Covering

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



Thursday, May 31, 2012

So, What Was John Edwards' Crime?

A jury, today, somehow found former presidential candidate John Edwards not guilty for telling an untruth about hiding an affair, hiding miss use of campaign funds, using said funds to hide an affair with his videographer mistress while still married to his supportive wife who was dying of cancer.

Former Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, is free of campaign conspiracy charges.
Edwards is a free man; even after being charged for several campaign fraud charges including accepting illegal campaign contributions, conspiracy, and lying.

A jury of eight men and four women, who went back and forth deliberating the case for nine days, somehow couldn't come up with reason enough to convict the man who admitted today he did so much wrong.

In a statement after the verdict, Edwards admitted he was a sinner and said, "I did nothing illegal, but I did an "awful, awful lot" that was wrong and that no one else was responsible for."

Right now there are millions who sit on death row in American prisons, or who have received life sentences for less 'awful, awful' things. 

Even people who don't pay their taxes, are at least fined.

Follow the timeline of this highly bizarre case here.



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Toni Morrison, Bob Dylan, John Glenn Among Medal of Freedom Honorees

A big day yesterday for America's leading contributors as novelist Toni Morrison, (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford); singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, former astronaut John Glenn, and others received the Medal of Freedom award from President Barack Obama yesterday in a very well packed East Room of the White House.

Joining them were Madaleine Albright, John Doar, Judge John Paul Stevens, and NCAA women's basketball coach for the University of Tennessee, Pat Summit

Novelist extraordinaire Toni Morrison shares a smile with President Obama.  Photo/CD Brown.
"And I have to say, just looking around the room, this is a packed house, which is a testament to how cool this group is. Everybody wanted to check them out."

Of the accolades given by Mr. Obama to the recipients, he credited one recipient for 'making it possible' for him to become president.

Of civil rights worker and assistant attorney general, John Doar, the president said, "He was the face of the Justice Department in the South.  He was proof that the federal government was listening.  And over the years, John escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.  He walked alongside the Selma-to-Montgomery March.  He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In the words of [Congressman] John Lewis, “He gave [civil rights workers] a reason not to give up on those in power.”   And I think it's fair to say that I might not be here had it not been for his work."

Dr. Bill Foege, who helped invent a vaccination for small pox, was also awarded a Medal of Freedom.  He was recognized by the president for his missionary work in Nigeria.

President Obama awards NCAA women's basketball coach Pat Summit. Photo/CD Brown.

"In one remote Nigerian village, after vaccinating 2,000 people in a single day, Bill asked the local chief how he had gotten so many people to show up.  And the chief explained that he had told everyone to come see -- to “come to the village and see the tallest man in the world.”  Today, that world owes that really tall man a great debt of gratitude."

Lots and cheers and applause could be heard for Bob Dylan (Robert Allen Zimmerman), the man who wrote American songs like "Blowin' in the Wind', 'A Fool Such as I', and other popular songs.  His work, known the world over, was hugely popular in Korea, as we were informed by a member of the Korean press whose first White House assignment was on the day Dylan received his Medal of Freedom award.

Recipients of the Medal of Freedom award. Photo/CD Brown.
"My mom listened to him and that's how I got interested in Bob Dylan", he said.  "If you listen to his music, he's really incredible."

His music is popular at the White House too, as a pianist from the Marine Corps band played Dylan's "Don't Think Twice -- It's Alright" song during the pre-ceremony reception.

President Obama with an incognito Bob Dylan.  Photo/CD Brown.
The first 'out-of-this-world' astronaut, John Glenn, the first astronaut to orbit the earth.  He became the oldest person, at age 75, to fly in space.  "On the morning that John Glenn blasted off into space, America stood still", said President Obama.  "...the phones stopped ringing in Chicago police headquarters, and New York subway drivers offered a play-by-play account over the loudspeakers.  President Kennedy interrupted a breakfast with congressional leaders and joined 100 million TV viewers to hear the famous words, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”

 "Everyone on this stage has marked my world in some ways," the president said. "What an extraordinary honor to say thank you for the great work you have done."

Last year's recipients included Bill Russell, Maya Angelou, George H.W. Bush, and Warren Buffet.

Related
Not every ceremony is perfect.  Not every word comes out the way it should.   So it was yesterday when the president honored the 2012 recipients.

