Monday, August 30, 2010
While it may not have been the deciding factor in resolving a crisis involving Jamaican apple pickers, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's fondness for Champlain Valley McIntosh apples didn't hurt.
"The old Hillary connections helped out," said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association. "That's her favorite apple. We send a box of Macs down to the State Department on a regular basis. They come right out of Clinton County every month or so."
Allen explained that the crisis involving Jamaican pickers and local orchardists' difficulties in getting them this year stemmed from Homeland Security concerns when the H-2A migrant-picker program passed to State Department classification under the Obama administration.
"The problem is just the bureaucracy and the layers you have to go through to reach your ultimate goal," Allen said. Despite the fact the H-2A program has been working well for more than 50 years as the only legal foreign-picker program in the United States, hurdles still come up.
He said the State Department recategorized the Jamaican Center for Labor Organization, run by the government in Kingston, Jamaica, that was set up to facilitate the H-2A program as a labor contractor, a non-government agency.
"It threw them in a whole new category," Allen said. Now, U.S. Customs and other agencies need clarification and more information to comply with their rules. So, growers' applications were sent back with requests for more information relating to all the deductions that are taken from migrants' pay, such as for Social Security, health care, transportation, etc.
"Most of those questions, the growers couldn't answer," Allen said, adding that it was information about the workers that the growers had no way of knowing.
"The JCLO and the State Department thought they had a solution a month ago, and it never materialized," Allen said, explaining that workers heading for New England, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia were affected. "It really hit the fan Thursday of last week."
A full-court press then occurred involving the two New York U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy; North Country Rep. Bill Owens; other congressmen from apple-producing districts; the New York Farm Bureau; and the Apple Association.
"All of their staffs got involved," Allen said. "Without all this help, we wouldn't be here today."
The bottom line, he said, was that a resolution was obtained with Customs and Immigration this past Wednesday night. The only downside is it involves a lot of paperwork, he said, "like a small novel."
Allen said it all has to do with Homeland Security tightening the borders and scrutinizing everybody.
He said the Hillary connection helped at the State Department. They told her "if we don't get our pickers, her favorite apples would be lying on the ground," Allen joked.
He said it really helped to have the leadership of the two senior powerhouse senators, Schumer and Leahy, with their connections, and Gillibrand on the Agriculture Committee. "There were some heated phone calls between Schumer and Leahy and the Customs and Immigration Service," Allen said. "It was a stretch to get them to bend."
Allen said now it's a matter of getting everyone moving. "The problem is to get those pickers on the airplanes," he said. "Time is of the essence."
Sunday, August 29, 2010
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Irish Minister Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin will co-host an international hunger conference in New York in September to which up to 190 nations have been invited....
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Since 1961, the men and women of the Peace Corps have carried forward our finest traditions of service and embodied the United States’ commitment to forging partnerships and solving problems around the world. Today more than 7,600 Peace Corps volunteers from all fifty states serve in 76 countries, putting their skills and efforts to work on behalf of others. They follow in the footsteps of generations of dedicated volunteers whose hard work has changed lives, created new opportunities, and deepened understanding between cultures. Their example has inspired millions of other Americans to serve their communities through organizations here at home such as Americorps and Teach for America. And for many, the Peace Corps has been the start of a life-long commitment to service and engagement with the world. The State Department and USAID are filled with returned Peace Corps volunteers who draw on their experiences to serve our country and help build a more peaceful and prosperous world.
On this anniversary, we honor the nearly 200,000 Americans who have answered the challenge first laid down by John F. Kennedy a half-century ago and volunteered in the Peace Corps. Let us recommit ourselves to the vision they championed, the example they set and the work they began.
Friday, February 26, 2010
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said she was heartbroken by the state of U.S. finances and laid the blame in part on "outrageous" advice from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
Clinton, appearing before a congressional panel to defend the State Department's $52.8 billion budget request for the 2011 fiscal year, said the Obama administration was well aware of the fiscal pressures battering average Americans.
"It breaks my heart that 10 years ago we had a balanced budget, that we were on the way of paying down the debt of the United States of America," Clinton said.
"I served on the budget committee in the Senate, and I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday when we had a hearing in which Alan Greenspan came and justified increasing spending and cutting taxes, saying that we didn't really need to pay down the debt -- outrageous in my view," she said.
Greenspan was named central bank chief by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and held the office until 2006, serving throughout the presidency of Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Seen an economic oracle when in office, Greenspan's words regularly moved financial markets.
But his image became tarnished after he retired, with many blaming him for helping inflate a housing bubble that eventually burst, setting off a grave financial crisis and plunging the economy into recession.
Public concern about the debt mounted after the government posted a record $1.4 trillion deficit for the fiscal year that ended September 30. The issue looms large ahead of congressional elections in November.
Greenspan, known as a deficit hawk, late last year endorsed a proposed bipartisan commission to help make tough calls needed to bring U.S. debt under control.
Clinton noted that the 2011 budget request for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development represented a $4.9 billion increase over 2010, most of which would fund work in the "frontline states" of Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"We are now assuming so many of the post-conflict responsibilities, and that is the bulk of our increase," Clinton said.
Republican Representative Ron Paul, who has helped lead congressional efforts to rein in the deficit, pressed Clinton on U.S. diplomatic spending including a plan for an expensive new U.S. embassy building in London.
Clinton said the costs of the proposed modernist glass cube would be offset by savings on rent for satellite offices that embassy personnel must now use.
"I believe I can make the case that we're not asking for new money," she said.