, meth use and teen binge drinking are off the charts.

The state is second in addiction to gambling and teachers' salaries are 51st in the nation. Wage slavery is the state's biggest claim to fame and South Dakota dairies are wreaking habitat havoc. Infrastructure is crumbling and the state's bureaucracy is overbearing and unwieldy. Ag groups want federally subsidized crop insurance and the right to pollute. Corruption and graft are commonplace.

Pollution from industrial agriculture has made waterways poisonous, the state has no modern statute addressing financial assurances for pipeline leaks. Trophy fishing for threatened species is a tourist activity. East River, South Dakota is a dead zone and likely a new repository for nuclear waste. Fireworks are the likely source of Mount Rushmore water pollution.

Racism is endemic and white immigrants have been accepted while displacing and disgracing American Indians. South Dakota wrongly puts thousands in nursing homes. Mass incarceration fuels the white foster home industry: a pet project of the governor's wife.

South Dakota hid evidence in the death of Brady Folkens. Republican Attorney General Marty Jackley routinely benefits from court deals with his campaign donors while the South Dakota Newspaper Association reads like a bulletin for the Republican Party.

But, earth hater and climate change denier Governor Denny Daugaard had the temerity to travel to the Sicangu Oyate to tell tribal leaders they have better shit to do than restore Pe 'Sla to federal trust status taking it off the tax rolls.
The governor began his presentation by noting how little he knew about tribal politics, history and land issues when he first came into office in 2011, but explained that he had learned about these topics over the past five years from South Dakota Tribal Relations Secretaries. [Daugaard] didn’t mention either of the reasons for appeal noted in the September 2015 document from the S.D. Attorney General’s office while discussing the land transfer before the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council. [Jim Kent]
No, Pe' Sla has not been a gathering site for the Lakota for "thousands of years." The Lakota acquired horses around 1740 and crossed the Missouri River shortly after, occupying the Black Hills about 1750. But, there is at least one legal precedent for Pe 'Sla trust status: North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation consists of three separate tribes.

It's only a matter of time before the US Department of Interior, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency come to South Dakota and tell Gov. Daugaard he has better shit to do than tell sovereign tribes how to run their worlds.

Monday, May 2, 2016

South Dakota hid evidence in Brady Folkens' death

Here's is an update from Brady Folkens' mom:

Please share with everyone!!
H.L. Aanning MD LLC
Medical/Surgical Consultants
Member AMA and FACS
252 Gavins Point Road Yankton SD 57078

29 April 2016
RE: Brady Folkens (died 21 December 2013)

To the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners:

I was asked by Dawn Folkens Van Ballegooyen to read over the medical records she received from Avera McKennon Hospital, and to let her know how and why her son, Brady Folkens, died on 21 December 2013 in the ICU at that facility.

After going over these medical records I have come to the conclusion that:
1. Dr. Raed Sulaiman omitted a crucial laboratory result in his Final Autopsy Report dictated 15 January 2014:
a. Dr. Sulaiman failed to include a negative IgM for parvovirus B19 (PVB19) that precluded Brady Folkens having an acute PVB19 infection.
b. Dr. Sulaiman did include a positive IgG and two positive PCR tests (myocardial and blood)—but all three are positive in over 50% of juveniles the same age as Brady Folkens (17 years) and only prove that Brady Folkens had a prior exposure to PVB19. Here is the detail of the Final Autopsy Report showing Dr. Sulaiman’s omission of the IgM for parvovirus B19:

c. Dr. Sulaiman concluded, as his final diagnosis/cause of death, that Brady Folkens died from lymphocytic myocarditis caused by acute PVB19 infection.
d. Lymphocytic myocarditis can also be caused by drug reactions, autoimmune disease, viral infections, or can be idiopathic.
e. Again, a negative IgM for PVB19 conclusively eliminated this virus as a cause of Brady Folkens death
i. I communicated with multiple experts on PVB19-induced lymphocytic myocarditis and they are all in agreement that a negative IgM virtually eliminates parvovirus PVB19 as a cause of Brady Folkens’ death.

2. This should have been a forensic autopsy as Brady Folkens suffered his three-day illness leading to his death while in custody of the SD Corrections Department. The following issues raise questions as to Dr. Sulaiman’s expertise and competence to perform a forensic autopsy:
a. Dr. Sulaiman is not certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties in any field of pathology—specifically: clinical, laboratory, or forensic—as no entry is found on the ABMS website.
i. The McKennon Hospital website describes Dr. Sulaiman as being board-certified—and since Dr. Sulaiman is an employee of the Hospital, and the Hospital has access to ABMS data, the website is misrepresenting Dr. Sulaiman as a board-certified pathologist.
b. Dr. Sulaiman dictates that “Autopsy Consent” was obtained from Dawn Folkens as shown in this detail:

