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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Newt Gingrich Doesn't Believe John Kerry's 'Weapon of Mass Distruction" Theory About Global Warming

Whether you believe in global warming, or not, it's one topic that will be debated for at least a little while longer.

John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, told college students in Indonesia that climate change is "as big a problem as poverty and weapons of mass destruction". 

"It is time for the world to approach this problem with the cooperation, the urgency, and the commitment that a challenge of this scale warrants," he said.

[That's what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said about Climate Change in 2007]

Truth be told, the earth, at various times in history has always been either 'colder than usual', or 'warmer than usual'.  

At least that's the contention in this documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle', which suggest that the reason behind the debate - is merely about profit.

When Margaret Thatcher told a group of scientists in the '80s that 'there's money on the table' to study the effects of global warming, every scientist in the world jumped on board.  Almost.

When politicians jumped on the band wagon, it seemed to give credence to the topic.

From Margaret Thatcher, to Al Gore, to John Kerry - and countless others who will listen - the notion that America's over consumption of energy, production of greenhouse gases, and the industrial revolution itself  are causes of global warming and climate change might bare some reasoning. But to liken global warming to a nuclear war, well that's cause for derelict of duty.

At least according to Newt Gingrich who offered this solution to Kerry, please "resign".

"I think it's very troubling that our secretary of state … believes that climate change is a greater danger than a nuclear war", Gingrich said.

Gingrich went as far as to call Kerry "delusional" and tweeted the following:

"Every American who cares about national security must demand
Kerry's resignation. A delusional secretary of state is dangerous to our safety."

Consider, too, the recent book by New York Times writer Elizabeth Kolbert author of, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (not to be confused with Richard Leakey's book of like title) - and the op-ed piece by Al Gore written in the New York Times claiming that mankind will be responsible for the extinction of "the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth within this century."

Writes Gore, "Climate change is not recognized as a weapon of mass destruction in this Kolbert book review, but could be recognized as a weapon of mass extinction; as the book's publisher writes, Kolbert "introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day."

Then again, maybe the world is just gearing up for the real end of time event.

Transcript: Secretary of State John Kerry's Remarks on Climate Change
Kerry In Good Company?  What UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said about Climate Change

See Also
100 Effects of Global Warming

Monday, February 17, 2014

Virginia's 'Ban-the-Box' Legislation Takes Flight

A bill making it unlawful for employees to question applicants about having a felony on their record has been approved. The 'Ban-the-Box' bill hopes to increase employment opportunities for applicants with prior convictions.

Democratic Senator A. Donald McEachin (Richmond, VA) was one of many in support of the bill.

"This legislation means that a state employee applicant will not be kicked out simply because he has to check the box saying he had a prior conviction.  If qualified for a position and granted an interview, he will then have the opportunity to explain his history and the interviewer can make a reasoned judgment", McEachin wrote in a press release.

Employees can still do background checks on prospective employees, but with the new legislation, applicants won't have to check whether or not they have previous convictions.

Richmond, Virginia joins five other cities in Virginia: New Port News, Norfolk, Petersburg, and Portsmouth,  in support of the legislation.

"... this legislation ... will give offenders an opportunity to receive an interview, explain their prior actions and get a job so they can support their families, added McEachin.

Other politicians, including former Chicago mayor Richard Daley, also support Ban-the-Box.  "Implementing this new policy won't be easy, but it's the right thing to do."

Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor today announced grants totaling $20,518,598 to 18 nonprofit organizations across the country to fund employment-related services for formerly incarcerated adults who are returning to high-poverty, high-crime communities. The grants represent the fifth round of funding under the department’s Reintegration of Ex-Offenders-Adult program, through which more than $98 million has been awarded to date.

Almost 25 U.S. cities have adopted the 'Ban-the-Box' practice.

Earlier this month, speaking at Georgetown University Law Center, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “It is time to fundamentally rethink laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision."

Ban-the Box report
US Dream Academy

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden to Travel to the Republic of Chile and the Dominican Republic

The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden will travel to the Republic of Chile and the Dominican Republic in the second week of March. 
In Chile, the Vice President will lead the U.S. delegation to the Inauguration of Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet.  In Santo Domingo, the Vice President will meet with President Danilo Medina to discuss a broad range of bilateral issues, as well as regional cooperation.

French President Hollande's Official State Visit

A busy day for President Obama and France's president, Francois Hollande. 

After the official welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday, the two presidents took questions from reporters during an afternoon joint press conference that saw talks on global security, enforcing existing sanctions, clean energy, and global trade.