While honoring Pat Summit her award, the president mistakenly spoke the words NAACP, instead of NCAA.  Summit coached NCAA women basketball.

Additionally, the president misspoke when referring to Nazi occupation of Polish people.  Poles are infuriated that the president, while awarding Jan Karski her medal, used the term "Polish death camp" instead of "German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland," supposedly to distinguish the perpetrators from the location.

Remarking last month at a American Holocaust Museum, the president praised Karski saying, "Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations.  Among them was Jan Karski, a young Polish Catholic, who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself. Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago.  But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor the Presidential Medal of Freedom", the president said.

It's been a tough week for Polish people.   Last week, former DC mayor Marion Barry called people of Polish decent, pollacks.  

Polish people say the term is derogatory.



Monday, May 28, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama Named Sponsor of New Navy Submarine, USS ILLINOIS

The accolades as first lady just keep on coming for First Lady Michelle Obama.  

Fresh off her visit to Atlantic City where she and daughters Sasha and Malia were treated to a concert featuring their friend, Beyonce, the first lady was back in town today in time to accept an invitation to serve as the sponsor of the future USS Illinois (SSN 786). 

Illinois is a Virginia-class submarine, the Navy’s newest class of attack submarine, and is being built in Groton, Connecticut and Newport News, Virginia.


“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as sponsor of the USS ILLINOIS,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “I’m always inspired by the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the Navy, as well as the families who support them. This submarine is a tribute to the strength, courage, and determination that our Navy families exhibit every day.”
Illinois is expected to join the fleet in late 2015. In sponsoring USS Illinois, the First Lady joins a tradition of First Lady sponsorship of U.S. Navy submarines. First Lady Laura Bush is USS Texas’ (SSN 775) sponsor and christened it in 2004; First Lady Hillary Clinton is USS Columbia’s (SSN 771) sponsor and christened it in 1994. As sponsor, the First Lady will establish a special link to Illinois, her Sailors, and their families that extends throughout the life of the submarine.

First Lady Michelle Obama also serves as the sponsor for the recently commissioned Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, based in Alameda, California. The Coast Guard ship is named after Captain Dorothy Stratton, the director of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve during World War II where she oversaw 10,000 enlisted women and 1,000 commissioned officers.
As part of the Joining Forces initiative to honor, recognize and serve military families, today at the White House President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with the U.S. Navy’s first contingent of women submariners to be assigned to the Navy’s operational submarine force.
In 2009, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who honored the first lady with the invitation, announced that for the first time in Navy history, women would be assigned to the submarine force. The 24 women who met with the President and First Lady today were accepted into the Navy’s nuclear submarine program after completing an intensive training program. They are serving on ballistic and guided missile submarines throughout the Navy.
“Naval tradition holds that a sponsor’s spirit and presence guide the ship and her crew throughout the life of the ship,” said Secretary Mabus. “Illinois and her crew are blessed to have such a wonderful sponsor and I am grateful Mrs. Obama accepted my invitation to serve as sponsor for this submarine.”

Memorial Day Monday

The day given to the memorialize fallen soldiers was actually started by a group of freed slaves.  This, according to David Blight, a white author of several books on African American history.
Blight claims that several freed slaves commenced to properly bury soldiers who had died in the Civil War.

Writes Blight, Union soldiers were kept in horrible conditions...; at least 257 died of exposure and disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand. Some twenty-eight black workmen went to the site, re-buried the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery...  Then, black Charlestonians in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people.

And so it is today that we celebrate Memorial Day; a day full of parades, picnics, time off from work, and of course remarks by the country's Commander in Chief who reminds Americans to remember those who have served this country.



The president laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery where he remarked:

"These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe. When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea. From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call. They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget. And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself. Today, we come together, as Americans, to pray, to reflect, and to remember these heroes."

