Covering

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



Friday, December 19, 2014

21st Century Policing Task Force

The Administration revealed today its Task Force On 21ST Century Policing.  Its mission is stated below.

Sec. 3. Mission.
(a) The Task Force shall, consistent with applicable law, identify best practices and otherwise make recommendations to the President on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.
(b) The Task Force shall be solely advisory and shall submit a report to the President by March 2, 2015.

Demonstrator at "Justice For All" march in Washington, DC on December 13, 2014.  Photo CD Brown.
On the heals of the latest incidents of cops, cowardly, murdering unarmed young people in Black neighborhoods, The Executive Order was released today just as the president and First Family head to Hawaii for their annual winter vacation.   See entire EO here.

See also
White Middlesex teen brings 600 rounds of ammo to school.  No shots fired by police, teen lives to face charges.   A word of note.  Our search for "teen brings ammo to school" (do your own search) brought up several incidents of this behavior, with no fatalities of the perpetrators by police officers - in white communities - even though these individuals, in fact, had weapons.   



Live In Peace (L.I.P.) organization poses with the father (second from left) of murdered teen, Michael Brown.
Photo/CD Brown for Politics. On Point. (POP).
Also trending.
The president said, during his last press briefing of 2014, that the American people are doing "better than ever".   See the administration's Year In Review, lauding "economic opportunities for all".  While the year saw steady gains in employment figures, there is still significant unemployment in urban areas of major American cities, homelessness, and major crime.  The country has seen, however, more Americans with "affordable" health care than at any other time in history.

No Network Too Secure For Hackers... Sony Included

The Department of Justice and the FBI released its findings in the Sony Pictures Entertainment hacking; says North Korea is to blame.  Ex-hacker, Hector Monsegur, doubts these findings.

"It could be. In my personal opinion, it's not," Monsegur said. "Look at the bandwidth going into North Korea. I mean, the pipelines, the pipes going in, handling data, they only have one major ISP across their entire nation. That kind of information flowing at one time would have shut down North Korean Internet completely."

**Update from the DOJ...**

Today, the FBI would like to provide an update on the status of our investigation into the cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE).  In late November, SPE confirmed that it was the victim of a cyber attack that destroyed systems and stole large quantities of personal and commercial data.  A group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” claimed responsibility for the attack and subsequently issued threats against SPE, its employees, and theaters that distribute its movies.

The FBI has determined that the intrusion into SPE’s network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications.  The attacks also rendered thousands of SPE’s computers inoperable, forced SPE to take its entire computer network offline, and significantly disrupted the company’s business operations.

More from Monsegur here.

After discovering the intrusion into its network, SPE requested the FBI’s assistance.  Since then, the FBI has been working closely with the company throughout the investigation.  Sony has been a great partner in the investigation, and continues to work closely with the FBI. Sony reported this incident within hours, which is what the FBI hopes all companies will do when facing a cyber attack.  Sony’s quick reporting facilitated the investigators’ ability to do their jobs, and ultimately to identify the source of these attacks.

As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions.  While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on the following:

·         Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed.  For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.

·         The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. Government has previously linked directly to North Korea.  For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack. 

·         Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.


We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there.  Further, North Korea’s attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States.  Though the FBI has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyber intrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart.  North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves.  Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.  The FBI takes seriously any attempt – whether through cyber-enabled means, threats of violence, or otherwise – to undermine the economic and social prosperity of our citizens.

The FBI stands ready to assist any U.S. company that is the victim of a destructive cyber attack or breach of confidential business information.  Further, the FBI will continue to work closely with multiple departments and agencies as well as with domestic, foreign, and private sector partners who have played a critical role in our ability to trace this and other cyber threats to their source.  Working together, the FBI will identify, pursue, and impose costs and consequences on individuals, groups, or nation states who use cyber means to threaten the United States or U.S. interests.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

White House encourages students to study abroad

When we study together and we learn together’ we work together and we prosper together.”  - President Obama

No fear of Ebola or the unveiling of CIA torture documents could stop the promotion of studying abroad and global citizenship. Yesterday the White House hosted its first Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship to promote study abroad opportunity for youth and college students highlighting U.S. Government initiatives and strategies for encouraging American students to study, volunteer, and work abroad. 

Remarks by senior White House officials Ben Rhodes (Ass't to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor) Evan Ryan (Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA)), Denis McDonough (Chief of Staff) Penny Pritzker (Sec.of Commerce) joined hosts of the Travel Channel, National Geographic, Yahoo Travel, the Peace Corps and others on the occasion. 


