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Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.



Friday, April 30, 2010

We're Getting Closer

Top 3 Finalists Announced for Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge

White House and the Department of Education announced today the top three finalists of the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.

The top three finalists, in no particular order are:

• Clark Montessori Jr. & Sr. High School in Cincinnati, OH

• Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, MI

• Denver School of Science and Technology in Denver, CO

Between April 26th and April 29th, over 170,000 people weighed in on the six high school finalists. President Obama will now choose a winner from the top three rated schools and deliver their commencement address later this spring. The final winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 4.

In recognition of the extraordinary achievements and outstanding efforts by each of the original six finalists, the Obama Administration will work to provide a Cabinet secretary or senior administration official to deliver the commencement address at each of the five schools not selected as the national winner.

The Commencement Challenge, launched in late February, invited public high schools around the country a chance to show how they are challenging their students to excel in academics, take personal responsibility for their education, and graduate high school ready for college and career. Over one thousand schools submitted applications.
 
A National winner to be selected by the President for where he will deliver the commencement speech.

President And First Lady Attend Funeral Services For Dr. Height

Funeral services for Dr. Dorothy Irene Height were held yesterday at the National Cathedral.

Thousands came out to pay their respects for the lady larger than life who passed of natural causes last week at the age of 98.  She fell ill and was hospitalized at Howard University Hospital.

Dr. Height was perhaps the oldest female civil rights activist until her death.  President Obama, visibly emotional, provided a tribute honoring her for her work.

President Obama gives the eulogy at funeral for Dr. Height. Photo/CD Brown.

"It is fitting that we do so here, in our National Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Here, in a place of great honor. Here, in the House of God. Surrounded by the love of family and of friends. The love in this sanctuary is a testament to a life lived righteously; a life that lifted other lives; a life that changed this country for the better over the course of nearly one century here on Earth."

Adding that the works for Dr. Height, and others helped change the fabric of America.

"It’s hard to imagine, I think, life in the first decades of that last century when the elderly woman that we knew was only a girl. Jim Crow ruled the South. The Klan was on the rise -- a powerful political force. Lynching was all too often the penalty for the offense of Black skin. Slaves had been freed within living memory, but too often, their children, their grandchildren remained captive, because they were denied justice and denied equality, denied opportunity, denied a chance to pursue their dreams."

"But progress followed", added the President.

"Progress that so many of you helped to achieve, progress that ultimately made it possible for Michelle and me to be here as President and First Lady -- that progress came slowly", recounted the President to cathedral-filled applause from attendees, that included many congressional members.

President Obama and First Lady With Vice President Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid,
James Clyburn and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.  Photos/CD Brown

BeBe Winans sang We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder, and the popular song, Stand.  Opera star Denyce Graves sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and harpist Jeff Majors performed Psalm 23.  Poet Maya Angelou, arriving in a wheelchair, provided a reading from Psalm 139:1-17.
 
Dr. Height was working on a new book, Living With Purpose, that is due out this year.   She also authored Open Wide The Freedom Gates, the memoirs of her career and life as a lady who was on the battlefield for justice equally for African Americans and women.
 
A public memorial was held at Shiloh Baptist Church on Tuesday where hundreds also came out to celebrate the life.
 
Photo gallery | Video

Mother's Day And Butterflies: The First Lady Is Busy With Both

Mother's Day. It's almost here.  Whether you're planning to take your mom out to eat or stay at home and cook, the topic will remain, 'What will the Mother's Day menu be this year?

America's First Lady, Michelle Obama shares how she'll celebrate Mothers' Day 2010, and gives insight on what the menu might be.

“It could be fried chicken ... fried chicken and french fries or greens or macaroni and cheese,” responded America’s first lady Michelle Obama to the question on how her family will celebrate Mother’s Day.

After that meal, the First Lady will really need to take a lesson from her Let's Move initiative to fight off those calories.

Mrs. Obama is featured in the May 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping, where she talks about overcoming her fears, keeping her marriage close, and raising kids.

On Thursday, the First Lady helped students of Marie Reed Learning Center paint a butterfly mural and plant a butterfly garden to help make the Center’s space visually more engaging and vibrant for the children and members of the community who make use of the Center’s programs and facilities.

"We have a relationship, but creating a mural and organizing a group of well-intentioned but not necessarily artistic people to entrust us with your walls, is a huge risk to take", said the First Lady. "And we’re honored to be a part of it."

First Lady Michelle Obama paints a beautiful butterfly mural at Marie Reed Learning Center.  Who knew she was both artistic and beautiful? Photo/CD Brown.

Modesty aside, the First Lady completed a wonderful butterfly painting on the school's rear wall, across from the butterfuly garden where students planted milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies.

"Monarch butterflies are endangered", said the school's principal Dayo Akinsheye.  As the environment changes, the monarch butterflies have become less visible. We wanted to have the butterfly garden to bring them into an enviroment where they can thrive."
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities helped design the project in collaboration with two winners of the Committee’s 2009 Coming Up Taller Award – the Sitar Arts Center, a brillian after-school visual and performing arts center in Adams Morgan providing a range of arts training to children and youth by professional artists, and Higher Achievement, an after-school tutoring program in the humanities that helps low income children in Washington, DC gain admission to prep schools. Sitar is having registration for upcoming summer camp.   Check their site for info.

The Marie Reed Learning Center has been credited with helping students meet and exceed their talents. Many students have increased GPAs as a result of attending the center.