President Obama also spoke at the Vietnam War Memorial on the National Mall that also included actor Tom Selleck,  First Lady Michelle Obama,  Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden who were also joined by Secretary of Defense, The Honorable Leon Panetta,  Secretary of Interior, The Honorable Ken Salazar,  Secretary of Transportation, The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General (ret.) Eric Shinseki, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, and Commander of the Military District of Washington, Major General Michael Linnington, who seemingly were unaware that African Americans and other minorities served in the U.S. military, as evidenced by the number of Caucasian soldiers who were being honored today.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

RECAP: Wives of World Leaders At the White House

While her husband was holding things down at Camp David during this year's G-8 and NATO Summits, First Lady Michelle Obama invited the wives of world leaders to the White House for lunch and a tour that included the now famed White House garden.
Wives of world leaders take tour of White House with First Lady Michelle Obama.  AP images.
The 'First Ladies lunch', prepared by Chef José Andrés, was a menu ensemble that featured Gazpacho, Maryland rockfish with local asparagus, grapefruit, Virginia berries, greens from the White House Garden and caramelized olive oil, and a dessert of Tangerine sorbet with Virginia strawberries.

White House Curator Bill Allman helped facilitate the tour, pointing out the history of several White House rooms.  For instance, did you know that the East Room had been used by past presidents for roller skating by Presidents Garfield and Theodore Roosevelt and, later, the daughter of President Carter?  The room was also used for wrestling. Theodore Roosevelt hosted a Chinese wrestling exhibition there, according to Allman.

First Lady Fashion

Food and wrestling aside, we'd like to also point out the fashion and grace of First Lady Obama during the tour.

Notice how Mrs. Obama towers over the other wives in the photo below as she leads the first ladies through the White House, her purple dress swaying this way and that way, as she seeming makes a youthful-like rounded turn. 

Mrs. Valerié Trierweiler of France (black wrap dress and black heels), Mrs. Hitomi Noda of Japan ( heather gray business suit), Mrs. Elsa Antonioli Monti of Italy (black and white business suit), Mrs. Geertrui Windels Van Rompuy of the European Council and Mrs. Margarida Barroso of the European Commission enjoy tour of the White House.
The below picture is another of our favorites.  It shows off First Lady Obama's legs in her knee length dress accenting the first lady's chic, yet comfortably relaxed style.   The purple adding a very regal and lady-like flair.


South Side Flavor

Along with the first ladies' White House tour, Mrs. Obama also hosted NATO leaders’ spouses at the Gary Comer Youth Center on the South Side of Chicago for a bit of South Side flavor.

While there, the spouses joined the Center’s youth members and faculty at a performance by the South Shore Dance Drill Team, the Chicago-based Muntu Dance Theater known for their African and African-American dance, music and folklore performances, and Soul Children of Chicago which uses music to motivate and inspire young people. Founded in 1980, the South Shore Drill Team uses performing arts to engage urban youth by teaching responsibility and camaraderie through its dance routines and performances around the country.

Later that evening, Mrs. Obama hosted NATO Leaders’ spouses to the Art Institute of Chicago for a private dinner.

A very busy First Lady Michelle Obama.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Romney In DC: Calls Education "The Hope of the Earth"

Speaking today at the US Chamber of Commerce, presidential candidate Mitt Romney told those attending the Latino Coalition Economic Summit he see to it that every child gets a good education.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Bore. Bore. Bore.

Why?  

Because we've heard the promise before.   If everyone who said they're interested in seeing every child get a first-rate, quality education, kids East of the River in DC would have had more new text books, and less metal detectors by now. 

Every politician promises a good education for all.   Yet we still, as Romney pointed out, see in America "one in four kids" fail to get a high school degree, and half that don't graduate.
"Kids in America are getting a third-world education", Romney said, calling the education crisis "the civil rights issue of our era."
 
Gee, we thought gay marriage was.  (At least it was two weeks ago).

In addition to creating jobs, saving the economy, finding alternative sources of fuel, (and saving the planet as a whole), Romney seems to think he has the answer to saving education too. 
What does Romney think he can do that every other president hasn't?

He's got a "very bold promise of change" that will "restore our national education system", so he claims.  And he even has plans to help the poor. 

Romney hopes to expand parental choice by giving parents the option to choose whether to send their child to a public or charter school.  He says he will offer this choice to every low income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school.

Imagine that. The presidential candidate who earlier in this presidential campaign said he cared not about the poor, has 'evolved', and now cares about the poor.

Maybe he's realized what many have known all along.  Where a child lives (inner city, or other) should not be the determining factor as to how many computers, top-notch teachers, and up-to-date text books a school should get.
 
After all, Bill and Melinda Gates can't fund every school in the U.S.  (Then again, they probably could).  But it would be nice not only to see no child left behind, but also no school district left without the money needed to give America's kids the very best in educational tools and resources no matter if they are East of the River in Anacostia, or upper North West. 