Said Rhodes, recounting his time studying abroad in Europe, "To thrive, we can’t rely on the traditional contacts and exchange programs….  We have to get out of that comfort zone. It’s (studying abroad) a chance everybody should have.  There is value in studying abroad."   

The value in studying abroad creates global relationships, forms alliances and opens the opportunity to learn, and value, other countries yet reports indicate that 90% of US students have not studied abroad.  

With the support of several organizations that include the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) - for youths under 25 years old; the Young SE Asian program, The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad, The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange National Security Language Initiative for Youth+, the Benjamin Franklin Summer Institutes American Youth Leadership Program, and others, the White House announced that they are opening an official Study Abroad office to promote the importance of studying abroad.   

Said McDonough of his 1991 study abroad opportunity to Spain, "I remember being fascinated and confused.   [It's] a wonderful country, it helped me hone my foreign language skills."

The summit also addressed ways for students to pay for their travel abroad experience, expressly through making college and student loans affordable. 

The White House is also instrumental, too, in its 100,000 strong initiative geared towards getting one hundred thousand students to study abroad, and to encourage exchange students to study here in America.   Visit here for more.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Prince William visits the White House

From our trusty White House pooler, we have a few details on the visit of Prince William's visit to the White House to meet with President Obama.

from this morning's pool report by Richard Latendresse, bureau chief.

Prince William and his wife Kate make a 3-day visit to the United States. He and President Obama last met in 2011 at Buckingham Palace during the President’s state visit to Great Britain. The Duchess of Cambridge, who is pregnant (the child is expected in April 2015), will stay in New York, skipping the DC portion of the visit.

Prince William is in town to take part in the 3rd Biennial Meeting of the International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA 2014), hosted by the World Bank.

As President of “United for Wildlife,” the Duke of Cambridge is to join World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at the opening session to address more than 300 corruption experts in anti-corruption.
Prince William is expected to speak about combating illegal animal trade in wildlife parks.
The event can be followed on twitter via #EndingImpunity.

The Prince of Wales, Prince William’s father, met President Obama in the Oval Office in May 2011.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER, SECRETARY DUNCAN, ANNOUNCE GUIDANCE PACKAGE ON PROVIDING QUALITY EDUCATION SERVICES TO AMERICA’S CONFINED YOUTH


Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced a Correctional Education Guidance Package aimed at helping states and local agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to America’s estimated 60,000 young people in confinement every day.

This guidance package builds on recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force report released in May to “reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education.”  Today’s guidance package is a roadmap that states and local agencies can use to improve the quality of educational services for confined youth.

“In this great country, all children deserve equal access to a high-quality public education - and this is no less true for children in the juvenile justice system,” said Attorney General Holder.  “At the Department of Justice, we are working tirelessly to ensure that every young person who's involved in the system retains access to the quality education they need to rebuild their lives and reclaim their futures.  We hope and expect this guidance will offer a roadmap for enhancing these young people's academic and social skills, and reducing the likelihood of recidivism.”

“Students in juvenile justice facilities need a world-class education and rigorous coursework to help them successfully transition out of facilities and back into the classroom or the workforce becoming productive members of society,” said Secretary Duncan.  “Young people should not fall off track for life just because they come into contact with the justice system.”

“Today's announcement directly responds to the call to action made by President Obama's My Brother's Keeper Initiative,” said Broderick Johnson, White House Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.  “It is imperative that we ensure that incarcerated youth are receiving a quality education and provide them with the necessary tools for a second chance.  I applaud Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Arne Duncan for highlighting this critical issue.”

The guidance package includes four components:

·         A set of Guiding Principles for Providing High-Quality Education in Juvenile Justice Secure Care Settings, outlines five principles and supporting core activities to improve education practices, or implement new ones.  Authored jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, the guide is meant to help agencies and facilities serving youth in correctional education provide education services comparable to those available to students in community schools.

·         A Dear Colleague Letter on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for Students with Disabilities in Correctional Facilities from Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to clarify state and public agency obligations to ensure the provision of a free appropriate public education to eligible students with disabilities in correctional facilities.

·         A Dear Colleague Letter on the Civil Rights of Students in Juvenile Justice Residential Facilities clarifying how the Federal civil rights laws that prohibit race, color, national origin, sex, religion and disability discrimination against students in traditional public schools also apply to educational services and supports provided to youth in juvenile justice residential facilities.

