– Capitol Hill: Warner concludes visit to Middle East
– Politics: Byrne endorses Deeds
– Local News: Murder-suicide in Staunton
– Capitol Hill: Biden calls for report on green economic opportunities
– Capitol Hill: Senators announce education funding
– Capitol Hill: Perriello pushes expanded health-care access for rural veterans
– Event: Stuart Hall presents a night of acclaimed theater
– Event: Tea, anyone?
Capitol Hill: Warner concludes visit to Middle East
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner has concluded visits to Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan today, where he met with Virginia-based military personnel, received briefings from top U.S. military commanders and diplomats, and met with the heads-of-state and senior officials in each of the three nations. Senator Warner was part of a Congressional delegation that included Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vermont) and Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island).
In Afghanistan, Sen. Warner visited Kabul and Kandahar, and received briefings from U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who assumed his new post in Kabul earlier this month, and U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of the multi-national force. The senators also met with Hamid Karzai, the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the Afghan ministers of finance, agriculture, reconstruction and rural development.
“President Karzai and his ministers asked for continued American technical support to build economic capacity, especially in the areas of finance and agriculture,” Sen. Warner said. “Afghanistan must continue to assume more responsibility for its own economic development so it can feed its people and continue on a path to self-sufficiency.”
At the Kabul Military Training Center, where international forces are training Afghan army recruits, Sen. Warner shared lunch with several Norfolk-based U.S. Navy personnel. “These U.S. trainers emphasized that they really enjoyed their mission because they felt they were having a direct impact on training the Afghans,” Senator Warner said. “They say one of their biggest challenges in training the Afghan security forces is illiteracy, because more than 80% of the recruits lack basic reading and writing skills.”
The delegation visited a site where U.S. and international relief organizations are reconstructing a house for an Afghan family that was displaced by the war. “The family elder, Sayed Mohammad and his grandson, Zabihullah, showed me his new home and I had the privilege of breaking bread with them,” Sen. Warner said. “They said they were grateful to the American people for our efforts to help his family recover from the conflict, including a small loan that will help revive the family business.”
In the more dangerous southern provinces around Kandahar, Sen. Warner visited with more Virginia-based military men and women and heard their candid thoughts on how best to build-up capacity in Afghanistan. Kandahar is where the Taliban started taking over Afghanistan 13 years ago. “The troops I met with felt they were doing important work and believed in the mission. I was very impressed with their skill and dedication to their mission in such a dangerous place. They all deserve our thanks.”
On Monday, the delegation visited Pakistan, and met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson in Islamabad. The prime minister briefed the senators regarding anti-Taliban operations underway in northwest Pakistan.
On Saturday and Sunday, Sen. Warner traveled to Baghdad, Iraq to visit with military men and women from Virginia and to receive briefings from the Iraqi Prime Minister, the U.S Ambassador, and top U.S. military commanders in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the congressional delegation that while much progress has been made since the “surge,” there was still a lot of work to do. Senator Warner and Prime Minister Maliki discussed ways to build additional social and economic capacity so Iraq can continue working to develop a self-supporting economy as the U.S. military presence is reduced.
Politics: Byrne endorses Deeds
At a press conference today outside the Old Fairfax Courthouse, former Northern Virginia Congresswoman Leslie Byrne announced her support of Creigh Deeds in the June 9 Democratic Primary for governor today, saying he is the most qualified candidate and the Democrat who will put us in the strongest position to beat Bob McDonnell in November. Byrne announced her endorsement this afternoon at a press conference outside of the Old Fairfax Courthouse in Fairfax.
“There is no candidate better prepared to continue the Warner-Kaine tradition to lead Virginia forward,” said Byrne. “Creigh will rebuild Virginia’s economy by investing in education and a statewide solution to transportation. The Washington Post said that he was ‘the best choice for Northern Virginia’ based on his ability to bring people together from every corner of the Commonwealth. Creigh’s broad appeal will put us in the strongest position to beat Bob McDonnell in November.”
Byrne has been a public servant in Northern Virginia for more than 20 years. She was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1985 before becoming the Commonwealth’s first female member of Congress in 1992. Byrne represented the 11th Congressional District in Congress. She later became White House Director of Consumer Affairs before winning a seat in the State Senate in 1999.
Deeds’ campaign for governor has built tremendous momentum in the last week, earning the unqualified endorsement of the Washington Post and gaining ground in two public polls while his opponents have stalled. The editorial page editor of the Virginian-Pilot wrote that Deeds “fits most naturally into the moderate mold shaped by Mark Warner and Tim Kaine” and political pundit Larry J. Sabato said recently that with Deeds as the Democratic nominee, “he makes it nearly impossible for McDonnell to win.”
Local News: Murder-suicide in Staunton
A Staunton couple was found dead in their Grubert Avenue home Tuesday night after an apparent murder-suicide.
It appears that Daniel Knight, 24, shot his wife, Amber Knight, 23, before turning the gun on himself, according to a report from the Staunton Police Department.
Officers respoonded to a call requesting a welfare check at the 617 Grubert home at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Police are continuing to investigate the incident.
Capitol Hill: Biden calls for report on green economic opportunities
At Tuesday’s meeting of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, Vice President Biden called on the Council for Environmental Quality to report back to the Task Force in 90 days with proposals that build on the foundation laid in the Recovery Act to expand green opportunities and energy savings for the middle class. Such proposals could include, for example, expanding retrofitting of commercial buildings, making American homes more energy efficient, and developing better tools to help people find green jobs.