And that, is a message to both the sitting president, and the presumptive presidential nominee.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

President Obama Nominates Thomas M. Durkin to Serve on the US District Court

President Obama nominated Thomas M. Durkin to serve on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Durkin is a partner at the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP, where he handles a broad array of matters including complex commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense.  Prior to joining the firm as a partner in 1993, Durkin served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois for over a decade.  During that time, he served in numerous leadership positions, including Chief of the Special Prosecutions Division, Chief of the Criminal Receiving and Appellate Division, and First Assistant United States Attorney.  From 1978 to 1980, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Stanley J. Roszkowski of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  Durkin received his J.D. with honors in 1978 from the DePaul University College of Law and his B.S. with honors in 1975 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

“I am honored to put forward this highly qualified candidate for the federal bench,”President Obama said. “He will be a distinguished public servant and valuable addition to the United States District Court.”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Are Ethiopians Abandoning President Obama?

While loyalty towards President Obama between Black community and Black churches have been tested in the last weeks since the president announced his support of gay marriage, Ethiopians have also found a reason to question President Obama's foreign policy decisions.

Ethiopians upset over PM Zenawi's participation in G-8 summit and
Food Security symposium held last week. Photo/CD Brown.
As the president hosted the G-8 Summit and announced new global food regulations this week, inviting several world leaders, members of the Ethiopian community are outraged over the invitation of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and are asking President Obama to stop supporting the man they say should be convicted of war crimes.

"President Obama said during his election campaign that he wouldn't sand beside dictators, said Neamin Zeleke", one of the organizers of  DC protest last Thursday outside the Ronald Reagan Int'l Building where there president was speaking on food security.

"He [Zenawi] is the worst dictator since [Robert] Mugabe."

Ethiopians want the arrest of their prime minister Meles Zenawi. 
Ethiopians, for the last 20 years of the Zenawi reign, have witnessed the prime minister take funds from the country's poor and give to China.  The region has witnessed several human rights violations as well as the ordered killings of journalists.   Land in the region has been sold to Indians, leaving many of the Ethiopians homeless and starving.

A stark contrast to the president's remarks at the Food Security symposium where he stated, "So we take pride in the fact that, because of smart investments in nutrition and agriculture and safety nets, millions of people in Kenya and Ethiopia did not need emergency aid in the recent drought."
More staggering statistics in the region show 80% of the population living below the absolute poverty lines (less than $1.25 per day).  Seventy-percent of Ethiopians youth are unemployed.

Ethiopians protest across from the DC Mayor Vincent Gray's office.  Photo/CD Brown.
"We [Ethiopians] voted for Obama, but we will not this time said Tsegay Debterew", member of the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Party (EPRP).

Along election lines, Ethiopians have long claimed that the election of Prime Minster Zenawi has, for years, been rigged.

The group handed out flyers at the rally that read, "Zenawi claimed that his party won the parliamentary election by 99.6%; a vote not even Jesus Christ or prophet Muhammad can claim."

Ethiopians claim Zenawi sales their land.  Photo/CD Brown.
The flyer also had a clear message for President Obama:  "Your support to Zenawi undermines Ethiopian people struggle for freedom, human rights and justice."

In light of the proterstor's demands, President Obama announced over $3 billion in private-sector investment plans to boost African food security via African and G-8 government  funding and action to enable long-term success of agriculture investments. Commitments form part of the G8's New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition will help lift 50 million people out of poverty.  Investments were developed in collaboration with the Grow Africa partnership of the African Union, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum.

Said President Obama, "We’ll continue to be the leader in times of crisis, as we’ve done as the single largest donor of aid in the Horn of Africa, and as we focus on the drought in the Sahel.  That's why I’ve proposed to continue increasing funds for food security.  So I want to be clear:  The United States will remain a global leader in development in partnership with you.  And we will continue to make available food, or emergency aid.  That will not change.  But what we do want to partner with you on is a strategy so that emergency aid becomes less and less relevant as a consequence of greater and greater sustainability within these own countries."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Zenawi, and other African leaders, for participating in the food security symposium.

“These gentlemen [John Mills of Ghana; Jekaya Kikwete of Tanzania; Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia] are here because they understand the opportunity that is being presented; the true partnership, the global partnership around the ending of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition. And we are very impressed that you have taken this leadership position and the time to be with us here. We want to support and build up countries who have leaders like those here before you to take their rightful place of leadership by regionally and globally.”