First Lady helps students complete butterfly mural.  Photo/ CD Brown

"It’s important, so important, not just to me but to the community to have us out here; for our kids to see that we not only care about them, which we do -- we are so proud of you all and we want the world to see you all and understand your potential, to see grade point averages go from 2.0 to 3-point-who-knows-what. We are so proud and we want to keep lifting you up and showing other kids that these opportunities are available", the First Lady said.

Congressionals spouses of Mark Udall, John Mica (D- FL), and others, also participated in the event, helping students create smaller butterfly murals that will soon adorn the school's windows.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

President's Remarks Re: The House Passing Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act

“Today, the House took another critical step toward increased fiscal responsibility by passing the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act. This bipartisan legislation will help save taxpayer dollars by reining in wasteful overpayments from the federal government to individuals, organizations and contractors – the kind of unacceptable accounting mistakes that cost taxpayers $98 billion in 2009. This bill also puts in place more rigorous thresholds for when programs must be scrutinized for payment errors and expands the authority of Federal agencies to use private sector auditors to find and recapture government overpayments. And it dramatically increases transparency and accountability in government spending – in short, it changes business-as-usual in Washington. 
I believe that we have a special responsibility to be wise stewards of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars. That’s why last November I issued an Executive Order to curb improper payments by boosting transparency, holding agencies accountable, and creating strong incentives for compliance. And it’s why this March I signed an order calling on all federal agencies to launch tough audits to recover some of the money lost to improper payments last year. I applaud the House for passing legislation today that supports these goals and I hope that the Senate will take swift action to send a bill to my desk as soon as possible.”

Vice President Biden Hosts Wounded Warrior Riders

On a beautiful, but chilly sunny Spring day, Vice President Biden, along with wife Dr. Jill Biden hosted more than 20 wounded warrior veterans at the White House who will participate in the Wounded Warrior Ride, a program of the Wounded Warrior Project that provides rehabilitation opportunities for wounded warriors and raises public awareness of the challenges facing veterans as they recover from life-altering injuries as a result of war.

Cyclists Take Lap Around White House South Lawn.  Photo/CD Brown

The riders, including Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Tammy Duckworth took a few laps around the South Lawn of the White House.

The riders plan a four-day cycling event, traveling through Washington, DC; Baltimore, Maryland; Andrews Air Force Base; ending in Annapolis, Maryland.

Photos of the event can be seen here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

White House Correspondents' Dinner To Be Held May 1, 2010

Five reporters have been named winners of three of journalism's most prestigious awards, and they will be honored at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on May 1, 2010.

Ben Feller of the Associated Press and Jake Tapper of ABC News will receive the Merriman Smith Award for presidential coverage under deadline pressure in the print and broadcast categories, respectively.

Mark Knoller of CBS News will receive the Aldo Beckman award for sustained excellence in White House coverage.

Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman of the Contra Costa, California, Times will receive the Edgar A. Poe Award for excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance.

The awards will be presented during the annual fundraising dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Seventeen Washington, D.C. students will receive $132,000 in college scholarships from the White House Correspondents' Association to pursue careers in journalism and will be introduced at the dinner as well.


This year's dinner will be headlined by Jay Leno.   Barack Obama was the keynote at the 2009 dinner (video), and comedian Wanda Sykes provided her ever-so-popular entertainment.

The president and First Lady are expected to attend this year's event as well.

U.S. Department of State Launches Entrepreneurs for a New Beginning

(Press Release)

In response to President Obama’s commitment to partnership with Muslim communities worldwide based on mutual interest and mutual respect and the 2010 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) has forged partnerships with Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA) and Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) to expand exchange programs and pursue new opportunities in entrepreneurship and innovation. ECA’s International Visitor Leadership Program, “New Beginning: Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation,” will bring twenty-five entrepreneurs per year from countries with significant Muslim populations to the United States over the next four years for educational seminars, mentorship, and first-hand experience in the business place with American entrepreneurs. ECA will also work with private sector partners to send 100 American entrepreneurs abroad over the next four years.

Participants in the “New Beginning: Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation” program will examine strategies used in the United States to enhance the capacities of young business managers; to develop a spirit of entrepreneurship and small business enterprise; and to strengthen societies through the pursuit of social entrepreneurship. The initiative will connect participants with American entrepreneurs going abroad, creating sustainable relationships and building a network among U.S. and foreign participants.

Through these programs we hope to create partnerships that will be mutually beneficial and will support job creation and economic opportunity, both in the United States and overseas.

Private-sector partners in this initiative will identify and provide entrepreneurship facilitators for targeted seminars on business development and engage American entrepreneurs to forge long-term, one-on-one developmental relationships with participants.

Private sector entities interested in this initiative should email the Department of State at exchangesppp@state.gov.

The International Visitor Leadership Program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs annually brings over 4,500 potential or established leaders to the United States from around the world for professional projects with U.S. peers and for firsthand experience of American society and culture. Over 320 current and former chiefs of state and heads of government and many other distinguished world leaders in the public and private sectors have participated in the program, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

For more information about the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, please see www.entrepreneurship.gov.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Police Arrest Man Near Air Force One

Why is it that with all the evidence on a person, police still want to try some people with only a misdemeanor

A misdemeanor? Give me a break.

Joseph Sean McVey was arrested at an airport in Asheville, N.C., where President Obama was visiting on Sunday.

