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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

General Assembly Internship Position Available

We came across this job posting for an opportunity to work at the VA General Assembly.

It is an unpaid internship for university credit beginning January 6 through March 7.   Knowledge of # and @ is preferred. (If you looked at those symbols and thought "what?", then you're probably not that into social media, and may be at disadvantage).

The job is offering parking and other perks for 'like-minded' individuals. Please note this position is in Richmond, VA.

Here's the ad in its entirety.

This opportunity is only limited to Students seeking an internship only. Parking is available for interns on an as needed basis.

Dates of Internship - Monday, January 6th through Friday, March 7th
Virginia State Delegate: Republican (while it is preferred to have an intern with like values, it is not a requirement).
Job Description: This internship is an unpaid internship for credit through your university. It is a learning experience for the intern as well as staff support for the State Delegate's office. The intern will be assisting vital functions in the Delegate's office which include but are not limited to bill tracking, email/mail correspondence, attending some committee meetings and communicating with visitors, social networking messages and weekly newsletter updates. Interns will be allowed to attend some special events and receptions with the supervisor's permission. Internship credit information should be communicated to our office and is the responsibility of the intern.

Job Requirements:
- Professional business attire required
- Advanced written and verbal skills
- Ability to understand "#" hashtags and "@" links in social networking...or willing to learn
- Ability to be a team player
- Excited to learn, grow, and connect/network with people (this is a great place to advance)
- Be willing to go the "extra mile" by working beyond minimum expectations.

Availability: The work schedule will be arranged to accommodate an intern's class schedule, however, class schedules should also be arranged to accommodate working at the General Assembly. Interns are expected to work a minimum of 30 hours per week during the Session. Part Time opportunities may also be available (upon request). Master's students encouraged to apply.

Apply Immediately:
- Please reply to this ad with your resume
- Include your current availability to work (Hours for General Assembly are from 8am-5pm)

Thank you for your interest in this great opportunity to work in the oldest continuously running legislative body in America.
East Broad Street at N 9th St (google map) (yahoo map)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

From the White House: This is the Affordable Care Act

As issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act continue, and Republicans vow to block, dismantle, or repeal the law, the White House has released a new, national and state report showing the costs associated with repealing the health care law.

According to the White House, the benefits of the health care law which the claim are lower costs, new protections, and expanded access to quality, affordable care – are real, and the repeal plan pushed by some Republicans in Congress would undermine or eliminate the benefits that millions of middle-class Americans now rely on.
Repeal Would Raise Costs, Strip Protections from Families Across America
Helping ordinary Americans and businesses take advantage of the benefits of the health care law is a top priority for the President and Democrats in Congress. The Affordable Care Act does more than just give millions of uninsured Americans access to health insurance. It helps Americans who already have insurance feel more secure in their coverage, ensuring it'll be there when they need it.  This is a pocketbook issue for many middle class families.
The benefits of the health care law are real, and the repeal plan pushed by Republicans in Congress would undermine or eliminate them across the board, reversing critical consumer protections and driving up costs for millions of Americans. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, across the country:
·   71 million Americans on private insurance have gained coverage for at least one free preventive health care service such as a mammogram, birth control, or an immunization in 2011 and 2012. In the first eleven months of 2013 alone, an additional 25 million people with traditional Medicare have received at least one preventive service at no out of pocket cost.
·   Up to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions – including up to 17 million children –will no longer have to worry about being denied health coverage or charged higher premiums because of their health status.
·   Approximately 60 million Americans have gained expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and/or federal parity protections.
·   41 million uninsured Americans will have new health insurance options through Medicaid or private health plans in the Marketplace. Nearly 6 in 10 of these individuals could pay less than $100 per month for coverage.
·   Consumers have saved $5 billion over the past two years due to a new requirement that insurance companies have to spend at least 80% of premium dollars on care for patients (at least 85% for large group insurers). If they don’t, they must send consumers a rebate. In 2013, 8.5 million enrollees will receive rebates averaging $100 per family.
·   Insurance companies must submit premium increases of 10% or more for review by experts. In 2012, 6.8 million Americans saved an estimated $1.2 billion on health insurance premiums after their insurers cut back on planned increases as a result of this process.
·   Since the health care law was enacted, more than 7 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved an average of $1,200 per person on prescription drugs as the health care law closes Medicare’s “donut hole.”
·   Over three million young adults have gained health insurance because they can now stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26.
·   Individuals no longer have to worry about having their health benefits cut off after they reach a lifetime limit on benefits. Starting in January, 105 million Americans will no longer have to worry about annual limits, either.
·   Using funds available through the Affordable Care Act, health centers are expanding access to care by building new sites and renovating existing sites. Health centers served approximately 21 million patients in 2012.
Moving forward, the President and Democrats in Congress are committed to improving the health care law and fixing it when the need arises. Every day more uninsured Americans are signing up for plans as the website gets faster and more people with insurance are benefiting from the law. 
Yet instead of working to fix the law, Republicans in Congress have tried and failed to repeal it more than 40 times. Repealing the law completely would raise premiums, allow discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, force women to pay for preventive services like mammograms, and eliminate discounts seniors get on prescription drugs. 
It’s time for Republicans in Congress to stop refighting old political battles over health care, because the real cost of repeal will hit home for many hardworking American families.
To see the national reports, click HERE. To view the state-by-state reports, click HERE.


