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CIA to shut down secret prisons - or so it says

The United States will no longer hold terrorism suspects in secret prisons and plans to shut down any facilities still in operation, the CIA’s director says.
“CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites and has proposed a plan to decommission the remaining sites,” CIA Director, Leon Panetta, said in a letter to the agency’s staff that was released on the CIA’s website on Thursday.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prisons in foreign countries came under sharp condemnation from human-rights groups for ill treatment of al-Qaeda terrorist suspects.
A report leaked last month from the International Committee of the Red Cross which said that CIA’s interrogations amounted to torture.
Former president George W. Bush in 2006 first acknowledged the existence of the secret prisons, which were used to hold high-profile suspects including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
The prisons’ existence caused problems for some governments in Europe and Asia who allegedly were aware of the facilities.
A European Union report in 2007 singled out Poland and Romania for allowing CIA prisons on their soil from 2002-05, but both countries denied any knowledge.

Oregon recovery funds to aid
children’s care

Oregon will receive $22,510,354 in federal Recovery Act funding to support child care for working families. The administration also plans to make $2,490,016 in vaccines and grants available to Oregon to ensure more underserved Americans receive the vaccines they need.
Nationwide, $2 billion in Recovery Act funds for the Child Care and Development Fund will allow states across the country to support child care services for more families whose children require care while they are working, seeking employment or receiving job training or education. The funds will be used by states to provide vouchers to families for child care or to provide access to care through contracts with child care centers or invest in quality improvements. Recovery Act dollars will support a wide range of child care providers, including child care centers and home-based programs.
In addition to funding for child care programs, an additional $300 million in Recovery Act funding and grants will help to ensure more underserved Americans receive the vaccines they need. The Vice President’s announcement came as Americans mark National Public Health Week.
Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the majority of these new resources will be used to purchase vaccines, which will be distributed through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Section 317 immunization program to all 50 states, several large cities, and U.S. territories.

Blumenauer, Humana promote
physical fitness

U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) is working with The Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of health-benefits company Humana Inc., to promote physical fitness in his district by offering 100 sixth grade students at Clarendon-Portsmouth School a program that combines real-world exercise with an online game. The Humana Foundation has launched The American Horsepower Challenge in school districts across the country to help kids get healthier – and have fun while they’re doing it.
On Monday, May 11 at 9:30 a.m., school officials and students of Clarendon-Portsmouth School will join Rep. Blumenauer; Mary Haffenbredl, regional director of Government Relations for Humana; and project manager Danny Carvajal of Humana’s Innovation Center in leading a kick-off of The American Horsepower Challenge for sixth grade students.
Increasing activity at the grade-school level is critical. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past two decades. The most recent statistics show that 34 percent of America’s children are overweight. If this trend continues, it could cut two to five years from the average American’s lifespan, according to a study by the American Heart Association, and result in a dramatic increase in already prevalent chronic conditions.

Wu: Single-payer won’t happen in the United States

The Obama Administration has put reforming the nation’s health care system front and center in its strategy to revive the struggling economy. But Wu, a Democrat representing the First District, told nearly 60 union leaders at a breakfast meeting April 15, sponsored by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, that Obama is likely to retain the current employer-based system.
Wu said 150 million to 190 million Americans are currently covered under an employer-based system. “Most people like it and they want to keep it,” he said. “To doom any type of reform is to say you are taking that away.”
A majority of unions support a single-payer health care plan as proposed by U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. HR 676 would institute a single-payer health care system by expanding and making improvements to Medicare.
As for labor’s top legislation - the Employee Free Choice Act - Wu said there is still work to be done to get it through the Senate. Until then, it won’t come up for a vote in the House, where it has strong majority support.
Wu is an original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act.
On trade, the six-term congressman said it’s time to “re-think what we do” in regard to trade treaties.
“Working folks have suffered a lot” under free trade agreements that have been signed over the last 10 to 15 years, he said. “Shareholders and investors are the winners.”
Wu supports an amendment to the TRADE Act, a bill that was introduced last year by U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine. HR 6180 did not come up for a vote in the 110th Congress, and has yet to be reintroduced this year.
Wu has been working with Michaud to incorporate new language into the bill before submitting it. Overall, the TRADE Act would require the Government Accountability Office to review all existing U.S. trade pacts, and based on the review, would allow the renegotiation of those deals. The bill would also set the terms for future trade agreements, including labor, environmental, and human rights standards.

Elevated California Fire Risk Possible for 20 Years

State College, Pa. -- 8 May 2009 -- AccuWeather’s Expert Meteorologist Joe Bastardi says that the drought in the Southwest and southern California, which is promoting the spread of the fires, will continue for at least the next 20 years. Since the Pacific Ocean is cooling, the weather pattern is changing in such a way which is causing the Southwest to stay dry.
Bastardi also said that wetter conditions are likely for this coming winter for the region as an El Niño develops. The effects of the El Niño would only be temporary. The long-term, expected pattern is for a drier climate for at least the next couple of decades.
The overall dry weather conditions expected over the next 20 years will lead to an increase in fire danger. While El Niño patterns will occasionally develop and bring needed rainfall to southern California and the Southwest, these episodes will be brief and may not refurbish the natural order of ground moisture needed to sustain vegetation. Throw in the heavy population that already exists, there can be serious water shortages.
The Jesusita Fire is just a symptom of the overall issue of the dry weather pattern that has occurred this winter. The La Niña this year has resulted in a dry weather pattern across southern California. The brief rains that hit southern California during the winter caused vegetation to grow, leading to the increase fire danger. The other aspect of the fire has been the late day winds called “Sun Downers” that have fanned the fires even more. The weather pattern through the weekend will bring a day to day reduction in these winds, but in a gradual sense.
-Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski,

$32 Million in Federal Recovery Act Fundsheaded to Portland

The Metropolitan Transportation District (TriMet) will receive $32 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds for the South Corridor I-205/Portland Mall Light Rail Project.
 In 2007, the Federal Transit Administration signed a “full funding grant agreement” to provide $345.4 million of the $575.7 million total project cost to be paid out in annual increments through 2011. The ARRA grant announced today does The federal funds supplement local resources, which have declined during the economic downturn.
Upon completion, the total of 8.3-miles in light rail expansion will provide direct service from Clackamas County to the Portland Mall.  The South Corridor will consist of a 6.5-mile double-track line and run parallel to I-205 connecting Clackamas Regional Center in Southeast Portland to the Gateway Transit Center east of downtown.



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Last Updated: May 22, 2009