McVey (different spelling than the other McVeigh) reportedly had on his person, a Springfield XD 40 handgun as President Barack Obama's plane prepared to take off, authorities said.

McVey was driving an automobile designed to look like a cop car, even having the front and rear dash fitted with clear LED police-style strobe lights, and a digital camera mounted near the front window. The report also showed that McVey had four large antennas attached to the trunk of the vehicle. A working siren box was located under the steering wheel.

McVey does not work for law enforcment.

McVey also had formulas for rifle scopes on a sticky note in his car's cup holder. Police have yet to decipher the formulas.

He is being held on $100,000.

He told officers he wanted to see the president. 

Question!!!

Do you really carry on you the above if you just "want to see the President"?  Do you arrive, impersonating a law enforcement officer (which he was not yet charged with), if you "just want to see the president"?

At most, a digital camera would suffice. 

This man clearly had other motives.

If I can see that, why can't law enforcement see that and charge this man with a felony?

McVey, 23, of Coshocton, Ohio, was charged with going armed in terror of the public, a misdemeanor.

Security has been beefed up, especially as President Obama continues the White House to Main Street Tour. The president will make stops in Illinois and Missouri. In the early afternoon, he will tour Poet Biorefining in Macon, MO and talk to workers about what they are experiencing during these tough economic times and share ideas for rebuilding our economy in the long term. (Q: What about the residents of DC?)

Following his visit to Poet Biorefining, the President will tour a local farm and visit with the family who operates the farm.  (Q: What about the Black farmers who still haven't been compensated for the wrongs by the US Department of Agriculture ?)

Later, he will deliver remarks in Quincy, IL at the Oakley Lindsay Civic Center.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Funeral Services For Dr. Dorothy Height

Funeral services for Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, the nation's prominent civil rights advocate, counselor to U.S. presidents, and founder of the Black Family Reunion, held annually in the Nation's Capital, will be laid to rest on Thursday April 29, 2010.


Dr. Height, known for donning elegant hats, was a tireless advocate for civil rights, and the advancement of women. She was president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), the organization that leads, develops, and advocates for women of African descent as they support their families and communities.

Dr. Height was awarded America's two highest civilian awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 by the President Bill Clinton. She was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004 through an act of Congress.

Dr. Height's annual Uncommon Height Awards that celebrates the achievements of Dr. Height will be scheduled this October in her honor. Last year's event recognized Oprah Winfrey for her accomplishments in media. Also in attendance was the legendary actress, Cicely Tyson.
Dr. Height passed away on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at Howard University Hospital of natural causes. She was 98.

A schedule of celebratory services in her honor follows. 

Tuesday, April 27

6:00 – 10:00 p.m. --- Dr. Height will lie in repose at the NCNW Dorothy I. Height building for a public viewing.

Wednesday, April 28

2:00 p.m. --- The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority will conduct a public Omega Omega Service at Howard University. Dr. Height served as national president of the sorority in 1947.

7:00 p.m. --- A “Community Celebration of Life” memorial will be held at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. The memorial is open to the public.

Thursday, April 29

10:00 a.m. --- A funeral service will be conducted at Washington National Cathedral and is open to the public. The burial service will follow at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Maryland.

President Obama is scheduled to give the eulogy.

Photos of Dr. Height. (Gallery 1 | Gallery 2)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

President Obama To Attend Funeral Services For Miners

President Obama and the Vice President Biden will travel to Beckley, West Virginia, to participate in a memorial service for the miners lost in the April 5th tragedy at Upper Big Branch mine.

President Obama will deliver a eulogy honoring the lives of those who perished and offering his deepest condolences to the loved ones they left behind.

Prior to the service, the President and the Vice President will meet with family members of the miners who lost their lives.

Earlier this month the president issued a statement calling for safe working conditions for miners. "All Americans deserve to work in a place that is safe, and we must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that all our miners are as safe as possible so that a disaster like this doesn't happen again."


Mining accidents are a common occupational hazard and vary in causes including leaks of poisonous gases such as hydrogen sulphide or explosive natural gases, dust explosions, collapsing of mine stopes, mining-induced seismicity flooding, or general mechanical errors from improperly used or malfunctioning mining equipment (such as safety lamps or electrical equipment). Use of improper explosives underground can also trigger methane and coal dust explosions.  (Source)

The West Virginia mine, the site of the deadliest mining incident in 40 years, is owned by Massey Energy. The company was cited last year for more than 500 safety violations. 

More than 27 miners lost their lives in the Massey mine incident.

"We cannot bring back the men we lost. What we can do, in their memory, is thoroughly investigate this tragedy and demand accountability", said President Obama.

Related

Friday, April 23, 2010

President To Preside Over Armed Forces Naturalization Ceremony

Update:  View video of the ceremony here.
______

President Obama will deliver remarks at a naturalization ceremony for 24 members of the United States Armed Forces. This ceremony recognizes the contributions made by immigrant members of the U.S. armed forces who have earned their American citizenship through service to our country, and the contributions immigrants from all walks of life have made to our country throughout its history.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security, will present the home countries of the candidates for citizenship, and Secretary Janet Napolitano will administer the oath of citizenship.

President Obama will then present Sergeant Ledum Ndaanee, U.S. Marine Corps (E-5) with the Outstanding American by Choice recognition, which highlights the outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens.