President Obama Pardons Inmates

Today President Barack Obama granted clemency to twenty-one individuals, consisting of eight commutations and thirteen pardons.
Said the president, "Three years ago, I signed the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act, which dramatically narrowed the disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses.  This law began to right a decades-old injustice, but for thousands of inmates, it came too late.  If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society.  Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year. 
Today, I am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system.  Each of them has served more than 15 years in prison.  In several cases, the sentencing judges expressed frustration that the law at the time did not allow them to issue punishments that more appropriately fit the crime. 
Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.  But it must not be the last.  In the new year, lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress.  Together, we must ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all." 
Taking a look back on this year's most questionable criminal offenses (and non-sentences), we know the goal of 'equal treatment for all' has a long, long, long way to go.   Not just with drug offenses, but across the entire 'justice' spectrum.

Take the case of Montreal mayor, Rob Ford, the crack smoking, border line mental health candidate who was caught trying to buy cocaine - not even an arrest.   But when we look at DC Mayor Marion Berry, we have to ask the question:  Why isn't Ford in prison for doing the same thing?   UNEQUAL.

Ethan Couch, the young, wealthy teen who drives drunk and kills four people got off with being sentenced because of affluent lifestyle.  We've seen this Affluenza syndrome before, however:  the Bushes, the Cheneys, the Stallworths, while poor people who can't buy the best criminal attorneys receive maximum sentences for the same crime: murder.   UNEQUAL.

And let's not forget George Zimmerman, the wanna-be cop who terrorized communities before he actually went out and killed Trayvon Martin is STILL wreaking havoc (I think they call that a menace to society).   Odd that people say of murderers before they commit a massacre, "we knew he was bad news".  Well, don't we know this of George Zimmerman based on his antics even after the Trayvon Martin case? Yet he's still on the lose?   UNEQUAL
This article right here sums up the United States of America's unequal injustice system right here.  Read it and learn.
Here's the 2013 list of granted commutations by the president:
·         Clarence Aaron - Mobile, Ala.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute (Southern District of Alabama). Sentence:  Life imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Dec. 10, 1993). Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

