June 24, 2005 E-Newsletter
My office is publishing this electronic newsletter as a way to keep you informed about what is happening in Washington and in the Second Congressional District in Colorado. You can also log onto my website at www.house.gov/markudall for more information about constituent services, upcoming events or to read recent statements on various issues. Please feel free to share this newsletter with friends or direct them to my website. I hope you will find this newsletter to be helpful and informative.
HOUSE RESTORES FUNDING FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING
During debate on the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education spending bill, the House voted 284-140 to add back $100 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's 2006 budget, and to reverse Republican attempts to eliminate all funding for the CPB within two years. The CPB provides critical funding for PBS and National Public Radio and I was pleased to vote in favor of restoring this funding so that Americans can continue to receive quality children's programming and balanced news and information.
The battle to save funding for public broadcasting is not over, however. A conference committee will need to work out differences between different House and Senate bills, and the conference committee could still cut funding for the CPB. You can be sure I will continue to fight to keep public broadcasting funding intact.
FLAG BURNING AMENDMENT
I do not support burning the flag, but I am even more opposed to weakening the First Amendment, one of the most important things for which the flag itself stands. Every day, at home and abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are on guard to defend our country and our constitution from those who have no respect for either. In my opinion, anyone who thinks that burning the flag would be an effective way to influence public opinion is grossly mistaken. And I think to say we need to amend the constitution in order to respond to people suffering from that delusion is to give them more importance than they deserve.
I think that point was well put by Bill Holen of Littleton, CO, who recently said in a Denver Post letter to the editor: "As a Vietnam Veteran and one who fought honorable for this nation while I personally abhor the thought of anyone burning the American flag, the symbol under which I fought for this nation, I believe the principles embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are far more important."
AIR FORCE ACADEMY RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE REPORT RELEASED
On May 2, in response to reports of religious intolerance at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel, Lt. General Roger Brady, was asked to form a cross-functional team to assess the religious climate at the Academy and their progress in integrating principles of respect in their character development program. The team was not tasked to investigate cases of specific misconduct nor to determine individual accountability, but to refer specific cases to appropriate authorities. The report was released on June 29.
I've read the report's executive summary, which concludes that there is a religious climate at the Air Force Academy that "does not involve overt religious discrimination but a failure to fully accommodate all members' needs and a lack of awareness over where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs." The report also reports that the Academy is "aggressively engaged" in dealing with this issue.
Squaring these conclusions with statements made recently by Lt. Gen. John Rosa and with other reports, is far from clear. Lt. Gen. Rosa has said that the problem is "pervasive", that it "keeps him up at night, and that it could take six years to fix". I am encouraged that the Academy recently launched a new religious tolerance training program, but I suspect that it will take more than a training program to change the Academy's climate. An unwillingness to tolerate other cultures and faiths is not only inconsistent with our constitutional principles, it is detrimental to the mission of the Air Force and of the military in general.
Every year, my office nominates young men and women to serve in the Air Force Academy -- one of the most prestigious of our national service academies. I feel an obligation to keep faith with these young people and their parents, and while I am encouraged by the general direction of this report, I plan to talk to Air Force Academy officials and learn first-hand what is underway to protect the cadets and enhance the mission at the Academy. Also, I sit on the House Armed Service Committee's Personnel Subcommittee, which will hold a hearing on the report on Tuesday, June 28.
WEATHER R&D PROGRAM PROPOSED TO ADDRESS DROUGHT CONCERNS
In an effort to help Colorado address its statewide water concerns, this week I introduced legislation to promote and fund research and development to improve weather modification technologies.
Colorado has experienced drought conditions in recent years. Efforts have been made to address drought recovery, preparedness and mitigation, but little fundamental research has been done to better understand weather modification, which some believe can increase the snowpacks that provide water resources for several western states. In Colorado, a large portion of our water comes from the snowpack run off each year. A better understanding of weather modification can enhance our snowpacks and assist us in addressing drought concerns.
H.R. 2995, The Weather Modification Research and Technology Transfer Authorization Act, establishes a federal research and development program to improve our understanding of the atmosphere and develop more effective weather modification technologies and techniques, such as cloud-seeding. The bill would create a Weather Modification Advisory and Research Board in the Department of Commerce to promote weather modification through the funding of research and development projects. The board would be comprised of scientists and meteorologists, engineers, representatives from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a higher education institution and a state which is currently supporting operational weather modification projects.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board has endorsed similar legislation introduced in the Senate.
A 2003 report by the National Academies of Science called for a national program for a sustained research effort to enhance the effectiveness and predictability of weather modification, and Congress should follow through on that recommendation.
There is currently no federal investment in weather modification, though there are private funds that are largely going toward unproven techniques. Congress should support the expansion of the research and development of weather modification and I look forward to working with my colleagues on passing this bill.
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