But, in fact, Dr. Sulaiman never explained the autopsy (for restrictions) nor obtained consent from Dawn Folkens (who actually had a promise from Dr. Recalde that the autopsy would be done at Sanford).
i. Significantly, there is no consent form for the autopsy in Brady Folkens medical records, and Dawn Folkens never signed one.
c. The “Clinical History” in the Final Autopsy Report is grossly deficient in describing Brady Folkens medical history prior to his death—specifically the following crucial elements were omitted (although more or less present in all the dictations by the other physicians in the ICU during Brady Folkens terminal hours—especially Dr. Masannat’s):
i. Medications
ii. Allergies
iii. Past Medical History - surgical/medical
iv. Family History
v. Habits
vi. All this information was available from the chart—or even from his mother who lives in Brookings
d. In the microscopic examination of the myocardial tissue, Dr. Sulaiman dictates:

Repeating Dr. Sulaiman: “The findings are of lymphocytic myocarditis, suggestive of viral etiology.” But Dr. Sulaiman does not describe any findings that are “suggestive” of a viral etiology.
e. Pertinent pre-terminal diagnoses—liver failure/hepatitis with markedly elevated AST (877) and ALT (260)—were all ignored by Dr. Sulaiman in his Final Autopsy Report.
i. Dr. Sulaiman never discussed Brady Folkens obvious liver involvement in this disease process.

3. The IgM documentation on page 8 of the Final Autopsy Report is suspicious for an alteration which omits the “Interpretive Information” for IgM and, instead, the “Interpretive Information” for IgG (below the blue line) has been substituted for the IgM:

a. In spite of this substitution there is the remaining documentation of IgM level at 0.25—and which is considered negative by the outside laboratory that did the test.
b. And the negative IgM for PVB19, as well as all the other laboratory values and the Final Diagnoses, were distributed to all the other (three) physicians involved with Brady Folkens care the day he died:
i. Francisco H. Recalde MD
ii. Hesham M. Elgouhari MD
iii. Kelly G McCaul MD
c. So each of these three physicians (detail below) knew that the IgM for PVB19 was negative—as each received a copy of the Final Autopsy Report and

also have received the separate laboratory notifications, as the results from outside laboratories became available and were distributed to the physicians involved with Brady Folkens’ care.

4. Interestingly, Fares Y Masannat MD, the infectious disease specialist, was not documented as receiving a copy of this Final Autopsy Report, yet:
a. He was directly involved (hands-on) with Brady Folkens’ care.
b. His dictation reveals the most complete description of Brady Folkens’ medical history prior to his death.
c. Dr. Masannat’s name is all over Brady Folkens chart. His consultation was copied for all of the three physicians who also received a copy of the Final Autopsy Report by Dr. Sulaiman. Why was he not named as a recipient of this Final Autopsy Report?
d. Neither Dr. Elgouhari nor Dr. McCaul appear to have any dictations in Brady Folkens’ chart and appear to only have participated via phone calls—yet they all received their copies.
5. Michael Heisler MD, the eICU attending, also did not receive a copy of the Final Autopsy Report—why?

6. Dawn Folkens was returned custody of Brady Folkens while at the Custer Hospital. She was present in the ICU at McKennon Hospital when Brady Folkens suddenly died. Dr. Recalde, the attending, asked her if she wanted an autopsy. Yes, she replied, but not at this hospital and she indicated that she wanted an autopsy performed at another hospital—Sanford. Dr. Recalde told her he would take care of it.
a. Dawn Folkens only learned from the funeral home that Brady Folkens’ autopsy was completed.
b. Only much later did Dawn Folkens learn, via a telephone call from the coroner, Dr. Kenneth Snell, that the autopsy had been done at McKennon Hospital, after all, by Dr. Sulaiman.
c. Dawn Folkens never received a call or a copy of the Final Autopsy Report from Dr. Sulaiman, Dr. Recalde, or anyone else at McKennon Hospital.
d. And Dawn Folkens first saw the autopsy report when she asked for Brady Folkens’ complete medical records from McKennan.

7. After reading Dr. Sulaiman’s Final Autopsy Report, Dawn Folkens did a web search and learned of Dr. Stanley J. Radio, pathologist at UNMC in Omaha, and requested pertinent tissue samples be sent to him for evaluation:
a. Dr. Radio sent his final report to both Dr. Sulaiman and to Dawn Folkens.
b. Dr. Radio had previously published a study showing that PVB19 detected by PCR methods and serology (IgG) simply demonstrates the virus is an “innocent bystander” and not a cause of lymphocytic myocarditis:
i. Dr. Radio did not see the characteristic microscopic findings seen with an acute RVB19 infection in the cardiac tissue.
ii. An immunoperoxidase stain for PVB19 was negative.
iii. Dawn Folkens paid this bill out of her personal funds.
c. Dr. Sulaiman offered no statement(s) with regard to Dr. Radio’s negative findings and never changed his original Final Autopsy Report—even though Dr. Radio sent a copy of his negative results to him.
d. Dr. Radio’s published work casts strong doubt on whether the children in the study quoted by Dr. Sulaiman, in his Final Autopsy Report, likely designed to lend credence to his final diagnosis, actually really had an acute infection of PCB19. The study was retrospective and picked out children who had positive PCR values for PVB19—simply showing that they had previous exposure and not proof of acute infection as serological markers were not obtained and quantitative PCR values were not obtained. Here is how Dr. Sulaiman, disingenuously we believe, injected this retrospective study into his Final Autopsy Report:

i. Dr. Sulaiman cites this reference (whose methods for retrospectively selecting a cohort of patients is specious, as any pathologist should be aware of, but whose weakness would not be noted by most other physicians) to further buttress his false assertion that PVB19 killed Brady Folkens.