·         Stephanie Yvette George - Pensacola, Fla.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess cocaine base with intent to distribute (Northern District of Florida) Sentence:  Life imprisonment, ten years' supervised release (May 5, 1997)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
·         Ezell Gilbert - Tampa, Fla.
Offense: Possession with intent to deliver cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Middle District of Florida)  Sentence:  292 months' imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Mar. 25, 1997)  Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to time already served.
·         Helen Alexander Gray - Ty Ty, Ga.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Middle District of Georgia)  Sentence:  240 months' imprisonment (Apr. 19, 1996)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
·         Jason Hernandez - McKinney, Tex.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances; possession with intent to distribute and distribute crack cocaine and methamphetamine; possession with intent to distribute a mixture of methamphetamine and cocaine hydrochloride; distribution of a controlled substance between 1,000 feet of a protected property; establishing a place for manufacture and distribution of controlled substances (Eastern District of Texas).  Sentence:  Life imprisonment; eight years' supervised release; $5,000 fine (Oct. 2, 1998).  Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to 240 months (20 years)
·         Ricky Eugene Patterson - Fort Pierce, Fla.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Southern District of Florida)  Sentence: Life imprisonment (Aug. 3, 1995)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
·         Billy Ray Wheelock - Belton, Tex.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school; possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine (Western District of Texas)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, 10 years' supervised release, $3,000 fine (Jun. 9, 1993)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
·         Reynolds Allen Wintersmith, Jr. - Rockford, Ill.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute crack (Northern District of Illinois)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, five years' supervised release, $1,000 fine (Nov. 23, 1994)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014
The President granted pardons to the following thirteen individuals:
·         William Ricardo Alvarez - Marietta, Ga.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin ; conspiracy to import heroin (District of Puerto Rico)  Sentence:  Nine months' imprisonment, four years' supervised release (Apr. 30, 1997; amended Jul. 31, 1997)

·         Charlie Lee Davis, Jr. - Wetumpka, Ala.
Offense: Possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; use of a minor to distribute cocaine base (Middle District of Alabama). Sentence: 87 months' imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Mar. 21, 1995)
·         Ronald Eugene Greenwood - Crane, Mo.
Offense: Conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act  (District of South Dakota)
Sentence: Three years' probation, six months' home confinement, 100 hours community service, $5,000 restitution, $1,000 fine (Nov. 18, 1996)
·         Joe Hatch - Lake Placid, Fla.
Offense: Possession with intent to distribute marijuana  (Southern District of Florida)
Sentence: 60 months' imprisonment, four years' supervised release (May 15, 1990)
·         Martin Alan Hatcher. - Foley, Ala.
Offense: Distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Southern District of Alabama).  Sentence: Five years' probation (Nov. 9, 1992)
·         Derek James Laliberte - Auburn, Me.
Offense: Money laundering (District of Maine).  Sentence: 51 months' imprisonment subsequently reduced to 18 months due to substantial assistance, 2 years' supervised release (Oct. 2, 1992; amended May 21, 1993)
·         Alfred J. Mack - Manassas, Va.
Offense: Unlawful distribution of heroin  (District of Columbia).  Sentence: 18 to 54 months' imprisonment (Apr. 5, 1982)
·         Robert Andrew Schindler - Goshen, Va.
Offense: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud (District of Utah)
Sentence: Three years' probation, four months' home confinement, $10,000 restitution (May 14, 1996)
·         Willie Shaw, Jr. - Myrtle Beach, S.C. Offense: Armed bank robbery (District of South Carolina) Sentence: Fifteen years' imprisonment (Aug. 7, 1974)
·         Kimberly Lynn Stout - Bassett, Va.
Offense: Bank embezzlement; false entries in the books of a lending institution (Western District of Virginia). Sentence: One day imprisonment, three years' supervised release (including five months home confinement) (Nov. 9, 1993)
·         Bernard Anthony Sutton, Jr. - Norfolk, Va.
Offense: Theft of personal property (Eastern District of Virginia)
Sentence: Three years' probation, $825 restitution, $500 fine (Apr. 4, 1989)
·         Chris Deann Switzer - Omaha, Neb.
Offense: Conspiracy to violate narcotics laws (District of Nebraska)
Sentence: Four years' probation, six months home confinement, drug and alcohol treatment, 200 hours' community service (Jun. 25, 1996)
·         Miles Thomas Wilson - Williamsburg, Ohio.
Offense: Mail fraud (Southern District of Ohio)
Sentence: Three years' imprisonment (suspended), three years' supervised release (Jul. 15, 1981)


President Obama Signs the Fair Sentencing Act:


S. 1789, the “Fair Sentencing Act of 2010,” which reduces the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required for the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences; eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine; and increases monetary penalties for major drug traffickers.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Disrepectful? or Just Having Fun?

