Covering

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



Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Some News Stations Don't Want You To Know


 

Health insurance enrollment for 2014 ends in three days.
You now have less than two days to get health insurance coverage.


With the deadline to sign up for health care looming, many Americans are scrambling to find a plan that is both affordable and acceptable.  

 
Even Republicans. 
 
Republicans have tried to repeal, and 'replace', the Affordable Care Act, all without coming up with a viable alternative.  
 
Read the below story of how at least one Republican (we suspect there are many more) who not only doesn't have an issue with the ACA, but rather embraces it.
 
From the White House:
 
Good afternoon,
 
I am a staunch Republican, a self-proclaimed Fox News addict, and I didn't vote for the President. And I'm here to tell you that Obamacare works. I'm living proof.
 
I'm a chemotherapy patient, and was previously paying $428 a month for my health coverage. I was not thrilled when it was cancelled.
 
Then I submitted an application at HealthCare.gov. I looked at my options. And I signed up for a plan for $62 a month.
 
It's the best health care I have ever had.
 
So right now, here's what I want to tell anyone who still needs health insurance, or knows someone who does:
 
I wrote a letter to President Obama this past February to tell him about my experience with the Health Insurance Marketplace. I hoped he'd read it, and he did.
 
I may not be a supporter of the President. But now, I get mad when I see Obamacare dragged through the mud on television.
 
And even though I regularly tune in to conservative pundits, I'd like to tell them they're getting it wrong. Obamacare works.
 
 
It just might change your life.
 
Mark D. Bearden, Ph.D.
Monroe, North Carolina
 
 
Related Info and Links
Got questions? Call 1-800-318-2596
Small Business and the ACA
53-41 Disapproval of the ACA?
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Peace Corps Announces 2014 Top Volunteer-Producing Historically Black Colleges

 
Howard University earns top spot after becoming first-ever HBCU to appear on Peace Corps’ national college rankings
 
The Peace Corps today announced its 2014 rankings of the top volunteer-producing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). For the third consecutive year, Howard University in Washington, D.C., claimed the top spot among HBCUs with 18 undergraduate alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Howard made Peace Corps history earlier this year as the first-ever HBCU to appear on the agency’s national list of top volunteer-producing colleges and universities, ranking No. 16 among medium-sized undergraduate schools. Since 1961, 213 Howard alumni have served with the Peace Corps.

For the first time, Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va., made this year’s list, ranking No. 3 among HBCUs with five alumni currently serving abroad. Spelman College in Atlanta took second place behind Howard with six currently serving alumni.

“We are thrilled to see a Historically Black University join this year’s national rankings of schools that send the greatest number of alumni to the Peace Corps,” Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “America is a beautiful multicultural country, and we want Peace Corps volunteers to represent the very best of the United States and show the world the rich diversity of the American people.”

College graduates with Peace Corps volunteer experience gain cross-cultural, leadership, language and community development skills that give them a competitive edge for 21st century jobs and advanced educational opportunities. They develop a global perspective that enriches the lives of those around them and helps to strengthen international ties and increase our country’s global competitiveness.

Howard University alumna China Dickerson of Washington, D.C., served as a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador from 2007-2009 and returned to Howard after her service to attend law school. The skills she gained at Howard prepared her for the Peace Corps and put her on track to return for her graduate education.

“Howard places a huge emphasis on the importance of service and a worldview,” Dickerson said.

“Through my undergraduate studies, I was able to learn about different cultures, and when one of my professors suggested the Peace Corps as a next step after graduation, I decided to apply. I always thought I wanted to become a corporate lawyer, but during my Peace Corps service, I realized that my true passion is advocating for underserved communities. Now I’m back at Howard getting my law degree with the hopes of becoming a human rights attorney.”

The Peace Corps has eight regional recruitment offices across the country that work closely with prospective volunteers. Additionally, the agency’s Office of Diversity and National Outreach aims to recruit a diverse pool of volunteers and build an inclusive culture that welcomes applicants and volunteers who reflect the diversity of America.

