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House adopts resolution memorializing advocate for children who died in Uganda terrorist attack

July 27, 2010 Leave a comment

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)– The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a resolution (H. Res. 1538) introduced by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) condemning the World Cup bombings in Kampala, Uganda and recognizing San Diego activist Nate “Oteka” Henn who died in the terrorist attacks.

Henn was a volunteer with Invisible Children Inc., a non-profit organization based in San Diego that helps children, especially child soldiers, impacted by Uganda’s 23-year war.

“Invisible Children works to shed light on the grim reality that is faced by many Ugandans, particularly the children who are abducted and forced to become child-soldiers there,” said Davis during the debate. 

“Nate was a beloved and hard-working part of this cause…whether at the helm of an Invisible Children van as a member of a team of “roadies”…or as an effective and heartfelt fundraiser who helped send Ugandan students to school.”

As the world watched the World Cup finals on July 11, 2010, terrorists claiming to represent the Somalia-based al Shabaab terrorist organization launched suicide attacks against civilian targets in the city of Kampala, Uganda.  Tragically, at least 70 people died in the blasts, including the 25-year-old Henn.

Because of Henn’s outsized personality, his friends had given him the Acholi name of “Oteka,” which means “the strong one.”

Davis’s resolution sends a message to the allies and adversaries of the United States that it stands by our strategic partners. It also highlights the urgent need for the United States to continue to work with the international community to address the root causes of extremism and terrorism in Somalia and the region.

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Preceding provided by Congresswoman Susan Davis

Davis votes for Iran sanctions measure

June 24, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C (Press Release)– Congresswoman Susan Davis, a San Diego Democrat, voted to strengthen sanctions against Iran in an effort to persuade them to abandon their nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism.  H.R. 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, would strengthen the underlying Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) by imposing an array of tough new economic penalties aimed at persuading Iran to change its conduct. 

“It is in the national security interests of the United States and our allies to compel Iran’s leaders to halt their nuclear program.” said Davis.  “Sanctions, combined with unified international diplomatic pressure, are our best hope for peacefully achieving this goal.”

Targets of the bill range from business entities involved in refined petroleum sales to Iran or support for Iran’s domestic refining efforts to international banking institutions involved with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s illicit nuclear program or its support for terrorism.

The bill would impose severe restrictions on foreign financial institutions doing business with key Iranian banks or the IRGC.  In effect, it would present foreign banks doing business with blacklisted Iranian entities a stark choice – cease your activities or be denied critical access to America’s financial system.  The bill would also hold U.S. banks accountable for actions by their foreign subsidiaries. 

The House approved the final legislative agreement between the House and the Senate clearing the bill for President Obama’s signature.

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Preceding provided by Congresswoman Susan Davis

A good day for Jewish incumbents, but not for other Jewish candidates

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – Jewish incumbents on San Diego County ballots won election or renomination to their seats in California’s primaries on Tuesday, but most Jewish candidates running for open seats fell short of the mark, or placed second for runoff spots. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis won outright reelection in a nonpartisan race. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Congress Members Susan Davis and Bob Filner, and State Assembly member Marty Block all won renominations in their respective Democratic party primaries. Howard Katz, in an unopposed Democratic primary, won the right to oppose Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, setting up a contest between members of the Jewish and Lebanese-American communities.

Among Jewish hopefuls falling by the wayside were State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner who lost in an expensive Republican primary contest for governor to Meg Whitman; Orly Taitz, who sought the Republican nomination for Secretary of State; Mike Schmier who placed way back in the GOP race for attorney general; and David Nussbaum who was well behind the pack in the nonpartisan contest for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

That trend held up in local contests as well: In the 36th State Senate District, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone came in second to Assemblyman Joel Anderson for the Republican nomination; in the 76th Assembly District, Naomi Bar Lev placed third for the Republican nomination, and in the 6th San Diego City Council District race, Howard Wayne placed behind Lorie Zapf. Because neither Wayne nor Zapf had a majority, they will have a runoff election in November to replace termed-out City Council Member Donna Frye.

