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Minnesota delegation asks for meeting with VA secretary

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: September 30, 2014 - 10:12 AM

WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's ten members of Congress on Tuesday collectively asked for a meeting with VA Secretary Robert McDonald to talk about recent reports of falsified records at Minneapolis's VA hospital.

The request comes after VA records showed a neurology exam for 25-year-old Jordan Buisman was rescheduled four days after his death. The former corporal had been told he'd have to wait almost 70 days to see a specialist at the Minneapolis VA neurology clinic for his epilepsy, which was the reason he left the Marine Corps. He died 24 days before his appointment.

Four days later, someone wrote in his VA records that Buisman had canceled his neurology appointment. The story was first reported by KARE TV.

The VA Inspector General's office is currently investigating allegations of falsified records and manipulation with scheduling data. The delegation, Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Tim Walz, John Kline, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Erik Paulsen, Collin Peterson, Rick Nolan and Michele Bachmann, requested a meeting with Secretary McDonald once the findings are released by the IG.

"We are deeply troubled by serious allegations of falsified records and manipulation of scheduling data at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs VA Health Care System," the delegation wrote.

VA Secretary McDonald, who was just sworn in a couple months ago, said over the weekend in a speech in Cincinnati that, "we know we have to work harder to earn that trust back one veteran at a time."


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/living/health-fitness/article2271423.html#storylink=cpy

Justice Department to expand outreach to Twin Cities in expanded effort to halt ISIS recruitment

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: September 17, 2014 - 9:19 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Twin Cities were one of three muncipalities in the country that will participate in a pilot program to boost outreach in the Islamic community in effort to combat recruitment of naturalized Americans by the terrorist group ISIL, Department of Justice officials said Wednesday.

The pilot project will "bring together important Minnesota law enforcement, religious, and community leaders to expand outreach to Minnesotans," according to Sen. Al Franken's office, which has urged the Obama administration to deliver additional resources to Minnesota.

Two men with Minnesota ties were killed fighting for ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, in the Middle East.

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat who represents Minneapolis, has also encouraged administration officials to work with the Somali community because they can be allies in identifying vulnerable young people who can become radicalized, he said.

US Attorney for Minnesota Andy Luger, issued a statement late Wednesday: 

"The Somali community in Minneapolis and St. Paul will benefit greatly from the additional resources we expect to receive as part of the pilot program," he said. "Our Somali friends deserve to prosper in Minnesota in peace and security, and this program seeks to make that happen, and create a blueprint for the country for how to prevent the radicalization of vulnerable youth."

Minnesota delegation weighs in after Obama speech on Islamic State fight

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: September 11, 2014 - 10:31 AM

WASHINGTON -- President Obama outlined a campaign Wednesday to launch airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq. Obama said he doesn't believe he needs Congressional approval for this military action, which will be conducted with allies. He will seek Congressional support and additional money to finance the operation.

Here are comments from some of Minnesota's Congressional delegation after the speech:

Sen. Al Franken, Democrat: "I want to find out more about the potential ramifications of these actions on the civil war in Syria, for more specifics about the coalition the administration intends to build, and about their ongoing efforts to stifle terrorist recruitment activities in Minnesota and around the country."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat: "I support targeted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as well as training and equipping the moderate Syrian opposition, and I also think it's critical that we work with our allies in the international community so we are united in our effort defeat this terrorist organization."

Rep. John Kline, Republican: "It's never a good strategy to telegraph to the enemy what options are off the table. As a 25-year Marine Corps veteran, the father of a son who has served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a member of the House Armed Services Commmittee, I will continue to ensure our allies and personnel in Iraq and around the globe are receiving the support they need to combat terrorism, while carefully reviewing additional military actions taken by the president."

Rep. Tim Walz, Democrat: "The president has the authority to expand strategic airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. I believe he should exercise that authority. Before taking any warranted action against ISIL in Syria, however, I believe the president should consult with Congress."

Rep. Keith Ellison, Democrat (via Progressive Caucus statement): "Congress must weigh in when it comes to confronting ISIL through military action. The voices of the American people must be heard during a full and robust debate in Congress on the use of military force."
 
Rep. Betty McCollum, Democrat: "As the U.S. confronts the growing threat from ISIL in the middle east, I strongly support President Obama and the men and women of the Armed Forces, intelligence community and diplomatic corps whose duty it is to defend our freedom while protecting the lives of millions of innocents in distant lands."
 

 Rep. Michele Bachmann, Republican (via Twitter)

"The president gave a poll driven speech that has nothing in common with defeating a brutal enemy that has declared war on the United States."

"The president's so-called strategy offered virtually nothing new, and it's clear he doesn't understand the threat of Islamic jihad."

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison rallies with striking fast-food workers

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 4, 2014 - 2:26 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said he is “proud to stand” with fast-food workers protesting nationwide to demand a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union.

Strikers gather Thursday in more than 100 cities, including Minneapolis, where Ellison joined workers in pre-dawn demonstrations.

A number of fast-food workers make close to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or roughly $15,000 annually. Some say that is not a living wage, especially for workers who are supporting families.

“Thousands of fast food workers will be out in the street today, demanding a living wage and the right to organize,” said Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“They’re doing it because they have families to feed and parents to look after. They’re doing it because they have basic needs that can’t be met at $7.25 an hour. They’re standing for the possibility of a better future and an economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy few. I’m proud to stand with them.”

The National Council of Chain Restaurants, an industry trade group, took issue with the protests, which led to arrests in several cities.

"There are millions of workers in the food retail industry who find personal satisfaction in their work and appreciate the opportunities provided by the restaurants that hire them,” executive director Rob Green said in a statement. "The activities being coordinated, financed and facilitated by labor unions - desperate for new membership dues - accomplish absolutely nothing."

The strike comes just days after President Obama voiced his support for the movement at a Labor Day speech in Wisconsin.

"All across the country right now, there's a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to life wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity," Obama said.

By the numbers: Outside spending on federal races

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: August 28, 2014 - 1:41 PM

According to Federal Election Commission data, Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District race has attracted the most money from outside groups so far.

The contest between Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican Stewart Mills has already seen nearly $1.4 million in PAC spending, with much of it coming from Nolan supporters, such as the House Majority Fund and the AFSCME union.

In contrast, the race for the Seventh Congressional District seat, which Republican Torrey Westrom hopes to snatch from longtime Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, has only seen $245,000 in independent expenditures. Interestingly, the last filing documenting outside spending in that race was from eight months ago.

Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, so far, has drawn relatively little interest from independent spenders. According to FEC filings, outside groups have spent about $140,000 to weigh in on the battle between Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Republican Mike McFadden.

The FEC calculations only include expenditures that represent, "spending by individual people, groups, political committees, corporations or unions expressly advocating the election or defeat of clearly identified federal candidates."

This post first appeared in our Morning Hot Dish political newsletter. If you're not already getting the political newsletter by email, it's easy and free to sign up.  Go to StarTribune.com/membercenter, check the Politics newsletter box and save the change.

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