When President Obama decided to join UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in what appeared to be a jovial display of picture taking, little did he know that he might be in for more than he bargained for.

Not only did his actions get questioned by the media (when don't they?), but it looks like his wife wasn't too thrilled either.  It does look like Schmidt was having just a bit too much fun with the president.  And the president looked like he was enjoying himself as well.

Whether you chose to believe Mrs. Obama thought the gestures of her husband were inappropriate for the occasion, or whether she thought her husband was too chummy with Denmark's Prime Minister, First Lady Michelle doesn't looked too thrilled at all. 

So, what do you do when the kids are acting up in public?

You separate them.

Miss chatter box is all but quiet now, isn't she?  Focus, Mr. President.  Focus.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sandy Hook One Year Later

The 'Cute Little School'

It's been a year (December 14, 2012) since Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Lanza simply walked in, aimed at his target and started shooting, despite the school's security features outlined in reports.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama light candles
for Sandy Hook elementary school victims.
Since that particular school shooting, the Obama administration has openly shed a tear for the victims, legislated funds to help people with mental health issues, and has lobbied Congress in an attempt to change the current gun control laws, starting with increased background checks.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle celebrated the one-year anniversary with a candle-lighting memorial in the Map Room. Twenty-six candles, one for each Sandy Hook elementary school victim.

The pair then paused in a moment of silence lasting around sixty seconds.

The town of Sandy Hook is slowly getting back to business.  Students have returned to school, but the pain of last December still lingers.

We spoke in 2012 with current Newtown Connecticut mayor, Patricia Llodra, on why she thinks the Sandy Hook massacre was the most recent catalyst for Washington to act on gun violence. 

"I'm sorry we're in the world spotlight because of what put us there, but if there is any good that can come out of this, and there will be many,  [that would be a good thing]."

That one good thing would be tighter gun control laws, which she admits may be a tough sell to Congress. 

"I know we're not going to get the big ticket items, because the political forces are already weighing,.... but at very least we should get universal background checks, at the very minimum", Llodra told us.

Since the Newton shootings, the Senate took up a vote on comprehensive background checks which most Americans support.  The polls showed 90 percent of Americans in support, however the amendment failed 54 to 46, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed to break a filibuster.   (Source)

To hear more of our interview click here.

We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.
Nelson Mandela
Children's Defense Fund: We Can Do Better

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Obama Administration Announces $100M Increase Access To Mental Health Services