Service men and women being honored include:

Michael Zach Armstrong, U.S. Army, England; Lenard Canlas Belvis, U.S. Air Force Reserve, Philippines;Tei Aristide Bislao, U.S. Navy, Togo; Anthony Cabalerro, U.S. Navy, Spain; Maria-Antonette Capio Cabantog, U.S. Air Force, Philippines; Perla Conception Ramos de Chavira, U.S. Navy, Mexico; Rommel Cruz Cuenco, U.S. Navy, Philippines; Affeya Tiffany Christine Grant, U.S. Navy, Guyana; Therica Tameica Hutchinson (Sergeant), U.S. Army, Jamaica; Oscar Gaspar Manrique, (Senior Airman) U.S. Air Force; Granger Lawrence Michael, (Corporal, E-4) U.S. Marine Corps, Papua New Guinea; Roosevelt Joseph, (E4, Corpsman) U.S. Navy, Haiti; Raquel De Olivera Moura, (E-4 as an Aviation Structural Mechanic) U.S. Navy, Brazil;  James Nyaga Muchoki, (E-4 radiology technologist) U.S. Army, Kenya;
Jerdaine Devon Oldacre, (E-1) U.S. Navy, Jamaica; Soraya Conceicao Ross, (Combat Engineer) U.S. Marine Corps, Brazil;  Charlyston Schultz, (Captain) U.S. Marine Corps, Brazil; Raul Pagaduan Sibayan, ( E-4 in maintenance) U.S. Army, Philippines; Andrew Hopeton Smith, (E-3 as a Unit Supply Specialist) U.S. Army, Jamaica; Marcin Dominik Staniszewski, (E-3) U.S. Marine Corps, Poland
Berhan Kifetew Teferi, (E3 PFCU.S.) Army, Ethiopia: Pitrianne Natoya Williams, (Aviation Mechanist, AM-3) U.S. Navy, Jamaica.

The president performed a similar ceremony last year.

What Could Be More Coincidental?

Oil Rig Catches Fire Off Coast of Mexico and Louisiana - Days After Nation Celebrates Earth Day

Just when thousands celebrated Earth Day an oil rig catches fire off the coast of Mexico leaving 11 workers missing, seventeen workers suffering injuries including burns, smoke inhalation, and broken bones. Four people remain in critical condition.

The crew of the Deepwater Horizon rig were performing exploratory drilling procedures some 50 miles off the Louisiana coast when the sudden explosion occurred.

Environmental concerns have officials wondering if the crude oil on board the platform could begin leaking into the surrounding waters, reaking havoc on the environment. The Coast Guard's Petty Officer Katherine McNamara told reporters a day after the explosion that more than 300,000 gallons of oil per day could be spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. 

An AOL news report tells a different story featuring the Coast Guard's Rear Adm. Mary Landry giving a totally opposite account.

(Click picture to begin video)   
"At this point in time we are confident that the sheen that we are working with is from the explosion, residual from the explosion," Landry told NBC's "Today" show. "We have not seen any visible signs of crude emanating from the well."

On Wednesday, just a day before the explosion, President Obama held an Earth Day reception at the White House.

"Earth Day has become much more than a date on the calendar. It’s come to represent the simple truth that with each challenge comes the opportunity to make the world a better place...We’ve strengthened our investment in our most precious resources -- the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the parks and public spaces that we enjoy."

The president, at the beginning of Spring, announced his Comprehensive Strategy for Energy Security slated to expand oil and gas development and exploration on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to enhance our nation’s energy independence. The White House reports that the plan will "protect fisheries, tourism, and places off U.S. coasts that are not appropriate for development".  Obama wants to open up the U.S. shoreline from the northern part of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, and the north coast of Alaska for oil and natural gas drilling.

.."in the short term, as we transition to cleaner energy sources, we’ll have to make tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development in ways that protect communities and coastlines", said President Obama.

Adding, "This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly."

The Obama administration is looking for new sources for clean energy while relying less on foreign oil sources in an era where energy is needed, more than ever.

"Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we’re going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy."

Saving our earth, securing energy sources.   Both daunting tasks that will require a bit of luck and hard work.

Related
First Lady Gets Asked, "What Are You Doing For Earth Day?"

Visit AlaskaWild.org.

Monday, April 19, 2010

VP Biden To Make Title IX Announcement

At 1:30 pm, April 20th, Vice President Biden will make an announcement about Title IX at the Charles E. Smith Center at George Washington University. The Vice President will be joined at this event by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and Senior Advisor to the President.

Other speakers include Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

In January of last year, President Obama signed his first bill into law approving the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law named for Ms. Ledbetter an Alabama woman who at the end of a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory complained that she had been paid less than men.

Get Out And See The 'Great Outdoors'

A 21st Century Strategy for America's Great Outdoors

Remember when you were growing up and your mom told you "go outside and play"? 
 
If you look at neighborhoods, these days, across America you may not find as many kids outside playing.   TV, electronic devices, safety issues, childcare issues, outdoor space, air quality, and computers have seeminngly kept Americans from experiencing the great outdoors.
 
President Obama wants Americans, especially kids, to reconnect with the great outdoors.
 
"Our working landscapes, cultural sites, parks, coasts, wild lands, rivers, and streams are gifts that we have inherited from previous generations. They are the places that offer us refuge from daily demands, renew our spirits, and enhance our fondest memories, whether they are fishing with a grandchild in a favorite spot, hiking a trail with a friend, or enjoying a family picnic in a neighborhood park. They also are our farms, ranches, and forests -- the working lands that have fed and sustained us for generations", said Obama at the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors last week at the Department of the Interior.
 