Related
Video:  Ethiopian journalist goes in on Zenawi
G8 Summit

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Obama Administration Increases Alzheimers Funding

National Plan to Fight the Disease.

HHS Secretary Sebelius outlines research funding, tools for health care providers, awareness campaign and new website Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released an ambitious national plan to fight Alzheimer’s disease. The plan was called for in the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), which President Obama signed into law in January 2011. The National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease sets forth five goals, including the development of effective prevention and treatment approaches for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025.

As many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and that number is likely to double in the coming years. At the same time, millions of American families struggle with the physical, emotional and financial costs of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

In February 2012, the administration announced that it would take immediate action to implement parts of the plan, including making additional funding available in fiscal year 2012 to support research, provider education and public awareness. 

Today, the Secretary announced additional specific actions, including the funding of two major clinical trials, jumpstarted by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) infusion of additional FY 2012 funds directed at Alzheimer’s disease; the development of new high-quality, up-to-date training and information for our nation’s clinicians; and a new public education campaign and website to help families and caregivers find the services and support they need.

To help accelerate this urgent work, the President’s proposed FY 2013 budget provides a $100 million increase for efforts to combat Alzheimer’s disease. These funds will support additional research ($80 million), improve public awareness of the disease ($4.2 million), support provider education programs ($4.0 million), invest in caregiver support ($10.5 million), and improve data collection ($1.3 million).

“These actions are the cornerstones of an historic effort to fight Alzheimer’s disease,” Secretary Sebelius said. “This is a national plan—not a federal one, because reducing the burden of Alzheimer’s will require the active engagement of both the public and private sectors.”

The plan, presented today at the Alzheimer’s Research Summit 2012:Path to Treatment and Prevention, was developed with input from experts in aging and Alzheimer’s disease issues and calls for a comprehensive, collaborative approach across federal, state, private and non-profit organizations. More than 3,600 people or organizations submitted comments on the draft plan.
Visit alzheimers.gov for additional details of the initiative.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Top Cops Honored at the White House

President Obama and Vice President Biden put aside their differences that came about over the timing of the administration's announcement to support same-sex marriage, to honor a few special police officers for their valiant acts of bravery.

President Obama with Vice President Biden and
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano honor the nation's  top cops.
"The officers here today have been singled out for extraordinary acts of bravery." said Vice President Biden who called the assembled men and women "a remarkable group of people".

Vice President Biden, speaking in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, also credited the officers for their work in the community, calling the officers a "unique bunch of individuals."



"You’re not only the people who risk your lives to protect all of us, you're also the first ones out there to volunteer to lay down the lines of the Little League field. You’re the first ones to volunteer at youth camps. You’re the first one to help your neighbor, whether you've got a badge on or not. 

The thirty-four assembled 'Top Cops', members of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), included officers from cities across the country: Los Angeles; Florida (Miami Dade); Chicago, Illinois; Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; Las Vegas; New York; Ohio, and Tennessee.  

The officers weren't the only ones receiving praise from the vice president today. Biden also credited President Obama ("without fear of contradiction") as a leader in signing legislation that put more cops on the street, and for providing essential funds needed to replace outdated or non-existent law enforcement communications systems.
 
"This man has been committed to law enforcement his entire career. He has never, never wavered from fighting to make sure you guys have the resources you need not only to protect your communities, but to protect one another, to protect your brothers and sisters. He understands what you know, that having more cops on the street is going to keep you safer."

"Today, we celebrate 34 extraordinary individuals" said President Obama. "And we recognize the sacrifices they and their fellow officers make. We honor all those who have put their lives on the line in order to protect their fellow citizens even if they were complete strangers."

While none of the officers honored at the White House today hailed from the District of Columbia, the city had its own celebration, in conjunction with National Police Week (NPW), by having a 5K race. 

NPW honors law enforcement officers who have given their lives while serving in the line of duty.

Also along those lines, several police officers who rode their bicycles from Charlotte, North Carolina are expected to arrive in DC today where they will then hold a candlelight vigil on Sunday at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pool Report: Mother's Day Tea & Care Packages

We have a very descriptive pool report that comes from Christina Wilkie of HuffPost on this afternoon's Joining Forces event with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.