Peace Corps’ 2014 top volunteer-producing Historically Black Colleges and Universities are:
  1. Howard University (18 currently serving volunteers)
  2. Spelman College (6 currently serving volunteers)
  3. Norfolk State University (5 currently serving volunteers)
Find the recruitment office near you by visiting the Peace Corps website here.

President Obama Awards Medal of Honor

The following is a list of recipients for today's 2014 presidential Medal of Honor Awards:
The following recipients received the Medal:
Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia
Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris
Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela



The following men received the Medal on behalf of the recipient listed below:
Lenora Alvarado, accepted on behalf of her father, Specialist Four Leonard L. Alvarado
Richard Conde, accepted on behalf of his father, Staff Sergeant Felix M. Conde-Falcon
Shyrell Jean Copas, accepted on behalf of her father, Specialist Four Ardie R. Copas
Tina Duran-Ruvalcaba, accepted on behalf of her father, Specialist Four Jesus S. Duran
Command Sergeant Major Michael Grinston, accepted on behalf of Sergeant Candelario Garcia
Charles Baldonado, accepted on behalf of his brother, Corporal Joe R. Baldonado
Tyronne Espinoza, accepted on behalf of his father, Corporal Victor H. Espinoza
Pete Corrall, accepted on behalf of his uncle, Sergeant Eduardo C. Gomez
Laurie Wegner, accepted on behalf of her uncle, Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz
Iris Negron, accepted on behalf of her father, Master Sergeant Juan E. Negron
Michael David Pena, accepted on behalf of his father, Master Sergeant Mike C. Pena
Sergeant Ashley Randall, accepted on behalf of her grandfather, Private Demensio Rivera
Joe Rodriguez, accepted on behalf of his uncle, Private Miguel A. Vera
Nancy Weinstein, accepted on behalf of her husband, Sergeant Jack Weinstein
Dominga Perez, accepted on behalf of her father, Private Pedro Cano
Miriam Adams, accepted on behalf of her uncle, Private Joe Gandara
Alfonzo Lara, accepted on behalf of his brother, Private First Class Salvador J. Lara
Patricia Kennedy, accepted on behalf of her father, Private First Class William F. Leonard
Alice Mendoza, accepted on behalf of her husband, Staff Sergeant Manuel V. Mendoza
Robert Nietzel, accepted on behalf of his cousin, Sergeant Alfred B. Nietzel
Dr. Terry Schwab, accepted on behalf of his father, First Lieutenant Donald K. Schwab

(h/t Alex Leary Tampa Bay Times)
Twenty-four Army soldiers who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam received the Medal of Honor, correcting oversights that prevented many of them from receiving the nation's highest award for valor because of their Hispanic, Jewish and African-American backgrounds, White House officials said today.

Said, President Obama, "Many of these families ...they’ve known these stories of heroism for decades.  Still, they were pretty surprised when we called them to break the news about the Medal of Honor.  Some of them thought it was a prank.  Some of them thought it was a scam.  A few of them thought it might be some trick to get their credit card number.  When I called Melvin Morris, who we’ll recognize in a moment for his actions in Vietnam, his first reaction was, “Oh, my God, what have I done?”  When I told him it was all good, the Medal of Honor, I could hear through the phone, he almost passed out."
Today's awarding of 24 Medals of Honor - most of them posthumously - was the largest number to be awarded at one time since World War II, per a statement by the White House.

The process began in 2002 when Congress mandated that the military services review the cases of hundreds of Hispanic and Jewish service members who fought during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and received the Distinguished Service Cross instead of the Medal of Honor for their heroism. The Distinguished Service Cross is the nation's second-highest award for valor.

The 12-year review of cases ultimately identified 18 Army soldiers whose cases merited being upgraded to the Medal of Honor, officials said.

