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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Precision Medicine Initiatives Announced Friday

from today's White House press release

Office of the Press Secretary
January 30, 2015

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative

Building on President Obama’s announcement in his State of the Union Address, today the Administration is unveiling details about the Precision Medicine Initiative, a bold new research effort to revolutionize how we improve health and treat disease.  Launched with a $215 million investment in the President’s 2016 Budget, the Precision Medicine Initiative will pioneer a new model of patient-powered research that promises to accelerate biomedical discoveries and provide clinicians with new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients.

Most medical treatments have been designed for the “average patient.” As a result of this “one-size-fits-all-approach,” treatments can be very successful for some patients but not for others.  This is changing with the emergence of precision medicine, an innovative approach to disease prevention and treatment that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles.  Precision medicine gives clinicians tools to better understand the complex mechanisms underlying a patient’s health, disease, or condition, and to better predict which treatments will be most effective. 

Advances in precision medicine have already led to powerful new discoveries and several new treatments that are tailored to specific characteristics of individuals, such as a person’s genetic makeup, or the genetic profile of an individual’s tumor.  This is leading to a transformation in the way we can treat diseases such as cancer.  Patients with breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, as well as melanomas and leukemias, for instance, routinely undergo molecular testing as part of patient care, enabling physicians to select treatments that improve chances of survival and reduce exposure to adverse effects.  

The potential for precision medicine to improve care and speed the development of new treatments has only just begun to be tapped. Translating initial successes to a larger scale will require a coordinated and sustained national effort.  Through collaborative public and private efforts, the Precision Medicine Initiative will leverage advances in genomics, emerging methods for managing and analyzing large data sets while protecting privacy, and health information technology to accelerate biomedical discoveries.  The Initiative will also engage a million or more Americans to volunteer to contribute their health data to improve health outcomes, fuel the development of new treatments, and catalyze a new era of data-based and more precise medical treatment. 

Key Investments to Launch the Precision Medicine Initiative:

Complementing robust investments to broadly support research, development, and innovation, the President’s 2016 Budget will provide a $215 million investment for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), together with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to support this effort, including:

·         $130 million to NIH for development of a voluntary national research cohort of a million or more volunteers to propel our understanding of health and disease and set the foundation for a new way of doing research through engaged participants and open, responsible data sharing.
·         $70 million to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of NIH, to scale up efforts to identify genomic drivers in cancer and apply that knowledge in the development of more effective approaches to cancer treatment.
·         $10 million to FDA to acquire additional expertise and advance the development of high quality, curated databases to support the regulatory structure needed to advance innovation in precision medicine and protect public health.
·         $5 million to ONC to support the development of interoperability standards and requirements that address privacy and enable secure exchange of data across systems.

Objectives of the Precision Medicine Initiative:

·         More and better treatments for cancer: NCI will accelerate the design and testing of effective, tailored treatments for cancer by expanding genetically based clinical cancer trials, exploring fundamental aspects of cancer biology, and establishing a national “cancer knowledge network” that will generate and share new knowledge to fuel scientific discovery and guide treatment decisions. 

·         Creation of a voluntary national research cohort: NIH, in collaboration with other agencies and stakeholders, will launch a national, patient-powered research cohort of one million or more Americans who volunteer to participate in research.  Participants will be involved in the design of the Initiative and will have the opportunity to contribute diverse sources of data—including medical records; profiles of the patient’s genes, metabolites (chemical makeup), and microorganisms in and on the body; environmental and lifestyle data; patient-generated information; and personal device and sensor data.  Privacy will be rigorously protected.  This ambitious project will leverage existing research and clinical networks and build on innovative research models that enable patients to be active participants and partners.  The cohort will be broadly accessible to qualified researchers and will have the potential to inspire scientists from multiple disciplines to join the effort and apply their creative thinking to generate new insights. The ONC will develop interoperability standards and requirements to ensure secure data exchange with patients’ consent, to empower patients and clinicians and advance individual, community, and population health.

·         Commitment to protecting privacy: To ensure from the start that this Initiative adheres to rigorous privacy protections, the White House will launch a multi-stakeholder process with HHS and other Federal agencies to solicit input from patient groups, bioethicists, privacy, and civil liberties advocates, technologists, and other experts in order to identify and address any legal and technical issues related to the privacy and security of data in the context of precision medicine.