·         A Dear Colleague Letter on Access to Federal Pell Grants for Students in Juvenile Justice Facilities explains the extent to which confined youth may be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant Program, and is accompanied by a fact sheet for students and a detailed set of questions and answers for institutions of higher education

“High-quality correctional education is thus one of the most effective crime-prevention tools we have,” Attorney General Holder and Secretary Duncan wrote in a dear colleague letter to chief state school officers and state attorneys general.  “High-quality Correctional education – including postsecondary correctional education, which can be supported by Federal Pell Grants – has been shown to measurably reduce re-incarceration rates. Less crime means not only lower prison costs – it also means safer communities.”

The President has set a goal that, by 2020, our nation will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world and that all Americans complete at least one year or more of college or career training.  The Administration believes that even youth in correctional facilities can play their part in helping us achieve that vision. 

Providing young people in confinement with access to the education they need is one of the most powerful and cost-effectives strategies for ensuring they become productive members of their communities.  The average cost to confine a juvenile is $88,000 per year – and a recent study showed that about 55 percent of youth were rearrested within 12 months of release.  Inmates of all ages are half as likely to go back to jail if they participate in higher education – even compared to inmates with similar histories.

This joint effort by the Departments of Education and Justice is one of a number of notable actions that they have taken to ensure that education programming in juvenile justice residential facilities is comparable to services provided in any school.  The departments have been working together to help communities reduce the number of youth entering the justice system and to ensure that those in the system return to their communities with dignity, skills and viable education and employment opportunities including the following efforts this year:

·         Justice and Education jointly released a School Climate and Discipline Guidance Package to provide schools with a roadmap to reduce the usage of exclusionary discipline practice and clarify schools’ civil rights obligation to not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the administration of school discipline.

·         Education released the results of the 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection, which includes school discipline data from most every school in the country and certain juvenile justice facilities.

·         Justice and Education filed a joint Statement of Interest in the G.F. v. Contra Costa County lawsuit in support of confined youth with disabilities who alleged that they were placed in solitary confinement for 22 hours or more per day, discriminated against on the basis of their disability, and denied their right to a free, appropriate public education.

·         Attorney General Holder and Secretary Duncan met with leaders from 22 agencies for a Federal Interagency Reentry Council meeting to discuss actions to reduce reentry barriers to employment, health, housing and education for individuals who are transitioning from incarceration to community.

·         Justice and Education engaged with various philanthropies to commission a School Discipline Consensus Project, led by the Council of State Governments, to bring together practitioners from the fields of education, juvenile justice, behavioral health and law enforcement to develop recommendations to address the school-to-prison pipeline, including recommendations for strengthening services to youth in confinement.

·         Justice and Education coordinated and supported the National Leadership Summit on School Climate and Discipline in Washington, D.C.  The summit focused on deepening partnerships between local and state education and justice officials, and community stakeholders.

All youth are deserving of an appropriate, high-quality education.  This guidance package clarifies that obligation for confined youth, as well as advocating that they have a real chance at a second chance in their lives.  A solid education that unleashes and expands their potential to contribute to their communities is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

President Obama weighs his Executive Order options on immigration reform

**Update**

President Obama spoke at Del Sol High School to announce actions he plans to take to reform the country's immigration policy.  Click here to view.


President Obama is set to address the nation Thursday, November 20, to lay out the executive actions he's taking on America's immigration system.

Many are expecting that the president will allow illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. and will assist those wanting a path to citizenship with obtaining citizenship status, "the right way."

For many undocumented immigrants, immigration reform is a very real issue; one they hope will be resolved quickly.

Protest have occurred across the country from Latino Americans, the demographic immigration reform heavily emphasizes, urging the president to cease the deportation of illegal immigrants.

Said Jose Cabellos at a campaign event in 2013, (see at 1:11 video mark here), "We want comprehensive immigration reform.  Right now families are being torn apart, right here in America! We can't take it any more!"

Republicans argue that allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country puts a strain on the country's services, and takes jobs away from Americans here legally, and opens the door up for terrorists to enter the country.

The president is expected to announce that he will institute an Executive Order favorable to that of illegal immigrants.

The White House Facebook page reads, "Its time to fix our broken immigration system."

The House vows to "fight" the president "tooth and nail" and make any action difficult to succeed.  "This is the wrong way to govern", Boehner said in Thursday's briefing to reporters.  It's exactly what the American people said on (midterm) election day they didn't want", adding every option is on the table for discussion.

While the president suggests that he will take actions where he could, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has made the claim that executive action is null without legislation. Executive action is not a substitute for legislation", Reid said.

In a blog post from The White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest writes, "This is a step forward in the President’s plan to work with Congress on passing common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. He laid out his principles for that reform two years ago in Del Sol High School in Las Vegas -- and that’s where he’ll return on Friday to discuss why he is using his executive authority now, and why Republicans in Congress must act to pass a long-term solution to immigration reform."