Said President Obama on the achievements of the US and France working in concert: "... we’re moving forward together on key global development initiatives:  food security and nutrition that can lift 50 million Africans out of poverty; our determination to replenish the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria; and I’m pleased that we’re joining with partners around the world on a new global health security effort to combat infectious diseases and save lives." 

During the evening's dinner and toast, president Hollande made these remarks about U.S. and France relations.

"Mr. President, the relations between our two countries have reached an exceptional level of closeness and confidence, and there is one simple reason for that:  We share the same vision of the world and we show mutual respect.  The United States of America and France are two great nations.  What is expected of them is to keep a promise, a promise of freedom and the promise of progress, and also to keep a dream alive -- that same dream made by Jefferson, Washington, Lafayette and the French revolutionaries -- a dream to change the world.  By uniting our forces, by uniting our talents, we will be able to keep the flame of hope alive."
State Dinner Gown
Press conference and official welcoming ceremony aside, State Dinners are also about what the First Lady will be wearing.

Here, First Lady Michelle Obama looks beautiful in this Carolina Herrera three-quartered length laced gown.  A first for the first lady at a State Dinner -- covered arms.

Herrara also designed gowns for former First Lady Jacqueline Onassis-Kennedy.

First Lady Michelle Obama looked absolutely beautiful in this Carolina Herrera inspired gown,
with some suggesting she may be the most beautiful First Lady - ever.
A French Inspired White House
The White House reports that French design has "long inspired the White House motif" with French furnishing throughout the State Floor.  In the East Room sits a French Plateau made by French artist, Deniere et Matelin.  Other French furnishings can also be found in the Blue Room of the White House.  Even the flowers for the occasion are French inspired, created by White House Chief Floral Designer, Laura Dowling, who, the White House says studied floral artistry in Paris.

The Menu
France may have been in the House, but the dinner was strictly about American cuisine.

From the White House:  The State Dinner celebrates the best of American cuisine.  This event highlights the talents of our Nation's cheese artisans, as well as the bountiful produce grown by farmers across our country, to include vegetables from the First Lady Michelle's White House kitchen garden.

See the full State Dinner menu below.

Mary J. Blige who, like First Lady Michelle Obama, has a January birthday, was one of the performers at the State Dinner.  We're not certain why the White House listed Mary as Ms. Mary J. Blige and Mr. Kendu Issacs on the State Dinner guest list in that form.  Despite their marriage woes, the two are still married, and have been since 2003.   Reveal, or Mistake?   PHOTOS!

Seven State Visits
President Hollande's visit marks the seventh State or Official Visit for the Obamas.   Previous State Dinners have included India (November 2009), Mexico (May 2010), China (January 2011), Germany (June, 2011), Korea (October, 2011), and the UK and Northern Ireland (March, 2012).

We're awaiting Africa's State Dinner, soon.

Speaking of the French (Open)
This French Open sports short made us laugh.  Can you sense the writer's comedic jest?

The Minimum Wage, For Contract Workers, is Officially $10.10

"Smart". "Right". "Efficient".

Despite rebuffs from a few (out-of-touch) Republicans who think only teenagers and young people make the minimum wage of $7.25 hour, the Administration signed into law an Executive Order setting the minimum wage for contractors to $10.10 an hour. (The Order includes a raise in pay for restaurant workers to $4.90 per hour).

President Obama wants to 'give Americans a raise";
 signs law raising minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
As stated in Section 1 of the Order, "Raising the pay of low-wage workers increases their morale and the productivity and quality of their work, lowers turnover and its accompanying costs, and reduces supervisory costs. These savings and quality improvements will lead to improved economy and efficiency in Government procurement."

The sentiment was echoed by Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, who said the move was the "smart", "right", and "efficient" thing to do.

“If you’re serving food or doing laundry on a military base, if you’re a nursing assistant caring for our nation’s veterans, if you’re staffing the parking lot at a federal courthouse or if you’re working concessions at our national parks, then you deserve a raise,” he said.

Still, some say that while the new legislation includes a raise for new federal contracts, it excludes existing contractors, who won't see this raise happen.

While the legislation is a move in the right direction, some are concerned that the $10.10 per hour, may not be enough to lift working families out of poverty.

"That is what the president can do with his Executive Powers", said Amy Traub, senior policy analyst for Demos, "but, it's really up to Congress to raise the minimum wage for Americans."

The president is taking this action, outlined in his State of the Union address that also coincides with him calling 2014 "a year of action".

The increase for federal contractors is scheduled to take affect on January 1, 2015.

Monday, February 10, 2014

France and the U.S.: An Alliance Transformed

Today, President Obama and president Hollande of France (French Republic) toured Monticello, the residence of Thomas Jefferson, one of the United States’ earliest envoys to France. 

