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facebook icon  twitter icon  youtube icon   September 19, 2013
IN THIS ISSUE

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"My View on the Syrian Civil War"


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Deputy Sheriff: Senator Collins is the ‘one person to thank’ for taking action against Jamaican lottery scams


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DFAS Limestone to Receive New Workload


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Supporting the Victims of the Fort Hood Massacre


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Nonpartisan Government Watchdog Endorses Sen. Collins' Bill Supporting Domestic Footwear Manufacturing


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A Visit to Temple Beth El


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A Visit to the Front Street Shipyard

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Fighting for a Cure for Alzheimer's

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Meeting with Mainers

 

 

 My View on the Syrian Civil War


By Senator Susan Collins

The decision on whether or not to authorize the President to use the military might of our great country against another nation is the most significant vote that a Senator can cast. The Constitution vests this responsibility in Congress, a duty that rests heavily on the shoulders of each and every Member.

We are engaged in a serious debate about what the appropriate response should be to the horrific use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian President Assad to kill his own people on August 21st. This was not the first use of chemical weapons by Assad. He launched several smaller-scale attacks murdering his citizens, and many, if not all, occurred after our President drew his “red line” a year ago. It was not until the large-scale attack on August 21st, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,400 people, that President Obama decided that a military strike against Syria was warranted.

As a senior member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, I have participated in numerous discussions with the President, Vice President, and experts in and out of government. Many Mainers have also provided me with their valuable insights.

While diplomatic negotiations continue between the United States, Russia, Syria, and our allies, I have decided that I cannot support the authorization for the use of military force in Syria as passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here are my reasons.

One of the criteria for the use of military force is whether or not the adversary poses a direct, imminent threat to America. More than once, President Obama has stated that Syria’s chemical weapons do not pose such a threat. Instead, the President justifies the attack as a response to a violation of international norms, despite the fact that we currently lack international partners to enforce the convention on chemical weapons through military means.

Although the term “limited air strikes” sounds less threatening, they constitute an act of war. If bombs were dropped from the air or cruise missiles were launched into a city in the United States, we would certainly consider that to be an act of war.

American military strikes risk entangling us into the middle of a protracted and dangerous civil war. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that the U.S. military “cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious, and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.” This conflict could escalate to the point where we are perceived to be -- or actually are -- involved in a civil war or a proxy war with Hezbollah or Iran. My concern is that reprisals, followed by subsequent retaliations, followed by even further reprisals, could lead to an escalation of violence that was never intended by the President but may well be the result of the first strike.

In addition to my concerns about being dragged into the Syrian civil war, I question whether the proposed military response would be more effective in achieving the goal of eliminating Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons than a diplomatic approach. No military or intelligence official I have spoken with believes that the contemplated strike will eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons capability. General Dempsey wrote to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin that even if an explicit military mission to secure Syria’s chemical weapons were undertaken, it would result in the control of “some, but not all” chemical weapons in Syria, and that is not what is being discussed.

I also doubt that limited air strikes will be perceived as narrowly as the President would like them to be. While Administration officials have gone out of their way to state that the military strikes are only to deter and degrade Assad’s chemical weapons use and are not intended to pick sides in the civil war, the text of the resolution and the Administration’s statements are at odds with its representations.

The resolution states that it is the policy of the United States to “change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria so as to create favorable conditions for a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria.” No one could ever consider the Assad dictatorship to be a “democratic government.” Furthermore, on September 3, Secretary of State John Kerry testified that degrading Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons “deprives him of a lethal weapon in this ongoing civil war, and that has an impact.”

Assad is a brutal, ruthless dictator who is supported by thousands of Hezbollah terrorist fighters. The opposition, however, is not pure. It has been infiltrated by not one but two affiliates of al Qaeda as well as criminal gangs. Caught in the middle are millions of Syrians who simply want to lead peaceful lives. All of us want to see a peaceful Syria no longer led by Assad nor controlled by the radical Islamist extremists that are part of his opposition, but is military action that could get us involved in Syria’s civil war the right answer?

One of the arguments advanced by proponents of the AUMF resolution is that America’s credibility is on the line. This is a legitimate concern. I would maintain, however, that the credibility of the United States is greater than one statement by the President, even in his important capacity as Commander-in-Chief.

The credibility of the United States is backed by a military that is the most advanced and capable in the world. The strength of our military sends the clear message that the United States is capable of exerting overwhelming force whenever we decide it is necessary to do so.

I also reject the notion that the United States has only the two choices of undertaking an act of war or doing nothing in our response to President Assad’s attack on his citizens. The Russian proposal to place Syria’s chemical weapons in the custody of the international community before they would ultimately be destroyed gives me cautious optimism. I am not naïve about “trusting” the Russians, but this option may well be in Russia’s own interests and it would once and for all prevent Assad or anyone else in Syria from using those weapons.

A diplomatic solution will not be easy, but it is preferable to a military strike with its known dangers and unknown consequences.

_______________________________________________________

Watch Senator Collins' floor speech about Syria by clicking the image below or by clicking here.