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre anniversary, and several other incidents of gun violence where suspected perpetrators may have had mental issues, the Obama administration is investing more funding  to ensure those with mental health issues can get the necessary help they may need.
Today, the White House and Vice President Biden announced that $100 million will soon be available to increase access to mental health services and improve mental health facilities.
“The fact that less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need is unacceptable.  The President and I have made it a priority to do everything we can to make it easier to access mental health services, and today’s announcements by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture build on that commitment,” said Vice President Biden.
Over the past several years, the Administration has taken steps to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental illness, and to ensure that millions of Americans have access to health insurance that covers mental health and substance abuse disorder services at parity with medical and surgical benefits.  Also, the President has proposed an additional $130 million in his FY 2014 Budget for efforts such as helping to ensure teachers and other adults who work with youth can recognize signs of mental illness and connect children and their families to the treatment they need.
Today’s Announcement: $100 Million to Increase Access to Mental Health Services
·         $50 Million for Mental Health Services at Community Health Centers:  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will soon issue a $50 million funding opportunity to help Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness or addiction.  Community Health Centers can use these new funds, made available through the Affordable Care Act, for efforts such as hiring new mental health professionals and adding mental health and substance abuse disorder services.
·         $50 Million to Improve Mental Health Facilities:  Because proximity to mental health services can be a unique challenge in rural America, the Department of Agriculture has a new goal:  to finance $50 million for the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years.  These funds, made available through the Department’s Community Facilities direct loan program, can be used to improve or construct mental health service facilities or put in place innovative tools such as telemedicine to expand access to mental health services at rural schools, community centers, hospitals, and other community-based settings.
Building on a Record of Improving Access to Mental Health Care
The Affordable Care Act expands mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits and federal parity protections for approximately 60 million Americans.  That’s one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance abuse disorder coverage in a generation.  The law also requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost to consumers.  And starting in 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge individuals more due to pre-existing health conditions, including mental illnesses.
Additionally, as part of the President and the Vice President’s gun violence reduction plan announced last January, the Administration has completed several key executive actions to increase access to mental health services, including:
·         HHS, the Department of Labor, and the Treasury Department issued a final rule implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.  Under this rule, insurers must cover benefits for mental health and substance abuse disorders, when offered, at parity with medical and surgical care benefits.  The regulation also includes important consumer protections, such as clarifying the information that insurance companies must provide to ensure transparency and compliance with the law.
·         The Administration hosted the National Conference on Mental Health to discuss ways to reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems.  The White House applauded the dozens of commitments to increase understanding and awareness of mental health that were made by organizations representing media, educators, health care providers, faith communities, and foundations.
Calling on Congress to Act
The President’s FY 2014 Budget proposes a new $130 million initiative to address several barriers that may prevent people from accessing help.  The initiative proposes to train teachers to recognize signs of mental illness and refer students to mental health services when needed.  It supports the training of an additional 5,000 mental health professionals.  And it would give grants to states to implement innovative strategies to help young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues.  The Administration continues to call on Congress to appropriate funds for these important purposes.


Friday, December 6, 2013

More White House Comments on Passing of Nelson Mandela

Statement by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, on the Death of Nelson Mandela
"Today, we have lost one of history’s great leaders. I extend my deepest condolences to the Mandela family and to the government and people of South Africa, the Republic that President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela helped free from the cruelty and hatred of apartheid and forged anew into a rainbow nation of hope and healing. I will always cherish the honor and memory of knowing him.
Even as we mourn, we remember how privileged the world was to witness the transformation he wrought by changing minds and hearts. He was apartheid’s captive but never its prisoner, and he rid the world of one of history’s foulest evils by hewing to universal principles for which he hoped to live but was prepared to die. Let us celebrate Madiba’s life by rededicating ourselves to the values and hopes he embodied: reconciliation and justice, freedom and equality, democracy and human rights, an honest reckoning with the past and an unflinching insistence on embracing our common humanity. Let us strive to follow in his noble path—to stretch out the hand of fellowship and forgiveness across the deepest of gulfs, to find peaceful ways to resolve the bitterest of conflicts, and to insist on the revolutionary power of empathy, persuasion, perseverance, and human dignity.
President Nelson Mandela is gone, but his legacy and example will forever endure. May they continue to inspire South Africa and all humanity for generations to come. He was one of the greatest human beings of our time. Farewell, Madiba—and thank you."

Statement by the Vice President on the Death of Nelson Mandela


"Nelson Mandela once said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”  Mandela’s wisdom and compassion were formidable enough to change the world.  First his courage and then his forgiveness inspired us all, and challenged us to do better.   In the words of the South African poet Peter Horn, he “dreamed the world another way.”  I saw his world the way it used to be when I visited South Africa as a 34 year old Senator. When I exited the plane I was directed to one side of the tarmac, while the African American congressmen traveling with me were sent to the other side.  I refused to break off, and the officials finally relented.  When I tried to enter Soweto township with Congressmen Andrew Young of Atlanta and Charles Diggs of Detroit, I remember their tears of anger and sadness.  Because of Nelson Mandela’s courage, and compassion, that world has been transformed.  One of my favorite Irish poets, Seamus Heaney once wrote:  “History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave.  But then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up, and hope and history rhyme.”  In the hands of Nelson Mandela, hope and history rhymed.  This is a better world because Nelson Mandela was in it.  He was a good man. "

First Lady Michelle Obama
took to her Twitter account to make her comment on Mr. Mandela's passing.