·         Regulatory modernization: The Initiative will include reviewing the current regulatory landscape to determine whether changes are needed to support the development of this new research and care model, including its critical privacy and participant protection framework.  As part of this effort, the FDA will develop a new approach for evaluating Next Generation Sequencing technologies — tests that rapidly sequence large segments of a person’s DNA, or even their entire genome. The new approach will facilitate the generation of knowledge about which genetic changes are important to patient care and foster innovation in genetic sequencing technology, while ensuring that the tests are accurate and reliable.

·         Public-private partnerships: The Obama Administration will forge strong partnerships with existing research cohorts, patient groups, and the private sector to develop the infrastructure that will be needed to expand cancer genomics, and to launch a voluntary million-person cohort.  The Administration will call on academic medical centers, researchers, foundations, privacy experts, medical ethicists, and medical product innovators to lay the foundation for this effort, including developing new approaches to patient participation and empowerment.  The Administration will carefully consider and develop an approach to precision medicine, including appropriate regulatory frameworks, that ensures consumers have access to their own health data – and to the applications and services that can safelyand accurately analyze it – so that in addition to treating disease, we can empower individuals and families to invest in and manage their health.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Remembering Ernie Banks

Hall of Fame baseball legend Ernie Banks passed last Friday. We are remembering the special time that he gave to us in 2013 after accepting his prestigious Medal of Freedom award from President Obama.

Mr. Ernie Banks, (a.k.a.Mr. Cub) during the 2013 Medal of Freedom award ceremony.  Photo/CD Brown.
The famed major league baseball player (1953-1971) chatted lightheartedly with many of us in the media that day, even going as far as saying hello to my three grandchildren via video.  Also remembered, perhaps, was a favorite from one of his quotes when he sounded so grateful be.

"This is a great world", he said. "It really is. I'm just happy to be here, in Washington."

Mr. Banks died of an apparent heart attack, leaving behind a wife, his storied Chicago Cubs baseball legacy, and the thoughts of kindness and humility to those meeting him for the very first time; reminding us all to "just be nice to people."

President Obama shared his thoughts on the passing of "Mr. Cub", as he was affectionately known.

"Michelle and I send our condolences to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him. Ernie came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day. He became the first African-American to play for the Chicago Cubs, and the first number the team retired. Along the way, he became known as much for his 512 home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs as for his cheer, his optimism, and his love of the game. As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago. He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team's behind him, and Mr. Class  "Mr. Cub" is ready to play two."

His family has set up a Facebook page in his honor.

India - U.S. Declare Friendship

President Obama and First Lady Michelle visit India "reflecting close ties between our two great democracies."

From the White House:

“Chalein saath saath; forward together we go.” Reflecting the close ties between our two great democracies, India and the United States agree to elevate our long-standing strategic partnership, with a Declaration of Friendship that strengthens and expands the relationship between our two countries.

Photo:  Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

“Sanjha Prayaas, SabkaVikaas; Shared Effort, Progress For All.” Each step we take to strengthen the relationship is a step towards shaping international security, regional and global peace, prosperity and stability for years to come.

Signaling the natural affinity enjoyed by our two nations, this Declaration proclaims a higher level  of trust and coordination that will continue to draw our Governments and people together across the spectrum of human endeavor for a better world.

The India-U.S. Vision Statement endorsed in September 2014 committed our nations to a long-term partnership for prosperity and peace, through which our countries work together to make our citizens and the global community, safer and more prosperous. 

The Declaration makes tangible and enduring the commitment of our two countries to harness the inherent potential of our two democracies, and upgrades the unique nature of our relationship, committing our Governments to work through areas of difference.
President Obama:
"Today, we achieved a breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation, and we’re committed to moving towards full implementation.  And this is an important step that shows how we can work together to elevate our relationship.  We also, as the Prime Minister noted, agreed to resume discussions about a possible bilateral investment treaty.  And we will continue to pursue export reforms so that we can advance more high-tech collaborations with India." 