In conjunction with the Department of the Interior the president is creating a 21st century initiative to get Americans reconnected with America's great outdoors.

The goals of the initiative shall be to reconnect Americans, especially children, to
America's rivers and waterways, landscapes of national significance, ranches, farms and forests, great parks, and coasts and beaches by exploring a variety of efforts, including: promoting community-based recreation and conservation, including local parks, greenways, beaches, and waterways; and by advancing job and volunteer opportunities related to conservation and outdoor recreation; and also through supporting existing programs and projects that educate and engage Americans in our history, culture, and natural bounty.

"Americans take pride in these places, and share a responsibility to preserve them for our children and grandchildren.
 
More on the initiative here.
 
Related
National Park Week

Sunday, April 18, 2010

White House Interns To Be Paid?

A wonderful article on unpaid interns.

For years companies have used interns to do the hard work that most employees get paid to do, all in the name of 'learning the ropes'.

I've seen many young people work as interns while describing their jobs as hard work, while getting great benefits.... like people around celebrities, being around professional athletes, learning a new industry, getting college credits, etc. - all without the benefit of bringing home a paycheck.

Of course, there are paid internships.  Some even pay for housing.  If your company falls into that category, you're exempt from this piece.

We're talking about the companies who use mostly college students as unpaid interns.  Here's how it works.

Unpaid internships are considered legal only if they are truly structured educational experiences for the benefit of the intern rather than the company and offer no promise of a job after the internship ends.

Granted, being an intern is like skipping college to learn, in real time, what you could (or would) pay for in the classroom.  It's O.T.J. (on the job training) - all in the name of saving businesses thousands of dollars.

Until now.

Supporters say the law should be enforced and companies should not get free labor.

The Obama administration agrees.

The Labor Department, oddly enough with its own advertisment for interns - says it's illegal for millions of students to spend a summer, semester or year learning the inside of a private sector industry for school credit without pay. (More here).

Interesting. 

Does that include the many White House interns who are working in the Obama administration?  Granted, it is a hot ticket - perhaps the hottest in town if you can get it. But wouldn't you like to get paid?  Especially in this climate of high unemployment?

Just asking.

Related

Friday, April 16, 2010

Temporary Extension of Unemployment Benefits Passed (Again)

Senate Voted After Two Week Hiatus

Spring break left many unemployed Americans without weekly unemployment benefits since April 5th.  On Monday Senators (Dems and Republicans) voted for a much awaited temporary extension.

Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe ( bot of Maine), Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and George Voinovich of Ohio all voted to advance the 90 day extension.

The 60-34 vote killed a GOP filibuster against debating the measure, which would extend jobless benefits through May 5 along with short-term extensions of several other lapsed programs.

The President issued this statement regarding the temporary extension of unemployment benefits:
 
“In these tough economic times, it is more critical than ever to bring relief to Americans who are working every day to find a job, and families that are struggling to make ends meet. Millions of Americans who lost their jobs in this economic crisis depend on unemployment and health insurance benefits to get by as they look for work and get themselves back on their feet. I’m grateful that the House and Senate moved forward on this temporary extension today. But as I requested in my budget, I urge Congress to move quickly to extend these benefits through the end of this year. I also urge Congress to move forward on legislation to help small businesses grow and hire and other measures to increase the pace of job growth. This is my top priority, and I will fight day and night until every American who wants a good job has one.”
 
The measure also allows for extension of COBRA Assistance and  Medicare Physician Updates.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the following remarks on the extension:

"In passing this bill and sending it to the President, we have succeeded in putting the emergency economic needs of everyday Americans ahead of the political interests of some Republicans who had decided to delay at the expense of families trying to make ends meet."

More on what the extenstion means here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Time. Again.

As we issue in a new year of tax season, and as people scramble to file their taxes by today's April 15th deadline I came across a few articles on the subject of tax evasion.

This one being the most prevalent of our modern time.

Bradley Birkenfeld, the whistle-blower who helped expose widespread tax evasion in the UBS/Swiss banking industry, received 40 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the U.S. government while the people he snitched on (the 19,000 millionaires and billionaires who hid their money in Swiss (offshore) bank accounts went scot free.)

Birkenfeld took his concerns to the IRS, the US Senate, and the Security and Exchange Commission back in 2007, but to no avail.

Even while currently serving his term in prison, Birkenfeld says he'd do it all again.

"I saw it as something wrong that it was my duty to correct," he said of illegal activities he and colleagues engaged in at UBS, which he says encouraged bankers to help wealthy clients hide their money. "I would do it again because it was the right thing to do."

Birkenfeld can only be released from prison under clemency from a U.S. president.  He is asking for clemency from President Obama on today, tax day, April 15th.

Odd isn't it that many regular Americans, not as wealthy, are hounded and jailed by the IRS to pay their back taxes all the while billionaires and multi-millionaires somehow get out of going to prison for the same.

Related
Brikenfeld's Attorney Speaks
Tax Day Freebies You Can Enjoy
Celebrity Tax Troubles
Tax Relief For The Middle Class

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sarah Pallin Speaking Engagement Requirements

Sarah Pallin, scheduled to speak at California State University June 25th has a few hefty requests (in addition to her $100k speaking fee).