In contests in which major Jewish figures played behind-the-scenes roles, there were mixed results. Former County Sheriff Bill Kolender saw his hand-picked successor, Bill Gore, win easy election as sheriff. On the other hand, San Diego City Council member Marti Emerald was unsuccessful in persuading the voters to block the proposal to make the “strong mayor” system of government permanent and to return instead to having a city manager serve as the chief executive of the municipality.

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

San Diego’s Historic Places: Miramar National Cemetery

May 15, 2010 Leave a comment


Jackson, Principi and Muro unveil dedication plaque as Leopard, left, looks on.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—Miramar National Cemetery was dedicated Saturday, January 30,  2010, by two members of Congress and ranking officials of the military and Veterans Administration with promises that San Diego will once again be able to bury the bodies of its veterans—and not only their ashes—before the end of the year.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery which has served San Diego since the mid 19th century ran out of room in 1966 for gravesites, although inurnments in the columbarium continue to this day. That has meant that any San Diego veteran or spouse desiring to be buried in a casket, and not cremated, had to go to another national cemetery with the closest one being in Riverside, California.

This has worked a hardship on all veteran families in San Diego, who had to choose between a gravesite somewhere else or an urn here in San Diego. In particular, this caused a hardship for Jewish veteran families desiring to observe the religion’s traditional prohibition against cremation.

Alan Miliefsky, California commander of Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., said another feature of the cemetery – pre-location in the gravesites of crypts—will make it easier for military burials to be accomplished within the quick time frame of 24 to 48 hours that is typical of a Jewish funeral. Having the cemetery on Miramar Marine Corps Air Station also will mean that buglers from the Marine Corps Band such as the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, which played at the dedication ceremonies, will be available to sound the customary “Taps” at military burials.

U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, said that the plans for the cemetery include “a combination of natural and man-made designs” using California native plants in such a way that the cemetery will be considered “a garden of heroes.”

The congressman paid special tribute to Retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Cardenas, board chairman of the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery Support Foundation, who helped organize a 10-year-drive to build a new national cemetery in San Diego County. Joking that the general was “a general pain in the butt,” he said that Washington would never have responded as it did without his prodding.

The congressman also surprised many in the audience by thanking a disgraced former colleague, Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who now is serving a term in federal prison following conviction in a bribery trial. Filner and Cunningham—respectively a liberal Democrat and a Conservative Republican—had many clashes, sometimes even bitter ones, but Filner said it was important to remember that Cunningham, who previously had been an ace pilot in the Vietnam War, had initiated the effort to have a new national cemetery built in San Diego. Acknowledging that Cunningham made mistakes for which he is serving the sentence, Filner added that Cunningham also did some good, especially for veterans. Filner’s impromptu comments, though controversial, were received with applause.

Congresswoman Susan Davis, a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, commented that with the construction of Miramar National Cemetery, San Diego, with one of the highest veteran populations in the country, will again have a choice “when it comes to their funeral arrangements.”

The two Congressional representatives preceded to the podium Kirk K. Leopard, whose job as director of the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery will be expanded to include the directorship of both cemeteries.

Leopard said the 313-acre cemetery on the west tip of Miramar Marine Corps Air Station near the Nobel Drive exit of Interstate 805 will be built  in phases, with the first phase to include approximately 11,500 conventional gravesites, 4,500 in-ground cremation sites, and 10,000 colambarium niches. Eventually, he added in an interview, there will be combined space for 162,000 caskets and urns, which he estimated will be filled within seven decades.

Fort Rosecrans just this last December recorded its 100,000th funeral. One of the reasons that Miramar will be able to accommodate more burials than Fort Rosecrans, said Leopard, is that the ground will be dug 10 feet deep, instead of five feet deep, and each site will be able to accommodate two caskets.

Although the first phase of cemetery construction is not expected to be completed until 2012, a portion of the first phase is planned to be ready by September of this year, when the first burials will occur, according to Leopard.