Through this Declaration of Friendship and in keeping with our national principles and laws, we respect:

·         Equal opportunity for all our people through democracy, effective governance, and fundamental freedoms;

·         An open, just, sustainable, and inclusive rule-based global order;

·         The importance of strengthened bilateral defense ties;

·         The importance of adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change through national, bilateral and multilateral efforts;

·         The beneficial impact that sustainable, inclusive development will have on our two countries and the world;

·         The centrality of economic policies that support the creation of strong and sustainable jobs, inclusive development, and rising incomes; and

·         Transparent and rule-based markets that seek to drive the trade and investment necessary to uplift all members of society and promote economic development. 

As part of this Declaration of Friendship, we commit to:

·         Hold regular Summits with increased periodicity;

·         Elevate the Strategic Dialogue to a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, of which the Strategic elements would continue to be chaired by the External Affairs Minister of India and the U.S. Secretary of State and the Commercial components of the Dialogue would be led by India’s Minister of Trade and Commerce and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.  This reflects the United States’ and India’s commitment to strengthen commercial and economic ties to advance mutual prosperity, regional economic growth and stability;

·         Establish secure hotlines between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the United States of America and National Security Advisors;

·         Cooperate to develop joint ventures on strategically significant projects;

·         Build meaningful security and effective counterterrorism cooperation;

·         Hold regional and multilateral consultations;

·         Consult and hold regular consultations in multilateral forums; and

·         Leverage the talents and strengths of our people to enhance sustainable, inclusive development around the globe.

Said India's Prime Minister Modi, "The promise and potential of this relationship had never been in doubt.  This is a natural global partnership.  It has become even more relevant in the digital age.  It is needed even more in our world for far-reaching changes and widespread turmoil.  The success of this partnership is important for our progress and for advancing peace, stability and prosperity around the world." 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

State of the Union: The List, the Conversation


President Obama delivers the State of the Union address, and the state of the union is...

Original article

Tonight's State of the Union address (also streamed at by President Obama will likely cover issues that have been, or continue to be, injected into the fabric of our society; strengthening the middle class (expect comments on ensuring a 'simpler, fairer tax code for the middle class'); the economy ("That’s what I’ll focus on in my State of the Union", said the president in his Weekly Address – "how to build on our momentum, with rising wages, growing incomes, and a stronger middle class"); education (free two-year community college), civil rights (at least we're hoping), immigration, cyber-threats (a "costly", "urgent and growing danger", the president said during his visit last week at the National Cybersecurity Communiciation Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington, Virginia, as well as 'issues' received by the president from the general public via 'letters to the president'.   The president says he reads ten letters from the public each night to get a 'pulse from the people' on how the nation is faring.  A few of those'letter writers' will be present for tonight's SOTU, sitting in First Lady Michelle Obama's guest box (see the full list below).

The State of the Union Address will air tonight at 9 p.m.   Here's a sneak peak.

The First Lady's SOTU guests include:

Malik Bryant (Chicago, IL) 
Letter Writer
Thirteen-year-old Malik Bryant sent a letter to Santa over the holidays, but rather than request the usual gifts, Malik wrote: “All I ask for is for safety I just wanna be safe.” And, rather than mail the letter to the North Pole, a non-profit organization – moved by Malik’s plea forthe fundamental right to feel safe in his community – redirected the letter to the White House. The President wrote back to Malik, encouraging him and underscoring that Malik’s “security is a priority for me in everything I do as President.” Malik lives with his mother Keturah and his two sisters in a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. He is in seventh grade
, and his favorite subject is math.

Chelsey Davis (Knoxville, TN)
Student, Pellissippi State Community College
A native of Jefferson City, Tennessee Chelsey Davis decided that community college was the best path to re-enter her collegiate career with the ideal support and resources. In May 2015, Chelsey will graduate from Pellissippi State Community College with plans to pursue a B.A. in Nutritional Science. Chelsey currently serves on the Student Activities Board and as a New Student Orientation Leader at her community college. She also participates in the Knoxville Food Policy Council meetings and tutors elementary and middle school children in reading and mathematics at The First Tee of Greater Knoxville Learning Center. She has an interest in national and international humanitarian work and is excited to have an opportunity to study abroad in Segovia, Spain with the Tennessee Consortiumof International Studies (TnCIS) this summer. After graduation, Chelsey plans to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Chelsey met President Obama, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden earlier this month at Pellissippi State Community College when the President announced his "America's College Promise" proposal. It makes two years of community college free for responsible students. As someone who understands the benefits of community colleges first-hand, Chelsey hopes to encourage high school graduates to take full advantage ofthe opportunity.