During the course of the review it was determined that six soldiers not of Hispanic or Jewish backgrounds should also have their Distinguished Service Crosses upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

We couldn't help notice that today's 'photo of the day', is the same photo of the day for March 4th.  Obviously an error made by the WH photo office, but kind of fun to ask how'd they get everybody there again to pose the same way on March 18th.
Helping to officiate today's ceremony were:
Chaplain- Chaplain (MG) Donald L. Rutherford, Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Army 
Military Aide holding the medals-Lieutenant Colonel Samuel "Lee" Meyer, U.S. Marine Corps 
Military Aides reading citations- Lieutenant Commander Tiffany Hill, U.S. Navy and Major Matthew Newell, U.S. Air Force

Sunday, March 16, 2014

SCANDAL? What Scandal? DC Mayor Plans For Re-Elect

How long is DC Mayor, Vincent Gray, going to deny that there is no wrong doing within his administration?

Are you tired yet of hearing rumor, upon rumor, upon accusation of misconduct within the Gray governing body?

It's been four years since Gray was elected mayor to the District of Columbia and we're still hearing about wrongdoings dating back to his 2011 election campaign.

The latest involves an alleged 'Shadow Campaign' constructed to pay off one Jeffrey Thompson, a former campaign constituent.

USA Today reports, "Thompson admitted to setting up a $668,000 slush fund to aid Gray's 2010 campaign when Gray defeated then-Mayor Adrian Fenty by 10 percentage points. The existence of the "shadow campaign," as prosecutors called it, was no revelation — but Thompson went further, by telling prosecutors that Gray knew about the illegal funding and personally requested $425,000 to pay for get-out-the-vote efforts."

In 2011, former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown, testified that Gray made payouts to individuals who helped him defeat then mayor Adrian Fenty.  Fenty later left DC politics, his children and his wife, and took up with Apple's Steve Jobs' widow in Silicon Valley.

Brown told reporters outside his hearing in June of 2011 that Gray was "a crook" who is "running a scam".

Mayor Gray has maintained his innocence, and has not been formerly charged with any wrong doing.  He plans to make a bid for re-election.

Primaries for the mayoral race begin April 1, leaving many asking if DC voters will be 'fooled' into believing that Gray is the best candidate to run the city.

Why Is Veep Joe Biden Going To Poland?

Vice President Biden will be in Poland the week of March 17-19, the White House is reporting.  He will also travel to Lithuania where he will meet with regional partners to discuss events in Ukraine and other regional issues. 

In Warsaw and Vilnius, the Vice President will meet with the President and Prime Minister of Poland and the Presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. 

During his meetings, the Vice President will consult on steps to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and affirm our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty and our enduring support for all of our allies and partners in Europe.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

CPAC Highlights

Republicans gathered last week at the beautiful National Harbor Resort in National Harbor, Maryland for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where conservative Republicans continued their divisive discord on American politics by use of their repetitive, and redundant, bashing of their U.S. president and his administration's policies.

CPAC 2014 may go down in history as the gun toting, NSA bashing, Dr. Seuss reciting political conference of the decade.

When Rand Paul spoke on the NSA "monitoring" American's cell phone calls, one can only ask - if that were true, why didn't they prevent Chris Christie's 'Bridge gate' after a cellphone text from a Christie staff member suggested shutting down the bridge?  Was it brilliant strategy, or the one cellphone text that got away?

Here's a Wapo video clip highlighting a few of CPAC's 2014 speeches, including the Green Eggs and Ham parody, by Sarah Palin.


For more, and we know you want more, head on over the CPAC web site.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Minimum Wage: $10.10 May be Nice, but $12 Sounds Even Better

Last month President Obama signed legislation increasing the minimum wage of contract workers from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.  

"It's time to give Americans a raise", the president said in several addresses this year, as well as in this week's Weekly Address.  "No one who works forty hours a week should live in poverty."