Monticello reflects Jefferson’s affection for the people of France, the long-standing relations between our two democracies, and the shared values we hold dear:  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, writes the White House. 

Jefferson's Monticello.
The pair have an Op-ed piece in today's Washington Post where the two write about a renewed alliance between the two countries.

"Today, American and French diplomats are preparing for talks with Iran that build on the agreement that has halted progress on and rolled back key elements of the Iranian nuclear program. French and American officials share information daily to combat terrorism around the world. Our development experts are helping farmers across Africa and on other continents boost their yields and escape poverty. In forums such as the Group of Eight and the Group of 20, the United States and France promote strong, sustainable and balanced growth, jobs and stability — and we address global challenges that no country can tackle alone. At high-tech start-ups in Paris and Silicon Valley, American and French entrepreneurs are collaborating on the innovations that power our global economy."

You can read the entire piece here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Oyamel's The Spot!

Mexican restaurant Oyamel was the chosen spot for date night for the Obamas last evening.

It's no secret that along with french fries, Mexican cuisine is a favorite of the Obamas, especially First Lady Obama.

The coupled dined at the trendy restaurant at 401 7th Street, NW, in the District's Penn Quarter amid a crowd of 20-30 onlookers who later took pictures of the couple's departure.

The Obamas en route to another fav dinner spot, Duck Tavern, in 2011.
Speculation is that Saturday's dinner was an early Valentine's Day dinner since on Friday, February 14th, President Obama will be dining, instead, with King Abdullah II of Jordan as the president travels to Rancho Mirage, California - a stop he'll make before delivering remarks at the House Democratic Issues Conference in Maryland early in the day.

No official word from the restaurant on what the Obamas had for dinner (you're not likely to get it), but we were told the staff and patrons were excited to see them both.

A staffer told us, "there was as much excitement as you could expect whenever they go anywhere."

We know that's a lot of excitement.

More Presidential Dinner Talk

The Obamas during India's State Dinner.
On Tuesday President and First Lady Obama will have another chance to dine together when they host President Hollande of France for the first official Sate Dinner of the New Year. 

The two presidents share a certain commonality: a reported decline in poll numbers, and a lack of trust by voters - as far as polls go.

President Hollande is sure to attract attention as the U.S. waits to see which lady friend will accompany him on his U.S. visit.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

HHS Secretary Sebelius & NAACP Health Director Discuss Affordable Care Act in Google Hangout

From White House Press Release
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius joined the NAACP on Wednesday in an online video conversation to discuss the benefits of enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace. During the Google+ Hangout, moderated by NAACP Senior Director of Health Programs Shavon Arline-Bradley, Secretary Sebelius addressed questions related to important Affordable Care Act deadlines, out-of-pocket expenses and health coverage for college students.
Secretary Sebelius also discussed the millions of people who could gain affordable coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. She highlighted the protections for consumers, including Insurance companies that can no longer charge women more or deny anyone coverage because of pre-existing health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.
“Those days are over. It’s a brand new day. And we’re in the middle of an open enrollment period right now so people can visit or call 1-800-318-2596 and shop for affordable quality health coverage,” said Secretary Sebelius.  
The conversation also helped dispel some rumors about the Affordable Care Act, including the myth that you could be penalized if your state refused to expand Medicaid and you can’t afford insurance.
“If you’re in a state that hasn’t expanded and you qualify for Medicaid, we have already said that there is no penalty for you,” stated Secretary Sebelius.
The NAACP seeks to enroll hundreds of thousands of African-Americans in the Health Insurance Marketplace before open enrollment closes on March 31st, 2014. The NAACP is also organizing in several states, including Florida and Pennsylvania to demand Medicaid expansion.
“This conversation could not have come at a more critical time,” stated Arline-Bradley.  “Access to affordable, quality health care is now a reality for millions more Americans.  It is now up to us to make sure our community takes the next step to find a plan that works for them and enroll.”
Secretary Sebelius and Mrs.  Arline- Bradley  were also joined in the Google+ Hangout by Justin Gray, a 28-year old bartender in Florida who remarked that his motivation for enrolling was “common sense.”  Gray enrolled in a plan, and with the subsidies, pays only $15 a month for insurance
Watch the full Google+ Hangout online here.

President Obama on the ACA, on the Steve Harvey radio show

The 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games: Protesting Putin

Amid stories about faulty toilets, questionable drinking water, athletes bailing out, security issues,  a high jacked plane, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's put down of  the gay community, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics got underway, anyway. 