The Associated Press is reporting that Pallin wants first-class flights from Anchorage to California (a private  Lear 60 or larger), and she must be provided with a suite and two single rooms in a deluxe hotel near the campus in Turlock in the Central Valley. She also needs bendable straws, not the regular ones most of drink from.

You can see the entire contract (from page 4) here.

Related
Obama To Speak At Hampton University Commencement
First Lady To Speak At George Washington University Commencement

Update: First Lady's Trip To Mexico and Haiti


On her return trip from Mexico and Haiti, the First Lady will stop in San Diego, California for an event in support of her Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation.

Continuing her efforts to improve nutrition, encourage healthy eating, and ensure access to fresh and affordable food in all communities, First Lady Michelle Obama will visit a community farm that is supported by the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities Initiative.

The Building Healthy Communities Initiative is targeting 14 geographically diverse areas across the state with significant, strategic, and sustained investments to transform these underserved communities into healthy communities.

The First Lady will meet with community farmers and volunteers, tour the garden, and give remarks.

Video: Ms. Obama on her first solo trip.



Earlier this month the First Lady met at the White House with a task force to help determine ways youth and families can learn healthier eating and exercise habits to combat obesity.

She was joined by John Billings of the Food Marketing Institute, Charlene Burgeson - National Association of Sport and Physical Education, Kathy Christoffel - Center on Obesity Management and Prevention, Claire Kenamore - Billings Clinic Pediatrics, Madeline Lawson - Institute for the Advancement of Minority Multicultural Medicine, Penny Lee - Campaign to End Childhood Obesity, Suzen Moeller - American Medical Association, Marc Schindler - District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, Tom Stenzel - United Fresh Produce, and Mary Watson - Action for Healthy Kids.

Each group was tasked with supplying three to five suggestions for creating healthier eating lifestyles for families.

First Lady Michelle Obama Speaking at the Childhood Obesity Meeting on April 9th at the EEOB at the White House. Photo/CD Brown.

Administration officials participating included Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan.

On May 3rd, 2010 a national physical activity plan will launch called Instant Recess - Let's MoveDC. The plan supports the historic National Physical Plan by participating in a fun fitness break aimed at increasing physical activity.  Easy points of the initiative include everyone taking an instant 10 minute break, five days a week starting in May, through July, 2010. For more info visit NationalActivityPlan.org.

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President's Remark At Nuclear Summit Press Conference

The President calls the Nuclear Summit held in Washington DC "productive". A transcript of his remarks follows.

I said this morning that today would be an opportunity for our nations, both individually and collectively, to make concrete commitments and take tangible steps to secure nuclear materials so they never fall into the hands of terrorists who would surely use them.

This evening, I can report that we have seized this opportunity, and because of the steps we’ve taken -- as individual nations and as an international community -- the American people will be safer and the world will be more secure.

I want to thank all who participated in this historic summit -- 49 leaders from every region of the world. Today’s progress was possible because these leaders came not simply to talk, but to take action; not simply to make vague pledges of future action, but to commit to meaningful steps that they are prepared to implement right now.

I also want to thank my colleagues for the candor and cooperative spirit that they brought to the discussions. This was not a day of long speeches or lectures on what other nations must do. We listened to each other, with mutual respect. We recognized that while different countries face different challenges, we have a mutual interest in securing these dangerous materials.

So today is a testament to what is possible when nations come together in a spirit of partnership to embrace our shared responsibility and confront a shared challenge. This is how we will solve problems and advance the security of our people in the 21st century. And this is reflected in the communiqué that we have unanimously agreed to today.

First, we agreed on the urgency and seriousness of the threat. Coming into this summit, there were a range of views on this danger. But at our dinner last night, and throughout the day, we developed a shared understanding of the risk.

Today, we are declaring that nuclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to international security. We also agreed that the most effective way to prevent terrorists and criminals from acquiring nuclear materials is through strong nuclear security -- protecting nuclear materials and preventing nuclear smuggling.

Second, I am very pleased that all the nations represented here have endorsed the goal that I outlined in Prague one year ago -- to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years’ time. This is an ambitious goal, and we are under no illusions that it will be easy. But the urgency of the threat, and the catastrophic consequences of even a single act of nuclear terrorism, demand an effort that is at once bold and pragmatic. And this is a goal that can be achieved.

Third, we reaffirmed that it is the fundamental responsibility of nations, consistent with their international obligations, to maintain effective security of the nuclear materials and facilities under our control. This includes strengthening national laws and policies, and fully implementing the commitments we have agreed to.

And fourth, we recognized that even as we fulfill our national responsibilities, this threat cannot be addressed by countries working in isolation. So we’ve committed ourselves to a sustained, effective program of international cooperation on national [sic] security, and we call on other nations to join us.

It became clear in our discussions that we do not need lots of new institutions and layers of bureaucracy. We need to strengthen the institutions and partnerships that we already have -— and make them even more effective. This includes the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the multilateral partnership that strengthens nuclear security, prevent nuclear trafficking and assist nations in building their capacity to secure their nuclear materials.

But as I said, today was about taking tangible steps to protect our people. So we’ve also agreed to a detailed work plan to guide our efforts going forward -- the specific actions we will take. I want to commend my partners for the very important commitments that they made in conjunction with this summit. Let me give some examples.

Canada agreed to give up a significant quantity of highly enriched uranium. Chile has given up its entire stockpile. Ukraine and Mexico announced that they will do the same. Other nations -- such as Argentina and Pakistan -- announced new steps to strengthen port security and prevent nuclear smuggling.

