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June 1, 2012 at 10:01 PM
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Obama urges Congress to help vets get jobs

MINNEAPOLIS, June 1 (UPI) -- No one fighting for the United States abroad should have to fight for a job back home, U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday during a stop in Minneapolis.

Obama, speaking to about 1,700 people at Honeywell International headquarters in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley, pitched his plan to hire military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I believe that no one who fights for this country should ever have to fight for a job when they come home," Obama said.

Obama said he ordered the Pentagon to create a program in cooperation with manufacturers to allow skills veterans learned in the military to transfer into certificates and credentials they need for civilian jobs.

"Unfortunately a lot of heroes with advanced skills are not hired because they don't have certificates," he said.

Obama noted the country was still fighting back from "the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." The economy is growing again, but not as fast as expected, he said.

"Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but as we learned in today's jobs report, we're still not creating them as fast as we want," he said of the Labor Department's report that U.S. employers added 69,000 jobs in May and the jobless rate rose to 8.2 percent. Analysts expected more new jobs and the unemployment rate to be 8.1 percent.

After reviewing his "to do list" of legislation related to the economy, education, housing and other issues that Congress should pass, Obama said Congress also should help businesses create jobs and help veterans get jobs when they return to civilian life.

For Congress, "that means creating a Veterans Job Corps so we can put our returning heroes back to work as cops and firefighters, on projects that protect our public lands and resources," he said. "And they should do it right now. They should do it right now. But if we're going to serve our veterans as well as they've served us, we've got to do even more."

Noting the country just celebrated Memorial Day, Obama said, "We can't just be in a parade, can't just march. We also have to deliver for our veterans."

Standing up for veterans isn't a Democratic or a Republican responsibility, "it's an American responsibility," Obama said. "It's an obligation of every citizen who enjoys the freedom that these heroes defended."

Report: Kirk bills benefit ex-girlfriend

CHICAGO, June 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., backed bills that helped clients of his ex-girlfriend's firm collect millions in public funds, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

Kirk is currently supporting a bill that could bring in more millions for clients of Arcadian Partners, the public relations company his ex-girlfriend Dodie McCracken headed, the newspaper said.

Kirk, who served in the U.S. House before he was elected in 2010 to the Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama, supported bills directing the Treasury Department to mint and market commemorative coins, with three non-profit groups collecting a surcharge on the transaction. All three were clients of Arcadian Partners, the Tribune said.

Two bills generated $2.81 million in revenue for the Disabled Veterans' LIFE Memorial Foundation and more than $2 million for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Kirk is a co-sponsor of a Senate bill that could result in $5 million in revenue for the March of Dimes, also a McCracken client.

At least two of the measures were brought up after Kirk and McCracken began a romantic relationship, the Tribune said. Kirk and McCracken were living together when the March of Dimes bill was introduced.

Kirk's ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, asserted in a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission last year that during his 2010 Senate race, Kirk's campaign may have improperly hidden payments to McCracken by paying her through another company working for the campaign. McCracken's name does not appear in Kirk's federal disclosures, the Tribune reported Wednesday.

A campaign aide for Kirk said the senator is no longer romantically involved with McCracken and denied wrongdoing. The aide called Vertolli's complaint vindictive.

McCracken has said she received more than $143,000 in fees and expenses for her work on Kirk's campaign, the Tribune said.

Vertolli, a lawyer, was hired by the campaign after saying she would no longer support Kirk's candidacy and was paid $40,000 after the election, the newspaper said. Vertolli said she believes the money she received was to "get me to be quiet about my misgivings about McCracken."

Zimmerman bail revoked

SANFORD, Fla., June 1 (UPI) -- Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Friday revoked bond for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman charged in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Prosecutors said Zimmerman deceived the court by saying he didn't have any money and by not disclosing a second passport he acquired two weeks after the Feb. 26 shooting, ABC News reported. Lester ordered Zimmerman to surrender within 48 hours.

Recorded conversations between Zimmerman and his wife played in court Friday indicate the pair speaking in code about Zimmerman's second passport and multiple bank accounts.

The prosecution said Zimmerman's wife was "intimately involved in the deposit and transfer of funds and money into various accounts."

"The court was led to believe that they didn't have a single penny," prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda said. "If this [the money] wasn't relevant to bond then why did they lie about it? I don't know what other words to use besides that it was a blatant lie."

Zimmerman, 28, is accused of tracking down and fatally shooting Martin, who was unarmed. Zimmerman's attorney says Martin was the attacker and Zimmerman shot in self-defense.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case Friday asked the judge to seal several key pieces of evidence until the trial.

Special Prosecutor Angela Corey is seeking to have statements Zimmerman gave authorities he after fatally shot Martin withheld, as well as witness names, crime scene photos that show Martin's body and cellphone records for Zimmerman, Martin, and the victim's 16-year-old Miami friend who was allegedly on the phone with Martin at the start of his confrontation with Zimmerman, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"These witnesses are scared to death to comply," de la Rionda told Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. at a hearing Friday.

De la Rionda acknowledged that such information is usually public in Florida, but said "this is a very unique case."

Canada pulls out of U.N. tourism body

OTTAWA, June 1 (UPI) -- Canada formalized its withdrawal from the U.N. tourism body after it invited Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to become a global leader.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird resigned from the U.N. World Tourism Organization Thursday after learning Mugabe was invited to become a global leader in the sphere Tuesday, The Guardian reported.

Baird called the praise of Mugabe and the president of Zambia for their role in tourism at Victoria Falls the "last straw" in Canada's participation in the U.N. body.

Mugabe, 88, is under a U.S. and U.N. travel ban for alleged human-rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

"After [Baird] heard that [Mugabe] was honored at an event, after he was invited to join this global leaders group, he signed the order in council almost immediately," said Joseph Lavoie, a spokesman for Baird, adding, "They were legitimizing him by enlisting Mugabe to promote tourism."

Zimbabwean Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi responded to Canada's withdrawal by calling the country a "small player in the global tourism industry," NewZimbabwe.com reported.

"Does Canada capture your imagination? We do not even use their currency," Mzembi said. Canada "is not a player in the sector. It wants to leverage on the Mugabe brand. They want to take advantage of the Mugabe brand to be on the global map. If they want to withdraw, let's go ahead. They will not be the first to withdraw because countries such as the [United States] and Britain are not members."

The U.N. body also criticized Canada's move by saying it doesn't actually have an ambassadorial program.

The presidents of Zimbabwe and Zambia were given an Open Letter on Travel and Tourism by the UNWTO in recognition of a three-part agreement with both countries on the hosting of the 20th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in Victoria Falls, which is on the border between the two countries.

The letter was also given out to leaders of other countries, UNWTO said.

"The receiving of the Open Letter implies no legal commitment or official title attribution to the country or the recipient," the body said in a statement.

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