The two ladies helped celebrate Mother's Day with military families and their children.
The report, modified for story line and content by POP, reads below as follows.


At the Naval Observatory today First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a Joining Forces service activity with congressional spouses where they assembled Mothers Day care packages that will be sent to the wives and mothers of deployed military, at the request of the soldiers.

The event comes a day after FLOTUS attended the annual Congressional Club lunch for spouses of House and Senate members. This is the third time she has invited them to join her for a service activity the day after the lunch, and marks FLOTUS's first visit to the Naval Observatory.

Outside in the sun under a white USO tent were approximately 65 congressional family members, seated at tables assembling FedEx boxes, 1" by 1" by 12".

First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden with the Bidens’ dog, Champ.

The boxes are a joint effort by Joining Forces, the USO, and Full Circle Home,  an organization founded by military mom Vickie Durfee to send care packages to moms and spouses on behalf of deployed loves ones. To date, the group has sent more than 6,000 packages at Christmas and Mothers Day.

Dr Biden had changed from a yellow skirt suit into bright blue pants, a white blouse, and flats. FLOTUS changed into purple pants, a navy blue and white polka-dot scoop-necked blouse, and a pink cardigan with red and white striped long sleeves.

Congressional spouses spotted by pool included Bobbi Brown Barrasso, Samia Burton, Linda Bachus, Debbie Dingell, Pat Mica, Tiffany Quayle, Eve Schiff, Carolina Reyes, and Mary Sorteberg (Sen Jeff Merkley's wife).

First Lady Michelle Obama also hosted a Mother's Day reception for military children and their families in the East Room of the White House today. See the video here.  Pete Souza photos.

Dr. Biden introduced USO president Sloan Gibson, who thanked everyone for their contributions. Biden then introduced FLOTUS, who again expressed her admiration and respect for moms whose children are in harm's way. She spoke for five minutes, less than she had at the lunch, and as she closed FLOTUS said, "Alright, we've got 2,000 boxes to fill, so let's get to work!" This received arousing applause.

Following remarks at 3:27pm, FLOTUS and Dr Biden began assembling boxes, and FLOTUS chatted with Vickie Dufree and Biden with Lisa Miller, also with FCH. After sitting near the stage throughout the remarks, Champ Biden made the rounds through the tables and settled at Dr Bidens feet for the duration of the packing.

As pool departed at 4pm, both women were still packing boxes and planned to stay a full hour, according to staff. Bruce Springsteen played on the stereo and a springy breeze blew through the tent.
Each box contained individually wrapped hand cream, nail polish, perfume, a charm bracelet, a gift card for Sears, garden seeds donated by Burpee and a handwritten card from the deployed loved one.
A total of 2,000 gift boxes will be sent out, 600 of which were packaged today.

Fed Ex donated the shipping, and boxes will arrive by Saturday.

The pair also hosted a military Tea honoring children and mothers of military families.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Did President Obama Cave In To Gays?

President Obama, in recent months, has said he was "evolving" on the subject of whether or not gay couples should have the right to marry.
Today, the president made a statement the news corp has been wanting him to make for the entire length of his presidential career.

"I am for gay marriage."

While campaigning for the presidency in 2008, Mr. Obama made his thoughts clear that he was not in favor of same sex marriages, saying he believed that the union of marriage is between a man and a woman.

Two men in support of gay marriage.
Today, seemingly at the completion of his 'evolution', and in an election year, President Obama affirmed his new belief in an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts.

"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.

You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective."

Wanda, Ellen, Don Lemon, Queen Latifah, and Chaz Bono (she's a he, now) should all be happy.  As would Maurice Sendak, writer and illustrator of the beloved children’s book, "Where the Wild Things Are" (which has been read to the Obama children and also featured at White House Easter Egg Rolls), and Vidal Sassoon, both of whom passed before President Obama's historic announcement.
Vice President Biden made his own thoughts known, speaking on Meet The Press this past weekend saying he was "entirely comfortable" with the issue.  His comment, many speculate, were either to suggest that President Obama was finally on board and would later disclose his stance to the American people, or that Biden's remarks were just another embarrassing gaffe for the administration.