“People ask me all the time – how can we expand opportunities for green jobs? How does a green economy help middle class families?” said Vice President Biden. “That’s why today I am asking the Council on Environmental Quality to report back to the Task Force in 90 days with proposals that expand those opportunities, and boost energy savings for the middle class.”
Through the Recovery Act, the Obama-Biden Administration made a significant investment in making America’s homes more energy efficient, dramatically increasing previous funding levels for weatherization and retrofit of buildings. To secure optimal outcomes from the Recovery Act, the federal government has an enhanced need to maximize federal coordination, ensure accountability, and promote best practices.
The Obama-Biden administration wants to identify and advance policies that will facilitate the continued growth of our energy efficiency sector, powered by private funds. The time has come to move toward a stronger national market in energy efficiency services, one that can evolve national training standards and be propelled by revolving loan funds and other forms of private financing.
At the request of the Vice President, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will play the convening and coordinating role for agencies to identify and create proposals to expand green opportunities and energy savings for the middle class. CEQ will head up a “Recovery through Retrofit” Interagency Working Group, which will work closely with the Office of the Vice President and the Middle Class Task Force.
Retrofitting and upgrading buildings so that they waste less energy benefits the middle class in numerous ways: job creation; entrepreneurial and business opportunities; a healthier environment; and reduced home energy costs. The “Recovery through Retrofit” Interagency Working Group will work to make sure that the Recovery Act investments are just the first step in creating a new market for energy retrofits in homes across America.
The main participating departments and agencies are: Energy, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, General Services Administration, Education and Treasury. Within the White House, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Energy & Climate Change and the Domestic Policy Council will also participate.
Capitol Hill: Senators announce education funding
U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner on Tuesday announced that the Department of Education will release $806 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 to help address the budget shortfall that Virginia’s education system is facing by saving hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs at risk of state and local budget cuts. Of that funding, $659 million will be used to maintain state support to K-12 education and institutions of higher education and to mitigate the need to raise tuition on in-state students. The remaining $147 million will be put toward other projects, including construction at higher education facilities.
“The funds announced today will help strengthen Virginia’s education system, keep quality teachers, and improve academic results for students from kindergarten through college,” said Sen. Webb.
“These federal funds will provide welcome relief for stressed state and local school budgets,” Sen. Warner said. “It also is appropriate that this one-time federal commitment is linked to standards and honest assessments of classroom instructors, student performance, school progress and overall effectiveness of our educational programs.”
“The U.S. Department of Education’s prompt approval of Virginia’s application for federal funding will help stimulate the economy, create and save jobs, and ensure our children receive the excellent education they need and deserve to compete in a global economy. The impact of these funds will be felt this summer and fall as teachers and other vital employees — who otherwise would have lost their jobs — return to schools across Virginia to serve the commonwealth’s children,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said.
In order to receive today’s funds, the Commonwealth is responsible for collecting, publishing, analyzing and acting upon basic information regarding the quality of classroom teachers, annual student improvements, college readiness, the effectiveness of state standards and assessments, progress on removing charter caps, and interventions in turning around underperforming schools. Virginia is also required by the Department of Education to report the number of jobs saved through Recovery Act funding, the amount of state and local tax increases averted, and how funds are used.
Virginia will be eligible to apply for another $397 million this fall. Today’s funding is being made available per Virginia’s successful completion of Part 1 of the State Stabilization Application, which was made available on April 1st.
To date, Virginia has received $240 million in education stimulus funds—representing a combination of funding for Title I, IDEA, Vocational Rehabilitation Grants and Independent Living Grants. On April 1st, Virginia received $83 million in Title I funding and $151 million in IDEA funding. This represents 50% of the Title I and IDEA funding Virginia is eligible for in total. On April 1st, Virginia also received $6 million in Vocational Rehab funds and $1 million in Independent Living funds.
Capitol Hill: Perriello pushes expanded health-care access for rural veterans
Congressman Tom Perriello is ramping up efforts to expand health care access to veterans in rural areas. He is proposing a series of legislative initiatives to give rural veterans more health care options: increasing access to care at Community Health Centers and Community Based Outpatient Clinics; expanding telemedicine and home visits by nurses and health aides; and assisting with transportation to medical facilities. Joined by area veterans, he made the announcement today at the Ferrum Community Health Center. Throughout the Memorial Day recess, he will be road-testing the various initiatives by visiting local CHCs and CBOCs, holding a meeting with his Veterans Advisory Board, and holding a town hall meeting for veterans, getting their feedback on the proposed legislation.
“Our veterans who fought to protect our freedom deserve nothing less than world-class healthcare when they return. But for veterans in rural areas, care can sometimes mean driving long distances or limited options,” said Perriello. “I want to ensure veterans in our small towns and rural communities have increased access to community clinics, better transportation, and telemedicine.”
Perriello has also co-sponsored H.R. 1016, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, a bill that is a top priority for every major veteran service organization. H.R. 1016 would authorize Congress to provide VA medical care funding one year in advance, which would allow the VA additional time to plan how to deliver the most efficient and effective care to veterans.
Event: Stuart Hall presents a night of acclaimed theater
The Belle of Amherst, a one-woman show about poet Emily Dickinson, and Proof, a Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play by David Auburn, are the featured events in a presentation of senior theater projects at Stuart Hall in Staunton this weekend.
Showtime at Stuart Hall’s King Theatre is 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
The public is invited to attend.
Event: Tea, anyone?
Self-styled Augusta County Tea Party Patriots will mark Memorial Day week with an open-forum rally on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Gypsy Hill Park Bandstand in Staunton.