William Elder, Jr. (Englewood, CO)
Medical School Student
William Elder, Jr. graduated from Stanford, and is currently a third year medical student at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at WrightState University in Ohio.  Bill was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was eight years old, at a time when most cystic fibrosis patients were only expected to live to early adulthood.  But thanks to a unique collaboration between the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, patients, researchers, and a pharmaceutical company, Bill, now 27, expects to live a long, full life.  He benefits from a medication that targets theunderlying cause of the disease for a small subset of cystic fibrosis patients. Inspired by his doctors and care team, Bill plans to become a family practitioner with a focus on preventative care.  Bill’s story is a testament to the promise of precision medicine, an emerging approach to treatment that takes into account patients’ individual characteristics, such as their genetic make-up, to improve treatment.

LeDaya Epps (Compton, CA)
Laborer Apprentice
LeDaya Epps never had things handed to her. Born in Compton and raised in the Los Angeles foster care system until she was a teenager, LeDaya graduated high school but found it difficult to secure a stable job, bouncing from job to job as a medical assistant for years. She hit a few roadblocks in life and couldn’t find the reliable work and pay that she needed to provide for her three children. That changed when she was afforded the opportunity to complete a union apprenticeship in construction. She became one of only two women to completethe program, which included a rigorous boot camp that only one other woman completed, and now she has a good job – a union job – onthe crew building the new Crenshaw/LAX light rail line with Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors as a member of Laborers Local 300. LeDaya lives in Compton with her three children, ages 15, 11, and 3.

Rebekah Erler (Minneapolis, MN)
Letter Writer
Rebekah Erler, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a 36-year-old working wife and mother of two preschool-aged boys. Rebekah’s family was hit hard by the downturn in the housing market when her husband’s construction business went under. After relocating from Seattle to Minneapolis and a number of difficult jobs, Rebekah’s husband is now back in the re-modeling industry, gets home in time for dinner each night with their family, and is enjoying continued professional growth. Rebekah took out student loans to go to a local community college for career re-training and is now back in the workforce as an accountant. Rebekah and her husband recently bought their first home. Rebekah told her story to the President in March when she sent him a letter. But, Rebekah’s letter was more about her family’s future than it was about her past and the struggles they’ve overcome. Rebekah detailed the rising cost – from groceries to student loan payments to child care – of doing right by your family. Rebekah’s story is representative of the experiences of millions of resilient Americans: While our economy has made a strong comeback, too many middle class Americans families with two hardworking parents are still stretched too thin. That’s why the President spent a day in Minnesota with Rebekah, and that’s why he’s chosen to lift up her story again.

Victor Fugate (Kansas City, MO)
Letter Writer
Victor Fugate first wrote to the President three years ago, sharing how he went from being an unemployed new father continuing his education to obtaining his degree and working with low-income patients to obtain medical care. In July, the President had theopportunity to meet Victor when he visited Kansas City, and Victor thanked the President for his focus on the economy, health care and student loans – issues Victor personally knows are central for hard-working Americans trying to build a decent life for their families. In his current position with an agency of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Victor sees firsthand how the Affordable Care Act is helping people’s lives, and he personally benefited from the ACA – using an exchange to get health care when he was laid off from his job as a financial counselor. Victor credits the flexibility from the Income Based Repayment Plan for allowing him to complete his education. He and his wife are able to pay off their student loans at a rate his family can afford. Victor is married and has a four-year-old daughter.

Staff Sergeant Jason Gibson, U.S. Army, Ret. (Westerville, OH)
Letter Writer, Wounded WarriorJason Gibson, a wounded warrior, first met the President in 2012 at Walter Reed while recovering from injuries he sustained serving his country in Afghanistan. In October, Jason wrote a letter to thank the President for visiting him as he recuperated and to underscore that “there is life after a traumatic event and good can come of all things.” Jason detailed the year he spent in California after his 21 surgeries: despite losing both legs and being unable to use prosthetics, he took up surfing and skiing, completed multiple marathons on a hand cycle, and even obtained his pilot’s license. Back home in Ohio, a non-profit group helped build Jason and his wife Kara a house specially designed for their needs. And Jason filled the President in on something else too – soon their needs would change as Kara was pregnant and due the next month with their first child, a baby girl. Quinn Leona Gibson was born on November 21, 2014.