The first lady, along with daughters Malia and Sasha, visited with Mr. Mandela in 2011.  Both the president and first lady plan to attend memorial services in South Africa next week. 


Other tweeted comments.
   In a way, Mandela was both the “George Washington” and “Abraham Lincoln” of his country. We're so fortunate to have lived in his time.
Really?  We were thinking more like MLK.
Nancy Pelosi                   @NancyPelosi       
May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope.
Bill Clinton   @billclinton       
I will never forget my friend Madiba.
Mike Tyson                  @MikeTyson       
I'm hearing about Nelson Mandela's death while on African soil in Oran, Algeria. Sending prayers to Mandela's family.
Katie Couric        @katiecouric
"If people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love." - , RIP & may your words live on...

No official word, as of this publishing, from Mandela's former wife, Winnie Mandela on the passing of her former husband.  We are, however, getting some very telling feedback on the life of Mrs. Mandela as performed by Naomi Harris, who plays Winnie in the film, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, along with Idris Elba who shines as Nelson Mandela.
The film premiered last evening in London where Mandela family members, cast and attendees learned of Mr. Mandela's death.
Said the film's star, Elba, "What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
The White House hosted cast and crew members of the movie at the White House on November 7th of this year.
President Obama speaks at Nelson Mandela's memorial ceremony.

The World Honors Nelson Mandela

President Obama has declared that December 5th Nelson Mandela Day, on the heels of the death of Nelson Mandela, who passed yesterday in South Africa.  Mandela was 95.
Picture of a young, vibrant Mandela.  A former boxer, perhaps it wasn't known then
that he was training for one of his toughest fights yet.  Apartheid.
Outpourings of respect, remembrance and honor have been shown worldwide for the tremendous leader, statesman, and friend.
In his younger years Mandela fought against the oppressive regime of Apartheid in South Africa that deliberately segregated and denied its people basic human and civil rights.   Leading the ANC (Africa National Council)  Mandela was labeled a terrorist, a trouble maker, (as his birth name suggested) and sentenced to life in prison.   
Said Mandela on why he chose to stand against Apartheid,
"I saw that it was not just my freedom that was curtailed,
but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did.
That is when I joined the African National Congress,
and that is when the hunger for my own freedom
became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people."
How could a person fighting for basic civil rights be labeled a terrorist, and not the people who practiced a regime of inhumane exploits against human kind?
Void of most human contact, basic necessities, and having suffered under the cruel, evil and indignant treatment by those who would do him harm, Mandela endured his fate, and he survived through it.
From prisoner to president. A smiling Nelson Mandela.   1918-2013.
He would be released from his jail cell in Robben Island some twenty-seven years later in 1990 and went on to become the President of the country he loved.
Working with the evil forces of that great nation, and with the assistance of the U.S. in helping to bring light to the cruel injustices, Mandela was able to put an end to practice of Apartheid.
After ailing for more than a year with a lung infection stemming from tuberculosis, Mandela, who gave admirers a scare this past summer when reports about his ailing health were grim, succumbed to his illness.  He was 95.
Said President Obama, who grew to be quite fond of the man who also became Nobel Peace Prize winner, and first Black president,
"He achieved more than could be expected of any man. 
 Today, he has gone home.  And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous,
and profoundly good human beings
that any of us will share time with on this Earth. 
He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages."
President Obama has ordered that all flags be flown at half mast effective immediately until Monday, December 9th.   

President Obama and the First Lady will go to South Africa next week to pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and to participate in memorial events.
Presidential DECLARATION


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 5, 2013


- - - - - - -



Today, the United States has lost a close friend, South Africa has lost an incomparable liberator, and the world has lost an inspiration for freedom, justice, and human dignity -- Nelson Mandela is no longer with us, he belongs to the ages.

