- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2007

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Please provide details about the beautiful print titled “Assured Victory” by artist George L. Skypeck.

James S.

Northern Virginia

Dear James:

George Skypeck generously donated hundreds of his “Assured Victory” prints to the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF). A copy can be obtained for a $100 tax-deductible contribution to BAVF. These donations will go to helping the wounded and their families at Bethesda Naval Hospital and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Contact me for additional information.

The original painting is on public display loan to Arlington National Cemetery’s Visitor Center. It depicts the September 11 terrorist attacks and the heroism and gallantry of the police, firefighters and Pentagon employees on that day and of the American military forces fighting the war on terrorism worldwide.

The main centerpieces are the famous Statue of Liberty in New York City’s harbor and the Armed Freedom statue, which rests atop the U.S. Capitol dome and overlooks the Pentagon. The symbols define the American sense of spirit, duty and compassion and represent the Twin Sisters of Victory. Below them is a purple and black mourning ribbon that becomes the purple and white ribbon of the Purple Heart Medal, with other medals being represented.

A special thanks to the Pitney Bowes Corp. for agreeing to mail the prints to the generous donors.

Shaft notes

Kudos to Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and former chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, for introducing the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2007 (H.R. 2228). The bill is identical to H.R. 5680, which Mr. Smith authored and introduced in the 109th Congress after traveling to Ethiopia to meet with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to urge him to investigate and punish security forces responsible for shooting demonstrators and release those imprisoned for demonstrating against the government.

It authorizes $20 million over two years to assist political prisoners, indigenous Ethiopian human rights organizations, and members of the independent press and civil society, and to promote legal training. The bill includes tough punitive provisions, including denying entry to the United States to officials involved in the killings of demonstrators in June and November 2005 and preventing assistance to the Ethiopian government — other than for humanitarian needs, counterterrorism and peacekeeping — until the government meets the bill’s proscribed standards of human rights reforms.

“Despite Ethiopia’s efforts in the war on terror, our relationship has been terribly strained by their government’s ongoing human rights abuses and cover-ups. We cannot turn a blind eye to these abuses; rather, we must use our relationship to press for change,” Mr. Smith said.

“Human rights must remain central to our relationship with Ethiopia. Freedom and human rights in Ethiopia have seriously deteriorated under Meles Zenawi. While the prime minister speaks of reform, his actions contradict his stories of change. There is little to zero in the way of true human rights reform in Ethiopia.”

The Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2007:

c Directs the secretary of state to provide technical assistance for democracy promotion — namely to support indigenous Ethiopian human rights organizations and members of the independent press and civil society, and to promote legal training.

c Directs the secretary of state to provide instruction and assistance in democracy training to both the opposition and ruling parties and authorizes the U.S. to block assistance — except for that used for humanitarian aid, counterterrorism and peacekeeping — if the Ethiopian government obstructs American technical assistance.

c Denies visas to Ethiopian officials who violate human rights, government security forces involved in the June 2005 or the November 2005 shootings of demonstrators and Ethiopian civilians who were involved in the November 2005 killings of seven policemen.

c Authorizes $20 million over two years to accomplish its goals.

c Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.



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