Many see $10.10 per hour as a step in the right direction towards helping hard working Americans take care of their families.    Yet many employees in the fast food and retail industries held protests and went on strike in an effort to get the minimum wage even higher, to a living wage of  $15 per hour.

How about a happy medium, we can all live with?

One Republican conservative is suggesting that the minimum wage be raised to $12 an hour. 

Ron Unz says raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour would keep workers off welfare and government assistance, and allow workers to provide a living wage for their families.

Said Unz, "...the government spends over $250 billion a year on social welfare programs for the working poor - people who work but can't afford to survive on their pay checks.  If we raise the minimum wage to a reasonable level, all those costs will be cut."

Unz claims he's trying to sway Republicans to agree with his notion, using Walmart as an example of how his idea would work.
 


While signing the minimum wage increase, the administration also continues to push the education agenda as a way to lift Americans out of poverty and minimum wage earning. 

Speaking at a high school this week in Coral Reef, FL, both the president and Mrs. Obama used their own experiences to show the importance of a good education.

Said President Obama, "But one of the things I also realized was, even though we had grown up in very different places, her story was a lot like mine.  Her dad worked at a city water plant.  He didn’t go to college", the president explained.  "He was a blue-collar worker.  Michelle’s mom, my mother-in-law, who I love to death... was a secretary.  No one in her family had gone to college.  But because she had worked hard and her parents understood the value of education, and she had great teachers and great opportunities, and because the country was willing to invest to make sure that she was able to pay for college, she ended up going to some of the best universities in the country."

So, let's review, shall we? 

We've got an increase in minimum wage for some workers to $10.10 per hour; workers protesting to gain a salary of $15 an hour; at least one Republican on board for wage increase above $10 an hour, and increased opportunities for college enrollment and graduation.

Looks like the wheels of American progress are moving in the right direction. Things look good.

Oh, but wait.  

The bots are coming.  Stay tuned.


Friday, March 7, 2014

2014 White House Easter Egg Roll

Today, the President and First Lady announced the theme for this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll: “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape.”  Part of the President and First Lady’s ongoing effort to open the White House to as many people as possible, the event will open its South Lawn for children ages 13 years and younger and their families.   In support of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to help kids grow up healthy and  have the opportunity to reach their full potential, the event will feature sports courts, cooking stations, and, of course, Easter egg rolling in addition to live music and storytelling.

 
The ticket lottery opens today, Friday, March 7, at 10:00 a.m. EST and will close on Monday, March 10, at 10:00 a.m. EDT.  To enter the lottery, please go to www.recreation.gov.  Tickets are free of charge and cannot be sold. 
 
The lottery results will be posted online at www.recreation.gov, and all lottery participants will be notified via email of the results by Friday, March 14th.
 
This year’s souvenir eggs come in four bold colors – green, blue, orange, pink – and include the stamped signatures of the President and First Lady.  A commemorative purple “Bo and Sunny” egg is included only in the 2014 5-pack Collector’s Egg Set. 
 
To place your commemorative egg order, please visit www.recreation.gov, and follow the link to the online Easter egg store. 
 
National Park Foundation (NPF), the official charity of America’s national parks, produces and sells the White House Easter egg.  An egg is given as a souvenir to all children 13 years and younger who attend the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, which is part of the National Park System.
 
The White House also invites all elementary and middle school students to submit poster designs for the 2014 Easter Egg Roll.  Designs should reflect this year’s theme, “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape.”  The First Lady will select the winning design, which will be used as part of the White House 2014 Easter Egg Roll program.
 
The deadline for submissions is March 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM EDT.  Upload submissions here, relate to this year’s theme, “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape,” and may not exceed two megabytes (high-quality scans measuring either 8.5x11” at 600 dpi or 20x16” at 300 dpi must be available upon request).  Please note submissions may be made public during the selection process. 
 
For full details on souvenir eggs, submitting artwork, and the event, please visit WhiteHouse.gov/EasterRoll.