Nelson Mandela achieved more than could be expected of any man. His own struggle inspired others to believe in the promise of a better world, and the rightness of reconciliation. Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, he transformed South Africa -- and moved the entire world. His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings -- and countries -- can change for the better. His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the life of nations or our own personal lives.

While we mourn his loss, we will forever honor Nelson Mandela's memory. He left behind a South Africa that is free and at peace with itself -- a close friend and partner of the United States. And his memory will be kept in the hearts of billions who have been lifted up by the power of his example.

We will not see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. It falls to us to carry forward the example that he set -- to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; and to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice. For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived -- a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.

As a mark of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, December 9, 2013. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Want Some Caramel With That Popcorn?

If you like caramel on your popcorn, you can appreciate this. (Or you may never think of the two items the same way again).

This year, the president pardons two Thanksgiving turkeys, Caramel and Popcorn. 

Last year's turkeys were named Cobbler and Gobbler.

If you're wondering how Caramel and Popcorn got their names, continue reading.

From the White House:

The names of the turkeys were chosen from submissions from elementary schools in Roseau County, Minnesota, where the turkeys were raised.  This year, the American public once again decided which of the two turkeys – Caramel or Popcorn – would become the 2013 National Thanksgiving Turkey by casting a vote for #TeamCaramel or #TeamPopcorn on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

Popcorn won the title of National Thanksgiving Turkey.

As the long-standing tradition continues, the two turkeys (both 20 weeks, and weigh around 30 pounds) will be selected to live out their days at Mount Vernon, instead of on someone's Thanksgiving plate, where they will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a traditional program through January 6

The turkeys will then travel to their permanent home at Morven Park’s Turkey Hill, the historic turkey farm located at the home of former Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis (1918-1922) in Leesburg, Virginia.   

Last year's ceremony saw sunshine and fair temps, unlike todays' rainy and cold weather that forced the ceremony from the Rose Garden to the North Portico of the White House.

Great color by ABC News.  (The pardoning begins at the 6:00 min mark).

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, the First Family will partake in a service event later in the day at the Capital Area Foodbank. 

The president prepared a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation that reads as follows:



Thanksgiving offers each of us the chance to count our many blessings -- the freedoms we enjoy, the time we spend with loved ones, the brave men and women who defend our Nation at home and abroad. This tradition reminds us that no matter what our background or beliefs, no matter who we are or who we love, at our core we are first and foremost Americans.

Our annual celebration has roots in centuries-old colonial customs. When we gather around the table, we follow the example of the Pilgrims and Wampanoags, who shared the fruits of a successful harvest nearly 400 years ago. When we offer our thanks, we mirror those who set aside a day of prayer. And when we join with friends and neighbors to alleviate suffering and make our communities whole, we honor the spirit of President Abraham Lincoln, who called on his fellow citizens to "fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union."

Our country has always been home to Americans who recognize the importance of giving back. Today, we honor all those serving our Nation far from home. We also thank the first responders and medical professionals who work through the holiday to keep us safe, and we acknowledge the volunteers who dedicate this day to those less fortunate.

This Thanksgiving Day, let us forge deeper connections with our loved ones. Let us extend our gratitude and our compassion. And let us lift each other up and recognize, in the oldest spirit of this tradition, that we rise or fall as one Nation, under God.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 28, 2013, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to join together -- whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors -- and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.


What's On The Obama's Thanksgiving Table This Year?

Per the White House, the Obama family Thanksgiving menu will feature:

Turkey Honey-Baked Ham,

Cornbread Stuffing
Oyster Stuffing
Macaroni and Cheese
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Dinner Rolls
Huckleberry Pie
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Cream Pie
Sweet Potato Pie
Peach Pie
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Next Up
More Holiday at the White House

The Holiday festivities continue on Friday when First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia will accept the 2013 White House Christmas Tree.