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Deputy Sheriff: Senator Collins is the ‘one person to thank’ for taking action against Jamaican lottery scams

From the Portland Press Herald:

Maine Voices: Collins' concern for scammed seniors produces progress

The Maine senator is the 'one person to thank' for getting federal authorities to take action against Jamaican scams.

By WILLIAM KING

ALFRED - In August 2011, the York County Sheriff's Office learned of a local woman who lost approximately $100,000 in pursuit of a lottery scam. We soon found out she was just one of many in Maine who were being scammed. Another woman lost $600,000 of her life savings. Our investigation quickly traced the victims' money to Jamaica, and we contacted federal authorities.

As a small sheriff's office, we implored federal authorities, stationed in New England, to get involved in these scams, but nothing seemed to work. We were disappointed with the hands-off approach exhibited by our federal counterparts regarding this horrendous crime. We learned of a federal task force stationed in Jamaica named "Project JOLT" -- which stands for "Jamaican Organized Links to Telemarketing." Locating them was challenging, and we were initially told the task force had been disbanded.

We also discovered that a loosely organized task force was set up in North Carolina targeting the Jamaican lottery scammers. However, none of the federal authorities we spoke with offered any hope of successfully prosecuting the Jamaican scammers. They explained that their effectiveness was hampered by limited resources, other priorities, Jamaican authorities, and limited Jamaican laws prosecuting scammers.

With dim hopes of prosecuting these perpetrators ourselves, we decided upon a course of education. We partnered with local telephone provider, FairPoint Communications, in an effort to raise the visibility of this issue by launching a public awareness campaign. We learned that every day 30,000 calls left the small island of Jamaica destined for the United States -- most destined for New England. It was clear to me that our seniors were under attack by sophisticated Jamaican scammers, and it appeared that federal, as well as local law enforcement were unable to help these victims or their families.

Fast forward to today -- there is renewed interest in the Jamaican Lottery Scam by federal authorities. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has emerged as the lead agency, recently announcing they will be setting up a dedicated telephone line to handle all Jamaican Lottery Scam calls. The FTC will now assimilate scam reports and coordinate the investigation of these crimes from the domestic victim to the scam organizers in Jamaica.

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(Senator Collins greets Dep. Sherriff King prior to the hearing she held in March)

Mainers have one person to thank for facilitating this "change of heart" by federal authorities. It is our own Senator Susan Collins. Late last year, FairPoint arranged meetings with the Congressional delegations from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to urge them to provide more resources to the federal agencies who work with Project JOLT. Kim Nichols, whose father was victimized by the scammers, traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet face to face with the Congressional delegations.

Sen. Collins was so moved by Nichols' story, that after being named the top Republican on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, she asked the chair, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, to hold a hearing on the issue. In a news release announcing the hearing, Sen. Collins was quoted as saying, "Our parents and grandparents worked hard their entire lives and saved for retirement. They should not be targeted by criminals who want to rob them of their hard-earned savings."

As a result of Sen. Collins' urging, a special hearing on the subject was held in March to find out what, if anything, federal agencies were doing about the scams. The hearing put an international spotlight on the scam with all three major networks -- ABC, NBC and CBS -- running in-depth reports on their evening news shows. Veteran reporter, Dan Rather did a one hour news segment on the scam, even traveling to Jamaica and interviewing the scammers.

Influencing the priorities of foreign countries and federal agencies is no easy task, even for someone with the political stature of Sen. Collins. But her efforts seem to be working.

Her involvement prompted the Jamaican government to expedite extradition proceedings of suspected scammers, a major obstacle in prosecuting these criminals in the past. She recently co-sponsored legislation that required the FTC to establish a special office, dedicated to investigating scams. It is clear that federal law enforcement officials are being monitored and closely scrutinized by the Senator's office to ensure this crime against our elderly remains a priority -- and she's holding people accountable.

As a local law enforcement officer, I am very appreciative of Sen. Collins' interest in this policing challenge. As a constituent of Sen. Collins, I have witnessed firsthand the leadership role she has taken in exposing this unmerciful victimization of our most vulnerable citizens. We all should be very appreciative of her efforts to protect Maine's senior citizens.

William King is chief deputy with the York County Sheriff’s Office and a resident of Saco.

 

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DFAS Limestone to Receive New Workload

From the St. John Valley Times:

LIMESTONE, Maine - Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) will begin assuming the Air Force workload from DFAS Europe beginning in October, according to a Sept. 12 press release from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

"This transfer of work is positive news and will help maintain a steady workload for the men and women at DFAS Limestone," said Collins, according to the same press release. "The Department of Defense should continue to examine the feasibility and cost effectiveness of consolidating operations at facilities overseas and bringing that work to existing facilities here in the United States."

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Collins attached legislative report language to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that instructed the Department of Defense to evaluate the feasibility and cost-savings that may be realized by closing overseas facilities and consolidating operations of defense agencies, including the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, to existing facilities and installations within the United States.

 

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Supporting the Victims of the Fort Hood Massacre

From WMTW News 8:

Mainer part of Fort Hood shooting lawsuit

Retired Army Specialist shot three times

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told WMTW News 8 that she will introduce a bill to provide Purple Heart awards to the victims of the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting.