Monday, March 3, 2014

First Lady Michelle Obama to Travel to China March 19-26, 2014

 
Mrs. Obama to Visit the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School on March 4
 
The First Lady will travel to China from March 19-26, 2014. She will be visiting Beijing from March 20-23, Xi’an on March 24, and Chengdu from March 25-26. During her trip, the First Lady will meet with Madame Peng, the spouse of China’s President Xi Jinping. She will also visit a university and a high school in Beijing, and a high school in Chengdu. Additional details about the First Lady’s trip will be announced in the coming weeks. Accompanying Mrs. Obama on this trip will be her mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, and daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama.
 
During the trip to China, as on previous international trips to Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, the First Lady will be focusing on the power and importance of education, both in her own life and in the lives of young people in both countries.
 
She will also be visiting important historical and cultural sites in China, and will share with students in the U.S. the stories of the students she meets in China, as well as interesting facts about China’s history and culture – emphasizing the importance of students learning from one another globally.  
 
The First Lady is encouraging students and classrooms across the U.S. to follow her trip by signing up for updates throughout the visit. View the First Lady’s message to students here.
 
PBS LearningMedia and Discovery Education will offer engagement opportunities for young people surrounding the trip, along with resources available for U.S. classrooms that explore the culture, geography, current events and people of China.
 
On Tuesday the first lady will visit the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School – a Chinese-immersion, International Baccalaureate, elementary school in Washington, DC. At the event, Mrs. Obama will encourage students around the U.S. to follow her trip. The First Lady will deliver brief, informal remarks following a 6th grade presentation on their 2013 trip to China.  The First Lady will also visit with pre-Kindergarten students in their classroom to experience their language learning firsthand. The First Lady’s remarks and the 6th grade presentation will be open press; the visit with Pre-Kindergarten students will be covered by a pool.
 
Yu Ying – meaning nurturing excellence – takes its name from a groundbreaking girls school founded in 1911 in Beijing, China. Established by a former Imperial Lady-in-Waiting, Madame Tzen-Kuei Wang, the Yu Ying School offered classroom education at a time when the centuries-old tutorial system was still the norm in China. The school was a powerful force for educational change in China.

Health Care Insurance: Have You Signed Up For It Yet?

With less than four weeks to go before the March 31, 2014 deadline to sign up for healthcare, the Obama Administration is working to ensure that Americans who need heath care, do so before then.

A reported number of 4 million people have enrolled already, per the White House, and continued efforts to ensure that young people as well, continue to enroll.

From the White House:

Building on efforts over the past several months to encourage Americans to check out HealthCare.gov, where they can find quality health coverage, and likely get financial assistance to make monthly premiums even more affordable, this week, the President, First Lady, and Vice President will all publicly encourage the uninsured to enroll in health coverage and Senior Administration Officials will continue to urge Americans to enroll through radio interviews and events across the country.
 
On Thursday, March 6, President Obama will participate in a historic Town Hall on Latinos and the Affordable Care Act in Washington DC.  The Town Hall is hosted by the Aseg├║rate campaign, also known as “Get Covered,” a partnership between the California Endowment, Covered California, and the largest Spanish-language media outlets, including Univision, Telemundo, and La Opinion-impreMedia. The Town Hall, which will be televised, covered and distributed across broadcast, radio, digital and social platforms, will provide an opportunity for a large Latino audience to better understand and guide their decisions to enroll in health coverage.
 
The President and First Lady, along with Cabinet Secretaries and Senior Administration Officials have done radio interviews into dozens of communities across the country in recent weeks.  The President and First Lady alone have reached 77 stations through their syndicated radio interviews over the past few weeks in key markets from Dallas, Texas, to Miami, Florida.
 