The president's remarks are expected to begin at 8 pm tomorrow evening, and will be streamed live at WhiteHouse.gov/live.

-----
If Obama can travel to Nevada to address immigration reform, should he also travel to Ferguson, MO to address another hot-bed issue: the Michael Brown case?  A jury is set to rule on whether or not officer Darren Wilson will be prosecuted for Brown's murder.  The state has been declared a national disaster and more military (National Guard) have been called to the city of Ferguson in case Wilson isn't prosecuted.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stevie Wonder, Meryll Streep among 2014 Medal of Freedom Award Recipients

The White House announced the 2014 Medal of Freedom award recipients that include the likes of legendary dancer and founder of the Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey, American music composer, song writer Stevie Wonder; actress and Academy Award winner Meryll Streep, and news anchor Tom Brokaw.

The nominees will be honored at the White House on November 24th.

Other nominees include author Isabel Allende,  James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner , golf legend and pioneer, Mr. Charles Siffordphysicists and scientist Mildred Dresselhaus, Congressman John Dingell, human rights advocate Ethel Kennedy; writer and activist Suzan HarjoAbner Mikva, congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink (R-Hawaii); Mexican-born House of Representative and Congressional Hispanic Caucus founder Edward Roybal (posthumous);  economist Robert Solow; theatre composer Stephen Sondheimaward-winning actress, producer, best-selling author and social activist Marlo Thomas.

The presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor awarded by a U.S. president recognizing extraordinary work and talent.


Said President Obama, “I look forward to presenting these nineteen bold, inspiring Americans with our Nation’s highest civilian honor.  From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”


Last year's list of recipients can be seen here.

Celebrating the Legacy of Douglas L. Wilder

The Wilder Anniversary Committee will commemorate the election of the nation's first popularly elected African-American governor with an educational symposium followed by a formal gala. Wilder, who blazed the trail well before his election as Virginia’s 66th Governor—becoming the first African-American legislator to serve in the State Senate since Reconstruction in 1969 and the first African-American lieutenant governor of the commonwealth in 1985 will be honored.



The Wilder Anniversary Gala will be held from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Richmond Marriott located at 500 E. Broad Street.

For info click here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Senator Tim Kaine discusses war powers during a Public Square forum


Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke during a Richmond Times Dispatch Public Square forum on Tuesday of this week where he addressed several issues: specifically how, when, and where America's military power is called into action.

Kaine admitted he is not an expert on the subject, telling the crowd he "is a lay person" who happens to be "passionate" about the matter (since 2002) who wanted to address the law surrounding it, its history, the current problem , and "the fix".

Congress has the power to declare war, while a U.S. president must consult with Congress before deploying U.S. military into hostile territories.

"The issue", explains Kaine, "is the role of the president and Congress in doing what is the hardest thing, which is to initiate military action."

Recently, in September, President Obama signed two letters advising Congress with regard to beginning military 'discrete' military operations in both Syria and Iraq.

The Public Square session, the 52nd of its installments, concluded with an audience Q&A with the senator.  The event was moderated by Tom Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond Times Dispatch.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

A SALUTE TO THE TROOPS: IN PERFORMANCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE


Event Includes Evening Performance and Daytime Student Workshop
Honoring the Men and Women Who Serve the United States

As part of the “In Performance at the White House” series and the Joining Forces initiative, the President and First Lady will invite music legends, members of the U.S. military, military veterans, and their families to the White House on Thursday, November 6 for a celebration of the men and women who serve the United States.

The program on the South Lawn will have a live audience that will include hundreds of military service members, veterans, and their families. The event will feature performances by Mary J. Blige, Common, John Fogerty, Willie Nelson, Romeo Santos, as well as active duty military members Army SGT. Christiana R. Ball, Marine Corps Capt. Matt Smith and Capt. John Ed Auer, with Don Was as music director. The rock band Daughtry will also perform via satellite from a USO concert at Yokota Air Base in Japan. The President’s remarks will be pooled press and the entire event will be streamed live at WhiteHouse.gov/live starting at 7:25 PM ET. “A Salute to the Troops: In Performance at the White House” will be broadcast Friday, November 7 at 9:00 PM ET on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings), as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival. 

In addition to the concert at the White House, there will be a live-viewing by active duty members of the military from the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Footage of their participation will be included in the concert event and the broadcast. The program will also be broadcast on November 11, Veterans Day, via the American Forces Network to American service men and women and civilians at U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.

