09-13-2018 Letters and Commentary

Upton urges bipartisan reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act U.S. Rep. Fred Upton recently joined colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in sending a letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging an immediate, bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Upton supported the original VAWA in 1994 and has voted for every subsequent bipartisan reauthorization since (2000, 2005, and 2013). “Programs authorized and funded under VAWA work to protect girls, boys, men, and women from these terrible crimes. The programs provide funding to ensure safety and support for survivors, increase prevention efforts, expand educational awareness surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault, implement training for health professionals and law enforcement, and to coordinate responses across agencies,” Upton and his colleagues write. “We have all seen the positive impact of these programs in our districts and have met individuals in our communities who have benefited from the protections this law provides. “This is not a partisan issue. VAWA has historically been continually reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in Congress. We must act now to maintain and strengthen this critical law.” Read the full letter below: Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McCarthy: As you know, on September 30th the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is set to expire, leaving us only 7 legislative days to prevent a lapse in authorization. We therefore urge you to advance a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA without delay. Since being signed into law in 1994, VAWA has helped to protect and support millions of Americans who have faced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This landmark legislation has drastically improved our nation’s response to these crimes and has contributed to the overall declining rates of domestic abuse since its enactment. However, instances of violence are still very common. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in our country, about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experience some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime. Programs authorized and funded under VAWA work to protect girls, boys, men, and women from these terrible crimes. The programs provide funding to ensure safety and support for survivors, increase prevention efforts, expand educational awareness surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault, implement training for health professionals and law enforcement, and to coordinate responses across agencies. We have all seen the positive impact of these programs in our districts and have met individuals in our communities who have benefited from the protections this law provides. This is not a partisan issue. VAWA has historically been continually reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in Congress. We must act now to maintain and strengthen this critical law. We urge expeditious reauthorization of VAWA and thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Start Your Engines! United Way of Southwest Michigan’s annual campaign kicks off this week United Way of Southwest Michigan’s campaign is open. And for the second year in a row, United Way has partnered with Tyler Automotive to provide a car challenge. Donors who give $156 are automatically entered into a drawing to win a two-year lease on a sub-compact vehicle from Tyler Automotive. For every additional $100 contributed, donors receive an additional entry into the drawing. Ten finalists are selected, and the 2018 winner will be announced on February 19, 2019 at Tyler Automotive in Stevensville. Consolation prizes will be awarded to the nine other finalists. At last year’s car giveaway, Duane Berger of St. Joseph rode away with a new set of wheels. “We appreciate Tyler’s support of United Way. This campaign created some great engagement around the community, but more importantly, created huge impact,” said Anna Murphy, president of United Way of Southwest Michigan. The automatic entry of $156, which equates to $3 per week, is enough money to provide 34 meals for someone dealing with food insecurity. It provides one free book for a child every month for five years.

United Way of Southwest Michigan leading state-wide unified kickoff Dozens of United Ways across Michigan, led by United Way of Southwest Michigan, kicked off a statewide effort this week to encourage people to get involved in their communities. Michael Larson, president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW), said the unified kickoff allows United Ways of all sizes to spotlight their local impact statewide. “While each United Way tackles the needs in their local community, together we improve the quality of life for all people across Michigan,” said Larson. “When we share our ideas and successes, we grow together and transform our communities in meaningful ways.” Beginning Monday, participating United Ways are sharing their stories through advertising, news media and social media. A common online website, letsliveunited.org, includes a video and links to the local United Ways taking part. While the week-long kickoff is statewide, funds raised locally will stay local, Murphy said. “We’re focused on impacting local lives and sharing that story across Michigan.” According to Larson, the unified kickoff sprung from a dialogue four years ago between MAUW, Capital Area United Way, United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, United Way of Jackson County, and United Way of Southwest Michigan. The effort adds no additional cost to participating United Ways, and in fact it helps increase visibility for smaller United Ways that may not have resources for extensive marketing. “United Way connects and mobilizes all sectors in a community to create lasting change that produces healthy, educated and financially stable individuals and families,” Larson said. “The unified kickoff is about telling that story and inviting people to get involved.”

Red Cross: Donors urged to give blood, help blood supply match patient diversity The American Red Cross urges people of all races and ethnicities to give blood to help ensure a diverse blood supply for patients in need. The vast majority of blood types fall into one of the major ABO groups. However, some blood types are unique to certain racial and ethnic groups, so a diverse blood supply is important to meeting the medical needs of an increasingly diverse patient population. Blood given to patients with rare blood types or those who need repeated transfusions for conditions such as sickle cell disease or thalassemia must be matched very closely. Patients are less likely to have complications from blood donated by someone with a similar racial or ethnic background. All blood types are needed to ensure that the right blood product is available at the right time for all patients. Make an appointment to donate blood by downloading the free American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). As a thank-you, those who come to donate blood or platelets through Sept. 30, 2018, will receive a coupon via email for a free haircut at participating Sport Clips locations. More information is available at RedCrossBlood.org/sport-clips. Upcoming blood donation opportunities in the Tri-City Area are Sept. 21, 11 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., Coloma Township Office, 4919 Paw Paw Lake Rd. and Sept. 28, noon – 5:45 p.m., Federated Church, 65418 Red Arrow Hwy in Hartford. Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in.