On the ground efforts continue in full force.  This past weekend, stakeholders held Latino Enrollment Summits in Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta and Tampa, as well as enrollments summits in African American communities in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, and Boca Raton.  Last week, HHS hosted Latino Enrollment Summits in St. Petersburg and Kissimmee, Florida and Senior Administration Officials participated in Google Hangouts with Voto Latino.  Today, the Houston Chronicle’s La Voz will host a Google Hangout with HHS officials to discuss the benefits of ACA for Latinos in Texas and additional outreach activities will be announced soon.
 
More Americans are signing up for health coverage every day, and communities across the country are working to reach the uninsured through creative outreach events aimed at connecting with the uninsured directly in communities. 
 
For example, in Arizona, the Cover AZ Coalition, comprised of 600 organizations statewide, held a week-long Get Covered Arizona Week organizing blitz where hundreds of navigators, assisters, and educators helped community members sign-up for health care coverage.  The week ended with a Get Covered Arizona Day of Action on Saturday, with enrollment events at more than 16 locations in schools, community colleges, community centers, libraries, and health systems. 
 
Also on Saturday, in Dallas, a number of organizations including CitySquare, Enroll America, Young Invincibles and TexPIRG hosted “Rock Enroll Dallas” with local DJs, Food Trucks, games and information about how to enroll.
 
And celebrities, athletes, and everyday Americans have encouraged friends, family, and followers to sign up on the radio and on Twitter and other social media channels.  Over the past two weeks, celebrities Kerry Washington, Aisha Tyler, Tatyana Ali, and Star Jones have conducted numerous interviews with prominent DJs and syndicated entertainment shows to encourage young adults to sign up for health insurance. Their interviews have aired on over 75 radio stations nationwide, reaching key cities in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, and beyond.   
 
With 29 days left to sign up for insurance in 2014, these efforts will continue in full force to encourage Americans to check out their options on HealthCare.gov.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Am I My Brother's Keeper? Yes, I Am!

If not me, who?  If not now, when?

President Obama unveiled his 'Brother's Keeper' initiative this week to direct more attention to the needs and plight of young African American males. It would be second time, on a national scale, that the president has addressed the plight of young, urban, African American men.

You may recall the president speaking in the James Brady briefing room after the death of Trayvon Martin where he said, "we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys. And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?"

The president's My Brother's Keeper initiative is designed to give young people more choices, to help them overcome obstacles and realize their dreams.



Explained President Obama, "And that’s what “My Brother’s Keeper” is all about, helping more of our young people stay on track; providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future;  building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.

"My neighbor’s child is my child”, said the president, "that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us."


The staggering statistics.
Many boys and young men of color will arrive at kindergarten less prepared than their peers in early language and literacy skills, leaving them less likely to finish school. Labor-force participation rates for young men of color have dropped, and far too many lack the skills they need to succeed. The disproportionate number of African American and Hispanic young men who are unemployed or involved in the criminal justice system undermines family and community stability and is a drag on State and Federal budgets. And, young men of color are far more likely to be victims of murder than their white peers, accounting for almost half of the country's murder victims each year. These outcomes are troubling, and they represent only a portion of the social and economic cost to our Nation when the full potential of so many boys and young men is left unrealized.

President Obama met with students from Chicago's Hyde Park high school
at the White House to launch My Brother's Keeper.
Said the president after unveiling his My Brother's Keeper initiative, "By focusing on the critical challenges, risk factors, and opportunities for boys and young men of color at key life stages, we can improve their long-term outcomes and ability to contribute to the Nation's competiveness, economic mobility and growth, and civil society. Unlocking their full potential will benefit not only them, but all Americans.

The president is seeking help not only from parents, teachers and communities he also is soliciting help from the federal government, state and local officials, the private sector, and the philanthropic community.

Said the president, "None of this is going to be easy.  This is not a one-year proposition.  It’s not a two-year proposition.  It's going to take time.  We're dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society, and are entrenched in our minds.  And addressing these issues will have to be a two-way bargain.  Because no matter how much the community chips in, it’s ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives."

Related sources and info
Alliance for boys and men of color
Initiative's Task Force