Alan and Judy Gross (Washington, DC)After five years of wrongful imprisonment in Cuba, USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross was reunited with his wife Judy and his family onDecember 17. That same day – with Alan’s unjust captivity resolved – the President announced to the world that the United States was changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. In the most significant changes in policy in more than 50 years, the President directed that we would begin to normalize relations between our two countries. While in Cuba, Alan wrote the President letters and since returning has expressed his support for the actions the President’s taken with respect to Cuba. For five years, from thousands of miles away, Judy fought every day for Alan’s release and never gave up hope. Today, Alan and Judy are reunited in Washington, DC, spending time with their daughters and friends. “It’s good to be home,” Alan said.

Nicole Hernandez Hammer (Southeast Florida)
Mother and Sea Level Rise Researcher
Growing up in South Florida, Nicole Hernandez Hammer knows firsthand the impacts of climate change and sea level rise and is raising awareness to the disproportionate effects felt along the coast and beyond. As a sea level researcher she has studied how cities and regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change also have large concentrations of Hispanics. She immigrated from Guatemala and also has Cuban heritage, and now Nicole works to mobilize the Latino community to understand and address the devastating effects that disproportionately affect the health of Hispanics and their families. To that end, Nicole works with Moms Clean Air Force to further thepublic’s awareness of climate change on children’s health. Nicole lives in Southeast Florida with her husband and her son.

Scott Kelly (Houston, TX)
American Astronaut
This March, Astronaut Scott Kelly will launch to the International Space Station and become the first American to live and work aboardthe orbiting laboratory for a year-long mission. While living on the International Space Station, Kelly and the rest of the crew will carry out hundreds of research experiments and work on cutting-edge technology development that will inspire students here at home in science, technology, engineering and math. Additionally, scientists will compare medical data from Scott and his twin brother, Astronaut Mark Kelly, to gain insight into how the human body responds to longer durations in space. This research will support the next generation of space exploration and President Obama’s goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s. Prior to becoming an astronaut, Kelly was an accomplished pilot who served his country as a naval aviator. He was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 1996 and has logged more than 180 days in space. He served as both pilot and commander on space shuttle missions as well as serving as commander for a long-duration mission on the International Space Station. Scott lives in Houston, Texas, and has two daughters.

Anthony Mendez (Bronx, NY)
Student, “Reach Higher” Initiative
Growing up in the South Bronx with his mother and three siblings, Anthony Mendez names two experiences from his formative high school years. In ninth grade, his best friend was murdered in his neighborhood, and the next year his family was evicted from their home and moved into a homeless shelter. Living two hours away from school, for six months Anthony had to wake up at 4:30AM to continue his education. Overcoming these experiences, he became the first high school graduate in his family – his story of perseverance representsthe core of First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative. In July he met the First Lady and fellow students who never took their education for granted, and he said he learned to be proud of his past and never hide from it. Today Anthony is a freshman at theUniversity of Hartford -- where he plans to study Political Science – on a partial track and field scholarship.

Larry J. Merlo (East Greenwich, RI)
President and Chief Executive Officer, CVS Health
Larry Merlo, 59, is President and Chief Executive Officer of CVS Health, which serves 100 million people each year through its 7,800 retail pharmacies, 900 walk-in medical clinics, and a pharmacy benefits manager with nearly 65 million plan members. As part of thecompany’s commitment to public health, in 2014 Merlo announced the landmark decision to be the first major retail pharmacy to eliminate tobacco sales in all of its stores. To reflect this broader health care commitment, the company subsequently changed its corporate name to CVS Health. Merlo has prioritized the company’s commitment to creating economic opportunities for current and future colleagues at all levels. CVS Health recognizes the value of military service and has a long-standing commitment to hiring qualified veterans and military spouses. The company has also established programs to hire long-term unemployed workers, create summer jobs for youth and transition workers off public assistance. CVS Health also trains pharmacy technicians through apprenticeship programs, offers scholarships to future pharmacists, and engages diverse students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Merlo, a pharmacist by education, joined CVS/pharmacy in 1990 through the company’s acquisition of Peoples Drug, and he and his wife of 36 years, Lee Ann, live in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and have a daughter, Kristen.

