10 January, 2019 06:28

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, January 10, 2019, which is Houseplant Appreciation Day, National Cut Your Energy Costs Day, Peculiar People Day, and Save the Eagles Day.

Today in History:

  • 1946: The first General Assembly of the United Nations, comprising 51 nations, convenes at Westminster Central Hall in London, England. One week later, the U.N. Security Council met for the first time and established its rules of procedure. Then, on January 24, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution, a measure calling for the peaceful uses of atomic energy and the elimination of atomic and other weapons of mass destruction.
  • 1923: Four years after the end of World War I, President Warren G. Harding orders U.S. occupation troops stationed in Germany to return home.
  • On January 10, 1920, the League of Nations formally comes into being when the Covenant of the League of Nations, ratified by 42 nations in 1919, takes effect.
  • On this day in 1941, Franklin Roosevelt introduces the lend-lease program to Congress. The plan was intended to help Britain beat back Hitler’s advance while keeping America only indirectly involved in World War II.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

* Includes comment from TAL.
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Military.com: Legion Offers Help to Coasties During Shutdown, Calls for Exemption to Pay Cutoff
9 Jan 2019 | Military.com | By Richard Sisk
The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue into next week.
In a statement Monday, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the "Pay Our Coast Guard Act" introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities and other related payouts.
Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15.
Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, "which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck."
"Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid," he added.
The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.
"In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses," Reistad said.
However, he noted, "As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll."
The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.
"Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country," B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. "What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted."

Miami Herald: Coast Guard members’ next paycheck at risk over government shutdown
BY DAVID GOODHUE | JANUARY 08, 2019 08:01 PM, UPDATED JANUARY 09, 2019 01:53 PM
While most U.S. Coast Guard members managed to get their final 2018 paycheck after some maneuvering by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security, their first check of the New Year is in doubt in the shadow of the partial government shutdown that is impacting more than a quarter of the federal workforce.
Funding for the service, which has a heavy presence in South Florida and the Keys, expired Dec. 21 with no appropriations bill passed to keep boats afloat, planes and helicopters in the air and men and women on patrol through 2019.
Unlike the rest of the military branches, which fall under the Department of Defense and are not affected by the shutdown, the Coast Guard is under Homeland Security, which is among the agencies caught up in the fight over President Donald Trump’s proposed multi-billion dollar wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump and congressional Democrats won’t blink in budget negotiations over funding for the controversial project. The partial government shutdown is affecting 800,000 federal employees, and having an impact on air travel, the National Parks Service, the federal courts and hurricane forecasting, among many other areas.
The nearly 42,000 active duty Coast Guard members are considered essential personnel and will have to work with or without pay.
“Whether they are performing rescues during a hurricane or stopping drug traffickers at sea, members of the Coast Guard regularly perform heroic and lifesaving tasks on our behalf. They should not have to worry about bills and living expenses just because Congress and the White House cannot agree on a budget,” Brett P. Reistad, national commander of The American Legion veterans advocacy group, said in a statement this week.
Reistad urged members of Congress to support a bill introduced Friday by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, that would fund the Coast Guard through the Treasury Department throughout the shutdown. The bipartisan legislation, known as the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act,” is co-sponsored by three Democrats and three Republicans.
The bill still needs a counterpart in the House, however, and that may not come before Jan. 15, the end of the next pay period.
In the meantime, the service members are organizing support networks in the event a solution is not found, said Casey Lawrence, national president of the Coast Guard Enlisted Association.
“Our national officers have been posting financial resources available to those who need it, in the event of a pay lapse, on our Coast Guard Enlisted Association national Facebook page,” Lawrence said in an email Tuesday.
He said resources include loans from the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance program, low-interest loans from other institutions, “as well as community resources available, such as free groceries and help with utility bills.”
“I have also asked that our branches with available funds to do so, assist members in immediate need through loans and grants, if the lapse occurs,” Lawrence said.