More nations -- including Argentina, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam -- agreed to join, and thus strengthen, the treaties and international partnerships that are at the core of our global efforts. A number of countries -— including Italy, Japan, India and China -— will create new centers to promote nuclear security technologies and training. Nations pledged new resources to help the IAEA meet its responsibilities.

In a major and welcomed development, Russia announced that it will close its last weapons-grade plutonium production reactor. After many years of effort, I’m pleased that the United States and Russia agreed today to eliminate 68 tons of plutonium for our weapons programs -— plutonium that would have been enough for about 17,000 nuclear weapons. Instead, we will use this material to help generate electricity for our people.

These are exactly the kind of commitments called for in the work plan that we adopted today, so we’ve made real progress in building a safer world.

I would also note that the United States has made its own commitments. We are strengthening security at our own nuclear facilities, and will invite the IAEA to review the security at our neutron research center. This reflects our commitment to sharing the best practices that are needed in our global efforts. We’re seeking significant funding increases for programs to prevent nuclear proliferation and trafficking.

And today, the United States is joining with our Canadian partners and calling on nations to commit $10 billion to extending our highly successful Global Partnership to strengthen nuclear security around the world.

So this has been a day of great progress. But as I said this morning, this can’t be a fleeting moment. Securing nuclear materials must be a serious and sustained global effort. We agreed to have our experts meet on a regular basis —- to measure progress, to ensure that we’re meeting our commitments and to plan our next steps.

And I again want to thank President Lee and the Republic of Korea for agreeing to host the next Nuclear Security Summit in two years.

Finally, let me say while this summit is focused on securing nuclear materials, this is part of a larger effort -— the comprehensive agenda that I outlined in Prague last year to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Indeed, in recent days we’ve made progress on every element of this agenda.

To reduce nuclear arsenals, President Medvedev and I signed the historic new START treaty —- not only committing our two nations to significant reductions in deployed nuclear weapons, but also setting the stage for further cuts and cooperation between our countries.

To move beyond outdated Cold War thinking and to focus on the nuclear dangers of the 21st century, our new Nuclear Posture Review reduces the role and number of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy. And for the first time, preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism is at the top of America’s nuclear agenda, which reaffirms the central importance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

And next month in New York, we will join with nations from around the world to strengthen the NPT as the cornerstone of our global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons even as we pursue greater civil nuclear cooperation. Because for nations that uphold their responsibilities, peaceful nuclear energy can unlock new advances in medicine, in agriculture, and economic development.

All of these efforts are connected. Leadership and progress in one area reinforces progress in another. When the United States improves our own nuclear security and transparency, it encourages others to do the same, as we’ve seen today. When the United States fulfills our responsibilities as a nuclear power committed to the NPT, we strengthen our global efforts to ensure that other nations fulfill their responsibilities.

So again, I want to thank my colleagues for making this unprecedented gathering a day of unprecedented progress in confronting one of the greatest threats to our global security. Our work today not only advances the security of the United States, it advances the security of all mankind, and preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism will remain one of my highest priorities as President.

Related
President Keeps In Touch: Reads 10 Letters A Day From the Public
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President Obama: "A Safer Securer World"

Drug Policy Director Cites New Direction in National Drug Policy

National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said today “a new direction in drug policy” is required to reduce the strain on the Nation’s economy caused by drug abuse and to improve the public health and safety of our citizens.

Testifying before the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Director Kerlikowske outlined national drug control priorities and the Fiscal Year 2011 National Drug Control Budget, noting that the Obama Administration approach to drug policy is “grounded in common sense, sound science, and practical experience.”

With drug use accounting for tens of billions of dollars per year in healthcare costs, and drug overdoses ranking second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental death, the Nation “needs to discard the idea that enforcement alone can eliminate our Nation’s drug problem,” Director Kerlikowske said. “Only through a comprehensive and balanced approach – combining tough, but fair, enforcement with robust prevention and treatment efforts – will we be successful in stemming both the demand for and supply of illegal drugs in our country.

“The forthcoming National Drug Control Strategy calls for addressing our Nation’s enormous demand for drugs by scaling up our public health policy response, integrating treatment programs into mainstream medicine, and recognizing that effective drug policy requires engagement at the community level,” Director Kerlikowske said.

He also noted that ONDCP would continue to work to “break down the silos between the prevention, treatment, and law enforcement communities– and the greatest use must be made of the finite resources at our disposal.”

The President’s $15.5 billion Fiscal Year 2011 National Drug Control Budget lays the foundation for these efforts and provides resources for five major drug control functions: substance abuse prevention; substance abuse treatment, domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and international support. The budget request specifically calls for an increase of $521.1 million over the FY 2010 enacted level, and includes a 6.5 percent increase for prevention and treatment; an increase of $73.8 million for Federal interdiction efforts; and an increase of $20.1 million for international support.

Director Kerlikowske’s written testimony and the Fiscal Year 2011 National Drug Control Budget are available at www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov







Monday, April 12, 2010

The President And First Lady Are American Idols

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama To Appear On 'American Idol'

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will soon appear on the "American Idol" special "Idol Gives Back," according to a Fox News report. The special, which was taped on Wednesday, will air on "American Idol" in less than two weeks.

"Idol Gives Back," a charity special that aired in both 2007 and 2008, will aim to support charities such as the Children's Health Fund, Feeding America, Malaria No More, Save the Children's U.S. programs and the United Nations Foundation. 