Katrice Mubiru (Woodland Heights, CA)
Letter Writer, Career Technical Education Teacher
In January 2012, Katrice Mubiru, a career-technical education teacher for the Los Angeles unified school district, sent a letter to thePresident encouraging him to support K-12, adult and career technical education. Katrice met and introduced the President in July when he visited Los Angeles Trade-Technical College to highlight programs for citizens to learn the skills that growing technical fields require. As a teacher, Katrice has witnessed how technical education can change lives, and she wrote the President to share stories of students who pursued an education, despite difficult financial odds, on their way to news jobs in the growing health care field. Katrice is a Los Angeles native who graduated from California State University Long Beach, and is married with four children ages 7, 9, 17 and 19.

Astrid Muhammad (Charlotte, NC)
Letter Writer

Astrid Muhammad, a wife and mother of 6- and 10-year-olds, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2013, but at the time she didn’t have health insurance and delayed treatment.  Last year, she enrolled in the Marketplace and obtained health insurance. Prior to theAffordable Care Act, insurance companies could have refused treatment for her pre-existing tumor, but on August 28 – now fully insured – she had surgery to remove the tumor. 
In October, Astrid wrote to the President -- thanking him for passing the Affordable Care Act. Without her surgery, her neurosurgeon said the outcome would have been fatal and that Astrid, 39, could have lost her battle in only two years. She wanted to share her gratitude and new lease on life with the President, writing, “I would love to shake his hand and thank him.” On Tuesdayshe will have that opportunity.
Kathy Pham (Washington, DC)
United States Digital Service
Kathy Pham is a computer scientist with a passion for public service. Throughout her career, she has used technology to tackle pressing challenges. From Google to IBM to Harris Healthcare Solutions, she has designed health care interoperability software, studied disease trends with data analytics, and built data warehouses for hospitals. At the United States Digital Service, her background in technology unites with her commitment to service. This commitment is rooted in her family’s story—her parents came to America in pursuit of a better life, her mother received critical cancer treatment thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and her brother earned the Purple Heart for service in Afghanistan. Today, Kathy is applying the cutting-edge skills she honed in the private sector to improve health IT for more Americans, expand veterans’ access to benefits, and transform the way government provides services to families like hers.

Captain Phillip C. Tingirides (Irvine, CA)
Los Angeles Police Department

The south Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts has seen dramatic improvement in the crime rate since the area was tied to the eponymous race riots of 1965 and a spate of gang violence in the ’90s – and Captain Phillip C. Tingirides has worked toward and seen a continued decrease in crime since the start of the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) program in late 2011. Working for the LAPD since 1980, Captain Tingirides has in recent years spearheaded the CSP program, which fosters cooperation between the LAPD and residents of theWatts housing developments scarred from decades of distrust. In recent years, there has been a 50 percent reduction in violent crime thanks in part to the CSP program, which encourages dialogue at community meetings with police who personally engage with residents rather than only make arrests. Captain Tingirides is married to Sergeant Emada Tingirides of the LAPD, and the LAPD coordinator of theCSP program. Together they have six children.

Catherine Pugh (Baltimore City, MD)
Maryland Senate Majority Leader
Senator Catherine Pugh is a small business owner who currently serves as the Maryland Senate Majority Leader and is also President-elect of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. First elected to office in 1999 as a member of the Baltimore City Council, during her time in the state legislature, Senator Pugh has passed more than 100 bills, garnering praise and a reputation as a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for improving the lives of Maryland families. A supporter of raising the minimum wage, Senator Pugh supported and worked with the Maryland’s Women Caucus to pass a $10.10 minimum wage increase in Maryland. A believer that workers should not have to choose between going to work over taking care of themselves and their families’ health, Senator Pugh recently introduced the“Healthy Working Families Act,” a bill that seeks to provide Maryland workers with earned paid sick leave.