The Seneca guns and the groaning Earth The loud boom sounded again, then the swaying of the building where I had a third-floor apartment. Curious and disturbing, considering that Oak Island, North Carolina is officially below sea level. Would a tsunami follow, washing this entire pylon-supported building into the intracoastal waterway? In my travels to North Carolina I’ve experienced this phenomenon three or four times. Called “Seneca Guns” after a similar New York Finger Lake’s phenomenon, this has been going on for many years with no consistent, plausible explanation. Not sonic boom, not earthquake, not Navy range testing, not submerged gas explosion. Some think it may be related to the groaning Earth events that have been occurring around the world in recent years. While some of those sounds have been explained by human causes, there are many that remain mysteries. There’s much we don’t understand about the interactions of various forces in nature. The elements that control the environment are not easily analyzed. The Bible explains that nature (the environment, both terrestrial and beyond) has been impacted by mankind’s sin, and actually looks forward to a time of resolution and restoration. Romans 8:19-22 reads, “…the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now…” (NASB) These are interesting concepts indicating that there is some relationship between spiritual and physical redemption. Sin corrupts everything, and final redemption restores far beyond the spiritual. A deeper study is warranted. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy Oak Island from a distance.

If you are young and lose a parent Social Security is here for young people when a parent passes away. We know that the loss of a parent isn’t just emotionally painful; it can be devastating to a family’s finances. In the same way that Social Security helps to lift up the disabled and elderly when they need it, we support families when an income-earning parent dies. In 2017, we distributed an average of $2.6 billion each month to benefit about 4.2 million children because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. Those dollars help to provide the necessities of life and help make it possible for those children to complete high school. You might ask… who can get child’s benefits? Your unmarried child can get benefits if they’re: Younger than age 18; 18-19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12); or 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22. To get benefits, a child must have: A parent who’s disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits; or a parent who died after having worked long enough in a job where they paid Social Security taxes. Benefits stop when your child reaches age 18 unless your child is a student or disabled. Within a family, a child can receive up to half of the parent’s full retirement or disability benefit. If a child receives survivors benefits, he or she can get up to 75 percent of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit. There is a limit to the amount of money that we can pay to a family. This family maximum is determined as part of every Social Security benefit computation. It can be from 150 to 180 percent of the parent’s full benefit amount. If the total amount payable to all family members exceeds this limit, we reduce each person’s benefit proportionately (except the parent’s) until the total equals the maximum allowable amount. Children with disabilities may also be eligible for benefits. You can read more about Benefits for Children with Disabilities at www.socialsecur- ity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10026.pdf. Social Security is securing today and tomorrow, protecting our future and the next generation. Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

HOW NICE was the past weekend? With a couple cool, cloudy days the weekend was a welcome respite from hot and humid days that made working and playing outside a chore. The weather of last week made back to school week for many kids miserable in sticky classrooms. Even so, being back in school is a happy time for most youngsters, seeing old friends and making new is an exciting time for them. I get a kick out of watching the kids on the school buses as they go by the office each day. Most are looking out the windows, others are chatting with friends, more are leaning back perhaps catching some rest or going over some last-minute homework or making plans for after school. Who knows what thoughts are going through those young minds at the start of the school day or on the way home at its’ end. Probably nothing this old guy can imagine. That being said, I also can’t imagine what all those people are doing on the phone driving their kids to school. By their actions, looking down at the phone, they are reading and sending texts or scrolling through messages. All of which are dangerous actions as it takes the driver’s eyes off the road. As I watch the traffic go by the office front window, I see about three out of every four vehicles passing by with the driver on the phone. That includes every vehicle, from passenger cars to garbage trucks, including emergency vehicles and cop cars (not on an emergency response), all except school busses.

NAME WITHHELD… I’ve followed the brouhaha sparked by the “guest editorial” published by the New York Times last week signed as a “Senior Administration official” with much interest; more for the anonymity of the author, than for the content. There’s little doubt our president is thin skinned, paranoid, shoots from the hip (lip), crude and rude, and a Washington outsider. The Washington insiders and the rest of us better get used to him. Most of those that voted for him still support him nearly half way through his first term, despite all his peccadilloes. Back to the (my) issue at hand. Why did the NY Times publish the letter in the first place? According to their own website, they had more than 23,000 readers respond questioning the printing of the editorial a week ago. Most were bothered by the anonymity of the piece. The paper, on its website, answered the most common comments in general. I was not surprised that the NYT chose to publish the opinion because it offered a unique first-person insight into the Trump administration from someone there. They also accepted the unsigned opinion because they know the identity of the writer. I don’t doubt the intention of the NYT editors to keep the identity of the writer secret. But I doubt it will be secret long if more than one person at the Times knows it. The identity of the “Senior Administration official” writing an editorial opinion unflattering to President Trump will be the bombshell guaranteed to sell lots of books.

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