We've probably not had such distractions surrounding an Olympic event in a long time.  One can hardly imagine a more unpreparedness for a mega event like the 2014 winter games.

The talk of the facilities and water at the Olympics pale in comparison Putin's "gay propaganda" law, making it illegal to disseminate information about homosexually to minors.

"We are talking about protecting children from the respective information," said Putin. "Leave the children alone."

Whether you agree or disagree with Putin for speaking his mind, his remarks set off a fire storm in the gay community, with many groups forming protests.

Students of Amnesty International at a local college did just that; holding signs that read, 'homophobia kills', and 'light your flame for freedom in Russia'.

Students with Amnesty International hold signs in protest of
Russian president Vladimir Putin's stance on homosexuality.  Photo CD Brown.
Said Ariana Sites, a member of the group in support of free speech in Russia, "I wish he would take everyone's individual human rights for free speech into account when he's making laws that affect his country as a whole." 

"The Olympics is all about uniting people", said Kyle Stankob, "and the environment, the atmosphere in Russia right now is kind of the exact opposite of what the Olympics strives for."

President Obama, in his effort of inclusion, announced in December of last year that the following homosexual individuals would lead the US Delegation of the Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies to include Billie Jean King, Member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Brian A. Boitano, Olympic gold medalist, figure skating; Janet A. Napolitano, President of the University of California, and Eric Heiden, five-time Olympic gold medalist, speed skating.

In Olympic-style scoring, the group awarded Putin a perfect score of '10' for "oppression in Russia", the group says.

Amnesty International students give Russian president Vladimir Putin an
Olympic style '10' for the oppression of gay rights in Russia.
"The oppression and discrimination of specific demographic of people is less about human rights and more about being absolutely stupid", explained Lewis Huynh.

"To subjugate human people is to cut off your own foot", he added.   "You are preventing the potential of growth that people can contribute to your country, and it's absolutely stupid and foolish to do so.  It's absolutely suicidal."

More Problems In Russia
It would seem that Russia doesn't just have a gay conflict on its hands, add racism to the list of #SochiProblems.

Millions read the tweet from Russia's politician and figure skater, Irina Rodnina, who imposed a banana in a photo that featured US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Despite her actions, she was able to light the torch at the Olympics' opening last evening.

"Irina Rodnina is one of the most respected Olympic athletes in the world and I want to stress the Olympics is not about politics", said Sochi 2014 chief executive Dmitry Chernyshenko in explaining to include Rodnina after her racially charged tweet. 

"Any political talks or discussions are not appropriate for the Olympic Games." 

Interesting comments.

So, you can be a racist, you just can't talk politics at the Olympics - so it would seem.

The discriminatory, problem plagued, Sochi Olympics in Russia continue until February 28th.

How many problems can it present before then?  Ninety-nine (99), perhaps?

Sochi 2014 Olympics video & photos.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

With or Without You: Opportunity for All

President Obama's plan to advance the country, with or without Congress approval, is again, picking up momentum. At least in the area of education.

The president's plan to have all of America connected to the internet isn't a new idea, but the news that more and more companies share his vision is worth reporting.  

After meeting with executives and CEOs of major US companies last week to talk about job growth, executives are now committing to provide resources in computer systems and internet connectivity for students.

In a statement from the White House, companies like Microsoft, AT&T, and Apple, along with several other well-branded US companies are all in.

"American companies are answering the President’s challenge to “dig deep” in support of ConnectED to enrich K-12 education, expand opportunities for students, and train, a 21st century workforce," writes the White House.
Participation and commitments from US companies include:
o   Apple. The company pledged $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products along with content and professional development tools to enrich learning in disadvantaged schools.
o   AT&T has pledged over $100 million to provide middle-school students free Internet connectivity for educational devices over their wireless network for three years. 
o   Autodesk pledged to expand the company’s “Design the Future” program to be available to every secondary school in the country – offering for free over $250 million in value.

o   Microsoft  (recently naming it's new CEO) committed to launch a substantial affordability program open to all U.S. public schools by deeply discounting the price of its Windows operating system, which will substantially bring down the cost of Windows-based devices.
o   O’Reilly Media has partnered with Safari Books Online to make over $100 million in educational content and tools available, for free, to every school in America.
o   Sprint has committed to offer free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, valued at $100 million.

o   Verizon has announced a multi-year program to support the ConnectED vision through up to $100 million in cash and in-kind commitments.

Today, fewer than 30% of schools have the broadband they need to teach using today’s technology; under ConnectED, 99% of American students will have access to next-generation broadband by 2017.

The White House says, "These announcements will help realize next-generation connectivity to 99% of American students within five years, and begin this transformation of American classrooms immediately."