"Idol Gives Back" is an Emmy Award-winning television event and music celebration has raised over $140 million to benefit charities around the world.

According to AmericanIdol.com, previous participants on "Idol Gives Back" have been Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former President George W. Bush, Brad Pitt, Bono, Reese Witherspoon, Miley Cyrus, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Annie Lennox, Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani, Josh Groban, Pink, Celine Dion, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller and more.

"Idol Gives Back" will be a two hour fundraising event. Catch it on April 21st at 8 pm ET on Fox!


(Source)


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Now Here's A Declaration We Can Be Proud Of

After much uproar surrounding Governor McDonnell's Confederate Month declaration, it's nice to see a declaration that actually has real merit.

President Obama declared April 8th as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) day.

D.A.R.E. is the national organization dedicated to drug prevention and education. Through there servides, in conjunction with law enforcement personnel, they contribute their expertise to help teach America's youth to resist peer pressure, and to abstain from drugs, gangs, and violence.

"Every day, young Americans face pressures to engage in violent activities, drug use, and other harmful behavior.

Today, we reaffirm our commitment to empowering our children to resist violence and substance abuse. Drug dependence affects individuals from all backgrounds, and its debilitating effects often go unaddressed. Too many of our families are afflicted by addiction, and too many lives are ruined by its harmful impact. Drug abuse is not an isolated crime, and communities experience the tragic results when drug-related violence and gang activity reach our neighborhoods."

Today, more than ever before, drugs have permeated the lives of families and continue to lead Americans (young people especially) down a tumultuous path of destruction.

"It takes parents, guardians, educators, clergy, law enforcement officers, and other mentors to demonstrate that a healthy and drug-free lifestyle can build a strong foundation for future success", added Obama.

For more information, visit the D.A.R.E website.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nuclear Summit Hits Downtown Washington

Brace yourself for traffic jams, check points, and late trash removal as world leaders and Heads of Delegation attend the Nuclear Summit in Washington on April 12-13.
Metro is cutting routes and several streets have been blocked off. 

A partial list of expected attendees follows:
  • People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, His Excellency Mourad Medelci
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, Argentine Republic, Her Excellency Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
  • President of the Argentine Republic, Republic of Armenia, His Excellency Serzh Sargsyan, President of the Republic of Armenia
  • Australia, The Honorable Senator John Faulkner, Minister for Defense of Australia
  • Belgium His Excellency Yves Leterme, Prime Minister of Belgium.
Also expected to attend is India's prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was the special guest at the White House for Obama's first State Dinner in November of last year.  He issued this statement about attending the Nuclear Summit in Washington..

Schools To Have Obama Speak At Graduation

The White House and the Department of Education announced today the six high schools selected as finalists for the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. The Commencement Challenge, launched in late February, invited the nation’s public high schools to submit applications showing their dedication to providing students with an excellent education that will prepare them to graduate ready for college and career choices. Applications were judged based on the schools performance, four essay questions and supplemental data. The six finalists were selected for their dedication to academic excellence and for showing how they are helping prepare students to graduate college and career ready, and prepared to meet the President’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

The finalists are:

· Blue Valley Northwest High School (Overland Park, Kansas)

· Clark Montessori Junior High and High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)

· Denver School of Science and Technology (Denver, Colorado)

· Environmental Charter High School (Lawndale, California)

· Kalamazoo Central High School (Kalamazoo, Michigan)

· MAST Academy (Miami, Florida)
 
“I thank all of the schools that submitted applications for the first Commencement Challenge and I congratulate the six finalists for demonstrating effective approaches to teaching, learning and preparing students to graduate ready for college and a career,” said President Obama. “The quality of the applications we received is a testament to the exciting work happening in schools throughout the country, and I look forward to visiting and speaking at the winning school later this spring.”

View the responses here.

President Obama is also scheduled to speak at Hampton University's 2010 Commencement.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Virginia Governor Apologizing Already

Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell

Not even 6 months into his newly appointed office, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is apologizing.

No, he isn't embroiled in a sex scandal (at least not yet).  No he didn't misappropriate campaign funds (at least none that we know of).  What he did (or rather didn't do) was not mention slavery as he issued a proclamation designating the month of April as Confederate History Month.

This is how Conferderate History Month is described, according to Wikipedia.

"Confederate History Month  is a month annually designated by several state governments in the Southern United States for the purpose of recognizing and honoring the history of the Confederate States of America.

The month is especially designed to celebrate what Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens famously described as a "new government . . . founded upon exactly the opposite idea [from that of the United States in 1776]; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

April has traditionally been chosen, as Confederate Memorial Day falls during that month in many of these states.

So, you're saying that we need to celebrate the racist, preposterous notion that the Negro African American is not equal to white people?

McDonnell, a Republican, apologized (as if that would help soothe the situation) for leaving out the horrid history of slavery in this country by saying, "Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation."

What's more evil?

That we celebrate (still) a people being called less than human, or that we celebrate the horrible treatment of said people, or that we forget to mention the said treatment, and the people altogether?

Read the entire WHEREAS proclamation here

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Talk Show Host Calls For Virginia Boycott.  "E-mail, Facebook and use any social network you have…and tell people, don’t spend a dime in the commonwealth of Virginia”, said Joe Madison, host of XM Satellite's The Power.  Read his remarks here.

McDonnell's Proclamation Little To Do About Diddly?