Collins said the bill would "ensure that they get the kind of compensation that they deserve.”

Many of those victims have already filed a lawsuit against the government, including one who lives in Maine.

"I went in line to see the doctor and that's when the shooting happened," said James Armstrong.

The retired Army Specialist was preparing for deployment on Nov. 5, 2009, at Fort Hood when he was shot three times by now-convicted Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan.

It was the worst mass shooting on a military post in U.S. History.

Watch the WMTW story by clicking the image below or by clicking here.

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 Read more about Senator Collins’ bill by clicking here.

 

 

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Nonpartisan Government Watchdog Endorses Sen. Collins' Bill Supporting Domestic Footwear Manufacturing

 

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 (Senator Collins at the New Balance facility in Norway, ME during a visit in February 2013)

From the Project on Government Oversight:

Should the U.S. military be encouraged to buy American-made products, especially when it comes to clothing the nation’s service members? According to federal law, including the Buy American Act and the Berry Amendment, it should. Recently, though, the Project On Government Oversight reported on growing concerns that the military is not properly following those laws.

For instance, the Berry Amendment mandates that the government purchase American-made products if the order has a $150,000 minimum. The Buy American Act threshold is much lower—$3,000. Anything falling under those amounts, however, can be bought from overseas manufacturers. There is also a clothing allowance program, which currently allows soldiers to purchase clothing separate from bulk military purchases. The high dollar limit for the Berry Amendment in conjunction with the allowance program could be enabling the government to get around the current law.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) has proposed a bill (S. 1197) to help address that issue. The bill would require the Department of Defense (DoD) to comply with current domestic contracting requirements when purchasing athletic footwear for initial entrants to the military. In addition, Senator Collins’s bill would shrink the allowance program. POGO supports Senator Collins’s legislation as a strong first step to enforcing contracting laws.

Some people might argue that buying American shoes might cost more than buying foreign-made shoes. According to one POGO source, the American-made athletic shoes can be purchased for service members at the same cost to taxpayers as shoes that were made overseas. (Airman Steven Adachi also found that the “price for equal American-made boots … was actually five to ten dollars less than the invoice price, $85, of the Chinese-made” that he received.) By reducing the athletic shoe allowance program, however, the military will likely save money by encouraging bulk purchases.

[….]

Senator Collins is on the right track and her proposed legislation is a great start. POGO hopes that the Senate will adopt amendments to the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that will address footwear in the military and also require a systematic DoD audit to reveal the full extent to which the military is complying with relevant domestic preference contracting laws. After an audit is completed, POGO believes Congress will be able to propose solutions to any widespread contracting problems and take a step toward saving taxpayer dollars.

Read the entire posting by clicking here.

 

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A Visit to Temple Beth El

From the Portland Press Herald:

Speaking to about 200 Jewish constituents Sunday afternoon at Temple Beth El, Collins explained her opposition to military force in favor of a diplomatic solution to Syria's use of chemical weapons in the country's civil war.

Maine's senior senator spoke one day after the United States and Russia announced an agreement on securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons following days of negotiations in Geneva. The Obama administration had threatened a punitive military strike on Syria after it said that country killed more than 1,400 of its own citizens in a chemical weapons attack last month.

Collins said she had several concerns when she and five other Republicans visited Vice President Joe Biden's residence on Sept. 8 and talked with President Obama for more than hour.

Collins said Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States and would consider a U.S. military strike an act of war.

"At this point, military strikes risk entangling the U.S. in a protracted and dangerous civil war," Collins said.

[....] 

Read the entire article by clicking here.

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Photo 1: Raymond Spiro of Portland

Photo 2: Chris Camire & Kelsie Camire of Westbrook

Photo 3: Cinndi Davidson of Wells 

 

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A Visit to the Front Street Shipyard

Senator Collins made a visit to Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, where she toured the yard, met with employees, and congratulated their entire team on their success as a leading shipyard.

"I just want to tell you how extraordinarily impressed I am with your skill, your professionalism, and your dedication," she told a gathering of Front Yard employees. "It really is why Maine's workforce is second to none."

Click the image below or click here to view video of her visit.

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Fighting for a Cure for Alzheimer's

Senator Collins was featured in a story on NBC's TODAY Show discussing the need to increase investment in the fight against Alzheimer's Disease.

Watch the story by clicking the image below or by clicking here.

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Meeting with Mainers

Senator Collins always makes time to meet individually with constituents— either Mainers who are visiting Washington, D.C. or at home in Maine.

She values hearing from Mainers on a wide range of topics. Here are a few photos from recent meetings:

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Photo 1: Norman & Janet Martin, George Dumond & Kelly Martin of Fort Kent

Photo 2: Dr. Peter Morse, Dr. Scott Ferguson, & Dr. Eric Hebert of the Maine Optometric Association

Photo 3: Hilary Schneider, Jeff Bennett, Priscilla Jenkins, & Janet Miles of the American Cancer Society

Photo 4: Peter Chalke & Chuck Gill of Central Maine Healthcare

Photo 5: Robert Hillman & Kevin Lewis of Maine Community Health Options

 

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