Part of the reason it took a decade for the cemetery to reach this point was the presence of two endangered species on Miramar Marine Corps Air Station — the California gnatcatcher and the fairy shrimp.  Land was set aside for both the gnatcatcher, a bird known for its catlike mewing call, and the shrimp which breeds during the rainy season in vernal pools, remaining dormant the rest of the year.

The keynote speaker of Saturday’s ceremony was Steve L. Muro, acting undersecretary for memorial affairs. He said that Miramar will have a memorial wall constructed to honor soldiers who were lost at sea, missing in action, and are prisoners of war, so that their families will have a place to symbolically visit them. He paid tribute to Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Wives, who received a standing ovation from fellow members of the audience, and also remembered John Ibe, a strong local advocate, now deceased, for the Miramar National Cemetery.

One of the names most mentioned during the ceremony was that of Abraham Lincoln, whose famous Gettysburg Address in 1863 dedicated one of what today is a 131-unit system of national cemeteries. It was Lincoln who ordered cemeteries to be set aside to honor those who would give their lives defending their country. In his Gettysburg Address, the 16th President also predicted that the world would little remember what was said that day – but in that he was mistaken.

Among other speakers was Anthony Principi, who had served as Secretary of Veterans Affairs during President George W. Bush’s administration and who, Muro noted, was one of the top administration officials who had pushed for locating a cemetery at Miramar.

A former U.S. Navy officer, Principi, a resident or Rancho Santa Fe, said he anticipated that he might someday be buried in this cemetery himself – a sentiment also expressed by another speaker, Maj. Gen. Anthony L. Jackson, who is commanding general for the Marine Corps installations in the Western United States.

In the ceremony emceed by KGTV/ Channel 10’s Bob Lawrence, there were numerous other dignitaries who did not speak, but who were recognized, including San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, and two Medal of Honor recipients: Jay Vargas, who fought in Vietnam, and Walt Ehlers, who was decorated for his bravery on D-Day during World War II.

The dedication ceremony began with a musical prelude by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band under the direction of Staff Sgt Victor Ney, and ended with Marines rendering a three-volley rifle salute and the playing of “Taps” by Sgt. Austin Hunt, bugler. In between there was a presentation of the colors by an honor guard from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar; the playing of the Star Spangled Banner followed by a medley of the songs of the various branches of the Armed Services; a prayer of dedication by Chaplain Ronald Ritter, a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony in which the dignitaries donned hard hats and wielded shovels; and the unveiling of a plaque by Jackson, Principi and Muro. The plaque said:

“Miramar National Cemetery Dedicated to the Memory of All the Patriotic Men and Women Who Answered Their Country’s Call to Service.” Below that inscription were the names of Barack Obama, President of the United States; Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Steve L. Muro, Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, National Cemetery Administration. The plaque carried the Dedication date of January 30, 2010. 

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Congresswoman Susan Davis Attends Jerusalem Forum on Middle East Issue

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

ATTENDED FORUM—From left Nita Lowey, Ted Kaufman, Joseph         Lieberman, Binyamin Netanyahu, Henry Waxman, Lindsey Graham,
Howard Berman and Susan Davis
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WASHINGTON, D.C  (Press Release)– Congresswoman Susan Davis of San Diego recently attended the 2009 Saban Forum in Israel which brought together leading policymakers from America and Israel to discuss U.S.-Israel relations and the critical issues facing the Middle East.

The U.S delegation also included former President Bill Clinton, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Democratic Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, and Democratic Reps. Nita Lowey of New York and fellow Democratic Congress members from California Howard Berman, Henry Waxman, and Jane Harman.

The Israeli participants were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Yuval Diskin and Director of Military Intelligence General Amos Yadlin.

“This was an incredible opportunity to engage in a dialogue on issues that are critical to the national security of both the United States and Israel,” said Davis, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.  “It is these dialogues that will help lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East.”

The issues discussed ranged from the Iranian threat to Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Part of the three-day conference was a trip to Ramallah on the West Bank for a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.  The delegation witnessed the progress being made on the economic and infrastructure developments and improved security in Ramallah.

The conference was sponsored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  Founded in 2004, the center works to promote policy dialogue between Israel and the U.S.

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Preceding provided by Congresswoman Susan Davis