Carolyn Reed (Denver, CO)
Letter Writer, Small Business Owner

Carolyn Reed wrote to the President about how she was able to expand her small business and open an additional Silver Mine Subs shop in Denver thanks to a loan from the Small Business Administration. In her note, she also mentioned that she looked forward to benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, and currently she and her husband, David, are enrolled in the Colorado state exchange. Earlier this year in Denver, the President had dinner with Carolyn and other Coloradoans who wrote to him. The day after their meeting, Carolyn and her husband – inspired by the President’s call and the story of another letter writer – announced that they would give their hourly employees a raise to $10.10. Carolyn and David now own seven Silver Mine Subs shops, and they are looking to continue their expansion. They have six children, four of whom work for their growing business.

Dr. Pranav Shetty (Washington, DC)
International Medical Corps
Dr. Pranav Shetty is the Global Emergency Health Coordinator for International Medical Corps, a critical partner in the U.S.-supported effort to bring the Ebola epidemic under control in West Africa. In August 2014, Dr. Shetty deployed to Liberia to establish and oversee two Ebola treatment units, teams of rapid responders that deploy to Ebola hot spots across the country, and a training center for local and international health care workers now working on the frontlines of the Ebola response effort. Dr. Shetty arrived back in the U.S. in late December and will return to West Africa later this week to help establish International Medical Corps’ first Ebola treatment center in Guinea. Prior to the Ebola crisis, he responded to emergencies in Haiti, Libya, South Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, and the Philippines. Dr. Shetty is a U.S.-trained emergency medicine physician with a Masters of Public Health and has worked for International Medical Corps since 2011. He is based in Washington, DC, and serves as the initial health technical lead for International Medical Corps’ major emergency response operations worldwide.

Prophet Walker (Carson, CA)
Watts United Weekend, Co-Founder
While serving a six-year prison sentence for robbery, Prophet Walker, now 27, vowed never to get caught in the revolving door of a life ofcrime and continued incarceration. He turned his focus to education, starting a program in prison that provides fellow inmates a chance to complete a two-year degree. Once out of prison, Prophet attended Loyola Marymount University's school of Engineering, and more than 100 others in the program he founded have gone on to attend various universities. Ever since, Prophet has enjoyed a career as construction engineer and served the community, working with InsideOUT Writers, a group that teaches juvenile offenders to express themselves through writing, and also as a founding member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which advocates for sentencing reform and supports young men and women after incarceration. Prophet has also worked to strengthen the bonds between law enforcement, community stake holders, parents and the children of local housing projects by co-founding Harold Robinson Foundation's' Watts United Weekend, which provides weekend camp retreats for hundreds of people weekly. Through his work in the south Los Angeles communityof Watts, Prophet has worked with Captain Tingirides of the LAPD – also a guest in the First Lady’s State of the Union box. They’ve collaborated on the Community Safety Partnership, which encourages building positive relationships and mutual trust between thecommunity and law enforcement. Prophet credits his young daughter, Pryia, for his continued inspiration when working with young people.

Tiairris Woodward (Warren, MI)
Working for the local school system, Tiairris Woodward, 43, wasn’t making enough money to support herself and her three children, theyoungest of whom has special needs. She started working for Chrysler in 2010 on the assembly line, and after doing both jobs full time, working 17 hours a day, Tiairris was in a position to move solely to Chrysler – a union job that makes her a member of United Auto Workers Local 7. After a year on the job, she saved enough to buy a car and rent a new apartment, and through Chrysler’s Tuition Assistance Program, Tiairris is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business management. Tiairris’ story is one of many made possible through the comeback of Detroit and the American auto industry. The President is focused on ensuring more Americans like Tiairris – not just a fortunate few – share in the benefits of our American resurgence.