As with previous White House music events, the First Lady will host a special daytime workshop for students on November 6. The First Lady will welcome high school students from military communities in the greater Washington, Maryland, and Virginia area to take part in an interactive student workshop: “The Stars and Stripes Forever: A History of Music and the Military.” Robert Santelli, Executive Director of The GRAMMY Museum® in Los Angeles, will give participating students an overview of the origins of music’s place in military life and explore the impact of music in times of war. Featured performers from the evening event will share their experiences as well as answer student questions about the music and entertainment world.

The workshop, “The Stars and Stripes Forever: A History of Music and the Military,” will stream live on WhiteHouse.gov/live

“A Salute to the Troops: In Performance at the White House” will be the thirteenth “In Performance at the White House” program during President Barack Obama’s administration. From February 2009 to the most recent broadcast in April 2014, these latest “In Performance at the White House” events have honored the musical genius of Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Carole King; celebrated Hispanic musical heritage during Hispanic Heritage Month; marked Black History Month with events featuring the music of Motown, Memphis Soul, Women of Soul, the Blues, and from the Civil Rights Movement; explored the rich roots of Country music; and spotlighted Broadway and the unique spirit of the American musical. Video from past performances are available at www.whitehouse.gov/performances.

In 2011, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden came together to launch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. Joining Forces works hand in hand with the public and private sector to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives. More information about Joining Forces is available at www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces.

Friday, October 10, 2014

First Fashion Workshop Features Furstenberg, Others


Mrs. Obama hosted a host of Who's Who in fashion at the first-of-its-kind White House fashion workshop this week, celebrating the creative and artistic accomplishments of designers like Jason Wu (remember this famous dress?), Tracy Reese (who designed this famous dress for First Lady Obama), Diane von Furstenberg (referring to herself as "an old designer"), Anna Winthur, and others.

First Lady Michelle Obama, wearing a dress designed by Natalya Koval, shows off her flawless physique.
Amid their accomplishments, the fashion icons were also on hand to share their stories of hard work and perseverance, the makings of the fashion industry, and to give a few pieces of good advice to up and coming fashionistas.

"Be serious", said Furstenberg.  "Be serious about what you want to do, and then you can have fun and be frivolous" she said.

The fashion workshop, part of the first lady's Reach Higher initiative, was one in a series designed by the administration to reach out to young people, to help them realize their potential, and believe that anything is possible.

"Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something", advised the first lady.

Past workshops have included music, film, and others.


 
 
At the conclusion of the event the first lady encouraged the student designers to make sure they get the contacts of the designers they're interested in.
 
The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that employs millions of people around the globe - from designers, models to merchandisers, stylists to seamstresses.

"If I were you, you all, students sitting in here, I would be either writing somebody in this room, I’d be getting a card", she advised. 

Designers and fashion's famous were among those attending the first WH fashion workshop. Among them Diane Von Furstenberg, Prabal Gurung, Jenna Lyons, Tracy Reese, Lilliana Vasquez, Jason Wu and Edward Wilkerson
"I would get my personal notes together right now, because my letter would be addressed to whoever. I was one of the students that was at the White House panel, I attended this workshop, we sat in the lunch, I mentioned something that they heard or a quote...this is an opportunity.  This is a door."

#ReachHigher

Was Gwyneth Paltrow Hitting on President Obama?

President Obama spoke at a DNC fundraiser at the home of Gwyneth Paltrow last evening.  During her introduction of the president she expressed her 'affinity' for him saying, " “you’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly."
  Mesmerized  by the president's presence Paltrow lauded, "I'm your biggest fan."



Also during her introduction she applauded the president on passing legislation for equal pay for equal work for women, which she said was "very important" to her "as a working mother."

Tickets to the fundraiser, held in the back yard of Paltrow's Brentwood home, cost  from $1,000 to $15,000 per person, according to reports.

The president made reference to the upcoming mid-term election, encouraging voters to get out and vote, and also referenced scrutinized events like Ebola and ISIS.

The president continues to state that the Ebola virus, that has killed more than 3,000 people in Liberia, is not a threat to the United States, even as travel to and from the area continue.  

President Obama has sent U.S. troops to the region recently to potentially help build hospitals for those stricken by the disease.   

The U.S. has seen his first Ebola fatality with the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, a man who had traveled to the U.S. from Liberia.  Others who have come to the U.S. for treatment, questionably, survived their episodes with the virus.

Said President Obama, "“I hope that in these midterms you feel a sense of urgency about this—and I’m talking to you, Democrats.” 