Sign at  the Devon Park United Methodist Church polling site in North Carolina
boldy emphasizes  the state's position on gay marriage.  AP Photo.
While the Obama administration's high ranking officials (to include Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan) may be in favor of the right for gays to marry, the state of North Carolina has banned the practice, passing the amendment 61 to 39 percent.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who sured up votes in three states yesterday, also opposes gay marriage.  At least for now.

"Well, when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name," Romney told Denver Fox affiliate KDVR-TV.
It still seems apparent, at least to us, that Romney is following in Obama's footsteps.  He (tries to) sing on national TV (after Obama did his Al Green bit), he wants you to pledge money to win a sit down dinner with you (as Obama has down throughout his presidential reign), and he often quotes the president using verbiage like "That's not who we are."

Well, this is who Romney is, at least for today when it comes to gay marriage.

"My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not."

Any bet he'll change that stance?

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Question:
What say you on the president's decision to support gay marriage:  Are you for it, or against?

Related
Representative John Lewis on the President's decision
It's just comedy (The Daily Show): Is President Obama gay (friendly)?
Gays donate $1M to Obama Campaign
President Obama's 'spiritual advisor' against his gay stand.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Congress' To-Do List

Get 'Er Done!

Congress must finish a few loose ends before going on summer recess.   A list of demands, outlining what is expected, comes from the Commander in Chief.


Speaking today at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering State University of New York
Albany, New York President Obama outlined what he'd like to see Congress take care of before their summer break.

Going through 'the list' Obama pointed out at five items he'd like to see get done.

"First, Congress needs to help the millions of Americans who have worked hard, made their mortgage payments on time, but still have been unable to refinance their mortgages with these historically low rates.  This would make a huge difference for the economy", explained the president.

Two, helping responsible homeowners afford their home mortgages.

Three, "Congress should help small business owners by giving them a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages."

Four, "Congress should help our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find a good job once they come home."

The fifth item on the list: reward businesses who bring jobs back to America.

Said the president, "What we need to do now is to make it easier for more companies to do the right thing, and one place to start is our tax code.  At the moment, companies get tax breaks for moving factories, jobs and profits overseas.  They can actually end up saving on their tax bill when they make the move.  Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay here are getting hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  That doesn’t make sense."

The president also added that Congress should work on keeping college loan rates down, as well as pass a transportation bill that guarantees nearly a million construction workers jobs.

At his urging, the ever optimistic president said, "The good news is both parties say they want to make this happen.  We’ve done this before.  So Congress just needs to work out the details.  Don't let politics get in the way." 

The president is giving Congress a little less than 90 days to check items off the list.  The trick will be seeing if Congress acts.

"Get this done before July 1st", said president Obama.  "Those bills should be passed right now."

Click here for more on the president's Congressional 'To-Do' list.

Will College Students Decide The Next Election?

Suffice it to say, the Obama election in 2008 was partly successful thanks to the millions of young people who voted for him.

This time around, will he garner the same support?  Or will those same young people, many of the college students, side with the Republicans even though they voted against the president's effort to keep college loan rate from increasing on July 1st?

"It is extremely disappointing that Republicans in the Senate today voted to ask millions of students to pay an average of $1,000 each in order to protect a loophole that allows millionaires to dodge payroll taxes", said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

With millions of college students already unable to find work after college, the recent blow for students who must begin to pay back student loans - with no paycheck - is seemingly too much to digest at one time.

President Obama made several stops last week at college and high school campuses, campaigning for Congress to lower student loan rates.

"It’s now to the point where the average student who borrows to pay for college graduates with about $25,000 worth of debt -- $25,000", President Obama said at a high school in Arlington, Virginia. 

The Democratic bill, "Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012," under President Obama, would have kept interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for an additional year, rather than doubling automatically for new loans starting July 1.

But it seems Congress wouldn't budge, again, and in a vote of 52-45, short of the eight votes needed to begin debating the legislation, the effort remains at a standstill even though Congress claims they don't want student rates to increase.

"But unfortunately, rather than find a bipartisan way to fix this problem, the House Republicans are saying they’re only going to prevent these rates from doubling if they can cut things like preventive health care for women instead", the president said.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kentucky Wildcats Meet President Obama

The University of Kentucky NCAA Championship men's basketball team invaded 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue today, bringing along with them their own raucous caucus of supporters and friends.