Washington Post: Coast Guard families told they can have garage sales to cope with government shutdown
By Dan Lamothe | January 9 at 3:33 PM
Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a “mystery shopper.”
The suggestions were part of a five-page tip sheet published by the Coast Guard Support Program, an employee-assistance arm of the service often known as CG SUPRT. It is designated to offer Coast Guard members help with mental-health issues or other concerns about their lives, including financial wellness.
“Bankruptcy is a last option,” the document said.
The Coast Guard receives funding from the Department of Homeland Security and is subjected to the shuttering of parts of the government along with DHS’s other agencies. That stands in contrast to other military services, which are part of the Defense Department and have funding.
The tip sheet, titled “Managing your finances during a furlough,” applies to the Coast Guard’s 8,500-person civilian workforce. About 6,400 of them are on indefinite furlough, while 2,100 are working without pay after being identified as essential workers, said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a service spokesman. They were last paid for the two-week period ended Dec. 22.
“While it may be uncomfortable to deal with the hard facts, it’s best to avoid the ‘hide your head in the sand’ reaction,” the tip sheet said. “Stay in charge of the situation by getting a clear understanding of what’s happening.”
The Coast Guard removed the tip sheet from the support program’s website late Wednesday morningafter The Washington Post inquired about it.
The suggestions do not “reflect the Coast Guard’s current efforts to support our workforce during this lapse in appropriations,” McBride said. “As such, this guidance has been removed.”
The situation shows the increasing strain that the service is under as the partial government shutdown continues. About 41,000 active-duty Coast Guardsmen are working without pay. Their next check is due Jan. 15.
Overall, about 420,000 government employees are working under the promise they will be paid retroactively, with nearly another 350,000 on furlough at home.
The Coast Guard’s status as an unfunded military service increasingly has become a political issue, as family members share their worries about a shutdown with no end in sight amid a political dispute about President Trump’s proposed border wall. Coast Guardsmen rely not only on paychecks, but also now-frozen government allowances for housing in expensive coastal cities where many are assigned.
Late last month, the Coast Guard announced it had found enough money to pay its service members one last time through the end of the year. The Trump administration took credit afterward, releasing a statement that said the president and some of his staff members had worked “round the clock” to address the issue.
The Coast Guard’s situation has stirred up old frustrations that the sea service’s contributions are not as appreciated in Washington as those of the rest of the military.
Among some military families, it also has undermined some good will that Trump established with the Coast Guard by praising their “brand,” spotlighting their efforts in hurricanes and promising funding for icebreaker ships to boost polar security. Funding for those ships is no longer a certainty this year, with the Senate version of an appropriations bill including $750 million to begin construction of a new ships and the House version including no money.
Coast Guard leaders have sought to provide as much information as possible to its people about the shutdown, and offer suggestions for where financial assistance might be possible. It also released a letter for families to provide to creditors while seeking temporary financial relief.
“This lapse in appropriations is beyond our members’ control and is expected to be a temporary situation,” said the Dec. 27 letter, signed by Rear Adm. Matthew W. Shibley. “We appreciate your organization’s understanding and flexibility in working with Coast Guard members who request forbearance on their obligations until this situation is resolved.”
A bipartisan effort to get the Coast Guard paid through the shutdown was launched in Congress last week, but it isn’t clear if or how quickly lawmakers might vote on the proposed “Pay Our Coast Guard Act."
Coast Guard family members said Wednesday that there are no easy solutions as the political standoff continues, but that they are getting by.
Jacqueline Esparza, whose husband is in the Coast Guard and stationed in Seattle, said not all families affiliated with the service live in houses where having a garage sale is possible. Service members, who are still required to work, also are not easily able to find supplemental income, she said.
“Doing odd jobs and selling items we don’t need anymore is a temporary fix,” she said. “It’s not going to help us pay the rent.”
Natalie Daniels, whose husband is stationed in San Diego, said her family’s situation isn’t “dire just yet,” but missing the coming paycheck would definitely “start the clock” on that. Their family includes four children.
“I am not afraid of this shutdown,” she said. “I am afraid of the current political discourse that may discourage future generations from wanting to serve their country on the basis of being used as political pawns."
Daniels said both political parties are “playing a game of political chicken with Americans,” and it needs to stop.
"Frankly, I am exhausted, stressed, and emotionally drained by our current political climate, but if you were to ask my husband what I’ve said to him when he’s called every night, he would tell you I’ve said, ‘We are fine,’” she said. “That’s how a military spouse supports her husband, and that is how a military spouse supports their country.”