Also seen at the fundraiser were actor Julia Roberts and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ron Kessler Drops A Dime (Again) on Secret Service. Says Corruption Abounds.

Author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents, Ron Kessler went on CSPAN's Washington Journal today to discuss the lapse, and lack of, security at the White House -- calling it a "corrupt" and "mismanaged" culture.



As news of yet another security breach at the White House, potentially putting the lives of the the President of the United States and the First Family in jeopardy is revealed, Kessler says that "an assassination could happen pretty easily."

Earlier this summer, Secret Service (SS) came under fire for being too lax when a broken window was found by a staff member, that later revealed the White House had been shot at several times by one Oscar Ortega  -- (see also Michelle Obama furious over Ortega event).  

The latest security lapse came when it was revealed that a knife-wielding Omar J. Gonzalez jumped the White House fence, in broad day light, bolted up the front lawn, into the front doors and into the East Room before he was even subdued.

How did this happen?   When we visit the White House as media members we see armed, military-styled men carrying Rambo-like weaponry walking the perimeter, hiding behind trees, sitting in SUVs, giving the notion that all is, well, "secure".  So, how could Secret Service not see a guy jump a fence and make a run for the White House?

Is anyone viewing/monitoring the White House cameras?  ARE there White House cameras around the ENTIRE perimeter of the building?  Does anyone think there should be?  Have you ever heard of anyone rushing the gates of the residence of any other world leader, without consequences to the perpetrator, or those in charge of security detail?

The head of Secret Service, Julia Pierson, testified (nonchalantly, we'd like to point out) on Capitol Hill this week saying the usual things folks say when they are in hot water while sitting in front of the firing squad that is the MOC (members of Congress), saying, "We take full responsibility", we are "looking further into this."  Her passive responsiveness leads a firestorm from those who think heads should roll within the hierarchy of the Secret Service; from the boots on the ground personnel, to the top person in charge.  As it should be.

Remember when poor, defenseless, DesirĂ©e Rodgers was relieved of her duties as White House Social Secretary when it was revealed that somehow the very questionable Michaele and Tareq Salahi couple entered into the White House and attended a state dinner, took pictures with the Vice President, and sat very close to the First Couple, without even being on the guest list?  People thought that episode was a major breach of security.  Then, shortly after we heard reports that SS was drunk on the job while the president visited Cartagena, Columbia in 2012.

Is race a factor?

When callers into talk shows mention their theory on whether the questionable security measures would happen had the president not been African American, or what if the perpetrators been African American, people scoff at the notion.

Said Kessler, "Look, I wish we could just take the color of a person's skin and race out of this", he says.

Yet one has to ask why wasn't Gonzalez taken down by SS when he was oh, so close, to home?   Capital Hill police certainly didn't have to think much about shooting and killing Miriam Carey, the women who drove through barriers around Capitol Hill.

And surely, one can point out that even regular cops shoot, and kill, unarmed Black men for seemingly driving, walking, and just being Black; yet the Secret Service, tasked with protecting the leader of the free world, and his family, failed to shoot a lunatic charging the White House?

Said Kessler, "He could have been armed with explosives. He could have been carrying weapons of mass destruction."   Adding,"Obama's life is at risk."

We'd like to point out that both men who recently made attempts at the White House are Latino.   Latinos are fearful of the current policy on immigration.  Could this be a factor, then, Mr. Kessler?

Still even more amazing, perhaps, is that with the maelstom surrounding protecting the Commander-In-Chief, the CIC says he has "full confidence" in the United States Secret Service, as was discussed by White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, in his daily briefing here, and especially here.

"Let me also say that providing security at the White House is complicated business", said Earnest.

Indeed it is.  Indeed it is.  But keeping the president safe, should never be.

**Update**  Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned;  resignation accepted by Homeland Security's Jeh Johnson. Joe Clancy possible replacement.

Comment from the White House praises Pierson's 25 year career with Secret Service, but accepted that it's time for her to go.

From Press Secretary Josh Earnest: "Director Pierson offered her resignation today because she believed that it was in the best interest of the agency to which she has dedicated her career", said Earnest during today's press briefing.  "The Secretary agreed with that assessment.  The President did, as well."

When asked why the president accepted her resignation after praising her, the answer was an obvious one.

"Over the last several days we've seen recent and accumulating reports raising questions about the performance of the agency, and the President concluded that new leadership of that agency was required."

Finally.

Now, we just need Joe Clancy, the new replacement for Pierson, to right the ship, get the Secret Service personnel to behave in the manner in which they are sworn, which includes protecting the president - at all cost.

h/t SR.com.