President Obama honored the team for winning the NCAA title after they defeated the University of Kansas Jayhawks, 67-59, on April 1st of this year. 
President Obama with the 2012 NCAA Champions, the Kentucky Wildcats. Photo/CD Brown.
“Congratulations to the Kentucky Wildcats on your eighth national championship!” President Obama said, who picked the Wildcats to complete his NCAA March Madness bracket.

"I had them in the championship game. But in the end, I thought, they got all these freshmen. These guys are too young. And keep in mind, at this time last year, three of the Wildcats’ five starters were still in high school. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist couldn’t even vote yet."

Kidd-Gilchrist may not have been old enough to vote, but he was certainly old enough to ball, as were several of his teammates including Doron Lamb who led the Wildcats (38-2 on the season) with 22 points in the game, in addition to back-to-back threes that gave the Wildcats a 16 point lead with ten minutes left.


Relenting, the president said, "But let’s face it, sometimes talent trumps experience. And sometimes, a bunch of young players, even if they’re used to being big fishes in their ponds, even if they’ve never played together before, they can buy into a system, they understand the concept of team, and they do something special right away. And that’s exactly what happened in Kentucky."

The team's coach John Calipari said of his team, "When this team won that championship in New Orleans they were jumping up and down. "They weren't saying 'We did it!' We won!, they were saying, "We're going to the White House!"

The visit by the 'Commonwealth' to the White House, may be a foot in the door for President Obama in the state where his popularity has been waning.

Highlights: The Week That Was

Source: White House Blog Highlights.

The Week Behind
West Wing Week: 5/4/12 or "Out of Many, We are One."
This week, the President traveled to Afghanistan to sign an historic Strategic Partnership Agreement, visit with our troops, and address the American people about responsibly ending the war. The President also traveled to Fort Stewart to sign an Executive Order to protect service members and their families from deceptive marketing practices, spoke at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, welcomed the Prime Minister of Japan, and spoke at the Building and Construction Trades conference.

On Afghanistan/Anniversary of Bin Laden Raid
President Obama on Ending the War in Afghanistan
This week, President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan -- to meet with President Hamid Karzai and sign a strategic partnership agreement that will help to guide our future relationship with the country.

·       Photo Gallery: President Obama Travels to Afghanistan


On the Economy/Jobs
The Employment Situation in April
Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but much more remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and the deep recession.  It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began at the end of 2007.  President Obama has said that prosperity in America has always come from a strong and growing middle class.  He has made clear that getting back to where we were is not enough. We need to do more, which is why the President has laid out his blueprint for an American economy that is built to last and will continue to urge Congress to act to do more to grow the economy and create jobs.

On Summer Jobs+
Innovative Summer Jobs+ Apps Announced
Four weeks ago we launched the first-ever White House Code Sprint, challenging app developers to build job search apps using the opportunities found in the Summer Jobs+ bank. The Summer Jobs+ initiative is a new call-to-action for businesses, non-profits, and government to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012. Today we are excited to highlight six apps that were created on platforms including Facebook, Android, the iPhone, Windows Phone, and Web browsers.

On ACA/Healthcare
New Report: Health Care Law Makes Community Health Centers Stronger
The President's health care law gives hard working, middle-class families the security they deserve. The Affordable Care Act forces insurance companies to play by a new set of common sense rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy through annual or lifetime limits, and, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.

White House Office Hours: National Nurses Week
This is National Nurses Week, when we recognize the significant contributions that nurses make to keeping America healthy. It’s also a time to celebrate the ways the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, is helping invest in nurses. To talk about National Nurses Week and what the health law means for nurses, we’ll be hosting a session of Office Hours on Monday, May 7th at 3:30 pm EDT with Mary Wakefield, a Registered Nurse and Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, which runs many of the programs that help train and support nurses.

On ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Anniversary
Screening "To Kill A Mockingbird" at the White House
Art has helped create the America that we know and love today. And at its best, film allows us a window into our own lives and gets a chance to see the world through someone else's eyes. One of the heroes of American cinema, Atticus Finch, said that "you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

Watch: President Obama at the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Dinner
On Saturday night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the White House Correspondent's Dinner, which was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. The annual event, which has been held since 1920, honors the work of the journalists who report on the Administration and the dinner raises money that is used to grant scholarships to journalism students. The dinner is one of Washington, DC's most anticipated social events of the year, and the President's speech, which pokes fun at himself and the coverage he has received from the reporters in attendance, is the evening's highlight.