Military Times: Vets working without pay: Government shutdown leaves hundreds of thousands in the lurch
By: Natalie Gross | 13 hours ago
Army veteran David Shanley-Dillman pretty much lives paycheck-to-paycheck since a recent string of financial issues depleted his family’s savings.
And because he works for the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service, one of the agencies impacted by the ongoing government shutdown, come Friday, the former military police officer is about to find out what it’s like to live on no paycheck at all.
“Now we’re looking at our usual bills. We’re being very conservative [about] whether we’re going to pay them on time or not, depending on how the shutdown goes forward,” said Shanley-Dillman, a planner for the Huron-Manistee National Forests in Michigan. “Food and shelter first.”
Nearly a third of the federal workforce is made up of veterans — an estimated 248,400 of whom are not getting paychecks as the government is three weeks into a partial shutdown, according to the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council.
“Stress levels are going up. The mental fatigue is going up,” said William Attig, the council’s executive director. “This is, in my opinion, a recipe for disaster for some of these veterans.”
The impacted federal agencies employing the largest proportions of veterans include the Homeland Security, Transportation and Justice departments, where veterans make up 25 percent or more of the workforce, according to the latest figures from the Office of Personnel Management.
These include border patrol officers, federal prison guards, Transportation Security Administration agents and air traffic controllers, among others.
“They believe that this is a continuation of service to their nation,” Attig said. “It is shameful that their lives are being played with as pawns from either side.”
In a tweet recognizing National Law Enforcement Day Wednesday, President Trump included a shout-out to federal law enforcement officers, writing, “We love you and will always support you.”
After initially saying he would accept responsibility for a shutdown, Trump has since blamed the shutdown on Democrats, who will not approve Trump’s push for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border — a plan also rejected by some members of his own party.
“This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need,” he said in a televised address to the nation Tuesday.
In her response on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., highlighted the fact that the shutdown is hurting veterans, whom Trump has vowed to protect and support since the campaign trail.
“Our veterans are very adversely affected by this. If we want to support our veterans, we will not hurt their credit rating. And that’s what missing a mortgage, a rental payment, a car payment and the rest does to everyone’s credit rating,” she said.
Build a wall or don’t — Shanley-Dillman doesn’t care. He just wants to see elected officials come to some sort of compromise so that he and his other veteran colleagues can get back to work.
“I know some of them, like myself, have issues with PTSD,” he said. “Veterans just do better with a full-time job, a regular job. That’s one of the most impactful things that can help a veteran manage life. The shutdown on top of PTSD — it’s difficult to navigate.”
Attig said the Union Veterans Council isn’t pointing fingers or taking a stance on the wall funding, but the organization is strongly advocating for veterans and other federal workers to get paid.
“If we need to improve border security, we’re all for that,” he said. “But people’s lives shouldn’t be put on the line and held hostage.”

Associated Press: US Navy veteran imprisoned in Iran, 1st arrest of Trump era
By: Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press and Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press | 14 hours ago
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran confirmed Wednesday it is holding U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump’s administration.
White’s detention adds new pressure to the rising tension between Iran and the U.S., which under Trump has pursued a maximalist campaign against Tehran that includes pulling out of its nuclear deal with world powers.
Although the circumstances of White’s detention remain unclear, Iran in the past has used its detention of Westerners and dual nationals as leverage in negotiations.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, reported the confirmation, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.
"An American citizen was arrested in the city of Mashhad some time ago and his case was conveyed to the U.S administration on the first days" of his incarceration, Ghasemi was quoted as saying.
The New York Times has quoted White’s mother saying she learned three weeks ago that her son is alive and being held at an Iranian prison. His arrest was first reported by IranWire, an online news service run by one-time Iran detainee Maziar Bahari, which interviewed a former Iranian prisoner who said he met White at Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad in October. Mashhad is about 95 kilometers (60 miles) east of Tehran, Iran’s capital.
Ghasemi also denied any mistreatment of prisoners in Mashhad, as alleged by the former prisoner quoted in the IranWire story. He described the allegations as "psychological warfare."
The Associated Press has been unable to reach members of White’s family. The State Department said it was aware of reports of an American citizen’s arrest, but was otherwise unable to comment.
White’s mother, Joanne White, had told the Times that her 46-year-old son, who lives in Imperial Beach, California, went to Iran to see his girlfriend and had booked a July 27 flight back home to San Diego via the United Arab Emirates. She filed a missing person report with the State Department after he did not board the flight. She added that he had been undergoing treatment for a neck tumor and has asthma.
While relations between Iran and the U.S. warmed under President Barack Obama, they’ve turned increasingly toxic under Trump. Trump in May withdrew America from the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.
Trump has said he withdrew from the deal to put further pressure on Iran over its ballistic missile program, as well as to blunt its influence in the wider Mideast. While American officials deny that the goal of the U.S. policy is regime change, his administration includes officials who have openly called for Iran’s government to be overthrown.
The worsening ties could be heard in remarks Wednesday by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who previously has told Trump he "cannot do a damn thing" to stop Iran.
"Some U.S. officials pretend that they are mad," Khamenei said. "Of course I don’t agree with that, but they are first-class idiots."
There are four other known American citizens being held in Iran.
Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province under the U.S.-backed shah, are both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly "infiltrating" the country while doing doctoral research on Iran’s Qajar dynasty.
Iranian-American Robin Shahini was released on bail in 2017 after staging a hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for "collaboration with a hostile government." Shahini is believed to still be in Iran.
Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance. Tehran now says it has no information about him.
Others held with Western ties include Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the "soft toppling" of Iran’s government while traveling with her young daughter. As pressure mounts in Britain for her release, Iranian state television this week aired footage of her arrest at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.

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