See also -
Clancy lauded as "solid professional" - Washington Post
Who is Joe Clancy? -  IBT reports

Sunday, September 28, 2014

AG Holder Remarks During Congressional Black Caucus Voting Rights Panel

Days after Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he is resigning his post (for reasons many are uncertain of), Holder spoke during the Congressional Black Caucus' panel on voting rights.

Holder was the first African American, and longest tenured Attorney General in U.S. history. He has agreed to stay in his post until a successor has been named.  The Department of Justice, which Holder heads, is leading the investigation in Ferguson, Missouri where eighteen year-old Michael Brown was murdered by Darren Wilson of the Ferguson police department.



Residents are in awe of Holder's resignation and have become increasingly concerned that justice may not prevail without Holders leadership in ensuring a fair and honest investigation.

Holder announced his resignation as the nation celebrates the 50th anniversity of the Civil Rights Act.

His remarks during the CBC Voting Rights panel are below.

Thank you, Representative [Marcia] Fudge, for those kind words – and thank you all not only for that warm welcome, but for your steadfast friendship over the years – in times both good and bad; for your partnership on so many critical challenges we’ve faced together; and for your tireless efforts, today and every day, on behalf of those whom the law protects and empowers.

I have been privileged to work closely with many of you throughout my tenure as Attorney General – and I’m deeply proud of all that we have achieved.  Although my time at the Justice Department will draw to a close in the coming months – once my successor has been nominated and confirmed – I want you to know that my commitment to this work will never waver.  And in the meantime, there remains a great deal to be done.  I have no intention of letting up or slowing down.  I am honored to discuss our ongoing efforts with you once again today.  And I am proud, as ever, to stand with so many dedicated public servants, devoted advocates, and passionate leaders of our ongoing fight for equal rights and equal justice.

I would particularly like to thank the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for organizing this important event – and for your decades of service in our struggle to secure the civil rights of everyone in this country.  Many years ago, during my first days here in Washington, I had the opportunity to attend a Congressional Black Caucus dinner with my aunt.  It was in some ways a foundational experience.  And in the years since then, I have been consistently inspired by your leadership over the years.  From education, to healthcare, to economic development – in our efforts to address racial disparities and reform criminal justice – you have done critical work to bring stakeholders together, to advocate for understanding, and to build a more just society.

As you know, this year marks the50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law to codify vital and long-overdue protections for all Americans.  In the decades since then, thanks to leaders like you, our nation has made remarkable, once-unimaginable progress in expanding economic opportunity, overturning legal discrimination, and expanding access to the ballot box for every eligible citizen.

All of this progress is laudable – and all of it is worth celebrating.  Yet there can be no question, as we gather today, that a great deal of work remains to be done: not only to defend those advances, but to expand on the progress of our forebears – and to continue the march they began.

Over the past six years, my colleagues and I have proven that – at every level of today’s Department of Justice – we are firmly committed to doing our part.  As part of the Smart on Crime initiative I launched just over a year ago, we have implemented important reforms and evidence-based strategies to make America’s criminal justice system both fairer and more effective.  Through the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which I announced earlier this month, we are striving to eliminate mistrust and build strong relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve – so we can defuse tensions that simmer just under the surface in too many cities and towns across the country, and that too often give rise to tragic events like those that captured our national attention last month in Ferguson, Missouri.

Beyond these efforts, as part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, we are working to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color – and to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.  In fact, I can announce today that we stand poised to take this work to a new level – and complement our data-driven approach under Smart on Crime and My Brother’s Keeper – by launching a new Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative, which will promote system-wide reform and bolster our efforts to end racial and ethnic disparities.

Under this brand-new initiative, three states – Georgia, Hawaii, and Kentucky – are working with the Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project to provide diversion alternatives, community-based options, and other reforms aimed at reducing recidivism, decreasing correctional spending, and improving public safety – all while reducing the number of youth who come into contact with the criminal justice system.  To support this work, I’m pleased to announce that our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is awarding funding to the Crime and Justice Institute to provide training and technical assistance that will help these three states implement important policy changes.

In addition, we are awarding more than $1 million to the W. Haywood Burns Institute and the Development Services Group to reduce racial and ethnic disparities throughout the juvenile justice system.  And with a third set of Smart on Juvenile Justice awards, we are supporting comprehensive training for juvenile justice prosecutors – to acquaint them with the very latest information in forensic science, adolescent development, the neurosciences, and the prosecution of sexual assault cases.