My conclusions are that:
1. Dr. Sulaiman,
a. by omitting the negative IgM for PVB19,
b. by suggesting the microscopic findings as “suggestive” of PVB19 infection when he doesn’t even describe what these findings are,
c. by not fully obtaining all of Brady Folkens’ pertinent medical history,
d. by citing a specious study of children by Molina to implicate PVB19 in this case,
e. by not furnishing copies of the Final Autopsy Report to Drs. Masannat and Heisler,
f. by not taking into consideration an independent and negative autopsy report by Dr. Radio,
g. and by falsely dictating that Dawn Folkens had consented to this autopsy with no restrictions,
has signed his name to a patently false and fraudulent Final Autopsy Report on Brady Folkens. We ask the SDBMOE to adjudicate this claim.

2. Dawn Folkens, Brady Folkens’ mother, and I are completely stupefied by Dr, Sulaiman’s signing of this false and fraudulent Final Autopsy Report and feel that Dr. Sulaiman owes Dawn Folkens an explanation(s) as to why he dictated and signed this contrived document. We feel it is unlikely that Dr. Sulaiman, a priori, would have produced this document without outside demands that forced him to acquiesce. And this external force must have been powerful enough for Dr. Sulaiman to risk his integrity as a physician licensed in the state of South Dakota.

3. Dr. Recalde received a copy of the Final Autopsy Report and we wonder why he did not correct the false diagnosis implicating PVB19 as Brady Folkens cause of death. Seems to us that, being aware of this Final Autopsy Report and its critical omission of a negative IgM for PCB19, Dr. Recalde, as Brady Folkens’ attending physician, was not an innocent bystander.

4. I believe Dr. Sulaiman owes Dawn Folkens an apology.

5. Dr. Sulaiman does not appear as certified in any field of pathology when we interrogated the ABMS website. Question: why would the state of South Dakota allow a non-certified pathologist do a forensic investigation of a youth who just died while in custody with the DOC? We ask the SDBMOE to adjudicate.

6. The death certificate was signed by the Minnehaha Coroner, Dr. Kenneth Snell, who documented that Brady Folkens died from “lymphocytic myocarditis associated with parvovirus B19” and “natural causes”. Dawn Folkens and I believe this is patently false and we ask that a new death certificate be filed not blaming the virus for Brady Folkens’ death.

7. Dawn Folkens and I ask that the state of South Dakota convene a forensic investigation to determine why Brady Folkens died while in custody of the South Dakota Department of Corrections, and why:
a. Dawn Folkens, when at the Custer Hospital and in the midst of Brady Folkens’ health crisis, was asked to resume custody of Brady Folkens by a DOC official.
b. Dr. Sulaiman did not obtain consent for autopsy when Dawn Folkens was now Brady Folkens’ custodian/mother with parental authority.
c. Dr. Recalde did not follow through with Dawn Folkens’ directive, as Brady Folkens’ mother, to have an autopsy performed at Sanford.
d. Why not one of the physicians at Avera McKennon Hospital, ever, contacted Brady Folkens’ mother, Dawn Folkens, to offer any update on Brady’s autopsy, explain why and how he died, or offer to send her this Final Autopsy Report.
e. Why not anyone connected with the SD Department of Corrections, ever, contacted or reached out to Brady Folkens’ mother to explain why and how he died while in state custody.

Dawn Folkens and I fully understand the SDBMOE has limited investigative powers/authority with regard to some of our questions and complaints. But we also know that the Attorney General’s Office, headed by Mr. Marty J, Jackley, is the legal arm of the SDBMOE, and we respectfully ask both to work in concert to adjudicate the issues we have raised concerning the death of Brady Folkens.

Sincerely yours,

Lars Aanning

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Jackley benefits from another settlement with campaign donor Pfizer

Hey, Marty, i want permission to enter your state with clinical cannabis without interference. What say you?

It's been reported that South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is considering a run for governor in 2018...that is, unless the US Department of Justice doesn't indict him for conflicts of interest and for covering up crimes committed with his blessings.
Federal prosecutors say drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has agreed to pay nearly $785 million to resolve allegations that one of its companies failed to give Medicaid the same discounts it provided to private purchasers of Protonix. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says the state general fund will get more than $525,000 through the settlement. [KWAT radio news]
Pfizer has given Marty loads of cash and overwhelmingly pays Republicans to play.

Besides, in South Dakota mass incarceration fuels the white foster home industry a pet project of the governor's wife.

Big Pharma paying Republican attorneys general to keep cannabis illegal? Say it ain't do, Marty!