Ana Zamora (Dallas, TX)
Letter Writer, Student, DREAMer
Ana wrote to the President in September, “As with any other dreamer, my parents came to this country with a dream of a better future for their children.” And through the Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Ana is closer than ever to fulfilling those dreams. In 2012, she qualified and was granted temporary relief and work authorization – an opportunity Ana credits with getting a job in line with her career path and a better livelihood while finishing up her last year at Northwood University in Texas. Ana’s life has fundamentally changed for the better as a result of DACA. And because she has siblings who are U.S. citizens, her parents, a small business owner and a construction worker, are among the millions of people who are potentially eligible for the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program announced by the President last November. She hopes others can learn from her experience and mentors fellow students hoping to request temporary relief through DACA. After college Ana hopes to continue her studies and attend graduate school. She will also remain committed to supporting young students looking for an opportunity like she’s been afforded. Ana celebrated her first birthday in the U.S. and as she wrote the President, “TheUnited States is my country. It is where I grew up, took my first steps, learned to read, write, play, graduated from high school, and will graduate from college.” 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

McDonnell sentencing handed out: two years in federal prison

Governor McDonnell's appeal DENIED.   Story here from NBC Washington.

**Original article **  
 Former governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell talked to the media today after being sentenced to two years in federal prison on charges of accepting more than $170,000 in bribes and gifts from wealthy Star Scientific businessman, Jonnie Williams.


McDonnell, with his two daughters by his side, including mom-to-be Jeanine McDonnell-Zubowsky, walked out of the Richmond, Virginia federal courthouse set on appealing his conviction.   He faced ten years in prison, but presiding U.S. District Judge James Spencer considered the more than 150 letters of support from friends and family, in-court testimonies - including that of former governor Doug Wilder (who gave no comments to the media as he left the courthouse) - and McDonnell's military service in his lenient sentencing that some found appalling, (questioning whether white privilege prevailed), while others found the sentencing to be satisfying.

McDonnell's daughter holds on to her dad's arm as they approach the media after his sentencing.  Photo/CD Brown.

"This case, from the outset, was about dishonesty and corruption", said special agent Adam S. Lee.

FBI special agent to the McDonnell case, Adam S. Lee.  Photo/CD Brown.
 "I think this court's comments at the sentencing illustrated that plainly.  No elected official, irrespective of their popularity, or the power they wield, is above the law."  Continued Adams,"public corruption poses a significant threat to our security, and our way of life - nationally, and here in the commonwealth."  Adams said that "no one wins" citing "there is no victory lap in these types of cases."  When asked about the reduction from ten to two years, Lee said he didn't want to comment but did say "any prison time for an elected official is punishment" and "does send an important message", suggesting again, that no one is above the law.

Bob McDonnell hugs his daughters outside the Richmond federal courthouse after being sentenced to
 two years in prison on corruption charges.  Photo/ CD Brown.

While prosecutors made their remarks, one zealous reporter could be heard shouting, "Why not put all the governors in jail? They're all corrupt!!"

McDonnell becomes the first Virginia governor to be sentenced for wrongdoing.  His sentencing is scheduled for February 9th, but his attorneys vow to appeal.

One supporter outside the courthouse said to McDonnell, "It's okay governor, it's okay." McDonnell responded saying, "Thank you sweetie", then walked to the podium in front of the throngs of awaiting media to say that he "disagrees with the verdict", vowing to file an appeal later today, or tomorrow morning.

McDonnell's daughter, Jeanine McDonnell-Zubowsky looks at the crowd of media. It was reported that the McDonnells' friend Jonnie Williams, of Star Scientific, paid for her wedding.  Photo/CD Brown.

"I'm a fallen human being.  I've made mistakes in my life", McDonnell said. "I've always tried to put the best interest of the people first as governor (this man might disagree), but I have failed at times." He went on to say, "I have never, ever betrayed this sacred office while serving as governor of this great commonwealth." McDonnell didn't take questions from the media, but did thank the many supporters (old and new), his legal team, friends and family, and the love of Jesus Christ.

"That's what has kept me going", he said.

Amid "tears" and "sighs" inside the courtroom today, as told to us by Bishop Courtney McBeth, a supporter of McDonnell, who said he expects that the family is both "relieved" and "grateful" to learn of the light sentencing, but said, "Even two years away from your children is a long time." (Tell that to the scorns of men actually sentenced to ten, or more, years for even lighter charges than political corruption).

McDonnell's wife, Maureen McDonnell, also charged with corruption (accepting expensive gifts), is awaiting her own turn in court, which should take place in February, the same month her husband is scheduled to begin serving time.