These are promising new steps that will help us to advance our important – and in many cases life-changing – work in the juvenile justice arena.  These efforts go to the heart of who we are, and who we aspire to be, both as a nation and as a people.  But, as this group has rightly recognized over the years – and as you reaffirm today, by convening this critical forum – few of the challenges we face as a country are more fundamental, more complex, or more urgent than the need to preserve what President Johnson once called the “most basic” right to which every American is entitled: the right to vote.

As you’re discussing, through the unrelenting efforts of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division – under the leadership of Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran, from whom you’ll be hearing this afternoon – my colleagues and I are acting aggressively to ensure that every American can exercise his or her right to participate in the democratic process, unencumbered by unnecessary restrictions that discourage, discriminate, or disenfranchise.  We’re advancing this fight – as we speak – along a number of fronts in communities across the nation.  This work has been a top priority since the moment I took office, nearly six years ago.  And these efforts show significant promise.

For instance – just this week – a federal appeals court in Cincinnati held that plaintiffs challenging the State of Ohio’s changes to its in-person early voting rules likely will be able to prove that those changes are unconstitutional.  This outcome was a milestone in the effort to protect voting rights even after the Supreme Court’s deeply misguided decision in Shelby County.  The Justice Department filed an amicus brief supporting those who brought this challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  The appeals court’s ruling means that early voting can begin in Ohio on Tuesday, just as it had in prior election cycles.

Separately, in Wisconsin, we are carefully monitoring a challenge to that state’s voter identification law.  Although we were disappointed by the 7th Circuit’s action two weeks ago to lift the stay and allow the law to go into effect, we look forward to reviewing the court’s reasoning when it issues an opinion.

In Texas, we are currently awaiting a ruling on the department’s challenge to certain of the state’s redistricting maps, which were found by a federal court to be drawn with discriminatory intent.  And closing arguments concluded on Monday in our challenge to the Texas voter ID law – which our experts found would likely disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters who lack the requisite identification.

Finally – just yesterday – in a case that’s pending in North Carolina, the 4thCircuit heard oral arguments in a challenge to that state’s voter ID measure.  We joined several groups last year in challenging that law and, although we did not prevail at the preliminary injunction phase, we believe that the evidence at trial next summer will show a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Of course, these are only the most recent – and most visible – actions that the Justice Department has taken to protect the voting rights of every eligible American.  Earlier this week, the department helped secure a victory in a case brought to ensure the voting rights of Alaska Natives, obtaining an order that effectively overhauls the entire election system to make sure all information is translated into Native languages; that every village in the region is covered; and that official election pamphlets will be translated in writing.  This landmark result is emblematic of our continuing, broad-based commitment to stand for expanded access and against disenfranchisement whenever and wherever this struggle plays out.  And as we look toward the future of this work – and seek new ways to advance this struggle – the Justice Department will remain determined to use every tool at our disposal to secure the rights of every citizen.

We will continue this fight until all Americans have equal access to the ballot box – no matter who they are or where they live.  We will continue our efforts until allAmericans share the same opportunities for engagement in the democratic process.  And we will continue to look to groups like the CBC for leadership to advance the Voting Rights Act Amendments – and to continue your efforts until all Americans can make their voices heard in the halls of the federal government – including the more than 600,000 taxpayers who, like me, live in the District of Columbia and still have no voting representation in Congress.  It is long past time for every citizen to be afforded his or her full responsibilities and full rights.

In the months ahead – as we prepare for the upcoming elections – leaders from the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section will be coordinating with civil rights organizations, U.S. Attorneys, and others to dispatch federal election monitors to polling places around the country, just as we do routinely during every election season.  We will never waver, and never rest, in our determination to ensure the integrity and impartiality of this vital process.  And despite the myriad challenges that lie before us – and the long march that still stretches out ahead – I am confident that, with the leadership of passionate advocates in this room; with the lasting dedication of Justice Department officials across America; and with the advocacy and engagement of public servants like you – together, we will carry on the fight for equality.  We will build upon the progress that has led us to this moment.  And we will extend the legacy, and the proud record of achievement, that has been entrusted to each of us by generations that have gone before.

This is the imperative that has driven me over the last six years, and that will continue to shape our steps forward.  I want to thank you all, once again, for your partnership – and your leadership – of these important efforts.  And I look forward to everything we’ll achieve together in the months and years ahead – no matter where our paths may take us, or where this promising journey will lead.

Thank you all.

Related
President Obama's remarks at the CBC Phoenix Awards Dinner on Holder, "America's progress", and tells audience, "Keep praying, but get out and vote", even as the District's own voting rights remain non-existent.